ABSTINENCE PROJECT

My current grad school class is on addiction and assessment.  The assignment is to give up something I dearly love for two weeks.  This is the story of how it went and the journal I kept nearly daily regarding my new abstinence.  It is not written to be aesthetically appealing…it’s just my raw thoughts, unedited.

I have chosen to give up all social media for these two weeks.  This includes for me, Facebook (the biggest offender), Snapchat, Instagram (on these two to keep up with my kids and nieces), Twitter (to keep up with an old boyfriend’s articles) and all online dating sites (to meet ‘those’ connection needs).  Even thinking about doing this for two weeks made my belly clench, so I decided it was probably the direction I needed to go. 

            Although we were not required to begin our abstinence until the morning of the class, I had been prepping myself for a couple of weeks.  I’ve not decreased my social media time but I did let my Facebook world know what I would be doing and why.  I was surprised at the positive responses I got and at the people who thought they might ‘try’ it too at some point.  I know a slip up is a possibility but I don’t want to disappoint them.   (or myself)  I asked my best friend to help hold me accountable and I know she will.  I decided yesterday (Thursday) afternoon to go ahead and disconnect.  It had been an emotional day and I was doing lots of introspection…it just seemed like the right time to do it.  Later that night, at home, I opened my laptop to do homework.  Silly think was opened to Facebook from the last time I had used it.  I was mortified and made Audra (we were working together) sign out for me.  In no less than 5 minutes, I got a text from my best friend telling me to get off Facebook.  Geez!  She’s normally such an enabler for others, lol!  Anyway, we called her on speaker because I did not want her to think I really was on Facebook.  I struggle anyone questions my integrity…always have.  The internal struggle when my insides and outsides aren’t matching up is significant so when someone else questions that, it hurts me probably more than it should.

            Nathan (my ex-husband), left for the second time in June, 2016.  My Daddy died in July, 2016.  Going back even further, I had a stroke in 2009.   There was an affair in our marriage in 2013.  I think each of these events strengthened the relationship I already had, especially with Facebook.  (lol!  I just noticed how easily I referred to this possible addiction as a relationship). 

            That leads naturally into my next point…why is social media considered my friend?  I don’t think I use it as my only way to connect, but it definitely is a way to connect.  I’m super relational and I love to write.  I post way more than I even look at things.  But, looking back during those times of trauma, Facebook was an outlet for me to escape from my own reality, see how others were doing and post my journey…all of which were healing for me at the time.  In hindsight, Facebook became a grounding connection when I felt lonely or afraid and it was always there for me.  It was a way to disconnect from my own reality sometimes, and other times I shared my reality…but it was always there.  I love the safety knowing that connection is always there and won’t abandon me.  That’s really dumb.  It reminds me of a client I had who struggled with serious mental health issues and constant loneliness.  He told me that he hated when his cable wasn’t working because the people on t.v. were his only friends and they were always there.  I get it buddy, I get it!

            My addictive behavior of constantly checking Facebook…I look first thing in the morning and know that this ‘friend’ is there when I wake…even though my husband is not.  Now I remember toward the end of our marriage the emptiness I felt when I woke miles away from him in the same bed…we didn’t connect but I would connect with Facebook on my phone.  I check it throughout the day and at night and at bedtime, as well as when I cannot sleep. I check it when I’m reading a book or doing homework or paying bills…no wonder I feel unfocused.   I can see things that connect me, I read things that make me think or annoy me, or even touch my heart.  It gives me a sense of being in touch when there is no one there to touch me.  It fills my empty voids sometimes, other times it’s just positive, and often it’s only a distraction from life.  So, I guess it appeals to my senses through the provision of memories of sweet times, tender touches, comforting smells; I can even hear and see the memories play out it my head.  This is triggered through my own Facebook memories and also through current people and what I see.  This refers to the constant clicking and scrolling part.  Honestly, Facebook is also a way to keep up with the guys I date.  Have they been on and they aren’t talking to me?  Are they just talking to me?  Are they honest?  I’m validating my already existing walls and keeping score, whether they know it or not…and I’m feeding my insatiable curiosity.  Writing this out, I feel like a voyeur and like I’m cheating myself from truly moving forward.

            I think I have already addressed a foundation for how my behavior provides healing or is a balm to my emotional wounds.  Now, as I am really healing, I enjoy reflecting on things I once wrote and seeing how far I’ve come.  Yet, those memories that pop up can sometimes sting a little bit. As I just realized above…how much am I healing and how much am I holding on?  I guess there is a fine balance. In sharing, I always hope that I am offering someone else healing and I hear often that I am.  Hearing I am an inspiration is lovely but not what I seek.  I am who I really am on social media but I find it’s easier for me to get my full feelings out in the written word sometimes, easier to find vulnerability there than in person which is probably part of why it continues to heal.  I should be sharing that by working more on my blog or a book, like I always dream of.  I am seeing though that I need to see how much social media is a true healing mechanism vs. how much social media is a band aid.

            I don’t know that my social media addictive behavior really makes me feel helpless, but entrapped, yes.  I guess because I realize it’s such a thing I reach to without even thinking and also that it made me nervous to think about giving it up, even for two weeks.  That means it manages me more than I manage it and I don’t like that.  That’s where the feeling of entrapment comes from.  As I reflect on this with as much self-honesty as I can muster, I am wondering how many feelings social media helps me keep confined.

            My consistent relationship with social media, Facebook in particular, costs me perhaps more than I have considered.  I have goals and one of them is managing my time intentionally.  Facebook clicking and scrolling steals from my time, and time is not a forever guaranteed thing.  I heard somewhere recently that the average person spends seven years of their life on social media.  Seven years.  I don’t want that.  In those terms, it kind of freaks me out. I could be writing, praying, connecting with my kids and others…instead I’m staring at a screen.  How much of my life am I giving to the blue screen and what will the payoff for that be?  Ugh.

Friday, 1/11/19

Well, welcome official day one, although I started abstaining yesterday afternoon.  Last night, as I was going to sleep, I missed you.  The kids were with their Dad, Audra left, it was just me and the fur babies and it was ultra-quiet.  I felt restless and wondered who I could call.  I decided I was being silly because it was late and I needed to sleep.  I talked to God…a little bit.  I wondered why it’s easier to scroll Facebook than even to connect with God.  This morning, I woke and reminded myself sternly that there would be no looking at social media.  I had removed all of it from my phone yesterday, so that’s helpful.  But you know…I want to know what the rest of the world is doing this morning and who do I tell Happy Friday to and who even cares that I didn’t happy Friday them?  Fingers crossed for today.  Class tonight.  Homework and work today.  I have plenty to do, even pay bills.  But I can’t check social media in between.  L

Saturday 1/12/19

It’s 12:22 a.m.  I had class tonight and also have had a shitload of coffee.  After class, I went by the grocery store and then home to make dinner for tomorrow night’s company and clean up a bit.  I am wired and I am feeling a bit like not being alone…it’s really too late to call people and I’m maybe not even wanting to talk.  I want to look at Facebook and see what everyone is up to.  I haven’t heard from Jason all day and I’m not going to text him, but if I could check Facebook I’d know what he was up to today.  This is annoying.  Also, in class tonight, our professor asked that we all not be on our phones during class and just be present.  That’s totally fair and I know I tend to get distracted and play on my phone.  So then I’m asking myself…am I addicted to social media, really?  Or is it my phone that makes me feel some false sense of security.   I’m actually feeling a little bit pissed that I chose this.  Maybe it’s a good thing that if I were to sign on Facebook, someone would see and ask me about it.  Plus, I want to keep my commitment to myself.  Honestly though, I even thought about if I signed on from a separate account with a different name, no one would know.  I wonder if this is how someone with SUD begins to justify and keep secrets.  Not going to do it but I sure thought about it.  For what?  I guess there is some sense of control in knowing what’s going on…again…unreal.

Sunday, 1/13/19

I went through a whole weekend of class without playing on my phone.  Our professor had requested we unplug and I wanted to honor that.  I always do want to honor that but my desire doesn’t always match my actions.  Well…this weekend it did.  I think it’s funny that some of my closest friends keep asking me how it’s going without social media.  It’s not comparable to a craving for alcohol, I don’t think…but it does leave me feeling empty not to have it.  One of my research articles asked if we are addicted to social media or our telephones.  This is a great question.  I can almost feel panicky at times without my phone but I’m trying so hard to detach from a piece of material and attach to my surroundings.  It’s a real struggle.  My phone, just like social media, is always there so why would I want to take it away?

Monday, 1/14/19

I couldn’t sleep all night.  I woke several different times thinking it was time to get up and get ready.  It wasn’t.  Each time, I wanted to look at Facebook.  I woke realizing I was the only one home. Kids at their Dad’s and no one in bed with me for sure (except the fur babies…but…) Anyway, I wanted to tell the fb world I couldn’t sleep.  When I have done that in the past, someone also says #metoo and I know I’m not alone.  On this night, I very much knew that I was alone.  Why did I forget to talk to God?  I guess I thought he would be on Facebook.

