• A Cheating Boyfriend Drove Me To God

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    It’s 1995.  I’m a 30-year old insomniac because it’s 2 a.m. and my boyfriend Ted should’ve been here two hours ago.  He’s supposed to spend the night with me so I can follow him to the mechanic at 6 a.m. to drop off his clunker truck and then drive him to Station 17 an hour away in Pico Rivera where he works as a fireman.

    These are the abs that drove me to God.

    I have a sick feeling something’s amiss.  I’ve called his cell a few times and left messages to no avail.  I’ve tried his home phone and gotten no answer.  Maybe he came home and just fell asleep waiting for me to return from my waitressing shift?  Maybe, despite the fact he’s a strapping man in his prime, he’s had a cerebral hemorrhage and is lying unconscious in a pool of his own vomit?  Maybe he’s been car-jacked and ferried to the Second Location?  One can only hope.  The alternative is a Redhead, a Brunette or a Blonde.

    In the year we’ve dated I’ve never caught Ted with anyone else, but he trails a miasma of Other Women.

    I can’t take it anymore.  Bounding out of bed, I yank on a pair of never-seen-in-daylight sweats, stuff my frizzy hair in a scrunchie and fumble around on my dresser for the bent, greasy glasses I wear after I’ve taken my contact lenses out.

    It takes me approximately five minutes and seven seconds to squeal up to the curb of Ted’s apartment building.

    I slam the car door shut and catch a glimpse of my reflection in the driver’s side window.  I’m startled to see a heart palpitating, nostrils-flaring madwoman, but give her no mind as I compulsively speed-walk to apartment 122 where Ted resides.  I’m startled to see his truck in its parking space; like a cockroach on a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some other David Lynche-ian harbinger of doom.

    Next I detect a gentle flickering from Apt. 122.  I detect this because I’m hunched in a Crouching Tiger, squinting through the infinitesimal cracks of his lavaliere blinds.  Am I paranoid or do I discern the melodious stylings of KWAVE wafting through the door crack against which I have my ear pressed?  A little Teddy Pendergrass circa 1987?

    I have a key to Ted’s apartment and can simply let myself in.  I’m a rictus of indecision.  Do I really want to know what’s behind that door?  I hang there a moment longer making sweet love to my denial, Ted’s key leaving a jagged imprint inside my fist.  Then I knock.

    Murmurs emanate from within.  I hear the ominous shuffling of feet.  The door cracks open just wide enough for Ted’s face to fit.  He’s more stoned than usual, his obsidian eyes opaque, with no affect.

    “Ted?” I query.

    “Yes?” he responds cagily, as if I’m an anonymous court clerk delivering a summons.

    “I thought you were supposed to come over to my house when I got off work?” I shrill.

    Instantly I’m a woman in open sea surrounded by sharks, clutching a deflated life preserver because in Ted’s flat gaze I spy nascent rebellion, a hint of cruel pleasure.

    And that’s when I see Her.

    I knew, but didn’t know she’d be there, the centerpiece of this philandering scenario lit by Pottery Barn candles and scored by James Taylor’s “Mexico.”

    She’s sitting where I’ve often slept, on Ted’s futon.  She’s junkie-thin wearing a turquoise mid-riff top exposing a silver belly ring above skinny jeans.  She has close-shorn, spiky platinum hair and exquisite eye-art that rescues her from barfly, white trash.  I wonder, peripherally, if she’d show me how to do that to my eyes…probably I’d have to pluck my Frieda Kahlo brows more effectively…

    “Who’s she?” I ask Ted whose dolorous eyes haven’t left my face.

    He opens the door slightly and gestures formally between us.  “Maureen, Shannon.  Shannon, Maureen.”

    “Glad to meet you,” seems the appropriate greeting, but instead I hear my tremulous voice ask from an intergalactic distance, “Are you … dating her?”

    “I don’t know.  Maybe.  I think you better go.”  It takes much longer than it ought to for me to realize Ted’s talking to me.

    When he closes the door on my nose one thing becomes patently clear.  I need God.  And fast.

    —————————————————————-

    I was ten when I lost my grip on God.  My stepdad brought my mother to her knees with infidelity and emotional abuse.  She gave me to my real father and my stepmom while she tried to swim counter clockwise against the drain she was circling.

    We didn’t practice religion in my mom’s home and my father is an atheist, but my stepmom took me under her wing, which meant taking me to church with her and my step and half-siblings each Sunday.

