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Learning to Be Vulnerable

20 Oct

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Last Friday morning I was in my car, parked on the street around the corner from work, trying to get my emotions under control.  I had tears streaking down my cheeks, runny mascara, and a splotchy face.  I wasn’t crying because something horrible happened.  Those tears weren’t bad at all.  However, I’ve been conditioned to feel embarrassed by tears and to put on a happy face all of the time.  That’s part of the reason I was crying.  They were tears I’ve been holding back for who knows how long.  Maybe most of my life, in one way or another.

Every so often I get a comment from someone telling me that I should drop the “mess” part of my blog title.  I have extracted myself from the most apparent mess in my life, but there’s still a lot left.  Besides the fact that I’m a horrible housekeeper (as Tony can attest), I’m a mess in other ways as well.  Crying alone in the car before work is one of those ways.  Actually, isolated somewhere behind a closed door is just about the only way I let myself cry.

My upbringing and personality and the circumstances of my life have left me with a very thick outer wall.  I’m incredibly sensitive and emotional and sentimental, but I’ve trained myself not to be.  I’m the oldest child.  A woman in a man’s industry.  The daughter of a father with no empathy and grandmothers with no filter, tact, or “warm fuzzies.” I am the product of a household that was full of countless rules, one of which was something like “suck it up.”

My youngest sister was deemed “the sensitive one.”  I was the smart one, the tough one, the tomboy, or “the mouth.”  I was instructed to hold my tongue, stay in line, and do what I was told without question.  I was constantly reminded when I failed at those tasks. Disappointing my parents felt like the end of the world, yet I seemed to do it often. A large part of that was my own perception and pressure from inside to be perfect, a goal that I now know is impossible to reach.  87629344_XS In an effort to fix myself and hide my “flaws,” I made myself be the strong one, the positive one, the rational one. I tried to always be in control of my emotions whether it was with my family, at work, or just in general.

Those are difficult patterns to unlearn, and hard roles to break free from. I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had with a wonderful man.  He loves and accepts and understands me.  He makes me laugh, he surprises me every day with his intellect and creativity, and he’s very caring.  We talk about all sorts of things.  Subjects or conversations that would have been awkward or caused jealousy or fear in the past are comfortable and natural.  Still, I find myself falling into negative patterns of holding back, putting up a front, or concealing my feelings.

I have managed to share this blog with Tony, although it was a very scary thing to do.  The first few moments after I gave him the link I felt cracked open, exposed, and incredibly vulnerable. Those are emotions I don’t handle well. But I wanted to give him this important piece of myself. Writing is very cathartic, and I can express myself so more fully with time to consider (in fact, I’ve been working on this post for more than a week now).  Things also come out that I didn’t realize or understand before I put them into words.

After my last post about meeting his parents, Tony texted me that I don’t have to hide what’s going on in my head or be afraid or embarrassed of telling him how I feel.  At first I wasn’t even sure what he meant. Internalizing is so routine that I don’t recognize how much I do it.  I have a filter inside that automatically blocks off emotions, tells me that I’m wrong or silly to feel the things I feel, and covers those perceived flaws with a mask of confidence and happiness. After a moment of considering his comment, I realized how incredibly true it was.

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That mask, which I’m not even aware of wearing because it has become so comfortable and commonplace, slipped. I was driving to the office after visiting a new store location, and I had to pull over. As we continued to text, tears were silently falling from my eyes. He told me that I don’t have to worry about packaging my thoughts. I expressed how that goes against basically everything I was taught as a kid and years of punishments for saying things that I shouldn’t have (by someone else’s standards).

I texted that I’m working on worrying less and opening up more, but when I’m a complete mess it feels safer to pretend I’m more confident than I am in the hopes that I’ll convince myself it’s the truth. It feels weird to be vulnerable and expose my insecurities because I’m still halfway convinced that he’s way too good for me and he’s going to realize that any day. He told me to unconvince myself, and to talk to him when I feel that way. I said that I try to be the person I want to be and that he deserves instead of the ugly dork with no social skills that no one liked, which is what I was growing up and how I still feel a lot of the time.

Then he said something that really made the waterworks flow. He told me that I don’t have to try to be anything with him… To just be. That it’s the whole point. I was nearly sobbing by then. I put a lot of pressure on myself and hold back my emotions most of the time. It was like a valve releasing those pent up feelings, and they rushed out at once, with great force. It was also astounding to be accepted and loved exactly as I am. That is something I’ve rarely experienced, partly because haven’t allowed myself to expose the things that I dislike. To be encouraged to show my perceived flaws and have someone love those things, which I can’t even do for myself, was overwhelming. Knowing I have someone to reassure and build me up, even at my worst, gave me permission to let go and be a sap, even for just a few minutes.

It also scared me because I wondered if I even know how to do that. The next several hours the question kept rolling around in my head, “Do I even know who I am if I’m not trying to be something else?” At first, I panicked a little because I wasn’t sure. I could think of a few words to describe myself: loving, honest, funny, sexual, genuine, intelligent, talented, and definitely insecure.   Those seemed generic and flat as a descriptor of who I am because they are just a little portion of who I am.  So many other things began coming to mind… I snort when I laugh, forget names, and talk way too much.  I’m a people-pleaser with a deviant streak, and a stubborn, emotional mess.

All of that and more makes me who I am. As Tony pointed out, those less than perfect parts are what make me human. And interesting. And he loves me for them. Despite my efforts to put on a mask and polish over the rough spots and pretend to have it all together, he sees me. The real me. Sometimes maybe better than I see myself. It’s my job to let him, and I’m going to keep practicing.

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Self-Esteem Problems Surface

24 Sep

I admittedly have self-esteem issues.  They have been more of a problem in the past, but tonight I was reminded that they’re still there, just under the surface.  I had dinner with my Mom and stepdad.  It was partly just a fun visit and partly for a school assignment.  My stepdad is an exceptionally clever, accomplished man who is mentoring me for my leadership class.  We meet every week to discuss topics for my class, which I then turn into a paper and submit.  This was one of those meetings.

While I was there, we also planned a time for Tony to meet them both this week.  My Mom has been pretty good about not asking a ridiculous amount of questions so far, although I have told her a bit.  Tonight she asked more.  Mostly it was basic stuff like how often we see each other now, what I like the most about him, and a general checklist of things Moms find important (how does he treat me, is he responsible and kind, does he have kids or drug problems or major issues, etc.).  My stepdad chimed in to tell her to stop prying when she started her normal 20 questions routine (who’s house do we go to the most, who usually initiates communication, does he have pets, how does Buddy like him, blah, blah, blah… you get the picture).

It was a nice conversation.  We were smiling, and I’m sure I was a little giddy.  Never one to turn down an opportunity to gush, I told her how intelligent and funny and sweet and all-around amazing he is.  I bragged about him.  She did a little summary of the things I told her about how incredible he is.  Then she asked what he likes about me.  It wasn’t a mean question.  She was genuinely interested, and I’m sure she was probably looking for me to list some things that he has said are attractive about me.  She didn’t say it like, “What could someone that great possibly see in you?”

That’s what it felt like, though.   That’s how my distorted brain heard it.  My horrible self-esteem was yelling in my head, “What do you really bring to the table compared to all of that amazingness?”  I managed not to burst into tears or yell “I don’t know” and bury my face in my hands.  Instead, I smiled, cocked my head to the side, and confidently said “Everything.”  They laughed.  I did, too.  I tried to believe my own bravado.  It stuck with me, though.  I couldn’t shake it.  The voice in my head was really stumped.  At a loss.  Perplexed.  What the hell does someone that fantastic like about me?  In the moment, I honestly couldn’t have given another answer.