Tuesday, 1/15/19

Oh my gosh.  Today, at work, I accidentally clicked the shortcut to Facebook.  I didn’t really realize what I’d done until it opened up and I saw the home page.  I freaked out and shut it quicker than I could blink but I HATED doing so.  First, I felt really guilty…like I had somehow cheated although it truly was accidental.  I’ve also started eating Keto’ish again within this journey.  I notice I am imposing a lot of rules on myself lately in addition to the social media restriction.  Like, if I am abstaining from that I ought to be able to abstain from other things too.  I wonder if this is one end of the spectrum an addict falls on.  I’m very all or nothing in my thinking when I don’t watch it, very perfectionistic.  Then, when things don’t work out like I had planned, I tend to want to throw in the towel.  I don’t do this often like I used to but as I write this it’s like a slippery slope…if I mess up once why can’t I just go ahead and fall in the black hole for a while and hide?  Like, if I had chosen to stay on that Facebook page I probably would’ve spent way too long looking at it because if I messed up, I should do even that right.  I’m glad I don’t struggle with alcohol addiction especially because I can see how allowing myself one drink as addict would very quickly give me permission to just binge since I’d already f’ed up.  All or nothing.  Gaaaa.

Wednesday, 1/16/19

I’m tired, whiny and would like to get on Facebook.  I thought about writing on my blog or journal but I tell myself that I don’t have the energy for that. Getting on fb, I can just click and scroll and stare without having to participate.  Wow!  I didn’t even realize the truth of that statement and the power in it until I read what just flowed out of me. I can observe without participating.  I hope that’s absolutely not a mirror to my life.  My first thought upon waking this morning was pertaining to when I get to get back on Facebook in a week and a half.  All day, I have considered what I want to say.  Do I want to just look and not say anything or do I want to share part of my journal or what?  Tonight, I ran into a friend who asked when I am getting back on Facebook.  She said she misses my posts.  She’s like the fifth person to say this in a few days which strikes me as a little bit funny and also a little bit nice. I’ve watched addicts in my life who need to completely abstain from a substance, and instead they talk about how they can manage and still have their drug of choice.  Have their cake and eat it too.  If Facebook were cake and no one could see, I’d be eating the whole damn thing tonight. Another thing that bothers me…why do my friends get to be on social media but I don’t?  I guess that’s relative to addiction too…how many times have I heard my beloved alcoholic brother ask why we are all on his case about drinking a drink but don’t bother each other about it.  It really doesn’t seem fair, no matter which way you pitch it.  Six days down, nine more to go.  Blech.

Thursday, 1/17/19

So…ugh.  I just ordered an Ipsy bag for Stella and the only way to get the two free extra items was to share on Facebook.  So I did. It went to my fb page and I glanced long enough to see that I had over 20 messages in my inbox.  I quickly clicked off but I just want to say that I desperately want to see what those messages are.  Are they important?  Do people miss me?  It feels like a compulsion how bad I want to look at those messages.  I’m telling myself that looking will not do anything but be a temporary pleasure and I will be so disappointed in myself.  I’m not going to look.  I want to though.  Not three minutes after I logged off, my friend Edward called to check in and see how my social media thing was going.  He saw me online and wasn’t calling to ‘get me’ but he knew this project was really important to me.  It’s easy to be accountable when everyone can see what I am doing, and I have enough guilt even over my thoughts and accidental exposures.  What would I be doing if my abstinence were coffee, sugar, drugs or something that no one could see me indulge in?  Would I still have the guilt and seek accountability?  I like to think yes but I don’t know.

Friday, 1/18/19

It’s a lovely thunderstorm tonight, my kids are gone…the house is quiet.  I want to look at what the whole wide world is doing.  I actually am in such a mood to snuggle but there is no one here to snuggle.  My puppies and kitty are clean…I guess I can snuggle them.  Sometimes these nights are awesome and sometimes my heart feels super empty.  Getting on Facebook right now would allow me to avoid journaling or blogging about the sadness my heart feels right now.  Empty.  I guess if I were working with a client, I might challenge them to a little questioning…’what would happen if you leaned into your feelings right now instead of distracting yourself from them?’  That client might respond by telling me that if they did that, they may cry.  I might ask them what would be wrong with crying.  My client would tell me that they are feeling alone and just so tired of crying.  No pity parties here.  Facebook helps me shove those ickies down deeper sometimes.  One of the reasons addicts use is because it numbs.  Guess what?  Facebook helps me in the same way sometimes.  Six more days of abstinence.  I wonder what I am going to do at the end of this.  I don’t want to give up social media but I don’t want it managing me either.  I need a plan to find the balance.  There are a lot of things I do to distract myself from life.  Facebook is only one consideration.  Gaaaa.

Saturday, 1/19/19

I’m feeling super grumpy today.  It’s cold and gray and the snow that was supposed to come no showed…again!  My dogs are shedding no matter how much I brush them and I am shoulding all over myself no matter if I know better.  I have fought the urge to peek at social media all day long.  Maybe I am a little bit bored with myself.  I’ve had a lot of coffee, two bubble baths, written a blog post, done a huge part of my homework for this class and laundry.  In my mind, I am really trying to justify just a little time online.  If no one would find out today, I know what I would be doing.  I’m also committed so damnit, I will get through this assignment without cheating but there are no promises after that.  My sister called to see how it was going and tell me she’s proud of me.  She said she is thinking about taking a break too because she is annoyed with the amount of time she wastes online.  I assured her I was not giving fb up but that I was going to definitely limit my time on it.  She also said she rarely posts but loves to look. I’ve decided that she is worse off than me…I share more than I stalk.  Justify.  Justify.  Justify.  Lastly, I’m getting bored with the men I am dating and I would like to explore options on dating sites.  Now…no one but me would know if I did that.  I don’t know why I have to be sooooo well behaved.  Damnit.  One more thing…I cannot tell you how many times I have clicked on the Facebook shortcut and opened it without even thinking about what I am doing.  Freud would say I have three drives…sex, aggression and Facebook.  Every time I do it I have thought about looking but I have opted to stick with my guns.  I don’t think I am enjoying this.  Finding the value, yes, enjoying…no.

Sunday, 1/20/19

Monday, 1/21/19

I didn’t make an entry yesterday.  I thought about it several times but I’m telling you right now that had I opened my computer I would’ve clicked on Facebook, or Bumble, or POF or anything.  I was upset with my ex-husband, I was upset with the guy I’ve been dating, I was ruminating on ugly thoughts about myself and listening to a headful of hurtful lies in my head.  I’ve been journaling more but I didn’t journal yesterday.  I wanted to escape.  I woke up feeling the same about it this morning.  I did consider (repeatedly) that no one would know if I was on any social media except Facebook but I know I would know and that it would bother me immensely that I didn’t keep my commitment.  It’s not even been two weeks and I think about what I can’t do way too often.  I did something new today though…actually it’s something I used to do years and years ago but stopped doing somewhere in the midst of life.  No one was home but me and I turned my music up and danced around like a wild woman!  I danced until I was sweaty, red and feeling all the feels.  I yelled at Chad at the top of my lungs (matters not that he wasn’t here) for what he did to me.  I didn’t realize that was even inside of me.  Tonight, I am feeling sore and also very proud of myself.  I didn’t give in to the numbing.  It’s not about social media.  It’s about the avoidance and drowning out of the feels.  Does that mean with an addict in therapy that the focus should be on the why more than on the drug of choice?  Something to ponder.-

Tuesday, 1/22/19

I did some super hard grown up stuff yesterday.  I wrote the prologue for my book.  I did laundry.  I danced and danced and danced today, scheduled interviews, saw a movie with my family and prepared for my first internship staffing tomorrow.  I didn’t get on social media one time.  My Momma marvels at what I accomplish without Facebook.  My sweet niece texted me from college to tell me she misses me and when would I be back on Facebook?  Now I am getting in a bit of a panic about how to set appropriate boundaries for myself when I resume social media.  I considered the ‘if’ I resume social media but honestly, there are a lot of positives there.  I just have to figure out how to manage my time better and certainly learn that social media sites are absolutely something I want to make a priority and allow it to be a thief to my real life.  I’m actually looking very much forward to resuming the activity but even that fear comes with anxiety and fear about how I will manage it instead of it managing me.  I’m thinking the multitude of drugs of choice.  How does an addict live in real life, very possibly surrounded by their substance or behavior and make the decision not to use?  It’s got to be a constant stressor…is it possible for a true addict to not always deal with this struggle whether they take on a substance abuse label or not?

