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!

 

I am here… right HERE!

This week didn’t go according to my plan.  I have heard the saying, tell God your plans and you’ll hear him laugh and laugh.  I feel as though God has been laughing at me all week- actually for the last couple of weeks.  I did something, to protect myself, based on past fears.  I had plans to carry out this thing to protect myself by enlisting the help of others.  Because wires got crossed and communication with those in authority was misleading, this thing didn’t happen.  I still don’t know why it hasn’t happened, and I’ve been struggling all week with why.

I know I’m being vague, and that’s purposeful.  It’s a private issue, but something that has become a more public event.  This was where the problems began.  The first problem was miscommunication about how the event needed to be scheduled.  Once it was scheduled further miscommunication kept it from happening.  After that it was my job to deliver the event to the right place. Despite being told the event could happen in the new location, further miscommunication kept it from  happening.  To make it happen in the new location would have taken great effort on my part, effort I was prepared to make the effort until my engine light came on.  So now, now I wait.

My friend suggested that this is purposeful.  That the Universe/God has other plans and by delaying this event, there must be a reason.  I can’t find the reason.  I’ve been moping about all week, trying to figure out the reason.  I may never know the reason, and I suppose I have to be okay with that.  But not having the event happen, being thwarted at every turn really, made me take a look at it all.  And by all I mean my life- and the fears, anger, self-doubt and isolation I’ve been living with for a long time.

I’ve done a really good job of hiding- from myself, from my family and from friends.  I’ve done a really good job of making it seem okay for everyone else, while I struggled daily with the darkness.  My defense mechanism has been avoidance, and it finally became clear last night.  It all come to a head with a simple meal.

I made this last night-

chili wafflesI

It is cornbread waffles, topped with chili con carne, Fritos, sour cream and cheddar cheese, with a Hefeweizen beer.  Now it may not seem like a big deal, it’s a meal like many other meals I’ve had in my life. It feels strange to suggest that cornbread waffles with chili was a spiritual awakening for me, but it kind of was. The first thing to consider is that is comprised of things I normally don’t like or avoid eating.  On the surface of it all, I don’t care for chili, I avoid making waffles, and I haven’t had a beer in over 14 years.

Why? Well, I’m very particular about chili- I hate beans in my chili, and I don’t like it too spicy, so if I eat it, which isn’t often I always make it myself.  I’ve avoided making waffles because for a while waffles were a tradition in my marriage.  And I don’t like the taste of most beers, and I have very little respect for American beers.  So last night was a fluke of sorts.  I had a dear friend who had made this dish herself a few months back and suddenly cornbread waffles was a goal to achieve.  It sounded good, so I even went out and bought a new waffle maker, with the express purpose of making cornbread waffles at some point.  But like my week, I kept putting it off… fear, doubt, or lack of confidence in it tasting good, however I kept myself from it, I did.

Then yesterday, after putting it off for all of the reasons I could think of, not liking chili, waffles being a forgotten tradition, and beer not tasting good- I ignored my fears and had one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time.  And that is when I discovered the transformative power of facing  your fears!

Nothing wrong with making my own chili- I know how I like it and it’s comforting in it’s own way, I don’t have to avoid eating chili just because I don’t like anyone else’s. Waffles may have been a long forgotten tradition, but now they’re my tradition, my waffles are far better than the waffles of my past.  And I quit drinking beer because someone else couldn’t handle drinking, I can have a good beer if I want to now.  And I like a good Hefeweizen. So aside from being a really delicious meal, I learned a little about myself- that I no longer have to avoid things because of my past experiences.  I can do something for me, about me and that is good for me without having to worry about who it affects.  This is my life and it’s time I started living it for myself!

I think it’s about time I learned and accepted that I’m here… where I’m meant to be, when I’m meant to be.  When it’s time to move on… I can and will.

Following Bliss

ladybug tattooI had an amazing conversation with two really amazing women in the last 24 hours, that I hope felt as amazing to them as it did for me.  I won’t get into the specifics, because I don’t have permission to discuss that, but I left both conversations feeling at peace.  Both of these amazing women had concerns about their lives.  One came to me because she was feeling bombarded by negativity and the other because she was feeling overwhelmed by a relationship.  The amazing thing for me was that both of these women have inspired me by their strength, and both came to me in what others would call a weak moment.  They both trusted me, they both felt they could learn something by discussing it with me, and they both taught me something. If that is not true strength, I don’t know what is.  Being open, being vulnerable and trusting another human being is the most powerful thing any of us can do- and they did it with me!  I’m honored.

