Tag Archive | healing

To Every Season, Turn, Turn, Turn…

This blog post is going to be a mash-up,  as I believe the youngsters call it, so hang with me until the end, if you will, please.  You will be rewarded with an excerpt from my book if you just hold tight.   The title to this blog post—the song—has been turning in my head for a day.  Today I opened my daily devotional to find this exact Bible verse.  Co-inky-dink?  I think not.

Last week I  reported that I had started my book.  Yay team!  I will respond to all of your comments soon.  I am still absorbing it all.  How it is going, you ask?  It is has not gone one darned place since.  Why, you ask?  I have a million excuses, just ask me.  December is busy.  I have gifts to make.  I spit coffee all over my gorgeous Apple keyboard and ruined it and I HATE  my new, cheap, keyboard.  I have to JUMP on the space key to get it to work.

Thank you to Running From Hell With El for this!

Thank you to Running From Hell With El for this!

I have a kid to tend to daily.  I have to work. On and on the excuses go.  Excuses are just that.  It all boils down to one single thing.  I am afraid that I am not good enough.  No matter what anyone says, I simply cannot wrap my head around the concept of being good enough.  Pardon my language, but what if I have to give up my self-appointed title as a fuck up?  My head knows that I am not that, but as always, my heart lags behind.

See that red poster up above?  My friend El made that and I loved it. One part of me thought, “She made that for me,” but the other part of me thought, “Good advice, but she wouldn’t make a poster just for me.”  I talked to El on the phone yesterday.  She said, “I made that poster for you, you know.”  Ah, now I had verbal confirmation.  Darn that all to heck.  Now I have to get real.

I began this blog on March 10th of this year. That is not all that long ago, and yet, some how, I have amassed a boatload of followers in that time.  Every time I get notified that I have a new follower, I shake my head and think. “Hmmm…how did they find me and decide to follow me just like that”?  It strikes me as  strange every time.

A couple of months ago, I got one of these babies and it was a lovely gift.

You Like Me!!

You Like Me!!

Guess what?  Since that time, I have been gifted with yet another one of these from Reflections on Life Thus Far, and again I was humbled and very grateful.  I did nothing with it, because I hate to seem showy.  I am a fly under  the radar kind of gal.  Next thing I know, I have gotten of these, also from Ms. Reflections:

Wow, I said to myself.  Wow.

Wow, I said to myself. Wow.

I was touched beyond words, but quite frankly, I stink at accepting awards because a part of me thinks, “Me”??  The other part of me thinks, “Wow.” but I do not want to turn heads or anything, you know?  What would happen if I actually had to admit to myself that I am a good writer?  Then, last week, I got another one of these, this one coming from Rohan7things.  Is it redundant to post it twice?  Why, yes, it is, but tough!

Wow, I said to myself.  Wow.

Wow, I said to myself. Wow.

Not too long ago, my youngest son from my adult six said to one of his older brothers, “You may not know this, but Mom is kind of a big deal.”  I laughed—Anchorman quote and all,but his older brother, the PhD candidate said, “Mom is an excellent writer. Mom needs to write her book.”  Good heavens! I have no children thinking that I am nutty for wanting to write a book.  How do I wrap my head around my kids knowing I have talent, these genius kids of mine?  It is a lot to take in for me, folks.  It has been my job to allow them to shine. What if I just happen to shine, too?

Good heavens, if this all has not been bad enough—hard enough on my inaccurate view of myself—the other night, this showed up, coming from Ivon at  Teacher as Transformer:

Blog of the Year 2012?? Me??

Blog of the Year 2012?? Me??

Oh, baby, I wanted this almost as much as I want, want, want, to be Freshly Pressed!  I was beside myself having seen my name on the list and ever so grateful, and taken aback, too.  This one is different.  It’s a “collect the whole set” award.  I had one star and that was enough for me, but by the next morning, thanks to Carolyn at ABC of Spirit Talk it looked like this:

Two stars overnight??  Again, I say Wow!

Two stars overnight?? Again, I say Wow!

Two stars is enough for me, but if I get more, I will survive it, I suspect.

Then there is the gang on my Facebook page.  My gang is the best gang on any Facebook page.  They cannot wait for my book.  They tell me that I inspire them every day, and I crack them up, too.  My own personal, real, friends who have known me forever tell me that same thing.  Can you all see now why this might be a bit much to take in all in less than a year?

I am being forced to believe in myself because I KNOW that God and a whole great, big, slew of people believe in me.  I have to reorder my view of myself and that is the hardest thing of all, but it is about darned time that I do it, because I CAN feel it…  I can literally feel success and my book and all good things right at the end of my fingertips.  It is right there and it is just waiting for me to catch up.  I reach out every time I think of my book and I can almost wrap my fingers around it all….almost.  Give me a few more moments to wrap my brain around it all, will you, please?  I am a slow learner and quite stubborn.  I am getting there with your love and support!  This is my season to accept myself and my gifts.

Oh, goodie, now comes the book excerpt, raw as it is.  After the book excerpt I am going to paste in a bunch of blogs that I love, and as far as I am concerned, you all win every single award I have won.  Once again, do with them as you will.  I love you all!

Chapter One:

The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., waking me up quickly and not happily. I looked over at my 6-year-old son sleeping next to me. This was not our own bed. We were not in our own home, but in half an hour I would have to awaken him to get him fed and ready for school. I went upstairs and started the coffee and made sure that my hosts were awake. I got dressed while simultaneously packing away all of my own clothing. For whatever reason, I chose to wear my best shirt, jeans and shoes. I went and washed my face and applied full makeup and did my hair. Where did I think I was going that day?

