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Celebrating singleness

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Today is February 14th, the dreaded Valentine’s Day.

Not many people really enjoy this holiday (if they were being totally honest). And if you are trying to recover from an abusive relationship, it can be painful and depressing.

While many single women might be feeling lonely or forgotten, desiring some male attention, I am celebrating singleness.

Singleness to me means:

  1. Independence
  2. Self-determination
  3. Focus on self-care
  4. Healthy selfishness
  5. Choices
  6. Freedom

I grew up watching Hollywood’s version of the male/female relationship, one in which a female waits for a male to find her desirable so that he will choose her. Validation always came from a male, and was something which women needed in order to feel valuable. This is the perfect set-up for an abusive marriage.

Desirable women were portrayed as glamorous, sexy, and alluring. Marriageable women were portrayed as quiet, demur, and subject to the wishes of fathers and suitors. Women were presented as virginal, sluts, or eccentric.

But let no one misunderstand: the independent ones usually ended up alone.

Now 56 years old, I feel that I am much wiser, and, at the least, much more discriminating. I critically evaluate attitudes and cultural norms found in entertainment. I have worked to discard many of the values that I picked up from such influences.

On this Valentine’s Day I can declare that I am happily, almost giddily delighted to find myself single and alone (relationship-wise — I have a house filled with male offspring).

I am not mourning the loss of my marriage (anymore). I am not feeling sad and alone (anymore). I am not beating myself up because my marriage failed (anymore). And, most of all, I am not feeling abandoned, discarded, rejected or unloved (anymore).

I enjoy my own company and thinking my own thoughts.

On this Valentine’s Day 2017, I am celebrating my freedom to choose where I go and what I do. Instead of this being a holiday that focuses on romantic love, for me it is more of an independence day.

I think I’ll buy myself some flowers. Daisies, I think!

Just breathe

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Graphic I created in the early days of my separation.

This is not as easy as it sounds.

Breathing is an autonomic nervous system function. It is mostly involuntary. It is supposed to occur without thought or determination (unless you are a musician or athlete).

Most people don’t think about breathing at all.

And yet, I found myself at the beginning of my journey out of a really bad marriage not only breathing shallowly but not breathing at all.

I caught myself holding my breath, often.

I have suffered from anxiety since I was a child. Unidentified until well into adulthood, I eventually learned to manage the symptoms by thoughtfully controlling situations and my responses that caused the most stress for me. And while I would experience heart palpitations occasionally (usually not during a stressful situation, but when I was relaxing), I had never struggled with hyperventilation.

When I became ill in 2006 and did not recover as expected (or told by doctors that I should), I faced an entirely new level of anxiety. My anxiety toolbox failed me.

Part of the problem was that I had been successfully handling nearly all of my family’s details from paying bills to doing all the shopping to even educating our children for over a decade. I cooked, cleaned, shopped, provided 24-hour care and education for our children, and then companionship to my husband when he was home. None of these responsibilities was taken from me when I became ill. Being task oriented, this caused me a lot of stress.

My husband ignored my health struggles, merely waiting for me to get well so I could do everything again; most household tasks were not completed. I still had to do the grocery shopping even with extreme fatigue. I could no longer cook. I would fill the grocery cart with frozen, packaged and processed foods that my children and I could easily throw in the microwave and conventional oven (really bad choice). Even when I ordered take-out, my husband wasn’t available to stop by on his way home and pick it up. He worked later and later as the months and years passed.

While I knew what needed to be done, I was not able to rise to the challenge any longer. I suffered. Our children suffered. Life fell apart.

One day I had had enough.

I had spent over a year sleeping on the couch because of my husband’s loud snoring and constant movements during the night. My only hope of any sleep at all was on the couch. And yet, he would often come home between 11 p.m. and midnight, stomping up the stairs and burping (he always burped when he walked up the stairs onto the main floor of our house). It didn’t matter if I was trying to sleep; he always demanded attention when he came home. And no, he didn’t offer to let me have the bed so I could get one good night’s sleep. Not once.

