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.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Foundations

My mom once fell off a horse and then fell into a coma for a few weeks.  As she woke up, she only wanted to listen to a few select albums including The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas album.  As I grew up, I found that Mom's penchant for listening to the same albums over and over and over was just... how she was.
How she is, brain damage or not.
There's still certain albums I won't touch with a ten-foot pole because it reminds me of that day in Elementary School where I took a bite of what was probably my 5,000th peanut butter and peach jam sandwich and had to run to the trash can because I almost puked.
So. literally. sick. of. them.

One of her favorites was the LDS Church Primary Songs -not the musical tracks, but the tracks with little kids singing.  There wasn't a single one I didn't come to have that sort of PB/Peach Reaction to.
But I gotta say.
Those lyrics, they do stick like peanut butter.
This morning, I keep thinking about this one: Where Love Is, There God is Also.

I've been thinking about how you could easily switch it up a bit to, "Where Chaos Is, There Addiction is Also."
I look at old family videos (from 2009) of my two oldest crawling around our floor in diapers and there is just stuff everywhere: old pizza boxes, piles of paper, clothes.
Some of that is because, yes, I had TWO KIDS IN DIAPERS.  But there's so much more to those videos.
We talk a lot about the chaos and disconnect that occurs with addiction, but there's also a sort of lethal form of SCARCITY that no one really openly talks about.
Our furniture was used and torn, but we were dead sure we couldn't afford anything else. Money was too scarce.
We would talk about how we needed new clothes but couldn't afford them, yet our house was strewn with clothing we only kind of liked but couldn't seem to part with.
We talked about how we didn't have enough time or money or or or...

In truth, at our cores, we believed that WE WERE NOT ENOUGH.  By the natural flow of the laws of the universe, because we believed in scarcity, scarcity showed up for us -ever constant, ever depressing.

I was so steeped in scarcity that I never EVER paid full price for anything, so I always ended up with 5 shirts on clearance that I wasn't ever sure I liked but thought I needed because my other shirts were getting too old or too small.
Scarcity brought on chaos the same way I push my babies in a stroller... they are beholden to one another.  And is it just me, or are they both wrapped up in a frigid layer of fear?

Rooting out scarcity and chaos hasn't been a quick fix.  No Condo Method or Fly Lady could have fixed my issues.
This has been a Jesus Fix, through and through.

Sometimes it got much worse before it got a smidge better.  For months at a time, I had to QUIT CLEANING altogether because of shame.  I found every time I did dishes, I was tense and stressed.  I had to finish them and be perfect about it.  I wanted to make my husband happy.  I HAD TO BE ENOUGH -clean enough!
It turns out, I never once did the dishes because I was grateful or felt true love for the offerings of food on my table.
I only did dishes because I was afraid of being messy, because I wanted others to be happy.

It was the same with laundry and vacuuming, with sweeping and dusting.  I was a homemaker, trapped in a hellish prison of workhouse shame.
Cleaning was -I thought -MY MAIN JOB and I was rendered paralyzed by shame.

So?
I quit.

I quit until I could wash with gratitude and love.  I quit exercising for the same reasons.

Those were hard days where I knew I was doing hard work but was frustrated because it wasn't the kind you could SEE.  My house was dirtier than ever and my body?  Sick and getting heavier each day.

It was like working Step 1 every durn day, "My life -my shame -has become unmanageable."

But gradually -GRADUALLY -good things came around.  Just as when I believed in scarcity and it showed up... as I believed in LOVE, it showed up!
Love.
Abundance.
God.

Pizza boxes started getting thrown away in a timely fashion.  Clothes started getting donated, and I found that I was worth paying full-price for clothing items that I genuinely loved.  I can actually have my laundry DONE sometimes for a few seconds... whereas even just last summer, I could do laundry all week and still be walking on clothes instead of my laundry room floor.
I began healthy, healing practices for my physical health.  I began walking without tension in my muscles, "How much weight am I losing?" slowly began to be replaced with a happy sort of presence where I just appreciated the place I was in -the fresh air and clouds, the birds and sunshine.
I began enjoying my time at the sink as I found appreciation for my dishes.  I recently rearranged my cupboards in a way that has substantially decreased the chaos.  I cleaned out my closet, and it's stayed clean because chaos and scarcity are starting to visit less and less and less and less.
I now keep freshly cut flowers and greens on my piano, and my house sports beautiful things from beautiful people: stained glass from a dear recovery sister hangs in the window over my sink, beautiful crystals from my brother are scattered here and there throughout my living room.  There's LOVE in my home and GRATITUDE and JOY.


