A couple of years ago, I was driving on a busy four-lane highway to my church. This is a road where no one slows down for anything. People pass and bounce from lane to lane without the benefit of blinkers or common sense. There are many traffic lights, and I have come to believe that there is a prize for running the yellow light, even if it means being in the intersection after the light turns red.
As I made my way to church, suddenly the tail lights on the cars ahead of me turned red as cars in both lanes came to a sudden stop. I didn’t see anything ahead. In a few moments, I saw what looked like the front of a broken shopping cart coming across the line of cars. I watched closely and soon realized it was a broken walker with a very old man pushing it across the highway. He walked so slowly that I was not sure how he got into the road at all since traffic is usually constant. He had only one good arm; the other seemed to be at an angle as if he had an injury or perhaps the remnants of a stroke. He walked with a bit of a limp, as well. The walker had front wheels, but there were no wheels on the back. He made it past the cars and reached the safety of the grass median. However, the grassy area seemed to make it harder for him to push and maneuver.
I worked in the field of human services, and I heard stories of broken lives every day.My heart ached as a watched his broken body push the feeble walker. There was no expression in his eyes or face. It appeared that his spirit was broken as badly as his body. As the cars began to move, I had a battle raging in my head. I wanted more than anything to pull my car into the grass and see if I could help him. The logical side of my brain wondered how in the world I could help. What if he was violent? What if he was mentally ill and didn’t understand my gesture or offer of help? What if he was ill and I was exposed? Would I offer him a ride? What would I say?
I pulled into a parking lot for a moment to think. I fought tears as I wondered if this man had family or food or a place to stay. I certainly had nothing I could offer him. My finances were already limited without trying to help someone else. Maybe I could go back and just say a kind word to him. The logical side of my mind asked what good that would do. Sure, go and say, “Hi, I saw you struggling to get across the road. I don’t have any way to help you but just wanted to say Howdy!”
In the end, I didn’t turn around. I don’t know why this man touched me the way he did. I did say a prayer for him. I believe in the power of prayer. There have been times I felt so very broken and prayed for someone to reach out to me. I am so grateful that people took time to pray for me, talk to me, and help me. I don’t know the life journey of the man I saw. I don’t know if he had friends or family or anyone to help him in his brokenness. All I did for him that day was pray. It wasn’t enough.
Matthew West’s song “Do Something” encourages us to take the time to do something for others:
I Said, “God, why don’t You do something?” He said, “I did, yeah, I created you”
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.
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
Last week I wrote a blog called Painfully Labeled. At the end of the post, I shared some labels I had chosen for my life. Feminist, courageous, understanding, compassionate, writer, friend, good mother and grandmother, seeker, and wise woman were the labels I shared. I then asked the question, “Do you label others before you know their truth?” A reader posted a comment that began, “I am so glad to hear you’re gaining confidence and self-worth. =) I sincerely hope one day you can add, ‘follower of Christ’ to that list.”
The comment popped up on my laptop while I was having a text conversation with my friend. I shared it with her and shared my confusion about a comment “labeling me before knowing my truth.” I told her I wanted to respond and she agreed. I answered her comment with, “While I appreciate your comments, I wonder why you would assume I am not a follower of Christ?”
I obviously have not been able to let this go. In my mind, all the labels I shared are ones I associate with a “follower of Christ.” Please understand that I am not angry with the commenter, just puzzled. I wonder what about my post or the labels I choose made her think I was not a follower of Christ. Do I need to put the bumper sticker on my car, wear a “Jesus” shirt, own a WWJD bracelet, and carry a big King James Bible to assure the world that I indeed am a child of God’s? I don’t see anything wrong with those things, but does that make me a Christian? Does saying that I am a Christian or a Christ Follower make it so? I don’t believe so.
Should I remind you about the atrocities carried out in the name of Jesus? Would you like me to share the damage done to me as a child by someone who clearly and loudly called herself a Christian? How do we make sense of people from the Westboro Baptist Church who protest military funerals and desecrate the American Flag in the name of Christ? This is their website http://www.godhatesfags.com/ Perhaps I might tell you about friends and family who were molested by people in their church. People who call themselves Christ Followers abuse their wives and children. We fight against our fellow Christ Followers in our denominations over things like sexual preferences, roles of men and women, theology, and more.
OK, I know you are going to say that we are simply Christians-we aren’t perfect, just forgiven. I believe that. I believe in grace, and salvation, and the cross, and God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I have had faith as long as I can remember, in spite of a life of neglect, abuse, and more. I have also been seeking and asking questions of God all of my life. I did leave the organized church for a long time, but that doesn’t mean I left God or He left me. I knew God was leading me to come back to church and I have been part of a church for about a year now. I still don’t quite know how to do “church” right, but I am trying.
