Tag Archive | prison

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!

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My Life is an Embarrassment of Riches

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the past day or two, and it has been a rather eye-opening experience.  (Yes, that is all of the smoke you have been seeing—my brain is smokin 😉 While I have known what I am about to tell you for a while, today I am feeling it all very intensely.  Sometimes it takes a while for important tidbits of information to make the long trek from my head all the way down to my heart.   As much as I am a true “feeler,” I am also highly intellectual, so I can intellectualize a lot of things for years before I actually feel, believe, and know them at the heart level.  I am having a full heart day today.

Today, I am feeling absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude, and love, and pure joy that is simply bubbling out all over the place.  I have the best life in the whole, wide, world.  I know that sounds rather cocky, but it is true.  For me, I have the best life I have ever had.  I am the most blessed person that I know, and I am also the most blessed woman alive today.  Again, I am fully aware of the cockiness of these statements, but for me, they are so inherently true that I literally ache inside with happiness and joy.

Look at that glorious sunrise! Look at those than less than stellar picture-taking skills!

I got out of prison, after a six month stay, on September 15, 2011, so it has been a little over a year now since my release.  While it became very apparent to me while I was in prison that the reason I had to go there had little to do with me, but something much greater that God had in mind, there was still a lot of fear and trepidation coming out of the prison doors.  On one hand I firmly knew that the rest of my life was going to be the very best of my life, and that was very exciting.  Over on the other hand, though, there was a lot of trembling going on.  I was walking out to a child and a car that I could not drive yet and a bag of clothing.

I had a place to stay with some lovely people, but I was technically homeless and penniless.  I was also walking out into the middle of a very yucky divorce and custody battle.  That was a very scary place to be.  I was not especially helpful to open the trunk of my car to get into some non-prison clothing only to find that mice had taken up residence in my car over the time I was away, and much of my clothing was ruined.  I have never cared for mice and this did nothing to change my opinion of them, I can tell you.  I craved a place to call home, but how would that happen?

I will tell you how that happened.  My adult children, anticipating my need, all pitched in and suddenly I was far from penniless.  I had enough money to find a place to live and to get some essentials, to boot.  No mother wants to take money from their adult children, but I knew that this was something that they wanted to do for me badly and it was my job to humble myself enough to accept their gifts.  Before I had even been out of prison a week, I had secured the perfect place for my son and I to live, with landlords that have been nothing but kind to me, even knowing my background fully.

Home!!

I realized this morning, as I prepare to sign the lease for another year, that we have been here now for a little over a year, with another year in front of us.  That is the longest we have lived in any one place since we left my marriage, and the house of horrors.  Do you know how good that feels—to have a home?  It feels absolutely wonderful, that is how it feels!  It also feels absolutely wonderful to know that in the three years since we left, we have never been cold, have always had running water, and a fully functional bathroom, and we have had those things every day since we left.  We had not had those things for a very long time prior to that.  That feels super fantastic, too, as does not having had to do a single load of laundry in the kitchen sink.  Last year, I got many random firewood drops from people just because they could, and they cared.  I was beginning to see that coming out of prison has not made my world smaller, it had made my life become much bigger than it had been in decades.

I had employment cleaning houses almost immediately thanks to a friend and word of mouth.  My writing career, which I thought would disappear while I was in prison, had only grown, expanded, and gotten better.  We have not wanted for one single thing in the past year.  New people to love and care for us were entering our lives at an amazing rate.  These are people who I can call at 2 a.m. for any reason, and sometimes I had to do that due to my inability to drive for 9 months after my release.  The people who I work for were more than happy to pick me up so that I could clean for them, but more than that, they we also happy to take me to the grocery store, or ER with a sick child, or anywhere else we needed to go.  My son now has many surrogate grandparents who adore him and spoil him and treat me like their own child, too.  Love was, and is, everywhere, and that is an intense feeling in the best possible way.

