Friday, November 1, 2013
There are times when I wonder if I left my marraige too soon, if I gave up too quickly. Then I look back and read the words I've written before, here and in my journals, and I realize that I didn't. I gave it everything I had and then some.
Something a counselor told me once was that I have the right to divorce my husband simply because I want to, I don't need a reason. I have reasons, but that wasn't her point. Her point was that it is my life to live and I don't need the approval of anyone else for the decisions I make.
I tend to be a perfectionist. I'm recognizing this more and more about myself. More importantly, I'm recognizing that this is not a good thing about me! I am human, I need to accept myself with all my flaws, failings, mistakes and humanness. I don't need to do it all "just right".
Someone else asked me recently who put this on me? Who asked me to be perfect, who told me I had to do it all "just right", who ordered me to climb every mountain.... I'd never been asked that before. I'd never thought of it before. It's me.
It's me who had to have the perfect marriage, who had to be the perfect wife.
It's me who has to be the perfect mother, who beats herself up when I falter (okay, there are also plenty of other people out there waiting to jump on me if I make a mistake, but if I'm okay, their opinion will matter much less!)
It's me who has to have the perfect documents sent to print, no errors allowed.
It's me who has to be the perfect friend.
It's me who has to sing perfectly every time
It's me who has to look perfect.
To be honest, the only thing I'm perfect at is failing. I'm not perfect at anything. I am perfectly imperfect. It's time I learned to be okay with that. No one else expects it of me, why do I keep expecting it of myself?
Where did this need for perfection come from? Satan sure loves to take something good and twist it into something evil. Christians are quick to tell you we are expected to become perfect, as Christ was perfect. That we are to live sinless... I think we need to revisit the definition of perfect. My BFF tells me perfection is constant communication with Jesus and if we have that, our mistakes are simply... mistakes, not sins.
So, I declare today:
I am not perfect.
Furthermore. I do not need to be perfect.
I will stop expecting perfection of myself.
I will slip and I will fall in this dance of life, but as long as I keep getting up and trying again... that's okay.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
It's been a rough week, a longer day and I'm wide awake at 2 a.m. instead of sleeping like I need to be, like my body is craving and my mind won't give in.
I've been feeling lonely lately. Interesting how I felt lonely almost all of my marriage and then the loneliness changed. I'm growing, changing and realizing that I crave a social life. I need to be heard... That's what I discovered tonight. I need to be heard, I need someone to hear me, to be listening.
Loneliness is not always simply the state of being alone, for me it is often the state of being unheard. Of not knowing who is near or far, no knowing who wants me, who misses me... I don't know the thoughts of others. I know the people who love me, the people who care... but I can't know what they are thinking, I fear when they don't communicate that they are tired of me, that I have become less important in their lives. I allow myself to be easily set aside, to be walked away from. I don't fight for people to stay in my life for very long or for very hard. I'm sure my best friend might argue with that, but I can quickly accept (right or wrong) that someone just doesn't want to be around me anymore.
Sometimes it's hard to dance alone all the time. Sometimes I crave a partner, even a temporary, short-term friend who is willing to dance with me. Some days I just need someone with skin on (who is older than 18 years old).
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Tomorrow, I might need reminding. I am learning to appreciate myself, to value myself and to see myself as someone special, someone worth knowing, worth being with.
I realize that not everyone may feel that way about me. Well, I actually KNOW some people don't feel that way about me. I'm learning to be okay with that too. Honestly, there are some people already that I don't care if they don't like me... I could even list names for you, but I won't. In fact, there are some I would rather they don't like me because I wouldn't want to be liked by people of their caliber. Abusers and narcissists top that list!
I can see the healing God is working in me. I feel the strength beginning to rise in my heart. Dancing with God truly is great exercise! I highly recommend you try it.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
I'm learning to allow myself to be set free.
I'm learning that I am enough
I'm learning that I am okay
I'm learning that it's okay for me to heal
I'm learning that it's okay for me to be happy
I'm learning that I am wanted, valued, loved
When I was in my early 20's, I spent a good 5 years in counseling. During that time, I made choices that deepened the ingrained belief that I was not worthy of true love or happiness. I also learned tools that when push came to shove, I was able to realize my mistake and heal from it. I learned it was okay to take the time to heal before moving on.
What I didn't learn was that it was okay to not lock myself into the consequences of a future mistake. See, I got myself engaged to a man who didn't really want me. In fact, he told me at one point that he was only with me until "someone better came along". It was a month before our wedding when that someone better came along. I was heartbroken, but I think (looking back) that I was more heartbroken about the wedding being cancelled than I was about him breaking up with me... I think I expected it to happen sooner or later. Now, I'm eternally grateful to God for breaking us up because he turned out to be a lousy husband, a philanderer and abuser.
The other thing I didn't carry forward was into my next relationship the forgiveness towards myself for past relationships and mistakes. See, I had made myself a promise and when that promise was broken, taken away, I still felt I had to honour it. I decided that I had "made my bed and must lie in it". I was mistaken. If I had been able to forgive myself, to set aside my actions and feelings from the reality before me, I could have saved myself from more heartache and disaster.
I made my choice. If I had to go back, I'd probably make the same one because I can't imagine life without my boys, but if I could advise a woman in the same situation, I would give different advice.
For example, just because you slip up, make a mistake, sin, fall, however you want to word it, you aren't stuck with a bad choice, with a bad relationship because of it. I would advise that you step away from that moment, action or decision and look at the relationship outside of it, would you stay with that person if that moment had not happened, if that activity did not exist? I wish I had asked myself that question - in fact, I went out of my way to not ask myself that question. I thought I owed it to God, to myself, to my family, to my reputation.... to do the "right" thing. I did the wrong thing.
Please don't get me wrong. I'm in a state of reflection lately and while I regret my thought processing in this matter, I cannot say for sure what decision I would have made if I had thought it through differently. I'm not the same person today that I was then. I've come a long way, done a lot more healing, educated myself better about relationships.
Which is to say that relationships still terrify me! I pray that should God provide a next relationship (and I pray He does), I will be wiser, freer, and more careful. Should I make a grave mistake in my judgment, in my actions (in my own eyes!) I will be more forgiving, give myself grace and not allow it to be the basis of a long term decision.
