Enslaved

So. What are you enslaved too? Fear? Doubt? Indecision? Money? Ego? Pride? Attention? Goals? Passion? Work? TV? Parenting? Love? Writing (i.e…blogging)? Pain? Misery? Loneliness? Greed? Pleasing others? Good deeds? Justice? Perfectionism? Anger? Bitterness? Revenge? Self pity? Art? Music?

Who or what owns you? What keeps you up at night sometimes or on a regular basis? What doesn’t let you rest until you give it enough of yourself that your mind body and soul are satisfied or exhausted enough to allow you to just sleep?

It’s not a riddle, in case you were wondering. There is no punch line waiting unfortunately. I’d love to say it was all a joke and the answer was…say, ‘A one wheeled elephant with a bumper stopper chomp’…like perhaps one of my oldest daughters very terrible jokes that leaves you no choice but to laugh because it made no sense whatsoever.

I think that most of us would love to believe that we are not enslaved to anything…that we are indeed free. I hate to break it to you – but we are all enslaved to ‘something’. And the other surprise is that being enslaved is not always a bad thing. The hard part is…identifying what or whom that thing is. You are either driven by positives or negatives. You are either ruled by a gentle and good master, or a master that will seek and destroy you if you let it.

Over time…those ‘things’ might change too. I used to be enslaved by fear, doubt and rejection, to name a few. I was a beaten down, defeated shell of a person…being blown wherever the wind would whisk me off to. When I was a slave to these kinds of masters, I created my own prison of loneliness and sadness. I was locked in.

Now, I would have to say I am enslaved to parenting, writing and probably ultimately God. Those other things may still come knocking, but I have to honestly say that at least right now, I am not ‘enslaved’ to them. BUT – I have to keep that in check and perspective, and that requires me to be aware, conscious, honest and intentional about who and what I am reporting to in my life at any given time.

The word enslaved seems so negative. The base word ‘slave’ obviously carries a terrible connotation. Webster defines it: 1, a person held in servitude of another. 2, one that is completely subservient to a dominating force.

That second definition is particularly intriguing, and most accurately describes what I am talking about. The truth is that we are all ‘driven’ by something. We are subservient to some dominating force in our lives. As much as we would all like to think we are free, it just isn’t true. For instance, people who are motivated to fight for freedom for themselves and for others…are in fact…ironically, enslaved to the dominating force of fighting for freedom!

Being enslaved is not always a bad thing. But it is something that is worth investigating within your own life…because you are enslaved to something. If you think you are not…you may be enslaved to denial.

I’m tired tonight. I’m going to keep this short. But this thought occurred to me so I thought I would at least blog it out so that I might be able to rest. Because as I have mentioned, I am enslaved to writing – whether it be this blog, a song that is in labor, a book fragment…or whatever. It is a dominating force in my life that makes me subservient to it’s call.

Indeed, I am not free…and when I realize what and who my masters are right now…I’m ok with that.

Good night fellow prisoners…and whatever it is you are enslaved to.

Single-itus

Do I have an illness that I am not aware of? Should I seek some help or consult a doctor? Should I be trying to do something about it or find a cure?

At my age – being single is kind of frowned upon, apparently. It makes me a minority…a bit odd…and apparently in need of some kind of help. Add to it “mom” and you have a whole new recipe for additional sympathy. There are signs up everywhere online, in papers, even at stop signs. “Single? Find love at…” at such and such or wherever – as if it is a cure waiting to be administered.

People want to set you up. Parents “hope for the best’. It can make you feel like there must be something wrong with you – just as you are. Like you are some empty room that could use some ‘fixing up’ a bit. It makes some people a little uncomfortable and visibly nervous…like maybe it is contagious or something. Maybe there is some truth to that – we are all very vulnerable – at any moment it can strike…married or not.

You know, I bought into all that hype for a long time. Probably, like…my whole life. I have been falling into the age old trap taught to us as babes…someday my Prince will come and rescue me and complete me. How unfortunate of a message we are sending to our girls…well, and boys. But it must be hardwired in us. There is this natural tendency to not be alone and to be with that ‘special someone’.

Here are some of the major symptoms of single-itus…just in case you want to know if you might be suffering from it. Chances are, you know who you are, but you may be in denial. And unfortunately I had to find out the hard way that even married people can catch this disease too – so maybe you can identify it and remedy it before it’s too late. Denial is actually one of the worst symptoms. You may be suffereing from single-itus if you are experiencing 5 or more of the following most common symptoms: Desperation, neediness, blindness, a feeling of insignificance, depression, a sense of worthlessness, paranoia, restlessness, self pity, recklessness, uncomfortable in own skin, confused, no sense of self, helplessness, and as mentioned…denial…just to name a few.

I have been desperate to find that special someone…until now. Suddenly the tables have turned. I guess after living with single-itus most of my life, I have to finally just accept it – this is a chronic thing that is not going to go away quickly – so I better figure out the best way to cope with it. I have had bouts of remission – relationships, even two marriages (yea…I’m a real prize now, lol), but my single-itus just seems to keep coming back. I really thought I had kicked it with this last marriage (again…how pathetic), but I see now how I have been seeking the wrong prescription all along.

I have been treating my disease with the commonly prescribed anecdotes – men. But I didn’t read the full list of side effects that this medicine carries along with it – especially when used incorrectly. I have found that it causes: irritation, frustration, mental anguish, disappointment, over reaction, numbness, and potentially even more heartache. When handled improperly, this medicine is definitely more harmful than helpful.

Here is a newsflash: The only real cure doesn’t come from anyone else. It doesn’t come from the outside in. It comes from the inside out! Since this discovery, I have been addressing the real root causes of my single-itus: Insecurity, selfishness, ambition, pride, stubbornness, painful past scars, and identity issues.