The whole fam-dam-ily, Christmas 2011

I had all seven of my children with me last Christmas.  I think it was the best Christmas of my entire life.  I will have all seven children home this Christmas, too, plus my new son-in-law, who I love.  I get all weepy just remembering seeing them all walk in the door last year.  I got all weepy then, too.  I love them so much, and they are the best children on the planet.  Smart, accomplished, yes, but much more importantly, they are kind, loving, generous, and funny as all get out!  They are all also safe after Hurricane Sandy, and all I can say to that is Thank you, God!  I love you so much!

My lovely daughter and her husband.

My oldest daughter got married last summer.  She was the most beautiful bride in the history of mankind.  Her wedding will go down in history as the most perfect, fairytale, wedding the world has even seen, and she did it all on a tight budget, too!  My son-in-law is the best son-in-law any woman has ever had, or ever will have—that is until my younger daughter gets married, then I will have the two best sons-in-law God ever created.  The wedding was a blast, and another chance to have all seven of my kids all in one place.

Don’t bug me! I am on vacation!

My little boy and I had a three-day vacation at the beach this summer.  It was a gift to us from one of the women I clean for who owns a little cottage with the most spectacular view in all of  Maine.  It was the best, and first, vacation he and I have ever had together.  We caught tons and tons of crabs who promptly ran back into the water, but when you are seven years old, that just never gets old.

Last night, I took my little zombie trick-or-treating.  There was no random, pick a neighborhood and go there, element about it this year.  We had many stops to make and we had many people we had to see—people who would have been so disappointed if a zombie had not shown up at their doorstep, or their floor at the hospital.  When you are a kid with a ton of surrogate grandparents, you get some surrogate older siblings to stand in for the siblings who are not around to go with you on Halloween.  Life just gets richer and bigger and swells with so much love that I feel like I might burst right open.

Be very afraid!!

Best of all, among all of the glorious, wonderful, fabulous things I see, I see one very happy child.  I see a child who has been through so much in his little life and he has triumphed over it all at the tender age of seven.  It was a hard-fought battle, but everyone sees the triumph now.  His principal at school sees it and tells me how happy he is this year.  He comes skipping off of the bus every day.  He is making friends.  He tells me all of the time now that he loves life.  I think he had the best Halloween of his life last night.

One very happy zombie!!

Last year at this time, I was still very much getting back on my feet.  I did not know what the world would think of a woman who had just gotten out of prison.  I started learning quite quickly that, amazingly, the world could and would think no less of me.  In fact, my world has grown in ways words cannot express, all because I went to prison.  Soon after I got out, I wrote a three-part series for Yahoo! Shine! about my prison experience.  I wrote it fearlessly, as if called to do so.  However, when I shared the first article, the fear did hit, for as many people who knew where I had been for those six months, there were many more who had no idea where I had been.

I did not know how all of those friends would react.  Those people who did not know read that article, and rather than turning away from me, I was hit with a love avalanche unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life…love and admiration.  I think it goes without saying that I have the best friends and family in the entire universe, and more and more keep coming!  The avalanche never ends, but who would want a love avalanche to end, anyway?

Once or twice in the last year, I have had someone who is just getting to know me say something like, “Oh, what a terribly tragic life you have had!”  When I have heard this, inside I was shouting, “Oh, pah-leeze!”  My life is not tragic—not one bit.  I have had some pretty intense life experiences, but God has taken each and every one of those experiences and He has woven them into something magnificent.  My life is an embarrassment of riches, and I would not trade a single one of those crummy experiences for anything in the world.  If that is what it took to get me where I am today, then all I can say again is, “Thank you so much, Lord!  I love you for everything!”

I am the single most blessed woman alive.  You can try to fight me for the rights to that title, but I am not giving it up!  I worked hard to earn that title.  In my world, I am the most blessed woman alive. You can be the most blessed person in your world, and I hope and pray that you are!  You earned that title, too!

Joel 2:25-26

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm[a]
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.

