The Desert (Fiction)

06-03 desert landscape

I felt as if I’d been under the blistering sun for twenty-eight hours straight, but I knew that was impossible.  As far as I could see, stubby, brittle clumps of plant barely-life dotted the landscape.  Desperate for some cover, I crouched under a sage bush.  Well, it was more beside than under.  I heard rustling and saw dead leaves ripple away from me.  I told myself it was a lizard.  That was one of the least scary perpetrators.    Scorpions, rattlesnakes, centipedes, spiders-

A shadow gliding across the cracked dirt around me caught my eye and my attention turned away from things that slither and crawl.  I squinted my eyes and scanned the cloudless sky for the shadow’s owner.  Just then, he made another pass and swooped lower.  I know I must have imagined it, but I swore he slowed down and looked me in the eyes.  “I’m not dead yet!” I yelled, and threw a clump of dirt in his general direction.  It didn’t come close to hitting him, but the vulture seemed to accept my answer and ascended again.

I knew he’d be back.

I’d only been in the desert for a few days and I already decided Arizona was not a hospitable host in June.  My friends back home encouraged me to drive across the country.  My journey from Ohio to California was something like a tribute to feminist movement and a salute to independence of the fairer sex.  To my every protest, my friends had an answer.

“What if I get lost?”

“Then you take a road you wouldn’t have found otherwise.”

“What if my car breaks down?”

“Then you see someplace new while it’s being repaired.”

“What if I run out of money?”

“Then you discover that God provides.”

Yeah.  I wondered why God hadn’t provided a tree, or something taller than 3 feet for shade.  I wondered why God hadn’t produced a stream flowing with cool water.  I wondered why God hadn’t given me sense of direction so I didn’t get lost in the first place.  I drew my legs to my chest, rested my forehead on my knees and cried until I was too tired to cry anymore.  I may have napped, I’m not sure.

The rumble overhead was like a supernatural nudge on the shoulder.  I looked up to find the cloudless sky replaced by a thick wall of clouds that stretched from the southern horizon to almost overhead.  Nothing moved, yet the atmosphere surged with life.  The rumbling rolled around me with such emphasis that I was certain the ground vibrated beneath me.

That was all the warning I got before the downpour.  I didn’t try to avoid the wet, but instead, turned my face upward to soak it all in.  The rain came so heavy, it stung my skin as the fat drops pelted my face, but I was so dry and thirsty I didn’t want to shield myself from it.

Just as suddenly as it began, the rain stopped.

I looked around in awe.  The parched ground, now riddled with streams of water that had been unable to soak into the hardened soil.  Just when I thought the show was over, a brilliant rainbow stretched across the sky in front of me.

I was still lost and tired, but instead of anger and frustration, I felt peace.  The kind of peace that only happens when I realize God provided exactly what I needed, at just the right moment.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

I haven’t written fiction in I-don’t-know-how long.  This one came to me when I took a break from moving rocks to drainage areas in my yard.  (It is HOT, by the way!)  I noticed a shadow move across the driveway and disappear.  It was a hawk.  The bird did this several times before moving on.  It will soon be monsoon season (mid-June through mid-September) here in Arizona and monsoon storms can be breathtaking.  Unlike the dust storms, which are breathtaking because the inhaled dirt literally makes it hard to breathe 🙂  My thoughts have kind of been on being mindful of blessings, because this can sustain during periods when joy is effort.  (The “desert” times of life). Anyway, thanks for reading! This just goes to show, you never know what I’ll write 🙂

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Three “R”s and the Friday Effect

06-02 Relaxing
Relaxation… taking in the moment is good

I haven’t always been grateful for my life and I still struggle with being thankful for a life that isn’t what I wanted, or imagined it would be.  The good news is, I’m finding when I stop “doing” and focus on “being”, I can catch some much-needed moments of peace.

It’s easy for me to get caught up in my “to do” list and finding worth in the number of items I cross off it.  After going to the grocery store and putting the groceries away (crossed that off my list!) I decided to take a few minutes and rest on my front porch.  The sun had already set, but darkness hadn’t taken over yet.  The wind chimes hanging over the edge of the deck made beautiful music, which helped me relax in the moment.

