March 18, 2014

The Ways We Deal

The last present I got from Emmett was a pair of running shoes. It was probably about two weeks before he died.  He came in late one night from work and threw the box toward where I was sitting on the couch.  I picked it up and said, “What are these for, Em?” He replied, “You said you want to feel like you are loved . . . so there you go.”  
        
I stared down at this expensive pair of shoes; they were shiny and new. I had wanted a pair of lavender shoes at the store a few months before, but these were bright blue. I searched the box for what I was longing to find inside . . . LOVE. After I removed the shoes from the box, only tissue paper remained. Nothing inside that box gave me the feeling of love that I wasn’t feeling in my marriage.
        
In that moment, I realized that my desire to feel love through Emmett’s t
ime and emotional connection was not something I was going to be receiving. I tried so hard to see where inside that box full of ‘stuff’ I could feel his love for me. He didn’t, after all, have to buy me these shoes or take the time to bring them home to me. Yes, I guesssomewhere intermixed in my apparent despair for the feelings I was not receivingI found myself holding tight to the love that had deceitfully put itself inside of a box.
        
I have never been the type of girl that could be bought; gifts have never been my love language. Emmett, on the other hand, had experienced much of his love coming in the form of gifts. That was one of the ways he showed love, and the way he knew how to receive it. I didn’t relate to this form of love through either giving or receiving gifts. I wanted to feel Emmett’s love through his actions; I wanted to hear it in his words; I wanted to see it in the time he spent with me . . . and I had no idea how to show him love through purchases or things.  
        
The different ways we show and are able to receive love are not bad . . . they are just different, but as I sat on the couch that day with the shoes on my lap, I almost burst into tears. I longed to be held in his arms and to be told how much I meant to him. These shoes, to me, were just reminders of the time we were not spending together. I didn’t need new shoes to be happy. We had spent years together with no money . . . and I had loved every minute of it. We had found love in the simple pleasures and kind words of our days; we had found peace in the small embraces and tender moments of being with our family. In my mind, it was money that had ripped us apart.
        
The day after Emmett was shot, and the kids had been told he was gone, the house felt scary and empty. There was an eerie feeling from which I wanted to run. My friend Emily and my sister Ali were sitting with me in the living room, when all the sudden, I had to get out of the house. They said they would come with me. We drove. I yelled. I cried. I don’t even remember all that I said, or all that I did . . . but they just silently listened. I screamed at Emmett; I yelled at Kandi; I cried for Rob and the pains that must have put that gun in his pocket. I cursed that gun; I swore at the air . . . I pounded the dashboard.
        
When my fits came to an end, we were still driving and I craved a taste of normal life. Soon, I had talked them into going into Costco with me. I walked into the store in a daze. I had made up my mind that I was going to buy the new vacuum I’d been wanting. We walked up and down the aisles. With every row I went down, I became more and more aware of the fact that I was losing it. Why one earth was I making myself walk around Costco? I was trying so hard to be normal . . . and yet inside I was dying.
          
I turned a corner and there was the mother and sister of one of Emmett’s best friends. They said hello and gave me a hug. I could tell they had not heard the news. I burst into tears. Even more out of my mind, I said, “Emmett died . . . he died last night . . . I have no idea what the heck I’m doing here . . . just had to get out of my house and I need a vacuum . . . and he died, he got shot last night at Walgreens. I can’t sit in that house any more today . . . I don't know why I am here . . . I just . . . I just need, I needed a vacuum.”  
     
They were in shock; they had no idea. Their expressions matched my feelings inside . . . like, ‘what the heck is she doing here?’ I was wondering the same exact thing. A vacuum . . . really? It couldn’t wait for another day? What was I doing here? Why did I think that stepping into the store where I’ve spent many normal days would all the sudden make everything right inside of me? 
        
Grief and fear were like a plague causing me to lose control over any rational thought I had left. And Costco was just the beginning of the many searches I would take to try to find the missing pieces of my heart.  
        
