A Letter to My Therapist

(Thank you SaferBrand for illustrating growth. I think I’m in the flowering stage, and looking forward to ripening…)

18 years together–long enough to raise me and send me out into the world.

In this time you, my therapist, my hero, have taught me what I can hold onto and what I must release.

Starting in February 2001 with the death of the mother I’d always tried to please, in one session a month you led me through the minefield. You helped me learn to navigate when she had her lawyer send me pre-packed boxes of her possessions with cruel sticky-notes on the backs. I had ruined her chances of relationships with my children. I had made her unable to display the photos of my children. I had I had I had. I Had Disappointed.

Never in her notes, (dated and initialed), did she mention the anger and bitterness she spewed onto my children that last time she saw them. Never did she say she could have done things differently. Never did she mention the crazy note she put in Corinne’s 16th birthday present telling her not to believe what others said about her–two of the three she mentioned having been dead for some years.

Never did she say she was sorry. Never did she thank me for the years I’d continued to try to be in her life after her other two children had left it because they couldn’t handle her altered version of their reality.

And you, my steady, guiding therapist, walked me through that. All the emotions, all the self-hatred, all the raw pain.

You helped me learn to be a mom. My kids were mostly grown, but there was so much for me to learn: how to not take things personally, how to follow my own instincts when responding to the highs and lows of the rollercoaster that was life, both mine and theirs. How to not simply buy into the highest volume reaction in the house but to follow my own heart. I did this often poorly, but something you helped me learn caused my children to be extremely forgiving as I’ve apologized every time I realize the next big thing I got wrong.

In my struggle to hold tightly to my marriage I was teaching my children terrible lessons. That my stubbornness couldn't change the essential skeleton of this decades-long union, and sometimes choosing to call time of death is the most… Click To Tweet

In the teen years of our relationship you helped me see the truth of my marriage–that the bad had far overtaken the good, and I was living the definition of crazy by trying the same things over and over and over again with the same result. That my stubbornness couldn’t change the essential skeleton of this decades-long union. That in this struggle to hold on I was teaching my children terrible lessons. That sometimes choosing to call time of death is the most grownup decision you can make.

You’ve taught me to hold onto myself, always. To hold onto who I am in this world, and that it matters I am IN this world. That my way of loving and supporting and being available is a valid and valuable way, no matter what I’ve been told otherwise. You’ve taught me to pursue the knowing of who I am, to let go and be me, even though those who should have loved me best couldn’t. Even though those who should have known me best didn’t. You’ve shown me that God and I have the closest view of my heart even when others called me Disappointing and a Failure and Unloving and Unsupportive. You’ve helped me see those are not words that define me. You’ve taught me that I can let go of those Lies In My Bones.

You've helped me let go of what I could never really hold onto–making another person happy. And you've taught me to hold onto what I can–the growing of myself. Click To Tweet

I’m a work in progress. An imperfectly perfect me. Over these past 18 years you’ve helped me let go of what I could never really hold onto–making another person happy. And you’ve taught me to hold onto what I can–the growing of myself. I’m headed the right direction now.

To say thank you seems hollow. How can those two words express even a small percentage of the gratitude I have for literally giving me the will to live? For teaching me to appreciate who I am? To open my tightly clenched hand and release the control I never owned? To keep the bitter words of others from piercing my tender heart?

I was drowning and you saved me. I am eternally grateful.

With love,

-julie

5 Easy Steps to People Pleasing

Image by Pixabay

There are few character traits I have perfected in my lifetime–I’m still working on becoming perfectly loving, perfectly full of grace, or even perfectly honest. But people pleasing? I’ve worked on this one for many years to good success, I believe. 

Following are some of my most useful tools in pursuit of People Pleasing:

1- Think white Wonder Bread, or saltless saltine crackers. Work to achieve this level of blandness of opinion. Any food you might find palatable when suffering from a tummy bug, model your shared thoughts after these, for strong opinions are your enemy.

2- Learn to appear fascinated by the viewpoints of others, even if they are giving a detailed account of their bowel habits. This can be achieved by gentle head nodding and the occasional “Ah–” or “Mm” even if you are actually trying to guesstimate the length of that rogue nose hair of theirs rather than listening to their words.

3- Always laugh appreciatively at the jokes of others. You needn’t actually find them amusing. The teller will find you a person of rare intelligence, especially if even the joke teller knows it made absolutely no sense and in addition was in very poor taste.

