29 August 2011

Take That Worthlessness!

This was my Facebook status this morning - and it has made such an impact on me that I wanted to preserve it here: You are valuable. Yes YOU. Not because of your net worth or your earning potential - but because once upon a time, a decision was made by a Creator who holds the breath of life to infuse life into cells. The exact perfect circumstances had to exist to bring this about and He allowed every single variable to line up. None of us are a mistake. Nobody is an accident. Our entrance into this world did not take Him by surprise - and we each were very much wanted because He decided this world would not be the same without us. From those conceived in royalty to babies born into the arms of teenage parents - and everything in between - to Him there is no distinction. As someone who struggles with intense worthlessness, I woke up this morning to this affirmation that I can only imagine was from Him - that I was wanted and loved and HIS.  How much different life would be if we all lived as if this were true - not only of ourselves but of every single other person that we encounter in our days. We are so loved.  Take that worthlessness!

27 August 2011

A Fist Full of Ashes

Healing is a process. I keep telling myself this - like a mantra that is followed with this positive affirmation "it is okay to be in process".  Nobody likes to be in process - preferring much more to have arrived at the destination of a whole mind and non-fractured spirit, at least insofar as healing is concerned.
A friend shared this scripture from Isaiah 61 with me at last night's group meeting - and though I'd heard it a million times before, this piece was illuminated to me:
".....to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair....."
How easily my spirit despairs.  I looked the word up in my concordance and it means to [smolder].  
smol·der  /ˈsmōldər/ verb: burn slowly with smoke but no flame
The despair is a slow burn - and unchecked it will eat.me.alive.  The smallest thing can trigger deep feelings of worthlessness, the tiniest injury can unearth catastrophic old wounds. It takes constant effort to remember that I am no longer trapped in an abusive marriage or childhood.  It takes intentional choices not to react with the same defensive behaviors - which can range anywhere from lashing out in fear to scurrying into the shadows like a skiddish animal.  It is taking time and conscious effort to trust myself, others and God.
This phrase
beauty for ashes, beauty for ashes, beauty for ashes
keeps rolling through my mind.  Some of the despair has been necessary - to allow this old life to burn away. These ashes are all that is left of my old life - and yet I often hold them in fists clenched tight.  The crown of beauty may be preferable to most - but to reach out for it means to let some of these ashes spill out of my hands.  

28 June 2011

The Mother Wound

I cannot remember where I first heard the term "mother wound", but I knew instantly on the hearing that I had one as deep as the Grand Canyon and as wide as the Nile River is long. It is the thing that has most significantly shaped me as a person, for better or worse.  A brief definition:
We all come into the world needing the tender presence of a mother's touch, nurture, care and love. In fact the mother's influence begins when we are in the womb. The absence of this mother love is a wound that is created in three ways:  

  1. Mother separated from the child through illness of the mother, mother's death, divorce
  2. Child separated from the mother through illness of the child, incubator/hospitalization, adoption
  3. Unhappy relationship with mother through neglect, abuse, mother's mental or emotional distress, attempted abortion

