Monday, January 23, 2017


The quote here is a snippet of lyrics from Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten".  I think this song resonates with so many because we're always on the brink of something new, and we never know where each day, each moment will lead us.

For me, some significant changes have happened recently that have left me with a lack of certainty about the future.  This isn't a bad thing, mind's simply a departure from what I am accustomed to.  Normally, I am focused, driven, and usually have a clear vision for where I am headed, and what I want from life.  I tend to always have something I am studying - a personal interest, or a business-related course, or something of historical focus. I have always enjoyed learning, and it helps me to balance my life with enriching my knowledge base and indulging my endlessly curious mind.

Right now, however, nothing is on my personal horizon in that regard. Nothing is capturing my interest, nothing is exciting me or lighting a fire in my heart to engage and learn. Two long held dreams - big ones - have become decidedly uninspiring, and that has surprised me. It doesn't necessarily mean those two big dreams have died; I don't know what it means, to be honest. All I know is that the drive to achieve them has waned for the now.

So, here I am, with my life ahead of me, waiting for something to spark, to grab, to enliven.

Many years ago, I worked for a large corporation where part of my duties involved writing a quarterly newsletter.  This was not a small feat, as the corporation was an international one with satellite offices domestically and across several countries. The newsletter was always highly anticipated by those offices, with a great deal of enthusiastic feedback.  That positive feedback was both encouraging and a bit onerous, as it created constant expectations to top each previous newsletter edition.  I would get the current edition finalized and sent out, and immediately begin working on the next edition.

The blank pages of the newsletter template would loom at me on my computer's screen, and I would always have thoughts of, "How am I going to fill this up again?  How am I going to make this edition better than the last?  How will there be enough time in this quarter to meet the deadline and still deliver interesting, valuable content?"

As the days passed, bits and pieces would always materialize. Conversations with co-workers would lead to requesting an interview with someone.  Research on a current project would prompt me to dig deeper and that research would produce an interesting fact for the newsletter. Happy moments such as anniversaries, weddings, babies being born, graduations, human interest stories, etc., were always plugged into the pages.  And almost every single quarter, before I knew it, the newsletter would be full to the brim with articles, news, facts, and images.  I usually would have so much content, it would spill over to be utilized for the following quarter's edition. Still, with each new, empty template to fill, the doubts were always there in the back of my mind.

Life is quite similar to a publication in the works.  As Ms. Bedingfield's song lyrics indicate, we are books, unwritten.

I am a methodical person, and am accustomed to being in control of my life. Coming to such a large space of unknowing is a curious feeling for me. It isn't scary.  It isn't alarming.  It's different. Not quite uncomfortable, but certainly discomfort is there.

Discomfort is a clear harbinger that change, that increase, that a great big amount of new, is on the horizon.  That can cause the mind chatter to begin dancing a jig, dripping gleeful bits of concern, wariness, anxiety, mistrust, and all manner of negative emotions designed to stop us in our tracks.

When those emotions crop up, I remind myself of the old days of writing that quarterly newsletter.  Those questions and doubts would pop up throughout each quarter as I worked on the newsletter.  I learned to brush them aside and keep moving through the process.
So, here I am, with blank pages. Even writing this article here feels inadequate, lacking in the normal flowing, musical ease with which I generally create.  When I mentor writing students, my advice to them is always, "Just write. The questions will be answered as long as you engage in the process." Taking my own advice has me here at my laptop, waiting for the questions to be answered.

Will they be answered?  Of course they will.  It might not be as I expect the movie in my mind to play out; that's the one true certainty in the mix.  Indeed, life rarely plays out as we imagine in our mind's eye, and often that is a blessing. 

Sometimes, engaging the process doesn't mean anything earthshaking. Sometimes, it simply means to keep breathing. Keep living. Keep being who we are, whilst also being open to change. From moment to moment, who we are changes on a cellular level, so you would think embracing myriad changes in the corporeal world would be just as seamless.  Obviously, it isn't! Change is something that tends to instill resistance for the best of us.

Personally, I don't have time for the fears, the doubts, and most of all, I do not have time for embracing resistance.  Part of this whole dynamic stems from releasing a presence that luxuriated in embracing resistance, in dragging of feet, in avoiding feeling emotions, in postponing living in the now. It is a genuine, simple fact that all we have is now, this moment.  We're all aware of this truth, that tomorrow is not promised....the next breath, the next smile, the next could all be final. 

I have a life to live....pages to fill with experiences.  I do not have a single clue where tomorrow leads me. I do not have a single clue what all the new will bring. It is currently unwritten, but I do have the book open, blank page pristine, pen in hand to give it expression.  I expect it to be glorious. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Rainbows drip endless tears

The day is close.  Heavy air too damp and hot for this early in summer, and I think inside myself that it is a curious note.  Springtime in East Tennessee this year was glorious, a true spring such as we haven't experienced in many years.  It took me back to childhood memories where everything was an explosion of color, flowers, peaceful wooded hills and ready hugs from every adult around me.