4- Always defer to the other person’s tastes. This applies to anything you might do together. If you hate hamburgers, be willing to go to any beef-based franchise. This especially applies to vegetarian People Pleasers. Practice phrases like “Oh, I can always find something to eat.” Hate Tolkien? Prepare to embrace the extended versions of all of the Lord of the Rings movies, and the relentless repeated watching of aforementioned movies. Learn to do mental Sudoku or redecorating to survive said hours of “entertainment.”

5- If the other person prefers to be the only person with feelings, never let them know you’re having a down day. Keep the muscle memory of that forced smile front and center at all times. If they prefer you dependent, consider adding “What do you think?” to the end of every sentence. In restaurants this looks like, “I’m thinking of getting the Asian Salad–what do you think?” If deciding what movie to watch, “I’d love to see a comedy tonight–what do you think?” This gets trickier when pondering decisions like how quickly you need a toilet, so Your Mileage May Vary.

*These techniques are most effective with those who feel theirs is the Only and Superior opinion in town. Should you be dealing with a person who prefers people with an actual spine, these People-Pleasing Practices may simply cause blank stares and yawning, so choose wisely when to use them.

The not-so-funny truth of being a People-Pleaser is that it can wilt your soul, like that celery I feel compelled to buy but never eat, and if not caught in time, your soul will become like that celery–spongy, brown and smelly.

I consider myself a Recovering People-Pleaser. This is a process best practiced with people who love you and give an actual crap about your feelings and opinions. Safe people.

If you would like to join the society of Recovering People-Pleasers, go gently with yourself. Your skin is likely easily bruised and tender, but it will toughen with use. And it’s worth walking away from the People-Pleasing life. You’ll thank yourself for it–I know I have.

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: If you are a People Pleaser, what drives that for you? How do you feel when you stop expressing your feelings? Is there someone you trust who you could try being honest with?

 

YOU HAVE WORTH, YOUR IDEAS AND OPINIONS AND FEELINGS HAVE WORTH. DARE TO SHARE.

To My Petulant Inner 4-year-old

Yesterday was a tough one, wasn’t it? So many feels and some of them were uncomfortable.

You felt angry and sad and like throwing a fit.

You stomped your feet and folded your arms tightly across your chest. You stuck out your lower lip, and said, “It’s not fair!” I get it. I don’t blame you. Why do the things you’re happy with have to change?

I know you love your room here. All your special things surround you–your pictures on the walls and your collections on the shelves. And your books, well, your books are everywhere. You do love your books!

This room has meant a lot to you, hasn’t it? It’s been your safe place after feeling unsafe for so long. You’ve been able to rest and trust the people around you to be kind. Your room means Calm. And Acceptance. And Home. Of course it makes your heart hurt to think about leaving it.

Here’s what I want you to know: when it feels like life and God are being mean, I’m here to hold you. When things are too hard to understand and you feel sad and mad and a thousand other things all at once, I’m here to listen. And on days you think you’ll feel unhappy forever, I’ll be here to help you remember that our feelings come and go, ebb and flow. That life changes but God doesn’t. That He loves you and is paying attention even on the hard days. He’s collecting your tears in a bottle, and that means he sees every single one.

And on days you think you'll feel unhappy forever, I'll be here to help you remember that feelings come and go, ebb and flow. That life changes but God doesn't. Click To Tweet

I want you to know that I understand how unsettling it is to have people in your life come and go, and it takes time to get used to. And that doesn’t mean you won’t cry sometimes and wish things were different, but that’s okay.

I want you to know all these gazillion feelings are normal. There’s nothing wrong with you when you don’t feel happy. There’s nothing wrong with you when you stomp your feet or your tummy hurts or your chest is tight–it’s your body talking to you. It’s telling you something is bigger than usual and it wants you to stop and listen. You wouldn’t ignore your friend if she was talking to you, would you? Your body is your friend, and you need to learn to hear what it’s saying.

I want you to know that hope is on the other side of the hurt.

That my love is always there for you

and my arms are always waiting for you.

You are safe with me,

and together we are home.

That I am with you for our next adventure and every one after that.

God loves you and is paying attention even on the hard days. He's collecting your tears in a bottle, and that means he sees every single one. Click To Tweet

# # # # # # #

  • Early childhood trauma leaves some of us incapable of handling our emotions in a healthy way, and those feelings can become bigger and more powerful than they need to be. We can learn to be a kind parent to that small child part of us that’s feeling overwhelmed. For me, my fears can take over when the child is in charge, and I can become disconnected. My therapist has had to teach me ways to pay attention to my body, remain present, and define what I’m feeling. I’ve come a long way, but it’s a process, and my petulant inner four-year-old can take over at times…she’s a cutie, but boy does she have a serious attitude! I’m learning how to talk to her and reassure her, and show her she’s not alone. (I do at least try to have these conversations in private….)