My gaze went past my feet propped on the railing and through the thick tree branches.  Instead of dwelling on the things that bring me down, my thoughts went to what is good.  In those minutes alone- taking in the breeze, listening to wind chimes, as the light gave way to darkness, I became conscious of the thought that I was thankful to have a house with a deck, with beautiful trees in front of me.  I looked to my left and saw my continuing project.

06-02 Rocks
Rocks… this pile will line drainage paths – before monsoon rains come, I hope!

And then I thought how thankful I was to have the money to pay for the rocks.  I don’t have the money to pay someone to move it for me, but that’s okay.  At least I am able to do it myself.  Look at that, another item for my mental after-sunset “thankful” list!

It was after 8pm when I went inside.  I debated about whether to fix something for dinner.  Since it’s just me and I didn’t have the kids, I decided to be cat-like in my choices…

06-02 Roxy
Roxy… snoozing on the counter (like she’s not supposed to) because no one was looking

… since no one was looking, I had an ice cream sandwich for dinner.  I don’t eat those often, so it sure was yummy (and I can be thankful that I can work it off tomorrow!)  Not even the prospect of getting outside by 6am to make the rock pile smaller dampened my mood.

Maybe it’s the Friday Effect (no work for 2 days) or maybe I’m finally seeing a shaft of  light at the end of my long, dark tunnel. Either way,  I’ll take it 🙂

Have a beautiful weekend!

Should’ve Known Better

My stubbornness isn’t news to me.  I’ve often joked that, “stubbornness is associated with my astrological sign, but I refuse to believe it.”  But it’s only in hindsight I can really see how strong my stubbornness is.  Sometimes stubborn is good – it can mean perseverance in difficult times which leads to triumph.  It can also mean a refusal to see what should be obvious.

None of these last few posts have been easy to write, but this one literally kept me awake at night because I knew I needed to write it, but I don’t really want to.  It’s 3 am and after being awake since midnight, I gave in and fired up the computer.

Several years ago, an old friend from high school stumbled upon my writing blog.  It was a crazy coincidence and we emailed periodically.  Things changed a couple years later when I started writing about the end of my marriage.  In particular, a poem about the drinking caught his attention.  He admitted that he, too, had been an alcoholic. He revealed more about his life that happened in the 23 years we weren’t in contact and I admired his honesty.  As I struggled with the decision of whether to end my marriage or continue the lie, he encouraged me to seek God for the answer.  This was always a struggle because God hates divorce, however, my marriage was destroying what little was left of me.

It wasn’t until after I filed for divorce that my friend revealed that “he cared for me more than the world says he should.”  I didn’t know what that meant.  He told me that in high school, he always went to the fast food place I worked at to see me.  I just thought he liked cheap food – I really had no idea.  He told me that he always liked my hair and my smile and when I laughed, it made him happy.  He graduated a year before me and went into the Army.  We wrote for a while (he still had the letters) but then drifted apart.  My senior year, I wrote a poem about him that was published in the school district literary magazine.  It was about feeling more than I should for my friend.

He lived across the country but I saw him in 2015 when he came to visit his parents.  We met for lunch,  I had hoped that seeing him would put an end to the crazy attachment I had for him.  He mentioned several times he was overweight, or his shape was round.  My ex had gained a lot of weight and I found it “gross”, so I figured when I saw my friend’s appearance, I would get past what I thought I felt.

I didn’t.  I saw him for the first time in 25 years and he hugged me.  My world was crumbling around me, but when he hugged me, I felt like I would be okay.  I felt safe.  I’d never felt like that before and I knew I loved him.  He said he’d never forgotten me all those years, and had called my parents’ house when he filed for divorce in 2000, but he thought my dad said I’d passed away several years ago.  My dad mumbles so I think he might’ve said he gave me away several years ago.  It was like my childhood fantasies were coming true – I was beautiful to him and he would rescue me.

There were several problems though.  The biggest:  he was still married.  He didn’t get divorced in 2000.  He said there was no chance for his marriage and it was “empty”.  I told him to keep praying for his marriage because God can work miracles.  I stopped contact with him several times – I really wanted him to work on his marriage because it would spare me the guilt over my feelings.  That didn’t happen.

In 2016, he applied for a job in Arizona with his company and he got it.  He would live about two hours away from me.  We went hiking a few times and met for lunch, and he helped with some things around my house that I couldn’t do myself.  I was bothered that he said his marriage was done but his wife was still moving with their high-school-age son (their daughter had already moved out).  However, I could understand he wanted to be near his son.  I couldn’t imagine living across the country from my child.