Last year for Father's Day, I spent the day before cleaning my buns off.  I got armpits deep in the kind of sweat that they never talk about in Vogue, and mucked, mucked, mucked.
Then I went to the store.
I bought a bedspread, something I'd never done for the King-sized bed we'd bought YEARS earlier (because, as I said, I believed money was scarce).  I bought a new shower curtain (hadn't done that since we moved in -we'd just been living with the liner our landlord had put in).  I bought a matching bathmat and a few bathroom decorations.
I set everything up and then wrote a note to my husband, "Because you're worth it" and left it on the dusted, newly decorated headboard.

He still keeps that note where he can see it every morning, and a few months later, he returned the favor -cleaning our room and leaving me an answer "because you are too."

A few weeks ago, I noticed a thread-bare spot on our sheets, so I threw them out and bought new ones within the week.  In the last year, I've bought mascara TWICE instead of making one tube last for two or three years.

I realize these kinds of things come naturally for some -they certainly came more naturally for me before addiction and trauma took up cellular residency -but these things are now substantial miracles, folks.  Downright.

Anyway, last week I did The Awful Sweat thing again and mucked out my house.  Spring Cleaning is stupid, right?  It's a stupid farce.  It's like cleaning on Saturday.  Everyone talks about it like it's the NORMAL thing to do but everyone also knows that Sunday is the Great and Terrible Day where everyone trashes all the houses, so WHY?!  WHY do we clean on Saturday?!
I'll tell you what: I don't.  I hike on Saturdays now.  Or shop or play or whatever because CLEANING is for MONDAYS NOW.
And Spring Cleaning is now POST-SUMMER cleaning because who cleans at all during the summer time?  I don't really because there's swimming and hiking and sunshine and monsoons and mud and reunions, so why clean?
And let's start talking about how hiring cleaning help is one of the most beautiful ideas in the history of ideas.  I'm terrible at cleaning, and I appreciate that there's folks who aren't who I can pay to come work their mystical cleaning magic in my home.

Yesterday was Monday (cleaning day), and I made my bed.  I wore clean underwear and clean clothes, and I washed rugs and the 4 thick towels we bought to replace the 13 thin towels we'd been hoarding for ten years.  A few months ago, Danny and I bought a repo'd Kirby at a discount, and because our house is cozy (read: small), I can plug that thing in a central outlet and clean the whole house.  I run over all the carpets and then I switch out attachments and dust everything.  I go over our hard-surface flooring with the special hard-floor attachment.  Our ceiling fan gets a once-over... and I apologize to the spiders before demolishing and swiping their homes.

As I worked, I kept hitting on this idea of foundations.
My buddy Taura is a yoga instructor who now lives in the South and sometimes visits with her children who are so cute I almost forget that mine are cuter.  A few years ago, I was doing yoga in her backyard during the time in my life where I wasn't doing dishes and I was trying to figure out how to do yoga without hating my body.
Everyone around me was flowing and glowing, and I was weary and wobbling.
I'm all legs.  Did you know that about me?  Percentage wise, I'm 70% legs, 20% torso and 10% head n' hair.
It is never more apparent than when I'm trying to Zumba and can't make my legs move like the shorter folks move theirs -OR when I'm trying to make downward dog work like the girls next to me.
Comparison truly is the thief of joy.
"If you're falling, check your foundation."
That's What Taura Said.  Someday I'll write a book and call it What Taura Said and fill it full of quotes Taura probably had no idea she said.
I've never been able to forget that one.

If anything feels like falling, scarcity and chaos and fear feel that way.
So what, then, are my foundations?
Christ. Yes.
BUT
I'm realizing it goes a bit more shallow than that.
It's my undies, really.  And my made bed.  It's my dishes.  It's my Basic Human Foundations: the first thing I put on that send a message one way or the other.
Clean, crisp underwear let me know I'm worthy of a clean foundation.
Clean, orderly clothes let me know I'm worth the time and the money.
A nice, lovely bed makes for better sleep -sleep is a huge part of the foundation of my mental, spiritual and physical health.  So much healing happens in that sacred rest -even God shuts off the light in order for sleep to move in.
Pretty, clean plates are the welcoming mat for good, solid food.  I'm not just talking about green and clean -I'm talking about cream and oats, butter and bread, meat and potatoes!

