Song and Dance

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Finishing my last cup of coffee on the back stoop this morning I was trying to calm my nerves and ground myself while enjoying a bit of sun when I was visited by a mocking bird. Dancing on a branch, he sang a melodious call but also delivered a message that extends beyond their voice. Quite possibly knowing the old wives tale about the bird may contributes to me noticing them more frequently for there are far more encounters with robins and cardinals. Being highly protective of their families with an incredible observant with a wonderful ability to mimic they are at times considered a reminder to adaptable and  consider how we communicate and interact with others often reminding us to listen before we speak. They are also considered a reminder to know your talents and use them wisely.    I think the story I carry with me is the need to find our inner voice, to sing our true song, for while they mimic many others, they too have a true voice where each can be used for a different purpose. A mockingbird can sing the song of others as a means to call those into their lives they enjoy but can also flush out those that could harm them.

Wrapping up a second week which was filled with stress, fear and anxiety is this a reminder of where to find my strength? Is it a gentle nudge to defend fearlessly what is mine? Is this a hint I should consider a recent opportunity to pursue a career opportunity? I would tend to think this is a prompt to be aware of how I communicate. I have always struggled to understand what others are truly saying. Should this remind me to continue to try and understand the meaning between the words?  Is it nothing more that a bird enjoying the warmth of the sun with me?

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for…” –Harper Lee

Tiger by the Tail

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I so value the hard questions because that is where so very much lies. I was surprised at my difficulty last night when I was asked some of those questions, what I thought were the answers I came to discover were just a minuscule drop in the bucket. In just over a week, my ex walked into my home twice; neither time was an invitation extended, oh to the contrary,  I have court papers dated a many years ago which are to prevent him from taking such liberties. Both times were quite a violation but the second sent me into a panic. In one of those quiet moments in a conversations when it is difficult for one to express and for the other to listen, I was asked why I allow him to continue to do so.

While I did my best to try and express the why, I am not sure I fully understood until hours of contemplation later. I suppose in the beginning when these instances were much more grey as well as more frequent, I accepted those violations albeit with fear and trepidation because I had convinced myself this would end when I was awarded exclusive occupancy of the house years past they became less frequent. For many years during the marriage I had thought his actions were beyond control until one evening when his rage shifted from the dog to me.  At that point I learned his actions were a calculated balance between control and wrath. I would assume this is the same.

As a person who has built her life around numbers, I can quickly calculate odds and probability. I have mastered the risk assessment, weighing in the benefits outweigh the potential damage; a skill learned from living hypervigilantly.  I am unsure why I was not applying the same thought to this situation. I was facing defending my privacy and security.   I had made a promise to myself  to never ever be controlled by that type of fear again and at the point I was asked I had the sad realization I still was.  I value the fact it was pointed out to me;  it took courage and trust to express something that difficult to say.  Through hours of quiet contemplation and silence I realized that I had allowed the fear I felt in every incident  to culminate into overwhelming anxiety.  I was equating the potential outcome from a confrontation about this situation into a combination of all those situations and was assuming it with certainty while in reality many of those instances were spaced apart with minimal predictability.  Although not always they were typically in the evening after some drinking and almost never in front of the children nor other witnesses.

I am waging the farm on the fact that the outcome of setting my boundaries and enforcing my right to privacy and security will have a minimally confrontational impact.  The next time he walks into my home without invitation, which shall never again be extended, I will ask him to leave reminding him he is not welcome inside the walls of my home; refusal to do so shall result in a call for escort by the brave men in blue.  The chances he will make a scene in front of the children should be minimal and other fallout will be ignored or cast aside.  Entering the premise when no-one is home will result in additional paperwork for the same men in blue.

When grabbing a tiger by the tail, one must consider all potential outcomes and I suppose there could be a few. He may respect what was said and politely comply, the least likely possibility but I suppose the law of large numbers says anything is possible.  He may be disgruntled yet eventually concede and move on to other things which is likely, but he is more likely to offer his favorite response, fury.  Finally he may take it as a challenge and look for additional ways to play his preferred mind games.  I suppose I will now a wait and see how to respond to the fallout.

“The best fighter is never angry.”  ― Lao Tzu

Fear from Pandora’s Box

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I always find my solutions in the silence. When I am able to quite my mind, still that inner voice and listen there in that moment of peace I can typically hear my solution or at least find my direction.  Having ended a challenging week I needed to find my balance so I could listen. I have struggled with the fact I assumed too many responsibilities with my personal life yet those have led to potential opportunities that would be a blessing; striking a balance with my work life and all the impending deadlines is overwhelming at best. The uncertain future of my living arrangement, shall I keep or sale including the associated questions both financial and emotional add an extra level of thought to an already over taxed mind. Still struggling with a small need to plan as a result of years of hypervigilance I was concerned when my plans were destroyed in a single phone call. Toss in parenting challenges, children school responsibilities and decisions, updating my budget and my PhD deadlines I was a wee bit stressed.

