Tag Archives: growth

A Walk Down Memory Lane

3 Apr

Today I came across the receipt for the ring and journal I bought on my visit to the museum with my Mom.  When I looked at the date, I was surprised that it was before my separation from Mr. Mess. I remember that day as a defining moment of sorts.  I did something that I enjoyed, just for myself.  I spent hours talking with my Mom and immersing myself in history.  I laughed freely.  I recall that the weather was beautiful.  We sat in the sun and ate lunch.  I was happy.  Truly, simply happy.

Maybe that’s why I thought I was already separated.  In the warm, fuzzy memory I have of that day, everything was right with the world.  I actually had to come to my blog and look up the post to convince myself the date was correct.  Re-reading my words made me realize that I may as well have been separated by then.  I was already emotionally divorcing myself from the lies and drama.  Suddenly, I had an urge to write that I haven’t for a while.  I started an “update” on the post itself, but decided instead that a new post was in order.

Now that I’m here, writing for you all again after months of silence, I realize that I don’t have anything particularly insightful to say.  I still have the ring.  I don’t wear it that much because it is big and girlish and rather gaudy.  I love it, though.  When I look at it, I smile.  I let myself be gaudy and girlish.  I run my fingers over the cool stones that form petals on a white flower with pearls in the center.  I think of the sun, of laughter, of art and history and time with my Mom.  He doesn’t even enter my mind.  The memory of the pain and hurt and betrayal and emotional manipulation isn’t lingering there in the corner at all.

Maybe that is the important thing I have to say: the pain goes away.  Moments of true happiness were rare for years.  I carried the weight of that unhealthy relationship around, dragging it behind me when it got too heavy.  The burden became so commonplace that I was sure I’d have it with me forever.  That day I didn’t, though, even if only for a few hours.  Now I’ve left it so far behind that it doesn’t cross my mind unless some small reminder jumps out and jogs a memory.  When that happens, instead of being painful it makes me smile.  It reminds me of the considerable distance I’ve put between that version of myself and the one I am today.

These days I have happy moments all the time.  I have warm, fuzzy days full of laughter.  I am watching great movies, classics that I never saw and newer films by excellent directors I never heard of before.  I am learning about craft beer and “real” watches and designer shoes.  I actually cook, and sometimes what I cook is really quite good.  I’m going to have a herb garden soon (I’m going to a class with my Mom on Monday).  I am happy.  Truly, simply happy, more often than not.  I smile and sing and love the life I’m living.  Today I have on the perfect outfit for that big, gaudy, girly ring.  I wish I had put it on this morning.  I suppose I’ll have to wear the sentiment it evokes in me instead.

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2013 In Review & An Update

2 Jan

Even though I’ve mostly ended this blog, I couldn’t help but look when I got my annual report from WordPress. I’m honored to see that folks are still reading about my mess and gaining insight, inspiration, or entertainment. At the very least, people have passed some time reading my words. If you’re interested in my stats at all, here they are:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 150,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

I also want to give everyone a mini update while I’m here. 2014 has started off quite well, even if we are just 2 days in. Since my last post I’ve settled into my new home. Not a lot else has changed. I’m still blissful, in love, and a bit of a mess, in a good way.

Christmas was wonderful. We cut down our own tree at a tree farm, and decorated it together. Tony indulged my love of crappy Christmas music. On the actual day, we had our own little Christmas morning, complete with stockings. Then we went to his parent’s house, my Mom’s house, and back to his parent’s place for the extended family gathering. It was a day full of food, laughter, games, and lots of love.

Tony got me an amazing pair of diamond earrings that haven’t left my ears since I got them, a tablet (which I’m using now), and a bunch of great stocking stuffers (I’m not ashamed to admit that I get ridiculously excited about the little things). Truly the best gift of all is waking up next to him and falling asleep in his arms every night. I’ll never turn down flawless diamonds set in platinum, though. 😉

I’m excited to be starting a new year. I’ve got a feeling that 2014 will have a lot of great things in store for me. 2013 was a year full of transitions, growth, and figuring out what I want. I still have plenty of growing to do, and I’m certain that there will be more changes in my future. But I have come a long way in knowing what I want and not settling for less. That has brought me a lot of contentment, peace, and happiness. It’s a nice place to be.

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.

Trust-Quotes-103

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.

the-voice

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!

harsh-truths-500x500

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.

trust-is-like-an-eraser

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.

beware-of-the-half-truth

Yet another simple truth – the truth is always simple.

speak-the-truth

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.

Trust-Quotes-82

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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My Beautiful Mess of 2012 in Review

31 Dec

This year has been one of great change for me.  I started this blog back in March, and in less than a full year it has helped me make a number of life-changing choices and decisions.  I have grown more than I ever imagined possible.  I fully believe that I will look back on 2012 as one of the most important journeys I have ever embarked on.

That was possibly because of all of you.  Truly.  The feedback and support I got was invaluable.  I have learned so many things about myself.  I have become stronger, more confident, and aware of what I deserve from life.  I have laughed with you, cried with you, and drawn courage from your stories.  I couldn’t be more grateful.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.  I included some of the interesting stats below for anyone who is interested.  I was certainly surprised that this blog took off the way it did.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 61,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Perfect Song Came on My Radio Today

21 Dec

This song is perfect for me and where I am right now.  I’m the complicated, giving, tough, overachieving, scarred, strong, mess of a woman who is finding who she is, figuring out that she will be okay, and opening her heart to the possibility of something more in life.

Little Miss done on love,
Little Miss I give up,
Little Miss I’ll get tough, don’t you worry ’bout me anymore
Little Miss checkered dress,
Little Miss one big mess,
Little Miss I’ll take less when I always give so much more
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright,
Yeah, sometimes ya gotta lose ’til ya win,
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright,
It’ll be alright again, it’ll be alright again
I’m okay, It’ll be alright again, I’m okay (okay) It’ll be alright again, I’m okay
Little Miss do your best,
Little Miss never rest,
Little Miss, be my guest, I’ll make more anytime that it runs out
Little Miss you’ll go far,
Little Miss hide your scars,
Little Miss who you are is so much more than you like to talk about
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright,
Yeah, sometimes ya gotta lose ’til ya win,
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright,
It’ll be alright again, it’ll be alright again,
I’m okay, It’ll be alright again, I’m okay (okay) It’ll be alright again, I’m okay
Hold on, hold on, you are loved, are loved
Little Miss brand new start,
Little Miss do your part,
Little Miss big ole heart beats wide open, she’s ready now for love
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright,
Yeah, sometimes ya gotta lose ’til ya win,
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright,
It’ll be alright again, it’ll be alright again
I’m okay, It’ll be alright again, I’m okay (okay) It’ll be alright again, I’m okay,
It’ll be alright again

I Do Not Follow the 90/10 Rule

17 Nov

This past week we were taught that when you are getting to know someone, especially a prospective customer, they should talk 90% of the time and you should talk 10%.  Apparently studies have shown that the more someone else talks, the better they like you.  I admitted several times over the course of our training that the 90/10 rule is the hardest part of prospecting for me.  Hell, it’s the hardest part of life.

As you all have come to realize by now, I am verbose.  I am also an over-thinker, an overachiever, and a perfectionist.  I want to tell someone everything I can, especially if I really believe in what I’m talking about.  Another tidbit of knowledge I gained, “Don’t spill all your candy in the lobby.”  Sometimes less is more.  It’s a hard lesson for me to apply.

The Friendly, Silent, Questioning Stare is also a great tool for a top sales-person.  I think it translates to life very well, too.  One of our trainers said that in the beginning he would sit there after asking for the sale and feel all of the unsaid words bubbling up from inside, just waiting to erupt like a volcano. He would think of what he didn’t mention, what he could have done better, and want to break the silence.  A 30-second pause would feel like 3 hours.  He had to use every ounce of his strength to push those words down and wait for the other person’s response.

I easily recognize that talking too much is a fault of mine.  I am working on fixing that, although I know I’m still not very good at it.  One of the reasons is that my brain is full to the limit with countless thoughts, ideas, feelings, desires, hopes, fears, uncertainties, doubts, and emotions busting at the seams to get out.

Just to give you a slight hint at the current shit-storm in my brain, here are random snippets of things that are bouncing around in my head.  I’m not going to try to organize these thoughts, and they are in no particular order, just what happened to pop into my brain as I was typing.

