The Horrifying Reality of 3:02 AM


Well, Visitors, what a time we have had. In the past week since Trump was elected, we have been treated to all kinds of images of the most extraordinary fearmongering. School teachers in a large local district wearing black after Election Day, informing ALL children they were mourning the ‘Death of America’.

Ignorant college kids protesting the election, saying they were ‘frightened’ of the upcoming four years. Misinformed twenty-somethings calling for the end of the electoral college, calling it a ‘fearful tyranny of the minority’.

Most incredibly, my peers, college educated middle aged women, being accused if ‘internalizing misogyny’ and being completely unaware of the fearful hell we had just voted down on our heads.

Gracious. In the midst of all this, there has been a small chorus of reasoned voices attempting to redirect attention back to an issue that’s close to my heart- that of genuinely traumatized, fearful people.

I was talking with my gentleman caller – code name “Stockholm”- about this very issue. Privately, Stockholm and I share the same disdain for ‘triggered’ young ‘uns, who need ‘safe spaces’ for ‘self care’. Stockholm is a great deal more diplomatic than I, as I voice my disgust for this at every appropriate opportunity. Stockholm just smiles.

Last night, at 3:02 am, I had a ‘triggering event’.

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3:02 am, on July 18, 2010, the phone jarred me out of a sound sleep. On the other end, my sister informed me that Chris had lost his battle to the great dragon Cancer, and won his seat at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

I was traumatized. I broke the news to my daughters, called my son, and drove over to the Hospice in my bathrobe. I stumbled into the facility, and kissed the cool, lifeless forehead of my husband goodbye. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Now, most of you know that I am of a pretty rational bent. I like things that can be measured. I like things that I can observe, and control as much as possible.

For about a year after that event, inexplicable things happened at 3:02 am. I got spam phone calls. Coyotes would yap at that hour. As was expected, any night terrors would reach their peak at 3:02 am, jarring me into a wide-eyed, heart pounding wakefulness.

Rationally, one would expect that sleep would become a trial for me, and it has. As most of you know who have been with me for a while, I have a horror of getting ‘stuck’ in destructive behavior. Good ‘self care’ is simply critical for authentically traumatized people. A combination of outstanding talk therapy, judicious, short-term use of benzodiazepines, meticulous attention to exercise, and really, really great church family continues to restore me to good health.

So, about last night. My dogs are these little Italian Greyhound mixes. These two possess the hearts of lions, and the brains of walnuts. At 3:02 am, these little beasts spotted a bull elk off of my back deck, and went ballistic. Snarling! Snorting! Bellowing at the top of their lungs! Raising the roof!

And, of course, triggering  me to jolt BOLT upright, flooded with memories of 3:02 am six and half years ago. Heart racing, I crept downstairs to deal with this auditory mess, and slept no more for the rest of the night.

Self care this morning included a sturdy breakfast, prayer, Scripture reading, understanding from the gentle Stockholm, visiting with good friends, and a solid day in at work.

Visitors, let us not allow authentic struggles of people like me to be co-opted by these irresponsible people rioting after the recent election. It dilutes the language, and the progress we have made on this issue.

Rioters, for shame. “Triggered” students? For HEAVEN’S sake, pull yourselves together. Manipulating teachers? KNOCK it off. You are to teach, not preach your worldview.

My people? The genuinely traumatized? The authentically ill-used?  The wounded and the bleeding? The cloud of us surrounds you. You can do this. We are here, and we love you.

Much respect,

Victoria

 

 

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It’s Time To Ditch The Term “Sexual Purity”.


I’d like you to meet someone, Visitors.

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This is Beauty Beyond Bones. (beautybeyondbones.com) She’s a stunning, young Christian woman who writes a blog about her life, which starts with a very dark description of her bout with anorexia.

