Liar, liar pants on fire
I have a confession to make. I spent over 20 years married to a pastor and I’m a liar.
About a month ago, He reminded me I spent a lot of years fabricating a life in an effort to have a calmer existence. The text said, “Everyone, EVERYONE who knows you for any length of time knows you lie” and “You lie so much you probably don’t even remember saying specific things”.
He might be right. For 22 years, I lied to my parents when they would ask about life at my home. I lied to my friends when they would question me about uncomfortable moments they witnessed between me and Him. I lied to church people with fake smiles and silence. I lied to Him about when I went to bed and when I woke up. I lied to Him about towels being clean, telephones ringing, mail received, what I did all day, if I read a book I was told to read, if bills were paid, if I talked to my mom, if the kids were in bed, if the kids were fighting…basically everything. It was a way of life I created to avoid the unpleasantness always ready to erupt at a moments notice. A way of life to stay out of trouble. A way of life to help my children stay out of trouble. A way of life to keep extra-large shampoo bottles or heavy irons from being thrown straight into the wall or at my head. I saw the rage. I saw the demand for me to submit to Him and his self-righteous condemnation. It was a self-imposed prison and I had no trust in my house being a safe place. Avoiding the truth in all aspects of daily living allowed me to continue a life I should have left a long time before I did.
I’ve always stressed out over how people viewed me. As a teenager in the 80’s, I couldn’t leave the house without looking perfect. As a young mother, I couldn’t be a part of the play date life because I would have to spend the entire time talking to another woman who had the power to accept or reject me. As a pastor’s wife, I couldn’t allow any church member to know me fully because there was always the chance they wouldn’t like me if they knew I didn’t play the churchy game. I was never good at seeming holy. I was a normal, flawed exhausted mom. I didn’t read my Bible every day and there were many times I didn’t feel like being at church five different times a week. What if they asked me to pray out loud and I couldn’t compete with the flowery embellished amazing prayers that spilled off their tongues? As a divorced mom, I couldn’t walk inside a church for years fearing no one would accept me without the pastor guy attached to my hip. I’ve always been eaten with guilt for things I couldn’t keep from spilling out of my mouth, for not smiling enough and for hiding to weep when I should be doing anything else. I spent a good portion of my life feeling like a fraud.
Two years ago this week, my mom and I drove my kids to His wedding. It was a 5 hour drive one way, scheduled on a school day Friday night, and they needed to be there between 5pm and 6pm. I can’t imagine much care was given to how his kids would make it to this location on a school night but I was told, even though He didn’t have time to manage them, they were to attend. The kids and I were going to have to make the round trip in one day because I couldn’t afford a hotel nor could I afford the gasoline for a 2nd 10 hour round trip to leave them there and pick them up another day. My fourteen year old Yukon was too scary to drive in winter at night and I made the decision to ask my parents if they would allow me to drive their car. To His wedding. They said yes, but they laughed. Hard. At the absurdity.
The day of the wedding, losing a day of work to get them there, my supportive mamma came with me. She wasn’t going to let me face all those people who were His friends and relatives alone. She was going to stand with me. She probably is the reason I was able to make it all the way to Camp Winnamonka (No, I’m not kidding) to THE Wedding in the middle of Redneck, USA.
That evening, my mom and I wore camouflage trucker’s caps and pearls. We had a party in the car sitting on a gravel parking lot waiting on my kids to walk out the door of their dad’s wedding. We laughed at the bizarreness we had attended both of His weddings. We laughed about dreadlocks on a middle age white man. We laughed at the expectation I, His ex-wife, should be responsible to make sure His kids attended His wedding. We laughed at the fact the only reason I was in that parking lot was because I was still trying to make sure other people couldn’t say anything negative about me. We laughed at the fact they were going to anyway. We laughed just to laugh. It was cleansing. Soul soothing. I was so grateful to my momma for being my person that night. That woman, like any good southern country woman worth her raising, is tough as nails when she needs to be and I needed her to be that way on this particular evening. Gloria Gaynor joined our party, flooding the radio, as if someone knew to play that song at that moment. I taught my mom the appros words and sang it at the top of my lungs. While a huge part of me felt guilty toward this woman I didn’t know (Had anyone told her who he really was? Did she know the other face he hid from the world?), I was thankful someone else was going to deal with him. I was thankful it was no longer me.
