Fractured Family Tree: The Scapegoat Lets Go

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I went down “that path” again. I knew in my gut what was waiting for me. Still, I went anyway, carrying that last bit of hope, protected deep inside me. I was still holding on to a lovely memory that has since become more clear over time that it wasn’t even real anyway. It was always this way. My family has been fractured, disconnected, and unhealthy.

I was the one in the end that became visibly sick, and in time raged, demanding more. And I am the one now, becoming well, sometimes still raging, and ready to “let go”. It’s very hard. Everything inside me wants to throw another all-out tantrum, demanding an answer for why my family is unable to heal together. It’s lonely. I’m sad and hurting. Still yet, I must face the truth, cry it out, grieve, let go of the “dream”, and accept what is.

This is the only way, because staying in the fight means certain death, for me. I’m not strong enough to stand among all the devastation, watching people I love lose everything, while devaluing me. I have meant nothing to certain people in my life. I can’t stay in a space where people defend and enable the deep neglect and abuse. I am unable to remain where I am character smeared, gaslighted, and lied to on a daily basis. I need to remain very distant from those who enable and allow the abuse. Some are too sick to see what is really occurring. I see it and it has made me very sick to try with everything inside me to awaken people when they would rather sleep. And so, I have watched the people I love lose everything to addiction and narcissistic abuse. The neglect has been so great that five kids, now adults, are not working: 3 are disabled (two due to drug use), 1 is facing jail, and the other refuses to work or get her GED even though she has a baby. No one in the home, six adults, work and they have a toddler in the home. I’m not even scratching the surface of all the chaos and drama that has occurred over the past decade due to the drug use, but it has been extreme. Trust me.

I’m left feeling empty. Another Christmas passed with the chaos related to addiction. Another Christmas where I did not receive a “Merry Christmas” text or a “thank you” for the presents I bought. Another Christmas where my Mom enabled the behavior and I am left unsupported.

It is time to “let go”. I went down that road with the last shred of hope slipping, like sand, through my fingers, racing to find my family. And the sand quickly disappeared, blown away by the storm that has raged on for years. I can’t chase it anymore. It was the last bit of hope I had and I couldn’t hold onto any longer. I had to let go.

I’m alone. And yet, I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be.

Our family tree has been splintered and diseased for a long time. I grew very sick and I knew in order to save myself, I had to cut limbs and shed certain branches, otherwise I would perish. Sometimes, I still feel I may perish. This hurt both physically and emotionally. I’m not breathing, my face is numb, and I’m holding my breath from how it hurts. I’ve been called “dramatic” in my effort to wake people up. And yet, two of my sister’s adult children are now disabled due to addiction. They will more than likely never work, never have children, never live on their own. I am avoiding details, because I ultimately am trying to stay closer to the center. Still, I’m bewildered as to how I lost my whole family and no one there can “hear me”. It’s a nightmare, but one I have been living for so long that I need to “wake up”. I cannot remain in the space any longer. I did not create it and truth be told, I am not welcome by anyone in it. I’m relatively invisible, drowned out by the larger players. I’m forever “little Amy” and “the little sister” and have not yet been seen, nor respected as a separate entity from the family unit.

Our family tree is fractured. The historical cycle is splintering and breaking, falling to the cold, hard ground with a thud.

I remember a few years ago, I was shell-shocked. I was constantly running from distraction to distraction. I was in a tumultuous relationship with a Narc who was abusive psychologically, emotionally, and physically. I was gambling a lot. My anxiety was “off the charts” and I felt trapped. I began to plead and beg to heal. I set the intention in my mind that I would “wake up” and heal from whatever had me running. I did not realize the work ahead of me, nor the lonely and sometimes dark road. I did not know that carving out my self esteem would mean getting in touch with the anger inside where I was left and abandoned by certain people in my life. Why was I not enough for them? I had to realize that I was enough for myself. The angry rages were in part defining my worth. Because, some of those I loved were continually in words and actions telling me I was insignificant. I realize it is a sickness. I am very sad for that. Still yet, I do not deserve to stay in a space where I am unwanted, unloved, and unappreciated. Nor, do I deserve to stay where people I love are not getting well because others who are older and have power are blocking their growth. The one person I feel that can help is also sick and chooses to enable instead. And, I am devastated, angry, and sad.

The family tree is fractured. And I have tried to not be overly revealing, but it is important for this process to be shared. People are sometimes too loyal to their families and hesitant to divulge too much information. Is this keeping our world from truly healing? When the family unit becomes toxic and a danger to others in the family, should  we not seek help? The loyalty might be keeping us stunted. My sole purpose is to promote growth. Yes, I have some guilt for “over”sharing. But, I feel compelled to write my truth and the trauma surrounding my life. I want a complete way out of it. And, I would be thrilled if any of my family members found a way out as well. I have lost hope. It’s been too long of a road. I got on the road again and was quickly back in the quicksand, sinking, with no one holding my hand.

