Tag Archive | anger

Taking Out the Trash–Thoughts on Asking for Help

About ten days ago I was on my way to clean a house when my friend, El, from Running for Hell with El called me.  As we chatted, I told her that I felt blocked in some way, but I just could not put my finger on what it was, or how to clear it.  She agreed with me, saying that she had sensed the same thing in me and she told me when she had been there herself she wrote her way through it.  We ended the conversation and I went in to do my cleaning.  I know the family that I was cleaning for very well and was happy to see their grandson there.  He has been very good to us over the past year.

Stop holding onto what no longer serves you.

I was downstairs dusting when something hit me out of the blue and caused me to pause in my tracks.  You see, in my lovely screened porch at home I had a huge pile of trash that had overtaken the porch.  Back when I could not drive, it was impossible to get to the dump, and when someone dropped over it seemed less than hospitable to say, “Thank you for dropping by.  Would you mind taking a bag or two of trash with you when you go?”  Many people had offered to help me, but those offers kept falling flat with no results, so I became afraid to ask for help and went into paralysis mode.   My molehill of literal garbage had grown into a mountain and I had no idea what to do with it all.  I hid it.  I walked past it as quickly as possible.  I stopped cleaning out my refrigerator because I did not want to add to the pile.

It was avoidance of the highest degree.  I was afraid to ask for help because I had needed to ask for help so many times the previous year that I did not want to feel like a burden again.  Yet, no one had ever told me I was a burden…  They had been telling me that they missed that time we had together with them shuttling me around.  Suddenly, as if I had been overtaken by some other force, I bolted up the stairs, sat down at the table with the grandson and blurted out, “Matt, I need help!”  I explained my situation, and his grandmother waved us off in his truck after we had grabbed some black garbage bags and work gloves.

Getting the garbage bagged up and into the truck was messy, smelly, business.  It was all in kitchen trash bags, but things had started to get into the bags.  Some bags leaked all over us and clear through our work gloves.  I picked up one leaky bag that had a stench that could only be one thing.  I tried to assure Matt that we do not throw out our own bodily waste, but the smell was unmistakable.  As Matt kept telling me he had seen, and cleaned up much bigger messes, I thought back and realized that while our cat had not used the litter box in over six months, at some point I did have to clean her litter box regularly.  Bingo on the smell, and damn to the dawning of just how long I had been hiding from my garbage all because I did not want to ask for help yet again.  As we prepared to leave for the dump, I ran inside and gutted the contents of my refrigerator, and grabbed clean clothes and shoes.  We took my trash to the dump, and back at grandma’s house, I changed my clothes and washed my other clothes and shoes while I finished cleaning her house.  I already felt so much lighter and while I knew I had a big clean up job once I got to my own home, I was excited!

Once home, I munged out the porch area, which was no easy task, but it was fully cleaned, floor washed and all, by the time my son got home from school.  He was happy to see the change.  I then embarked on the refrigerator clean up, which was relatively quick and easy, then I washed that floor.  After my son left to go with his father that evening, I took the most blissful shower, knowing that I was actually filthy for a change.  It felt so good.  I made dinner and celebrated by dancing in my porch that night and sitting out there and looking at the stars.  I went to bed truly exhausted and sore, but happy…really happy.

The next day, as I was driving along I found myself doing something I had not done in some time.  I was noticing the beauty all around me, and proclaiming it out loud to myself.  I passed a few trees starting to turn for fall–“Oh, those are so beautiful,” I exclaimed out loud.  As I passed this or that I kept hearing myself commenting out loud.  “Oh, I just love that!” popped out, and “That is so neat.”   On it went as I drove back home.  The block was gone and what was being blocked by my mountain of garbage and my fear of asking for help was my true and natural ability to appreciate all of the beauty in life.  Let’s face it, who would not be blocked in some way by a mountain of garbage they were pretending did not exist, yet we do it all of the time.  Be it literal garbage, or the metaphorical garbage that we let pile up in our lives, most of us do it.

We hold onto the past far too long.  We nurture anger, hurts, grudges, and tolerate bad behavior in others far after those emotions and people have anything to offer us.  We get so stuck and so blocked by all of the garbage we carry around inside of ourselves that we find it impossible to move forward in any meaningful way.  We feel tired all of the time, stressed, unhappy, and we stop seeing the beauty all around us because our view is so tainted by the garbage we are working so hard to ignore.  Trust me, it takes a lot of work to ignore garbage, be it literal, or metaphorical.   It can suck the life right out of us, but we avoid it, and we are afraid to ask for help to get rid of it because we do not want to be seen as weak, or less than perfect, or we do not want to burden anyone, or a combo platter of the three.

