The Tapestry Blog

  • Recovering From Divorce: Introduction

    The label doesn’t help: Divorced.  


    All of a sudden your entire identity is pressed through this meat grinder and what comes out seemingly doesn’t look very appealing.  Not only that, you don’t feel very appealing.  There is both an internal and external stigma to divorce; no other life experience can really relate to this ordeal.  It is often said that divorce is “the death of a relationship.”  The problem with that analogy is that most people aren’t accused of killing their loved one, whereas in divorce, there is the perception that everyone is thinking that.  The question of who’s at fault gets tossed around like a hot potato by participants, family members, friends and colleagues and the stigma associated with being the one “to blame” doesn’t sit well nor is it entirely accurate.


    Divorce is an unintended consequence of brokenness.  We are all broken.  It cannot be said that all divorces are bad and without merit.  Such black and white thinking dismisses the complex brokenness and infidelity of human beings.  For some, divorce can be a life-saving ordeal, freeing them from an abusive spouse.  For others, divorce is an escape from an unhealthy relationship destined for failure.  It behooves me, for those not experiencing remorseless abuse or physical violence, to seek help in repairing or rekindling a broken marriage, but such endeavors for reconciliation will be fruitless ventures if both are not on board to work through the mess.  And it is a mess.


    Whether you initiated the divorce or you are on the receiving end of it, the experience leaves one feeling a wide range of deeply disturbing emotions.  Only a psychopath can go through the process of divorce and not endure some incredibly powerful and, at times, contradictory emotions.  Maybe the worst part of divorce, emotionally, is the ambivalence.  You cannot simply have one set of complimentary feelings, either good or bad, to deal with throughout the process—they have to shift and change and you feel tossed about like the old man and the sea.  One minute you’re feeling the some semblance of acceptance and the next you are reeling from the incredible anger and hurt.


    Even when a divorce is understandable and biblically grounded, the road for the initiator is not an easy one.  Shame and guilt are probably the two most prevalent emotions, but those emotions can be mixed with relief, sadness, resentment, bitterness, doubt, and anxiety.  Depending on what happened during the marriage and the reasons for the divorce, those emotions, if not processed and dealt with, will follow that individual into the next marriage.  This is one potential reason for why divorce for those married a second time jumps from 50% to 60%.


    The Journey for the recipient is a rollercoaster of fear, anger, anxiety, depression, and abandonment and rejection.  For some, building a wall of resentment and blame for the divorce provides cold comfort, but for those longing for future companionship any future relationship will be viewed through this lens of hurt and pain which will not go unnoticed.  In other cases, maybe those taking full responsibility for the divorce, will live life a shattered individual feeling inadequate or unworthy to try marriage again.  Roughly 53% of divorced individuals attempt marriage again.


    Everything gets questioned going through a divorce.  It’s the uncommonly strong individual, or the sociopath, who doesn’t question their faith, value system, mental wellbeing, or personal choices while going through a divorce.  How can a good God let this happen?  How could I have married such a person?  What have I done?  I can’t believe this is happening to me!  How did I screw this up?  What’s wrong with him/her/me?


    What about the kids?  The best case scenario for divorce is that there are no kids forced through this relational demolition.  The roles of husband and wife may be over; the role of parent never ends.  The problem with human emotion is when it is flooding our bodies, we become incredibly egocentric.  It’s self-preservation.  Kids don’t see it that way.  Often they feel left by the wayside by parents who seem too preoccupied with their own situation and affected emotions to deal with the kids’.  in order to reduce the damage divorce does to the children parents should be aware and seek out how the children are doing emotionally.  Simply asking about their day and getting them to soccer practice won’t cut it.  Parents need to engage the children on how their feeling, reassure them, validate their feelings, and help them feel as comforted as possible.  Remember, even if divorce is ultimately a good thing, change is never easy and straightforward.  Children handle divorce in different ways at different ages.  Being able to meet the child where they’re at developmentally is essential to helping them cope.  This is making the best out of a bad situation.  Unfortunately, no one escapes the collateral damage.