Wednesday, 1/23/19

Thursday, 1/24/19

Welp!  Tomorrow is the big day.  I can be on Facebook and other sights again.  Actually, I started one day early and so I technically was allowed back on today.  In light of self-discipline and thinking through things, I have made the decision to not get back on Facebook until tomorrow.  (This means midnight, ha!)  I did put one dating sight back on my phone today because I have a date this weekend and I wanted to study him up, lol!  I have gotten so much value out of this assignment.  Of course it has given me insight into the world of addiction; moreover, it has given me insight into my own patterns of behavior.  I am astonished at how much I have achieved not on Facebook, and at the feelings I have let myself feel.  I will write about this is detail in my summary, but I am thankful for this two week stint.  I’m thinking of questions that I will ask myself before I utilize social media on a regular basis…I am not sure how they will be framed but it will be my goal to get at the why of what I am doing and if I would benefit more from another activity in that moment. 

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Resistant Me

I am resistant if you are willing. If you are willing, I am resistant. and so we dance around. and around. and around. Never do we arrive . We memorize the steps so we can begin again. -me

I am currently in my addiction and assessment class at school Fascinating because I have lived my 46 years surrounded by addicts that I love, and still I am learning the process of addiction. Bottom line…it sucks no matter which way you spin it.

One of our assigned projects is to give up something for two weeks. Read all about it…. (I am keeping a daily log/journal…can’t wait to share that). I am learning things about myself that aren’t the most pleasing. I am learning nonetheless.

I have chosen to give up all social media for these two weeks.  This includes for me, Facebook (the biggest offender), Snapchat, Instagram (on these two to keep up with my kids and nieces), Twitter (to keep up with an old boyfriend’s articles) and all online dating sites (to meet ‘those’ connection needs).  Even thinking about doing this for two weeks made my belly clench, so I decided it was probably the direction I needed to go. 

            Although we were not required to begin our abstinence until the morning of the class, I had been prepping myself for a couple of weeks.  I’ve not decreased my social media time but I did let my Facebook world know what I would be doing and why.  I was surprised at the positive responses I got and at the people who thought they might ‘try’ it too at some point.  I know a slip up is a possibility but I don’t want to disappoint them. (or myself)  I asked my best friend to help hold me accountable and I know she will.  I decided yesterday (Thursday) afternoon to go ahead and disconnect.  It had been an emotional day and I was doing lots of introspection…it just seemed like the right time to do it.  Later that night, at home, I opened my laptop to do homework.  Silly thing was opened to Facebook from the last time I had used it.  I was mortified and made my classmate (we were working together) sign out for me.  In no less than 5 minutes, I got a text from my best friend telling me to get off Facebook.  Geez!  She’s normally such an enabler for others, lol!  Anyway, we called her on speaker because I did not want her to think I really was on Facebook.  I struggle if anyone questions my integrity…always have.  The internal struggle when my insides and outsides aren’t matching up is significant so when someone else questions that, it hurts me probably more than it should.

            My ex-husband, left our home for the second time in June, 2016.  My Daddy died in July, 2016.  Going back even further, I had a stroke in 2009.   There was an affair in our marriage in 2013.  We legally divorced in 2017. I think each of these events strengthened the relationship I already had with social media, especially with Facebook.  (lol!  I just noticed how easily I referred to this possible addiction as a relationship). 

            That leads naturally into my next point…why is social media considered my friend?  I don’t think I use it as my only way to connect, but it definitely is a way to connect.  I’m super relational and I love to write.  I post way more than I even look at things.  But, looking back during those times of trauma, Facebook was an outlet for me to escape from my own reality, see how others were doing and post my journey…all of which were healing for me at the time.  In hindsight, Facebook became a grounding connection when I felt lonely or afraid and it was always there for me.  It was a way to disconnect from my own reality sometimes, and other times I shared my reality…but it was always there.  I love the safety knowing that connection is always there and won’t abandon me.  That’s really dumb.  It reminds me of a client I had who struggled with serious mental health issues and constant loneliness.  He told me that he hated when his cable wasn’t working because the people on t.v. were his only friends and they were always there.  I get it buddy, I get it!

            My compulsitory behavior of constantly checking Facebook…I look first thing in the morning and know that this ‘friend’ is there when I wake…even though my once husband is not.  Now I remember toward the end of our marriage the emptiness I felt when I woke miles away from him in the same bed…we didn’t connect but I would connect with Facebook on my phone.  I check it throughout the day and at night and at bedtime, as well as when I cannot sleep. I check it when I’m reading a book or doing homework or paying bills…no wonder I feel unfocused.   I can see things that connect me, I read things that make me think or annoy me, or even touch my heart.  It gives me a sense of being in touch when there is no one there to touch me.  It fills my empty voids sometimes, other times it’s just positive, and often it’s only a distraction from life.  So, I guess it appeals to my senses through the provision of memories of sweet times, tender touches, comforting smells; I can even hear and see the memories play out it my head.  This is triggered through my own Facebook memories and also through current people and what I see.  This refers to the constant clicking and scrolling part.  Honestly, Facebook is also a way to keep up with the guys I date.  Have they been on and they aren’t talking to me?  Are they just talking to me?  Are they honest?  I’m validating my already existing walls and keeping score, whether they know it or not…and I’m feeding my insatiable curiosity.  Writing this out, I feel like a voyeur and like I’m cheating myself from truly moving forward.

            I think I have already addressed a foundation for how my behavior provides healing or is a balm to my emotional wounds.  Now, as I am really healing, I enjoy reflecting on things I once wrote and seeing how far I’ve come.  Yet, those memories that pop up can sometimes sting a little bit. As I just realized above…how much am I healing and how much am I holding on?  I guess there is a fine balance. In sharing, I always hope that I am offering someone else healing and I hear often that I am.  Hearing I am an inspiration is lovely but not what I seek.  I am who I really am on social media but I find it’s easier for me to get my full feelings out in the written word sometimes, easier to find vulnerability there than in person which is probably part of why it continues to heal.  I should be sharing that by working more on my blog or a book, like I always dream of.  I am seeing though that I need to see how much social media is a true healing mechanism vs. how much social media is a band aid.

            I don’t know that my social media addictive behavior really makes me feel helpless, but entrapped, yes.  I guess because I realize it’s such a thing I reach to without even thinking and also that it made me nervous to think about giving it up, even for two weeks.  That means it manages me more than I manage it and I don’t like that.  That’s where the feeling of entrapment comes from.  As I reflect on this with as much self-honesty as I can muster, I am wondering how many feelings social media helps me keep confined.

            My consistent relationship with social media, Facebook in particular, costs me perhaps more than I have considered.  I have goals and one of them is managing my time intentionally.  Facebook clicking and scrolling steals from my time, and time is not a forever guaranteed thing.  I heard somewhere recently that the average person spends seven years of their life on social media.  Seven years.  I don’t want that.  In those terms, it kind of freaks me out. I could be writing, praying, connecting with my kids and others…instead I’m staring at a screen.  How much of my life am I giving to the blue screen and what will the payoff for that be?  Ugh.

Struggling

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

Oh geez louise.  If there is a mistake to be made lately, I am making it.  The struggles are real.  I’m trying to comfort myself by reminding myself, ‘this too shall pass’, ‘in everything there is a lesson to be learned’, ‘find the value’ and ‘God’s got me’.  Truthfully…I wonder if these things are true.  What if this is as good as it gets and nothing is going to ‘pass’?  How come I keep getting the same lessons, what am I missing?  Am I figuring out who I have always been or am I living out the years I never got to live out (adolescence)?

I bet parenting me is much like parenting a wild 17 year old who is determined to find her own way without undertaking any advisement.  So be it, I guess.  It’s where I am and I am so entirely sick of fighting with myself that I’m trying to just be.  Be me.  The challenge…I’m not entirely sure who I am.  One day I’m full of maturity, light and goodness…the next day I am determined to be as naughty as can be, wanting nothing or no one to constrain my freedom.  But you see…I’m not even sure what freedom means to me.

Forgive my scatteredness, and be thankful I took time to write in my journal before this post in order to ‘sort’ my everrunning thoughts. 

I spent time with a fabulous new friend last night, who happens among other several things to be an atheist.   I am very much a lover of Jesus and a hater of rules, and I greatly enjoy discussions with those of different belief systems.  As long as we can agree to disagree, I find great value in hearing another’s perspective and in sharing mine.  I am open to both their story and to telling mine.   We are all connected, there is value in each of our stories.  This is why I have difficulty when someone is closed to these interactions.  Like…what’ so scary about hearing another person’s view?   There’s no need to have a change of heart or mind just because there is a different perspective and if a change results…whatever.

I also have a dear, dear friend who happens to be more devoted to his Catholicism than anyone Catholic person I’ve ever known.  We have strikingly different views and we’ve had some terrifically difficult conversations.  That said, I have the utmost respect for his beliefs and I feel valued when I share with him.  I am thankful for that give and take. 