I left my Mom’s house still shaken up inside, though I tried not to show it.  I delivered Tony cold and flu medicine (which he said I was silly for going out of my way to bring him).  He’s been feeling feverish and sick all day, and I’m pretty sure I gave him that lovely illness.  He also went out of his way to come see me on his lunch a few weeks ago when I was out sick to make me feel better.   This evening we had a much needed snuggle on the couch.   Then I headed home to submit a paper and write up my mentorship meeting for school.

On my drive, an answer to the question my Mom asked, other than sheer panic and blankness, finally began to form in my mind.  I think he really appreciates my sense of humor and honesty.  My genuineness, flaws and all, is probably endearing.  I know that we are compatible intellectually, sexually, and with our belief system.  He has said that he thinks I’m beautiful.  I have a pretty good job, I’m furthering my education, I can sing and play instruments, I’m open and fun, I try to be self-aware and positive, and I’m a giving and compassionate person.  I’m independent and self-sufficient while also wanting to share my life and happiness with someone special.  I guess that I’m probably a bit of a catch.

I need to take my advice from last post, and believe in my worth.  Tonight proved that as far as I’ve come, I’ve still got more ground to cover to overcome my insecurities.  The fact that I’ve abstained from listing a host of my shortcomings to “balance out” the positive traits above is a baby step.  The next step might be to not let those negative perceptions distort my view of myself so much that it takes nearly two hours to think of a single good thing that someone would like about me.

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Love or Need?

24 Jul

I am a member of a few forums and discussion boards.  On one of them a woman posted for support on making a decision about her current boyfriend.  She described him and his behavior in such a way that I wanted to personally rescue her from this mooching loser.  At one point she said that he “provides no support and rarely cares about my needs.”  The only positive I heard her say was that she knows he will always love her.

That got me thinking…  I asked her if she really meant “love,” though, or “need?”  The behavior she described – not going to work, smoking a lot of pot to the detriment of her health (she has asthma), cheating, not pitching in around the house, and ignoring her expressed needs – were not loving at all.  When she left for a few days, he was full of promises and apologies and declarations of undying love.  But real love cares about your needs and provide you with support.  Someone who is mooching just needs you around. It might feel good at first, especially when you confuse it with love, but it gets old pretty quickly.

I have been guilty of confusing feeling NEEDED with being LOVED.  That’s a trap.  Those two things are not the same.  I poured everything I had into my husband and then some because he “needed me to.”  I let his neediness feed my ego. I don’t know another way to put it… It felt great being able to give him support, love,and understanding, to rub his feet, and do his laundry.  To try to “help” him, finance his dreams, give him a “leg up.”  It made me feel successful, generous, kind, smart, and loved.

I was all of those things except loved by him.  Being taken advantage of didn’t make any of those things more or less true.  It just made me drained.  Because I gave and gave and gave and got nothing in return except his “love.”  A “love” that lied, cheated, did drugs, ran up my bills, and contributed nothing except his ability to cook and wash the dishes.  Hey, that’s more than some people get from their partners, right?  I convinced myself to settle because he “loved me so much.”

Bullshit!  He just needed me. He wanted my money, my house, my foot rubs, my stability, my kindness, and to show me off on his arm.  He wanted a narcissistic supply, which I stupidly continued providing to him.  Even as I pulled away, demanded more, “forced” him into therapy (he only went to prolong his free ride, lying the entire time), got upset, and threatened to kick him out, he kept getting what he wanted… My attention, my emotional involvement, and more time to drive my car around and sleep in my bed.

Yeah… Exhausting to say the least. When you give everything and don’t get anything in return it makes you tired in a way you can’t describe if you haven’t been there.  Parasites eventually sap all of your energy.

Again, that’s not love.  Feeling wanted or needed can certainly give off a little high.  It doesn’t last, though.  And it certainly is not the same as being loved.  In the future I don’t just want to be needed or wanted.  I want to be loved.  Cared for.  Put first.  Acknowledged.  Supported.  Treated with respect.  Gifted with honesty.  Noticed.  Appreciated.  Trusted.  I want tenderness.  An equal partner.  Someone who will put as much effort into the relationship as I do.

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Moving On From a Bad Relationship

14 Jun

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On my recent post Future of this Blog? I got a request from a reader to address the topic of how to move on from the end of a relationship, especially one that ended badly.  I’ve been thinking on that topic, and considering how to address it.  Honestly, I’m not sure that I’m the best one to give advice on this topic.  I have moved on from Chris (a.k.a. Mr. Mess), and I did it pretty quickly once we were separated.  However, that is mostly because I let things drag on far beyond the point where they should have.  I was able to move on emotionally once we were officially “over” because I didn’t let go and kick him out until I was already there.

I don’t really recommend that approach.  It put me through a lot of unnecessary turmoil and angst and emotional pain.  Holding on that long when I was so obviously being mistreated, lied to, and taken for granted is a hallmark of an unhealthy person.  Some people may argue that it shows love and devotion and strength of character.  Maybe at first.  However, I endured a lot of things that a healthier person would not have accepted.  A lot of things that I would never, ever advise anyone else to put up with.  I did it out of fear and a need for a “safety blanket,” even if said “safety” was actually harming me far worse than moving on would have.

Besides being degrading, that approach is also not possible in cases where the other person leaves you.  You may want to hold on, be willing to accept terrible treatment, and desperately want to “work on” things with someone who isn’t putting forth any effort and has no desire to change (like I was), but have that person walk away.  Or reject you.  Or leave you for someone else.  Either way, you might be looking for the unhealthy “safety blanket,” too, and have it denied, ripped away.  How do you move on then?

If I could do things differently or if I could give anyone else advice who is in a bad relationship it would be to love yourself.  Take care of yourself.  Find yourself.  Put the focus where it belongs – on you, not on him or her.  I think the key to really moving on is to realize what you deserve, find the things that make you happy, and pursue them.  Do some sort of physical activity, whether it be biking or hiking or walking or dancing – something to get your mind and body working together.  Laugh as often as possible.  Watch funny movies, listen to good music, surround yourself with family and friends and people who love you.

I will share something else that has worked for me.  It may or may not work for you, depending on what type of role model you have.  I try to think about my Mom.  What would she do in this situation?  What would she accept?  Would she allow someone to treat her like this, behave this way, etc.?  If not, I ask myself why I accept it.  Then I try not to anymore.  That last part requires the answer to the question that precedes it.  A lot of the time the answer has been that I don’t think I deserve better, or that I’m afraid that I won’t get better if I don’t accept what I’m given.  In order to really move on, I need to combat that voice and find a way to know that I deserve more than what that person and that bad relationship gave me.  If your Mom won’t work, think about a friend or sister or some other person you love and ask yourself if you think they should accept that kind of treatment.  Most likely, the answer is no.

How does that help you move on?  Knowing what you were given in a bad relationship wasn’t good enough makes it easier to walk away emotionally.  When you realize how little there was to mourn and how much better is out there, it becomes easier to accept that it’s over.  Not only to accept it, but to rejoice over it.  I now feel elated that things are done with my ex, and so excited to get the divorce papers back from the judge signed that I can barely wait.  My friends want me to have a divorce party.  I still haven’t planned one, but it sure does sound like a good idea.  I’m not just moving on, I’m dancing on the grave of this terrible relationship.

