Remind yourself to be HAPPY!

Yesterday I forgot that I’m happy.

I forgot that I’m a good person. I allowed someone else’s opinion of my actions to let me forget that I am happy. I allowed this person to convince me that the stories they’ve been told, the half truths they’ve been allowed to see, and the very limited communication they’ve had with me is the truth.  The truth is that because I’m happy, I have no need or desire to make someone else unhappy.  This person however is very unhappy.  This person is reaching out to something and someone they think will make them happy, only to realize it’s actually making them miserable. And because they’re unhappy, they want me to be unhappy.  It took me a moment to realize this because I was just as unhappy not too long ago, and it’s easy for me to slip back into that unhappiness… but I’m not there anymore.

Yesterday I forgot that I’m happy.

I forgot that I have a right and an obligation to myself to be happy.  That standing up for myself doesn’t translate into I’m hurting someone else, because that’s not who I am. I’m allowed to be happy.  I’m allowed to be safe.  I’m allowed to be treated with respect. But I allowed someone to convince me for a second that I don’t deserve honesty.  I allowed someone else to manipulate me into letting my guard down. For half a second, I actually considered it my obligation to help them, after all the hurt I’ve endured from them. But when I allow myself to be happy, I can get honesty, respect and safety. I let myself be drug down the rabbit hole of manipulation, lies and abuse because that is familiar territory.  It’s so cool that I’m not there anymore.

Yesterday I forgot that I’m happy.

I forgot how miserable I am when I let my anger control me. I let myself feel all the anger, the hatred, the raw emotional scars I’ve been working very hard to heal. I let my anger take me places I never want to go-EVER.  Because when I’m angry, it’s never directed outward, it’s always internal. I don’t blame the other person, I blame myself for letting myself get angry. The anger spirals into something morbid and I end up wanting to hurt myself for being so stupid, so easily manipulated, so vulnerable and so blind.  But it was in those dark moments that I remember what a useful tool anger can be when it’s directed positively toward protecting myself. My eyes are open. I can see that there is a path in front of me and that every time I take a step backwards, I’m going to end up unhappy.  So I take a step forward, happy not to be there anymore.

So today… today I remember that I’m happy.  I remember that happiness is a choice.  I remember that I control my own happiness. I know someone is going to read this and think- she’s in denial.  But maybe my denial was thinking that I could change the forces that were feeding my unhappiness. Maybe the denial was thinking I could cure what was wrong. Maybe the denial is thinking I’ll ever get an apology or understanding or even honesty from certain people.  Happy is knowing that none of those things matter.  I’m not delusional, stuck in a Polly-Anna attitude, with a fake smile plastered across my face. I’m walking into my new life with my eyes wide open. I’m not focusing on repairing my past or getting revenge for those who’ve wronged me. I’m focused on what’s here, now and within my power.  I’m happy.  I’m happy to be alive, awake and aware. When the obstacles come, and they will, I know I’ve been given the tools, the strength and the knowledge to overcome them.

I’m ready to be showered with happiness! I’m ready for doors to be opened to me.  I’m ready for good things in my life.



An Open Love Letter to — ME!

I believe with my whole heart that we’re brought into this world for one reason and one reason only.  That reason is to love. To be loved, to love in return, to find love, to lose love, to discover love, to miss our chance to love, to revel in love, to despair in love, but above all to be LOVE. It’s not an easy path, being human and knowing love is our purpose, especially when everything tries to bring us away from love. But if we embrace love in all it’s forms, we can know our soul, our God, our purpose.

I was put on a difficult path when I was born. The love that surrounded me came from people who were broken, beaten and bruised by love. I felt that my task in love was to love them back to wholeness. There were people who misunderstood my love, experienced my love by hurting me the way they had been hurt.  I know now that they didn’t understand how to love any other way. Their darkness, their pain, their abuse was their way of expressing love. Without me in their life, they would never have known love could be something else. They were a gift to me, just as I was a gift to them. And that kind of love has taught me some of my greatest lessons. The best lesson has been that it is my choice to either live in the darkness, the abuse and the pain–or to rise above it in real LOVE.

