Tuesday, November 25, 2014

No Filter

I have to be fully honest here about what's gone on the last few weeks.

I've had to log off online media because it's triggering my hopelessness in mankind. 
The sweet girls who just graduated high school and who attend church faithfully who are living double lives they don't think anyone else can't see... but we can.  On facebook, I can see a double life.  When you're checking my groceries and I look into your eyes, I KNOW.  I know about the pictures online, the offers to make videos, the sexting.  As much as I learn about sex addiction, I'm surprised that I'M STILL SURPRISED at who this addiction is touching.

I read articles that really downplay the spouse's pain -as if we simply need to forgive or get divorced.  Sex addiction is not cut and dry.  It isn't clear or easy.  It's predictable, so I'll give it that.

I can't read another article about loss or death right now -there's SO MANY painful stories.  There's so many in need of money, love, time, and help.

I don't want to see Kim Kardashian's oily butt on my newsfeed.

I don't want to see articles about how schools are teaching safe sex to 5th graders.

I don't want to be enraged or hit with pain or cry over situations I can't control anymore.

I had to log off.  I HAD TO.  I feel things SO DEEPLY I exhaust and annoy myself.  My counselor suggested I look into gaining education on being a highly sensitive person, and while I definitely am highly sensitive when it comes to FEELING EMOTIONS, I am not sensitive in any other way.  I thrive with noise and crowds.  I don't mind smells (when I'm not pregnant).

I'm needing a lot of help these days, and I hate that.  I've spent SO MANY YEARS just being TOUGH.  I've dealt with this addiction for TEN YEARS.  I've handled it.  I've managed.  I've been treading water, keeping my head just above the surface -taking on the world and doing it well, then feeling immediately resentful of everyone asking me to do ANYTHING.  I turn from empowerment to victim repeatedly.  It's a dysfunctional cycle that serves me well, and I'm productive and fruitful from the outward glances.

God doesn't want me treading on the water.  He wants me walking on it -toward Him, toward everything that is serene and calm... rising above the murky water.

He's taking sweet care of me, and it's overwhelming.  I feel like a starving, freezing pioneer out on the plains in the throws of a sacred rescue effort.  My life and salvation JUST MIGHT be saved simply on the prayers of those faithful, amazing people who love and care deeply for me. 

I've been given food, house cleaning, clothes, listening ears and love.  God has POURED out support and all at once I feel grateful and weak -I've never been such a charity case before.  I pray that God will call on me to send out to rescue someday that I might use whatever means necessary to build up and support those who have NOTHING left in them but the will to do The Next Right Thing that God has for them to do... to be able to serve them, feed them, and help them fully without judgement.

God is taking special care of me.
I don't know why, and as I do my step 4 inventory and make a list of my weaknesses, I REALLY don't know why.  I am prideful and undeserving.

Surely I don't need the turkey my neighbor gave me -surely if I just managed my own life better I could provide for MYSELF and someone else MORE IN NEED could benefit from the turkey *tread tread tread*
Surely I don't need house cleaning help.
Surely I don't need a box full of gifts for my children from a Secret Santa. 
*tread tread tread*

I have taken, taken, taken.  God has given, given, given. 
I am not worthy -I have done NOTHING TO EARN THIS, and God has taken me in His arms and simply said, "Alicia, you don't have to manage the world's pain anymore.  You don't have to read articles that hurt, you don't have to serve the world... you just have to heal.  And you are hurting deeply right now.   But you're being brave.  You're choosing to hurt on the way to healing because THAT'S what healing takes... it takes you putting down your Cape of Toughness and putting on my cloak of meekness and letting yourself FEEL, HURT, and HEAL.  So heal, daughter.  I'm patient.  I love you simply because you are mine.  Your worth is beyond measure simply because you are you.  Rest.  Let me furnish your turkey.  You have healing to do.  Come, follow me."

You guys, I am speechless and overwhelmed.
God is so good and He knows me.  ME.  And I am small! 

So don't give up.
Keep going.  Keep reaching for The Next Right Thing.
Thy pain and afflictions shall be but for a moment.

Stop treading and rise above the water.  Christ is there, waiting for you to choose Him.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Once Upon a Dream

A few nights ago, we cashed in a free rental and watched Maleficent.  I've been dying to see it (not dying enough to drive to the theater, apparently), and I loved the lines in the movie that matched up with the classic -by far my most favorite Disney movie.