On the same token, another one of my dearest friends is an atheist.  It’s the same kind of give and take in our relationship and we actually learn a lot from our open heartedness toward each other. We ask each other super tough questions and continue to challenge one another to grow through these fittings together of our puzzles.  I guess I can surmise from this that when a person is valued over the need to be right, a very different relationship emerges.

Furthermore, I have many friends who don’t fall into an extreme end of the spectrum but somewhere in the middle.  They might be sure of their faith, they may be doubting and searching or they might just be numb and oblivious.  There isn’t one of them that doesn’t offer value to my life with where they are and I hope I do the same for them.

So…back to last night with my new friend….  I was very curious about their reasons they hold so tight to their beliefs.  They shared  and so much of it made  complete logical sense to me.  During our conversation, I tried to share just the little bit that I could about my faith.  It was hard.  I am deeply searching and trying to understand the foundations of my beliefs.  The faith part is so much easier for me to share.  Just like my own life, I’m so much more assured of how to share my feelings than my thoughts, and as a Christian, my feelings are more cemented and easier to share than my logic.

I explained that it was exceptionally difficult for me to understand how I was alive.  I made it through an open heart surgery at 9 months of age that was supposed to be done in two parts.  As I understand it, they came out in the middle of my first surgery and told my parents that they had to do the rest then or I would ‘be a vegetable’.  My Momma tells me that this was the first time she really knew she had faith because she never doubted that I wouldn’t be just fine. 

To give a little picture of the weight of the circumstances, I was more tubes than baby, and was one of the youngest babies to ever have this complete correction at such a young age.  It was a significant deal.  The doctors told my family it was a 50/50 chance of success but not doing it would mean bad things.  They did it and I’m obviously here to tell about it.  So, why, oh why are there babies with a lesser degree of the same defect that die today still?  Why am I alive?  Why doesn’t everyone get their miracle?

Then…a pretty healthy life.  Fast forward to that big ole stroke when I was 37.  That one that ‘should’ve killed me’ and that one where I had to learn to walk again…like an infant.  Again…why am I here?  So many are not.

So…my new friend asks me what kind of God would let little bitty babies die and me live?  An extremely fair question and one I have often wrestled with.  Tonight, I wrestle extra hard because the best answer I have is that I’m not God and I have to trust that He has a panoramic view and I have a snapshot.  Sometimes I believe this a thousand times over, other times, I doubt everything.  

I sure don’t know why God has me here and I’m really wondering how my life is one he’d be proud of right now.  I mess up.  Alot and quite intentionally.  I can be obstinate and determined to create my own path, hurting others along the way of my learning.  I can be unfocused and lackadaisical.  I am a bundle of pure messiness.  It is what it is. I am so deeply grateful for every moment.

A bit weary and overwhelmed, I am searching too often in others and not often enough in my own heart. It’s all okay. I’ve finally found peace with trusting that God not only accepts my doubts, He welcomes them.  For when I doubt, I am searching for his majesty when I am so small.  I am searching for His peace amidst my chaos.  

I am struggling, 100% with the dawning of these new lights…and that’s perfectly okay.

Random blitherings

This isn’t my normal writing…it’s just my heart poured out along with the ramblings of my mind.  It’s a heavy kind of night…one of those nights that one thing that is bothersome leads to another thing and before long, my insides are all helter skelter willy nilly.

There is an underlying edge of melancholy trying to set in as I attempt to avoid ruminating over ickies.  At times,  I feel sad about the countless changes in my little family and I miss my Daddy so much it hurts.  Christmas and Thanksgiving are looking super different this year and if I’m honest, I’d have to say I’m struggling a bit more than slightly.

As I write tonight, these tears just keep pouring out of me.  I tell myself that it’s okay that things have changed.  It is okay, I know this is true.  It doesn’t change that it hurts.  I think of my dear friends who lost their momma this year.  I think of my sisters who lost their momma a few years ago.  Loss, loss, loss.  Everywhere there is loss.  That is the story my mind is telling me right now.  Ugh.

I hate that I was unable to give my children the traditional family that I longed to give them since before they were ever brought into existence.  I don’t care to share them over the holidays.  I will, because they are deeply loved by both their Father and I and they deserve our genuinely compassionate, loving, tender cooperation.  There are a few moments though, that I am pouting about it all.  There are also moments that I am overcome with gratitude because I know that the divorce set me free from some things I needed to be set free from.  This gratitude for myself is always connected with guilt that my babies didn’t get what I wanted them to have.  I wanted.  I wanted.  Trying to appreciate once more that God has a panoramic view and I only have a snapshot.

As the 9th anniversary of the big ole’ stroke nears, I am reminded of a wee bit of loss and far more of extraordinary gain.  That stroke was the turning point for God and I.  (probably more of my turning point, He was there all along).  This thought reminds me of how thankful I am for the very breath He gives me.  I made a short, silly video recently talking about how very grateful I am for the undeserved miracles I have had in my life.  It is good for my soul to think on those things.  In my changed relationship with God, I realized that I can share anything with God…whether I’m angry, sad, jealous, resentful or joyful, grateful, blessed, kind, etc.  Whatever I am feeling I can tell him.  So tonight, I am thanking Him for life and also telling him that my heart is aching.

I have visited with three dear friends this week….all men who have been considering suicide.  I pray that they know they are loved and cared for.  I pray they choose life because even in the midst of this loss, chaos and pain; life is beautiful and life is worth living well.

In the scheme of it all, we are each so very small.  I adore sunsets, sunrises, and the sky in general.  I could lie for hours and stare at the stars.  It all just reminds me, in a comforting way, we are miracles in the midst of it all.  Life is beautiful.  Isn’t it ironic?  Sometimes the most beauty arises from incredibly significant pain.  No matter what…seek the beauty and live life well.

God Bless and Sweet Dreams.

46 Reasons

This last week has been fabulously filled with new life adventures, and I have enjoyed every single moment.  Here are 46 reasons why:

