What’s at the End of Your Rope?

Scene from Steel Magnolias
There’s a scene in the 1989 drama Steel Magnolias where Shelby’s father, Drum, is fussing with his incorrigible neighbor Ouiser over a Magnolia tree dividing their properties.

Drum had cut flowers from the tree to use as pool decorations for his daughter’s wedding reception, and Ouiser was less than happy about it.

I am just about at the end of my rope with you, Drum Eatenton, Ouiser says after she’s exhausted all her fight.

Well then, why don’t you tie a noose and slip it ’round your head? he replies, laughing.

Have you ever come to the end of your rope and realized the place it stopped was your feet?

Have you ever thought that the only option left was to slip it ’round your head?

I have.

Not too long ago I had to admit two hard truths to my husband:

  • I was unhappy, and he actually wasn’t the problem, and…
  • I had lived 37 years never feeling intrinsically worthy.

For the past 15-ish years, I have been telling my husband that he makes me unhappy.

Easy to do. Not taking responsibility for our actions has been a human strong-suit since Adam and Eve ate the apple.

If it’s not your fault, it’s not on you to fix it.

But lately—especially since we moved to Oxford—victimhood has left me feeling a bit jaded. I can keep up a facade for ten days, but not eleven. I can continue to pretend I’m not to blame for my lack of joy, but only until I choke on my own words.

I’m unhappy because I’m unhappy. Not because Clayford, my kids, my parents, my past, old friends, family members or any circumstance made me that way.

I’m unhappy because it’s a habit. It’s wired into my brain. It’s a set point and I’ve been too lazy to change it.

But I’m also unhappy for an uglier reason, one that has shot poison into my body, soul and spirit.

I’m unhappy because for so long I believed my worth came from what I did, who I was, and what I brought to the table.

This is a lie from hell that has hovered around me nearly all my life.

I grew up in the suburbs of a city. In my community and the surrounding areas, there was a larger amount of money and status in comparison to the tinier towns and more remote places in my state.

Does this sound familiar? Maybe you grew up in a similar town.

A town where some families and children are known in a good way for what they have, what they do and what their last names are. Or known in a bad way for purposely seeking to be the opposite. Or not known at all because they fit neither of the above.

From reading my posts, it’s probably not so hard to tell where my family fell.

So even though I wasn’t specifically told to find my worth in doing, being or having, that was exactly what I gathered from all I saw around me.

I saw that pretty girls who dressed in the right clothes and did the right activities were liked.

I saw that boys who acted like men and played sports and wore a certain jacket were popular.

I saw that money, or the perception of having it, made all of the above possible.

And I saw that parents and teachers encouraged this, participated in it, and often schemed to make sure it happened.

I’m not judging a soul for this. I feel quite sure this same merry-go-round has been spinning since the dawn of creation.

But longevity doesn’t equal right.

However, longevity does mean that something probably won’t change anytime soon, and this same scenario happens in Oxford as in any other mid-sized, economically advantaged town.

Strangely, however, it never occurred to me that this was a false way to live until I was sitting at the Starbucks talking marriage with a friend of mine.

I told her some struggles Clayford and I had been dealing with.

When she asked me out of the blue if I felt worthy of having a good life, I said no, giving her a very solid list of all the ways I had no right to feel worthy of anything.

My past and present failures are great examples, I said.

She looked at me like I was crazy, and replied, I’m not talking about feeling good for having money or accomplishments, Toni. I mean, Do you feel good just because you are here and you are you?

This. Blew. My. Mind.

I knew in my head that one should feel valuable just for existing. I’ve even written about it before.

But in my heart?

My image of God and redemption has been so skewed for so long that the concept of worthiness has always seemed tied to doing everything right, having material ‘blessings’, and being graced with sheer luck.

Our greatest calling as humans—especially Jesus followers (love your neighbor as yourself)—is to make everyone feel worthy, because feeling intrinsically valuable helps you make good choices, choices that lead to feeling externally valuable too, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

I believe my lack of self-worth, as seeing myself as intrinsically valuable, has led me to do some pretty outrageous things.

I don’t need to vomit them on a blog post, but suffice it to say, I’ve looked for worth in a lot of wrong places, even places that seem good.

And I could wrap up this post all cute, but instead I’ll just tell you that this year has officially been titled “End of My Rope.”

I have zero clues where I’ll be come December. Every day feels like I’m peeling back layers of an onion and finding more and more rottenness underneath.

What about you?

Are you performing for value? Trying to sell something for money and success? Taking selfie after selfie for likes and comments? Living through your name or money or children? Hoping to be known for what you do as opposed to Whose you are?

Do you understand that you are entitled as a living and breathing creature of the Universe, created by a God who knit you together, to feel intrinsically worthy?

Do you know that no matter how long you live (or even if you had never made it here in the first place) your life is still incredibly valuable just because?

Maybe like me, you didn’t know that.

Maybe like me (and Ouiser Boudreaux, bless her soul) you’re at the end of your rope, and you’ve found it halts right where it started: YOU.