Some helpful articles:

The bring your own beverage conversation: Is there something young-you needs to hear from grown-you? Or vice- versa? I’d love for you to share, just so I know I’m not the only one talking to myself–

REMEMBER TO BE KIND TO YOU.


Why I’m a Bad Christian

Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash

I have been asked on many occasions why I don’t write devotionals–I’m a Christian and a writer, right? Usually this is when I’m with a group of Christians who are writers, so I say something like, “It takes me more than 250 words to introduce myself, so I couldn’t possibly write devotionals that short!” There is a smattering of (polite) laughter, and the conversation is over.

What I don’t say but I’m thinking is, “Actually, I’m kind of a lousy Christian.” I feel like people who takes verses from the Bible and tie lovely slices of life to them to bring them alive should be of the more holy variety of Christian. I identify more as the unwholly-holy type. Let me tell you why:

  • I don’t attend church on a regular basis. Honestly, in the last decade I haven’t attended even on an IRregular basis.
  • I have a passion for the well-placed used of the F word–a word I would have killed my children for saying. I would like to blame my long and difficult marriage for bringing on my potty mouth, but …
  • I have no set “quiet time” and no set space for one. I live in one room, people–the whole place is A Place. As for the daily discipline of aforementioned quiet time, let’s just say that discipline has never been my superpower. Plus I forget. I get in bad moods. Sometimes I don’t want to and you can’t make me.
  • As a writer I have actually gotten feedback that my piece wasn’t Jesus-y enough.
  • I want to love and affirm people who believe differently or have completely different lifestyles to me.
  • I can’t remember the street address of verses I like to save my life, and clearly I can’t remember what it’s called when you say the Bible book name and the numbers of the chapter and verse.
  • I forget to set down my troubles and “rest in the loving arms of Jesus.”
  • I whine.
  • I get mad at God.
  • Sometimes I’m in a bad mood for years.
  • I get mad and lose my shit.
  • I say “shit.”
— I whine.– I get mad and lose my shit.– I say "shit." Click To Tweet

BUT:

  • Sometimes I remember to rest in the loving arms of Jesus.
  • I’ve learned to love and respect people who differ from me in their beliefs and lifestyles, that each of us has innate worth as a created being sharing this planet.
  • I’ve realized that I will keep learning who I am and continue becoming who I want to be till my last day on this earth.
  • I’ve learned that being a Good Girl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
  • I’ve been patient at least twice.
  • I hear God when I shut up.
  • Sometimes I shut up.

It turns out that lots of the boxes I thought I had to tick to be a Good Christian aren’t even strictly taken from the Bible, they’re made up of what we finite humans have used to make sense of an Infinite God.

I’m not saying that any person with a regular prayer time or who can quote sections of the Bible or attends church regularly isn’t sincere–I love lots of people who love Jesus and who do those things. I’m just saying that I’m a struggler. I’m perfectly imperfect. Unwholly-holy, with lots of not so holy bits left over. My head and my heart war. The Lies In My Bones fight with the Truth I know. My life’s journey is made up of a million bad choices–some mine, but some the decisions of others, and I’m left dealing with the consequences.

I'm a struggler. I'm perfectly imperfect. Unwholly holy with lots of not so holy bits left over. Click To Tweet

We are all strugglers on this planet. We all do better at achieving our goals on some days than others. We each have our own internal fights. All the things I don’t do coupled with all the things I DO make up my particular road trip on this Earth, my unique identity. I love the Creator of this globe we’re sharing, and I love His Son. Maybe I don’t think I’m a Good Christian, but I am a pretty good Jesus Follower, and that’s good enough for me.

In fact, that’s perfect.

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation:Where have you taken on someone else’s idea of your identity and stopped looking at who you really are? How can you embrace the perfectly imperfect you?

*Be kind to you. The God who created the earth made you.

Aaron Gets Out of the Wobbly Chair

Photo by Allec Gomes on Unsplash

Today I’m having a guest post by a Twitter friend, Aaron. He and I have talked a lot about the common themes I write about here on The Lies In Our Bones–early trauma, Triggery Badness, the Lies we tell ourselves based on our early coping mechanisms, among others. Lest I make us sound like two wise and serious souls communing on The Meaning Of Life, we talk about plenty of stupid stuff too and laugh. Oh, and I mock him. Hard. A lot. (Really, I’m a good friend…mostly.)

