Sunday, October 22, 2017

To Everyone With a Me Too Story:

(told or untold)

I've been reading your stories and realized I am what some of you thought of when you differentiated yourself from a "real victim." Some of you were never touched. Some of you were unconscious or drunk or half asleep. Some of you didn't know the person who did it. And for those reasons and many others, you felt less legit. You felt ridiculous because someone else's suffering towered over yours.

Someone like me. I'm not saying my experience was the worst, but I think measuring sticks for suffering are bogus. Anyway, I was awake and I was tiny and it was my father. My story is one people don't want to hear. It's just too much, if there were a scale for such things. I couldn't tell much of it anyway because my mind decided it was impossible to live with and repressed the memories after I told my mom. If it wasn't for an exam that documented scarring, I don't know when I would've been wise enough to believe it. 

And what I want to say to you is, your hurt sounds SO LIKE mine. I don't feel a space between us. It doesn't matter if there was or wasn't penetration. They crashed through your edges as if you were their property and now you struggle to feel safe and autonomous and at home in your body. That's the same, friends. That's the same freakin' thing. 

Which is why I love this quote:

This is a jewel of truth we forgot when we were treated like a cubby-hole for penises. Some of us have found it again and that gives the rest of us hope it can be found. I'm still finding it. 

I'm still finding lots of things, but for the sake of sistering, here's what I've learned.

If I could speak to my former self or someone who's just beginning to address this pain, I would say, "Go ahead, lovie. The darkness won't crush you. I'm calling to you from the place where light lives and one day you'll bask in sunshine much brighter and warmer than you've ever felt."   

I know you're split open, but your soul is held safe. By any higher power you admit to, the pure, carefree version of you is not lost. I believe it's held safe somewhere in the cosmos beyond this earth so nothing evil can touch it. I know it's gone and you can't reach it now, but that healing people talk about? It's when you're reunited with yourself. 

This will take time. I'm sorry to tell you this part, but I don't want you to feel you're doing it wrong when you can't bounce back. Anyone who tells you to suck it up or pull yourself up by your bootstraps can stay the hell away from you for a few years. Find the people who know the truth about this pain and listen to them. They will teach you how to become your own hero, someone who's in this with you no matter how long it takes. 

Can I tell you something else? Sometimes the deepest shame is about what we did as a result of assault. As a girl, I trotted to my neighbor's house and showed their kids some things I'd learned. In counseling as a grown up, I could hardly bare to write about it in my workbook. I figured what my dad did was his fault (and wasn't even sure of that), but what I did because of it was surely my responsibility. Well, this is another thing you'll need to sort, but when you do, it will feel like you've cut loose a bag of bricks. 

No matter how minor you've considered your experience, it sent the message, You're not safe. This message can settle in our bones. That's what trauma does and we have to relearn a sense of safety. You'll have to show your sweet self, "You are safe," and she won't get it right away and so you'll show her again. 

The best gift you'll find on this road is a friend in yourself. This seems impossible if you're still hating yourself for being there and not being strong enough to save yourself. I blamed and punished myself for fourteen years before I took a second look at what happened and I've only recently begun to accept my vulnerability. 

Most importantly, healing will come.

Not all at once, but it will come.

And a part of mine has come from knowing I'm not alone.

Me too. 

P.S. There's a little more about my experience over here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fall Touches: Inside

How do you make fall happen in a house that's mostly pink, turquoise, grey and gold? I wasn't sure myself, so for the last few years, I just put a white porcelain pumpkin out, lit some candles and called it good.

But then I saw the perfect pillow and it all became easier. See?

In fall, I want all the baskets and blankets and plaids. So with that lovely pillow pulling in oranges and smoky blues and the mustard throw, I was set!

I also love salt rock lamps but didn't know how to incorporate them into my house. I found a set of two votive holders and love watching it glow on chilly nights. I'm still loving my fake flowers, even though one of them's gotten a little sooty! 

I pulled the blanket basket from another room and love being able to stuff a blanket in there rather than folding it to look tidy over the back of a chair! So easy. 