My dear friend, someone who loves well, Alisa suggested that I write myself a love letter. To remind myself of the loving things I have accomplished. Her exact instructions were; “Remember all the good times you’ve had with your self. Tell yourself what you appreciate about your self, mention your talents, qualities, anything that makes you smile. Then make some plans for your self. Talk about your aspirations, dreams and hopes for the future. Buy your self something she really can cherish, a lasting reminder of what a great person she is.”

The truth is I always follow Alisa’s instructions because she is a very wise and beautiful woman! So here it goes-

The good times I’ve had; There have been so many good times, it’s hard to pick just a few.  I’ve had a really good life. Despite the trauma and losses, my life has been filled with laughter and love. The best times I’ve had has been in making new friends, traveling, and working hard on things I’m passionate about. If I had to pick the top three happiest memories of doing something with just me, they would be; Dancing alone in the street at Valley Junction, visiting Blarney Castle in Ireland, and meditating at Parliament park in London.

My friend Darren and our friend Mike went to Valley Junction years ago. We stumbled upon this street festival with a band playing The Guess Who songs. I wasn’t familiar with their music, and they started playing “Undun”-  I got so caught up in the moment, I found myself dancing like no one was watching! I was one of the few people who just started dancing in the street where they were playing- which caused a bunch of other people to join in. I have never felt so free–so carefree really.  Nothing and no one mattered, it was just me and the music.

Blarney Castle in Ireland was a revelation. It all came together because I relied on friends and family’s help. I was deployed for Bosnia. As my birthday approached I made tentative plans to take leave and go to Ireland. I didn’t expect that this long held dream of visiting Ireland would come to pass. Getting military leave was difficult, it was going to be expensive, and I’d be doing it alone. Three strikes against me. But my leave came through. A friend had won an airline ticket to London that he gave me which cut the cost in half. With everything conspiring to send me, I decided to go alone. I spent my 30th birthday in Ireland, kissing the Blarney stone. My happiest memory to date is lying on the branch of a tree in the castle grounds. This tree is ancient I’m sure, probably as old as the castle. Several of it’s branches are large enough to hold a full grown person, so I lay on one near the ground and just stared up. It was so peaceful and beautiful–I’ve decided when I die, my ashes should be spread in that exact spot.

More recently I found myself in Victoria park near the Parliament building. I was having an existential crisis, feeling as though I were adrift on the sea of my life. Not sure where to find safe harbor or what would anchor me in my new reality.  So I decided to meditate. I had just learned Vedic meditation and thought I might be able to get some answers through it. There is a statue there by Rodin called the Burghers of Calais. I’ve told this story so many times, but it truly inspired me. As I’m looking at this statue, the faces are so hauntingly familiar. I begin to realize the reason they’re so familiar is they are the same faces of the men and women I know who’ve been in combat. When you ask for a sign, don’t be surprised when it comes. I had meditated and asked for a sign. The sign I got was a beautiful poem left at the feet of this haunting statue. That poem, along with the statue, inspired me to write a play. One I hope to get produced very soon.

So there have been some really great times, alone.

Which brings me to my qualities I admire in myself. I’m not perfect, by any means. But I believe in my good qualities and I’m working on the not so good ones. I’m smart, book and street smart. I easily adapt to new situations and keep calm in a crisis. I’m beautiful, in my own way. I have a positive attitude about most things. I’m a great mediator–my greatest skill is being able to see things from all angles and using it to bring people together. I’m an awesome cook. I’m artistic and can translate that into practical things like decor, costumes, words, and photography. I’m a hard worker. If you give me a task to complete, I always do my best and don’t quit until it’s done. I’m capable of great passion, compassion and love. Most importantly I do my best to see the good in everyone and make sure they see it too. I am or have been, a good sister, a good daughter, a good cousin, a good wife, and a great friend. Not always perfect in those roles, but I’m pretty freakin’ awesome!

