Wounds

For so many of us lately, myself included, it feels as if old emotional wounds are being ripped opened and re-exposed. These are wounds we thought we had dealt with and healed. We are, quite frankly, pissed off as all hell about this.

I recently intuited some information about a client’s long dead father and her very much alive best friend. I said, “It looks like old wounds are coming up for you that need to be healed. It’s all coming around for you again. Your bestie is treating you the way your father did.” My client blinked her beautifully wise blue eyes and she said she thought she had dealt with this painful emotional issue.

She then said something so profound that I felt as if I was the student instead of the teacher. Truth be told, this often happens when I work on her. She drew in a breath and said what she had previously dealt with was the back end of her father’s abuse; she hadn’t dealt with it while it was going on. Now, she said, she’s been given the opportunity to deal with the front end of this abuse thanks to her life-long best friend.

Well, what the hell (head scratch). She’s completely right, you know.

I thought I was through with the emotional/psychological abuse I suffered at the mouth of my starter husband. I thought I had worked through the pain of the passive-aggressive and emotional abuse from my family. I thought I had healed the reoccurring betrayal and abandonment issues that seem to weave themselves throughout my life. I thought. I thought. I thought. Turns out, I thought (mostly) wrong.

Based on previous blogs, it’s no secret I firmly believe people enter our lives to help teach us lessons. Some of those lessons can drop us to our knees while others barely cause us to break a sweat. Some of the most powerful lessons we learn are from our parents, our siblings, our children, our spouses and our besties. Those that are closest to us know us the best and they also know our triggers and how to push them. It only makes sense that our families would try to teach us some of the most transformational lessons.

It’s also no secret that I long ago let go of hating someone for the pain they’ve caused me. I just look at things differently now. Hating someone who ultimately tried to help me heal/grow and may have done so at my implicit request, serves no purpose. It’s like hating your stomach for making you fat.

Most of the time I understand the people who cause us pain are here to help us heal and grow but in the effort of full disclosure, I DO hate someone. I hate this person mainly because of how internally ugly they are and the pain this person has consciously and calculatedly inflicted on someone I love. I can’t shake the disgust and repulsion I feel for this small-minded individual.

Sometimes, when I’m in a more spiritual place, I feel sorry for this person and their tiny self-constructed and limited world. At times I remember that this individual is in a ton of pain and has chosen not to heal. They have chosen to lash out because they want attention, good or bad. They are seeking to hurt a certain person because they feel this person is responsible for their pain and thereby owed it. They misguidedly seek to lessen their own internal pain. This lucid and spiritual way of seeing things calms me and helps me see clearly, but with this particular person, that doesn’t last long.

The reality is this person is trying to teach this someone something but they are triggering the momma badger in me and I want to rip them apart in the form of politically correct, but well directed, words. The reason I don’t is it’s not my fight; it’s not my battle. They are not here to teach me something, at least not directly. I’m just a bi-product; a civilian casualty. While I retain the ability to hate, I will not be mean. I will not yell, belittle, debase or verbally/emotionally abuse anyone. Not anymore. I do not and will not do this no matter how much a person gets my goat.

I was raised by a family who were masters at trying to control others by using these tactics. I know all about the intimidating, threatening, screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-until-veins-pop-out-of-your-neck yelling. I am NOT that person anymore. Yelling has no place in my life. Yelling is just an attempt to be threatening and to try to intimidate another. Once you’re on to this, yelling is almost a laughable offense. Truth be told, you can stop a red-faced, eyes-bulging yeller with just a whisper and a steady gaze. This is a trick I learned from my girl Charmaine and then refined with the help of Jemma from Sons of Anarchy.

Back to my point; people are here to help teach us lessons. If we can believe and trust in that, then everything, every shitty little thing that happens in our life is aimed at helping us heal and grow. Why would we hate someone, yell at them or speak horribly about them, if their sole (soul) purpose was to help us heal? It sounds silly, right?  And if we are all connected (we are), then hating them is to hate a part of you.