My grandmother loves to remind me how extraordinary it was that a four year old girl could quote movies and do all of the voices.  She swears my Maleficent was a dead ringer for the real deal.
"You wore my Sleeping Beauty VHS out," she chuckles.

During those years, I lived blissfully sure of myself.  My cheeks and life were full of juicy color.
Each day was a gift of possibility: I could make of it ANYTHING I WANTED and make ANYTHING I WANTED.  I picked dandelions and made crowns, followed cracks in rocks as if they were treasure maps leading to an ancient treasure left by an ancient pirate, danced when I felt the urge, sang when I felt I should sing, and cried when my insides needed to come outside.

Life wasn't perfect, but I didn't try and take care of it.  I was too young to bother with cares and worries.  I couldn't control anything or anyone but myself, and I was content with that.  I let my parents fight the dragons.

In my teenage years, I began to doubt my parent's ability to take care of my life.  They faltered and broke my trust because they're human.  That was the worst realization of my entire childhood: my parents were mortal.  My core flickered and nearly extinguished, but I brought it to life in time to take it to college with me.  When my core -my gut, my heart, my soul -spoke, I listened.  When I listened, I would GLOW.  There was an inner light that could not be kept hidden.  It drew my husband to me.

After marriage, mixed messages were sent -it was like walking the halls of my high school again.  I had been SO SURE of what I thought was right, but messages were sent from every angle that made me doubt myself.  In time, I began to believe the doubts.

FEAR is the ultimate Core Slayer.
The more fear I felt, the dimmer my core burned.  One day I woke up and couldn't access myself at all.  I could feel something missing -a hunger -but I had lost touch with myself to the extent that I couldn't even decipher what my own soul was calling for.

Other people's compliments were like the bread crumbs back to the cottage.  If they said my shirt looked nice, I wore it more.  If they liked my hair styled a certain way, I used that style more.  I began doing something I hadn't done since my core flickered in high school: copying other people.

While my core slept, jealousies took over.  Pride, fear, and hurt reigned.  Danny's addiction hurt me SO DEEPLY but I didn't know what to do about it, so I asked other people.
I felt pressured: pressure to be beautiful, clever, witty, skinny, stylish, fit.  I felt pressure in my marriage to be more... everything.  As I wrestled in turmoil, my core rested peacefully in the background.

Outer validation took the place of inner confidence, and the only time I glowed was at the compliments of others.  Blogging became my best friend, and I blogged incessantly.  I thrived as much on comments as I did on milk and bread.

As the addiction got worse, so did my appetite for performance.  I wanted to perform better sexually, be a better housewife, and I CRAFTED THE ENTIRE WORLD OVER.
I made sock monkeys and people loved them.  I crocheted and people loved it.
People loved what I DID and I felt validation, so I performed more and more and more...

My core still rested peacefully in the background.

I was afraid that if I WERE to look beyond trying to be sexually acceptable (whatever that means), I would lose the ONE thing I based my worth on: outer validation.

I would say that I didn't care what others thought, but I DID, no matter how badly I wanted not to.
I looked at magazines and wanted to believe I was reading lies, but they all felt true to me... photoshop was reality to me.  If anyone told me it looked fake, I'd agree... but only because I wanted to believe it.  My heart ached and wanted to burst when busty women with clear skin smiled at me at every register and I knew I wasn't enough... and if I wasn't enough sexually, what was the point of life anymore?
The success of my marriage seemed to hinge on my ass, and I hated and believed it which usually meant I stress ate my way home from the grocery store.

Each time my desire to be accepted for my sexuality and looks was validated, it deepened my faulty belief that I was only worth so far as others said so.  Each time I felt discarded socially, I blamed it on my lack of sexual acceptability.  And the belief pattern ran deep, deep, deep... making my cattle trail to the sewer pond.

Breaking that cattle trail has taken YEARS.  There have been times I've gotten off and wandered back on without realizing it.
Working outside of my home has been a real testing and training ground, and I've had to face this faulty belief A LOT.  I've had to call my sponsor and give voice to it, tell her I spent an afternoon wondering IF I was enough because the men that come into the shop decide I should be so.