God has brought me to a forgiveness for myself. He promises that He does not hold our past sins against us, that when He forgives, it is gone. As long as I choose to accept Him, my sins died on the cross with Christ, all of them. If He does not hold them against me, if He has already taken the consequence up on Himself, if He has already washed them clean, what am I saying or doing when I cling to them? If I cannot let Him take them away from me, if I insist that I still must face the eternal consequence for them, I have not accepted His gift and I negate the sacrifice that He made for me. I'm grateful for His Gift, His sacrifice and I have no desire to throw it back in His face or devalue it.
With this forgiveness... and some days I must remind myself of it when Satan is out to try to make me forget it! ... comes a freedom previously unknown. It means that I can walk with my head up. It means that today is a fresh start... that today is a clean slate... that tomorrow can also be a clean slate.
It means that I can dream, and love, and live, and dance lightly, happily and joyfully as I move into the future.
Monday, September 2, 2013
It started with a memory a few weeks ago regarding a childhood incident that I had always instinctively known must have been there, but couldn't remember. Now I remember. The memory came in a flashback with feelings and thoughts, which lead to other instances in my life where I have felt those emotions, which lead to a time immediately after I met my ex-husband. One memory regularly leads to a whole review of that portion of a relationship and I have been battling nausea with the realizations shown to me.
I will no longer be stunned into frozen. I won't allow my boundaries to be bulldozed, my desires ignored and my voice silenced. I will look at a situation and no longer expect one thing, but will state my expectations ahead of time. I will expect to be treated with respect from now on.
I feel as if my brain is dancing free of the cobwebs. With the freedom comes the memories both good and bad... I'm truly okay with that. Even if I am left reeling from reality, the fog is lifting and my thoughts become clearer, my future starts to look brighter and my hope begins to rise that something better is actually out there.
This is just another part of the dance to freedom. I feel God's hand, firmly but gently, leading me down this road. He wants good for me. He wants me to escape the prison walls abuse has built around me, the moat I dug within them in case someone tried to breach the walls. We're filling in the moat, breaking down the walls.
Is it safe?
Only when He leads the way.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
A recurring theme through my dreams has been that of needing to be rescued. For so long, I have (day)dreamed (since childhood) of having the knight ride in to rescue me, or ANYONE to ride in and rescue me from all that was going on... My dad was once the hero in my (day) dreams, then as I got older it would be a boyfriend/husband, then police, courts, TV heroes.... There has never been a hero. Even now, I must confess, that I keep waiting for the courts to rescue me, for someone to see the truth and step up to say "You don't have to fight this battle alone, I will fight it with you".
I've come to the realization that I must stand alone. That there is not going to be someone to rescue me. I have prayed for God to rescue me and still felt alone, still felt like I would have to rescue myself. My dreams have portrayed this to me... My own fears coming forth and bubbling over. In one dream, I dreamed I was drowning... then I dove in and saved myself. Now you know it was a night-dream... The second me could breath underwater while the first me couldn't. Maybe it was a sign that I'm getting stronger, that I'm healing, that I need rescuing less.... But when I came up out of the water, there was a crowd of people around and none of them had even noticed I was in trouble.
Then came an experience. I love that God speaks to us through experiences. (I know that He also uses dreams, but for me an experience speaks louder!)
I was at Rainbows (Singles) Family Camp and my youngest wanted a canoe ride. All the other parents and adults being busy with their families and activities, I took him out on my own. I'm a pretty strong canoe-er and thought nothing of it... I also didn't intend to go very far. He was a little scared of the rocking of the canoe, so I taught him how and where to sit, had him turn around and face me because when you see someone you trust it's easier! A motor boat came along just as I planned to turn around and I decided to wait until the waves died down before returning to shore.... except I didn't plan on the wind that day or realize how far we had paddled.... When I tried to turn the canoe, the wind pushed it right back. When I paddled toward shore, the wind held us still. When I paused to rest, the wind and waves pushed us farther away.
With my son watching me, I couldn't show my anxiety, I couldn't let him know how scared I was becoming! I knew I was rapidly running out of energy and I couldn't remember how to get the life guards attention! I forgot that in the boat were the tools we needed to be rescued. He knew we were having trouble getting back to shore... and, bless his little rule-keeping heart, he was worried we were getting out of the life guards sight.
I looked at him and I prayed out loud, asking Jesus to come pick up a paddle and row with me. I gave up trying to turn the canoe and just paddled backwards. As we gained ground, as we came closer and closer to camp, my little one said "I guess that's why we needed to have two paddles in the canoe, hunh Mom". He knew Jesus was paddling on the other end of the canoe. He knew we had just been rescued by THE Rescuer.
I was so relieved to be back at shore, I was so grateful to have been able to return safely (and without embarrassment, I might add) that I missed the fact that I had just been Rescued.
I know my Rescuer and His name is Jesus. He hasn't left me, He knows the truth, He will continue to protect me, He will continue to carry me through.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
I don't find value in taking care of me. I have work to do in this area, but since we cannot change what we do not acknowledge, I'm going to see this realization as a good thing, as a step in the right direction.
This happened again at the hospital Friday night... My son needed stitches in his knee. I let his dad know what was happening and he rushed over to the hospital to see the boys. I let the nurses know he only had supervised visits and I needed their help because I don't want to be alone with him and the boys. The came up with an acceptable solution, and then later came and asked me to change it to make things simpler for them. What do you say when the nurses tell you they can't honour their word? How do you demand that their suddenly busy ER still help you keep your boundaries. I conceded and they sent him down to stay with us, leaving us alone with him. They said they would have him leave again when the doctor came, but they didn't. I had to be the one to ask him to step out, I had to reset the boundary to make my son's experience easier to get through.
I felt ignored, like my children's needs, my needs were unimportant in light of their needs. I'm still not sure how I could have done things differently in that situation. Sometimes you have to bend, to break a rule for someone else. Sometimes it's more dangerous than it seems. With all the domestic violence posters they have in the hospital, I felt like they should have been more aware of the potential risks.