  • “Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile goals.”  That is the most inspiring thing I learned at my sales training.  I heard it at the very, very end (even after the test).  In fact, I got misty-eyed.  You would have to listen to the entire presentation to understand, but this resonated with me so strongly.  I am a success if I’m taking steps towards a worthwhile goal, and I definitely think I’m doing that right now.
  • Just because I’ve wasted some time floundering around being lied to and deceived doesn’t mean I’m not successful or I can’t be in the future.  Maybe it means the goal I had wasn’t worthwhile (trying to make a marriage work with someone who hasn’t told you the truth since day 1).  Or maybe I had to do that floundering in order to understand what is worthwhile and what isn’t.
  • “If you’re not making mistakes, you aren’t doing it right.”  Wise words from a friend spoken to me last Saturday.  I’ve been letting that ping around in my brain ever since, and I like it.  I am finding it easier and easier to admit to the areas where I’m making mistakes, partly because I know it gets me closer to where I want to be.  Life is full of beauty and mystery and wonder, but you have to take chances and sometimes make errors in order to grow, learn, and get where you want to be.

  • “He has always been unsure about me, unhappy, dishonest and cheating from the earliest moments.  All the while I was living in blithe ignorance of what was really going on.”  From a woman whose life seems eerily similar to mine right now, emilylonging, in her post Were things ever good?  Those words ring so true.  We were in two different relationships.  I never had the full truth.  I was living in blissful ignorance (some of my own making), and every single “good memory” we have ever had together is tainted in some way with a lie, deception, or half-truth.

***All of this time I had somehow convinced myself that this was the best it could ever get for me – that not dying was the same as living.***

There is so, so much more, but that’s just a taste.  A great friend of mine told me that there’s nothing not complicated about me.  That’s very true.  For now, I’m going to accept the fact that I think and talk too much.  It seems like some people still like me anyway.

Remembering to Enjoy Myself

13 Nov

This week I am traveling for work.  I am participating in an excellent training program that is keeping me very, very busy from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day.  A new saleswoman that I hired in June also came down here with me.  We have a nice 2 bedroom, 2 bath suite with a shared living room, dining room and kitchen.  The best feature – our fireplace!

After class every night all 15 of us at training go down to the hotel lobby where they have a “social.”  The hotel provides dinner, buffet-style, and an open bar with free beer and wine.  The wine is really crappy, but after a few beers it doesn’t really matter.  Last night we drained the keg dry in less than an hour.  Tonight they said that they are prepared for us.  🙂

Although I will probably not post for the rest of the week, I wanted to assure you that it is because I’m having too much fun.  It is freeing to enjoy myself, take some “me” time, and sing duets in the hotel lobby.  If that last comment got you confused, let me explain.  There are some incredibly interesting people here with me.  One particular man in his 60’s was a professional bull rider, a champion pool player, and is a fellow country-music singer.  His repertoire includes songs from much older artists than I am familiar with (from back before I was even born); however, he has a great voice and we have found a few songs we both know.

So the rest of this week I will be learning lots, growing in my career, and building relationships with other people in this industry.  I’ve already gotten one job offer.  I’m not looking to move right now, but one day I will.  It’s never too early to start building towards your future.  I know that mine will be bright no matter what happens in my marriage.  I hope it will be bright for my husband, too. I also hope our growth brings us together, not apart. That ball is in his court right now.

Being Aware of Our Vulnerabilities

2 Oct

man on a wire – by simple pleasure

Last week a blogger I follow posted about a Vulnerability Assessment from her marriage counselor.  I was instantly intrigued.  She pointed out that Vulnerability + Opportunity = Affair.  That makes sense, although the reality is probably a tiny bit more complicated.

Those do seem like the basic questions to ask yourself, though – how vulnerable are you to being led astray and what kind of opportunity do you have to act on that vulnerability.  Those two things together are important to the equation.  Having lots of opportunity to cheat doesn’t necessarily mean that you will.  Similarly, being vulnerable to an affair doesn’t guarantee you will have one.  Someone can also be vulnerable and make their own opportunity or have so much opportunity that it creates a vulnerability.  However, if you mix equal parts vulnerability to an affair and opportunity to have one, it is obviously a recipe for disaster.

That made me wonder…  Just how vulnerable am I?

If I had to guess, I would say that I probably have a fairly high score on that assessment.  My husband is a sex addict, so his cycles and behaviors have definitely put him at a high risk overall.  But what about me?

Certainly, according to the small snapshot she shared, I would answer “True” more often than I would like.  Just look at some of this stuff…  Did you know you are at increased risk of having an affair simply if:

  • you have a Facebook account?
  • you have been dealing with stress (family, illness, work, marriage, new job)?
  • you have moved?
  • you have had to deal with the loss of a parent, child, sibling, pet, close friend, family member?
  • you have dealt with or are dealing with a physical/emotional illness (stress, depression, low self-esteem)?
  • you feel taken for granted or taken advantage of at work, at home, in life?
  • you have had to deal with children that are teenagers, rebellious, or unruly?
  • you have felt self-conscious of aging, a bulging mid-section, receding hairline, sagging breasts, erectile dysfunction, major weight loss/gain?
  • you have felt sexually inadequate or second-rate in bed?
  • you confide easily in others?
  • you lack clear goals or dreams or sense of purpose for your life?
  • you have thought or spoke negatively about yourself?
  • you have a lack of self-awareness concerning infidelity, such as:
    • “This couldn’t happen to me.”
    • “I’m committed to working on my marriage.”
    • “No one would be interested in me.”
    • “I would recognize the signs.”
    • “I can be his/her friend only.”
    • “He/She is only a friend.”
    • “He/She is not attractive to me, so this is OK.”
    • “We are both married.”  [As if that totally rules it out…]
    • “This will not get out of hand.”
  • you have a high need for affirmation from others in your life?
  • you feel sorry for yourself?
  • you often see things as ALL or NOTHING?
  • you are unable to communicate your thoughts and emotions to your spouse? perhaps you have been dishonest with them about difficult issues because you fear them rejecting you or punishing you, or because you think it will protect them…”What they don’t know won’t hurt.”)
  • compared to others, you view yourself as:  morally superior, smarter than, or more self-aware?
  • your spouse embarrasses you in public?
  • your marriage is “keeping up the image” to others?
  • you have felt your sex life lacked quality, passion or adventure, and/or it has not been frequent enough?
  • you are disconnected sexually because of emotional starvation?
  • you have married friends who complain about their marriages?
  • you spend time alone?

Teetering on the brink – © Copyright John Naisbitt and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons

I definitely don’t have all of them, not even half, but several of them stood out.  This is also not the entire list.  She got a HUGE list of almost 250 characteristics that can make you vulnerable to an affair, and chose just to share some of the ones that she found the most surprising or that made the most sense.

If I spent time alone I’m more vulnerable to an affair?  Huh?  If it’s on there, though, there must be a reason.  I think it is important to remember all of the little ways we can become vulnerable – to an affair, but also to drifting apart from our partner.  Each of these things is part of a bigger picture.  Too many of them together can mean that you are opening yourself up to stray, or even just to become estranged from your spouse.  The moral of the story is:

Expose your weaknesses before the lies become believable.

I am about to head into the therapist’s office to have my husband give me a full disclosure of his acting out behavior.  I am nervous.  There are all sorts of thoughts and emotions swirling around inside me.  One thing I have been keeping in the forefront of my brain is that the roles could easily be reversed.  If I had a different childhood, if I were treated or raised differently, if I had chosen to cope with sex or porn instead of shopping or eating, if any number of things had happened… this could be me today.  I am going to try my hardest to leave all judgement at the door.  We have walked down different paths.  We have experienced life differently.  The things we have been through brought us together, and we are moving forward hand in hand.

What’s that saying… “But for the grace of God go I.”  I may not believe in God, but I do believe that none of us can be positive that we aren’t vulnerable to being that person we despise, pity, hate, laugh at, etc…  I am going to try to hold onto that renewed sense of humility and self-awareness as I listen with an open heart to the things my husband has struggled with in his past.  Wish me luck.

A homeless man in Paris – work by Eric Pouhier

The High Price of Forgiveness

27 Sep

By hang_in_there, Some Rights Reserved

This article has been making the rounds through several blogs that I follow.  I decided to share it here not because I have an aversion to Reblogging or because I somehow think my perspective on this is better than anyone else’s, but because I wanted to have these powerful words close by and easily accessible.  I wanted to have a reminder of this on my page because these words are incredibly powerful.

