I’ve been going through a bad situation the past few months and I’ve come to the point where I’m understanding and admitting that I’m not ok. I will be, but now is a struggle. Right now I’m feeling all the things…grief, sadness, hurt, anger, betrayal, pain, disbelief, shock, the list goes on.
This post isn’t so much about what happened to me, although I’ll share that with you for context. I’m writing this in the hopes that it will help someone who is hurting, that they’ll be able to either use the things I’ve learned to help themselves through their rough time, or find some nugget in here that sparks their own healing process. I don’t claim to have all the answers to how to get through a terrible situation and/or heartbreak. I’m just floundering along, finding my way and hoping that maybe I can encourage someone, that I can use my negative experience for good.
This is going to be long, there’s no help for that. So grab a drink and settle in.
When my husband Ray and I got married 30 years ago we bought our house from my dad, who had bought it from his dad years before. We took over payments and have made them all this time, now only owing $8,200 on our home. We never got around to putting the house in my name; I’m an only child so it was going to be mine anyways, we had plenty of time to get around to it, blahblahblah, you get the picture.
My dad has mortgaged my home for an additional $337,500. He secretly took out an $189,000 second on it fifteen years ago. Apparently he hasn’t paid his taxes and last year the IRS put an $80,000 lien against my home for 2009-2015. Also last year he lost some sort of lawsuit and a judgement lien for $42,000 was issued against my home. The creditor wanted to sell my home to get their money and that’s how I found out that any of this had happened. I had no idea of any of this before this spring, when the creditor sent a letter of intent to sell my home. My dad told me it was nothing to worry about and he told me this again when they posted the paperwork on my front door. Then a man brought the paperwork to my door and informed me that yes, this was something to worry about, I was going to lose my home unless this debt was paid.
I went into action and we were able to settle with the creditor and, thanks to Ray’s parents, save our house in May. My dad did nothing. At the time I told him that we had to get those taxes off so we could get the house in my name and he agreed to get a lawyer to help with that. That was the last time that I spoke to my dad. I’ve emailed him and called him and he never responds.
What I need you to understand here is that I treated him with compassion and grace throughout this whole thing. I would tell him that I was angry but still loved him. I would send him emails telling him that he needed to talk to me so that we could move forward, that I understood he was embarrassed but that we couldn’t fix our relationship until we started communicating. I gave him three months of gracious emails before I finally said “You need to call your kid, I’m getting pissed.” I gave him a chance to make it right, a chance to reach out to me and say he was sorry. I was hoping that the silence was because he was working on the tax situation and wanted to have good news when he talked to me. That’s what makes the next part so hard; I had hope for a relationship with him, hoped that he wanted to make this right.
When we were in crisis mode in the spring, trying to save our home, I was also super busy at work and didn’t have time to really deal with all that I was feeling. I would tell Ray, I’ve got too much to do; I’m going to schedule a breakdown for July. I was so shocked that I don’t think I knew what to feel. Every time I emailed my dad or left him a voicemail, it hurt a bit more, I lost a little more hope, I knew with a little more certainty that he wasn’t going to return it.
Then last week I found out that the IRS just added another $26,500 for years 2016-2018 unpaid taxes. I’m devastated and I’m having a tough time handling this. It hurts even worse this time. Yes, the rest was intentional and he’s been lying to me for years, but now he’s not only piling more debt on me but also making it clear that he doesn’t want to have a relationship with me. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.
Friends, I’m tired. So. Freakin’. Tired. But I’m getting through it. This is where I hope that this story will help someone, by telling you how I’m making it through each day.
I can’t tell you how many times during the past few months that I’ve been literally hanging onto my kitchen counter, feeling punched in the gut and thinking “I can’t take any more of this, how am I supposed to do this?” I’ll take a few deep breaths and then remind myself that I’m strong and brave and that I know that I can do hard things because I’ve done them. I remind myself of all I’ve been through and not only survived, but thrived:
I was sexually abused as a child
My husband had an illness 10 years ago that they told us was killing him
The way that his illness has changed him and our lives forever
My daughter’s heart condition at 15, being alone with her in the ER when she coded and almost died
Illnesses and injuries that I’ve had
Being targeted by a charismatic bully and having lies spread about us that people believed.
I remind myself that I’ve really survived these things. There’s a story in Daniel about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being in the fiery furnace with Jesus, everyone is astounded that not only do they survive the fire, they don’t even smell like smoke when they emerge. That’s always been my goal, to not smell like smoke. And when I’m having a rough moment in this current situation I remind myself that it’s my choice, it’s in my control to come out the other side not smelling like smoke. That’s the first lesson, to remind yourself of what you’ve already accomplished and that it’s your choice in how you handle it.
The next thing I’ve had to remind myself is that this isn’t my fault and that my worth isn’t tied to the way that he treated me. I want you to really let that one sink it because it’s hard. It’s hard to not go down the road of why wasn’t I good enough? Why wasn’t I worthy of being loved and taken care of? Especially by my dad. Remember that you don’t deserve to be hurt, betrayed, or treated poorly by anyone. The person hurting you is the one with the problem, the one who is broken. You are enough, you are worthy. I have to remind myself that I am enough, I am worthy, and I definitely didn’t deserve this.