The other touch of fall we have is a bowl of candy corn in the kitchen. It's a tradition and it's usually gone in a couple days, but there it is.

Hope you're enjoying all the beauty of the season! 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fall Touches: Outside

Beauty is healing and so is inspiration. So when you struggle to justify buying pumpkins that will rot and you don't even know how to cook their insides (me), remember the blessing they are TO YOUR SOUL. Sometimes it's worth it. :)

Do you remember when I painted that doormat way back when? I ended up buying a better quality one and using the same process. I'm glad I did because it's still going strong! Easiest project ever too. The navy and white napkins were from the dollar section at Target, as was the little orange candle holder. I love to have a candle-lit porch - especially on Halloween night when so many kids come to our door. I'm not on the scary wagon, so I like to offer a warm, inviting but festive porch. 

I've collected old lanterns over the years and put tea lights inside them as well as the mason jars. It gets very twinkly! 

As you can see in the photo above, we need to paint. We've needed to since we bought this house eight years ago. And of course, I have a dreamy (different) color scheme for the exterior. But alas, years pass and it's SUCH a big job. We've not found the time or money, BUT I can still enjoy my porch as it is, right now. #downwithperfectionism

I splurged for Australian Blue pumpkins and white pumpkins because I've heard they don't attract squirrels. The squirrels in our neighborhood come on our porch and demolish any pumpkins we have, which makes such a mess I didn't plan to buy any this year. We'll see how this goes...

So there's the outdoor decor! I'll be posting how I finally managed to bring some fall touches to my interior soon. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Decision Making for the Perfectionist

I've been in a pickle lately because I can't make good enough decisions. When options arise and I have to make a choice, I seriously want to check out. There's been a negative cloud around every decision, saying things like:

You don't have enough information to make the right decision.

You have conflicting information and who do you believe?

Your instincts may not take you where you ultimately want to be.

Is that your instinct or your rebel side?

You've made what you thought were right decisions before, and you're still not where you'd hoped.

Do you actually think it's working?

Even if you get four out of five goals accomplished with one decision, the one you missed is crucial.

You can't relax/enjoy your life unless you find the perfect route through this day.

All of this dooms me and I have sludged through life lately, never feeling free to be happy. 


When I said I was a recovering perfectionist, I wasn't lying. 


What the what.

So guess what woke me up?

Making a super hard decision not to go to the Boundary waters with my family and father-in-law this weekend. I had no peace when I planned to go and none when I planned to stay. I just had to make the call based on what I know of me and my health right now. How long would I pay for sleepless nights? Would the therapy of being in nature outweigh the tension from being cold? Would I feel so sad and lonely at home, knowing I was missing this experience with my people? 

When I felt sure I'd be better off at home, a part of me would say, What if it went perfectly? What if the weather wasn't rainy and you didn't injure yourself (actually a concern, but won't take time to explain) and what if it was magical?

It was torture. When I told the kids I wasn't going, I cried. Then I felt the need to do a big project to justify staying home. Then I told myself that could wear me out too. Then I felt like throwing caution to the wind and going. I told my chiropractor and she said, "Those are hard decisions. You've worked really hard to feel as good as you do and you don't want to throw it all away in a weekend."

The most important part was hearing someone affirm this isn't a simple/easy decision. That made it okay to not like things about either option. It helped me accept that neither was ideal and stop telling myself I had to force whatever I chose to be magical. I also don't have to point to five hundred things as it's playing out to justify my decision. Or condemn it.

The best thing I can do for me is decide I'm not going to stress about right or wrong, better or best.

Because sometimes there's a way that's clearly better and sometimes there isn't. And when there isn't, we roll the dice. Like it or not, there's so many unknowns, we have to sometimes. And the only time that's detrimental is when we tie ourselves in knots trying to concoct a perfect solution and then pick apart the outcome under the guise of "trying to learn from it." That whole process, repeated over and over all day long, feels like it's taking life out of me, one drop at a time. 