Yet here we are, on the heels of that glorious spring, experiencing a brutal beginning to summer.  The brutality is mirrored in horrific moments in my country.  A beautiful, talented young woman was murdered in the state of Florida, in a senseless act as she pursued her musical dreams. 

A day later, in the same state of Florida, a nightmare attack took the lives of 49 people who were enjoying an evening in a nightclub. 49 deaths are reported, and I fear the number will increase in coming days. 

The thoughts that run through my mind in the wake of these violent actions are tangible, etching the moist air around me with ragged edges.  They hang there, aloft, sad and forlorn, as I picture the people who await news of their loved ones....praying, I am certain, to hear that loved one's voice, alive and vital.

Yet we already know the ones slain are still there in that nightclub, quiet and still, surrounded by crime scene tape and endless media trucks.

Moments of beauty are flourishing, small blooms of hope around the world.  There in Florida, a line of over 600 people wait to donate blood and I think that they are the best of my country, rushing to do this one small thing in the face of such devastating carnage. 

The people in that nightclub were slain, to the best of what we know, because they were of the LGBTQ community - different, beautifully so, and proud, choosing to embrace their true selves and come together for an evening of music, dancing and entertainment.  Hateful indications began instantly, words of terrorism, focus on gun control political agendas all ran rampant and continue today, and those focuses will have no further space here. 

Now, as the hours roll forward, on social media there are countless expressions of condolence, sympathy and support for those affected, for those slain, for those mourning, and these expressions are happening around the world.  Rainbow flags are everywhere. 

And here I sit on the steps of my patio with my laptop on my knees, breathing in this heavy, damp day, the heat searing my lungs. 

The thoughts crash from my fingertips, yet make no sound on the page. I feel the need to hurl them outward, allowing them to fly high in the sky and fracture, so that they might rain back down in bright, beautiful colors of each of the souls taken from us so unfairly.  
Rainbow colors, they would be.  Of course they would. 

Perhaps in another reality, one we can't see with our human eyes, they are hale and whole, watching us as we scramble to understand, to absorb and accept.  I believe this to be true, and I am confident and sure that the overwhelming amount of prayer and love being focused for all of them has taken them through their unexpected transition swiftly and smoothly, lifting them quickly to that next destination.

My own recent struggles pale in comparison to what has happened in Florida.  I feel a sense of drift and inadequacy, because those issues exist and are quite valid in my heart, but I haven't lost a loved one to wrenching, cold, cruel murder.  All I am able to do is sit here in the waning summer fire of a June Sunday, smelling the green of freshly cut grass, hearing the droning of fat honeybees drunk on nectar from nearby flowers.  I am here, writing and pausing, sheltering my eyes from the sinking sun, tapping out words on a screen that cannot reflect the enormity of what this weekend has wrought.

Rainbows.  Normally, a rainbow comes after a storm, bringing smiles and delight.

  Today, rainbows drip endless tears. 

And the world mourns. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

...of all that is...

In this month of April 2016, I see 2015 as a curious year.  As I look back on it now, I feel a sense of distance that goes beyond the linear mark.  I don't know if that is true detachment, or if it is a shell of self-preservation.  Only time will tell with that.

I lost a large number of people extremely close to me in 2015. Death was not particular about those chosen, taking both family and dear, life long friends in high numbers.  Looking back on that aspect of 2015, I am stunned at the list of those who transitioned, and I am equally stunned that I weathered that many losses and managed to keep hold of equanimity, acceptance and sanity. 

Of course, loss of sanity always surrounds us in the immediacy of loss through physical death, and I am not ashamed to admit that I had many dark nights of the soul because of those losses.

On the other end of the spectrum, I had triumphs.  I experienced love.  I shared my heart with sincerity and honesty, offering my deepest, truest self.  For some moments, that part of me was met and embraced, and I can look back on those moments with clear eyes that see shining beauty.

I stumbled many times, with repercussions of a most recent set of stumbles still playing out.  I am unsure of the direction those unexpected, haphazard, shocking, sometimes ripping and hurtful experiences will take me.

The only thing that I know at this moment is that I am learning and growing as a result.  I am continuing to take the next breath. That is all any of us can do when we absorb the stunning impact of disappointment and betrayal - we take that next step, breathe that next breath, and repeat the process in a numbed state until we are able to tentatively begin settling back inside ourselves.  Back inside from where we flew off and established that state of protection and detachment.

Perhaps that is actually what is happening.  I am settling back inside myself, reacquainting, realigning, reassembling, building and stitching together the old with what I brought back from the outside, from the distance and the quiet.

I often think that what we view as coming undone is the real making of us, because it forces us to release all those pieces of detritus that had been slowing us down, had been holding us back, had been slowly dulling our brilliance.

