our witness

quite alone

During the Holiday season, from say mid-October until after New Year’s Day, is probably the worst possible time to have a crisis in your life!

I’m talking major CRISIS here—death, divorce, disaster. Not social crisis—broken fingernail, lost car keys, ‘we weren’t invited to their party again this year!’

I say this with absolute conviction because after fifteen years of marriage, one teenage son, and a fairly successful career, suddenly I found myself quite alone, in the midst of a major crisis. Alone for the first time in my life.

After celebrating a thirty-something birthday in the spring, things began to go down hill rapidly. By late summer I was living in a furnished apartment conveniently located close to my work, with nothing personal from my old life except my clothes and cosmetics. How did it happen? What were the reasons?
Why do such things ever happen? Who knows?

Thanksgiving had always been one of my favorite Holidays, and up until then I had served up the traditional feast in my own home, surrounded by family and friends. This Thanksgiving was spent at a step-brother’s house. This family belonged to a son of my Mother’s recently acquired husband. The husband and father was actually more stranger than brother and that day remains one of the most horrible I can ever remember.
Me, little Ellen Lee, who for years had served up turkey and trimmings in my own home to a dozen or so people, was sitting at a stranger’s table, fending off lewd, unwanted advances from a drunken step-brother, and trying desperately to keep his wife and kids from noticing what a “turkey” he was.
I was dying inside.

While everyone else was pretending the situation was perfectly normal—every tradition I had ever cherished was being violated.

Christmas was WORSE!

New Year’s Eve was no picnic either, although by that time I had developed a “friendship” with a guy from my high-school days, so I had visions of a special evening.

Well, that didn’t work out!

My “friend” made plans with his friends before we started seeing each other. I mean, after all, why should I think he would spend New Year’s Eve with little ol’ Leigh? After all, we were only sleeping together on weekends and Wednesdays.

I spent the New Year Holiday alone!

By February I was in a crisis within a crisis!

One night, at the end of a dream date – in formal wear – at the best dinner theater in the area my “friend” said, “Thanks! It’s been fun…but NO Thanks!”  Now we’re talking dumped—twice within six months, and no hope in sight.

“Come on Lee. We’re going out tonight! Place is called The Library, and it’s just off the college campus. Single guys there by the dozens. You’ll love it!”

I hated it!

The Library was my first taste real of the singles scene and it scared me silly. What a miserable place! It was dark and dirty, smelling of beer, cigarettes and weed. And it was deafeningly LOUD! My girl-friend seemed to be having a great time, but I was faking the fun she’d promised we would to be having and wanting nothing more than to get out of there. A couple of beers didn’t make it any better, only giving me a queasy stomach and a pounding headache.

Out of the crowd, through the smoke swaggered a cute, cowboy, college-boy who asked me to dance. I love to dance…so…we danced, several times. He told me I was hard to talk to, but how he managed to figure that out above the noise is anybody’s guess.

He was tall and blonde, lean and muscular and might have been four or five years older than my fifteen year old son. Maybe twenty or twenty-one, tops. And he was so stoned he couldn’t have told me his age, if I’d asked him.

My girl-friend apparently had plans to close the place down. We had her car. I couldn’t just go home and leave her there. Could I? So, we danced. And made stupid attempts at conversation. And danced some more.
At about two in the morning, college-boy asked to take me out to breakfast, and then suggested he’d take me home. What he was really suggesting was coming home with me…for a little “sleep over.”

So, there I was—in the middle of a divorce—in a crisis within a crisis—standing in the parking lot of a campus beer joint, explaining to some zoned out kid why I wasn’t going to allow him to take me home, and why I wasn’t going to take him home with me, when it hits me….

“I do NOT want to spent the rest of my life like THIS!”

If I said three words to the girl-friend during the ride home I can’t recall what they might have been. I leaned against the passenger door, with a death-grip on the door handle, hoping against hope to make it back to my place without an accident or an arrest. I was ice-cold sober and scared stiff.

When the car stopped at the curb, I jumped out, muttered some excuse about not feeling well and dashed for the security gate of my nice safe apartment complex. Somehow I managed the gate, the elevator and my keys. Somehow I got inside the apartment, into the bathroom, into the farthest corner. There I collapsed on my knees against the edge of the bathtub, as far away from the life I had lived for months as I could get.

God! God, if you’re out there… If you really exist, please, help me! I don’t want to spend the rest of my life this way. Please God, HELP ME!

Then I started to pray. Now please understand, I’d been to Sunday School with my cousins a few times as a child, but I knew nothing about religion, or prayers. What I heard myself saying was…”Our Father, who art in Heaven….”

What happened then?

I had no idea!
I got up, washed my face, stripped to my lingerie, threw myself across my rented bed and cried myself to sleep.

That was Sunday morning.

Somehow I made it through the rest of the day and night. Then it was Monday, and things were a little easier when I was at work, a little more familiar, a little more comfortable.

And so life went on.

I forgot I’d prayed.

Thank God – He remembered!

Subtlety, almost imperceptibly, my life began to change.

For months things continued seemingly in crisis. I moved back in with my husband and son, even though there was a divorce in the works, it wasn’t final yet and I was desparate. I begged and pleaded until the ex finally agreed he’d take me back for the sake of our son. While I was moving in he told me, “It won’t work, but we can try it. Maybe it will be easier on the boy.”

The ex was right. It didn’t work! I’d grown and changed too much. No longer the weak, compliant, co-dependent wife, I now had ideas and opinions of my own. What had been an impossible situation before was now approaching violent. In early summer he told me he not only didn’t love me anymore—now I was so different he didn’t even like me.

“Leave! This isn’t working out of any of us!”

“Fine! This time my son goes with me!”
“No! You’re not taking him. And, if you try, in any way, I’ll kill both of you. You can’t handle a teenage boy anyway, you’re too weak and stupid.”

Maybe he was serious. Maybe he was right. Maybe not. I was too afraid of his temper to push it. My reasoning was, “If I can get out of this with my life and my sanity, I’ll settle for that much, and work out the rest of the details later.”

At any rate, I moved again. The third time in a little over a year. This time into an apartment furnished with a few of my own pieces, making my surroundings a little more like a home and a little easier to live with.
At some point during those months I picked up a mystery novel where the heroine talked about a little prayer wheel going around and around and around in her head….”please, please, please!” Looking back now, I realize most of the time I was doing something similar,

“Please…please…please! Please don’t let it end like this. Don’t let the rest of my life be as worthless and miserable as the past thirty years…

“Please…please…please. If you’re out there…please…. I don’t want to be so ALONE!

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—”Christian”—used in your baptisms? James  2:5-7 (The Message Bible)