Friday, July 18, 2014

I found a letter I wrote to my abusive X before the divorce ... Have you ever wondered how abused people think?

And this was after I learned to speak up...

This letter was written to my X during the last three years of our "marriage".

In this post, I'm responding to myself in the past, correcting a few of those old perspectives. I wonder what I'll think of it after a few more years of healing?This might be helpful to you or someone you know. I hope so. It is encouraging to me, at least.

To XXXX, (Name erased to keep people sane.)

I'm glad you're working on our marriage with me. (Really? He was working on our marriage? How sweet of me to think so.) I'm relieved to know it's important enough to you that you will try to face it. I always wonder, you know, if it's the kids or myself that keeps you here. 
Actually, it was neither. Well, he really thought his desire to control me was love, and still thinks he loves the people who please him. Oh, well. We had always been convenient to manipulate, so he stayed with us because we played our roles in his dramas. In the end, I had to play the unsubmissive wife and pay the social price of being the one to leave. We both wanted the role of misunderstood victim, and it wasn't working very well, since he didn't think I deserved it.
So, let's face the worst of it for you again. The thing I wrote you about earlier this year. 
I figured out at some point that talking about solving HIS problems might mean he'd actually hear some of what I said.
What if I never change? Do you think you can love me the way I am now, and somehow find a way to be happy with me and compensate for my weaknesses?... I've been myself my whole life.
 It took me long enough to realize that I was actually a person, not a malleable plastic doll for him to customize.
In fifth grade I was spanked every day by the teacher because I daydreamed in class.  (From what mom says, it was probably 3rd grade. She's still apologizing for not having realized what was going on sooner.) Every day. I got used to it. Expected it. And I never learned not to daydream. I do it even now. But I loved and respected that teacher, even though she was wrong in how she handled the situation. I still love and respect her. She wanted me to be a better person and the only way she could see to do that was to change me. It was because she loved me. 
Wow! That was super-abusive, and I used to think I deserved it. "Of course" one must beat a child for daydreaming. Hah! I think spanking isn't as helpful as people make it out to be, and might just teach kids that if people don't do what you want it's okay to hit. My kids respond far better to constructive methods, and I was so messed up and controlling back when I conformed to the spanking paradigm. I'm surprised my kids still love me.
Even my dorm parents had the same trouble with me. I would forget tasks, move when it was better to be still, come up with impulsive ideas that they wouldn't understand. I was often yelled at and also spanked by them. Not so frequently, but enough so I remember it. I was always the neglectful one, the one with her head in the clouds. Even back then I failed when I tried to be different. 
And this is pretty much how I saw myself. A failure at being someone worthy. When any person who happens to have some power over anyone fails to accept anything other than their own idea of how individuals should live, then they WILL teach the same awful lies about those they judge that they believe themselves. Only their followers end up hating themselves and idealizing their abusers, reflecting that wrong mindset as instructed. Nice work for "leaders" who claimed to be acting as god's representatives. I do not think God is who you think he is.
Yet somehow, I was still a friend to many people, even when I was completely convinced by the adults in my life that I was worthless, that I needed to change. I couldn't believe these people were my friends, but I loved them all the same, and they came to me when they needed someone to be there for them. I didn't even notice that this was my strength back then. I loved them while hating myself for being worthless. And sometimes I was the only one who could break someone out of their shell. Later in high school and even after graduating, people began to tell me what they had seen in me back then. But I didn't really believe it was worth much, though I treasured those people whom I loved and still do even though I am still the same me that daydreamed every day, even though I knew I would have a spanking. 
I really didn't believe I was worthy of friends. Everyone who was remotely nice came across as a radiantly beneficent being, above other humans in their ability to tolerate my unworthiness.
So, for years I've been trying to change this self. Gradually I've learned that God is using me even though I'm me. 
You know, even mistaken understandings of God can be brighter than the lies they replace. I'm thankful to be beyond this point now, but back then it was a relief to think of God as skillful enough to compensate for having such a disaster of a person as myself attempting to follow him, replacing the idea that he was unable to do a thing with me and had rejected me entirely.
But, for some reason, it's not enough for you, being myself. Like everyone else, you hate compensating for my weaknesses. (I still felt that God must feel the same way.) I am a burden because of them, and not a strength or a help to you. I want to change. I've always wanted to be different. But I have not managed it, nor has God suddenly and miraculously seen fit to bestow these abilities on me.So, what are we to do? The possibility of dramatic change is minimal. I am better now than ten years ago, but still not good enough.
Shockingly, I'm quite capable of accomplishing many things when they are in my skill set and calling. I can outwork most people when it comes to the things I'm designed to do. Who knew? Maybe I'm not supposed to be different than myself. Maybe I'm "good enough" as I am. Maybe I don't have to be accomplished at "everything" even if it's practical. Maybe I would actually have to be a different person to be skilled at different things? Huh. Maybe the people who expected me to change were ... WRONG! And maybe it's okay to consider dishes a "project" to do when I have the need or inclination instead of a sign of my worthiness.
And now there is something physical as well, to complicate the picture. It's not just self-discipline. There will be times when I genuinely can't take care of myself, never mind you and the kids. They may become few and far between with healthy lifestyle changes and discipline, but those times will occur.
This "something physical" is severe chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia brought on by constant stress. The one time I was forced to go to a psychologist by my husband--in hopes I would be labeled with something to show I was the one with a problem--she suggested during our first meeting that I consider leaving my husband. Turns out her prescription was spot on, even though I gasped in shock and rejected the idea at the time. Since leaving, I'm much more healthy and continually improving. I might even be capable of holding down a part time job now, two+ years after leaving him. Though I'm using that energy to build a business that can adjust around any flare-ups, thanks to my parent's support and encouragement.
I can't expect people to come in from outside to take care of me, and you don't want to. I obviously can do some of it on my own most of the time, but sometimes even that is too much. So who do I turn to? Who will help me when I can't help myself? Who will be there when the world turns dark and my mind fades until I can't remember what I was thinking or what might be possible? Will you? Can you do it, and without bitterness or anger? I want to believe you can. 
Yup, I just couldn't believe he didn't even care. Somewhere, somehow, it must matter to him, or how could he say he loved me? It was very, very difficult to believe he actually didn't have the character I wished he had, and that he would verbally claim to have. He was not the good person I was trying to believe in. Believing lies about people, even their own lies, isn't constructive for relationship.
Right now it's like in fifth grade again. I'm punished every day. Frustration. Anger. Resentment. I can't even see that you love me. 
Which is because he didn't love me. He loved the way I would sometimes make him feel, and tried his best to make me make him feel that way all the time. In other words, he used me like a drug to stimulate himself and as a tool to take care of him, and when I couldn't fulfill that role ... well ... Let's just say it's easy to be nice when you feel you have what you deserve, and not so easy when you're deprived of your addiction.
I love you. I want to believe it's because you want the best for me, and the only way you can see for that to happen is to change me. But. I think I keep breaking even more because of it. I can expect it. (his treatment of me) I can live with it. I can love even inside it. Because God does give me that, even if He doesn't give me what I really want ... to be different than I am. 
Yeah. The only reason I wanted it is because other people wouldn't accept me, and I wanted to be accepted. Turns out I like myself after all! Oh, and my long list of close friends also accept me. So there!, past self, you had no clue how lovable you are!