I think most mothers leave positive and negative marks on their children.  I know that in spite of my best intentions, I have done (or not done) things that my kids will have to overcome.  The mother wound is more profound - and the healing is sure to take a lifetime.  The confusion created when the same hands that are meant to nurture and provide, harm and withdraw is significant.  One resource listed the consequences of the traumatic interruption of this attachment as an overwhelming sense of abandonment and dread of aloneness, emotional dependency and a loss of self and being.  The list is longer but these are the three attributes that are most identifiable to my personal experience.
My mother was mentally ill for most of my life.  She had extended stays in the psychiatric hospitals and long periods of time where she confined herself to her bed while my step-father and I provided 24/7 room service.  Since I became an adult and was able to define some personal boundaries of acceptable behavior, our relationship has become more and more distant.  There are years when we don't speak at all.  Somehow through the neglect and abuse the need for a mother remained, my spirit wooden like the body of a mannequin with non-posable arms reaching out for something just beyond its grasp.
It was this conditioning of neglect and abuse that first taught me I was worthless and led me to accept the mistreatment of a spouse who was supposed to love me for far too many years.  I am working on being at a place where I harbor no resentment while stating the truth.  I would rather spend my energy on the healing process that God is doing in my life than to dwell on the darkness of history with anger or malice.  The darkness has swallowed far too many precious years already.
Our last rift was over my refusal to add my mother as a "friend" on Facebook.  I explained that I would rather establish a real-life relationship with her than to have voyeuristic familiarity.  She responded by not speaking to me for a year.  In recent months, my mom and I have talked sporadically - text messages, emails here and there.  When I dropped Gary off at the airport on Sunday morning, it triggered my fear of abandonment.  I knew immediately it had nothing to do with him or the situation - but it was deeply connected to my mother wound.  People think I'm brave.  They think I'm strong.  What nobody knows is that inside I'm still pining for a mother.  I was bawling my eyes out as I left the airport, so I dialed her number.   She never answered.

21 June 2011

There is No Such Obligation

I have been churning inside since a discussion yesterday in which a friend attempted to correct what they perceived as immaturity on my part.  In another online format, I took a dig at someone who had done something illegal that involved one of my children about a year ago.  I feel no guilt or remorse over what I said despite their best efforts to show me the error of my ways.  The comment did not distract from the conversation and only those who are aware of the situation understood the underlying implication.  No harm, no foul.

What disturbs me more is this idea that no matter what wrong or evil someone has done, we are to smile and lovingly emit a grace we are not ready to give and forgiveness whether you feel it or not.  Supposedly, this is the Christian way.  More and more as I contrast the precepts of my faith with the experience of my humanity, I have decided that I am no longer able to "fake it till I make it".  Grace and forgiveness are a process, and in this particular situation it has not yet been achieved.  I made a statement about the wrong done and I have no regrets. This same grace must be extended to cover me.

The other thing I was called down on was the issue that one of our friends who is not a Christian might be thrown by my inability to show the love of God to someone who caused injury to my child.  In this case I will have to defer to God to love them, because at present I cannot.  While this is considered horribly un-Christian of me, let me propose that it is perhaps moreso than putting on a fake smile and pretending whatever someone does in any given situation is okay because I am under some mandate to pursue forgiveness.  Interacting with people with the motive of evangelism is as disconcerting as the friend who is a Tupperware dealer inserting the current specials into every conversation.  We are not Jesus - and we might stop being such a colossal disappointment to the non-believing world if we stop the facade that we might be.

I am under no obligation to live up to the expectation of others.

18 June 2011

The Best Dad is Mine

Every little girl's first love is her daddy. This was as true of me as the next girl.  My dad was my hero.  It was the 70s and he had shaggy blonde hair and wore polyester pants and shirts with wide collars. I thought he was more handsome than any other man that on earth. He drove a green Pinto and had an affinity for Krispy Kreme donuts and big bowls of chocolate ice cream. He was the coolest.

When my parents divorced in the late 70s, the greatest loss was the connection between a father and his little girl. My dad had begun a new life of which I was rarely a part.  It was some serious collateral damage and a grieving that endured throughout my childhood and into adult life.  My mom made it very difficult for me to spend any time with him, and so I didn't very much.

A couple of years ago when the pieces of my life all came crumbling down around me, my dad was there.  He sent money to help me afford a rental truck and gas, but that wasn't what was most important. He answered his phone - over and over and over again -whether it was a phone call or a text message.  He was there for me. I never needed him so much in all of my life and he came through.  He told me I was doing the right thing, to be strong, that he loved me.  It meant everything to have this validation and support.  The picture posted here is of my dad hugging me after my wedding to Gary.  Before the ceremony was even over - my dad was on his feet and up to hug and congratulate us.  He has worried all of these years about me - and I know how happy it makes him to see me safe and loved and happy after all this time.  It gives me a lot of joy to see him so happy too as I've watched him go through a lot of changes in his own life in recent years.

