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 🙂

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

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

Life Has a Way

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I saw a cool mailbox… my dad saw car parts arranged in a unique way and was able to name them all…

I find it ironic that I have a blog entitled “Finding Me Daily” and I barely manage to write twice a month.  Although I do discover things about myself almost daily, finding the sweet spot of inspiration and opportunity is something I haven’t mastered.  Lots has happened since I last posted.  I’ll get the “list” out of the way and then get to the thoughts that have been occupying my brain today.

  • I ended up telling the homeless lady I helped out before Christmas that I did all I could and please don’t ask me anymore.  This was after two voicemails and two texts that she wanted to talk to me.  She was at a hotel and had to be out by 11 and had nowhere to go…. well, I couldn’t afford to pay for her to stay in hotel and I wouldn’t bring her to my house so I had no choice but to be blunt.  So far, she hasn’t contacted me again.  I am praying that she is able to get to a better place though.  I found that I can be firm while still having compassion.
  • My older son had sinus surgery and he’s recovering nicely.  The forced “conversation” in the waiting room during the surgery as his dad and I… well, waited… showed me that I can listen to stupidity and remain silent.  As he complained about his job situation, I “listened” and responded with, ‘I guess you have some things to think about and decisions to make’.
  • My younger son has been having inflammation issues with his jaw and is scheduled for an MRI next week.  For the past 4 weeks, he’s been on a ‘soft’ diet which has revealed that I enjoy trying new recipes that are easy to eat, yet still nutritious.
  • Last weekend, I found out that I’m still not good at finding words in difficult times.  It is painful when you encounter someone who has lost hope; it’s heart-breaking when it’s your mom.  My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year.  My grandma, and great-grandma have traveled that path as well.  My mom, being the primary care-giver for the last years of my grandma’s life, is well-aware of what’s in store.  Even knowing that, I was still stunned when she matter-of-factly told me her plan because she has no future.  I told her she has a present and she said “not for long.”

I cried most of my drive home and I have a song idea and some words (but no music) but I feel that if it’s something that needs to heard, God will help me with all that.  The chorus is alternating between my mom’s thoughts (some are actually her words), followed by what I feel like God’s response would be.  The song how I have it in my mind would be a duet.

I feel like I don’t matter

(Your life is not an accident)

There’s no hope for “better”

(Trust, lay down your burden)

My time, my life, is limited

(It’s mankind’s shared fate)

I don’t want to see that end

(It’s not your choice to make)

The final thoughts I have going through my head started during my hour-long run/walk this morning.  Near the sidewalk in a yard I passed by, someone had an interesting carved-out log with their last name inserted in iron letters.  Seeing that, it made me think how we seem to spend our lives looking to make an impression, to leave a mark, or simply stand out among the millions of other people on this earth.  I used to be this way- I wanted be recognized for my writing.  I wanted to be famous.  But it was all for me- not to glorify God.  There’s some freedom in admitting that now, because I am okay with being a name or a face that isn’t remembered.  The message today at church talked about how we should treat others how Jesus would (makes me think of a Colton Dixon song, “Let Them See You”).  I think it’s an amazing song and included a link if you haven’t heard it before.

This kind of ties into something that happened with the kids on Saturday.  I brought home a game and game pieces from the grocery store (when you shop, you get more game pieces and you win stuff if you get all the pieces for the prize.)  My younger son thought I was crazy because I didn’t want the vacation home, $100,000 vehicle or the million dollars.  The vacation home is useless – I would have to insure it, maintain it and it would be a pain to sell it;  the $100,000 vehicle would have to be insured and maintenance costs are often ridiculous on those expensive cars.  And, let’s be honest, no matter what you do to avoid it, someone is going to door-ding it or bump their shopping cart into it.  But the worst part to me is that having this stuff makes people think I have money- and I got out of a marriage to someone who was into that kind of show (I bought into it, to some extent, too)… I want nothing to do with it now.  Just a few years ago, I thought having more money would make things better – I would’ve hoped for the million dollars.  Life has taught me that it wouldn’t have made a lasting difference.  I understand that brokenness can’t be patched with money and things can’t make me “happy”.

Life has a way of making me, but it had to break me down first (mostly because I chose to do things the hard way.)  See… I’m learning 🙂

Have a beautiful Sunday!