What prompted this article when it has been such a long time since I have written here?  I was busy the other day, in the midst of networking and focusing on career issues, and a random thought crossed my mind.  A question jumped from those thoughts, and I picked up my cell phone to call a dear friend.  Because I was doing so many things at once, juggling so many proverbial balls, I got all the way through scrolling through my contacts and clicking through to dial that phone number before reality slapped me sideways.  I remembered in a crashing rush that that friend is gone.  He died in September of 2015.

The inevitable avalanche of emotions flowed.  I went through a miniature version of the grief process, shed some tears, rode the wave of colorful memories that had me laughing along with the tears, because this friend always, always made me laugh.  And I pondered this life I'm living.  I pondered the curious process we live here on this Earth School.

I came up with no bright, unique answers.  No startling discoveries have hit my personal horizon. I find that the older I get, the more liquid becomes the process of accepting death, and of accepting change.  When I was wee, life was very finite and defined.  Black and white.  With age comes new perspective and perception, and all those infinite shades of gray.

I have no idea what the year of 2016 will bring for me, even as I sit here well into the fourth month of this year.  What I do know is that 2015 underscored in a dramatic fashion what we all know, and that is that nothing is promised to each of us.  Tomorrow is not promised.  The next moment is not promised, nor is the next breath.

In the span of all that is, each life lived on this planet is akin to the blink of an eye.  

We are such a brief expression of love and energy in physical form, it is another curious moment for me to ponder why we waste so much time.  We get bogged down in so many fears and doubts.  I have allowed myself to become entangled in my own fears and doubts, and I have participated and engaged in fears and doubts of those closest to me.  From that engagement, I have stumbled.  As I am regaining my balance from those stumbles, the clarity gained is of a quiet tone.  In that quiet, I am studying and processing, and making decisions.

I am aware of what I will no longer entertain.  I am aware of what I will no longer indulge.  I am cognizant in a manner that I have not experienced in a great while.  I am aware of promises that I made to myself ages ago, promises which have patiently waited for me to pick them up and breathe life into them....breathe life into ME.

This all sounds so ponderous and dramatic, yes?  In some ways, perhaps it is, but another curious note is that these shifts and realizations haven't hit with thundering impact.  They have slipped in gently, with very little fanfare.  Layers of myself have surrendered to being pared away, lifted up to the winds that swirl around only me, separating me from the old, and brushing, whispering change across my face....across my soul.  I have turned, eyes closed, a slowly spinning dance of release.

In that span of all that is, that which we label Infinity, here I am....expressing all that I am.  Doing my humble, human best to radiate Love outward.  Brushing fingertips with those of you who visit here, our eyes locking for a glance, our hearts marching to an identical rhythm for an instant.  And as the quote above offers....

....and in that moment, I swear....


For now, this knowing, this acceptance of NOT is enough. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Strawberry Zen

Inspiration for a blog article can come from the most unexpected sources. Often, when I'm having a conversation with a friend, a random comment will sparkle so strongly that it prompts me to elaborate my thoughts.  I commented on a Facebook post of my friend, Zero Dean (article link:, and that started today's musings. 

I have shared that lately, I have been in a quiet, contemplative stage with many areas of my life. This year seems to be full of inner searching for me, and if I allow it to happen, I can fall down the figurative Rabbit Hole of chaotic self-questioning.  One question leads to the next, and the next, with each demanding a resolution, or a profound change of habits and approach to life, until there is a very loudly jangling bundle of expectations that cannot be met quickly or easily.  I think we all do this to ourselves.  It's human nature to think we have to tackle all the Big Ticket Items and produce instantaneous and successful results.  That is not only unrealistic, it actually invites more chaotic energy to pour down on our heads.

When I catch myself doing this, I stop.  I breathe, and I calm my heart.  With calming of breath and heart, I can cut the stream of angst ridden mind chatter.  Today, it was a strawberry Zen moment that cut the mind chatter.  Rather than let my energy scatter into myriad directions and goals that cannot be accomplished simultaneously, I stopped and focused on the immediate moment.  That moment is a carton of fresh, beautiful strawberries.  Their ruby beauty, dotted with tiny black seeds and crowned with bright green caps, all speaking of the onset of summer weather and sunny days harken to those lovely childhood comfort memories for me.  We are currently one day into true Spring in the U.S., so these luscious strawberries come to me from some other climate; summer growing weather is a bit of a stretch down the road for East Tennessee.

Standing in my kitchen, I focus on the sensory and tactile impressions of my prosaic task.  I gather the strawberries from the cardboard carton and place them into a small ceramic colander, running fresh water over them.  The musical splashing of water sharpens the strawberry scent and brightens the already vibrant shades of red.  Shaking the colander produces a waterfall of liquid drops into my sink that is another visual delight....tiny dazzles of water gems rain into the stainless steel sink and become a clear wash that dashes from sight.  Picking up a small paring knife, I nip the green caps and slice the strawberries, enjoying the soft snicking of the knife as it passes through berry to the small cutting board.  A cut glass bowl awaits the sliced fruit, and sunlight hits crystal, exploding into rainbow refraction as I step outside to my patio with my afternoon treat.  The day is sunny and mild in temperature, soft breezes promising a true march beyond the colder embrace of winter.  Spring appears to be lifting her arms across the land.