Susie uses the concept of mirroring. What you dislike/like in them is what you dislike/like in you. Let’s go back to this bitter and abusive person for a moment. What are they triggering in me that I need to heal? I, obviously, am having a very strong reaction to their tactics so I may need to examine what I thought I had healed.

If I choose to do this, I may be able to deal with – and heal – these strong emotions at the beginning of their cycle, thereby healing the entire wound.  Maybe I can take a page out of Susie’s book. When life has handed her a giant load of crapsicles it would be easy for her to choose hate and yet she remains neutral and softly says, “I choose love.”

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Holidays

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Years ago, in 1999 to be exact, celebrating the Holidays lost its luster (yes, pun intended) for me. In September of that year, my mom died. When the holiday season rolled around just two months later, I was mired in grief so palpable it felt like my heart was being squished. I would burst into tears at the smallest of things. Then it started; the seasonal well-wishers who didn’t have any idea of what was going on inside of me or that I was mourning the loss of not only my mother, but a way of life.  

1999 was a big year for me. When my mom unexpectedly died, I realized how deeply unhappy I was in my (starter) marriage.  I realized how quickly things can change and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a marriage that was harmful and hurtful. I also realized that my excitement for the Holidays was irrevocably tarnished. It felt like I was seeing everything in monochromatic colors instead of the bright, festive colors that once were. It felt like, if you’ll forgive my indulgence, I had just discovered after years and years of believing in Santa, that it was all a cruel lie.

Now, I was never one to go overboard on Christmas both in the gift giving and decorating aspect. In fact, in all the years I was single, I never put up a Christmas tree. Not once. Why bother? I wasn’t here for Christmas; I was with my family at their home(s). I would tire of people saying, “Did you put up your tree?” and having to justify why I hadn’t and wouldn’t. You wouldn’t believe the comments or the incredulous looks I received for this simple act of not conforming.  You would have thought I told people I worshiped the devil. I’m not kidding. This still happens today, but I no longer feel the need to justify my actions.

The question, “Do you have all your Christmas presents bought?” is asked by well-meaning individuals and I get the reasoning behind it as it’s top bragging rights if you have. But for me, I feel like it’s no one else’s business, even though I know they are just making small talk. When I reply, “I don’t buy gifts” I’m given the look.  You know the one; wider, slightly disbelieving eyes, mouth agape and head cocked to the side. You can almost hear people wondering if they’ve heard me correctly. You’d think not buying gifts was a sacrilege!

It was around the time of my divorce that I started to feel empowered enough to stop the rat race of gift giving, too. Those changes were occurring because of my girl Charmaine telling me her thoughts on how she was trying to live her life (see my Networking blog) and me trying to apply those thoughts to my life. Well, it was that and the fact I was once again in mourning (loss of my marriage) and I physically didn’t have the finances to buy gifts.

It was incredibly liberating (although scary to go against the norm) to let my relatives/friends know I wouldn’t be giving gifts. In reality, some even took a page from my book and pared down their lists. You see, I subscribe to the theory of giving gifts all year long. Those gifts, whether they are random acts of kindnesses, a large gratuity or a physical gift, mean more to me and feel real versus the banal, stress-filled experience of buying/wrapping/giving Christmas gifts.

Oh yes. Long ago, through my own experiences (aren’t those the best ways to learn?), I realized not everyone is festive and excited for the Holiday season. I realized there were others who were grieving a loss of a job, a death or the demise of a relationship. I understood then that there were others, still, who were struggling with anxiety, depression or even abuse.

Prior to 1999, I was one of those who would end a conversation with, “Merry Christmas!” or “Have a happy Thanksgiving.”  Now you’ll not hear me utter those words unless you have said them to me.  As a side note, you also will not hear me wish you a happy Valentine’s Day as I was lonely for far too many of them, some even while I was married.

I’m deeply aware, both through personal experience and my Work, that others are in emotional pain during a season where merriment rules.  So for me, if I don’t wish you a season’s greeting, it’s not because I’m being unpleasant or have lost my ability to make polite small talk. It’s because I’m trying to honor those who own their grief during a season where grief is not acknowledged.  