Silence Isn’t Golden; It’s Yellow

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Partially frozen rainwater… looks almost like a frosty mug of beer, haha

This post title is borrowed, but as soon as I heard the words, I embraced them as my own.  They are appropriate here because I see my last post was January 4 (good thing I don’t make New Years resolutions, because if writing were one of them I’d be a failure at this point!)

It’s not that I haven’t thought of writing- I have.  I may actually get around to doing some of those posts, if they feel right.  The point of this blog was for me to put conscious effort into finding “me.”  In a vacuum, that might be easy, but let’s face it, life isn’t easy.  Even though some days have been a blur, I am lucky to have a quiet evening to reflect on the last few weeks and that does tell me a little about who I am.

A couple weeks ago, my younger son turned 11.  I had taken him to dinner before then because his actual birthday fell during his time with his dad.  I was okay, I thought, until my ex’s girlfriend texted me pictures of her youngest son and my kids on the outing.  I didn’t realize his girlfriend and her son were going so it caught me off-guard.  The pictures kept coming – 23 in all and I ended up pausing my run to sit down on a curb and cry.

It wasn’t a delicate cry.  It was the ugly I-wish-I-had-a-tissue-but-I-don’t-so-my-shirt-sleeve-will-have-to-do kind of cry.  When I got home, I called my best friend (who doesn’t have children) but she put words to my pain.  It wasn’t that I was upset my ex is with someone else, it’s that she gets to experience memories of a milestone that I won’t have. So I was going to write a post about it titled “Learning to be okay with not being okay” but obviously, that didn’t happen.

Instead of writing a blog post, other words flowed in melodic form.  As I jotted them down and recorded them on my phone so I wouldn’t forget, a song emerged.  Over the next few days, the words kept coming and not only spoke to my deepest pain, but also offered hope, as it became a prayer to God, straight from my heart.  (I do have to also give credit to the pastor at the church I go to – a message in December about how we are prone to think we would be better if our situations were different stayed with me and I remember it when I’m discouraged by my circumstances.)

God.

The message the pastor delivered today included the words I used for this blog post title.  He said when it comes to the Good News, silence isn’t golden; it’s yellow.  That made me think of old westerns where cowards were ‘yellow bellied’.  I’ve been different shades of yellow my entire life.  Fear has had more power than faith.

That needs to change.  Fear isn’t a good reason for silence.  So, I’m taking the ultimate stand against silence by providing a link to listen to the “song” I wrote (and I’m going to publish this post immediately and sign off before I change my mind!)

I’ll end this post with the words to the chorus and look forward to writing again real soon!

Lord, help me remember your blessings;

not distracted and longing for things I do not need.

Lord, ease my fear and help me let go;

to be satisfied now, and trust the future you know.

Black Friday

I don’t have cable TV, I don’t have the newspaper delivered and I don’t often check news on the internet, but, even though I live just outside the threshold of a cave, I couldn’t avoid the fact that today was Black Friday.  Over the last few days, I’ve deleted hundreds of emails meant to hype up big sales, bargains, and the need for “something”.

So, this morning, I woke up early and dressed warmly in comfortable clothes.  I knew the weather would be frosty and I would enjoy unrestricted movement.  By 5:30 am, I took to the road along with several other early birds.  I had a hunch we weren’t headed to the same place, though.

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I prefer the roads less traveled

The old me would scour the Thanksgiving day ads, looking for good deals, mapping out the stops.  I was married then, and it was a morning out without the kids.  We picked up some gifts we normally couldn’t afford and ended the frenzy by relaxing at Starbucks; he drank coffee and I sipped fruity tea.

The new me feels a heavy burden in “stuff”.  Last year, as I prepared to downsize from a too-large house to a manageable one, I spent many weeks sorting through things and weighing necessity vs. nicety. Now, I don’t look for good deals or things to buy.  I shop when I know what I want to buy and that’s it.

Today, instead of fighting crowds in stores, I traveled to the Mogollon Rim to catch a sunrise.  I’ve talked about doing that for a long time.  For me, it’s the time just before sunrise that I find most appealing.  I used to anticipate the gradual fading of darkness into streaks of orange and although a picture doesn’t do the moment justice, I’ve taken my fair share over the years.

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Sunrise on Mogollon Rim

Today, I took the pictures.  Maybe tomorrow I will feel the joy of anticipation again.