Broken Bootstraps  

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Do you remember that first time you realized life doesn’t measure up to your expectations? Do you remember that crushing disappointment? What happens when that become a standard? A regular occurrence as if your life is the grand conspirator in the process? How many times are you supposed to pick yourself up and dust yourself off? What does life expect?

Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high.” ― William Goldman

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Kept in Confidence

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I am a thinker, those very few people close to me know I try to understand everything I come in contact with.  My therapist actually told me that not everyone thinks about life at the depth I do, so try not to expect people to understand it at that depth. So this weekend afforded my time to analyze my life, where I came from, what I went through, the people that are in my life, those who may weather the storm and those who are deciding to leave me at this point of my journey. I think it was a time for me to consider the gifts I have had and regrets I carry since the point my life began again.

Throughout the night my thoughts kept drifting back to what I have shared; having spent my entire life trying to hide the pain through the past few years I opened up and parceled out my past. Although I am a deeply private person having only mentioned a tiny portion to a few people, that shallow acknowledgement, I kept my stories buried deeply until a few came into my life, people who had some shared experiences, who understood the pain, who listened without judgement, and never pried for my details. Unconditional acceptance and lack of criticism did allow me to assess my past and its impact on my present; how it limits my trust, how it restricts my ability to be vulnerable, and my fear of certain closeness.I opened up and apportioned my past with the trust that it would be kept in confidence. Now I am working to collect those pieces, place those stories back into their makeshift tomb.

So as I retreat, how do I secure my stories I cannot collect? How do I approach the topic of privacy? I do not want my secrets shared in a fashion that can undermine my struggle or be used as a means to minimize me for I have spent a lifetime negated. Is this just a concern based in my struggle to trust; the time I did will it be validated or dismissed? I know when one shares their story, their struggle, their past,  I treat it with the utmost respect for I was trusted enough for one to disclose. I would never share the story, never violate the trust by besmirching their truth, in a light that be disparaging, as a means to justify my behavior or choices?  This is quite possibly a fear based in my experiences with people for I have seen this done to others, been a victim, stories used to displace accountability, vilified for no reason.  How does one even broach the topic?

“Confidentiality is a virtue of the loyal, as loyalty is the virtue of faithfulness” -Edwin Louis Cole

And So it Begins

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People have an aversion to tragedy.  Not initially, they typically like to rubberneck just like with an interstate accident, its the your personal tragedy on the highway of life. People will descend when there is an issue, offer great words of advice all the while observing how you’re handling it, collect the pertinent information, and then like vultures that have picked through your emotional carnage fly away to the next sad story. I have seen it with others and experienced it myself. In those early stages it is easy to toss around quip shallow advice but when the pity wears off people are struck with fear. They arrive at the realization that it could have easily been their life turned upside down, their marriage in shambles, their job lost, the death could have been their loved one, or the diagnosis could have been theirs as easily as it is yours. Then the fear sets in and they retreat often finding some reason not to weather the storm with you. I remember a time when I was all alone and traversing that made me strong but there is still a twinge of fear that once again I will be left alone.  Maybe this is the reason I fight so hard to support those I care about.  I too have faced this and the amount of courage it takes to see someone through the difficult time can feel insurmountable. Holding space for someone you hold dear is difficult, offering support in the midst of your own struggles takes effort and patience that can be difficult to find. I understand from experience and also realize there are some moments when you have nothing left to give but your honesty and your time because one’s presence can make all the difference.

Now I have found myself struggling to not retreat. I have been fighting to stand steady and hide behind the remnants of my garden wall but I dare say it is time to surrender and withdraw. I feel that my true self needs to find a bit of safety as to not be disappointed because I am unsure I can traverse this challenge while being cast away at the same time. Unfortunately my true self, the one I have fought so hard to help survive cannot seem to muster the courage to stand vulnerable while trying to right my world.

This song seems to say what my genuine self wants to express to the world before I put on my facade of normalcy and proceed protected.  Maybe one day I will be brave enough to try again.

 

 

“Protect your spirit, because you are in the place where spirits get eaten.”- John Trudel

 

Off Kilter

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It seems that my world was knocked off kilter. I was employed with a company where I witnessed behaviors that did not align with my own morals, it regularly pushed against my integrity, and often made me question my purpose in the career I had chosen. It was so far from the my choice to pursue this path I am unsure why I stayed for as long as I did but I held on well past the expiration date. Part of it is possibly this is the only existence I have known, since I was six years old I have been involved at some level in education, my world has primarily consisted of learning in some form or another. I have worked in other areas but have always had that as a foundation. I have often contemplated switching fields, finding my way back to what fuels my passion and feeds my soul for that was how it was in the beginning.  For some reason I chose to stay and try to make a difference in a place where there was only futility and hostility; focusing on my identity and all I had known I lost sight of life and my contentment and joy with my career. Maybe I am being nudged to change and since I didn’t listen to my heart this was the only path out.  Monday when I received the call from HR I was not just let go, in that moment she stripped me of a part of my identity, the only real one I have known.

