My past DOES define me.

I hear the buzz phrase, “Your past does not define you.” Even I thought this sounded like a good mantra. At first. I might have even said it a few times. But, my past DOES define me. For better or worse.

Running from your past is like that old saying, “Going nowhere in a hurry.” You can’t forward your future until you address the past.

I grew up poor. Near a small town, in the country on 20 acres, graduated from a class of 65 people.

Maybe not poor. Maybe just so far in debt that I had to choose between difficult things. And, I didn’t wear name brand clothes. My mom made most of my clothes by hand. That, at least, put me in a different category.

Other category pushers:
My father was emotionally and physically (infrequently) abusive. I was overweight (of course). Often teased. Often at the bottom of some chaotic, emotional barrel of feelings. Struggling to have a voice of any kind in a farm community full of rednecks and intellectual infants. I was (am) a girl/woman (not always a plus).

These things define me. They are my etymological birth. The source of all my words. I can write today because of what happened or didn’t happen in the past. I thank God for my past.

My whole youth can be summed up as the jump ball for the tip off of my adulthood/writing career. A frantic scrambling to find my voice in the elbows and sweaty armpits of rural America.

Now, I am free-throwing and making it swish from the top of the key. Thank God I had to scramble.


I lost my voice, the strength of it anyway, a coupla years ago when I had my thyroid removed. They cut through muscles and nerves to get through to the organ. It can effect your vocal cords. I was hoarse and genteel for months. Totally unlike me.

From a young age, I have been identified as the loud laugher, talker, whiner, live-r. When others tittered, I guffawed. When others whispered, I announced. When others went about their feelings in a shy, reserved way, I emoted all over the place.

So. To be made relatively mute for months on end? THAT was a struggle.

I joined a local community theatre production, even when my voice wasn’t fully healed, to exercise the shit out of said vocal cords. I struggled again, this time for my literal voice.

I honestly thought my voice was ruined. I had no volume and no ability to inflect. But it came. My voice emerged. I rebuilt my annoying, distinctive, loud, full-flavored signature.

But that’s what I was doing all those years ago. Fighting for air, time, attention, my voice. I certainly found it by exercising my mind. Flexing my writing muscles. Clearing my thoughts. Coughing up all the bad stuff to get to the sweet, well-trained music of good writing.

If you met me in person, you might think, she’s pretty tame, dull, quiet, shy. But that’s just the surface. That’s just the public wall that’s been graffiti’d by others. There’s a garden behind those gates. A well-tended garden kept by me. Plunking away at the keyboard, digging out rows, mining for richness, turning up the past. Seeds of words flowering into thoughts, emotions and ideas–volumes of deep-rooted life. This is my courtyard. The sign says WELCOME.

You have to push past that gate. Be patient enough to know me.

Welcome to my past. It defines me. All that you read here is real, honest, beautiful. Though some starts out as dirt, hurt and manure.

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Black Stove, Purple Lamp

More from Vol. 2 of Present Tense


We are standing in the living room. We are moving our belongings out of the house because my parents are fighting again. My brother is now married and lives in a nearby town with his wife. He is helping us move.

My father confronts my brother in the living room with a baseball bat and threatens to hurt each of us if we do not leave the house immediately.
My father swings the bat to show his intention. Lands a blow on the free-standing wood-burning stove. He leaves quite a dent in the black sheet metal exterior. A dent that will live with us for all time.
He then swings again to assert his presence and smashes my mother’s favorite lamp. It was a beautiful purple lamp. Two lights, beautiful hand-painted designs on the glass shades and delicate gold filigree edging. Gone with one blow.
He smashes the lamp, I imagine, to see the pained look of surprise on her face. He wants to see her hurt.

Tiny little shards embedded in the carpet. Gouges torn in the wood of the end table. Hearts shattered at the violence, but not for things. Splinters of feelings scattered and strewn.


This would not be the last time I would see this house. It should have been.
The house is gone now. Swallowed up in time. Rotted with weather and neglect and turmoil. But it housed our violent, chaotic family for nearly 20 years. It existed and so did we. A new house stands in its place.
So long now. But the violence persists in my mind.
Sometimes, I wish my mind or memories would rot, but they are rock solid. The negativity built on unshaken cliffs of time-battered trauma.

Memories can be swept away like sand on the shore, but this bedrock is immovable. Formed in liquid lava and cooled to stone for all time.


We moved back very soon after this incident. Perhaps 1-2 months later. We left several times, but never for very long. Unfortunately.

Making People

Each of these people
Were made by two parents.
Molded and shaped
By opinions, thoughts and variants.

These two people
Made four more humans.
They didn’t do it perfectly.
In fact, our family’s in ruins.

