A Blessing from Day Past

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Life is an amazing journey, one filled with surprising twists and turns.  I have always thought if you can pay attention opportunities present themselves, if you can quiet the noise of the world your inner voice will tell you what to do, and every experience no matter how painful is an opportunity to grow and learn. There have been times when life was dreadful that I needed to hold tightly to those beliefs. Other times my faith was shaken but I clung firmly. I felt like I floundered a bit this past year or so, taking the time to dig all those skeletons from my closet. What is it George Bernard Shaw said, “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”  Being aware of the impact of my past  I had decided to dance with my skeletons, to truly understand the impact the may have on my life; past, present, and future.

Funny how life surprises you at certain points of your journey. At the end of all this dancing I have reconnected with an amazing person from my past. Someone who I so fondly remember conversing, analyzing life, and sharing laughs. While I have kept up with a few friends from that portion of my life, we had only crossed paths now and again but never quite had a chance to catch up. This is someone who knows me, the me from days past, the person I have worked so hard to protect and preserve.

To spend time with someone who know you at your core, to see you even though there are now rough jagged edges from your battles in life but still embraces you, values you, and understand you is a wonderful gift; a blessing. It is such an experience to be with someone who allows me to be as  authentic as he is, who not only embraces my analysis of life but meets it with the same depth of perspective, who not only tolerates my need to look at all sides of a situation but returns my “wisdom” when my perspective becomes short sided. Someone who encourages me to be my authentic self with my flaws and imperfections, someone who wants to know all of me, even the dark parts and seems to stand steady when I share. This blessing from days pasts has reminded me of some of my foundational beliefs that had been lost in the murkiness of life as of late.  I only hope I can offer him the same in return, to be enough even though I know I have lost parts of myself along the way; I hope those missing pieces have not been replaced with a darkness that fills too much of life. I hope to be able to always meet his openness, honesty, and vulnerability with the same as well as the encouragement and reassurance that I will be a good steward of all he shares, of the love and care he offers, of the kindness and encouragement I am met with. I pray that I can be enough.

 

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.”  ― Thomas Merton

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…..

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I am the type of chicka who commits to doing something, who is all in, be it work, relationships, friendships, passions, volunteer work if I begin something it is with all my heart and soul.  I struggle to walk away. When you have me, you have my whole heart, all my effort, all my compassion, empathy, and kindness.  I do not believe in half-assing anything for that means we shortchange ourselves; you undermine the gift of opportunity. I think this is a direct result of my mother’s encouragement, knowing what I can do, encouraging me to achieve it and more. If we only meet life half-way we lose out on the experience, what was meant, we do not encounter our truth as it is intended, growth is stifled, and we can suffer.

When I was younger it 168had everything to do with being hell-bent on not losing but now it is only focused on doing what is right, what serves a greater purpose; the vanity of youth has long since left me. I know people who wander through life following the path of least resistance, who at the first struggle just up and leave. I know others that have mastered futility and will persist at a lost cause to their own demise. Do you know where you fall on that continuum? I often think that I would not battle for a lost cause, but how do I know? I would hope I would dig my heels in and work through the muck and mire of something that was important to me but can I be sure? How can I discern between mere doubt of an anxious mind and true fruitlessness. Sometimes we are faced with the choice to free ourselves or we suffer and other times our simple choice turns into a lifetime of regret.

At any given moment on out journey we are faced with the decision to try harder, to continue forward or to walk away. All those wonderful inspirational quote about walking away when it no longer serves you, about not owing anyone anything, but what if there is a purpose we do not see?  Are we making the choice to stay out of fear of the unknown?  We are creatures of habit, preferring predictability, averse to fear. Do we throw in the towel too easily? Some of us are concerned that things get difficult means it will never be easy again, others of us are fear the past will replicate itself, judging the present situation based on the measuring-stick given to us be another. I have faced all of those situations in my lifetime. The reality is life is one struggle after the next, one long string of choices, one set of opportunities to say, “Should I stay or should I go.”

So I now find myself at this intersection. I have two paths before me, both foggy so the outcome is unclear. So the trick is to still the mind, to turn off all the rational arguments on which choice is best, to not fall into the comfort of predictability, to turn away from guilt and toward love,  to not let the noise of the outside world influence my thought,  to let that little voice speak with veracity and conviction because those words are typically my truth.  So in my moments of peace, in prayer, I still hear wait, I feel the need to be patient which contradicts those logical arguments and all the noise the world.  So shall I stay, try harder or shall  I go……

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” -Elizabeth Appell

Weight of Worthlessness

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It is day 11 with interrupted erratic sleep, at best and the sixth night in the past eight that I have had the same version of a dream, this one where it wakes me and I am filled with frustration and pain only to try and rationalize the feelings away.  The dream is not one of those filled with terror that startles me awake to miss the remainder of my nights rest, it is one of those where my thoughts become filled with doubt leaving me feeling unsure of my choices for the remainder of the day only to have it occur again the next evening. I have just arrived at the realization that the  dream is reoccurring because it is true, my subconscious is telling me these things because they are something I need to accept, I should use these facts to reassess my life, and make the needed changes to have this dream stop.

