(This was an article I wrote for OdysseyOnLine in 2016)
Yes, I am angry-pissed off-frustrated-annoyed-fuming-livid and just plain mad. I am sick and tired of road bullies terrorizing others. Let me explain.
I am not going to pretend to understand math and science. Specifically, I am not going to pretend that I can explain physics. What I do know is that physics is a science using math to explain things like motion, gravity, space, and all things over which I have no control. Yet, some of the basic ideas in physics appear to be somewhat logical even to me.
I am also not going to pretend to understand aggressive drivers and road rage. “An estimated eight million drivers admit to more extreme behavior, according to new AAA research. Nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year, according to a new study released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The most alarming findings suggest that approximately eight million U.S. drivers engaged in extreme examples of road rage, including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver.” None of this seems logical to me.
What I do know about road rage and aggressive drivers is that most of them appear to be men in big trucks, mixed with the occasional middle-aged woman in a minivan or large SUV. I have no statistics to prove this, just my careful observation.
The aggressive behavior I most often encounter is tailgating. No, I am not referring to the cookout and beer drinking events before football games and concerts. I am talking about the driver who pulls within less than one car length of your rear bumper in a vain attempt to make you drive faster or get out of their way. I simply want to ask them, “Who elected you king of the road?” or more directly, “What the heck do you think you are doing?”
Back to physics for a moment. Newton developed three laws of motion that can be applied directly to the problem at hand.
*Newton ‘s First Law of Motion:
Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.
*Newton’s Second Law of Motion
F=MA Force = Mass Acceleration The force acting on an object is equal to the mass of that object times its acceleration.
*Newton’s Third Law of Motion
To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction; or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.
I will be so bold as to interpret Newton’s laws of motion as applied to aggressive drivers who tailgate. When a vehicle tailgates another vehicle it “compels” the other vehicle using external force (hitting it) and changes it action (direction and shape). When a vehicle is tailgating, the size and speed of the vehicle determine how much damage is done to the vehicle it hits. The opposite and equal reaction of being hit from behind by a vehicle they exert a force on each other. People are hurt and vehicles are damaged.
Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory” explains it best:
Sheldon: Look, you’re not leaving yourself enough space between cars.
Penny: Oh, sure I am.
Sheldon: No, no. Let me do the math for you, this car weighs let’s say 4,000lb, now add say 140 for me, 120 for you.
Sheldon: Oh, I’m sorry, did I insult you? Is your body mass somehow tied into your self-worth?
Penny: Well, yeah.
Sheldon: Interesting. Anyway, that gives us a total weight of, let’s say, 4,400lb.
Penny: Let’s say 4,390.
Sheldon: Fine. We’re traveling forward at, good Lord, 51 miles an hour. Now let’s assume that your brakes are new and the calipers are aligned, still, by the time we come to a stop, we’ll be occupying the same space as that Buick in front of us, an impossibility that nature will quickly resolve into death, mutilation and… oh look, they built a new put-put course.
— Big Bang Theory Series 01 Episode 04 – “The Luminous Fish Effect”
Why am I ranting about this you might wonder? Four years ago, I was involved in a five-car accident that resulted from someone in a larger vehicle following too close at a high rate of speed. It resulted in injuries and damages to all cars involved. After four years, we are still in litigation over this. All because someone was being a bully on the road. Yes, I said bully, because in my opinion drivers who tailgate others are intending to intimidate them to get their way. That says bully to me.
If you should happen to encounter me on the road and decide you want to tailgate me, I will slow down and stare you down from my mirrors until you back off. It is not your road. You do not control how I drive or how fast I go. No, I am not going too slow. I am obeying the LAW that tells all drivers how fast they may go. You are breaking the law by speeding and by tailgating. You are not more important than anyone else on the road…really…you aren’t.
So JUST STOP IT!
