There were good times too!

When we are counting blessings and/or looking back at our pasts, the good times are so important to remember.  Those times ground us and allow us to smile.  Growing up south of New Town, North Dakota, left me with many good memories.

Four years old, pretending an old gas tank, on five foot legs, was a horse; what could go wrong??  I apparently climbed up, was riding my pretend pony and slipped off onto the scoria rock below.  I have a scar on my forehead that is slowly disappearing; the pucker thinning because of my aging, or the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on face creams.

My  other scar, on my face, was from running from the house, to the grain bins with my eyes closed. ( Why would I do that? To see if I could, and I was taking toilet paper to my sister, who was waiting for me out behind the grain bins. (we were farm girls and sometimes it was just to far to run to the house to poop)).  Boom!  I ran into the disk (used to break up the soil in the fields).  I turned and ran back to the house, blood running down my face, screaming bloody murder, for my Mom…and yes my sister was still waiting for the toilet paper…  🙂  I have a scar under my eye that the face creams haven’t quite done their job on. Not one broken arm or leg because of all those shenanigans.. just my face….being hard headed does come in handy…

Horses were not my friends.  I loved them, but they bucked me off, laid down and rolled when I was riding them, took me under clothes lines….. Thank God the clothes lines were plastic, or my head laying in someone’s yard would have been an unpleasant surprise!  Our Shetland pony ran full bore towards a fence, and as he lowered his head, I rolled off..  Do you understand my relationship with them?  In retrospect I’ve had husbands with similar personalities!  Lol!

These are the good times?  Well, at least when you put them into perspective… 🙂  Life on the farm had many great days; we were allowed to run pretty freely.  The lake was about half of a mile away and biking, walking or riding motorcycle there was always an adventure.

I have two favorite memories of the lake:  My sister and I were at the lake when the water was coming up in the spring.  It must have been a high water year, because the water came up into the grass and the fish were visible in the water.  We decided to walk to a knoll in the water; as I walked the fish were so plentiful, that they bumped into my legs; it was creepy and exciting at the same time. Another time we were down in early spring, as the ice had blown up into mountainous piles on the shore.  We climbed around on them, pretending we were explorers, the ice piles were dirty and slippery.  I really am grateful that none of those adventures ended more seriously.

I had some wonderful friends growing up; we would have our spats, recover and move on.  Friends who would try to protect me from myself, and from others..  Memories are roaring back, as I type this afternoon…  Please sit down and think about the good things that have happened to you; let your memories roar back to you, let them soften the others that you don’t enjoy.

There were good times, and there will be more!!

Peace….

Motivation?

The last few weeks have been interesting.  Blogging was a new experience for me; one that I knew I wanted to do, but didn’t consider all of the consequences of it.  Most families have a closet, in their minds where they bury the past.  Some people lock that closet door and never let anyone in; others open the door wide open and parade the contents to everyone.  I’m trying to find the balance and it’s challenging.  The challenge is to be the survivor and not the victim; I don’t want pity, or even understanding, I want change.  Opening my closet door means I have opened myself up to criticism and scrutiny; I understood that when I started the blog.

What I didn’t consider strong enough was that, the journal I told you I wrote in?, in the Courage to Heal story?; it’s been opened as well.  I am dealing with old emotions along with some of you.  It’s nothing I can put my finger on, but the emotions sometimes bubble to the surface.  I understand your fear: of exposure, your grief of things lost, the key on your closet door.  I understand.  It’s hard.

I hear from you and you tell me that a blog was welcome, or that it hurt; you tell me to keep writing, and that you can’t read anymore.  Thank you for your honest feedback.  My motivation to blog is change and I know that it is slow coming; that fear is sometimes all consuming, and that you can only crack the closet door open once in a while.  It’s ok.  I’m going to be here; I’ve made a commitment to myself to blog for a year.  Sometimes closing the damn door is healing!  Lock that sucker up and rest up; get strong.  If you need to open it again come back.

My disappointment and something else I didn’t consider is that people are reluctant to share and so my audience stays small.  Someone I love said, “I don’t want to share it and have everyone think I was abused.”  Lol, I get it!  If you get a chance, would you talk to one person about generalized abuse, physical, sexual, emotional, verbal….talk to one person about the subject.

I am so proud of you because you are a survivor.  You’re not blaming someone else, you’re stretching and growing, and I know how hard that is.

