Tag Archive | trauma

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!

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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.

The Dawn of Reckoning–I never wanted a neat life.

The other day I wrote a post about radical acceptance.  In it I make mention of my messy life in contrast to those people with the neat and tidy lives.  After I had gotten done writing the post, it hit me.  I do not think that I ever truly wanted a neat, tidy, conventional life.  I didn’t know that until last week, but I know it now completely.  This is not to say that I wanted all of what I got in life; abuse as a child and an adult, PTSD, alcoholism, jail stays, rehabs, and prison, but in some way, all of those experiences have lead to to this extraordinary realization.  Those experiences helped me recognize in myself what others did not recognized in me as a child, or appreciated, namely my parents, and the schools of my day.  I am gifted, and probably always have been, but my gifts run towards the creative, more than the logical.

Parents and schools in the 60’s and 70’s valued logic.  It’s not that I am without the intellect to go with the creativity, my IQ is in the gifted range, but my grades did not show that, and any markers from testing while in school were ignored.  For example, I was found to be reading at the college level when I was in the 5th grade, but not a thing was done with that information.  My creativity was apparent from an early age, but it was seen as a flaw, not a gift.  I clearly recall overhearing my mother tell her friends about my school conference in the 5th grade.  It must have been less than stellar, and I remember her say, in a tone that was less than pleased, “But the teacher says she’s *very creative…*  I thank God that today’s school recognize, and try to nurture all kinds of gifts, and I bear no anger towards my parents, or the schools that I attended.  It was the times.  People only knew what they knew.

That I am gifted, the realization of that, was a gift that I received while I was in prison, from two different women who came into the reentry center to do counseling and programming.  That each, never having spoken to the other, would put forth the same notion to me–the notion of my giftedness—and its ability to intimidate others who don’t understand it, parents, spouses, and friends, was something that took me a while to wrap my head around.  I am still working on it, in truth.

I believe there are a lot of adults out in the world who are gifted, and like me, never knew it.  A gifted adult who has no idea that  she is gifted is likely to have a harder road in life than others.  This goes back to Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities and his Theory of Positive Disintegration.  Adults who are gifted have certain characteristics that set them apart from the crowd.  These include differences in the way they process information, high levels of creativity, high sensitivity, both internally focused, and externally.  Gifted adults are intense, idealistic, and they are perfectionists.  They have a unique sense of humor that of everyone gets.  They are internally focused, they are self-determined, and they hate injustice, and lack of integrity, and lack of moral character.  They see things globally, and they do not fit well into traditional roles, or careers.  Often, they do not feel they fit in anywhere.

Well, what do you know!  That sounds like me!  Gifted adults often need help realizing that the way they are is okay, and some help to fully realize their potential.  A good therapist who understands giftedness can help a lot.  This site offers a lot of insights 😉  It is so important to realize that while you may be different, you are not flawed, and that you have great potential.  That takes time, as I have mentioned.  As you might imagine, gifted adults are apt of have messy looking lives.  This will be especially true of those who have suffered from trauma as children.  It takes a lot of hard work for a gifted adult with PTSD, substance abuse issues, or other mental health issues, to get to the core of their genuine self.  Too much has come along to override it.

My first husband is a true genius intellectually.  Yet, as one of our son’s says, he has the emotional intelligence of a 4 year old, and he’s got not a drop of creativity, nor much of a sense of humor.  He is rigid and logical in his thinking.  He’s exactly what you’d want in a surgeon, which is what he does for a living.  There are a lot of geniuses in the world who may not be particularly gifted, or as well suited for their careers.  Imagine a psychiatrist who has no compassion for people with mental health issues, and disdain for people with addiction problems.  That’s not a good match, and the genius who lacks gifts can do more harm than good.  A pure genius who meets a person who is truly gifted is likely to become aware of their shortcomings, and unfortunately, may even work to control, tear down, or defeat the gifted person.  I’ve had this happen to me, and I have seen it happen to others, almost always gifted women.

Now we come back to my discovery that I never wanted a neat life, though I certainly gave it a try, as well as going in the exact opposite direction.  I wanted to study music and theater, to which my parents said no.  It was too hard a life, which is true enough.  So then, I wanted to be a doctor, but since I also very much wanted a family, I was told to be a nurse, which is what I did.  Then I got married, and had the children I so longed for, and who were and are the light of my life.  I entertained, and sat on boards,  I worked for charities and ran for the school board, and I drank myself to sleep every night.  I was miserable.  Not with my children, or being a mother, but because all of my creativity and intuition has been so dismissed, and berated, and tied up, and bashed, that I gave up.  My second marriage to an unconventional man was far worse, because he is so disordered.  Of course, I couldn’t/wouldn’t see that at the time.

As I was growing up, the woman who had the greatest influence on me was my great aunt, Stella.  She’d been married once, for a very short time, and she had no children.  She had a head full of gorgeous, curly hair that she often tied back with a ribbon, bow off to the top side of her head.  She had a lovely smile, complete with a Lauren Bacall gap in the front.  She had been an Art History professor at The University of Washington, and she had traveled to Africa in the 1950’s.  Much of her artwork was inspired by what she saw in Africa.  To a child, she was a little scary.  She said whatever was on her mind, but she was kind.  Her house was magical, with an attic filled with treasures.  Visiting her was better than Disneyland.

As an adult, I moved to Seattle, and lived in the University district, as she did, and I’d often go over to visit for a day, or overnight.  She’d make me a tuna sandwich and we’d smoke True cigarettes and talk.  She took me on drives all over, and while her driving was more than a little scary, she told me all about the history of Seattle.  In the evening, she’d pour us each a glass of concord grape wine, and we’d talk some more.  She was clearly a happy woman, truly eccentric, genuine as can be,and very well loved.  She was adored by her neighbors, mostly college grad students, and at 90 years old, she died, not from old age, but from falling on a patch of ice on her way home from one of their Christmas parties, to which she was always invited.