I have made plans for myself–tomorrow. I’m calling it “Take Back Valentine’s Day”. It’s always been a traumatic anniversary for me that I’ve spent years ignoring. So instead I’m going to start embracing it, for me. I’m going to rise early, take the dogs for their morning walk. Either go to my favorite restaurant for breakfast or come home and make myself breakfast in bed. Then I’m scheduled for a manicure, pedicure, massage and haircut. After that I’ll have a relaxing afternoon watching my favorite romantic movies. Then I’m taking myself out to a murder mystery dinner. Which I’m really excited about!

As far as my future; I still believe it’s possible to find my soulmate. Yes, make fun of me, but I believe in soul mates. I don’t believe and I’m not waiting for someone to complete me. I’m complete as I am. I’m waiting for someone to be better with me and make me better. I’m waiting for someone to make me laugh more than he makes me cry. I want someone to remind me everyday that I’m beautiful, passionate and worthy of honesty. I want someone to dance with. I want someone to cook for and who will do the dishes after the meal. I want to wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that the person lying next to me is honest, caring, and thinks of my needs as equal to his own.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to me! Despite being alone, despite going through this messy divorce, and despite it being a traumatic anniversary, I’m going to take it back. Valentine’s Day is going to be for me to show me, how much I love me!

bright and shining heart in the trees

bright and shining heart in the trees

Debriding my Past

I’ve been trying to think of an analogy for what I’m attempting to do right now, and debridement came to mind.  If you don’t know what it is and have a weak stomach, skip to the next paragraph.  Debridement is when dead tissue is removed to allow healthy tissue to grow in its place.  I’ve heard of and seen this process for severely burned patients, it’s not pretty, it can be painful, and it’s really gross. The process is done in one of three ways, the most common is to bound the wounds with gauze, soak the tissue with liquids and then remove the gauze along with the dead tissue.  The painful part is that the tissue that is healthy is left exposed and raw.  Imagine your worst sunburn ever, and having to wear a wool sweater over it.  You get the picture.

So I’ve decided instead of dissecting my unhealthy relationship, it might be better to debride my past.  By looking at my past, forgiving myself and those involved, I might uncover some healthy tissue.  One of the ways that I feel I can debride my past is to start with my grandparents.  My grandparents raised my parents, and their behavior toward my parents has influenced how I was raised. How I was raised directly influences the way I make choices now and how I react to my family.

Every Sunday I talk with my parents- no matter where I am or what is going on, there is always a Sunday phone call between us. Quite often these conversations end with me being very angry with my mother for some thoughtless comment she’s made or that she’s “overprotective” of me at 46 years old. Today before the phone call I stopped myself and said, “Today, no matter what she says or thinks, I won’t rise to the defense.  I will listen and try to understand.” I’m proud of my accomplishment, because it took everything in me to just listen.

I wanted to find out a little more about my grandparents.  I suspected that both sets of grandparents were alcoholics and that my parents were subjected to that uncertainty in their childhood, which would explain their behavior toward my brother and myself.  I am the oldest, so the brunt of the offensive behavior fell on me, and still does.  What I learned today, helped me to understand my mother a bit more.

My mother was sexually abused as a child by an alcoholic neighbor.  Today she told me that the reason the neighbor had access to her was because my grandparents typically left her on Saturday nights to go out drinking.  She further explained that when she got the courage to tell my grandmother about the abuse, my grandmother thoughtlessly accused my mother of making it up to keep my grandparents from going out on Saturday nights.  My mother had a hard time proving the abuse medically and felt as though her mother doubted her. The next incident she brought up was years later when my mother went for therapy. As many therapist suggest, she was told to confront her abuser. When my grandmother was told that my mother was going to confront her abuser, her response was-“WHY? He’s an old man, what if you give him a heart attack?” My mother said that really hurt her, and despite my grandmother calling later to admit that she was wrong and shouldn’t have said it-she couldn’t forget it.