I'm still in a debate if I can call my emotional relationship to him "love" I was so warped and messed up and deluded and afraid ... Can that really be called love? I used to wish one of us would die, preferably him so I could take care of the kids in peace. So ... yeah. I hope he has a positive life now that I'm not there to annoy him, but it's more important to me that he has the experiences that will take him out of his twisted perspective and into a more healthy relationship with people. Generally, though, I just don't care unless it affects the kids or myself.
I want you to see.
I wish you could see how treasured I am, and by a lot of people. I don't claim this lightly. These are things I've been informed of directly, sometimes by the person themselves or by a second party. I have helped lead people to Christ. God used me to pull multiple people out of depression. I encourage people and God has used me that way since I was a child. I love because God gave me that ability. I reach out because I can't help but do it when I am obeying. I create beauty because it's another way of sharing light. I write because God uses it to encourage and correct the thinking of those who read it. 
Yes. I am worthless. 
Holy SMOKING weapon of truth ... Aaaaugh! I was so blind. You know, I really didn't believe the above list was valid proof of my worth. It didn't even occur to me that God doesn't maintain worthless people. I exist because I have value. Well, the God I followed back then was pretty much a man-behind-the-curtain, and an evil one, too. But still ... *shudder*
But that's okay, because God has used me to bless others anyway. It isn't my worth that matters. It's God's. And He has always compensated for me. 
Well, today I wouldn't say he compensates. It's more like he's really happy that he made me, just like I get all excited over my artwork even while it's in process. If it wasn't beautiful and worthwhile to me, I wouldn't make it.
I just don't understand why it never seems to be enough for you. Is it because I don't give you what I give even to random strangers? Am I so empty that I can't see you? Are you my blind place? So many people are thankful, even for something so simple as my smile! I'm always telling God that it's a mystery to me how He can use something so small to bring grace. But He has reassured me, in spite of your insistence that what I do is worth nothing, that it is indeed treasured by more people than even I know! Maybe this is how He strengthens me to face you. I don't know. 
It took over ONE HUNDRED people saying positive things about me to counteract the small handful of X, his family, and his church telling me all the things that were wrong with me. That is how powerfully destructive such words in the hands of people who don't leave room for personal integrity are, my friends.

People don't stay in abusive relationships because they want to be treated that way. They stay because they really can NOT see any other way, and might not even know who they are if they're not abused. They stay because abusers are naturally against personal boundaries, and invade into personal decision-making places without even noticing that is what they are doing. Victims stay because they become used to the decisions being made for them, and they only are supposed to follow. Even the smallest act of rebellion or personal decision-making is equal to lifting a 500lb weight. If you were them you might not be able to do it after having your boundaries eroded that way, and it takes training to learn to NOTICE, never mind fight against it, which is why so many end up in another abusive relationship after escaping the one they were in.

And if you think a friend saying, "they are lying" is powerful enough to counteract that strong of an attack, then you are severely deluded. You can't become like the abuser and take over the decision, or you'll just further the victim's beliefs that they deserve to have decisions made for them because they're worthless. But you can be consistent in exposing their lies, verbal about what you think, and strongly on the victim's side,... and extremely, extremely careful that nothing you say could be misunderstood as agreeing with the abusers. And then, rally the troops if you can. It will take time, teamwork, and dependability to break through the wall the abusers build in those they control, especially if they've had enough time to brainwash their victim, or are building on a previous pattern remaining in a survivor.
Or is it possible you don't see who I am? That you don't see what God is doing in me, because you have your own plan for how things ought to be and I don't fit the image? 
BINGO! That's the nutshell, folks.

And this is one reason why emotional compatibility MIGHT be more important than religious checklists if you're going to talk about "equal yokes" as Evangelicals are so fond of doing. The fact is, some people really are not capable of seeing the value in certain types of people--or women--for some reason. Maybe it's religious/social programs or emotional damage, but it's a real thing and not something you fix by "submitting" to it.
So, I'm wondering.
What will you do if I don't change? What will you do if my health gets worse, as it very well might? What will you do if I need help? What if I really need support in my brokenness in order to do what I can do? Support. Not condemnation and punishment for not being different than I am for yet another day.
Do you want to know what support looks like?
It looks like [ex-friend #1] calling around, herself, to find someone to give me a ride so I could join choir. It looks like a couple I don't even know faithfully picking me up and taking me there. It looks like others supporting me so I don't fall down walking on and off the stage so I can stand there and sing. Yes, I can sing, and I DID sing. But in order to do so, I needed everyone who participated in bringing me to the point where I could do the singing part. God used each of them where they were strong so I could be strong too. 
Oh, he made a huge deal about, "You can sing in the choir, so you can do this checklist of household tasks, too. Why are you lying about being sick?" I couldn't persuade him I wasn't lying.
And then God blessed me to help with the arrangement of the choir as well, something needed and important, that I could not have done if I were not there. And I was able to give something back to the whole choir that they struggled with without me, something God gifted to me so I could be strong to shore up a weak place. 
This was to contradict the, "You're useless to everyone," constant commentary. I really acted like I was in court, bringing witnesses. It's sad that I felt the need to do so.
When others support my brokenness, then I can be where I am needed, to be what I already am and use the gifts God has already given me. That's what the church is. And that's what marriage should be too.
So why is it that even my strengths don't seem to reach you? Why do you only see my brokenness? Should you really be with someone you despise so much? 
You know. I think this last question should be the first one they ask in marriage counselling. Or maybe, "Does someone who despises you so much deserve to be in a relationship with you?" I think an honest answer would solve the hidden divorce rate.

I consider "hidden divorce" to be those who haven't dissolved the legal partnership even though they are strangling each other's spirits, which can't really be marriage, can it? Please agree that's not marriage!!! If God looks on the heart, as they love to quote, then surely he is not saying, "How nice they are still together!" as a husband pours vitriol down his wife's throat day in and day out, poisoning her view of God and the universe in general, and treating God's own handiwork like trash. Or as she attempts to manipulate him into giving her love by treating him like god-incarnate.
I can't change because of your anger. Anger has never changed me and it never will. It only breaks me further, disables my heart, and clouds my ability to find the first step as I tremble in fear that it will turn out to be the wrong step even after I take it. 
 A hard-won insight.
I told you that, remember? That I would try to stop responding that way. That I would do my best to do right because it is right, and to let you know when something is beyond my ability. But I can't resist your anger. Eventually I broke down and started responding as always, directed by wrath and jolted by the strength of your frustration, even when I knew the task would be too much for me.
I've forgotten so much. How can I remember how many times I've failed to be what you desire me to be? I probably deserve your anger. Anyone would be frustrated with me, remaining who I am, with the same weaknesses, and never improving, never changing, never overcoming them. 
Actually, no. There are many, many people who can't even conceive of being frustrated with me for being who I am. Also, frustration tends to show up when you don't get your own way. That's it. A healthy person recognizes this as being their own response, not something forced on them by someone else's actions. In the same situations, others would NOT feel the same way.
There is no first step anymore. God is already gracious where I am. Of course I will want to glorify Him. This will come through in the way I live. Sometimes I will be weak. But God uses me in other ways when I am physically weak. Sometimes I will be strong, and I will do those things I am given to do when I am strong. He will place new habits in my life, and remove those that don't glorify Him.
This week I learned something.
God isn't like my fifth grade teacher, or like my dorm parents, or like you. 
Yaaaay! I'm so glad I finally figured that out.

It must be ... interesting ... to be God and see how your reputation is affected by all these humans using your name and saying who you are all the time, without much care for your actual character. Of course, it's not surprising given that nobody is taught to open their spirit for a direct connection these days. We all "relate by proxy" by reading letters or listening to others talk about someone who is sitting right there, wanting to converse personally.
He loves me right now as I am. And He promises that if I'm willing to relinquish myself to Him, that He will shore up my weaknesses, take my burdens, and use me as I am. I am not the one who will tell Him what that should look like. He tells me. 
Back then I still thought I was entirely wrong and needed to be replaced in order for God to connect with me. It was a bit like going to him, expecting to be slaughtered and rebuilt, and instead being invited in for tea and philosophy. It took me a while to realize there was no back room, full of blood, gore, and replacement parts.

I no longer see the times I hurt people, or am blind, or end up choosing the wrong actions, as insurmountable evil within that can never be lived down or healed. The times I realize that I don't approve of myself or the results of my actions are simply opportunities to learn how to do better, to attempt to heal or fix the damage, to try again.

Because I approach life from the standpoint of love, I will eventually notice and learn, even if I'm sometimes shocked at how long it takes to realize that I was causing damage. Sometimes doing what other people expect me to do is the wrong choice. Sometimes thinking of myself prevents me from noticing I'm causing harm. It's impossible to always get it right, especially when I'm functioning on a lot of unrecognized lies ... so I don't expect to be perfect right now, just consistently improving.