I was returning from downtown one day after a particularly long afternoon talking about elements of the murder trial, I was at a low point. I had just gotten off the freeway when an RC Willey furniture store caught my eye. I pulled into the parking lot and threw my car into park. I marched inside and searched. Somewhere inside this building there had to be something I could buy that would make me feel better about my life . . . something they had to offer just had to be the ticket to what I needed.  
        
And there it was: a giant entertainment center! Emmett and I had been talking forever about how much we wanted a huge, black entertainment center for our living room. I walked up to the clerk, and within minutes I was writing a check for three thousand dollars. I was so excited for it to be delivered; I couldn’t wait for it to be set up so I could admire its magnificence.
        
The delivery day finally arrived, and it was brought in piece by piece. The delivery men assembled it and got my TV hooked up perfectly. It did look amazing, that was for sure. It seemed to be worth every penny I had paid. It was beautiful, and I was so proud of the fact that I had bought it all by myself.  
     
That night when my house was quiet and everyone else had gone to sleep, I sat on my black couch to admire my purchase some more. It was astoundingly breathtaking; it was just as I had always pictured it would be. I didn’t move, just took it all in . . . waiting for some positive emotion to fill my empty heart. I longed for the feeling I thought it would bring . . . but it never came. The house was still empty, the room was still lonely, and my heart still hurt.
        
This expensive, massive collection of wood didn’t come with a promise of joy . . . it wasn’t surrounded with love. It was just a big, giant THING. It wasn’t capable of receiving or giving me any of the tender moments I wanted it to share. That feeling I had inside of me, the one screaming for attention . . . it was still there. Nowhere inside  did anything change for me that night, except for the feeling of regret that I had been looking for the love I still sought . . . in a giant, overpriced stack of wood.  
        
To anyone who has ever felt afraid, alone, or filled with grief or remorse—so to all of us who have ever lived—sometimes we just have to deal. Our emotions have to find their own way of coping. Some people deal with sadness by eating; others cope with grief by diving into work. Some buy new cars or move to bigger houses; others shut out everyone else. Some search for peace in drinking; others can’t seem to make themselves even leave their homes.  Some of us smother the people around us to try to squeeze out every ounce of love they have for us; others grab onto something that isn’t really theirs to take.
        
On some days, I dealt with my grief by searching in stores. I went to Costco the day after Emmett died . . . not to buy a vacuum, but to search for something I thought I might find to fill my emptiness. I ordered an entertainment center, not because I needed it or even really wanted it . . . but because I was hoping for a happiness that I didn’t seem to have at home. I bought clothes for the kids and knick-knacks for my house. I spent hours rearranging furniture compulsively, and moving kids to different rooms, not because I hated the way the house looked . . . but because I hated the way I felt inside.
        
I have never been one who could be bought off or who loves gifts.  All of the sudden, I craved the type of  “love” Emmett had given me, which was now gone. That was one of the ways he had shown me love . . . and now I found myself searching for love in things. My gifts to myself  never once brought me any lasting peace or love, but I didn’t know where to look . . . and  I couldn’t find it anywhere else. I searched the stores for love, and each time I came home with a package that was void of it, and my loneliness was accompanied by regret.
        
One of my favorite movies in the entire world is called The Ultimate Gift. It is about a young man whose grandfather passes away and instead of just giving his grandson his fortunes, he sets up a series of events for his grandson to learn to appreciate what he already has. It is an amazing movie that teaches the lessons of being grateful, learning to serve others, and finding yourself. In the end, the ultimate gift turns out to be way more than money or things . . . it is a change that the grandson finds inside of himself . . . a change in his heart.
        
Our desperate desire for love, and our longing for healing will not come from the things of this world. First, we must change the way we view ourselves; we must seek for a power greater than those of this world to help us see our purpose in it.
        