Yet, we were created to be relational beings.  We were created to help each other, and we were created to make mistakes and have emotions that we need to share with others so that we can fully get rid of them.  I know how much of a blessing it is to me when I can help someone for no reason other than to help them.  I had forgotten what a blessing others get by being asked to help.  Whenever we fail to ask for help in getting rid of our garbage we are withholding the chance for another to bless us.  That other person could be a friend, a clergyman, or a counselor.  It makes no difference what their title is, or their role in your life.  If you are avoiding a mountain of garbage that is obscuring your view of the all of the beautiful things in life, ask someone for help.  Life is simply too absolutely gorgeous to waste a minute more trying to hide from your garbage.  Take a chance.  Be bold.  Be a blessing and bless someone else.   Ask for help and take out the trash.  Whatever you have allowed to become a mountain is water under the bridge but it continues to block your view.  Get rid of it.  The view on the other side of the mountain is magnificent!

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Taking time to acknowledge the past in order to truly celebrate the now.

The past week or two I have been a little out of sorts.  I could feel something within me that needed to be birthed, but I could not put my finger on it.  It has been a busy summer, full of lots of fun activities, and plenty of work, too.  I have been feeling tired, not in a physical way, but in an emotional way.  Because there has not been a lot of time to think, or write my way out of whatever it was, I felt stuck.  Last night, it finally dawned on me.  The last few years, or more honestly, the last decade has been a really tough one, and while I have made it through to the other side and into a comfortable way of living, and loving others, and myself, I realized I had done what I have always done.  I got through everything the Walt Disney way–“Keep moving forward.”  When I stopped to look at everything that I had been holding inside of me it became abundantly clear that I had every right to be fully exhausted.

From childhood, it has been my habit to keep moving forward, making my way from one trauma to the next, with varying degrees of success, without ever really taking the time to stop and acknowledge what I have been through.  I can stay it out loud, and know it intellectually, but all of that is done quickly, sweeping the dirt under the rug so that I do not have to see it anymore, or feel it.  I clean houses for a living and I never sweep dirt under the rug when I clean a house, but I am the master of sweeping my own feelings under the rug, and moving on as if whatever it was had never happened.  It has been a survival mechanism for me, but it has left me weary.

Certainly, there are benefits to going through life this way.  I have had to start over many times, and move beyond some pretty huge things that might waylay many people for a very long time.  I bounce back up from every knock that life gives me with the resilience of one of those blow up clowns weighted with sand at the base.  You can punch them and punch them and punch them and they just spring right back up, seemingly indestructible.  So, I bounce back up, I let go, I move forward, and I also pretend like nothing bad ever happened.  I never take the time to honor the battle I have fought, feel the pain I carried silently throughout, or acknowledge that I have every right to be tired, or hurt, or angry, or sad.

I know now that I will continue to be tired until I allow each trial to be fully seen, felt, and honored for what it was at the time for me, and what gifts and lessons I gained from each hurt, and difficult experience.  To continually deny all of the exceptionally hard experiences of the past decade is to deny a huge part of myself, because it has been those experiences that have brought me to the happiness and joy I have today.  Through those pains and knocks, I learned to love myself, and to love and rely on God in a much deeper way.

My little boy is helping me to learn how to do this honoring in order to truly and fully release and heal.  The child has a memory that is truly amazing, and so much of what he remembers are thing I would prefer under the rug.  He has been speaking frequently of our dog, Tanner, who we left when we left the “blue house,” the house of horrors, and my marriage to the sociopath.  Tanner was not a young dog, and I imagine Tanner is no longer alive.  I have no idea what my ex-husband did with him, but my son wants to talk about Tanner and about all of the other animals he loved on our farm.  It hurts me so much, and far too deeply to think about what may have happened to the animals we left behind, but do it I must now.

After I found half of our herd dead, and piled in heaps in a barn the winter before we got out, I shut down.  Twenty-five or more animals starved to death, all the while I was being told they were “fine.”  I will never really know what happened to those animals, and I thought I had shielded my son better, but he remembers so much, and now, three years later, he wants to talk about it.  He needs to talk about it because he has been carrying the horror of all of that around for three years in his little seven year old body.  At first, I was inclined to change the subject when my serious little boy brought awful memories up, but now I let him talk—we talk about it.