This is why the medicine I have been seeking out my whole life has not been working! How can you go into a relationship with a full blown case of single-itus? It is disaster. You have to cure the single-itus first – THEN find that someone. That someone is icing on the cake, not the cure. And surprisingly the real prize of it all is actually YOU…Finding you. Yes…I know…I am such a slow learner.

Since stumbling upon this new information I have found that most or all of the major symptoms listed above are fading away. Some are more persistent than others, and I suspect, like with any long term disease, rehabilitation and long term awareness will be key in overcoming them.

Yea, I’m not completely in the clear yet…but at least I feel like I am finally moving in the right direction. I guess I still am hopeful that I will find someone else along the path that is in the same state of awareness that I have finally come to and that we might have enough in common to complement each other along the way. But I no longer need anyone to complete me or rescue me…and certainly not cure me. I am not a damsel. And I no longer have a full blown case of single-itus.

What’s funny, is that now I can spot those that still have the disease. It makes me sad for them, but makes so thankful to be as far along in the recovery process as I am. But it wasn’t an easy road. I have had a whole year of intensive soul searching self therapy and a small army of support from a few honest, trusting friends. That is key – I am not sure it is possible to kick it all alone. I think you need the help from the kind of people you can be real and vulnerable to in every God forsaken area – that are not currently suffering from single-itus themselves. Especially from the opposite sex…this will only cause you to fall back into old habits and cause more damage.

So…there is my 2 cents worth for the day. My name is lee and I am a recovering single-itus-holic.

My New Year’s resolutions:
1. Embrace my singleness
2. Shine right where I am
3. Surrender my ugly labels for banners of victory

Can You Hear Me Now?

I hear you God. You had me at good bye.

It took two divorces – the last one ending in an affair…but with that very painful death of love and goodbye from a person that I thought was the love of my life…God got my attention. The spiritual cell phone connection in my heart is no longer ‘searching for service’. He had to remove all the things I had ever wished for most in my life…but he finally has the front and center position that he has deserved all along. I apparently just couldn’t do it on my own.

I watch my own 2 year old busily destroying any order or structure that I had attempted to have in the house in any given area. Left to her own devices, she would strew every toy out and just wade through the mess and think nothing of it. I have to be the guidance, the one who instills structure and discipline so that there is not so much chaos. But she still has that choice to rebel and throw a tantrum as she sometimes does.

How similar we must be in God’s eyes…rebellious little kids, creating all kinds of chaos and havoc. He provides all kinds of guidance and structure. Sometimes we listen, sometimes ignore. Just like with my 2 year old…there are natural consequences for not listening. It just has to be. I can’t let her get away with every selfish desire…it would be a disaster.

I made it through Christmas Eve and Christmas day alive. It felt like I was bracing myself against a huge wave in the ocean. I had to hold my breath, put my shoulders into it, plant my feet firmly and then wait for it to pass and see if there was anything left of me. You can only prepare so much for this kind of thing and then there is that faith part – and hoping for the best. Like most things in life, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated. It was a fairly normal morning…just a little more peaceful than normal…that had to do with all that extra preparing, I think.

A good friend of mine is experiencing a Christmas without her spouse. Her husband had to take a job out of town this Christmas and she had really hoped he would be back in time for Christmas morning. She is dealing with disappointment, frustration, sadness, loneliness and the feeling of abandonment that she had experienced as a child. I can relate. We have been in close communication through this, sharing feelings, and trying to console each other.

I came to this conclusion. Instead of looking at this situation with such human and selfish eyes that results in sadness and despair…what if we looked through different eyes. Really, I think we are two of the luckiest girls around. God loves us SO much that he wanted us all to himself this year! He desires a relationship with us so much that he had to remove all the chaos, and strip us of our greatest desires just so we might have the chance to lean on him…just like he hopes we do.

But we do have a choice. We all deal with circumstances differently. And many folks even think this all sounds like a bunch of brainwashing hogwash. I used to be afraid of turning folks off with this kind of crazy talk. But you know…until you have been in my shoes and have everything stripped and removed…maybe you just aren’t capable of ‘getting’ it. Maybe your time is still yet to come. Maybe it has come and you ignored it by filling it with even more chaos.

That is what my ex-husband has chosen…more chaos…or so it seems. Luckily I am far enough removed this 2nd year apart that my observation is not made out of judgment or rejection. But right now, he is with the woman he left us for and is celebrating a holiday that he never really even fully believed in with her and probably her two daughters and extended family. He has chosen to be with them and miss Christmas morning with his own 2 year old.

Don’t get me wrong…I am thankful to benefit from his choice. I get an uninterrupted week with my precious hobbit love. But this is coming from a mom that HAS to be away from my oldest because of circumstances beyond my control. I simply can’t imagine CHOOSING to not be with either of my girls on this day. But this is only my perspective. Who knows what he is really thinking.

The imagination can run wild and I don’t care to torture myself with the details anymore. The problem is that I knew her well enough to know more details than I wish I did know. I know he is probably there, playing some role that I can’t even wrap my head around. It really is just bizarre. And unlike last year, I don’t wish to be in his or her shoes…I am so thankful I am not. It seems like he is ignoring all the warning signs and wake up calls that love tries to give us just to draw us near. It seems like he is doing what I have done most of my life – forcing my own selfish agenda instead of just listening.

I really can’t judge. His business is really none of mine now anyway, and quite honestly I am done caring. I only bring it up now because it is a stark contrast to where I was and where I am now. And all that God hogwash talk I was afraid to talk about before is like the only thing that has been consistent, evident and solid in my life, so I feel like I HAVE to talk about it.

I have tried to fill the void with nearly everything else: relationships, family, friends, husbands; things – good and bad like alcohol, working and parenting. I have tried to throw myself into all kinds of things to attempt to fill in that aching hole in my heart. Nothing else has brought peace and the feeling of completeness but the quiet, constant, abiding, all encompassing love that surrounds us all.