One day you will hit someone from the rear. You might be injured and your vehicle might be destroyed. You will certainly cause damage to the vehicle you hit and may cause pain and suffering to the people in the car or cars in front of you. You may lose your life or cause the death of another. For the love of all that is good, just leave a few minutes earlier. Take a deep breath. You will arrive at your destination without creating chaos on the road.
I am going to assume my ranting will not change the driving habits of most people reading this. I only hope that some of you will understand and perhaps think about the way you drive. The next time you are driving and are tempted to pull up close enough to the car in front of you so you can see the eyes of the driver in their rear view mirror, remember Newton’s Laws and South Carolina law.
From the SC DMV Driver’s Handbook: (A ticket for following too closely is 4 points)
Following Other Cars Rear-end crashes are very common at intersections and they can be avoided. The leading cause for these crashes is following other vehicles too closely. When following another vehicle on any street or highway, use a minimum of three to four second following interval. If any unusual conditions exist, such as rainy weather or increased traffic, add an additional second. To give yourself a three to four second following distance from the vehicle ahead of you, watch as the vehicle passes a stationary object such as a sign, pole or tree. Count the seconds it takes you to reach that the same point (“One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three). If you pass the object before you finish counting, you are following too closely. Always drive more slowly and allow more following distance when pavement is wet or icy and when driving in fog.
The text below is an assignment for my Religion and Society class.
“Experiment with Ahimsa,” following the model of Gandhi and his autobiography. After re-reading about Gandhi’s understanding of ahimsa and his experiments with Truth, conduct an “experiment with non-violence.” For some set time (3-7 days), attempt to refrain from all forms of violence towards other human beings and animals, including (but no limited to) anger, hate, gossip, personal criticism, evil thoughts, jealousy, and physical violence toward any other being. Try to remove violence from speech, mind, and action; and try not to support others if they engage in violent speech, thought or conduct. You must maintain a record of your experiences and “experiments with Truth”, using Gandhi’s book as your model to emulate.
As we discussed this in class, I asked about food and football. The Professor smiled and explained that we would have to make our own determination about how far we were willing and able to go with food in this process. Since football is a sport and there is no intention of harm, I am going to say that watching football wouldn’t be a hindrance to this process. ” In fact, he (Gandhi) was a path-breaker of sorts, even in football, when in 1896, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, still a young, relatively unknown lawyer in South Africa, was amongst a group of pre-dominantly Indian men, who helped form the Transvaal Indian Football Association” (Ayush Srivastava – The Goal). There was even a team called the Passive Resisters. Later, Gandhi would say that while his country was in turmoil against the British, people should be more interested in changing the country than sports.
While reading about Gandhi and his idea of ahisma, we learned that Ghandi believed non violence went far beyond “doing no violence or harm”. Gandhi taught that ahisma was non violence in our thoughts, intentions, actions, and our lifestyle. It was about compassion and love.
I haven’t written a blog post since last week. I started writing several times only to discard it. No words seemed right after the events of last week. I will say that my heart breaks for the families, friends, and community of Newtown. I decided to wait until closer to Christmas and share some of the joys of the season and to share the lessons and treasures of this past year.
However, something happened today that made me change my mind. This afternoon I saw a facebook message from a friend offering her prayers and condolences to the mother of a 15-year-old young man. As I read the posts of the past day, I realized the young man was only a couple of weeks older than my grandson. I didn’t know him but he was part of the group of boys that grew up in scouting in our community. I looked at his picture as I read the words from his mother, “The autopsy reports it was an apparent suicide by hanging. No one noticed any signs of depression. It was such a shock to us all.”
I am writing this post because I was once in a place of such darkness, pain, anger, fear, and loneliness that I tried to take my life. I was helpless and hopeless. I couldn’t see a way that my life would ever be anything different. When you are that depressed the world disappears and makes no sense. It is as if you are in a bubble and no one can see you or hear you or get to you.
I made one last phone call that night to a friend.
She said, “I can’t do this. I can’t go down this road with you anymore. I love you, but I will not go any further with you unless you get help.”