Each time the dream occurs I awake to feel my entire life is not as I believe, that the fallacy is my existence. While each dream is slightly different, I am speaking to someone who is a person close, one who know my thoughts, initially it was a therapist who is speaking to me. I am sitting is an intimate conversation situation where the conversation is focused on me and something that has occurred. While the topic and backdrop varies slightly, the outcome if the same; I am told that I am not lovable, the trouble is my core, I am not lovable, I am damaged goods that no one will want and then all of my beliefs, my values are pointed out to be faults, and all the painful words I have heard throughout my life are summarized and presented to me in a logical way that crushes my soul and erodes my being.

Lying in the dark tonight, hearing others words for earlier in my day, my mind once again filled with this dream I realize it is possibly true. That pain is beyond words. I may not be lovable, I am missing so many pieces from my journey through life how could I be enough to be loves, and my edges are so difficult I cannot be truly embraces.  No matter what love I have to give, no matter how much I care, no matter how open and honest I am in baring my heart and soul, it is not nor can it ever be enough. I wonder if I deserve the compassion and kindness I try to offer the world, I do not warrant the same time and consideration I offer to others, my existence does not justify the same honesty with which I approach life, and ultimately I am afraid I am not worth being loved.

Sitting here in the dark, tears flowing I know my only choice is to retreat into myself, to again live my life from a safe place.  I am surprised how heavy this knowledge feels; I am shocked at the weight of my own worthlessness.  As always I will love my children with all me being, hope I can teach them how to love, pray they find a love and kindness in their intimate life that I will never know, impart to them the ferocity with which I had tried to live my life. As I raise the youngest and send them into the world hoping if I give them the love I was offering the world it can make some impact. Irrelevant of all my effort I suppose I will never understand, I will not learn what others actions mean, I can never reconcile the disparity if behaviors and words. I hope I have the courage to face this painful truth, I hope I can bear this truth. While I grieve for what I may never have, what I will never know I am searching for the strength to make it through the next few years to get my children into adult hood then I can take respite in my silence.

“It is after all the greatest art to limit and isolate oneself.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Rules of Life

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Apparently our lives have been reduced to making lists. I have a continual steam of them; to-do today, home project lists, grocery lists, to-read lists, bucket list, and things I will never again tolerate or endure. Months ago I was asked if I had a list of items I needed to thrive, like a must have for relationships with friends, family, or romantic which added an interesting thought so I began to compile my thoughts into some contrived bullet form. Most recently it came from a conversation about rules for life, if I were to impart any great wisdom could I do it in twelve rules of less? It really made me consider what wisdom I try to impart to my children and the choices I make in my own life. I typically find these lists a bit hokey but thought I shall give it a shot. Often times being a bit verbose I had to work to make a concise list of twelve items in no particular order of importance.

 

  1. Stuff is inconsequential, people and your relationships to them is what is important. I am pretty sure my last day on earth I will not want to see all my diplomas, care what nick knacks sit on my mantle or drink from my favorite mug but will want to be surrounded by those I love deeply. So nurture those relationships, trust those you care for, be vulnerable, love unconditionally, be kind and forgive often.

 

  1. Love the skin you’re in because it is all you’ll get. We all have different shapes and beauty marks. Life is too short to stress over your vanity; eat well, drink lots of water and be healthy and love yourself as much as you do others.

 

  1. It is not fair and unfortunately it will never be. You’ll win some and you’ll lose some; often times not the ones you want! Life will be filled with failures, mistakes, and disappointments and it is how you handle those that can define your character. Remember all you can truly control is your response to the situation; pick yourself up, dust yourself off and smile and you move forward!

 

  1. Alone is good, lonely not so much. Have faith there is something larger then you and nurture that spirituality, this can be done best when you are alone. Learn to love yourself and you will always enjoy the silence.

 

  1. Every day on this side of the stars is a good one. When you approach life with a grateful heart it makes difficulties easier to endure. Always be grateful even and if needed remind yourself of #3.

 

  1. You’re human, guess what you will make mistakes, probably tons of them. There will be things you are embarrassed by and things you may be indignant over, give up your pride, apologize to those you have hurt, try hard as hell not to repeat them and forgive yourself(see #3).