A breakthrough is happening in my life right now. 

Those magazine covers have lost their luster, and I beamed with glee when my 7 year old daughter pointed to cosmo last week and shouted, "LIES!  Legs aren't that skinny really!"

Having Danny out of the house has really opened up a new freedom for my new life.  I shave WHAT I want to WHEN I want to IF I want to.  I dress how I want, without wondering if I'll be pretty enough to be noticed and loved.  I don't work out unless I feel like it needs to happen.  I do housework when I feel it needs to be done, not because I'm afraid that Danny will think I'm lazy and unproductive if I don't.

Life is beginning.
There is a world of LOVE flourishing under the upper-crust of fear.

And as I uncover my core and realize and embrace my individuality -I am breathing life into my own Sleeping Beauty.  My sleeping core has been dormant, and God is giving me true Christ-like love.

True love is given to me from God, and it is evident in the quiet, still moments that surround me daily.  

The color is coming back in my cheeks.

I can see deeply now -I finally have access to the world where women know their true worth and can access their own truth and stand firm in it.

Knowing my worth means I can perceive when others know my worth as well -when I'm seen as opposed to judged, regarded or ignored.
I don't feel like I need to fight for Danny's attention, love, or approval.  What a stark difference to the life I was living two years ago.

I do feel like being honest when I feel disconnected -when I don't feel seen.  I ask for more space when I need it, and I stand up on my own two feet and move forward with surety.

Today I need to ask God about some stuff and then I'll ask myself about some stuff.
After that, I'll move forward.

I've been sleeping for too long.  Much too long.  Time to join those who are living full and juicy lives full of children and blankets and bare feet and s'mores around a fire fueled by cosmo magazines.

True love is the greatest spell-breaker.

Today I can hand life back over to God -just as I used to trust my parents with my life when I was running amok on the dusty ranch trails in pink footed PJs with a crochet tail pinned to the back (I was the pink panther, thankyouverymuch).
Today I can be whoever I want to be and trust God with the dragons.  For though coming to grips with my parents' mortality was one of the harshest experiences of my life, so is uncovering God's immortality -His unfaltering and unfailing loyalty -one of the most enlightening experiences of my life.  My hope is as great as my loss.
The fairy tale that I once latched onto as a small child has proven to be a sort of type and shadow for the life I'd yet to lead.  Seeing it play out in front of my own eyes is surreal and comfortably familiar all at the same zany time.

I know now how precious my core is, how brave it is to trust God with the evil surrounding me, and how an entire nation rejoices when a woman realizes herself again.

True love is the greatest force on earth... imagine my surprise finding it within.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hard to Live With

As a kid, I was thrilled about school.  My heart would start pumping faster when the teacher would hand out exciting assignments -seasonal coloring pages, art projects, history reports.  I loved my teachers, library time, and recess.

In fifth grade, all of that changed.  While I still found a thrill in learning new concepts and discovering history, my teacher hated me.  During Parent/Teacher Conferences he said to my parents, "I feel for you -she must a difficult one to live with."

My mom was confused.  Difficult to live with?
"She's our easiest one," she replied.
Hearing my mom tell me (years after it happened) that I was easy to live with surprised me.  I'd never stopped to think about it, but hearing her say that I was an easy person to live with brought me immense relief.
The truth is, I love giving. LOVE it.  I love making things and giving them away.
When I was dating Danny, I gave him small, thoughtful gifts.  When he was dealing with a cold sore and canker sores, I made him a "Happy Mouth Kit" full of Lysine and Carmex and all kinds of goodies -I wrote a poem to go with it, and he saved it.  He still brings up how awesome his kit was.

I gave my all in my marriage.
We know what happened there.

And now?  I'm really difficult to live with.  Right now, I'm short-tempered and vocal.  I don't give Danny much of anything except meals and hugs and kisses... and a hard time.

I'm truly giving him a hard time.  I'm not trying to.  I'm just DIFFICULT right now.

I'm working on being accepting of myself as I behave in ways I used to judge people for.  It's humble pie and crow all in one terrifying dinner.  It's super gross.

I am finding that I'm less apologetic -not in a prideful way, but in a "I don't need you to be okay with me" kind of way.  I guess that means I'm officially in the "Ice Castle" phase of my Queen Elsa transformation.