The family tree is fractured. I will remain distant so that I can process my anger and the trauma leading up to the fracture of the tree. I invested a lot of time and energy and now I must let go and invest in myself. It was another mistake and I regret going down the road, yet again. I thought I was ready and able to “handle it”. I saw the destruction and burned in anger from the lost connection. I burned in anger from the loss of potential in the lives of those I dearly love. They are no longer recognizable. They have lost themselves and my Mom is lost in enabling them to foster a fabricated connection. She is lost and I am sad she is not able to help me. I would have been ecstatic for one of my nieces or nephews to make it out.

The family tree is fractured. I’m going to do everything this time to stay away. Their addiction became my addiction as I tried to salvage anything from the fire that swept through the forest, burning everything down in it’s path. Hope is dangerous. I really need to pick up the pieces of what is left of my life and rebuild. My life is the only thing I can control, anyhow.

This is and has been hard. I am grieving. Everything I thought about healing has been turned upside down. I do well for awhile and then have another storm. I’m realizing through the storms how to build better shelter around me for the next. My skin is hardening. My spirit softening, but I’m still not fully there, ready to completely accept the loss and “what is”. I have always been living in somewhat of a fabricated fantasy and healing is exposing me to the harsh elements, but somehow demonstrating to me that I am strong.

I hate the mistakes and messes I make when raging, but I see there is value in them as I am standing up for myself and learning boundaries. I still am super stubborn in setting a boundary and in not doing so I get burned very badly. Boundary setting is new for me as I always let everyone and everything in and have been used a lot. I don’t feel I ever learned to protect the space around me. I do feel guilty and sad for how things have ended, as it was ugly. But, I am beginning to feel that when you are in a toxic situation it does not matter how it ends, just that it does indeed end. I have stayed too long, always coming back with apologies, because I left in a brutal way. The cycle begins again and I am caught up in it. The abuse has been brutal and I deserve safety. Also, they deserve my absence so that in time maybe they will focus on getting well. My presence did not matter to some of them anyway.

The tree is fractured. It now stands alone in the stark winter air. There are stars filling the sky and it feels less alone and more peaceful. There is so much space around me. I needed this space. I’ll sit with this for awhile. Healing is hard & messy, but we are all worth it.

 

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A Letter to Those Enabling Addiction

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Dear Enabler,

You’ve often given in and helped your loved one struggling with addiction. This temporarily relieves the addict from experiencing the natural consequences related to their drug use. It may temporarily relieve you of your guilt associated with their use.

Enabling communicates, indirectly, to the addict that you feel they are unable to execute independently to manage the ups and downs of their life. It absolves the addict of their responsibility to take care of themselves. If children are involved, and watching, they are learning that you and others will step-in and take care of them when and if they choose to engage in dangerous and destructive endeavors. There may even be those children watching in anger, wishing you would step in, creating consequences for the using parent. Drug use in the home on any level pulls the parent away from the child leaving the child isolated and alone. One cannot be fully present when using. Enabling only continues to further isolate children in the home, cultivating an environment of alienation. And it communicates to the child that there is truly no hope. If you or another adult or family member is enabling a parent’s addiction, please know in doing so that the child becomes invisible and unimportant. The addiction continues and the child is absorbing the toxic environment which is skewing their perceptions. Reality become distorted and you may be serving to silence the concerns of those surrounding the addict without truly realizing you are doing so. Enabling is another form of accepting the addiction. It allows it to continue.

The devastation of enabling doesn’t only impact the individual being enabled or their children. It spreads to other family members who see the problem and decide to intervene in honesty and concern. These people often are met with great resistance from those enabling who will justify the actions of their enabling. This inevitably causes serious conflict and can over time erode what used to be relatively healthy relationships. Enablers are often in denial, not only of the depth of destruction caused by the addiction, but also of the devastating impact their denial and enabling has caused. The addict continues to use, the enabler continues to enable, becoming increasingly defensive. Sadly, relationships are lost to protect the bond between enabler and addict. The addict needs the enabler so that they can continue to use, while the enabler needs to enable to feel needed, to relieve guilt, and to protect the semblance of connection with the addict. The bond between addict and enabler is protected, while the addict’s children (adults or minors) as well as any involved family members are left grappling with the loss of family bonds.

