The Thanksgiving Day exchange made for a less than celebratory holiday. After sending my email to her father, I had to go get in bed. I was physically expended by it. Between tears and a churning, yet rigid, stomach, it was a tough one. I'd never had an "enemy". It was a new deal for me. I was almost positive within myself that my ex would now hate me due to the email I sent in response. I could live with that if my email resulted in a healthier dynamic and more freedom for her. His email to me that morning was, to that point in my life, the lowest thing another human being had ever done to me.
Over time, my ex eventually opened up about what that day was like in their home. She had barely slept the night before herself, still in turmoil over the finality of our email exchange. The next morning, as her family gathered in their living room for their daily devotion/indoctrination session, her father entered the room crying, carrying a handful of papers. He had printed out copies of my email and handed one to her, then handed copies to the rest. According to her, my email hit their home like a bomb (up to that point, I'd been very measured with my words, even in the face of his nasty insults and lunacy). She said her mother was furious (she's as foolish and emotionally abusive as the patriarse, just in her own unique way - I couldn't care less that my email had made her get all out of joint) and that a couple of her sisters became angry and upset that I'd written such an email. Her dad then began playing the victim, sobbing and saying, "We need to pray for Lewis. He's hurt. He's a wounded animal and he's just lashing out. Forgive him and pray for him." What an ass. Then, when I found out my ex's next step, there were few times I've ever been as proud of her. She asked the question that hadn't entered the mind of any of the rest - "What did you send him? I want to see it." He pulled up his email to me, and she read it, breaking down as she did so, asking him and pleading with him, "What have you done?! Why would you do this?! Why would you send him this?!" In her heart, she knew all of this was wrong, and she knew his email was all BS. It made me both proud of her and overwhelmingly heartbroken for her.
Later that night, she sent me an email, apologizing profusely for her father's email to me, telling me that it wasn't his intent to hurt me (she's gullible, but not that gullible - she was just doing all she knew to do to smooth the waters). It eased the hurt a bit to know she didn't hate me for my response, and just in emailing, it let me know that she considered her father the "guilty party", if you will. That helped, even though the situation was still a big ole smelly ball of nonsense. It helped me if no one else. Still, I expected this to be the last I'd ever hear from her.
The next day, I was a mixture of heartbreak and anger, with anger often winning in that tug-of-war. Part of me wanted to get my hands on his weasely neck so bad I could taste it. I couldn't understand why ANYONE would so willingly take something that had been so beautiful, so innocent, and so happy - which the formative stages of our relationship were to a tee - inject himself and his own plethora of bizarre beliefs and personal weaknesses into the equation, with or without an invitation, pee on every bush, fencepost, lightpole, and car tire to mark the territory as his own, and in the process, send the whole deal to hell in a handbasket, leaving lives and hearts scattered as debris in his wake, and think he'd done the right and "godly" thing. Total jackass. Remember, I was new to all of this patriarchy crap. Weird was just weird. I didn't know the parameters and depths of "patriarchy weird".
That night we were to play a concert at a venue about 45 minutes away from where I live, so rather than having to drive to the office to board the tour bus, I drove to the venue. This would enable me to drive back home that night and get one extra night in my own bed before climbing aboard the bus for a 10 day Christmas tour run the next day. Late that afternoon, as we were finishing our soundcheck, my cellphone rang. It was her family's home number. It could've been any one of them, so I just let it go to voicemail, not even slightly desiring to talk to the patriarse had it been him calling. Once finished with soundcheck, I slipped off to a back hallway to listen to the voicemail. I heard her pleading voice saying, "Lew, please call me back. Please? I need to talk to you." I called her back. You wanna guess who answered? I just flipped my phone shut, fending off the desire to throw out a few choice nouns and adjectives before I did so. Within minutes, she called back. I let it go to voicemail again. I once again heard her voice saying, "Lew, I'm sorry. Please call me back? I promise that dad won't answer." So, I returned the call and she answered.
I wasn't angry with her, but I was very direct with her because I was so angry at him. This is what a bit of the exchange looked like...
Her: Lew, I'm so, so sorry about yesterday. Please forgive dad. Can you forgive him?
Me: Maybe. Probably. But not today. I'm fine with where I'm at right now. I'd rather be mad at him for a while today.
