Thursday, February 28, 2013

Yoga - saying hello to my new body.

Before I get started on this post, I want to let you all know that tomorrow we have a special guest blog post.  My daughter, Grace, is not only a great writer, but she is an insightful, compassionate, faithful, dedicated disciple of Jesus.  She keeps a few blogs, and one in particular, Undivided Heart, focuses on her faith and the way she sees the world.  Recently she wrote a post on Proverbs 3:5 that challenged me and made me deeply grateful to be her mom. So, that's tomorrow.

Today, we're talking yoga.  Because after years of frowning at myself in mirrors and grumbling petulantly at my body, yoga is introducing me to myself in a way that I had never expected.

It is not uncommon for yoga to appear, to the untrained, as barely exercise at all.  It seems to be all about relaxation, being all bendy and stuff, like some sort of odd meditation for really flexible people.  In fact, yoga is hard work.  It is strength building, endurance training and balance - and not only the inner-peace type of balance, but "standing on one leg while patting yourself on the head from behind with your other leg" balance as well.

In fact, there is so much to yoga, and I am such a newbie, that I am going to stick to my own experiences and observations.  One of the most powerful things that I am experiencing because of yoga is a new awareness of my body.  Yoga involves moving the body into various positions, and holding the position for a period of time.  In an aerobics class, I might do 20 lunges on each side.  In yoga, I do two or three.  But every lunge is a finely crafted pose, and it involves the entire body.  The point is not just to work the muscles in the legs, but to become aware of what the rest of my body is doing.  Is my spine straight? Are my shoulders rolled back? Tailbone tucked in?  Hips and thighs turned forwards?  Are my arms parallel to the ground?  Is my head up, with my chin parallel to the ground?  Once all of that is accomplished, then we rest in the post.  Steady. Strong. Aware.

Every pose requires a detailed description of what the rest of the body is supposed to be doing during the pose.  It brings about an interesting awareness of the body.

The first time I did a yoga class, and was instructed to straighten my spine, the muscles that surround my spine went into rebellious spasms.  They were, like, "WHAT are you DOING?"  I answered, "I'm straightening you up." "Well, STOP IT!!"

The first time I lay on my back on my mat for a relaxation period after the work-out, I thought that I was fairly relaxed.  After all, I was tired.  Isn't that the same thing? Then our instructor gentle encouraged us to relax our backs into the mat, to allow our bodies to sink down.  And I became aware at how un-relaxed I actually was.  When I let my upper body sink into the mat, it literally sank down at least an inch.  My teeth were clenched.  My shoulders were tight. As I tried to relax, again, things started going into spasms.

You know that you're stressed when your body hurts more during the cool down/relaxation phase of the workout than it did during the actual workout.

Child's Pose
Many of the poses are really challenging.  I face plant on a regular basis.  The poses that each person finds difficult are individual to us, and usually depend on whether or not we are better at flexibility or at strength.  I am more flexible than strong.  Hence the face planting.  I also giggle a lot during yoga.  And when overwhelmed, I retreat like a turtle into a child's pose - mumbling from within my cocoon - "I just need a moment".

I may start doing that in life, as well.

I really appreciate the awareness and appreciation of my body that I am receiving from yoga.  In our culture, and I am no different, girls and women are not encouraged to be comfortable with their bodies.  The entire fashion/cosmetic/beauty product industry is specifically designed to create a dissatisfaction with our bodies that they then offer the solution a price. I've been frowning at myself in mirrors for longer than I care to remember.  Chronic illness and pain adds a whole new dimension to the "I hate my body" dynamic.  I confess that I have said, many times, how much I hate my body.  I know that Scripture says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  But when this body is hurting me, when it limits me because of illness or pain, when it (apparently) causes rejection and mockery, when it is abused and helpless to fight back, it is hard to love what seems to be continually betraying me.

When I am in pain, I have an understandable tendency to focus on the pain as the strongest element of my body.  Yoga is teaching me to see all the other parts of my body that are working magnificently.  To be aware, of the increasing strength in my legs and arms, of my posture and the ease that I am now able to hold myself straight,  of the oddly relaxing pain of a deep stretch, and my ability to relax into it and be still and even comfortable while my muscles are gently growing in strength.  I move more easily, have less aches and pains, heal more quickly, and am able to withstand physical discomfort with more peace. I am less stressed.  I am slowly being introduced to my body, in a gentle, loving way.

For many years, I have struggled with the attitude of others who believed that illness equaled weakness.  I was mocked, accused of faking my pain, pushed to stop taking my medications (including my heart meds) and accused of being a pill junkie when I refused.  I was regaled with stories about people who didn't let their acute pain stop them, and wondered what that had to do with me and my chronic pain.

I have repeatedly had to choose to trust God's strength within me, to allow myself to grow in compassion and love through the pain.  I shut out the voices of those who questioned my faith, because if I believed, wouldn't I be healed?  Instead, I received God's pleasure in my choice to serve Him and love others in my pain, and felt Him strengthen me at each step of faith.