 

At 6 a.m., I climbed into bed with my little boy and snuggled closely with him, kissing him to wake him up. He opened his eyes and said, “Is today the day that you have to go”? “Yes, it is, sweetie,” I replied. He did not want to go to school. I understood that, but I told him that he had to go—that everything would be okay and that his big sister would pick up after school. I hugged him hard and then told him we needed to get ready. He was going to school. I was going to turn myself in to go to prison and while I had know about this for over two years, he has only found out two weeks prior.

 

The counselors told me not to tell him. We were all praying that a pardon might come though. No one could see me going to prison. It just wasn’t going to happen. I remembered back to the day that I had finally told him why we had to move back to Maine from Montana—that I had to go to prison. He had melted before my eyes. We held each other and we cried and cried. He asked questions, and I did my best to answer them. “Mommy, what will you eat”? I told him I would eat whatever they gave me, which would probably mean beans and weenies every Saturday night. He found that amusing.

 

“Mom? I don’t want you to get fat, so will you please eat the skinny cereal”? I promised him that I would eat the skinny cereal and that I would write him every day. “Mom? What will you do about privacy”? I told him that I didn’t expect that I would have much. The depth and uncanny understanding he had of the situation floored me. A week later, we loaded up my car and spent a week driving across the northern part of the United States in the treacherous weather of late February.

 

I don’t remember a whole lot more of that morning, that going-to-prison-today-morning, except that somehow I got all of my all of belongings loaded into my car, and all of his belongings loaded into Howard and Georgia’s Chevy Tahoe. I know I dropped him off in his classroom and I think we both had tears in our eyes. His new teacher may have, too. I remember going over to my first husband’s house to drop off his belongings. Aidan would be living with my first husband and his wife, under the care of my younger daughter from my first marriage.

Blogs that I love:

http://abcofspiritalk.wordpress.com/

http://runningfromhellwithel

http://deborah-bryan.com/

http://chrysalisjourney.wordpress.com/

http://waitingforthekarmatruck.com

http://ivonprefontaine.com/

http://roots2blossom.wordpress.com

http://myrivendell.wordpress.com

http://momentumofjoy.com

http://morningstoryanddilbert.wordpress.com

http://scott-williams.ca

http://infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com

http://knowmyworth.com

http://yogawithmaheshwari.wordpress.com

http://paularenee.wordpress.com

http://tracielouisephotography.net

http://mymeanderingtrail.com

http://abbyhasissues.com

http://toddlohenry.com

http://shesamaineiac.com

http://thetwistingkaleidoscope.wordpress.com

http://reflectionsonlifethusfar.wordpress.com

http://spreadinformation.wordpress.com

http://rohan7things.wordpress.com/

I am forgetting a lot and I know that.  Please forgive me.  If you are behind me, add yourself the list!  On we go!  Rock on, we will.  I sound like Yoda now. Time to say bye-bye!

Advertisements

Giving Thanks for Forgiveness and Healing

This is going to be one of those busy weeks around here with Thanksgiving and children coming home and my youngest son turning 8 years old, so I am taking this single opportunity that I have to write about what I am thankful for this year.  Because I am now twice divorced with six children from the first marriage, and one from the second, all of the holiday arrangements can get cumbersome.  Who is going to be where and when takes a lot of time to pin down.  Being flexible becomes more important than ever.

Until two days ago, it looked as if my adult kids–the ones who will be home–might have to try to stuff themselves with two Thanksgiving dinners only a few hours apart.   I was grateful that my meal would be first so that they would have some room in their stomachs for all of the delights I had in store for them.  However, on Saturday, my first husband and his wife invited us over to their house for Thanksgiving dinner.  My youngest son was thrilled with the idea, and even if I had to give up complete control of the meal, it made perfect sense to accept the invitation on the one condition that I get to bring a lot of food.

When I left my first husband I told anyone who would listen that, “He will never change.”  Guess what?  I was wrong.  He has changed quite a lot.  So have I, for that matter.  I got sober and grew up.  He made changes that I know were hard for him so that he could have a better relationship with our children.  I admire him greatly for all of the work that he has done that has so hugely benefited our family.  I think he admires the changes that I have made, as well.  Because we both cared enough about our kids to make some huge changes, we have been able to forgive each other, and we have both healed to the point where we can get together as a family with our kids, and his wife’s kids, and my little boy, and other new people thrown into the mix.  I still think this confuses some of our adult kids a bit, but they are adapting, like it or not.

I realized today that these big family gatherings would not have been possible ten years ago.  We were both still extremely stuck in our own garbage.  I got rid of the drinking and a whole lot of other things.  He gave up a lot, too, including a wife who did not support our family as a whole.  His wife now has a heart big enough, and an ego healthy enough, to open her arms to everyone.  As confused as our adult kids may be at our fairly recent hospitality towards each other, I know they are learning a lot even if they are not aware of it right now.

They are learning that even grown ups have to do some growing up before there can be health in the family.  They are learning about forgiveness that was a hard-fought battle with huge benefits.  They are learning that people can change if they have courage enough, and they are learning that healing is possible even after a bad ending.   They are also seeing that, even though they are all grown up now, that their father and I will support them forever as a unit.  There is no tug of war anymore, unless, of course, his wife will not let me make the gravy like she did last year, then there might be a battle for the whisk. 😉

My little boy adores his “Uncle Garth” and Holly and since he spent six months of his life living in their home while I was in prison, they are a very important part of his family.  It took an awful lot of people coming together, and a huge amount of love coming from all directions, for my little boy to have come through that experience as healthy as he did, and for that, I am very grateful.  I am grateful to all of my children, especially my youngest daughter who was his primary caregiver, and to my first husband and his wife and her kids, because they all played a big role is caring for my little boy.