Coming out of the closet…

I bet you all are thinking that I was going to tell you that I am gay, right?  No, I am not going to tell you that, not that there is anything wrong with that, to quote Seinfeld.  There is absolutely not, but I am talking about something entirely different here.  I am talking about my face, which I have been hiding from you all using that worn out, stolen off Google images, avatar thing.  As you will note, the avatar is gone.  What you now see is the real me.  Go ahead.  Drink it in then shake off that stunned feeling!   It is even a very recent picture from July of this year, not something from, say, 20 years ago, which was tempting because I have a real stunner from 20 years ago.  This is the real face of OneHotMessage.  Considering everything I have put it through, as well as the rest of my body, it has held up quite nicely.  Perhaps all those years of drinking acted as a preservative and pickled me to some extent.  I guess that makes it all well worth it, right?  Saves on Botox, too, not that I would be inclined to use that unless I could afford it.  I do not frown much anyway, so I would more go for some sort of lift, but I digress.

That is water in the wine glass, just in case you were wondering 😉

When I began this blog, I was hiding.  I was not hiding from myself, but at the very first, I was hiding myself from family and friends.  Could people accept the real, authentic me, if they knew who I was??  I was not entirely sure that they could…  Then friends and family began to figure it out, which was an amusing period of time, I must say.  Every day or so, I would get a message on Facebook from a friend, “Hey Annie!!  Are you OneHotMessage??  I love you but I didn’t know it was you!!”  Like that, over and over again, people were figuring it out, and people were more than okay with me as me.  That left me hiding from my ex-husband and his family, most specifically, his current girlfriend.  They are relentless.  They found me months ago and have left many lovely, little calling cards which will never see the light of day, not on this page, anyway.

The other night, the one person I was hiding from went on a rampage all over Facebook-land while I slept.  She went from one inspirational page to another to another to another posting rubbish about me, using my full, real name, and the name of my first husband.  I like my first husband!  He has been very good to me.  We had me over last Thanksgiving when my little boy was with his father.  He sends me Omaha Steak gift packs at Christmas.  He even took in my little boy while I was in prison.  If he has never said, “I am sorry for all of what I put you through during our marriage,” he really does not need to anymore.  His actions speak way louder than words and I am good with that.

Anyway, a huge line had been crossed, and behavior I was ignoring could not be ignored anymore.  Do not mess with my Facebook page owner peeps!  Those peeps are my friends, and they had my back in a huge and amazing way, all while I slept.  It is comforting to know that people all around the globe are looking out for me so that I can sleep soundly at night.  I love my Facebook page owner peeps a lot!  Don’t you dare be all up in their grill, or I might have to be all up in your grill….that’s probably a line from a movie, but it fits.  So, I called the police, because Facebook could really care less if someone is stalking you and harassing you, and amazingly, the sheriff that I spoke with did care!  And he did take some action! ” Wow”, I said to myself.  Yes, I do talk to myself.  You may as well know that about me, too.

After I got all the documentation to the police department, I was rather worn out, so I took the night off from thinking.  Today, I turned my brain back on and a comment a friend had made to me kept ringing in my ears.  At my age, that could be almost anything, so I dismissed until this evening, when it was quiet, and I could be certain it was not sudden onset damage from too much vacuuming.  The comment was this, “See how much power you still give her, even though you ignore her?”  Her, being the not-so-sweet-girlfriend.  Yup.  I see.  I totally see that as clear as day now and I am not giving her another drop of my power, and baby, I ain’t hiding from anyone ever again!  (Unless, it is like some deranged ax murder that pops out of the bushes down here, or some creditor from my less than stellar financial past. )  I have been to prison and survived!  I am a prison chick now.  Ain’t nobody gonna scare me off from being me, or showing my face anymore.   Fo Shizzle, as one of my kids might say.

So, this is me and I love me.  My name is Ann LeSuer.  I am a real person who is well-loved by many and who is afraid of no one, except for the aforementioned collections people, but I really do not have much to fret over in that department now, either.  Another friend told me yesterday that I need to show my sense of humor more on my blog.  Apparently I am a riot.  It is hard to be a riot and talk about really deep and serious issues, but I will give that a go, too.  She said my sense of humor was “pure fold.”  I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about until she corrected herself.  “Pure gold,” she said.  That is my life in a nutshell.   Loving, caring, accepting, friends far and wide, family, God, everything.  I have got the full meal deal and it is pure gold.  Here I am now looking out at all of you with my own face, through my own 53-year-old eyes, and you are all pure gold, too!