For me, yoga is the next step in getting to know who I am, physically.  To be strong in my body, and stronger in my faith.  To appreciate the wonder of a heart that kept on beating strongly during a heart attack, of a body that nurtured and gave birth to my miraculous daughter, to the body that keeps me moving forward, and upward.

And, really, yoga is just a lot of fun. For everyone...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pink Shirt Day

Today is "Pink Shirt Day" in Canada.  Pink Shirt Day began in Canada in 2008, when a student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt on his first day of school.  Two seniors heard about the incident, and the next day, they not only showed up wearing pink shirts, but they encouraged other students to do so as well.  What began as a show of solidarity to one student who was being bullied, became a nationwide campaign to form a protective pink wall of support around any student that is suffering the pain of being bullied.

There are all sorts of things that we, in the Western world, do to show our support for various causes.  We wear ribbons of particular colors associated with particular illnesses, we sign petitions and re-post, re-blog and re-tweet supportive messages, we wear t-shirts with an endless supply of positive slogans on them...we try, in any way that we feel we can, to make a difference in our world. And that is a very good thing.

The neat thing about Pink Shirt Day is that it is about displaying the solidarity of community.  And community is the one way that bullying is thwarted.  It may be the only way.  We can legislate against it, holding bullies accountable on every possible level. While these are good and important measures, they all take place after the fact.  After the bullying has happened.  Community has the unique ability to meet bullying where it begins, and to step through it, surrounding the victim with a powerful wall of support.  Community can stop it as it is happening, and keep it from happening.  Often, the road to holding a bully legally responsible for his or her actions is a long, torturous, demoralizing and even humiliating one for the victim.  Community is the opposite. It confronts bullying, not by going after the bully, but by surrounding the victim with encouragement, support, positive messages and the protective, loving respect that enables the victim to stand taller, and to rest in the security of the group.

I have been the grateful, blessed recipient of this sort of protective action against bullies intent on messing with my life, my head and my heart.  I am surrounded by a strong wall of respect and care that is really quite miraculous in its ability to help me stay calm and feel grounded.  While I have called the police, and there is a measure of security there, my true strength and security comes from God, and from the people who are milling around me, telling me encouraging truths, countering the lies, guarding my reputation with their knowledge of who I am, and just simply loving me.  No one is "going after" anyone.  A community's tactics for defeating bullying does not depend on crushing the bully.  It does depend on building up the victim. On guarding the victim's heart.  If it takes ten positive statements to counter a negative one, community freely offers those ten, and even more.

As adults who grew up in the days when a bully was going to have to do his or her bullying face to face and often in the actual presence of others, it is difficult to understand the pressures that modern technology places on young people, and the ease in which a young person can be bullied, either anonymously or by a bully hiding behind the veil of social media.  Imagine giving a talk to a board room full of your peers, knowing that one of them is posting rude, derogatory comments about you to the others in the group.  How confident would you be? How would your presentation change?  Or imagine sitting at home after a long day at work and seeing a unflattering photo of you, taken that day by a co-worker, being posted and shared by dozens of people, all leaving rude, derogatory remarks aimed at you.  Some of them may be posting anonymously, which is even creepier. You don't even know who to avoid the next day at the water cooler.  Lies can spread faster in this information age than ever before, and once something is out there, there is no bringing it back.

But then, imagine for every rude comment, picture or piece of gossip, there was a flood of positive, encouraging posts.  Imagine how incredible it would feel to see that wall of community moving in around you, blocking, dismissing and closing out the ugly, and filling you with courage, hope and the reality of their love and affection for you.  Nobody's tearing anyone else down.  There is just building up and understanding.  Within the community, you are allowed to talk about your pain and insecurities, to vent your anger and frustration without being judged.  You can cry, and mourn, and be confused, and find your bearing, all in the comfort of nurturing acceptance.

We need to do this for each other, folks.  We need to gather the courage and strength to build a protective wall around those victims of bullying in our midst. We need to keep our eyes and electronic devices open so that we know what is going on and can act accordingly.  We need to take this past Pink Shirt Day.  We need to understand that the point is not to crush bullies. Bullies are often broken people, themselves.  The point is to be a safe, solid place for victims. The point is to say, "No!" to bullying, by forming a shield that it can't penetrate.  To say that this community is here for anyone that needs or wants it, but being a part of it requires respect, honesty, kindness, forgiveness and care.  We build boundaries, not just around ourselves, but around each other.  We pay attention, not just to how we are doing or feeling, but to others as well. We recognize our mutual flawedness, and love each other anyway.

Most importantly, and I know I've said this but it bears repeating, we must take this past Pink Shirt Day.  It must become a way of life.  We can become each other's cheerleaders.  We can even, and this is where it gets hard, be a bully's cheerleader as he or she begins to move out of the rut of anger, fear and aggression and into healthier ways of making relationships.

There is no "not getting involved".  A witness to bullying is involved.  Doing nothing sends a very clear signal. The bully will be grateful for your support. The victim will feel humiliated, wounded and bruised by your betrayal.

