the trepidation of navigation

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

When middle-aged people wait and hope that it’s not yet too late to find that “special someone” for the walk down the marriage aisle, there is no shortage of voices that offer discouragement, much of it well-intentioned or at least unwitting. The more malignant voices say something like:

  • Never been married? Why not? What is wrong with you?

  • Divorced? Oh, were you one of this terrible generation that doesn’t finish what they start?

I have more material, but just typing out those rotten “big two” is really enough of a punch in the gut, no matter how familiar it is, and the aim of my writing is never to make a hard thing worse for any of the wonderful people who bother to come by and read me.

Take that and add it together with the cases we all know of people who gave marriage a 2nd or 3rd try and the outcome didn’t improve, and it’s enough to make a person downright SERIOUS about Figuring This Thing Out (or just avoiding the whole thing altogether.)

I already knew on some levels BEFORE my divorce that I wasn’t very good at the whole marriage thing, and then when I worked through some stuff and dropped my defenses and self-justifying thoughts…well, let’s just say I was crystal clear on that point. So the little voices inside of me shouted loudly along with those external ones, keeping me afraid, keeping me pretty sure that trying again could really only result in more failure and more pain. You might even recall that in the last few weeks before my wedding, the noise inside of me got louder and louder – it was what prompted my series on “men appreciation,” my (very effective) weapon to silence the false sound of impending doom.

Now here we are, navigating marriage.

On one hand, it is beyond wonderful. I’m so glad to have G. I so completely enjoy his presence in my life. I am continually surprised at how much better it gets, how quickly. And I am WAY more in love with him than I was even just a month ago (and that was a lot!)

On the other hand, it shows me my weaknesses, and it makes me SO VERY GRATEFUL for the tools I’ve learned to use well, when combating those weaknesses.

Take this morning, for instance, when I realized that the sensory overload (only every single light and sound bothered me), headache, neck ache, and most of all the inner grouch all tracked back to one thing: oh yeah, it’s the middle of my month. PMS. Oh, joy! I am here to testify that in my past, my family KNEW when the dreaded 3 letters came around. They knew because I complained and because I took it out on them. When the kids were little, my ex-husband used to keep his own private calendar marked, so he’d know when my dangerous days were coming.

I was struggling through this morning, feeling miserable and particularly vicious, but you know what? Gary was SURPRISED when I made that confession to him, because I had been refusing to respond to the pain or to externally react to the internal grump. This is the level of healing and learning God has given me, these past years: He didn’t take away my PMS. But He did teach me how to endure it with enough grace that the closest person in my life didn’t even know, until I said so. HALLELUJAH and THANK YOU JESUS for everything it took to bring me from there to here!

Or take earlier this week. Oh, man. G and I were cuddling and watching a movie. And there was just this little bitty teeny tiny moment – it probably didn’t last even an entire second – of a tiny perceived shift in body language (the slightest possible movement of a hand, the smallest shift of his eyes), and I felt like I had been shot. Had he just tried to dismiss me? I froze. REJECTION was what was screaming inside of me. I was all cool and calm on the outside, but on the inside I was in major freakout mode. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I needed to decide how to respond, but there was this little Terrified Karen at the helm and all she could do was be terrified. I was probably 20 minutes there, stuck, staring at nothing, panicking and without a clue of what to do next.

Eventually, Healed Karen showed up for the conversation. She took Terrified Karen by the hand. She reminded her again of those promises at the altar – the whole “not retreating or withdrawing” business. She reminded her that Gary has only ever been kind and loving. She pointed out that Gary doesn’t usually do extremely subtle messages – he’s all man in the “being direct” department…and asked wasn’t this perceived slight an incredibly subtle one? She pointed out to her that people misunderstand each other all day, every day, everywhere, and that it was most likely that she had misunderstood that one tiny nonverbal cue. She entreated her: ASK. Ask if he meant what you think he meant. ASK!!

Terrified Karen was, of course, sure that he would be SO ANGRY at being asked (this is Terrified Karen’s number one excuse for hiding, the certainty that words will bring her world down on her own head.) She could not move for the longest time, and more than once she opened her mouth and closed it again. Gary was watching the movie and had no reason to suspect that his wife, with her head on his shoulder, was losing her sh*t.

Finally, Healed Karen and Terrified Karen teamed up and though the words would barely come, I DID ask if he had meant to do what I thought he had done, and of course he had not at all…didn’t even know what I was talking about. And furthermore, he was NOT angry that I asked. He was, as usual, compassionate and patient and concerned about me and willing to deal with the way I can completely come unglued in the space of about one breath.

Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often – only a couple of times since the wedding. I’m so glad it’s not more than that. I’ve been given the grace to Be Very Brave each time after a few minutes of feeling crushed, and so each time, the matter has been put to rest within mere minutes. With that being said, each time is very humbling. I end up embarrassed and sorry and crying or at least fighting tears, and G is so very kind about THAT too. He’s a gem. I know that tears tend to push some men into defense mode and then it gets ugly. I’m so glad that he doesn’t read my meltdowns as a criticism of him. Part of that is the way I speak, but part of it is for sure the way he intentionally chooses not to be offended.

He could choose to be offended.

We are going to be okay. BETTER than okay, because we are keeping our promises, listening to each other and to God, intentional on all fronts. That’s a grace that will carry us through even things like old baggage that stirs new meltdowns.

I’m sure this is an overshare for some. All I know for sure is that every day I am discovering new levels of healing and learning, and God gives me a chance to give away what He has given me, and so I can’t not. Maybe someone reading needs this specific infusion of hope.

Praise the LORD, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.



  1. Sherri says:

    I love this and don’t think it is an overshare AT. ALL. I love your openness and honesty – it gives me hope that someday Healed Sherri will be able to take Terrified Sherri by the hand and walk through tough conversations with friends or maybe a husband should the Lord bless me in that way. In the meantime, Healing Sherri is continuing to do the work and strive toward being the woman God wants me to be. Thank you Karen, for sharing your journey!

  2. Pam Spangler says:

    Karen thanks again for touching my heart as I’m struggling if I will ever have someone special in my life again I’m trying to completely trust God for this season of my life

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