Monday, March 23, 2015

Shame - Pride - Ouchy

I carry a lot of shame about my body.
I think ALL American women -thanks to culture and society -feel body shame.  Maybe not all, but it feels like all.

I had that shame before I married Danny, but marrying someone with an irresistible appetite for pornography upped that shame considerably. 

This past week, I realized that I've gained weight.  I don't keep a scale around, but I noticed my clothes just not fitting right.  I felt bloated and heavy.  I can see a change in my face.

In the last year -through the separation -I've gained weight.
While my marriage and family and self went through it, I didn't pay attention to what I was eating.  I used food as a comfort, an escape... a God in it's own right.
I ate chocolate before facing a scary confrontation, making a big phone call.
And then I ate chocolate afterward.

I ate to the point of sickness a few times -my body is exceptionally prone to sickness these days, having no gall bladder and an acute hunger for things like bacon.

Realizing I'd gained weight was more than a little upsetting.  It was SHAMEY.  I felt SO MUCH SHAME.
I felt worthless, ugly.  I wanted to stay home and hide.
This is crazy talk, my friends.  It is CRAZY.

I know it's crazy and THAT brings on more shame.  Like, "Hey, Alicia is totally aware that she's being crazy and SHE IS NOT STOPPING.  What an idiot."

My body shame morphed quickly into bad friend shame (I'm horrible at being a good friend) and bad neighbor shame (The kids flooded my neighbor's shed last autumn and they locked their faucet and won't have us feed their animals anymore.  Fair enough).
Bad Housekeeper Shame.
Bad At Finances Shame.
Broken Car Shame.
Small House Shame.

The shame ball rolled bigger, bigger, bigger and pretty soon it turned into PRIDE.  I began comparing myself, my bad neighborness, my messy house ness, my ugly car ness.
I'm thinner than _______ and bigger than _________.
Better than.
Less than.

The more pride I feel, the more YUCK I feel.  I begin blaming, rationalizing.  I see people less.  I judge people more.  When I talk with others, it's usually ABOUT others.

And the web forms and grows and grows and forms.

In this state, I am ripe pickings for triggers.
This weekend, I was hit, hit, hit.

Granted, I went to a wedding reception and the bride sang, "Love Me Tender."  I BOOKED it outta there.
I spent an evening listening to a congregation discuss "saving others."
May day.  Seriously.

There were a few situations with Danny that left me feeling unseen and crazy as a daisy.

By the time Sunday rolled around, I was SPENT.
I ate cold cereal for lunch and slept for 4 hours.

Today I feel better.
The shame ball is gone.  I weigh the same as I did last week.  My house is dirty.  My car is broken.  My house is still a small trailer rental.  My dog barks outside pretty much nonstop.
I forgot a birthday.

But I'm okay.
I'm enough.

What disintegrates the shame ball?
God does, yes.  That is true.  Sometimes, though, it just takes a few hard days -some TIME - using my tools. Reaching out to God, praying honestly, calling a sponsor.  An extra dose of the right kind of self-care.
It's like proactive waiting.
Or something.

I'm grateful it's gone for now.  I'm tired and grateful.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Saving vs. Rescuing

My anxiety has come in surges throughout my life.
Thanks to therapy, step-work and a greater understanding of God's will and ways... I can at least see that my anxiety is ANXIETY and not truth.

Danny's been in the house for a few weeks, and my anxiety is full-swing.
I'm picking at my skin unconsciously.  My dreams are restless and filled with various versions of my worst fears: getting in a car accident and then going unseen by everyone and wondering IF I'M ALLOWED TO NEED MEDICAL ATTENTION.  I try to take a nap and my mind fills with worries... what if the baby goes outside? What if she gets into the cow trough?  She will die.  Where is the baby?  Is the baby dead?  What was that noise?  Did someone cough?  IS IT EBOLA?!?!

In my early days of seeking recovery, I opened up to someone.  It was scary and freeing all tied up in one glorious stomach knot.  When I finished telling my story, I was hit with one of Brene Brown's most hated comebacks.
At least.
"At least he's trying."
I had felt safe opening up to this sweet woman who had divorced her first husband over sex addiction.
"You don't want to know the pain of divorce," she said.  I walked away from her feeling very put in my place.  I reminded myself in a holy pit of shame to be grateful BE GRATEFUL BE GRATEFUL instead of focusing on the negative.

Years later I can say with shameless confidence, "You don't want to know the pain of staying, either."
 It's not a contest -it's simply that life is hard and staying in a marriage where addiction is and has been present is it's own barrel of monkeys.