Their legacy was not premeditated.
Their good intentions paved the way,
To Hell and back and there again–
Four lanes without delay.

This kiss and marriage caught some place
Between Heaven and Hell.
A dark, rock-hard place between their love
Is where my childhood fell.

Like a photograph that floats down
Behind a dresser, trapped by wall.
Forgotten with time, buried by dust.
Neglected, unseen by all.

But.

Their love made me.
Shouldn’t I be thankful for this?
I couldn’t think of something more lovely
Than a passionate wedding kiss.

Thankful to be here. No matter what.

Wife

The clothes are washed.
The dishes are done.
Everything’s finished.
The course has been run.

To its bedtime,
I race the sun.
Hoping to remember,
“Leave nothing undone.”

But I fail.

I failed to love you
More than you deserve.
I failed to catch you
When you leapt off with nerve.

I failed to respond
With kindness and restraint.
I succeeded in failing
At withholding complaint.

I’m sorry.

It’s not a matter of racing to the end.
It’s not a matter of winning at life.
It is a matter of walking with purpose.
It is a matter of being a good wife.

I’m not a good wife to you
If I focus on all wrong you have wrought.
It would be better of me
To remember all good you have brought.

Thank you.

I struggle with fairness
And relinquishing grace.
I like to hold grudges,
Call attention to mistakes.

I’m trying so hard to be Perfect.
And I’ve missed the boat.
I should try harder to be Forgiving.
And erase the past someone else wrote.

I love you.

Can you believe we might get divorced?

I’m about to reveal the most personal aspect of my life. Something I have never really written about in full detail before. This could end my marriage. But I’m hoping to save it. I’m risking everything by even publishing this. I’m writing this for other people who might be struggling in the same situation and feeling hopeless. And to end my own secrets. At least I’ll be accountable to someone. Secrets make you sick.

NOTE: I have written this with the full permission of my husband and he has read this post before publishing. Except I just added this bit, so Dear, can you approve this small note. Everything in red. Thanks. Let me know! 😉

My marriage is in trouble. It has been for some time. I have fought every month, or nearly every month with my spouse for over 18 years. That would be approximately 216 fights. But I know it’s more than that. I know it’s more because sometimes those fights can be every night for 3 or 4 days. So let’s agree, it’s over 200. Fair?

Boy, we are good at fighting. We’ve had a lot of practice. We say all the hurtful things, we push all the right buttons and we bring all the dirty laundry to the table. No stone unturned. Fighting is not something to take pride in or be good at, but if there was an Olympic sport of adult pair arguments, we would take the gold every time. No contest. And I wish I could say that my daughter, Lilli, never has to witness our Olympic-sized battle of the cray. I wish I could say that.

Also, I should add that at the last church we attended, the couples counseling life group that we were involved with, the leader told us this after the course ended. “Boy, I thought for sure you all were getting divorced! I didn’t think you’d make it!” Uh…WTF???! Thanks? And peace be with you also??

Most of the time the fights are about the least significant things in the world! We rarely fight about politics or religion. We mostly argue about who left the toothpaste in the wrong spot or who failed to take out the trash or who said the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person. Most of the time, it’s me criticizing my husband about some failure on his part. But lately, my husband has grown belligerent. He has threatened divorce more than 3 times in the last year. He says hurtful things that are extreme and unbelievable. He has become extraordinarily intolerant. He has exited a moving car to get away from me and almost hurt himself. Our relationship has grown toxic.

Also, he has recently been diagnosed with adult onset ADHD and most likely has issues stemming from past abuse. He is easily triggered and quick to anger. But, so am I. He has impulse control problems and we are both very unhealthy. We are both obese and in poor health.

I don’t say these things to embarrass him or impugn his good standing with anyone. He doesn’t really have any friends to reveal this to. He can be very reclusive. I don’t even say these things to hurt him. I say these things because they are true and necessary to understand the extent of how desperate our marriage is.

I should say now how important my marriage is to me. My husband is more important to me than my own life. I would do anything for this man. This man is more important to me than my own safety, sanity or sanctity of self. I’ve come to realize that. I am willing to humiliate myself and beg for him to stay, even in the shadow of this threat to divorce.

I should also say that I believe divorce is wrong, but I know about half of people do it. Sometimes it’s necessary. Some people are physically abused or find their spouse has betrayed them with another person. But neither of these things are true of our marriage currently. My husband has pushed me before and injured me. In the past. To be fair, I have physically blocked him from leaving our home. In the past. My husband has downloaded a photo before of another woman and saved that picture to our shared computer for whatever purpose. You tell me why a guy does that? It was an ex-girlfriend. I felt betrayed because I would never do that to him. He also used to, like many men, have an addiction to porn. He still may, you’d have to ask him. I don’t think so. But I don’t believe my husband has ever, ever been with someone else or even tried. Not to hurt his feelings, but I think he would freely admit that neither one of us is in danger of being tempted by others or lured away. We’re not exactly Brad and Angelina. Oh, they’re getting divorced, too. Oh. Further proof, nobody’s perfect.