I tell my story because I know, know, know that it gets better.  I know what a faithful, loving community can do in the midst of the pain of bullying.  I know it hurts.  If we allow bullies to shut down the voices of those around us, we all miss out.  If we offer support and community, we not only strengthen the voices of victims, but we give them wonderful stories to tell of how it really, truly does get better.  We save lives by reaching out.

Why wouldn't we want to be a part of this?

Just a thought.

Monday, February 25, 2013


When we are feeling sad, remembering the good things in our life is a helpful way of keeping despair, bitterness or self-pity at bay. But remembering the good times must not become a substitute for fully mourning our losses and feeling our pain. 

We remember our blessings, not to avoid the very real, appropriate pains of life, but to eliminate the lies, like "No one will ever love me", "I am so alone" or "I am such a failure". Sorrow is a valuable, important part of our emotional, mental and spiritual lives. We are allowed to be sad. We are even allowed to mourn losses that others don't understand. "You're better off without him." "It was a lousy job anyway." "Who needs them?" Our losses are ours, and we need no one's approval to mourn them.

Scripture says that mourning lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning. There is a season for mourning. It is individual, and unique to you. Don't allow anyone to pressure you to shorten it with calls to remember the good times, and don't let fear, bitterness or self-pity infect your sorrow, prolonging your suffering. I trust my God to guide me through this journey, to make the path plain to me, and to never, ever leave me alone. 

I wrote this on my Facebook profile a few days ago.  Sometimes I think we try too hard to cope, manage, control, get through difficult times in our lives, rather than allowing ourselves to live and breathe and experience our lives and feelings.  I completely understand why we do this.  Sometimes, I feel so much pain that all I want to do is figure out how to get out of it.  

Saturday was like that for me.  I was alone at home, and simply in emotional pain.  I paced the floors, cried, tried to read or watch television, but I couldn't concentrate.  I prayed and prayed, simply to touch God and remind myself that He was there.  He was present, but quiet.  I tried to nap a few hours of pain away, but couldn't shut off my mind long enough to sleep.  I did all the stuff that "they" tell us to do, in those creepy self-help books with names like, "Four easy steps to permanent joy in Jesus!"  and "How to mourn your losses in 14 days or less!"  I took captive every thought, especially the ones that stung like hell when they hit my brain, but they just came back.  Or they didn't. And I still hurt.

I mentioned before that for Lent, I feel like God is asking me to give up trying to control, manage and escape the pain of loneliness.  I am, for the most part, an introvert, and I cherish my alone time.  This is not about not being comfortable being alone.  It is about being comfortable being alone with my pain.  Essentially, that's what the loneliness is.  It is about enduring.  Enduring. What a hard to word to reconcile oneself to.  

Several years ago, it was discovered that I had a mass on one of my lungs.  Because I have had other masses that turned out to be cysts, one on the pericardium (the protective membrane around the heart)  I wasn't really worried about it.  It was just assumed that it was a cyst.  Still, the doctors wanted to biopsy it, and to try to reduce it's size because they thought that some of my chest pain might be the mass pressing on other organs in my chest.  

Biopsying the cyst without cutting open my chest would require a bit of ingenuity on my surgeon's part.  A plan was devised that involved slowly inserting a needle through my ribs, chest wall, etc, into the cyst.  It was tricky, because the path to the cyst passed through some pretty important bits that probably shouldn't be poked with a needle.  The surgeon devised a path using x-rays, and I was placed on a MRI table.  The "map" that the surgeon would follow was taped to the outside of the MRI machine.  The surgeon would insert the needle into my chest, topically freezing me before hand, and after each millimeter or so, I would head into the MRI machine to see if he was on the right track.  That's how it went.  For an hour and a half.  I lay on the table, with my arms above my head, perfectly still, while a surgeon slid a needle into my chest tiny bit by tiny bit, with frequent trips into the MRI machine to make sure everything was okay.

A problem arose, though, when 20 minutes into the procedure, it began to hurt.  Seriously.  I am pretty tough when it comes to pain, but every millimeter increased the pain and I began to struggle with it.  The surgeon was surprised.  I was being frozen, nothing should be hurting.  But I was hurting.  By about 40 minutes in, I was crying.  Still lying with my arms above my head, still holding completely still, but in so much pain that I couldn't hold back my tears.  It went on like that, the pain increasing, for another 50 minutes.  I was deeply distressed, the doctor was apologetic and confused, the nurses and technicians in the room were compassionate and comforting.  But the pain was over-whelming.  It filled my chest. I couldn't do deep-breathing exercises, which I often do in physically painful circumstances, because it was important that I not move my chest too much.  It was terrible.  Still, I knew that if I moved or became uncooperative, the only person I would be hurting would be myself.  The needle was in my chest.  I had to stay still.