There is a price to forgive, and it is a high one for the spouse who has been cheated on.  It is just as high for the spouse of a sex addict.  We give up so many parts of ourselves – our expectations, our hopes, our ideals, our strong belief in fidelity above all else, our naive certainty that our life partner wouldn’t intentionally harm us, our sense of safety, our unconditional trust, our pride, our self-respect, our ability to live a normal, trigger-free life, our sanity (sometimes), and so, so much more.

Betrayed spouses and spouses of sex addicts are often advised to name their losses and grieve over them.  I have done that in small baby steps, here and there.  This article listed a lot of those sacrifices and losses in one place.  Reading the story, seeing my own losses mirrored so eloquently and poignantly, and taking a moment to grieve again was very therapeutic yesterday.

I also realized that I am at a point where I forgive my husband.  I’m not sure when it happened – I couldn’t tell you the exact moment – but it did.  I have a deep peace about what happened and what we are doing to continue making our marriage stronger.  I feel safer in my marriage right now than I have in a long time.  I am gaining back some of the pieces of myself that I had to sacrifice to stay.

I think there is another phase of forgiveness: when those things you lost begin to be restored, little by little.  I will never have the naive, unconditional trust, but I do have trust in him.  I don’t check the computer or his phone.  I don’t worry about whether he will cross our boundaries – if he does I have a plan and there are consequences – but the anxiety is far, far lower than it has ever been.  I use the “trust but verify” method, although the “verify” part is getting less and less necessary.  Now “verify” might just mean paying attention to the tone of his voice and the real sincerity behind his words.  It means listening to my gut about whether something makes sense or not, and accepting how I feel.

I have reached the point where my pride and self-respect isn’t influenced by what he does or doesn’t do.  I am realizing that my forgiveness and desire to repair our marriage is a testament to my character and makes me stronger, not weaker.  I no longer care what anyone else might think of me because of it, what society may judge me as, or even what the OW might ever have thought of me.  None of that matters because I am secure in knowing that my decision is turning out for the better.

Letting go of my ideals and expectations was so, so scary at first.  It was painful and humiliating to think that my picture of my relationship was false.  Accepting that our story wasn’t going to be neat, pretty, and the way I had envisioned in my head was a loss I had to grieve.  I can now see the value in losing my picture-perfect ideal, though.  Keeping an idealized view of a relationship is damaging.  It perpetuates delusions, it causes distance, it makes us dismiss things that don’t fit into our neat boxes, including aspects of our partner that could make us closer if we explored them.  My life isn’t perfect, my marriage isn’t perfect, and as much as we work on it I will always be married to a sex addict.  There will always be struggles.  But life always has struggles anyway.  Now we know that we are equipped to handle them.  Now we share our intimate thoughts and feelings more readily.  Now each new challenge should hopefully result in my husband and I rallying together, not drifting apart as we each try to hold onto our separate views of “how things should be.”

So, yes, there is a high price of forgiveness.  I also think that there is an equally high payout.  It just takes longer to get there, and there is a lot of pain along the way.  Some things may never come back.  Forgiveness doesn’t heal all wounds, it just makes it so the healing process can start.  I may have triggers for the rest of my life.  Forgiveness won’t take them away, but it will allow me to move farther and farther from that point of raw emotion.  Letting go of my need for “justice” is hard, but carrying it around with me keeps me on edge.  It keeps me focused on life’s unfairness.  That unfairness will always be there, though.  Just like my post yesterday, it’s about seeing the other things – the beauty and gifts that are also part of life.


Ever associated forgiveness with a big price tag?

by Rick Reynolds

What is the cost of forgiveness? What does this have to do with forgiving infidelity? We’ll talk about that in a moment, but first let me tell a story. Seventeen years ago, within the first two years of marriage, Sandra had multiple affairs. Doubts of whether she’d married the right man plagued her even before the wedding. A better man than Campbell she’d never find, but the spark was missing. She feared he’d be a Steady Freddie who was dull and commonplace. His impeccable character and undying love had captured her attention, but where was that romance of man and maid she’d so longed for? Those feelings never came.

About a year into the marriage Sandra’s boss invited her to lunch. From an innocent beginning blossomed a growing conflagration of passion. He understood her womanly need of small attentions and seemed to get her in ways Campbell never imagined. Justifying her affair was all too easy. She’d never felt like this before, confirming in her mind that she’d married the wrong person, and now she’d found the love of her life. Besides this wasn’t some spur of the moment impulsive whim, they’d spent their days at work talking about music, philosophy, religion and life. Milton knew her better in a month than Campbell had in 2 years.

For the first time in her life she felt compelled to recklessly abandon herself to another. It was like nothing she’d ever experienced, until Milton’s wife discovered their affair and filed for divorce. Milton immediately resigned his job and moved his family to another state. She was shocked; they had planned their future together and now, just like that, he was gone? He even told her he wanted nothing to do with her and to quit bugging him. The pain was unbearable, and even she was surprised at her response. Rather than grieving the loss and moving on, she numbed the pain with three more short-term affairs. What was the difference; she didn’t envision Campbell as any part of her future.

However, about a month after affair number three ended, she and Campbell conceived and life suddenly changed. She loved life as a mom and admired the way Campbell stepped up and supported the family. Over time she even grew to love her life and recognized she had indeed married well.

Skip forward 17 years when Campbell received a call from Milton’s wife. “I told him if it happened again I would no longer keep his secrets, and I just discovered he’s doing it again,” she said. “I thought that you might want to know your wife isn’t who you think she is. Why don’t you ask her about Milton?” Milton’s wife was coping with infidelity in a flurry of anger.

Initially, Sandra lied. She had decided to take the secret of her infidelity to her grave, but eventually she came clean about all four affairs before their first child’s birth. She pleaded for forgiveness; after all, it was 17 years past. But for Campbell it wasn’t seventeen years ago, ground zero was just last month. Forgiving infidelity for him didn’t seem possible. Seventeen years of faithfulness did nothing to ease the pain of her betrayal. In fact, it made it worse. She had caused him to live a lie for 17 years. He no longer trusted his current reality, his past, his future, his wife or himself. How could he have been so blind? How could he just forgive and move on?

For the sake of our discussion let me point out that there are two elements to what we refer to as forgiveness. The first is an internal matter where we choose to forgive the wrong committed against us and no longer expect justice as a result of their offense. Even more, we wish them well. The second element of forgiveness is about reconciliation. It’s where we choose to continue in relationship with that person in spite of their offense. For the sake of this discussion I’m focused on the second element, reconciliation.

All too often we talk about the high price of NOT forgiving. That forgiveness is a gift you give yourself and how failing to forgive leaves you forever a victim. We extol forgiveness as a virtue and share examples of those saints who forgave much to show forgiveness as a possibility. (Even though the fact we even share such stories indicate those people may be the exception, not the rule.) But forgiveness isn’t natural, especially when it comes to forgiving infidelity. It flows against our basic human nature. For most, our initial response to coping with infidelity is justice, not forgiveness. We want restitution, not mercy. We want the scales of justice to be balanced.

An understanding of the high cost of forgiveness seems to go missing when an offense is committed. Far too often I see an entitlement mentality when it comes to receiving forgiveness from our mate or forgiveness from God. As humans we’re supposed to forgive, right? In Christendom we teach “as God forgave us so we’re to forgive.” Isn’t that the lesson we teach our children? But we forget that forgiveness comes at a price. Even the Christian tradition teaches that the price God has paid to forgive mankind’s offenses was the life of His own Son. In the same way, the price paid by the betrayed spouse, if there is to be reconciliation, is high indeed.

What was the price of forgiveness in Campbell and Sandra’s case? Campbell had been an exceptional husband and father, not perfect by any means, but he’d lived and loved well. For him, forgiveness meant violating his personal beliefs and values. He would never have chosen to be with someone who betrayed, lied, and deceived him. He believed in the sanctity of marriage, and to choose to stay with Sandra came at the price of settling for something he never wanted.