You know, it really is all about a relationship. By connecting with the Spirit, I see more clearly, and so it is easier to make better decisions and trust that good options are available. My spirit really can understand Wisdom when she speaks. If anything, I'm able to be the best of myself as I live forward. 
And He will bring people to shore up my weak points so I can serve Him. Even if it isn't you. Even if it's never going to be you, though you have first rights to that position. 
Well, I wouldn't call it "shoring up weak points" anymore, since I have strengths by life experience and design, and you have strengths for the same reasons ... and when we team up amazing things happen. Why anyone would call an inability to be everything to everyone a weakness is beyond me. It's like blaming a fork for failing to cut steak in long, thin slices.

Now, if you're talking about a fork actively going out and stabbing people, then it needs to learn not to act that way, but to really stop the fork it's going to have to care about the fact that stabbing people hurts them. Otherwise, it will just secretly want to stab people and blame anyone who stops them. <-- And this wasn't me. I was a fork trying to be a gourmet steak knife, not a fork stabbing people on purpose.
But God won't let you be a block to His use of me, even as He grows me because of you, so you will become an assistance to me whether you wish to or not. Either you will help Him strengthen me by supporting me, or you will help Him strengthen me by crushing me into ever-greater dependence on His strength. No matter what, you are a blessing from God, and I'm thankful for you, and for all the years of growing I've gone through with you. 
Well, my perceptions were a bit distorted.... God is good enough at using what's available to turn trash into treasure, but I don't think my ex's crappy treatment was a blessing. It was wrong, not okay, something for me to be protected from, and God did protect me the moment I gave up on the idea that I deserved to be treated that way and became willing to accept the "way of escape" that was offered to me all along.

But it was the creative process of healing that was the "blessing from God" ... not the trashy relationship. He's not going around breaking things so he can fix them, other than allowing broken things to fall away and make room for the better things instead. We just live in a world full of brokenness, and he's good at creating good things. You think consciously shaping something out of nothing is amazing, just watch someone make something beautiful out of something ugly. Now THAT is amazing.
And because I am married to you, you can call on those strengths that God has given me to help you. And I would be so glad to be strong for you, instead of always a frustration and a drain. I try. I'll keep trying. I'll be creative to find new ways to love you and support you. 
Sub-text:  Because we think I'm your savior ... you think I should be super-woman ... and you need me to patch the gaps because you won't be loving me. So I guess I'm your priestess-sacrifice ... and maybe you are my lord-god?.... It should be a country song or something. Gah!

Also, let me point out my excessive repetition of "God" in this email. Sounding religious was extremely-important in order to be taken seriously. If I didn't clearly say, at every turn, that God was responsible for the good things in my life, then I would be outing myself as a prideful arrogant woman, attempting to manipulate him into doing something evil, like respecting me or something. In fact, some of that mindset seems to have bled through into my responses ... *sigh* Oh, well. I leave you to figure out whether God was intrinsic to reality even before I over-exposed, highlighted, underlined, and caricatured his presence.
I just can't promise that it will look the way you want it to look. Because God's blessings almost never look the way I thought they would. It was easy to be bitter about it for a long time. But now? I'm so thankful, even when I don't understand how I can have become strong in God's grace so many ways ... and yet still remain completely broken when it comes to the only things you ask of me in our marriage. 
Well, I had no idea God was drawing me to respectfully bury our dead marriage instead of prancing the stinking skeleton around and pretending it was alive.

Even now, saying this makes me wince with retrospective angst over the label of "heresy" and accusation of pride. YES! God, the Holy Spirit ... Wisdom, herself, directed and guided me to leave my ex-husband ... actively and miraculously and personally. And I really don't expect anyone to believe me, any more than I expect them to believe in God after all the false images that are being projected of him everywhere.
I can only think God has another plan and His own time-table. So I'll trust Him to change me as He will. Until I understand I'll do my best to do what is right, in spite of my weaknesses.
And here I am today on a completely new path, using my strengths and insight from my experiences to encourage and support so many people.

Amazing to have come so far!

Nobody could ever have persuaded me that this was possible, but I have lived the path of freedom, healing, and growth ... and I will continue to live this journey.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

How to be a REAL Man (Dislike snark? Don't read.)


This article is meant to create shock and contrast for a common cultural blind spot, and does not convey my opinion of all men in general. YOU are clearly not the one I'm writing about ... because ... internet. I have no idea who you are. Frankly, if this were inspired by a person then I'd have spoken to him about it in person ... without the snark. Snark is a tool to help change perspective, not a way of life.

This is based on "real men" memes like the one below and my experience of modesty culture. If you LIKE real men memes then save yourself the stress of facing my sarcasm and go study this simple chart for determining whether someone is a real man, instead. It's much more polite.

If you enjoy watching someone twist the life out of a common phrase, then read on.

1. Real Men police women's skin exposure. 

Women are so desperate for male attention that sometimes they make dangerous fashion choices … you know …. immodest clothes,... ahem! Real Men are here to save the day.

Male-defined modesty is the best way to protect women from danger because all female skin is cursed by the Wicked Witch to turn Real Men into pigs who rape womenYou haven't heard? Just one glimpse can, in fact, turn a Real Man into a slavering pig against his will! This is incredibly SCARY for men, so you will understand why they feel it is their job to prevent women from being a problem.

An alternate tactic is for Real Men to pretend women are invisible, except for sneak peeks in order to test the strength of the curse so a woman can be informed of her inherent danger to Real Men everywhere. And if a man accidentally overdoses while looking, well....

Everyone knows he can’t help the result because that’s how curses work. A Real Man knows it's not his fault since she obviously didn't follow the Protective Guidelines, or was otherwise not trying hard enough to protect him from her own curse.

2. Real Men don’t look at or fall in love with immodest women.

This would put them in the category of pigs, according to certain inescapable internet memes. They do, however, reserve the right to reject any woman who comes across as overtly, sexually female, Looking down their noses also gives them an excellent view of … Wait! Uh, don’t talk about that.… It's dangerous! shhh! Even women who follow the Protective Dress Code can be a threat, but there are ways to inhibit the curse, primarily:  looking only in secret, marriage documents, or being immediate blood relatives.

Real Men broadly define immodesty as anything that tempts a man to actually notice a woman is female on an individual basis, due to some inconsistency in the curse depending on where one happens to live. Side note:  Male skin seems to be mostly neutral except for an area right around the hips. This isn’t a problem for Real Men, who are immune to the effect because they have regular exposure to their own on a daily basis ... (and anything else is off topic, so don't mention it. Seriously. Do. NOT. Mention. It. Too. Scary!)

The main issue comes down to the FEMALE skin problem because … the Wicked Witch! So don't go distracting us from the real problem here!

3. Real Men open doors for women 

(but not invisible, immodest non-women) 
Everyone knows how difficult doors can be, what with the complicated handles and using arm strength to open them and all. So Real Men open doors.

Women are notoriously incapable of opening doors, and if left to themselves might very well walk right into them! Nobody wants to see a woman with a bloody nose, just wandering around aimlessly, looking for an opening in the wall. So Real Men come to their rescue, unlike pigs who callously believe women know how to get through walls and into vehicles by themselves, possibly due to the Wicked Witch cursing them.

Did she manage to get in front of you somehow? Are your hands full of the bags that Real Men also carry for women? Just drop everything immediately, wherever you are, and sprint to open the door before she hurts herself! It’s really very simple.

4. Real Men fight! 

Yes, you heard me. No wimpy, effeminate respect or diplomacy here! Real Men know that if you want something, you should charge right in and make it yours. And if his property (real or imaginary) is threatened … well, a Real Man has no limits! They fight mean. They fight dirty. They fight to win!

Everyone knows women just make problems worse, so Real Men must be prepared to fight on their own against any perceived threat. And if his woman gets in his way, even by trying to help, so be it. She should have known better than to stand in the way of testosterone. Oh, don't forget sports! Sports, especially violent sports, are good for manly men, men, men, because … one must be prepared at all times to fight off the constant threat of the Wicked Witch! Scary! Also, pigs.