If you are enabling, this is the devastation it can cause for those around you. Protecting someone you love from the natural consequences that addiction creates for them, often increases the duration and severity of the illness. You may be buffering the addict from the unpleasant consequences of their illness which may have otherwise lead them to seek help. If nothing else, your actions communicate to others in the family, especially the children that may be involved, that their safety and emotional well-being is second to the enabling of the addict. This will further alienate the children and more than likely they will feel no other choice than to assimilate and use along with the addict in time. They may not be able to verbalize it, but a part of the child may wonder why they were not valued enough to be protected from the chaotic lifestyle that addiction creates. This may haunt them into adulthood, causing mental health issues of anxiety and depression. There truly are serious and long lasting consequences from the addiction and the enabling. The illness is complex and so very difficult to navigate, so please, seek the help you need.

Most of us do not know how to effectively cope and deal with loving someone who is in the throes of addiction. It’s so very hard. It is a serious and persistent illness. If you or someone you love lives with a serious physical illness, you would stay on them to get the treatment they needed in order to heal. An addiction is a complex illness, involving both the physical and mental. Addicts needs aggressive and intense treatment early on to give them the best chance to recover! You may not be able to convince them to get help, but enabling them often buys them additional time to continue using. These individuals are often so sick they need others to confront the addiction that they hide and lie about that is literally killing them. They have lost connection to themselves and are unaware how badly things have become. Deep down the person knows that the damages are piling up and this causes increased using to numb themselves from the pain & guilt they feel has become unmanageable. The end of your enabling could help them stop so they can heal and recover. You will be helping them return to the self they lost in the cycle of addiction.

The children of addicts often become alienated, depressed, and will sometimes choose the path of addiction. It is a way to bond with the mother/father who has made it known all along that their addiction takes precedence over the relationships in their life. Children will decide to use to gain closer proximity to their addicted parent, longing for some type of bond. Using is a way to assuage the pain and assimilate with the culture of drug use in the home. If you are awake and listening, you will hear the concerns from the children in the home. Sadly, there is usually an enabler that communicates in actions and words that the addict is the most valued of the family unit and the concerns of the children will be silenced. Those enabling will swear up and down they do not display preferential treatment, but their actions and defenses to those who confront in any way the addiction, confirms to others that the addict is most protected and valued. The enabler, often a parent, needs to feel needed and must relieve himself/herself from the guilt associated with the reality that their child’s life is completely out of control. Too many enablers become enmeshed and are unable to separate themselves from the illness and what it has caused. Enabling actually takes an adult who could be effective in helping an addict and instead places them in a position where they are another obstacle to the addict’s sobriety and recovery. This is why it is so important if you are enabling an addiction to get the help you need to deal with the addiction in a healthier way. It’s okay to not know how to deal with the pain and fear of addiction, just please seek help from a trained therapist to help you navigate things more effectively. Losing one child to addiction is a tragedy. Enabling may lead to losing an entire family, the addict and those who confront the addiction.

Enabling can take many forms. It is not only giving money or financial assistance. Enabling can serve to protect the addict by not addressing their abusive and neglectful behaviors that are eroding the family unit. It can pave the way for the addict to neglect his/her children by being enabled to continue using in the home. When others confront the devastating behaviors of the addict, the enabler will often jump to the defense of the addict. If an addict lies or manipulates to financially exploit or even to isolate others who confront their addiction, the enabler will feel compelled to “jump in” and call you a liar and a manipulator. Enablers are skilled at shutting down the behaviors of those who confront the addict they are protecting, even in some cases the children of the addict. This leads to complete devastation in the family unit. Everyone is isolated, sick, and alone while the bond between addict and enabler is strengthened. Ironically, the person who should be isolated and confronted, the addict, becomes supported while all other members are devalued and isolated. The addict is happy knowing he/she has an ally in their enabler and the rest of the family is left completely eroded, annihilated. This is exactly what the addict has longed for: to continue using without being confronted.

When families are fractured by the addiction and the enabler remains defensive and in denial, the addict is in an even more dangerous place to use without interruption. The children of the addict feel hopeless as their voices have been drowned out and silenced. It’s acknowledged by the family unit that it is the addict who is valued, believed, and validated. Why bother, the child will say.

It seems like such a simple act, to help someone. But, enabling goes further by not only affirming the lifestyle choice in action, but defending the addict when others point out the damaging behaviors exhibited by the addict. The enabler will never admit to affirming addiction, but what they fail to acknowledge is that the addict is clouded by a chemical substance and the bond developed between the two is fabricated, not one of integrity. What an addict wants is to use and what an enabler allows is a way to continue using. I am not implying in any way that enabling causes the addiction. It’s a way to allow the addiction to continue with less consequences and it can create problems in familial relationships as the unhealthy bond between enabler and addict is strengthened, leaving others isolated and feeling hopeless.