Love will come knocking. Love is searching for everyone of us. Love is always seeking us out. Love never gives up on our childish rebellious ways. Only we give up.

I am not some weird, boring, un-fun Jesus freak. Well…maybe that Jesus freak part is true. But just because I choose to love God does not mean I am a person without humor, rock and roll, and even a drink of wine now and then. I love to rock out…probably harder than most of you. I love Linkin Park, rap, and sometimes even thrash metal. I love to dance and get a little crazy with the girls sometimes. I am sarcastic and have a warped sense of humor. And the sexiest thing to me is a man with humility, humor, a sense of self (not arrogance), and smarts. Dimples help too, but now I am just getting greedy.

The point is, I can’t force anything to happen now. Well, I guess I can, but I am tired of that. This Christmas was lonely. I will be honest that I had several pity parties leading up to it. But it has also been probably the best ones yet. It was real. Love came knocking, I opened the door and it was more peaceful than I could have imagined. Though I thought I was going to be lacking everything on this morning, I was more fulfilled than ever.

I have thought like so many others that if I really start believing in God or Jesus that you would become really boring or weird or something. The truth is just the opposite. This past year, people have started seeing something in me that I don’t really understand myself. I only say that because I see the curious look on their faces, and most even actually comment on it.

I guess for once in my life I am just no longer afraid to be me. In all my flaws and even my talents – I am not hiding anymore. I have surrendered it all up and have asked that it all be not in vain – the good and the bad. The reward is better than I could have imagined…even though the gift is SO very different than I had imagined and than what I had selfishly been striving towards in my childish desires and ways. It leaves me very hopeful and guessing…whatever will he do next? I am excited to see what this year will bring.

And just like with my own children…when they actually listen and do as I ask…there are some awesome rewards. I LOVE that part! Contrary to what my 8 year old may think these days…I tire of having to carry out discipline and punishment. I love doing for them and giving them things and rewards beyond what they could even imagine. All for just laying down their OWN WILL and listening to my voice. There is such peace in the household when the children listen. Hmmm…

I had only one Christmas present to open this morning. It was from a dear friend who is more like sister to me now. It was one of the best gifts. It was a gift of friendship, a sincere reminder that I am not really all alone at all. I also had one small gift that my oldest daughter brought home from school – but it was not to “open”. It was a token of love – a box to represent her love for me. I miss her dearly and can’t wait to see her again. I am reminded how the simple gifts given from the heart are really all that matters.

When all the chaos, noise and madness is stripped away and love comes calling we have the choice to take the call or just ignore it.

Can you hear me? Can you hear me now?

Silent Night

I have spent many holiday seasons wishing for a quieter, simplistic Christmas focused on the real meaning of it all. Though I really don’t believe Jesus was actually born on December 25 – I think it was more like Octoberish – that is beside the point. Also beside the point is that fact that a large part of our current holiday traditions and hoopla (trees, presents, etc.) was based on pagan rituals and then fabricated by the ancient church simply to compete with the pagan parties in attempts to persuade folks over to ‘their’ side…and yet I have still do these things – it’s fun! I put up a tree because it’s beautiful and a great tradition, just like everyone else in America…not because we are actually worshipping the tree itself or hoping it turns into a long lost dead king or whatever.

In the past for me it has been about family. Sometimes that was a good thing…sometimes that was a terribly frustrating and exhausting thing. It has also been about the gifts…getting that perfect one, receiving something special…watching the kid’s excitement. This has also been a source of huge stress at certain points. It is so easy to let this season become all about the “stuff”! And God/Jesus was mentioned, thought of, but largely in the background or as an afterthought…even though we have baked a birthday cake for Jesus and all that good stuff. I have been guilty of focusing more on distractions – probably EVERY year until this one.

And the ONLY reason I can say that this year is going to be different is because it is all out of my control. My oldest daughter is with her dad. My dad and stepmom are in SC. Mom is in NC. My brother is in Dayton and we are just in a season of silence right now, which has been so heartbreaking to me in the past. I have no significant other to spend it with. The one person that I had really hoped to spend some of it with, is just not available due to grave (literally) circumstances.

I will wake up on Christmas morning to just me and my sweet, strong willed, independent 2 year old. I have to admit I have had solo Christmas’s before in my life. I lived away from family for 10 years and several of those Christmas’ were really lonely. But I have never gone into a Christmas this alone for probably 10 years.

But of all the years past – alone or with family – I have never faced it with the approach and appreciation that I feel this year.

Ever heard be careful what you wish for? Well, I do have to say, I am not pleased or happy with the ‘way’ I got my wish. I would so much rather have learned how to find the true meaning of Christmas with an intact family and bustling household. But…nonetheless, I got my wish! Now all the chaos, madness, obligations and other people’s agendas have been completely removed and stripped from my horizon. I have nothing else to focus on this Christmas Eve and Morning except for the true meaning of Christmas…or at least what I think it is about.

I have been a Christian for over 20 years. I have gone through seasons of joyful closeness, blinding periods of confusion, rebellious running away, to a prodigal return and now a path of conscious abiding. Mind you – not perfection or completion…just an honest two way relationship. In the past I have pushed my own agendas, been prideful and judgmental, filled my life with chaos, and fooling myself into thinking I had put God first in my life…but it is so hard to do that with so much noise and distraction! At least it was for me.

And maybe that is why this year had to be such a quiet, seemingly lonely Christmas eve and morn. I have no choice but to focus on the creator of the universe in the form of a baby. Well, actually I do have lots of choices…I could sulk, moan, cry, be angry, and continue to try to fill that specific God shaped hole in my heart with other things and stuff. That hasn’t been working out so well for me.