  1. Last Sunday, I went to church.  I may have been feeling just a little bit lonely’ish.  A dear friend was a few rows away with her beautiful children and a friend; instead of sitting by myself, I sat with my friend and her family.  This just made the service/worship so much sweeter.
  2. Later that day, I met a new friend for coffee.  We had a deeply rich, spiritual conversation that seemed to be the beginning of chipping away at a few of my soul’s survival tactics that really do not serve me well anymore.  I had found a little bag of my Grandma’s Catholic books and it was so incredible to be able to share them with a friend who appreciated them….not planned but incredible.
  3. I feel like my spirit has been napping and I’m waking up to the vibrancy of my being.  It’s just in the air or something…a new (or renewed?) energy
  4. It was a week of fun selfies and spectacular quotes.  One of my favorite is worth sharing here…”If you’re pretty, you’re pretty; but the only way to be beautiful is to be loving.  Otherwise, it’s just, ‘Congratulations about your face.'”  This is the best!!!
  5. On that topic, I have noticed that we as a society can be very mocking and critical of selfie taking.  I say just let people be.  I can only speak for me, but taking selfies after the divorce was a huge stretch for me…it always felt like part of the picture was missing.  Now, I take them not because I am vain…usually because I feel silly, or contemplative, or whatever I feel and this is a way to share it.  So…this week I took a selfie nearly every day and shared it.  Why?  Because it was a lovely week and I chose to share my journey in this way…the end.
  6. Tuesday, I got to work on homework….I did this all week.  It was supposed to be stormy on all the days ending in Y, but that didn’t quite happen.  When it got down to the wire though, it rained…this meant more focus on my paper.  (Don’t ask, I’m just quirky like that!)
  7. Also Tuesday, I made another lovely friend and had a wonderful evening.  All I’m going to say is this…it’s socially awkward when one is on a date, and while on that date, runs into someone they’ve also been dating (not secretly) with their date.  Think that over.
  8. On Wednesday evening, (my actual birthday), I said bon voyage to 45 bonjour to 46! My precious momma and kids took me out to dinner.  Not one of them complained that I chose sushi and we had a fabulous time together.  I am extraordinarily blessed to have gotten that time with the woman who gave me life and the children that I gave life to.
  9. Also on Wednesday, my Facebook wall, text messages and phone calls were inundated with loving birthday messages.  Maybe I’m more like a child on birthdays, but I believe we ALL deserve special love on the day of our birth….find more reasons to celebrate…life is a celebration when you live in gratitude!
  10. I went to the chapel at St. Bernard’s…where my Grandma went to church.  I spent an hour praying, being still, looking around, thinking, and praying some more.  I was relieved that the toenails on Mary’s feet were not painted and were very real looking.  I left with something…I felt like God was letting me know that my openness was a gift, and at the same time asking where I needed closure.  Suffice it to say, there is an entire post to be written about this experience.
  11. The bestest part of my birthday was finding the video of my Momma and Daddy singing me the happy birthday song together.  Daddy was starting to struggle with his memory then, and that memory popping up made my heart incredibly happy.  I think I watched it 100 times throughout my day.
  12. I got flowers on my birthday.  Because my friend loves me and she knows that flowers fill me with joy.  I didn’t expect flowers, but she remembered.  It’s a gift to have a friend who remembers you like this.
  13. Thursday was a busy day at work, and I was reminded through my clients how very fortunate I am to have a home, clothing, food, pets, mostly happy and healthy children, air conditioning, blankets, a toothbrush and not a consistent fear for my safety.  Gratitude gratitude gratitude.
  14. Very good company Thursday night and another birthday dinner.  And…I saw the movie CLUE.  No, of course I didn’t doze off during the movie!
  15. Friday, I took 1/2 a day off work…thank God for a flexible job!   I finished a paper I’d been putting off for way too long, it really wasn’t so bad once I sat still.  Good thing since the paper was due in class that evening.
  16. Friday was the one year anniversary of our divorce.  I didn’t feel broken, ashamed, weary, hopeless and defeated.  I actually felt just the opposite.  I’m coming together, content, peaceful, hopeful and anticipatory.  I’m human so sometimes I struggle, yet this is authentic healing.
  17. Saturday was lovely.  It began early as I awoke listening to my brother sing loudly and cheerfully from the other room.  It was an awesome way to wake up and get ready for a day of class!
  18. My dear brother and friend joined our class Saturday afternoon.  So did one of my classmate/friend’s gorgeous wife.  It was absolutely fun to have their interaction for our discussion and I believe every weekend class should entail some sort of bring a guest show and tell!
  19. After class meant a drink or two with the above mentioned gentlemen and lively discussions!  That was awesome and I think I have now tried every flavor of Moscow Mule at PJ’s except for the one with whiskey…because whiskey is ewww to me.
  20. I had the opportunity to have a heartfelt conversation with my baby daddy.  (The wonderful man who I was with for 23 years).  I wanted to apologize to him for things I had done in our marriage that I just needed to take ownership for.  It would’ve been easy to continue to let him own it all, but this honesty is part of my continued healing and hopefully his as well.  I wish everyone had this chance.  Say what you need to say.  Forgiveness.  Compassion.  It all lets us move forward in grace.  If it’s not possible to share with the person, write it out and burn it…do what you need to do to heal…it’s worth it.
  21. Saturday night…topped with a warm bath, clean sheets, a great book and a glass of wine…had the best sleep I’ve had in a long time!
  22. Sunday began with a yummy breakfast cooked for me by my brother…and coffee…of course, coffee.  I sat on the porch and enjoyed this, read my Bible and enjoyed the magnificent morning.
  23. So…I read all of Corinthians 1 again, beautiful.  In my deep conversations with my new friend, I have felt a bit challenged.  Not in a bad way…in an ‘iron sharpens iron’ kind of way.  I know my faith is strong.  I am sure of my salvation.  I understand and have many biblical stories and scriptures stored in my heart.  In my quest to grow closer to God, I think it worthwhile to examine my foundational beliefs so I can better explain to others where I come from.  This is absolutely not the same as wanting to right fight and defend.  I want to understand more deeply all of the Bible…in context, not just here and there, for myself more than for anything.
  24. I had an especially sweet afternoon with a handsome, poetic hearted friend.  Who wouldn’t enjoy that?
  25. Tonight was coffee and a long overdue conversation with someone I love very much.  It was time to hear each other’s hearts so we could just move forward.  I thank God for these moments.
  26. This birthday week has been overflowing with new adventures and healing of old wounds.  In earlier blogs I’ve discussed my love of the words synchronicity and serendipity.  I still love them.  Even more, I love watching them in action.
  27. It’s been a deeply contemplative, prayerful week filled with thought-provoking discussions and earnest seeking.  These things are important to me, so I am thankful for each of these experiences.
  28. My children have been extra peaceful.  I don’t know why, I’m not going to try to explain.  I am intensely thankful for these moments though.
  29. Watching my daughter ice-skate and seeing her joy after she’s learned a new maneuver…priceless.  It was her daddy’s turn to take her this week but he sent me a video.  She wows me.
  30. Seeing the twinkle in my son’s eyes this week, even for a fleeting moment, makes my Momma heart happy.
  31. I have lost 20.3 pounds.  My next size down clothes are beginning to fall off of me.  I might not love that I had to change bra sizes but I do love my mostly steady energy and the way my body is changing.
  32. I see that while I am opening myself to new experiences, I am beginning to find healthy vulnerability again in areas that I had chosen previously kept  walled off.  I’m relieved that this is happening.
  33. I have set boundaries where before I would’ve not done so.  Sometimes, it really is less about fulfilling others expectations and more about taking care of myself.  This especially applies to my journey in dating. Stating my boundaries clearly and expecting that they be honored is just as new as dating.  This is all fresh territory.
  34. Staying in touch with new, new/old, old friends is a gift.  Remember, “make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold?”  Yes.  Do that.
  35. I look in the mirror and sometimes I look tired.  I see more wrinkles than I used to. I see a belly that housed two healthy, glorious babies.   Guess what else I see?  I see a woman who is lovely and becoming more at peace with herself as time passes.  I see the heart of a child and the strength of a woman.  I see God’s princess.  I see someone who is worthy of goodness.
  36. I have laughed, cried and enjoyed myself this last week more than I have in so long.  I’m not sure why.  Whatever….I’m grateful.
  37. I turned down a fabulous internship opportunity because I knew it would not be the best for my family.  Doing the right thing isn’t always fun.  There will be an even better opportunity, this I know.
  38. I ate cheesecake on my birthday…tempura battered cheesecake with cream and strawberries.  I haven’t had anything like this since April.  Oh my goodness, life is short and enjoying dessert is a luxurious treat!
  39. My puppies, my kitty and even that little lizard make me smile.  God is so cool to even provide us with these little muffinheads….just makes me think how much He loves us to give us these kinds of enjoyments.
  40. I got myself a couple of new books for my birthday.  I don’t buy myself things often and most of my reading time is spent on school books…but I’m so excited to read something purely for pleasure.
  41. My house is an absolute mess.  Parts of it feel like they are literally crumbling under my feet.  (Literally, it’s kind of happening like that).  It’s gonna be okay.  I don’t know how but I know it is.  Trusting the process.  Praying hard!  Remembering, I have a home.
  42. My coffee was paid for twice this week by random strangers.  How’s that for a birthday treat?
  43. Baby tomatoes are still growing on my vines.  I was shaking one of the plants one morning…to shake the pollen down.  Although I was gentle, a little baby fell off the vine and I felt so sad.  So…I buried it.  If I were that baby tomato I’d just use my seeds to make another vine and I’d grow taller and stronger than the original vine.  However, I’m not the tomato, I guess we will see what happens next!
  44. I’ve found lots of new music to enjoy on Spotify this week, I once forgot the love of music that I have.  Like…how do people ever live without music?  TV, I understand but music has to be.
  45. Stella and I came up with a grand book idea…maybe we can make it happen.  That’s pretty hopeful!
  46. I learned that sometimes, you just gotta spill the tea, sis!

It’s just been the best birthday week ever and my cup overflows.  The kindnesses bestowed on me are astonishing and I hope I give back well all that I receive.

Grace.  Peace.  Joy.  Mercy. Compassion.

Continue reading “46 Reasons”

Life

There are occasions that I wish I could go back with my magic wand to erase certain points in time; there are other times that I’d like to go back and sprinkle more pixie dust where I previously restrained myself from doing so.  As this post-divorce journey complete with the roller coaster of grief, healing and transformation progress, I am still at times surprised by my own strong emotional reactions.

My beloved Anais Nin so eloquently said, “Sometimes we reveal ourselves when we are least like ourselves.”  There is intense applicable truth for me in this quote.  Recently, I was retelling my precious Mother something I had done that left me full of regret and shame.  She replied with, “Sarah Ann!  That doesn’t even sound like you!”  (She’s right, I know).  In other instances, I have found myself jumping quicker into aspects of a relationship that I ‘normally’ would think to hold much more stringent boundaries around.  This time, I scold myself…”Sarah!  Gaaaa…this isn’t even you!”  Hmmmm…is it not me or is it the me I have always restrained?

A dear friend mentioned “this version of me” in a conversation about this very topic.  Initially, this was a struggle to understand.  How can I be authentic and still a very different version of myself…what is real?  We are always changing, ever evolving, consistently transforming, right?  It seems the harder we resist change, the stronger change overtakes us.  I guess it’s all about riding the wave but why is that so much easier to preach than to practice?

In the ongoing self study I am doing, there are absolutely new aspects of me that are emerging.  I’ve decided that there is far more value in embracing and accepting myself than there is in trying to discern whether the aspects are truly new or just now being allowed to be present.  In the multitude of errors I’ve been making, there are lessons (albeit painful), there is growth, and mostly…there is grace.  I have to talk myself into the last one though.