That’s what you should do, too.  Dance.  Laugh.  Love.  Rejoice.  Take time to pamper yourself, lick your wounds, and realize that you deserve more, you deserve better, and you deserve real love.  The kind of love that you would hope for your Mom or sister or best friend.  The kind of love that treats you well, makes you feel like the most important person in the world, and complements your happiness.  Note that I said “complements your happiness” and not “makes you happy.”   Only you can do that.  Find your happiness inside of you, nurture it, and watch it attract the kind of people who will support it and not leach it out of you.  That’s my advice on how to move on from a bad relationship.

And just because, here’s some musical inspiration:

“I’m Moving On”

I’ve dealt with my ghosts and I’ve faced all my demons
Finally content with a past I regret
I’ve found you find strength in your moments of weakness
For once I’m at peace with myself
I’ve been burdened with blame, trapped in the past for too long
I’m movin’ on

I’ve lived in this place and I know all the faces
Each one is different but they’re always the same
They mean me no harm but it’s time that I face it
They’ll never allow me to change
But I never dreamed home would end up where I don’t belong
I’m movin’ on

I’m movin’ on
At last I can see life has been patiently waiting for me
And I know there’s no guarantees, but I’m not alone
There comes a time in everyone’s life
When all you can see are the years passing by
And I have made up my mind that those days are gone

I sold what I could and packed what I couldn’t
Stopped to fill up on my way out of town
I’ve loved like I should but lived like I shouldn’t
I had to lose everything to find out
Maybe forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road
I’m movin’ on

I’m movin’ on
I’m movin’ on

You call me up to tell me that you’re sorry
But sorry is as sorry does
You can call it what you want to
But damn it, don’t you dare call it love

You’ve got the nerve to ask me if I’m okay
Boy, give it a rest
‘Cause I’m good
And getting better at being my best

They say time can heal all wounds
Well, the sooner the better for me
‘Cause a heart at war damn sure
Will make you be all that you can be

You tore me down piece by piece
But believe me, there’s plenty of me left
Boy, I’m good
Getting better at being my best

I’ve been thrown a lot of curves in this ol’ world
But it’s only made me strong
I suggest you do what I’ve done
And make this call your last one and move on

No’s my final answer
Rest assured that I’m not after anything less
Boy, I’m good
Getting better at being my best

Oh, I’ve cried a river
But you don’t remember
Let me refresh your memory
One last time

Boy, I’m good
And getting better at being my best
Boy, I’m good
Getting better at being my best

Boy, I’m good
Oh, I’m getting better
I’m good
Getting better at being my best

Just Breathe

30 May

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This evening I’ve decided to share a video with you guys.  It’s a little clip from a song.  Unlike the rest of the music I’ve shared on here, this one is of me.  Yep, that’s right… I’m officially going to make my internet singing debut…  Hahahaha.  🙂

Let me back up really quickly.  I have mentioned a few times that my Mom plays the piano.  She got a new one a month or so ago, and I got her old piano.  It’s in my living room, right as you walk into my front door.   That is a picture of it above.  That piano is special.  It holds a lot of memories and meaning for me and for my Mom.  Her parents bought it for her when she was 8 years old.  Her father passed away when she was 16.  I never had the opportunity to meet him (obviously).  This is the piano she learned to play on, and the one that I sort of learned how to play on.  I will admit that as a child and even a teenager I wasn’t very motivated.

My Mom gave me the piano at the perfect time.  I want to learn, at least a bit, although I have no illusions of becoming a concert pianist.  More importantly, I now have a chance to focus on myself.  This is really the first time I have had that opportunity in years and years due to the drama and neediness of my exes (both of them).  I also find myself craving a creative outlet with which to express myself (besides writing here).  Music has always been a cathartic, soul cleansing release for me.  Now I have another medium for that besides my guitar and my voice.  The more options the better!

A few weeks after getting the piano, I realized pretty definitively that I didn’t remember a darn thing about how to play it.  The next time I visited my Mom took me up to her attic and we grabbed some music books.  She also gave me a folder of “secular music” from a band that she used to play with.  I opened it up and found the song Breathe (2 am) by Anna Nalick.  Not only is it fairly basic, it is also on the piano originally which meant I could listen to it a few times to get a feel for it before attempting anything myself.  Finally, the song hit the trifecta because it has been featured several time on Grey’s Anatomy, which is possibly my favorite television show of all times.

The song also get major bonus points were assigned because of the title and lyrics.  Here’s the portion that I sang for the video:

2 AM and I’m still awake, writing a song

If I get it all down on paper, its no longer

inside of me, threatening the life they belong to

And i feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd

Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud

And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to

Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable,

And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table

No one can find the rewind button now

Sing it if you understand.

And breathe, just breathe

woah breathe, just breathe

I connect deeply with those words.  I am often up late writing, thinking, singing, and playing (like tonight, for instance).  It’s like my brain just can’t stop until I get it out.  I write so many raw, personal things here and share them with people who know me and those who don’t.  I am judged sometimes, but receive support so much more often.  This really is like my diary, though.  When I was writing music (and it has been a while), those songs were a little piece of me.  Now I give that by singing and playing the words of other people that connect with me.  I may even get back to writing one day.  The truth behind this song that hits me more than anything else is we can’t go back, only forward.  It reminds me to take a moment and a deep breath, and keep pressing on with my head held high.

Soooo… after a few weeks of playing around here and there when I had the opportunity, tonight I decided to try recording myself.  I was already filmed once today at work for a video that will be featured at our convention in July, so I figured what the hell – I’ll give it a shot.  I ended up with a pretty decent video.  Only after uploading it to my computer did I realize portrait mode isn’t exactly computer friendly.  A few tutorial videos on the internet later and I had at least figured out how to rotate the thing so people don’t have to tilt their heads sideways to read it.  Just for the heck of it, I went ahead and shot another one in landscape mode, too.

The truth is that neither of the takes are perfect.  I didn’t play and sing the entire song, which I know means that it’s completely useless for almost all intents and purposes.  I mess up some words, and they have multiple piano issues like pauses and wrong notes and inconsistencies.  But I like them.  I like that song.  I like the fact that I made some mistakes, but it’s still beautiful.  I even like that despite the fact that I’m irrationally scared of posting videos that hardly anyone will ever, ever see, I’m doing it.  So if any of you care to watch me sing and try to play the piano in my “READ” t-shirt, here are the videos.  Feel free to let me know which one you like better if you care enough to watch them both even though they are basically the same thing.

And don’t forget, no matter what you’re going through, to stop and just breathe.

Take 1:

Take 2:

Failure.

4 Apr

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Failure: What does it mean?  When asked about my #1 fear, failure is always my answer.  Not spiders or snakes or drowning.  Those things don’t worry me at all.  Just the word failure, however, strikes fear into my heart.  Appropriately enough, the very first reading assignment I was given in my Master’s class was on failure – and learning to embrace and even celebrate it.  The article was “Fail Faster, Succeed Sooner” by Dr. Cheryl Lenz.

The entire time that I was reading I could feel my internal struggle, the desire to proclaim that the author was wrong and to run in the other direction.  I have discovered that she is not incorrect, though.  Life has taught me that failure cannot be avoided, therefore it should be embraced.  I’m not quite there yet, however.  Failure is still something I struggle against.

