Beliefnet
How Great Thou Part

I speak to anyone who has felt emotionally broken and spiritually repaired.

When you end a relationship you must endure excruciating pain.

For this reason, many remain in less than happy circumstances.

The good news?

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It’s fleeting.

It’s akin to ripping off a band-aid or wincing until the immunization is over.

It is a temporary space occupied by suffering which in turn calls us closer to God. 

Not to mention makes us far better human beings.

Sure, some may not notice that while the wound the band-aid no longer covers heals. It’s still ugly and raw and hurts now and then. So we give in to the chronic aches and pains and show our less than desirable sides.

As a society, we tend to our physical wounds.

Even better, we endure unpleasant preventative measures to keep well, shots, tests, etc. Whatever it takes to keep us healthy. For the most part, the majority do not avoid the annual physical or yearly dentist visit. Even those who hate it will generally do the ‘responsible’ thing and make that appointment.

It’s so much easier to avoid what emotionally ails us.

We sit around tables and kvetch. We speak of problems in our relationships and/or lives.

Ironically, while verbally announcing them – we also avoid them. 

There do not seem to be any ‘responsible’ measures in place.

There are no annual physicals or tests.

Worse, we tend to deny them.

Sure, our relationship has serious symptoms and it’s either ‘so what’ or ‘doesn’t everybody’s?’

Imagine sitting at a table while a family member or friend announces they have ignored physical symptoms for years yet still not visited a doctor. Would you sit silently? Would you encourage them to make an appointment? Would you insist they can’t ignore something so serious?

There is zero shame in attending our physical wounds.

And a demand to be responsible in doing so. 

We continue to vent and yet ignore the ‘other’ type of symptoms which can make us unhealthy.

Until we feel so emotionally broken we are in need of spiritual repair.

Had the pain been attended to much earlier, the wound would have healed faster or possibly avoided altogether.

Akin to ripping off a band-aid or wincing until the immunization is over.

A temporary suffering.

 

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There is no magic litmus test for whether or not a marriage can be saved.

Relationships come in all shapes and sizes.

Some miraculously survive affairs, addiction, and other serious afflictions.

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Why do some endure while others do not?

It’s simpler than it appears.

We can’t control other people.

It takes two beings to resuscitate love.

You can’t make an individual want to resolve conflict, respect you, communicate better, stop cheating, drinking, stop being controlling, being a workaholic or more so much more.

A rescued marriage is the result of two responsible people consciously choosing to devote themselves to one another. 

This is the first action which, therefore, requires subsequent actions – getting emotionally healthy, turning to God and spirituality, breaking bad habits, assessing values, overcoming addiction, improving respect and communication and more so much more depending on the situation and the counseling and steps necessary.

These are the two shockingly simple components necessary to save a marriage: The actual number two (2) and the steps which actualize and accomplish a renewed and greater love. 

I know you may be thinking I should include faith as the third component.

There was a time I may have thought the same.

I prayed and prayed for years. 

I prayed God would give me a miracle and save my marriage and my family.

The problem?

My husband had his own free will and he made his own choices.

Therefore faith alone can’t induce another to act the way you wish they would. 

However, in my circumstances, I was relentlessly devout.

With God All Things Are Possible.

In fact, one day on the way into church I asked my children to pray for a miracle. My boys were tired and had given up and actually fought me. A surprise since they too possess great spirituality.

But sometimes children are wiser than adults.

I was spiritually and emotionally tenacious.

I took my faith and my vows seriously.

I pressed on and they relented.

We said a quick prayer their dad would find himself in a better place and healing would come to our entire family. Some of what happened in my relationship was witnessed by my children and they had encouraged me to leave sooner than I did.

Unbelievably, the sermon was about miracles!

I, ever the believer in signs knew the long overdue day was coming and my marriage and family would be restored.

It never happened. 

What I learned in counseling is we must have faith but we must also be responsible for the choices we make.

It is most assuredly the right decision to attempt to save a marriage.

To give it the good ole college try.

But not when you are repeatedly shown the individual you are with is not interested in saving it too. 

This is when we become susceptible to entering into an emotionally endangering space because we begin to believe one person alone can save a relationship which by definition is a body of two.

