Monday, November 27, 2017

Snowsuit Safety



I keep thinking about this quote -it has popped up a few times on my newsfeed for different reasons.  An avid snowboarder posted it, taking it literally.  But it's hitting me on a non-literal level.  A few months ago, I listened to a podcast called The Life Beats Project.  They interviewed Hugh Vail, and he said something really similar and I haven't really stopped thinking about it.
He talked about the power of vulnerability, of being transparent with those we love intimately.  He noted that we can weather any kind of weather, so long as we know what to dress for.

YES.
And I think Betrayal Trauma feels a lot like wearing a blizzard in a bikini.  The scorch is real.

When my husband is open and honest -when he's transparent -I can dress for the weather.

The weather, the weather, the weather.
It's cold now, right?  Is it cold where you are?

It's two-blanket weather up here in northern AZ.  It's currently overcasty with winds teasing my windows and leaves scraping the walls of my rental.  We're moving out because we are buying our first house.
It's a big friggin' deal.  A big one for us.

I don't know if we've ever talked about this, but I'm 32 and my husband is that plus 5.  The chaos of addiction has kept us from something as simple as our own home... that's one way addiction has manifested in our lives.  We've spent so much time stuck in scarcity thinking.
Not enough money.
Not enough time.
Not enough worth.
Not enough, period.

I'm 7 years into actively seeking a better was of living, and it feels like some truths are starting to stick -like a really great snowstorm.
For 9 years, we've been driving an old Jeep Grand Cherokee.  Not all of the doors worked, and driving down the highway felt like a life-risk. No matter now many times we aligned her, she still shook like a maraca on Cinco de Mayo.  The upside being I couldn't hear the children fighting in the backseat, directly behind me.
Why?  Why did we do that?  Why did we stick with such an unsafe car for so long?
It's just the chaos thinking that comes with addiction -the sort of STUCK inability to care properly for myself and my surroundings.

We got a new car.  We finally just did it.  TWO DAYS LATER, the house across the street went up for sale.  We put in an offer and handed it to God.  He handed a house back.

Life feels abundant right now, and I feel the reality of what's happening.
Healing is happening.
It isn't clean and tidy like I thought it would be.  It's hard conversations and saying no to people I love.  It's saying no to food my body doesn't want but my mind does.  It's showing up for the dental appointments.  It's ordering new underwear and glasses when I need them and not two years later (seriously).  It's sticking to a budget.
It's also abundant freedom from bondage... I'm able to show up and take care of myself in the midst of one of the worst bouts of anxiety I've had in 10 years.

I've had anxiety since I was tiny.  I don't remember a life when I wasn't afraid of the future, afraid of destruction.  As a little girl, I lost sleep over the possibility of the house burning down and every night -religiously -I left my shoes next to my bed so I could flee the home when it burst into flames.

I still harbor those same fears.  Still keep my metaphorical shoes by my metaphorical bed for when the metaphorical flames hit the fan, or something.

In the midst of this anxiety, I am finding stillness and hope.  With my anxiety as high as it is, I find myself triggered more and more easily.
I take deep breaths and repeat to myself, "I have everything I need.  I have everything I need.  There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing."

In order for me to "dress for the weather" as Hugh Vail and Alfred Wainwright encourage, I need to care for myself carefully. Rest, shower, food, fresh air... I need to take time for my ME things outside of my responsibilities as a wife and mom.
This means choosing to write before I do the dishes sometimes.

Ultimately, what I'm trying to do here is create a life I don't have to perpetually escape from in order to deal with it.
I want to live pliably -to let my guard down and feel the sun in when it's there and bask in peace and safety.
AND to put my snowsuit on and feel the snow fall when it's there and bask in peace and safety.

Over the long weekend, I was in a situation I would have deemed "bad weather" in the past.  But I went through it differently this time.  I had my snowsuit, so to speak, and I learned something pretty gorgeous which is this:

I equate chaotic circumstances with trauma.  When I sustained my deepest and truest trauma, I was in chaotic circumstances, and my body kept that score.
Heaven and Hell are earthly accessible states of mind, and my Hell is scarcity living.
Not enough money to fix broken things.
Not enough time to do it ourselves.
In a place where there is NOT ENOUGH OF ANYTHING, therein lies what I perceive to be impending and excruciating pain.

I feel so much fear in those circumstances, but with a snowsuit on, I was able to observe it... look it over, examine it, learn from it and then come home and REST while it sinks into my soul.