He is a much different child now than he was when we left three years ago.  He is far more relaxed, and he is extremely resilient.   He feels things very deeply, and now he needs to talk about those feelings, and as he finally does, there is less of what little anger he has had left every day.  He is letting go the right way, and I will not hinder that process anymore by not being brave enough to feel the hurt myself.  I will not teach him to sweep things under the carpet.  Together we are learning to bring the dirt out into the light so that we can sweep it away for good.  He is a brilliant teacher and a very kind and caring soul, wise way beyond his years.

So now I must stop, and look at it all, and give it all due space and honor and light—the dirt.  I have to feel the hot tears rolling down my cheeks as I think of the awfulness of my drinking, and the arrests and jail time and the time away from my older children, now grown.  I have to feel the pain of the relapses, and the rehabs, and the halfway house.  I have to look at my marriage and the abuse we endure for far too long.  I have to honor the time I spent in prison, having to leave my little boy for six months, and the sadness that brought me, which I hid from.  I have to feel the weight of rebuilding a life from the ground up in the last year, single parenthood, and surviving the mother of all nasty, long, drawn out divorces and custody battles.

I have to feel that crushing pain and heaviness in my chest…the full weight and size of it–and I have to feel the hurt, and the anger, and the sadness.  It has been in there for years now, slowly pushing its way up to the surface.  Now that it is bursting out of me like hot lava flowing out of a long dormant volcano I can already feel the release of pressure.  I have no plans to wallow, but I have no choice but to let it flow.  The flow is all of the pus from wounds suffered but never treated properly.  I am finally really healing and so I am going to treat myself like someone who needs quite a lot of tenderness and care for a bit.  I want to make sure all of the dirt gets swept out for good this time.  If I need someone to talk to so I do not impede my own healing process, I know where to go.

As happy as I have been in recent years, it has not been complete and now I know why.  It is impossible to relax fully into joy and contentment and authenticity while you continue to deny a part of yourself.  I am on my way now to a higher level of all around health and happiness.  No more dirt under the rug for me.  Yesterday, I took my serious, yet wacky, son to the playground.  He sailed down one slide, landed on his feet at the bottom, threw open is arms and shouted, “I love life!”  Do you know how long I have been waiting to hear him say those words–to just feel unbridled joy?

I hugged him hard and kissed him.  Then I said, “You know what?  I love life, too, and I love you!”  It is all true.  I do love life and I know for a fact that were it not for all of that dirt that has scared me so, I would not know the happiness that I do now.  The dirt has served its purpose now.  I stand, with broom in hand, ready to sweep it out as it continues to unearth itself.  A clean start, and cleaner, lighter, fuller heart.  We are really healing this time and we are doing it together.  Yes, I love life!

Thoughts on tolerance and boundaries

In the last two days, the hot topic amidst my gaggle of female friends has been boundaries, and tolerance, as an offshoot of the boundaries discussion.  One friend asked, “Why are boundaries so hard?”  For those of us who have abuse backgrounds the answer is easy—we never learned boundaries as children, or if we did, abuse in adult relationships made us doubt and question our boundaries at time and again.  We got told we were in the wrong at every turn and we began to believe it, sacrificing our own boundaries, wants,  needs, and beliefs, to try to make the abuser happy, or simply to keep the peace.  While our boundaries were being dismantled most of us grew extremely tolerant of what was purely bad, toxic, unhealthy behavior on the part of others.

Because so many women who are abuse survivors go on to have issues with alcohol and drug abuse, boundaries are further blurred and lost.  We begin to do things that do not mesh with our own values and beliefs. We develop a great deal of guilt and shame because we are betraying ourselves, and those people that we love the most, so our tolerance for poor treatment goes up even higher, while our boundaries become even more fuzzy.  We are miserable and needy and unhappy and we attract people who are miserable, needy, unhappy, or outright personality disordered.  Women with abuse backgrounds, or substance abuse issues, are the perfect targets for those predatory people of the narcissist and sociopath varieties.  Who better and easier to manipulate than someone who has no set boundaries?  Of course, we want to be needed, so these toxic people who attach to us help us to feel better about ourselves, even if they are using us, or do not really love or care about us.

But a funny thing happens when a woman from an abuse background starts to heal. It really begins to upset the apple cart in our unhealthy relationships.  The same thing happens when an alcoholic or addict gets clean and sober.  As we get better, our boundaries begin to return, and we grow stronger, and more self-assured.  We begin to ask for what we need and set firm limits for what we will not tolerate.  Guilt and shame starts to drop away, and surviving begins to head towards thriving.  The unhealthy people in our lives hate that.  It threatens them, and so they revolt, usually in the most unpleasant of ways.  They lash out, they accuse us of having “a twisted sense of boundaries,” they blame us for their shortcomings, they get jealous, they undermine, they get mean, they set out to hurt us, demean us—anything in their bag of trick to try to get us to fall back into old behavior—seeking their forgiveness, accepting the blame that isn’t yours to own, and going back, once again, to tolerating bad behavior.  When that does not work, these folks tend to get madder and meaner in their desperation to regain control.