One of the things that struck me so hard about this whole conversation was that I could have easily reminded my mother that my grandmother’s behavior toward her, exactly mirrored her behavior toward me. I was sexually abused by an alcoholic neighbor. I lost my virginity to rape. I was sexually assaulted while serving in the Army.   I then married a man who abused me and committed adultery quite frequently. You would assume that my mother would understand, could commiserate with me. But she didn’t.

I don’t remember the first abuse very well, because we NEVER discussed it, so to survive I blocked the memories of it.  When I was raped my mother’s first question was-“Did you at least use protection?” When the doctor she took me to after the rape told her there was damage, she conceded that it might have been rape. It still took me a year and a suicide attempt to admit it to myself. I didn’t tell her or anyone about the abuse in the Army, I was very lucky to have had witnesses that took up that charge for me. When I found out about my husband’s infidelity I remember calling my mother from Germany asking for help. I had been married for three years at this point, would have been forced to leave Germany with nothing- no money, no means of support and no job. All I wanted was a place to live for a few months until I could get back on my feet. Her “help” came with conditions I couldn’t live with-she wanted me to leave behind my dogs with a man I hadn’t told her had been abusing me since our wedding night. So she further advised me that, “Marriage is hard work, why don’t you try and forgive him.  Go to counseling and try everything you can before giving up.”

So I spent the next 16 years trying to make it work. Every time I decided to leave I knew it would take great commitment on my part.  I would leave knowing I’d be doing it alone, without help from my family. And just as I resolved to go it alone, my ex would attempt suicide which always sucked me back in because I had my mother’s voice in my head urging me to work hard. Of course if you ask her about this now, she denies that she ever suggested such a thing, that I should have left years ago. And from her point of view, I should have known better. But it becomes a do as I say, not as I do situation where no one wins.

Recently she asked me some rather hurtful questions, questions that felt like she was blaming me for my ex’s infidelity.  I had to wonder why, until today when she shared some info about my grandparents’ marriage.  My mother loved her father very much…to the exclusion of her mother I suspect.  The truth about my grandfather is that he cheated on my grandmother. When I said something to that effect today, she said,”Well she drove him to it.”  That took me a moment to process. I couldn’t understand how someone could blame her mother for her father cheating on her. She further said,”She kept accusing him of doing it, getting jealous when he’d dance with other women. So it’s no wonder he cheated.”

As if my grandmother suspecting that my grandfather was capable of infidelity was reason enough for him to make that choice. She couldn’t fathom the idea that her sainted father made a choice, a morally reprehensible choice that ended his marriage. He broke his vows.  I can’t say that my grandmother didn’t make choices that affected his choice, but in the blame game- my grandfather is mostly to blame. But now that I understand my mother’s position on the adultery that directly affected her, I can accept that she will occasionally take my ex’s side. My ex reminds me very much of my grandfather, which is probably one of the reasons I was attracted to him initially.

I think it’s also possible to assume that because my abuse took focus off of her own abuse, that she tends to be jealous of me, just as she accuses my grandmother of being jealous of her. I don’t share any of this to place blame or accuse my mother of being heartless… but when damaged people raise children, they often create damaged children.  I can choose to dwell on all of this damage, dismiss my faults as being because of how I was raised or I can do what I hope I’m doing which is to be aware.  If I’m aware of where the damaged started, I can make better choices to end the cycle of damage.  So far I haven’t done that…

Today was the first step in ending the cycle.  I didn’t allow my mother’s abused mentality to feed my own abused mentality.  Instead I examined her statements and actions from a distance. Where was this coming from? Is it coming from concern for my well being or from her own survival instinct?  I can’t fix what happened to her. I can’t fix what my grandparents did to her or even change her beliefs about them.  I can only act from a place of freedom from the abuse, a place I hope to reach by debriding my past. It will be painful and probably gross at times. But if I want to find peace, this is the way it will have to happen!