Education for domestic violence is key. I'm glad God has called me to work in that area. So often we see normal when we should see abuse.
I'm getting better at the boundary setting and keeping. It's a work in progress, but isn't the best dance one that is always improving?
God and I had a pretty intense conversation all day yesterday that culminated in a Facebook friend phoning me with a message from him. She spoke 2 sentences and... yep... I started crying - bawling actually, I even missed part of the message I was crying so hard. I realize they are healthy, healing tears, but it can get quite annoying... and tiring. As I lay in my bed (crying) last night, I was complaining to God about it and it was almost as if He said "It's okay. I'm catching your tears in My bottle. They are not wasted or unseen."
It's been a week of realizing how I feel about myself, what my fears for my future are, and new memories of the past. It was a day of God loving me, of telling me that how I feel about myself is not how He feels about me. It was a day of Him wanting to change my perception... and me fighting the process. Are you SURE? Is it even possible for You to love me like that? To want good for me?
Funny how we question God. Funny how it's so easy to accept the lies that we are unlovable or valueless. Funny how it's hard to believe those might be lies. What do I do, how does it change who I am to accept that God's love is sufficient for me? More than that, that God's love is MEANT for me? Why am I afraid that I will become conceited and arrogant if I accept God's view of me?
Therein lies the heart of the matter. I have been taught that feeling good about oneself is wrong, prideful... inherently evil. Yet, if God is giving the message, how can it be evil or wrong? He seeks a humble heart, one that is not puffed up with itself. Is doubting my worth, is holding onto MY view of me being puffed up with myself? Is the very act of doubting the value and love He holds for me an expression of pride and conceit? Is it possible that the "humbleness" that we equate with low self-esteem is actually the exact opposite?
Thursday, August 15, 2013
I won't go into full details, but suffice to say that my ex has been playing some nasty tricks, accusing me of things and even going so far as to try to take the boys away from me. I'm afraid that one of these days he's going to come up with something, and somebody is going to believe him enough. As a result, I'm desperately trying to be perfect. I'm desperately trying to do nothing wrong, to appear as if my world is completely under my control.
My world feels so far out of my control... and I know that every time I try to take control of my world, I fall apart. I fail. I am completely incapable of being in control of my world. I much prefer to let God be in control of my world. Life runs so much smoother when I just let Him guide it.
I know this fear will pass, and identifying it will help it pass that much sooner. God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of Power and a strong mind. So, I'm claiming that promise! I refuse to live in fear.
I have noticed that when I live in fear, I often act in anger. I become more concerned with how others see me than I am with reality. I worry about being condemned, about being criticized, about being labelled ... you get the idea. When I lean and focus on God, I can remember that I don't have to be perfect. God loves me just the way I am. He's not condemning me... Jesus said "I came not into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Me might be saved." His goal, His purpose, His mission is to save me - even from myself. From the lies that have been spoken, that are being spoken and that will be spoken... about me and to me... from other people and from Satan.
Yep. There are things I need to work on... things that I can do better at... but being in control. I am returning that responsibility to God... He's much better at it than I am anyway!
Tonight... I'll dance knowing that He's in the lead... AND He's choosing the music!
Saturday, May 25, 2013
I don't feel like a strong person. Sometimes I give in to the urge to hide from the world, to bury myself in my life and forget about others. Sometimes the energy it takes to reach out to someone, to speak honestly about how I am doing is too much for me. Sometimes the energy to do more than the absolute necessities is more than I can do.
I'm trying to allow myself to rest when I need to, be at peace when I need to and let things slide a bit when I need to, but honestly, it makes me feel like an absolute failure. I feel weak. I feel as if I am not enough, like it wouldn't matter if I had all the strength in the world, it's not enough. There is so much that feels overwhelming... emotions, appointments, children, eating, school, housecleaning, and that's just the stuff I'm forcing into my schedule, not even the things I want in my schedule or dream about for the future. Where do I fit work in? I want to start speaking, I want to go back to school someday, I want to make sure my children are healthy and happy. I need to take care of me and make time for friends.
I don't feel strong. Maybe strength is not in what I cannot accomplish, but rather in what I can. Maybe strength is in the deciding each day that I will move on, that I will continue to work hard, that I will not succumb to those who would see me fall. Maybe strength means just staying alive.
I think that strength has a different definition for so everyone. Let's face it, we are all our own worst critics and I am no different. I am hard on myself. I expect more from me than I would ever expect from someone else. I guess that's the way it is. I've always looked at life from the perspective of "this is my life. I'm just living it" and not really stepped back to look at it the way someone else might look at it. Strangely, I fear that if I take that step back, I will still not see things the way others do. I think I am hiding myself from them enough that they can't see the real me, the way I really live, and if they saw that... they would agree with me about my weakness.
I have weaknesses. I am human. Maybe it's just okay for me to not be strong in every area of life, even though I have striven to do just that. In a dance, there are usually two partners and they take turns supporting each other. I all too frequently feel alone in the dance of life and yet I know that God is leading me... I need to trust that when I feel weak, His strength will come through and hold me up so I don't fall.
I need to learn to be comfortable with my weakness... To just fall back and know HE will be there to catch me and not let me hit the ground.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I don't want to be where I am. That's not even a figure of speech, there are so many places that I'd rather be. First, Spokane, or BC, even Manitoba, or anywhere. I don't feel like I belong here. I want to be with my friends, with the people who love me and accept me and need me.
I don't even want to be here emotionally. I want to jump ahead to healthy, skip the healing and go straight to the end.
I know it doesn't work that way. just as much as I know that I live here, I live in this place and it's home for now. In so many ways I am where I am and there will be no where else until I decide to move on. Some things may be out of my control, dependent on other people's choices and actions but most of the time where I am is up to me. When we're talking emotions, it's just a path we have to take.
It isn't all bad either. Some days I'm so happy with my life and with where and who I am that it's a touch scary! There's a conundrum for you!
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Even if I trip over myself ... or someone else, God is leading this dance and He'll always pick me up so we can keep dancing. The other good news is that sometimes, when I fall, it hurts so much I don't want to move for a few minutes. He'll sit down with me and wait til I'm ready to dance again... and then He'll carry the weight to keep me from reinjury and excess pain.