The bright side of this is actually giving me a lot of hope: despite how hard and confusing things are (and scary!), I am spending MUCH LESS time gossiping, worrying about OTHER PEOPLE, and wondering what they think of me.
While I still occasionally grapple with feeling like people think I'm the village idiot (or thinking rather harshly that THEY MOST CERTAINLY ARE), I'm starting to find myself naturally more interested in bumble bees, new ideas, and hauling bits of nature into my house to decorate. 
I'm decorating my house in the way my gut tells me to, and I'm so happy with how it's coming together.  I'm planning a Christmas stripped of crazy and full of simple.  I'm bringing back my natural gift to GIVE.  I ordered a ukulele and some jungle bells.  Our family gathers around the piana to sing Christmas Carols -we're practicing for our big caroling night... we're tossing out the idea of perfectly pretty cards and goody plates. Because
1) No family pictures this year for reasons I think you'll understand and
2) I'd rather give something like a song than a cheeseball

I feel like my gut is in a training circle.  It's sensitive and borderline bratty -speaking up about the smallest things.
It wants the turkey with no tomato but extra lettuce, even if it irritates the chef.
It wants less clutter, even if it means upsetting the kids.
It wants more space, even if it hurts Danny. 

Right now, I'm difficult to live with.
But GOOD THINGS are happening.

So pray for Danny as his wife comes back to herself and asserts her individuality by tearing the house apart and making him sing Christmas carols in early November.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Kraken

My battles -my most hard-fought and bloodying battles -are fought with my fears. I have one gigantic fear that rules with an iron fist: The Mother Fear. She has babies that sprout from her like long tentacles. I can whack and battle the tentacles whack-a-mole style, and it doesn't bother me much. But when The Kraken itself is awakened, I know I'm in for at least 3 days of warfare.
I am so afraid.
That at some point, I'm going to make a mistake. In this instance, I'm afraid of staying married (it might be a mistake!) and I'm afraid of getting divorced (it might be a mistake!).

What if I mess up? 
What if I do this wrong? 
What if?

Monday morning, a trigger awoke the Kraken and I spent all day wondering about my current state of limbo. I received crazy amounts of outside advice from people who usually only speak to me to find out what time of day it is.

"Make a decision and go with it. God doesn't want you in limbo. Staying AND going could both be right -just pick one and GO."
"Be compassionate for him. Try and forgive."

These voices only compounded my fear that I was IN FACT totally and royally screwing this all up.

I prayed to God for help.
The violent sea grew more treacherous by the hour, and I knew God could calm it and me. But there was nothing in those prayers -just silence. A silent God, dangerous water, and a sea monster.

I only want to do what God wants me to do.
Please, GOD, what is the answer? 
Silence. Fear. It was ripping me to shreds.

 I kept very busy with work and teaching lessons and mothering and feeding everyone, and in one "quiet" moment, I opened my browser so I wouldn't have to THINK about the Kraken. As I scrolled through the names on my wall, one popped out at me.
Call her, the thought came. Did I even have her number? I did some digging, and YES, I did. I'd never spoke on the phone with her. We'd exchanged emails before, and though she wasn't well known to me, I'd always felt this woman to be kindred -no hint of Stranger Danger on my end. I texted her, asking if we could talk. We set up a time, and I went back into battle mode until that time crept around.

When I heard her voice, all sense of etiquette went out the window. Instead of niceties, I poured my yuck-ities into the phone.

Should I stay or should I go? 
I'm going to make a mistake, right? 
I'm so scared. 
God is silent, no direction. 
Is He waiting for ME to just MAKE a choice -both ARE right and God is waiting for ME to choose?
Am I doing this wrong? 

Her voice was calm, something I craved amidst the tossing water around me. She spoke truth from experience, and though I can't remember her exact words, I remember her message:
You can not selectively numb. If you are numbing pain and fear, everything -including the good and God -is being numbed as well. God is not silent. 

She confessed to me that she'd felt prompted to call ME a few days earlier but hadn't on account of us not "knowing" each other. "God put your name in my head," she said, "He has not forgotten you, and He isn't silent in your life." Numbing. YES. I've been numbing. I work three hours in the morning and come home to shove lunch in my mouth and take a nap before teaching lessons, and then it's homework, dinner... and inbetween times the house is always dirty, so I can always, always be cleaning.