We discussed prayer in our Sunday school class today. Those of you that know me well will swear you couldn’t have imagined me writing about Sunday school. I told the class I have some weird views on that. I hate when I put my thoughts and beliefs down like that. They are not weird just because they may be different from others.
I believe in prayer and I know God works in my life. I just don’t think prayer should be about giving God my shopping list for life and expecting Him to take care of it. I believe prayer is conversation with God. It is about building such a close relationship with God that I can trust Him to show me what I should do and give the courage, the faith, and the support to do it. I can tell Him I am scared, lonely, confused, and pissed off. Prayer is about thanksgivings, praise, asking for guidance, and asking for the same things I want in my life for others.
I believe God encourages me, gives me insight and inspiration, leads me to people who will help me grow, and makes me feel lousy when I do things I shouldn’t. He might even allow me to fall in a hole on the beach and be knocked over by waves when I tell a little white lie to get out of going to an event I didn’t want to attend.
I also believe I can never fully understand the mysteries of faith and grace. I guess that’s why it is called faith. God explained that to Job once. I also know that love should be the revelation of God in my life and others who are Christ Followers or Christians. Do I practice love for others all the time? No, I don’t but I believe it is our calling. I decided not to quote Bible verses in this post because we too often get into Bible Verse wars. However, I am going to share one.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (New International Version) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I also love this quote by my favorite author,
“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. Anne Lamott
I may not wear the T-shirt, have the bumper sticker, or put “Christ Follower” as a label on my blog post. I can assure you without hesitation that I am a child of God and a….. Well, I am not sure which is my favorite word from the ones the disciples called each other, “brethren”, “disciples”, “apostles”, “servants”, “believers”, “followers”, “the faithful”, “the elect”, “the called”, and “saints.”
I have been lead to find several people through my blogging. There are a few who have touched my heart and spirit. One is an inspiring woman named Joy Cannis. I want to share something from her About Page on her blog.
If you aren’t sure about God…believe that there is no God…are a bible beater…a seeker…a Jesus freak…a veteran Christian or anything in between, my hope is that something here will resonate in your gut and move you to positive action.
So here’s the deal…I won’t preach religion. I don’t think that Jesus did, so I won’t.
I am not going to berate you with what I think is the only way to God. Though I believe it is through Jesus. I am a spiritual being and this body is just my earthly shell.
What I will do is keep it real. I will speak truth…my truth to the best of my ability and I will pray for each of you, every day, on this journey. Thank you for taking the time out of this incredibly busy life to listen to my compilation of thoughts.
And this, my friends, is my truth.
In the movie, Meet the Parents, the main character’s soon to be father in law tells him about the “circle of trust”.
“But the fact is, Greg, with the knowledge you’ve been given, you are now on the inside of what I like to call…the Byrnes family circle of trust. I keep nothing from you, you keep nothing from me..”
My “circle of trust” is a very small circle and difficult to penetrate. Once you are in, it is much easier to get out than it did to get in. My circle is more like a fortress than a simple circle. It comes complete with high walls, a moat, and ferocious monsters living in the water surrounding it. There is a larger circle surrounding the fortress that I would describe as a type of purgatory. You enter that circle and wait until I open the drawbridge to the let you into the “circle of trust”. It is a system that has served me well in my life. Obviously I have some life experiences that caused me to implement this system.
The statement in the movie says that people in the “circle of trust” keep nothing from each other. Most people think that means sharing our biggest secrets with those in the circle. While that is something that happens in time, I think it means much more. For me it means being able to tell the truth to each other. If one of us is having a bad day, we can say it. We ask each other for help. We can share something exciting or scary or boring. We can even say I need some space and want to chill. We can call each other on things in a kind, loving way. We also remember that all of us are human and we are going to make mistakes. We forgive in love. It means that we want the best for each other-always.
Once in a while someone will make it into the circle before they had earned that right. When that happens, I question my judgement and wonder why I would let the drawbridge down so easily putting all of us in the circle at risk. I wonder what magic charm they used to confuse me. I begin to doubt myself and everyone in the circle.
I am in long term recovery and have learned many things over the years. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous Step Eleven says, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him……” If you work the program and do this it says” We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.”