Gotta love a God like that! I do. I hope you join me on the journey with Him.... He never lets us down or leaves us alone.
The anniversary of my brother's death is coming up. It makes me remember what was happening all those years ago. The day he went missing I was in Banff, enjoying a band festival. When my family found out he was dead, a week later, I was out having dinner with friends, it was the first time I'd been away from a phone for a week. It felt wrong, it still feels wrong that while his life was ending, mine was celebrating.
Ironically, it's not my brother's death, however, that weighs most heavy on my mind tonight. Tonight I was reminded how valuable sister's are, how much that relationship is treasured and sought. How close sister's can be to us, no one else can be a friend like a sister.
You know, I had to look up the date of her death. I can never remember what day it was... It just was. I still don't really know what date is was that morning.. I think it was the 23rd of December, but it might have been the 22nd, it depends on if they put the time of death before or after midnight. I was dancing in the kitchen with my almost 2 year old son to "Six White Boomers". We were getting ready for Christmas and it was a happy day. The sun was shining and the snow was glistening when a police officer knocked on the door. I've never had a reason to fear the police. I've always looked up to them and honoured them so when they knocked on my door, I didn't even think about it until they asked if one of them could take my son to the other room and I saw the looks on their faces. I knew then I wasn't going to like what they had to say but I was totally unprepared for the news.
My parents were out of town and I honestly thought I was going to hear that they had had an accident. You're supposed to lose parents. No one wants to, no one is ever truly prepared for it, but it's the natural course of life. You aren't supposed to lose siblings.
So many thoughts ran through my head. A selfish one "I'm the only one left", a determined one "I want to bring my nephews home", a horrified one "How can this be true? How can it have happened?", and a controlled one "Mom's not here, I have to find Mom. There's so many people to call, so much to do".
I don't know how to recover from this. Even after all these years, I don't know how to live without my siblings. I still want to run to them, to talk, to be their sister.
Tonight, I close my eyes and I see those policemen at my door. I now fear their presence... not because they'll hurt me, or punish me, but that they'll be the bearer of bad news. That they'll be coming to tell me someone else I love has gone. Tonight I'm reliving the morning after my sister died. It hurts. Seven and a half years later, the pain is just as strong, the missing her is still so intense only now there's nothing to distract me from the moment, the emotion. There's no one to find, no one to care for, no one to need me in this moment. There's also no one here to catch me as I fall.
Except my Savior, my Jesus. He's gently leading me. He knows tears heal, that I need to face these things and He gently leads me in the dance... It's painful though. I don't want to be found. I don't want to be found. I don't want to feel this pain, this intensity that I can no longer escape from.
God hold me up. Carry me through. Heal my heart and make me new. How do I go on? How do I embrace the pain of losing my friends, my loved ones, my siblings? I've survived by shutting down... How do I survive the pain of restarting? Can I?
I want to dance the dance of joy. I want to be alive, I'm just afraid of the path to get there.
Monday, May 13, 2013
My last post I shared my personal story of domestic violence. I confess that, next to my sister's story, mine seems very insignificant even to me, but it's not. Because it is my personal story that was the straw that broke the camel's back.
I was surviving, not necessarily thriving, but surviving until I realized what was happening in my marriage and then I began to slip. See, I have never truly believed that I was worthy of love - or even loveable. I even thought that maybe, just maybe my life was supposed to be one of suffering and abuse since everywhere I turned that is what I ran into. It was as if God, in that moment, spoke to me and told me that was NOT His plan for me... it was that moment that He told me to leave.
Yet... I have been overcome by anxiety and depression. So much so that one day I had to call 911 for help because I was having chest pains and difficulty breathing. I knew it wasn't a heart attack, but an anxiety/panic attack that severe is a sign that I had to reach out for help, that I just wasn't making it on my own. I have two little boys who need their mother and that day I had another child in my care too. I can't afford to fall apart, I'm all they have right now, 24/7 they depend on me and if I fall apart, what happens to them? Where do they go?
I took help. I went to a specialist who diagnosed me with general anxiety disorder and mild depression... and he prescribed 3 medications for it. I come from a family where medication is just not used to treat mood disorders. Anti-depressants are for those who don't have enough faith in God to keep going. If you need medication, you must not have enough faith, your relationship with God must not be close enough... all you should need is Bible study and prayer to get you through. It wasn't working for me. I've had to reconcile that God has given us science and medicine because sometimes our bodies just fail us!
I've stopped feeling guilty about needing meds, but at the same time I want to hide it. I don't really want to tell you that I rely on my daily anti-depressant (I'm down to one and a second for occasional high anxiety) to get through my days and I notice if I miss it. It keeps me sane. Until I went on the meds, I was beginning to have suicidal ideations... not thoughts or desires to harm myself or take my life, but desires and thoughts of wanting my life to end. It's different than not being afraid of death, but desiring it - to a degree. I would never have done something to make it happen, in case you're wondering... I've faced that demon and refuse to go that direction, but I could see the blessing in it.
I don't feel that way anymore - I never wanted to. My anxiety is slowly improving and I go to counseling every week to combat it and hopefully, one day, I'll walk free. In the meantime, I know that some people just don't produce the chemicals we need to stay depression free... If I'm one of those people, I'll find out and I'll accept it because it's better than the alternative. I started the journey of meds for my children's sake... now I continue it for my own because I am learning that I am worth being healthy for myself, not just for them.
Some days are harder than others, some days I just put one step in front of the other and other days I feel like I can leap tall buildings. That's a positive sign, because I never used to feel like I had the energy to dance, let alone leap.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
I feel guilty for coming out of an abusive relationship and... I feel guilty for leaving it.
Those are some pretty powerful statements because in my head I know that I have no guilt here, I am not responsible for the abuse I and my children experienced. I know that by staying silent I feed into the problem yet I fear speaking out. I have spoken out publicly. I have shared the story in front of crowds, yet I find it difficult to speak out with my story to people I know. It's easier to share it with strangers. I've been cautious about who I share with and how much, but I realize that it is time to just speak out.