So I asked the kids and Brian to write me a letter. I'll read one each day I won't see them at all. I invited girlfriends to go to a movie with me Sunday, since that'll be my longest day alone. I plan to run errands, but don't know if I'll get them all done or if I'll paint the back steps. I'm planning to unplug Friday, Saturday and Sunday to get some of the benefits of being off the grid. 

They left today. I started making decisions and when I wanted to critique my first plan, I just shut it down. It's good enough, I said. Good enough.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Self, I Will Love You

Oh, my friends. I was afraid to tell you how good I was feeling after my anointing because life is messy and full of set backs and not as clear in improvement as the before and after photos I post of my house. 

Not at all.

I long to be living in a pretty after shot. 

But I recently got a news flash from a book called How to Be an Adult in Relationships, by David Richo. Life has phases, much like weather patterns and in reality (verses fantasy), those phases are healthy and good - even the ones that feel like I do now. 

I've been exhausted lately. I can point out reasons why that may be, but it's discouraging no matter how I explain it. Just when I thought I was on the cusp of something much brighter with a lot more energy, I'm back to working on making that possible. It feels like hacking away at things that cage me and sometimes getting my head out to breathe real life, like that first crisp fall breeze pushing out the heat. When I get a whiff, I go a little crazy, blessing everything I see. My mental persona's always on the verge of a jig and my heart is easily warmed. It's heady stuff.

Then it goes away and there's nothing I can do to hold it. They say the ego is grasping and only the immature heart doesn't understand it's not good to freeze things the way they are. Do you realize the romance stage is actually a time when our adrenaline is high and if we COULD make it last, it would do our bodies harm? It also happens to be the time when we're unaware of each other's flaws, so unconditional love isn't possible. Much better for a relationship to go through the natural cycle of romance, conflict, and commitment. 

I've experienced this in marriage and even achieved some level of security with it. I don't believe everything is shot to hell if we have an intense face-off. I believe in our commitment that circles us around and closer to each other, if we can find a way. I know we always both want it, even when we don't know the way and that helps me weather those times with more grace.

However, I'm new to being in a loving relationship with my self and there's been cruelty that causes me to feel like the bridge back to harmony with myself is freakin' rickety. 

Because it is. 

Tonight, I'm looking out over that bridge. On the other side is a sweet lady who keeps putting on the pounds and I'm not sure what to think of her. Embracing her hasn't caused the weight to "just fall off" (my secret hope). I've been trying to trust my body to let the weight go when it was ready, but faith isn't this big. Yet.

Maybe tomorrow. 

Maybe she's waiting to see if I can do this; love her either way. 

We're both scared I can't. I throw fits regularly, stomping from my side of the bridge, wishing she would get her act together. I keep refusing to put her on a diet and punish her with work outs or shame her for what she eats for fun, but I still do it sometimes. For a while I justified her size because she had more energy, which wasn't real love either, but it gave me a break from trying to love for no reason at all. 

My unconditional love muscles are apparently atrophied from long misuse, but I still believe in them. I know they're there. I was created with them and I'm determined to give them a chance to come back to life. 

So here's to the daily confusion, not knowing what to say to my self that would be loving and healing. Not sure how to act around myself. Feeling awkward and staring into those dark brown eyes that need love so badly, and feeling like I don't have it to give. 

I will find it, by God's grace. 

I promise. 

I will make my way to you and embrace you exactly the way you are today.

I actually love you a little bit already.

P.S. If you want to see what kind of bridge I'm picturing, go here

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Handling the Unknowns

Confused is a word I've used to describe myself so many times, I can't even count. There are pluses and minuses to literally everything and sometimes I'd give anything for a little thing called certainty. Here are some questions I've been pondering for years. 

How do I get from seeing fat in the mirror to loving my body unconditionally?

How do we give our kids/spouses/friends the five A's (attention, appreciation, acceptance, allowing and affection) when it takes a calm heart to give those and a busy heart is a distracted heart?

How do we navigate requests with integrity when we know something is not a priority to us, but it seems hurtful to say so?