 

  1. There are no happy accidents, everything happens for a reason, try to learn what that is. When you struggle with a choice, do what feels right in your heart, you inner voice is speaking with fortitude for a reason, listen! Everyday remember to listen to your inner voice, embrace the blessings (see #5) and learn from the mistakes (see #6).

 

  1. Time is too valuable to waste on things you cannot change. If you fret over things out of your control you are giving up a precious commodity that you cannot replace.

 

  1. You were born with two superpowers; love and laughter. Laugh and love in the same way openly, unconditionally, and deeply. Nothing can nurture a relationship, make life easier to bear, or heal better than those two. You also need to learn to laugh at yourself! When you must choose, always chose happiness, kindness, love, and laughter, hands down that should be your choice.

 

  1. Love should be unconditional, relationships not so much. Never give love away with conditions or expectations but remember to love yourself too (see above, 2,3,4…). Set healthy boundaries, know what you need to thrive, always know how to respect yourself, never shortchange yourself, and be with someone who love all of you, unconditionally.

 

  1. There will be days where the best you can muster is to breathe. That is alright, be kind to yourself. We all face difficulties and struggles and there is time where all hope seems lost, take care of yourself, focus on what you can and let the rest go because the world will not fall off its axis!

 

  1. The journey is not straight nor is it level. There will be tough times, challenges you need to fight , things you need to overcome, times you will fail but trust me there are days the views along the trail are absolutely breathtaking. Keep going and remember to look up often and enjoy the change in scenery because some things you only pass once. Pause to contemplate you place, examine your impact, and embrace life fully.

I wonder how important these will be at the end of my life….I hope they serve me well.

 

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

 

A Letter to Myself

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I want to forgive you….

…for being so fragile that you have lost parts of youself along the journey

…for being so strong that you have never learned to ask for help,  you struggle to trust in others, to lean into the kindness offered

…for not always being brave enough to embrace your vulnerability

…for rushing in to fix everything for those you love as opposed to holding space and supporting them in finding their own resolution

…for striving to anticipate everything and working to counterbalance it

…for shutting yourself off from the world, not in the times of healing but out of fear

Remember my dear chicka you are only human. You have made mistakes and I can guarantee you will make more before your time on this precious planet is over for you are just a mere mortal. These mistakes are important, essential to your growth so learn from them. Strive to overcome those forgiven shortcomings; keep your heart filled with gratitude, kindness, and compassion; focus on the love not the fear; and maintain pure intentions for all will be alright when the sun sets. Remember to love yourself, always be as kind to yourself as you would to others.

If you were to write a letter to yourself, what would you forgive?

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

–Mark Twain

Reconcile the Disparate Voice

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So in my last therapy session I was confronted by an interesting disparity which was framed in a question. I was sharing an incident that had occurred in a public place which lead the discussion back to PTSD and how that will continue to impact my life at a variety of levels and coping mechanisms.  I get the logic of the healing, knowing that I need to practice my mindfulness exercises and be cognizant of my thoughts and situations. Although this is challenging to process, to say I am a survivor and as a result have my own challenges, that  is not really the disparate thoughts that were a shock. We were discussing the fact I had a confrontation with my ex earlier in the week and how I handled it.

I was picking up my youngest and he held his hand in “that” position, the one where I know he is plotting his approach into an attack. While I am typically at an elevated level of awareness in that situation, I saw that and was at a ten and then he said, “I don’t want to start and argument but….” and I realized what was about to occur. I closed the car door so my child would not hear how I was going to be spoken to, squared my feet and made a choice to speak take control of the conversation. I calmly but firmly said, “ When you predicate a conversation with I do not want to argue clearly shows that is your intention, what do you want to say?”  At my core, I was scared, shaken by my courage and the potential fallout.  I saw control shift, I saw his battle plan fall apart. I climbed into the car and drove away all the while I was falling apart inside. The therapist asked how or why I had found my voice with him. Even through the years of trying to end my marriage I never quite spoke my words with confidence and never assertiveness.