One night he came home late as usual and found himself locked out of the house. Now, I fully admit that I handled that all wrong. It wasn’t even legal. Had he spoken with an attorney, he would have been fine, but he refused to hire an attorney for anything (or any other professional). Remember, I was sick and tired, literally. My mind didn’t work properly anymore, literally (neuroborreliosis).

And so began the final and permanent separation that marked the true end of my marriage.

One the one hand, my stress levels were reduced as I didn’t have to deal with the nightly disruptions to my sleep and constant demand for my attention. There was no more yelling and fighting.

At the time, I didn’t know that the separation was permanent. I kept hoping my husband would finally seek the help that I asked him to get for his control and anger issues. I wanted the marriage to work and for us to be reconciled. This is normal. Deluded, but normal.

While the separation removed some stressors from my life, it created an entirely different set.

My anxiety issues became worse.

And one of the symptoms that I experienced was changes to my breathing. It became shallow and rapid when I would think about my situation or what the kids needed (anxiety). Other times, it was shallow, almost tentative, and very slow. Most concerning of all were the times I caught myself holding my breath, not breathing at all. I would take a deep breath and then make myself breath slowly and deeply for a few minutes until I felt better.

I yoyoed between rapid, shallow breathing to slow, shallow breathing. Breathing should not be this much work, but it was.

The Importance of Breathing

Breathing does a lot of vitals things: oxygenates the blood, cells, brain and muscles, expels waste, and keeps the body’s CO2 and pH levels within the normal range.

Anxiety disorder can cause shallow, rapid breathing that actually reduces CO2 levels too much.

This type of breathing disorder can also be caused by infection. I got a double whammy, so to speak.

When Lyme spirochetes get in the brain, they can affect temperature control, mood, cognitive functioning and breathing. Autonomic dysfunction is common. Many people with chronic Lyme struggle with shallow, slow, and inadequate breathing.

On top of all this, I developed a heart arrythmia, eventually diagnosed as benign. It still scared me when my heart would feel like it was flopping around in my chest and I would nearly pass out.

My situation was more complex than most, but the bottom line is that living in an abusive marriage is stressful, and the separation process is even more stressful. Breathing can become an issue.

Just Breathe

If breathing has been an issue long enough, it may be necessary to retrain the brain and body how to do it properly.

Slow, deep breathing exercises may be the answer. On the other hand, slow, not-so-deep breathing exercises may be the answer. That is something that should be determined by your physician.

I actually set three alarms a day on my smartphone that said: Breathe.

I would stop whatever I was doing and spend one minute doing breathing exercises.

Here is a great article from Harvard Medical School on breath focus and breathing exercises that are designed to reduce stress.

harvard-deep-breathingWhether you struggle with anxiety disorder, a chronic infection that causes autonomic dysfunction, or are dealing with a stressful situation, breathing properly and effectively is vital to feeling well.

A sense of wellbeing is not possible if you are not breathing properly.

If necessary, set an alarm, put sticky notes all around your home and work space, or ask the people around you to remind you to breathe should they notice you struggling.

Focused breathing exercises might just be the answer.

Don’t forget: Just breathe!

Financial Abuse – The Assistant of Domestic Violence by Yvonne Sam

In keeping with the International Day of Violence against Women. Financial Abuse – The Assistant of Domestic Violence By Yvonne Sam When the word domestic violence is used or thought about, the general public usually thinks of physical abuse that gives rise to visible injuries to the victim. Sadly, this is only one type of abuse. […]

via Financial Abuse – The Assistant of Domestic Violence – By Yvonne Sam — Guyanese Online

My favorite things: nature

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Sharing an heirloom variety nasturtium flower from my vegetable garden with my granddaughter brought me great joy!

As far back as I can remember I have been curious about nature, both flora and fauna.

Behind our little house in South Miami, when I was in junior high, I had a container garden. I had taken an old picnic table bench, a few pots, and soil from the area around our banana trees in the backyard.

I grew tropical plants, but also cultivated bonsai.

In our front yard, we had a huge ficus tree. One of my favorite things when I was between 8 and 13 was to climb among the tree’s dense foliage and hide. I loved looking down upon my family members knowing that they couldn’t find me.