Enablers are often in denial that the addict is voraciously lying and manipulating to cover up the devastation of their use in order to gain access to their drug. In active addiction, the true person is blunted and caught up in a cycle of using and withdrawing and will justify saying anything to gain access to the drug they seek. It is not personal and they will lie and manipulate to anyone able and willing to give them what is needed to access the drug. So, yes, the addict will lie and manipulate and an enabler will become defensive and point fingers back at those confronting the drug use. They will defend and shut down communication, using any type of tactic from shift-blaming to gaslighting to ensure the confronter knows it is pointless to even approach the subject with them again. Their goal is to protect their need to feel needed by the addict, to absolve themselves of guilt, and to strengthen the bond. The madness is that years will pass by and nothing will change and they will still sit, not only defending the addict, but silencing those who wish to confront. Addiction is a mean illness, no doubt. And it may seem by not enabling that you are denying a sick person help. Again, a trained counselor can give you ideas to help your loved one get the help they need.

Enabling is extremely damaging to the family unit and to the addict, as well. No one gets well and it becomes a hopeless situation, that often is left to it’s own demise.

I wrote this as a result of being involved with an addict and an enabler of whom I still love very much. The situation erupted, eroded, and deteriorated. I’m dealing with the aftermath and repairing the relationship with the individual who enabled. I’m uncertain if the addiction is still an active one and am taking the space and time to heal from the strain and stress that it all caused in my life. I am learning to develop stronger boundaries while working on accepting “what is” to avoid the devastating consequences of having unrealistic demands for both the addict and enabler.

If you are affected by addiction in your family or are currently enabling an addict, stay strong, and get the help you need. It is a true illness.  The addiction usually cannot be beat without significant help. Take care of yourself first.

I hold hope in my heart. I know my family has struggled as much as I have. And I feel that the person who was using and her children could benefit from counseling. But, it’s no longer my job or place. I have disengaged and am sharing from a place of love. Addiction is a very harsh illness. I hope the future brings so much hope for those struggling with addiction and their families!

In strength & love,

Amy

Making Snow Angels: Forgiveness and Freedom

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Please, stop the rain.

Turn these heavy, wet drops into snowflakes, blanketing the muddy and messy mistakes of life.

If it’s going to be a cold day, at least lighten my step with a lovely snow. Frame the chill with beautiful evergreen trees, heavy with the snow that the branches lovingly hold.

Once the rain turns to snow, I become like a kid, giddy, and trusting the process, embracing the world once again.

I’m surrounded by falling snow like a figurine, suspended, in a snow globe. I’m no longer clenching fists and jaw and I relax a little, turning toward the gentleness of life. Everything takes on a new, fresh identity. Even the cold seems welcoming and joyful.

The stillness and softness of the snow unwinds my tensed up shoulders & body. I begin to forget the harsh cold and bitter rain. I’m suspended in softness that is serene and peaceful.

Please, stop the rain and make it snow. I’d like to fall into the snow packed ground, making angels, while grinning ear to ear, staring at the starry sky.

Let me be light, like a snowflake. I’ll slowly ride a current of wind to the surface, where I’ll gently land with all the others, blending and covering the forest floor. And in that space I’ll commune with millions of magic raindrops that have blanketed everything in our path, turning frowns into smiles that erupt often, into laughter that playfully cuts into the cold, still night. Some will glide effortlessly along our surface with sleds and skis while others will watch from frosted window panes, mesmerized by our glorious ability to transform a dismal day of rain to a masterpiece of raw beauty.

Let it snow and let me be light.

Take this rainy night and transform it into something snowy and bright.

While it falls and covers the exposed and hurting earth, let it hug the hurt in its completeness, leaving nothing untouched by it’s snowflakes that sparkle by moonlight, shimmering like diamonds.

I’m falling back into you, making angels, and catching snowflakes on my tongue. I’m forgetting that I’m no longer a child and instead twirling, eyes wide open, taking you in completely, laughing joyfully. No one is with me in this space of snow and self forgiveness.

You’ve reminded me once again with your dramatic entrance that everything can change in an instant and it can be magical and transforming. You’ll soon be gone, but I’ve taken a recharge from you. It’s another reminder to let go and be light. Twirl and laugh more often. Even if you are alone in the cold and still night.

In all the storms I’ve weathered, I embrace a snowstorm with excitement and adventure.

So, let it snow. Let it be a blizzard. Let it blanket the earth in forgiveness, melting away grief and sadness when it exits in warmth.

Welcome Winter, I hope there is a snow storm brewing. I’m waiting in joyful anticipation. Let it snow.

Please, stop the rain.

Rooting for Our Humanity

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Mostly, I’m searching for answers. It always seems like I’m skirting around the flames, becoming uncomfortably warm, while desperately longing to become ignited, burning brightly. The flames seems so alluring, intense, wondrous, and beautiful.