Visitors, her story is friggin’ terrifying. I had no idea. For those of us in helping professions, I’d like to steer you to her blog, where she eloquently writes about the depth of self-loathing, self-hatred and utter despair that lashed her mercilessly during her battle for her life. Beauty, as we shall call her, entered an inpatient eating disorders clinic at 5′ 6″ and 78 lbs. She was so skeletal that all of her inpatient medical personnel were on a death watch for this kid, and were surprised when she woke up each morning. She had depleted ALL of her fat stores, including the ones that protected her brain and vital organs. Her body was feeding on her muscles- the biggest concern being that her body would start to devour her heart, and it would stop. Horrifying.

Read here for a heartwrenching description of Beauty’s raging battle with profound dysmorphia. (https://beautybeyondbones.com/2015/03/) Brace yourself, this is a very difficult read. She’s a victorious delight now, and writes about her artistic endeavors in NYC.

Beauty is a true, powerful warrior of the Lord. With the help of the Spirit of God, daily she vanquishes the inner voice of torment that works so hard to convince her that she is unloved, a burden, a parasite, and the world would be a better place without her.

Beauty recently wrote a  troubling column detailing her commitment to her future husband. She wants to preserve her sexuality as a magnificent gift reserved only for the man God is preparing for her.

Read this one, Visitors, there’s something off here.  (https://beautybeyondbones.com/2016/06/13/v-card/.)  Did you catch that? Beauty is a committed Christian woman, yet somehow she’s saddled with the idea that obedience to God’s direction for sexual exclusivity is somehow weird. Granny panties-orthopedic shoes- six cats at home weird. Conspicuous, somehow unnatural, weird.

What’s up with that? What did we, fellow Christians, have to do with adding to, or lightening that burden that weighs on Beauty?

I’d like you to meet someone else, Visitors. Her name is Diane, and I met her through a shared interest in dance.

Diane was blindsided by a recent divorce. She’s the same age as me, and had been married for the same 23 years. Diane was very engaging to me for many reasons. One of which was that her husband presented as if he were an abuse survivor, a topic that they never broached during their marriage. Predictably, physical intimacy was a challenge for Diane and her husband,  one that became insurmountable and eventually was the tipping point that ended the marriage.

Diane was devastated by this. She simply didn’t see it coming. When her husband abruptly had her served with papers, she was plunged into an ice-cold, isolating eddy of despair.

Physically, Diane is one of the most stunning examples of humanity I have seen. She’s an eight time IronMan athlete, her full head of chestnut hair sprinkled with becoming touches of grey. Running is her specialty, she habitually brings home Firsts in her age group in any race she participates. She’s nationally ranked, and coaches running groups of lesser athletes with humor and grace.

I helped Diane pick out some clothes for a student production at her studio. For me, it was a blast to peruse shocking pinks and lively blues and talk about tailoring items to flatter her unusually fit physique.

Diane could hardly stand it. As we got to know each other better, I would be very direct with Diane.

“Di, look at this dress.  It makes your shoulders look great! Your legs look fabulous in this one, and this one makes you look smoking hot all the way around!”  With every observation, Diane seemed to withdraw, to pull farther into herself. It was as if, in her fifth decade, any aspect of healthy sexuality was somehow taboo, off limits for even adult women to discuss. What’s up with that? Two fellow Christians, talking about sexuality-related things. Why should this be hard?

Like all of my post-40, newly divorced friends, Diane was floundering. Everything she thought she knew to be true had been rocked by this profound rejection.  Diane was ashamed of her life,  ashamed of her failed marriage, and doubted God’s love for her.

Privately, sexual intimacy loomed in front of Diane as a solution. If she could find another man to ‘love’ her in this way, someone with whom she could share her most intimate desires, perhaps life would regain some sense of normalcy. Perhaps she would feel better.  Someone to fill her lonely days, someone to appreciate her athletic aspirations, maybe even someone with whom to share the second half of her life.

It is terribly hard for me to watch my divorced friends suffer like this.  Self deceit is a  trap like no other and Diane paid the price.

One freezing Colorado afternoon, I held her hand on the surgical table as the gentle doctor removed a portion of her intimate parts. I gave her tissues as she wept in lonely sorrow over another man who she thought had loved her, and had abandoned her to the ravages of a cancerous sexual infection he had given her.

Diane was alone, rejected,  again.