It sounds awful, doesn’t it?  It certainly feels awful when one is in the midst of if, but it is such a good and positive sign that you are moving in the right direction!  It is a sure sign that you are moving towards health and wholeness and the unhealthy relationships that you have been enmeshed in are dropping away.  It is unfortunate that the dropping away process is not more gentle, but the fact is that toxic and disordered people are not known for gentleness, or quietly disappearing into the sunset.  The relationship will end with them kicking and screaming and blaming you all the way.  You simply must not take their behavior personally.  You are getting better and leaving them behind and they are mad as hell—at themselves for not having the courage to follow–or for the disordered, they are mad that you are not falling for their crap anymore.

This is a time when your boundaries and tolerance will be tested in ways beyond belief.  You will feel torn and guilty.  You will question yourself.  “Is what he/she said really true?”  No, it is not.  It is far more apt to be true about them than it is to be true about you.  What you are being afforded is an excellent opportunity to firm up your boundaries even more by disengaging.  So many of us want closure, or the last word, or an apology from the one who lashed out at us.  None of those things are helpful.  What is helpful is moving away from the toxic person as quickly as possible.  Do not take on their “stuff,” and do not look to mend fences that were falling apart to begin with.  Love yourself enough to let go as completely as possible, with the maximum amount of compassion and forgiveness possible, for yourself, and for the person you are leaving behind.  Getting healthy is a process and this is a part of the process.  Do not beat yourself up for not seeing the person for what they were sooner, or for ignoring what you did see.  Know that you will not make the same mistakes again.

Once you enter “thriving mode,” you will attract other people who are happy, healthy, and thriving.  It is true, and I really want you to know and believe that.  You will also gain a sixth sense about people and you will be able to spot someone who is disordered or toxic with lightening speed, because as your boundaries become solid, your intuition will sharpen in the most magnificent ways.  Suddenly you will know, maybe for the first time in your life, that you are fully capable of keeping yourself safe and healthy and nothing, and no one, will stop you from doing just that.  There is a big difference between being needed and being well-loved.  You will choose to be loved rather than needed.  You won’t do it perfectly, but that is okay.  Just keep moving forward.

Boundaries are tricky in so many ways.  We have different boundaries with friends and family than we do with strangers or people on the outer edges of our lives.  We recalculate and relax as we get to know people.  I have found, for myself, that I am still an extremely tolerant person, even with firm boundaries.  I can tolerate political difference, different religious beliefs, child rearing practices, pretty much anything, unless it violates my boundaries, or the behavior violates the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.  That is where my tolerance ends. If you want me to respect your religious beliefs but will not do the same for me, something is wrong with the picture, and I will turn off the TV, and so on.

Yes, I will give you a chance or two to change your behavior as long as the offense is minor, because that is how I roll, but three strikes, and you are outta here!  If you cannot, or will not, respect my boundaries then I will know you do not care about me in a healthy way and I will say good-bye without a backward glance.  If your offense if major, know that there are some things I have zero tolerance for, such as abuse of any living thing, especially those that cannot defend themselves.  Not only will I remove myself from your life instantly, but I will do what I can to make sure you never hurt another soul, knowing full well that my power is quite limited.  And I will pray for you.  I will always pray for you.

Some thoughts on judging others…

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Judging others is something we all do in the course of a day, and if we say we don’t we are big, fat, liars.  Much of it is somewhat unconsciously done.  As we walk through the grocery store thoughts run through our heads.  “Wow, that shirt is awful.”  “Boy, that’s one big person.”  “She sure looks like a grump.” On it goes right up to the check out line, where we begin to judge the contents of the shopping cart of the person in front of us, as well as their payment method.  This goes on all day long, little and big judgements made about people, what they do, what they say, how they act, and what the look like.  Maybe you are not that bad.  Maybe you are more inclined to see the people who smile at you, or notice those who look especially pretty, or maybe you are like me, off in my own little world of “get it done and get out of here.”  Whatever the case, we all judge to varying degrees, and it is rarely beneficial to us, or to the person we are judging.