So, let me rephrase it…this year I am choosing to focus on the kind of God that came to the earth in the form of a helpless, humble baby. The kind of God that knew all along that we were not capable of living pure lives and that we would need a savior and sacrifice greater than we could comprehend just so we might realize what we were worth to him. The kind of God that wants a relationship with us so sincerely that he just might remove all the distractions and chaos just to get it.

Though admittedly I still long for or wish I had someone or extended family to share it all with, I look forward to experiencing the peace, the calm, the stillness and beauty of such an important night. I look forward to reading the Bible, playing some music on the piano, and just being. I might even have a glass of wine. I so hope I can focus more on the joy, glory and miracle of it all, rather than my own human sorrow.

I have some awesome friends I will hook up with on Christmas day and later in the evening. So it’s not like I am completely alone and forgotten. And I have also experienced some anonymous and not so anonymous Christmas miracles.
But on that important night and morning…and no matter who you are, where you are, no matter what you believe – that one night and morning just feels special and different…I will actually get to experience a true silent night.

Merry Christmas to you!!!

Sleeping at the Wheel

On Saturday I set out for a round trip that should have taken 8 hours to complete. 25 hours later I finally arrived back home.

All was fine until we hit about 10 miles S. of Charleston. WV. Right after the first toll booth on I-77. For all intensive purposes, the toll booth attendant did suggest that we turn around but it was just a word of advice – not a command. So we drove on. I really had no option to turn back…I was within 50 miles of our half way meeting point! I mean…come on…how could I turn back? We were the only car at the time going South bound until we caught up with all the other crazies that did not heed the advice of the toll man.

SO. We all proceeded to sit there on I-77 for the next 6.5 hours without moving. And I mean not moving…at all. Fortunately for us, we had just stopped and got gassed up, went potty and had some snacks and drinks on hand. At first we kind of complained, but after awhile it was apparent that we were going to be there for awhile and we had better make the best out of it or be completely miserable.

I let my big girl get out and make a few snow balls. We got a few pictures, but she wasn’t dressed to stay and play out there for long. There were a few kids snowboarding in the shoulder, some having a snowball fight, and some folks made snowmen. We spent our six hours playing games, singing songs, and snuggling up in a big blanket I was fortunate enough to have in the car. I had also grabbed two pillows. I even thought to myself as I grabbed the extra one how odd that was, because I really only need to grab her special pillow, but I brought it anyway.

So there we were, it was getting dark, and we are huddled together under a big warm blanket, holding hands and just being happy we were together. We started thinking about all the things we WERE thankful for.
We were thankful to have a few more hours together. This surprised me because she had been counting down the days and hours until she would get to see her daddy (I am so thankful she feels this way about her dad). We were also thankful that we were not hungry, had some supplies, and cozy stuff to cuddle up with. We were prepared to spend the entire night right there on mile 90 something on I-77 southbound.

So as I was all cozied up with my blanket and trying to get a little rest or short cat naps there in my driver’s seat when I realized just how significant the whole event was. This year I have started realizing this – how I have been sleeping at the wheel of life for years…maybe always. I have been letting life pass me by and I have been like an aimless pinball – shooting off in any direction I am batted off into without any real clue where I was heading. I have just been letting life happen to me.

So, we watched as some straggling N. bound traffic come through intermittently. We watched as the National Army guard, and all kinds of emergency vehicles traveled S. in the N. bound lanes to help the situation. All we could do was watch. We were stuck in place…locked in from all sides. Or were we?

Here is the thing. We were fine. We were not hurt, our car was not wrecked. We had supplies and blankets. We had each other…and there was beauty all around. The trees had a magnificent coat of white that outlined and detailed every single branch. If you took the time to really look around and not just exist…it was a really great moment. It’s not every day you get that perspective of the freeway.

In my life I have been in survival mode. Not really in “living” mode. I am guilty of just putting a bandaid on the surface of issues that needed some deep, intensive surgery. I have spent the last year digging deep…looking from the inside out. The whole world looks different from this perspective. It’s kind of like sitting on the freeway at a standstill. It is a very different view looking around sitting still rather than just flying by…largely unaware and numb to it all. We got a little ‘intimate’ with the freeway right there. As we got out…we examined the road, the dividing wall, our surroundings…the details. We even met some really neat people that we wouldn’t have if we had just sat around sulking.

What if I decided to treat every day and moment just like that. Instead of flying right through it…what if I made a conscious effort to pay attention to the details. What if I made the decision to stop just operating in survival and self pity mode, and started living in this awakened state? What if I decided that even though I may not be at a place in life that I hoped I would be – what if even then I decided to make it great? What if we all – right where were – in our seemingly dead end jobs, strained relationships, and tired bodies – what if we could just accept it, put our pride aside and decide to shine right where we are?

I went through a fast food drive-thru a few weeks ago. The guy taking my order was a bottle of sunshine. He was working at Arby’s…maybe he was even the manager. He was my age or older. I am thinking his life probably didn’t turn out exactly the way he had hoped either…but it didn’t stop him from making a big difference in mine and my daughter’s day. Even she said something about it. He could have gone through the motions like all the other fast food workers in the world – monotone voice, no eye contact and all. But he chose something different. He chose to shine right where he was.

Sometimes I think I have to change everything about me to be where I want to be and who I think I could be…change my job, my house, my past, my circumstances…and the truth is all that is just distractions and lies. Every minute I spend thinking like that is a wasted minute and sleeping at the wheel.

Life sucks sometimes. Bad things happen. Now…what are you going to do about it? Sometimes it wears me out…sometimes I cry. Sometimes I feel so alone and I wonder why. But at some point you have to wake up and DRIVE. It’s my turn to drive.