Domestic violence, in any form, is dangerous. I watched a TED Talk today by Leslie Morgan Steiner "Why Domestic Violence Victims Don't Leave". She reminded me that silence only heightens the problem.
My abuse was not greatly physical. Instead it was emotional and verbal. In that end, he has accused me of villainizing him by simply stating the facts. He has refused to admit that there is any abuse or that he has caused harm to the children or I, and certainly that there is not ongoing abuse. Even the day he hit our youngest son on the top of his head with a full Pepsi (personal size) bottle his response was to turn to me and say "That wasn't abusive by the way". It wasn't the first time he'd done something like that. When I returned to him after a six month separation the first time he hit me, he grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. Immediately after, he said "I guess you're going to leave me again". I should have. I didn't. I felt trapped by not leaving in that moment.
His physical abuse of me ended after that. He still hit walls, still hit our vehicle when he was angry, still yelled and cursed at me, still blamed me for every fault, everything that went wrong in his or our lives. I spent so many months protecting our children, justifying their behaviours, downplaying the problems, walking on eggshells. When he started hitting our oldest son I knew things were headed downhill. He would be angry at me, but it would be our son he would hit. In September, I told him that I saw it as abusive, that I wouldn't allow our children to be hit, that I would leave him if it continued... it improved for a bit and then, it escalated. It was December before I reached out to the Women's Shelter and began counseling. They reported him to Child Family Services who responded that I was protecting the boys and that was enough. It wasn't enough. I didn't feel sufficient. I was there, I was doing my best, but my son was being hit in the head almost daily. I couldn't watch it, I couldn't bear it. I decided I would leave after Christmas. I was putting together a plan, figuring it out, but no one wants to ruin Christmas with a separation unless they have to.
Christmas Eve I received a number of gift certificates for Christmas shopping so I left him with the children for a couple hours while I went out for presents and groceries. We had nothing that year - I had only been able to purchase one dollar store item for each of the boys and they needed things. I spent almost all of it... it had been earmarked for Christmas, it was an extra unexpected bonus. I filled our cupboards, bought presents for everyone (I didn't go overboard), except myself and brought it all home.
He was vacuuming when I got home. I offered to finish for him if he would bring it all in because I was suffering a shoulder injury. He was angry because the boys wouldn't help him clean (they were 3 & 5) and they kept getting in his way. He slammed his fist into the wall on the way to the car and I quickly pulled the boys together and got everything organized. He went right back to his computer when he was finished bringing everything in. That's where he spent his days, ignoring us, living as he wanted and only coming out when we dragged him off of it or when the boys got too rambunctious and he got angry.
It was the next day before he realized I had spent all the money we had been given. We were on our way to my cousin's home for dinner when he figured it out. He slammed on the brakes, throwing us against our seat belts. He railed at me the entire way, then continued with completely inappropriate comments during dinner. On the way home he yelled at me, and criticized me for starting an at-home business to help with our family budget, accusing me of starting it only so I could afford to leave him.
By the time we got home that evening and put the boys to bed, I was a mess. I was broken inside, devastated and terrified. For the first time in our marriage, I slept on the floor in the boys bedroom. When we got up for church in the morning I tried to get them ready quietly so as not to awaken their daddy, not knowing what to expect. He woke shortly before we were ready to leave and readied in record time, angry at me because I did not wake him up earlier, when for so many other weekends he had refused to rouse in time for church.
At church I sat away from him while he told anyone who would listen that I had not awakened him that morning, that I didn't want him there. I wasn't talking about it, I didn't want others to know how bad it was. During the service our eldest son was snuggled up to him and put his feet up on the back of the pew in front of us, he was told to put them down and when he didn't respond fast enough, my ex punched him in the legs to force his feet down. That was the last straw for me. I couldn't handle anymore. I was finished. I asked a friend to come home with me and when we got there I told him he had to leave.
He took his time packing. He was angry, accused me of having another man, accused me of planning this. Said good-bye to the boys like he was never going to see them again and thanked me for 10 wonderful years of marriage. He had threatened to commit suicide if I ever left him and I didn't know what to expect in the coming days, the way he said good-bye scared me, but I needed to stop what was happening, I needed to protect our children.
My heart broke that day. I knew our marriage was over. I knew I could not and would not continue living that way, I would not and could not continue to expose our children to abuse. They deserved better, I had promised they would not grow up in a family like mine was.
So, why do I feel guilty? When I look at my story, I realize that it is not the life and death story of so many other domestic violence survivors. In my perspective, it seems a fairly "mild" case of abuse ... because I left early on. I feel guilty sometimes for not sticking it out, for not finding out if he was capable of change... but to be able to change one must be willing to change and there were no signs of that. Sometimes I feel like I didn't have the right to leave because we weren't in life-threatening danger.
Do you know what else? I've had people say that to me in subtle, back-handed ways. I've had people blame me for the abuse. There are many who ask why domestic violence women stay and one of those reasons is that they are not believed until, for some, it is too late.
For domestic violence to be reduced and eventually end, there must be two things. First, as Lesley Morgan Steiner says, we must end the silence. Silence is killing women, children and men across this country, this world! Secondly, we must put up a zero tolerance for domestic violence. We must place emotional and verbal abuse in as severe a category as physical abuse. We must stop negating it's deadly power in our lives. We all know words can hurt, imagine what happens when the one person who has pledged to love you and care for you for the rest of your life uses words only to harm you and to break you down. To speak lies about you to you, themselves and others. How can one fight against words? Words that will be denied if you ever try to defend yourself against them.
Domestic Violence kills.
It starts in our hearts, our souls and it ends with our bodies. Where do we draw the line?
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Dear Family and Friends,
I know that the past many years must be confusing for you. For me to tell you how wonderful my spouse has been, how much I love being married, all those family dinners and conversations when I never shared any of our struggles or difficulties, leading you to believe all was well and now to find out that I've left him.