5. Real Men make sure their woman keeps the house clean.

This one is obvious, right? Only pigs allow someone else to leave a mess. Real Men also help their women improve themselves by telling them when something needs to be cleaned, loudly explaining stupid female mistakes to ensure they can hear their instructions, and letting them know when they run out of nachos and beer. This is actually very generous of Real Men, because otherwise how would women learn?

Also, everyone knows that the Wicked Witch is afraid of soapy water.

But don't think it neutralizes the female skin curse. Real Men do not feel disappointed about this at all, not in public anyway.

6. Real Men don’t accept help! 

Now, clearly, Real Men don’t actually need help. This is why things like asking directions and apologizing for accidents are both frightening openings for the curse to begin weakening male defenses. The best way to fight against the Wicked Witch and women everywhere is to refuse any and all assistance.

Also, admitting a mistake might cause those clueless women to think you are a pig. Scary!

7. Real Men command RESPECT! 

I know, I know, it’s really hard to believe this even needs to be said. Of course Real Men get respected just because they are men!

But, you know the Wicked Witch?... yeah ... She is a serious problem. You can see, now, how the only way Real Men can remain secure in their masculinity is to demand respect, right? It’s exhausting, really, to have to remind women of what ought to be automatic. No Real Man wants to live like a pig, slaving every day to earn a little respect here and there.

Obviously, that would be the worst existence EVER. Scary!


Based on the character quality of my male friends, I might say this problematic attitude seems to be less prevalent than it used to be. However, I read a lot of blogs that make me realize this isn't always so. It appears I am privileged to have befriended some of the best men out there.

I very much appreciate any person who treats others with respect, no matter their gender. I often open doors for people, myself, which apparently makes me a real man, too? That could be an interesting twist in my life story.

(This article was edited to add a warning intro and a semi-soothing postscript, for what it's worth.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fear not ... Love

Knowing it right to think "one way"
some run from truth for fear of lies
and dread the question lurking in
the wisdom, bright before their eyes.

How can one ever find the truth
when contrasts leap from open space
and shadows twist? They shift and move
when light, in motion, calls the gaze.

What answers beckon from insight?
What love would counter inner fright?
What hope opens obstructed space?
What grace will cause the walk of faith?

What if the answer of the soul
is lose the path and find the goal?
What if the way, the truth, the life
is not external? Inner guide ...

The narrow way is not within
the claim of knowing what is true,
or gifts of wisdom, sacrifice.
It's simply love ... as lived through you.


If love casts out fear ... then how does an exclusive, reactionary, fear-filled life demonstrate love? In my experience, fear is the primary clog in the channel of ever-available love. It is only prevented by fear in my perception of God ... or fear in my perception of self and others.

Others will learn as they contrast love to fear, so fear not.
God isn't so easily overcome, so why do we fear he will fail?

Fear not.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Framing with words - why division isn't as valid as we may think it is

I used to see words and identifiers as flat surfaces with a clearly identified meaning painted in bold outlines, which all must accept. With every word there was an acceptable meaning ... or two ... or three ... all easily distinguished from other words and labels.

"Christian" meant only this and excluded that. There were creeds and statements, verses and interpretations that defined who is with us ... and who is lost. It took a long time to realize we all meant something different by it, even when we thought we agreed.

Now, words, labels, identifiers appear to me like window-frames looking out on a landscape, vast or abbreviated depending on one's position. The larger the frame, the more often I will find someone means something entirely different than I do. They may stand over in the corner with their face pressed against the wall, looking at some hill or tree that I can't see standing back from the center.

I could fight over it, but why bother? If I know I can't see everything, then why would I attempt to challenge or blind those who see what I do not?

I trust and follow Christ, but I am not merely "Christian." Those who claim that word like a painting on a wall would feel betrayed by the constant changes in my perspective. I am the same ... and I am different. The more "the same" I seem, the more they feel betrayed by my differences. I don't need to claim the word to be who I am.

I am shy ... except when I am energetically involved in a group or talking with a stranger. Someone laughed at me for claiming that word recently, and I realized ... in a way I am, but I'm also not at all. It all depends on one's perspective at the time.

I am layered with labels, but I overflow their borders. Social limits and words do not define me unless they are in constant motion. Every day I move. I am a story among stories, and even I don't recognize all the layers that shape my path.  Labels are like an overlay ... letting me notice a contrast that might not always be evident ... but it is merely a contrast.

Poets and other creative sorts often take the frames off the wall and walk out the door with them. They overlap and entangle the borders of those simple boundaries; pushing limits; altering perspective; causing those who see meaning as an unchangeable painting of reality to falter in confusion or anger.

Some run from it. Others are freed by it. Both are valid responses. Maybe everyone doesn't have to be the same?

I'm giving up on clinging to stable identifiers and dictionary definitions. For every possible claim I could make about myself or others, sooner or later I find an exception. I'll still use the words ... after all, it's helpful to know when something is, generally speaking, blue instead of yellow.

Communication takes empathy for this reason--it is only by interaction that we can understand each other.

It seems I'm walking out of the house of set limitations, where frames are painted upon the walls so everyone would see the same view. And the house was a frame all its own, an idea of the possible places to stand. Even the Bible is a frame looking upon the larger existence that is making, mystery, love, and meaning.

I look at the universe from every step and see that the mountains are a frame; the horizon is a frame; the flower-face frames its own mysterious and tiny world; a cell is a frame; even the sky is a frame for the stars and galaxies I cannot yet explore.

I breathe deep ... exhale ... and take the next step into a new perspective.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Your "faith" triggers my fear, so please don't attack me with it.

Doctrines and religious tradition are often proclaimed as sources of spiritual rest, like a pillow* for the soul.

I'd like to point out that these nice-looking coverings of faith quite easily conceal sharp knives, nails, trash, rocks, and glass mixed into the feathers-of-peace in various proportions. Some cases don't have many feathers; and I know for a fact that some people hide fully-developed weapons in there.

Remember this when you jump in for a pillow fight, especially with someone who has been hurt.

They know things can get ugly fast, so they might run away or pull out weapons of mass destruction in defense. And ... they have every reason to believe it is necessary.  You might not have been that severely damaged yet, but that doesn't mean others aren't deeply wounded ... and it may very well have been your pillow that damaged them.

For example:

  • If I see an identity marker on your car, your t-shirt is plastered with propaganda, or you toss faith references into conversation like a secret code ... I'll watch to see how you act before I trust you. 
  • If you blend proclamations of God-endorsement into your cultural opinion and expect me to accept it as truth "because God says" ... you might never figure out who I am because I'll be very tempted to wear a mask to keep you calm. 
  • If you attack people who believe or live differently just because you're afraid of their differences ... then I'm on the side of the helpless or wounded, because adding to oppression isn't loving, no matter what "holy" motives you claim. 

Ignoring the fact that millions of people are stumbling out of faith in a bloody pulp doesn't help verify the protest that ... faith and love are meant to comfort and protect.... So it's safe to hit anyone with something "wrapped" in those terms?

I grew up fully believing that flinging my faith at people saves them. Now I can no longer trust even the most charming individual who wishes to swing anything wrapped in faith at my head anymore, no matter how comforting and restful they consider their faith to be. I know how it feels to be pounded with a case of judge-mental-love, sharper than your average sword, and wielded with all the skill and finesse of an infant copying comic-knights on TV.

These experiences do teach some powerful lessons, though maybe not as intended.

I have a very rich and full measure of experiential faith, and it gives me the confidence to face life.... Still, these days I frequently take everything out of my case and look it over to make sure there are no weapons or trash hidden inside. I strongly believe my faith is not meant to be used as a weapon or even set up as an ideal for others.... It's simply where I rest. I keep a lot of questions in there to remind me to stay gentle and loving.

I'll enjoy showing the contents to you ... if you're not threatening me with your own case of faith. These experiences are important to me, after all, and I'm interested to see what you have learned, too.

But first, let's put the pillows down, so nobody gets hurt.