My mind keeps being drawn back to the origins of our existence. Why are we here? Why this human design and why the gift of insight and curiosity? It would have been easier to operate within the constraint of biological urges, driven by basic needs, and lacking in the ability to question one’s intent and decisions. Why do we dream? What is this intangible part of us that fuels the desire to achieve more and become even more connected? And why do some of us appear to implode, folding in to the walls that promise us a false sense of security?

I’m interested in knowing more about our humanity. Are we losing it? Or are we in transformation? I often desire connection, but retract into hopelessness and at times, despair. I become lonely, a bit isolated. And, then I catch my breath, keenly aware that we are sharing this space together. I’m taking in the same air that you do and sharing with you the experience of now. No matter how close or far from me you are, together we are alive in this moment. There’s so much emotional noise and competition. The energy of life is overwhelming, trapping so many of us in various preoccupations and distractions. I sometimes forget that you are there with me.

Driving down winding roads at dusk, I’m quick to become captivated by your windows, brightly lit up, smoke ascending from the chimney. You are inside, hopefully warm, perhaps busy. You are alive and maybe lost in thought. I hope you are happy and full. Could you be kneeling right now and playing with the children on the floor or maybe you are wrapped up in your lover’s arms, lost in love? It could be that you are simply engaged in routine tasks, preparing for the work day ahead: brushing your teeth, taking a shower, laying out your clothes for the next day. The clothes so many others might notice tomorrow when they come into contact with you. Perhaps you are putting on the necklace that your widowed husband gifted you the year before he passed away. The one that still gets so many compliments. No matter your story, you are alive and we are sharing this present moment and space.

I continue to drive and I pass several cars. My thoughts drift to where you might be headed on this crisp Winter evening. I get lost in the layers of stories and become intrigued by the uniqueness of each person’s individual experience. I become electrified with the energy of life around me and wish I could understand more. Trapped in my physical form and isolated by the practicality of life, I can often only know you briefly in passing. When I see you driving, or in a store, or perhaps on the bus, I entertain myself with stories. I am aware that I am limited by your physical form, mannerism, and any small exchange we might have. But, I’m often curious to know how you are getting along. Life is lonely, at times, and it can be very hard. Sometimes, it’s silly I know, but I nearly wish we’d hug and acknowledge we’re in this existence together.

I go back to the four walls of my bedroom in my small apartment. My roommate is watching the news in the living room and the broadcast sometimes will spill into my room and I’ll hear bits and pieces of it. It’s a bit overwhelming for me and I limit my exposure to an entity that often elevates my anxiety and depression. There is so much noise right now in our world with constant screaming over issues large and small on Facebook. I step back and notice how angry we all are, and seemingly unable to reach consensus. I sometimes get caught up in the chaos, shouting loudly with fingers flying on the keyboard. It isn’t long before I remind myself again to “let go”.

I’m still searching and am confused as to why I am here. Why am I here in this time period, as a female, and in this human form? Why anything for that matter? Why live and why die? Why the biological processes, which are quite miraculous I might add, to sustain our limited and tenuous survival? Why are some leaving us so early, while others stay on? I ask these questions and I often laugh at the absurdity of life. I wish it were slower. I wish I were more connected to myself and others. I wish our communities were smaller and everyone knew each other. I am missing and longing for our humanity. What happened to us? Things feel different and I don’t want to lose you. Remember we are in this together, breathing the same air, sharing this amazing space and present moment. When I see you engrossed in your thoughts or actively involved in some endeavor, I’ll be rooting for you. In our aloneness, we are not alone. We’re ok. I wish you peace.

Tinsel, Treasures, and Toyland: Christmas Memories

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It’s Christmas.

I admit, I haven’t been as present as I would like to be. I’ve been pulled emotionally into familiar spaces, lamenting the loss of loved ones: those who are no longer living and those who are too distant to allow connection. At times, I’m swept up in grief which leads to isolation due to my angry and embittered tongue. The noise of life, its complexities, and heartaches entrap me. Still yet, there is life, light, and peace expanding around me. I often feel guilty for this newly discovered joy that continues to blossom despite the chaos that enfolds personally in my life and on the global stage. Life is messy, hard, and heartbreaking at times. Christmas is soft, beautiful, and peaceful. The contrast has captured my spirit, leaving me longing for acceptance of “what is” while increasing opportunities for joy and peace.

The holidays have a way of leaving you longing for more, desiring the magic and intensity of when you first experienced them. As a child, you were mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the seasons and protected from much of the harshness outside the season. I can remember sitting in the dark with only the Christmas tree lights, listening to Doris Day singing Toyland and other captivating tunes. The lights twinkled and I was completely absorbed in the present moment. Christmas parties meant delicious goodies from lemon bars caked in powdered sugar to cheese balls covered in nuts with fancy crackers. My senses were often overloaded as I gazed upon the decorations of the Season, my favorite being brass angel chimes with candles. It was all magical to me at the time. The presents, the lights, the music, and the cheer made for an exhilarating, exciting time. I was never once disappointed at Christmas. As an adult, I realize now that the world was spinning the same then as it does now, but my parents had protected me from ever seeing their exhaustion or worry. It is a blessing I am eternally grateful for having received.