It is easy to buy things to show our family members that we love them. After all, we work hard for them to have the things they need. We go to school to become capable of providing for them and then we go to work to make money and become successful. Shouldn’t that be enough? Shouldn’t the fact that the clothes they are wearing, and the food they are eating come from our pay check be enough for them to know that someone loves them? It would seem that that could be true . . . but it isn’t. Our families need more than a paycheck and bank account to feel our love for them.
        
Our children deserve to know that at the end of every day, the ultimate gift we are giving them is more than just money and things . . . they want ALL of us. They need our smiles; they want our time; they desire our hearts. It may be grand that they are being tucked into bed in a four thousand dollar California King . . . but if our hands are not the ones that pull up the silk sheets around their necks . . . do you really think they care about how much the bed cost? They may act like they enjoy the new set of wheels they are driving, but if we aren’t there to teach them how to drive it . . . do you think it is the car they will remember?  
        
They don’t want your money. Maybe on the outside they ask for it, even beg for the ‘things’ that fill up their days . . . but on the inside . . . all they want is YOU.
        
Gifts are fun; toys are exciting; new cars are thrilling; a giant house is amazing; every guy loves a new TV in his bedroom; every girl craves a new pair of heels . . . but what they really NEED . . . is you.
        
We all need to hear that we are enough; we need you to show us that we are worth your time; we long to see you check us out from across the room. We crave to be looked into the eyes and told we are beautiful, or handsome, just the way we are.  To me, that is the ultimate gift. The gift of love.
        
Things will not bring you the happiness for which you are searching. New jeans will never make anyone fall in love with you; a new hair cut will not hide the pain you hold inside. Surrounding yourself with the prizes you obtain will not bring back the people you have lost; swiping that credit card one more time will not erase the pain of the past. Drinking that entire bottle calling your name in the fridge might numb your emotions and hide your fears for the night, but they will still be there in the morning. Ordering that last piece of jewelry at the amazing price on the gem network will not bring you the final peace it seems to promise you. Stuff will, in the end, be just that . . . stuff. Once it has lost its value, it doesn’t mean a thing. Once the soles of those shoes wear out, they are not even worth keeping in your closet. Once a trinket shatters . . . it no longer shines.  
        
Giving in to these gifts that attempt to promise you lasting happiness is just a temporary fix. Things of this earth will never bring you eternal happiness . . . only a longing for more of its temporary pleasures. Don’t let the things of this world entice you into thinking that they are all you need.  
        
When something is really broken inside . . . don’t try to disguise it with stuff. Time after time, ‘things’ will try to draw you in for a temporary fix, but deep down . . . something is wrong. Seek to heal the parts of you that are broken . . . and not for things of the world that try to fill in the cracks. Even if all your stuff is taken away . . . the real emotion will still be there inside, trying to destroy you.
        
Don’t spend your days walking around the Costcos and RC Willeys of the world searching for the peace you will never find inside of their walls. True peace doesn’t come with a price tag and real love cannot be bought.
        
Christ has given us the ultimate gift. With all my heart I promise you, that He is the gift we must seek when we cannot find the peace for which we are searching. He is the light and the life of the world. He is the maker of eternal happiness, and only He holds the gifts that can help us find eternal peace. Search for the gifts that He is wrapping for all of us who have ever felt alone, who have felt we are not good enough, or that we are broken. Let His gift of love and Eternal Life bless your heart with peace.
        
To quote from I Will Follow God’s Plan,* a favorite children’s song:

1. My life is a GIFT; my life has a plan.
My life has a purpose; in heav’n it began.
My choice was to come to this lovely home on earth
And seek for God’s light to direct me from birth.
I will follow God’s plan for me,
Holding fast to his word and his love.
I will work, and I will pray;
I will always walk in his way.
Then I will be happy on earth
And in my home above.