When a person repeatedly behaves badly or shows no desire to choose their spouse it’s time to move on.

Repeatedly being the emphasized word.

It is a time for increased personal boundaries and self-protection.

It’s time to arrive at a destination where we no longer allow another individual to continue to hurt and damage us.

In other words, we can’t rescue other people because they have free will.

As much as we convince ourselves we can or as much as we pray.

It will eventually cause our own destruction.

What we can do is instill the type of self-protection and boundaries which remove us from a bad situation. We can work on ourselves. We can pray for our spouse to get the help, counseling, or the change we hope they receive.

And when you really reflect upon it…

Why would we want to beg someone to choose us?

If we are begging we are already alone.

And…

It takes two beings to resuscitate love.

 

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I know, a fairly shocking title – read on.

There is one topic which never fails to bring an immediate reader response.

Narcissism.

My mother was what I would call a forerunner in the world of alcoholism.

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In a generation of women who stayed silent and dutiful in marriage and most importantly either ignored the obvious or kept the secret, she did not.

That’s not to say my mother had the initial strength to leave my father. She loved him and that love never faltered. Honestly, I can’t say for certain she would have left him, had he not done the leaving for her.

But my mother did not live the type of life of secrets and shame which can accompany living with a drinker. Especially in a generation where women donned housecoats or pearls and kept the face of the family intact. In other words, for all outside appearances, nothing was amiss.

I do not remember a time my mom shied away from our truth.

I do not remember a time she made apologies for having chosen a man who could not overcome alcohol.

I do not remember a time she made us feel sorry for ourselves.

This was our reality.

And she firmly believed it was God’s intended path for all of us. 

I remember a woman who in my twenties told me she felt sorry for me not having a father.

Do not feel sorry for me,” I said. “Because I have never felt sorry for me.”

There was nothing to feel sorry because a brave woman who was far ahead of her time acknowledged and accepted her circumstances and rose above them.

She was a minority.

A woman raising five children alone amongst a world of two-parent families. She could have felt different. She could have felt victimized starting over and becoming the physical, emotional, and financial support for the entire family. She could have felt the type of shame which accompanies alcoholism. She could have judged the women who remained in marriages of either overt or weekend alcoholism.

Instead, she grew even stronger and more faithful.

And she served as the listening ear and emotional support to many women who remained in marriages with this type of affliction.

Remarkably, never quite aware of the fact she boldly embraced and spoke about a secret many still kept behind the four walls of the home.

I’m not entirely sure why my mother never felt embarrassed by something which induces silence in the majority.

I think it was a combination of her New York moxie, innate leadership and that in general, my mom didn’t make apologies for any aspect of who she was.

Eventually, over the years an awareness was raised to the culprit known as alcoholism. Support systems began to manifest and healing could replace a spouse’s sense of enabling shame, isolation, and loneliness. In time, more women would leave regardless of financial vulnerability.

Far be it from me to oversimply the far-reaching pain of this disease.

An impossibility as I am the adult child of an alcoholic.

I am simply saying it came out of the dark shadows of one generation.

The secret finally shared.

I wonder if narcissism is this generation’s secret?

The disease which begs awareness and acknowledgment as spouses and families suffer behind the four walls of the home.

Because much like the drinker it is the family who often solely witnesses the worst.

The individual the outside world isn’t privy to.

And much like the overly caring enabling spouse of the alcoholic –  who goes from making excuses for the bad behavior to crying to begging and to all out yelling and saying terrible things as their home life turns to chaos – so too is the spouse of the narcissist.

Add to that the similar confusion which evolves…

The alcoholic and the narcissist who suffer the actual diseases begin to paint an unrealistic picture of the loving and loyal spouse who ironically refused to leave them at their worst. Of course, this is not difficult to do as the aiding spouse has destroyed themselves while choosing to remain in an unredeemable and an impossible situation.

Both the alcoholic and the narcissist believe their clouded perception of reality due in part to different aspects of their respective illnesses.

And sadly, both of these illnesses compel a family to revolve around one singular, destructive and difficult personality which ultimately implodes all emotional safety in the home.