In this moment of instability I find myself fighting my insecurities, riddled with doubt, and at moment crippled with anxiety. I am perfectly aware the only control we have in life is over our reaction to it, how we respond to the situation, how we treat the people we see along our journey, how well we love those in our life, how kind, compassionate, and empathetic we are.  But this has brought forth a memory, a time when I fought so very hard to find my own financial stability; where I had control to ensure my children had their needs met. That was a dark time where I was truly alone; the reason I try so hard to be there for those I love because I know what it feels like to have no one. That is the fear that seems to overshadow my thoughts right now. For I have seen people leave, when a storm comes in, they seek shelter because no one wants to see the agony of struggle and tragedy. Trying to look beyond my fear, for it will only be conquered by time and validation I try to find my new path.

I understand that often times, letting go of what you held so tightly too is painful, at time casting away what we believe about yourself may feel like we are cutting away at who we are but maybe that is no longer my truth.  If I can open my hands to the possibility what does the world hold? What possibility of greatness is waiting for me that I cannot imagine because I am looking at the fear of some past that in all likelihood may not repeat itself. While I am a tough old cat and always seem to land on my feet, there are at times that little voice of doubt is what I need to silence. If I could trust in my strength one more day.  Thank you to my friend that has sent wonderful words of encouragement; I hope you never face struggle but know I will be there with the same kindness in your hour of need.

So in this darkness I need to hold to the things I believe, the truth as it still exists.  I am not what I used to do nor what others have said; in my heart I am kind, compassionate, a nurturer, a teacher. While I am fighting to right myself and balance my world I know I am blessed beyond words. I may not always have what I want but I shall have all I need. I have the financial wherewithal to withstand this shift. It may not be an easy path to traverse but it never has been and I suppose anything worth having is worth the effort. I need to trust in my journey! I have riches beyond monetary wealth; beautiful, happy, healthy children, family and friends that rally when I need them, a good meal with laughter, friends that understand and accept me, as well as a few material blessings. Those moments, the deep laughter with a friend, the warmth of my cat on my lap while drinking a good cup of coffee, fun with my children, getting lost in a good book, cooking for my loved ones….those have always fueled my soul and will always be my purpose.

 

“Be sure that whatever you are is you.”  ― Theodore Roethke

Major Faux Pas

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So I really messed up, big time! I have been pretty emotionally raw for the past ten days or so. My anxiety levels are all over the place and nothing is predictable or controllable. On top of that I had an awful dream, the type where you wake up in a sweat, shaking, heart racing…I actually heard myself screaming as I was waking up on this one. In the dream old friends, a couple I have known for over twenty years, came to visit and we were reminiscing then out of nowhere my ex storms into the room, screaming, all those painful words flying,  he pushed me backwards as the friends try to diffuse the situation I fall over something and he begins to kick me.  I didn’t sleep the rest of the night, only falling asleep in the chair as the sun was coming up.  I woke up late, rushed to the auto mechanics to get some work done on my car and then to breakfast with a friend. I tried to focus all morning, still feeling rushed and out of sorts I was blaming it on the hurried morning, my to-do list but in reality it was so much more.  As the day went on I tried to focus on others but I was quickly crumbling. I wasn’t able to complete my errands so I decided to go do some readings and get a cup of coffee.

Here is where it went to hell in a handbasket. I had been out and about more this week than I have all summer so I had my fill of noise and people. I was sitting in the coffee shop and felt it escalating so I decided to get my earphones and listen to some calm peaceful music, focus on my breathing and find my center. I left in tears only to sit in the rental car for the next hour trying to compose myself enough to get mine from the shop. On my way home I was a disaster, the twenty minute drive was filled with tears and anxiety…not as bad as it has been but nothing I can manage.  I understand what is happening and can even find the trigger for this one but still it is no easier. But oh it gets better….

I made it home. I had offered to take dinner to a friend and they declined to which I sent a hateful reply because I was hurting and needed someone, some support, but of course I didn’t explain and of that in detail. I did explain I could use a friend but still was not brave enough to share the details, to explain that dark place I was in. What would usually be considered a neutral reply really stung me. I was hurt, in that moment I needed to know I had someone to lean on, a person in my corner, and I could have used a hug but I couldn’t vocalize it quite that way…but unfortunatly I did say something. I do know I should have expressed my situation better for they are not a mind reader.