(*Children’s Songbook, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989, p. 164, Music and Text by Vanja Y. Watkins)

The gift of your life has been given to you by a loving Father in Heaven, and the ultimate gift of Eternal Life has already been bought by Christ. The ultimate gift is love. Deal out His love to everyone you meet, and when you are dealt love by someone else . . . let it be enough. Don’t search for the love you already have right in front of you in a temporary pleasure or a new smile. Maybe you cannot feel from others the love they have for you, but for a time, pray that you will be blessed to see it . . . and don’t let it go until you do. The pathway to eternal love and happiness will have bumps . . . but find a way to deal with those bumps together. When the days get dark and the mountains get too hard to climb, turn toward each other, and to Jesus Christ. Any temporary excitement you find . . . to cover your pain . . . will not last.  Seek for the wholesome kind of love that can last forever.  
        

Don’t wait for tragedy for your heart to be softened. Don’t spend your days dealing and coping . . . and miss living. You have beautiful gifts of love all around you. They come in imperfect packages . . . but they are perfect for you. Seek to see them as He does, and someday you will be blessed to see their value. Your life is a gift, and so is every one you have been blessed to touch. The hand you have been dealt in life is yours alone . . . but Christ has made a deal that He will always be near.


34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Heavenly Father has blessed you with the gift of compassion. Thank you for being an inspiration to us all!!!!

lovingpurple said...

Ashlee, I love your blog. I have felt pain and happiness as I've read your story and insights. I have felt many of your feelings and just wanted you to know that you have made a difference in following your prompting to start this blog. May you be blessed in your courage telling your experiences.

Anonymous said...

This is so true!! I myself and so many other try to fill the emptiness inside with things but to no avail to fill it. I appreciate the remind t seek true love and not fake fills.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I needed to hear these very words right now. Thank you for showing your gift of love through your words.

.candace. said...

Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing, Ashlee! I'm so sorry for your pain but you are incredible for sharing your experience and what you've learned. Thank you thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your gift of love to me and all that read this blog. This is exactly what I have been searching for this last week. I am glad to know that I am not a lone in feeling this way. My ex husband did this same thing. It was always about materialistic things and it continues to be that way with our children. It saddens me that this is where he finds his happiness and not in the moments of tucking them into bed each night and hearing all their little antics and funny statements. So sad to me that he is missing such wonderful moments all because of a choice he made to be give into something that felt so right for a short moment. If he could only see through the window of what could have been and know that there is more to life than Money and bigger and better things. I feel his life would be so much better, but now I get to raise our children to see and know the difference. May God continue to bless you and carry you as you continue on your perfect journey. thank you for being so strong to share you story as it is very inspiring to me and makes my days lighter when I am struggling. Thank you

Anonymous said...

I hope you have the love now that Emmett could't give when he was here. I wish you could have heard those 3 words from him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. Speaking from experience, and you may have already realized this, I don't think Emmett stopped loving you, but I think somewhere along the line with the stress of a new business and the medication he was taking, his love for you became buried. Unfortunately, he didn't have the time to heal and discover that his love for you was there all the time.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said!

Anonymous said...

You have been truly inspired to write these words! I don't think you'll ever understand the magnitude of the testimony that you share.

Christy said...

I needed this today, WOW. You have spoken to a strangers heart. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your inspiration as always! My husband and I's favorite quote from Thomas S. Monson (Oct. 2013) "...There are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were - better than what we were, more understanding than what we were, more empathetic than what we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before." Unfortunately, I have treated myself to gifts to try and feel love in my life, and due to some heartbreaking experiences in my marriage has this quote really applied to my life and how it has made my husband and I better people, parents, and a better husband and wife.

Unknown said...