    The divorced make up a greater percent of the population than the widowed in the 21st century.  This is a relatively new phenomenon.  For millennia, death was the most common reason for marriages to end. Today, it is divorce.  Divorce should not have to be something you go through alone.  There is hope and there is help for those experiencing the collateral damage of divorce.  In an upcoming series of blogs, I hope to offer insights, perspectives and resources to help you in working through  recovering from the heartbreak of divorce.   

  • It's Time To Get Your Family Outdoors Because… It Is Restorative.

     

    As a psychologist and therapist, my job is often emotionally taxing and several years ago I found myself confronting burnout and compassion fatigue. I felt like a zombie; empty and depressed. My body, my heart and my mind seemed sluggish and unresponsive. With the help of some key friends, I began re-evaluating my heart and the way I was living my life. I was reminded that it had been well over a year since I’d last spent a night in the woods. So, I resolved to get outdoors at least one weekend each month. I grabbed a friend, loaded my backpack and headed for the mountains. Two days of hiking found us atop a mountain ridge just South of the Smoky Mountain National Park. An evening thunderstorm interrupted the humid afternoon heat - and our dinner - forcing us to temporarily retreat into the tent. Just before sunset, the sky cleared leaving a mist in the valleys unfolding below. As the sun passed below the horizon, the sky filled with color. I found a place to sit on the edge of the ridge as the shadows defining the ridges below me deepened. Transfixed by the beauty of the scene, I found myself unable to move until the sky eventually turned black and the stars began to show themselves. Like one on the brink of starvation, the experience was nurturing my mind, body and soul. Something inside of me loosed its grip and a longstanding tension of which I had lost awareness began to drain from my body. By the end of our trip, I found that I was not only more relaxed, but that my thinking was sharper and more spontaneous again.

    Certainly, the conversations with my friend had played a role in the restoration I was beginning to find, but I am also convinced that the sounds, scents and sights of creation – the realigning of my own body’s rhythms to the rhythms of the natural world – had also played a significant role. When I spend time outdoors, I am often reminded that for all of my knowledge and skill as a psychologist, I have no healing balm that compares with the power of God’s creation. Immersion in His natural world reboots the mind and body, restoring energy, heightening senses and bringing greater clarity of thought. I know this and, yet, prioritizing time outdoors is neither intuitive nor easy. Culture and technology offer a convenience and comfort which too often insulate me from the natural world.

    Author and Journalist Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to explain the array of emotional, cognitive and social difficulties that develop when one is over-exposed to electronic devices and under-exposed to the natural world. Although elements of human culture are rich and modern technology offers great conveniences, there is something deep within our psyche that is nurtured when we are exposed to the beauty and expanse of the natural world. When we give ourselves away to a day in the woods, structured schedules are replaced with the rhythms of the natural world. Intentional and mentally demanding efforts to direct our attention toward the tasks and problems of daily life are replaced by the fascination of a natural world that captures the mind’s attention, restoring – rather than depleting – mental energy. Research suggests that children and adults who live in proximity to green space and involve themselves in outdoor activities are more physically and emotionally healthy; they have greater emotional intelligence, higher self-esteem, spend less time with electronic devices, have lower blood pressure and are less likely to be obese.

    And you don’t have to move your family to a rural or remote location to gain these benefits. Research suggests that even small doses of “Vitamin N” – 30 – 60 minutes outdoors a day – can foster significant benefits to cognitive, emotional and relational functioning. We’ve now confirmed what artists have long known, being outdoors fosters inspiration and creativity. For years I avoided local parks like the Chattahoochee River Parks and Kennesaw Mountain because I did not consider them to be wild enough. More recently, I have discovered how wrong I was. I’ve made weekly hikes in these smaller, but no less natural, areas a part of my weekly routine and it makes a difference to my mental, physical and spiritual health. Even sitting out on the back deck of my suburban home – where the sound of the birds is diminished by the drone of passing cars, lawnmowers and the HVAC unit – is now a fundamental part of my personal maintenance program. So, get yourself and your children outside; allow His creation opportunity to bring you the healing and nurturance it offers.

    The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul – Psalm 23


  • Post Featured Image

    The Mistress

    “The man that thinks he loves his mistress for her own sake is mightily mistaken."

    - Francois de La Rochefoucauld

     

    Fantasy is synonymous with any affair; reality is ruinous to an affair.