Yes, Christ is THE FOUNDATION.
But where LOVE is, There God is.  And LOVE, my dear sweet healing sisters, can be found in a made bed.
Which thing I never before had supposed.




Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I am Free

I feel compelled to write.  I feel compelled to record everything -I take pictures of everything, cry about moments passed, happy or otherwise.  My family teases me about this, hates the way I point cameras in their faces.
No pictures.
Don't blog this.

Is it because they feel unworthy of being recorded in some way?

I guess the whys don't really matter.  The only thing that really matters is what I think of me and what I know about me and that is simply: I feel compelled to record everything which means God wants me to.

It's hard to let go of those other voices, though.  Sometimes it's easier than others, but lately it's been a hard battle.  So loud, those voices.  Lots of them coming at me -some coming at me from within me.
Stop writing.
Stop recording.
Stop talking.
You're superfluous.
You're insignificant.
You're insufficient.
Someone else could do it better.
Someone else has done it better.
Someone else is cleaner.
Someone else is quieter.

These voices used to rule my life, my decisions.  I didn't even know they weren't truth.

So there's progress there.  Now I can see them for what they are.  Lately, they've been so present and loud.  I just keep thinking... God is up to something.  Great inspiration and enlightenment seem JUST on the other side of heated battles like these.

Today my mind is spinning circles.  I just returned from a trip that just sanded me down.  I'm sure there was some polishing and refining going on, but I don't look or feel it on the outside.  All I want is sleep!
I spent a lot of time with people I dearly love who don't work the healing path I'm on.
My house and health are a mess, my friends.
But my soul is as rest, my soul has access to peace and calm!

During my time away, I had two separate experiences where people asked me about my grandchildren.
My grandchildren?!
I'm THIRTY ONE.  I'm not done having my own kids yet!

These comments came during the thick of my facing some old trauma that was raked up by situations I was facing, and I wanted to run to the store for some anti-aging cream.  Maybe run and get a haircut real quick?  Start coming up with an exercise plan to lose weight and look younger?
But no.
No, no, no.

The REAL answer is acceptance.  Love.  Love myself as I am.  The comments hurt less when my own self-worth has been buoyed up and fostered.

My prayers during my trip were just so honest.  I told God I was sad.  I was facing some grief and loss.  Shame was on my back, and on top of it all, I'm VAIN.  I'm VAIN and 31 and people called me GRANDMA.
I felt so childlike crying up to God, "Am I even loved at all?"
His answer was accompanied by a loving, lifting sensation -the kind He's sent me since I was a child, "You are free."

I am free.
That's what He said.

And as the week unfolded, I saw more and more what He meant.  I am not as bound as I once was by fear.  Though my pride is still loud and proud (ha!), it doesn't bind me nearly so much as when I didn't EVEN SEE IT AT ALL.

I am free.
Free to take pictures and free to record.  Free to talk and write.  Free to do that which I'm compelled to.
God is calling, and I must answer though the rewards feel *just* on the other side of mind battles fought in fields of fog as thick as molasses.

Today I am resting up, writing up and laughing at my 4 year old who keeps sneaking kittens in the house.  I need laughter daily, just as I need God daily.
I lamented to my mother about the "grandma" comments, "I've always looked older than I am," I said, trying to sort of comfort myself.
"It's because you're confident," she surprised me with her response.

Confident?
Healing HAS given me access to a place where I don't care what people think of me AS MUCH (still an issue though).  I am moving forward without worrying what others will think... willing to sacrifice my marriage if it means getting better both physically and mentally and spiritually.  And that is confidence.
THAT is free.

I am free.
When I yoke myself to God, I am free.

He's always pulling funny ironies like that: last shall be first, small shall be great, yoked shall be free.

I love Him for it.  I truly do.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Trauma is for the Birds

My schedule is travel heavy right now.  Because I live the quintessential country wife life, I don't travel much farther than "town"... ever.  There's miles of wide open spaces right outside my window, and it feels so good.  My wanderlust is at an all-time low, and whenever it kicks up, I sit down with a hearty dose of BBC TV and all is well once again.

But I'm in the smack-middle of a travel fest (per my definition).  Lots of trips to the PHX area and one to SLC area -all for family celebrations: wedding stuff, baby blessings.  It's all good.
Except it's thrown me off big time.  I think maybe my chi or chakras or aura or something is off?  Or the moon phased?  Hippies, help me out here.