I was asking myself why my dad didn’t love me enough to protect me, to risk my home, and I had this thought that obviously that relationship wasn’t what I thought it was. I’m not his girl, his precious daughter. But then I reminded myself, out loud, who’s I was. I’m God’s. I’m Ray’s. I’m Maggie’s. I’m Robbie’s. I’m my mom’s. I’m Dawn’s. I’m Nancy’s. I’m Moe’s. I’m Tina’s. I’m Sherry’s. I’m Monica’s. I’m Katie’s and so on. So many people have chosen me and claimed me as theirs. Saying it all out loud gave it power, saying their names gave me comfort. Another lesson I learned…don’t let the one who hurt you distract you, keep your focus on the many who love you.
This whole thing has put a strain on my marriage. I’m not worried, we’ll be ok. I know that the damage is temporary and miniscule in the big picture of who we are and our love for each other. We make a conscious effort to give each other more grace, to communicate and to lift each other up. It’s not always easy but we’re totally committed to getting through all this together and stronger.
My Ray has been frustrated with me. Like almost everyone else, he wants me to confront my dad, to show up on his doorstep and force him to talk to me. They want me to rant and rave and basically read him the riot act. I’ve frustrated everyone by not being willing to do that. My reluctance has nothing to do with my dad; it has to do with me and what makes me feel good about myself. I can be proud of the way that I’ve handled this situation. I did my best to show love, grace and compassion to someone who stole from me, lied to me repeatedly, risked my home and future and has put me in debt like I can barely imagine. If I let loose on him and said all those things that go with all the ugly thoughts and feeling that I have, it’s not going to make any difference to him but it will hurt me. I have a lot of words; I could say a lot of things to him in some pretty creative and eloquent ways. But, I know me and behaving that way won’t make me feel better, it’ll make me feel ugly. Hanging onto my integrity is too important to me. My response and behavior are the only things that I’ve had control of in this situation. The lesson here is that it’s ok to grieve, react, respond, feel, whatever, the way that you want or need to. I don’t have to react the way that everyone is expecting or wanting me to. I wish they understood but they don’t have to for it to be ok. I have to find what will bring me peace and that doesn’t have to fit anyone else’s ideals.
I also realized that although my dad did this to me, he also did it to my husband and kids. I need to be aware and sensitive to how this has impacted them and allow them to have whatever feelings and responses that they need to have. They don’t have to handle it the way that I have, if they need to confront them then I’ll to support them. So the lesson is that it’s not all about me, I need to find ways to support and comfort others affected by this situation. Even as I’m writing this I’m thinking of Ray’s parents, who have been rocks of support and love during this. I’m thinking now about how hard this has to have been on them, not only with helping us financially to save our house but also the anger and fear that they must be having. Ron and Linda have always been supportive of me but I’ve noticed that the hugs are a little tighter and longer now, I feel that they’re trying to make up for my dad. This hasn’t been easy for them either and I want to acknowledge that. Thinking about how others must be feeling helps you get out of your own head and focus on something, someone else.
I’ve realized that I need to take care of myself physically, spiritually and emotionally. I don’t really drink and I’m not a smoker so I self-medicated with food in the beginning…lots of ice cream to start with. I’ve stopped that behavior and started being aware of doing things that help me destress and take care of myself, including exercising and taking a guilt free day off of work when needed.
I’ve spent more quiet time with God, sometimes in prayer, sometimes in art or journaling, hanging onto the promise of him and his unwavering love for me. I’ve been completely transparent with my friends, calling on them when needed. I listen to music that makes me feel better, sometimes hitting repeat multiple times if it’s just the right song for the moment. The lesson is that you can’t neglect yourself in any area. Some days you’ll do better than others, just do the best you can and it’ll be ok.
So I’m feeling lots of things. Hurt. Angry. Betrayed. Scared. Sad. So damn sad. I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. And I’ve learned that it’s ok to feel this way. It’s ok to say I’m not ok. I’ve also learned that I don’t like the way that I feel when I let these feeling take over so I refuse to let this steal my joy. I can have these feeling without letting them take over and turn me into a version of myself that I don’t like. I can have bad moments, even bad days, that’s ok. Then I need to take a few breaths and start back at the top of this list…I’m not worthless, this isn’t my fault, I’m Ray’s, etc. All the way down to reminding myself of my responsibility in this: not lose myself, not to take my frustrations out on others, to stay true to my peace.
There’s a new song by Kelsie Ballerini and it hits me upside the head every time I hear it on the radio. It’s about being real and being hurt and about not having to be OK all the time. I feel like the timing of it is a God send. Here’s the chorus…
What if I told you the world wouldn't end If you started showing what's under your skin? What if you let 'em all in on the lie? Even the homecoming queen cries Yeah, what if I told you the sky wouldn't fall? If you lost your composure, said to hell with it all Not everything pretty sparkles and shines And even the homecoming queen cries Oh yeah Even the homecoming queen cries
Hey homecoming queen Why do you lie? When somebody's mean Where do you hide?
That helps explain why I’m writing this…I’m hoping that by me being real about what has happened, how I’ve been feeling and what I’m doing about it, will somehow help someone else who has been hurt or is going through something.
The last lesson…take care of your legal stuff, even if it’s between family.