HUGE valuable lessons I’ve received lately, they’ve been hard but in light of trusting the process and enjoying the journey, I’m doing the best I can to take accountability, apologize and move forward.  There’s always that inner voice telling me to make things right for everyone else and it’s exhausting.  One thing at a time, right?

  • Sexual intimacy…no matter what I tell myself…changes the emotional attachment dynamic.  When sexual intimacy occurs too early,  it can decrease brain power and increase ideation….thus elevating the chances that inappropriate emotional reactivity will occur.  Ugh.
  • People will judge behaviors.  Only God and I get to decide the best actions, thoughts and behaviors for me.  Feedback is always appreciated and weighed carefully, but in the end, the one who will confront my inner conflict is me.  So…thank you for caring enough to share, I promise to weigh it carefully.  🙂
  • Dating is an adventure.  There are friends to be made, things to learn about others and myself and tons of value in this season…but I still miss my family as it was and that is okay.  Grief for a loss and celebration of new can absolutely walk hand in hand.
  • Due to a chaotic childhood, I tend toward the ‘what if’s’ and control.  Not control to control; rather to keep my world feeling safe.  Not everyone (actually no one) is super appreciative of that…including me.  Rather than constantly worrying about creating safety through control, I’m changing my definition of safety and remembering my God, who has me in His hands…that’s really the only safety assurance I need.  (coming to terms…a process!)
  • Just because I have a great imagination and may have determined exactly how something will play out does not make my determination accurate.  As a matter of fact, following my imaginary scenario results in the aforementioned emotional reactivity which I strongly desire to move away from.
  • I may have missed a few spectacular opportunities because of my own reactivity.  I have embraced the icky lessons, asked forgiveness (from myself too), defined what I can do different next time and moved on with grace.  I still hate myself a little bit for it though.
  • Unrelated….the stroke has less power over me than it once did but still too much power.  Working on that.  Trying to replace my fear with constant faith and gratitude.  Keeping my eyes and heart open…I am incredibly blessed and I know it.

“Sometimes we reveal ourselves when we are least like ourselves.” – Anais Nin  It is remarkable what I have learned through the errors that are ‘so unlike me’.

 

Grateful in all things.

Reflections

This morning, I was looking through old emails…trying to find answers to something within myself. I found this gem…written November 10, 2017…the night after I met someone who became very special to me. Unfortunately, the beginning was far better than the middle to the end. However, even this ugliness was a gift to me in that I learned countless lessons about myself and what I want/don’t want for my heart.  Looking back, I can see my own growth as well as some of the choices I made that were out of a very unhealthy place. Out of this little quote taken from one of the emails…

“I’m naturally inquisitive; about myself and others. I am trying to discern where all of this is coming from and why I’m feeling such a strong connection with you after this itty bitty amount of time. I am so much more cautious than this and I am just wanting to make sure I am not searching for validation outside of God and myself. Like….my biggest part of this divorce journey is to surrender to God and have a relationship with him that is stronger than ever and to love myself and not ‘need’ to get that love from someone else. I hope I am making some sense””

Instant strong connections can be a gift. They can also be something that fills an empty in us that is not meant to be filled by another person.  Know yourself.  Search yourself deeply and with nothing less than brutal honesty.  If I had done this then,  I might have saved myself some heartache. I also would’ve lost out on a beautiful opportunity to raise my thinking to a higher level, no regrets.  Still…lesson learned.

Reflecting on my own words; it would’ve been wise for me to give pause to my knowing.  “I am so much more cautious than this and I am just wanting to make sure I am not searching for validation outside of God and myself.”  I knew the question but I did not take time to consider my answer.  As a matter of fact, I was asking the other party (who I had just met) for an answer to something incredibly deep within myself.  My behavior in that moment was so opposite of my usual.  Granted, there is freedom in getting outside of our comfort zones but I had lost all rationality and begun operation on an emotionally charged high within a day.  In answer to the question…YES!, I was seeking validation outside of God and myself and seeking it instead in a man, in essence, a stranger,  who I shared mutual desire with.  Acting out of this place is an excellent way to shout, “I’M HERE!  I’M VULNERABLE!  TAKE ME, WANT ME, CRAVE ME, LOVE ME!” as well as a silent conveyance…”I’m hungry, I’m needy, I’m naive and I’m yours.  Lesson learned (or at least, notes taken.)  As a very wise man recently asked me; “isn’t it interesting what we seek when our hearts are bleeding?”

“My biggest part of this divorce journey is to surrender to God and have a relationship with him that is stronger than ever and to love myself and not “need” to get that love from someone else.”  Gut level honesty….God and I are working together on this. (or perhaps I am working on not playing the ‘come closer, now go away game with God).   I have endless questions and possibly some accusations for Him.  It’s okay, I truly believe God would rather have my vulnerability and truth than my sugar coated lies…it’s not like I can hide my heart from him anyway.

The hardest part…loving myself and not ‘needing’ someone to fill that need in me.  I actually think the not needing comes pretty natural. I tend to be more independent than not, I like my alone time and I have my children and school to focus on…I can strategically document all of the reasons I do not “need” that sort of love.  As I relearn who I am, and recreate my story,  it is evident that my self-love is increasing, and as it does…the things I seek in others are changing.  It’s also becoming clear that I can’t avoid being the relational person that I am and that my soul longs for a kind of love that is full acceptance, mutual cherishing, soothing and hot….all in one.  Someday.  As I wait… I learn, I experiment, I play, I grow and I honor myself, ‘as is’.  Such a time of self-discovery truly is a gift.

 Life is full of dichotomies.    My ex-husband (aka dear friend) and I spoke about the story of the Two Wolves.  It’s always  been a favorite.

Two Wolves

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

He was gracious enough to share with me his belief that he had chosen to feed the evil wolf for much of our marriage and he cautioned me that the relationship I had just left was the same in that manner.  Different circumstances…same wolf being fed.  We giggled at the funny, not funny similarities.  Both times…I was the wolf food.  Both times, I opted to ignore the things that hurt for an in the moment reward. Again, funny, not funny.

Surely joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith (all characteristics of pure love) are more powerful than anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.  I am going to do my damndest to see power only where power belongs.

Each lesson decreases the likelihood of my being appetizing wolf food, right?  That definitely makes sense.

 

A Slow Burnj

After the divorce…

With eyes wide open and a heart unaware of it’s radiating hunger, I zoomed into into the first romantic relationship of my life other than the one with the man I’d been with for over 1/2 of my life.  The intoxication of desire on both sides filled an empty space inside of me that I hadn’t even known existed.  If there ever was a thought that sexuality was a youthful and fleeting event, those thoughts were eagerly recanted. It was simply a wonderland of awakening.

The original plan was to date around and stay out of a relationship status.   I was a one marriage woman; the only other ‘relationship’ experiences I had fit better into the category of making out while not sober, smart or studious.  That’s what is supposed to happen in later high school and college….then there was the one whom I thought was my forever.  That was it.  My appetite for flirting, fun, and amorous adventures was off the charts high.

Several dates later led to no major attraction or connection with anyone.  It seemed that men were either incredibly serious or just in need of a booty call, neither of which I wanted with them.  Nobody appeared to capture the attention of this woman (or vice versa) and discouragement was setting in.  During this time, longings for what wasn’t happening, heightened; while discernment and wisdom seemed to decrease…a dynamic with disastrous potential.

Soon enough, there was a spark (actually, an explosion) of chemistry…found in the world of online dating.  He was delightful and gave the impression of genuine interest in my interests.  I loved poetry, he found out my favorite poets and left me messages in a sexy voice so I could listen at bedtime.  He expressed great enthusiasm for my intelligence and asked me to read my papers to him. A couple of weeks went by before I agreed to meet him.  He was intelligent, funny and handsome in a boyish sort of way.  He had lost 100 pounds and he understood my struggles.  I had such a sense of, “we get each other”.

Our first date was at a little hole in the wall restaurant in a town 1/2 way inbetween our homes. It was also on the day I consider my new life birthday, the day of my “strokeaversary”…it was an opening to something new, indeed.

This introduction was amazing.  AMAZING!  He schooched in next to me in the tiny booth and kissed me within the first 10 minutes of meeting.  There was no fight from me, this felt delicious.  He was tall, nicely dressed, and smelled scrumptious (he was very proud of the particular cologne he wore.)  His voice was rich and seductive.  He had big hands like my daddy and there was no hesitation between us to talk about anything and everything.  He told me that he didn’t understand how I could be even more beautiful in person, I ate it up.

That same night, we were going to get ice cream after dinner and ended up going parking instead (my idea).  I hadn’t made out with a boy in a pick up truck since my senior year in highschool and steaming up the windows was pure exhilaration.  We got locked in a church parking lot and had to ask the pastor and his wife to open the chain link fence and let us out; we giggled like kids at the memories we had made.