I am so grateful for healing and forgiveness and for reconciliation as it works the magic that brings all of our families together on one day to celebrate growth and love and caring and support.  My introvert kids will survive the event, and we will get together the next day, just us as a smaller unit, to celebrate my little guy’s birthday.  It is having the best of both worlds all in one love packed weekend.  We are all having to give up a little something to open ourselves up to something much bigger and far more grand.

This kind of love and compromise and healing and forgiveness is a rare thing, and I know that.  I also know that they are right (whoever they are) when they say, “Never say never.”  I am so grateful for the kindness, love, flexibility, and generosity of this big, messy, cobbled together family.  The blessings that come from healing and forgiveness are almost too big for words, so I will use just three.  Thank you, Lord.

America–Keep Calm and Love Like Crazy!

It has been quite a week here in America, has it not?  We made it through the worst Presidential campaign that I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing, and we have made it through the election and to the other side, happily.  Of course, that happiness is only in my mind, because I like to keep my mind happy. I am truly happy that it is all finally over.  Let me insert a disclaimer at this point.  This post is not meant to incite a riot, or to become a political debate.  That is not where I am heading, so please do not head there, either.  Thank you so much.

As is the norm when it comes to Presidential elections, there was one candidate who won, and there was one candidate who lost.  That is traditionally how it works, and from what I can tell, it is the point of the whole process, as gawd-awful as it can appear at times.  Now, here we sit as a country with a lot of people who are seriously unhappy that their candidate did not win, so much so that a number of states are petitioning to secede from the United States.

Thank you to Cecilia Hanna and Good Juju for this poster!

I am left wondering what we must look like to the rest of the world, especially to the people in poor countries, or countries where they do not have privilege of voting for their leaders.   I suspect that the United States looks like a giant preschooler from a well-to-do family who, having been denied a KitKat bar at the store checkout, is having a very loud, ugly, and extremely public hissy fit.  If you have kids, you know just how embarrassing those hissy fits can be, and if you do not have kids, you have probably witnessed a public hissy fit or two, and they are just never attractive.  I am not finding this “Imma up and leave America and Imma take my whole state with me, I am so darned mad” hissy fit attractive at all.  We are not a nation of quitters, are we?

I do not know about you, but on a day-to-day basis I do not get my way all of the time, or even most of the time.  Do not get me wrong.  I like to get my way as much as the next person, but I can accept not getting my way without a public tantrum.  Heck, I am not even prone to private tantrums a whole lot.  If I gave up on something every time that I did not get my way, well I suspect that I would be awfully lonesome.  I can keep on loving someone, or something, even if in that minute, or situation, I did not get my way.  I can support a President that I did not vote for just as easily as I can support a President that I did vote for, because as Americans that is our job.  It is our job to stand behind the poor guy who has what I believe to be the least coveted job in American, from where I sit, anyway.

I mean, seriously, take a look at some before and after pictures of most of our past Presidents.  They go into the job looking all shiny and new and they come out with gray hair and looking as if they have aged 10 years for every year that they served.  It is not an easy job when you have your country supporting you nicely.  It has got to be a damned miserable job when almost half of the country is gunning for you.  The guy—each one–is only human, but we expect so much.  Do we expect that much from ourselves?  Not even close.

I still see people saying that our nation is divided and that it is President Obama’s fault, and yet I do not see him saying anything that in any way is encouraging unhappy voters to hate those who voted for him, or to run if they did not like the outcome of the election.  I believe that he would sincerely like us to stand together as a nation and to support him as best as we can.  We are dividing ourselves in a way that leaves me sad beyond words.  It is time to stop.

America, it is time to keep calm and love like crazy.  It is time that we, as a nation, remember that we are all in this together.  We are friends, neighbors, families, co-workers.  We are all human beings who need to be loved, and who need to love a whole lot more.  If we do not settle down soon and start to love on each other again, well we will have only ourselves to blame for any less than optimum outcomes.

America, it is time to put on your happy pants and remember what a great country this is and it is also time to look around you at all of the people who are struggling just as you are.  Hatred and mass discontent is not going to get any of us anywhere, but man oh man, if we all decided to engage in a love revolution, just imagine how much healing could happen, and imagine just how far ahead we would be in the future from where we stand today!

You say you cannot love the President?  That is perfectly okay.  Can you love your friend or neighbor even if they voted differently than you?  I bet you can.  If you loved them before, you can love them now.  The great thing about this country, and about this whole, big, wide world, is that we are all different.  We Americans so cling to our fierce need to be individuals that we sometimes forget that everyone else gets to be an individual, too.  Imagine a country, and a world, where we embraced differences–where we hugged the heck out of our differences and truly celebrated those grand and wonderful differences.  Imagine a country, and a world, where love was the native tongue, and the currency, and the most popular medication on the market.

What would happen if we let go of hatred, and the past, and the need to blame, and we moved forward into a future fueled by crazy amounts of love for our fellow man, no matter how different he might be.  What if we all chose to love the heck out of our country even if we do not care for the man who won the election.  What if we all stopped putting up grumpy Facebook statuses that continue to divide friends and families and our whole nation and we all took a deep breath and a giant step back and really believed that we will be okay, because we will.

We will be okay just as soon as we move into a love-like-crazy frame of mind and follow it up with some action.  If you cannot do it for your friends or neighbors, then do it for your children.  Stand tall, America!  Stand tall, keep calm, and love like crazy.  Let the healing begin within you, but do not be stingy!  It is time to start tossing love around wherever we go.  Love is the healing balm, so spread it around freely.  We will all be fine if we start to love like crazy.  Just do it.  Yes, I do mean you.