As I eat my bowl of strawberries, enjoying the tart flavor, my soul is quiet again.  The rushing thoughts are calmed and Zen is in my grasp.  A simple chore of preparing a light meal has brought me back to balance.

This moment, this action, this breath, this heartbeat....this Strawberry Zen.  In a nod of fellowship to my friend, Zero....
 I am awake.   

Saturday, January 17, 2015

It can happen to anyone

For the last several weeks, the topic of domestic abuse has been present around me.  Not to me, specifically, but in conversations with friends, and sadly, for the adult child of a dear friend, domestic abuse is a current concern.

Because of this repetition of discussion and awareness in my immediate sphere of influence, I have been engaging in online social media conversations about domestic abuse.  Statistics indicate that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime. This experience is not gender-specific, by the way.  Statistics also indicate that men are victims of nearly three million physical assaults in the U.S. (

Domestic abuse crosses all socio-economic boundaries.  It does not discriminate amongst age, race, education, level of intelligence, financial background, the job sector, religion, region or country. 
I am one of those 1 in 4 women.
People who know me will and have expressed dismay to learn that I was involved in an abusive relationship.  "But you're such an intelligent person," they protest.  "How could you allow such a thing to happen?"

Other questions and well-meaning comments inevitably get voiced:

  • Why did you stay with him?
  • You left several times and returned to the relationship - why did you go back???
  • How could you let someone treat you that way?
  • Where is your self respect?
  • Anyone who allows someone to abuse them is a weak, ineffective individual.
  • Maybe you're imagining this - it can't really be that bad.
  • All relationships go through rough stretches; maybe you're just not trying hard enough.
  • Men need to feel strong and manly - what did you do to make him feel insulted/threatened/disrespected?
There are endless comments, observations and questions that run along the lines of the ones listed above.  All of them tend to have either a subtle or overt and aggressive tone of doubt, ridicule, scorn and judgment towards the person who is experiencing domestic abuse.

A friend shared the following article that describes a specific type of abuser - the narcissistic abuser.  Please take time to click through to this article and read the information.  The article breaks down the process of abuse, how it happens, the steps that occur and the degrading of the emotional health of the person being abused.

Now, I will share my story.  I am not going to mention very specific details, because this experience is in my past, and I do not want to stir things up again.  This experience happened approximately twelve years ago.  I was at a point in my life where I was searching for how to transition my professional life from retail management; I had been working for over five years on a gradually increasing level with technical writing projects and was in the process of transitioning that into a full-time career.  If you've transitioned from one career focus to a completely different niche market, then you're aware the process takes time and can be full of a lot of starts and stops as you shift the energies.  This process can also be fraught with a lot of emotional turmoil and doubts as to whether this big leap of faith is the right decision.  Looking back, I can see that I was ripe for an opportunistic personality to be attracted to me.

I met this person via a long-distance connection.  The relationship progressed quickly, with emotions and conversations burning hot and bright, and the giddy rush of what felt and looked like love swept in.  A work opportunity came into play that convinced me that the hands of Fate were at work, as that opportunity was in the same state where this person lived.  Eventually, I made the decision to take the job offer and moved out of state.  I had lived other places prior to this move, so it wasn't an unknown experience, but it was a much bigger move with a much bigger geographical distance away from my home state. I moved to a city where I knew no one but this other person.  I had family in that same state, but they were hours away from my location.

So, how did the abuse happen?  Insidiously.  Slowly, methodically, and craftily.  Perhaps addressing some of the comments and questions listed above might help to paint the picture of this relationship and the cycle of abuse.

  1. But you're such an intelligent person; how could you allow this to happen?
Yes, I am an intelligent person.  I am also quite intuitive.  When you are immersed in the chemical maelstrom of love, all of those key cognitive skills tend to become muffled.  You're existing in that euphoric flush of love where a bonding process is setting in. When you're in love, you make allowances for negative behaviors in the person you love.

In this case, in this relationship, my intelligence, my kindness, my compassion, and every good thing about who I am as a person was used against me.  Let me repeat that - my intelligence was used as a tool, a weapon, to slowly and surely whittle away at my sense of self.

Abusive people are masters of manipulation.  They are masters of adapting to various personalities and quickly learning what comments and remarks will best begin the process of eroding self-confidence in their victims. With me, the abuse was verbal and emotional - an endless mind game that played out.

I wasn't physically abused, but I want to make it clear that you don't have to be physically attacked for a relationship to be an abusive one.  Verbal and emotional forms of abuse are equally toxic, destructive and damaging.
How did it start?  With very reasonable observations.  Helpful, well-meant comments from him, spoken softly and logically, appealing to my sense of logic.  Just a comment here, a comment there, but spoken with an underlying tone of judgment, and then the conversation would go on to other topics.  Hours later, the sting from the judgment would be there, so carefully crafted and worded that it worked on my sense of logic to the point that I would revisit it and start to question myself.  "That was a reasonable observation," I would reflect.  "Maybe he's right.  I don't have to talk about that specific topic around him, because it's just not something he's interested in.  I'll just not bring it up when I'm with him."