Finally, the cyst was reached, and the surgeon began to siphon fluid off of it.  He only got it half-way emptied when it closed in on itself and the needle.  I was told that if the surgeon was going to be able to completely empty it, he would have to withdraw the needle and go at it again from another angle.  I couldn't do it.  It had been 90 minutes, I was exhausted and absolutely willing to take a chance that the half-emptied cyst would behave itself.

An x-ray that followed showed why I had been in so much pain.  Apparently the needle had to pass through some cartilage, and even though the path was frozen, when the needle pressed on the cartilage, it required some pressure to penetrate, which pressed the edges of the cartilage into my chest and caused pain.  Also, the cyst turned out to be inside my lung, and so the needle had to penetrate my lung wall to reach it.  Which is a very painful thing.  

The point of all of this is the idea of endurance.  Holding still while pain wracks our hearts, minds and bodies.  Certainly, we choose to avoid pain if we can.  But if we can't, if avoiding pain would cause more damage than enduring it, we have to endure.  

People can mill around us as we suffer, they can stroke our hair and listen to our tear-filled cries and wish that they could ease our pain, they can love us and walk with us, and when they do they are a treasure beyond compare.  In the end, though, it's just me and the surgeon...or me and my God.  

I know I keep saying this, but I am immensely grateful for the community that God has placed me in.  Everyday, I become aware of some new aspect of this wonderful community that blessed me deeply and helps me to keep moving forward.  In the midst of the pain, you are. Thank you.

Peace out.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Settling down...

It has been almost a week since I received the threat of "exposure", and I don't know what's happening in the La-La-Land where the threat came from, but here, things are settling down.  My home is starting to feel like a safe haven again.  I am much calmer.  And I am continually astounded at the strength, grace and beauty of the community that God has placed Grace and I in.  I can't give a lot of details about steps that I have taken to deal with the threat, other than the fact that the police are involved, but as far as how I am doing emotionally, I feel much less threatened.

I know that things can change in an instance.  If and when the plan for my "exposure" fails, another plan may be hatched. A scarier, even more malignant plan.  I know that there are no guarantees that this will end soon.  Still, I feel reassured.

One of the most important things that I have learned through this is the power of community in the face of a bully.  A bully's power is enhanced by the silence of his (or her) victim.  This is why so much of a bully's effort is put into making sure the victim doesn't tell.  Someone suggested that I stop writing about my situation in my blog, for my own protection.  This is not an option for the very reason that silence empowers the bully.   What do we tell young people who are being bullied? Tell someone.  When someone is calling my friends and family and telling them slanderous lies about me, they are trying to take control of my story.  My solution?  Tell my own story, my own way. Of course, it helps that I am a writer and a blogger.

So, life goes on.  I still have times when I feel dreadfully lonely.  God has been asking me to stop trying to manage and control my loneliness, and as I have been praying about and working on it, the events of the past few weeks have made the loneliness worse.  My community has my back, no doubt.  But in the dark of night, when anxious thoughts try to invade and the events of the day are playing like a slide show through my mind, it's just me and God.  And God is asking me to accept that, for now, He is all I need in those midnight hours.  I know that He is.  Truly, He is all I will ever need.  I am growing, emotionally and spiritually, into the knowledge of God's amazingly complete sufficiency.  And that is a very good thing.

Peace out.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Woman, A Christian, AND Angry? Oh my!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Christian culture, specifically the fundamentalist/evangelical branch of it, you may not be aware of this, but Christian women are apparently not supposed to get angry.  Yeah, I know. I was shocked, too.  Apparently, it isn't godly, or feminine, or cool to be a woman, a Christian and pissed off. Oh, and yeah, we probably shouldn't say things like "pissed off" either.  My bad.

I have had Christian men come across the table at me in anger during Bible studies because I disagreed with them and wasn't convinced by their arguments.  I have been called a "Monica Lewinsky" at a board meeting of mostly men...I'll let you figure out the reference.  I have had to listen to a male lay leader make an angry public announcement that accused me of adultery and deceit, in a meeting full of people that included my 12 year old daughter.  In all of these instances, I had to bite my tongue. Swallow my anger. In the church, as a woman, I learned early that if I allow myself to get angry, I immediately lost any credibility that I had.  Not that I had much, but still...

Later, I listened to a lay couple counsel my husband and I, a couple who were clearly untrained and unfamiliar with the domestic violence issues that we were dealing with.They counselled me to avoid making my husband angry. When I got angry at this advice, it felt very much as if my "female" rebellion was exposed. It made no difference that my rage-obsessed husband was sitting across the table from me in a seething fury.  My anger was abusive. His was justified.  What evil, deviant, horrific words did I spit out in the verbal abuse that I was accused of? Recently I asked my ex-husband what I had said that was so abusive.  His reply? I called him a bully.  A liar.  Lazy.  This is what constitutes angry, violent abuse in a Christian woman.  Apparently, a Christian man can get away with anything.