What do I do with the strong feelings that there's a formula that would create a healthy me and all I do is wonder what it is and feel sure I'd fall short even if I knew?

How do we reconcile our people's need for us with our need to be alone? 

How do we make room for our spirituality when we will appear rude, not a team player, etc?

Believing I can do life better and healthier than I've ever done it gives me hope. I don't have to stay here. Light is coming. Truth will set me free. Jesus isn't scared of any of my dark corners and he's the ultimate shit sorter. 

My method for finding a better life has been learn a lot of stuff and try to do it. My generation's all about intentional choices. We don't just go with expectations and check all the boxes. We think and ponder and learn and decide. What do WE want? What will be meaningful for us? We've watched generations who assumed meaning and connection would be there if they went through the motions of life and realized it's not a given. It takes work. 

And that's kind of true. It is work to learn to say no so you have time with your people. It's work to let go of trying to please everyone and do what's true and right for you. It's work to unearth the prejudices you hold over yourself and others. 

I think it's great we don't expect meaning to just happen, but all our work can't force it. It's a gift. And my learning and STRESSING ABOUT APPLYING IT gets in the way of the gift.

Which is where spirituality comes to the rescue. I regularly see it's too much for me - that creating this life I've dreamed up is too hard. I call on strength and wisdom and goodness that surpasses my own. 

And while it's not a formula that stacks up neatly with answers to all our questions, we can go back to truth and not be too proud to let it sustain us. (Which requires NOT inwardly saying, I will continue to freak out until I get answers.) 

I will choose my people over my hectic, just for today. 

I will try again when I screw up, just for today.

I am blessed and loved which is proved by my existing today.

I don't carry my people. My job is to bless them, just for today.

I can hold onto my dreams, just for today.

I can hold onto my dreams when I have no freakin' idea how to make them happen, just for today.

I can rest in the presence of the Knower of all my unknowns, even if she doesn't tell me all the secrets.

I can trust. Every time I'm stressed, I can choose to trust. 

You notice I say "just for today" a lot. A yoga teacher introduced that little phrase as a way to take life in bite-sizes we can handle without panicking. It aligned with what Jesus said about each day having enough worries of its own. I may not know how to make decisions that support real connection for all the days, but knowing what to do right now is enough. 

So back to certainty or clarity. If you find yourself lusting after these like I do, we have to remember we don't actually NEED to know the things we don't know. If we did, we'd have those answers. What we NEED to know, what we need to be clear on, is those statements of truth. I'd rather know I'm loved than what foods cause inflammation in my body. I'd rather know I have forever tries than how my kid's friend drama will play out. I'd rather know Jesus is all over that situation than know I handled it perfectly. 

So be clear about this. 

You are doing just fine. 

God is proud of you. 

You are not falling short because you don't have all the answers.

We're baby birds hopping around, trying to learn to fly and he thinks we're wonderful.

Right now. 

That's all I really need to know.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

I'm Well

About fifteen years ago, I learned that when someone asks how you are, it's not proper to say, "I'm good." It should be, "I'm well." A lot of people don't care about these things, but I thought, Hmm...I'd like to say that right. But habits are habits and I could never remember.

Some of you have been hearing about my struggle with fatigue since I learned a name for it and shared it way back here. After trying the current fads and typical adrenal fatigue treatment (and getting worse), I began eating a healing diet last spring. I believed it would give my body the best chance at solving its' own problems, since medicine didn't seem to have the answers.

It helped me lose my excess weight, but I didn't experience more energy. I added EMDR therapy to help me sort things on the emotional end and made some great strides. I figured, in time, the two would create a magical synergy and I'd find myself feeling better. I did experience more energy right before Christmas, possibly the joy of the season and being engrossed in preparation for it, but when it was over, my energy plummeted. I felt more tired than I had in a long time and outside stresses took a toll. I gained the weight back, even though I was still eating the healing diet.

I felt angry and fatalistic. Eating such a restricted diet for a year had been hard. How would I ever gain momentum when things I can't control come and trample all my progress? I started asking God what to do next, and didn't hear anything. 
Then we read James in Bible study. 