However, it is hard to even begin to enter into the topic of judging without becoming judgmental.  “That person said a hateful thing.  That is wrong.  That person is nasty.”  I said that just last night, in my head.  A person who doesn’t know me made some insulting comments, judged me based on information she is being spoon fed, some of it true enough, much of it not.  Because the comments hurt, I judged her as a bad person, and I do not know her personally. Is she a bad person?  I don’t know.  How could I?  Do I like, or condone, her behavior?  No, I do not.  The behavior and the actions go completely against my personal beliefs of what is right, and her actions are less than attractive, in my opinion.  But, that is just my opinion.  I do not get to be the judge.  I must answer to a higher authority, God, who tells me that I do not know her past, or her hurts, or her insecurities, and even if I did, I would still have no right to judge her.  God tells me to turn the other cheek, stop looking, forgive, and move on.  Easier said than done, of course, but doable.

Dorothy Parker said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.”  That’s not how I roll.  I do not enjoy disliking others, bad mouthing others, or diminishing others so I can feel better about myself.  Does that mean I have never done any of those thing?  Heck no!  I am guilty as charged.  I am very human, too.  The greater portion of my life is filled with wonderful, kind, caring, loving individuals who roll like I do.  Yet, human nature, flawed as it is, will generally cause me focus on the one or two meanies in my life, and forget all about the lovely people and things all around me.  That is a backwards way of living, and changing that is something I work on every day.

That work requires taking a thought, or feeling—a judgement—and turning it around to something positive.  It changes, “That person is just plain nasty,” to “That person must really be hurting/be insecure/feel threatened.”  Those thought changes opens the mind to compassion.  We do not need to like the comments, behaviors, or even the person, but viewing them with compassion rather than judging and attacking right back is the healthier, kinder choice, for ourselves, and for them.  It is saying to yourself, and the world, “I may disagree with you, but I am pretty sure you’re not Hitler,” to borrow a line from Jon Stewart.  If you cannot change your thoughts from ones of judgement and condemnation, then the least you can do is turn and walk away in kindness.

We do reap what we sow.  The law of attraction is real.  The more we judge harshly, respond to judgments with revenge, or insult and degrade people to elevate ourselves, the more of that same sort of thing we will get coming back at us in our own lives.  As people say these days, “Haters are gonna hate.”  I suppose that is true enough, but I have a choice to make for myself, and that is not to be a hater.   The Bible says we can sow blessings or curses with our words.  In this age of the internet, we can do the same with our fingers, faceless behind a computer screen.  This also allows us the convenience of judging people we do not even know.  Do not get sucked into it all.  It is a trap that will effectively take your eyes off of yourself, and your own areas that need attention, while you focus on someone else and their flaws. Go find the goodness inside of you, and in others, instead.

What if someone is judging you right now–hurting you, insulting you, demeaning you right now?  Turn away, walk away, calm yourself and reframe your thoughts, if you can.  Count your blessings. Ask yourself if the person’s judgment is truly hurting you, or just hurting your pride, with no real damage done to how the important people in your life perceive you.  Step outside and look at the splendor all around you.  Release, relax, forgive, and remember that, in the end, you are not the final authority on anyone, or anything, but yourself.  In the end, it is all between you and God.  Do all you can to maintain your integrity.  It is okay to hate evil, but the evil and the person are usually two separate things.

This one, too, this topic of judging, or stopping the judging, take a lot of work, yet again.  I know, I know…;-)  I am working at it right along with you.  I am working at the judging, and forgiving, and moving on.  Today, turn towards the beauty in the world.  Right outside my front door is the most gorgeous day. The sun is shining.  The trees are the most vibrant spring green, and about ten steps from my front door is a breath taking patch of wild violets.  That is where I am going now.  I am stepping towards the things that can truly be judged as beautiful.

Fear–The greatest motivator to stay absolutely stuck

Fear is a strong emotion, and one that can serve us well, warning us of dangerous situations, and propelling us into action to protect ourselves, whether through fight or flight.  That is fear in its best and proper form.  However, how many people are slaves to fears that keep then so stuck in life that they can barely move, or if they do move, the movement is some misguided form of self protection, be it anger, nastiness, or simple inertia? It is still fight or flight, but you are fighting life, or fleeing from it. This type of fear is never healthy and it sucks all of the joy right out of most everything.

Most people aren’t aware just how much of their lives are dominated by fear.  People alter who they really are because they fear not being liked or accepted.  People do not ask for help when they need it because they are afraid of being seen as weak, or being told, “No.”  People lie because they fear others won’t find the truth acceptable.  People do not share their thoughts because they fear being wrong, or that someone will disagree, or that no one will listen. People don’t try new things because they fear failure.