I focus on my dailies.
Pray, scriptures, self-care, healthy breakfast, lemon water

My anxiety goes through the roof if I lose focus which tends to happen.  This is really scary stuff.

Yesterday, I didn't take care of myself at all.  I think I did one daily.  My day was really busy and full, and sometimes that happens.  I decided to make today a "make up" day.  I made sure to ALL of my dailies in the morning.  I spent time on my body today: bath, face scrub... I went for a picnic with my kids, bathed my baby.  I ate healthy food (and some not so healthy).
This morning on my walk, I listened to President Monson's last conference talk -Ponder the Path.
As I listened to him talk about the Savior's example, I wondered at the phrasing used in the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
So often as members, we are called on to "Rescue."
The Savior didn't call on us to SAVE but to rescue, to find.

I listened to the last half of his talk twice and wondered some more.

What IS the difference between rescuing and saving?  I know there are very important differences, but I felt some urgency to define exactly what they are for me right now.

I thought of the Parable of the Lost Sheep, and I thought of Brigham Young's urgent call to rescue the saints crossing the snowy plains.
I asked friends and family.
I came across this quote on the LDS Church's Facebook Page:
“I think that being courageous for someone else would be standing up for others who can't stand up for themselves, protecting those who can't protect themselves, and truly putting it into heart and mind and action of loving your neighbor. And I think doing that is as courageous as you can get when you're doing it for others.” —Kurt

As I thought about it, I realized that what Kurt was saying went in line with what I was pondering... rescuing someone else is doing for them what they can't do for themselves.  Others agreed with this line of thinking, and it is true.  It is.

But it still felt murky.

I realized after some reading an old Ensign article that the difference between rescuing and saving has NOTHING to do with the external circumstances and EVERYTHING to do with internal motivation.

In short, to rescue someone is a charitable act on the Savior's part while saving someone is a frantic, fear-based act on our own part.

When I tried to save Danny, I truly thought I was being charitable, but if I were ever questioned about WHY I was doing what I was doing (making suggestions, leaving articles out, snooping, FOREVER TRYING TO GET HIM TO SEE the truth), I guarantee the FIRST words out of my mouth would have been, "Because I'm afraid ____________________"
He'll lose his soul.
Our marriage covenant will be for naught.
He'll cheat.
He'll mess up our children.
He'll hurt me.
We will get divorced.

And so I tried to save Danny, save myself, save my kids, save the world!
This did NOTHING for my anxiety, by the way.

My Saving Prayers were so specific.  I asked God for SPECIFICS of what I WANTED.
"Please help Danny SEE what he's doing.  Please help him to feel the Spirit.  Please make sure Danny comes with me to church because IT'S SO HARD GOING ALONE."

When I save, we do things MY way.

When I try to engage in the act of rescuing, I find myself wearing anti-porn garb.  I share educational articles WHEN PROMPTED and not when I'm in a panic over the fact that 90% of the church is unaware that 90% of men are looking at porn.  Rescuing is raising awareness, it's speaking out.  Rescuing is taking meals to sick people, donating clothing where it's needed.  Rescuing is done most effectively when I've taken care of myself properly... when I'm fed right and my mind is calm and my thoughts are clear.  Rescuing is having a mind clear enough to hear God whisper the name of a sister in my ear.  It's being able to hear God prompt me in my Next Right Thing.  Sometimes the Next Right Thing is rescuing my child from a shaming teacher.  Sometimes it's listening to her as she talks through a day she didn't realize affected her deeply until she begins speaking.
Rescuing is "first observe, then serve."
Rescuing is the verb form of charity.

Tears come to my eyes as I think of the bloody, cold pioneers trapped on the plains... what they must have felt when they saw their rescuers rushing toward them!  So often I've seen a figurative version of that scene play out in my own mind:
My family crumpled together, alone and shivering and ready to give up.
The prayers of our friends and loved ones mounted up on angel's wings come billowing toward us and I'll be dammed if our marriage isn't saved on those prayers alone.
Image result for brigham's call to rescue 
(bedard fine art)
So yes -rescuing is praying, "Take care of my loved one, Lord.  Help me accept Thy Will for Them, for Me.  Help my accept Their Free Will."

When I rescue, I do things GOD'S WAY.

I do believe the work being done to combat lust and sex addiction on every hand is a pioneering work.  With every outstretched hand, a victim is given hope.