Being at a place in your life, where you’re happy with who you are (most of the time), is a wonderful place to be.  I wished with all my heart that I could have had the innocent adolescence, the secure male relationships, and the confidence that comes to a young woman, when those things are provided to her.  But who would I be then?  Would I have the same amount of empathy?  Would I be as brave as my journey has made me?  Would I be me?  Our past shapes us; the good and the bad.  Can we embrace it?  Can you embrace yourself?

Peace..

Feminism? or Survivalist…

Helen Reddy’s song was released in 1971..  I was 12 and have been singing ever since.  I didn’t always understand every nuance of what it meant, but I loved the rhythm and it felt like a powerful song for a woman even at 12.

It’s sometimes easy for me to write personal things about myself; I have few secrets, although every woman needs a couple…  What I do struggle with, is writing and including anyone else in my stories.  The responsibility to write about any one else, in a way, that totally depicts my thoughts can be overwhelming.  I have spent a couple of sleepless nights, thinking how I could tell this story..

I tend to be strong willed, there was a period of my life where I had my control taken away from me, then I over compensated by seeking more and more control (another blog 🙂   My parents would tell stories of me jumping off the barn, of arguing so much my Dad was sure I should be a lawyer, of wanting things to be black and white.  I didn’t try out for anything in high school, unless I felt like I could win, and if I thought I would lose, I wouldn’t try. My mom always encouraged me to do things, that she felt like she had missed out on, but she had little experience to share with me.  She was a woman of her generation, as I am a woman of mine, and even Mom sometimes thought I was too independent.

One dictionary definition of independent:Not relying on others for support, care, or funds; self-supporting.

Relying on others; whoa that is a scary thought, one even now I don’t entertain very seriously.  Years of training to not rely on people, because of disappointments, that I bear part of the responsibility for, have taught me to rely on myself and to encourage others to rely on themselves.  Stop blaming everyone else, take responsibility, flip the switch.   Ok, so I’m stalling..  🙂

Mom and I were standing in the kitchen, of the old farmhouse; she was doing dishes and I was standing 12 feet away.  We were talking about “what had happened to me.”  “Mom, did you know?”  She turned and looked at me and said, “No, I didn’t, but even if I would have, what could I have done?”  My heart broke in a million pieces.

It didn’t break just for me; but it broke for Mom too.  She thought she was powerless; it wasn’t that she didn’t love me, because she loved her children, was loyal and steadfast.  She was raised in a time, when few woman, stood their ground, especially in rural North Dakota.  If any woman was to divorce?  You were a hussy!  Create a scene? You were crazy! Deal with your own trauma? Unheard of!  Go to the police?  Mom was raised by strong Baptist parents, you worked hard to raise your family, buried your head and survived.  She survived, but I choose to survive in a different way.  The shame is not mine, it is not yours.  We survive.. we thrive.. “to make a difference, in the life of one child”, regardless of that child’s age.  🙂

I am teased about how can I be a Conservative Feminist;  I laugh because I am who I am, a complicated Christian, believer in the separation of Church and State, fiscal conservative, believer of individual state’s rights, feminist.  Be who you are.  Whatever brought you to this place, made you who you are and it’s a beautiful thing.

Hugs to my survivor friends and family.  I am so proud of you.  We are going to make the changes..

Peace

Happiness? Finally!

The last few weeks, I have had a weird feeling; every once in a while (it happened both times when I was driving), I have felt this sensation.  Wanting to sing, and smile, I have thought, “What the heck?”  Believe it or not, I spent time thinking about what could this feeling be.  The feeling is happiness!  There have been a challenging few years in my past; dealing with one crisis or turmoil, after the other.  I had forgotten what true, clear, bell ringing happiness felt like.

Coping becomes second hand to us; it becomes natural after a long period of time.  We don’t necessarily feel unhappy, but happy?

There is a friend of mine,  who has had a similar couple of years. I shared my happiness thoughts with her, and she said, “I’m always feeling like the other shoe is going to drop.”  “Life is good, but how long can it last?”  This is what I told her and told myself, “Whatever is going on today, if it’s good, hang on to it!  Embrace it!”  If we enjoy and embrace the good days, we will have lots of energy saved up for that one day, “when the other shoe may drop” or at least droop.

Wikipedia says happiness is: a mental or emotional state of well-being which can be defined by, among others, positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happy mental states may also reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being.

“Reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being”, that sounds like we have some control?  🙂  ahhh, so if I have some control, what are some steps to take?  My comment I make to my children sometime is, “Did anyone die?”  They usually give me that look, but really unless someone died, it can be fixed or at least overcome.  That sounds like an insensitive thing to say….but coping is sometimes insensitive.. it’s tough, and challenging, and honestly…you have to cope in order to be happy.

Google “steps for happiness”, and you can have a hundred (more) opinions on what it takes to be happy.  One that pops up a lot is giving.  I agree with that 100%, but giving all the time makes you codependent and an enabler, topics for another blog for sure!  How about taking?  Can taking make you happy?  Taking time, taking love, taking a compliment, taking credit for your good works, taking a hug, taking a hike, taking a trip, taking help?

Hopefully some things to think about; take happiness.  I wish you all “that feeling that you can’t describe”; be happy.

Peace.

Counting your blessings!

Today is a great day, “I’m awake, alive, and blessed!”  Ok, maybe I’m not dressed, still in my pajamas, but I know I am blessed.  Do you?  There have been some very dark days in my life when I have wondered about many things.  It’s easy to slip into the gray of despair, when things just don’t seem to go your way.  I have literally stopped in my tracks, when I felt a mental melt down coming on, and said, “Ok, what are you grateful for? What is going right?  The kids and grandkids are safe, healthy and happy. ”  Those thoughts, for me, are often enough for me to pull myself back, from what ever cliff, I’m on the edge of.

We all have some level of those days, regardless of what we are surviving!  I found two things that help: the first is prayer. I offer up my concerns to a higher power.  We can’t control everything (a topic for a later blog :), heck we can hardly control anything, certainly not other people’s behaviors, the weather etc…  What can you do?  Acknowledge your need of help with prayer to your God, or if you are agnostic or atheist, to the nature around you.

The second thing that works is counting your blessings.  Feel free to google, this isn’t my idea or a brainstorm that’s unsubstantiated; there are many sites that will tell you that counting your blessings will calm you and help to heal you, spiritually, emotionally, and even physically!

Counting your blessings is another way to take care of you…. whether you do it as part of a prayer, while you’re out for a walk, or driving in the car.  What are your blessings?

I found this aid to counting your blessings at rabbi sacks.org.  It was originally published at the New York times.  It’s a very nice site, whether you are Jewish or not, you may enjoy it.

1. Give thanks. Once a day take quiet time to feel gratitude for what you have, not impatience for what you don’t have. This alone will bring you halfway to happiness. We already have most of the ingredients of a happy life. It’s just that we tend to take these for granted and focus on unmet wants, unfulfilled desires. Giving thanks is better than shopping – and cheaper too.

2. Praise. Catch someone doing something right and say so. Most people, most of the time, are unappreciated. Being recognised, thanked and congratulated by someone else is one of the most empowering things that can happen to us. So don’t wait for someone to do it for you: do it for someone else. You will make their day, and that will help to make yours.

3. Spend time with your family. Make sure that there is at least one time a week when you sit down to have a meal together with no distractions – no television, no phone, no e-mail, just being together and celebrating one another’s company. Happy marriages and healthy families need dedicated time.

4. Discover meaning. Take time out, once in a while, to ask: “Why am I here? What do I hope to achieve? How best can I use my gifts? What would I wish to be said about me when I am no longer here?” Finding meaning is essential to a fulfilled life – and how can you find it if you never look? If you don’t know where you want to be, you will never get there, however fast you run.

5. Live your values. Most of us believe in high ideals, but we act on them only sporadically. The best thing to do is to establish habits that get us to enact those ideals daily. This is called ritual, and it is what religions remember but ethicists often forget.

6. Forgive. This is the emotional equivalent of losing excess weight. Life is too short to bear a grudge or seek revenge. Forgiving someone is good for them but even better for you. The bad has happened. It won’t be made better by your dwelling on it. Let it go. Move on.

7. Keep learning. I learnt this from Florence in Newcastle, whom I last met the day she celebrated her 105th birthday. She was still full of energy and fun. “What’s the secret?” I asked her. “Never be afraid to learn something new,” she said. Then I realised that if you are willing to learn, you can be 105 and still young. If you are not, you can be 25 and already old.

8. Learn to listen. Often in conversation we spend half our time thinking of what we want to say next instead of paying attention to what the other person is saying. Listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone else. It means that we are open to them, that we take them seriously and that we accept graciously their gift of words.

9. Create moments of silence in the soul. Liberate yourself, if only five minutes daily, from the tyranny of technology, the mobile phone, the laptop and all the other electronic intruders, and just inhale the heady air of existence, the joy of being.