At that moment I realized that for years, I had evaluated every situation as a risk assessment, how can I interact, how safe is it if I respond this way or that. My upbringing was with a mother who pushed me to achieve, to fight for what I wanted to earn and to advocate for what I needed which was what I would often do with the outside world but in my own home that  part of myself was lost in battle. I was a walking example of dissonance, for in public and in my work life I often navigated with what others perceived as confidence, and while there may have been fear of reprisal I often chose to stand up for myself and what was right, usually when risk was minimal.  I have spent my lifetime playing the risk/danger game, at least until about a year ago when I started learning to trust, when I stopped assessing the risk within certain relationships.  I had often kept relationships at arm’s length, never allowing intimacy in any form as a way to buffer and need to explain my private life. My siblings and those few friends I have had for decades had no idea which is common in any type of any abusive relationship. It took a few years in my marriage to learn that my reactions could fuel the situation or at the very least provide dangerous ammunition for me to be more damaged. As a result of that, I had kept many of my concerns, emotions, and fears to myself, tucking them into neat packages and hidden deep in my heart. I could easily take a stand outside my home but in what was to be the most important relationship I was cornered and not permitted to be myself functioning in survival mode. Therein lies the disparity, I put on my mask of bravery and faced the world only to know I had no strength or courage at home.

As I walked from the office I was asking myself why I had been essentially two different people existing in the same body?  I do understand the survival tactics.  I thought of the day I learned to take my stand and the support I received from those in my small circle of friends.  One day the ex arrived on my porch to collect the children only to announce, “You know I do not hate you.” Having spent hours trying to understand the manipulative and abusive behavior, feeling like my entire life had been a lie I could not hold my tongue.  Although I had tried to set boundaries and stand up for myself for some years especially after I had been through therapy and learned of co-dependence and addiction, this is the first time I recall speaking my voice with strength and determination, “You may not hate me but you have never loved me.” I closed the door, locking the deadbolt and crumbled in the floor in flood of fear and tears.  The day I found my voice was the beginning of courage to stand my ground.

My circle of friends would listen and at times note that current behavior was not appropriate. I have a very dear friend who encouraged me more than once to fight back, he reminded me of the importance to make my stand and enforce my boundaries. The subsequent encouragement had helped me finish reconciling the disparate voices into one. I was also thinking of the sad fact I learned to control my reactions, my startle reflex was often hidden, all of my survival techniques have been both a benefit and curse; for in interactions with others, calm composed responses are reassuring but I still tucked my pain away. I am just learning to be vulnerable with intimate relationships, trusting in the kindness of another, that same dear friend. I had worked diligently to face my fear so shift from being guarded to be open and trust, I understood why I struggle with trust and vulnerability yet I had never acknowledged the extent of the disparity of my voice prior to that moment. While there are still moments of fear and anxiety I will never again lose the strength to speak my truth.

“Take a stand and speak your truth. Realize you are worthy of being loved and don’t let anyone treat you less than..”  

~ Melanie Koulouris

Clarification Needed

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As I sit here listening to the night noises while waiting for the sun to rise I think of a conversation that just recently transpired. It was with one of my friend. They offer me the balance of perspective I often need, adding insight I miss and even call me out on actions in a thoughtful but realistic manner; all attributes I truly value. We were spent the afternoon laughing and ranting about life, the absurdity of the state of the world when we arrived at a topic my need for clarification. They had so patiently offered clarification earlier in the day on something I was unsure of but other than that thought I really do not recall how we arrived there.  We had a great laugh over the fact I was asking for clarification of the clarification, enjoying the humor in the irony.

But it has left me thinking about all the places where I seem to stumble. Communication is something I always struggled and  strive to improve, both what is expressed and received.  I often struggle with the subtleties, those nuances between the words and far prefer face to face conversations over electronic ones, at least there I can try to grasp through expressions and body language while even asking when I miss the intent. I have come to realize I also stumble with my words, often getting things caught in some filter of emotion and often feel like a fumbling buffoon. I do so much better writing my thoughts often wondering if others are the same.

I think what I find most disconcerting as of late are all the things unsaid. I was again remind of this as I was driving earlier.  I found myself behind a slew of police vehicles, realizing they had just left the service for an officer lost in the line of duty. As I was thinking of the family’s loss, the loss to his friends, coworkers,  all the things left undone, left unsaid I found  my thoughts drifting to a friend I lost almost two years ago, a mother of my daughter’s best friend. There has not been an event pass since then that I haven’t considered the importance of embracing the now. How many moments pass where there would have been words, laughter, tears, and hugs; now there is just a void.

I think of all the things I have not said. All the words I have quelled for a variety of good intentions now have the weight of a boulder tethered to my soul. I think of learning against the door-frame talking and the things I had wanted to say, those words left in the dark recesses of my heart.  Is that the right thing to do? If I were to leave before the sun rose again would there be any knowledge of or regret over the unsaid, for myself and those who never heard the words? How do I clarify the want and need to communicate what lies within? Is there an understanding of the actions that imply the words left unspoken? Are others the same, carrying unspoken words I will never know? What do they wish they had said?

“Just because something is unspoken doesn’t mean that it disappears.” ― Alice Hoffman