*Heh ... this illustration is strained to the breaking point ... I like the effect though.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Love cannot wear the shield of fear

I hope to speak the soul out loud, though words don't always shape themselves around these concepts. It's been a while since I posted. Three half-written posts fade into data-diffusion, abandoned in the shadows. They weren't what I was trying to say.

I'm learning to live. It's becoming more and more clear that there are two of me.
  1. The self-mask of fear and doubt
    - I wear masks, fearful of what the *other* will think.
    - I tremble behind a veil of diversion, attack before you attack me.
    - What you think of me matters. I count numbers and likes.
    - I must know and be certain, so I can move ahead.
    - I long to be admired, accepted, respected.
    - Love me. Like me. Choose me! I need more.
    - I'm hurt. I'm afraid. I'm upset.
    -  Am I who you think I am? Who am I?
  2. A living patterned in love
    - There is nothing to fear, for love is our unity and protection.
    - Let us lift our veils of fear and reflect each other's light.
    - To be real is more important than unclear reflections and followers.
    - Rather than knowing, I am here to discover and experience.
    - No reputation can trump who I am, ragged or smooth.
    - Love flows from its source. Let me love you.
    - No pain, sorrow, grief, or shame is greater than the growth offered in exchange.
    - I am ... from the beginning designed to realize ... this life in every moment.

I can live out of one space or the other, but not both. 

When I attempt "love through fear" I wear a wall and poke small holes of condescension or concern, then slip my offering with gloved fingers to be caught by the *other* or to fall into the dust. 

After all the effort, I am offended when my contribution isn't recognized. "I tried so hard! You wasted it!" 

Or if they accept, the gift comes wrapped with the inevitable pain of encountering my fear.  

Love is simply present and unassuming. Love is vulnerable and secure. 

Love looks past the fear that twists the vision of those who cause harm, and recognizes the trapped soul hidden beneath that shell as one-who-is-like-me. And so love forgives the soul within the shell for being lost, alone, confused, over-confident, and afraid ... because I am so often there, too.

So when my false self steps forward to act out the traditional plays. When my feelings rise up to scream that I am threatened. When I'm angry, bitter, lonely, or completely right ... 

I'm learning to step back and say, "Ah, she thinks that she is me, again. What lie is she reacting to this time?" 

And the answer to that lie is always ... to love and be loved.

I wonder what it will look like to live real?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Loving the wounded ... bearing witness with courage

It is a raging kind of agony to encounter the wounds others have left in a life I consider precious. I don't know what to do or say ... perhaps there is nothing I can do or say.

And when the response to my offer of connection is a firm request to stay away (even though I am treasured) and leave their pain alone; saying that it is enough to value me at a distance loving others and they desire nothing more than to be left behind their walls?

I feel like a traitor to accept that limitation. And yet, given the wounds so easily seen, to ignore this request would only be another act of disrespect in a long line of betrayal.

I want to storm into the past and find the weapons that drove my friend into the darkness. I want to fling the words and actions aside before they strike and tell the blind fools who couldn't see the treasure to open up their eyes.

It is all I can do to honor the suffering of others by seeing it clearly, especially when there is nothing I can do to change the story. It is a constant, ragged scream of agony that leaves me feeling torn, weak, and useless. It would be easier to ignore destruction and pretend not to see. Not only in beloved friends, but the myriad of others in similar circumstances....

Easier ... but then I would be part of the darkness as well.

When I have the chance, I will reach out.... Though I cannot heal the world on my own, I can at least be different than those who unthinkingly or consciously destroy. And if I find a way ... I will live a healing life!

I will!

Oh, I hope I can find the strength ...

Inside my own heart I contain the capacity to wound others.
By my own actions I could cause such injury that it lasts a lifetime.

When I see the consequences of such disregard in others, I am driven to turn upon my own tendency toward fear, separation, and judgement and raise a guard against such tragedy with love, connection, and acceptance. Can I protect even the few I am capable of reaching? I don't know.

I will at least do this much.

I will choose to allow the light to rule my life, though I risk suffering under the grinding attack of darkness to do so.

Beneath that vast footprint, I will find the discarded treasures.

If there is only a single drop of beauty left in this world, then that is what I will cherish.

I will search and find hope in the darkest places.

If this is all I can do, then I will invest the best of my ability in loving well.

I hope, someday, if I am ever invited into my friend's injured heart ... that I will not cause further harm.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

a SHOCKING discovery! I actually LIKE who I am?

I hate myself! I shouldn't be like this. I shouldn't like this. I shouldn't want this. I can't pursue this. I'm not worthy of this. I can't be like him/her/them. I don't look right. I don't think right. I don't act right. I'm not disciplined enough to be different. I hate myself! How could anyone like me? 

I've lived most of my life carrying this inner refrain, echoing through the empty spaces, whenever I gave myself room to think. The other day Nick and I were talking about identity and insecurity.

Nick:  I'm not sure I like myself.
Me:  But I like you very much!
Nick:  I know.
(A brief pause occurs as I suddenly realize I can't say what I had been about to say: "I struggle with liking myself, too.")
Me:  in an awed voice You know what? I just realized I like myself!
Nick: What?

Now, let me re-interpret that inner voice from the past, based on the rest of our conversation and my continued thoughts on this discovery. I have been told by many that who I am is unacceptable.

Others think I shouldn't be like this, and attack me for it. Others think I shouldn't like this and laugh at me. Others think I shouldn't want this and judge me. Others don't want me to pursue this and maybe they're right. Others suggest I'm not worthy and they ought to know. Others act differently than I do, maybe it's because they're better than me. Others accept people who look different from me, probably because those looks are better. Others think differently from me and expect me to think the same as them. Others act differently from me and I don't know how to imitate them. Others hate who I am, and so I should hate myself, too.  

Realization: Others find it easy to be different from me ... because they actually are different people. I like people who are themselves, but I don't always want to be them. And I definitely don't want them to be me, because then they wouldn't be who they are!

Did I ever hate ME?... Did I ever really hate who I am?

Or did I just hate the obvious gap between who I was and what others seemed to expect of me?

I don't think I even looked directly at myself during all those years. Not clearly. Not without obstruction.

I could only see who I wasn't. And of course that's a hateful perspective. It's completely negative and also blocks any glimpse of the positives.

I set myself up to lose by only seeing negative contrasts ... and so I lost myself.

From the very beginning, however, my favorite moments in life were the moments where I was secretly me. The ones where nobody knew to judge me, because they didn't see me being me. And sometimes, rare and beautiful, the moments where someone appreciated me being myself. I collected them like treasures.

Sitting tucked beneath the library window, reading in the midst of shimmering dust motes, thinking my own thoughts where nobody could see. Escapes hidden in the branches of a tree, dreaming of the sky. Reaching out and becoming the unexpected gift of presence to a friend who hadn't known that I could be there for them in that way. Times I spoke from the depths of my existence, and my voice was heard with surprised appreciation.

These were the times when I let myself out of the box of my inability to be someone else. Moments like deep gasps of air that kept me alive until I learned to choose to be me out of all the smothering possibilities I couldn't absorb.

Now that I think about it, the person I hated ... the part I hated the most ... was the part who tried to be anyone else but myself. That "person who would never succeed at not being me" hurt me deeply by not being me. Believing the lies about who I should be damaged me.

I couldn't see that it was okay to be myself because I was surrounded by people who would hurt me for that, too. Even when others valued me, it took years to realize I could believe them.

These days I'm experimenting to learn how to be myself. It's sometimes hard to know what is really me, because I spent so much of my time trying to stop that reality. One thing I'm discovering, though ...

I really like who I am! It's amazing.

Those moments that shine?... I have them all the time, now.

And, looking back,... being accepted as myself marks the times I've always valued. Being accepted as someone else always felt fake, which was part of why it was so painful to not be me. That I secretly liked who I am is probably why I could never really eliminate myself entirely.

I'm so thankful to the maker of meaning for my intrinsic design.
I'm glad I exist, because I have value and love to offer those who need me.
I'm amazed at and grateful for who I am becoming.

I like myself!