10. Transform suffering. When bad things happen, use them to sensitise you to the pain of others. The greatest people I know – people who survived tragedy and became stronger as a result – did not ask “Who did this to me?” Instead, they asked “What does this allow me to do that I could not have done before?” They refused to become victims of circumstance. They became, instead, agents of hope.

Most of these are, of course, integral elements of a religious life, which may be why so many surveys have shown that those who practise a religious faith tend to live longer, have lower levels of stress and report higher degrees of wellbeing than others. This is not accidental. The great religions are our richest treasuries of wisdom when it comes to the question of how best to live a life.

Life is too full of blessings to waste time and attention on artificial substitutes. Live, give, forgive, celebrate and praise: these are still the best ways of making a blessing over life, thereby turning life into a blessing.

Peace..

Lakota, German, Muslim-our pain is the same.

You are here, reading my blog.  I hope you are able to open some conversations, because of it!  Whether you are a survivor of any kind of abuse, or someone who cares about us; welcome and thank you for being here.  Let’s make it better for our sons, daughters, neighbors children, grandchildren; let’s talk…..

I was searching for articles on forgiveness, insight I could share with you and I found this Native American Legend.  It is incredibly powerful and describes this young woman’s feelings of guilt and how she comes to forgiveness.  I found the legend on several sites, so feel comfortable sharing it with you.

We have shared stories.  Your story and my story may be very different, yet they are the same.  The emotions and even consequences to everyone are the same.  I forget that sometimes, so I have to remind myself..

I hope relating to Black Corn helps your journey as you find empathy with hers.

BLACK CORN
A Lakota Legend
There once was a woman called Black Corn. She lived in a village surrounded by incredible beauty. There was beauty in the forest, in the plains, in the sky above and the earth below. Black Corn was very tall, taller than all of the other women of her village, indeed, taller than most of the men as well. Strong of limb she was and fair to see. Yet deep within were hidden deeper waters, roiling with discontent and….. Well, no one really knew what else, not even she.

Black Corn was very unhappy, she had so much love to give, yet could not seem to find the one to give it to. All she wanted to do is love someone and have someone love her. She loved her People dearly and did all she could for them, even to the point of sacrificing her own wants to help her People.

Many Gifts she had been given by Wakan Tanka, but could not seem to find them when she needed them the most. She was taunted by many for things she could not understand, she began believing, at first resistantly, then willingly that the lies and the actions were deserved. When she would gaze upon her image in the still waters of the pond, she would think “you are too direct, too tall, too strong, too much… well, too much everything! You have too much passion, too much love, too much… well, too much everything, and no one wants what you have to give!”

Yet the love she held inside for all the People was full to bursting within her breast and all she wanted was someone who would accept her love. All she wanted was for the People to accept her love and what she could give them. Down and down she went with no one to love, no People who wanted her love, or so she thought.

Then, one day, after a particularly difficult incident, she awakened as if from a dream and thought to herself “Why is it this way? What did I do that was so awful that I should be treated in this manner?” Deep inside herself she looked for an answer to these questions. Deeply, beyond all of the hurt, all of the pain that had been put upon her, behind the men who had used her without her consent, and eventually, as her self-respect dwindled, with her consent. So many judgments had been passed on her but none so harsh as what she had passed upon herself.

The deeper she looked, the uglier it became, and the faster the anger rose until it was full-blown rage. White hot the rage burned and coursed through her body. Blindingly it raged, but this too was another illusion. Yes, the rage was a deception, a shield to protect her from what laid beneath.

Finally she could hide no longer behind the rage and the sorrow that she had desperately tried to hide over the years. It came at her like a tidal wave and she stood defenseless in its path. She no longer had the strength to fight; nothing left to stem the flood, so she stood helpless in its path, no shield to protect her any longer.

Out she ran into the forest, hearing the tiny voice inside screaming in agony, dying, dying, dying, screaming NNNNNOOOOOOOOoooooooo… and she just knew that all she had ever thought that she was slowly dying a painful death. Finally, she could help herself no more and cried out in anguish, clutching at the pain in her breast, feeling herself slipping away. She cried out, in full voice, which held all of the pain and agony, begging, at her most pitiful for Wakan Tanka to take her away from this pain.

