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.

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:

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."
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.

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


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.

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.