She gave me the phone number to the crisis hotline and begged me to call them. The one person I thought would care turned her back on me. After taking moresome pills and downing a half bottle of Southern Comfort, I picked up the phone and called. The woman on the phone that night saved my life.
Things didn’t get better overnight. I became part of a twelve step program. I got therapy. I eventually started on medication. I learned to let people into my life and talk when I was angry, scared or lonely. I made a mess of things from time to time, but I learned how to clean up my messes and not make the same mistakes again.
That was almost 26 years ago. Life still has ups and downs. Life still gets messy from time to time. Life still hurts more that I can bear sometimes, but I know what to do. I have repaired relationships with family and have better relationships than I ever imagined possible. I have friends that I love and cherish. I have support any time I need it. Oh, and that friend who “turned her back on me” that night is still my friend and I thank her from time to time for the gift she gave me.
If you are reading this and you have thoughts of suicide or you live with depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.(or you know someone who does) PLEASE reach out to someone. I know it is hard. I understand it is one of the most difficult things in the world to do. I realize the phone weights two tons when you think of calling someone. I know that you believe in your heart and soul that no one will care or understand.
Just hear me when I tell you that there is hope. Even if you don’t believe me, do it anyway. There is help. Call a family member; Call a friend; Call your pastor or member from whatever faith group works for you; Call a doctor or therapist; or
Call the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine 1-800-273-TALK(8255) Chat is available. Veterans press #1 http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Online Chat support from To Write Love on Her Arms… www.IMALIVE.org The first online network with 100% of its volunteers trained and certified in crisis intervention.
The truth is, just talking to someone, explaining, sharing, venting, being listened to, can often give you a temporary reprieve. Talking to someone can temporarily change your perspective – Human contact changes the brain chemistry & opens that emotion “pod” of pent up emotions for temporary relief – and it may not be what they say, but just the exchange of emotions like empathy, compassion, & concern.
Will they cure you – no. Will they take the pain away? Maybe ease it for a little while.
Even if you know you may be upset or suicidal again soon, just give it a try.
Even though non-depressive humans won’t really know exactly how you feel — Let them try to help the best they can. Talk to them, let them listen. Most of them are not even getting paid. The only reason they are there is for you. They may not always say the exact right thing, but they are hoping that somehow they can help you make it through a difficult time, to live & fight another day.
It is no secret that I am a huge Anne Lamott fan. I also enjoy Donald Miller and Laura Winner. They all write from a place of honesty and humor that isn’t always appreciated by everyone. I just came back from Atlanta, Ga where Anne Lamott spoke to a full house. We were able to buy her new book “Help, Thanks, Wow” that was released just two weeks ago. NPR interviewed her about her new book for a Thanksgiving spot.
In searching for some information on the new book, I came across a blog post about Anne,her new book, and the NPR interview. I understand that not everyone is going to agree with her writing. I fully appreciate that not everyone agrees with me. The blog post itself was simply a review of the NPR interview Anne did for Thanksgiving.
What blew me away were the over 100 comments. People were bashing Anne Lamott, denominations, and each other. They were hostile and mean all in the name of defending their own view of Christianity. They even started insulting each others grammar. Here are just a few comments shared between “Christian” brothers and sisters: (I am leaving the spelling and grammatical errors in tact)
1. “As long as you are openly gay (like colm Toibin) or supportive of homosexual marriage (like Anne Lamott) then you get your books promoted on NPR. It’s an AGENDA, people.”
2. “What a simplistic and very scripturally wrong view of God”.
3. “With all the incredible writing on prayer in just the Christian tradition alone, NPR puts on this vapid piece of crap.”
4. “Wow, reading the comments below, it’s apparent that some do worship two things: smugness and condescension!”
5. “So, Ms. Lamott is an alcoholic who managed to stop drinking. I send her my heartiest congratulations for that. But because of that she is now an expert on “essential” prayers for all the rest of us? If I wanted to listen to blowhards who pass off their ignorant opinions as facts, I’d watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh.”