Yet, no one talks about narcissism.

There are little to no forerunners.

There are no emotional support systems.

There are no listening ears.

While much like the weekend alcoholic, the narcissist walks freely seemingly operating at a normal level.

And the world is oblivious.

Unaware of the narcissist’s subterfuge.

All of this begs the question.

How is it possible?

How are the emotional abuse, financial abuse, control, destruction, unethical and illegal divorce tactics and prolonged divorce proceedings still hiding in the dark shadows?

How is it possible?

A generation later women are still expected to don housecoats and pearls.

And pretend for all outside appearances, nothing is amiss and everything is intact.

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I have always placed an amazing value on friendship.

It’s one of the reasons I had a hard time leaving any man or woman behind. 

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As we know, divorce taught me otherwise.

You do in fact, have to leave many behind but in that transition those who remain gain an even greater significance.

It’s somewhat extraordinary to recognize those who find you too valuable to lose. 

And who help you keep your footing on the days you feel you’re losing ground. 

My high school, college, and adult besties, aka, blessings have taught me these seven things about the best friendships during one of my worst times.

 

They’re never going to make you feel conflicted, they’re going to make you feel supported.

They will like the spouse who doesn’t treat you well even less because they love you even more.

They are your champion and recognize your worst and remind you of your best.

They alternate between the forefront and the shadows deciding which is necessary.

They’re loyalty rivals that of only our four-legged friends. 

They are a constant in love and life and express your value. 

They reinforce and return the love you lose while letting go of another. 

 

 

 

 

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With impending freedom, a girl can’t help but think maybe it’s time for a date.

After all, I have a friend who is two years out of her divorce who actually looks younger and more beautiful. I must admit I find a fascination with it. More time has passed yet more beauty surfaces. It certainly makes this chick hopeful.

Joy is the great anti-ager.

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And who doesn’t want to look younger?

I certainly do!

I honestly can’t believe it’s taken me this long to warm up to the idea.

My divorce journey was just too chaotic and unpredictable and my children were my greatest focus. They definitely did not experience the typical end of a marriage.

I decide there’s no better day to test the waters than after my hair appointment.

Because duh! I can’t make my hair look this great.

I slip comfortably into the role of the brunette opportunist. 

Well, kinda. I tell my friend I will meet her for dinner.

I am opening up to this whole new phase since June is just around the matchmaker corner. 

We chat with a few people we know and meet someone we don’t.

It turns out this handsome and nice divorcing guy grew up in Pennsylvania.

Wow, I went to school in Pennsylvania! This leads me to question what town? What a coincidence! Scranton, the exact same town I spent four years in. Funny, in all the years I left those former coal mining hills this is just the third person I have met who was actually from there. I mention I went to Marywood University and lo and behold he attended the University of Scranton. What another coincidence, the exact same school my husband attended.

Now I am filled with some trepidation but the question begs to be asked…

“Really,” I say. “What year did you graduate?”

I don’t know why I asked.

I certainly sensed what was coming.

Wow! Yet another coincidence the actual year my husband graduated.

By this time, I am at the door.

“What are you doing? Why are you leaving?” exclaims my girlfriend. “I want you to talk to that really cute divorcing guy!”

“Well,” I said. “God either has a ridiculously funny sense of humor or he’s saying danger Will Robinson.”

I mean it’s not like I went to a major university in a major town.

Good story though, right?

I mean, really?

What are the chances??!!

It seems it’s not yet time for me to truly take advantage of a good hair day.

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While most will be anticipating their June vacations I will be anticipating a different type of respite.

My court date.

I can’t believe it.

There will finally be some resolution to what will end up being a five-year divorce.

I can truly start inching towards my future without the dragging the past along with it.

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I spent so much time praying for God to bring a resolution sooner.

Yet, had it not lasted this long I would have remained naive to many facts. My husband effectively would have pulled off the divorce coup of the century. It seems while my marriage counselor kept telling me to self-protect and develop boundaries, God was determined to make sure it happened.

I do not know what the outcome of my June court date will be.

I am wise enough to know a piece of paper doesn’t necessarily stop the unrelenting from continuing to play games.