In the past, I'd come out of that kind of a chaotic situation and clean my house until my knuckles bled... just to PROVE to myself that I was SAFE.  I don't need to do that today.  I don't need to prove to anyone -including me-own self -that I'm safe.
I know I am.
Safe in God.
Safe with God.
Safe with tools that lead me to God within the confines of my sacred soul.

This is how I head into the holidays.
It's snowsuit time.





Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Darkness

Today, my 4-year old reminded me that last December (her memory is a thing of miracles) I bought silly putty for another child -not her. And she was sad.
And she's still sad.
So shouldn't we go to the store NOW?  And buy her some NOW?

Sadness must be chased away, right?  It feels unnatural.  And so it is, maybe, to us when we are brand new and heaven-fresh.  But part of being mortal is feeling sad.
What do we do with sadness?
Chase it?  Keep it?
I chose Door #3: Have it in for a cuppa and observe it.  Ask it stuff.  Like why? Why are you here?  And why are you so big right now?  And do you have something to show me?  Teach me?

So I like books.
And in one of the finest works of Literature to ever come out of the bravery of the Bronte minds is a line from Jane Eyre.  Jane Eyre is teaching her pupil how to pencil sketch and simply says, "Remember, the shadows are as important as the light."

The line sticks like glue to my veins.

By nature, I am bubbly and light.  My home d├ęcor is full of pops of bright color -so is my closet.  I open windows always.  We just bought a car with a sun roof and I feel like I was just born.
Life can really begin now that sunlight can filter into my car, f'real.

I used to chase sadness away with movies and food and gossip because in my light-hearted and sun-filled soul, sadness = wrongness.

But my light-hearted and sun-filled soul now realizes that the brilliance in the sun and light only comes BECAUSE of the darkness and sadness.  They are equal partners.  My bright colors wouldn't pop without darkness to contrast.  Darkness deserves reverence.

So I like art.
There's been a few pieces of Christian art that have punched through my feelings and left me with a deep sense of longing.  I want them in my house sooner than later.
But they are dark.
DARK.
That used to be a deal-breaker for me, but now?  The darkness in these paintings is just as important as the light that emanates from the window over my kitchen sink.

The first one is "Worlds Without End" by Greg Olsen.  The first time I saw this painting, I felt some deep resistance, but the more I sat with it, the more I felt a deep attraction to the stillness.





This second picture is also by Greg Olsen and something of a companion to "Worlds without End" and depicts a younger Jesus with his mother, Mary.  It is titled, "For Just a Moment."



Third (and last) is this beautifully dark piece by Liz Lemon Swindle titled, "Against the Wind."  I can't stop looking at Christ's hands, His wet robes, His strength, His surety.

The shadows are as important as the light.
The sadness is as important as the happiness.
The night is as important as the day.
Each and all deserve equal reverence.




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Freedom

Currently listening to:


As I've continued reading on in Desmond Tutu's, "Book of Forgiving," I've made a conscious effort to highlight the word "free" every time it pops up.
Free, freedom, freeing -beautiful words.  Words I want in my life.

About a year ago, I was aching over some family stuff -hurting over the choices a loved one was making.  I love them so much, and I was watching them make some crazy choices... I think what hurt most of all was knowing that the choices they were making were pulling them farther from me.  They'd already been pulling away, and I was missing them as it was.
They were actively pulling away.
One night, it was hitting me hard.  The ache hit hard.  I couldn't sleep, and I just started praying.  Tears flowed.  I can't say whether I cried or prayed myself to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up and rolled out my yoga mat.  I sat in silence, my eyes closed.  I created some space in my mind, and as I did, I felt God speak.
"That which we seek, we shall find."
Yes.
Simple.
God always speaks to me like that.

My loved one was finding the life he was seeking, and I have the power to seek my own truth and stand in it, even if I sometimes shake, even if I sometimes fall, even if I scare others.

Benjamin Franklin said he spent his life seeking truth, and I feel like most of us are out there doing the same thing.
John Jaques penned what became the lyrics to "Oh Say, What Is Truth":

Oh say, what is truth? 'Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce,
And priceless the value of truth will be when
The proud monarch's costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse. ...

Then say, what is truth? 'Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o'er.
Though the heavens depart and the earth's fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.

Truth and freedom seem -to me -to be synonymous.  Freedom is truth, Truth is freedom.
Forgiveness pals around the same block.

As I've delved deeper into Tutu's recommended meditations, journaling exercises and stone rituals, I've found forgiveness and some miraculous healing.

A dear friend of mine recently said she feels like having a relationship with Christ reminds her of the "kissing scene" in Hitch where Hitch tells his buddy, "you go 90%, let her go 10%."
God goes 90%.
The work I've been doing has been my 10% and over the weekend, God showed up 90%.
It was breathtaking.