6. ‘In your introduction, you presented Lamott as a Christian; I heard little or no evidence of this in her description of prayer. What I heard was just another Northern California flake with an addictive personality who has figured out a way to make money off of it. Put this one in the cringe file!!!”
7. “White person wearing dread locks – why should I take her seriously?”
This is just a small sampling of comments. No one escaped the onslaught including Catholics, Puritans, and Jews. People attacked each other to prove their view of God, Jesus, prayer, and scripture was the right one. Sadly, I see this type of behavior from Christians over many issues; some big and some small. I am sure we are going to see name calling and hatred spewed because someone said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. It would take volumes to discuss some of the really hot issues.
One of the last comments came from a non believer. It simply said, “Thank Goodness I’m an atheist!!!” Is this really how we hope to share God’s love and our relationship with Jesus with others? It isn’t working. Maybe we could try following Paul’s advice to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:31-5:2 4: 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 5: 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
This blog post is part of NaBloPoMo. The theme for November’s NaBloPoMo is blogging for blogging’s sake.
“What other people think of me is none of my business.” was a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady (1933 – 1945) and reform leader.
I know it is none of my business, but I am a people pleaser and I want everyone to like me (even if I don’t like them so much) and think the best. I want to defend my life and choices if someone doesn’t agree or challenges me. I get angry when I feel judged or misunderstood.
I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about something my therapist calls “baskets.” She says I only have to be concerned and deal with what is in my basket. What people think of me is in their basket. I need to stay out of other people’s baskets, even if I don’t want to.
I was reminded of this quote and these lessons yesterday. I stayed quiet during a conversation in a group even though I had personal experience I could have shared. I knew I would be judged because he conversation including judging others who had similar experiences. I might have been able to offer some insight that could have been helpful, but chose to allow “what they might think of me” to control my actions.
When I become preoccupied with what someone else might think, I don’t share my honest self and voice. I have given up too much of my life to “them.” I got lost and had no idea who I was or what I believed. Truthfully, if I try to make everyone think the best of me, I am going to disappoint everyone at some point in time.
This doesn’t mean ignoring the feeling of others. I don’t want to say or do things that are mean or hurtful. I just don’t want to hide my voice or dishonor who I am in order make you like me or approve of me. I still worry about what you think about me, but I am spending much less time in that part of my brain. I am learning to speak the truth, share my voice, and be an honest, authentic me.
In the Velveteen Rabbit, the Skin Horse tells the Rabbit about becoming real.
Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
This blog post is part of NaBloPoMo. The theme for November’s NaBloPoMo is blogging for blogging’s sake.
One week ago I moved and left my marriage. Things have gone rather smoothly compared to my previous experience and that of friends. Final bills have been paid and separated, furniture and personal belongings were divided without issue, and we change the car titles on Monday.
I felt I making solid progress in getting my life back until I entered the “black hole of red tape and confusion” of the Verizon wireless store. That definition came from my friends Jan and Anna. They recently went through weeks of dealing with just that at the hands of some rather prickly Verizon customer service reps.
It seems I can’t take my phone number from the account my husband and I shared. His name was primary on the account and even though I was an account manager, I have no voice. Now my husband has never called Verizon, paid a bill, set up billing ID’s, etc but he is in charge. He has to call and allow me to take my phone number and create my own account. Mind you I had this number before my marriage with Verizon on my own account.
Once done I can create my own account with a rather hefty deposit because “the history is in his name and I have no track record.” I could change to one of the prepaid accounts but because I would be breaking the contract on my phone number I would have to pay to break the contract. Remember, I don’t have a voice because my phone number belongs to his account, but my phone number has a separate contract. What? Huh? Now according to the rather robotic service person at the store, I could move my contract to another relative or friend’s account without breaking my contract. So why can’t I move it to a prepaid account without breaking my contact? “I am sorry Ma’am” was his reply. I wasn’t feeling the love.