He’s in a transitional time of life, one I remember so clearly after I left my #MarriageFromHeck 5 years ago. Everything was changing. Suddenly I was trying to shake myself from the lies I’d been telling myself for years…things like “There’s no such thing as safety” “I’m alone” “I’m worthless” and other fun stuff. My therapist kept nudging me toward becoming the keeper of my own safety, being my own friend, and telling myself the truth.

Since I could remember how tender I felt back then, it seemed only appropriate to catch Aaron tweeting about feeling sorry for himself and his situation and encourage him in my nurturing way…by telling him, “Pity Party of One, your tiny table and one wobbly chair is ready!” We ended up dubbing it “the wobbly chair” and pass it back and forth as needed. (If we both need it Aaron has to sit on the floor of Twitter.)

"Pity Party of One, your tiny table and one wobbly chair is ready!" Click To Tweet

He’s been journaling to process what he’s learning and sharing it with the Twitterverse, and this one hit home for me. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Take it away, Aaron………

Creating a Life of Meaning

Lately I’ve been feeling alone in the world. In my mind it’s as if everyone else has a life but me. I crave connection. I crave being with someone, and I tell myself, “Life is empty and meaningless without having someone special in my life.” But is that true? Is my life meaningless without having a special someone in my life? No!It’s yet another lie I tell myself. Or maybe it’s another lie that Satan tells me. Either way, if I focus on that belief and start incorporating it into my belief system then I’m all but doomed to feel unhappy and depressed. I will undoubtedly also feel very disappointed when/if that special someone does come along because they will not infuse my life with meaning, either. That’s not their job. That’s my job.


Engage in the relationships God has placed in my life.Reach out to family and friends I haven’t talked to in a while. Go visit them. Invite them out to do something. Catch up on the phone and see how they’re doing. Don’t just sit around idle.

I will undoubtedly also feel very disappointed when/if that special someone does come along because they will not infuse my life with meaning, either. That’s not their job. That’s my job. Click To Tweet


So then, how do I go about creating a meaningful life for myself?


Engage in the relationships God has placed in my life.Reach out to family and friends I haven’t talked to in a while. Go visit them. Invite them out to do something. Catch up on the phone and see how they’re doing. Don’t just sit around idle.


Reach out to people who are hurting or struggling or may just need someone to talk to.There are all kinds of people struggling with things in their lives. Some may be vocal about it, like on Twitter, and others may be suffering, and I don’t even know it. Whatever the case, reaching out to them and forgetting about myself for a while can make a world of difference.


Do things for myself. Engage in a new hobby. Attend a new group. Go for a walk. Find a good book to read. Clean up around the house. Do some things I’ve been putting off like going clothes shopping.


That’s pretty straightforward and simple isn’t it? It’s not complicated at all. I just have to stop sitting around on my wobbly chair feeling sorry for myself and take action to create the meaning in my life that I crave. As a bonus, these things will strengthen relationships and provide support for me when I need it. It’s a win-win situation if I put forth the effort.

And back to me, julie!

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: Is there anything you’ve been sitting back and waiting for to give you a sense of worth? If so, what has held that place for you? What action could you take to move forward in your life and create your OWN best life?

I’d love it if you’d keep us off the wobbly chair and talk with us, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Remember to be kind with yourself. It’s a process.

Shoveling Shite: Lessons Learned From the Litter Box

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I was scooping the poop of five cats from one litter box where I’m helping crittersit, when I had a startling realization:

I would rather scoop the LITERAL shit of five cats than put up with the emotional and verbal shit I dealt with in my rather long Marriage From Heck.

I shall now list some comparisons using a Very Professional bullet point system. *Ahem*

  • Emotional shite such as belittling and constant criticism can leave the recipient with a lowered self-esteem and a whole lot of self-doubt that may take years of therapy to overcome, while
  • Literal shite can be scooped and tossed.
  • Psychological shite such as threatening the loss of financial support if the recipient calls the police for violent behavior against their son can lead to a feeling of powerlessness, underscoring decades of future behavior, while
  • Literal shite can be scooped and tossed.
  • Emotional shite such as repeatedly being told one is incapable of driving/cooking/supporting/speaking/thinking/breathing adequately can lead the recipient toward an eventual acceptance of these lies as truth, while
  • Literal shite can be scooped and tossed.
  • Receiving ongoing psychological abuse such as having one’s childhood fears of making mistakes (where mistakes were deemed inexcusable) or of being abandoned (because parents left the child to fend for themselves during times of great sadness and confusion) used against them can lead to Complex Trauma, the effects of which may last decades and require professional mental health intervention, while
  • Literal shite can be scooped and tossed.
  • Emotional abuse such as being called names, perhaps being called by the very name of the very person the recipient has been most hurt by, who may or may not have been that person’s mother, causes extreme emotional pain and an overwhelming feeling of betrayal since the person calling you the name once pledged to love you as Christ loves the Church and you expect them to want to love you and support you and be on your side and actually give a poop about your feelings and maybe even be sensitive to the fact that your mother was so incredibly and achingly and intentionally hurtful to you that simply calling you by their name is pretty much the same as having acid thrown in your face– while
  • Literal shite can be scooped. Can be tossed. Never to be dealt with again.