Christian Visitors,  how can we mitigate this, help ease this suffering of our own?  We simply must drop the shame, that will help.   We must unbind the language of cultural judgement, and attach our value to the word of God. ALL sin is created equal, ALL steps outside of God’s best break the heart of Jesus.  Beauty has enough on her plate without shame, and Diane is bone-tired and weary. We have to talk about these intimate things, and we have to do it in a healthy way.  Science and the Word of God tells us that sex is entangling, every single time. There is no such thing as ‘casual’ sex, ‘free’ sex, or ‘meaningless’ sex. That said, sexuality is a gift! ALL aspects of it!

Beauty, you are simply lovely in your slinky little  dress and stiletto heels. Your makeup is darling, and your fashion sense is impeccable! Diane, you’ve worked very hard on your body, and now, you are the picture of glowing health. Your athletic performance is reflected in your lovely form,  and  you are drop-dead gorgeous in cerulean blue.

American Christians, let’s look at this hurting population through the lens of unconditional love. There is no difference at all between Diane’s mistake and me holding a grudge, or getting angry for no good reason. We are ALL impure.  Jesus made us all righteous, if we allow it.  Let’s start looking at each other how Jesus does.

Much love,

Victoria

 

 

Happy Anniversary, Chris Lierheimer.


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Twenty seven years ago today, I :

*Was very young. 23 seems a lot younger now than it did then.

*Was twelve pounds lighter and had great knees! It’s amazing the noise they make now.

*Decided that life with Chris Lierheimer was better than life without him.

*Thought that all an abused man needed was the Holy Spirit and the love of a good woman. (There’s a book about naivete in there somewhere. )

*Was lighthearted. Thought PTSD was a designer disease for slacker soldiers.

*Thought a lot less than I do now. Pretty much accepted what my conservative Baptist upbringing gave me, word for word.

*Thought about ‘terminal’ in terms of trains and airports.

*Was exceedingly self-absorbed. The world was my oyster, and I was going to make a difference.

*Had no idea what an ‘intact family’ was. Didn’t everyone have one? What’s up with making a special name for what’s normal?

Now, twenty seven years later, on this day, I:

* Am 50. That seems so substantial. My peers are busy getting their minds blown about teetering on the brink of old age, and I don’t have time for that. As far as I’m concerned, 50 is High Noon, so let’s get busy!

*Weigh in at around a buck forty instead of a buck thirty. Guess what? I’m never going to stand on a pointe shoe again, and good for the 23 year old Victoria who could. My body has mothered four children, seen a good man to his grave, held the hands of dying men and women, and kissed my own mother goodbye. I’m delighted with this ‘car’ God gave me to drive around while I’m here, in spite of the fact I have to take in for repairs more often. I can swim, run around, hike, ballroom dance, turn the heads of the middle aged man set, (and a few women) -In short, this body rocks.

*Still think that life with Chris Lierheimer was better with him, than without him. It would be now. I’m sitting on the porch of our lovely little family cottage in Upstate New York, watching the herons and loons go by. Having kids is great to share these things with, but having him would be better.

* Realize that paternal abuse is about one of the most heinous things someone can do to a child. Chris needed years of therapy before marriage, and certainly before children. Had his mother addressed this instead of denying it, many of our bumps would have been diminished.

*Carry a lot more weight around. Chris’s death was the most traumatic event I have ever endured, and the fallout from PTSD lasts. More on that later.

*Realize the kind of Baptist upbringing that I had was a genuine mixed bag. The youth leader was a charismatic high school teacher who actually believed that Catholics likely weren’t Christians because they worshipped saints. All the ‘cool’ kids went to youth group, and chubby stutterers like me were relegated to the outskirts. On the other hand, we hand a constant, steady stream of solid grounding in the Scripture, and for that I am grateful.

