A Work in Progress

Forgiveness seems like it should be a one time thing. Something happens and you get hurt. The person that was a part of making that thing happen apologizes, you forgive them and life moves on. Or you get hurt several times over, give up that person or that thing, forgive yourself and them for your parts in the cause of the pain and move on.

I used to think that was how this worked. Actually, right up until the last year or so it was how I thought such things worked. It is only after I have thought things over that I have started to realize that forgiveness is not a one time deal. It is a way of thinking and way of acting and a way of being.

There are several people in my past that hurt me, whether they intended to or not, whether I meant them to or not, it happened. Some of these actions are years and years in the past and I thought I was over whatever was going on there. Except that there are random times when I am at home, in the shower, dreaming, reading, driving or whatever other quiet moment I find myself in, when I will think of X person and S action and wonder why it happened and why I still felt the pang of hurt from it. I had already forgiven myself, forgiven them, forgiven the others who were peripherally involved…

What I have discovered is that it’s not enough to “forgive and forget.” If I completely forget then I will not learn from those mistakes of mine and the act of forgiving no longer means anything. If I never forgive then I will very likely continue to attract that sort of action/behavior/people into my life and will slowly be eaten away by the anger and pain associated with unhealed pain. That isn’t such a great option either.

What I have been doing for some time now, years actually, is to forgive myself and others every time I reflect on a particular event or that person in my life. There is still an echo of that pain, still knowledge of that lesson, but it is nowhere near half so painful or troublesome as what it would have been if I had not learned how to think, process, and forgive multiple times over.

The thing I find the most amusing about all of it is not that I have been doing it for years, but that it has taken me so long to be conscious of what has actually been a very good coping mechanism for me. One would think that this would have been an obvious thing. I think the only reason why it even came to my attention at all is that now that there has been a greater distance of time and emotion from my ex I am reflecting more upon the things that I learned from him, but it is taking more effort, more time to complete the ritual. Think, process, forgive, move on. This has not been working so well, at least not easily, as what I am used to, and so now I am having to take on the part of a full and active participant in my own mini-therapy session.

Now the important thing for me to figure out is if I’m the only one that works this way. If not, hey, there’s a new thing that can be suggested for people relatively far along in their recovery, or at least past the grief stage in their own processing. If so… hey, at least I know what works for me.

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Not All Who Wander…

I have a few quotes that I really enjoy. They aren’t all inspirational. They don’t all have some deeper or hidden meaning. Some are actually quite silly and not really something that most would go “oh, I should make that a part of my soundtrack.” But they all either give me a moment to think, a kick in the arse, or a really good laugh. Honestly the last is something that is needed more often than anything else.

So, here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order beyond what order I can remember them in.

“All that glitters is not gold. Not all those who wander are lost.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

“There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”
Douglas Adams

“Don’t Panic.”
Douglas Adams

“It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”
Miracle Max from The Princes Bride

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”
Joseph Campbell

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”
Eden Ahbez

“The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”
Rumi

“Oh Beloved, take away what I want. Take away what I do. Take away what I need. Take away everything that takes me from you.”
Rumi

“It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.”
Bill Watterson

“Scientific Progress goes boink?”
Bill Watterson

More than enough to be getting on with today, but they were really amusing to look up again. I now have the urge to read my Calvin and Hobbes comics and Hitchhikers again. And since I used Goodreads to find some of these I’m reminded of the books that are still on my to-read book list. And trying to figure out how many books I have read but don’t remember and thus haven’t been added to my “read” list. Ah well.

I’m off to spend some time with Calvin and Hobbes. ‘ll even let my husband come and join us if he so chooses.

Body Image

I don’t know why this came up in my brain, but I was thinking about body image last night. Most specifically about mine.

I have a not so great body image in general. It’s alright when I look at how I look with clothes on. I can see that I have lost weight and am in a pretty healthy range and clothes that I couldn’t fit into a year ago are fitting well, even baggy today.