Things went too far last summer.  His wife knew and contacted me.  I avoided her.  I had no explanation and I knew I was wrong.  I thought that would finally get things out in the open, and bring about some honesty, but no.  They didn’t talk about it and are still married today.

I stopped contact with him again in February of this year.  Then I got a mother’s day card in the mail from him.  I was hurt/angry/shocked.  I ripped it to shreds.  The next day, I emailed him (I deleted his contact info but I remembered his email address.)  I told him that if it was him, I didn’t know why he would do that.  He did admit to sending the card but didn’t sign his name because he didn’t know how I would take it.  He said the more he tried to talk himself out of sending it, the more he felt he needed to, and he hoped I enjoyed the card.

Oh, he had no idea!

I told him that I knew there was no future for us and I hoped that he realized the same so he could stop being stubborn and stupid, and work on his marriage.  I told him I felt like he played me, took advantage of my vulnerability, and used me.  He had nothing to say.

This has been a painful lesson, but I’ve learned a lot from the experience.  I’m accepting that there is no one on this earth that can/will rescue me.  That was a foolish, childish dream.  As much as I wanted to share my life and grow old with someone who truly loved me in the way God intended for love to be, I am letting go of this idea so I can be focused instead on what God has planned for me.

If there is a silver lining in all of this, I would say that it has broken my stubbornness.  By removing every crutch, eliminating all chances of denial and forcing me to evaluate myself honestly, I can finally stop hiding and can let go of all these things that have burdened me.

Oh, and of course my parents don’t know about any of this either. My mom likes to tell the story of how my grandpa (her dad) used to pick on me as a child and get me riled up to argue.  My mom asked why he did that, and he told her ‘because it’s a tough world out there.  If she’s too nice, she’ll never survive.”  I hear this story almost every time we talk.  I know she likes it because it helps her remember her dad fondly.  While I can appreciate the love behind his actions, I’ve grown to dislike this story because it reaffirms the deep feeling that I was never right and needed to be “fixed” or changed from the very beginning.  I love my parents and I think they did the best they could, but I think there will always be a distance because of the disconnect between the daughter they wanted and the daughter they have.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

At least I’m not alone – my kitties are the bright spot in my life, and I’m thankful for that!

05-29 Lizzy
They love me…
05-29 Skye
and make me laugh! 🙂

Continuing the Journey

It was a huge relief to write of some of the darkest secrets I’ve stored away.  So much so, that I feel compelled to continue.

Throughout my childhood, I continued to struggle to fit in at school.  I finally started to find real friends beginning in sixth grade.  But it wasn’t easy – I didn’t trust and always kept on guard for the betrayal I knew would come.  This is when I started sharing enough of myself so people thought they knew me, but not enough that I was vulnerable.  Deep down, I suspected if they really knew me, they wouldn’t like me. The conscious effort to change myself began my Sophomore year in high school.  The move to a new city was the perfect chance to be someone other than me.

My parents separated when I was in junior high, but that was temporary.  My dad’s job took us to Phoenix my Sophomore year of high school.  My ninth grade year was spent obsessing over the best method to die, because I couldn’t take the misery anymore.  Moving at that time was a blessing.  However, my parents’ fighting didn’t cease.  This was about the time I broke and allowed some of my anger and anxiety out.  As I stood at the top of the stairs, drawn out of my room by the screaming and banging, I watched as hangers were thrown.  Between the physical fighting and the hateful words being shouted, the frustration got to me.  Normally quiet, and observing the interactions unseen, I surprised myself when I screamed at them to “Stop!  Just stop it!”  I don’t remember everything I said, but I do remember I told them to not even bother apologizing because that’s what they always did and nothing changed.  My brother came out of his room and tried to grab me to calm me down.  I shoved him and yelled at him to get away from me.  Then I locked myself in my room.

Sophomore year was the year my friend, Holly, introduced me to poetry.  I embraced that outlet for getting some of my emotions out.  I never wrote journals because I feared someone would find them and there was no way I was letting anyone inside my head.  Poetry was nice because it was like a journal but in code.  I could read the poem and know exactly what it meant, but I felt safe in knowing that others could not.