So the mess with complex-ptsd is there are triggers and emotional flashbacks, one finds themselves back in that terrifying emotional state. When I am in that place, the smallest thing can be taken the wrong way and I begin that cycle and it can make me feel hopeless, or fearful, or worthless or a hodgepodge of all three. Sprinkle in the anxiety there are good days and then those not so good. Yesterday was not so good.  Add to that the fact I have never learned to advocate for myself; doing so when emotions are so raw and I am in a bad place didn’t actually get presented in a way that it was intended. I feel so guilty, I was trying to say I need help, I need to know I have someone out there to check in because right now its pretty dark and I didn’t say it anywhere close to that. I have tried to explain and I have apologized for the delivery but I sit here afraid that I have damaged things…. I feel like I have more justification to keep to myself but I know that is not the right answer either. I hope I can rectify what I have done….

“I’m sorry.’ The two most inadequate words in the English language.”

– Beth Revis

Note to Former Self

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I am a believer of getting it out of my head either by talking it through or writing it down.  If I put it on paper it adds perspective and allows me to process through my thoughts instead of them continually bouncing around inside my head.  The other day I shared with my dear friend the process I have used to let go when you have no way of actually dealing with the person or event; writing a letter and hold nothing back, there is no need for civility only honesty about your feelings, pain, etc. then I find a quiet place and set it ablaze leaving only a trail of smoke. I have been known to scrawl my thoughts of anger and pain on napkins or compose detailed letters of forgiveness on my fine stationary; it has ran the gamut.  I have written many to myself throughout the years, focusing on forgiveness or to clarify things. Over the past week or two the same topic has surfaced in conversations with different people; what would you tell to your young naïve self.  I don’t spend too much time on regrets, this just made me think what words of wisdom would I impart. Here goes….

 

 

Dear Chicka,

At twenty-two you are so young, have so much of your life to live but you feel like you have been swept off your feet with love. Although you have been loved by your parents and siblings, you have no idea this is not real love. Before you know it you will be facing motherhood and within a few months of that you will know fear. Not that silly scary movie type or the heart racing because you are frightened in a dark parking lot type but true fear for yourself and your unborn child. I am sorry I put you in that position.

You will know a love like no other the moment you hold your first child in your arms and from that moment forward you will make all your decisions as a means to protect, nurture, and provide for them all. You work so hard, you try more than anyone I have ever known, always telling yourself if you just love a little more, try a little harder, find a bit more patience for that is what role you are supposed to play. So many nuances you will learn for yourself just know I am so proud of you for your strength, your courage, and all you have given to your children.

Please try to remember to love yourself, be kind to yourself but I know there will be times that is lost, know there will be moments where you set yourself ablaze to keep someone else warm, and where you sacrifice you dreams a beliefs for some false greater-good. You will return to yourself in time.  Try to hold fast to what you believe in your heart and soul. In your late twenties,  you will lose sight of who you are, you will lose hope, and your faith will be challenged but know it will be found again, to be stronger than you knew. When you face those moments, remember to never lose sight of your kindness, compassion, and love; just know not everyone is deserving of those gifts. Know you deserve so much better, your children do too and one day you will have it.

In your early thirties  you find the courage to finally leave, to have a plan in place and all the elements align for it to occur remember you are strong enough to make it; you are a survivor! You will regain your financial independence, some security for you and your children, and strike a career path that will carry you through another rough patch or two.  When you return later, know too that everything happens for a reason, try to retain your belief that life is unfolding as it should.  You trusted in the words, you wanted to believe more than anything. Who would think the person who professes to love you would even…?  When you begin to doubt yourself, when you lose confidence in your choice hold fast to your conviction that this is all part of a plan.  Stay strong, be courageous, and love your children with all your heart for it will work out. In your mid-thirties you will understand why you returned, why in all the prayers and moments of silence seeking the path and strength to leave that little voice would say not yet.  You are blessed with a do-over and there are not many of those in life so enjoy it!

It will eventually all fall apart one fateful morning. All the financial security you created will see you through a nasty divorce and you will be able to maintain a decent lifestyle for you and your children. You will begin to live life as you had only dreamed. There will come one morning on the beach where you will forgive, a sunrise all alone where you learned to lay down the burdens forced upon you by another for you know they are not yours to carry.  You will also learn to forgive yourself which will be the most difficult; at times I still remind myself of this.You will regain your confidence and although there are times you struggle you know all you were told was not true for you know your own truth, worth, and beauty. You will know a peace in your heart you never knew existed. You will live a life of contentment where so many of the things you endured have given you a skillset that proves useful.  One evening at the dinner table, you will laugh with your children and know the journey while difficult was worth those smiles and in that moment life will be as it should.