The concept of learning through failures (actually seeking them out, even), is something I vehemently fought against.  My mind was screaming that I learned just fine without ever failing.  That’s not really true, though.  Although I have never, ever received an ‘F,’ I have certainly never achieved perfection, either.  In fact, I know that it isn’t even possible.  Still, as I was reading my perfectionist mind was finding typos and mentally correcting them (like the word “prefect” instead of “perfect” at the top of page 154 – I wonder if that was intentional to drive people like me crazy?).

When I stop, take a breath, and really think about failure and what we can learn from it, I can see the wisdom in embracing it.  It is undeniably true that no one does anything flawlessly the first time.  I have also found that sometimes we learn the most from discovering how NOT to approach a problem, task, or process.  I used to feel like my failures were something to be embarrassed about, and to hide from the world.  That was my perfectionism in full force, telling me that anything less than exactly what I set out to do wasn’t worth anything.  As I’ve grown and been faced with less than perfect outcomes, I have also discovered that not all failures can be private. And some that could be maybe shouldn’t be. When I make myself vulnerable and admit my humanity I have found that people relate to me more.  No one is perfect, but even though we all know that we still try to keep up the façade.

Walking away from my marriage, admitting that I made a poor choice in a partner, and pursuing divorce was terrifying – probably the scariest thing I’ve done so far.  I never thought I would be divorced.  I believe in love and marriage.  “Giving up” on my marriage was something I didn’t want to do.  Sometimes you don’t have control over things, though.  I didn’t have any control over my husband’s addiction, his lies, his narcissist personality, or his lack of desire to be honest and trustworthy in our marriage.  I am figuring out how to give up control and learning from disappointments in life the hard way (because I’m a stubborn person).  Every day I strive to accept that I can’t plan out my life.  I can have goals and work towards them, but I cannot predict where life might take me.

A failure is only truly a negative thing when we let it be the end of the road.  I have been guilty of seeing a failure coming, and trying to avoid it at all costs, even if it meant giving up and walking away.  That has made me miss out on experiences that I could have learned from and grown as a person.  It is important to know your limitations, but we shouldn’t allow fear of failure to hold us back from achieving our dreams.  Resiliency is a gift, and it should be encouraged and honed.  I suppose that is one thing that failure teaches us.  🙂

Failure

Thoughts & Quotes About Trust

8 Jan

The concept of trust is something that I struggled with in my last relationship quite a bit (as you know if you’ve read this blog at all).  As I move forward and put my past behind me, I know that I will also need to open my heart and learn to trust again.  In theory, that seems like it should be difficult considering everything that I’ve been through.  However, I already have more peace and trust in my heart in this moment than I did for the last year or two combined.

Part of that comes from no longer having the constant lies in my life.  However, I think I no longer have the constant lies in my life because of a deeper change in ME.  I have learned that my trust is within my control – who I trust, what I trust them with, and what I accept or don’t.  I can give trust away freely in some circumstances and require much more for other types of trust.  I can loan someone my trust, but always be mindful of how they are treating that precious gift.  My trust can be taken away in small increments, or all at once.  My trust in one person can and should be based entirely on their actions.  I can trust in varying degrees – I may trust one person with my entire heart and soul and mind, and another person just enough to hang out and talk football.

I feel a certain freedom in making that revelation, which probably seems so basic to most people.  Trust used to seem like an absolute thing.  I’m not sure why, since I am generally a “shades of gray” person (now the book has added a dirty connotation to that phrase), instead of someone who sees things in black or white.  Trust always seemed like a straight-forward concept, though.  Either you trusted someone or you didn’t.  Simple, right?

I used to trust easily – I took almost anyone I met entirely at their word.  There was a time when I believed that people were inherently good.  I got burned so much that I flipped my mentality.  I came to believe that virtually everyone is twisted, corruptable, and out for themselves.  I trusted hardly anyone with hardly anything.  The people who I did let in, though, got my absolute trust.  If I had to choose between trusting my instincts or someone I loved, I would opt for the latter.  Trusting everyone naïvely and trusting a few people more than I trusted myself were both unhealthy ways of thinking.  Now I believe I finally understand where the middle ground is.

Yesterday I saw a quote about trust that I loved.  I thought about this topic all night, and today I wanted to find that quote again.  I did find it, but I also found many more that inspired me in different ways.  I would like to share those quotes and pictures below with a little commentary.

This first inspirational tidbit isn’t necessarily about trust.  To me, though, it’s about trusting my destiny and realizing that it is up to me to make the best out of everything.  I read this, and it makes me think of all of the moments that led me to where I am now – the big ones, the difficult ones, the tiny ones that I didn’t think meant anything, the joys and sorrows…  Everything we experience tells us something else about who we are, and what we do with those moments will define us forever.  I want my life, my moments, and my experiences to bring me to a place of deeper understanding, happiness, and authenticity.

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This next quote is about trusting yourself – that voice inside that tells you what is right for you and what isn’t.  I’m not going to disregard that voice again no matter what.  I have learned that I have to trust myself first and foremost.  No one can tell me what to believe, who to trust, what to do, or what is the right path for my life.  That means I have a lot of responsibility and a lot of freedom to determine where my life should go.

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I absolutely love the 16 “harsh truths” in this quote.  I have faced each and every one of these truths in the recent past, and I’m learning every day to embrace them.  I can’t change the past, there is a lot I don’t know, I will fail, and I can’t control much of anything.  Information and knowledge are not the same thing, I have to prove my own value and worth to be successful, and I will never feel 100% ready for something new, so it’s best to just dive in.  I can only get out what I put in, but I won’t always get what I want.  Someone else will always have more than me.   Life isn’t easy, good friends will come and go, people won’t always like me, and nothing in life is guaranteed.  With that in mind, the only person who can make me happy is me.  When I accept all of these things it makes me stronger and more able to really live!

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This one is self-explanatory.  It’s what happened in my last relationship.  In fact, by the end I was trying to use the eraser dust because that was all that was left of my trust.

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This next quote is both hilarious and entirely true.  This is why I think that lies of omission are just as dangerous as blatant lies.  A little bit of truth is a very, very dangerous thing.  I always want to make sure that I’ve got the whole truth and the entire picture.  If not, my trust won’t last long at all.

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Yet another simple truth – the truth is always simple.

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This is the quote I saw yesterday that started this entire train of thought.  I am trying not to be a bitter person who doesn’t give their trust away at all, however I believe that trust is fragile.  When I give it to someone, I truly hope that they treat it as such.  Don’t make me regret trusting you if you want me in your life in any capacity because I no longer stick around to be damaged.

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This quote is sweet and optimistic and hopeful.  It is a good mantra.  Pink also happens to be my favorite color at the moment – along with red, black, silver, sparkly (I know, technically not a color, but go with it), and purple.  I want my future to be full of laughter, kissing, happiness, pretty things, miracles, and strength of character.  I believe I will truly be fulfilled then because with those things and love you can’t go wrong.

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Okay, I have to throw this one in just because I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw it.

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I’m going to end with this one because it resonates with me.  The next person I let into my heart and my life full-time will have to be someone who lives their truth, not simply speaks it.  I have learned that words alone are cheap.  My future trust will be based on what I see, not on what I hear.  I’m looking for integrity, strength of character, and actions.  Just know, if you can’t prove it, if you aren’t going to follow through, and if you’re not in this all the way you’re better off not wasting my time.  🙂

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12 Changes

12 Dec

In honor of 12/12/12, here is a little inspirational photo with 12 signs that you are experiencing a “spiritual awakening.”  I’m not sure how I feel about that term, but I do like the 12 “symptoms.”