But it is the freedom, and the new beginning I initially sought finally coming to fruition.

I can say for sure I am a far better person humbled in many ways.

I can say for sure I am stronger only evidenced when I had no other choice.

I can say for sure I am reminded of exactly what is most important in life.

I can say for sure I am once again empowered.

I can say for sure I am even more faithful.

And unbelievably I am incredibly happy again.

I can’t believe I get the blessing of starting over.

The chance to explore new things and opportunities.

The chance to begin the conversation of not just surviving divorce but thriving in divorce.

To examine options for rebuilding the women we are, dating, career, and striving for awareness and healthier relationships. And better yet, it all seems timely. God has lined up the pieces.

Women are stepping out of the shadows of silence.

It is an invigorating and long overdue era. 

And I feel a renewed sense of purpose to continue sharing, caring and striving towards even more enlightenment.

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Just how do you get over a divorce?

This is a ginormous question for those who face it. 

I didn’t quite have the answer a few years ago.

In truth, back then it seemed SO complicated.

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There was the devastating emotional aspect,

The fall from grace community aspect,

The pull yourself together aspect,

The need to protect my children aspect,

My family and friends are worried about me and they should be aspect,

The oddly I’ve never felt worse about myself aspect,

The I’m sleep deprived, stressed, exhausted and the bills are piling up aspect,

The extra pounds or lack thereof are helping me get by aspect,

And the quintessential…

I have to figure out a way to start over aspect,

In short, whole lotta aspects.

A whole lotta, please show up at my door with coffee in the morning and wine in the evening aspects.

Here’s the thing.

All those aspects were definitely knocking on the door – no – they were banging on the door.

Like the scariest intruder demanding ‘Let me in. Let me in.’

But like all good Boogeymen, they were not real.

Because people who endure divorce are strong.

Certainly strong enough to not be afraid of the average bear or boogeyman.

Strong enough to leave urban or suburban supposedly idyllic utopia. Strong enough to walk away from the masses who seem to have gotten it all right. Strong enough to know they deserve to be treated better and set boundaries and forge a new life in a new world.

Strong enough to thrive and not just survive the dare I say it, divorce aspect??!!

I did not have it figured out a few years ago.

The big question.

How do you get over a divorce?

Until the dust settled and a woman approached me with a wide-open secret.

It seems she was getting divorced. The process had started and there was no going back. Yet for some reason, it wasn’t the time for others to know or to talk about it. Rather it was the time to press on, put on a happy face, and act as if the world hadn’t stopped spinning.

But it had.

A family had ceased to be.

An emotional death no man, woman or child should ever endure.

And this incredibly brave woman could chat, dance and laugh but nothing would bring it back.

She was the widow at the funeral.

Her brave expression stoic while the Irish wake brought songs, stories, and sympathy.

The problem?

This was not a dignified loss.

At least not by society’s rules.

It was one of whispers.

One of shame.

Where mourners show up and try to determine what happened minus the obvious cause of death.

And worse, some say it happened this way and others say that way. Some say she was to blame while others believe he was the culprit.

But this emotionally steel enforced widow holds her head high.

Yet, internally she dreams of screaming while declaring their echoes are battering her farther into the ground.

A physical widow is not judged.

She is unconditionally supported.

An emotional widow is examined on the surface, then again under a microscope and then again in the aftermath of the marital autopsy. Was he or she the cause of death? What a shame. How do we avoid it? How do we talk about something we fear? Is it something we could catch? Should we avoid them?

In both cases, there are immeasurable mountains of grief to scale. 

But the physical widow is surrounded by support minus shame and judgment.

While the emotional widow draws support from some and shame and judgment from others.

Not too long ago, a tired and exasperated woman turned to me and said, “I don’t understand. If I lost my husband people would be sitting with me, showing up with meals, spending time with my children, and asking if there was anything they could do. Why do I feel so isolated? Why don’t people understand I am a single mom now and I am struggling? I can’t seem to put dinner on the table, get my kids everywhere they need to be, make enough money to pay the bills, and my children are suffering.”

I tried my best to comfort her as she was at the beginning of what I now thankfully am leaving behind.