Stop fighting change before it knocks you out cold

A lot of people simply do not like change, and yet change is inevitable.  We grow up.  Our children grow up.  We get older.   There is not a thing we can do to stop those things from happening, aside from girding our loins, doing our level best to roll with the punches, and slathering our faces with the best anti-aging skin care products we can afford.  Still, time marches on and if we have acquired enough healthy coping mechanisms we learn to accept these changes, even if we do not completely love them.

Why, yes, I do take all of my own pictures because copyright infringement scares me silly, and well, it is just wrong!

Maybe it is because change scares so many of us so badly—the changes we cannot control–that a lot of us seek out constant changes elsewhere.  We change our wardrobe, hair color, jobs, cars and our cereal in the constant pursuit of something new that will make us feel new again, for a minute maybe.  Of course, all of these external changes do not change a thing.  Most of us are hurting inside somewhere.  I am not excluding myself from “us.”  I am right smack dab in the middle with you.

As I have mentioned before, I have an inspirational page on Facebook.  I started it because Running From Hell with El said that I should, and in some rare fit of lunacy, I did it.  I like my page, and I love the people who I have met on that page, but more and more, the Book of Face is hiding what the people who follow my page get to see.  They hide what I post so badly that fewer 5% of my “fans” (I HATE that term) see my posts.  This is because they want me to cough up a heck of a lot of money to promote each and every post and I just will not do it.  Sorry Charlie, er Mark…  So, here I am knowing that spending an hour a day scheduling my page is a waste of my very precious time, not because I do not care for the people who do see my posts, but because I have bigger fish to fry.

I have a book to write.  (I know exactly what you are thinking. You are thinking, “Yeah, that is what they all say.  They are going to write the next great novel, but it will either never get written, or it will be garbage.”  My book will get written and it is going to be a knock out, I assure you!  One of a kind!  Seriously…) It is right up there in my noggin waiting, but it is not going to fly from brain to page without me doing a little work.   That hour I spend on my Facebook page every morning should be spent writing.  Lord knows I have been told that a time or two, but I simply hate to be pushed.  It a nasty habit, but the more I feel that I am being pushed, the more I will push back.  I am also one of the best procrastinators alive.

I still have comments from last week’s blog post that I need to respond to, and it is not because I do not want to respond, it is just that sometimes someone says something that I need to think about.  I need to chew on it before I respond, and because I have terrible TMJ, this chewing can take me quite some time.  This is also why I do not chew gum, or eat Grape Nuts anymore.  There is just too darned much jaw popping to make it worth my time and energy.  If you make a comment after someone has made one of those comments I need to chew on, you will have to wait until the prior comment has been thoroughly masticated to death before I can get to the back log.

By that time, I feel so badly for not having responded sooner that I get paralyzed.  Last week, Renee A. Shuls-Jacobson suggested that I let go of the mess, and start sharing the message.  At the same time, Livvy at Real Manure told me that she had quit Facebook all together, that was the jaw breaker, because that has been on my mind quite a lot, and then Stephen at Life Revelation said something really sweet, and I have a hard time taking a compliment, so there I sat, stuck.  I am still sitting…

Here is what I know about all of these behaviors.  They are all based in fear.  I hate to be pushed because, even it is the opportunity of a lifetime, something about it scares the daylights out of me.  I will put off doing something that will benefit me greatly because something about it has me scared silly, and oftentimes, it takes me a while to figure out what it is that is scaring me.  I have put off scaling back on my Facebook page in order to write my book because something about making that decision has scared me beyond rational prioritizing.  At first I thought it was because I did not want to let anyone down.  That has pretty much been sorted out to all ego.  Then I did not want to appear to be a quitter.  I am so good at not quitting things that no longer serve me that is has almost killed me many times over.

I am not the only person who does these things.  I see it all of the time in my line of work.  I clean houses for elderly women and nearly every week now I get a call from someone who has been unable to keep up with their home for some time, but they have been scared to ask for help.  By the time they call me it has gotten so bad that they would sooner drink paint thinner than try to tackle it themselves.  They are embarrassed that they let things get so bad.  I go in and within a few weeks, it is manageable and they are unstuck and much happier.  I am sure that I am not the only one that sees this sort of thing.  I imagine counselors, and clergy, and doctors, and even lawyers see this thing all of the time, too.  People are put off making good changes because they are scared and embarrassed and there is that pay off thing, too, that Todd Lohenry mentions.  When I was getting my B.S in nursing and doing my psychiatric rotation, we called it the secondary gain.

Todd is right.  There is always a pay off.  If we choose not to make beneficial choices to change it is because the pay off, or secondary gain, is too great.  What is a secondary gain?  It varies from person to person.  Some people do not change because they like feeling like a martyr, or they like to be felt sorry for, or they like to blame the world, or make excuses, or they thrive on feeling miserable and angry.  People will come up with all sorts of rationalizations not to change.  “So and so would be crushed if I..” or “I have tried and it just did not work,” or my personal favorite, “That will never work.”  I like “That will never work” the best because at least it is true.  It you do not try it, it absolutely will not work and you are 100% right.  So, we all stay stuck until we realize that we would rather drink paint thinner than go on as we have been doing, when all the while we have been happily drinking the grape Kool-Aid of justifications and rationalizations under their various pick-your-poison guises.