I never told my parents I wrote poetry, even when one of my poems was selected and published in the district literary magazine my Senior year.  Someone wrote about that when they signed my yearbook.  My mom always read my yearbook and she asked me about it.  I lied and told her I didn’t know what they were talking about and said they probably got my yearbook confused with someone else’s.  If I had told the truth, she would have wanted to read them and if I declined, she’d play the guilt card.

After I graduated high school, I went to college because that’s what I was supposed to do.  My mom drilled it into my head from a young age that I was going to be able to support myself; I would never be stuck in life because I had no other options.  She said she couldn’t leave my dad because she couldn’t support herself and that wasn’t going to happen to me.  Secretly, I wanted to have someone to lean on- I wanted to depend on someone but me, but that wasn’t something I could express.  When I told her I wanted to go into graphic design, her response was it was too competitive and I wouldn’t make good money.  So I didn’t pursue it.  I majored in Psychology (ironically, with a bachelors degree, it’s one of the lowest paying professions) and I think she was okay with that because there were possibilities at the masters and PhD levels.  I didn’t make it that far, though.

I really wanted to be married, which is odd because what I grew up with wasn’t all that great.  I think the fantasy world I lived in when I was younger made me think that I could make it different.  I went on a lot of first dates but very few third or fourth dates.  It was discouraging and the nagging feeling that there was something wrong with me persisted.  I would back away when pushed for physical things.  I couldn’t do that – and the pressure made me angry.  I was 19 when I started dating a “nice” guy.  I didn’t feel pressured for once.  We dated for seven months and he talked of marriage (he was five years older) and I felt like I finally found someone who loved me.  I slept with him.

My mom found out about the relationship and and started yelling at me.  She called me a slut and a whore.  All, while my grandmother, who was visiting from Colorado, was in the next room.  I was embarrassed, humiliated and angry.  I tried to get away from her hateful words, but she blocked the door to my room and shoved me back.  I stumbled and fell into my nightstand.  I got up and charged at her and she goaded me to hit her if it would make me feel better – this is what she did to my dad!  I stopped and laughed and told her she wasn’t worth it.  I started to pack my things, but realized I couldn’t leave just yet.  The car I drove was theirs and I didn’t have enough money saved up to pay for tuition.  For the next year, I saved as much as I could.  I bought a crappy car, but it was mine.  And on my twentieth birthday, I told her I was moving out and already had a deposit on a studio apartment.  She was angry that I was “sneaky” and kept it from her.

The guy I was dating thought it would be good to live on my own before we got married.  I was disappointed, but it made sense.  What happened was that living on my own, I started to see things about him that I wasn’t okay with.  He drank too much with his friends.  He couldn’t pay his bills (I bailed him out several times) and he had lots of dreams, but not a lot of action towards pursing them.  After two and half years, he casually told me he couldn’t see himself being married.  Ouch. What made it worse is that I found out that several months before, he had talked to my best friend to see if she would talk to me about getting help because I wasn’t good in bed.  She shared this bit of news after I broke up with him.  This hurt a lot because I already felt inferior, like I was messed up, and that made it worse.

And here’s where I met my ex-husband.

We started dating and I thought I finally found someone that could take care of me.  He managed a restaurant, after all.  Things moved pretty fast and I was determined to prove that I didn’t need help; that I wasn’t a disappointment.  Well, my parents found out about that relationship and I was still a slut and a whore.  I was equally determined to prove them wrong.  When he proposed to me a few months later, I accepted.

There were some red flags that I chose to ignore.  I felt I had to – if that relationship ended, my parents (mom) would be right and I couldn’t let that happen.  So, when he went into a jealous rage when a guy from school gave me a ride home, I told myself it was because he loved me.  When he drank too much at a food show and drove home drunk, I told myself it was a one-off thing and he wouldn’t do it again.  When my friends warned me he was bad for me, I convinced myself they were jealous and ended those friendships.  When my mom told me a week before my wedding that it wasn’t too late to back out, I considered it, but ultimately chose to move forward because marriage would make me alright.