I wondered, "Why haven't I done this?" and proceeded to listened to stories of people who had. Some were healed immediately and some found healing later. It was interesting, but I didn't resolve to do it.

During times when I feel lost, I sometimes let songs be my prayers. Artists find words when I can't, so one day at work, I picked a worship playlist on Spotify to listen to. I had low expectations since I'm not a fan of Christian radio. I like things a little more soulful and earthy, so I expected to enjoy maybe every sixth song. But each song was a surprise. I found myself saving song after song to a playlist of my own, which became the soundtrack of my life. I listened constantly and began noticing themes the songs shared: 

The immense power of God - of his name
Her miracle-working ability
It is well with my soul
I will trust him - even if he doesn't fix this

That's when I realized God was my DJ that day. She picked those songs to nourish me and through each word, funneled faith into my heart. As I'd listen, I felt sure of those truths. I'd sing as loud as I could in the car because I wanted the universe to hear (and maybe the deepest parts of my soul too) that I'd love God no matter what happened. The faith I've wished for and prayed for filled me up and I had NO REASON to feel that way. I still had no idea how to help my body. I still had no money to spend on further treatment. I was at a dead end and I was bursting with hope.

I told my pastor about it and he said, "That's why they call it the peace that passes understanding." 

One morning I was showering and listening to my playlist. I started imagining who I'd want there if I were anointed. I pictured where I'd want to be and who would pray. I started crying when I thought of all the people who love me and would probably drop everything to come pray over me. I remembered my mom was anointed when I was a kid. Absorbed in my thoughts, I felt God say, "I want to do this FOR you." 

So I marched myself into the church and asked to be anointed. It was easy because for once I knew what the next right thing was. It was hard because I'd been ashamed of my mom when she'd been anointed and asking for help still didn't FEEL strong. Mom had complications after a surgery and doctors said the only solution was another surgery. She'd been in a robe when the elders came over and I was in junior high, so obviously, this was mortifying. I was so embarrassed I had either missed the fact or forgotten that she was healed instantly. No surgery needed.

Well I was anointed with my family around me, my mom, my in-laws, and a few of the precious friends who've walked with me through this struggle. They prayed over me and cried over me and put oil on my forehead. I wanted any healing Jesus had for me and didn't doubt some healing would come, whether it was freedom from guilt over napping or crazy amounts of energy. I just wanted him to touch me. 

The next day my inner voice drove me crazy asking, "How are you feeling now? How 'bout now?" All. Day. And I got scared. What if she didn't show up? That's the part about putting yourself out there in all your raw need. You know how devastating it will be if God doesn't come through. 

I've learned that sitting outside is therapy in itself, so I sat on my patio and prayed. Well, I held my aching heart up to God, but there weren't a lot of words. Then I looked up at the trees and saw two squirrels chasing each other through the branches. One of them was my black squirrel. (That's another story, but black squirrels remind me that Jesus loves me and in this difficult time, one seemed to have moved into our yard.) I watched him a long time and felt my soul quiet. It would be okay. God would always show up for me. 

And he has. For a while, I felt wide awake when I woke in the morning and could take or leave my usual nap. If I chose to take my normal (90 minute) nap, I'd be unable to sleep when I went to bed. I felt inspired and did projects I've wanted to do for years. My energy isn't quite so high or erratic now; it's more steady and I'm able to do a day without a nap and not be a zombie all evening. There's just more there. It's amazing. 

During the anointing, my husband said, "If this journey is like rowing across a lake, you've been rowing hard. I think it will feel different if you put the oars down and just ride." That's exactly what it was about and it's not easy. I reach for the oars every day, wanting that feeling of being in charge and taking myself somewhere. But I don't. 

And remarkably, after fifteen years of wanting to remember to say, "I'm well," instead of, "I'm good," I've been remembering ever since the anointing. Maybe it's because it's finally true. I'm well. Not fully healed, not fatigue-is-only-a-memory, but I'm definitely well in places I've never been before.

God showed up. 

In all her power and love.

So I'm well.