But before you think I’m all Ebenezer Scrooge, I’ve noticed that since having a baby, my monochromatic vision now has a hint of color. Maybe it’s because I anticipate the excitement and wonderment she’s going to experience. Maybe it’s because I get to experience them with her. Either way, it’s no longer black and white for me but I still won’t be asking if you’ve got your shopping done or put up a tree.

Student

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“What’s your problem!? You should be able to figure this out. You’re not a child, you’re an adult. Figure it out!” If I had a dime, no a penny, for every time I’ve thought something like this about myself, I’d be able to retire. Seriously (eye roll).

What am I talking about? Glad you asked. I was going to tell you anyway, but I’m glad you asked. The other day I was working on a client who has been battling a long standing issue. When I was over her heart area, I ‘heard’ her say, “You’re so stupid. You should be able to figure this out. You’re highly educated and yet you still can’t get a handle on this.”  My mouth dropped open and I asked her if this was true. She said it was.

I don’t know what surprised me more; her intuitive information or the fact that I do the same thing! Maybe it startled me because well, it was her. She’s a highly educated and accomplished woman who teaches at the collegiate level.  Maybe it was because of this exact thing, her with her vast education and me with my limited one, which allowed me to realize we are mentally doing the same harmful thing.

I received some life changing intuitive information after those thoughts left my mind. I was told she needed to treat herself like the student, not the teacher. Awwwww. Yes… that makes perfect sense and I listened to those wise words as well.

We talked about how when we reach a certain age, we think we should have the answers to why we do or don’t do certain things. We talked about how we belittle ourselves when we can’t arrive at an answer.  We also talked about how we would never speak harshly to ourselves for not knowing how to perform, say, brain surgery if we weren’t a brain surgeon. And yet, for things we deem we should know the solution to, we berate and chide ourselves constantly.  

The Guys had a valid point (yes, I’ll give you that one Guys) when they said, ‘become the student.’ When we want to learn about a particular subject, we try and find teachers to help us. Those teachers could be at the academic level, Google level or even the spiritual level. But in matters that deal with ourselves, instead of seeking a teacher we use harmful negative self-talk.

There are so many flaws with this line of thinking. I mean, you wouldn’t try to improve your knowledge with a verbal beat down, would you? Uhhh, the answer is ‘no’ in case you’re still thinking about this. No! You’d find the answers. So it makes me wonder; at what point do we feel we are omnipotent about our own lives? When do we consider ourselves adults and feel we should know everything about ourselves in order to solve our sometimes life-long dilemmas?

How about the next time you catch yourself being internally harsh about a problem you think you should have the answers to, you change your response.  Maybe you say, “I don’t have the answers but I’ll try to find someone who does.”  Wouldn’t that feel more empowering than snapping, “Grow up. You’re not a child! Figure it OUT.”  And the answer is ‘yes’ for those of you still thinking about this.

In life, we don’t stop learning. Putting unrealistic expectations on yourself about what knowledge you should have once you become an ‘adult’ only opens the door for negative, abusive self-talk. After all, we don’t reach a certain magical age and know it all about ourselves. We still – and always will be – students who need teachers.

Teacher

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Years ago, I was walking on a treadmill next to an unknown woman with beautiful long silver hair. The energy emanating from her was of peace, serenity and composure. I kept sneaking glances at her and trying to figure out what it was about her. Finally, I gave in to my inner voice and told her how beautiful her energy was. She turned, looked at me and said, “Thank you.  And you are a beautiful teacher.” I stammered, “Oh no. I’m not a teacher. I’m an ex-banker.”  She smiled tenderly and said, “No. You are a teacher.”

I’ve thought about her and her statement quite often. It occurred to me that yes, I AM a teacher. I’ve been teaching for most of my life. Early in my banking career I trained the new hires, then created manuals and then taught people the correct way to adhere to those manuals.

When I found Reiki, it never once occurred to me I wouldn’t teach this beautiful healing craft. In fact, I knew within minutes of experiencing Reiki that I would someday teach this to others. My banking career allowed me to know what I wanted (and didn’t want) in a curriculum and in my teaching style.