Ashlee, before I discovered my (ex)husbands infidelity- he would buy me expensive jewelry (after he had done something to feel extremely guilty). Like you, I have never put much value on materialistic things. I later learned that the expensive perfumes he bought me for Christmas were the perfumes that his mistresses wore. A constant reminder. Sickening.
Your Costco story reminded me of when I first learned of the infidelity. I was obviously in a distraught state as I found myself standing in a cosmetic store. I was wandering the aisles aimlessly. I had no idea why I was there. A lady approached me and asked if she could help me find anything. I said, "I don't know. I don't know what I'm doing. I just found out that my husband has been having multiple affairs. I don't know... a hair cut maybe..." It's like these angels just came swooping in- The first thing I remember hearing is "Get her a water." And the lady took me back into the hair salon area. She sat me in a chair and the other lady quickly came with a bottled water. I don't remember much about the shampoo, cut, and highlights because it wasn't about the hair-- but I will never forget the way I felt. They were so kind. They made me feel CARED for. I cry when I think about that experience. It isn't about STUFF, it's about FEELINGS and CARING for people. I am so glad I found your blog. So sorry you have gone through all the heartache. I do think your mission is a special one in reaching those who have suffered similar heartache. Thank you for your courage in sharing. -Lisa

Anonymous said...

I don't know you, and yet I find your story compelling to the point that I am appalled by his behavior, amazed by your ability to forgive, and terribly saddened that you, your children, and the rest of Emmett's family will never truly get the closure you so desperately need and deserve. I am frustrated that he will never be able to tell you he is sorry for his actions, his words, and his attitude. I am sorry you will never have the opportunity to hear those words from him. I am sorry that he will never know the full extent of what his selfishness did to you and your family. It must have been, and continue to be desperately painful to just not know if he understands and feels the pain he caused. So many questions unanswered, and apologies unsaid. I wish you could get that kind of closure.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly said. A good reminder for everyone to put aside the things of the world and focus on what really matters. It reminds me of the Mormon Message "Moments that Matter Most" one of my favorites!

Anonymous said...

I know what it feels like not to be loved . I was married for twenty nine years and always looking of ways to make it better .Some day and weeks it seemed better but always felt the same way something was missing, Only to find out that he was giving his thought to someone else more time than I wanted to believe . After being Divorced for three years still looking for what is missing with me and wondering what those other women shared with him that I never could.

Anonymous said...

Ashlee, I have been married for 25 years and my husband has a love for the bottle. Sometimes I feel second fiddle to the alcohol. If I do something for me and if I only spend 20 dollars on myself he gets mad. I am glad for your post. Thank you for sharing.

Em said...

I love your posts! Although I have not felt the pain or grief that you talk about having to deal with, I can relate to what you write about. Your post has given me an answer to a prayer that I needed.

Amber said...

I love the way you write. Beautiful words that touch my soul. Every. Single. Post. I check this blog everyday. Thank you for beautiful spirit. This is your earthly work. To inspire, heal and love.

Anonymous said...

I am inspired with every post that I read of yours!! You are a light that shines bright and gives hope, peace, love, and understanding to so many that follow you and your family!! I can't wait for your next post! Thank you for taking the time to share your story and testimony!!

Anonymous said...

I can not begin to express how thankful I am for this blog. I have never experienced pain and sorrow at your level, but your words have so much meaning to me. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your honesty and openess regarding these difficult circumstances in your life.

Anonymous said...

I dealt with my husband's infidelity for eight years before finally divorcing him last year, and your blog is the first place I've found that really, truly, speaks to the pain I've been dealing with for so long. Thank you for writing out what I've been trying to acknowledge in my own heart and mind and helping me to pick up the pieces of my life, recognize its inherent value and beauty, and more forward as a better Mother, Sister, and Daughter.

Unknown said...

AuntSue
Thank you for sharing your deepest self with us. Your blogs always bring tears, but tears cleanse the body, so that is really good. Your thoughts bring out parts of my life that are sad, but remind me that their is joy in the morning. We were married in the temple, but my husband was bi-polar, so loving was hard. The Lord had told me to stay in our marriage through his affairs and emotional mistreatment, but after 35 years, the Lord told me to go home to my parents. My husband finally saw that I was not the cause of his depression, that he really missed his family and his God. He began to repent and make amends. But I could not reconcile with him. There was too much pain and no trust left. After five years of separation, he died very suddenly after a visit to his stake president. I suffer from what I call "conflicted grief" for the sweetheart of my youth, my eternal companion, the father of our six children. But he was also the source of so much pain and heartache, lonely days and nights in a full house, so many lies, so much deception. So I cry for the joy that wasn't there, for the hugs and kisses missed, for the missing companion of my life. I know he has repented/is repenting. I know the Lord loves both of us. So I visit my children and grandchildren and enjoy their hugs, but my life is bittersweet.