There isn’t the same empathy for emotional death. 

It can; however, leave families in the same predicament if a spouse is lost to alcohol, other addiction, narcissism, abandonment, etc. That parent may still physically be around but the spouse and children have lost them and not to divorce. Divorce was just the end result of an emotional loss long in the making.

And the emotional death of a spouse is most painful for the children who have to grieve the parent they thought they knew in childhood. And reconcile and replace it with the lost parent of today.

We temper divorce when we raise awareness it is not a loss many of us chose but a grief we are forced to endure.

When we begin to talk about emotional death.

And when we accept divorce is what it is –

Rather than the shame, we didn’t live up to what it should have been.

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These are my girls Hazel and Phyllis.

I know, not your typical doggie names.

My girlfriend likes to say they sound like two old church ladies.

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But these four-legged ladies are the antithesis of quiet and retiring.

They are wild.

Ten-year-old Hazel still acts like a puppy and Phyllis, aka, Philly, literally is a puppy at one year and two-months-old.

Thus far, I have been the adult two-legged mommy of three beautiful four-legged hearts.

My oldest, ‘Emma’ was a golden retriever.

She was what I called the ‘un-dog.’ She had zero canine habits. In fact, I used to joke she was as well-behaved if not better behaved than my children. I could look at her sideways and she would know the command I was thinking and immediately obey. She had the trademark disposition of the people-pleasing Golden Retriever.

My ‘Emma’ was peacefully gentle in every single way and very much the overly responsible oldest child.

My middle child ‘Hazel’ is a chocolate Labrador Retriever.

She is what I call the quintessential dog. She has every stereotypical doggie behavior. She digs, steals food off the counter, gets in the trash, breaks through the fence for a worthy deer, never listens and refuses to poop outside on a truly rainy day. Of course, her doggy momma finds this all a part of her charm. She is a canine rule-breaker. A wild child. And the greatest gift is she has never grown old because she maintains her youthful joy of life.

My ‘Hazel’ is sweet and lovingly complex and very much the sensitive and overly caring middle child. 

My youngest ‘Phyllis’ is a yellow Labrador Retriever.

She is the one we didn’t know our family was missing until she confidently sauntered her little chunk of cuteness across our kitchen floor. She is a lovable goofball, a big furry ball of fun who is ridiculously silly and makes us laugh. She is sassy and howls at us when she doesn’t get her way, after all, she is the spoiled baby of the family. But she will retreat vulnerably at the sound of trouble. And when we are all together, she will lift her head happily and then crush it gently back into the carpet sensing all is right with her world.

My ‘Phyllis’ is joyfully sassy and every bit the overly theatrical youngest child. 

A week ago today, I rushed ‘Phyllis’ to the vet’s office.

She had thrown up and could not keep any food or water down.

Here’s the thing. ‘Phyllis’ is a lover of inanimate objects.’

‘Philly’ doesn’t need something to look, taste, or smell good to find it appetizing.

She will quite literally ingest anything, even socks.

I thought I was managing it fairly well.

My children and I know socks especially were to be kept out of her direct path. They could not be left lying around even next to the washer, and bedroom and bathroom doors were kept closed at all times as an extra precaution.

She would still try and grab other objects so we realized very little could be left unattended. But she did have her toys and each time she would tear off a piece or a limb I would retrieve it and throw it out. Of course, I realized she might swallow something; however, if I was watching and getting rid of the smaller pieces it seemed safe.

Plus, ‘Phllyis’ really loves her toys. 

Her two older sisters could really take or leave them – possibly because they did not consider them a potential food source.

They said I got ‘Phyllis’ there just in time.

A part of a toy had lodged in her small intestine. They had to open her up and cut through her intestine in order to take it out. The first few days were critical. It is considered a major surgery and there were numerous risks and the stitches needed to hold her intestine together.

In fact, it would take the first five days to ensure she was out of the woods and additional time after that to keep her quiet and ensure continued healing. 

I cried and cried.

At the possibility of losing ‘Phyllis,’ at her suffering, and because I blamed myself.

I knew ‘Phyllis’ would ingest anything.