I have not wanted to embark on my book because I am going to have to type out some incredibly painful truths.  I now know that I am not going to heal fully until I type out those painful truths, so I am going to do it.  It is not going to be fun, and I know this.  Only two people know this, but after some of the blog posts I write are done I cry for a good half an hour or more. It is all good, though.  That is healing.  That is release. Imagine all the tears that will be shed writing an entire book!  Don’t you fret now!  For every painful truth I reveal, I promise to counter each one with a lot of hope and inspiration, and at least one hysterically funny story.  It will be the- you will laugh, you will cry, you will become a part of it-sort of book.  And it will be based on a true story, too, because I do not write fiction.  No more grape Kool-Aid for me, thank you very much.

If you are stuck in a web of pay offs and secondary gains, the first step is to figure out what your pay off is, and why you are scared of giving it up.  The second step will make itself clear once your sort through step one.  If you are trying to heal from childhood trauma and have seen counselors before with no forward progress, please try again.  As Scott Williams points out, some counselors are just not good, and let me double that for psychiatrists, especially the ones who prescribe medications primarily.  I was told in nursing school that psychiatrists would be the weirdest doctors and people who I would ever meet, and that was the stone cold truth.

If you are thinking, “But my counselor/psychiatrist is super sweet and nice and he/she cares about me,” let me tell you a secret.  A counselor can be super sweet and nice and care about you and still stink at their job.  I had a psychiatrist who I absolutely adored.  He was one of the rare 2% of psychiatrists who was a nice, down to earth, regular guy, and funny, too, and he cared about me one heck of a lot.  He also had me drugged out of my gourd on nine different medications for years for bipolar disorder, which I did not have then, and do not have now.  You see what I am saying here?  Super sweet and nice count for something, but progress counts for a lot more.

If you are stuck in a bad relationship, get out, please.  You will make it.  You will be fine.  You will survive.  You will be happy again.  Also, since I am handing out advice like Tic Tacs tonight, if you do begin the divorce process, do not expect to get 100% of what you want, no matter how jerky the other party may be.  Aim for getting 50% of what you want.  It is called being realistic.  Maybe you will get lucky, as I did, and get 80-90% of what you wanted, and then you will get to be all overjoyed and so on, but start with realistic.

That is another thing about Facebook.  Poster after poster telling us to aim high, set the bar high, reach for the stars, and most of us end up curled up in the fetal position in a huge pile of expectations that were too darned high from the get go.  If you are already thinking to yourself, “This is going to be the BEST Christmas ever” you need to step back and plan on having a good Christmas, because we could all benefit by letting good be good enough.  Word from your mama.

If you are also wanting to remove yourself from the Book of Face, try reading some blogs.  Facebook is like a soap opera.  You could be gone for a year or two and nothing would have changed.  It is true.  I was in prison for six months with no Facebook and when I logged on after my release all I had missed was some birthdays and 100,000 Farmville requests.  (I no longer play Farmville!  You can stop sending me requests now.  It has been well over a year.  I also have no interest in Bubble Safari or Lucky7 Slots.)

Reading blogs provides fresh content daily from all sorts of different perspectives.  I am very fond of Journey Through the Chrysalis, Waiting For the Karma Truck, Morning Story and Dilbert, Tracie Louise Photography, Reflections of Life Thus Far, Roots to Bloom, and Teacher as Transformer.  That will get you started and this is a healthy mix of reality and lovely and pictures and prose and all good things.  There is another thing that I do not write.  I do not write poetry, because I end up sounding like Dr. Suess, it is a good thing I am about to let you loose, because this paragraph is nearly the caboose.  You see what I am saying?  Uh huh, I thought so.  Oh, one last thing….

You Like Me!!

Earlier this week, Yoga with Maheshwari nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award.  I am very thankful for such a gift!  The rules were to thank the person who nominated me, which I just did, and to tell you seven things about myself, which I belief I have done within the body of this post.  I am also supposed to nominate 15 other bloggers, so if your name is hyper-linked and mentioned within this post, tag, you are it!  Do with it what you will.  You did not even see that coming did you?  You would have run sooner if you had, but I got ya!  Yes, I am a sneaky one…and I probably did not hit 15 bloggers, but I am tired.  Now go.  Make some changes for the better!  Yes, there will be pain, but I promise you will not die.  Yes, there will also be tears, but no one ever died from crying, although I am admittedly behind on a few seasons of House, M.D, so if I am mistaken, please accept my apologies and do the crying anyway.  You will feel better.  I can almost guarantee it!

The art of just being—Safe in your own skin

Several weeks ago I sprained my ankle.  I have a trick ankle–(I have always wanted to call some body part a trick whatever ;-)–but the only trick that this ankle does is to randomly give out from time to time.  This ankle has given out so many times in my life that I have lost count.  The last time it had happened was two and a half-year prior, and before that three of so years prior, only that time the trick had me tumbling down a flight of stairs and left me with a foot broken in two places.  Of course, the break took priority over the weak ankle, so I never mentioned it to a doctor, nor had I ever treated it properly when it is sprained.  This last time though, I quit what I was doing fairly soon after I had hit the ground, and instead of trying to carry on as I normally would have, I told my client I could not finish.  I went straight to the store and bought two bags of frozen peas, some ibuprofen, and an Ace bandage.

Once I was home, I wrapped the ankle, took some medication for the pain and inflammation, and I elevated my ankle and iced it every two hours and I did this for four whole days.  It was a bad sprain.  My son was with his father that week, so I could actually take care of my poor ankle the way I knew I should have been care for each and every time.   I learned a lot during that time I was laid up.  In the past, I had always hated being laid up.  I am a mover and a shaker.  I had a friend who once told me, many years ago, that even when I was sitting perfectly still, it was as if I was vibrating.  I chalked that up to being a high-strung, expressive, high energy person, and to some degree, I believe that is true.  But these days, I am not strung nearly as high as I used to be.  These days, I can just be.