Anonymous said...

Please check out www.healingthroughchrist.org wonderful resource for women who have been victims of infidelity, sex addictions, Photography addictions

Anonymous said...

Again there are free support groups who use the Healing Through Christ manual. They provide peace and direction to the many lonely women who have not known where to turn after being victims of infidelity and sex/pornography addiction. Some have left their husbands some are working on their marrages....many situations.....tremendous support! Please join us. We love you. We are learning to love and care for our selves and would be happy to help you to do the same. Warmest thoughts and prayers.

Anonymous said...

I have not felt the kind of grief or loss that you have, I cannot imagine the pain you have felt. I do not know you personally, but I wanted to tell you that just reading your blog has helped me strengthen my marriage. I realized that I cannot take one single day for granted with my husband, or my children, because you never know what tomorrow may bring. Thank you for your wonderful testimony. Your story is truly inspiring.

Camille F. said...

I've been reading your posts the last couple of weeks. I'm just sick for you and am amazed at your ability to press forward and look for the good. I know I would find it difficult to do that if I were in your shoes. Thank you for making the time to share your thoughts with thousands of strangers who are surely being blessed by your strength and your words. Although the trials I have experienced have been different than yours, through divorce and infidelity I have experienced sheer emotional pain which becomes physical pain. The nauseating feeling that comes from such knowledge is indescribable. You are a valiant soldier, as are your little ones. I pray for more blessings for you than you can possibly imagine.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ashlee! I know you've said you just don't have time to read all the comments, but if you see this, I wanted to tell you that I have perpetually put off family pictures off until I lose "ten more pounds." But after reading your blog, especially your post about how you don't have one, we are just going to go for it. We do have a few, but 10 years and 4 kids later, I don't have one I like enough to hang on the wall. You have helped me realize that it's not about me looking perfect, it's about showing that we like to be together.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written! I love each of your posts and find it so sad that so many people can relate to your experience. It makes me want to treat everyone with more patience, gentleness, and love for we never know the extent of others' pain. This post reminds me of when I found 5 red golf shirts in my little boy's drawer...all purchased on separate shopping trips when I was trying to replace the pain of a crumbling marriage. I have been blessed with a wonderful husband now who reminds me each day of his love for me with his words and kindness. You are a beautiful woman inside and out! I wish you the best!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for being so real, understanding, compassionate, and inspirational. I really love your blog. My husband has a pornography addiction and I am always going through the grief cycle over and over again. Your words fill me with hope and most importantly thank you for letting is all know it's okay to feel this way. Nobody is what they seem on the outside. We all are struggling together so we need to build each other up. I deal with my grief by lots and lots of running, reading, and spending time with the ones that make me smile. I have the same love language as you. That's how Christ wants is to show our love. Thank you for using your talent in writing and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Love you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for being so open and real in sharing your inspirational words! This blog is such a blessing to me and countless others! My marriage has been tainted with my husband's pornography/sexual addition and the heartache is too much to bear. It is so reassuring to me that I'm not alone and that there are others out that who "have been there" and know EXACTLY what I'm feeling! Thank you for easing my burdens! May God's greatest peace and joy be yours!

Anonymous said...

Your words are so beautiful! continue on Jesus is working through you!

Carole Parkin said...

I love reading your blog. It brings me peace and I can relate to most of the things you write about. Sometimes I survey our house, our beautiful trailer and our possessions and long for the days of when we had nothing. I am not so much a "things" person but my hubby seems to really enjoy that we have enough and can buy nice things. Sometimes I feel that we let them define us. But we are not those things, we are merely the good we can do for others. You are truly inspired. God Bless your family.

Post a Comment

 
Blog Design By: Sherbet Blossom Designs