Forgiving infidelity would mean sacrificing his dreams of the type of marriage he’d wanted. He’d never have the opportunity to brag to his children about the fidelity of their marriage. To stay meant sacrificing a marriage that was free from doubts. How could he ever again believe a word that she said if she’d been able to deceive him for 17 years? Staying meant the sacrificing of his dignity. He personally knew two of these men, and he now imagined how they’d seen him as the fool. To stay he’d have to sacrifice his rights. Didn’t he have the right to leave and find another who would be faithful to him? Staying and coping with infidelity meant sacrificing the ability to be honest with family. He couldn’t share his struggles, for fear of more complications. To stay would cost him pride. He’d always believed people who stayed were too weak to leave. To stay would cost his self-respect. He couldn’t believe things he’d said and done in his fits of rage. It would be so much easier to be away from her and not be triggered by her presence. To forgive seemed to make a mockery of all he’d sacrificed for the sake of their marriage. Instead of being proud of what he and Sandra had built, he now felt he’d been played the fool and taken advantage of.

All Campbell ever wanted was to love unconditionally and to be loved by someone special, but now his heart was so full of pain and distrust he wasn’t sure whether he could give himself to Sandra or anyone else again. Could he walk through the pain of her betrayal and face the demons he’d encounter if he ever gave himself to her again? For him, choosing to stay would cost him dearly.

Grace isn’t cheap; it comes at a high price. Failure to appreciate the high price paid by those choosing to forgive minimizes the magnitude of their sacrifice. The currencies used by the betrayed spouse to pay off the debt incurred by their mate’s betrayal are pride, ego, and suffering. Forgiving infidelity costs their dignity when they choose to stay rather than leave. It costs them their just due when they choose to forgo justice for the sake of the relationship. It costs them their sanity because they don’t control the painful thoughts invading their mind. Their present-day reality is constantly interrupted with painful memories of the past. It costs them their dreams because this road isn’t one they’d ever planned on traveling. It costs them health because the pain of the offense consumes their life. And I’m only beginning to scratch the surface.

As one who believes in the value of forgiving, I never want to be guilty of cheap grace, where I think it’s something to which I’m entitled. If justice is the standard, then the consequence of betrayal is the loss of relationship. Anything short of that is mercy, indeed. Failing to consider the price paid by others for my sake causes me to be careless with my behavior. Forgiveness and reconciliation are expensive gifts purchased through great suffering and sacrifice on the part of the offended. Failure to understand that reality makes me blind to the love displayed by those who choose to continue on in relationship…

How would you describe the cost of forgiveness from your own experience?

My Pity Party: The Importance of Taking My Antidepressants

26 Sep

Last night I was in quite an emotional state.  My husband and I lay in bed talking about a few things from the day, and I got triggered big time from the feeling that he was keeping something from me.  He kinda was.  We ended up resolving the issue, but that feeling wouldn’t quite go away.  I was incredibly overwhelmed.

The last few days were both wonderful and a blur.  My entire morning routine got messed up last week when, on a rushed morning, I forgot to take all of my pills (vitamins, antidepressant, and allergy medication).  I started taking them at lunch, instead, since I need to take them every 24 hours.  Then one day I didn’t make it home for lunch, so I began taking them at dinner.  Then we went away to the mountains for the weekend, and I left all of my medicine at home.  Last night I realized that I hadn’t taken my antidepressants for 3 days.  At least I don’t think so.  I actually can’t remember.  Did I take them when I got home on Sunday or didn’t I?  How about Monday?  Even last night I couldn’t remember if I had taken them that morning.  It’s like my brain was in a fog.

After we had our talk and connected really well, my husband was all talked out and ready to go to bed.  I didn’t really have anything else pressing to talk about, but I just couldn’t go to sleep.  We turned off the lights and I gave it a try, but my brain was swirling with everything and nothing all at once.  I didn’t want to get on the computer because I knew I would end up awake half the night, so I got up and grabbed my journal.

As an aside:  I’m pretty awful at keeping a written journal because I hate hand-writing…  It is mostly because I prefer typing and I’m faster and more efficient that way.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  I realized, though, that what’s behind that preference is the fact that I don’t like the messiness of it.  I don’t have bad handwriting, it’s just that I can’t edit, tweak, and polish what I have written.  I don’t like the rough, unfinished quality of my words right out of my head.  I don’t like the fact that I can’t rearrange paragraphs, insert new sentences, and change words without leaving a mess.  I don’t like having something that incomplete and raw sitting around, even if it is just for me.  It drives me crazy.  So, I’m going to address that irrational perfectionism head on, and share what I wrote last night.  Unedited.  Here goes:

I’m a mess.  I want to write about our fantastic honeymoon weekend.  Instead I’m feeling emotional and hormonal, sitting up at night not able to go to sleep.  I don’t think I’ve taken my ADs for 3 days.  My dog just walked in and peed on the floor out of nowhere.  Wow…  Just my day.  No ADs (my schedule got messed up), I’m starting my period, my neck and shoulders are tweaked, I’ve got a cold, and my emotions are running wild.  Now I’m cleaning up dog urine at 11:30, too.  Oh, and my husband has gout…  Yeah, gout.  Last year I was convinced that was some medieval disease that no longer existed.  Now I know better, although I’m not really all that thrilled to be enlightened.  So, I guess this is just one big bitch session.  I’m obviously feeling sorry for myself and needed to throw a little pity party.  Tomorrow I will get back on my ADs, load the beautiful pictures from Shenandoah, and get on with enjoying life.  Right now I’m just going to let this extra strength Tylenol work on my cramps & muscles, hope this cold medicine makes breathing easier, and try to get some sleep…

English: The Gout by James Gillray. Published ...

English: The Gout by James Gillray. Published May 14th 1799. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Proof that I was feeling completely out of it is the fact that I wrote “honeymoon weekend” instead of “anniversary weekend.”  I almost edited that here before I posted it because it is just so ridiculous and embarrassing that I got it wrong.  No one will probably care at all about that mistake, but I still have the urge to go fix it before I hit Publish.  How crazy is that?  I just have to breathe and accept that sometimes I really am a complete mess, and not even a beautiful one (although my husband argued otherwise last night).

Today really is better already.  I am in an amazing, feminine skirt suit set that is polished, luxurious, and was on sale at over 80% off.  I have a deep purple top on that looks amazing with my skin tone.  I’m wearing the pearls that my husband gave me at our rehearsal dinner for our wedding day.  I have on adorable Tahari heels with a bow detail and decorative stitching.  I took all of my medicine this morning.  I have my annual review this afternoon with my boss, who is taking me out to lunch where I already know I’m receiving a nice raise.  I feel like a million bucks.  Even though this head cold is being stubborn, I have a few twinges of cramps, and my neck is still incredibly tight, this is going to be a good day.

Yesterday wasn’t even a bad day.  My outlook just wasn’t right.  I let the little things overwhelm me because I wasn’t in the right head space.  I’m getting back there, and trying to focus on all of the great things that I have going for me.  Tonight we are continuing our anniversary celebration by going to a great local restaurant that I’ve wanted to go to for ages.  We were supposed to go on Friday, but I didn’t want to miss karate and my husband had a flare-up of his gout (which he wasn’t aware he had until yesterday).  Tomorrow I’m going to try to write about how our anniversary went, complete with stunning pictures of the mountains.

Today, though, I’m going to focus on noticing all the little things that I’m thankful for.  Starting with you guys.  Thanks for listening.  Thanks for helping me see my mess and giving me insight to address it head-on.  Knowing that I’m going to post my thoughts for you to comment and “like” (or not), somehow allows me to see the truth behind my words, the real reasons behind my excuses and justifications, and put my thoughts and feelings into perspective.

It also gives me the opportunity to face my demons head-on, like admitting that I make mistakes sometimes and I have off days.  It helps me to realize that it’s okay.  I will be fine.  No one is going to stop following me (hopefully) because I wrote “honeymoon” accidentally instead of “anniversary.”  Even if they do, who cares?  That doesn’t define me.  I’m more than the total of my faults and mistakes – I’m also a complicated, beautiful mess with an interesting perspective and a zeal for life who is improving every day by growing and changing and becoming a better version of myself.  Instead I could be stuck, afraid of admitting that I’m not perfect, and slowly languishing into mediocrity.  I’m glad that I’m able to recognize when I’m throwing a pity party, pick myself up, and move on.  I’m also happy that I have people along the way who can help motivate me to keep moving forward.  So, thanks!