So I left the store feeling defeated. It took me back to another time in my life that I felt trapped by ridiculous policies that treat the spouse (usually the woman) as an unimportant entity. These same policies often happen with other utility companies. This leaves many women helpless when trying to leave a marriage. The bills are often in the man’s name even though the woman often paid the bills or partnered in the effort. Allowing these accounts to be held in both names in a marriage would be a huge step in helping spouses restart their lives.
I felt I had indeed taken a step backwards today. I felt angry, frustrated, and something of a second class person. I decided to leave the store without expressing my anger since it would have been an emotional reaction that would not serve me in the long run. So I write tonight, because that is I process and try to make sense of something senseless.
I am sitting on the couch with my friend and watching Clemson play football. She even encouraged me to get a brownie this afternoon. Chocolate does heal all wounds. I have a plan in place to deal with the phone situation thanks to my daughter and her husband. I look at my life and remember that two steps forward and one step back is still progress. Continue reading →
I loaded the car with several heavy super force-flex trash bags. They were each packed with a variety of clothing I had been sorting for days. Some things were too big for me to wear since losing weight. They were the easy decisions. I argued with myself over most of the other items.
I held up a T shirt I had never worn. I bought it two years ago at an event.
“You really need to keep this one. That was from a great hockey game for the fireman.” I barely remember the game and only remembered which county the firemen were from because the T-shirt had it printed on the back.
“But the T-shirt is white and not very pretty. You only bought it because you always buy T-shirts at events. You haven’t worn it because you don’t really like it. ” The logical side of my mind took a turn at the argument.
This discussion took place many times. I would struggle as I placed each item of clothing in the bag. I had some other miscellaneous items from the house I went through as well, each with a new argument. These were my things. I like my things. I didn’t want to give up my things. But, I am moving soon and won’t have the space to keep all of it.
I have made the trip to Goodwill many times over the years, but this trip with those big bags in the car was different. As I got closer to the store, I could feel the tears building. I wanted to fight them back, but they seemed to break the imaginary barrier I had in place. I knew this was only the beginning of letting go.
I am letting go of a marriage than isn’t working and is taking my peace and serenity. It means letting go of a lot of comforts and “things’. I will be moving from a three bedroom house into a bedroom. I have to decide what is really important and what I can let go.
I recently let go of a job that did not work in my life any longer. It meant letting go of work friends, networking, and parts of a twelve year career that I loved. I fought to hold on for a long time. Once I left, I knew it was the right decision.
As I unload the bags and drove away from the Goodwill, I fought back the tears one more time. I am sure I won’t miss most of the clothing and items I left there that day. I am trying to understand that I am making the choice to let go and not feel as if these things are being taken from me.
I read the quote from the picture today. “Everything I have ever let go of has claw marks on it.” I smiled because I understood that statement so well. I have gone so far as to hold on and go back to sharpen my claws for a better hold. Once I truly let go I wonder why I fought so hard to hold on to something that no longer served me.
I am going to try letting go with my hands and arms wide open for the next few weeks. I am going to trust that letting go means opening the way for new things to fill those spaces. I am sure there will be still be a sense of loss and some grieving, but I know that will be eventually bring healing. If you should see me with my claws out, please remind me to pull them in and let go.
At the beginning of summer, the pastor of my church started a series of sermons using Disney stories and characters to share spiritual lessons. She also shared that she hoped we would all be thinking about our own stories during this time. She asked if I would be willing to share part of my story at the end of the series. I made a promise a long time ago that I would never say no to sharing my story.
I was at the church on Wednesday talking with Jan, the pastor at the church and saw the bulletin. It said, “Sermon-Cathy Morton”. I showed it to Jan and explained that I was “speaking” on Sunday, not doing a sermon. She laughed and said I was indeed doing the sermon. I jumped on the internet and searched for the definition of “sermon”. Here is the definition I found: 1. A religious discourse delivered as part of a church service. 2. An often lengthy and tedious speech of reproof or exhortation. OK, I was doing the sermon. I just hoped it was not going to be lengthy or tedious.