“Please, please Wakan Tanka, Tunkasila, I can bear this life, this pain, no more, it is too much, Please, please, take me home, please let me have peace!” And when she had finished crying out these words and prayers, and all of the ugliness that was inside her had been given voice, the sound so awful to hear that not even the animals or birds made a sound out of respect for her pain, she lay herself down on the damp sweet smelling forest floor. Her soul ripped open and flayed a bloody mess before her and before the Creator, she finally saw the truth.

It began when she was 7 summers old; she would go into the forest to play. One day a strange man came upon her and began to speak with her. His words were intriguing and he spoke of grown-up things that she liked to hear about. Eventually this stranger seduced her as a child, and as a child, not knowing any better, had allowed it. Many years would pass before Black Corn realized what had been done to her, and when she did realize, she issued a judgment so severe upon herself that she began to believe that she was unworthy of love. She lost all respect for herself and, indeed, this is what she projected unknowingly to everyone she came into contact with. The voices of the others that would taunt her were really reflections of her own voice within that she could not, until now, listen to.

In that moment of her defeat, laying on the forest floor, she began to see with clarity what was that made the People treat her as they were, and with that knowing, she began to cry, great heart wrenching cries that tore at the very fabric of her soul and thus began the cleansing process from within. She found that while she had forgiven that strange man his trespass against her, she had never forgiven herself for her part in it, she had never taken responsibility for it either, preferring to live in a fantasy in her mind that she had been the victim, all the while feeling the guilt of the participant. There had been one other who had used her in this fashion, a relative, who did not know of the first stranger. But by then, the damage to her soul had been done and, while not realizing why it was so, she allowed herself to be degraded even more by this second man.

After that, there was no room for self-respect or self love, feeling as she did that she was unworthy for the things she had done.

After the sobbing had subsided, Black Corn began to feel differently, having accepted everything that was ugly inside of her, she began to heal. Finally, after all of these years. It took a long time, but finally she was able to forgive herself as well as forgive those who took her unfairly and in bad faith, took her innocence and made something ugly out of it, all the while accepting her own responsibility in it as well. Finally she was able to forgive herself. With that forgiving, there was now room for love; all of the love she wanted to give the People was the love that she had been denying herself. Once she could learn to love herself and accept herself, she could also love the People much more than she ever thought possible, and the People rejoiced!

You see, they had always loved Black Corn, but because she did not love herself, she could not see this, she would not ever have seen it if she had not asked herself “why am I being treated this way”. The answer was within her all the time…. This was Wakan Tanka’s answer to her prayers; this was his gift to her.

Peace.

I should have…..

I watched the TV show Mom the other night.  Her daughter, in her drug and alcohol days, had been raped.  She went to an AA meeting, only to see her attacker there, which brought everything back, including guilt.  She apologizes to all women for not telling.  Thinking about it had me considering what my options could have been, should have been..

There is always guilt in our life isn’t there?  That moral compass that keeps us, at least, trying to head in the right direction.  You hear the stereotypes about the Jewish mother or Catholic mother guilting their children into behaving well.  I was a Lutheran and tried it as well!  OY!  It doesn’t work!, so why do we allow it to work on us.  We apply the guilt….I should have said no, I should have fought harder, I should have told more people, I should have…I should have….

In researching forgiving ourselves, I have found there are some wonderful blogs and websites to help you with some answers.  Dr. Wayne Dyer’s books helped me through some dark times, and he is still relevant today.  His website is drwaynedyer.com  If forgiving yourself is something that is plaguing you, take a look at his writings.  He is pretty commercial, but his wisdom may help.  Mindbodygreen.com also has an article entitled, “10 Ways To Forgive Yourself & Let Go Of The Past”.  Number four from the article hit me the strongest, “Realize you did the best you could at the time.”

For whatever reason; age, mental condition, physical condition, family dependencies, faith justifications,…….we did the best we could at the time.  Would we change some things now, do some things differently?  Probably..but we are different people now than we were.  We are STRONGER!

The article also talks about cutting yourself some slack.  My partner, who happens to be my husband, gives me a hard time about not being able to take the day off.  Do nothing!  I feel guilty!  My mom used to write me letters filled with all of the things she was doing on a daily basis…She could get stuff done.. I have a sister who works at the same energy level..I am amazed at what they can get done, and fill guilty that I get half as much done in a day…. Why?

Think about what you contribute, to the world, your family, your job.  It’s not the same as what someone else does; it may be more, it may be less, but it’s you.  You in all of your gloriousness.  It’s you..  No more should’ve.  No more guilt.  You, me, we; we all did the best, and continue to do the best we could and we can…

Peace