I kind of feel like maybe I look something like this woman below. Maybe a little bit chunkier in the butt/thighs, but still within tolerable limits.

This gal looks healthy, she looks fit, and still has some curves and maintains that “I am a woman and I don’t need to do anything besides just be me for you to see it,” sort of appeal that I have to take advantage because I’m just lazy when it comes to anything but the most basic hygiene/grooming maintenance. I have curves, I’m very aware of my curves and I’m much more comfortable showing them off than what I was six months ago.

However, this is how I feel I look when I do not have any clothes (or only a swimsuit/underwear) on:

I’m not saying that the gal above has a bad body. I know many people would love to look like that. It’s just that there is a difference between her and the gal above and I don’t know why I can look at myself in the mirror and feel one way when I am covered with fabric, even well fitting clothing, and in less than 2 minutes completely change my opinion. I look and can’t help but think that I need to tone a lot more here, lose fat there and can’t stand the way my thighs or ass looks. I no longer feel satisfied with my 25lbs. weight loss since October of 2011. I feel like I should aim for another 5-10lbs and maybe then my thighs will look like they’re “supposed to” and my stomach will be a little flatter…

The worst part is that this line of thinking makes me feel guilty for having such shallow thoughts. Why should it matter what I look like? It’s not going to change who I am and what I do… it shouldn’t change other people’s perception of me. But I know that there are studies that prove that it does and that it is something I should care about at least a wee bit. But then I feel like I am going against another part of my internal values which say I shouldn’t care and shouldn’t pay attention and then I get stuck in this cycle of circular thinking.

I really don’t know how to get out of this process at this time. I don’t even know if I could or would follow any suggestions or things I could work on. Which sort of makes this entire thing worse, because I’m aware of a “problem” but am unwilling to work on it. So I guess I’m somewhere between pre-contemplative and contemplative?

Oh well. Sometime in the future I’ll start working on this. Until then I’ll just have to deal with it or avoid looking at myself before/after showers.

American Politics are… ugh

Aside

Ugh.

That is all I have to say about the most recent political “upheavals” in the US and Colorado. It is only Wednesday and yet there has already been enough going on to make me want to block my ears and eyes and count the hours until November.

The worst part is that I am able to tolerate the back and forth bickering and bitching and rhetoric from the politicians and reporters. That is expected and coming from the people who get paid to take part in such activities. I don’t like what goes on, but it’s something resembling tolerable and something which anyone who bothers to can see the purpose and the expected outcome. I’m not the greatest at seeing through all the points, I don’t pay enough attention to all the minute details or track what all the sides/parties are saying and responding to. I listen to NPR and glance through a few blogs and new articles as I come across them to get what bit I can tolerate.

The part that I have the most trouble stomaching is hearing and seeing the hateful rhetoric of “normal” people. An example is from one of George Takei’s facebook pictures.

Yes, it is a quote from Rush Limbaugh that I do not agree with and which I believe is willfully ignorant and intended to incite a reaction. That’s his job, it’s what he gets paid and advertising money to do. However, the hundreds of comments that anyone can read here are just horrible. The over abundance of ad hominem attacks upon Rush is, while also expected, saddening. The number of comments condoning violence and hate is disgusting.

The worst part is that I do not think most of the people who write such things realize what they are propagating. I may dislike Mr. Limbaugh. I may think that he intentionally spreads deceits, intentionally misconstrues a quote or interprets something so as to put his own very partisan spin on things and says many, many hateful things, but none of that is any reason for a person to spit (or in this case type) so much vitriol. Especially because it turns the very person saying such things into the hypocrite that they are raging against.

Now, I know it may be too much to ask, but is it possible for people to see people on the other side of the political spectrum as, well, people?

I do not believe we, as a country, will be able to figure out how the hell to pull out of this political tailspin we are currently in until we are able to discover the humanity in our fellows, regardless of whether they sport red, blue, purple, pink or polka dots. We are going to find ourselves in a nasty and dark place in the not to distant future if we’re not able to figure this out.