Several friends asked if I would share the sermon with them. I decided I would share it on this Sunday morning in lieu of being with my church family today. I am sitting in a beautiful country house in Vermont this morning and spending some quiet time praying and having incredible gratitude for my life story.
Here is the “sermon”. Please remember that the grammar and sentence structure are not correct throughout. This was my outline for speaking. Thank you for letting me share this with you today.
“What Is Your Story?”
I was so excited when I heard that the sermons this summer were going to be based on stories and characters from Disney. I am still a kid at heart and love Disney. I was even more excited the day the story was from Peter Pan with my favorite character Tinkerbell. Since Pastor Jan asked if I would share part of my story with you as part of this series, I have been praying about sharing it with you.
Some of you know that I have a blog and that I love to write. Writing for me is about telling my story. As I heard some of the stories this summer, it seemed that I had forgotten some things about these stories or remembered them in a different way. Have you ever heard a story and realized that it wasn’t the story you remembered or this person told the story in a similar way but the facts were different?
It took a long time for me to figure out that I had been listening to the stories about God and Jesus from other people. I read the stories myself, but I let others tell me what they really meant. Over the years, I came to realize that what I was missing was a relationship with God and trusting God to help me understand the story.
The children here sing “Jesus Loves Me” every Sunday morning. The kids love it and the adults get involved. The song has had a bit of different meaning in my life. I heard the story of the song in a different way. As a child, I learned very quickly that I was indeed weak. The people who were supposed to care for me, protect me, love me……didn’t. They were strong but used that strength in harmful ways. By the time I started going to church I was in the first grade. It was the first time I heard that song. At six years old, I had already experienced several forms of abuse from those strong people. I had been abandoned by my parents and sent to live with my grandparents……..that was just a chance of faces, not circumstances.
My grandmother started taking me to church and she did stop drinking, smoking, and cussing. That had to be divine intervention. It would not be the last time something happened in my life where I knew God’s hand intervened. But I don’t believe my grandmother ever came to know the God who loved the world enough to sacrifice His son for us. The story of God she told me was that God was a vengeful punishing God. She had stories from the Bible to prove it. When I heard in church that God loves us just as our earthly father loves us, well…it seemed to prove her point. I had already had two fathers who were punishing and vengeful.
She also said that bad things happen because we are bad. Yes…. so many bad things had happened that I wondered what I could have done that was so very wrong that it would keep God from loving me. I felt that God couldn’t possibly love me..in fact, I didn’t know anyone that I believed was capable of loving me.
Those beliefs followed me. As a young wife and mother, we lived in the church. I married a Southern Baptist so that is what I became. My husband was a deacon, his father was a deacon. I taught children’s Sunday school, VBS, youth, and served on any committee that had to do with kids and food. That was the extent of service women were allowed to have.
But I still didn’t believe God loved me. In fact, I felt so empty on the inside. I just wanted to know God the way other people said they did. Jesus was their best friend, God spoke to them all the time, in fact, God often told some of them that I should teach Sunday school and VBS, etc. Our pastor did a short series of sermons on evil, and Jesus driving out demons from people. and how God turned Job over to Satan. I started to believe perhaps that was what happened to me. I went home after church one night, and Billy Graham was on TV talking about the same thing. I stood and listened and at the end when he offered the invitation. I went to the TV with tears in my eyes. I told God that I was so sorry for whatever horrible things I had done and if he would just take this evil from me, I would do whatever he asked.
I tried so hard to find the perfect formula to make him love me. All the work in the church, starting the day with devotions, reading my bible, not listening to secular music or certain tv shows. But it just didn’t work. You see…I missed another part of the story. I knew John 3 16…I am sure you all do.