I spent the next 18 years living a private lie.  I didn’t marry someone who would protect me and care for me, I married someone selfish with as many insecurities as I had.  He was looking for someone to care for him because he didn’t want to be alone.  My peace-keeper role in my immediate family carried over to my marriage and I lost more of myself as I tried to be the perfect wife.  But I wasn’t.  As the newness wore off, I realized I didn’t like him as a person.  I didn’t want to be intimate with him and the more he pressured me, guilted me, or became downright mean, the more I disliked his touch.  Toward the end of the marriage, he had taken to grabbing my crotch when he was in the mood and I wanted to throw up because it reminded me of things I didn’t want to remember.   I couldn’t tell anyone about the way my life really was.  In 2009, I turned to writing again as I had in high school.  This outlet allowed me some escape from my miserable life.  He didn’t like to read and didn’t get my story ideas, so I learned to keep all of it to myself.  I never told my parents about my writing blog, either.

I was cleaning out my closet last week (literally, not metaphorically) and came across cards I had saved over the years from my ex.  They were all about wanting sex, thanking me for all I do for him or looking forward to spending money, whether it be on a “thing” or travel”.  Nothing about me personally that would make me special.  Seeing him now with his girlfriend moved in because “he doesn’t want to be alone” (his words to the therapist) I see that to him, I was dispensable.  I endured for 18 years, but I see now that I was only someone to support him financially and keep him from being alone.  That hurts and makes me angry.  I’m working through these emotions so I can reach the point of forgiveness – for both my ex and for me.

There’s more to my story, but I need to rest before I tackle that.

In the Beginning

A while back, I started to write about the disaster of my marriage.  I stopped.  I didn’t know why.  Now, I think I do:  the end didn’t start there, it was just an easier (more socially acceptable) place to start.

I don’t like to remember my childhood because there weren’t too many “good” moments, and for some reason, the truly painful ones are the memories that stick with me.  My parents divorced when I was three, after that, my mom, brother and I moved in with aunt and uncle in Colorado.  My mom met the man who became my dad and they were married after knowing each other a few months.  (He was a friend of my uncle’s).

My biological dad didn’t have much to do with my brother or me.  When I was five, he was going to have us stay with him and his new family for a weekend and I was scared (crying hysterically) because I’d never been away from my mom.  They stopped the car and let me out, and my brother went for the weekend.  As months and years went by, I regretted my “being a baby” and said I would go if he asked again, but he never did.  I made a comment to my mom once that I missed dad.  I was young, maybe 6 or 7. She snapped back, “You can’t miss him; you don’t even know him.”  The harshness of her tone caught me off-guard and I learned to keep that stuff inside.

My mom and my new dad fought a lot.  In my house “go to hell” was like a term of endearment.  I never liked loud noises.  My aunt told me that when I was little, I would cover my ears and cry every time an ambulance siren went by.  So, imagine the anxiety I felt when doors were slammed so hard, door jams came loose, heavy wooden tables were thrown, or I saw my dad pin my mom against the wall with his hand around her throat.  I was terrified.

School wasn’t any better.  I was extremely shy and an easy target for bullies.  No matter how much I tried to be invisible, they would find me.  There’s the stupid saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  That is a total lie – a physical beating would’ve been a relief.  I have always liked cats, and one day, I wore a button with a lion on it and it said something about pride.  Tracy pulled at the button and said “what pride” and they started laughing.  One day, I tried to stand up for myself when they told me to move, they wanted to sit where I was sitting at the lunch table.  I said “no”.  They picked me up and moved me to the floor.  It was humiliating.  Even worse, were the times people would be nice to me and act like my friends, only to take advantage of me (get me to do homework for them, steal my necklaces during hopscotch games, etc.).

But this wasn’t the half of it.  The worst betrayal came from my own family.  I’m told that when I was little, I adored my older brother.  I would follow him everywhere and looked up to him.  When I was six my brother started touching me, and having me touch him.  I probably knew it was wrong, but I trusted him.  I don’t remember a lot of the details, I blocked all that out, but I remember it was ongoing- until my parents found out.  My mom told me she was ashamed of me and disappointed in me.  She told me my aunt and uncle were thinking of adopting a child, but after this, they didn’t know if they wanted kids. (I was horrified that she told them, and that I was so terrible they wouldn’t want kids.)

Every time my parents left the house, they told us to “behave” and that would make me feel disgusted all over again.  I spent a lot of time alone in my room.  I created imaginary worlds that were much better to live in.  A lot of scenarios that played out like a Disney movie- where someone would find me beautiful and rescue me.