I have a head full of curly hair, and I had the Lauren Bacall gap, but braces fixed that.  I am far more domesticated than my Aunt Stella, but like her, I am happiest when I am creating, be it writing, cooking, knitting, sewing, or making something spectacular out of something ordinary.   I am artistic, but no artist.   I am not my mother, though I know she didn’t live the life she wanted, and I am not a conventional person.  I don’t think I’ll ever care about balancing a checkbook to the penny, or calling whoever for quotes, or having a neat and tidy refrigerator.  I don’t care a whole lot about money, but I do know life is easier with a little around.  I am more my Aunt Stella than anyone else.  I got side tracked somehow.  Thank God she did not.  I believe we are all gifted in some way.  It is just a matter of finding that gift, and then letting it soar. I think it’s time for me to go buy some ribbon for my hair in celebration of my discovery, and my messy, happy, creative life.

Resilience and Life’s Hard Knocks—What Keeps Us Growing

“Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after a misfortune, blessed with such an outlook, resilient people are able to change course and soldier on.”   ~Psychology Today~

 

Today, resilience has been on my mind.  Why do some people seem to thrive and grow and keep moving forward despite unfortunate life circumstance?  The answer is that they possess a quality called resilience, that springy, bounciness that has them back up on their feet quickly after a fall, dusting themselves, and moving forward stronger than before.  Resilient people are the Timex watches of the world; They take a licking and keep on ticking.  Resilient people are beautiful, and I know a lot of them.  I am a resilient person, too.  They do not turn to anger, and bitterness, and blame of the world, and everyone in it, when life is less than ideal, either by uncontrollable circumstances, or because of their own mistakes and poor choices.  Resilient people do not just take lemons and turn them into lemonade.  No, instead they make a lemon mousse with a blueberry coulis 😉

What constitutes resilience?  In a nutshell, it is the ability to cope with unfortunate life events without getting dragged down to too long.  Resilience comes more easily for some people, both emotional and physical resilience.  Some people are just born more naturally optimistic, positive, and flexible.  Some people learn resilience along the way, as life provides more experiences from which to recover.  Age plays a factor in resilience, as does experience at surviving and thriving.  When we’ve been through a lot, and we’ve kept going, and remained hopeful, and optimistic, and see that behavior works better than blaming or negativity, we develop more traits associated with resilience.

Yes, resilient people have certain traits.  First off, they are aware of their own emotions, and what causes them, and they learn to manage them.  This may take more time for some, especially the managing part.  I was always aware of my emotions, and generally aware of where they were coming from, but learning to manage them took, and still takes, time.  I am a sensitive, and fairly reactive, very expressive person.  However, I am also easy going.  As my sister says, “For a high strung person, you’re incredibly easy going.”  It’s true.  I don’t sweat the small stuff, and the older I get, the more I realize most of it is small stuff.  “It’s not the end of the world,” is a phrase I say out loud many times a day.  Trust me.  It’s really not.

Resilient people persevere.  They do not give up often, or easily.  I often liken myself to one of those blow up clowns with sand in the bottom.  You punch them and punch them but they just pop right back up.  My ability to pop back up time and again is because I never lose hope.  I often say that I am a “Hope springs eternal” kind of gal, and that’s true, too.  Resilient people, no matter how low they go, always have hope that tomorrow is going to be better, so they keep pushing forward towards that tomorrow.

Resilient people are internally focused.  What that means is that, instead of looking out at the world, blaming and shaming finger pointed at anything and everyone who crosses their path, they know inside that they are in control of their lives, their choices, their outcomes.  This isn’t done with perfection, or 100% of the time, and for many their are occasional missteps where the locus moves to the external, at what’s happening to them.  However, the resilient person won’t stay in the external for long.  They will go back inside themselves, examine their role in what’s going on, and begin problem solving.  They will find a solution, often through a change in their own attitude, or behavior.  That is why resilient people grow from mistakes, and poor choices and behaviors, and from life itself.

A resilient person will always find a bright side to any circumstance.  We are positive, optimistic people.  At the same time, perhaps because of this life view, resilient people have good support systems of friends, family, and others who are like minded, and who help shore them up during those experiences in life that we label “bad.”

Resilience is essential to recovery, whether it be from alcoholism and addiction, loss, trauma and abuse.  It’s my belief that everyone is in recovery from something, whether it be a job loss, a bad work evaluation, a divorce, or a stubbed toe, and bad traffic on the way to work.  Resilience allows us accept even undesirable outcomes, forgive, move on, and finally let go, usually coming out better and strong for the experience.  Resilient people are bright, shiny, and sparkling.  The don’t hold grudges, and they do not look back for too long.  They are not trapped by their past, a slave to their present, and they don’t worry a lot about the future.

I don’t know if I emerged from the womb a resilient person.  I think I probably had the traits on the delivery table.  Life’s hard knocks began early, and I learned some pretty crummy coping mechanisms along the way, though they are probably what kept me alive.  I’ve done anger, and blame at points in my life and I HATED how that felt.  I never could hold a grudge 😉 I have always had hope.  I have always known it was going to get better.  I have always kept going even when others thought it impossible, that I’d never make it through alive this time.  I have learned how to be more resilient with each tough experience, and with each tough experience I have become more myself.

Today, I am celebrating resilience, and resilient people.  Without God and resilience, I would not be here today.  If you are a resilient person, celebrate that today, even if you’re in the middle of yet another storm.  If you’re not the most resilient person in the world, you CAN learn resilience!  It will take work, but it will be worth every moment of it!