But it was mostly the shade and cool leaves that refreshed my tired and stressed soul. This tree fed me in ways that food couldn’t.

 

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When I was in my 20s, we moved to the Texas Hill Country. I learned to enjoy day hikes and fishing. I loved to pitch my tent in one of Texas’ amazing state parks and sleep among the live oaks, cedar and hunting, scavenging amardillos.

When I was in my 30s I purchased my first digital camera. While I captured my children playing, climbing, jumping and celebrating holidays and birthdays, I as often pointed my camera at my garden plants, the plant life I encountered in my yard and on neighborhood walks, and the occasional egret, pelican and seagull (because we were living in St. Petersburg, Florida).

Many, many years later, I landed in Connecticut where I am still (but only until this summer where I will join my heart which I left in Texas in 1992).

Connecticut is beautiful.

I remember clearly the moment in October 1999 when we reached the state of Connecticut with a minivan full of kids, a cat, and our suitcases. I declared  that the whole state is like a park.

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My years here, though painful in many ways, have given me access to a level of nature I had never known before, especially when we moved to a small town to live on a few acres of land in the woods.

After becoming sick with Lyme disease and not recovering, I was reminded that nature could be cruel.

What I had once loved became frightening for me as I was reinfected with Lyme disease multiple times.

One day I just decided that I was going to go outside and walk in the grass again. I had hidden from nature for years  out of fear of reinfection.

I decided to grow a vegetable garden again. I planted some ornamental plants in the flower beds and began to spread wildflower seeds from plants that popped up around the property.

And I photographed it all.

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Yes, I found deer ticks on me, but I was sick already. So what?

My time in the garden fed my soul.

I took walks on many of the hike and bike trails in nearby towns.

My body ached, but my soul was nourished.

And I knew that no matter what happens in life, I must never again stay away from nature, because it is definitely one of my favorite things.

 

My favorite things: evening out with sons

On December 15th, I told my sons, 23, 20 and 16, that on Friday the 17th I would like to take them out to eat and then go Christmas shopping together.

On a normal day, I am lucky to get a grunt in response to questions and, if I am especially fortunate, eye contact.

Following my announcement, I got eye contact, verbal affirmation that it was a great idea, and a promise to be available.

It took a little bit of coordination to include my 20-year-old because he worked in Rocky Hill at the time, the opposite direction from where we typically shop and eat out.

Three of us headed to Waterford at 3 p.m. to get ahead of the Friday evening Christmas  horde. My 23-year-old was in contact, via text, with his younger brother letting him know where we were as we shopped.

We visited Books-a-Million first (great place to find interesting, unusual gifts) and Best Buy next, where my tall 20-year-old caught up with us. I saw him out of the corner of my eye and immediately smiled.

We were together.

We talked with a salesperson for a bit about the differences between XBox One, Playstation 4, Playstation Pro and Nintendo’s new gaming console that will release in a few months, then spent a few minutes looking at PC gaming peripherals.

I bought a hard drive docking station so I can access my collection of old hard drives. We headed to Buffalo Wild Wings for an early dinner.

It was approximately 5 p.m. when we arrived at a very loud restaurant, from the music, not people talking; the place was practically empty. I asked the host if there were any quiet tables. Thankfully, there was a side room where music was not piped in where it was bearable. I was there to spend time with my sons, not listen to bad music.

Since it was the first time for two of us, it took us quite awhile to figure out how the menu worked. It is unnecessarily complicated. Seriously.

We ordered three appetizers and drinks. I had to hit the ladies’ room, so I asked my 23-year-old to order me something dark or amber from the menu. He knows what I like.

When I returned, it was only a few minutes before my delicious amber ale arrived.  Yum.

The best part of the evening was that I was sitting with my sons around a table with fun, tasty, high-calorie food at hand. I didn’t cook any of it, and we shared everything. Stuffed mushrooms, fried mozzarella, spinach artichoke dip–we were all reaching over one another to taste everything, sharing dips, passing baskets and chattering away about unimportant, nonserious topics. We were all happy.