I say this now because I am angry.  And fighting the urge to apologize. Recently I wrote an email telling a friend of mine that if she has any knowledge about who might be supporting my "bully" in his threats against my daughter and I, she should share it with me.  When I read the email now, I am sickened at how apologetic I sound.  Like, if you're comfortable sharing...maybe you should pray about it...whatever you think is right... Seriously?  Everybody I have told about the threats I received on Saturday, including the police, were deeply concerned for the safety of my daughter and I. And I know things that make the threat even worse.  Why the hell am I being apologetic about asking for info that might protect us? Why do I even have to ask?  Damn!  I am angry!

You know what I love? I wrote about this situation to my pastor last night.  My Presbyterian pastor is a woman.  And you know what? She was angry. She wrote in caps and everything, and used lots of exclamation marks.  She was royally PISSED!!!!!  How brilliant is that?

As I read her email, I swallowed the urge to console her and instead, allowed her indignant fury to minister to me.  And then I heard from my best friend, and lo and behold, more exclamation marks of anger!  There are no men in my life who are close enough to me or brave enough to be moved to protective anger.  Sometimes, it is hard to feel God's protectiveness, when everyone is trying to be rational and safe.  But  when people we love are being threatened and wounded, the fact that we love them makes us angry.  If we are not angry, then we either do not love them out of apathy, or our fear has squelched the love.

 I am surrounded by brave, loving, compassionate women who see the danger that my daughter and I are in, and who are angry about it.  And their anger is a balm to my soul. It is not out of control. It is not hate-filled. It is love-induced. It makes me feel valued. Loved. And so not alone.

 How can I ever trust the powerful, holy, protective anger of God if the men in my life don't care enough to bother and the women are more interested in being safe and accepted than they are in being real and alive?

My pastor and my best friend have showed the heart of God for me, when they react in anger at the injustice and hate that has been directed at my child and I.  They give me freedom and courage to be honest about my own anger.  The truth is, I trust God more now than I ever have in my life.  God is giving me courage to do things that I need to do to protect myself.  Including calling the police and telling them the truth no matter what vengeful ramifications might come my way.  My bullies may see my anger as rebellion, abusive, demonic...I see it as a God-given reaction, a mother charged with protecting herself and her child, and a loving call to action and courage and strength.

I have no desire to hurt anyone.  I am not responsible for the behaviour of the bullies who threaten me. I don't want to be here any more that anyone else does.  But I promise this.  If anyone knows anything that might serve to protect my daughter and I, and does not share it with me, and if we are harmed in anyway because of their silence, I will be angry.  Seriously angry.  I'm a Presbyterian now, and apparently we're allowed to be women AND angry. So be prepared.  There are laws for a reason.  God is a just God.  And I am not alone.

Peace out.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Just in Time for Anti-Bullying Day...

I wrote recently about my snow shoveling pal, the one who "knew what was wrong with me."  I heard from him again today.  Only this time, it got real.

He told me that God had not only told him what was wrong with me - his diagnosis, by the way? Psychopathic  narcissism - but God had told him, and had confirmed it through other people, how to help me with my condition.  When I politely declined, I was warned that God had also told him and the others that, should I refuse to allow them to "help" me, they were to "expose" me.

I am not sure what this exposure will entail.  I did ask him if he was getting help for his (obvious) issues,  but he responded negatively (and indignantly), and I hung up on him.

I was also told that my "helpers" are aware that I am not crazy.  Apparently this is a moral issue.  I am evil.  I suspect their "help" involves some form of praying the devil out of me.  Or maybe an exorcism.

You think I'm joking?  Sadly, I'm not.

Anti-bullying day is coming up. This is a clear and vicious form of bullying. The people who are supporting this fellow are church people. I cannot call them Christians. I see no Jesus in this.  I have tried to be subtle, to protect the obviously mentally ill person who is leading this charge.  But I think the time is coming when that will not be possible.  I have called the police. My "helper" is known to them.  This is all too real.

And I am not going through this in silence.  I am not becoming invisible, to accommodate a group of religious bullies who believe God gives divine rights to them, to punish "rebellious women and children". Not this woman. Not my child. Not any woman and child. Or man, for that matter.

Tonight, I want to share how I feel. Right now. This may not be how I will feel tomorrow. Or even in an hour. But it is how I feel about the threats, the aggression, the attack that has been perpetrated on me today. Please, if you feel the need to correct me on any of these feelings, don't.  These are just my feelings, and I suspect that they are feelings that anyone who has been bullied, or is being bullied, recognizes.  They are real. They may not represent reality, but they are real.  I may not be alone, but I feel alone. The point is to be real, and honest, and to make plain what others are trying to shove into darkness.

So, yes. I feel alone.

I feel scared. Terrified. I don't even know what I was actually threatened with. This is scary to me.

I feel unprotected.  Vulnerable. Weak. Empty.

I don't want to be here. I don't want to do this, to go through this, to be me.  I want to hide, to escape, to be invisible.