This week, someone I allowed into my outer circle long before their time broke the trust. It confused me and I started to doubt. When this has happened before, I have tried to make excuses, close my eyes, and ignore the intuition. I didn’t want to believe I had fallen prey to someone’s games. I blamed myself for their choices and actions. I chose not to do that this time. I listened to my gut, intuition, and logic. I talked to a “circle” friend and decided to send this person away from my circle. I didn’t offer an explanation or make excuses. I decided to protect myself and my circle.
There was a time in my life I chose to close the circle to everyone. I stood alone and I was alone indeed. It was a dark time in my life. One person helped me open my circle again and begin to fill it. My circle is not large but it is impressive. In fact there are less than a dozen. It includes a couple of members of my family and men and women of various ages. That outer circle is larger but I still am cautious and protective of those in that circle as well.
Please don’t read this and ask me if you are in the “circle of trust”. You already know. I am grateful for each of you and I love you all. I promise to keep you close to my heart and keep “nothing from you.”
“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship”….Ralph Waldo Emerson
My friend Jan at simplyjan blog wrote this after seeing the new movie Brave. If you enjoy her post, please be sure to look around and “LIKE” her blog!! She has just recently started sharing her blog publicly and I know you will enjoy it. I loved this post as a woman, a mother, and once upon at time princess.
*Spoiler alert for the newly released Brave.
Last Friday, the kids and I went to see the newly released Pixar/Disney animated film, Brave. I wrote about the effect it had on me – a grown woman – in my post here. I loved the film! I loved how it portrayed the struggles often faced between mothers and daughters. I loved the strong-willed, strong-minded, strong-bodied young princess. I loved the mischievous humor and the beautiful scenery. I even loved the less-than-perfect Scottish accents. I’m excited to see Pixar/Disney moving in the direction of strong female protagonists. It’s about time!
I was shocked when I found the following in my twitter feed Sunday morning, written by the very famous, very prolific author, Karen Kingsbury:
Saw Brave tonight. Don’t see it. Naked backsides, abundant cleavage, PC messages throughout. Sorry … know your audience, Disney.
(Note: Before I go any further, I…
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This week I read a blog written by Dr. Kathy Murphy entitled, “Your Safe Space.” http://kathymurphyphd.com/2012/05/where-is-your-safe-space/
She describes a place in her home overlooking the water where she has a large overstuffed chair along with books, candles, other comfort items. This is her place for reading, quiets meditations, and visualizing her hopes and dreams. I would love to create a place like that for myself, but I have a small house with very little extra space, a dog, a cat, and a husband at home full-time. Noise seems to be a constant companion in my house.
She went on to wrote that safe spaces don’t have to be literal places. We can learn to create that space for ourselves even in the midst of chaos. We can create a place within ourselves that allows us to find peace in any circumstance. I plan to learn a lot more about that as I work with Kathy in our weekly group. I have attended workshops about meditation and other types of philosophies that are helping me develop my inner safe place as well.
In her blog, she says that finding a safe place in another person or a group of people is a gift. For some of us that might be family. For others it may be a friend, a faith group, or a support group of some kind. These are the people who can look at you and see past the image; the image you hold up for the world to see. They care about you and want only the best for you. These are the people who know the real you. These relationships are the ones that allow for giving and receiving. There is a mutual trust and concern for each other. One never depletes the other. When you are with these people (in person or not) you can breathe and let your hair down.
I spent a lot of my life being afraid to let anyone be a safe space for me. I had good reason. As a young child, many people I cared about left my life. As people would leave, I began to believe that I was the cause. I believed they left because of me. I tried to change to please everyone. I kept the real me hidden from the world. Things became more confusing when my best friend died after being caught in our rope swing and then my favorite uncle died unexpectedly. He was my the only adult in my life who created that “safe space” for me. The pattern seemed to repeat itself throughout my life. I continued to transform myself into the person I believed allowed others to care about me.
In my late thirties, I found my way into therapy and began to realize that being a fake me didn’t make people love, stay with me, or keep me safe. I began to figure out who I was really was. It hasn’t always been easy. I would often slip back into being a people-pleasing doormat. Other times I would become an absolute “bitch” and dare you to like me. The hardest part was finding out who I really was and learning to love myself.
At sixty years old, I am finally comfortable being myself. I know what makes me happy and what makes me safe. I am no longer willing to change who I am so you will like me. I realize the sun will not implode, the stars will not fall from the sky, and I will not become a vagabond if you don’t like me or I don’t particularly like you. I don’t pretend to like the same music you do or enjoy an insufferable activity to fit in. I seek people who create that safe place for me. I choose to focus my time on things that help me become the person I am meant to be.
