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.

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:

Sisters

January 18th, Cary Grant’s birthday. Also my sister’s birthday, and I’m much more sad about her not being around to celebrate. 

She didn’t make movies, she didn’t have a cute accent. She didn’t feel the need to marry several times in search of happiness, my brother-in-law adored her. 

The best bit though, accent or no accent, was that she was my big sister. She protected me in my childhood as best she could from the craziness we grew up in. She gave me compliments in a household better known for tearing us down. And maybe it’s silly, but I can still remember the time I had my hair on the enormous juice-can size rollers we used back then and she said “You even look pretty in those! You could be a model or in a commercial!” My heart glowed with her words, and that feeling comes back whenever I remember. 

She was the biggest recipient of the craziness in that house, physical, emotional, sexual. I’m thankful our parents were apathetic by the time I came along–mostly I only had to deal with utter emotional neglect. 

I know only part of the lies my childhood etched into my bones, and I can only imagine what lies were etched into my sister’s. But throughout her life she loved me and supported me and laughed with me as we pulled the ridiculous from our lives, humor making many aspects of the darkness and divisiveness of our family more bearable. We accepted the differences in our outlooks and beliefs because being two girls who survived those early years and still loved each other was more important. 

To my big sister Patti, gone now for nearly 5 years, Cary may have made my heart flutter, but your love and laughter and kindnesses to me FILLED my heart. Thank you for that. I miss you every day.