I continue to embrace the season with excitement, but often get pulled into the struggle of life. I’d like to let go this season and embrace the child who was captivated and full.

I miss my Grandmother and her huge heart during the Christmas season. She was a foster parent and she ensured all the children in her care had gifts to open up Christmas morning. I will never know how she did it as I never asked her. But, she’d make 12 dozen or more sugar cookies and decorate them all! All the presents were wrapped and under the tree when Christmas morning came. Often there were so many gifts that they’d spill out filling the whole room and were stacked up behind the tree, taller than her. It was a magical sight to see! She usually had 15 children or more in her care and she made sure each child, big or small, got presents from Santa. I can remember most of the kids, including myself, getting roller skates! She lived in Florida and had an outdoor patio where we would skate all day outside when it wasn’t storming or raining. These memories are so long ago that they are faint, but still near and dear to my heart. She always loved Christmas, and since she has been gone we all try to make her sugar cookies, but they never turn out just like her cookies did. I’ll be making a batch soon, hoping to get close to her magical sugar cookies!

My mother continued the tradition of big Christmases with lots of gifts and treats. Our family grew up in the Lutheran church and Christmas Eve always meant going to the midnight candlelight service. The end of the service was beautiful as we each held a lit candle singing silent night among other carols. We would head home and I would often jump into bed with my older sister and try to sleep a wink. LOL. I was always the early riser, sometimes getting up by 4 or 5 eager to see what Santa brought! Looking back I really don’t see how my Mom and Dad didn’t want to kill me for waking them when they probably had just fell asleep!  I’d run out to the Christmas tree and scout out any unwrapped gifts. I’d go back and let my sister know what was left out, unwrapped. One special year, I remember being delighted to get a shiny, new Schwinn bike. A stuffed snoopy was sitting nearby and my sisters stereo also was left out, unwrapped. I was my big sister’s informant and she often rolled over, still sleepy, encouraging me to stay in bed. I’m forever grateful for my parents for letting me be a kid, excited and eager, often unable to wait to tear into the presents.

Writing this has left me in a treasured space. I don’t have children and am currently estranged from my sister and her adult children. It’s hard, but it is “what is” for now. I have been struggling to accept where things have landed and writing about these beautiful, treasured memories fills me with joy and peace. I will always be eternally grateful for parents who not only allowed me to “be a kid”, but actively ensured each Christmas was joyful and happy. They should feel full for the memories they created every year without fail. They were such special times and I felt very loved and cared for during the season. I was oblivious to any care or concern they might have had and they both worked, my Mom often working nights, even at Christmas, as she is a nurse. I know they were often exhausted and I was a burst of excitement and anticipation. They never acted annoyed or tired. It is a true gift in the end.

Writing this has renewed my spirit and inspired me. Often we forget and lose our way. I’m going to let go as much as I am able. I’m going to make some of my Grandma’s sugar cookies, go see the lights of the season, and listen to Doris Day’s, Toyland. It really doesn’t get any better that this! I’m feeling the spirit now! Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you find the peace and joy inside of you!

Cultivating Self Compassion: I am Enough

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There is something forming in my conscious that sounds familiar, but has felt foreign to me until recently. It’s a seed that is growing in size, full and impenetrable. It’s resting on the collective conscious of “what is” and longing for the wisdom and strength of what has left us. My spirit gravitates toward a space that is shared between what I have absorbed and what I have chased. This new landscape is difficult to articulate, I only know it is defined by my very own view of the world, and, I trust it.

I’ve spend many years in anguish. I didn’t feel I was enough. I was never smart enough, kind enough, talented enough, good enough, organized enough, wealthy enough, etc. There was never enough of me to feel “enough”. Every endeavor was designed to be a means to an end. It was as if every activity I engaged in had to have a value assigned to it. If I relaxed completely, letting go of counting the “inventory” of successes and failures”, I’d feel anxiety and shame for letting down my guard and not fulfilling my duty. I’ve always been driven, a perfectionist, determined to excel at the activities in which I invested time and energy. One can see quickly where this is headed. Over time, I grew deeply disappointed, depressed, and anxious.