My Wretched Beautiful Life

I am exhausted. It feels like I have been for years – maybe always. It is almost hard to remember a time when I didn’t feel this way. Being a single mom is intensely and chronically hard, lonely, and exhausting. And because I have a 2 year old – isolation can set it. Because I am ruled by her schedule, constant needs, and running after her like maniac just trying to keep her alive it seems sometimes. She is curious, head strong, fiercely independent…and FAST. There is no casual discussions possible with friends at this stage while this awesome little soul is concious. In a flash she is off and understands no boundaries like her older sister so willingly abided by.

I am so very blessed with these beautiful souls in my life. Let me be very clear that I can’t imagine life without either of them. I am such a better person in the world just because for some reason, God chose me to be their guardian – which STILL boggles my mind. I feel so undeserving of such precious gifts. I am trying to do the best I can and know that I mess up every day. I can only hope that in the end that I get the same unconditional and unexplainable bond and love that my mom gets from me…finally. It has taken a long time to get to a mature enough place to actually understand, accept, forgive and let go of most of the pain and confusion and be able to say ‘love’ does exist in that place.

But I am not completely beyond the reality of the effects that come with the kind of trauma and stress that I have endured at her hand and beyond. I am not sure I ever will be. But I am confident that I can find healthy ways to address those effects. I am only now starting to connect the dots and have some insight into the innerworkings of my unconciousness that creeps out and makes me react in a deeply emotional way to a seemingly insignficant event or action. It is similar to post traumatic stress syndrome.

For instance…The other day at work, I had a bit of a break down. It was because of an seemingly really silly thing. I have been there for nearly 3 months. I have been sitting in a corner, alone. I can’t see anyone at all when I am sitting down and I am in open office area. I mean – all I need is a red, Swingline “Schtapeler”. There is an old vacuum and some boxes of old dusty catalogues that for all intensive purposes are trash. The last straw came when some distinguished visitors were coming in and everyone desposited their clutter into my area so thier areas would look nicer. Ok – that would probably make anyone feel kind of bad. But I actually broke down and cried. It was that on top of a few other factors. I recovered quickly and no one ever knew I cried – there’s one advantage of being all alone back there.

But it took me a few days to get to the bottom of it. And I am pretty proud too, because in the past I would have never dug deep enough to address the real issue and learn from it. I realized that it made me feel exactly how I felt when I was a little girl all alone, abandoned, invisible, locked up, and told that I was an insignificant, worthless, sorry excuse of a being and that I was too rotten to ever amount to anything. Now – no one ever said any of those things at work obviously, but the message I got was somehow the same. And very, very, incorrect. The events at work were insignificant and not aimed at a personal level, but I mistook it that way initially. Those pesky psychological filters hard at work again.

Here is the kicker. If I had never taken the time to figure it all out – I might STILL feel that it actually all was a personal attack and it could result in a potentially really negative situation for me, because I could make it that. And that is largely how I have been living my life. Because I have not been honest and reflective enough to dig beyong the inital emotions to put it all into perspective. It is a very childish, immature way of living and thinking. This is a key turning point from being a victim to becoming a victor and winning the war against being held captive by whatever trauma you may have faced. Keep in mind – you might lose battles along the way – but once you get to a truly honest place in addressing stuff I do believe the war can be won. But not alone and not overnight. I am only hopeful because I am in the middle of my war. And I suspect it may be a life long journey for me.

Going back to revisit some of the worst events in my life is obviously a big downer and something I just tried to ignore and hope that with enough dismissing of their validity they would just disappear. But they don’t go away. In fact just opposite. By ignoring or not telling anyone about some of the more horrific events that happened only made them grow into silent self destructive monsters – chained in the basement of my soul. They have handicapped me in so many unexpected ways and in all areas of my life.

And you know, it’s great that I was able to figure things out and get it into perspective, but – how long will I have to endure this? Will I always have to fight SO hard against the effects of the past? So much pain, neglect, violence, abuse. I don’t want to have to think about it anymore. Though I may not dwell on any of those things on a daily basis…I long to be completely free from it all. It is exhuasting. Sometimes I find myself longing to be done with this wretched life altogether. I am not talking about true suicidal thoughts – that’s a different blog. I am just talking pity party stuff here.

Now – I do believe there is a balance. Dwelling on and staying in the dark places of past events of trauma is not healthy either – I do not suggest that (Because, yes – I have tried that too and it is BAD). But merely ‘saying’ whatever it is you feel you need to tell someone doesn’t really count as ‘getting it all out there’. When I finally did allow my lips to even form the words rape, molestation, verbal and physical abuse and me in the same sentence – it originally was almost like talking about someone else’s life. Or a movie on TV. Sometimes, even, it was actually used for attention. I wanted love so deeply – if I couldn’t find it – sympathy would do, at least on a temporary superficial level.

But superficial attempts at healing only brings superifical results – at best. And possibly even worse. It may fool you into thinking that you really ‘tried’. The truth is, you only ‘begun’ the work and many more stages are yet to come. If you put a bandaid on a broken bone, you addressed the issue…just not appropriately.

But this kind of work is really hard. It is subjective. It seems like such a “drama” thing…and OMG – who has time for that these days?! You gotta get back out there! Get back in the game! But when you try to do that – when you try to put on a happy mask to blend in and pretend that nothing bad has happened or is currently going on – that is when you get things like anorexia, cutting, alcholism, drug addicts, promiscuity, and other outward cries for help. Now and then really strong kids might throw themselves into something positive – but to the point where they may become perfectionists, workaholics, and other outwardly and wordly acceptable or respectable things. But even that eventually comes back to haunt and destroy. Unaddressed mental and emotional anguish is a time bomb.