We were together away from a chronically messy house, distracting technology, and work.

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My three sons with me at the mall.

After dinner, we hit Bed, Bath & Beyond. We spent at least 10 minutes in the coffee making appliance department where I was looking for a stainless steel carafe (they had one kind only — ONE). I bought some replacement stoppers for my wine keeper system, got a wonderful massage in one of their display chairs, and enjoyed time with my sons.

Next, we walked all the way to the other end of the mall to check out what fun stuff FYE had in stock.

At my 23-year-old’s recommendation, I picked up Kubo and the Two Strings. Wow, what a wonderful movie!

We looked at all of the licensed merchandise, discussing which TV shows, games and movies were successes and which were failures.

Blu-ray in hand, we left the store.

And suddenly, everyone was exhausted. We are a family of introverts. Four stores, two in the mall, and over an hour at a loud restaurant had worn us out. We headed home.

Several times during the evening, I thought to myself that this might be the last time I go Christmas shopping with these three sons. My two oldest sons and daughter weren’t there because they have very busy lives and two of them live 1,800 miles away.

I enjoyed that evening while it happened and will treasure the memory the rest of my life.

Spending time with my grown kids is definitely one of my favorite things.

My favorite things

I have been singing “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music all morning.

 

When I became a mother I believed that my children had to come first, no matter the cost to myself. For awhile this devotion made me happy.

I bought into the motherhood = martyrdom myth.

I have since dismissed this particular concept and replaced it with one that is much healthier.

I believe in the importance of my own happiness and its pursuit. And the hard truth is that no one else is going to make me happy.

Although I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, I have decided to make the focus of 2017 my own happiness.

This is not the same as discovering what causes unhappiness.

This is a much more positive focus.

What makes me happy? Is it stuff, experiences, choices or money?

What do I need to do or not do to be happy? Is it an active pursuit or merely learning to appreciate what I have?

I will try to share something at least once a week as I make discoveries. I would love to hear what you do to make yourself happy, too.

Alienation: Ideology Fallout

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I have been processing the state of our country since the 2016 presidential election results through media, the press and Twitter.

I am a Twitter addict. I left Facebook over the self-aggrandizing of its users and the dangerous Groupthink that it perpetuates. I now spend a lot of time reading Tweets that send me researching, digging, and always learning.

I read stories and watched videos of people protesting (along with opportunistic rioting) in the streets after it became known that Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States.

I didn’t vote for Trump; nor did I vote for Hillary Clinton.

Trump is just so offensive on so many levels that there was no way I could vote for him even through I am a registered Republican. I am pretty sure I would not have voted Republican even if the nominee had been a harmless, homogenized GOP insider.

Why? Because I have evolved politically.

I no longer trust the system that presented us with a corrupt, dishonest Democrat and a narcissitic, lying Republican as our two major party nomineees.

Even though I believe in the sanctity of life (yes, I am pro-life, but also pro-woman and believe a woman has the right to control her own body) and tend to be fiscally conservative, I strongly believe in LGBTQ rights, equal rights for all, that scores of oppressed people live in my state and country, segregation is worse than ever, we need affordable housing and and that access to education needs to be expanded.

I voted third party. I had to.

And so we try to process the outcome. I am still processing.

I am processing the fact that the mainstream media is still clueless regarding the part it played in Trump’s election.

I am processing the fact that the two major parties are so corrupt that there is no way the people will ever choose the best leader for our country as long as they are in power (yes, this is all about power).

I am processing the fact that many Democrats are focused outward at what the evil Trump will do to our country when they need to be focused on their own party and its corruption.

I am processing the fact that the GOP needs to be accountable to the entire country for not providing a viable candidate and allowing Trump to become the nominee in the first place.

We can all agree that this is serious stuff.

But is it the end of the world as we know it? I don’t think so.

“The sky is falling,” screamed the media about Brexit.

“The sky is falling,” screamed the media about Trump (before he was elected).

“The sky is falling,” screamed the media about Trump (since his election).

The level of division I am seeing between Democrats and Republicans is historical (since I have been old enough to understand — can’t speak to before my time).