Here’s the big takeaway in case I have perhaps been too subtle:

FIVE CATS. LOTS AND LOTS OF POOP. ONE LITTER BOX. STINKY. DISGUSTING. But it can be fixed in five minutes. Scooped. Tossed. Gone.

Being called names, being talked down to, having the creative or funny or endearing or talented or skilled parts of someone be mocked or constantly criticized or subtly undermined, THIS is the poop that kills. It is abuse.

It’s not “everybody goes through rough patches in their marriage,” it’s not “we aren’t in Bible Study to talk negatively about our husbands,” it’s harmful, soul-squashing abuse. Its effects last for years. It can rob the beautiful spark of a mom or a dad, a sister or a brother, a friend, a neighbor.

Do you know somebody being bullied and abused? Read the linked articles. Be there for them. Listen.

Are you being bullied and abused? Read the linked articles. Get help. Get out. Get counseling.

Here are some resources for dealing with the Emotional and Verbal and Psychological kinds of shite:

Here are some resources for dealing with the literal kind of shite, including a boring yet informative You-Tube video:

Self-Care for Survivors (& other mysteries)

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

THE LONGER I LIVE, the more I realize how little I know. I see laid out behind me a veritable country of bad decisions, aaaaall with little headstones and wooden crosses.

They have inscriptions like “This is the time you allowed yourself to believe these words about yourself” or “Here lies the remains of your self-respect” or maybe “This is the time you trusted your feelings instead of your brain.” So many, many crosses.

The problem seems to be that I think I have something figured out for 5 minutes and then I move ahead. But OH here’s a bump in the highway with my next big screw-up where I didn’t remember that I am supposed to be in charge of my own safety, my own growth, my own self-care.

It’s tricky, taking care of myself after so many years of capitulating to the beliefs of others. I believed for years the words of my mother, the actions of my mother toward me, that I was A Disappointment, that there had Once Been Hope that I would be Worthy but clearly I Had Failed. I tried and tried and tried to disprove that by my own actions, my own words, to her and everyone else around me. SEE! I am THIS person! The person who loves her children! The person who still tries to have a relationship with a mother who is dismissive and mean to her! SEE! THIS IS ME!

I don't know how to feel pain and not want to stop-drop-and-roll into my own little hermitage away from the world. Click To Tweet

For years I tried to prove in my marriage that I Was Good Enough. That I was loving, kind, nurturing, could put up with being yelled at and belittled by a man with clenched fists and still have a sense of humor. BUT, still I believed, a little more and a little more over time, that he must be right. The one with the loudest voice wins, the one who can roar the longest and the fiercest must be right. Therefore I am wrong.

Surviving this Psychological Warfare shit means I am now supposed to, at age sixty-freaking-five, be in charge of my own safety, my own well-being, my own sense of self. I am to Take Care of Me.

Again, for 5 minutes I think I have it figured out–Engage in Life. Walk in the sunlight, write poems and prose and pointless rhyme. Talk to friends, build friendships. Continue building the relationships with my children. Do the creative projects that feed my soul.

5 freaking minutes.

Then I add another cross to the Country of Bad Decisions. I lose being present in the moment. I forget that I’m still fragile, still healing. Still very stupid and un-self-aware. I beat myself up for making mistakes, for being human. I’m back into my head, and sometimes the inside of my head is a war zone.

Will I ever get “it” right? Will I learn to be more than human? More than full of mistakes?

No. I can’t. As long as I’m on this earth I WILL BE FULL OF MISTAKES.

I’ve spent my whole life trying to avoid screwing up. Messing up was a reason to be crucified by people who were supposed to love me and want the best for me, so I learned to fear my mistakes like the devil. And what better way to avoid making mistakes? Do Nothing. Do not engage, do not join, do not risk, do not breathe. All that does is make one light-headed and lonely.