The good news is that recovery is saving my bay-cun.  Seriously saving it.  I'm hitting my dailies harder than ever, working to be daily accountable to a recovery sister for them.
#1) Prayer/meditate (I'm up to 20 minutes every morning, and it's doing wonders for my anxiety)
#2) Scripture study
#3) Eat ONE raw green food per day (after where I ended up in 2016, this goal is really shooting for the moon, believe me.  I was being literal when I talked about bacon earlier).
#4) Exercise (I added this one after supreme consistency with the other three for three weeks)

When there was huge family drama a few weekends ago, I was able to stay out of it and have my serenity *mostly* intact (I'm not super-human, okay?).
And last week, I was living a big-hearted small life where washing dishes felt meditative and rearranging my living room felt cathartic.  I have felt a soul-filling satisfaction that has washed my life with a calm that feels miraculous, and I found myself asking the Lord, "Am I allowed? To live this way?  It feels unfairly nice and I feel undeserving because I still struggle with loving my next door neighbor."
In Neal A. Maxwell's BYU Devotional from 1981, "Grounded, Rooted, Established and Settled" he said:
 But family life seems so ordinary now. Even so, some may still say, “Should I not be doing something else?” Ah, but that is not the real question! The real question is: “Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?” (Alma 29:6). That is the question.

I can say that last week, I had no desire to do more than the work to which I've been called today -and that work is dishes, cooking, serving my neighbors and -of course -my dailies.  Perhaps God wants to refine my patience, so my relegated tasks are routine, daily activities that run the threat of killing me with being FLAT, FLAT, FLAT.
I know that pre-recovery, it certainly felt that way.  I felt unseen by my husband and unseen every time someone puked on the sheet I'd just washed.  Even the trees were the enemy -showering leaves on the grass I'd just raked.

To feel that burden begin to lift as my perspective has shifted feels liberating.
It IS liberating.

But my schedule isn't liberating.  Though there be miles of open air and space waiting to be taken in front my kitchen window, there be no wiggle room in our budget or travel calendar. 
I feel the pinch, and I feel a bit more wobbly and ready for trauma to come visit.

My dailies have anchored me to Christ -or maybe anchored Christ to me? 
Even with them, and with Christ, trauma comes.  And it came, as the Grinch so wittingly observed, "it came just the same."

Sitting in my chapel (read: bathtub) I felt it physically ripping through me, and I recognized it.  I decided that now is the time to make friends with my friend that has chosen to lodge -without permission or consent -in my very own cells.  My body isn't playing host to my trauma... my body simply IS a host, like it or not.
It feels invasive because it is.

During my peaceful week last week, I hit on a podcast and listened to it 3x over (something I've never, ever done).
It's a really informative (borderline entertaining) podcast from On Being about how trauma lodges in the body:
LISTEN HERE

I didn't know when I was listening to that podcast that a big trigger was just days away, but God did.
Thank God for God -amIright?

And as I sat in my tub and let the trauma come in, I made a decision to let the trauma in FULLY.  I scraped my schedule clean and just sat it out.  In the days leading up the trauma, my body was sending me messages.  This is FANTASTIC because my body has felt utterly cut off from me since I hit my rock bottom.  But it had been SPEAKING to me. 
The pattern in my life went like this:
My husband betrayed me and then I betrayed my body, and someday I'm going to write a book called "Porn and Oreos" and fill it with every gritty, betraying detail.  Suffice to say: my body doesn't trust me just as I don't trust my husband.
But lately, it has said things to me like, "one more apple" and "let's go for a walk" and "mmmm ginger."
So you can imagine the pain I felt when my body slammed the door in my face after the trigger hit.  I couldn't HEAR my body anymore.  Nothing was getting through!  I couldn't even move my breath past my chest.  The last message that had come through before I was triggered was this:
"Good morning, beautiful day for sushi."
SUSHI.
And so it came to be that I was fixated on sushi because I didn't know what else to do with myself.

One big problem is that there's 80 miles of good highway between me and closest sushi joint, so with a little perseverance on my husband's part, Nori and Friends were secured and we made our own.
Nori and mango and avocado and cucumber and green onions and cream cheese.  It was glorious.

The next day was General Conference.  After the first session, I napped.  It's amazing how a big trigger can feel exactly like running a marathon.  It just hangs on, doesn't it?
After the second session, I noticed my 4-year old putting on her tennis shoes. She filled up her Beauty and the Beast water bottle and headed out the open front door into the brilliant Northern AZ spring afternoon.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"Oh mother," she said, "I'm going to enjoy the birds."

