Heard a really corny joke years ago. At the time, it just sounded pointless. Not even funny. But, I have been thinking about it.
An old man falls asleep on the sofa. His grandchildren decide it would be funny to smear Limburger cheese in his mustache. When he wakes up, something isn’t right.
“This room stinks!” He grumbles. Then he gets up and walks through the house.
“This house stinks!” He announces. Then he walks outside and stands in the yard.
Getting more irritated, he yells out, “the whole world stinks!”
However, looking back on the events that led up to the divorce papers, it seems relevant. Of all the stuff that crippled my marriage, my attitude did the worst damage. I had allowed the stinky cheese to attach itself to me. My family had the privilege of listening to me tell them how bad the world stunk day after day.
I think about pioneer families. Little house on the prairie types. The family was one complete unit, taking care of each other. Those kids grew up believing what their parents believed. Their “normal” was whatever it took to survive together. Minimal outside influences. They didn’t have cable, satellite or Internet pumping negative influences into them. They didn’t get to look at hundreds of random people each day and compare themselves to “normal” people. They just had each other and their personal dysfunctions to sort out.
I don’t know if it was a coincidence or not, but I was twelve or thirteen when we got cable tv. That was soon after we moved from rural Georgia into a suburb type community. Lower middle class on the outer edge of a small town. I was born in Atlanta, but moved to the sticks before I was old enough for many real memories. Maybe three or four years old. Thirteen was a hard year for me. My parents tolerated each other, but it wasn’t Ward and June Cleaver by a long shot. Most of my family is as crazy as yours, maybe more. Neither grandfather was considered a family man.
My grandmother was probably the only stabilizing factor we had. She died when I was thirteen. The family never seemed to recover. I remember the first time I ever really looked at someone and thought they had lost their mind was after she died. Whatever we had as a family bond was never the same again.
Add to that, we suddenly had outside influences surrounding us. An actual neighborhood full of other kids. Cable tv bringing in things we never knew about. Family implosion. The already confused mind of a thirteen year old boy. Good starting point. But not what got my marriage damaged. Just the beginning of teenage rebellion and angst.
From there, I worked through all the disappointments of life like everyone else. Crummy jobs, bills, shortage of money, perpetual change, kids, more bills, etc. I had a lot of people over the years figure out how to get me to work for them. Problem solver, hard worker, misplaced priorities, inability to pass up a challenge or request for help. I ended up in one project after another. All taking me away from the family. All carrying promises of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. None ever did. Just wasted my time, money and life. Eventually, it got to me.
I was getting angry at everyone. Dang people. Making big promises and never doing what they say. Using me. Ripping me off. Lying to me. Not pulling their weight. Making me do all the work with no benefit to me. Lying to me. Yeah, I got angry. ( oblivious to the fact that my wife was in the same struggle, over me and those wedding vows. )
Then it happened. Our pastor had a life changing message. Take off the mask. I remember it like it was yesterday. Stop pretending things are ok when they aren’t. Be honest with people. Let your family and church know when you need prayer or if something is wrong. Don’t do the fake church smile and tell us everything is perfect. Ok. So I did.
Apparently, I was the only one who took that message literally. Didn’t get the memo that sermons were just for an hour of entertainment, nobody actually does that stuff.
After that, I was wide open to sharing my situation with anyone who asked. Nobody wanted to hear much of it. I became a complainer, a nuisance, annoying. Then, not getting the responses I expected, I got angry. Hated most people. Became highly antisocial and suspicious of everyone. Overprotective and controlling of my family. Mean to my kids and their friends. Just a nice, well-rounded jerk.
Fast forward ten years and see my wife considering divorce. She has had all she can stand. I am no fun to be with. I have let myself go. ( 155 pounds at the wedding to 250 in 2009 ) I have resumed a porn addiction that had been let go during our first year together. I complain about everything and blame everyone else. I treat her like a pet or servant. She deserved better and she knew it. Then she finally stood up for herself and decided enough was enough.
I am glad she did. It has been the hardest time of my life, but I shudder to think where my life was headed. I was doomed to carry that attitude through every relationship for the rest of my life. I had allowed the stinky cheese to saturate my mind and carried it with me everywhere. I was convinced that the whole world stunk and couldn’t figure out why nobody else smelled it like me. I was blaming everyone but me for the problems I had. It was all in the attitude.
It’s not easy writing this stuff. I constantly wonder if I am being too honest. Am I just throwing my life to the wolves? Is this all going to cause more problems later? Don’t know. Can’t see the future. But, I can see the past very clearly. I see how I hurt my wife and kids. I see the thought processes and bad teaching that put us in that position.
I hear people’s opinions, too. Everyone has their thoughts on how right or wrong I am. Even the people with bad marriages often tell me where I am wrong. Yeah. I thought I knew it all before the divorce papers, too. I blindly followed doctrines and leaders even when their fruit was rotten. I am much more selective in who gives me advice now.
I don’t know everything. I don’t claim to know everything. I don’t claim to do everything right or have all the answers. But. I have survived the impossible. We have saved a family that was destroyed and we know what works. Drop the attitude. Listen to solid advice. Humble yourself and consider your own attitude.
So. Get up. Wash the cheese out of your mustache and get a fresh look at your world. Try to turn the focus off yourself and look at your family. When your focus is completely on them, it can’t be all about you. That’s a good start.
If you are stuck. Get help. These guys rescued my family, they are waiting to help yours. Good people. Joel and Kathy Davisson