Don’t pick up that rope and tie it around your neck.

Burn it. Toss it. Get rid of it.

You don’t need it.

We don’t need to lasso value from other places.

It’s been inside us all this whole time.

It’s on you to know your worth.

It’s on me too. Any change I make, any happiness I accept, any trials I face, it’s my decision to pick which lens I see them through.

And for once I’m okay with that.

Because I’m starting to realize I’m worth it. 😉

Six Things Parents Should Never Do to a Child of Divorce

I thought I’d add an additional post to my Divorce Series (Part I, Part II and Part III) because we live in a world where divorce is either imminent or inevitable for some.

I hope I’ve helped you understand that if the time comes to separate, a divorce can be achieved in a peaceful way.

The truth is, it’s not always possible for two people to be mature. There is always the chance that one half of a couple might act a fool, bail on his or her spouse and children, or simply be blind to what they are doing.

Good news is that it only takes one parent acting like a responsible adult to ensure a child moves through divorce with as little damage as possible. Just one.

Let that one be you by following this advice:

  1. Never give details. Period. Even if they ask. A simple Mama and Daddy still love you very much but can’t get along under the same roof will suffice, I promise you. (Obviously, this is only the case if your child is still seeing both of you. If one parent is completely out of the picture, then probably a little more—but not too much—explanation would be due.) More will confuse them, and I think less will too. When they are adults and begin to understand marriage and all it entails, more can be said.
  2. Never use your child as an information-giver. We have all modes of communication now: text, phone, email, social media. There is absolutely zero reason that your child needs to tell the other parent something that you should be communicating. Find the means of communication that works for the both of you and talk like two adult co-parents should.
  3. Never fuss at your child about child support. While I feel like this should be a no-brainer, it was said to me a few times (to be clear, I was a teenager and could semi-handle it, but still), and it hurts. Your child should never hear the phrases, We would have more money if… or If your Mom/Dad loved you they would pay this… or even I can’t buy you this because… (not to say you have to buy whatever it is they want; just don’t use not having child support as a reason). Because they will hear two things: Money equals love and I’m not loved, and I’m to blame for my family’s financial problems.
  4. Never disparage your ex to your child. Listen, I understand how difficult this is. I’m still married, and there are times I’ve had to bite my tongue to keep from saying something ugly about Clayford to one of my children. (And also times I haven’t been able to bite it, so trust me, pot/kettle, I get it.) It is HARD to keep your mouth shut. But I would say it is even more important once you are divorced. Your child is sorting out all kinds of emotions in their tiny minds. To bombard them with negative thoughts about one of their parents is wrong. It doesn’t matter what you think they should be able to see with their own eyes. As I stated before, the self-preservation inside them will keep them from processing negative, and that’s a good thing, as it keeps their little hearts intact. Why would you want to destroy that?
  5. Never tell your child that your marriage suffered because of them. (Even though it’s true.) I read an article the other day that said if you want to save your marriage then don’t have kids. This couldn’t be more true, especially today. Kids are marriage DESTROYERS. But it’s our own fault. We’ve become a child-centric culture that worships at the throne of all things kid. We worship their clothing, their activities, their social lives. We are obsessed with youth and despise age. And we often put our children first to the detriment of our spouse. Don’t blame your child for that. It’s on you, Mom and Dad. (Need to interrupt here to say: It is VITALLY important that once you are divorced and begin to date again and even remarry your children come first. Sorry. It is what it is.)
  6. NEVER—NEVER EVER EVER—tell your child your ex doesn’t love them. Oh my goodness, does this seem like it would never possibly be said by a parent to a child. But believe me, it is said more than you could imagine. If your father loved us, he would be paying more child support. If your mother loved you, she wouldn’t have cheated on me with her boss. If your father loved you, he wouldn’t date that Becky witch. If your mother loved you, she would keep Mark away. I could go on and on and on. Do NOT do this to your child! Your child is dealing with the literal death of the only family they have ever known. They DO NOT NEED your input on who loves them and who doesn’t.

How about this instead? Mourn the loss. Absolutely. Be ticked if it wasn’t your idea. Apologize if it was. Then both of you put on your big boy and big girl britches, deal with the fact that your marriage is over, and make peace WITHOUT dragging your children into the middle of it.

This is entirely possible. It takes resolve, forgiveness and a whole lot of maturity, but it is possible.

You may never be friends with your ex. But you can be a good co-parent if your focus is on your child and not the marriage.

And this is probably the most important piece of advice I could leave you with: Never make your child feel sorry for being born.

You chose to get married. You chose to bring life into this world. Don’t place on their shoulders what was your decision.

I won’t say I hope you’ll stay married. I’ve seen enough miserable marriages to know that some need to be put away instead of repaired.

But I hope you’ll think really long and hard about your children. I hope you’ll make peace with each other in whatever way possible.

All children deserve a good childhood. They deserve to maintain their innocence as long as possible, even as teenagers, even as young adults.

Mom and Dad, your job is to make sure this happens.

It’s the very definition of parenting.