    Initially I disliked church in the way of a child who gets bored sitting too long in one place.  In retrospect I think it may have saved me.  Under my mom’s progressively distracted care I’d come to hang out with a lot of older kids in our neighborhood, many who openly used drugs.  The week before I turned ten I had my first make-out session with a 12-year old boy named Jeff Kerr.  My six years older stepbrother had started looking at me funny (later I found out he molested my closest friend).

    I was heading down a trip wire road fast, but all of that changed under my stepmom’s watchful eye and the church’s Christian tenets.

    The missionaries started coming to our house to teach me the Gospel.  The hope was that I’d convert and agree to be baptized into the church.  I felt pestered.  Then annoyed.  I’d always liked God well enough and been neutral about Jesus.  The more I learned about the Gospel the worse I felt about myself.

    God and Jesus seemed to come with a lot of baggage; the dying for my sins, the requisite struggle to be Christ-like hence worthy of entry into the Kingdom of Heaven.

    I resented spending three hours in church on Sundays, and fasting once a month and not being able to go anywhere or do anything besides church on Sundays.

    I resented the way that members of the church liked me until they realized I wasn’t baptized.  They were still just as kind, but I became a project, not a person.

    When puberty hit I went underground.  My raging hormones and preoccupation with boys, kissing and sex rendered me unworthy by the light shed from the pulpit.

    My behavior became furtive.  I snuck my parents’ bodice rippers off their bookshelves and ferried them into my closet with a flashlight.  I poured over the text trembling with lust.  This was followed by periods of passionate self-castigation.  There were moments I felt so sinful I was tempted to concede defeat and convert.

    But I couldn’t get past my resistance to One True Church and One True Path to God.

    When I was eighteen and moved away to college I put God in a box and buried him under a mountain, in a quarry, in a labyrinth, on Jupiter.  I’d be my own God.

    Which worked, until Ted introduced me to Maureen.

    ———————————————————————–

    I manage to navigate my shoe skate Kia back to my claustrophobic studio apartment after Ted picks his one-night stand over me.  I suffer a minor panic attack, which involves sobbing uncontrollably; gnashing my teeth and eating a jar of peanut butter tossed with leftover penne pasta.

    I stand before the mountain, in a quarry, in a labyrinth, on Jupiter and decide it’s time to excavate God.   I want Him/Her/It – well, for me I can’t get past Him — back out of the box.

    During my most desperate hours in life Writing has been a bulwark.  I’ve written in a journal since I was eleven so I decide to write my way to back to God.

    I recall advice from a former Night-of-the-Seven-Veils stripper in my 12-step program who told me she came to know her Higher Power by first writing – in detail – what God meant to her at that very moment.  When she finished she wrote what she wished God could be if she could have anything she wanted.

    When she described this exercise to me six months prior I thought it was, at best, improbable, at worst desperate.  In the face of my boyfriend’s flagrant betrayal I am desperate.  I open my notebook and write:

    “What is God to me at this very moment?  That word ‘God’ already makes me angry.  It’s like He’s the Big Shot, the Big Guy, God.  I have to schedule an appointment to see Him and He barely tolerates me when I’m in His presence.

    I see God as a man.  My lust and laziness disgust him.  He judges and despises me when I don’t use the tools he’s given me.  When I sit in his churches I spitefully imagine seducing all the altar men, even the really, really old ones.  I’m angry about God’s expectations of me, of the burden of my potential – I know he’s sick of me.  He doesn’t like me.  He doesn’t know me.  We have no bond.  Me and God.”

    Laying down my pen I consider my opus.  It makes me feel small and sadder, if that’s possible.

    I lose momentum and consider shot-gunning three-dollar chardonnay while watching ancient reruns of Benny Hill.  Instead I sigh and pick up my pen again:

    “What I would like God to be if I could have anything I want:

    God has my Grandpa Rusty’s face, wears spurs and a cowboy hat.  He helped me catch my first catfish when I was five and gave me the wherewithal to gut, skin, cook, and eat it

    God is in a baby’s eyes.  He’s in the warm kiss of a lover.  He’s in friendship and handholding and the smile of each person who welcomes me in this world.

    He’s in music and song.  He’s in my chest, near my heart, waiting patiently for me to know he loves me, he accepts me, he sees me, he hears me, he believes me, he is proud of me, my existence gives him joy – I am not alone.

    He knows all of my pain and suffering, He acknowledges my hurt, he knows I must learn to walk by myself and when I can’t he’ll reach out and take my hand as I grab for his and help me to walk.