Anyway, the whole point is this, my husband still wants a divorce. Because we fight too much. He said, yesterday, “I don’t love you any more.”

Deep breath. That hurts.

Yesterday, we had a HUGE fight! I should say before I say anything else: I have had 2 major surgeries in the last month, I am just now recovering from gallbladder surgery from 1 week ago, I am currently detoxing from oxycodone, I am PMS-ing, I can only have Tylenol and I was just diagnosed 2 weeks ago with complex PTSD (which I have received no treatment for, as of yet). That said, we had a ginormous fight mostly because I was triggered by something he said.

Some background. The last month has been a living hell. I had to argue with surgeons and doctors and ER techs about whether or not my gallbladder was failing and whether or not to take it out, IF they would perform the surgery, who would perform the surgery and how to treat my pain in the meantime. BTW, my gallbladder was failing and did need to come out. It was full of stones and I found out yesterday that the pathology did confirm that it needed to be removed! This has simply been the WORST pain I’ve ever had and I’ve been unable to eat for weeks with horrible nausea. I’m better now, but it’s been bad.

I have a problem with oxy and pills and one of the doctors actually prescribed more oxy and on top of that, an anxiety med because I guess I seemed hysterical that they wouldn’t take out my GB. Not actually treat my condition, but give me more pills. That made me angry and I felt completely powerless. Let me just add also, the anxiety med did nothing but put me to sleep.

So, the fight. This morning I was still detoxing from my oxy addiction, takes about a week (anyone can become addicted to oxy within a few weeks, I was on it for almost a month). AND, I was feeling anxious (symptom), tired (symptom), emotional (symptom), achy (symptom) and all-around rotten (may be a symptom). Plus, as I said, I am still recovering from surgery. Hadn’t even had my staples out. AND all of the other things I mentioned above. So. My daughter gets out of the car to board the bus and my husband asks me as we’re waiting for her bus to arrive, “How are you feeling this morning?” Or something like that.

So I begin to answer. “Well, I feel anxious…” He cuts me off. “Oh, don’t you still have those anxiety meds?”

Wow. I just lost it. I was totally wrong to lose it, BTW! But I just lost it. I felt betrayed, triggered, powerless and confused. Every doctor that I’ve encountered in every ER, hospital and clinic that I’ve seen for the last month has told me, “Ignore the pain, take a pain med!” And another doctor added anxiety meds to the list. “Take! A! Pill!” is all I’ve been hearing when I was in severe pain and needed immediate medical attention. Not to be melodramatic, but–I could have died. So, to hear my husband recommending another pill for my detox from a pill was just more than I could bear (you were right, Dear, b-e-a-r, that website must have been thru these oxy-detoxy eyes).

I started talking about my feelings and how hurt I felt and he cut me off. I tried again. He cut me off. I tried and tried and tried to express myself, granted, I was very upset and unable to control the volume of my voice, but every time I tried to talk he ignored me and wouldn’t communicate. It was so frustrating! Which definitely worsened my mood.

I am taking my husband to work because I have a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon and we are fighting the whole way. It was awful. He made excuses for his behavior. Even blamed me for the conversation. He said, “I asked you how you were because you want me to talk to you.”

Me: But I never asked for your advice! You didn’t even listen to me!

He said very hurtful things to me. Such as, “Go talk to your girlfriends and blog about it.” Super hurtful because my blog is my lifeline right now and that was an attempt to shame and hurt me so that he no longer had to deal with my anger. I was in tears. I apologized for my behavior, but he resolved to leave the car in anger and silence. No apology. No resolution. No reconciling. And he did not contact me for the rest of the day.

When I got home after the doctor. Still no apology. He told me later that at 11:30 am, while at work, he decided that he wanted a divorce based on a Facebook status I had posted. Here is the post.

“Maybe I don’t need a pill. Maybe I need grace, compassion, wisdom and love.”

He started looking for apartments. He found one near his work at a price that he can afford. He also wants a separate checking account. And, for sure, to leave for good.

I was stunned. Hurt. Flabbergasted. Anguished. Desperate.

He said that our marriage was a mistake. That for 18 years he’s wanted to leave and hasn’t because I’ve begged him to stay. That isn’t totally accurate because I wanted to leave in the past and he begged me to stay.