Happy Father's Day Dad. I love you more than words. You are the best dad in the world, because you are mine.
My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me. 
- Jim Valvano

16 June 2011

The Healing Process

Sometimes when you are healing, you can take one step forward and two steps back. Almost two weeks ago I got a Monroe piercing.  Some people say that they are nurturing their inner child, but much of the time lately I feel like I am nurturing my inner rebellious teenager, as evidenced by this need to poke a hole in myself.  The first few days after I got the piercing, I had a lot of difficulty getting used to it. The labret they put in at first is extra long to allow for swelling and I think mine would have accommodated Angelina Jolie and Mick Jagger's love child.  Every time I tried to bite or chew food, not to mention talking, my teeth would pull it from the inside.  It was no fun.  Gary took me to Cherry Bomb tattoo and piercing parlor a couple of times to get the jewelry changed which helped quite a bit.  Little by little it was feeling better, until a couple days ago when my teeth caught it and gave it a good pull that grabbed the front end and pulled it through my lip. OUCH!

I share this story of the piercing because it seems to be the way of healing.  In this process there are stops and starts.  We gain ground and start to feel a sense of wholeness and suddenly and often unexpectedly that same ground seems to drop from beneath our feet, leaving us reeling again.  But healing must occur and we must expect that it does not do so in a linear fashion.  If we choose to forego the healing process our only option is to remain battered and bitter.  It seems not a choice at all to me.  Healing is not easy, and it requires that we deal with our scars, but wholeness is always the goal.  I read something beautiful recently from Little Bee by Chris Cleave about scars:
"I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived."
I survived. When the bad memories come, the pain creeps to the surface and demands acknowledgment, I remind myself that I survived.  These things did not kill me then, and they will not kill me now. Like my piercing, the pain will serve it's purpose.  In time, healing will come and with it a beautiful scar as a reminder that I survived.

14 June 2011

Happy Divorce-iversary to Me!

I'm going to throw caution to the wind and post this celebratory declaration of the one year anniversary of my divorce.  This anniversary celebrates a passage of time in which I have not had to suffer verbal, emotional or physical abuse.  My children now live in a house where they go to bed every night certain that they won't wake up to violence, rage or outbursts.  In the last year nobody has told me that I was fat, clumsy, stupid or a b*tch.  In our home, nothing has been thrown, broken, mutilated, or destroyed in a fit of anger.  I have not had to duck, hide or passively apologize to neutralize a toxic situation.  Nobody has disabled my car to keep me from leaving or made empty promises to manipulate me into staying. Perhaps divorce breaks God's heart, but I can't help but think that this metamorphosis of our family gives Him anything but joy.

A divorce marks the disentanglement of two legally joined parties, but if I'm honest, my heart was disentangled long ago.  My life followed slowly, and what a life it is!

13 June 2011

Taking Off the Mask

I woke super early this morning with about a hundred ideas of what to blog about and the desire to write them all at once. Finally some reprieve from blogger's block that had me stuck for the last couple of years, staring terrifyingly at the little white box with the hope that eventually words would come and I could click the little orange button and "publish post".  Once in a great while I was able to eek out a few words, but nothing like the hum that used to go on in my head with a steady stream of things to blog about.  Now I know that this hum was silenced when it was for the best.  Though people often slow as they pass the scene of an accident, nobody really appreciates the eye full of mangled metal as much when there is a person among the wreckage.  I was that person. The wreckage was my life. The EMTs and tow trucks and insurance companies needed to work unhindered behind the scenes to provide emergency medical care, clear the debris and assess the losses.