Just in case you were wondering, I didn’t drive my kids to the wedding because I was trying to be a nice person. I didn’t drive my kids there because it may or may not have been the right thing to do. I drove my kids to this wedding because I was scared how other people would react if I didn’t. Funny thing, the people I was worried about…they were going to react and say things against me anyway. They will never allow me to be the one who went out of my way, spending money I didn’t have, to make sure the kids (…at least the ones who would agree go to their dad’s wedding) made it there clean, groomed, dressed and on time. I will never be a decent person in their eyes. I will never be a good mom. I will never do enough to warrant kind thoughts. I will always be the one who left the marriage. I will always be the one who was weak and mean and lacked faith in God. I will always be the one who keeps the kids from seeing their dad. I will never be anything other than the one to blame for everything. Yesterday, it hit me that I shouldn’t waste my energy caring what those people think of me. Yesterday, I decided I will give no pause to those who don’t think kindly of who I have become. When He reminded me of my former huge flaw, and when He laughed at the thought I didn’t have to lie anymore to exist, it just proved he doesn’t know me. There will come a time when I’m completely unaffected by words He throws toward me. That day is almost here.
I know I’m not the only woman on the planet who has walked a life of emotional and mental anguish. I know there are many more of you out there. I wish I could sit down with you and make you see your worth. I know how the day to day self-torture and the perpetual head talk affects your brain. I know it makes you confused. I know you feel like you are the problem. I know you can’t even imagine a life different than the one in which you are living. I get you.
People, listen to me. If there is someone in your life, someone with whom you feel you can’t be honest, someone whose attitudes or actions make you want to hide reality from those who really love and care for you, someone with whom you change yourself to be with…there is something wrong.
If you are in a relationship and not yet married, know this. Whatever today was like (…or the last week…or the last month…) is the best it will ever be. It does not get better after you have a ring on your finger. It does not turn into the dream relationship after you are married. If you are with someone who causes you to minutely question your safety, let them go.
Call a friend. Talk to a family member. Make an appointment with your pastor. You can tell someone the truth. There is someone with whom you can be honest about the day to day reality you and your kids are living. There is someone who will be tough as nails and help you maneuver the murky waters out of that crippling world. There is hope. There is understanding. You can live in a calm and peaceful home. You just have to be honest with yourself. Be honest with you.
I have a friend I’ve known for 30 years who recently walked down a very similar path to mine. She’s beautiful and elegant and didn’t have the outward appearance of someone living in hell. She’s also very eloquent. She wrote this a few weeks ago on her Facebook page. It’s raw and beautiful. It’s my story too. Is it yours?
I’ve been wallowing with the need to write this for a long time. Should I or shouldn’t I? Will I or won’t I? I know there will be some people with whom I face repercussion and anger for telling this part of my story. I’m sure those people will copy the link to this blog and set it on fire trying to get it to all the people that will stand up for Him. I’m sure they will talk to each other like I’m delusional and say things like, “Those poor kids having that woman for a mother.” I’m sure my faith in Christ will be questioned. I’m sure, like so many times before, He will say, “There you go again, LA…blaming me for your sins”.
I would love to tell Him to just shut the heck up and that He is so wrong. I blame myself for everything and honestly, no pun intended, I always will. Why didn’t I act like the person I was raised to be? Why didn’t I fight back? Why did I cover for this person with their family? Why did I allow my babies to live so long in this kind of crazy dysfunction? Why did I allow Him to emotionally bruise and shatter me to the point of almost no return? Why didn’t I leave years before I did?
I realize there are people out there who have first, second or third hand knowledge of my story. I realize this writing will not matter to some because they will want to believe what they’ve been told by a charismatic, funny person whom everyone likes at first meeting. It’s impossible this accepting-of-everyone man would be a monster behind closed doors. It’s impossible to believe He might be spinning the tale in the direction He wants it to go. That would be insane.
I mean, after all, everyone who has ever known me for any length of time knows I’m a liar.