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.

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!

Mother’s Day Reflections—A Quickie ;-)

“It seems odd to celebrate one’s mom is just one day. Someone so important should be celebrated every day.”  Anonymous, because he’d prefer it that way.

I have seven gorgeous children who are the light of my life.  Six are adults, and one is just 7 years old.  They are truly amazing, though I admit to a bit of bias.  To say that they are accomplished is an understatement, and that includes the 7 year old.  While their accomplishments are good for bragging rights, they are their accomplishments, not mine, and their accomplishments are not what makes them so special.   As I have always said, I wouldn’t care what they did as long as they are happy doing it.

What makes them so amazing is their personalities, and their character.  They are kind and generous.  They are loving and they are funny as can be.  They can laugh at themselves, and no one can get me laughing faster, or harder, than my children, with my sisters coming in at a close second.  They help me laugh at myself, and we have those family stories that are hilarious to us every time.   We have a secret language of movie quotes that we all understand, and can use to convey a variety of thoughts and emotions.  “Keep the change you filthy animal,” means “I love you,” or “You owe me nothing, it’s a gift.”  We’re all a little nutty, in a good way, of course.  We we are all together, the room vibrates with love, hot conversation, and tons and tons of laughter.  Individually, we are all quiet people, and true introverts, but together we are a gaggle of kindred spirits knowing we are fully home.

However, their greatest gifts lie in their ability to forgive, and to move forward, and to recalculate life, and the people in it, as needed.  This is what means the most to me, because I have required forgiveness more than most mothers.  I have required forgiveness again, and again, and again, and each time it’s been freely given.  They’ve forgiven the years of drinking, and my inability to be there for them properly.  They have forgiven the times I was physically absent due to rehab stays, or jail stays, or prison.  They have forgiven lavishly, with no lingering resentments, and they have moved forward in their view of me as I have recovered.  In many ways, we have been growing up together and they have been as patient with me as I have been with them.  They love me unconditionally, as I have loved them.

Yet, for many years, because of all of the guilt and shame I dragged around because of my perceived poor performance as a mother, I lagged behind them both in my forgiveness of myself, and my ability to recalculate who I am today, as opposed to who I was 10 years ago.   I have been forced to stop and look at myself through their eyes, and actually feel their words, not just hear them.  They did not become who they are today in some miraculous vacuum.  They remind me of this often, and of course, their father has played a role, the older kids having seen the worst, and the youngest having been spared most of that.  Because of my children, and God’s grace, which underpins all of this, I have been able to forgive myself, and I am getting up to speed in the recalculating of my view of me.   I thank God every day for these precious people that He trusted me to care for and love, flawed as I am.

My own mother died over 24 years ago, and I miss her terribly.  Although we had bumps in our relationship, by the time she died, we had reached a place of deep friendship.   She was always the first person I wanted to call when anything happened in my life, good or bad.  Now, I am blessed to have three women in my life who are both friends, and mothers to me.  One woman spoils me silly, and is a grandmother to my 7 year old, though there are no blood ties.  Another is chock full of common sense, and tells it like it is.  She loves to cook, too, like I do, so we share recipes and new food finds.  The third woman is the one to whom I can cry my eyes out, and I discover a bit more of myself every time I talk to her.  There is reciprocity in all of these relationships, which is what makes them so special.

But, the best mother that I have now is myself.  In the recalculating I have had to do—the seeing myself as all of these other very special people see me—I have come to realize that I can, and should, give every wonderful gift to myself that I give to others, and that others so richly give to me.  Knowing that God has fully forgiven me, as have all of the people who matter the most to me, I realized that it is more than a little arrogant not to forgive myself, and treat myself with the love and kindness that I deserve.  What a tremendous gift that has been, and it’s one that will remain.  I am blessed beyond words, and I wish you all the happiest of Mother’s Day’s.  Mothers come in may forms–our own mothers, our children, our friends, our sisters, ourselves.  Even if you have no children, you can celebrate and honor the mother within you today.

That quote up top came from my 20 year old son…  I am sure I’ll stop crying anytime now 😉  Happy Mother’s Day!