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Here are 12 positive things I have noticed about myself and my life lately:

  1. When I’m not being crushed by lies and depression, I’m apparently a very fun, bubbly person who people like to be around.  Go figure!
  2. I enjoy being active.  The more I do, the less tired I am.  It’s weird and counter-intuitive, but I’m loving it.
  3. When you are enjoying life, taking positive action, being active, and connecting with people there is far, far less time in the day for watching TV.  I’m not missing it at all.  (Okay, in all honesty there are still a few things I won’t be able to stop watching – The Middle and Grey’s Anatomy – there will always be time for you!)
  4. Smart phones are awesome.  I shouldn’t have held out so long before I caved.  Having a phone from the 21st century has its perks.  My smart phone is almost smarter than me, but I’m learning.
  5. Smiling is amazing.
  6. People can be amazing, too.  They also sometimes cause the action in #5 instead of pain, hurt, betrayal, and tears.
  7. I can be my different, sarcastic, irreverent, honest, goofy, vulnerable, sappy, smart-ass self and those people I mentioned in #1 and #6 seem to like me more.  It’s an odd sensation, but one that I’m starting to enjoy.
  8. I am my worse critic.  I realize now that that when I shut up and let myself be me, flaws and all, I can still be happy.
  9. I deserve to be valued and respected.  As soon as I recognized that, the universe delivered people who see my value and give me respect.  I guess when I stop trying to make things happen, they do just happen.
  10. I have the absolute best family in the entire world.
  11. Peace of mind is priceless.
  12. I have to love myself first and foremost in order to accept love from others.  I am still working on this one.  However, I am more and more confident every day that I am getting closer to understanding what I need, what I want, what I deserve, and all that the world has to offer.  In the meantime, I’m going to have fun and not overthink things (or at least try not to).

I also want to express gratitude to the various people who have given me awards lately.  I hate being ungrateful, and I’m not ignoring you.  I just find that I have less and less time to blog now that I’m being more active and doing more things outside of rooms with computers in them (both in my work and personal life).  Also, the holidays are approaching (rapidly), and I am less prepared than I have ever been.  I want you all to know now that I am honored by the awards.  I will get to accepting them all and following all of the rules.  I swear!  I just can’t promise you when that will be.  😀

Step 3

1 Dec

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Step 3 is making a daily decision to kneel on air.

Step 2 – Letting Go to a Higher Power

1 Dec

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Step 2 was probably the most difficult for me to reconcile at first as an atheist and a control freak.

I like the atheist version, “Came to believe and to accept that a power within myself in tandem with supports and strengths beyond my own awareness and resources can restore me to a healthier, more balanced, and positive state of mind, body and soul.”

Perfectionism makes us this scared little kid who needs to fix things no matter what.  Although we know we can’t be perfect, when other people show themselves to be imperfect, we make them pay for their imperfections.

Letting go in Step 2 means admitting “I am fucked up.” Then we can find a power outside of ourselves help us.

One difficult thing about Step 2 is admitting the insanity.  We tend to see them as the problem, as the insane one.  However, we have to recognize our part in things.  Sanity is the peace that you can get through surrender.

Step 2 helps us to see our character flaws and how they interact with other’s flaws to create mayhem.

Using the term Higher Power instead of God can help us reconcile the hurts and disappointments and preconceived notions about “god” and what that really means.  Our childhood notion of god is often very skewed.

For me as an atheist, it is about recognizing that life and the world is full of wisdom and experience and knowledge beyond myself.  Part of my higher power is recognizing fate and the inherent mystery and wonder that life can offer if you let it come as it will.

This step goes hand in hand with the obstacles.  Every part of this program compliments another part of it.

The definition of what a higher power looks like varies from person to person.  The main aspect is that it is outside of yourself and your control.  Its not about having the same HP as everyone else.  There is no fear of being the “outcast” here.  It’s about the process of getting from A to B.

This step is not about religion.  It is about connecting to something outside of ourselves.  It is also, paradoxically, about knowing that your higher power is accessible, is always right inside of you.

Often those of us with control issues will say, “By the time I explain to you how to do it, I could have just done it myself.”  We also tend to carry that over into our higher power – thinking if we give up control then things won’t turn out the way they should.  We feel the need to coordinate it all instead of letting go.  The fear is that if we don’t coordinate it all things won’t turn out the way we want them to.  The reality is that all of our coordinating won’t change anything.

Step 2 is about trust.  It’s about trust that things will be what they need to be.  Trust that since there can be no controlling life, we need to let go and enjoy the ride.  It is also about realizing that there is no choice other than to do that.

Step 1 Musings

1 Dec

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This weekend I am at an intensive step work S-Anon retreat.  We will be going through at least Step 4 today with reading and journaling time and panels.

As I sit in these meetings I will be jotting down my thoughts and feelings and the things that really resonate with me.  I am going to publish these thoughts without any editing or order, as they come to me.  Feel free to enter my swirling mind, take what works for you, and leave the rest.

Step 1 Notes from Our S-Anon Retreat

Sometimes we play games with ourselves – “if only” x or y or z would happen (or wouldn’t have happened) then everything would be fine.  That magical thinking just keeps the plates in the air, spinning.  It is juggling, it isn’t managing.
One thing that is a blessing and a curse about this program is that admitting unmanageability is a slow process.  Step 1 seems like one step, but it is really 4 or 5 wrapped up all together.

One of the hardest parts is that we can’t understand it.  Crazy is crazy.  It can’t be explained with logic.  We can’t control things, but we also can’t necessarily understand it because it isn’t ours to understand.  We have to understand ourselves, not the addict.

Finding serenity can be very difficult in the midst of a crisis.  Surrender. That is the challenge of Step 1.  That’s what it takes to find peace.

Letting go brings clarity.

We are all waiting for the next lesson.

Step 1 is about “admitting” the truth.  It is hard to make progress when you won’t even tell yourself that you are somewhere.  It was easy to acknowledge inside that you are powerless, but saying it out loud puts action into the process and makes it real.

Powerlessness and unmanageability go back and forth like a seesaw.  The more that we buy into the false thought that we can manage, the more we convince ourselves that we are powerful.  There is a gratitude that comes with recognizing that life is unmanageable.  We just create an illusion of manageability.  The more unmanageable life seemed, the more power and energy that we try to expend attempting to control it.

Powerlessness does not mean helplessness.  In fact, it means the ability to ask for help and gain true power and tools to get better.  Control meant hanging on with a tight fist.  Slowly when we are able to loosen the grip and just admit that we are powerless, we can trust something greater than ourselves to lead us where we need to be.

This is a wake up program for us to become who we are supposed to be, who we really are.

These things aren’t going to go away.  Life is like an ocean with wave after wave after wave.  You don’t sit there and hope the ocean stops having waves.  You just learn how to deal with them, how to find peace in the midst of it all.

There is no magic cure.  There is not one thing I can do or change that will make things better or perfect.  I have gotten rid of my husband, but that doesn’t “solve” the problem.  My life isn’t magically manageable because he is no longer here.  It is much healthier and much more fulfilling and much happier, but there is always something to work on.  Organizing things differently doesn’t change the problem.