Now, it seems, I’ve accepted the responsibility of a different type of teaching. This ‘job’ will be full-time for at least 18 years. It’s funny that I never really thought of being a mom as being a teacher. I didn’t view my parents that way and I’m not sure they viewed parenthood as being teachers either. Maybe this is a knowing you get when you are an older (much older) parent. I’m positive I wouldn’t have viewed my role as a teacher if I would have had a baby in my 20’s or even my 30’s.

As parents, we unknowingly teach our children our bad habits as well as our good ones. We do this by just living our life. If we have been doing something the same way for most of our life, it comes naturally to us. It IS us. We may, while in the presence of our children, swear a blue streak at a slow driver (or the Minnesota Vikings) or pitch a huge fit complete with foot stomping and slamming of doors. We may also use derogatory slurs we learned while growing up. 

We will be teaching our little ones so many things including how to deal with anger, jealousy and resentment. We will be teaching our babies how to deal with losing, aggression and general meanness. We will be teaching this sometimes without saying a word. They will closely watch how we react and then that’s how and what they will learn. If we are prone to drama, I bet they’ll be prone to drama. If we feel it’s acceptable to make fun of others, then they will feel it’s acceptable to do the same.

Are you getting where I’m going with this? We, as the adults, have choices and most of us have fully functioning minds that understand what WE do, they do. We, again as adults, do not have to be like our parents even if they were the only role models we had. We do not have to pass on the silent treatments, the swearing, the spanking, the yelling and the ‘change your attitudes’ to our children.

Trying to be my mom didn’t work for my starter marriage (see Abuse blog). But it was the eye opening experience it took for me to understand I didn’t have to be her.  I have been weaning out the old and embracing the new ever since.

As far as my daughter goes, I knew I would not spank her. To me, spanking didn’t teach me a lesson. Hurt or pain didn’t help me understand why my behavior wasn’t acceptable. What it did was cause me to fear my dad (he was usually the punisher dole’r out’r) and to keep my emotional distance from him. That fear affected me well into my late 30’s.  

If we yell and swear at our children, we are teaching them to yell and swear. In reality, yelling and swearing are both ways to try to get the other person’s attention. So why not choose a less abusive and more respectful form of communicating? Perhaps one that may yield positive and nourishing results instead of fear, dissension and anger.

I wish my parents would have utilized a different form of punishment, but the forms they used were what they knew. It was how they were raised. But I’m telling you, I want something different from myself and for my daughter.

I don’t EVER want to see fear in her eyes when she makes a mistake or has an accident or even intentionally misbehaves. I want her to know her dad and I aren’t the only role models in her life. I want her to know how to resolve her upsets without being verbally, physically or emotionally abusive. This, in part, is the legacy I want to leave behind. Then, God willing, I can watch how my daughter adapts and changes that legacy for her own brood.

I vow to sincerely try to break the cycle of abuse. I do not want to teach abuse and I do not want to be abusive. Will I succeed? I don’t know but I’m really, really trying. As the Virginia Slim cigarette slogan goes, “You’ve come a long way baby.”

 

Abuses

(This blog is a continuation of my previous blog entitled, ‘Abuse’.)

And take back my Power I did. It wasn’t easy though. Don’t be fooled into thinking it was. I had opted for divorce over suicide. Good decision, don’t you think? But you have to understand, when you’re in something that is so harmful and most of you is gone, you think you don’t have a choice. I was caught between strongly wanting to honor my marriage vows (I did marry for life, after all) and not wanting to leave a marriage that wasn’t ‘all that bad.’ Again, when sober, my husband was everything to me. Why couldn’t he see that? Why couldn’t he change?!

Well, maybe it was because he wasn’t ready to change or maybe it wasn’t for him to change. Maybe it was for ME. I don’t know. You can only change yourself (I learned that in counseling, too).