I was able to release pain I didn't even know I was holding.  Was it while I was journaling?  Or meditating?
No.
Though I believe both practices are key healing tools.

It was because I was seeking.
I was journaling, praying, meditating, seeking.  And then I was living.  Showing up for life, for my messy house and busy kids.  Showing up for my health as best as I could.

And in the middle of the showing up, a miracle happened.
An unplanned, unscheduled organic miracle.

And today, I feel the serenity of freedom.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What Forgiveness is Not

I am angry this has been done to me. I am sad and I am lost. I may never forget what you have done to me, but I will forgive. I will do everything in my power not to let you harm me again, I will not retaliate against you or against myself. (Tutu "The Book of Forgiving" Chapter2).
Reading through Chapter 2 of "The Book of Forgiving" helped me break through some realizations of why I don't forgive.

In the journaling exercises at the end of the chapter, I was asked to list what I would have to let go of in order to forgive.  What emerged surprised me.  I've felt prompted to work through these exercises, but I'm being honest when I say that I have had very little expectations of healing.  I've always believed that forgiveness just... wasn't for me.  As I answered these questions, the truth that came out was hard to write and read.

From my Journal:

Things I need to let go of in order to let forgiveness in:

Pride
Ego
Expectations of Offenders
  • That there will be remorse 
  • apology 
  • changed behavior 
  • and/or gratitude for my forgiveness
False Beliefs about Forgiveness
  • That forgiveness is an inaccessible fantasy
  • the idea that my forgiveness is a gift to someone else 
  • that to forgive means to forget, that by forgiving I am setting myself up for pain and not protecting myself 
  • that I can forgive on my own
Entitlement
  • of an apology 
  • of acknowledgement/ownership of behavior from the offender
Shame
  • that because I struggle to forgive, I'm not worthy of giving or receiving forgiveness.

That last one just about took my breath away.  So much shame. I struggle with believing that IF forgiveness is real -tangibly real -then I am not worthy of it in any form.

By simply writing that out, I can already feel the truth of it shifting deep within the confines of my scared soul.

In Chapter 2, Tutu continues:
Just as we take a leap of faith when we make a commitment to love someone and get married, we also take a leap of faith when we commit ourselves to a practice of forgiving. We do not forget or deny that we are always vulnerable to being hurt again, but we leap anyway.



Monday, September 18, 2017

Tutu and My Little Warrior Woman

I watched Wonder Woman last Thursday and cried because of so many right reasons.  Thursday was the 4th day of this new cleanse I'm doing.
I've never done a cleanse before, and I think as part of working my Step 7 (humbly asking God to remove my character weaknesses), God has basically just targeted everything I used to scorn and mock and brought it front and center into my life.
That means I'm gluten free too, folks, in case you're keeping track.

As I began this cleanse, hoping to give my intestines space from irritants and give them a spa day to heal, I was terrified.
I use food for comfort and fun and rewards.
Today, I'm one full week in and the effects have been really hopeful.  For the last two years, I've only felt let-down by my body, as if it had lost the ability to heal and was only trekking downhill toward knee replacements and pain-pill popping.  But one solid week in, and my body is responding really well.  My joint inflammation has been significantly reduced, and I've sluffed off some (what I think is water) weight.  I feel light, in every sense of the word.
Darkness and heaviness are exiting stage left.



A few days into my cleanse, God reminded me that last summer I read Desmond Tutu's, "The Book of Forgiving." (affiliate link) It comes with meditations and journaling exercises that I avoided last year, but this year, God said, "It's time."
I've taken full advantage of this cleanse by exercising at least 20 minutes per day and making my daily morning meditation practice non-negotiable.
God is calling on me to HEAL MORE.  This is shoulder-to-the-wheel healing time.

In order for me to heal fully, I need a safe space.  I can create my own safety -something I didn't know 7 years ago. Right now, I've added some definite boundaries in my life because I can cleanse for weeks and forgive 70 x7, but if I'm not safe, I will never fully heal.
Because My Little Warrior Woman comes out and won't sleep.  I can't heal unless she's asleep.

When I'm not safe, she comes out.  She fights.  It looks and sounds like control when she comes out.  I try to manage the level of pain that's inflicted on me and my kiddos.  I fight, I shield, I protect.
She's my mini-wonder woman.
I love her.
BUT
I can't HEAL with her on the warpath.  She only comes out when I'm in unsafe territory, and this means for me to walk the path of healing, I gotta get OFF the battlefield.  Create my own safety instead of waiting for the enemy to stop firing, if you know what I mean.