"He had a fair point, that maybe I am too concerned with doing things that specific way.  I just won't do that around him from this point forward.  It's a simple thing to just set aside when I'm with him."

And in this quiet, slow, steady fashion, he began to chip away at what makes me who I am as an individual.  I was already isolated, living hundreds of miles away from everything and everyone familiar.  Now the next step was to instill doubt in me about who I was.  Little things....seemingly insignificant details were commented upon in that soft-spoken, reasonable tone.

An example:  at the dinner table, where I had quickly placed two place settings, the comment was, "Wow, this looks like you used a ruler to measure the exact spacing between each plate, glass and silverware.  It's just the two of us, you know - you didn't have to go to that much fussy detail."  And in fact, I hadn't measured space, I hadn't been overly fussy with setting the table.  I had been in a hurry, had just set the table without thinking, and his comments had me second guessing my own actions.  Maybe he was right - maybe I really was too fussy, and too concerned about things that weren't all that important.  Maybe I should stop that behavior.  And so I did.  I began to pull back with giving creative voice to that specific action.  I didn't dress my dining room table with the decorative touches that pleased me.  Often, from that point forward, I wouldn't even have us sit at the table to eat.  We would eat in the living room, watching television and not interacting with one another during the meal, which is something I purely detest doing in my own home. I believe that meals are a time to reconnect and focus on one another.  Yet, I allowed him to convince me to let that habit go, to remove a part of my true nature from my daily existence. 

Key factor - in this manner, he was attacking something that was and is important to me.  Table manners, etiquette and setting a pretty table are things that matter to me and make me happy, because they are a part of who I am and how I was raised.  By making that seemingly random observation, he was chipping away at an integral part of who I am, instilling doubt and causing me to question myself in a negative fashion.

An example:  snuggling on the sofa, he made a leisurely scan of my face and said, "You pluck your eyebrows, don't you."  Not a question, a statement.  Yes, I pluck my eyebrows - most women do!  And I answered in that vein, that it was a common grooming habit.  He just nodded, and continued to stare at my eyebrows without comment for several long moments before changing the subject.  After he had gone home and I was in the bathroom removing my makeup, I stood there, studying my eyebrows.  Let me share with you that I have soft, fine hair, and my eyebrows are similarly fine and delicate.  I don't have that much eyebrow real estate to fiddle with to begin with; the plucking that I do is mainly those little straggling hairs that aren't close to the eyebrow hairline.  Yet, his quiet observation stuck with me, niggled away at me, and had me standing at the mirror, feeling self-doubt.

Key factor - he was insinuating that I was vain to an excessive degree, predicated on the simplest of grooming habits.  Unspoken, inferred judgment was his favorite tool to use, and it was very effective with me. I have always been a people pleasing type of person, wanting everyone to be happy, wanting everyone to feel comfortable.  This trait was taken, twisted and turned into the perfect weapon to progressively slice away more and more of who I was.

Both examples I have shared here sound so innocuous, don't they?  Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "That's not an abusive relationship.  She's exaggerating."  And if you are having those or similar thoughts, then perhaps you can now see just how easily the cycle of abuse can happen.  It starts off in such a simple, seemingly innocent manner.  Multiply these two examples I have offered by hundreds of such seemingly innocent comments in a single week, all delivered in such a reasonable, calm tone that anyone would feel silly to label them as acts of abuse.  And that is how it happensAbuse is wrapped up in fine feathered clothing, my friends, and at first looks quite innocent.  Those pretty feathers are tipped in slow-working poison, though, and they instill a creeping death inside the victim.
            2. This brings me to the next comment in the list above - "Why did you stay with him?"

Take time to imagine being in love with someone, far from home and your support system of family and friends.  Now add in all the stress and fear that such a life changing move causes.  Next, add to the mix that on some levels, there is a true connection with this person you love - he makes you laugh, he hits all those physical attraction points for you, he can be very loving and thoughtful and sweet at surface level.  And when all the reasonable observations he makes begin to erode your self-confidence, you feel he is the only safe port in the storm.

The cycle of abuse is a cycle of conditioning.  The abuser slowly and consistently introduces his victim to negative, undermining comments and behaviors.  The victim is inexorably conditioned to believe that they truly are all those negatives:  stupid, helpless, ineffective, scatterbrained, dumb, ugly, fat, a failure, worthless. 

Once you begin to absorb all those negatives about yourself to be new truths, you believe that no one else in the world will want you.  So you stay with the abuser.  There is nothing emotionally healthy about this process.  It is the process of a twisted form of logic that is crafted to trigger your biggest fears, biggest weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  You are preyed upon by a predator.