As any woman who has been in an abusive relationship knows, there is a ‘cycle’ or a rhythm that happens.  This cycle will not change until one person decides to do something differently. For me, the cycle was: drink, fight, sober, apologize. Then, one month, one week or one day later, it would all begin again.

I’d tell myself, “This is the last time. If it happens again, I’m filing for divorce.” And then it would happen again and I wouldn’t be ready to take the next step.

When I was ready, I did break the cycle.  I told my husband I wanted a divorce and he laughed at me. He said “don’t threaten me with that.”  I leveled my gaze and felt 90 feet tall. I said, deadly calm, “Do you honestly think I would joke about this?! I. Want. A. Divorce.”

Either his laughing or thinking I was bluffing was all it took to get a little bit of the Melissa I used to be to assert herself into the Melissa I had become.

Listening to the women’s stories the other night triggered some powerful memories and emotions for me. Out of those memories/emotions came these blogs.  I know there are so many of us (men and women) who are suffering abuse. Abuse can come at the hands of another or at the hands of ourselves. Sometimes I think the abuse we heap upon our own shoulders is the most insidious.

Who hasn’t thought, “I’m worthless. I’m a failure. I’m fat. Nobody will love me. I’m stupid.” If you’ve never had a thought about yourself like that, then I applaud you.  At times, thoughts like those plagued me and sometimes still do! Told you I was a work in progress. But, as with external abusers, you don’t need to put up with that.  As with anything, if you want it to change, then change it yourself.

One of the things I did to combat my negative self-talk and heal from the death of my marriage was to find things that were empowering to me. I hired a personal trainer to help me feel physically strong. I broke the ties of most of my old friends and found new ones that supported and encouraged me. I found fabulous spiritual mentors who helped me see the World through different eyes.

How? I’m so glad you asked! I believe we incarnate to learn lessons. Some are powerful and some are gentle. Sometimes we learn them and sometimes we don’t.  For me, I think I came back to learn I had the power inside of me to help myself and I didn’t need to give that away to anyone else.

I’m fully at peace with what happened during my first marriage. I forgive my ex-husband and myself. Sometimes though, I really want to ask him if he can forgive me. You see, I believe he and I agreed to come together in this lifetime in order for one or both of us to learn powerful and profound lessons. I love him for the part he played in my spiritual/emotional growth. That sentence took a whole lot of healing on my part, but that’s where I am. For all I know, he saw a glimpse of what I’d become if he did this or that and he decided to give up some of his own happiness so I could become radiant. I don’t know. But there are no coincidences in life. That I DO know.

I will not stand for abuse in my life. I’m by no means the authority on it, but I know what I deem as abusive. Remember, abuse takes many forms. If you are belittling yourself and calling yourself names, then I’m telling you that’s a complete travesty to your beauty. Stop it. Stop it right now. You do not deserve to see yourself as ‘less than’. You do not deserve to treat yourself so poorly. Ever. You are a child of God, no less or more important than the next person.

Choose your internal/external words wisely or you may be unknowingly teaching this kind of abuse to your children.  I’m betting the legacy you’d like to leave is filled with positive, loving and uplifting words.  I know that’s the legacy I’m trying to create for our daughter.

If you’ve glimpsed yourself in these two blogs, do what you need to do for you. You are just as important as the next person. Believe it. Own it. Know it. You DO have choices. What will be your catalyst for change?

Abuse

Last night I was privileged to sit in on the last session of an 8-week Wellness program. I wasn’t expecting the reaction I had. When the group was asked what progress they had made, one beautiful fighter said, “I’ve lost 190 pounds. This morning, after years and years of trying and struggling, I asked my husband to leave.”  Gahhhh.   It wasn’t her words that got me; it was the energy coming from her. It was the fact she was finding herself again and had the courage to start taking back her own Power. It awoke some pretty powerful personal memories for me.

Two other women shared their stories and I had similar responses to them as well.  Then I focused on the moderator. I know her personally and professionally and I know what she’s had to overcome. The fact that she was taking a piece of coal and turning it into a diamond by supporting, encouraging and empowering these women, moved me to tears again.