*Shudder less at the word ‘terminal’. My good friend Clare Flourish (clareflourish.wordpress.com) unwittingly gave me a piece of life-changing wisdom a few columns ago. We were trading experiences about seeing our fathers age, and in her case, die. She told me that she had, rather than a sense of ‘a life lost’, ‘a life completed’, at the loss of her dad. I believe that we were created not to die, but to live with God and enjoy Him forever. Clare’s words gave me a vision of my dad finishing the work he was to do, and getting off at his terminal. He’s going to be with his father, and his Heavenly father. This is a good thing. Thank you, Clare Flourish.

*Am a great deal less self-absorbed. Thank God. Had I no children, no husband, no divorced, agnostic, Jewish, Buddhist, doubting, gay, transexual, young, elderly or otherwise different friends, I’d be a crashing boor. I shudder at the thought.

*Mourn the loss of my intact family. There is simply no getting around that. My dear friend Bird Martin (everyonehasastory.me) once observed  …wouldn’t we want our loved ones to keep a little token of us in their hearts should the roles have been reversed?…Chris will have left behind a little legacy in that you will be little more empathetic for others who are going through the same thing. Don’t fight it in those sad moments when you think of him. Embrace the fact that he deserved to have someone grieve for him  here on earth.”  

I find this to be true. And as I said a few days ago, some pain demands to be felt. But my family is not intact and I wonder where the fractures will end. God is the Great Physician, to be sure, but we do not know His plans.

Even so, life is good. On this, my twenty-seventh anniversary, my children and I raise a glass of peach wine to that marriage day long ago. Happy anniversary, Chris Lierheimer.

Much love,

 

Victoria

Missing Mom


Hello, fellow Visitors, it is a pleasure to meet with you.  images-8

Funny, in the midst of great blessings, how easy it is to slip into melancholy. Springtime is finally here in Colorado, the meadows are green, and nothing is burning.

Coloradans, do you remember the date of the first fire last year? March 26! One of my staff members had the fire advance to within half a mile of her home, and several clients had their life’s possessions reduced to dust. Thank God we seem to be retreating from that today.

This time last year for me was simply crushing. Business issues abounded, children were choosing colleges, and Carolyn Jordan Newkirk had been gone for nearly four months. images-10

Since then, life has been on a wonderful upward track. Learning to be single has been a remarkable struggle, but I have made some lasting friends in spite of the pitfalls and setbacks.

My counselor has been a great help, especially during the issues with fledgling children. It’s funny, people generalize and judge with the ease of a fingersnap. I’ve been an active parent since my children were laid in my arms, it’s a wonderful occupation.

When issues come up, like Abi leaving for Georgia in the fall, I get “Oh! You must be so saaaad! She’s moving so far away!”

Actually, I am sad. But not for that reason at all. I’m thrilled that Abi has matured enough to consider making such a gigantic move. She belonged at SCAD last year, truly. What makes me sad, is that I can’t walk next door, barge in, holler “MOM!” and word-dump all of this wonderful news into a person who would be genuinely glad to see me. images-11

She’d squint across the table,stand up in her walker, offer me food, tell me to make her some tea in her uniquely crabby way, and command me to tell her all about it. An hour would go by, and she say something like “I’m so proud of that kid. You and Chris really raised her well. ”

I’d give her a hug, and bounce out of the house, back to work. I miss my mom.

Visitors, many of you have taken the time to be gracious to me and tell me of your own experiences with your mothers. Unfortunately, not all have been good. And for that, my heart goes out to you.

Most of you though, have mothers who have done the best they could, and you’re grateful. T.L., thanks for sharing with me about losing your mom to ovarian cancer. A big, strapping man like you crying like a baby in the john makes me feel less isolated. You’re the best.

B. H., thank YOU for telling me about losing your mom when you were twenty. You’ve missed her for more than thirty years, yet your beautiful smile and lovely family reassure me that things will be OK.

K.L.? Thanks for sharing YOUR mom. She reminds me so much of mine, it’s a comfort every time I visit. Do you know last time when I left Eastman, she waved, smiled and said ‘Arrivederci’? ‘Until we meet again,” indeed!

A.R., thank YOU for tearing up with me every time we talk about moms. Seven years yours has been gone, but you’ve thrived, and grown as a woman of God.