Its okay to work on the same problem over and over.  There is no failure in digging into things, and doing Step 1 many times with many different issues.  This is not a “once through” kinda program.  You don’t get a certificate and a passing grade and an “everything is cured” pat on the back.  It is a constant process towards growth and change.

How many of us saw red flags at the beginning of our relationship with our addict and thought, “Oh, I can handle this”?

I like the idea that one member suggested of a “god box” where she puts slips of paper with all of the things she tries to control in order to let go of them.

“Step 1 was the hardest step I had ever done because I hadn’t done any other steps.”

One member re-words Step 1 to remove the “we” and focus entirely on herself in the here and now.  “I admit that I am powerless and my life is unmanageable.”

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I Forgot What It Feels Like To Be Cared About

17 Nov

One of the people that I formed a bond with this weekend is a kid from a neighboring state.  I say “kid” because he is 19 years old and grew up (running & playing) around in this business.  His Dad owns a franchise, and he is starting to learn sales and spread his wings.  I have met his father a few times, but never really had a conversation with his son, who I’ll call Abercrombie for the purposes of this post.

Not too long into this training I realized that he is really sharp and together, especially for his age.  He got married in August and is doing everything he can to succeed.  He is also incredibly sarcastic and brutally honest, sometimes to the point of coming across entitled or bratty.  At his core, he is a really sweet kid, though.  He has the same bantering, insult-laced style of joking that I love.  I told him today that he is like the little brother I never wanted.  In all seriousness, although he can be annoying, he reminds me of family in the best possible way.

I will admit that on Monday and Tuesday night I got much more inebriated than I should have.  We weren’t driving anywhere, and the beer and wine were complimentary.  I let the drinks flow as freely as the conversation.  I was in a circle of about 10 people.  The group ran the gamut from a newlywed (Abercrombie), to two divorcees, to a few happily married folks, one of which has a new baby on the way, and a few of us disenchanted, unhappily married sad sacks (for lack of a more positive description).

Before I knew it we were sharing things I never thought we would share.  I can’t even tell you how the subject came up, but all of a sudden we were talking about our sex lives.  I didn’t even remember until I was reminded tonight, but I apparently mentioned some of my unhappiness with the state of things in the Mess household (if you can even call it that anymore).  Although Abercrombie is too young to drink, he stayed up with us talking and laughing and taking it all in (as only a sober person in a group of drunks truly can).

After Tuesday I swore off beer completely for at least a year.  Seriously, I felt sick most of the day.  I purposely put out of my mind whatever my honest nature, plied and intensified with alcohol, may have revealed.  As the week continued we all got closer.  Abercrombie and I started ragging on each other even harder.  We all studied as a group and stressed over the test.  He got my cell phone number from the employee I brought with me when he saw me doing payroll on a break so that he could text me his request that I cut him a check, too.

As the week wound to a close today, we all shared a limo bus to the airport.  Abercrombie, my employee, and myself are all going to areas that are only a few hours apart, but we were all flying into different airports.  Tonight when I arrived at my destination my step-mom picked me up and she, I and my Dad had dinner.  Not too long after I finally arrived home I got a text from Abercrombie asking if I made it back safely.  I told him I had and asked about him.  He still had a 3 hour drive from the airport to his house.  We joked around a bit, and I figured I would hear from him occasionally and see him on the work forums and Twitter every now and then.

Instead, about 3 hours later he sent me a text that he had gotten home okay.  He asked if my husband was glad to see me, then said “Don’t have too much sex tonight, we all know how much he likes to do it lol.”  I honestly had no idea what the fuck he was talking about.  Then in horror I remembered those first drunken evenings…  Oh gosh!  He followed up with, “That’s what happens when u drink too much. u talk alot. lol” 

I deflected him with a great tactic we learned over the week called “acknowledge and ignore.”  He started talking about other people who drank too much and all the crazy personalities in our class.  He mentioned another guy who is married, but incredibly unhappy.  Suddenly all of the “lol”s disappeared.  He sent me these simple words: “I hope you’re happy.”

That sudden sincerity (I could sense a dramatic change in tone, even over text), made me dissolve into tears.  Those tears turned into sobs with this next exchange:

Me: “You are sweet.  I’m not as happy as I want to be but I’m working on it.”  

Abercrombie: “What can we do to fix that.”

Me: “I don’t know.  I will tell you when I figure it out.  You’re making me cry.”

Him: “Well I really care about you…  so I wanna help u figure it out.”

Just like that, the words started flowing.  He asked some gentle questions, I gave him a quick summary of my sordid life as it stands now.  An hour later I apologized for dumping all of that on him.  He replied with another statement that made me break down:

“No I wanna talk about it.  i know ur not happy just by looking u in the eyes.” 

Wow…

Then he said, “Heres what most dont know abt me. i am very cocky, outgoing, and speak my mind but i have one of the biggest hearts you’ve ever seen. but i never show it.”

I told him that he shows it more than he thinks.

After a little pause he asked, “r u alright?”

Me: “Yeah, I am fine.  I appreciate your concern and that you took the time to ask & listen.”

Him: “u suck at lying i hope u know tht

Me: “What am I lying about?”

Him: “ur not really ok”

Me: “Im better than I have been but I’m a mess, its true.  I take that bad liar thing as a compliment because I don’t ever want to get as good at it as my husband.”

Him: “what can i do to help u??”

Me: “You’ve done it.  I’m blown away that you care at all… I have forgotten what it feels like to be cared about.”

And there’s the crux of this whole thing.  I’ve forgotten how it feels to have someone put your needs and feelings first.  I connected with this great young man just 4 days ago, and he has stayed up texting me until midnight after a long day of studying, testing, and travel that included a flight and a 3-hour drive.  He genuinely cares.

He doesn’t have an interest in me in any other way than friendship, and neither do I.  He and his wife make me feel hopeful that there is a chance for real love out there.  They are so sweet and caring and great with each other.  His eyes light up when he talks about her.  He loses that arrogant edge, and his dimples show.

He said to me tonight in another text, “If your married to someone it means your devoted to them and nobody else.”  He is 19, and he knows that.  He is giving that to his wife, and I don’t doubt that he always will because he is a great guy.  I was starting to believe those didn’t exist, especially in this generation.  I am happy to be proven wrong.

It turns out I was right last week when I told my therapist it would be far easier to trust a stranger than my husband.  Right now we aren’t even at ground level in the trust factor.  A nuclear bomb has been dropped on my little town, and it’s now a huge crater miles below sea level.  I don’t think I can rebuild there anymore.

What that means for me is that I have to hold my head up and make the difficult, painful choices.  If such a simple gesture from a near stranger can have me crying for 2 hours, then it’s obvious to me that big changes are necessary.  I’ve taken one step toward that this week.

Tomorrow I will be going to marriage counseling alone again (at this point marriage counseling has probably breathed its last breath) to figure out what the next steps really are.  My husband is too busy to come, but I’ve already grown used to him not putting any real, honest effort into this relationship.  That means I have to do what I have to do in order to take care of me.  This week I found the motivation, internal strength, and support to do so.

I’m Back & I’m a New Woman

16 Nov

By EllyDelice ©2010-2012

This week was exactly what I needed.  I’m back at home tonight and surrounded by my sweet dogs.  I’m happy to be in my robe, to have my own pillow back, and to get puppy love.  At the same time I am nostalgic for what I had this week and sad to see how fast the time flew by.  More than once during the week I wished I could hit the “Pause” button and take a bit to just soak everything in and savor my feelings.