I am angry.  Furious. Seriously and wildly pissed off.  At the person who called me. At the church people who are enabling and encouraging him. I have had several people tell me that he tried to call them. They saw through him, and refused to listen.  He is obviously not well.  The police who have seen him have seen it. Several counselors have seen it. His friends have seen it.  One of his closest friends told me, "I think he's sicker than we originally thought".  Ah...but throw a bit of religious rule disobeying in the mix, and these religious freaks are all over him.  Pull out the pitch forks!  Saddle the horses! Let's take this heretic DOWN!!!  This makes me mad, mad, mad.  Mad.

I feel guilty.  Guilty that people who love me have to deal with this, that my child has to deal with this, that I didn't handle it better in the beginning.

I feel tired. Tired of fighting, of trying, of living.

I feel hopeless.  And did I mention feeling alone?  When my mum was dying, she became very maternal and protective of me. She kept offering me money and asking me if I was okay.  This was a new dynamic for us.  After she died, I found myself wanting to lie with my head in her lap. To be protected and cared for.  To know that someone was going to take care of me, to help me, to chase the dragons away.  I feel like that now.  As much as I rejoice in the knowledge that if my mum was alive, she would want to do that for me, I mourn the loss of her, and her mother-ness.  I want my mommy.

I don't know how to stop this. To make it go away.  To fight the lies and hate. I don't understand this kind of hate.  I'm not perfect, and I have hated. I have had moments when I have wanted to hurt someone. But to be so cold, justify it by blaming it on God?!  I don't get it.  And it scares me.

I want to hide. To be quiet. To disappear. I used to be able to disappear. Imagine that.  Me. Blending into the scenery. Hiding.  A lot has changed, eh?  Sometimes, I wish I could still do it. But when I do try it, it feels like dying. Seriously.  It feels like going to a dark and dangerous place. I can't do it.  But man alive, right now, I want to.

I also feel angry at God. (Please folks, remember. No corrections.)  I want Him to drop the hammer. To send the thunder and lightening. To work a miracle and bring back the person that I knew and loved, not the hard, cold, angry person who is threatening me now.  And failing that, I want Him to stomp out my oppressors. To expose them like they threaten to do to me.  And maybe He will. In His time. But I want it done NOW!

I feel sad. Heartbroken.  I want to curl into a ball and weep. I feel old. In so much pain.  And then I think, the bullies might be reading this and rejoicing in my pain and then I feel angry again.

I just want it all to stop!

And that's how I feel.  And if you feel like this too, I am so sorry.  I know it is hard.  I know.  As angry as I am at God, I have no where to go but to Him, and I do it with faith.  Because I may not have enough faith not to be angry, but I do have enough to know, know, know that my anger does not change His love for me.  Or for you.  Please, please, please don't give up. Don't let go. This is how it feels today, now. But it is not forever. You know, when they say it gets better? It does. Really. I know this. I don't feel it right now. But I KNOW it.  We are precious and loved and our lives are worth living. Our voices are worth hearing.

And if you want to share your voice, to be heard, please email me. I promise to listen.

For you, dear wounded one, I can be quiet.

Peace out.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ah...Valentine's Day...

I wanted to write a Valentine's Day post, but to be honest, I am so full of thoughts and feelings about being loved and loving others, I really can't figure out how to put it all into words that would make sense to others.

So...last year, I was all, "I'm going to spend Valentine's Day pouring love out into my world and focusing on others!" and I did, and it was lovely.  I was reminded once more of how deeply I am loved, and how much I love the people around me.  I wrote about it here.

Last week, I was in a craft store with a couple of friends, frowning at all the red and pink stuffies and paper hearts, and cursing it all to hell.  Partly for comedic effect (I did, after all, have an audience) but partly because this year, I was dreading Valentine's day.

Now, one would think that, having cursed all things love related, I could expect at least a rebuke from God. Perhaps a lightening bolt.  A smack upside the head.  Something to express His deep disappointment at my moral failure.  Instead, I have been loved. Abundantly. Extravagantly. Intimately. Sweetly.  And constantly.

I have received gifts of love and appreciation.  I have been encouraged with kind and uplifting thoughts.  I have been, how I have been hugged, by sweet children and smiling friends that I haven't seen in a while and my precious goes on and on.  I have had concerned friends ask me how I am and push past the "I'm fine."  I have been listened to, respected, care for. I have felt compassion and care and love from so many different places.

What is all comes down to is this.  God heard my words in that craft store.  But more importantly, He heard my heart.  I follow a God that looks past my exterior to the truth that is inside me.  And He saw a need that He met, so abundantly that it is impossible not to see Him in every expression of love.  I'm still trying to figure out my need, to understand.  But God knows. And provides.

I do love all my friends and family so much.  I could not be without you, not for just what you contribute to my life, but for who you are.  I truly feel today as if I am most blessed of women, surrounded by so much love and kindness and wisdom.  In my heart, you are treasures. I may not always express it well, or at all, but it is important to me that you know, dear loved ones, that you are important to me and I love you.

You rock. Like, seriously.

Peace out.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Crying Shame...