I had no problem at all laying in bed with my foot up for hours while I read.  I greatly enjoyed laying on my couch just thinking while I iced my ankle.  I felt relaxed and I feel comfortable with just being and I felt more than comfortable with taking care of myself properly.  I felt at peace.  It was lovely.  Of course, I had a lot of time to think and I realized that even two years ago I might not have been able to give myself this  type care.  In fact, I am certain I would not have been able to, and three years ago, there would have been no way I could have held still for even twenty minutes to ice my ankle.  What had changed after a lifetime of moving and shaking?  I finally felt safe in my own skin, and I finally felt safe to be myself fully, and that has only happen in the last year or so.

I thought back to three years ago.  It was shortly after I had left my marriage and I felt happy and free, but I was not relaxed.  I loved where my son and I were living, and I was making life changing choices, but I was wound so tightly that, in retrospect, I am surprised I survived.  I kept having random panic attacks that just came out of nowhere, like the great heart attack that wasn’t a heart attack incident on Thanksgiving night of 2009.  My kids had been home, and we had enjoyed a splendid evening, and a wonderful meal.  With the exception of my little boy, they had gone off to their Dad’s, and I was downloading pictures when I began to have chest pains.  I finally called 911, and there was an ambulance ride, and my adult sons came back over to fetch their brother, and in the end it was all anxiety. As I told the ER doctor, “I think I really just need a good cry.”  After my EKG and lab tests were fine, he agreed, and sent us all home.

The stress of that time still floors me when I think about it.  I had left a hideous marriage with nothing but a child and  duffel bag of clothing.  I knew I was going to prison and I knew I had a horrible divorce to look forward to getting through.  On the outside, I looked fine, but on the inside I was terrified and stressed beyond what most people could handle.  One night I was knitting and I realized that I was sitting perched on the edge of the couch.  I then realized that I never sat back.  I could not relax enough to do more than perch anxiously on the edge of the couch.  When I laid my head on the pillow at night, I had to consciously relax my neck enough so that my head was actually on the pillow, not hovering over it.  Amazingly, I thought I was doing really well at the time, too.

Now I have survived the divorce from hell and all ended well.  I survived prison and while in prison, I got to the core of my pain from age 5 forward and I uncovered my authentic self and have learned to love, respect, appreciate, and care for her—for me.  I know now that the all of that high-strung, ever-moving, vibrating person was me working as hard as I could, with all the power that I had at my disposal, to contain a lifetime of unexpressed emotions and pain.  I certainly expressed emotions, but not the ones that needed to be expressed, and I certainly felt pain, but I drank to cover that up so I could go on for another day holding everything in and functioning to the best of my ability.

Those two years prior to going into prison were like transition in labor.  Things had kicked into high gear, and everything that I had been repressing was screaming to get out, but there was no safe place yet.  Prison was the safe place where there were two very safe people to guide me through the birth of myself and the pain that accompanied the birth.  Now I have no problem just being.  When I work, I work hard, and I move fast, but a lot of the free-floating, hard to contain, frenetic energy is gone.  I do not have to work anymore hold in pain, or sadness, or anger.  It is gone, for the most part, and anything new that crops up is dealt with promptly and easily.  I can and do take care of myself now.  I have no problem setting limits, and it is becoming easier for me to say “no” when I need to say it.  I feel safe because I know it is me who keeps me safe with proper boundaries, kindness, and self-love which is something I denied myself for a very long time.

When I had returned to work after my sprained ankle one of my clients said, “Well, you had a nice little break, didn’t you?”  The comment came from a woman who cannot care for herself to save her life, and the comment was intended to induce guilt.  In the past, I would have felt the need to defend myself, or to justify my actions.  This time I said nothing because I knew I did not need to justify caring for myself.  I just glanced at her, smiled, and kept working.  After a bit, she said, “You really needed to do that, though, didn’t you?  You needed to take care of yourself.”  I replied, “Yes, I did.”

I need to care for myself every day and I will continue to do it, even if some do not understand.  I am safe in my own skin.  I can just be now and that is a miracle.  The true beauty of it all, though, is the fact that now that I allow myself to be me, and I care for myself, everyone else gets to be whoever they are and that is okay.  The only person I have to live with 24/7 for the rest of my life is me.  I get top priority now and by ranking myself that way, everyone in my life benefits greatly.  What a blessed thing it is just being me–finally.  It was well worth the wait.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water—triggers, PTSD, and healing

Last weekend my seven year old son arrived home from a sleepover with his sister and began telling me all that he had done.  He was happy.  I was feeling quite happy and I was enjoying his narrative when suddenly, amidst all of the other happy chatter he announced, “Oh, Rufus is missing.”  Rufus was my cat and he was what is termed in our family as a “kitty supreme.”  I watched him be born, the runt of the litter and ugly as sin, and he grew into a magnificently gorgeous cat with a disposition to match.  I loved him very much and I suddenly felt utterly shattered.  When we moved to Montana, he went to one of my older sons for safe keeping. When that son graduated college, and began a job in DC, he could not have a cat and left Rufus with his father.  Soon after, I got out of prison and wanted my Rufus back, but my first husband had now become too attached to him to let him go.  Rufus was now also declawed and was kept indoors.  Rufus loved the great outdoors more than most anything else.  Rufus had escaped his confines and was now gone.

Clearing the road of your past takes work.