I don’t want to be frozen like I was for so long, but I don’t quite understand how to move forward and risk and still be in charge of my own safety. I don’t know how to remember to keep breathing. I don’t know how to feel pain and not want to stop-drop-and-roll into my own little hermitage away from the world.

Such a painful way to live!

SO–I think my self-care for today looks like this:

I will get down on my knees and look my little girl self in the eyes. I will hold her shoulders gently and say:

“I am here for you. I will always be here for you. I will have your back, no matter what happens.

“It’s okay to make mistakes, that’s how we learn. It’s part of being a human. I love you!  I will always always love you with my whole heart, I will always be here when you need someone to hold you, even if it’s early in the morning and you know how much I hate morning.

“You can’t do a single thing to make me love you less.”

Then I will hug her for as long as she needs to be held.

 

The End.

For today.

I see laid out behind me a veritable country of bad decisions, aaaaall with little headstones and wooden crosses. Click To Tweet

The Informative Meltdown aka My Life As A Trauma Mama

Last night I slept hugging a pillow and my stuffed dog.

It was a rough week last week. I agree with the thoughts that “last week is over!” and “this is a new week!” and all that cheerful shit people try to encourage with. I agree with it, but I know it is far less than the whole story.

The whole story? It includes the week of my fifth birthday. It includes the day I gave birth with not nearly enough pain medication.

It includes me sitting on the edge of the bed after being belittled and badgered for an hour and a half and told I was not all the things I thought I was, like supportive, loving, giving….and wishing for death, time and time again. It includes the days I started realizing I didn’t need to live that way.

All those weeks and days and seconds are included in the whole.

Last week sucked big time, and the pain of it was informed by all the weeks that came before, even the moments when I stood frozen in fear with my hands over my face to hide my tears in 5th grade. I don’t even remember why anymore, but I can still feel it in my chest when I think of it. I feel the tightness, my breath coming shallow, my clenched jaw, my inability to cope.

INABILITY.

This is a place of Triggery Badness in me. It’s an oozing wound. And for people who would use other people for their own gain, it’s a raw piece of flesh to poke a stick in and stir.

I woke up crying today. Don’t remember that happening before, but it makes sense–that old unhealed, bleeding part of me was poked and stirred last week.

What my Triggery Badness told me last week was this: People who would gladly hurt others for reasons I can’t understand, people who need to control others and exploit the pain you’ve been trying to shed through all those weeks of all those years that came before, they are out there and they will find you. They will sniff you out–sharks smelling blood. THEY WILL COME.

All the Triggery Badness of last week, where it caused me to swear (more than usual) where it caused me to cry (more than I expected) where it made me wonder if I have really grown at all, healed at all…

SAVED ME.

It saved me. Someone else found me. Someone who I thought had been becoming a friend. Someone who had words of encouragement and praise. There were other things about them that I was uncomfortable with, red flags, green flags, purple flags–all the flags, really. And I did my usual thing–I said to myself, “don’t be judgmental! Maybe they are just that different from you so you’re uncomfortable. That doesn’t make them invalid.”

Then they struck. First a light strike–just a shark nose bumping my leg, just a comment to say that In my Best Interest, should I say that? Do that? Thinking Of You! So I considered their words. I did what was suggested because it made sense. They’re just protecting me, right?

Bigger bump. Their response that put me in a lesser position to them, that said I Am More Than You. I Have Superior Experience. I Will Guide You. Harder shark nose bump, awakening the trigger, starting its vibration.

Next strike, bigger strike, taking a chunk of my leg. Me bleeding out as they chided, You Are Doing This Wrong. I Know More. Listen To Me! You Are Great But Incapable, I Will Lead You!

Triggery Badness released in full horns and bells and whistles. ALARM! DANGER! DANGER!

And I realized what my Triggery Badness was trying to tell me, why it was screaming for my attention: This person needs to be Better-Than, which means they need me to be Less-Than. This person needs to be the one Who Knows, which means they need me to be the one who knows less, the one who needs guidance. This person knows your weakness, your fear that you are Incapable, Unable, Unfit. They smell the blood of that exact wound, that precise tender place–and are willing to exploit it. You Are Prey. (Watch this video–I saw it after I wrote this post and it explains my whole life!)

This person knows your weakness, your fear that you are Incapable, Unable, Unfit. They smell the blood of that exact wound, Click To Tweet

After trauma, one’s nervous system is wound too tightly. Its strings are taut. Its alarms are set to go off at the whisper of one’s breath. It takes time to retrain and rewire our brains after trauma. This is not something that happens overnight. This takes work and practice and more work. It will include the week of my next birthday in 2019. The week of Christmas in ten years.