Last week we had a snow storm.  Not exactly snow-mageddon, but it left enough snow that, on Saturday when I had to get out of my driveway, it was going to require some shoveling.  Grace was out, and I was already experiencing a bit of angina caused by a ridiculous lapse in my med-taking (but that's another story). Still, work called and I had to get out.  As I headed out, armed with a shovel and adequately bundled, a car pulled up to my apartment.  Someone I know, who I've had a difficult relationship with, stepped out of the car, reached into the back seat, pulled out a shovel and asked me if I needed help shoveling.  

I was surprised.  And happy. To be honest, I wanted to hug the person.  I did need help, and it just felt good to be having such a positive interaction.  So, we shoveled.  I did the light stuff around the car, and my helper did some of the heavier shoveling. The sun was shining.  The air was fresh. I was a bit confused, but open to miracles and feeling happy.

Then my helper started talking. And all was made clear.

"I've figured out what is wrong with you."  

I kept shoveling.  I smiled, because, really, this wasn't entirely unexpected, and said, "Yes, I've heard." Because I had heard.  

"God told me."


"No, God really told me..."

I stopped shoveling.  Leaned on my shovel.  

"You need to do and think whatever helps you to be okay with who you are and the things that you've done.  If this is it, it's sad, but not a problem for me."

The person went on, said a few more things, aimed a few accusations and insults my way.  When I spoke to address the comments, I was told that this was not a discussion.  I wasn't to speak.

I smiled again.

"If you are going to come here and throw these accusations at me, and tell me that I am not allowed to address them, then this is an old pattern that I don't do anymore.  You need to stop talking now."

Then there was silence.  Shoveling.  Snow flying everywhere.

"Well, anyway, it's between you and God."

I didn't even need to stop shoveling to address this one.  I agreed wholeheartedly, and spoke about how wonderful God had been to me, how He cares for Grace and I, how He is everything I need.

More shoveling. 

Then we were done, and the person left.

Alone, in my driveway, sweeping snow off of my car, the intensity of the interaction began to hit.  I had been calm and felt peaceful during it.  When I was alone, though, my hands started to shake.  My stomach felt ill. Finally, I leaned on the car, in the sun, and cried.  

I was sad.  Something potentially nice had turned ugly, and that really is a sad thing.  But something else was there.  Something small, niggling, but very real. And very painful.

Shame.  I felt shame.  For accepting the help. For needing the help.  For hoping for something better.  

Shame is one of the most powerful weapons in a bully's arsenal.  It is brutal, quick, and often silent.  Undetected, it can haunt a victim, and is one of the primary reasons victims of bullying begin to withdraw, isolate themselves, self-harm, and even attempt suicide.  Unfortunately, shame often goes undetected.  

I think that shame is well defined in a comparison to guilt.  Guilt is a negative feeling that is about something that we have done. Shame is about who we are. Guilt says, "I have done, said, thought something wrong."  Shame says, "Who I am is wrong"  It's the difference between "I have done bad things" and "I am bad".  The person who feels shame feels less than, demeaned, and inherently bad. And hopeless.  Shame is the intent behind blaming the rape victim for being raped.  It is the meaning behind, "You made me hit you."  The abuser says, in many different ways and usually repeatedly, "I do these bad things to you because you deserve them."  And sooner or later, most victims fall into the mindset that, maybe if I was smarter, better, stronger, I would be able to stop the abuse.  If shame is planted by the abusers, it is watered by people who tell abusers how to avoid "getting him angry", "being a tease", or "making her cheat." Victims, who desperately want the abuse to stop, often hold onto shame like it's a lifesaver.  Maybe if I just....

Efforts to control abuse and bullying using shame are always unsuccessful.  Because bullying behavior belongs to the bully, and is not in the control of the victim.  Shame punishes the wrong person, for the wrong reasons.  Someone who is mugged because he stopped to help a person who appeared to be in need may feel shame for being so gullible, for stopping to help.  Wanted to help someone in need is not wrong. Believing someone's cry for help is not wrong. Mugging someone is wrong. Shame tempts victims to change who they are, often in ways that leave them feeling alone, uncomfortable and despairing.  What if I want to be a kind person, and to help others?  What if changing into a cynical, cold, hard person is not what I want for my life?  

I felt shame because I had believed that the offer of help was genuine.  I felt shame for the fact that I have a heart condition and needed help.  But these things are not wrong.  Being insulting and rude is wrong.  I don't want to give up being hopeful and open to others.  I recognized the shame quickly, because it is an issue that I have dealt with in great detail in my life.  I know that I handled the situation well. I handled it without being rude or aggressive.  I set healthy boundaries - in shutting down the conversation when it became apparent my helper did not want me to respond.  I rejected the insults, in a calm, controlled and peaceful manner.  I didn't argue or fight, because there was no point. I was in my own driveway, in my own space, and I took control of what went on in my space.  Really, the interaction was an attempt at bullying that failed.  Having an opinion that I don't like, thinking that I am not quite all there, is not a crime.  Forcing me to listen to a litany of insults would be wrong, but I didn't allow that.  