Thank You

Thank You (Photo credit: purplekiss024)

I (Was) Married to My Polar Opposite (ISTJ & ENFP)

24 Sep

Today I wanted to share one of my previous posts about how my husband and I are complete opposites.  I find it very interesting how complete opposites can be attracted to one another and then learn to live with their differences.   I always knew that my husband and I were opposites in many ways.  I never realized that we were complete and total opposites, at least psychologically, until we took the Myers-Briggs Test together and examined our results with our marriage counselor.  What follows is a summary of our different personality types and how they mesh in a relationship.  Things are difficult sometimes, but we are making it work!

A while ago I briefly posted about my husband and I taking the Myers-Briggs Personality Test (See Being Thankful).  Two weeks ago we got our results and a sheet that breaks down the joys and struggles of a couple with those two personality types.  What we discovered is that we are actually polar opposites. We literally do not have one type in common.  I am an ISTJ (Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) and he is an ENFP (Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving).

If you aren’t familiar with the test or the concept, it uses 4 different scales to identify personality traits.  There are 16 different combinations of these 4 traits which form the basis for your overall personality.  The four different scales are (as broken down by about.com Psychology at http://psychology.about.com/od/psychologicaltesting/a/myers-briggs-type-indicator.htm):

  1. Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I):  The extraversion-introversion dichotomy was first explored by Jung in his theory of personality types as a way to describe how people respond and interact with the world around them.  While these terms are familiar to most people, the way in which they are used here differs somewhat from their popular usage. Extroverts are “outward-turning” and tend to be action-oriented, enjoy more frequent social interaction and feel energized after spending time with other people. Introverts are “inward-turning” and tend to be thought-oriented, enjoy deep and meaningful social interactions and feel recharged after spending time alone. We all exhibit extraversion and introversion to some degree, but most of us tend have an overall preference for one or the other.
  2. Sensing (S) – Intuition (N): This scale involves looking at how people gather information from the world around them. Just like with extraversion and introversion, all people spend some time sensing and intuiting depending on the situation. According to the MBTI, people tend be dominant in one area or the other. People who prefer sensing tend to pay a great deal of attention to reality, particularly to what they can learn from their own senses. They tend to focus on facts and details and enjoy getting hands-on experience. Those who prefer intuition pay more attention to things like patterns and impressions. They enjoy thinking about possibilities, imagining the future and abstract theories.
  3. Thinking (T) – Feeling (F): This scale focuses on how people make decisions based on the information that they gathered from their sensing or intuition functions. People who prefer thinking place a greater emphasis on facts and objective data. They tend to be consistent, logical and impersonal when weighing a decision. Those to prefer feeling are more likely to consider people and emotions when arriving at a conclusion.
  4. Judging (J) – Perceiving (P): The final scale involves how people tend to deal with the outside world. Those who lean toward judging prefer structure and firm decisions. People who lean toward perceiving are more open, flexible and adaptable. These two tendencies interact with the other scales. Remember, all people at least spend some time extraverting. The judging-perceiving scale helps describe whether you extrovert when you are taking in new information (sensing and intuition) or when you are making decisions (thinking and feeling).

Every person has some combination of those 4 scales. Each combination has inherent value and its own set of positive attributes and challenges. Here’s a quick summary of the our two personality types:

  • ISTJ (me) – People with an ISTJ personality type tend to be reserved, practical and quiet. They enjoy order and organization in all areas of their lives including their home, work, family and projects. Because of this need for order, they tend to do better in learning and work environments that have clearly defined schedules, clear-cut assignments and a strong focus on the task at hand. ISTJs value loyalty in themselves and others, and place an emphasis on traditions. ISTJs are both responsible and realistic. They are able to ignore distractions in order to focus on the task at hand and are often described as dependable and trustworthy. Some of the main characteristics of the ISTJ personality include:
    • Focused on details and facts
    • Realistic
    • Interested in the present more than the future
    • Observant, but slightly subjective
    • Interested in the internal world
    • Logical and practical
    • Orderly and organized
  • ENFP (him) – People with this type of personality are often described as enthusiastic, charismatic, and creative. ENFPs are flexible and like to keep their options open. They can be spontaneous and are highly adaptable to change. They also dislike routine and may have problems with disorganization and procrastination. When making decisions, ENFPs place a greater value on feelings and values rather than on logic and objective criteria. People with this personality type strongly dislike routine and prefer to focus on the future. While they are great at generating new ideas, they sometimes put off important tasks until the last minute. Dreaming up ideas but not seeing them through to completion is a common problem. ENFPs can also become easily distracted, particularly when they are working on something that seems boring or uninspiring.Some common ENFP characteristics include:
    • Warm and enthusiastic
    • Empathetic and caring
    • Strong people skills; relates well to others
    • Able to think abstractly and understand difficult, complex concepts
    • Needs approval from others
    • Disorganized
    • Strong communication skills
    • Fun and spontaneous
    • Highly creative

You can probably tell already just how completely different we are.  Now imagine making that work in a marriage.  It is hard work.  But it is also very rewarding.  We literally have the traits that the other lacks.  Here is a portion of what our marriage counselor gave us regarding a marriage between an ISTJ and an ENFP:

The Joys

Since ISTJs and ENFPs have no type preference in common, they often seem like polar opposites. But many couples experience a strong attraction, as each has what the other lacks. ISTJs are often attracted to ENFPs’ high energy, enthusiasm, optimism, and creativity. ENFPs bring a fun and adventurous element to everyday living, often saying and doing things that are irreverent, clever, and original (very true). ENFPs are often drawn to ISTJs’ steadiness, responsibility, and calm. ISTJs have a focus and maturity that ENFPs long to have themselves, and ISTJs are generally down-to-earth, unflappable, and superdependable (also very true).

Because of these differences, ENFPs and ISTJs have a great opportunity to help each other grow and develop in important ways. ISTJs help their partners focus more carefully on the facts, details, and individual steps of their projects so they make fewer mistakes. ENFPs often credit their partners with helping them be more direct, assertive, and willing to confront conflicts head-on. ENFPs also say that their ISTJ partners help them become more organized, accountable, and realistic (true again). For their part, ENFPs often help their serious and hardworking partners relax, have fun, and take occasional risks (so incredibly dead-on). ISTJs credit their partners with cultivating their gentler and more patient sides and with helping them be more flexible and open to new ideas.

The Frustrations

Their many differences give most ISTJ and ENFP couples sizable hurdles to clear on a daily basis, especially in the area of communication (okay, have these people been spying on us?!). ISTJs crave structure and predictability in their daily lives and are more traditional than the nonconforming and liberal-minded ENFPs. Whereas ISTJs are not bothered by, and are perhaps even stimulated by, the tug of a good argument, ENFPs generally avoid anything too contentious or confrontational (spot-on). Otherwise, ENFPs typically like lots of stimulation and are always eager to meet new people and explore new areas of work and play. Meanwhile, ISTJs are often exhausted by the high level of interaction their partners stir up and prefer to stick with established routines or to spend quiet time with their partners pursuing an interest they share (that is so me).

Generally, one of the most difficult challenges for this couple stems from their views of change. ENFPs like and need to talk about limitless possibilities, and they love to think creatively. Because most ISTJs find constant change unsettling and stressful, their natural reaction is to resist it. ENFPs often feel that their enthusiasm for possibilities is being squelched by the realism of their ISTJ partners. For their part, ISTJs find the endless chatter about things that might never actually happen and the repeated leaps in logic frustrating and even threatening to the calm they prefer (AMEN!).

During conflicts, ISTJs tend to withdraw into silence so they can carefully think through their positions, opinions, and feelings before sharing them. By contrast, most ENFPs want to work things out spontaneously in an effort to reestablish harmony immediately (actually, these two sentences happen but in the exact reverse. He is the one who withdraws into silence and needs time to think things out while I want to immediately talk through our various feelings). The end result is that both partners feel misunderstood and unappreciated. Rather than talking through issues with respect and compromise, couples tend to fall into a pattern of arguing and blaming, followed by periods of silence and distance (this part is the same). To maintain trust and connection, it is imperative that ENFPs stay calm and focused and ISTJs commit to sharing their emotions while remaining open and supportive (again, we need to do that but in reverse).