Her: I just don't like all of this between us.
Me: What does it matter if we're over? Aren't we over as a couple? Are you still looking at us as a couple?
Her: I just don't want to marry a man when our families hate each other.
Me: What does that have to do with me? What does that have to do with my family? What has any member of my family done to project hate or cause a problem? My family hasn't even been a part of this. We aren't the ones who need to take a look in the mirror. That's on your end of the phone.
(she then began to cry)
Her: Can we make it though this?
Me: I can, but I'm only half of "we". I can't be strong for you in this. To handle this my way, the gloves will have to come off, and I don't think that's what you want. You have to decide what you can handle.
Her: Are you willing to work at this and do what it takes?
Me: As long as that doesn't mean putting your dad in charge, then yes. I'll respect YOUR wishes concerning us, but not his. I'm not a child. Neither are you.
Her: Do you hate dad?
Me: No - but he's workin' on it.
My memory is sometimes a curse. It isn't fun to be able to recall things like this in vivid detail, practically word for word. My heart burned for her that night as we talked. It's burning even a bit now as I've typed up the exchange, despite the bitter disappointment in her of the last few years. The patriarchy stuff was completely foreign to me. In flying so blind, I may have been too harsh with her. I don't know. I was just trying to tread water in an ocean casting off 50 foot waves of insanity. I mean, to me, these were decidedly simple matters of right and wrong, and it was like I was watching a self-centered, intellectual castoff-filled debate team wringing their hands, acting paranoid, taking the long route to nowhere, and then consistently settle on "wrong", making mountains out of molehills and molehills out of mountains the entire time. Their moral compass had lost the ability to point toward the magnetic truth.
To sum up the phone call between us, we ended with an agreement to call and talk more the next day, and with a mutual hope that we'd find some way to make our relationship work. I went home that night and slept soundly for the first time in a while. And...My email to her father seemed to make him take a few steps back. He actually started being "nice", even if it was disingenuous. He still was considerably less than my favorite people, though, as I didn't trust him at all. I simply got along, as best I could, for her/our sake. She eventually confessed to me that my email to her father had made her respect for me grow. After weeks of her parents constantly and manipulatively telling her that I was dishonorable, arrogant, prideful, disrespectful, divisive, conceited, and the like, to see me fight like a pitbull against something I knew was wrong (and SHE knew was wrong) helped her to block out the other stuff she was hearing.
Once again, I attempted to take the high road. I called her father and offered an apology for any troubles I may have created re: the Thanksgiving incident. His response? "Well, onward and upward." What an ass. I made up my mind, on that day, that I'd never again offer ANY form of apology or concession to ANYONE when I knew, beyond doubt, that I wasn't in the wrong concerning the issue at hand. I value honesty immensely, and I never want to be proven dishonest, even in attempting to take the high road.
The next few weeks were a peaceful time for us, and our bonds grew. I sent her a bible for a Christmas gift, with her name engraved on it, and it was a big deal for her. She'd never had her own bible with her own name on it. She sent me a scarf which she had knitted herself, and included one of her prayer journals from about a year prior. She wanted me to read it because she felt it would give me a better understanding of who she was. I once wrote the following about this prayer journal...
As a Christmas gift in 2007 (her family didn't officially celebrate Christmas - it was "pagan"), my ex-fiance sent me a prayer journal of hers from about a year prior. I thought it was immensely sweet, but at the same time, I knew there was something in it that she needed me to see. About 2/3 of the way through it, I came upon the entry at the bottom of it all. She had once had an impure thought about a man, and spent an entire page of this journal beating the crap out of herself for being such a depraved, vile sinner. The entry began with "I'm a fornicator!!!" It brought tears to my eyes that she had such a distorted view of what "purity" was, what being a human being is, and what God's grace is. The slightest impurity of thought was all it took to send her into an emotional and spiritual tailspin, declaring a Jihad upon herself. A bit of anger welled up in me toward her parents. The resentment lingers today. She was scared to death that I'd read this and change my opinion of her or cease to love her. I told her that she'd never been more beautiful to me, that I loved her even more, and she didn't have to earn my love or prove "worthy" of it.
So very sad.