My sadness was genuine, and healthy.  I care about this person.  I am sad that they have gone this route.  The shame, though, was not healthy.  I did nothing to deserve the insults.  Even accepting the offer of help did not earn my helper the right to try to hurt me.  I accepted what was offered, and rejected the negativity that came along with it.  My helper could have left at any time.  Of course, leaving before the job was done would have blown my helper's cover as a benevolent soul, reaching out to poor, lost me.  That wasn't my problem.  

Shame lies. Boldly and blatantly, shame tells us that we caused our own pain by trusting, by reaching out or accepting a helping hand, by not foreseeing the pain, by being who we are. Lies, lies, lies.  Shame offers to protect us from further pain, but if we accept shame in our lives, we are setting ourselves up for more pain than we can imagine. 

If trusting others occasionally causes us pain, a refusal to trust anyone isolates us and leaves us lonely and in constant pain.  If opening our hearts to others results in sometimes being hurt, closing our hearts in cynical, cold anger never stops hurting.  I would rather be in charge of who I am and how I react to the world around me, even if I get hurt at times, than to give that power to shame and lose control of myself and to live with a constant, dull, crippling disgust with my neediness, my desire to dream, my longing for love and hope.

Yes, I was hurt.  But without the infection of shame, hurts heal.  Shame creates the kind of behavior that I met up with that day. Shame shows up with a shovel and a heart full of ugly words.  A calloused, angry, closed, shame-filled heart still has to find a way to be okay with itself. 

I can’t help but believe, after living with the fruit of shame and seeing it like I did on that day, going down that road again would absolutely be a crying shame…

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Joys of a $2 Happy...

You know, when you don't have a lot of money, it's easy to get happy over little things.  Last week I bought some new dish cloths at a really good price.  I was all, like, happy dancing and smiling and singing to myself, "I got new dish cloths, it's a happy daaa-aay, I got new dish cloths, dee do dee do do..."

Then, I thought, wow, this is sad.  I must be really broke.

Then, I thought, no, this is awesome!!!  How cool is it to be able to be happy and grateful over something so small?!  It's awesome!  It took me just $2 to get the kind of happy that lots of people spend $200 for!


Of course, if I ever actually spend $200 on something other than household utilities or car repairs, I might just explode.  Can one get too happy?


I make me laugh.

Anyway, just a thought.....

Saturday, February 2, 2013

To open comments...or not.

I was seriously considering re-opening comments on this blog.  I initially closed them because I was receiving some ugly comments from someone who claimed to know me, but who would not identify themselves.  It was unnerving and left me creeped out.

The thing is, I was never very comfortable with closing the comments, even though I invited readers to email me, or respond on Facebook or Twitter if they were followers.  It even bothered me that I had to screen the comments.  I post a lot on bullying and abuse, and was also posting quite a bit about mourning in the months after my mum's death.  I felt like I was inviting people to be vulnerable, even if they weren't responding, and I didn't want anyone to be hurt or confused by some of the disturbing comments that I have received.  I was especially concerned that many of the offending comments placed blame for violence and abuse on the victims.  It was the whole "Yeah, but you made him mad" thing, and it definitely needed to be shut down.

And, to be honest, I was too fragile to hear that kind of stuff without crumbling inside.  It haunted me.  I didn't believe it for a moment, but to think that someone who knew me thought this way about me was painful. I was hurting, and needed a break from the ugly.

Anyway, after a bit of thought, and some honesty with  myself, I realized that I am not yet ready for the weirdness that is anonymous, creepy commenting.  Negative comments are never easy, but they tend to be more respectful and thought out if there is a measure of accountability. Anonymity removes that accountability.  I don't mind if people disagree with me.  In fact, some of the people who are my biggest supporters as a blogger also probably don't agree with much of what I write.  They just honor my right to write it.  And when I encourage other bloggers to be true to their voices, that doesn't mean I'll agree with everything that they write.  It means encouraging honesty and openness.

There are always consequences to being honest about our thoughts and feelings.  Some people will disagree.  If we are being vengeful, dishonest or hurtful, we are accountable.  A license to write is not a license to mess with people.  At the same time, nobody should expect to spread malicious rumors about a blogger and not end up reading about it.  If someone wants to traumatize me and scare my child with deliberately planted lies, they should plan on my addressing it here.  It saddens me that my daughter has to lock the doors when I am not here.  Or that my heart leaps in anxiety when the phone rings.  This is the place that I write about my sorrows and fears, though.  And that's not going to change.

The bottom line is that, for now, comments stay closed. Please feel free to email comments to me, though, @ . Or comment on Twitter and Facebook. I love hearing from you.  I know that I've been writing a lot about the actual act of writing here lately.  It's just that it has been an issue, and on my mind, and in brilliant discussions with young people who are just beginning to develop their voices. I think most readers would be surprised how fervent the pressure is to be silent.  What joy, to know that freedom is ours, in God, in our country, and in our own skin.  Freedom to love with abandon. Freedom to make mistakes, and be forgiven.  Freedom to forgive and love again.  Freedom to just BE.  And, freedom to open comments....someday.

My Zimbio