I don't have time or space to FEEL.
The next day I shared this insight with my dearest piano student -one who is old enough to be my mother and wise enough to be my grandmother -and she said, "Alicia, you have been betrayed.  Your trust has been betrayed, and you. went. numb.  You have to go numb to survive."

My mind flashed back to three years ago, before I became pregnant with my now-toddler, and I was PERFECT.  I was fit, my house was clean, there were freezer meals and fresh linens.  I worked out every day and wore my skinny jeans and aired the house out with PERFECTION.
But really?  REALLY?  I was fully and completely numb.  I was in total control of my own life, and I didn't NEED God because.
I got this.

Danny's life was chaotic and spinning out of control under the surface, but on the outside?  He was RIGID and in control.  My perfectionism lined up perfectly with his agenda.
Clean house.
Warm dinners.
Routine.  Regime.  Rigidity.

I was finally enough.  And yet, I couldn't feel anything.  I didn't care if he looked at porn.  I didn't care if he didn't.  I didn't write much of anything.  And while the house sparkled and shined, my music became dusty and forgotten.

"It's like being in a snake hole," my friend continued, "You're perfect and doing your best.  You look just right and act just right and eat just right and know that SURELY the snake that lives in the claustrophobic, dark hole will never strike at you because you're GOOD and sweet.  But the snake always strikes.  And you always get bit.  The hole is dark.  There is no light and no hope."
My heart wanted to beat out from it's rightful place and fall onto the piano in front of us.
She knows my pain.

In ALL of the outside voices, God had sent me TWO OF HIS OWN VOICES to let me know that
1) I am numbing
2) It's natural
3) It isn't His way
4) He is here for me
5) When I'm ready
6) It's okay that I'm not
7) BE GENTLE with myself

In all my years of being rejected, controlled, manipulated, and lied to, I never ONCE lost it.  I never yelled or screamed or broke or threw anything... because in my broken thinking, ANGER is a mistake.
And I'm PETRIFIED when it comes to making mistakes.

I have a (growing) pile of things I want to burn -ready to scorch them out of my life.  I have a poster covered in my idea of what I've lost in this addiction.  I want to burn in.
I have phrases that trigger deep resentment and pain -I want to write them on a plate and SMASH them.
I want to beat a tree with a baseball bat and swear and shout and shake my fists at God and Danny and say, "THIS. HAS. TOTALLY. SUCKED."

But if I'm too busy, I will never do it and I will never feel it and I will exists in survival mode where things aren't felt or feeled and everyone swirls around me in comfortable chaos.

I shared this with Danny and he offered to get some defensive training gear from work.  He said he could wear it while I beat him with my fists and feet.  I know that isn't conventional, but I do believe it would be healing for me and quite possibly for him.

Most of my dear sister who I would love to have by my side during a big fat burning session live hours and/or days away, but this last week God put someone in my path who lives just minutes from me, and who offers no judgement, only love.  And she approves of fires.

I gathered up my intense week and brought it to counseling Friday morning and dumped it on my counselor.
"Can you just listen for a while... while I talk?" I asked.  He nodded because he's nice, and I shared it all.
The Kraken, the fear, the outside chatter, the monumental phone call, the snake hole, the tactical gear, the fire.
I cried and sputtered out, "I can't feel this.  I can't be angry.  HOW do I let myself LET IT OUT?  Even thinking about it makes me feel awful."

He said, "When someone is physically injured as deeply as you have been emotionally injured, they are put into A COMA so they don't have to endure pain.  Your numbing is natural.  There is a better way, but don't shame yourself for becoming numb.  It makes sense that you did."
He showed me a picture of Peter, the apostle.  Peter had fallen in the sea and Christ was lifting him up.
"Peter didn't like to make any mistakes," my counselor said, "He was asked to step out of his own safety boat and into the unpredictable water.  He succumbed to fear instead of faith and Christ IMMEDIATELY lifted him up.  He didn't wait and let him flail around in the water to teach him a lesson, he IMMEDIATELY saved him."

I stared at the picture and saw my fear in Peter's eyes.
"And Alicia," my counselor said.
"The Kraken is imaginary.  Don't forget that part of your metaphor."