That night, when he kissed me goodbye he let me know that, “Christian Grey had nothing on him.  Then he paused, looked into my eyes and said, “you are so vulnerable”. I thought about that comment repeatedly and still do. I think he knew then and there, the power dynamic that would likely play out.

The next day, he sent me a recording of the five things he really, really liked about me.  I was getting sucked in fast.  He knew how to charm the pants off of me….literally.  He asked for things no one had ever asked for and I happily obliged.  This felt like freedom and I wanted desperately to be wanted.  I look back and see that he tested how far and fast he could push my boundaries from the beginning.  There was a part deep in me that wanted my boundaries pushed, I wanted to drop the whole good girl me and just misbehave for a while. He constantly told me that we were magnetic and magical…he’d never felt so intensely drawn to anyone else.

One week later, we started in heavy.  We talked or texted all day long, every day. He lived two hours away but would come see me after work when I didn’t have the kids or for lunch.  We would make out, make out and make out some more.  It wasn’t that I hadn’t behaved like this in years, it was that I had never behaved like this and to this extent. His kisses were passionate, he drenched me in all of the right words. He even told me he kept a notebook of my likes and dislikes. I felt intensely safe and momentarily cherished with him.  He brought me kisses, flowers and even lipstick, precious, right? He sent me Blake Shelton songs that he originally had for his ex…now for me. (Should I have felt honored?)

I knew his story (or thought I did).  I knew how his ex-girlfriend, aka, ‘the devil’ had hurt him.  I knew how he had loved her girls and hurt that they were taken out of his life.  I knew his childhood wounds and he knew mine.  We went to church together and prayed at meals. I knew about his kiddos, he knew about mine.   We became sexually involved with each other quickly. I had never been with anyone with such an edge and I just craved more.  This was going right along with my desire to not behave….I could analyze that for a lifetime and still not justify the way I overlooked the red flags to keep my new form of nourishment. I know I tend to substitute my ideals for reality, even in the face of toxicity.

I was starving for love or for whatever would  stop the grief.  I was still reeling from the sting of the divorce, mourning the loss of my Daddy and trying to hold my head above water.  I was seeking something or someone to fill my gap.  This was an amazing formula for dangerous, undiscerning vulnerability.  We began to spend every weekend that we didn’t have kids with each other.  We rarely left the house except to go eat or go to church or maybe to his cousins house, but it was never, ever boring.  We were a world unto our own and my empty was now overflowing with the euphoria of the moments.    I couldn’t have imagined how rapidly this would change.

We started dating in November.  By early December, we had our first quarrel.  There was an icy cold evening that I had backed into someone.  We got out to get details and I loved that he went immediately into law enforcement mode.  I felt so protected, until…I was shivering.  He had two coats on, I didn’t bring a coat.  I asked for one and he told me “no, I should’ve planned.  Who doesn’t bring a coat in this weather?”  I remember trying not to cry.  This was my first honest glimpse of what was real.  My Daddy or even my ex would’ve given me the clothes of their backs to keep me warm.  Somehow, I felt remorseful.

Once the arguing began, the floodgates opened.  I will say that I was an active participant in these arguments and if I could do it over, I would’ve disengaged earlier and moved on.  I knew what I knew and now I know better.  The fighting increased with intensity and on my part the mistrust grew.  There was one argument where he grabbed my face and screamed so close to me that he spit in my face as he yelled.  He was sorry, but “I just made him so mad, so much madder than anyone had ever made him.” After that, I left him where we were and was inundated with hate texts and mail for the next several days.  He told me that I could burn in hell for all he cared.  He told me the lipstick he bought me that I loved was his ex’es favorite lipstick.  He sent me pictures of he and his ex in bed together. He sent me texts of recordings he had made of us without my knowledge or consent.  My stomach is sick when I consider the pictures and information his phone holds, and I’m certain it’s not just me, he has had a collection of women. In hindsight, he was the victim of all situations. I honestly don’t believe he realizes the consequences and burden of his actions.

Do you know what happened after a few weeks?  I went right back.  Why?  I knew he was wounded and hurting.  I missed the sex.  I missed him.  I missed the sweet, loving, teddy bear him and I hadn’t yet accepted that this isn’t who he really was.  It literally hurt to be apart from him, I was empty again.  Mostly, he missed me and I misinterpreted this as remorse.  I normalized and justified his actions and my own.  It did not matter that the wonderland had turned into a tornado, the sense of safety had become an active avoidance of the next fight and I was living opposite of all that I wanted.

The cycle of arguing, manipulation and hurt became more frequent and more intense after each reunification.  He posted pictures of himself with another woman, after I had disappointed him.  He mocked the battles I had shared with my weight and made callous remarks about my children’s struggles.  He would whisper things in my ear and then say he never said anything and make fun of my hearing. He constantly accused me of playing “reindeer games” and the minute I began to back away, he was sorry and reminding me how good we were together.

He balanced these things well with kind words right after the sting and with pleas of sympathy because he would never amount to anything but ‘beefcake and green eyes’.  He would insist that I was going somewhere while he was just nothing…a nobody. He’d tell me I should run and never look back and I believed part of him was attempting to honor my heart in those times. I ached for his pain.

He knew the places my heart was tender and he used those places to his advantage. Sometimes I think it was pure intentional manipulation. Other times, I saw him as a wounded boy who wanted to heal and didn’t know how. Quickly, he would become a bully and I would accept this after a bit. Bullies have been hurt too….we would grow past this…..I thought.

The last straw, which I won’t discuss here, was too hurtful and harmful for me to go back.  I made a promise to my kids that we were over because I know I will break this promise to myself and I will not break it to my children.  Lust is a powerful tool.  Self-respect is more powerful.

Recently, an old friend called to ask me if I knew of this man.  I debated.  I do not wish him a bad life.  As a matter of fact, I still believe he can change, with help and if he wants to change.  She told me that had been on dates and she saw my name on his Facebook page. I decided I owed it to my friend to honestly tell her of my own experience.  Not because I think he is evil, rather because I think she is deserving of truth and goodness.  Like everyone, she will find her own path but I hope she’s more confident in herself than I was.

I know this experience has been healing (in the craziest way) to me because I have learned a little more of my own value and what self-respect and dignity mean in my own personal life.

There are details I might share one day, but at this time I am still a little afraid of disapproval and judgement.  In truth, I am my own worst judge and jury and continue to work through guilt, shame and confusion.  I became a participant in an emotionally abusive relationship.  I, who spends her days working with all sorts of abuse between adults got wrapped up in my own unhealthy saga.  I am still trying to talk myself out of this being a reality and I am sharing because I want to raise awareness.  Getting into this type of chaos does not require impoverishment, lack of education or lack of resources.  We all have a hunger for something and getting that hunger filled is temporarily heavenly.  I am well educated, especially in this arena.  I struggle financially at times but am certainly not impoverished.  There is an abundance of loving support from family and friends in my world; as well as in my exterior environment.  All of this, and it happened to me.  I will be grateful to God every day that this was only a 6 month lesson that didn’t progress.

It was a slow burn but my heart is covered with the balm of healing and peace.  When someone shows you who they are, believe them.   Don’t lose sight of you in the chaos of someone else.

Hauntings that Heal

On Marriage
 Kahlil Gibran

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.

Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

A friend and I were recently discussing Kahlil Gibran’s book, “The Prophet“, which I remembered I had a copy of in the shed.  The above poem was I cherished by me and still is; it was a reading at my wedding so many moons ago. I never would’ve chosen it for a wedding reading for us if I’d known then what I know now.  The words spoke of a kept promise and a naive idealism;  written by one who had not experienced marriage.  I think it might be more appropriate for a second wedding, than a first (which most people probably aren’t hoping for).

In an instant,  I am transported to the day I looked into my then husband’s eyes.  My feelings of joy and elation took were mellowed by feelings of trepidation and fear.  I never was quite sure that I was wholly loved.  A portion of this was due to issues between he and I; a bigger part was caused by my own history and doubt.

This transportation is quickly followed by stomach churning waves of grief and anxiety, accompanied by a mind that wanders to the past arrive again, without invitation.  Her weary soul sounds the alarm bells.

“That’s unfortunate, it’s been a really great day”, she thinks to herself.  Rather than running from the feelings, she decides to utilize a tool that a dear friend and counselor taught her years ago.  Good music; ear buds to drown out the distractions; a pen and paper, this is all that is needed.  Oh…and set the alarm for 15 minutes.  She begins to write whatever comes, without pause and certainly without thought.  Unaware of  her tears until they splashed hot water stains onto the paper and the familiar salty taste ran across her lips. She continued to ferociously surrender to this process.   The alarm dings, it is time to stop.  Now take a breath and read when ready…then destroy for these are the most private thoughts.  They belong only to she and her soul.

In countless ways, she has always been an old soul.  In contradiction, lately, thereare ways that she is more akin to an 18 year old young lady than to the 45 year old woman she truly is.