To top off this week, my ex decided to start an argument about my parenting. While it may have been a retort for the reminder of responsibilities he has with the youngest (I should have known better but had no option to remind him) it felt as if it was so much more.  I think I was most shocked by the fact I actually felt afraid. When thinking the message through, I realized this is the time of year when he begins to descend into a cycle of poor choices, anger and hostility.  While this would have been a common thought is years past, the distance has buffered me from that thought. With that awareness I was truly shocked at my reaction; I was overcome with fear and anxiety.  Had my prior life been filled with that perpetual level of emotion? If so, how had I survived that emotionally?

Later in a conversation with a friend about something moderately related I was surprised at how difficult it was to manage that fear. It was as if it Pandora’s box had been opened and I could not seem to contain it. I suppose the only option was to stand to face that fear.  Maybe it was a combination of the week that contributed to my reaction. Possibly it was a combination of that and the recent data that was shared with my on the prevalence of incidents of violence that occur once the relationship has ended.  I think what may have  most unsettled me was the fact that even years after my marriage, I was fearful of facing an attempt to control me by the person who had spent years instilling fear, intimation  and self-doubt as a means to manipulate and gain personal advantage.

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

The Gift of Conversation

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I was blessed to spend yesterday with an amazing conversationalist. Someone who shares my perspective on some things and has wonderful open dialogue on others. An extraordinary listener who brings respect and sincerity to the table. We discussed past experiences and the burdens we carry because of the actions of others. The conversations we share are always insightful, meaningful and at times quite memorable. They can provoke thought and self-reflection and encourage growth.  While I have a few very close friends that can offer a similar didactic, I so value this level of colloquy. It is a gift for which I have an immeasurable amount of gratitude.

Discussing how we carry the burdens of others actions was very through provoking. Causing me to reflect, which I often do, on the things that have in a sense molded me into the person I am. While as a teen and into my early twenties, I tried to cast off the impact of my upbringing, I have come to discover that it was what had given me the strength to endure with an emotional fortitude which I was not aware I carried. I was taught two very essential qualities that I see with less frequency than I would like in today’s world, a very hard work ethic and the ability to sacrifice when having to choose between what is right and what is a personal desire.  Those allowed me financial viability in a situation where others may not have been able to persevere as well as the ability to know my actions were always ethical which can minimize the burden of guilt.  I have been graced with the insight on the importance of forgiveness which has released some of my burden as well but I still struggle.

That struggle is rooted deep within me. I am unsure I can forgive myself as a parent but it is somewhat of a no win situation.  I love being a mother no matter how exhausting is can be. The first time I held the little person I grew was beyond words, with each one. I feel a guilt which I am unsure I can lay down for I raised children in a home filled with dysfunction, lacking the model of a loving respectful relationship. The majority of the extreme incidents occurred many hours after sunset so they saw little of that level of hostility but they did know of the tension, the lack of respect with which I was treated, and a portion of the reality of living with someone who was more concerned with his personal agenda then the family goals.

While I worked to maintain a sense of normalcy which I know is relative, will my daughter grow to accept the same treatment she observed? Will she fall in love with someone who has so little regard for her that she learns to minimize herself to avoid the next struggle? Will she settle for someone who does not value her, nevertheless love and cherish her for the unique individual she has grown into? Will my sons know that is appropriate to treat women with such little respect? Will they learn to manipulate and devalue their partner? Will they truly understand how to love another selflessly without motive? I suppose I will carry those questions throughout my life along with the guilt.

This is a true situation where hindsight creates a different perspective. I was so very young and extremely naive when my first was conceived; the marriage bouncing between what I was trying to idealize and what I was trying to mend. While there had been some very intense situations, it was not until I was well along in the pregnancy did I first experience true fear. Looking back on my early life, I had already encountered many of the red flags of a relationship filled with domestic abuse. I remember consistently questioning “How do we give up hope?”, “How do we give up helping the one we love?”, always thinking with time and love the ptsd would improve only to realize it was a crutch for his behavioral choices. Retrospectively I can see where I diminished my self-worth, releasing my  control, giving pieces of myself away and hiding others; the shaming and belittling in the most intimate of ways can cause a burden that too is difficult to discard.

I still face a grief that I know will continue lessen over time. While I am fortunate to have three wonderful children, I will never know the joy of raising a child in a home filled with love. Of sharing those joys with the other loving parent. I may never know the journey of parenthood with the person I love. I suppose that twinge of grief will become smaller as life progresses for it has lightened through the years. I work hard to stay focused on the many gifts I do have for I have been indescribably endowed.  I work hard to remind  my children to  navigate the world with respect while teaching them how to love, compassionately, selflessly, and fully with hopes they do not fall into the same crevasse in which I found myself.

“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.”    

-Anne Morrow Lindbergh