But here is the deal. When you finally go down to the basement and look those monters in the face and call them by their names, their shackles start falling off. They get scared and start limping away because they know that once you actually know their REAL names – they are not going to have the same hold over your life anymore. And when I say call them by their REAL names I mean getting real and honest. If you call their names only to get some sympathy you are only stoking your monters pathetic ego. What I am talking about is recovery. Moving beyond. Kicking your monsters OUT – send them packing!

When they are gone – you still have that open void of that space the took up. That ugly basement may always be there to serve as a reminder because that dark place may have eaten up years of your life that you can’t just erase or change. BUT you can eventually paint it, brighten it up and “Repurpose” the place. That is what I am in the process of doing with my ugly basement.

And the amazing thing that is happening is that life is becoming more beautiful than EVER before. I am developing some of the deepest, most real and vulnerable relationships than ever before. I can honestly say I have a real best friend…maybe even two! I have had great friends in my life but I am just now seeing a big difference between friends and BFF’s. I have held everyone at bay – just close enough to be social, but never close enough to see the real me. Heck – I even married two people and still kept them at an emotional arm’s length. Probably part of the reason I am currently a single. But I won’t be forever…unless I choose to be.

Suddenly I am looking at a world where I actually have some choices and control over some things. Mainly my outlook, perspective and attitude. But I also have responsibility to take steps to at least knock on some doors. I am a faith kind of girl, so I also pray. So I am knocking and praying and feel like the right doors will start opening. I have never looked at life like that before. I have always felt like pinball – being batted around in all kinds of crazy directions. I am living life deliberately now.

I am so hopeful now. More than ever before actually. Because I have actually kicked my monsters out. They may come running back to try to find their old familiar dark basement. And I suspect they will. But they will find that I have already started painting some bright colors on the walls. I might even have some remodeling done. Those monters would never feel at home in such a place of cheer and victory.

Though life is sometimes so wretchedly painful – it also unimaginably beautiful. I claim it all – and I feel more alive than possibly ever.

Welp. It’s super duper late and I am so chronically tired, which is how this post started out originally – talking about how exhausted I was. Good night cyber buds.

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Tis the season of Christmas specials on TV, and Christmas music on radios and CDs and one of my favorites is the Peanuts Christmas – both show and especially the music. Like…it’s not officially Christmas in our house until the Peanut’s CD is played while putting up the tree and drinking egg nog. I feel the need to also say that Rudolph is a close second – that motion stop animation is AWESOME, but that song gets a bit worn out…no matter WHO sings it. But the Peanuts music has staying power. It’s because it is rich, complicated, deep AND fun all at the same time. It’s Christmas music for the soul. Which makes perfect sense to me now because I found out it is considered “smooth jazz”…soul music.

So a friend took me to a jazz concert that featured THE pianist and composer of many of the songs for Charles Schultz’s Peanuts cartoons. The very ones I love so much! I was in heaven! To see it come to life right before my eyes with these wild hands all over the keyboard – was phenomenal.

After the concert was over one of the friends we were with asked why I loved the Peanuts so much, because he never really “got into” Charlie Brown and the gang because the cartoons were kind of slow moving and usually kind of depressing for the most part. Coming off that experience, my first reflex or thought was that it had to be the music. I mean – at that moment, I couldn’t possibly see what else it really could be…I was on music high.

Brushing my teeth tonight (my best thinking is apparently done while brushing teeth or taking showers) I realized my attraction to Charlie Brown is much, much deeper than just the music I love so well.

I just have to say up front that Charles Schultz is actually a genius. If you love or hate the Peanuts, it doesn’t matter – he is genius and here is why:

1. The peanuts characters are all drawn in the same proportion as a 2 year old’s body – short arms, big heads, big bellies – even though the characters are obviously older than 2. Thus, the name “Peanuts” – a common beloved nickname for many tot sized lovies . The statement here is that we all have this inner child/2 year old mentality. We have childish thoughts, fears, insecurities and tantrums…just like 2 year olds – no matter how old we are – many times in life we are just big 2 year olds walking around in grown up bodies. Well, let me just speak for me – I know feel this way sometimes.

2. Charlie Brown walks around in a semi state of paranoia – thinking he is the biggest reject in the world. You actually see the world through his eyes most of the story. I tend to do this at certain points in life. I doubt myself, capabilities, and sometimes automatically presume that people think the worst of me. In reality – this is a warped and childish way of thinking – yet I think we all stoop down there sometimes.

3. Charlie Brown has friends all around him, but yet he feels so alone sometimes. Like Charlie, sometimes I tend to overlook all the people that love me in my life and actually believe that I am all alone and invisible.

4. Even at his lowest points, none of his friends swoops in to “rescue” him. They may show some concern and even give some tough love advice, but in the end – he has to make a conscious choice and effort to pick himself up off the floor and keep trying. It has taken me ALONG time to realize that no one can swoop in and save me. I have to pick myself up and am responsible for changing my own attitude and circumstances.

5. In the end, things turn out ok. This usually only comes after some kind of breakthrough realization that life is not all about HIM. He realizes that there is more to life than just what he thinks and wants in life. When he lets go of that pride and ego and childish egocentric view of life – his world expands and comes more into focus. There is real meaning in life – and it is good. He is surrounded by friends, and the bottom line is that he is a “good man”.

Aren’t we all just hoping for that in the end? That we are thought of as a good person? We all go about it in drastically different ways, but at the root of anyone’s real desire – it is to be loved and thought of positively.

• Maybe one last point – no matter how much of a loser you feel at any given moment – your dog always loves you unconditionally. They are amazing creatures. If you haven’t seen Wendy Francisco’s GoD and DoG music video and you are a dog owner…check it out. Pretty awesome stuff. www.wendyfrancisco.com/index.html and click on the video link.

Oh – there are tons more parallels – I could go into each character and how we all have a little bit of them is us too, but I am exhausted and you are probably tired of reading by now. Good night my friends. Big Snoopy dog hugs and kisses goodnight.