I couldn't tell you what was going on then, most of the time I didn't even realize what the problem was, I always thought it was a fault in me and something I needed to work on. I thought these were issues that all married couples struggled with, that my life was normal. I now realize that it isn't. He was abusive. I know that in most people's minds, that means that he must have been hitting me, beating me, threatening me, but it doesn't start that way. See, it started with him diminishing my worth, criticizing, being extremely jealous, ignoring me, questioning me and other things like that. It got to the point where I believed that I just needed to be better for him, that I wasn't enough, that it was my fault for all our marital problems. I worked hard to repair my marriage, changing how I approached him, how I did things, how I acted, who I talked to, where I went, but nothing changed except to find out that I still wasn't enough, there was still much wrong with me. I made decisions based on his expectations and demands that separated me from you. I'm sorry for that.
How could you see this? I hid it from you. There wasn't anything you could do, because I knew better than to talk about our struggles with others, it was a private matter, I didn't want to embarrass him or make him look bad - society, especially Christian society teaches that we must always talk good about our spouse and I took that to heart.
Now that I'm out, I need some things from you. It's not difficult, but it is essential to my survival and well-being.
I need you to know that I don't blame you. I didn't end up in this abusive relationship because of my upbringing, my childhood or my relationship with you. I ended up in an abusive relationship because I was deceived, I was blinded to the abuse until it was too late. I thought love would overcome all obstacles. He broke my spirit long before he raised a hand to me. So when that finally happened, it didn't break my skin, didn't leave bruises, didn't hurt me more than my heart. I felt it shatter into a million pieces, but I still thought I deserved it because I had pushed him too far, that life was too difficult for him to handle in that moment and I was his last straw. So I stayed. And when I left, I returned because I believed he could change, that I was required to give him another chance. The children need their father, and what would I do on my own anyway?
I need to know you accept me, that you accept my story. I need to know that you are standing by my side, that you believe I was being abused, that you will help protect me during my moments of doubt and self-recrimination. You can't stand on both sides of the fence, I'm sorry to say that you can only stand by me or him, if you try to support us both, I'll feel abandoned by you and it gives him the opportunity to hurt me more.
I don't need to hear from you that I should have done more to save my marriage or that I should give him another chance. I read somewhere that sometimes giving someone a second chance is like giving them another bullet because they missed you the first time. He's had multiple chances, I can't give him another bullet, I may not survive this time.
I don't need you to help me run my life, I'm going to make mistakes, I'm going to have to learn new strategies. I'll accept your advice in love, but please don't force me to use it, or judge me if I don't. I'm on a journey, and I expect some potholes.
I need you to do your own research, to study abuse, abusers and victims. I need you to not be afraid to talk about it, to ask me questions if you want answers. If it will help you see what I've been through, I'll share it with you and if I'm not ready to talk about it yet, I'll tell you - just please don't take that to mean that I'll never share it with you or that I don't need you.
I need you to teach my nieces and nephews that abuse is never okay, teach them of the warning signs of an abusive relationship so they will escape what I have lived through.
I may need physical help, financial help. It's going to be a lot of work to get on my feet. I'm not asking for handouts, I'm not asking you to take care of me, but to help me take care of me. Healing is going to take a long time, it's a process and the more broken my heart, the longer it takes. It will take longer if I feel like I don't have you on my side.
There may be more I need from you. I'm sure there are going to be times when I need more than you can give, it's okay to suggest I talk to a counselor, to reach out for help. Sometimes I'll just need someone to be with or someone to talk to and I just need your ear or a hug. I know that our relationship has been damaged during the time I was stuck in the abuse, I want to make that better, I need you to help restore it if you can.
I love you and I want you in my life. I never wanted you out of it, despite all that happened, many of my choices were made based on my immediate circumstances and my emotional survival.
Thank you for listening. I hope this helps you to understand where I am right now, where I'm coming from and how you can help, because I know you are trying to already. I'm grateful for that.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I've been afraid to dream my whole life. Dreams were dangerous because they so rarely came true. I could wish for, and want, and work for something only to have it repeatedly snatched from under my feet at the last minute - or to have it refused me before I could even explore the option. It was a lesson I learned young, some I never gave up on. My desire to sing, my dream to be good enough to be asked to perform in important places, for important audiences, I still dream that. I still dream of someday making a CD. Though I also wonder if that will ever become a reality for me. Is it a realistic dream? Am I good enough? Would anyone even be interested?
I had other dreams, dreams that, despite the childhood abuses, despite bad examples, I clung to for all I was worth. In fact, the only dream (besides singing) that I clung to as a child was to be a mother and a wife. I desperately wanted that! So badly that I sometimes compromised my values and myself in my search for it. I learned that fulfillment of a dream is not worth sacrificing yourself in order to achieve it. That is the lesson I learned along the way of seeing my dream of a family come to fruition.
I need to place my dreams in God's hands... yet I fear placing them in His hands because what if He, too, says "no". What if my dreams are not His plans? What if there is no great battle for me to fight? No great victory for me to win? What if I am insignificant?
Is it egotistical to desire to do something great in life? To accomplish a great work? To mean something? To have my life be meaningful to more than just my intimate circle of friends and family? Who am I to desire to be something great?
I have dreams. I'm beginning to recognize them, to dream them, to give them voice and to desire to work towards them. They terrify me. I`m afraid of being hurt by them, of being rejected by God because of them. I`m afraid of overstepping my bounds, of asking for more than I deserve and yet... if I don't ask, I won't receive. If I don't step out in faith towards my dreams they will never be fulfilled. I must face the fear, I must beat it down like my sons beat down the Lego enemies on their Xbox game and walk past it to face the adventure, the journey to my future... whether my specific dreams are fulfilled or not. What is life without an adventure?
I may be scared of the dance, but it's time to weave some dreams into the music.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Quite often, I see quotes that say we cannot learn to enjoy happiness without first suffering sorrow, we cannot enjoy peace without first suffering anxiety and fear, loss is required for gain and pain is essential for learning... and, even worse, many say that God wants it this way!!
I am in horror at the thought that my loving God, my Creator who delights in me might desire for me to suffer in order to learn a lesson in life... Now, sometimes, I chose the hard path, sometimes I make it difficult for myself and yes, God uses those circumstances to help me learn and to help me grow, but I don't believe they are necessary unless I make it so.