Upon hearing that Rufus was missing, my mood plummeted instantly.  I went into a frenzy of trying to get more information from one of my adult kids but with no results.  I was upset with the way my son had delivered the news–he had the smallest of smiles on his face at the time–and that bothered me terribly.  I stepped outside to clear my head and make sense of the extremity of my feelings.   I was a jumble of feelings and I needed to sort them out sooner rather than later.  The first thing I realized was that I was reacting to something bigger than the bad news my son had told me, and his poor delivery.  He is seven years old, after all.  He has not yet mastered the fine art of sharing upsetting news.   It was at that point that I realized that as upset as I was about the loss of dear, sweet, gorgeous, Rufus, I had been triggered and there it was in a nutshell.  I was reacting to a past trauma that he been reactivated by the news of Rufus.  PSTD is a bitch like that.  Just when I think I have got it all dealt with, managed, and under control, something comes out of no where and socks me in the gut, leaving me gasping for air, and shaking my head hard trying to erase a memory I no longer want.

But there it was, the memory of an incident from almost four years ago, and one that disturbed me beyond words at the time, but horrifies me even more now.  We were still living in the “blue house”–the house of horrors.  There had been a bad storm that had knocked down many of my then husband’s Jerry rigged fences made of pallets held together with wire.  We had over 50 farm animals and they were loose and the fences needed to be put back up quickly.  I do not remember if my son was yet four or not, but it was sometime in November.  My husband and I were already sleeping in separate bedrooms, and I was already trying to find a way to leave him.  I do not remember what my son and I had done while he fixed fences.  I do not remember if this was the storm that knocked the power out for two days, forcing me to go to my first husband’s house to bake the seven layers for my son’s rainbow birthday cake.  I just do not remember.

What I do remember is going up to my husband’s bedroom with our little boy to wake him up.  He, my husband, began to talk about all the work of fixing the fences as he lay in bed.  On he prattled as I sat listening, and then with absolutely no change in facial expression, tone of voice, and without any words at all that might have prepared me, he began listing off names of animals.  I cannot remember how many names he recited, but it felt like ten or so.  Because of the look on his face, and the emotionless way in which he was talking, I remember feeling myself relax, certain that he was going to tell me they were all fine and back in the pens.

So, he listed the names with an almost cheerful expression, and I let down my guard, and when he finished the list of names he said in a matter of fact manner, “All dead.”  Yes, our little boy heard every word.  Yes, I freaked out.  Yes, I loved those animals very much.  Yes, I was utterly crushed and my reaction to the death of the animals obscured, for that time, the more disturbing fact which was that my husband smiled as he told me, and he did not care enough to prepare me for the horrible news, nor did he care that our little boy heard every word.  I have learned since that sociopaths are like that.  They do not care about anyone, or anything, but themselves.

Two or three weeks later I would be arrested for driving to the grocery store without a license.  I got pulled over because his car was not inspected.  While I was a complete idiot to drive without a license with my past arrest record, I now fully believe the car had not been inspected on purpose.  A month after that, I went to court thinking I would have a fine to pay only to find out that, because of a minimum mandatory sentencing law I knew nothing about, I was now facing up to five years in prison.  Later that night, he came into my room.  I did not want him anywhere near me.  He got into bed with me and leaned over me and said, “I am so sorry you have to go to prison.  I just want to hold you.”  He had a smirk on his face…a knowing smirk.  It was the smirk of someone who had accomplished a long hoped for goal.

Of course, I erased that smirk from my mind almost immediately, but it never left. It was over two years later, with the help of a trauma specialist, while I spent my six months in prison, that I spoke out loud of the smirk and realized I had been set up.  I can accept that now with a grace that comes from God, fully knowing that it was that arrest that got me out of that marriage, and that it was in prison where God blessed me beyond imagination, and gave me my calling.  It is a gift that I cherish, even when that smirk flashes into my head.

As awful as all of what I have described sounds, and it was awful, there is plenty of good, and hope to be found among all of this.  In the past, when triggered, it might have taken me days to figure out what I was reacting to, or more often, overreacting, and it might have taken me days to recover.  From start to finish, this PTSD trigger event was recognized, felt, figured out, and resolved within about an hour.   While I remained sad about Rufus, and am still sad, I was able to settle back into an optimistic mood and we have a good evening.  That is progress.  That progress is the fruit of some very hard work towards healing from a lifetime of trauma.  It was hard work, but at times like these, I am reminded of just how important, worthwhile, and life-giving the work of resolving trauma is.  It brings with it freedom that is far more glorious than my release from prison was, because while I was in prison, I came to see that I was finally free for the first time in my life.

Rufus—my kitty supreme…

The effects of the trauma in my life had manifest itself in many ways over the years, and had looked like many things.  There is a huge link between trauma and substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and misdiagnosed mental health issues like bipolar disorder.  PTSD can come out in many forms and can mimic many things.  All of those things are prisons that confine and define us inaccurately.  PTSD can be healed with hard work, commitment, and the courage and desire to truly be free.  Triggers still happen, but they will no longer consume.  The experiences are integrated, and I move on, and I heal a bit more.  I thrive.  Today, I thrive in a way I never though possible.  If you are a trauma survivor, I encourage you to work to heal it all no matter how long it takes, or how much it hurts. I encourage you to become free.  I encourage you to thrive, not merely survive.

The illusion of safety… My very personal thoughts on 9-11, eleven years later.

Today is the eleventh anniversary of the tragedy of what we all call 9-11 with full understanding of what those numbers mean.  It was the day that we in America learned that we were not safe in a cocoon, as we had believed we were.  We learned that terrorists could attack us on our own soil.  We learned that the world was a scary place and that hate was all around us.  It had been there all along, we were all just in our happy little bubble, and that bubble got popped horribly that day.