People don’t try to change an bad situation because they fear they may fail at that, too—“It won’t do any good, anyway.”  People stay in bad relationships and bad jobs out of fear, and remain in unhealthy lifestyles because they fear change.  At its basest form, fear become anger and meanness.  People fear getting hurt so they hurt others first to protect themselves.  They fear looking at their own behavior because they are afraid there will be nothing left if they tear down the walls of anger, nastiness, and arrogance.  How will they protect themselves without lashing out, being defensive, blaming others, or making excuses?

Fearful people are often lonely, and unhappy.  At the heart of fear is almost always the fear of loss–loss of possessions, loss of safety, loss of reputation, or a loss through an insult to their pride or ego.  Fearful people take the hurts and losses in life and turn them into weapons, walls, and shields, yet we all have hurts and losses in life, so why isn’t everyone living a stuck, angry, small life with no joy?   That’s an excellent question, and I certainly don’t have the entire answer.

I’ve always told my kids, “Face your fears, and they will disappear.”  I try to live that, but like everyone, I have my own fears, though over the years they have diminished to a very few things.  I’ve had a lot of losses, some at the hands of other, many self-inflicted.  I’ve had hurts, and some pretty awful experiences, again, some events coming from outside of me, and many self generated.  But, at the same time, I have had to face a lot of my fears because I didn’t want to stay stuck in the ugliness that I had created by believing false information, or by feeling like a victim, or blaming the world for all of my problems.  At the heart of it all, I feared that “me” wasn’t good enough, and from that sprang many mistakes, poor choices, and much self sabotaging behavior.  Who would want to stay stuck in that muck? Not me, but to get out of that muck, I had to own my role in my life, my choices, my behavior.  That was scary business, indeed, and not gobs of fun.  Being stuck in fear and anger and poor choices was a lot less fun, though.

Fear gives a person a very small, myopic, world view.  It creates a blindness to all of the color, and goodness in the world.  Fear holds people back from discovering the beauty in others, and the beauty within themselves.  How can anyone truly live and enjoy life when everything is a perceived threat to their ego, or their limited sense of self worth, or their position, or their power?  But fear does not give one power.  Fearful people prefer to have power over—power over others, power over the situation, power over the world.  Power over is not personal power.  Power over takes personal power from others.  Again, not a happy, or healthy, way to truly live and enjoy life.

Personal power, on the other hand, gives joy to life.  It allows its owner to set healthy boundaries, make good choices for themselves, be vulnerable, be open, be willing, and in the end, be genuine and happy.  Personal power can empower others to places of goodness.  It is a light that shines, not a wall that blocks out the sun, and the light of everyone, and everything in your world.  You cannot get to a place of personal power without facing many fears, without having the courage to heal, make mistakes and start anew.  You cannot have personal power without the courage to admit your faults, ask for forgiveness, forgive yourself and others, and change your course.  When you have personal power you don’t need or want power over anyone.  Personal power is not the freedom from fear, but the knowing that fears can be faced, and erased.

Leaving a fear based life starts like anything else—with one step in the opposite direction, and then another, and another for a life time.  You can change fear based behaviors and actions by looking your fears in the face, making friends with them, then showing them the door.  You can change your mindset from one of suspicion and avoidance to one of joyfulness and openness, but it will take work.  It’s work that is well worth it, and you can do it.  Please, don’t be afraid to try.  Don’t let fear motivate you to remain stuck.  Get yourself out of your own muck.  You’ll be amazed at the results.

Anger, grudge holding, and the cure—Forgiveness

I’ve never been any good at holding a grudge, though I have admittedly tried.  In the past, I have been more apt to forgive easily.  Some would say too easily.  The problem was not that I forgave, it was that I also forgot, which meant that I stayed in bad relationships too long, or looked past completely unacceptable behavior, which kept me wide open for hurt after hurt, and certainly to abuse.  There is a middle ground, I believe.  We can forgive, let go of anger, hurts, and bitterness, and still remember that the behavior and actions were awful, and that we did not deserve that type of treatment.  We can then make healthy choices about who we keep in our lives, and who we do not.  Keeping anger in our lives is never healthy, nor is holding grudges, yet may people do, to their great detriment.

I know some lovely people who hold grudges and carry around things that should have been forgiven long ago.  We can all do this at one time in our life or another.  For instance, for the longest time I could not completely forgive my first husband for moving me away from the west coast, my family and homeland, against my wishes.  Despite all of the rotten things that happened during, and after, our divorce, we’d come to a point of forgiveness, but this was the one thing I could not let go of, try though I did.  I’d forgive him for the move over and over, and think that I’d finished the job, only to get triggered by something and realized I was far from done in my forgiving.