I have shared on this blog some of my deepest fears, most vulnerable weaknesses, embarrassing antics and personal anguish with no regrets.  As Gary and I were laying in bed last night in those precious moments before sleep, he asked me if I ever worried about unguarded way that I share and put myself out there in the blogosphere. I ruminated on that a while before dozing off and woke this morning to the comment on the last post from "Anonymous" who said "it's raw and it's real......... and it's beautiful".  This comment validated my personal principle for writing - to fling my heart wide open and share with little hesitation.  I do work hard to create a balance of maintaining privacy and dignity for those who are crazy enough to walk through life beside me, while maintaining authenticity.   I could write exclusively about the best parts of my life in the hopes that everyone would want to be me in this fabricated life I'd conjure for public consumption, and be the author of a blog nobody would want to read, including me.  It is my resolve to be as real as I can and in so doing, help other people with similar struggles to know they are not alone.  This process of self-discovery that I'm in the midst of can only flourish if I am validating others - and we can do that only if we are each willing to take off our respective masks.

(A note to Anonymous - I feel like I should know who you are - but sadly once I started sharing my story - so many women who were surviving various levels of abusive relationships were contacting me. I still get emails and blog comments and Facebook messages asking for help for a friend or some advice on how to get through the worst of it. If you don't want to identify yourself here - please send me a message on Facebook or an email at julsnwv AT gmail DOT com. I'd like to know who you are so I can follow your story.)

12 June 2011

Non-Static People

Lately I have been going through what could best be described as a mid-life crisis.  I'm bored, I'm restless, I'm anxious and easily agitated.  I go from laughing to crying and back again.  Some days I wake UP in a funk that doesn't clear most of the day - which is not my usual "bubbly" (as my hubs calls it) demeanor.  I'm impatient (at least in my head) with people over things that should not be so irksome, including myself.  I'm unreasonable and irrational and I wonder how it is possible that anyone could find me lovable in such a state, especially my husband who has been married to me for just nine short months.  If he doesn't occasionally wonder what on earth he has gotten himself into, I think he should be awarded some sort of sainthood.

We were having a discussion about this fledgling personality disorder that I am developing earlier today. He knows that I am, as cliché as it sounds, trying to "find myself" and has been my biggest cheerleader.  Abusive relationships diminish a person's true self, and I am still very much in the healing process.  Often the progression of self-discovery is hindered by self-loathing and you literally have to learn to examine who you are and evaluate that this person in the mirror is good, valued, lovable.  In a lot of ways, Gary has gotten to know me better than I know myself. His honesty and willingness to hold my hand through this unfolding of my true self has made all the difference.  In one of my emotional tantrums, I was asking him if he could still love me as I change and grow. "People aren't static" he said. "I'm going to love you no matter what." 

People aren't static. They are dynamic and changing and organic and vibrant, and I am among them. Being loved securely, come what may is truly the greatest gift imaginable. 

28 February 2011

Judge Not

I woke up this morning on the dawn of my 41st birthday with a headache. There is an impending storm, but the overcast day will do little to make me forget the sunshine of yesterday or the spring that is waking across the mountain. A hike yesterday afternoon with my family revealed that even in the depth of the woods, new shoots of green leaves are pushing through the surface to make their appearance known. So many symbolic references to be made between the newness of my life and the emerging new life of spring, but that was not the intent of this blog post. 
Yesterday morning's sermon was about the judgments we pass on one another and how the church should be a place of acceptance, outstretched arms of love to those around us.  The pastor said that instead of being the conduit of the love of God to a hurting world (my paraphrase), we judge and condemn them for doing what comes naturally. That struck such a chord in my heart. So often instead of being appalled by the sin and the consequences that follow, I am disgusted with people. I wonder in my own heart, "What is wrong with them??!" As a believer, I already know that they do what they do because they are slaves to their human nature.  Even fellow believers still have the flesh to contend with, that wages war against every bit of what is inside of us that is good. I have been hurt as much inside the church as I was ever hurt from the outside. But I try to remember that I too have inflicted similar hurts on others, and keep this as a warning inside my own heart and mind to tread lightly and hold grace as a banner over others. (At least this is what I want to do, though often I do not do it.)
Recently in a newcomer's class at the church we have started going to, I faced the judgmental words of a woman that said, "I've never been divorced."  This has been one of my biggest, most paralyzing fears that I would be summed up as a person and a Christian on the sole event known as the end of my marriage. Without having to bare your soul for the world, nobody knows how hard you tried to make it work or what you endured so that this would never be the final outcome. Even in marriages that put on a happy face, nobody knows if the person asserting, "I was never divorced" was the most miserable spouse in the world, in a marriage that lasted due to no credit of their own but because of the patience and long-suffering of another. The fear of this judgment over my divorce has held me back from the body of Christ. I have attended church over the last couple of years sporadically, but I have not invested in a body of believers or the people around me for fear that if they got to know my situation or me, that they would decide I was "less than".  I think it is time to risk the judgment and the fear of rejection and embrace the fellowship of other believers. I have missed this for so long. 
The sermon yesterday spoke this hope into my life, that I was free. 