I am seeing divisions between races, ethnicities, genders and religions that give me a feeling of unrest and insecurity as never before.

Anti-feminism is running rampant. Anti-Semitism, anti-gay, anti-white, anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-nationalist, anti-Christian, anti-______.

Everyone is against someone else. Battle lines drawn. Weapons at the ready.

Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?

Is your side made up of the good people? The intelligent people.

Is the other side made up of evil, malevalent people? No, they’re just stupid. Right?

Maybe the idea of a benevolent leader is a myth. Maybe there is no such thing.

The very nature of the power necessary to get elected to public office, the need for wheeling and dealing, money and influence ensures that no one we elect will be honest and dependable, immune from the intoxicating character-changing influence of victory that proves Lord Acton correct: “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

And then on a personal level, I can no longer speak to most of my friends and family about what happened (except the three sons who live with me and seem to be sane) without hurtful words being hurled.

Those who hate Trump are alienating those around them who do not think it is the end of the world.

Those who support Trump are alienating those around them who are afraid of what he can and will do with so much power.

[Anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton is in any way less dangerous or immoral than Trump is deluded. I am convinced that Clinton exploits the weak and oppressed to become rich and gain power. Or at least she did.]

The election of a U.S. president should not be treated as though we are electing the ruler of the universe. Trump will not rule the world.

Although presidential powers have been expanded to disturbing and unconstitutional levels starting with Bush and then with Obama, we still have checks and balances in our system of government.

What this election cycle should inspire in all of us is a desire to become informed, educated and involved. Too long have Americans been content to let corrupt politicians get rich and make their corporate friends even richer as long as there was minimal personal inconvenience and those politicians espoused the correct ideology.

Democrats frame their power grabs as social justice: protecting the poor, disenfranchised, and oppressed.

Republicans frame their power grabs as fiscal responsibility, individual freedom and, with righteous indignation, serving God (protecting religious freedom and the unborn).

Both present themselves as morally superior, self-righteous and dogmatic.

Those who believe evil incarnate was elected president on November 8, 2016 need to turn that focused anger on the government monster that IS destroying America and the world.

This is not about one man, but a people’s desire for a savior, a champion.

And this, in my opinion, is the most disturbing revelation of all: we Americans have abandoned our personal responsibilities as human beings, thinking that an ideology will save us.

Your ideology (and mine) won’t save America. But you might. I might.

How? By being open to talking to someone who appears to be on the other side. By being willing to admit that politics is about power, not helping people.

Helping people occurs on a local, personal level. It will never be accomplished by politicians. Deep down we all know this is true.

My advice: Be the solution to the problems you see around you.

Join the ACLU, volunteer at a local food bank, financially support a local cause that is actually accomplishing something in people’s lives (one person at a time).

Donate YOURSELF,  your time and your money in a way that directly affects others in a positive way.

Adopt an elderly person who has no family left. Be a grandparent to children in a military family whose extended family are far away. Start a program at a middle school that encourages kids to grow, mature, and learn something that the school system (or their families) cannot teach them.

Stop mourning, stop alienating others (and feeling alienated) and find some way to positively impact your own space, block, neighborhood, community, town, city, county and state.

Whatever your passion, give of yourself. Be there for others. Be personal. Be real. Be supportive. Love others actively.

One person can save the world. That person is you. That person is me.

 

 

 

 

Conflicted Father’s Day

Father's day ecard from American Greetings

Source: Father’s Day ecard from American Geeetings

I remember one time sharing a moment with my sister. We both discussed how difficult it was to purchase a Father’s Day card for our dad.

All those cards about dad being there when we needed him, his sacrifices for the family, and all that love!

Don’t get me wrong, my dad was an amazing person. He rose from a childhood of extreme poverty to become a Naval officer and fighter pilot.

He flew thousands of people safely across the country and even across oceans as captain of a major airline.

He had cool toys like sailboats, houseboats and ski boats as well as motorcycles and convertibles.

Being with my dad was an adventure. But it was his adventure in which we occasionally were allowed to participate, always on his terms.