I wanted more for my life. I expected more from people. I even expected more from the world. I was downright devastated when I awakened from the dream where I had expected those around me to be kind, honest, and authentic. I did have a few people in my life who were healthy individuals. However, I had spent most of my time in conflict with those in my life who were unable or unwilling to change. I allowed these people to suck up my time, energy, emotions, and thoughts. It was my mistake. I’m still unraveling and unpacking the last few years where the trauma of my past became intertwined with the trauma of certain loved ones. Was I indeed trying to save myself by holding on too tightly to their trauma? Again, this elusive seed that is growing within me tells me that it’s all about to change. I’m often giddy and joyful, nearly feeling free. It’s a foreign feeling as I sit in the space of so many colliding and conflicting emotions, but having the ability to process without impulsively acting. This is new for me, and I’m sure I will backslide a bit, but I like this feeling a lot. I’m going to work to maintain this.

I had a session a week ago where I was talking to my therapist about the distance I have purposely created between me and a loved one to “keep me safe” currently. This person is a relative and so it might be difficult to completely remain disengaged permanently. It is someone who has hurt me quite a bit and her lifestyle continues to concern me. My pattern has often been to confront when I am concerned. This has not benefited me as the person I am confronting does not want to change. My therapist, was pushing me a bit, stating that I could be engaged on some level if “I accepted her where she was at right now”. I quickly shared reasons why I could not do so. They were good reasons. It’s very hard engaging with this person and our relationship is quite fractured. Still yet, this “push” from my therapist of acceptance bloomed inside of me. I cannot quite articulate how so, I can only say that it was another window into a different way of existing outside the “cage” I have been inside of for years.

And so, all of this has been filling me with curiosity and even joy. It’s as if I took the pliers  and gently took off one of the steel bars of my cage.

Tonight, I sat making Christmas ornaments for my loved ones. It was an imperfect process and I realized some things were a tad off. In the past, that would have bothered me a great deal. I let it go this time. I said to myself, “I don’t have to be perfect”. I noticed the tension rising: “I should redo it, it’s not perfect”. It dawned on me how most people probably would’t even notice what I saw as “imperfect”. When did my world become so calculated and precise? That isn’t the world! I instinctively knew it was not! I know the trauma in my past created a pattern of perfectionism. I smiled at myself at the thought of finally being free of this pattern. It dawned on me rather quickly that because I had placed such high expectations on myself, I extended the same to loved ones. And often if people were unable to meet them, it was a reflection that I was “not enough”. Somehow, their inability to meet my expectations was my failure. I believe this is why I have fought so hard, at times, with these individuals. Truthfully, I should have “accepted them where they were at” and retained my dignity by not fighting or pleading for their involvement in my life. It was this realization, that I’ve had before, that has now cultivated a greater awareness. It’s as if another layer has nearly been revealed and I’m eagerly awaiting for the next chapter of my life to begin!

I believe it’s a “way of living” that I have missed out on due to trauma and my continual entrapment within it. I know it starts with me and knowing that I am “enough”. I am inherently worthy, we all are. Operating from that optic alone frees me from a lot of desperate behaviors where I was relying on others to affirm my self worth. Whoops! Not a great idea as people are often totally oblivious to your struggle and have their own full plates. And then, there is the awareness that I no longer need to listen to the voices of others either defining me or telling me who I am or not. I am accepting all of me, the imperfections, the mistakes, the mess, and the comeback. I can see all the complexity and  I embrace it. I don’t have to explain it to others. I am at a point now where despite all the messes, I’m pretty proud and impressed at the way I’ve cleaned them all up! I am learning to live more in the moment and I enjoy using all my senses as I lose myself in the experience of life.

The complexity of life, the sadness and the joy, are held simultaneously in one space in my heart. I am more level as a result and joy is finding me in many places. I’m sure I will be able to express the growing light inside much better in time. I’m glad it’s been uncovered and it is glowing brightly. It was there all along, but had been dimmed by many years where I was searching. Just thought I would try and share tonight as I continue on my journey of healing from the pain and confusion of trauma. Love and light!

“Morning Has Broken”: When Suffering Becomes a Blessing

Morning Has Broken
~Cat Stevens
Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass
Mine is the sunlight
Mine is the morningBorn of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning
God’s recreation of the new day
Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world.