She's my ONLY child who calls me that, and I never, ever correct her.  Who would?!

"Can I come?" I asked.

When trauma comes around, I can't find my toes.  I can't make a connection between my legs and my brain.  I forget I have fingernails -so you can imagine how in touch I am with the rest of the world.  The week prior, I had FULLY enjoyed the birds during my meditation and prayer in the morning... they really are so brilliant this season.  The birds' song is wakeful, an anthem for the season.  They sing and kids ride bikes where they weren't riding them a few weeks ago.  They sing and blossoms flourish and bloom.  The sing and the world stretches, wakes and gets back to sunshine.

And so my Alice answered the call, and I went with her. 
Being still and sitting with trauma isn't easy, but I've found that for me -it is the best way: let it move through while I find the line where my body and spirit connect again.  Is it called a Soul Line?
Maybe.  Maybe "Soul Line" will be the title of my second book?  *insert winky emoji*

The trigger is lingering, I can feel it. 
But my body is starting to open the door it slammed in my face (maybe because I stuck my foot in? and that's why I couldn't feel my toes?)

So here's to dailies and herbal tea and birds.
And kids who call me Mother.




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fair Lady

Over the weekend, I introduced my kids to My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.


I don't remember the last time I saw the movie in it's entirety.  It's been years.  During those years, I've gone through therapy and support groups.  My body has been raked through the coals of inflammation.  In short, there's been a transformation.
Watching Eliza Doolittle transform before my eyes was a different experience this time.

I watched her as a flower girl with dirt on her face.  I watched her moan and cry out.  I watched the longing in her eyes to become something more, and I watched that longing turn placidly into acceptance.
A dust-covered flower girl WAS WHAT SHE WAS.  Period.

Then I watched her find a glimmer of hope.  I watched her face as she realized that maybe -just maybe -she could change.

I watched as she washed her body, changed her clothes from rags to soft, feminine cloth.  Her hair went from harsh to soft.
She began to CARE for herself -externally and internally.  She cared for her body, her hair, her clothes.  And her internal worth began growing.  She began to feel and know her worth.

I thought of my Step 9 to myself -my amends to myself.  For my 30th birthday, I pulled an Eliza Doolittle Project without really calling it that.  I bought new underwear and a new outfit.  I had my hair cut and dyed.  I ate at my favorite restaurant.  Most importantly: I promised myself that I would always care for myself.  That I would continue to buy bras and mascara when it made sense and not 2 years afterward.  I would drink water and green juices.  I would eat protein and walk, walk, walk with my shoulders back and my face to the breeze.  I would inhale the love of God instead of the hate of self.

But we are works of progress, amIright?
And progress isn't progress without REGRESS to back it up.

In the beginning of November, a police officer was shot and killed in the line of duty an hour away from where I sit right now.  In my county.  In the county my husband works for as a police officer.
As my heart stalled, my husband drove straight for the gunfire.
And yeah.
Shots were fired his way.
While I sat on the couch, wrapped in my husband's cop shirt.

It was surreal.  This addiction messes with EVERYthing.  I love Danny and I struggle with the addiction side of him.  Divorce has been a very real option for us.  We've separated at times.  When times like that hit, I was conflicted every day -sending him to the battlefront.
"I love you.  I'm scared."
That feels like the two lines I've lived by as the wife of a cop and the wife of an addict.
I love you, Danny and I'm scared as hell.

Don't hurt me.
Don't get hurt.

That night -the night he ran to the gunfire and I tried to remember what it felt like to care about dinner and laundry -something inside of me broke.

I haven't had my hair done.  I haven't bought mascara.
I haven't exercised.
I haven't cared for myself.

My writing has struggle.  Where once words flowed through my mind and out of my fingers, I found nothing but blank space that I filled up with a Victorian-Era murder-mystery.
And now that that's over, I found The Great British Baking Show.
#bingebabybinge

I didn't even realize it had happened.  I just thought maybe the holidays were so busy they killed me.
I thought maybe it was being a mom to 3.  Maybe it was just the whole healing thing?

As I sat with the ladies in my writing group two weeks ago, one of them said, "We haven't had anything from you in MONTHS."
"Yeah," I nodded.  I tried to come up with an excuse, but they all seemed to get jammed in my throat as I realized the last time I'd written anything for hobby purposes was the day before The Shooting.