    He loves me when I fail because he knows I’ll stand back up and try again.  He is my father and my mother.  He wants the world, the heaven, the moon, the stars for me.”

    Laying my pen down I know, with a certainty I’ve never before felt in my life, that what I wish God could be is exactly who he is.

    I allowed religion to co-opt God.  But now I have him back.  I don’t need him to be anyone else’s God, but am grateful he’s mine.

    Seventeen years later I’d like to say that reconnecting with the God of my understanding turned my life around instantly.  It didn’t.

    My relationship with Ted followed classic Battered Wife Syndrome (minus the physical violence); betrayal, followed by a honeymoon, followed by yet another betrayal.

    One day Ted drove me an hour up the coast to a beautiful little beach where he proceeded to attempt to break up with me.  I thought, “Couldn’t you have picked somewhere closer to home to dump me?”  Then I thought, “Man, I have to pee.”

    I asked Ted to “hold that thought” and ran to the grungy beach bathroom.  As I hovered over the toilet, thighs burning, I read the only piece of graffiti in the otherwise immaculate stall.  It read, “No Future.”

    I decided it wasn’t a message from God and spent two more years sharing Ted with a hidden coven of women.

    I was stubborn.

    But I know that finding God through my pen and keeping him tucked safe in my breast pocket is the only reason I walked down the aisle to a man I trust with my heart and who is also a hilarious, constant, inimitable father to our daughters.

    I don’t call on God much at present because my life currently traverses a smooth rapid, but I know when the waters get rough, as they sometimes do, he’ll be there reaching his hand toward mine waiting for me to grab it.

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    48 comments > Write one

    1. ghfool says:

      OMG! Did you actually write that? or is it the work of some literary genius?

    2. Kimberly says:

      AMAZING!!!! That was SO well-written! Really, really incredible!!!!

    3. Caryl says:

      God is like an ocean wave – we go in and out of our relationship with God. When things are good and we don’t recognize His presence, and sometimes when life blows and we realize He is the only thing holding us up. Murky business, our love affair with the Lord.
      Best,
      Caryl

      • Shannon says:

        I love the analogy of the ocean. Because my piece was so looooong I left out some of what I’d written all those years ago. And for me God is found in the ocean, one of my favorite places to be.

    4. You’re on a roll with revisiting past loves. I like it. It’s good to stop in the middle of the path and turn around, plant one’s feet and look back. And look at all you have! And you’re appreciating it. And you’re wonderful.

      • Shannon says:

        Thank you honey — yes I seem to be on an old flames roll. This particular relationship (5 very long years) was one I thought was wasted time, but writing this post made me realize he gave me, perhaps, the greatest gift of all, enough humility to try to change.

    5. CeeCee says:

      Your writing is beautiful Shannon. Thank you for expressing so eloquently your version of what many of us experienced at the intersection of insecurity, jerky guys, and youth. I remember when I got my sonogram of my first child and found out I was having a daughter, I began weeping uncontrollably. The thought of that little being having to deal with guys like Ted and the cruelty of junior high girls was just more than I could bear. Luckily it’s a good 7 years off, and hopefully she’ll have more sense of self than I did. Thank you again!

      • Shannon says:

        Oh CeeCee, I have two daughters, 8 and 10. I am already imagining running mean men over with my car. Don’t repeat that. xo Thanks for your encouragement and for reading.

    6. Jasmine Forte says:

      Great post Shannon! I was moved and emotional!

    7. You mean “SHE’LL be there reaching HER hand toward mine waiting for me to grab it.

      /fixed that for you

    8. Katie says:

      I just stumbled across you from the Bloggess! This is beautiful!

    9. Jane Pollak says:

      Thank you for this incredibly vulnerable, hilarious and heartfelt piece. I would have loved to have heard you read this at BlogHer.

    10. slbowling says:

      Very well said.

    11. Brittany says:

      I just saw your blog listed on the Bloggess’ site as well. Your post reminds me of the spiritual push-and-pull I went through in college during a particularly intense period of depression. I was frustrated that I couldn’t force myself to believe in and follow the God that so many others seemed to know and love. The God who in my eyes, abandoned his children and left them to suffer. A human father would step in to prevent his kids from killing one another. How could I look up to a God who didn’t even live up to human moral standards? It took a good long while for me to realize that I can believe in my own version of the Creator, and that it’s perfectly okay. Thank you for this.