      3.  You left several times and returned to the relationship - why did you go back??

The answer to this question is multi-faceted, and it will change with each victim of abuse, but the main reason is that conditioning process.  At some point in the building up of all those reasonable, soft-spoken observations, I began to believe the inferred judgment.  I began to internalize all the unspoken criticisms, and I systematically sheared off those behaviors, preferences, traits, loves, all to cater to what I believed was a relationship worth working for.   This person became a sort of touchstone for good vs. bad, right vs. wrong actions.  I looked to him as a weather vane and responded by subjugating everything beautiful, vital and vibrant about myself in order to keep the peace between us.  And when I would leave, he would wait for several weeks to allow me to start to feel comfortable, to begin taking back those beautiful parts of myself, and then he would come back into the picture.  He would portray all the traits and behaviors that hooked me in the first place, and a mini-honeymoon phase would be enacted.  I would want to believe that this time, I could love enough to make everything okay.

I never believed - still do not believe - that I can change another person.  I know that that is one trait that abusers pounce on, but it's not something I ever embraced.  Instead, I always believe(d) that if there was/is enough love present, any obstacle or disagreement or point of friction could/can be overcome.  This is actually true, but only if BOTH people are present and willing to put that love and effort into the relationship.  So, my loving nature was another tool in his arsenal to use against me.

      4.  How could you let someone treat you that way?  Where is your self-respect??

I repeat that this conditioning process doesn't happen overnight.  In my case, it took place over the course of a three year stretch of time.  I left the relationship more than once, then allowed myself to get sucked back in.  Why?  Because I had lost sight of who I was, and allowed this person to paint a warped reality for me where I was lacking in every single way imaginable.  I became a faint, almost transparent ghost of myself.  I was withdrawn, quiet, and had abandoned hobbies and pursuits that had made me happy, and I began to believe this warped version of reality that no one else would want me, find me attractive, or consider me worth putting genuine effort into.

      5.  Anyone who allows another person to abuse them is a weak, ineffective individual.

This is absolutely not true.  Anyone who survives an abusive relationship is the last thing from weak!  Yes, the cycle of abuse erodes self-confidence and our natural autonomous actions to the point that we become ineffective, but surviving the terrain of an abusive relationship requires a level of strength and fortitude that most people cannot fathom.  Unless you have walked this reality, you simply cannot imagine the strength it requires to get through each moment of each day whilst you're being systematically attacked, belittled and broken down.

      6.  Maybe you're imagining this - it can't really be that bad.

This is one of the abuser's best weapons - doubt.  Without fail, every single person I've spoken to who has survived and escaped an abusive relationship has been deemed "crazy" by their abuser.
  • You're crazy.  
  • You're imagining things.  
  • You have no sense of humor - lighten up, I was just joking!
  • You're too touchy, too sensitive, too stupid...
  • Don't take things I say so personally - it was just a harmless observation!  
Well-meaning friends and family members tend to grasp at any available straw of response when they're confronted with the potential that a loved one is in an abusive relationship.  They want to find a reasonable answer, a logical reason that you are telling them this negativity is happening (if you're brave enough to even address what is happening).  So, they doubt you and they reinforce the abuser's claims that you're crazy.  You're imagining things.

And because other people around you express such doubts, echoing what your abuser is saying to you daily, you begin to believe that no one will believe you if you tell them what is happening to you.  You begin to accept that no one will believe you're living in an abusive atmosphere and relationship.  And you feel helpless as a result.  Helpless to escape, helpless to get anyone to believe you, helpless deep down inside about all of it.  That part of the cycle is more scary and isolating than I can communicate to you, and it gives the abuser that much more power in the mix.

      7.  All relationships go through rough stretches - maybe you're just not trying hard enough.

This one is a continuation of #6.  It must be YOU.  It can't be him - he's a hard worker, he's so good to you, he's so charming, he's so funny, he's so attractive!  Abusers don't look, speak, and act like he does.  YOU are the problem.  You're just not trying hard enough.  And BOOM, society has reinforced the sick hold that the abuser has on their victim.  They have blamed the victim for being abused.

      8. Men need to feel strong and manly - what did you do to make him feel insulted/threatened/disrespected?

Yes, this kind of accusation happens fairly often.  It sounds absurd to ask such questions of someone who is in an abusive relationship, but I heard this type of question more than once in my own situation.  Once again, it reinforced all the negativity the abuser was instilling in our relationship.  It was all my fault.  I was clumsy.  I was wrong on every single level. 