When he finally divorced my mom, he left us in Miami far away from extended family because that’s where he had wanted to live after he got out of the Navy.

He didn’t leave Miami immediately. He stayed for a few years because that is where he met his second wife (my first stepmother of three).

We were able to spend some weekends and holidays with him. He was a fun dad for the most part.

He had an apartment on Key Biscayne for awhile after he sold his sailboat. After he bought a turquoise-colored houseboat, he lived there. He went through a brief ski boat phase (I think that was between sailboat and houseboat).

Eventually, though, he decided he liked California better than Miami. I don’t know if he offered to move my mom and us kids to Texas where my mom’s family lived. I don’t think so. I had no grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins close by. I met them a few times on rare family vacations to Corpus Christi (which is near where my parents had met and been married).

I grew up  in a single-parent home with a completely committed mother who worked very hard and gave us all that she could. We didn’t really want for anything, but my friends’ families moved to larger homes as they grew older while we stayed in the tiny starter home my dad has chosen for us in 1967.

My dad almost always paid child support. I know there were a couple of pilots’ strikes where he had no income, but he was not a deadbeat dad at all. He was just not a very involved dad.

He paid for my  braces and auto insurance. He even helped me out after my first husband and I got married, even though he disapproved of the whole thing.

He never went to any of the football games where I performed at half-time with my school’s dance team. He never helped me with my homework. He wasn’t there to teach me how to drive (though he let us steer while he was driving on occasion). I couldn’t call him up and ask for his advice about anything. He called us when he was ready to see us.

Bottom line is that I didn’t have a daddy. I had a dad with a full life that on occasion involved his children.

I have thanked my dad for what he gave to me and my siblings. He did more than a lot of fathers do these days. Dads get a lot of credit for being part-time dads (moms who are ambiguous about their roles are judged much more harshly).

I spent years wondering why my dad didn’t really like being around us much. I rationalized his nontraditional fatherhood by remembering that his dad abandoned his family; he didn’t have a good role model.

As an adult, I chose to accept a tenuous relationship that continued to be on his terms.

One time my father called the day before he was planning to be in the Connecticut area (he often visited friends on Long Island without contacting my sister or myself). He wanted to meet me someplace at 1 p.m. the next day. This one time, however, I was several years into my struggle with chronic Lyme disease, and was in the middle of a flare-up. I didn’t have the strength to drive anyplace and sit through a couple of hours in a restaurant. I said no. That was the last time I saw my dad. He never called to see me again.

So, while I wish Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads who have chosen to embrace their roles and be there for their kids, I continue to be conflicted about this holiday.

 

 

 

 

How Quiverfull Speech Can Crash Airplanes

Taylor Joy Recovers

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The Quiverfull/Patriarchy culture produces plenty of “how-to” books, such as Fascinating Womanhood, and Created to Be His Help Meet, to show women how to be the most “godly” wives and mothers they can be. Since I practically absorbed a ton of these types of books through my skin for the first eight years of our marriage, I noticed one thing they all had in common: they tell us how how to talk to our husbands with “respect,” “honor,” and “deference to his authority.” We learned how to use encouragement, childlike phrases, praise, focusing on the positives, and carefully worded requests to communicate within our marriages.

For example, in the book Fascinating Womanhood , a man is about to make a disastrous financial decision, where he could lose everything. The author encourages the wife to say, “It sounds like a good idea, and I can see why you’re excited…

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Wounds that don’t heal

IImprisoned Spring by Arthur Hacker (1911)Heartbreak and loss come in many different forms: the death of a loved one, rejection by a lover or spouse, abandonment by a parent.

As a wounded woman, I know what it is to hurt.

I won’t bore you with tales of woe from my childhood, but all was not well at home.

By the time I was a young adult, I had been exposed to some pretty bad stuff, much of it a result of our male-dominated culture (exposure to pornography, sexual predators young and old, and male criticism of my female form and personality).

I was bullied by other girls, all older and bigger than me. I was also bullied by my family.

By the time I was 21 years old, I had what was termed”a serious chip” on my shoulder.