Wow ... who would have guessed I could ever say this? I can't even type those words without tears filling my eyes.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Yesterday I realized WHY I need to admit my depression and ask friends for help ...

Over the years, deep channels of belief in my lack of worth grew in my mind. Long-standing patterns of thought that ruled without much challenge, because I really was treated like I was worthless for many years.  

I don't always know when I'm being swept away by that pattern of self-hatred, because the thoughts are so familiar that they don't feel like lies to me. 

1. I often project that old pattern of self-hate on someone else, even friends, and believe they are the ones who think this way of me.

2. I believe I deserve to be disliked, and feel the need to apologize to my friends for giving them reasons to want to pull away. Even though I'm usually the only one who thinks this in the first place.

3. I respond with fear and over-react to normal changes in interaction, since my friends are sometimes busy and have social lives. Even though these friendships and activities are things I 100% support and encourage, because I love seeing my friends succeed and find happiness.

At some point over the past years, I realized it helps to contact my friends when I get into this state, instead of assuming it will burden them, though I hadn't clearly defined why ... other than noticing they do cheer me up somehow. 

Now ***CONTACT FRIENDS!!!*** is the first thing on my to-do list .... when I admit I'm actually depressed and not "merely having a bad day." And that contact has to specifically admit that I'm slipping into depression. 

If I hide it, I don't find the help I need. 
If I don't trust/believe them, I won't benefit, either.

I need both honesty and trust to gain anything from connecting to my friends. I used to sabotage their help by saying, "You don't know!" or thinking "You must be saying this just to be nice!" ... I treated them like liars and fools instead of the trustworthy and kind people I knew they were. Incredibly, they stuck it out till I learned to believe them.

Today I'm writing out the realization I came to yesterday, sorted out in a series of conversations, starting while I was still completely blind to the fact that I was lying to myself. There's a reason why I need to contact others ... and a reason why it helps if they're good friends or at least positive and kind people. 

I still don't know what set me off this time. 

Emotionally, I'm always unstable at this time of month, but I usually don't end up in a blind depression anymore. (Now that I think about it, that's a huge success! There was a time when I couldn't expect even one good day in a month, and now I'm concerned when I slip into the darkness for a few hours.)

It took me nearly all day to admit I couldn't handle it by myself, though. 

I kept telling myself it was only natural to feel so disappointed over a series of unexpected events, starting with missing a long-wished-for, real-life meeting with my internet friend (Slim) because my car wouldn't start.... Nick was busy this past week, so our communications were less transparent.... I've had more interaction than usual with X and even though it was positive or neutral in tone, I'm always on the edge of a breakdown when we have to connect. 


The first revelation arrived during an incredible phone conversation with Seung Chan Lim (Slim) while he waited for his plane. He presents a beautiful and easily understandable perspective on building an honest connection with others in his book, Realizing Empathy. At one point he said, "At the end of my presentations, I always end up saying, 'I hope this was helpful,' and then I wonder if that's a bad thing. Do I really need to ask them? Shouldn't I just feel confident?"

Even as I told him that I think it's a mark of strength to know you need affirmation and encouragement, and to have the courage to ask for it, I realized that this is one of the reasons I need to talk to friends when I'm depressed. I would never have learned to see myself differently without them handing me a different view in a direct challenge to the negative thoughts I communicated to them. 

There might come a day when Slim no longer feels the need to ask, after building a strong foundation of positive responses. And it is wise to choose to build that foundation. He might never reach a level of confidence that frees him to be even bolder with his message without gathering evidence that proves it has value to others, also. And what he has to say is something people need, desperately, to hear. Every bit of courage he gathers will enable him to share that gift with others even more. 

We are social creatures and it is obvious that everything we do affects others. Since we can't read minds, it's good to ask and learn instead of assuming we can project an accurate assessment of their thoughts. We do not know unless we ask and receive honest feedback. And seeing the truth in others takes empathy. 


Next in my process of revelation, take a look at what happened when I guessed at what Nick was thinking during yesterday's depression. I'm not the only one. Society trains us to think negatively first, I think. Nearly everyone I've ever interacted with has a tendency to do this to some extent, especially artists and people who see differently than the social norm. 

Here are a few sections from the email I wrote Mica when I finally realized it was time to ask for help. Then I'll explain the contrast in perspective that soon followed.
I'm so lonely right now. Nick is difficult to connect with, and I think he's overwhelmed because I feel it so much when he's busy and can't talk. I'm on my period, which makes the feeling so much stronger. I hate this. Why can't I be okay with being so far away from him? 
I went on like this for several paragraphs, then:
I'm afraid. I'm afraid. I don't like being alone, and I wonder if I will be. If I'm too intense for Nick, then who could handle it? 
Note how I say, "I think he's overwhelmed," and "I'm too intense for Nick." <-- THAT, right there, is projecting my thoughts onto Nick.

Nick isn't like that. My relationship with X, however, was very much like this. Since I was caught up in my emotional residue from the past, I couldn't see that I wasn't thinking about Nick's thoughts at all. This feeling overwhelmed me in spite of the fact that we had really good conversations earlier in the day and over the past few days.

In other words, I was in the middle of an emotional landmine. Nick wasn't the cause of my feelings. And I had no clue ... at all ... that I wasn't seeing clearly. I really believed Nick must be secretly thinking these thoughts even though:

1. Nick doesn't think I'm too intense at all, and really appreciates how I think and explain things to the point where he always thanks me for it.

2. If he's overwhelmed or feeling pressured by anything I say or do, then he talks it through with me and doesn't ever keep his feelings a secret or just start avoiding me without explanation.

Finally, late last night, after posting that I was slipping into depression to a small group of good friends, and writing the email detailing my feelings to Mica ... I realized I should talk to Nick, too, and give him a chance to tell me what he really thinks.

This is the message I wrote for Mica after that phone conversation.
so you don't worry ... Nick called as soon as he left the party and we talked. He took my fears and proved they weren't worth worrying about, just like that. (By being himself.) Accepted me as I am, and made me feel safe again. He said, "We're not just best friends. It's something more, but there isn't a definition for it." He also told me that wild horses couldn't drag him away ... LOL so amazing, dear. How can I so easily forget how deeply he accepts and loves me? 
Feeling lonely was real. But the fear that came out of the loneliness was just the past blinding me, and not Nick at all. I just needed to see it, and it was there all the time. Thankfully he doesn't mind reminding me.

I still think there's something wrong with me, not to see through the lies I tell myself when I'm depressed. I wonder why I can't get out of it by myself. And yet, it's amazing to realize that a huge reason I need my friends is because they see differently than I do.

When I need an alternate perspective ... especially when I'm caught up in an emotional landmine ... my friends can snap me out of it just like that. Just because they see from a different perspective. Because they actually know what they are thinking and are capable of correcting my false impressions like Nick did in our call last night.


Also .... because they can take my negative perspective on an actual disappointment:

"Slim and I couldn't visit, after all, just because of my stupid car. All he had time for was to drive up to my door, give me a hug, and drive back to the airport. Ugh ... I missed out!"

And change it to a positive realization:

"Wow! It's so cool that he thought it was important enough to meet you that he took the time to drive over and actually stop by for a minute, even though he was worried he'd be late for his flight!"

You know ... I'm not disappointed anymore, because when you look at it that way, I was given an incredible gift yesterday. And Slim and I got to have a insightful, empathetic, and honest conversation on the phone. I hope it's the first of many.


I'm so grateful for the people who see things differently than I do.

I'm thankful for my friends, who have taught me to trust them.

It's such a relief to know that when I'm lying to myself, my friends can tell me the truth.

And when I'm blind to the good things in life, they can help remove the distortions so I can see beauty again.

It's really amazingly simple, isn't it? And it works every single time, even though I STILL think it couldn't possibly help ... every single time. Heh!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In which he dreams about being engaged, and I realize I'm not being entirely honest with myself yet.

Recently I've been dreaming of Nick a lot. I don't have romantic dreams ... thankfully ... I'm not sure how I'd cope with that just now. Usually we're helping our friends on some epic quest, or I wake up convinced he's sleeping beside me, with a sense of support and comfort. I forget most of them ... keeping only the emotional memory of a dream with Nick, usually a residual feeling of confidence. 