Personally, I’d like to avoid that. So… let’s go hug a Republican/Democrat. Or maybe start with a nice handshake? Or something along those lines.

An Anniversary I Wish Never Was

I have gotten through today so far with only glancing at the calendar a few times and refusing to acknowledge exactly what today’s date means. I tend to do this for every “anniversary” that I would rather ignore. However, each one of those days is marked forever in my heart and mind and there is always something about them that makes it so I cannot forget.

Today is a day that, one year ago, started out with only anticipating a house warming for a friend of my husband (then boyfriend of less than a month) and getting to ride there and back on his motorcycle. It was going to be a fun, if a bit anxiety inducing day just due to meeting so many brand new people.

Then, around 9pm, my husband got a facebook message from my roommates and there was a scramble to get my phone charged enough to make a phone call and figure out what was so important that it could not wait another hour or two for me to get home or at least back to my husband’s place and away from all these people that I didn’t know.

For a few minutes my roommates and I went back and forth. They didn’t want to tell me over the phone. I didn’t want to wait the hour drive to find out if it was so important that I needed to leave now.

And they did.

One year ago I was told that Brittany, someone that had been one of my closest friends and whom I was working on repairing my relationship with, was dead. Not dead from a random accident or medical condition I hadn’t been aware of. She had been shot by her ex-husband. Another human had intentionally taken her life. Taken her away from her family and friends and destroyed her future.

All that passed through my mind in a blur, but was ignored by the part crying out “Why!?” and “How in the world could it happen?!” “Why her?” “I had just talked to her not even 3 days ago. She can’t be dead. It doesn’t happen that way.”

Honestly, I’m relieve that they conceded and told me while I was still at the party. I was able to maintain myself well enough to ask my husband to take me home and apologize to his friends for needing to leave so suddenly. I know I didn’t look good, but at least I wasn’t crying. Not yet. And I had an hour on the back of a bike with no one else that could hear or see me to cry, though I’m sure my husband felt my body shaking and the death grip I had on him. It was time to myself to just let my brain go in its wild circles and try to figure out what the word “dead” really means and how it could apply to Brittany, someone who took so much joy in life, who made sure life was worth living not just for her, but for everyone she touched.

Dead could not mean the same thing for her that it did for other people, could it?

What does dead mean for someone who didn’t even get a chance to fight for her life? She was washing a tea pot. She didn’t even know he was there. She had no chance. How could she be dead?

I don’t mean she should have been given the chance to wrestle the gun from his hand or anything absurd like that. I mean that there should never have been a gun. There should never have been a chance for her ex to even contemplate taking away her life, her rights and freedom. There should not have been a human hand taking part in her leaving this world, in her death. If she was going to die it was going to be after a long life of doing things to help others. Maybe the unlucky random chance of an accident or some illness, but at least in those circumstances she could have tried to do something, anything more than what happened on 7 May 2011.

But that was taken away from her. The worst part is that the way she died has overshadowed how she lived in many ways. She was a bright, empathetic, courageous, empowered woman of God who did mission and community service work as well as working in health and human services fields including massage therapy. I have many wonderful memories of her, time spent together and conversations on the phone and through skype… but all are tainted with grief and pain knowing that there will be no more new memories, no more new experiences. The knowledge that the last day of her life was painted red by anger, pain, and the blood of four different people.

I miss my friend. I miss talking with her. I miss listening to her. I miss her support and being able to support her. I miss random adventures and taking off for a weekend on a whim. I miss just knowing she was there. I miss her. And nothing will be able to change that, no matter how much I cry, how much I think about or don’t think about her, how many people I try to educate about domestic violence, how much I oppose violence in all forms, how much I work to help every individual I meet who is a victim… none of it will bring her back. It doesn’t detract from the things I can do and what I do… but some days, days like today, it just doesn’t seem to be enough. I feel selfish and don’t want to work with the person in front of me. I just want to have Brittany back, to be talking with her about the crazy things or adventures she is doing or planning to do. Now doesn’t matter as much as what could have been.