So, now we know a little bit more about each other. I feel like every day we are taking steps in the right direction to strengthen our marriage. Each little step brings us closer to being able to live in peace and harmony together. I know there will always be differences, and that’s one thing I really like about us. We are able to force each other to grow and make changes. Hopefully they can be positive ones. My desire is that we will find ways to balance each other out, smooth away the rough edges, and still maintain our individuality and unique perspectives on life. As just a little step in that direction, I asked my husband to help me pick out a good picture to add at the end of this blog.  Below is his choice.

Update: My 2013 stats summary showed that this is still my most-read post. I thought I should provide an update in this post for those that come here just to read about how two opposite types in a marriage work out. I can’t speak for every “opposites attract” couple, but mine didn’t work out well at all. We are now divorced. Our Myers-Briggs types weren’t the main reason for the marriage failure (the near constant lies did that). I do think that our vast differences contributed to the breakdown and eventual decline of our relationship, though. It got tiring being the “responsible one,” always dealing with his unrealistic ideas, and being married to someone who was so deeply conflict avoidant and approval-seeking.

Let me add at this point that I have nothing against ENFP types. I just would never be in a romantic relationship with one again. We don’t see eye-to-eye. Every little thing was more of a struggle than it should have been. We hobbled along and tried to make it work for a while, but it was like having octagons for wheels instead of circles – jumpy, bumpy, and not quite right. It wasn’t good for him or for me. Growth is inevitable, and partners should challenge one another, but things shouldn’t be that difficult. That much change and compromise isn’t healthy for either partner. Common ground is vital.

I’m now in a very healthy relationship with someone who tests either ISTJ or ISFJ, depending on the test and the day. We aren’t carbon copies of each other by any stretch of the imagination, and we don’t have a conflict-free relationship. However, things just work so much more smoothly. We have similar goals, focus, thought-processes, ideas, and philosophies about what is important in life. We are on the same team, working toward the same things instead of in a constant tug-of-war. Most importantly, our communication is clear, calm, and conflicts are resolved quickly and with maturity. It makes a world of difference.

One other small note, I really hate that picture my ex-husband chose. It’s so cheesy. Horrible, just horrible. I hated it then, and I think I hate it even more now.

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I’m Seriously Lacking Self-Compassion

15 Sep

Quite a few things this week have led me to examine the way that I treat myself.  My husband and I try to get together daily and spend at least an hour talking, followed by 20 minutes of dialoging.  Some days we have topics that one or both of us want to touch on, so that is what we use as our dialog question.  Other days we use questions from the Retrouvaille workbook.  I also found a great website with a huge list of questions by topic (with everything you can possibly think of organized A-Z), and a random question generator.

On Wednesday we decided to give that a try and decided on the randomly generated question, “Do I judge other people by higher or lower standards than I use on myself?  How do I feel about that?”  Below is a portion of my answer:

Generally speaking, I judge others by lower standards than I use for myself.  For example, I would only accept strait A’s for myself in college, but I don’t expect the same from you (my husband) or my sister.  I can be very proud of you when you get a B in class, whereas if I got a B it would be devastating, embarrassing, and traumatic.

I also expect perfection, or near perfection in almost anything I do.  As such, I feel less than or embarrassed (yet again) anytime I make a mistake or have to ask for help.  I put immense pressure on myself in a way I would never dream of putting on others.

At the same time, I believe even my lower standards for others are sometimes higher than they are used to.  My overall philosophy is to set the bar high and expect 100% effort.  In that way, even if someone falls a little short they still achieve more and push themself harder than they would with little to no expectations set forth.  I always responded much better to teachers and others who wanted the best out of me.  It made me feel like I was someone with value, who was special, and I want to do the same with those that I love – let them know I think highly of them and their abilities.

I have mixed feelings about my answer.  When I think of the increased pressure I put on myself, I feel sad.  This sadness is a feeling of dismay, probably a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.  It feels unfortunate that I would judge myself so harshly.  The physical sensation is like a twinge or a pang of pain in a sore muscle after a few days of recuperating.  It isn’t sharp and powerful, but more of a remnant.

My second response is in response to my lowered, yet still high, expectations of others.  It seems like a more reasonable approach, and it makes me feel like an inspirational person who gives encouragement.

Keep in mind that the above was written in a 10 minute span with no opportunity to edit or review my thoughts as they were going onto the paper.  The fact that I am even posting it here, unedited, makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable.  I suppose the best way to get over my issues is to attack them head on.

After my husband and I exchanged notebooks and read each other’s answers, we started dialoging on our feelings.  The point of the 10 minutes of dialoging is to really understand the emotions of your spouse.  I actually wrote a bit too much about my thoughts and not enough about my feelings since I ran out of time.  However, when my husband and I dialoged I was able to delve into my feelings much more.  Of course, I ended up in tears.  That was the first smack in the face that my approach to myself is really not healthy.  I knew it before, but I pushed that realization to the back of my mind and never let the emotional aspect come out.

Then Friday while reviewing the blog of a fantastic writer who has done a lot of self-reflection I came across a post about self-compassion.  The words really resonated with me, even though he is far more compassionate to himself than I am.  He included a link to an online test that he took.  I decided to head over there and see how bad it really was.  Here is the scoring rubric and my scores:

Score interpretations:
Average overall self-compassion scores tend to be around 3.0 on the 1-5 scale, so you can interpret your overall score accordingly. As a rough guide, a score of 1-2.5 for your overall self-compassion score indicates you are low in self-compassion, 2.5-3.5 indicates you are moderate, and 3.5-5.0 means you are high. Remember that higher scores for the Self-Judgment, Isolation, and Over-Identification subscales indicate less self-compassion, while lower scores on these dimensions are indicative of more self-compassion (these subscales are automatically reverse-coded when your overall self-compassion score is calculated.)

My Scores:
Self-Kindness: 2.40
Self-Judgment: 4.40
Common Humanity: 2.00
Isolation: 3.50
Mindfulness: 2.75
Over-Identification: 4.00
Overall score: 2.21

So, there it is…  I’m not very compassionate to myself, and I’m extremely self-judgmental.  Sadly, that sounds about right.

This morning in my S-Anon meeting the topic chosen by the group (not proposed by me) was self-care.  Yep.  I definitely needed to hear everyone’s shares on how to take care of yourself, give yourself grace, and put your feelings and needs first.  I have been getting slightly better with self-care in areas like eating better, exercising (I absolutely love karate), and doing little things for myself every day.

I still have a very critical mindset towards myself, though.  I am still a perfectionist.  I still set myself up for failure, then beat myself up when I do fail.  Now that I am really aware of it and how it affects me emotionally, I’m going to have to find a way to contradict that voice inside that tells me I will never live up to anyone’s expectations for me, or my own expectations for myself.  I have to really accept that I am enough, that I am exceptional just the way I am.

compassion hearts

compassion hearts (Photo credit: journeyscoffee)

Cancer Changes Everything

23 Jul

Note I wish that I could say I am going to write something amazing and wise on this topic.  Many others have much more insightful thoughts and compelling stories.  This is just something that has been on my mind today, and I felt the need to write about it in order to organize my thoughts. 

Cancer.  It is one of the words in the English language that evokes a universal, immediate and visceral response.  It seems that everyone I meet has been touched by cancer in some way – usually negatively.  Sometimes it has also ignited an internal strength that the person didn’t know they had or a renewed vigor for life.  Some people battle and win.  Others lose.  Either way it is life-changing.

Cancer is on my mind today for a number of reasons.  The one at the very forefront of my brain is related to our marriage counselor.  He told us on Saturday that he has prostate cancer.  He was diagnosed in January, and just had his 6 month follow-up.  They hadn’t expected his numbers to go up much (I don’t know a lot about what this means, but it is related to his prostate function and the rate of cancer growth).  Instead, they had more than doubled.  His oncologist told him that he has to take action as soon as possible.  So in about a month he is going in for surgery.  They won’t know the extent of things until they are in there.

English: Micrograph of prostatic adenocarcinom...

Apparently, this is what prostate cancer looks like. It seems like it just shouldn’t be this beautiful. – Micrograph of prostatic adenocarcinoma, the most common form of prostate cancer. Prostate biopsy. H&E stain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am scared for him.  I also have hope because they seem to have caught this early.  Selfishly, I am also disappointed that the therapist we love, who has been wonderful for us, will be out of commission for at least 4-6 weeks.  He was so kind and gentle when telling us the news, and he is doing everything he can to accommodate his patients.  We set up several appointments for the weeks leading up to his surgery so that he can ensure he is leaving us in the best place possible.  I was amazed by his positive, matter-of-fact attitude and compassion for us.  Crazy, right?  He is the one with cancer!  I don’t even want to think of the worst-case scenario for him or us.  I am just hoping that things will work out well and sending him positive vibes.