When I was nine, I was befriended by a girl who was a year older.  I was happy to actually have a friend.  I’m not sure how long we spent time together, but I remember the day that stopped.  I was at her house and we were having a contest to see who could blow the biggest bubble (Hubba Bubba banana bubble gum).  I’m not sure if I won, but my bubble was so big that when it popped, it covered my face, my glasses and got stuck in my hair.  Diane took my glasses and and went to the bathroom to clean them.  Her dad picked at the gum in my hair and told me it was going to be okay.  He was overly soothing – I wasn’t that upset.  He sat me on his lap with my back to him and wrapped his arm around my waist.  I tried to get up but he held me tighter and put his hand where he shouldn’t, quite firmly.  I tried to get out of his grasp and I couldn’t.  Then Diane walked in.  She paused and didn’t say anything.  Her dad let me go and I grabbed my glasses and ran out of the house and never went back.

I told the neighborhood girls what happened and warned them not to go to Diane’s house.  They laughed at me and told me I was lying and that I only wished it had happened.  I didn’t tell my parents because they were so disgusted with me before, I knew it would be worse if they knew it happened again.  I was sure there was something wrong with me because now it happened twice, with two different people.  And no one could ever know.

My brother didn’t touch me for six years, that I know of.  (Years earlier, I started wearing 2-piece pajamas instead of nightshirts because sometimes I would wake up uncovered with my nightshirt up and I didn’t want to be exposed.  I still wear 2-piece pajamas to this day!)  That lasted until I was 12.  My uncle was in town and invited us to swim at his hotel.  My parents and uncle were in the hot tub and my brother and I were in the pool.  I don’t remember what led up to it, but he said, “what would you do if I did this” and he grabbed my crotch.  I screamed “no!” and backed away.  The adults all looked over and my mom asked what was going on.  I panicked and said “don’t dunk me!”  I didn’t want to disappoint them again.  At that point, I wondered if maybe I wasn’t a restless sleeper, but maybe he was looking at me.  That thought unnerved me, and I told myself I was being paranoid.

Needless to say, my brother and I aren’t close.  Sometimes my mom will try to guilt me by saying things like, “I wish you guys were close and we were a real family,” or “I don’t think I’ll do holiday gatherings anymore since no one talks to each other.”

Seriously?  It’s like no one remembers what happened.  Sometimes it makes me feel crazy like I imagined it all.  When he had his first daughter, my parents were all excited to have a grand-daughter among all the grandsons.  I was freaking out.  Was I the only one that thought having a young girl in his house was a bad idea?  Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I have forced myself to make small talk and pretend like life is just great.  I have tried to give her that.  In reading the book the therapist gave me, I see my family role as “peace-maker”.  But this was at a cost to me.  This role led to more misplaced trust and bad choices, which I will write about later.

Jesus said to him, no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God –Luke 9:62

Unpacking Baggage

A couple therapy appointments ago, my therapist asked me why I couldn’t forgive myself for my mistakes.  I cried and told her I didn’t know.  My assignment was to forgive myself.

In the days that followed, I ruminated over her question and I realized I did know.  It turns out that I can stuff my baggage in the closet, but that doesn’t mean it disappears.  Eventually, the door opens.  As I debated whether or not to drag all this stuff out, the Bible verse from the devotional I read seemed chosen just for me.  Basically, it stated that secrets and sin should be brought into the light because hiding prevents healing.  That was a clear enough sign for me:  unpack, it is.

I had mentioned in previous appointments that my childhood wasn’t great.  So, I brought my school pictures to my last appointment.  I showed her my kindergarten picture and told her that was the last year of my innocence.  I continued to tell her about the dark things and shameful secrets that I have spent my life pretending didn’t happen.  I cringed as I said out loud words my mom said to me that I really wanted to just forget.  Every horrible memory that I use to torture myself in my lowest moments, I told her.  I don’t know her reaction because I avoided looking in her eyes, but she told me she had a book that another patient told her about – said it changed his life.  She asked if I would read it.  Uh, definitely yes, if it could help me.

