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4.19.2022

Clinging Like A Barnacle

The word barnacle paints a clear picture. 

Wikipedia says it like this; "Barnacles are exclusively marine, and tend to live in shallow and tidal waters, typically in erosive settings." Another source says that excessive barnacle cover can lend itself to poor health of the creature it covers. And yet, barnacles also filter or cleanse the water around them. 

How can something be both detrimental in excess but beneficial if kept in proportion? 

I clung like a barnacle to my way of life, my interpretation of beliefs, the dogma of others, even to my own desire to find a way to just be ok with all the lacks around and in me. Sometimes that clinging is necessary in the short term, but in the long-term it becomes self-defeating and limiting - wildly detrimental.

Talking with one of my sisters recently, we were discussing how us three sisters have radically different personalities. She noted that mine was given me for what I would face over the whole of my life.  I seemed to have little space for trivial, ever.

We left the church pastorate when our only child went off to college and got engaged. After completing nearly 25 years in church ministry, we changed gears. Leaving the Midwest, we embarked on a new gig of being house parents for teenagers in a privately owned foster/orphanage ranch outside of Houston, Texas. 

It was a huge adjustment in daily energy level requirements, heat index, mode of operation...pretty much everything. My chronic health issues were not adjusting to the stress and long hours and demands of  12-16 hours a day for stretches of 5+ days. I was struggling to know how to tend to my rapidly declining health with those demands and voiced my concern to my then husband, Chuck. Tearfully, I told him at this pace I would end up in the hospital. 

No one wants to admit weakness, especially me. I hate limitations. There would be no way to mind-over-matter my way over my health. I wanted to do this job - to care for and invest in the lives of teenagers. Here we were clear across the country, not knowing a soul and now my health was making this new job choice nearly impossible to hold onto. I felt physically horrible, mentally overwhelmed and emotionally frozen at what to do.

Alone with Chuck in the car on a Houston freeway I began to share that I did not believe I could sustain this schedule, that I would end up in the hospital, that I was unsure of how we were going to manage this. Tears were flowing as I grappled with my physical issues, what would we do now, the fact we had moved across the country only a month ago and how my health was impacting him. Driving 75 miles an hour with traffic all around us, he exploded with expletives I had never heard him say. "GOD DAMN IT! I HATE LIFE WITH YOU! I WANT A FUCKING DIVORCE!!" His words ricocheted and bellowed in the car. The anger and hate came out of him like a stuck torpedo.

Everything was moving frantically outside the car, but I was suspended by his words. There was nowhere to physically go to separate myself from the spew he had just spoken. Through white hot sobs I begged him to pull over so I could get out.Where did I think I would go once I got out of the car on the shoulder of a 6 lane highway? I didn't care, I just wanted away from him.

He pulled over and came to a stop. I was clawing at the door handle, sobbing heaves, shook to my core. As I tried to open the door, he reached across me holding the door shut. Sobs now bellowed out of him, "I didn't mean that. I'm sorry. I didn't mean that." The thing is, I knew he did. 

It may have been the most alone I have ever felt in my life. There was nowhere to go, no one to turn to, no escape from his presence. It's how I had felt my whole 25 year marriage to him had been. Now on a Houston freeway all the charades came down, all his religious piousness was leveled.

His occasional sobbing over his behavior or remorse were not necessarily new to me. It was a pattern over and over again, year after year. His sorrowful apologies were like seasons of the year to me, transient and never lasting. He had never shown the capacity for real lasting change. either within himself or towards me. Though I always knew that he felt those things he had screamed in the car somewhere just below the surface, he had never voiced them. He just silently but loudly carried a demeanor of unhappiness and depression constantly. 

The words he used came with such force and hatred, like they had been proofing under lock and key for so long that there was no possible way to keep them quiet any longer. Every cell in him exploded outward.

My body hurt, my soul hurt and now, my heart broke.

It is not the absence of trouble that gets us to peace. It is its very presence that shoves us to find the door to it. I needed to find peace as a coping mechanism, a way of life and to move forward from this. I cried out to God.

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