Let me be clear about this next point: 

I could have turned myself inside out, stood on my head, and worked miracles if it had been in my power, and he would still have found something to criticize

Here are a few more examples:

  • In his eyes, I was overweight, so I lost weight.  And let me stress that at the time I was absolutely NOT overweight - I was a beautiful, physically healthy person prior to meeting him.  
  • Due to his criticisms on my physical appearance, when I lost weight, I was accused of starving myself out of vanity.  
  • Then I was told I looked unhealthy and had an unhealthy fixation on weight issues, and he was concerned about my mental stability.
  • Perhaps I would benefit from psychiatric counseling, as he felt that a mere psychologist might not be equipped to address what looked to be quite severe mental issues for me.
  • He threw this comment out one evening: "You know, I have to wonder how long it will take for you to look like I need you to - is it going to be years? Because I don't think I want to put that much time into waiting on you to fix all these problems of yours."  
  • I was told I was too verbal with how intelligent I was, and he found that boring and pushy.  
  • I was told I was too confident as a female, and that made me aggressive and unattractive and distasteful not just to him, but to all men, he would comment to me.  "No man is going to be attracted to a pushy female like you; you're lucky that I overlook these bad habits of yours."

The litany of points could go on and on here, but I'll stop with the list.  What I am attempting to communicate to those of you who haven't ever experienced an abusive relationship is that it can happen to anyone.  Being a strong, attractive, charismatic, intelligent, successful person doesn't protect you; it didn't protect me.  I was all of those things, and I fell victim to a polished, practiced abusive personality who saw me as a new challenge to destroy.  Abusive personalities are rooted in fear and they have a need to destroy others who embody the traits they desire - strength, vitality, kindness, compassion, intelligence, competence, success. 

This is a small window into a time in my life that was horrible, unpleasant, and temporarily damaging on an emotional and mental level.  But, I survived.  I gathered strength and resolve and extracted myself from this person and this cycle of abuse.  Are there scars remaining from this experience?  Yes.  I still have moments where a random comment from someone will make me freeze, will chill me to my core, and hit me with a dizzying, nauseated flush of panic.  I have coping skills to get through those moments, and I am deeply conscious of being mindful when they happen.  I am no longer the vulnerable person that I was when this abusive relationship occurred, and I think that I never will be that vulnerable again.  I think that I can now recognize the warning flags of that type of destructive personality, and I can shut those forays of contact and engagement down with swiftness and razor sharp effectiveness.

As many of us who have recently shared our experiences in social media have agreed, if sharing my personal story can help one person out there who is in an abusive relationship to feel empowered, it is worth revisiting and publishing here.

If you are in an abusive relationship, you CAN get out of it. 

You CAN escape.  You CAN heal.  You CAN move forward to become a whole, healthy, happy person. 

You CAN love again, and find love in a healthy relationship. 

You already ARE a survivor, and you can take steps to leave and not only survive, but thrive and be happy. 

Below are some resources for counseling, legal advice and support groups.  Reach out and ask for help, and know that you are not alone.

  • Safe Horizon counseling & support group link:
  • Safe Horizon support phone number:  1-347-328-8110
  • Domestic Violence Hotline phone number:  1-800-621-HOPE(4673)
  • Crime Victims Hotline phone number:  1-866-689-HELP(4357)
  • Rape and Sexual Assault Hotline phone number:  1-212-227-3000
  • TDD phone number for all hotlines:  1-866-604-5350

Friday, November 21, 2014

Zero Happy

So, the conversation happened on Facebook today, and it went like this:

How often are we able to say our day was blessed with such an unexpected, sweet moment like this?!  Zero Dean is a friend that I met through Facebook and he is one of the most talented, funny, kind people that I have yet to meet face to face.  I have met several people in person whom I originally met via social media; Zero is still on that list of need-to-meet-in-person.  I'm working on getting him out to my side of the country in 2015.  I'm sure he will find a way to create a storyline, take beautiful pictures and video footage in the process.

So, today for me is the day following a big professional networking event.  The day after these events tends to be full of tying off loose ends, tending to final details, and putting plans in place for the next event.  You rarely have downtime between each of these events - you're always working on the current event, finishing up from the most recent one, or planning for the next one.  "No rest for the weary" is an axiom that applies here.  This is not a complaint, mind you.  I am sharing what has been going on in my world this week to indicate that my energy today has been a trifle low.  That's not unexpected, as I've been doing this type of event management for many years - I expect to be mentally and physically tired the day after a successful event.  That proved true for today, and I have been working primarily in my home office and on the phone.  No running of errands, no leaving the house.  Just getting my second wind and winding down the business week.  

And out of the blue, I clicked on the Facebook notification that led me to the above conversation with Zero. (Yes, that's his real name; no, it's not a nickname; it's his story to tell and we're focusing on something different here today.  Ask him about it; it's an interesting story!)  I don't know about anyone else who is reading this, but I admit to sitting and staring at the words on my laptop screen that Zero shared, more than a little stunned.  Stunned in a good way!  Humbled, of a certainty.  Charmed a fair amount, and then puzzled as to how my coming up in his conversation prompted him to smile.  I guess that we rarely see ourselves in such a light, and I've discussed this very topic before here at Healing Morning (One Wish, Healing Morning, 12/15/2009, and By any other name, Healing Morning, 1/9/2011).  We tend to default more to self-doubt and lack of self-confidence.  If we're fortunate, occasionally someone close to our heart will take the time to remind us of that golden light that emanates from us.  That's what Zero did for me today.  He reminded me of the beauty of my spirit....of my True Self.