John 3:16-17 New King James Version (NKJV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
But we stop reading there… one day I read the rest…
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Wait…God didn’t want to condemn me. All I had to do was believe? It couldn’t be that simple. Or could it?
One Sunday, my husband walked the isle after service and announced that God had called him to the ministry. I was speechless…I was sure there was no way God was the one making that call and I was certainly not being called to be a minister’s wife. But nonetheless, we packed up and moved to NC and attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He got his masters of divinity and master of religious education while I became an alcoholic. Yes..you heard that right. I started drinking and with my genetics it didn’t take long for me to become a full blown alcoholic. During the next few years it got worse. I left the church. Eventually I lost the only thing that mattered to me in this life..custody of my two children. I moved out the state and for the next few months, I went as far down as possible. I lost my kids, my family , my friends, my morality, my dignity, my hope and any bit of faith I ever had. In early March of 1987, I was at the end of my rope. I tried to take my own life. But God had other plans. That night, God intervened and I got help. I found an amazing therapist and she sent me to Alcoholic Anonymous.
My first meeting was in a church..Most meetings are held in churches back rooms, fellowship halls, basements, etc. I looked at the wall and saw the 12 steps. I got as far as number three. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
God?..I didn’t sign up for this. Been there done that..I could tell everyone in the room more about God than all of them put together. How was this going to help me? But something happened in those rooms. The people showed me the love of God. There were people from every denomination, every creed, some new believers, some old, some doubters…but it didn’t matter. They told me to pray and even if I thought the prayers hit the ceiling and bounced..to act as if I believed it…….. and keep doing it. They said that God loved me..yes me..a drunk, a women who had lost everything and done everything.. and one who didn’t understand God at all. Yes, God loved me.
I stayed sober. Two months later I saw my children again. That Christmas their father said they could come spend the holiday with me if I could get them there. He knew I couldn’t. I shared it with my friends and my group and asked for prayer. The next day my sponsor took me to lunch and pulled out a voucher for two airline tickets. She told that she lost her kids and never got them back. She wanted to help. She wanted me to have a chance with mine. The next day my group went out after a meeting and they handed me an envelope with cash and gift cards. They said, “we are going to keep loving you until you can love yourself and know that God loves you. ” It was the first time I saw a glimmer of hope and I really thought it was possible they were right.
I knew God was leading me to come back to church. I started visiting several churches. I thought I knew the type of church I wanted to attend, but nothing was connecting with me. I decided to visit the church where one of the volunteers from my job was the associate pastor. I didn’t know the name of the church, so I went to the internet to find it. I couldn’t find it, but the search came up and the one at the top of the list was Park Circle Presbyterian. Wonder if that was another one of those “God moments”? I grew up Presbyterian and I knew I was comfortable with the theology and doctrine. I decided to visit and what I was found was a group of people who were welcoming and accepting. You seemed to accept me as I am…..tattoos and a feather in my hair and all. You have become my church family. You reminded me that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn me, but to love me.
One of my favorite story tellers is an author named Anne Lamott. I know some of you are familiar with her. I want to share one of her quotes with you.
You were loved because God loves, period. God loved you, and everyone, not because you believed in certain things, but because you were a mess, and lonely, and His or Her child. God loved you no matter how crazy you felt on the inside, no matter what a fake you were; always, even in your current condition, even before coffee. God loves you crazily.
― Anne Lamott
Today my story includes the fact that God loves me–just as I am–PERIOD.
I hope that becomes part of your story, too.
One of the things I love about the Olympics is hearing the incredible stories of some of the athlete’s lives. I have been following the story of Kayla Harrison, who just won the Olympic gold medal for Judo. Here is a small piece of her story.
Yet winning gold has not been the most difficult challenge of Harrison’s life. When she arrived at Pedro’s training center in 2007, she was an emotionally devastated 16-year-old who had suffered years of sexual abuse by a former coach. She lacked self-esteem, had suicidal thoughts, and hated judo because the sport’s small community whispered about the abuse.