Thank you, Visitors.  To walk into the lonely night alone is a terrible thing.   I greatly appreciate your company in these, the dark nights of the soul.

May I give you a piece of gentle advice? If you can, make peace with your mother. If you are at peace? Thank God, and think about the wonderful things you have. Skype, a card, a phone call, a chance to sit on the couch and chat. I’m thankful I had all those things for as long as I did.

Arrivederci, my friends, and bon soir.

Oh, sorry, serious post, but I just had to end with this. Mom would have loved it. Good night!

Oh, sorry, serious post, but I just had to end with this. Mom would have loved it. Good night!

Much love,

Victoria

Faces of Love: The Unlikely Joy of Peter Wiebe


Love: The Blessing and the Curse

Jesse 2010 - 2011 225To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

C.S. Lewis. (Isn’t that true? And so terrifying. To love anyone is to risk having your heart shredded.) 

It’s nice to see you, fellow Visitors. During the Sabbatical in a Teacup I mentioned to you that I had met some remarkable people in this oddly wonderful blogging community. I’d like to introduce you to one that I met a while ago, a gentleman named Peter Wiebe, who writes thresholdofheaven.com.

Peter lost his oldest son Jesse to a rare form of childhood leukemia on May 11, 2011.

Peter’s blog is a chronicle of thoughts and actions during his son’s journey to heaven. Peter is a dedicated Christian, and, like me, has had his faith sorely tried over the past stretch of time.

Valentine’s day is coming, it will be my third without my lover and best friend,Chris Lierheimer. Chris was a generous mark for all the Hallmark holidays, he just loved to give cards, candy, flowers, dinners, all the trappings.

I was often too distracted to make much of this sort of thing, which generally led to a lot of frantic night-before shopping and planning. I was just glad to have my loved ones around me, and to make sure he got his special grilled steak. (And, usually something else from my namesake Victoria’s Secret, since he’s been such a good boy.)

I’ve actually been gathering the strength to look at pictures this year.  The one in the previous entry is one of my favorites. My mom was a stunning woman her whole life, and this morning, before I went to work, I studied a series of pictures we had taken of Mom and Dad on their 60th wedding anniversary.

Bent and stooped, graying, they both had the goofy smiles of their youth, and their love for family and each other radiated from the picture.

When Peter posted this shot on the fourth, it took my breath away. Study it with me for a minute, will you? Jesse’s departure seems imminent. He can’t eat, thus the nasogastric tube. His body seems almost transparent. Frail, like that of a cocoon about to be shed.

Peter is vigorous, with good color and strong hands. Only in his eyes do you see the pain of a parent about to lose his firstborn son. Go to the blog now-thresholdofheaven.com- and read a remarkable story of redemption and love between this father and son.

I have found that people often avoid cancer blogs. No one likes to be reminded of their mortality, especially if one’s views of the afterlife are uncertain. Peter, like those of us who lay claim to the promises of Jesus Christ, looks forward to the day when he will see Jesse whole again.

But today is really all we have. Jesus doesn’t promise us tomorrow, only that we will be with him in Paradise. So what shall we do? Where shall we go? Shall we insulate our hearts, wrap them in airless containers to harden and fossilize? Or shall we be like Peter, and love extravagantly? Peter and his lovely wife poured their hearts into Jesse’s journey, and were broken for their faith.

But what else to do? When you love a child, a woman, or even an animal, it’s an extension of your own heart. The rewards are tremendous, and the risks, commensurate.

I have a series of pictures I would like you to see over the next few weeks, fellow Visitors. I call them the “Faces of Love”. They are from fellow travelers, and cover a different kind of landscape. One that I think you all will find just as beautiful and heartwrenching as any other landscape on the planet.

Much love,

Victoria

PS- Let me remind you to the introductions so far:

Everyone has a Story – birdmartin.wordpress.com.

Evan Sanders at thebettermanprojects.com

and finally Peter Wiebe at thresholdofheaven.com

Dead Men’s Mail


Sometimes you just have to laugh. I went to the mailbox today and picked up no less than six things addressed to my late husband. Chris died two years ago last Tuesday, and it seems Corporate America just hasn’t gotten the news.