23 January 2011

That's How We Always Did It

So pretty much everyone has heard this story in different variations of the woman that cuts the end off of a ham/roast.  She tells her husband who asks why she does this that it's what her mother always did. She calls the mother to find out and she says it was what her mother always did.  When asked, Grandma says she cut the ends of the meat off because that was the only way it would fit in her roasting pan!
I heard this story years ago and it made me wonder what we do because "that's how we always did it" without questioning the whys.  I am a "like to know why" person but even something like this has snuck in on me from time to time, where I do the thing someone shows me, unquestioningly.
Recently we have been exploring the delicious world of raw milk and the nutritional benefits of kefir and unpasteurized dairy.  Raw milk is not only unpasteurized, but also non-homogenized.  (Homogenization being that process that fuses the cream that rises to the top with the rest of the milk so it does not separate.)  I've been drinking pasteurized, homogenized milk my whole life but for some reason, I grew up always giving the milk a few good hard shakes before drinking it.  I never stopped to wonder why. My parents did it and I learned to do it and then passed this little milk-shaking tradition on to my kids.  I can hardly bring myself to take a swallow from milk that doesn't have the little bubbles on top from being shaken, or out of a plastic cup...... but I digress.  The other day when shaking the raw milk, intentionally to mix the cream in with the milk, I realized that this "milk shaking" must have been passed on in my family for several generations.  Though we have been drinking milk that did not separate and thus had no purpose for shaking it for many years now, still we shake it, because that's how we always did it.
I'm looking at the world with new eyes. I'm questioning everything and asking why.

09 January 2011

Oh Christmas Tree What a Year Can Bring

The holidays were so busy and with activity and chaos that when it all settled we weren't in a hurry to take down the Christmas tree.  It was only after the holidays that I found the opportunity to really sit and enjoy it.  But come down it must.  So yesterday Gary and I set out to accomplish this task, together.  
This is new for me - this idea of doing things "together".  I don't believe it has anything to do with being newlyweds, as some would say.  This is a goal for the two of us who suffered our share of heartbreak, lived for years with spouses who were not committed to us and struggled on our own to change this cruel fact and are determined to make this marriage, this relationship everything it can be. It is such a joy in life to finally not be alone.
While Kullen is away at winter camp this weekend, the girls were here to give us a hand.  I had gathered all of the Santas and stockings and nativity set pieces from around the house earlier in the day. I boxed away all of the Christmas cards we received for 2010 with the commitment to sit down next year when the decorations come out and read through them once again.  When the four of us went about removing the ornaments and lights and trimmings from the tree, I couldn't help but think of all that might change in the year before we see these things again.  So much has changed in the year since we visited them last and I am acutely aware of how much can change in the coming years as children grow into adults, parents and grandparents grow older, and time it seems stands still for no one.  In this past year though painful like childbirth, the changes have all been for the better - more peace, more love, more joy.  But I know that some years can be full of pain and struggle and loss. I have lived years such as that and though I have no desire to endure it again, it makes me stronger knowing I won't face it alone.
It was nice to see items that we took out independently from our separate stores to decorate the house for Christmas intermingled when we put them away.  Gary packed the boxes away in the container in the garage until next year and I set about cleaning and rearranging the living room.  With my birthday around the corner followed the arrival of spring, I will likely soon forget the depth of thought provoked by undecorating the Christmas tree, but then again there's always next year to remind me.