She attempts to collect herself and ask her heart exactly what it’s feeling right now.  She comes up with a list.

Her 10 ponderings:

1)  She is incredibly self-aware, perhaps too much so at times.  Thus, she knows that she thrives on being needed.  As much as she resists it, her validation comes too often from this need to be needed.  Recently, there has been a switch in the status quo.  The lesson has been that simply because someone ‘needs’ her does not mean that she needs them.

2)  She has a long way to go as far as learning to surrender to what is.  She has often stated that her favorite game with God is to release her problems to Him, making it tangible by opening her palms and visualizing handing her burden to Him.  Just as quickly, she grabs that burden back and squeezes it tight in her fisted hand.  She is expert at this.  The illusion of control consistently comes back to wound her and she knows that she would benefit from relinquishing this terror.  She’s tried handing her problem to the universe, to others, to her journal…she always finds a way to get it back under her jurisdiction.

3)  No matter how hard one works, despite the entirety of heart, soul, prayer and effort put into a relationship, it does not always turn out as hoped for.  Also, no matter how big one’s faith may be, this is a hard one to field and might test every belief previously held.  Finally, it’s perfectly okay for these beliefs and faith to be tested, this is truth.

4)  Joy and pain can and do walk hand in hand.  This too, is okay.  It just is.

5)  Be the light, even when it’s dark.  When there is no energy left to be the light, seek the light…it’s there, even in the tiniest crack that you have to squint to see.  Squint and see darkness only? Reach your hand out, put one foot in front of the other and step.  Just keep seeking and for goodness sake, don’t freeze.

6)  I believe that nearly always, we do the best we can with what we’ve got. Concurrently, life’s all about choices.  Sometimes we make a sucky choice and sometimes others make a sucky choice.  Grace, love, forgiveness….and boundaries.  🙂

7)  Being gentle with herself doesn’t come easy.  She’s going to learn the art of doing so anyway.  This is wisdom.

8)  Rainy nights are healing for the soul, so are candles; bubble baths, snuggles (can be with people, a favorite blanket or comfort item or fur babies and I guess blow up dolls, but that’s not her preference).

9) Forgiveness is hugely, ginormously important.  Forgiveness does not mean a person belongs in your life.

10)  Real ghosts are the ones that leave echoing pain in a soul.  In this case, exorcisms (figuratively speaking) are worth serious consideration  If not willing to exorcise, contemplate excavating the heart.  However, if those hauntings are here to heal, let them.

She will leave you with this song that eloquently speaks to the hauntings in her heart…

“Ghosts That We Knew”

Listen here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXiq5ZO-rNE

You saw my pain washed out in the rain
Broken glass, saw the blood run from my veins
But you saw no fault, no cracks in my heart
And you knelt beside my hope torn apart

But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
We’ll live a long life

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we’ll be alright

So lead me back, turn south from that place
And close my eyes to my recent disgrace
‘Cause you know my call
And we’ll share my all
And our children come and they will hear me roar

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we’ll be alright

But hold me still, bury my heart on the coals
But hold me still, bury my heart on the coals [Live and US versions say “And hold me still, bury my heart next to yours”]

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold on as long as you like [Live and US versions say “But I will hold on with all of my might”]
Just promise me we’ll be alright

[Live and US versions’ additional lines:
“But the ghosts that we knew made us black and all blue
But we’ll live a long life”]

And the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
And we’ll live a long life

Cheers.  Namaste.  Just be.

How to take baby steps when you must eat an elephant

I was trying to do a good thing this morning; I woke up at 4:30 a.m., without an alarm. I decided to use this unexpected wake time to read my Bible and write a bit, it’s been too long since I’ve allowed myself these self care luxuries. Even mentioning self care right now makes me cringe; it feels like just another thing that I can berate myself for not doing or not doing well enough.

Gut level honesty….My physical reflection results in more self loathing. Yes, I know that I “should” celebrate my health and the mere fact that I can walk. That ability, I will never take for granted again. I want to puke as I admonish myself for being overweight, walking ungraceful lso that I sound like a herd of elephants or dropping and hitting everything with “lefty”. I recoil when I consider how far I’ve gotten away from my God and our closeness. My thinking is stinking….PEE-YOU! Yes, I have complete and utter awareness of what I “should” be doing and thinking. My head and heart are dual forces fighting against each other. Pretty ironic since I chose serendipity and synchronicity as my words for the year.

I’m aware that this is a problem. My brain knows that if I don’t care for myself first the rest will suffer. My body and spirit support this theory by expressing their various random aches and emptiness. I think back to two days ago when I took a first baby step by going for a 20 minute walk. Although my legs and mind were in motion; my spirit was quiet and my tears were flowing. I cry often. I cry out of oppressed rage; underlying guilt; heavy shame and unexpressed fear. As of late, tears of uninhibited joy; belly laughter; overflowing gratitude; scary vulnerability; and loaded sadness are amiss. I have hidden those deep inside me as I stay in survival mode.

I sobbed uncontrollably in front of someone I care for deeply just a short time ago. I cried for yesterday’s gone and for memories remembered. I cried for unspoken hurts and persistent grief. I knew this person was terribly uncomfortable with my tumultuous emotions; yet the harder I tried to make myself stop crying, the harder I cried. The event ended in an ugly, heated argument between the two of us. I did stop crying but my unshed tears converted to a slow simmering of emotions inside that eventually boiled over and now here I am. There is an abundance of fierce intensity churning inside of me; I am at a loss at how to ‘deal’ with it. Baby steps.

There was a walk…now there’s writing. These are good beginnings, trying to climb out of my poop filled rut.

Returning to “trying to do a good thing”….I woke up this morning and knew it was time to do the writing I have been putting off for so long. This heart sharing is a part of my healing; it’s an integral portion of my self-care. The house is quiet except for the load of laundry that is working hard to get clean. There are two sweet, snoring puppies on the bed to keep me warm with soothing piano music playing in the background. My bedside lamp is the only light on. In preparation mode, I snuggle in my soft sheets, propped up on pillows with my laptop in tow. I read Ruth from the Bible and today’s devotional from Jesus Calling. I indulge in a few sips of crème brulee coffee with the perfect amount of creamer, it is just right. I am ready.

My coffee spills. My coffee spills all over the floor (knocked over by my non-jerky hand), it runs under my bed and into my school bag. (Breathe again, say goodbye to my beautiful cup of coffee, clean said coffee up with newly bleached white towel.) Crawl back under covers, resituate myself…ready. I don’t really know where I want to go with this post; I’m trying (“there is not try grasshopper, only do or do not.”) to trust God in this process and let it flow.

I have been in a relationship for the last few months; my first since the divorce. I am learning some incredibly great things about myself through this; and a few harsh realities. Here’s what I’ve got…

1) I don’t know how to play the games and when I try to play the games, I lose. I lose because I don’t like the games, nor do I care for rules that get made up as I go along; nor do I care for uncertainty. (I’ve always known that last one, just feeling it big as of late).

2) I know how to be a wife. I am not familiar with knowing how to be a girlfriend or even how to date.

3) My initial goal after the divorce of learning to love myself is still very much in play. Honestly, I just don’t know how to get there. I thought maybe I was still grieving my sweet daddy’s death and the divorce from my precious mate. Im realizing I’m only just allowing myself to grieve.

4) I need great therapist. So do you. We ALL need a great therapist. No one (self included) has the right to put you on a feelings timeline.

5) I am a danger to myself as I am still exceptionally able and willing to contort myself into any shape for someone else’s happiness. I forget easily that I am at great risk of drowning in someone else’s emotions.

6) Dating is not therapy. I am not a therapist. I am not my dating partner’s therapist nor am I their savior. Amen. The End!

7) Being desired as a woman feels like a luscious longing is being fulfilled. Desiring a man is grand. Reciprocity is extraordinarily wonderful. None of this fills a spiritual or inside void.

8) It is not okay for someone to berate you, control you, gaslight or mess with your head and heart, no matter how hurt they’ve been. Never, ever, never. Take note, sometimes it feels okay, even good. If their stinking words and actions match my stinking thinking this almost feels comfortable and affirming…I was right.

9) After 45 years of living and 23 years of living that life loving one partner; sometimes you think you are upset at the person you are dating and really you are upset at a memory, a loss of a dream, a projected fear, etc. There is wisdom in reflecting on where our emotions are coming from. (which is a much better option than shoving the emotions down or numbing them with oreos…ask me how I know).

10)Listen to your gut, follow your heart, don’t forget your brain. Working on these. Like my friend Jenny always says, it’s just practice.

I think that’s it for now. Breathing in lavender from my bedside diffuser and wishing I could go back to sleep for a couple of hours. Thanks for letting me do this writing thing. It’s good for my heart and my prayer is that someone reading this needs it too.

I’ll leave you with this simple profundity. How do we eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Baby bites if we must.

Namaste, peace, beauty and love to you,

S.