Only Heaven Nose…

Some days I just wear myself out. It’s a bummer too. I can’t go anywhere without having myself around. Sometimes I just need a break, you know? Does anyone else ever feel like that?

I had a really ungraceful day. I just said all kinds of things I knew I shouldn’t. I behaved like some tired kid – knowing they are doing wrong, but unable to restrain themselves. I could not hold myself back from saying all the things that I felt have been all pent up inside me any longer. The result is always regret. It seems I will never learn.

Where is the fine line of showing some self respect and sticking up for oneself verses saying too much and looking like some completely arrogant, selfish, ridiculous, mule? It is apparently too hard of a balance for this girl to maintain on any consistent basis. Some days I have my act together and I pull it off masterfully. Today was NOT one of those days.

I am the queen of saying things before thinking…or saying something meaning one thing – but having it taken as a completely different thing than I had intended because I didn’t think it through. In the process I offend plenty of great people in the world…and not so great people. Because offensive comments are not prejudice – anyone is fair game here.

I don’t know when I will learn. When you don’t have anything nice to say – just SHUT UP! The moment will pass. You can get through one day without saying the ridiculous thing running through your head. A day or a few days can reveal such clarity.

Today I cut off my nose despite my face. You know…I still have no earthly idea what that really means. All I really know is that I must look pretty ugly without a nose right now. I don’t know if I will recover from the scar or if my nose can be reattached or what. I am just hoping at this point…hoping someone will have enough pity on this poor ridiculous girl without a nose to excuse my bad behavior and give me some undeserved grace.

I try to keep this in mind when I am on the receiving end of someone walking around without their nose on straight too. The really hard part is when two people are both having the same ‘cut off nose’ issue together. Someone has to either take the high road, or it is a downward spiral.

I took a ride on the ‘down’ slide today. It sucked. Hopefully tomorrow I can climb my way back up the ladder, find my nose and get back in the game of this crazy thing we call life. But for now I am exhausted and I need to go…I mean I still have to find it! And where it is – only heaven nose…I mean knows.

10 Ways to Ensure Your Spouse Will Cheat

Just a side note to start off with…How did Paul Simon ever get away with naming a song 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, when he really only listed about 7 or 8 ways and just repeated the same ones over and over? That’s just false advertising right there I tell ya!

With Jon Gosselin and now Tiger Woods (among probably tons of others – I just don’t keep up with the media enough) in the news for having affairs I felt it was time to look at the issue with my new found perspective.

I found out my husband was having an affair when our daughter was only a few months old. He had been having the affair for probably a year or more. I spent next 2 years in shock, crying, being angry, blaming him and the other woman, and in general acting as if I am some poor victim of a random crime scene. But here are some ugly and hard truths about how affairs can happen. And you will be surprised to find that the person that had the affair may not be the only one with guilt on their shoulders.

Now – let me be clear that I am NOT condoning affairs. They are highly destructive and cause unnecessary heartache for way too many people. But I have talked to both men and women on both sides of the coin enough to see some patterns that I feel are important enough to address.

If anything – maybe this will serve as a wakeup call to someone that might need a perspective check. So, as promised, here are (drum roll please)…

10 Ways to Ensure Your Spouse Cheats on You:

10. Stop stroking your spouse’s ego.

9. Withhold affection – there is always a legitimate excuse – especially if you are a parent of very young children and or working crazy long hours.

8. Justify or condone close friendships with the opposite sex in the office or elsewhere as just business. (I am not saying to be paranoid…but cautiously aware).

7. Dismiss or ignore bragging about how someone flirted with them. Folks – this is a cry for attention. They are trying to tell you that someone else is noticing them and that they are a great catch. They are testing the waters and letting you know that if you don’t match this attention, maybe someone else will. If you really want to send them into the arms of another right away, maybe even roll your eyes or become irritated when they tell you these things.

6. Be a martyr. Become so involved in parenting or working or anything else that the real you that your spouse fell in love with actually dies somewhere along the road.

5. Don’t go on date nights.

4. Rationalize late nights at the office and increased traveling.

3. Don’t fix yourself up or take care of yourself.

2. Give them a long leash and let them do whatever they want and never question him. This shows that you are really not interested in the details of their life and could care less what they do. (Note – I am not saying to be a control freak or accusatory here).

1. Think and actually believe, “That could NEVER happen to ME”.

Note* Doing these things does not automatically guarantee a spouse will cheat, but by practicing any of the above – especially all at the same time and for prolonged periods of time, can definitely help you be well on your way towards a miserable relationship. How your spouse will actually respond is up to each individual person.

Folks, let’s get real here. There are some rotten apples out there that are just cheaters by nature or whatever, but most people ‘want’ to do the right thing. Most people don’t go into marriage thinking, “Cool! Now I can have an affair!”

I am also not saying to go flog yourself now and spend the rest of your days blaming yourself if your spouse has had an affair. I could have easily named this blog – the top 10 ways to ensure you have a miserable relationship. Because quite honestly – even if you did ALL of these 10 things – it still doesn’t condone your spouse’s cheating (or leaving). Real love is responsible and doesn’t give up.

Because quite honestly – I have had all of those things done to me and I never cheated…however, we all handle hard cirumstances differently. When things get really tough in a relationship – I chose the martyr route, and several other of these listed above just for what I felt was survival at the time. For some people – survival means other things – like reaching out to the arms of a good friend of the opposite sex…

Some people are weaker or stronger than others, and in the end, having an affair is the personal and terrible choice of the individual that did it. I think anyone that is honest about having done it can (or should) admit that it was a terrible choice that had devastating consequences and that if they could take it back, they would.