It was during this period (after Thanksgiving) that her older sister had been sent away, out of state, for several weeks for a
They brought her sister home right after Christmas, and right after the New Year, her father arranged for a guy who had expressed interest in her to surprise her with a visit for two days. This made me livid when I found out about it. For several reasons. A) She claimed to have been in love with another man less than a month prior. This could be in no way emotionally healthy for her. B) This was all taking place about a week after my planned, and then scrapped (at daddy dearest's dishonest behest), visit was to have taken place. C) It proved the man a liar. Remember his excuses for me not being able to visit? "I'm ashamed of the house" - If the Extreme Home Makeover crew had visited, I was unaware of it, and - "We're too busy that week". The week I had planned to visit was a week off for them. On the two days this guy visited her sister, they did concerts (albeit local) on both days. A lying, manipulative snake. I mean, I wasn't stupid. I'm pretty good at staying a few steps ahead of a situation, and I knew he was lying about the "why" back when he'd cancelled and forbade my visit. This was just the hard evidence. As many excuses as my ex had tried to make to cover for her dad, there was no getting around this.
I SOOOO hated to break the peace and happiness of the last several weeks, but it needed to be addressed. She and I had the following exchange that day...
Me: Do you see a problem or two here?
Her: What do you mean?
Me: I take it that you don't see a problem.
Her: With my sister? Oh gosh no. She's so excited and happy.
Me: Your sister is only part of the problem I'm talking about.
Her: But Lew...This isn't a problem at all. She was so happy she was crying when he surprised her.
Me: She isn't crying because she's happy.
Her: What? What do you mean?
Me: Wasn't it less than a month ago that your sister had "given her heart away" to another guy? She isn't happy. She's wounded. Her wounds call for attention, and she's taking whatever attention she can get because no one seems to care if she genuinely heals. This guy is a bandaid. A BANDAID. It's pretty low rent of your folks to do this to her. They can't fix her wounds with a bandaid. A bandaid will only cover them. You have to address and treat the source of the wound, but no one in your family is willing to do that, because no one will ever acknowledge just what they find at the source.
She grew very quiet.
Me: You know, it was just last week that I was gonna come and visit. Have you guys been doing some painting? Has your dad put down some new carpet?
She got the point, and she started crying. It hurt me to know she was hurting, and to know that I had to make her aware of that hurt, but I wanted so much for her to begin to think, and I could no longer just ignore these things and sweep them under the rug to uphold a tenuous happiness. Some things had to be resolved before we could grow as a couple. We had a couple of very strenuous and tense conversations over the remainder of that week, and as I was out on the road over that week and weekend, I did a lot of tossing and turning in my bunk on the bus. I was beginning to lose confidence in "us", and beginning to question whether it was worth pursuing a future with her that was constantly neighbored by a shroud of emotional turmoil, emotional bandaids, and lies. I hate lies. I hate, hate, hate, hate lies. Her lack of expressed affection also made things difficult. It wasn't that she didn't have deep feelings for me. I knew she did. It was that she was so afraid of them, so afraid of the consequences of acknowledging them, the repercussions from daddy dearest, so afraid of using her depraved, sinful heart as a compass. She'd been so criminally taught to fear her heart and emotions. They were sinful and deceiving. I had told her I loved her, but only on a couple of occasions. I didn't want to create more problems for her, so it became a bit of a game for us when I'd sum up my feelings for her with "I kinda like you and stuff." Emotionally, she remained distant in expression.
When I came in off the road that week on Monday, I was home until leaving again Wednesday evening. I spent most of that time in prayer on this particular week. You could call my prayer a "fleece". All of this nonsense and needless drama was keeping me chewed up like second-hand taffy. I was pretty sure I wanted to marry this woman, but I needed to know that it was right to pursue it. I poured my heart and soul out to God, reminding him of the rollercoaster of the last several months, and perhaps some will think me faithless, but at this point I needed some kind of sign. Something drastic. Something unexpected. Something that gave me hope. I told God, "If you want me to pursue this, please show me as much. If you want me to pursue a future with this woman, make her emotions for me so deep and so powerful that they burst out of her to the point that trying to hold them in will make her ill, that she'll be unable to deny them, that she'll be unable to 'play it safe.'" My conversations with my ex that week (while home) were still strained, and affectionately unremarkable.