      • Shannon says:

        Hi Brittany — I really appreciate your feedback. “God” is such a trigger word for so many people (myself included) that I wasn’t sure if I’d expressed what, for me, was a life changing event without sounding righteous. What I’ve come to believe is that an individual’s faith and relationship with God isn’t one size fits all.

    12. diane says:

      That was just so moving and fine. A wise old lady once told me: God is the one who brushes your hair and tells you you’re beautiful. Thank you for reminding me!

    13. Becca says:

      Those time God really works to prove that all His promises is true.

    14. Samantha says:

      Wow Shannon what a beautiful post, as women I think we all have a relationship like that. I was angry with god for many years and have just found a place where I need to be with he/she. Having a child exploring her faith is a good way to remember the good of religion and not the bad.

    15. Laverne says:

      Im new here but i am so very happy I found you. I could not agree more with the first comment. Literary genius! I loved the way you look us back and then… no scratch that. Who wouldn’t at least be curious about a post titled using god and 6pack!? I loved the back and forth between the times in your life. What a road it has been for you! But my goodness how strong you are. Even through the stubbornness and the rebellion you listened along the way and used the words and little gifts others shared with you to make your own choices and own decisions. And yes change did not come fast for you but isn’t it incredible how the really shitty moments in our lives prepare us for or get us to the wonderful places we are now. I loved this piece. I love the idea of the journal entry about god. I also love and completely agree with the idea/notion that god is who god is to each individual. Why not?! He/she/it is our god shouldn’t it be who we need?! Such a beautiful, moving and deeply touching story of endurance and faith!!! xoxox -LV

      • Shannon says:

        Laverne – thanks you for hearing my heart. As the mom of two young daughters I always wish I had a more solid spiritual platform for them to build upon, but I remind myself they’ll find their God when they need to and I’m always open to telling them how I found my path, solace and comfort. And let’s face it, spiritual evolution is a life long process and always humbling. xo

    16. Jenni Chiu says:

      I love this piece.
      Sorry about the dicks.
      Yay for God “waiting patiently”…
      And double yay for sharing your stories with us.

    17. Kari says:

      I had the same type of relationship with God for quite a while. Until one day I look in the mirror and was discusted at who I was. I realized that the only way for me to become the person I wanted to be, the person God wanted me to be, the person that my ex-husband would love, would be by finding God. Two out of three of those things ended up as a success. :)

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    20. [...] young because they were horny. It was a generous assumption on my part; a woman living with a non-commital philanderer, throwing stones from my glass [...]

    21. [...] Henry and I started dating on April 25th of 1998 (but who’s keeping track) I was used to dating men whose idea of commitment was to avoid having sex with other women right in front ….  They would honor me by waiting to have sex with other women when I was out of view.  Which was [...]

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    24. […] don’t get me started on my love life. Gorgeous, athletic men who cheated. Or nice men who couldn’t keep my attention. Both my younger sister AND 8-years younger […]

    25. Sharona Zee says:

      Beautiful and touching! This resonated with me on so many levels!

    26. […] Unfortunately, my “home” wasn’t one I wanted to recreate. And sure enough, infidelity on their part and madness on mine ensued. […]

    27. Hilary says:

      Wow. This article is scary accurate. Of the 10 Asshat qualifiers I have experienced them all, minus wearing crystals lol. Wonderfully written this article truly resonates! Love.

      Hilary

    28. Melissa aka mellycamacho says:

      This is a lovely one. They say when one door
      Closes, another one open s and a better one.
      What I honestly find more interesting was the stuff about God. On June 8 2011, I had an unexpected dream or vision of me in a temple seeing the image of Jesus in light and proclaiming in a loud cry, that he is the son of God. Then I saw this light come through the church, I felt a powerful love, no words,ONLY myself saying you knew I needed love and I started singing, I woke up 3:30 am, I started calling my sister, left her a message, my eyes were teary, my heart was so heavy. I knew what I saw, but why? When I went to work the next day, I told 2 of my coworkers who are religious, they told me God is love and the light of the world. I received a visitation of the Holy Spirit that night. I wasn’t perfect to receive his love, but he showed it_to draw me closer. When I read Chasing God by Angie Smith this year 2014, it took me back to that night. It’s not about being an Einstein of the bible or prayer and getting a degree in Religion, but to open your heart to his presence in the bible, church, and prayer. Don’t run after him, he is there. He is first, look at him, then everything falls in place. That’s what I learned. I am not trying to change or convert, but to share as he probably wants me to do so. I recommend u get the book if u r interested.

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