Like many survivors of sexual and physical abuse, she found someone to trust and help her heal from the abuse. She found a champion to help her fight. Then she found the courage to share her story. In the article she says, “I wanted to tell my story and I wanted to get it out to victims all over the world,” said Harrison, originally from Middletown, Ohio, who first discussed her sexual abuse publicly last fall. “I wanted people to know it was OK. It was definitely therapeutic. The first time I told the story I cried the whole time. It got a little bit easier every time.”
Social media and the press have shared her story since the Olympics began. Someone made this comment on a site yesterday, “The key word here is: SURVIVOR… She chose to NOT be a VICTIM!” I often hear this type of statement when someone shares a story of healing. It is a statement that while I believe to hold truth, is also a statement of condemnation for someone still struggling with their life.
I had my choices taken away from me the first time someone sexually abused me as a young child. I had no choice when an adult hit, slapped, or threw me down as a little girl. As the abuse continued, my choices disappeared. When I was an adult, I only knew what I learned as a child. I had no defenders. Those who might have made a difference, made their own choice not to interfere. I did not CHOOSE to be a victim. That was a CHOISE someone else made for me as a very little, scared, helpless child.
I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I think I will be done with this crap and be a survivor.” Like Kayla, someone came into my life and helped me find a way to heal. Yes, I had to make the choice to do the work. I had to find the courage to tell my story. When I was an older child, I tried to tell someone but they didn’t (or chose not to) hear. The biggest fear is sharing my story is the fear of not being believed.
Today I am a “thriver.” I am also a victim of childhood sexual, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse. For me to say, I am not a victim, is to deny what happened to me. I survived. Surviving means I lived through it and continued to exist; just exist. Then someone reached out, believed me, saw my pain, and helped me tell my story. I became a “thriver”. I started to flourish and grow. I found support and I found a way to reach out and support others in their journey.
This is my truth and this is how it works for me. If you are finding your way or have already become a “thriver”, find what works for you. Most of us will never win an Olympic gold medal, but we can fight to reclaim our right to choices. Today I have the choice to live my life as a “thriver.”
“We can’t control what happened, we can’t control what has been lost. What we can control is how we fight to take that control back, and the voice within us is powerful in doing so….” Cathy Gipson
Day 3 of the Thirty Day Letter Challenge suggests a letter to “to Parents.” I asked the question, “which parents?” My parents split when I was four and I was adopted by grandparents. I decided to write to my biological parents. My father died about 14 years ago and my mother died in 2008. I actually liked them better than my grandparent-parents.
I guess you wonder why I addressed this letter to “Dear Parents” instead of “Dear Mom and Dad.” I never called you Mom or Dad after I was four years old. I avoided calling you anything on the rare occasion that I did see you. I referred to you as my “real” mother or father when I was older. . I wasn’t suppose to talk about you to other people. As an adult I referred to you by your first names. So, for the sake of clarity I will do that here.
I didn’t see either of you very often growing up. You both had your own lives. Claudia, you moved back in with us for a short time, but then you left for Chicago and then California. I didn’t see you at all from the time I was seven until I was 16. Joe, you moved all over with your wife and five kids. You visited me from time to time, but it was so random.
I don’t see the point in rehashing all the old traumas. You know your own parts and secrets of my life. In spite of everything that happened, I still dreamed about you both. I wanted my Mommy and Daddy and I wanted you to be the “Father Knows Best” parents. I wanted you to show up and rescue me from my nightmare existence. Claudia, I know you knew the life I was living. You knew the people who allowed to be my caretakers. Joe, you may not have known them as well, but you did know your parents. You gave my brother to them. It might have been better if you had given us to strangers.
I had to let go of my anger. I don’t hate either of you. “New age” theory says we pick our parents before our soul comes to live in this human form. If that is true, I wish I knew why I picked you. Maybe someday it will become clear. I don’t know. I only wish there had been more time to get to know you and look into your hearts.
Cathy AKA Carol “Lynn”