Super. I’m there to do a meditation and I’ve teared up four times already. In 15 minutes. How professional!   But, I do have a blog forming in my mind on crying so I’ll save my thoughts on that until later.

Whenever an emotion hits me so strongly, I’ve learned I need to examine what it’s triggering inside of me. This one was rather easy. I did survive an abusive marriage. I did find the courage to walk away. I did find the strength to examine my part in the abuse and the death of what I now call my ‘starter’ marriage.

Let me take you a little deeper into my old life. I won’t go too far as the pain is, even now over a decade later, still achy.

I married for life and I loved the beautiful man I’d married, when he was sober. When he was drunk, he became a man that scared me. I used to call it the ‘Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde’ syndrome. Again, this man was larger than life to me when he was sober but when he wasn’t? I was afraid of his temper and the man he would morph into.

Was he like this when we dated? Yes and no. We both drank a lot. I just thought he’d ‘outgrow’ the drinking part once we were married.  My thought about his drinking was this: going to the bar is a social thing you do when you’re single and looking. I thought once we were married there wouldn’t be so many nights spent at the bar and more nights spent at home.

Well, I was half right. I spent more (lonely) nights at home and he spent more nights at the bar.

Yes, we went to counseling and while that was a disaster for us as a couple, it did help me personally.

A one point, probably one of the lowest points, I remember sitting on our stairs thinking, “I’m either going to kill myself or I’ve got to leave this marriage.” I wasn’t sure which would be easier or which one I would choose. I didn’t believe in suicide but…. When you are being mentally/emotionally abused, your self-worth/self-esteems goes right into the crapper. You start to believe what you’re being told (‘you’re the reason I drink so much’ or ‘if you wouldn’t have said that, I wouldn’t have drank so much.’). The person you were slowly fades to a mere shadow of your former self.

I tried to find ways to cope. Those ways usually involved alcohol, trusted friends and avoidance. I blamed him for everything when in reality I held an equal share of the blame. I didn’t discover this aspect until years later when I had forgiven him and myself for so many horrible things.

Back then I wasn’t spiritual. Not at all. I didn’t even know I was intuitive or I had the support of God. I felt all alone, as most abused women do. My mom was gone and my family was not a huge source of support for me.

One night after a particularily horrible fight, I curled up in a tight, protective ball in the corner of our walk-in closet. All the doors were shut and if they could be, they were locked. I was so damn afraid. I was shaking and crying uncontrollably. Counseling later taught me you NEVER engage a person who has been drinking. NEVER. But I didn’t know that then.

I called my sister who, being 18 years older than me, had literally helped raise me. My mom was sick most of my childhood and teenage years so my sister stepped in even though she was a state away and raising her own family. I trusted her. I needed her. I relied on her. She was, essentially, my second mom. Unfortunately, this conversation did not go well.  Or maybe it did, depending on how you look at it.  I had made the call when I couldn’t get a hold of myself. When I apologized for calling, she responded, “Well, Mom’s gone now and I guess this shit falls on my shoulders.”

Whaaaa? I’m bleeding out here and that’s what you say?! I felt like I’d been slapped in the face. Hard. But that little sentence was the catalyst that started the change within me. And change me it did, deeply and profoundly. Something (fear maybe?) started to die inside of me and something that felt cold (determination, maybe?) was replacing it.  I wasn’t angry with my sister and the cold feeling had nothing to do with her. Even back then I could recognize that this was all about me. It was as if, after all my life of depending on others to take care of me, I stopped being the child and became the adult in that instant.  Or if you’d like to look at it a different way, I stopped being the victim and started being the survivor.

I don’t believe in coincidences. My sister, saying what she did WHEN she did, was divinely inspired. I didn’t think so at the time, but looking back, that ‘tough love’ sentence was exactly what I needed. To this day, I believe that was the turning point for me to start taking back my power and getting control of my life.

And with that, my friends….you’ll need to wait until the next blog entitled, “Abuses.” Awww…I know, I know. But, as my friend Ganesh says, “I’m not worried about a happy or sad ending…it’s the story leading up to it.”  😉