So last night and this morning, I did.  Boundaries set, battlefield in the rearview.  My Little Warrior Woman is sleeping now.

Healing can commence.

As I've delved into Tutu's "Book of Forgiving" for the second time, I'm really just pleased all over again.
I'm not good at forgiving.  I'm really not.
This book has given me a "HOW" behind the whole entire process without an ounce of shame.  Nowhere in it's pages are the words, "You were raised with a Bible in your home and you don't GET THIS?!  You must be an idiot."
Over and over, Tutu affirms that forgiveness isn't easy, sharing his own experiences and those of his loved ones.
A few stand out quotes I wanted to share from the first chapter.
Speaking of Christ, he states:

He must also have been able to obliterate the signs of the torture and death he endured.  But he chose not to erase that evidence.  After the resurrection, he appeared to his disciples. In most instances, he showed them his wounds and his scars. This is what healing demands. Behavior that is hurtful, shameful, abusive or demeaning must be brought into the fierce light of truth.  And truth can be brutal. In fact, truth may exacerbate the hurt; it might make things worse. But if we want real forgiveness and real healing, we must face the real injury.


That quote struck something in me -I'd never, ever thought of Christ's scars in that way. He showed his wounds and scars.  Healing demands that we show them, maybe not publicly but we must face them.  We must speak them.  That's how forgiveness starts... by simply looking at the truth of what happened to us and bringing it into the fierce light of truth.

At the end of the chapter, there is a beautiful poem in which we find the words:
"...I am bigger than the image you have of me. 
I am stronger.
I am more beautiful.
And I am infinitely more precious than you thought me.
I will forgive you.
My forgiveness is not a gift that I am giving to you.
When I forgive you,
My forgiveness will be a gift that gives itself to me."

I have ben practicing the recommended mediation in the chapter -it is helping me to visualize forgiveness in a way that I feel is helping me to spiritually create it, even though I haven't physically done it yet.
Tutu also includes a "Stone Ritual" at the end of every chapter.  He recommends selecting a stone to use while reading and working through his book.  I chose to use a hunk of rose quartz because it's pink.
And I like pink a lot.
Pink and sparkles.
I bought a sparkly journal just to go with my journey through this book.  As Tutu says, it is my own "book of forgiving."

For the first "Stone Ritual," I held my rose quartz in my hand for 6 hours (it ended up being seven on account my sleeping through a few of those hours) in my non-dominant hand.  I did that yesterday and then answered some questions about it today.

It was a really cleansing experience for me.  The exercise also has you list people I would like to forgive and those I would like forgiveness from.  I've been stuck on Steps 8/9 (making a list of all people we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all and then go forward and make those amends) for over 2 years, and this book might just be the game-changer for me.
It just might.

God has led me to it.
I'm cleansing in so many more ways than one.

From my own book of forgiving:
#5) In what ways was carrying the stone like carrying an unforgiven hurt?
Carrying the stone is like carrying an unforgiven hurt because it hinder and binds me.  There is a certain freedom in forgiveness that I can't access right now.  I'm learning from resentments and anger, but only that I am anchored to a cause I do not believe in at my true core.  And holding the stone was literally stinky, just like holding resentment is figuratively stinky. I am capable of carrying the stone, just as I am capable of carrying resentments and anger and victimization. But carrying the stone hindered my routine health and well-being practices (like dishing up food, interrupting my sleep, making it hard to open my water bottle, and messing with my bathroom time), and carrying resentments, anger and victim-thinking also interrupts the natural flow of my health and well-being.  I've never known life -can't remember a time -when I had access to the freedom forgiveness and grace offer.  I have said that I fear losing my freedom -facing bondage of any kind -but I live in the bondage of "hinderment."









Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Meditation

{this post contains affiliate links}
Five years ago, if you had told me that I'd be meditating everyday -that meditation would completely change my life, I would have laughed out loud.
Because I thought meditation was for crazies.

Meditation has been my greatest recovery tool. Period.

Meditation is the grace's vehicle -bringing it to cracks in my broken heart and damaged brain. It is where I commune with God each morning and come back to live from the divinity within myself.

Last night, I was wondering to myself what my life would be like without betrayal trauma.  What sort of person would I be?  I think of the amazing people I've met, the truths that have sunk down deep into my soul.  Maybe someday I would have found a meditation practice.  I'm not saying betrayal trauma is the ONLY way I would have found meditation, but I am saying that it DID bring it... and it brought it rapidly.  I really do feel like healing from betrayal trauma has put me on a fast track in many ways -a fast track to letting go of what I can't control (others, the past, the truth).