My trip started last Sunday and ended this afternoon.  I went to corporate headquarters for an in-depth training class that had 15 total people attend (including myself).  The group was a great mix of people from franchises all over the country.  The very first day we got to learn some unique things about each other that made instant connections.  Ages in the class ranged from 19 to 60s (if I had to guess on that last one).  We had slices of the entire U.S. including Oregon, North Carolina, West Virginia, Texas, Florida, Rhode Island, New York, Tennessee, Missouri, and several others.  We even had a French Canadian!  There was also a strong showing of females in a traditionally male-dominated industry.  In addition to myself there were 3 other women.  🙂

The evening “social” at the hotel, which I mentioned in my last post, was the perfect opportunity to let loose, throw a few friendly jabs around, get to know everyone in a more relaxed environment, and forge life-long connections.  I was able to remember what it is like to have fun again.  These past two years, or maybe more, I had completely forgotten the simple pleasure of laughing.  Not just laughing at a passing joke or something on TV.  I mean the deep in your gut, uncontrollable, joyous laughter of something unexpected that catches you in the right moment and makes your sides hurt.  I had several of those moments this week.

I found myself climbing out from under the crushing weight of this mess I’ve been living in.  I didn’t even realize that I couldn’t breathe until that pressure lifted.  It was freeing.  I found my honesty was appealing to people, and I was getting it in return.  I was able to laugh at myself and let go of my fear of looking stupid.  I even won a role-playing award and went on a real-life cold call that turned into a 25 minute rapport building sales presentation.  I did that with some training and guidance, great tools, the support of fantastic people, and a lot of looking my fears straight in the eye.

It looked just like this

I honestly can’t remember when I have had that much fun.  I even got to take home a fake cockroach which one of the trainers left on my table to scare me.  It worked somewhat on me, but even better when I used it on another woman in the class.  She actually screamed in the middle of a quiet goal-setting session.  It was hilarious.

There are so many stories and moments that will stick with me for a long time, if not forever, from this past week.  Some of them are small.  Some of them are bigger – like that first step I took into a prospect all on my own, scared out of my mind, and the satisfaction I felt when I walked out knowing that they liked me so much they wanted to know if I could fly back from Virginia to set them up.

I was the star pupil.  Or at least one of them.  I have always been great in school, but this was something different than that.  This was about confidence and sales skills and building rapport with people.  It was about being liked.  This week it finally sunk in that I am a valuable, genuine, bubbly (their word, not mine) person with lots to offer the world.  I deserve to be treated that way.  I deserve to have someone who gives me as much as I give them.

At some point this week, I changed.  I can’t put my finger on the exact moment, but I am a different person now than I was when I left.  I know with absolute certainty that I cannot go back to the way things were.  I also can’t stop my growth to wait around for someone else.  I can’t dull my shine for someone else’s comfort or because they can’t handle the intensity of my glow.  Here’s to change!

Delving Into My Childhood

10 Nov

In my quest to improve myself, I have come across another blogger, Peregrinerose, who is dealing with determining how her “psyche, experiences, history, etc. contributed to choosing a life as a sex addict codependent.”  I had to use her words there because they are perfect.  That is what I would really like to do as well.

She is working through some questions from a book by Mic Hunter, and was kind enough to email me a digital copy of the questions that he proposes the spouses of sex addicts ask themselves.  There are 100 of them.  I may or may not spare you my answers to them all.  We’ll see how lucky you are.  The first one is:

How would you describe your relationships with your parents and other family members as you were growing up?  Generally speaking, were these relationships characterized by feelings of: Love? Fear? Warmth? Anger?

A hard one right off the bat, huh?  Okay.  Here goes…

Maybe this is a great place to start for me.  One particular phrase from the S-Anon “Problem” has always stumped me.  It reads, “Most of us grew up in families with secrets, and we were not taught to think about our own needs and take positive action to meet them.”  I don’t really think that is true for me.  At least in all my thinking I have never been able to identify with that.

My Mom taught me to think about my needs.  She always talked through things with me.  I felt loved and supported by her.  My family also didn’t really have a lot of secrets, at least not that I know of.  My grandma is an alcoholic, but I don’t remember that being a secret.  We talked about it openly as a family, especially as she was struggling (a few falls while drunk, one of which put her in the hospital near death, a few car wrecks, etc.) and when she went into alcoholics anonymous to start her recovery.  She is now 13 years sober.

Back to the actual question at hand…  As I was growing up I would describe my relationships with my parents and other family members as close.  Both of my parents were very involved.  Most, if not all, of our extended family lived close by.  I remember regular visits to both sets of grandparents, and having lots of family time with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I would spend weekends or even whole weeks with either my Nanny and Papa on my Dad’s side at the beach or with my Ma and Pa on my Mom’s side at their horse farm.

My Mom stayed home with us kids.  We were all home-schooled, me for the longest.  I remember my Mom working very hard on her lesson plans.  I still remember the stick figure puppet things she used to teach me my numbers and sounds.  We went to story-time at the library every week, sometimes more often.  She would get all of the Newbery Metal winning books and read them to us, like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (an amazing book).  One of my favorite memories to this day is her reading The Cay to my brother, sister, and I on the couch at home.  She did all of the voices (one main character had an accent), and I can still picture the way the story came to life in my mind.

Yep, that’s us at our old house… Cute little buggers, aren’t we?

My Dad was the sole bread-winner.  I know that he worked very hard to provide for us.  We never had the best, newest, or most expensive thing but we had a lot.  More than a lot, really.  My Mom designed our house and they build it (not with their own hands, but my Dad did do some of the work) on a gorgeous 10-acre piece of land.  It was “in the country” enough that our neighbors were spaced out, but close enough to “town” that I went to one of the best public high schools in the state.  We were also only about 35-40 minutes or so outside of our state’s capital.

My Dad wasn’t one of those workaholic fathers, though.  He worked regular hours (early mornings, but no late nights and no weekends).  He attended every single one of my events.  He was the loudest one cheering for me at softball.  He was the president of the choral boosters club, calling bingo every week to raise funds.  He played with us a lot – letting us ride him like a pony when we were really young, playing catch in the yard with us as we got older, and supporting the things that we loved.  My parents gave me and my brother and sister everything they could and more.

English: An American Quarter Horse in winter. ...

This horse reminds me of my Petey.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think back to those times growing up and wonder how they did it.  One income.  Three kids.  A nice house, lots of land.  We had 3 horses and a pony.  Sure, three of them came from my grandparent’s farm, but they were not given away for free to us.  My Mom and Dad both spent a lot of time with me looking for my first horse, too.  We visited farms, talked to owners, test-rode several, and found the perfect one – Petey, an American Quarter Horse.

I took horseback riding lessons, gymnastics, played softball, sang in the chorus (and went on all of their trips, which weren’t cheap), and I wasn’t the only one.  My brother played sports, too, and was in the high school band.  He got a drum set one birthday or Christmas that was set up in the corner of our living room.  My sister tried one thing after another – violin, softball, art.  Not a lot of it stuck, but they never told her not to try something she was interested in.  Her real passion was animals.  She had a crazy cat, bunnies, a dog, and she adopted the pony that started off as mine, Blue, even though she wasn’t interested in riding him.  When I started school (and when my brother started), we were in a private school. I don’t know how much it cost, but it couldn’t have been cheap.