I hated that I could not forgive him completely.  It took me moving back to Montana for nine months, and coming back to Maine of my own choice, more or less. (The state of Maine fairly insisted that I come back to go to prison 😉  I am here by choice now, having realized finally that my home is wherever my heart is, and my heart is with my children, all on the east coast.  He also did something amazingly cool by taking my 7 year old into his home while I was in prison.  We talked two days ago, and when I got off of the phone with him I realized that it was finally done.  I had forgiven him completely.

There are a lot of what I term average grudge holders in the world.  I have a dear friend who has a friend she adores.  Of her she says, “She’s always been a very good friend to me, but there was the one time in high school where she said something that really hurt me.”  High school for her was about 60 years ago.  She carries other things around that she’s been unable to forgive, and they have added up, and I can see how they weigh her down.

There are other people who are masters at grudge holding.  They carries their grudges around with them, heavy in their pockets, and at the end of the day they take out their grudges, and look at them, and polish them up like precious jewels, then they return them to their pockets to carry around the next day.  Rinse, repeat.  So, why do some people hold grudges?  Many people use grudges to cut themselves off from the person who hurt them.  They feel that this distance protects them, but in reality it effectively cuts off the chance for positive communication, resolution, and forgiveness.

Chronic grudge holders often have anger problems that they are too afraid to face, so they hold grudges, and shame and blame, because it’s easier, and safer for them, than looking at themselves and taking personal responsibility for their part in the conflict, or events.   Grudge holders do not understand that people are human, and say and do things that hurt others, often with no malice involved.  The anger festers, the grudge grows and takes on a life of its own, and the person holding the grudge is left miserable, trapped my their own anger, and depleted of joy.  Oftentimes, their pride it too big to recognize just how badly they are hurting themselves with their undying anger.

When you are dealing with a narcissist, or a narcissistic sociopath, you are dealing withe a whole different ball of wax completely.  The narcissist, or narcissistic sociopath, will not just hold a grudge, they will hold a grudge and they will seek revenge, often stopping at nothing to right the perceived wrong.  God forbid you leave leave one of these people and try to divorce them.  The abuse that they exacted upon you will generally only escalate, and often they will use, and abuse, the court system to try to see to your ruination.  So distorted is their world view, and so disordered is their personality, that it is impossible to them to forgive, and let go, because they simply do not care what their vengeful acts are doing to others, even their own children.  They hurt, so they want to make you hurt, without taking a speck of responsibility for their own behavior.

I know a whole family who operates like this.  They blame and shame and tear down but never stop to see the hideousness of their own behavior.  The son held a grudge towards his parents for favoring his little sister, something he felt set him up for a life of failures.  This lead to several, years long, estrangements between him and his parents.  They’d say something he didn’t like, and he’s cease all contact with them for years.  I simply could not “get it” until I spoke to his parents during one of these estrangement periods.  His parents told me stories of his lifelong habit of lying, his inability to keep a job, and about the time, when he was 19 or 20, when he came home from work late at night and woke his father up several times in a row, so they told him to move out.  That had happened 25 years prior!  Yes, I did have an “aha moment” about the son’s behavior at that point.  It had been modeled for him all of his life.  I have seven kids and I have been awakened more than once by one coming home late at night.  My response was always, “Thank you,God!  They are home and safe.”  Then I went back to sleep.  Sadly, narcissists do not learn to forgive, and let go, and move on, nor do they want to learn.

Forgiveness is the cure for anger and grudges, though, and it is an excellent cure with many benefits.  People who forgive have less stress in their lives, lower blood pressure, sleep better, have a stronger sense of spirituality, better relationships, and are more loving and giving.  Forgiving people are happier, healthier people.  Forgiveness is good for you!

Forgiveness, like love, is not just a feeling.  It is a conscious choice and an definite action.  You have to make the choice to forgive, and keep working at the forgiveness.  This is especially true when the person you are working to forgive is still trying to hurt you.  Keep working at it anyway, for yourself, and your family. Forgive as many times as you need to forgive.  Ask God for help.  Forgiving does not condone the behavior, words, or actions, of the one who hurt you, but it frees you from needing to hold onto your hurts.  Freedom is an excellent feeling, and place to be.

It’s never too late to begin to forgive, and today looks like a great day to me. Like any dance, it will be two steps forward, one step back, but with practice and resolve, it is a dance that you can master.