    A married man or woman engaged in a secretive relationship outside of his or her marriage is engaging in an affair.

    What constitutes the relationship?  The obvious answer is any relationship with another person.

    However, humans can have relationships of all kinds; with all kinds.

    Take a man whose wife visits him during his lunch break.

    They take a walk, hold hands, eat a tasty and satisfying lunch, are engrossed in conversation, and end with a short kiss on the cheek.  And immediately after she departs, the first thing this man has on his mind is the attractive colleague in the next office with whom he’s been sharing many a similar moment.

    Take the same lunch date, and yet the man’s thoughts aren’t immediately focused on a certain, attractive woman, but on the next shot of liquor, line of cocaine, or strip club.

    The feelings; the urges; the desires are very similar, though the object of these thoughts and feelings are not the same.

    The Mistress can take almost any form and provide the same result: illusion—

    A false sense of comfort, affirmation, connection, or escape.  It regulates the nerves through emotional paralysis.  The Mistress permeates the life of its benefactor.

    Porn isn’t cheating; many men think.

    Taking drugs or over-drinking isn’t cheating; most everyone would agree.

    Having sex with another woman or man—that’s cheating.

    Yet, is it not cheating when a husband takes time and energy away from his wife and family to watch pornography without their knowledge?

    Is the hurt the husband feels not understandable when he comes home after a typical commute to find his wife starting her third glass of wine and not the first as she had previously told him?

    Most feel betrayed—Their marriage undermined by these objects.

    Secrets can damage committed relationships.

    How is it not cheating?  It’s a life apart from the spouse.  It’s colluding oneself to an object or relationship outside of the marital commitment.

    That commitment is designed to fulfill needs that can only be met within the boundaries of marriage.

    Most people can’t name these unmet needs.

    Most are unaware of their existence and the deep level of influence they have on our lives.

    The short list of needs consists of security, love, meaning, and belonging.

    We are wired for relationship, and if the ones we have aren’t fulfilling, we’ll find them artificially,

    Or mute the desire.

    Is it self love or self loathing that precipitates an affair?  Is it self preservation or self destruction that maintains it?  The emotional conditions ripe for affairs are many.

    For most, they revolve around unmet relational needs—too much of a bad thing; not enough of a good thing, or a mixture of both.

    Vices seduce by introducing themselves as virtue: fulfilling needs that, seemingly, can’t otherwise be met.

    Those courting a mistress, be it drugs, alcohol, porn, or anything else, would state they had it under control; they could stop at any time.  Many would be lying, and not just to their spouse or significant other; they’d be lying to themselves.


  • It's Time To Get Your Family Outdoors Because…

    It Realigns The Soul To God

    The sun has dropped below the horizon and the startling array of orange and red hues draping the sky deepen. The growing shadows heighten the contrast between the ridges unfolding before us. We are sitting on a bluff at over 6,000 feet of elevation in the middle of the Smoky Mountains; the landscape ripples out for what seems like an eternity. The chill in the wind is sharp, but only heightens the beauty of the landscape and the moment. Slowly, the twenty or so hikers who have joined us atop Cliff Tops on Mt. Leconte begin trickling off the bluff and back down the trail. Their chatter and their headlamps are quickly swallowed by the pines and myrtles behind us. My wife snuggles into me as we readjust our position on the rock. She knows I’m not ready to leave yet – we’ll be the last to walk back down. The light slowly fades and our view of the landscape goes with it. Far in the distance below, scattered lights blink on. Above, stars flicker into view and the expanse opens. Blinking - tears brim over my eyelids. Is it the cold wind? Something within shifts. A welcome gift. I am small again.



    In Psalm 8, David expresses a similar sentiment. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them… Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.

    Yet our propensity is to exchange awe and beauty for comfort and safety as we retreat into our environmentally regulated homes. Well-intentioned, we protect our children at the expense of crippling them – introducing the illusion that with enough caution and prudence security can be purchased. A friend was recently surprised to find a neighbor had called the police to her home… because she’d allowed her boys to play in the rain.