I still have no idea what the content of the conversation was that Zero referenced happening to him this morning, and I have no idea with whom he had this conversation.  What matters to me is that he had this experience in this conversation, and he recognized that it made him happy.  Better still, he went that extra step to reach out to me and let me know I was part of his happy moment.  I truly cannot think of any higher compliment, or of anything more surely guaranteed to delight the heart.  

Knowing we're in some small way responsible for lifting someone's heart, for tipping their lips to smile, for sparking a twinkle into their eyes.....that is value beyond measure! 
Zero is one of those bright spirits who is bucking traditional thoughts and is creating his own unique existence.  I expect great things from him in the near future, as he is talented in so many tangible ways.  What I appreciate the most about him is hard to define.  He makes me laugh constantly, because we share a similar irreverent sense of humor.  He makes me ponder deeply, because he is as interested as I am in delving more deeply into people than is common.  He touches my heart with a level of compassion and sweetness (which will probably horrify him - manly men do not prefer labels such as "sweetness" applied to their manly selves) that sometimes renders me silent, and prompts tears.  That's what he did today - he had me smiling and tearing up from taking maybe 10 seconds out of his day to post that message on my Facebook page.  He cared enough to share his Happy with me and as I replied to him, that caused the Happy to become exponential.  I love this guy, can y'all tell? 

Because I love him, and appreciate him, I want the world to know about him.  I want people to discover the zany fun and shenaniganry he tosses about.  I want people to discover his incredibly beautiful photography and videos.  I want people to appreciate his agile mind, and his dedication to touching the world in a different manner.  You can find my friend, Zero, on his Facebook page, and on his website, where all of his artistic and literary endeavors come together in one location.

I am coining a new term, which I think he will enjoy - today he gave me a Zero Happy moment!  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Space Between

I've been silent here for several months.  I began blogging in 2009 and am approaching my five year anniversary in a couple of months.  In the last eighteen months or so, my writing here has slowed significantly.  I was never into the posting 3-5 times a week concept with my blog, but it was rare for me to go several weeks without writing something.  Now it has become the norm for me to go several months between posting here.  I haven't stressed overly about that, as I accept that everything has an ebb and flow to it.

I don't foresee ever completely abandoning this space, or the Healing Morning concept.  I expect that it will morph and grow with me throughout my life.  For the nonce, I am in a quiet phase with Healing Morning.  It isn't that I have nothing to say here.  Some of my thoughts find their way into a manuscript that I am focused upon with the intent of being published.  Other thoughts are valid and worthwhile to be published here, but my heart is simply not into doing it on a frequent basis right now.

Cycles.  Life is a constant series of cycles, of starting over, of learning, of achieving and of moving on.  My current quiet cycle is one that happens to me every couple of years.  I go inward, sorting through my thoughts, surveying where I currently dwell, the people around me, the work I do, and how all of those factors impact me.  What is my emotional health as a result?  How is my heart feeling on a deep, visceral level?  Am I fulfilled?  Am I wishing for more in any area of my life?  And can I fulfill those wishes on my own, or are they better realized with my hand held by another?  The answers to these questions take time, and a strong dose of honesty.  I'm working my way through the questions and the answers.

This is where I am.  Reflecting.  Realizing that endings are imminent.  Good-byes are necessary.  Some have actually already occurred, and one very recently resonated right out of my immediate sphere on its own.  The relief with that one was pretty profound; although there is sincere love for that person still, I recognize that the energy between us was just not meshing in a productive manner any longer.  The other person felt it, also, and an ending occurred.  It was healthy for both of us, and it was time for it to occur.  Other potential endings are still being ruminated in my heart and my conscious mind. 

It's a curious thing, how the state of pause can be full of a large degree of energetic activity.  I am in a holding pattern, yet there is a great deal going on around me.  Those cosmic threads are out there in the universe, attracting other energies and weaving new fabric together.  My part in this is to sweep out a lot of cobwebs and let go of old, threadbare clothing that no longer fits, no longer serves, and be ready to clothe myself in this newly woven fabric as it returns to me with all the bright new threads.  Each color a new possibility, a new experience, new relationships, new emotions, new strengths....all to mesh with the Me that stands in all that I have lived to this point.  I don't have a clue where it all will lead.  

So, I remain quiet.  Words are a constant, but they might not always make it here into a published post.  All those colored threads within the words are still forming a reality that is on the brink of manifesting.  I am in that space between breaths, between heartbeats, between blinks of the eye, between thoughts.  In my mind's eye, I exist as a brightly colored wisp of misty vapor, drifting along the currents of my own emotions.  The day-to-day reality keeps me tethered to this Earth School so that I do not drift away completely, and so that I have a path to retrace and come back to self.  Back to the here and now.  Back to that space between.  Back to that moment before the next beating of my heart, where possibilities are hovering, waiting to engage and be realized.