Many responded with love and a sense unity, even in the face of utter shock, pain, and disbelief.  Other went straight into anger and hatred.  I firmly believe that being angry at something evil is a natural response that has its place.  Hatred is never good.  I think it was far more upsetting for me to see people who I called friends screaming in rage at the “rag heads,” than it was to realize that America had been attacked.  It was easier for me to know that other countries held such hatred towards America than to see and feel the hatred in those close around me, for as much as America’s bubble had been burst, my own, personal, illusion of a bubble of safety had been shattered beyond repair.

From the time I was a child, because I had experienced so much trauma, and had never felt adequately protected by those who were supposed to be protecting me, I had built for myself a world where everyone was good, and kind, and loving, and worthy of respect and trust.  While this was a totally unconscious mode of operating, it served its purpose, which was the creation of the illusion of a safe world full of safe people.  Living in a world of my own making allowed me to continue to feel safe and secure in spite of repeated traumas.  I guess that might be seen as the good side of it.

However, the bad side was that this illusion of safety all around me left me wide open for repeated abuse at the hands of unsafe people.  I would forgive, and forget so well it would come as a completely surprise to me each and every time the same person did the same damned thing to me yet again.  Others in my life would say to me, “Does this surprise you?  That he did that?”  Yes!  It absolutely did surprise me time after time!

I had become so adept at disconnecting from my own experiences, and from all traumatic events, that they would literally vanish from my memory almost instantly.  This illusion of a safe world that I had created for myself made me deaf, dumb, and blind to the bad behavior of others, while sinking so deep into the shame of my own bad behavior that my world nearly became one of, me= bad, everyone else=good.  At the core was me, and my pain, and my shame, and I was surrounded by a very thick, many layered, wall that served to protect me by distorting my perceptions of life events so severely that it was like looking out at the world through a small slit deep within a dark bunker.  What I saw through that slit in my bunker was a bubble gum and rainbow world of my own creation.  I was safe.  I was protected.  In my dreams…

On September 11, 2001, that bubble I did not even know existed blew apart.  In the aftermath, my relapse, already in motion, though I was sober at the time, took off in ways that still mystify me, though far less now, than then.  Back then, I was exposed, and angry, and there was a part of me that I was unaware of who said, “Screw it.  If I am not safe here in America, I am safe nowhere.”  My drinking took off like a wild-fire fueled by high winds, and suddenly I was doing things that were the polar opposite of safe.  I was driving drunk…something that would have appalled me before, and appalls me now beyond words.

I was not just getting drunk and finding myself driving.  I was getting in the car with the intent of getting drunk while driving.  As much as it pains me to type this, as much as it disgusts me to remember that time, I now know that, finally, a lifetime of anger was beginning to come out in a very extreme, and very sideways way.  I know I did not want to hurt anyone else.  I am not certain if I even wanted to hurt myself, but some damned part of me was hell-bent on destruction.  I thank God every day that I did not kill anyone else during that time, or myself, for that matter.  Of course, I got caught time and again, and this led to arrests, and jail time, and a halfway house, and finally sobriety that was nothing short of deliverance—pure divine intervention–in the midst of my awful marriage.

As ugly and awful all of it was, it was necessary.  The walls were slowly being broken apart, brick by brick, and my view began to widen.  The disconnect remained, but I became fully aware of it.  It was while I was in prison, with the help of two wonderful women, both specialists in the areas of trauma and addiction, that the walls came down completely.  I came to fully see the illusion I had created, that safe, happy, pretty, world that was supposed to protect me, but in reality had left me so unsafe in more ways that I can explain.  Then one day, while spending time with one of these wonderful women, these words came out of my mouth:  “I am safe.  I can protect myself.”  At 52 years old, I finally realized that I could live fully in the world, as unsafe, and ugly as it may seem at times, and that I—me–I could protect myself.  To me that was the revelation of a lifetime.

A year later, I know now that most of us have some form of an illusion of safety, and in reality, the concept of safety is always an illusion.  We can wear our seat belts, and lock our house and car doors, we can wear helmets and pads, and eat well, and exercise, and watch our children very closely, and still, safety is an illusion.  At any moment, within a second, something—anything–can happen that will shatter our illusion of safety.  I pray for protection for my children and friends and loved ones every day, and yet I know that should I forget to say those prayers until noon on a certain day instead of saying that prayer as soon as I open my eyes, that God has still been protecting my loved ones without me uttering those words.

I can protect myself, but only up to a point.  The reality of it is that it is all in God’s hands and it always has been.  There is no other way I would still be alive were this not the case.  I still wear my seat belt, and watch my child, and say my prayers, but in the end, God’s plans are bigger than mine and I am happy to have it that way.  I know that safety is an illusion, but I absolutely refuse to live a fear based life.  In so many ways, knowing that there is no real safety, expect in the arms of God, has allowed me to live a much fuller, happier, and far more carefree life than I have ever lived before.  I no longer am ruled by what others think of me.  If I want to dance in my living room, I dance.  I will never be a huge risk taker, no matter what my arrest record might lead some to believe, but I refuse to wall myself off from the world again.

Yes, I can protect myself in an intelligent way now, but what my intelligence, and my heart tells me to do most of the time is to love as much as I can, and feel as much as I can and live as freely, openly, and peacefully as I can.  I am who I am.  Love me or hate me, I know God loves me.  Like Cramer, I am going commando now.  I am out there in this not-so-safe-world, and loving every minute of it!  God has got this.  I am at peace now.