I climbed back aboard the tour bus on Wednesday night. I never carried a laptop out on the road, so my dad, who is retired, always kept a check on my email for me when I was gone, and would alert me if something important came in. I'd usually call him daily just to see if there were important emails, anyway. On Thursday, I called him, got my mom instead, and asked about my emails. She checked and told me there was an email from my ex. I asked her to read it to me. She opened it up, looked it over, and said, "Ummm, I think you need to read this for yourself." I scuttled into the hotel lobby, found the guest pc, and read the email, totally astonished at every word. She was saying things like "I keep looking at the phone, willing it to ring and hear your voice on the other end. I keep checking the caller ID just to remind myself that you HAVE called and you haven't forgotten me. I'm a mess, Lew. Is there such a thing as beautiful pain? I miss you so much! I'm so fortunate to have a man like you even look my way! I'd better stop, because I miss you so, and I'll soon be bawling like a baby with you nowhere near to comfort me!"
Ummm. Wow. That was new.
The next day, I was in Birmingham, AL, and she absolutely peppered my phone to death with text messages. It was "our day to call". Yes, to appease HER, not her father, I was still calling her only every other day. She was constantly hitting me with "Now would be a good time to call. Are you free?". I'd respond "I can't right now. In the middle of load-in. It's gonna be a while." Five minutes later she'd text again, "How about now? Are you free yet?" This went on for a couple of hours, before she must have just decided "Ah, the heck with it! I'm calling him!" She called in the middle of soundcheck, and I couldn't talk for another few minutes. She wanted me to leave the line open, "since it'll only be a few minutes". I laid down my phone, open, on my keyboard, so I guess she got to hear the keyboard monitor mix of another monotonous soundcheck. After I was done, I could still only talk for a few minutes. She was so, well, "longing" might be the best word to describe her. I kept telling her, "I want nothing more than to talk with you, but I won't be able to do so uninterrupted until late tonight." She just kept saying, "That's ok...I just want to hear your voice for a minute." She continued texting, and called me again while I was in my room on the bus getting dressed, and later again when I was at the merchandise table, and she sent me a text right in the middle of our first set asking me to call her at intermission. And then, finally, we spent nearly 4 hours on the phone late that night, and she was still extremely emotional and "longing".
The next day, our "off" day, she sent me another boatload of texts, and the patriarse even felt compelled to call me that evening and ask, "What's going on with the two of you?" I asked him what he meant, and he told me that she had spent most of the day wandering aimlessly around an empty pasture next to their house, and wound up laying in a ball under a pine tree sobbing, before coming back inside the house and laying her head over the dining table sobbing, and saying "I miss Lewis!" anytime someone asked what was wrong. He tried to pass it off as light-hearted, but I think it really got under his skin.
The next day, Sunday, she again peppered me with texts. I couldn't talk during the day, but that night we were in Orlando, so we had a 10 hour trip back to the office, and over 7 of those hours were spent on the phone with her. Her family was at another family's home a few hours away from her home, having done a concert themselves earlier that afternoon, and to find some privacy, she had gone out into the freezing cold van in the driveway to talk with me. I kept begging her to hang up and go inside and get warm. She'd say, "NO! I want to talk to you! I NEED to talk to you!" I'd tell her, "If you don't go inside, I'm just gonna hang up." She'd say, "I'll just call you right back!" Based on the previous few days, I certainly took her at her word on that one. She kept saying over and over..."Lew, my heart is so full! So many things I want to say to you! I feel like I'm fumbling over my words! I know I may have to wait to say these things, but my heart is so full!" Oh my goodness.
The next night, she broke the every-other-day protocol and called me. She told me that she just had to hear my voice, and she went into much of the same mode as the night before. As we said our goodnights, she asked me, "Lew, when you say, 'I kinda like you and stuff', you're telling me you love me, right?" She asked in such a plaintive manner, almost mourning the separation between us that the answer would make even wider, but at the same time willing only one potential and desired response. I answered, "Yes." She began to cry.
The next day, a Tuesday, I bought a ring.
Part Five coming soon. Bear with me, guys, because these are getting harder to write. Lots of memories that have been suppressed, and this is some extremely personal stuff I'm sharing. It all needs to be said, though. People need to know how sickening and destructive all of this is.