I cried several times while reading Healing the Shame that Binds You.  I don’t agree with everything in the book, but it did help me see some things about myself.  Although I don’t think my family was quite as dysfunctional as some of the case examples, I very much identified with some of the coping strategies – mainly, perfectionism (or as the author said, “becoming more than human”.)  I’ve spent my life, as long as I can remember, trying not to make mistakes (and that’s worked out really well for me, haha).  I can also see how not acknowledging certain emotions and trying to be someone other than me (I didn’t like me because I wasn’t good enough) led to more poor choices as I got older (my marriage being one of them.)

There was one section I read that really struck a cord.  It detailed how a ‘shame spiral’ happens.  In summary, something happens like feeling pushed away, or something critical is said (or interpreted) and attention turns inward.  The event is relived over and over, causing a sense of shame to deepen and it becomes paralyzing.  This happens all the time for me- I didn’t realize this wasn’t “normal”.  Since I began reading this book, I’ve caught this happening twice and I stopped the negative self-talk.

I still don’t know who I am, but I’m praying that I will learn to accept me- flaws, mistakes and all.  I want to truly believe that God can love me and use me in some way.

This was kind of a heavy post, so I would like to end it on a “cat” note… because my kitties make me smile 🙂

05-27 Sammy_Lizzy
Sammy and Lizzy (my sons’ cats)
05-27 Lucy_Lily
Lucy & Lily (the kittens I got last Halloween!)
05-27 Roxy_Skye
Roxy & Skye (the “acquired” kitties – almost here 6 months now)

Irony, Facing Fears and Spotlighting Insecurities… and, Of Course, Kitty Love

I spent some time this evening saving some of the stuff I wrote on my old blog.  Back when I used to write.  I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to just make it private or delete the whole thing because that person doesn’t exist anymore.

I’m struck by the irony of the situation.

When I was in a miserable marriage, I threw myself into writing because I could find some enjoyment in immersing myself in stories and situations I created.  I could make characters who were so unlike me (and then pretend I was them).  It was a wonderful escape and a perfect way for me not to address the issues.  Now that I don’t have the need to escape the constant tension, I have no words.  I have no stories.  I have no idea who I am.

I kept thinking words would come to me, but they don’t.  Sometimes I wonder if writing was God’s way of seeing me through the difficulties and since I gave up on my marriage, the outlet has been taken away.  Patience has never been my strong suit, but I am getting better at waiting.  I am waiting for God to show me who I’m supposed to be and what my purpose is.  I don’t see it now, but I pray that one day I will.  But I know I need to get to the point of forgiving myself for my mistakes and bad choices before I can see anything beyond the self-dislike that keeps me down.

A couple months ago, the church music leader’s young daughter (I’m guessing she’s 11 or 12) mentioned writing.  I told her I used to write, but I don’t anymore.  She said she has lots of ideas but doesn’t know how to make them into a story.  I suggested she start out with some kind of action; something to make the reader curious enough to keep reading.  Two weeks ago, the girl mentioned writing again and asked if I wanted to write a story with her.  I said it sounded like fun and figured that would be the end of it.  Tonight at music practice, she talked about it again and inquired about my days off and when we could meet.

This could really happen.  And now, I have a confession to make:  I’m scared.  No, terrified.  What if my writing creativity isn’t just dormant, but has died?  What if all I have is what I used to be?

Over the last several weeks, I’ve experienced a couple things that I see as “signs” – one of which prompted me to write another song,  and brought the destructive nature of my insecurities to my attention.  I can’t help but wonder if this girl might be another sign.  I’m starting to realize my insecurities (which I’ve had my entire life) cripple me, and they explain why I settled for the spouse I did, and why I don’t put more effort into living, and instead, choose to simply exist.

Here’s a few lines of the chorus, which pretty much sums up the struggle in my head:

These insecurities, keep playin’ tricks on me,

They tell me I’m not good enough; that I don’t deserve your love.

But you’ve shown differently, ’cause Jesus died for me,

Lord, rid these doubts inside my head, so I can trust your lead instead.

Overcoming a lifetime of not feeling “good enough” isn’t going to be easy, but with God, all things are possible.

Whoa.  Good to get this out of my head so maybe I can catch a few hours of sleep tonight.  I’ll close with a couple pics of some of my adorable kitties.  They make me smile:

05-11 Skye
Skye hanging out on a shelf above my head (one of the projects I did in March/April)
05-11 Roxy
Roxy snoozing. Sometimes you gotta let it all hang out… and sleep outside the box 🙂