After listening for the first few minutes of them “outlining” the problems they were facing I felt overwhelmed with them!  I said to them both- “How are you doing this? How are you able to get out of bed in the morning? OMG, that’s a lot!” The great thing about my friendship with both of these women is that they understood what I was asking, which wasn’t- how are you doing this, but rather- why?

I think they both answered the question in a similar way- “Because it’s my responsibility.”  I asked again- why? Both of my friends are giving people.  They see someone in pain and they do everything they can to lift them up.  But as many of us, especially me, are learning sometimes you can’t lift everyone up.  Sometimes we have to realize that the person we’re trying to lift up is far more comfortable lying where they’ve fallen.

I found myself saying, for them and myself, “What that person or what those people think of you is none of your business.”  It sounds great saying it, but it’s harder to live with in practice. I know people who say- “I don’t give a *insert curse word* what anybody thinks of me.”  Which is fantastic, but often it’s their way of placing themselves apart and away from others.  We’re communal beings, we have to belong somewhere.  We all want to belong, and base our belonging on the opinion of others.  But in my personal experience I’ve too often allowed broken, fearful, angry people to influence whether I felt I belonged.  Why?  If they’re broken, angry, fearful-they don’t feel as though they belong either, so it’s a bit like the blind leading the blind. There was a belief- especially women- that if we can fix this broken person in our life, we’ll somehow fix our own brokeness.  If only it really worked that way!

I’m still learning how this works, but what I’ve discovered thus far is that I belong.  Let me repeat that- I BELONG!  I belong to me, to the human race, to God/Universe/Spirit.   That is a bond, a belonging that can’t compare to any human bond.  And because I belong what one individual thinks, says or does to disconnect me from that belief is their way of belonging.  Some people truly believe (and I could easily include my past self in this group) that if you aren’t miserable, you can’t be my friend.  Misery loves company, because that means you understand what I’ve been through, you can relate, we belong together, our bond is pain and suffering. And if one of us starts to feel better, starts to be less miserable, for the one who’s still stuck in the misery it feels like a betrayal.  When in reality it’s a call to uphold our responsibility of AMAZINGNESS.

It is not our responsibility to stay in misery, it is our responsibility to be what God/Universe/Spirit intended us to be which is AMAZING! Our amazing-ness doesn’t diminish anyone else’s, but when we are in pain, fear or misery-it feels as if it does. This is what some experts would call lack mentality. When we are in misery, someone being AMAZING is just a reminder of our disconnect, our lack of that real bond with ourselves, the human race, God/Universe/Spirit.  It’s a reminder that we’re not living up to our responsibility to be AMAZING.  I don’t know about you, but being reminded that I’m not being AMAZING can make me feel worse- especially if I don’t believe I’m AMAZING in the first place.

So here is what I hope I’ve learned, and what I told my friend about being friends with people who are disconnected from their AMAZING-NESS.  When you are connected with your amazingness, you’re speaking a language that is foriegn to them. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and everyone around you was speaking Chinese.  You would have two choices, learn Chinese or seek out people who are speaking your language.  When we are in pain, we often find it more comfortable to seek out those who speak the language we know, rather than take the time to learn a new one. We don’t realize that both require the same amount of effort, we just can’t imagine learning a new language.  As someone who can speak both languages we have to make a choice.  We can continue to speak the old language, which often times pulls us back or we can choose to speak both languages, or we can choose to only speak the new language.  We each make the choice that is best for us, and we can’t make that choice for someone else.

I often say, “If I can’t be a good example, I’ll have to settle for being a dire warning.” What people think of us doesn’t matter, because if I’m living my life for me/God/Univers/Spirit… I’m neither a good example or a dire warning, I’m simply following my BLISS.

What does prayer mean to you?

Prayer

So I should ask…what does prayer mean to you?

For some people prayer means asking God for something, thanking God for something or maybe acknowledging something in someone else.  We all have different versions of prayers, prayer means different things to different people.  For me there are four ways I pray, and I do it every single day!