I suppose I can take some heart in knowing that there is an alternate reality where there was no gun and we are still talking and today would be a day on a calendar, not this unhappy anniversary.

~~~~~~~

Thank you, Brittany for showing me I possessed the courage to leave my ex. Thank you for showing me different perspectives and ways of seeing the world and helping me to grow. Thank you for all the work you have done to change others lives. Thank you for all your support, all your love, your forgiving nature.

You will not be forgotten. I still love you. I hope you have found that better place you knew was out there. Be well.

Amber

An Uncomfortable (Impossibly So) Feeling

Brene Brown is a therapist/researcher that I was recently introduced to through TED Talks and work. There are several patients that we currently have at the residence who have appeared to benefit a lot from this woman’s work. Honestly though, I think it is helping some of the staff more. Partially just through being out there. We struggle working with some of our patients who have particularly powerful and ingrained, negative thought tracks. It just doesn’t seem as though our typical DBT/CBT therapies are getting through to these patients. They “know” the words, they “know” the actions, they “know” the coping skills, but they haven’t been able to embrace them and open themselves up to the scary, dark places in the center of their beings.

You know, many of the people who work in the field have similar thought patterns. Sometimes they are just as ingrained, sometimes they are more temporary or related to stress levels. But we all suffer from shame and the dialogue this woman is opening up for us internally as well as externally is just as powerful as those thought patterns, that self-talk.

This is especially on my mind now because I suffer from a sometimes immobilizing feeling of shame, sometimes mixed with guilt, sometimes just the shame. Which is more than enough on its own, so the guilt just ends up being icing on the cake. Last night was one of those nights where feelings of guilt, anger, and more guilt led to being overwhelmed with shame. Shame over many things, some of which I have some control over, others are circumstances which I just happen to be a part of and others are things which I have felt that same shame about since I was a young child.

Feelings of failing in my life because I have not achieved what I should have. Feelings of not being good enough for the good things in my life. Feelings of still being the terrified little girl who can never do enough or be enough to satisfy herself and her family. Feelings of guilt about some of my thoughts or recent failings at work and then shame over those, again, not being enough for what is needed.

I’m pretty sure it was disturbing for my husband. I do not know that he has really tried to comfort someone in that state. I also know that there is some frustration and exasperation over feeling like he has repeated himself several times throughout the last year, “You sell yourself short,” “You are worthy of being loved,” “You are good enough for me and this life,” etc. He’s damn good in knowing what to say and how to say it, and in moments of low self-esteem or guilt, I am able to recognize what he is saying and process and acknowledge them. But those times when I am trapped in the dark place inside my head and there is nothing but the feeling that I am not, nor ever have been or will be, good enough or smart enough or empathetic enough, nothing he says can break through. Actually, they sometimes make me feel smaller because then I feel worse for somehow having tricked someone into thinking any of those when I am not anything that he is saying.

I can recognize that shame is a very intense emotion and faulty, broken thinking outside of those times when I am experiencing them. At this point though, I am not far enough into my own recovery related to shame to be able to do much more beyond that.

There are several things I’m doing to change that. One is that I am reading one of Brene’s books right now. I am watching her videos. And most importantly I am talking about how I am feeling. I was more honest about how I have been feeling last night than any other time before. I’m writing this now. Both things were very hard, but I think there is something to the point that shame is more powerful when we allow it to isolate us and prevent any dialogue, any understanding. In opening up and being willing to share my experiences, I hope to diminish the power that my shame has had over me, to start those dialogues and work on my recovery.

Thank you for actually reading through all of this, and I hope that maybe there was something there to help you to acknowledge your own moments of shame or to be more open and empathetic to others who are experiencing it. Any comments or reactions or thoughts are greatly welcomed.