I may not have a window by the water in a quiet place in my house. I do have the gift of safe spaces in my life. Writing allows me to expose my inner desires, fears, the things I love or hate, how I feel about events in the world or my life, and anything else I choose. I have a friend who shares my love of writing. We haven’t been friends long but she has become one of my safe spaces. I am blessed to have found a few others who hold that safety for me as well.
I am part of the weekly coaching group I mentioned. I recently began martial arts training and I have workshops with people who are like minded. Yesterday I wrote about becoming part of a church again and finding acceptance in a place from which I had been alienated for many years. All of these are becoming safe spaces for me.
In my safe spaces, I see the reflection of the true spirit of my being. I find the power to achieve my dreams. I feel the unconditional acceptance and love I longed for as a child. I learn to reclaim my joy and I am at peace. I dance to the music even if you can’t quite hear it yet.
Do you have people who are safe spaces in your life? Have you created other safe spaces?
SOPHIA Summit by David Heyward http://www.nakedpastor.com/
“I’m here to be me, which is taking a great deal longer than I had hoped.” ― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
Something is happening. It’s something big. There are moments I want to run out into the street and scream to the world around me, “Look. I figured it out. I know what I am supposed to be doing with this life of mine. Don’t you want me to tell you about it?” Then there are the moments when the real world crashes in and says, “You can’t do that. You don’t have time, energy, or the courage. Who do you think you are fooling?”
But, it is happening in spite of the daily challenges of life and in spite of the critic who lives in my head. I made a decision in January to make a change. It was more than a New Year’s resolution. I was never very good at keeping those. The decision was to give up fear and doubt and grab hold of the power and strength I knew was there. It was almost like “giving the finger” to critics, faultfinders, and censors (internally and externally). I had no idea how to do it, but I was determined. I asked God to show me the way determined that I would hop, skip, jump, trudge, hike, march or do whatever it took to make it.
Thing started happening at a rapid fire pace. Doors opened and opportunities presented themselves. People came into my life who were exactly who I needed. Everywhere I turned, I heard the words “voice, clarity, wisdom, courage, power, and purpose.” At the same time, opposing forces were coming at me. Major changes in my job and home life tried to take me off track. Something is different now. I will not let them stop me.
A new friend came into my life. She is a writer, a single mother, a pastor, and one of the “wise women” I know. She would probably argue the last point. She shares my love for writing and searching for our truth. I have found new friendships online as well. I have found inspiration and encouragement from other women writers while sharing blogs and writing adventures.
Last week I was able to attend a writing workshop/retreat at Montreat in the mountains near Asheville, NC. One of the women I had been sharing with online was at the retreat. We discovered more about each other and similarities in our lives. I met some talented and passionate women while there. We shared our lives and our writing in a sacred circle. I shared a blog post during the retreat where I said that I keep hearing the same thing everywhere I turn: Be authentic and use your “voice.”
I recently made the decision to work with a life coach. No, this isn’t therapy. I have had two amazing therapists in my life and did powerful work with both. I was drawn to her from the first time I saw her information months ago. Last night we began a four-week virtual online group with several women. The group is “Your Possible Life” group. Again, the words clarity, wisdom, power, courage, and voice were clear in our group discussion. (You can find out more about Kathy Murphy, PhD on her website http://kathymurphyphd.com/.
I made a commitment to the group last night. I stated that I am going to say YES to sharing my voice, to writing, to my health (including continuing my karate class), and to finding my “wise woman”. I am going to say NO to the fear, the critic, the doubter, and to things that detract from my goals. I made a commitment to share all of this in my blog.
Will I stumble along the way? I probably will. I’ve had sixty years of holding back. I spent years being told I had no wisdom, no voice, and no power or if I did have those things, they were certainly evil. Good girls or proper Godly women knew their place and didn’t question it. I spent a number of years hiding behind alcohol and drugs. In a blog post I am 1in 4, I shared my challenges with bipolar, depression and anxiety. I know I will need support when I stumble. I know I need to learn to ask for that help. Should you see me lying in a puddle on the side of the road, please offer me a hand.
I have been taking baby steps along the way to come to this place today where I am ready to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Somebody please bring me my leotards and cape. I just realized I am referencing Superman while writing about powerful and wise women. Let’s try something different.
A new journey to be started.
A new promise to be fulfilled.
A new page to be written.
Go forth unto this waiting world with pen in hand, all you young scribes,
the open book awaits.
“Wonder Woman” series #62 by George Perez