I have a not-so-pleasant experience with prostate cancer.  It is what they believe my grandfather had before his cancer metastasized and spread to his lungs, liver, lymph nodes and colon.  I talked about losing him and his struggle with cancer in my post Remembering Pa.  Even though he ultimately died from a fall, I attribute his death to cancer 100%.  In the months leading up to his diagnosis he became noticeably weaker.  He used to have the strength and stamina of a bull – moving large rocks for their bulkhead, doing yard work, and being very active well into his 80’s.  We all knew something was wrong before we knew what exactly it was.

The discovery of cancer was devastating.  I still remember the moment I found out like it was yesterday.  I can remember where I was sitting in my office, what I was wearing that day, how my Mom’s voice on the phone sounded oddly calm, and how I didn’t shed a single tear until I told a co-worker.  Then I could barely hold them back.  Later, I couldn’t at all.  We waited for test results, biopsies, scans, information on the best treatment, you name it.  I was out of town when they rated him as Stage IV and again when they said that surgery was no longer an option.  He was so weak after his first treatment that I could barely recognize him – and he could barely remember my name due to the “chemo brain.”  It was such a confusing, terrifying, and emotional time.  I can imagine in vivid details what our marriage counselor, his wife and family must be going through right now.  My heart goes out to them.

Another reason that cancer is on my mind is because of So You Think You Can Dance.  I am an avid viewer of the program, and just love the choreography that they come up with and the amazing dancers on the program.  The talent is through the roof.  It is easily the best competition show on television, and the only one that I watch.  This week they were promoting National Dance Day, which is Saturday, July 28th, by the way.  One of the planned events for the day is a gala in Los Angeles where they will have former So You Think You Can Dance contestants and choreographers performing their favorites from the program – including all of their Emmy winning numbers and the “breast cancer dance.”  Yep – they mentioned that one specifically.

It brought me right back to the time that it originally aired, in Season 5.  In the same week of that performance my Mom had a breast cancer scare.  During her annual, they found lumps.  They were concerned, and she went in for a biopsy the day before the episode aired.  That would be pretty scary in and of itself, but it had even more of an impact for them because my step-Dad’s first wife died of breast cancer.  He went with my Mom and waited while she got the biopsy.  I can hardly imagine what went through his mind.  His first wife’s battle with breast cancer was agonizing, and he was with her every step of the way – supporting her, helping her through her treatments, and ultimately watching it take her life.  He had just married my Mom only a few months earlier, and she is significantly younger than him (right at 20 years – just like my husband and I, but that’s another story).  I’m sure he didn’t think he would potentially have to deal with that all over again.

Thankfully, the lumps they found were just cysts.  My Mom is fine, and my step-Dad doesn’t have to re-live the experience.  Except in his mind.  I’m sure those weeks after the lumps were found and before they got the biopsy results were hell on him.  They watched the So You Think You Can Dance episode together.  She called me the next day and we cried together on the phone.  I, too, had seen it the night before.  By the end of the dance I was sobbing.  It still gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes.  Nothing I could say can ever come close to the power of that dance – putting music, movements, and emotions together to create a masterpiece.  Here’s the video:

Being Complete Opposites

26 May

A while ago I briefly posted about my husband and I taking the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.  Two weeks ago we got our results and a sheet that breaks down the joys and struggles of a couple with those two personality types.  What we discovered is that we are actually polar opposites.  We literally do not have one type in common.  I am an ISTJ (Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) and he is an ENFP (Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving).

If you aren’t familiar with the test or the concept, it uses 4 different scales to identify personality traits.  There are 16 different combinations of these 4 traits which form the basis for your overall personality.  The four different scales are (as broken down by about.com Psychology at http://psychology.about.com/od/psychologicaltesting/a/myers-briggs-type-indicator.htm):

  1. Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I): The extraversion-introversion dichotomy was first explored by Jung in his theory of personality types as a way to describe how people respond and interact with the world around them. While these terms are familiar to most people, the way in which they are used here differs somewhat from their popular usage.  Extroverts are “outward-turning” and tend to be action-oriented, enjoy more frequent social interaction and feel energized after spending time with other people. Introverts are “inward-turning” and tend to be thought-oriented, enjoy deep and meaningful social interactions and feel recharged after spending time alone. We all exhibit extraversion and introversion to some degree, but most of us tend have an overall preference for one or the other.
  2. Sensing (S) – Intuition (N): This scale involves looking at how people gather information from the world around them. Just like with extraversion and introversion, all people spend some time sensing and intuiting depending on the situation. According to the MBTI, people tend be dominant in one area or the other. People who prefer sensing tend to pay a great deal of attention to reality, particularly to what they can learn from their own senses. They tend to focus on facts and details and enjoy getting hands-on experience. Those who prefer intuition pay more attention to things like patterns and impressions. They enjoy thinking about possibilities, imagining the future and abstract theories.
  3. Thinking (T) – Feeling (F): This scale focuses on how people make decisions based on the information that they gathered from their sensing or intuition functions. People who prefer thinking place a greater emphasis on facts and objective data. They tend to be consistent, logical and impersonal when weighing a decision. Those to prefer feeling are more likely to consider people and emotions when arriving at a conclusion.
  4. Judging (J) – Perceiving (P): The final scale involves how people tend to deal with the outside world. Those who lean toward judging prefer structure and firm decisions. People who lean toward perceiving are more open, flexible and adaptable. These two tendencies interact with the other scales. Remember, all people at least spend some time extraverting. The judging-perceiving scale helps describe whether you extrovert when you are taking in new information  (sensing and intuition) or when you are making decisions (thinking and feeling).

Every person has some combination of those 4 scales.  Each combination has inherent value and its own set of positive attributes and challenges.  Here’s a quick summary of the our two personality types:

  • ISTJ (me) – People with an ISTJ personality type tend to be reserved, practical and quiet.  They enjoy order and organization in all areas of their lives including their home, work, family and projects.  Because of this need for order, they tend to do better in learning and work environments that have clearly defined schedules, clear-cut assignments and a strong focus on the task at hand.  ISTJs value loyalty in themselves and others, and place an emphasis on traditions.  ISTJs are both responsible and realistic.  They are able to ignore distractions in order to focus on the task at hand and are often described as dependable and trustworthy.  Some of the main characteristics of the ISTJ personality include:
    • Focused on details and facts
    • Realistic
    • Interested in the present more than the future
    • Observant, but slightly subjective
    • Interested in the internal world
    • Logical and practical
    • Orderly and organized
  • ENFP (him) – People with this type of personality are often described as enthusiastic, charismatic, and creative.  ENFPs are flexible and like to keep their options open.  They can be spontaneous and are highly adaptable to change. They also dislike routine and may have problems with disorganization and procrastination.  When making decisions, ENFPs place a greater value on feelings and values rather than on logic and objective criteria.  People with this personality type strongly dislike routine and prefer to focus on the future. While they are great at generating new ideas, they sometimes put off important tasks until the last minute. Dreaming up ideas but not seeing them through to completion is a common problem. ENFPs can also become easily distracted, particularly when they are working on something that seems boring or uninspiring.Some common ENFP characteristics include:
    • Warm and enthusiastic
    • Empathetic and caring
    • Strong people skills; relates well to others
    • Able to think abstractly and understand difficult, complex concepts
    • Needs approval from others
    • Disorganized
    • Strong communication skills
    • Fun and spontaneous
    • Highly creative

You can probably tell already just how completely different we are.  Now imagine making that work in a marriage.  It is hard work.  But it is also very rewarding.  We literally have the traits that the other lacks.  Here is a portion of what our marriage counselor gave us regarding a marriage between an ISTJ and an ENFP:

The Joys

Since ISTJs and ENFPs have no type preference in common, they often seem like polar opposites.  But many couples experience a strong attraction, as each has what the other lacks.  ISTJs are often attracted to ENFPs’ high energy, enthusiasm, optimism, and creativity.  ENFPs bring a fun and adventurous element to everyday living, often saying and doing things that are irreverent, clever, and original (very true).  ENFPs are often drawn to ISTJs’ steadiness, responsibility, and calm.  ISTJs have a focus and maturity that ENFPs long to have themselves, and ISTJs are generally down-to-earth, unflappable, and superdependable (also very true).