I am a pretty open person, so I talk openly about what I'm up to with others.  As meditation comes up, people often will ask me, "How?"

I wanted to share some of my process today.  I recently wrote about some discomfort I've got going on, and while I've been sitting with it and learning from it, meditation has been an anchor for me.

This video is a gem -it isn't even two minutes long:

See?
It's that simple.  SIMPLE is the key to meditation.


I first found meditation by accident.  In early recovery, I found a yoga video on Amazon, and at the very end, the instructor walked me through a body scan while I was lying down.
She had me tense my arms, shoulders, and chest and then release.
Then my leg muscles and release.
She walked me through sending breath and release to my internal organs.
At the end of the whole ordeal, I was completely relaxed -all tension was gone from my body and mind.  I had never, NEVER felt anything like it.  I returned to the video a few more times, but I soon found that I didn't actually want the physical work out... I just wanted that part at the end.
I went to youtube for help and found a myriad of "body scan guided meditations."  From there, I found guided morning meditations and guided meditations for anxiety.
I wasn't consistent in these meditations, but I accessed them when I felt I needed them.
Eventually, I returned to the practice of yoga.

Taura -THE Taura I talk about when I talk about my yoga practice -gave me a book by Baron Baptiste:


In this book, Baptiste guides the reader through 40 days of yoga and meditation.  He gives diet advice (which I didn't follow on account of some chronic health issues) and tells inspiring personal stories.  The book is filled with pictures to help the novice.  A dear friend of mine is a yoga instructor and she and I worked the program together using the voxer app (she lives out of state).
For the first week, Baron Baptiste has you meditate for 5 minutes.
The next week, for 10 minutes.
Then 15.
Then 20.

That was really a game-shifter for me.

I downloaded the "Insight Timer App" and began using their timer.  They tracked my progress, awarding me stars when I reached certain milestones.  I began guiding my own meditations, and though I still frequently use guided meditations, I found the freedom that comes from sitting in my own stillness -no noise, no voices.  Just me.
And soon, it was me and Christ.

My meditations are now filled with whatever affirmations or visualizations I feel I need.  I use crystals given to me by my sweet geologist brother, and I sometimes smudge my space with some palo santo wood (also given to me by my brother who I don't get to see often enough).


My meditation is constantly shifting and growing.  It changes according to my needs at the time, but one thing remains constant: it is my greatest healing tool.

In the 12-steps, step 11 is not to be checked off quickly.  It deserves a big space, a huge chunk of time, energy and devotion.

This morning as I finished my yoga and sat in my meditation spot on my couch, the words came to mind, "Not as a world giveth."
The world is stock-FULL of stuff that can bring us some measure of peace -not all of which is bad.  But nothing brings me the level of peace that Christ does, and meditation is the space where I access that otherworldly peace -it's the place I go when I'm homesick for heaven.



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Discomfort

On Sunday, I sat in one of THE best Sunday Schools lessons I've ever been in.  The teacher was a question-asker, a truth-seeker.  He spoke my language. 
The lesson was on hard work, and there were a few insights that I can't stop thinking about.  One is this -a quote mentioned by the teacher:

The thought has come back over and over and over.

I recently set some firm boundaries for my own health.  I have crossed some lines lately.  And by "lines" I mean "streets" and by that I simply mean that I'd left my side of the street and planted myself on my husband's sidewalk.  I didn't even truly realize it until my soul resembled the Black Knight from Monty Python, and then I went, "Oh, yeah... this is my battle ground.  His side of the street is littered with land mines and grenades and so so much tear gas."

I'm back on my side, but I'm hurt and I'm scared and I'm trying to just create safety and a solid space for healing.  But also?  I'm all bruised and bleeding -in short: I'M not healthy right now.  I didn't realize just how unhealthy I was until I called my sponsor to surrender a few things -because when I've just come out of my war zone, I'm WAY more sensitive and prone to triggers -and she called me out on what was going on.
Jealousy, pride, judgement.
It felt like someone applying rubbing alcohol to my wounds.
OUCH.

It felt uncomfortable.

But it didn't feel untrue.  My gut knew it, and my sponsor was brave enough to say it.

So I'm taking some time to just rest, and in a few days I'll revisit all the stuff out of my control.  I'm so tired, honestly.  I'm physically tired from travelling (more travel this weekend), and I'm mentally tired from some work stuff.  I'm emotionally tired from my marriage stuff.  And my spiritual canteen feels bone. dry.

So I'm off.  To grow.