Believe it or not, I was judged harshly because I was not all smiles and compliance all the time.  Because I tried to fight back. Girls shouldn’t do that, don’t you know.

I knew the world was screwed up even when I was young, but I never knew how to express my concern. It festered. It fermented. I didn’t understand my discontent.

By the time I was in my early 20s, I wore a pretty hard, protective shell designed to keep me from getting hurt.

And then I found a church that promised “inner healing.”

Was there a chance that I could be freed from the pain that I worked so hard to keep hidden away?

I found a husband who was supposed to be loving, caring and a positive expression of patriarchy.

I believed that in this relationship, those wounds would finally begin to heal. I was in a safe relationship, a safe place, finally.

I let my guard down and exposed many of my wounds to this man.

I trusted him.

He used his power to control instead of love.

This is not a cautionary tale. I am not advocating the growth of dragon scales as a way to protect oneself. We can never truly love others if we don’t allow them to love us. And no one can love us if we don’t let down our guard.

From a psychological point of view, I am most likely dealing with abandonment issues exacerbated by fear of rejection. In a nutshell, when my father left me and my family when I was 7 years old, it affected me profoundly.

Back in the late 60s, it was not common for parents to divorce. I grew up in what was called a “broken home.” I carried that shame with me everywhere.

Thinking back, when my father was home there was an awful lot of yelling and fighting. I’m pretty sure things got physical. I don’t remember much. I liked the quiet better.

I heard a lot of stories from both of my parents over the subsequent years well into my adolescence when I finally reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I eventually refused to see my father anymore. That estrangement lasted for about two years.

I got pregnant. I got married. I had a baby. I got divorced.

I needed the quiet.

When it wasn’t quiet, when there was conflict and discord, my wounds opened up and all the pain came flooding back.

Here’s the thing: we all have wounds. My wounds are probably nothing compared to someone else’s wounds. That doesn’t matter.

We are talking pain levels here and tolerance for pain.

In life, the good times are supposed to outweigh the bad times.

Everyone suffers. Everyone struggles. Everyone has pain.

The real issue is how much pain and how often. Does the pain ever stop? Are there respites from the pain?

For some people, the answer is “No.”

I didn’t understand the insidious nature of chronic pain until a few years ago after contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite. I ended up one of the small percentage of people who experience long-term symptoms. Mine include chronic fatigue and chronic pain. I know what it is like to live with pain all the time.

The physical bite site, the terrible wound that I had from that tick bite, did heal after three weeks of antibiotics. The cause of the initial wound (about the size of a softball) moved away from the bite site and penetrated deep into my body’s tissues and even my brain. There was no healing.

Too Much Pain

The other day, I woke up and realized that I didn’t have any noticeable pain in my body. I breathed deeply and smiled. What a happy day. I want more pain-free days. Who wouldn’t? I thoroughly enjoyed that day. But such days are rare.

There is more compassion for those who suffer from physical pain than emotional pain in our society.  If someone has a back injury and must take opioids, no one holds it against that person.

For those who suffer loss and are wounded by it (and how can one not be wounded by loss???), healing is supposed to take place over time, but there is an expectation of some conclusion where the person affected finds relief and can move on with no more symptoms of grief.

For most people, grieving a loss takes time and the support of loved ones. In most cases, the pain of the loss lessens until it is merely a memory with occasional bouts of suffering that abate after a day or so.

What happens when grieving doesn’t end? Sometimes the wounds just don’t heal.

What happens to those who never stop feeling profound and unbearable pain?

There are many different endings to this kind of story.

Many can find relief through mental health services: therapy, medications and lifestyle changes. For some people this works.

Some end in the body giving up and the person fading away (yes, people can die from a broken heart). Some end in self-destructive behavior that results in death. Some end in suicide.

For some people the wounds just don’t heal. For some people the pain never stops. The thought of living a life of never ending pain is unbearable.

But wait…

 

Even though many wounds don’t heal, there is hope.

And it starts with taking back one’s power…

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I wouldn’t have seen the double rainbow if I hadn’t gone outside