See, God always starts our lessons the easy way. He speaks to our hearts, He gave us the Bible with lessons from hundreds of people in history to teach us... we don't have to learn the hard way - others already have! It is only when we don`t listen to Him, when we aren't paying attention, that we veer off path into the hard way.
There are also times that we are pushed into the hard way that we slip there or are tricked there because, let`s face it, we live in a sinful world. Others have some say in the circumstances of our lives. When we look at victims of abuse and trauma, we know that they have been pushed into their difficulties, forced into their pain, tricked into suffering and they are not to blame! Perhaps God was speaking to their hearts to avoid that moment, to stay out of that relationship, to change their course but they weren't able to hear it. Perhaps Satan just leapt out and pushed them into the mire...
Sometimes, the pain and suffering is just a result of living in this sinful world. Sometimes it means nothing other than the plain fact that we live here... a reminder that Christ has promised to return and END THE SUFFERING. Other times it is a lesson... and always, ALWAYS, He can make it turn into a blessing, God can always use it for the good of mankind, for MY good, for YOUR good. That doesn't mean He sent the suffering. If we but ask, He provides the way of escape, He provides peace in the midst of the storm and always He carries us through it!
If God was the one who decided we couldn't learn anything unless it was from pain and suffering, then when we get to heaven, wouldn't it follow that we would have to continue learning in that manner? Yet, the Bible is very clear that when He returns, He will end all pain and suffering, tears and sorrow will be no more, sin will never again exist.
Don't believe that God has sent horrible things into your life. Trust that He can and will turn them into a blessing, turn them into something for His glory and good, but HE WILL NOT cause your suffering. When Christ was on earth, people couldn't touch Him without receiving healing and life. He is the Prince of Peace, Mighty Counselor, Light of the World, Giver of Life... those are in direct contradiction with bringer of sorrow, harbinger of doom, father of disaster. The two titles cannot and do not belong to the same person. They never will.
I invite you to dance with Him. I promise that He will never lead you astray, He will never deliberately bring disaster into your life but will carry you through it, making sure His dance steps put Himself in the worst path and swinging you over the holes and pits. I don`t promise that life will be easy or that suffering will end, but I promise it will be easier when your hand is in His.
Monday, March 11, 2013
God reminded me that Christ did not allow Himself to suffer abuse until His last days, until the day when it was time for His Sacrifice to be completed. God asked me what my sacrifice would accomplish, who it would save. I realized that I am not a saviour. If Christ was protected and walked away from every abuse, every attempt to harm Him physically, refused every verbal assault by refusing to engage or stay in that space, then who was I to decide I belonged in such an environment? My sacrifice may be required when it is time to stand up for Christ... Each of His disciples were murdered when they refused to deny Him, when they refused to stop speaking to others of His power and love, but living in an abusive relationship does not honour Christ. Rather, it brings Him dishonour. How conceited must I be to put myself and my suffering on an equal standing with Christ's? How big a misconception is it to think that abuse, of any kind, is on an equal footing with Christ's unimaginable choosing to sacrifice His life to save mine, yours?
I'm scared to love again. My track record has not been a great one with dating. Even when I think I have chosen well, I mess up. I thought my husband was a gentle person, I chose him because he was gentle, the least likely to hurt anyone, let alone me or my children. I was wrong. What happens if I'm wrong again? What if I miss the signs, what if I let my heart speak instead of my head?
I guess that is why I am adamant about education this time. I am insisting on making sure I learn the warning signs, that I have friends to keep me accountable because I choose to no longer live in abuse. I choose to live healthy and free... that means that I must choose better, and if I make a mistake, I pray I will recognize it and move out of it before it's too late, before it's dangerous. The challenge then is not to avoid abuse, but to recognize reality from abuse. To recognize normal human behaviour and mistakes in others that will happen. I cannot and will not expect perfection.
There's a fine line to walk. I must pray for discernment if I am to dance in love again.
Friday, March 1, 2013
My fears were unrealized, my dreams were fulfilled in a way that they can continue. It was a blessed, God-calling, God-blessing moment in time for me. He made it clear that His calling is not of my power, it is of His power and He cleared the way, cleared the path and made it all possible. His work is being done, not mine. I am glad to be a part of it.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
It's the weird thing about dreams come true for me. When the time comes for a dream to be fulfilled I seem to fail myself. I cry, I withdraw, I fear the next step. There is so many unknowns about what will happen next..
What if they hate me?
What if my presentation flops?
What if I break down?
What if my voice breaks?
What if I forget all the words?
What if I use the words, use them and lose the power in the message because people can get so caught up in the medium that they focus on me not doing it "right"?
What if I don't do it "right"?
What if I completely mess it up?
What if what I have to say helps no one?
What if ....
What if ....
What if ....
I hate living like this. I remember a time when I was just me, when I enjoyed being in people's company, when I wasn't afraid of judgment, when I didn't fear that if I made one small misstep, they would stop liking me, that they would wait with baited breath for me to leave.
I can recognize most of these as fears, as being unreasonable, but they are so powerful right now. I'm afraid to be myself. I'm afraid to reach out, I can 't seem to remember how to act around other people, I don't know how to relax and enjoy myself in a social setting anymore, I'm always on guard to protect my children, myself.
I'm talking about Domestic Violence this weekend. I am reminded of the reasons I separated from my ex, but at the same time I am hearing stories of abuse I never experienced. Sometimes I feel that if my story is not severe enough, I should still be in the abusive relationship. That is a lie. I need to recognize it as such and call it out.
Seriously, I am with the person I trust most in the world the next couple of weeks and I'm so scared I'm going to make her angry with me, scared she'll never want my kids around hers, scared she's going to be mad at me because I do things differently, don't do enough, do things wrong, we make a mess, we make mistakes, I don't read her mind properly (ha!), etc. Every time one of those things happen, she just takes it in stride, she's such a great, forgiving, loving person, but my fears still stand.