Not our actual van, but you get the general picture…

Lest you think we were rich or something… Did I mention that my Dad isn’t a doctor or lawyer or physicist?  He is a machinist.  It’s not working at Wal-Mart, but it isn’t raking in the cash, either.  We never had a new car.  The ones we did have were reliable and safe, but never beautiful (Cheesy 80’s van?  Check!).  We shopped the clearance racks.  My Mom sewed us some dresses, we didn’t buy a lot of new things, we did a lot of crafts and outside activities.  My Dad taught us how to balance a checkbook, put money aside to save no matter what, always pay off any credit cards in full every month, and never buy something we couldn’t afford.

Overall, it was a great life.  Certainly nothing glaring stands out in all of that.  Generally speaking, I felt love and warmth in my family.  I guess it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, though.  When I really thought about things today, I have to admit there was an undercurrent of pressure to my childhood.  I don’t remember it being something my parents overtly expressed or pushed on me.  I just always had a deep desire to give something back for all of their sacrifices.

Maybe some of it stems from the home-schooling.  My Mom taught me and my brother, then all 3 of us, at the same time.  We were all in different stages and grades, obviously.  We also had very different needs, education-wise.  I was always pretty intuitive, and could sense that my brother and sister needed more guided attention than me.  So I always did my best to do my best.  I didn’t want to distract from them – my brother was hyperactive and my sister took longer to grasp things, and when she did she might forget them again a little while later.  Neither of them were slow or stupid by any stretch of the imagination.  They just really loved using their imaginations – with their heads in the clouds, constantly moving, always more concerned with something else.

Plus, I was the oldest…  My brother is only a year and a half younger than me, but my sister is 5 years my junior.  Given that, I was obviously more capable of sitting at a table and doing my work without distraction.  Don’t mistake me for a completely benevolent child…  I mostly wanted to get outside as fast as possible to ride the horses or climb trees.  However, I do remember making a conscious effort to not ask questions unless I had to, to get everything as perfect as I could, and to not take away from other things my Mom had to do.

The other side of my Dad is that he had a short fuse.  He would often yell or snap at the drop of a hat.  It made me skittish in a way I didn’t like and tried to hide.  He also lacked some compassion.  I remember one time my Mom was away on a women’s retreat with church.  It was just us kids and Dad.  It was great fun.  We were taking a walk/ bike ride/ scooter trip down our street and up to the mailbox (which was ages away) one beautiful night.  I was speeding around on my little push scooter, loving life and showing off.  I hit a corner too fast and wiped out in a patch of gravel on the pavement.  I skinned my knees, elbows, and hands badly.  I still have scars to this day.

Of course it felt awful.  I don’t know how old I was… somewhere between 7 and 10, I think.  I was bleeding, there was gravel in my knees and elbows and hands…  My knees especially looked like hamburger meat.  My Dad got me up, helped me home, and started working on my injuries.  I know I was crying – ugly, sobbing cries – and saying I wanted Mom.  He, of course, told me that she was away and wasn’t going to be able to come home tonight.  He not so gently got the gravel out of my wounds, poured hydrogen peroxide and maybe alcohol on them, and put some Neosporin and gauze over them.  I’m sure he told me more than once to stop crying and whining and wincing and carrying on.  That wasn’t the only occasion where I learned that I should just suck it up…

The older I got, the more I realized that if my ideas and his didn’t mesh it wouldn’t be good for me.  I was a smart-alec.  I would get mouthy when I shouldn’t, and I lacked respect (or at least tact and forethought) in many instances.  But I also questioned things.  A lot.  I was always intellectual and prone to deep thinking.  When my questions turned towards the church, his faith, and the things that logically didn’t make sense the door was slammed shut in my face.  God exists, he wrote the Bible, everything in there is gold, we go to church (all the time and as a family), and the list goes on…  Think Brick on The Middle (if you have seen any of those Bible episodes).  THAT didn’t go over very well…

So, the short answer (bet you wish I had started with that), is my family relationships were characterized by all of those things – love, warmth, anger, fear, pressure, support, misunderstanding, and the list goes on.  I’m not sure where exactly I’m supposed to be looking right now when it comes to my family dynamics.  There were a lot of them.  Maybe the next 99 questions will give me some direction.

Poked, Prodded and Cracking…

15 Oct

Last night I took a look down my throat with a flashlight and did NOT like what I saw…  This morning I got up and made my way immediately to the doctor’s office.  I was poked, prodded, and swabbed everywhere imaginable.  They did a strep test on my throat, diagnosed an ear infection, and I had them go ahead and run the full panel of STD tests while they were at it.  I could have gone to Planned Parenthood and probably saved some money in the long run.  I don’t care.  I just wanted it over and done with.

Only an hour later, I was walking out with antibiotics, a prescription for a yeast infection, and a little more peace of mind.  I still don’t have the STD results back yet, obviously, but having it taken care of is a relief.

On my (short) ride home I called my Mom.  She said something that really struck home.  She said as women and as wives we do our best to remain vulnerable, to give our husbands the opportunity to protect us.  We let ourselves need them.  We give them the chance to take care of us.  When they blow that chance or squander that opportunity we have to pack up that vulnerability and be strong for ourselves.  When we take that next step to care for ourselves we also end up not needing them anymore.

I tried to need him.  I tried to give him the opportunity to step up for me.  I wanted him to be a man, to protect me, to make my health and safety a top priority.  He didn’t, so I had to take the bull by the horns and take care of myself.  Once I found out he hadn’t gotten tested, it took me only until the next business day to get tested myself.  Those tests, plus the extra ones because I’m so sick, took only an hour.  One hour.

In that hour I stopped needing him.  I stopped being vulnerable.  I took back my independence.

At the same time, I feel my resolve cracking.  Last night was the first time I really started wanting him here badly.  My codependence started peeking through.  For most of the weekend after his big lie was revealed we had only minor contact.  Last night he texted me with:

Im not sure what things from the kitchen are mine to take.  I know the new cook ware is yours just wondering about the things i was given as gifts.  If you want them they are yours.

My first reaction was something like – Seriously?!?  That is what he’s worried about right now?  Then I realized that I should have been prepared for this.  It’s what I asked for.  Here are some of the other thoughts I jotted down in my journal:

  • I’m weak.  I want him here in bed with me.  I want to touch him, hold him.
  • I find myself considering an in-home separation.  I just know I can’t do that.  I’m not strong enough.  I would talk to him, laugh with him, fall into those old patterns…
  • I want to call him an ass for sticking to business (what he wants, when he can get it), but that’s what separation IS.  He is doing me a favor, really.
  • I want him to fight for me, for us, but I want him to be well first!
  • I can’t have it both ways – him now & him better because he is obviously not better.
  • I HATE THIS!!!!

Those were just my cliff notes version of the things going through my head.  I wasn’t going to respond to his earlier text.  In fact, I held out for quite a while.  Until after midnight.  Yeah… bad decision.  Nothing good comes from texting someone that late.  I engaged in a few back and forth texts, told him the gifts belong to him, and let him know about my strep.

In the morning light I realized that I need to disconnect myself from him emotionally.  Letting go of my expectations for him, his recovery, his health, his therapy, etc. is my job now.  I can’t control him.

He’s going to be coming by at some point today to pick up a few more things.  I don’t know how I’m going to react.  I don’t know if he will even try to talk to me.  I don’t even know if I want him to.

On a completely unrelated note, I now have a Twitter and Facebook account for my blog.  Check them out if you want.  I could use a little distraction.

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