Know that even now there are difficult times, moments that revisit your psyche but at this mid-point in your life you are wiser than you could have even hoped. There is still so much to learn, so many experiences, so far to travel but you will be doing so with a full spirit and a peaceful heart surrounded by loving friends.

 

Be kind and love yourself on this journey,

~Your middle-aged self

 

Open Letter on the Absurdity of Nosiness and Grief

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To all the people who have commented in an interesting way on the journey I have taken please take no offense to my replies for I am a private person and it really is none of your business. I tend to be pretty level headed, always choosing to respond instead of reacting. While this is a byproduct of years living in a volatile situation, it is something I am typically a character trait for which I am grateful. To those of you who may not have received the answer you were looking for, I am sorry if you are disappointed.

 

To my supervisor who continues to try and share albeit years after the fact, how disastrous her marriage was as a means to compare it to mine.  I am sorry if I did not divulge all the dirty details.  It feels like you think we are in some divorced wives club, but I did not seem to receive my membership card so please leave me out of this discussion. To be honest I am not sure one failed marriage is more painful then another so if you are looking to compare notes, please do so elsewhere.

 

To my current coworker that told me it was wrong to do this to my children. I think you are well aware of my thoughts on your opinions but just to reiterate. I am unsure how one person can stand in such judgement of another without even knowing the story. I  cannot believe a mother would think it is more important to keep their children in a home with an abusive philander but we all have our opinions, you know what they say about those.

 

To the mother of an acquaintance of my daughters who I have not seen in four years, no it is not awful being alone. I was alone through my entire marriage, never having someone to share my joys or fears with, to have a conversation, to plan, to dream; I now have friends that surround me and a world to explore.

 

To the parents of a boy that went to school with my middle child , the one who I usually saw once a year at some function and have never had a personal conversations with I am not sharing the dirty details of my home life now. Why would I tell you the horrid details of the late night explosions or the fact he moved out to live the free life with his girlfriend of then seven years when you just gossiped about three other parents I vaguely know? Why would I tell you every painful memory I have worked so hard to overcome when you would continue to keep those horrors alive by sharing them in my community? Why would I tell you I pray every day that my children do not act like or end up with someone like their father?

 

To the old coworker, the one who doesn’t even remember my first name and tries to fake her way through a conversation at the grocery, why would you even ask how one grieves that, how one could ever recover? How can I face life alone? I started grieving within the first two years of my marriage, the first time I realized I had to replace joy with fear. I continued to grieve for the next several years, the time my head was split open and I grieved for the loss of my safety in my own home as I sat in the floor beside my newborns crib in hopes I could keep him from crying and waking his father from the drunken sleep; the time I came home from work to discover all my funds for my new life had been discovered I grieved my freedom;  had grieved the loss of small piece of myself every time I was berated or belittled for never being pretty enough, or thin enough, or any of the other statements that left scars as deep as the physical. So there were painful truths I faced, grief was not one of my burdens.

 

To the question of recovery and facing life alone; I had never had emotional, financial, or physical support it is difficult to describe what it is like to be set free from being imprisoned with despair behind walls of hatred and contempt, although they were probably for himself it was directed at me.  I fought to complete my last degree because he refused to assist with the parenting ultimately depending on a friend to help with my children. I have to leave two other programs because of things done to sabotage me which is why I am so driven today. I grieved the loss of three of my grandparents on different occasions without support. Last fall a dear friend while looking for another picture came across a shot of their cat and began to tear up. This was a cat that had seen them through a failed marriage and a disastrous end to a relationship and I understood that pain for I had a cat and a dog that had offered me more comfort than the person I married, that knew things that I had told no one else, except the person missing their cat. I had been shamed over the grief I felt when I lost my pets, yet they offered me more solace and peace than the person who belittled me.  So no, I had been alone for the majority of my marriage, usually working against opposition. So I am fine. I can make it, I have been strong, self-sufficient, going in on my own for so long I have no worries about surviving for I have endured worse.

 

The above was not directed at my close circle for you ask out of concern. For the few of you who know some of the depth of truth and never asked “why did you stay”, I am forever grateful!!! This is for those who on  emotional highway of life feel it is appropriate to rubberneck, to pause and gawk at others pain, to point out fault in others disaster, to armchair quarterback someone else’s life. Why is it so crucial to pry and carry tales.   I understand that it is some peoples worst fear and seeing you persevere offers them comfort. There are other that find the severity of disaster makes their life more bearable, yet we should never count our blessings based on others sufferings. There are those that want to know they are not alone in their struggle, which is one I can tolerate, I can share my journey.  For all other, if you find offense in my response, please consider your motives for inquiry.

 

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.” – Robin Williams