Cyberbullying and Adults

Bullying and cyberbullying are hot topics both in the media and in schools across the country.  Many states are enacting stiff laws that address bullying and harassment, and those laws usually include cyberbullying.  In some states, cyberbullying can result in jail or prison time, and may be a felony.  But, the reality of cyberbullying is that it is not confined to teenagers.  Adults are victims of cyberbullying, and more and more adults are becoming cyberbullies.  What is the fastest growing population among those who cyberbully?  It is adult women.

So, what is cyberbullying?  It is bullying and harassment but instead of being done in a real life setting, it is done over the computer, in chat rooms, social networking sites, or via text message, or emails.  In short, it is bullying done using  a piece of electronic equipment.  Now, in real life, we can walk away from a bully, disconnect ourselves from that person, at least in the best case scenarios.  But because the internet is everywhere, providing endless forums for the bully to use to perpetrate their crime, cyberbullying can be far harder to stop, and can exact an even higher emotional toll on the person being cyberbullied.  We are well aware that cyberbullying has lead to suicides among teens, and while most adults have more resources and life experience to withstand the cyberbully, there is still a toll for the adult being bullied, be it emotional, physical, or spiritual, or the attempted ruination of a reputation.

Insults, name calling, attacks on race, religious beliefs, physical or emotional disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, or ANY OTHER PERSONAL CHARACTERISTIC are all considered bullying, and when done via the internet, or cell phone, comprise cyberbullying.  Generally, there is also some form of cyberstalking involved in the cyberbullying, as well.

What can you do if you are being cyberbullied?  First off, do not respond in kind–do not cyberbully back.  That rather goes without saying, but in the heat of the moment, when feelings are hurt, and emotions are raw, it is easier said than done.  Gather evidence, including saving text messages, taking screen shots of cyberbullying comments and posts, and keep all bullying emails.  Contact the site on which you are being harassed and bullied.  Most have very strong anti-harassment policies.  Some are quicker than others to respond.  Tell someone you trust, and if you have an attorney, forward all of the evidence to him.  Contact law enforcement if you are threatened.  If the bully does not stop, you can seek a harassment order.  Check out your local state laws to see if cyberbullying is addressed, and what legal measures can put a stop to it.

Why do adult people cyberbully?  Usually, the bullying comes from anger, jealousy, and a need for revenge.  Many adult bullies do it for entertainment purposes.  They enjoy bullying.  It makes them feel better about themselves somehow.  Often, these people have too much time on their hands, and not a real, meaningful, life to speak of, so instead or reading a good book, or knitting, or just loving on the people in their lives, they use their free time, and often work time, to engage in cyberbullying.  These are truly sad people who have yet to reach an emotional stage of development that dictates a life of kindness, integrity, and compassion.  They are unhappy people.

Yes, I am being cyberbullied right now, and while I’d love to think that I am six feet tall and bullet proof, it hurts.  That the person who is doing the cyberbullying does not know me at all baffles me.  It would seem that she is so weak in her own personal character that she is easily swayed by information provided to her by people who are not trustworthy sources of information about me, or are they even close to honest and objective.  And yet, she allows herself to be their puppet, or she is just unhappy enough to need no encouragement.  I don’t know.  I don’t care.  In any world, and for whatever reason, it’s wrong.

That this same woman claims that she was bullied as a teen, writes articles and blog posts about the experience, and is using a site to raise money to have anti-bullying pamphlets printed, so that she can go into the schools to talk to children about bullying is the ultimate irony.  This woman has wished me dead, and openly expressed her desire to be able to hasten my death.  I think that somehow goes far and beyond bullying.  What is she modeling to her own children with her bad behavior?

I have seen adults bully other adults. Prison was a great place for that.  When I saw it happening, even if I shared a dislike for the person being bullied, I always confronted the bully, if it was safe to do, and it usually was.  There is no excuse for bullying or cyberbullying.  What you have to say about others speaks far more to your own character than to the person that you are insulting, degrading, and trying to tear down.

I don’t play with bullies, or cyberbullies, but I do take appropriate actions, and those actions may soon have to reach an even higher level if I want this to stop, and I do want it to stop.   If you are being cyberbullied, do not sit back in silence.  Tell some.  Speak out.  Get help.  Below are some links to organizations with information on cyberbullying.

Each day, I just keep praying for this woman, and the family endorsing her cyberbullying.  I pray that someday they will open themselves to the concepts of love, kindness, forgiveness, honesty, integrity, and compassion.  That’s a tall order to fill, but with God, anything is possible!  In the meantime, I will continue to live my own life fully using those concepts.