If you are going through this situation – if you are currently a victim of an affair – let me say – get help if you need it. You can feel so terribly devastated, rejected, alone, terrified, confused, among many other things. You need to address your sadness and reach out to get the support you need to get back on your feet. You do NOT need any additional guilt trips or pain. You need healing, and time to sort things out. You can’t even see this perspective clearly right now. It has taken me 2 years to get here, really.

For everyone else – I am simply saying…maybe it’s time to wake up and realize that love is a two way street. If you want a great relationship, you have to want to give that too. And if you are sitting around looking at all the ways you wish you could change your spouse…you will surely continue living in a miserable place. You never know what just might happen if you start ‘giving’ the very things you ‘want’ most, and or addressing some of your own honest needs instead of acting all helpless and hopeless.

Ironic as heck that I am sitting here writing this, as I am divorced twice and currently single. Aren’t I all high and mighty? To be very clear here – this is not an “advice” blog as much as a “lessons learned along the way from me to me”. If you happen to be reading this and getting anything out of it – great!

I have to say that I am guilty of all of the 10 things listed above at one point or another. I have plenty of excuses and reasons for some of them. My husband traveled extensively and was a bit of a control freak/manipulator. It is hard to muster up certain feelings when you feel so neglected and abandoned yourself…but man – it has to start with someone.

What sucks is when one person is finally ready to reach out and ‘try’, but the other person is not in that same place and then vice versa. That creates a downward spiral that can lead to uncertain disaster. At some point – you have to come together to both want to fix things. You both have to admit – at the same time – you have both failed each other in some places.

I don’t know if I will get to use all my new found knowledge and insight and put it into practice on some very lucky next guy or not. I currently go back and forth as to if I even want to try. I do know that both my previous husbands would have very much appreciated my new perspective. But again it is about timing and it does take two. I recognized most of these things during the counseling sessions of my 2nd separation, but it was honestly too late. He was already gone.

Maybe for some of you, it is not too late. It’s too late for Jon and Kate. Tiger and Elin’s fate is yet to be determined. But when you hear the media flapping on and on about how terrible either of these guys are…remember they are just probably hurting too, in some way, and making really horrible choices trying to fill the void. I am still very sad for the loyal parties – it is a truly devastating place to be and again, I am not condoning the cheating party. I am just saying…there are 2 sides to every story, 10 ways to ensure your spouse cheats on you or leaves you and a million variables in between.

My Journey UP!

Only so many tears you can cry…till the heart ache is over…and now you can’t say…your love – will never die.

Ouch. Thanks Journey. You know…I have sung (and I use the term ‘sung’ here liberally…maybe I did something more like yodeled or crooned…but I digress) these words for almost 2 decades along with Steve Perry and the true message of that line never really hit me until the other day…and it hit me with a big crashing thud. A year and half ago I would have told you my love will never die. My love for my then newly estranged husband was stronger than ever, as I hoped for some kind of second chance miracle. I swore my love would never die.

But it did die. And I am done crying. And Steve Perry was exactly right. I have to eat my words. Now I am left wondering all kinds of things. Was it really love? Does true love really die? There must be different kinds of love. I mean…I love chocolate. I am pretty sure my love for chocolate will never die. But Mr Perry’s words creep up to haunt me…but, no. I am really sure he is not referring to THAT kind of love.

But it is interesting. I have gone back and forth on this idea of love. Was it real, or was it Memorex? I think I am getting closer to understanding than ever before. Not that I have everything figured out – but I am seeing things more clearly. With my “love” glasses off so I am not so blind-eyed, I can start to reconstruct the scene of the crime. Little bits of evidence have been surfacing and I think I have enough pieces to make a conviction.

I made something happen that probably shouldn’t have happened. I selfishly wanted something and I didn’t listen to my gut, which was trying to tell me to stop…drop…and roll. Instead I went feet first into the fire. I guess I must have been pretty cold – and I guess it looked pretty cozy and warm at the time…but no one in their right mind would jump into a fire! But that is exactly what I did. I am referring to getting remarried right after getting divorced. Umm…duh. Again…slow learner at the keyboard here.

I could be the poster child for the saying “out of the frying pan and into the fire”. But this little chicken nibblet is taking a break from the fryer for a bit. With 2 divorces under my belt at the ripe age of 38 I am thinking…perhaps it is time to stop running around like my head is cut off and the sky is falling.

I have discovered that my life did not end – but I have to say I have learned that what does not kill you, maims you and leaves you for dead. If you choose to get up off the floor, and open your eyes…that whole “makes you stronger thing” can have a chance. But that is really a personal choice. I have the choice to be a bitter, angry, emotionally handicapped, charred chicken nugget for the rest of my days…or I can actually grow stronger from my experience.

I will either wear my scars as a shameful reminder like a weight around my neck…bringing me down and slowly sapping the life right out of me. OR – I will make it into a shiny banner and proudly wear my scars as a reminder of how far I have come and as lessons for myself and others of what NOT to do. I think some glitter is in order…don’t you? I always liked glitter.

2 years ago, when what I thought was my whole world crumbling down around me – I had no idea what was in store for me. What surprises of joy and amazement could still be. I love the movie “UP”. I can relate to the message. When you lose everything you thought was important and hit rock bottom – hanging onto the past is futile. There comes a point in time when you just have to let it go. When you realize life is not over…every day is a gift and everything starts to look different. You wake up from the deep freeze and have a sudden gusto for life like never before. Well…at least that is my synopsis.

But I didn’t get there alone. I had a whole army of faithful friends and family holding me up by my chicken feathers as I balked and squawked and made a ridiculous racket. And personally, I have a faith in a God that is bigger than me and my mistakes.

However you decide to get there – to that place of awakening – I am cheering for you. I am cheering for me. Yay team UP! and all the milestones in between. Because it is not about just getting to some final destination. After all…life is all about the Journey.