beach woman sunrise silhouette
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
WOW! Have you ever had one of those moments of clarity where you feel so centered and deeply rooted that it genuinely surprises you? Suddenly you’ve arrived at the summit, a little winded and a bit fatigued, but completely joyful as you fall into the present moment, free and fully satiated. Determined to savor this slice of bliss in its entirety, you scan the horizon, using all senses, desiring to retain as much of the landscape as humanly possible. These are the moments that define us, the ones we work and wait for, and the ones we reminisce about, often sharing the stories multiple times throughout our lives.
My milestone came to me late this evening in an ordinary way. I wasn’t climbing a mountain, giving birth, or competing in a race. I was actually drying off from a hot lavender soak in my small tub. LOL. It was at the end of another uneventful evening. Both my friend and I have been hacking away with colds that we got right before Thanksgiving. As I often do, I had spent time earlier loving on my pup, Gracie, and throwing her green, squeaky toy down the hall for her to chase. It didn’t seem like anything was brewing. It was a very uneventful, gray day with rain on and off and a high wind warning in effect. I only went out once all day to take my pup to the dog park as it was dismal outside. The Fall and Winter months in the Northwest can be trying for those who suffer with depression, it gets dark early and rains often.
So, yes! Back to my milestone! It was late and I had taken a bath and was drying off. And that’s when it hit me, like a ton of bricks. The type of bricks that you can use with mortar to build an intricate, yet solid, foundation. Yes! My building blocks that I have been unknowingly waiting on forever, have finally arrived. No one ever shared with me that things might just snap into focus one day to reassure me that I not only had everything needed for me to rebuild, but I’ve also been granted the time to do so.  And, if they had told me, they surely didn’t tell me that one of my defining moments, would be after a day of literally no consequence, after having taking a hot bath. By the way, I’ve always loved a hot bath. It seems fitting, in an odd, but lovely way.
I had spent time earlier today lamenting to others about how I had recently been denied my SSDI and SSI benefits. I’ve been advised by two of my providers to hold off on going back to work until I complete a program that will hopefully help me develop better skills to cope with the stress of work and relationships. I’ve not been working for nearly a year and a half due to increased episodes of mania and depression and a weakened immune system where I was getting sick too often. However, I am becoming increasingly restless to get well. I am hopeful one day to be well enough to work again and contribute to society, helping others heal. I have always been in positions where I have helped others, often in recreation programming serving seniors or disabled adults. It was a meaningful job and I miss it. Living without money and being dependent on others is also very difficult when you have been relatively independent for most of your life, often living alone. It’s been a huge transition.
And so, as I was drying off and searching for my glasses, and then, it hit me. I suddenly recalled how many times over the past several years my spirit pleaded for rest. “Lord, I am weary”. Let me rest.
The details of my struggle are too great to mention here. I’ve been suffering as a result of running from pain and as a natural consequence to experiencing some unfortunate stressful events that continued to keep me hooked in a downward spiral until I literally loss the ability to work.
I knew in an instant, standing there with bathroom towel surrounding me, that I had been granted everything I needed to heal. I had prayed to heal for years. When you are living with chronic pain and anxiety, healing becomes a priority. I would say to myself: “If I only had the time to take off of work to truly get well and get the help I need”. Often these prayers were uttered while laying on wrinkled, warm sheets from tossing and turning throughout the night. The prayers were said when I had locked myself in the bathroom at work, pacing and trying yoga poses, to try and stop or prevent a panic attack. The prayers were uttered when I lost jobs and I was sobbing through broken tears saying again: “If I only had the time to get well”. The prayers were uttered when I was alone and broken and in physical pain.
I never felt that I had time to relax, I was always running from one job to the next. I was running to save an unsalvageable relationship with a Narcissist. All the desperate endeavors were exhausting and led me farther away from myself and into suffering. I prayed, read devotionals, sobbed, and hurt both physically and emotionally. I just did not know a way out yet.
The last couple of weeks I’ve been sulking, unhappy. I wanted to have more money. I’ve been too broke to go out and buy myself a coffee. My attention was gently drawn to the fact that I have two people helping me currently, my Mom and my ex-Spouse. I was reminded of my warm home with all my belongings. I already have two, not just one, Christmas trees up for the holidays. I actually have no money in savings, but I have people who are here for me and they are willing to help me as much as they can. My housing is provided for as I live with my ex-spouse currently and my mother pays for my car payment. My ex rents and we just recently moved into a two bedroom where we have more space. I have more than many and less than many. I actually have everything I need at the moment.
As I was doing this inventory in my head while drying off with my towel, I acknowledged that I really am ok. This is when it hit me like “a ton of bricks” that my prayers had been answered. I knew instantly that I had been granted the time and the help to truly rebuild my life. And now, I also possess the knowledge and know-how to not just build a flimsy structure, this time it would be an ornate castle of sorts where every stone placed will have been passed through my hand. It would be my design.
If I had not been through the struggle, I am certain now that I may not have understood the importance of rebuilding my life with each brick being bound by the mortar of “self love”. In the suffering, I was able to dismantle the cage and unravel the parts of me that needed inspection. The suffering had convinced me that change was definitely necessary. I remained frozen for awhile when the archaic structure fell to the ground.
And so, I am standing at the summit tonight! I’m looking forward to rebuilding so that I can reach even greater heights. But, for now, I will sit here and relish in the moment of receiving a true gift, time. I have been given exactly what my spirited needs. I have the space, the support, and the time to complete a treatment program and to do what is needed to be in a healthier state both mentally and physically. I was too busy surveying the loss to celebrate the victory. And now, I know better.