"I haven't written anything since The Cop Shooting," I said, realizing it for the first time as I said it.
"Makes sense," the ladies in my group said, almost in unison.

I see it now.  I SEE IT.
I just don't see yet how to get back up, to turn back on.  What does it all mean?  And how deeply is it affecting me EXACTLY?
Or has it just triggered other issues that were lying dormant, waiting for some kind of trauma to wake them up?

Cue help.
Self-help is the trickiest snitch in the world.  It means well but always bites me in the bum.  But in the last year, I've haltingly picked up SAFER self-help options, and so far it's going okay because for the most part (hello, progress and regress) God is driving this serenity train.
So I made an appointment with a coach -a well-being coach?  A health coach?
Basically, someone who can take my hands and put them over my heart and teach me how to open it and retrieve the answers that are now, themselves, lying dormant.

This is so messy, you guys.
And I look messy.

But as I watched Eliza Doolittle emerge in her diamonds and jewels, I knew that it was me, in my own messy way.
I wear my jewels on the inside.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Less-Worried

I brought a lot of books to our marriage.  Poor Danny had no idea what he was getting into, no idea that I dreamed of one day filling an entire room with The Written Word and fancy leather chairs and maybe a few smoking jackets for good measure.
I had classics I'd collected (some bought, some stolen from a high school that shall remain nameless...), a beat up slam poetry book, scriptures, churchy books, a book about a woman named Alicia who lost her entire family during WWII!  As the years went on, I collected more and more.
One year for Christmas Danny bought me a bookcase, and I filled it.  FILLED it.
Last summer, I tried that Kondo Method of cleaning where you get rid of books that don't fill your gills with guts and glory, and I think I tossed the slam poetry book and one of Dr. Laura's books about feeding husbands properly or some shizz like that.
I guess slam poetry lost some luster between midnight feedings and overdraft fees...
I won't even get started on why Dr. Laura doesn't bring me joy.

In fact, I'll drop all the booky stuff and just say what I came to say: Danny has a mountain of cop books (case law is apparently very important), so he gets the bottom shelf.
His one other contribution to our bookcase is THREE paperback books by CS Lewis: the first three in the Narnia series.  He'd picked them up as a kid and just sort of never let loose of them.

Having fallen in a sort of fantastical love with the way Lewis moves words around, it started to bug me that I'd never read them.  Danny and I have been trying to read them together.

As we've read his words, I keep thinking about a quote of his that has meant so much to me.  I wanted to share it here:
“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

It reminds me so much of Step 3, but also?  It is what recovery is to me daily.  Handing myself, my will and my day over to God because I trust Him -THAT is the goal that SOMEtimes I meet and SOMEtimes I don't.  I think of another great wordsmith, one Dr. Seuss, who said very wisely,
"You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don't.Because, sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say sobut, sadly, it's truethat Bang-upsand Hang-upscan happen to you."

Bang-ups and Hang-ups.  I was reading in my scriptures today about how God GIVES us weaknesses, and I got hung-up on that word, "gives."  Such a positive word. God gives us all good things, so surely my weaknesses must be good?  I recently listened to a Monk talk about how he quit having panic attacks when he accepted the panic as his friend.  He quit fighting it and accepted it.  
In 12-step talk, I think we'd say, "he surrendered it."
Because you can't surrender something unless you've accepted it.

I think back a few months ago to the sacred time I spent with my Granny who gently rubbed my feet and talked of the time in her life when she was left alone with eight children.  How did she survive that?
With God.
"I'm so grateful for those days," she said, "I didn't know it then, but God was giving me exactly what I needed.  I see it now, and I just remind myself when things get hard that God is always giving me what I need.  He is so compassionate."

Compassionate because He gives us adversity.
Generous because He gives us weaknesses.
It seems counter-intuitive, but honestly, I don't think God is much interested in the intellect of men and their worldly philosophies.  I think He's more interested in truth, simplicity, peace, meekness (the less-mentioned virtue, the underestimated underdog!), charity, love, humility, purity of heart, and willingness.

A less-worried world is what God is after.
A world where men worry less about battlefronts and more about the divine smolder sparking around inside of their own chests.
A world where the battlefronts surrender to the love of a neighbor.

