Tag Archives: breakthecycle

Remembering

This morning I randomly decided to watch the music video for one of my favorite songs. Little did I know it would bring me to tears.

If you haven’t watched it, you may be surprised. Check it out:

It is so easy to forget. To compartmentalize in order to move on. To push your past into deep, dark corners of mental closets – safe from the light. It’s surprisingly easy, with time. Things you think you’ll never forget, never recover from, never erase from your memory… you simply do.

You would be surprised what time can do to erase your pain – this is both a blessing and a curse.

Coping requires some level of moving on. But learning, growing, changing, and channeling requires remembering.

This video shocked me back into memories I haven’t touched in forever. I held them in my mind and turned them over with fascinated repulsion as I watched it, felt it, relived it… a relentless montage in my head of the most devastating and debilitating experiences of my life.

I remember that animal-like fear. The absolute terror and pain and the mind-blowing disconnect between deeply loving someone and feeling and receiving what I did from them. I remember the intense physical effects of harsh words and threats and raised hands. I remember that indescribable feeling of being trapped, and alone. I remember the vivid nightmare of my days and the panic of restless nights. The deepest forms of betrayal. Confusion, terror, self-loathing, shame, hatred, insecurity, depression, and anger… all wrapped up into one shriveling life form that was ME. Me: deconstructed, devolving, destroyed. I was dying inside. Hidden from light and love and hope and community.

And I left. I left, I started over. I grew, I lived, I was reborn. I evolved. I strengthened. I stood up, hoped, smiled, connected, and was free. Am free. Am all of these things, and more.

In the midst of my freedom… in the midst of the intense joy I feel in living, loving, hoping, dreaming, connecting, thriving… I must not forget my pain. My pain is what brought me here. My pain is what deepened me, developed my soul, created my empathy for the world and for everyone who has been there, and who is still there.

I’m anxiously awaiting the day when I can get the IDECIDE program off the ground. When I can again connect with a community of oppressed souls and help walk them into the light of freedom – away from this pain and confusion and fear. When I can reach out and touch the abused and the destroyed and the defeated with everything I have to offer from the other side of pain. I cannot wait to begin this mission and to spend the rest of my life pursuing touching as many lives as I can. I cannot wait to give back – to find the balance between living free, and remembering pain.

I have so much to do. I do not want to forget.

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Comprehensive Disclosure

Comprehensive Disclosure

Tonight welcomed in a strange moment for me.

The man I once called my husband, who abased and destroyed me emotionally and mentally and left me fishing for dignity, self-worth, and any remnants of pride in who I am and all I can be… this man was sitting in my living room and we were laughing and holding a friendly (if respectfully distant) conversation.

If you had told me a year ago that this would be happening right now, I would’ve been completely confident that you were wrong.

This is a good and beautiful thing, and redeems a lot of pain for me. It was accompanied months ago by profound and sincere apologies, and has gradually evolved into a confident acceptance that things are over, and done, and were very, very wrong, but that people can change, and redemption can look like moving forward as parents to our son in an amicable and respectful fashion.

This is where things are now. In many ways because I have found myself; found my own two feet, my “balls”, my confidence in my beauty and strength and abilities, again. It took at least 11 months to do so.

Here is where you should probably stop reading, if you’re a very religious person, my parents, a man (this may wind up coming off as male-bashing although this is not the intent) or an interested party.

So basically, if you’re a female, non-lesbian, non-relative, uninterested atheist, this is for you… ha.

Here’s where we get into the gritty, gory, messy details of the rebound confusion and self-discovery phase post relationship.

*God alone is my judge.*

—–

After my ex and I split up last year, I was lost. So incredibly lost.

With the culture I grew up in, all I knew was monogamy… committed, defined, going-somewhere-(and-fast) relationships. The only man I had “known” was my husband.

I was naive, abased, had no sense of value, and no real understanding of the world when it comes to relationships, sex, and male-female interactions outside of monogamy.

Where was I? Where did I want to be? Who did I trust?

It has taken me a while to figure these things out. During that first 6 months of a rebound phase, sex just happened, quite a few times. It really did. But not in great ways.

I went from someone who had waited 23 years for sex to someone who was so stupid and sheltered, she would place herself in situations (a car at night to talk, trusting and agreeing to “just sleep, no sex” in bed with someone, late night outings or isolated movie times at someone’s house) where someone would make a move, I would be taken aback, but then have so little self-value that I simply caved even when I really didn’t want a hookup.

I remember many promises men made “not to f*ck [me]”, many suggestions of interest in a relationship, cards played, mind games, blameshifting, tactics, working of angles to confuse and manipulate me.