Last night he dreamed of me. Since he's losing his voice right now, he typed it out in hangouts, and I have to admit I'm impatient for him to get his voice back for more than health, now. I want to hear his voice to get a real sense of  his internal process, because writing isn't his thing. 

The crazy part is that he dreamed a specific scenario that has been on my mind as I face the lingering romantic attraction I feel toward him. I never told him about it, because ... I'm in denial. 

He typed, "I had a dream that we got into a decade long engagement before getting married. Like 9 or 10 years!! The biggest irony is that after it all the dream ends with us setting a date and I get nervous cold feet about it. The marriage part is what woke me up." 

I've been thinking how difficult it is to even consider a romantic relationship right now, and not only because I panic every time I become interested in anyone. I can't easily move for the next 5-6 years while the kids are still legally attached to their father. Also, for the next ten years the kids will still be in school or college and that will affect my choices, too. Then, I'd need to find someone who can handle the fact that I fully intend to live in assorted countries for at least a few years, and possibly be somewhat nomadic for the rest of my life. 

I thought, even before I met Nick, that I should just see who ends up walking beside me over these coming years, and see whether we want to keep going on through life together once I'm finally out of the home-parenting stage. I'm not convinced there is anyone out there who could handle my specific set of circumstances "in a relationship" right now. 

So, yeah, long engagements without confidence for marriage, even after all that time.... 

I swear he read my mind with his dream. 

My reaction was a jumble of laughter, because the dream seemed so out of character for Nick (Does he ever think about getting engaged to anyone?... a question I want to ask now.) and a sudden rush of fear and introspection, which I unsuccessfully tried to communicate with him. It didn't help that he kept typing questions marks, leading me to explain further ... and dig myself in deeper without having a real sense of his response. 

So, yeah, ... chat isn't the place for depth with Nick. 

If I'd realized what I was going to do to myself, I would have saved it for voice once he recovers, because that's our communication-norm. I might not have gotten overwhelmed if I could have heard his tone in response to my craziness,... although I didn't realize I'd destabilize in the first place. Hindsight and all that. 

Humor quickly spun into panic. 

I feel both a very strong desire to be with Nick in a platonic, best-friends-forever way, and a desperate fear of my inclination to wonder about more. I know how crazy it makes me feel to even think about how our romantic-relationship needs for freedom and security could so easily clash and hurt us both, so I consciously put up a defensive wall around that idea and refuse to think about it. 

His dream knocked a hole through my self-protection, exposing strong ideas and feelings on the other side. 

I don't do well when I feel misunderstood, especially about relationship factors. While I trust him to accept me and work through stuff ... I also hate, hate, hate it when anything comes between us even for a few minutes. I told him I was feeling emotionally unsteady and he firmly reassured me that he didn't think my reaction was a big deal. Thankfully, I'm not losing my mind here. 

That's a huge thing for me. I trusted his word, and my emotions stabilized. A few years ago I'd have gone into at least a week of depression over that awkward conversation, convinced he was lying about it being okay, and reviewing it over and over in remembrance of how truly terrible I had been. Today, I'm not worried. I'd have to look up the conversation  to remember what we said. 

All the same, now I know something lurks ... or so it seems. *sigh*

I wonder if my wall will grow back before he regains his voice? If so, we might not talk about it again. I'm okay with not facing that particular emotional landmine just yet. Maybe never. I don't mind plateauing for a time. Sometimes I wish growing could wait while I just feel okay for a while. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Learning to accept "You're Beautiful"

For some reason it's the sweet old lady who told me I have a cute butt at the laundromat all those years ago who stands out in my mind even today as the one who gave me the most exceptional compliment. Perhaps it was the incongruity of the moment.

Why is it that everyone who compliments me gets labeled "creepy" in my mind?... even sweet little old ladies.

As a teen I felt certain I was plain. Not ugly. Not lovely. Just ... invisible and sometimes gross or annoying. Boys didn't notice me much. The explanation seemed obvious.

At first X called me beautiful like it made him look better, too. Wandering hands as proof of his words. Yet he worried constantly about how I was letting myself go, pointed out I shouldn't eat certain snacks or gain weight, complained about my preference not to wear makeup, fought to put me in "sexier outfits" ... so I'd look closer to his ideal.

He was always pushing for change.

My overall impression was that he felt I needed fixing to be presentable, and in the end his compliments couldn't reach me through the scars of everything else he thought of me.  I was unacceptable to him, and at some point I came to believe than anyone who gave me a compliment must have ulterior motives.

I sometimes wonder if the elderly church ladies noticed when I tensed up under their comments. "You're so pretty!" "You look so good in that outfit!"

"Why don't they compliment something more intrinsically who I am?" I used to sigh.

I couldn't take them seriously as anything other than nice people offering social flattery. But it turns out I have a hard time accepting compliments on my thoughts or actions, too. I still freeze up when Nick compliments me on an insight or thanks me for help, even though I know without a doubt that he's 100% sincere. 

I feel like explaining or apologizing for somehow misrepresenting myself as having value.  It took a lot of work to learn to simply say "thank you" and even longer to realize people are sincere.

So when my new friend D recently told me straight out, "You are objectively beautiful....You could be a model." I felt that internal shield blaze up under the challenge of his words. He became a suspicious person before my eyes. It took a moment to quell that sudden push-back, and I took the easy way out by reminding myself he's an artist.  Artist's are allowed to have good imaginations, right?... and to see value where others do not.... 

I'm still learning to make space for the things I struggle to believe by repeating the new story people live out for me. It takes time and experience to replace the ingrained, habitual thought pattern. I have to consciously take compliments out of the spam folder in my mind, dust them off, and recognize them as serious input. 

Do I trust D?... I don't know him well enough to do so without hesitation.

However, I'm not going to learn whether he is trustworthy by tagging him "suspicious" over a simple compliment. I've learned it's better to give people space to be who they are, and to recognize their complexity as innate. He has many friends, and I think part of that is because he informs people when he appreciates something about them. 

I'm actually more worried about being rejected for who I am.... If I link D to this blog what will he think of me? His response won't change what I'm learning from our interaction now, though ...

I wonder why it even feels important. I told Ree the other day that maybe this is what bothers me....


Why on earth does this self-awareness that is only a value-less comparison to air-brushed ideals prevent me from interacting with people without those thoughts intruding? It would be good to feel comfortable with my body like I am with my clothing style.... Only in this case, I have what I was given from birth. I don't want my kids to see themselves this way. I want to demonstrate a better path.

The only thing I can change is my perspective.

I became confident in social situations by acting confident and learning I can pull it off.

I made friends by trusting and caring first, until I found those who would not betray me. 

This is one of the reasons I choose to model for friends's art and take self-portraits. If I put myself out there in a place where my view might be challenged, I can see myself through other eyes.

I like what my friends see ... so eventually, I may find a new perspective through the art they make and the words they speak.

Until then ... I'll keep wondering and over-thinking it, because that is what happens between not-knowing and knowing ... and KNOWING. I suppose it's a sign of growth that I'm even willing to challenge this long-held view of myself. 

I model for Miha from time to time.... (because she's my best friend, and I trust her.) She has been working to gradually erode my resistance. D's compliments have taken their place as external confirmation of her words.

Maybe I will see myself as art someday ... or maybe it has already started. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Living the infinite JOURNEY in 2014

Last year was a year of letting go the past, of reaching and failing, of trying again and realizing I already had what I needed.

This year my word for the year is


Because I'm already moving and I want to keep going.

Because I don't want to change my life, I want to explore it.

Because I'm not resolving to do or to be anything other than who and what I already am. Only more so ... and more ... until I forget what it is like to TRY to be myself and simply AM by design.

My journey teaches me who I must be by exposing me to new situations and unveiling the responses already ingrained. It gathers experiences into my mind and collates and conjoins them in sometimes-inappropriate ways.

I'm not setting goals.