I get offers of credit cards, charitable entreaties, sales flyers of all kinds, and my favorite, a voter’s guide with his name on it. (I didn’t get a ballot last year though for Chris, I could have had a lot of fun with that. )

There’s pages of tiresome things you have to do when someone dies. Notify the banks, change names of phone accounts, readjust mortgage debt, and send out a veritable flurry of official death certificates to everyone who seems to want one.

Even with all of this, people still send things to Chris and call for him. It used to bug the crap out of me, now it just tugs my heart and reminds me how different things are. Strong women like me can tell themselves a lot of lies, I’ve discovered. Things like “I’m OK. It’s good that he’s in a healthier place, I’ve moved forward in a healthy way, things are good.”

By and large, all that is true. Someone I trust once told me though, grief is like the wind. It comes and goes as it pleases. The pace of loss for me has been maddening, too. Those of you who have been with me for a while, know that Chris died, three very important friends lost their lives, and then Mom relocated to heaven.

Because of this bad run, I like the idea of grief being ‘recursive’ too. (Recursive- adj. Characterized by recurrence or repetition, in particular. )

Elizabeth Kubler Ross wasn’t quite on target. The stages of grief are not a neat staircase. You can start in the middle, go back to the beginning, leapfrog to acceptance, and back to anger, sometimes in the same day. Especially when corporate idiots try to get me to buy there wares.

I’ve discovered this roller coaster ride is mitigated only by things that are borne out of love. When I experience that stomach-dropping lurch of grief that reminds me, again, that I won’t be able to bring a business problem to my mother, I write. When I remember that I don’t have a special companion to whisper to in the night, I sing. When the crushing weight of work issues bends my frame, I dance. These things bring me back to a place of love and grace.

When I stand on the edge of that lonely, depressive, cliff I remember that I am loved by my Father in heaven, and he continues to give me good gifts. That I am only a stranger in this land, and like Chris, my mom, and others would tell me, “You’re eternal life has already begun, dear heart, and you’ll be here soon enough.

Much love to you all,

Victoria

 

 

 

Top Ten Things Your Grieving Friends Don’t Want to Hear


Hello, friends. A lovely spread of Emily Berkeley just appeared in this month’s issue of Parachutist magazine. If you know a skydiver,get the magazine,  grab the back cover and rip it off, it is not to be missed. Many of my friends who have experienced such a terrible loss often chat about how bizarre our friends can be sometimes, as much as we love you.

I thought I would take a break for a minute and see if you like this one. I wrote it in February, when life was still a haze.

 

Verbal Burbles
or
You Can Hit Your Friends or Love them in Spite of It

I sent the edgier version of this to Kiwi Hamilton and got a grin. Drop me a line if you want to see the uncensored version.
1. He’s in a better place.
(Not from my point of view.)
2. It’s better that he’s not suffering.
(No one is better of dead.)
3. Your life must be soooooooo hard with all those children.
(Actually, they are pretty good company.)
4. It makes me soooooo sad to think of your fatherless kids.
(Golly, thanks for the reminder.)
5. I juuuust don’t see how you do it.
6. I admire you soooo much.
(Oh, gag. Like I asked for this.)
7. God is in control.
(Actually, if He planned this then he’s a bastard and I’m a fool for following
Him. I happen to know he weeps with me.)
8. It makes me sad to think of you all alone.
(Better off than with bad company!)
9. You look so good!
(Compared to what?)

And, number 10, my all time favorite:

10. So, Call Me If You Need Anything. Really, Anything At All.

Wait, I can barely think enough to tie my shoes, feed the kids and dogs, go to work, and  you want me to do you thinking for you? Buy me a Starbucks, text me your love, bring me a dinner, give me a hug, talk about my loss without crying, hold my hand, and you will have my loyalty and friendship forever. But don’t ask me to pick up the phone and do your thinking for you. Please.

Again, I love you all dearly, and truly, who knows what to say at a time like this?  No one holds anything against you, and in the big picture, we know you mean well.

 

Much love,

V