    Street lights shroud our view of the stars; buildings block our view of the horizon. The buzz of traffic drowns out the noise of the local wildlife while an array of electronics clamor for the attention of our eyes. In the din and hum of suburban and urban life, it’s all too easy to lose the awe of God that is so readily evoked upon entering the natural world. Busy schedules, social pressures and the stress of daily life leave us feeling as if the world were upon our shoulders. In such a state, it is easy to lose an honest assessment of one’s own size and influence… of His size and power.

    “There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.” - Linda Hogan

    So take the hand of your spouse and your children. Go outdoors and then go a little further – a little deeper - until you are beyond that which you can regulate – beyond yourself. Step out from under the awning and into the storm as it unloads its furious burden of water and light and sound. Go and stand in the surf, at the ocean’s edge… withdraw from the lights and gaze up into the unending sky… step to the edge of the bluff, releasing your eye to travel out and over the unfolding ridges. Pull your loves close – squeezing them tight as you surrender your silly little small to His overwhelming Big.



     

  • It's Time To Get Your Family Outdoors Because...

    Once we’d settled in at the base of the two large oaks and turned off our headlamps, it was utterly black. Sunrise was still an hour away and the clouds blocked whatever light the moon and stars might otherwise have offered. No more than 20 minutes later, adrenaline jolted my heart into action as the sound of approaching footsteps became distinct. Black bears commonly passed down the game trail we had chosen to sit near. So close were the footsteps now that I could almost feel the weight of them moving the mossy ground beneath me. And then, abruptly, they halted. Seconds seemed like minutes before a loud snort followed by a stomp and, then, retreating footsteps, let my daughter and I know that it was a deer and not a bear that had almost walked over us. Leaning close and in a whisper that carried the emotional tenor of a scream, my daughter said, “That was a deer, right?!?”

    Thirty minutes later, as light from the approaching sunrise was beginning to fill the sky, movement in the brush caught our eye. No more than 20 feet away, a bobcat meandered into the opening in front of us. Unaware of our presence, he trotted by, eventually disappearing into the brush. Awe-struck and hesitant to say anything that might compromise the beauty of the moment, my daughter and I stared at each other, wide-eyed.

    Four more deer passed by us that morning, but offered no shot.

    Later in the day, as the setting sun cast the sky a vivid orange, we watched a small gaggle of turkeys wander across the valley below and roost in the pines atop a nearby ridge. Senses alive; hearts full; for a moment, all was right with the world. “We should probably go ahead and pack it in.” I suggested. “No.” My daughter replied. “Not yet. Can’t we sit for 10 more minutes?”



    Later this season, I would shoot a good-sized buck and, then, a doe to fill our freezer. But it is that day with my daughter – and not the “successful” hunts - that remains most vivid in my memory. Even as I write this from the comfort of my favorite leather chair, I can feel the ground of those woods beneath me; I feel the morning chill and smell the dank woods – even the musky scent of a deer that got a little too close is present for me. To have shared the magic of those moments with my daughter is an invaluable and irreplaceable gift that touches almost every facet of who I am as a man.

    But the blinking cursor on the electronic screen in front of me brings me back to the reality of the task at hand and the day’s chores before me. I’m distracted, ideas are ill-formed and words come slowly as I struggle to finish this blog; it’s taken far longer than it should have. I’m aware that I am mentally tired – the emotional, cognitive and spiritual demands of the past week have depleted me. Although I had last night to myself and indulged in a mindless evening of television and internet surfing, I’m still somewhat ill-at-ease. I need to get outside I tell myself. Then I am reminded that this afternoon I’m shooting and fishing with a friend; its not a great time of the year for bass fishing, but it’ll get me outside. And tomorrow I’ll hike Kennesaw Mountain at sunrise with my wife. I love those moments with her. And, reflecting on this, something inside of me relaxes.

    There’s nothing I could sell you with greater confidence than the outdoors. As a father, a husband, a psychologist and an educator, I have found no more meaningful or valuable place to be - or share with those I love - than the outdoors. It is not only a place of rest and recreation, but a place of profound learning, healing, bonding and growth - a place of restoration.

    In the short series of blogs to follow, I'll offer 5 reasons why its time to get your family outdoors.  My hope is to encourage, challenge and resource you to take yourself and your family outdoors more often and with more purpose.

     


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