I'm finding them by traveling unexpected pathways and involving myself in unforeseen events, always with a personal intentionality to expand who I am within reality where it is uncovered most naturally in every day choices.

I aspire to be myself now, wherever I am, to bring my particular nexus of experience and ideas in exchange for connection with yours, theirs, hers, his,... OUR visions woven in possibilities and practicalities.

This journey is infinite, and so am I. (Finite and Infinite Games, by Carse ... Read it!)

So I will learn and change and grow every breath of every day so time will track the differences in quick moments flowing fast. There are no limits to what might be open to me if I open my eyes to see.

There is no end to this journey. If I think I've arrived, then I've fallen again.

I wonder who I will be next year? and the next? and the next?

I've found a path of discovery, and I've been traveling for a much longer time than I once understood. You are, too. You don't even need to try.

Just notice the changes as time pulls you through life, and when you see an opportunity to be yourself ... live it.


This post is linked to the writing prompt, below.
Click through the image to read more articles on the topic.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

He doesn't say what I expect him to say ...

"It's not that I don't want you to pay me," I told him.

"Just don't tell me you're paying me ahead of time, and then I don't mind if you give me whatever you think it's worth after I'm done, since I'd do this to help you anyway."

Nick fell silent for a moment and the phone-line hissed as he exhaled. "I can't figure you out. Why can't I just tell you I'll pay you to help me as my manager?... Might have to sleep on this one and talk about it tomorrow." 

As he pondered over his dilemma, I tried to figure out why he was so confused. Why is it so difficult to understand that I'm actually de-motivated by money,... by official transactions of any kind, really? 

Of course, being my perspective, it naturally makes sense to me ... or, at least, it did until I asked myself why I think this way. 

Is there a difference in how I would invest my effort between me volunteering to help him out with paperwork and calls and him asking me to do these things for pay? 

Wouldn't I be doing the same work for the same reasons, with the bonus of a financial reward? 

It's not like him paying me actually makes me less willing to help, does it?

I don't mind him paying me after the fact, so why can't I accept the agreement?

I don't remember what Nick finally said that made me realize what was going on, but it suddenly clicked in my head. Sure, this way of thinking is normal for me. I've been doing it for years, in all sorts of situations. It's one of the reasons I don't have a regular income ... aside from the state of my health. 

But it isn't necessarily normal to think this way. (Really?)

I have been actively avoiding any official responsibility for helping Nick, while putting in as much effort as I would if I were working for him. I do the same when I help any of my friends with their businesses.

This mentality is actually one of the emotional landmines I've been running into for a longer time than I can remember. 

It doesn't come with panic attacks and nightmares, but rather such a subtle effect that I've been looking at my resistance to "promised pay" until after I've completed my "volunteered work" for years without understanding that it's even a problem. 

It's easy to disguise this landmine as spontaneous generosity, since I do enjoy helping people. I've explained it that way for years. Most people look at me funny, then shrug and go along with it. They don't care if they're paying me for work I've already completed, since they intended to pay me all along. 

However, if my "enjoyment of helping" was the full story, then I wouldn't struggle to keep working when people pay me in advance or ask me to be officially in charge of something. I wouldn't feel so overwhelmed at the mere idea of responsibility. 


X (and I) supported ourselves with an online business for several years, early in our marriage. He called it his business, but all the less glamorous aspects gradually became my responsibility, since he had no intention of putting in the time for them and I was conveniently available to help for free. 

I had struggled with housework from the beginning, and two toddlers overwhelmed me further (especially since his mother had apparently been capable of having small children while maintaining gleaming glass and chrome furniture. You can imagine how the comparisons went from there.) 

I often dropped into a fog of timeless incomprehension that I have now learned is a symptom of complete emotional overload that would have set off emergency alarms with anyone trained in psychology.

However, building the business was interesting, and I offered to help early on. I enjoyed the article writing, site design, e-book construction, copy editing, etc. At first I was glad to supplement his efforts, because for once he was grateful for me. Even if he was upset about a mess around the house, he would be pleased with my help on the websites because he hadn't expected it of me, and my help was valuable to him. 

Then the workload grew heavier and heavier. I began to struggle to keep up as X gave me long lists of things to write, research, build, edit, confirm, and on and on. 

His anger about the state of the apartment continued, even when he knew I was spending long hours working on "his business" ... yet he continued to leave those chores to me as well. If X stepped in to help it was with the expectation that I would then maintain the area he cleaned to his standards, in return for his grand gesture of assisting the hopeless. 

His gratitude for my unexpected help with the business quickly became a long list of expectations, and then demands I couldn't fulfill because I didn't know how. When he didn't make as much money as expected or when something went wrong, X raged at me, sometimes for weeks. Some things came up again and again for years. 

Every failure and inability became a weapon against me, and I believed I deserved it. Eventually my health degraded to the point where I couldn't even try to help. Even though he still blamed me for failing him, I felt relieved. I was suffering anyway, but at least then it was for something I hadn't even tried to do, not for doing my best and still not being enough. 


Last night as I spoke on the phone with Nick, he asked a question that suddenly made me remember those years and years of effort. As I did my best to explain those experiences to him, he surprised me by getting it ... even before I completely understood why I was remembering those times just then.

"Oh, I've been accidentally triggering those feelings, haven't I?" His voice was so gentle that I almost cried. "I could sense something was off in your hesitation, and I think that's it."

Even now, as I type, my eyes fill with tears at the memory of that moment. 

"It's okay." He continued. "You just need practice." 

My mind immediately progressed to how I would learn to be confident enough about helping him that I wouldn't feel overwhelmed by any task. I would keep trying!

What he said next was completely unexpected. "Just tell me 'No' as much as you want...."

"What?" I couldn't have heard him right. 

He continued quietly, "I have a hard time saying 'No' sometimes, too, but it helps to practice." 

I couldn't figure out what to say to that. Why would I tell him "no" when I want to help? 

"I'll just ask you to explain how to do it until I feel confident," I suggested.

"Hmm ... that's fine, too. But I want you to say 'NO' as an experiment. Find opportunities to say it, and see how I respond." He sounded so calm--so accepting--that I could hardly believe this was a real conversation. "You can tell me you don't want to do anything, and I'll understand. Tell me 'No!' until you really believe that it's okay and feel comfortable saying it." 

I'm still realizing the implications of his words.

He didn't say what I expect him to say! 

"You can do it!" 

"Keep trying!"

"I'll help you learn how!"

Instead, he told me I could stop any time. 


In contrast, I realized again that what I expect of men ... of people in general ... is really, truly awful. 

Inevitably selfish expectations first. 

I insist on being spontaneous in giving my time and effort because I don't ever want anyone to stand over me, expecting I do more than I thought I was offering to do, yelling, angry, upset because I haven't done it right or didn't finish in time. 

I don't want to disappoint anyone, because that disappointment calls up the old pain.

It's easier to make sure nobody depends on me for anything.


The truth is, I really don't HAVE TO do anything? 

I can change my mind, stop, say "no" ... and life will go on. I'm still trying to understand how this realization could change my world. Nick is probably going to have to remind me a lot, until it sinks in. 

It's okay to take responsibility for helping someone and to still say "no more" if it becomes too much. 

It's okay to set limits even when I'm officially being paid to manage online communications. 

It's okay to ask for help. 

It's okay not to understand how to do something and even to choose not to learn how if I don't want to. 

It's okay to say, "I can't do this." 

It's okay to be overwhelmed. 

It's okay to be Nick's "official manager" and it won't prevent us from being friends. 

I can act from generosity even if I'm being paid.... or, at least, that is what I think I'm discovering. 


Just the thought of having someone depend on me makes me so terrified that I want to run and hide. 

I have a commission right now that I want to complete. It's an interesting project. And I haven't started,... because it is a commission ... so I'm afraid there are expectations I won't meet.

The worst that can possibly happen is she'll say it's not for her and then I won't ask her to pay for it. She is definitely not going to be angry. Why would that thought stop me? I do this type of thing for free all the time.

I think I'll go play with that project now. It should be fun. 

Let's see if I can get past this fear.