Prayer One; Meditation

In 2012 I learned a form of Vedic meditation that has literally saved my life.  Everyday, twice a day for 20 minutes a day I sit in meditation.  I repeat a mantra, selected specifically for me and allow the deep peace of meditation to cleanse me of my stresses.  I have noticed a significant difference between myself before and after meditation.  Before meditation I was struggling with my PTSD symptoms, anxious, depressed, overwhelmed by crowds and strange places.  After mediation I have found a lessening of those symptoms.  They’re not gone completely, but they’re much more managable now.  With meditation I can balance the daily stresses of life.  Without meditation, those days when I forget or skip a session, I feel it.  I feel angry, weepy or tired.  Meditation works for me and I’m blessed to have it in my life.

Prayer Two; Thank You

It may seem simplistic to say thank you and call it a prayer, but there is more to it than just being grateful or accepting a compliment.  Thank you to me is being grateful for every moment and seeing it as an opportunity for growth.  I’m not just thankful for the good things, but the bad things as well.  Deepak Chopra talks about using the acronym STOP- Stop, Take a breath, Observe, and Proceed with love and kindness.  Thank you is my STOP moment, it’s me thanking the Universe or God or Spirit for giving me a moment to do better.  Rather than getting caught up in the moment and merely reacting, the Thank You prayer gives me a chance to really choose a better way.  Thank You for bringing this anger to my attention- how can I do better?  Thank you for bringing this sadness to my attention- how can I change this?  Thank you for bringing this happiness to my life- how can I share it with others?  Thank you is an important prayer that reminds me to be in the moment- thank you!

Prayer Three; Please?

Some people treat the Please prayer as their personal bargainning chip with God, the Universe or Spirit.  Dear God, please give me this or that and I’ll do this or that for you. I’ve always believed that God is within us- so bargainning with God is kind of like promising yourself you’ll do something when you give yourself something you need.  For me the Please prayer is more about asking for a truth to be revealed to you, and that truth may be that you don’t need what you’re asking for in the first place.

Here is my example of how the Please prayer works.  I’m often late.  I don’t mean to be, but I get absorbed in activities and forget to give myself more time to get places.  So I’m often asking for no traffic delays, freedom from speeding tickets, or a good parking place when I get there. When I ask for these favors, they’re often granted- but on occasion they aren’t.  When the answer to the Please prayer is no or not right now, there is always a good reason.  I’ve come to learn that when the answer is no or not now, it’s because something better is in my path if I just look for it.  So I didn’t get that really close parking place-maybe it’s because I’m meant to walk a few blocks so I can run into an old friend or smile at someone who really needs to see a friendly face, something I would have missed if I had been on time or parked close.  The Please prayer for me is about learning it for myself, learning about what is inside me and recognizing that although I think I need this one thing to happen, it might be different from what I’m expecting.  One of my favorite lines from the “Wizard of Oz” is from Glinda the Good Witch;

“Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.

Dorothy: I have?

Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?

Glinda: Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.”

Prayer Four; Namaste

This is a prayer I’m working on manifesting daily.  The definition of Namaste is-the divine in me recognizes and honors the divine in you. This really resonates with me as writer.  I firmly believe that we all have a story-and if someone is willing to listen we can recognize that our stories are all the same.  There are different players and different circumstances to each of our individual stories, but the underlying struggle and emotions are similar.  We’re all connected, it’s that simple.  Feeling, seeing and believing in that connection is what love is meant to be, and it’s something I struggle to believe in.  Namaste is about accepting your worth, your divine presence and your mission in life, along with realizing that we all struggle in this journey.

I can blame others for hurting me, or I can recognize that the hurt I feel wasn’t their fault.  Not to say that I’ll become a doormat, lying down to be trampled over by anyone with an axe to grind, unaware of their own divinity.  But the prayer Namaste for me means forgiveness…forgiving myself, forgiving others and forgiving the past mistakes by acknowledging how they’ve served me. I am who I am because of my past.  I won’t forget the wrongs, but dwelling on them is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. Likewise if someone hurts me I don’t have to allow them to repeat the hurt.  You don’t have to participate in every argument you’re invited to, NO is an acceptable answer.  So for me Namaste is recognizing the divine, and being aware that some people can’t recognize the divine and I don’t have to invite them to my divine party until they can recognize the divine.

Those are my prayers… how do you pray? Do you pray? What power does prayer have in your life?