“Perhaps their suffering seems less dramatic because the handcart pioneers bore it meekly, praising God, instead of fighting for life with the ferocity of animals,” wrote historian Wallace Stegner of the handcart pioneers and their rescue. “But if courage and endurance make a story, if human kindness and helpfulness and brotherly love in the midst of raw horror are worth recording, this half-forgotten episode of Mormon migration is one of the great tales of the West and of America."

 In the midst of raw horror.
I think we can all nod our heads on that one.

The road to God -to Zion -is smoother for some.  It's sunnier and there's more flowers.  Their trial is not the road.
But mine is.  Would that I had more humility that it might not be so, but my face is Zionward, and I will press on.

I will rescue as I am called on by God to do, and I relinquish to God my own ego-driven, fear-ridden, shame-soaked urgency to save any soul, including my own.

Monday, March 9, 2015

From Within

Everything came from without during those dark, star-guided days.  My circumstances were my master, others were my Gods.

Any strong answer I had well up from inside was only accepted if my Gods stamped their approval on it.

"Don't have sex right now," my insides would scream, "Please, please stop."  So to counseling I would go, to the phone, to the masses! 
Is it okay for me NOT to have sex right now? I'd ask.

Fear was my constant companion, my guiding star.
Through it all, I was terrified that I would lose my husband.

I was terrified of losing the person who had hurt me, broken my heart and trust, betrayed me and abused me.

So why?  Why was I scared?

Because Danny was God.  Losing Danny meant -in my life and mind -that I would lose the one thing in my life that mattered most.  Danny had my heart fully.  I thought about him everyday.  I wanted -above all -to please him, to make sure he was happy and do his will... even if it meant giving up my own.

I couldn't fathom a world without Danny, without having a marriage with him intact.

But God is a jealous God.  He desires Alicia.

Today, boys and girls, I have NO CLUE if my marriage will last.  I don't know if I will get divorced.  I don't know if someone else will raise my children.  I don't know if Danny will relapse or cheat on me or die in the line of duty.  I have no clue when it comes to my relationship with any mortal human.



I have taken a stand I didn't believe I was allowed to take -I stood up to Danny and told him I could not live with him if there was no recovery.  That was risky.  I put my marriage on the line FOR MYSELF.  I realized after one harrowing day of mistreatment that Danny -though important and worthy of love -WAS NOT MY GOD.

My God Hunger had tried for years be filled with Danny which isn't fair to God, Danny or Alicia.  When I began taking my soul appetite to righteousness (it's all very "Blessed are those who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled") and filling it with GOD HIMSELF, I began to bask in the freedom that comes with leaving the past with the Savior and the future in the hands of God.

Will my marriage be okay?
Who knows.
Will I be okay?

My God is loving, constant, aware, prepared, all-knowing and He WILL NOT FAIL ME.  He will not leave me.  He will not betray me, control or manipulate me. 

God did not want me in my marriage as it was.  He was NOT okay with the conditions, the absence of safety and the dysfunction because both Danny and I are better than what we were perpetuating.  

Danny rationalized his addiction just as much as I rationalized his behavior.

God desired me -He wanted me to see myself, to start me on the path of living, of becoming who I would be. 

I am His.  We are intimately connected in a way no mortal can play-out.  Ours is a transcendent love -ratting the cages of fear and glaring light into the darkest corners of shame. 

God touches my center, and I can do all things.  I learn, I seek.  Calmness settles on me, and I become sensitive to it's absence.  My anxiety is quieted.

I am free from abuse.
I have the answers to my life's questions within.
I have the capacity to change.
I am an agent unto myself.

And so I row into the Sun today, and we talk about life's daily duties.  We talk about my failures and we talk about my victories and in the calm chapel of nature, God's presence envelopes me.

Please, I plead, my sweet sister -the power to break free from abuse is WITHIN YOU.
God is waiting.
He desires YOU.
He will not fail.

If Fear is your guiding star, remember The Sun -don't sacrifice an internal, eternal summer for starry darkness. 


Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Blossom Day

I woke up and hit snooze, couldn't face it.  Not yet, not yet.  The same routine, the same protests from the same children... I give into my own protests for a few minutes more.
The heavy conversation from the night before is streaming like background noise through my mind... I had been so bold, so honest.  He had been bold and honest.

I dismiss my snoozed alarm and open my gospel library app.  Revelations is fascinating.  What does it all mean?  Is it trying to warn me that the world is about to end but I'm so caught up in trying to figure out how to be married again that I'm missing it?  Am I missing out on fear I'm supposed to be feeling?  This makes me laugh, but it's a worry that hits me from time to time.
As a person who suffers from anxiety, it seems crazy that I'm actually asking if I should be worried MORE.  It SEEMS crazy, but it is -in fact -normal.  Normal for me.