The man who was so angry last night is not someone I like. But he’s still someone I love. He acted irrationally. Selfishly. Arrogantly. Impulsively! But I still love him. But I’m wondering today…why? Why am I trying desperately to hold onto someone who doesn’t love me any more? It’s kind of pathetic. But, I’m terrified to lose him. I love him. And I know it isn’t right to give up. God doesn’t want this for our family. Satan does. That makes me mad.

I was wrong to badger my husband in the car. I was. I admit that. But everything was at stake. My pride, my ego, my integrity, my definition as a human being, MY HEALTH! was all wrapped in this decision to stop taking more pills. And I had told him everything that I was feeling about the pills before this moment, my decision, my resolution, my hatred of pill-popping. Or I tried to.

My husband thinks I should take my pills? So I can just be “normal”? So I will just shut the hell up? So he doesn’t have to listen? The oxy was killing me. But I’m supposed to take more pills?

I was opposed to taking any more unnecessary pills, so much so, that I freaked out. I totally did. I admit that, but what he said and did was hurtful. Everything he said and did after the initial encounter was horrible and hurtful. Downright nasty.

What’s a person with severe PTSD supposed to do with no treatment when the person they most trust tells them to just pop a pill when they are trying to detox from other pills? Lord, have mercy. But I was still wrong to raise my voice. But where’s the grace? He certainly raised his voice too. Where’s the grace for addiction, recovery and trauma? Is this man caring for ME? I have to say no. He was balls-to-the-wall out for himself. “Get out at any cost!”

I feel like the worst version of myself right now. I have nothing. I have no job, no marriage, no extended family, no health. I have nothing. My little family, my immediate family of 3, means everything to me. Me, my daughter, my love. It’s all I have. I’m desperate to keep it. But I fear it’s slipping away and I can’t stop it.

I promised last night to never lose my temper again. Never. You may not know me well, but I can just say this. If I say it out loud and it’s within my control, I WILL do it. I’ve NEVER broken a promise to my husband. EVER. I vowed to get mental help. I did. I made many a vow to him over the years and I’ve kept every one. I’ve played by his rules and it doesn’t always work. The rules change. If he was inclined, he would say that I’ve been true to my word. Every time. And I honestly didn’t know that my marriage was at stake over my temper. That’s very different. And, I also asked my husband to stay. Promise to stay. I’m not sure that he will.

I hate saying these things. These things are so private, embarrassing and insane. But I also know, for certain, that someone else is going through the exact same thing right now. Someone might read this and just know for one minute, or several minutes, someone else is hurting exactly like me right now (or worse) and I can bare another minute on this planet because I know that ONE thing. So I’m sharing.

I shouldn’t love my husband, but I do. We are bad for each other. We do not get along. We are broken, extremely damaged people who don’t know the true meaning of love. (Hang on. Maybe we’re perfect for each other?) But, we’ve got a child. A beautiful, brilliant child who deserves better parents.

And. I’m nothing without my husband. He’s flawed, but he’s also better than most. He can be mean. Cruel. Obstinate. Ridiculous! But he’s also funny, kind (sometimes), loyal and handsome (in my eyes). He doesn’t usually lie. And he’s the best, most generous lover I’ve ever had.

After 18 years, there’s not many butterflies when we kiss. Can anyone say they get butterflies any more? But butterflies were replaced long ago by deep, joyful, passionate longing for my one and only sweetheart. There’s no other for me. And I don’t want to lose the best thing I’ve got. I also don’t want to drive the father of my child away because I’m too broken to love.

I can control my voice. I can’t control whether my husband stays or goes. Pray for us. We need it. We so very desperately need it.

If you’re my friend and this is all strange and unbelievable. Guy can vouch for every word. Everyone thinks that Guy is swell, friendly and without flaw, but you haven’t met the real Guy. The Guy that I can provoke with a look or word. The Guy who can explode into anger at the drop of a slight.

And I’ve just never said. I’ve only told a few. It’s hard to say, “My marriage is bad.” But, it is. It’s not all bad. But things are pretty tough right now. We need a miracle. I trust that God will show up. I just don’t know if Guy will still be here when He does.

I am writing to expose all our sickness and strife because I know from years of writing, it’s the only thing that’s helped my PTSD and weight loss. Maybe this will help. We have agreed to counseling. Again. I don’t know if that will fix anything. And I’m also writing because I see happy couples on Facebook every day and I wonder, is that real? Because I know my own marriage seems happy from the outside, but it’s anything but sometimes. I am writing out of strict authenticity because that is important to us. At least, I think it is.

My God, help us. I truly want my husband back. I want to stop pushing him away. I want to embrace this damaged person and heal him. Not keep hurting him. Help me, God, to figure this out. I’d give my life to help this man.