Lately my life has taken on a small shift that has made a big difference, like the small shift in a track that causes a train to land in one city rather than another.
Life has become much less about RECOVERY and much more about simply HEALING and living genuinely with my whole heart forward.  I can't imagine I'll ever be off this track, and though I'm sure I'll miss out on ending up in a City That Might Have Been, I'll end up in A New City more suited to my needs.

A less-worried city.



 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Acquainted With the Night

Valentine's Day.
It is my nemesis, my bull in the china closet.  It comes bashing in once a year, plowing through the careful contents of my brain, and then it leaves as loudly as it came.
I'm left sifting through the, "what just happened?" emotion.

A few years ago, I "took the bull by the horns," so to speak, and I felt sure I was strong enough to tame the beast into docility.

My first Valentine's with Danny was really, really painful.  Each following year, I tried to make up for the first one.  I wanted ONE good Valentine's Day with my husband, but each passing year seemed marked by the first.  There were so many expectations, some realistic, some not -most all went unmet.
And to tell the truth, I didn't want him to really love me the way Juliet died over Romeo.  I only wanted him to see me -maybe notice how much thought I put into the day.
Did he see the clean house?
Did he see me with the kids?
Did he see the way my tangled, wild hair fell around my face?
Did he notice how happy I am in the kitchen, singing with Doris Day and Loretta Lynn while my long, wild hair slipped strands of herself into the pasta sauce?

It's all I want still.  To this day.
To be seen apart from my parts.  To be seen for the present version of who I am and what I'm doing -even if that's just breathing in and out while turning over a page of "David Copperfield."
And not to be seen for what I have to offer.
Sexually and otherwise.
That's earned, isn't it?  I'm guilty of only loving myself when I've earned it, and that mess of a therapy party has been enough to last me a lifetime.  Feeling that I'm only worth what I have to offer to SOMEONE ELSE?
I don't have room for that anymore.

A few years ago, I landed myself on the back of that crazed Valentine's Bull.  My lanky legs were a fair match for the breadth of the beast, and I made sure that I WOULD HAVE VALENTINE'S DAY and NOT THE OTHER WAY 'ROUND.
I made Valentines and sent them out.
I took the whole Romeo nonsense out of the day.
I planned an annual feast with just my own kids and husband, and I celebrated love in it's pure form.

It worked really well.  For years.
But guess what happened this year?

Last week, I got really sick. I was down in bed for 3 days, and the 4th day was a pretty funny joke of a day where I think I washed three dishes and went to bed at 8:30.
No time to prepare Valentines.
Usually for our feast, I spend a bit more money and make the day a bit more fancy that your regular Tuesday.
But this year, I had no money having so lately become a stay at home mom again.

To sum up: there wasn't lots of distractions from the pain.  Because that's what I've been doing all these years on top of that docile bull: distracting myself from the hurt and calling it healing.

It isn't healing.
And as it turns out, under all the busy distractions of sending out cards and setting a fancy table, I'm still really hurting.
Really.

Why?
Isn't the time for hurting over?
Haven't I been here for too long?
Does this mean I'm stuck? Over six years in and still hurting!
What's more: it truly feels as if the pain will never leave.  Does that mean I don't understand the Atonement?  That I discount it?  That my faith in God is weak?

I've heard it said that you can forgive without forgetting, and maybe for some the pain still stays with the memory, even when forgiveness is in place.
Maybe for some forgiveness feels as impossible as sobriety does for others.

Last night, I rolled into bed with ominous anticipation of today.  I thought about putting boundaries in place, boundaries like, "stay off facebook."
I flicked on my phone and scrolled through my feed to distract myself (because that's apparently my go-to when the going gets uncomfy), and I ran straight into Robert Frost's words.  My heart thumped in my chest, the way it does when words strike me so deeply that the only response to them is utter silence.
His poem, "Acquainted with the Night" begins:

I have been one acquainted with the night. 
I have walked out in rainand back in rain. 
I have outwalked the furthest city light. 

I have looked down the saddest city lane. 
I have passed by the watchman on his beat 
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain. 




Yes, that's me.  Walking through the darkness and dropping my eyes, unwilling to explain to my bishops and any other watchmen why.  Outwalking the city's lights, walking beyond the reach of man.  Chasing and also running from the rising sun/Son.  I know this feeling well.  It's finding me today, after years of running from it.

I'll get quiet now and let Frost finish:

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet 
When far away an interrupted cry 
Came over houses from another street, 

But not to call me back or say good-bye; 
And further still at an unearthly height, 
One luminary clock against the sky 

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. 
I have been one acquainted with the night.