Cold cereal.
I'm impatient.  It isn't their fault.  Satan sees my husband back in my bed, and he reminds me ALL DAY LONG about stuff I can't control.
"What about the future?"
"What about the lack of trust?"
"What about your inefficiencies?"
"What about how you can't be assertive to anyone at all in the entire universe?"

I sign papers to return to school.  I push the medical bills off to the side of the table.  The kids fold their arms, we pray in haste.
Lunch is put in a sack for the girl.  I leave a note for her on it, she loves those notes.  Sometimes they're movie quotes.  After we marathon watch "Once Upon a Time" I like to write, "Every lunch comes with a price, dearie," because it makes her giggle and try to talk like Mr. Gold.

Socks are found.  Miracles never cease.
They are filling their young mouths with shredded wheat when the bus rolls up.  They run, I snap.  I hate being mean in the morning.
"I need my coat, my coat!"
I tell them I love them and hope that that's ALL they heard.  The bus pulls away and two big chunks of my heart go with it.  I feel lighter and heavier all at once.

What's the next right thing?  A healthy breakfast.
I boil water to make grits.  I decide to have an egg fried in coconut oil, maybe an orange on the side?  That's when I feel his hand on my shoulder.
"You should go for a walk," Danny knows how much I love walking.  I think of 5 different reasons why I'm not important enough to carve out time to walk and then dismiss them all because -I AM important enough.  I strike out into the cold with orchestral classical music streaming through my ear buds.  I feel the sun on my back -such a stark difference between the loving sun on my back and the white frosted road under my feet.

The sun is mine, I've decided.  It was fashioned to keep me warm, to give me light.  I feel safe with it.  I love the white rays of early morning.  They seem to massage my entire being, infusing it with energy.  Satan begins his descent into my thoughts, and tears spring to my eyes as I surrender them to God.
Attack after attack.
I want a pill, or something.  I want to make the fear and the things I can't control GO AWAY.

I can't decide if I'm crying because of my anxiety or because I can't have a pill to make Satan go away.
I breath in, breath out... remind myself to breath in the white rays.  I feel the cold around me.  I see the frosted weeds by the road.  I really SEE them.  I focus on SEEING them.

I think of the episode of "The Paradise" I watched with Danny the night before... of the man who says so perfectly, "You are so worried about your past and future that you're missing what you have... this present moment."

I focus on NOT MISSING THIS MOMENT mostly because when I quit focusing on being present, Satan plants seeds of chaos in my mind.
I conscientiously relax my shoulders. I work on letting tension go.  I listen to the music in my ear buds.  GOD is in that music.  I tell Him so.  I tell Him I hear Him in the harmonies, the violas, the winds.  I hear His messages, feel His presence.

He reminds me that I am His, and we walk together.  I see the frost-bitten stems of what were once fully blossomed wild sunflowers, surrounded by bees and teeming with ants.  Maybe the death should affect me?  It doesn't.  Should I feel guilty that I find the frosted has-beens equally as beautiful?  I nod at My Savior... the role the Son plays in melting the frost.

I decide that there isn't a single reason in the world for me not to be writing more.  Something settles in me... bravery?  Vulnerability?  I don't know, but I let it rest inside of me as I turn down the dirt road leading to Dad's farm.  The ground is frozen.  I smile at my luck, dodging what was last night's mud puddle, now frozen solid.  I decide the frost is just for me as well.

Then I remember the blossoms.  There have been blossoms all over town, and a frost meant the blossoms had all frozen.  It's happened every year for the past 5 years... everything warms up unseasonably and then freezes over.  So many trees have lost their fruit.
I think again of the hard conversation from last night.  My heart seems to be in it's own sort of wild 5-year Blossom n' Freeze.

Will there ever be fruit again?
Then I giggle because FRUIT.  Me producing fruit means having babies which means...
I shake my head because somewhere deep inside, I'm a 10 year old boy.  Maybe it comes from having three older brothers? 
My classical music comes to a halt.  My phone rings, "Mom, can you please bring me my coat?"

I come inside and find a warm, healthy breakfast waiting for me.  I relish the runny yolk mixed with hot grits.  Is there anything better?  Maybe.  But in that moment?  Never.

The past few days have been so difficult.  I think of the words in a blessing my husband gave me a few weeks ago, "There will be days that you feel you cannot make it through and you will find that is by the Grace of God that you do."
Those days have hit full force.  Even now, as I eat I realize I must get up.  I must go to work.  I must get the baby to the sitter.
I realize I can use the next ten minutes to look cuter or meditate, and I meditate because looking cute isn't as important as it used to be.