Because of these differences, ENFPs and ISTJs have a great opportunity to help each other grow and develop in important ways.  ISTJs help their partners focus more carefully on the facts, details, and individual steps of their projects so they make fewer mistakes.  ENFPs often credit their partners with helping them be more direct, assertive, and willing to confront conflicts head-on.  ENFPs also say that their ISTJ partners help them become more organized, accountable, and realistic (true again).  For their part, ENFPs often help their serious and hardworking partners relax, have fun, and take occasional risks (so incredibly dead-on).  ISTJs credit their partners with cultivating their gentler and more patient sides and with helping them be more flexible and open to new ideas.

The Frustrations

Their many differences give most ISTJ and ENFP couples sizable hurdles to clear on a daily basis, especially in the area of communication (okay, have these people been spying on us?!).  ISTJs crave structure and predictability in their daily lives and are more traditional than the nonconforming and lveral-minded ENFPs.  Whereas ISTJs are not bothered by, and are perhaps even stimulated by, the tug of a good argument, ENFPs generally avoid anything too contentious or confrontational (spot-on).  Otherwise, ENFPs typically like lots of stimulation and are always eager to meet new people and explore new areas of work and play.  Meanwhile, ISTJs are often exhausted by the high level of interaction their partners stir up and prefer to stick with established routines or to spend quiet time with their partners pursuing an interest they share (that is so me).

Generally, one of the most difficult challenges for this couple stems from their views of change.  ENFPs like and need to talk about limitless possibilities, and they love to think creatively.  Because most ISTJs find constant change unsettling and stressful, their natural reaction is to resist it.  ENFPs often feel that their enthusiasm for possibilities is being squelched by the realism of their ISTJ partners.  For their part, ISTJs find the endless chatter about things that might never actually happen and the repeated leaps in logic frustrating and even threatening to the calm they prefer (AMEN!).

During conflicts, ISTJs tend to withdraw into silence so they can carefully think through their positions, opinions, and feelings before sharing them.  By contrast, most ENFPs want to work things out spontaneously in an effort to reestablish harmony immediately (actually, these two sentences happen but in the exact reverse.  He is the one who withdraws into silence and needs time to think things out while I want to immediately talk through our various feelings).  The end result is that both partners feel misunderstood and unappreciated.  Rather than talking through issues with respect and compromise, couples tend to fall into a pattern of arguing and blaming, followed by periods of silence and distance (this part is the same).  To maintain trust and connection, it is imperative that ENFPs stay calm and focused and ISTJs commit to sharing their emotions while remaining open and supportive (again, we need to do that but in reverse).

So, now we know a little bit more about each other.  I feel like every day we are taking steps in the right direction to strengthen our marriage.  Each little step brings us closer to being able to live in peace and harmony together.  I know there will always be differences, and that’s one thing I really like about us.  We are able to force each other to grow and make changes.  Hopefully they can be positive ones.  My desire is that we will find ways to balance each other out, smooth away the rough edges, and still maintain our individuality and unique perspectives on life.  As just a little step in that direction, I asked my husband to help me pick out a good picture to add at the end of this blog.  Below is his choice.

Pink

23 May

A few days ago I changed the look of my blog to make it perkier and give it a lighter ambience.  One thing I made sure was consistent, though, is the color: pink.  I have had a love-hate-love relationship with pink throughout my life.  I thought today I would give you a little glimpse into me using the color pink as a framework.

When I was very young my parents were members of an Apostolic Pentecostal church because my uncle was a pastor there.  One foundation of that faith is that women (and girls) are required to only wear dresses and to keep their hair long.  There are all sorts of other strict rules, but the basic idea is that femininity is required – even for babies.  That means that I actually learned to “crawl” in a dress.  I put crawl in quotes because I couldn’t really use my knees like most children do since the dresses made it virtually impossible.  Picture this:  me in a frilly pink dress, hair that had never been cut, “crawling” around on my hands and feet in this weird hunched/ crouching position so that I could maneuver around without tripping myself.  I think I have a photo of that somewhere, actually.  I will have to try and find it.

It wasn’t quite like this, but you get the general idea…

In my early childhood pink was a staple.  Even after we changed churches and parted ways with the stringent guidelines I owned tons of cute outfits, hair clips, and chunky plastic jewelry that was pink.  When I was about 6 years old my parents bought 10 acres of land in the country, and my Mom started designing a new house for us.  We got to pick everything, which was very exciting for me.  I picked out pink carpet, pink paint for my walls, pink wallpaper border, and a pink bedspread.  We moved in when I was about 7 years old, and I loved my new room.

In the next few years I got more active in sports (softball and horse-back riding mostly), started exploring those 10 acres, and became a tree-climbing, tough, tomboy who loved getting dirty, didn’t mind a few cuts and scrapes, and spent more time with my horses and dogs than playing dress-up.  I started hating the color pink with a passion.  I decided orange was my new favorite color, I think mostly because it isn’t “girly” at all.  I named all of my stuffed animals “orangey,” even the ones that had absolutely no orange in them.  I also spent some time ripping the heads off of my sister’s Barbie dolls just to prove how not interested I was in being frilly and delicate.

As I changed from a pre-teen into a full-blow teenager orange was no longer my favorite color, but pink was still at the very bottom of my list.  I gravitated to blue, gray, black, and anything that made me feel tough.  I think part of that had to do with the fact that I was very picked on in school.  I was home-schooled by my Mom until 6th grade, which I thought was wonderful.  I was super-fast with my school-work, which allowed me to skip a grade and have more time to play outside.  I could finish my lessons for the day in just a few hours at home.

Then I changed to private school for 2 years.  Not only were the lessons excruciatingly, unnecessarily long (it took 3 or 4 times what I had been spending to go over things that I found incredibly simple), but the kids were mean.  Private schools sound good in theory, especially to religious parents who think their children will get the benefit of Christian teachings, prayer, and smaller class sizes.  Let me tell you something – the reality is much different.  Private schools are full of kids who have been rejected from public schools because of their bad attitudes, problems focusing, and in some cases drug habits.  Sure, there are only 15-20 students in an entire grade.  That just means you can’t get away from the bullies.  Ever.

I was very glad to switch to public school for 8th grade through graduation.  At least there I could blend in, fade into the background a bit, and hopefully find a niche for myself.  Still, I was the “new kid.”  Everyone had been together, known one another, and formed their social circles since elementary school.  I wasn’t especially popular, outgoing, or interested in the “normal” teenage drama.  I came to despise the color pink even more because it was associated with the narcissistic, cruel, and shallow group of “mean girls.”

I did end up finding my own comfort zone in show choir, academics, and a few musicals and plays (even though I never fit in with the drama crowd).  I had a few close friends, I was relatively well-liked and respected, although not popular by anyone’s standards, and I was able to avoid being ridiculed for the most part.  I graduated at the top of my class, and couldn’t have been happier to leave it all behind.

I will skip most of the stuff in between then and now because it really doesn’t relate to my journey with the color pink.  Once I became a more self-assured adult something slowly changed about my opinion of pink.  It started with just a few nice pops of pink in a pretty shirt.  I realized I was okay with being feminine – in fact, it was something that made me feel good about myself.  I bought a bright pink shirt for the summer and noticed how much it flattered my dark hair and fair skin.

Slowly pink started making its way back into my life.  Now it represented confidence.  I could own pink for myself, not as something forced onto me by religion, culture, my parents, or the “in crowd.”  I also found that since I was more confident in myself I was okay with the vulnerability and softness that pink sometimes implies.  I didn’t have to be tough all the time.  I didn’t have to be strong, invincible, and shielded from the world.  I could just be me.  And I discovered that “me” likes pink.

I have been shaped by my life experiences and have grown because of them.  I still like black and gray, but I also enjoy silver and pink.  In fact, black and pink were the colors of my wedding.  I wanted this blog to have a pink theme because it reminds me of the journey I have taken to be okay with pink.  It reminds me that I can be vulnerable.  It reminds me that I am fluid – changing and becoming a different person every day.  That is why pink is important to me.

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