On posting a picture and wrapping the text:  it has taken me nearly half an hour to remember how to do something I used to do in my sleep!

03 January 2011

It's the Little Things

Tonight I arrived home from work to a husband standing at the top of the stairs with my favorite Tequila Sunrise in hand.  The house smelled of the Italian chicken and pasta he had made for dinner.  On the table, a salad with a side of chopped mushrooms just for my bowl, since I am the only one who likes them.  During the day, he ran to town to take the comforter from our bed to the laundromat.  I have never been spoiled in my life.  I have seldom even know what it was like to have someone that not only didn't need me to take care of them, but invested their time and energy into making me happy and making my day just a little easier. In the few months that he entered my life, Gary has shown me more love and companionship than I have ever known.  I can still remember what it was like to be alone in the world, struggling.  I hope I never forget so that I always appreciate this gift given so freely, daily of his love.

02 January 2011

2011: Day Two

This year is starting out much like all the rest.  Busy-ness, chaos and activity.  I have been off for most of the last two weeks, and I am looking forward to the routine and consistency of going back to work.  This morning was church and then a trip to the airport to send Kaitlyn's sweetheart, Matthew on his way home after a visit from Texas.  Soon he will graduate and come to college nearby so they can be together more often - but for now the ache of separation.  Kullen also said goodbye to his friend Tessa.  These first budding feelings are so fragile.  I think that I woke this morning burdened for my children and their sadnesses.  Fortunately, the busy-ness of the day did not allow me to carry them for long.
My goal in the next few days, weeks and months is to slow myself down. I need a few minutes each day not to be sucked away in the flurry of activity and the demands of others so that I can breathe a little. I want to write and paint and cook and do absolutely whatever I find to do without the tug and pull of obligation.  The one solace in any day I have is this - the fifteen or twenty minutes every night before I fall asleep in the arms of my sweetheart. I share the days joys and burdens with this man who exerts that it is his pleasure to walk this road of life beside me.  This makes all the difference.

01 January 2011

A Little Bitter, Mostly Sweet

That is the best way that I can describe 2010. The year has come to a close and a new one has begun. When I was younger, a new year was met with excitement. Much like the exhilaration of a new journal, so many blank pages and the joy and anticipation of time and what story they would write - a new year was a story waiting to be told. In recent years I had become more cynical and increasingly more hopeless. No eager anticipation - just an ever increasing sense of being stuck - stuck in pain, stuck in misery. Just stuck.
I am thankful for the resilience of spirit and the inner strength that could only be from God that brought me through. This past year has been one of the most difficult of my life. I had to resign to the fact that my marriage was over. I saw the words in black and white of my divorce decree. That in itself did not hurt as much as I would have anticipated. My marriage had been dead for a very long time. What hurt was the letting go and giving up on something that I had worked so hard on. I was the EMT refusing to quit CPR though all signs of life had ceased.
From the ashes came beauty. About six weeks after my divorce was final, in a time that I would have never anticipated, I met someone. Gary and I were married on September 26th. He is truly my best friend. There is so much to how we met and why we married so quickly and what our plans are for the future. I am sure this venture back into blogging will offer many opportunities to share some of that. My blog has been more therapeutic than I ever could've imagined. It was here I poured out much of my pain, sorted a lot of confused thinking and found much comfort, support and advice. On these blank pages of this blog, over the course of this year I want to share our story as we write it. This is a story of love, forgiveness and laughter. It is a chronicle of family and faith and much healing.