I'm late dropping the baby off, late to work. The computer is broken.  I sweep the office.  I file a few things.  I find a few names on Family History and feel really good about it.  Ancestors! 
I take my daughter's coat to her.

I sweep some more.
I catch up on texting.
Dad buys me a tamale from Ruth -she comes in every Wednesday and saves a tamale every week for me.  I love small towns.
The phone rings -it's Jackson. He's calling because his Mom just paid her bill off.  Jackson's mother raised four boys as a single Mom.  Jackson is in his mid-30s now and living states away.  His mother now lives alone and paid her account off with us with her tax return.  Jackson pays it again -in full -and asks my Dad to please return $900 to his Mom.  I love THIS small town.
I pick my son up from school.
The computer is fixed.  I cram a day's work into 45 minutes.  I'm late picking the baby up.
Danny comes home for lunch.  We eat together.
I turn on "Calamity Jane" with Doris Day for 15th time this week and the baby falls asleep.  My son becomes busy and I feel like I can sit down. 

But the next right thing isn't the internet.  I open my computer and start a new Word document, and I WRITE.  I write for two hours until my phone goes off and there's a text from Danny.  He won't make it home in time for scouts.  I cancel Scouts.
I play the piano just long enough for some deep emotions to rattle loose.  They stay in my piano.  My piano is my emotion catch-all. 

The kids and I take a walk with The Horse Dog.  We visit "our" club house behind a short row of trees that were never actually planted but sprung up the way stubborn trees sometimes do in the desert.  My son battles the invisible ninjas I convinced him exist and my daughter picks up rocks for her collection.
They are beautiful to me.

We come home and drink hot chocolate.  Homework is done.  Reading is done.
I make dinner while they furiously clean the living room, knowing that when it's done, they'll be able to play video games.

Danny comes home after a hard day's work of policing, and I'm glad he's alive.  I think about his job... about how it throws a weird wrench into the whole thing... he could die at work.  Any day, he could stop a car filled with drugs and guns and die.  I feel like I need to treasure him MORE.

I treasure him in the moment, and we eat gluten free pancakes for dinner with eggs on top because I'm still on a yolk high from that morning. 

I am tired.
I feel like I've had some major victories: finding some names in family history, writing some stories... these are the things that make me COME ALIVE.

I sit down in a recliner filled with clean clothes.  I don't mind them.  I can snuggle with them.  Will I fold them?  Are you kidding? 
I open up Netflix and being mindlessly scrolling.  Danny is home now.  He can keep the kids from fighting while I rest, rest, rest.

I shut out the outside noise and hone my attention fully on scrolling through movie titles.  It feels good.

I feel a hand on my hand.  Danny takes it, pulls me up, leads me away from the television.  Minutes later, I'm sitting in a hot bubble bath with candles and more classical music.
Danny sometimes knows when I need my chapel even when I don't SAY it.

I climb out of the tub and he has hot towels waiting for me.  I'm grateful, SO GRATEFUL for this man.  So grateful that it's been a GOOD DAY.
It's been a blossom day.
More blossoms -stubborn blossoms that seek the sun despite -IN SPITE OF -the hard frost.

The kids have their nightly dance party, and we watch some Mormon Messages.  We pray and the kids are sent to bed.
They get out.
They go to bed.
They get out.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  I remember how much the Steps apply to ALL THINGS and hold boundaries with them.  They think I am mean.
I tell them I love them.  I hope that's all they remember...

I put on some clean PJs and braid my wet hair.  I decide my body is important enough to deserve to NOT sleep in my contacts again.
Danny and I stream one last episode of "The Paradise" and I cheer when Moray realizes that Denise IS NOT HIS POSSESSION BUT HIS EQUAL and he gives her WINGS even when she doesn't know she wants them.  I remember how satisfied I'd been when she SLAPPED him across the face when he spoke to her as if he owned her.  Denise is my hero because she is true to herself and follows her gut like a champ.  Denise the Champ.

I go to bed satisfied and grateful for The Blossom Day.  As I begin to worry about tomorrow, I stop.  Can I be married tomorrow?  I'll worry about that tomorrow.  I can be married today, and I will be married today.

I am determined to record it so that I may enjoy it, even when the frost comes.  Gratitude is my greatest friend in my anxiety, and I want to remember that I AM GRATEFUL FOR THE GOOD DAYS.