It’s ongoing.

Don’t judge me for the path my healing takes. I’m working my ass off to heal those triggers, to rewire my brain and let the wounds close and form healthy skin once again.

Don’t judge me for crying. For clutching a stuffed dog and a pillow at age 65. For cancelling plans. For being anti-social. For whining sometimes. For being too silly, too loud, too quiet. Too sarcastic.

Don’t tell me “it’s a new week!” which translates to “Just get over it!” in my healing brain. I’m trying to sort out the good from the bad. I’m trying to be in charge of my own safety, my own mental health. I’m trying to not go back to a place where I believed I Am Incapable. I’ve been there, done that, I’ve peed on the T-shirt and burned it.

Have patience with me, with others who struggle. You can’t possibly know all the weeks I’ve experienced. You don’t know the weeks that will come. You don’t know what informs my actions. I will do my best to do the same for you.

For whatever reason we have trauma, trust us that it’s real, that we wouldn’t have it if we could help it. That we are likely working on it right this second to not run screaming from social interaction that can set off all that cascade of signals that we Are Not Safe.

We heal in community. Be a part of that healing community.

Be kind to you, be kind to me, be kind to others.

And be safe.

Same life, different day?

Photo by Anandan Anandan on Unsplash

 

IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING, some days are harder than others. Even some of the days on the road to recovering from being a Trauma Mama are harder, but the overall trajectory is better.

As a small child I didn’t know how to cope with the chaos of my home. I worked out my own coping strategies on an instinctual level for safety. That mostly involved hiding from what terrified me. Since that was pretty much everything and everyone, you can imagine the job of remaining hidden and invisible and only popping my head out when I had a smile on my face took up most of my time and energy.

I’m beginning to see how one part of my coping was to deal with one day only. Get through that one day by keeping myself safe. I didn’t look into the future with a sense of hope. As far as I was concerned, the future looked like “same life, different day.” Keep under the radar at home, in school, at church. Be unseen and unheard if you disagreed with others. Only be seen in small moments of lightness.

This is a tricky way to live.

I carried it on into my marriage. Try, try, try harder to make no waves. Try, try, try harder to soothe difficulties rather than solve them. Try, try, try harder to only be seen in small moments of lightness–moments that became much less frequent in time.

I’m five years out now from my marriage. Five years of ever so slowly thawing from the freeze of being my Trauma Mama self, of holding my body so tightly, fighting my emotions so fiercely that my body said “Enough! I now give you the magical gift of Fibromyalgia!” If that doesn’t teach you to slow your roll, nothing will.

Part of the thaw means I’m feeling a broader range of emotion, I’m seeing a broader range of possibilities. I’m even starting to see, waaaay out there in the distance, what is that thing? Wait–I’ve heard of those……the glimmer of A Future!

That processing led to today’s poem for the Poetic Asides Wednesday Prompt of SET:

 

Same.

 

I thought of my life

as a set recipe–

minor changes,

a variation

with

an added herb,

a trace of spice

but still

essentially

the same.

 

I thought of my life

as a slow leak,

a faucet dripping

Same sink,

same dribble,

same

leak,

new day.

 

I thought of my life

as a set of books,

new character

here,

lose one

there,

subtle nuance,

but still

essentially

the same.

 

I thought of my life

without a dream.

Imagine my surprise–

I’m not a book

or a recipe.

I’m not a faucet

to be fixed.

I am me

expanding.

 

I am not set.

 

jle2018

I'm even starting to see, waaaay out there in the distance, what is that thing? Wait–I've heard of those……the glimmer of A Future! Click To Tweet

Fountain Mourning

I cried over a fountain. Yup, you heard me, a fountain.

It wasn’t just any fountain, it was the fountain in the back garden. My friend Carrie, who so perfectly had a room to rent at the very moment I needed a place to live, is moving. This means I’m moving too. She’s moving to her happy place, the mountains near Mi-Wuk where her parents already live, once her son finishes his senior year of high school June 2019. My future home is still unknown.

The funny bit is that when I found out I’d need a new place to live come summer next year I wasn’t as upset as when I found out the fountain was moving.

Carrie has been selling yard furniture and some indoor furniture in preparation for moving house. She’s downsizing from three bedrooms, a living room and a family room to a studio. Having experienced this a few years back, I know how much work it can be and how much paring down of possessions is required (I still have a storage space with items that will certainly seem new to me by the time I clear it out). So I get it. I understand the need to decide what of the chairs and couches and dressers filling the bigger spaces are extra and won’t fit into our new lives, I do understand.