And yet, I thought I could manage it.

I’m for all things dog especially toys they bring a lot of joy and can help with boredom among other things.

This is in no way an anti-toy sentiment.

I have a dog who will eat anything. Therefore, if it hadn’t been a toy, she would have found something else and did many times before. They just passed through her or she threw them up.

I just wonder if I could have done more.

For instance, research the few toys which are somewhat indestructible and throw out all others. 

Or not let my guard down once ‘Phyllis’ turned a year old.

My friend said these things might just be inevitable with some dogs and I know they are, especially with labs. My vet even said every breed does this and labs tend to be overrepresented in this category.

I just feel better getting the word out to others who have dogs who are lovers of all things inanimate.

Of course, I know my friend and the vet are correct.

Our four-legged children in many ways remain toddlers, their whole lives.

Even two old church ladies named ‘Hazel’ and ‘Phyllis.’

Who are the antithesis of quiet and retiring.

**If you would like to see a picture of the toy and part which was taken out of Phyllis go to my FB Page @Colleen Orme National Columnist.

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In the beginning, divorce teaches you about pain, loss, and tears.

Eventually, it opens up to far greater lessons which in many ways bring a more mature view on relationships.

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At the very least it offers a less idealist lens through which to peer at love.

And provides the tough lessons of boundaries and self-protection which can be harnessed through great individual and relationship counseling.

These are hard lessons learned but valuable nonetheless.

They are also ones proffered once the indomitable heart finally relents and listens to the ever more rational head.

 

The Top 10 Things Divorce Taught Me About Relationships:

 

When someone doesn’t fight enough to be a part of two they deserve to be left a party of one

 

You can’t hold onto people who are already slipping through your fingers

 

The absence of a relationship far outweighs the existence of an unhealthy one

 

Not all relationships survive and miraculously herein lies the potential of one to again thrive

 

There is nothing noble about enduring misery or abuse in the name of keeping it all together 

 

Love should be expressed not implied

 

The presence of ‘ego’ means the absence of ‘relationship’ 

 

The idealist believes in only one romantic love and for the lucky that can be true

 

The realist understands there is another romantic love waiting once you open yourself up to it

 

Relationships are a ‘relay,’ it’s in the first two syllables, a constant back and forth without which you will lose at love

 

There you have it the top ten things divorce taught me about relationships.

Initially, these threaten to break you.

In the end, they make you.

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In high school, if my mom could hear me bickering with a friend she would pick up the telephone.

“Girls,” she would say. “Are you being charitable?”

My girlfriends and I would bust out laughing and completely forget the adolescent angst we knew just moments before. 

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Of course, so would my mother as she was quite pleased with herself. For the obvious reasons, defusing a situation, being clever and reminding me of our faith. It was a neverending thread in our home.

My mom made it very clear we were to uphold her strong value system.

We would be respectful, kind, hardworking, honest, caring, truthful, generous and more. And above all, we would have an impeccable sense of right and wrong and hold ourselves accountable to this. 

Thus, it begs the question, “Should you leave someone with zero security in divorce?”

As much as my mother adored her children she would always say, “There are two kinds of parents. Those who think their children can do no wrong and those of us who know better.”

My mother was a realist.

She always prodded us to reflect on our decision making with one question, “Do you think you are doing the right thing?”

I can hear her as if it were yesterday continually reminding us of our Christianity.

Of our values. 

Of what she believed in. 

In her words and her example. 

I’m not sure why someone would say there is zero retirement or feign financial distress in divorce.

I do not understand the absence of a system of checks and balances in the area of right versus wrong.

I can’t comprehend a lack of accountability when life presents circumstances one helped to create.

I can’t fathom the extreme lack of empathy necessary to not worry at all about the future of one you once loved.

I will never understand the desire to leave another individual with nothing.

 

Because in our home my Irish Catholic mother didn’t miss a thing.

She was as astute as the nuns at holding us accountable.

She was never concerned about what we would grow up to do.

She was concerned with who we would grow up to be.

Of our values.

Of remembering what she taught us to believe in and asking…

Are we doing the right thing?

Are we being charitable?

Are we being Christian?

 

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