Where do these fears come from? I know that Satan is attacking my heart, but it truly doesn't take much. There are so many things I can screw up all without his assistance, all he has to do is remind me of them. God has forgiven them, but God can't forgive who I am, who He made me to be, and that is what I feel is under attack. God doesn't want me to repent of who I am, He wants me to live it fully, to have abundance, to see my dreams come true.
Maybe there is a bit of grief in having a dream come true. For so long I have held onto this dream, this goal, focusing my passions in this area, that to have it come true means it must change, it must evolve one way or another. Even if I am successful at this event, even if my story rings and I am asked for more speaking engagements, this is life-changing.
In that way, this moment seems surreal. Here I am, in a place I didn`t think I would be able to be in for months, or even years more and to have it arrive combined with the opportunity to share Angela`s and my story... it`s almost too much to take.
I need to face the surreality that surrounds me. I need to shake off the busyness, the challenges, the fears and address this moment, see it for what it really is.... Pause in the dance long enough to recognize that thee music is changing.
I will beat back my fears. Maybe this week my dance will look more like a choreographed fight scene in a film, but I can guarantee you that I WILL BE DANCING!
I will also be speaking and singing. Pray for me... and, if you are in the Spokane area, check out our Purple Ribbon Gala on February 18th. It will be an awesome, amazing event!
Monday, January 28, 2013
Wounds are like that also. If we rinse off the blood, wash out the dirt, but miss even the smallest speck a wound can become infected, or if you don't fully clean out the infection before moving on, the infection can come back with a vengeance, wreaking havoc on your health.
Emotionally this theory remains the same. See, if we deal with almost all of the pain of our past, if we move on before we have fully healed, fully faced the trauma's, abuses and woundings of our life, those wounds can become infected. They can remain slightly unhealed, left open, so when someone else comes along to repeat or imitate the original injury, it doesn't take much to split it wide open.
I've spent many years in counseling, attended support groups, conferences and read many self-help books in my journey to healing. However, as I work towards healing in the falling apart of my marriage, in facing the domestic violence that brought down our relationship, I am discovering that there are unhealed wounds in my past. This has amplified my anxiety and pain, a snowball effect, as it were. I'm not going to be afraid of the process this time.
I have realized that if I do not face the pain, the horrible facts and realities of the abuses in my history, that I cannot heal fully. There are relationships back there, childhood, college, and even now that I need to heal from. I need to heal before I can fully discover my passions, my interests, my joys and be a blessing to others, to help others heal from their journeys.
I'm tired of stinking. I'm tired of my emotions becoming moldy, my wounds being infected and my heart being ripped open every other day.
I'm fortunate though. I have a God who is dancing with me. Teaching me to let Him lead the dance, instead of me trying to hold onto control of it. I'm not good with staying in control of my life. I make wrong decisions, take the wrong path, force dreams not ready to be fulfilled, fall down and more. The more He dances with me, the more I realize that I need to let go, I need to let Him lead so that our dance is beautiful, joyful and productive.
I'm grateful He is my dance partner, that He never gives up on teaching me and leading me. I'm beginning to look forward to the journey.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Having clarified that, I now wish to share my thoughts on death.
I have been contemplating death lately. Not in a "I want to die" way, but just in a general, death sucks way.
Let's face it, when we experience the death of a loved one, we hurt. When we face death, we fear. None of these are emotions we wish to experience, we would avoid them at all cost if we could. As a Christian, I think to the Bible for many of my answers, and in there I discover a story of a Man who not only had the option of never dying, but this same One voluntarily chose to die, in a most cruel, public, painful way. The only reason He suffered this way was to save us from the fate of an eternal death.
When we go back to the beginning, I guess you could say that Adam also chose death. His motives were not so altruistic as Christ's. Adam chose death because he did not think he could live without his beloved Eve, who had been deceived into taking death.
Adam's choice brought death to all living things, contamination of all things beautiful and lovely. Christ's choice returned peace, joy and love, allowing the eventual return of eternal life to all who had initially chosen death.
When Eve, and then Adam, ate the forbidden fruit, was death their punishment? Was it the only option? I have to admit that I am absolutely grateful that it was. The longer I live on this earth, the more I am grateful that we do not have the option of eternal life in this state. Life is regularly horrible, continually throwing evil, traumatic events in our paths. Only by the grace of God do we survive at all. Death, I believe, was not intended to be our punishment, but rather our saving grace. No matter how horrid things get, we know that there will be an end. It will either come through death or through the second coming of Christ.
This doesn't meant that I don't grieve horribly when I lose a loved one. If you have read my blogs, you will know the depth of my pain when I consider the deaths of my siblings, I sometimes fear the death of my close friends and remaining family. I don't like pain, I especially don't like emotional pain! What it does mean is that I greatly anticipate with joy the second return of Christ, when I will see my loved ones resurrected to life, when I myself will be restored to eternal life and the privilege of meeting my Saviour and Lord, learning at His knee, basking in His glory for all time.
So... death as a punishment? Or death as an escape? Probably both. We can learn a lot from the discipline God hands out. We can view Him as an unrealistic parent, dishing out punishment without consideration, or we can thank Him for the disciplines He provides, recognizing they are, in the long run, for our own good.
My perspective on this matter, I welcome your comments in response.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
I cannot help but wonder what this year will hold. I keep holding out for freedom, I keep praying that God will free me from the abuser, that there is a way to escape. I am beginning to realize that the way of escape sometimes comes from within. Instead of getting away from it all, I am finding peace within myself, and I recognize it as the peace that comes from God.
There are so many things that I am beginning to dream, to desire. How, this year, can I work towards making some of those things a reality for me?
One thing I am doing with my boys is a "gratitude jar". Every time we notice something good happening, we are going to write it down on a piece of paper and drop it in the jar. Then, when Satan attacks or a dark moment strikes, it will be simple and easy to remind us of the blessings in our lives.
I'm going to be singing more. Practicing, being ready at a moment's notice. I have a presentation written, I'll be practicing it, recording it and sending it out to book appointments. Lots of prayer must go into this, I welcome yours along the way. I want to do God's work, at His bidding and in His time.
What will 2013 hold? I don't know. To be honest, I'm okay with that. What I do know is that it will find me dancing farther along the path to healing and freedom!