But not the fountain!

I knew I’d be moving eventually, I knew at some point my living space would mean living elsewhere. I knew nothing stays the same forever, that needs change and lives change and surroundings change…I knew this–in my head.

But not the fountain!

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The fountain with its burbling water has been part of this Healing Space over my past three years. The fountain has invited birds on many sunlit mornings to splash and chirp and drink, even the hummingbirds I love. The fountain, on the back patio outside Carrie’s family room, had the green dancing limbs of potted vines and Heavenly Bamboo and assorted other delights from our local Ace Hardware nursery. Carrie and I decided back at the beginning of setting up our two separate garden spaces that she chooses a more Zen vibe while I go for whimsical. Her space leans toward open branches where the summer breezes flow through the leaves of many shapes and shades of green, while mine is chock-full of colorful blossoms and garden fairies and pottery birds and a large cement turtle. Her patio chairs and tables ran to shades of a glorious desert scene in deep rusts and tans and some green, while mine surrounds me in bright tropical hues of turquoise and lime green and orange.

She had the idea to collect pallets to build our own version of a fence to carve out our own areas, pallets that are now covered by vines whose leaves are displaying fall colors as the leaves turn vibrant deep reds and browns. Three years. It’s been three years of building and shaping and turning our back gardens into joyful places of peace in our unique ways. And always the sound of the fountain playing in the background, being heard through windows and the open sliding door during bright and warm days.

Carrie had warned me that the huge, heavy cement fountain and bird bath would be leaving. Thankful that she had told me, I knew I could say goodbye the next morning.

Say goodbye to a fountain, you ask? An inanimate object? A chunk of concrete through which water flows when attached to a power source? Goodbye?

Say goodbye to a fountain, you ask? An inanimate object? A chunk of concrete? Click To Tweet

That morning I sat on Carrie’s couch watching the sun dance through leaves around the fountain, light sparkling through the water as it rose from the center. I cried remembering how healing the sounds of that water had been, hearing it in a place where I’d finally come to rest, a year andIMG_2849 a half after I’d left a home that no longer felt safe. In that year and a half I had stayed with daughters, with friends, and finally in a shelter situation when I’d run out of places to go. But now, Home. I had a Home–a place to lay my head that was mine, a converted-garage-sized compact Home. Ikea helped furnish it and I filled it in with books upon books. The colors and textures were all of my choosing, the mismatched thrift store chairs that surrounded the Ikea table were mine.

IMG_0127

But nothing spoke healing like that fountain. A gift of the calming sound of flowing water that drew God’s beautiful birds to it. So I sat on that last morning and breathed deeply and slowly, a final meditation, thankful for the gift of running water and birdsong.

I couldn’t help but cry when I thought of this soothing gift of nature I’d been blessed to share in–breezes, water, the green of leaves, the vivid colors of blossoms, and the splashing of birds visiting the fountain. Tears come even now as I write about it. What power nature has to soothe our souls and minister to our broken spirits. I’ve slept, I’ve prayed, I’ve read, I’ve dreamed, all to the sounds of birds and the gurgling of water. Cool spring breezes have washed over me, as well as the warm air of summer, out in the back garden. Now the crisper air of fall races through the foliage, but the water and the bathing birds are missing. I’m making peace with that.

The tears that sprang to my eyes as I watched the fountain for the last time reminded me of how deeply it had become a symbol of Rest and Healing. That even the birds had ministered to my bruised soul. That time spent in the back garden had been a living balm, especially when the hummingbirds would come close, the thrumming of their wings near my ears, asking why I was in their space. The sparrows and finches would sit in the branches above me, chirping and chatting before swooping down to their daily bath.

What power nature has to soothe our souls and minister to our broken spirits. Click To Tweet

So that morning before the fountain would move on to another person’s back garden to be loved and used by their neighborhood birds, I watched it, I listened to it. I memorized the way the morning sun sparkled in the water. No birds came. Did they already sense the fountain was moving on?

I’m thankful for these past three years. I’ve shared space with people who haven’t judged my dark days. I’ve grown, I’ve learned, I’ve processed old hurts so I could let them go. I pray that the fountain will nurture the new owners half as much as it’s nurtured me. And then I tell myself it’s perfectly fine to shed tears at our parting.

 

The bring your own beverage conversation: What is one way you’ve judged yourself harshly and unnecessarily? What brings your soul healing? Plan to spend some self-care in the next few days doing whatever it is that speaks calm into you.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF–YOU’RE WORTH IT.