I was weak. Lost, unaware of the value I held. I caved. Over, and over. A few times I said no… the kept going, and I simply gave in and felt empty, used, disrespected, stupid, almost like throwing up amidst it all.

There was #1.
He was a “no”. I was in a situation I shouldn’t have been in, sleepy and disoriented and alone with him. He seemed aloof and respectful, and then he wasn’t. And I just didn’t care anymore. I gave in after faint protests.

There was #2.
A few days later, lessons unlearned, the “two adults taking care of each other, no big deal, just sex” card played, taken. I said no a few times this time, I felt dirty and empty… and cheap.

There was #3.
Through a friendship, one I trusted. I didn’t know how to relate to men without sexuality after so long being that for one person… I was beginning to enjoy realizing I was wanted, after the one person I really wanted did not want me…. and it was consensual, but still so empty of meaning.

There was #4.
A player, the best at his game, manipulative, crafty, a liar, and a douche bag. Ignored attempts at asking for respect and the strangest, most awkward engagement so far.

There was #5.
If you count him, some favors given and received after he pushed me to believe he wanted a relationship, and that “men need sex to feel love”. No sex, but sexuality. More emptiness when a few days later, he admitted to zero interest in who I am as a person.

There was #6.
A major front given online, to others, to the world. Supposedly, a man of honor, integrity, who treats women with respect. Who drew me into a situation after months of talking on promise of helping with my career, and pushed physical boundaries, made me feel guilty for saying no. .. and so very stupid when I gave in and realized a day later that I was doing the walk of shame, and that that was all he wanted from me.

Over, and over, and over.. this continued for a while. I was desperately searching for something to mimic the companionship and consistency and intimacy of my first relationship, back at the beginning. I longed for it.

During this time I began to realize a few things about myself and the world. Here they are:

1. Far too many people trust themselves.
Men, and women. Even the good men think they can keep it to “just a kiss” or a cuddle, but any straight heterosexual male who has been in my bed has quickly forgotten those restrictions. I think I can keep them at that door, “keep the wolf at bay”, if you will, but I am weak in certain situations.

2. Wisdom looks like learning to not put yourself in situations where those boundaries and willpower may be tested.
The more I remove myself from those types of interactions, the less drama is in my life and the less regrets I have.

3. Sex has become the H2O of our generation.
People reach for it and ask for it and demand it and feel entitled to it from others like one grabs a bottled water in a checkout line.

4. 90% of men want to f*ck me.
Only a small percent of them are interested in more than just hooking up; a small percent convince themselves it’s not “just sex” so they don’t feel like tools but are completely emotionally unavailable; 10% (at most) and 10% only are interested in friendship or wouldn’t take a chance if I offered it, and the majority have so little value for me or themselves that they’re able to make “convenience store sex” the standard for performance.

5. No means no.
My original instinct is a good one. If I say no once, and that’s blown past, it’s rape. Stop, no, don’t = GTFO.

6. Just because I’m treated nicely or someone pays for dinner doesn’t mean I owe them anything sexually.
Men who work on a give and take system of treating a woman a certain way in order to acquire favors they then believe they deserve are dbag jackasses and not worth a moment of my time.

7. It is possible to have intense sexual chemistry and zero relationship potential.
This was really tough for me to learn because it was so outside of my experience. It was a shock to realize you can have physical attraction and a “spark” without relationship development. Discerning which is which (and if both are present) takes practice.

8. Men are manipulative bastards, even the nice ones (sometimes).
The good ones don’t always mean to, but still find ways to coerce you into intimacy. The bad ones do it on purpose. Sooooo many guys played or tried to play the “it’s just sex, you’re overthinking it” card, the “this will help you heal emotionally” card, the “you owe me because __ card”, the “this is normal and should be expected even outside of anything long-term develping” card, and the “you’re a bitch if you don’t” card. I’ve learned to essentially say “shut the f*ck up and stop playing mind games to get your d*ck wet”. Forgive the bluntness, but it must be said.

9. The best sex involves a marriage of minds and bodies.
Mental compatibility and a desire to explore someone’s mind, emotions, and heart make for some crazy amazing physical connections if there’s also chemistry there. The rest of sex (for me, at least) feels cheap and stupid and very over-the-counter.

10. Save that sh*t.
Screw the 3-date rule, the roadtrip rule, the time frames given or demanded by others or by what society seems to think is acceptable. Take your damn time. Don’t cheapen that type of intimacy by throwing it around. If you let the sexual side of any relationship drive relational development, the rest of the important compatibility departments like respect and fun and friendship will struggle to keep pace.

Take your sweet effing time.

After that first string of empty, unwanted, painful, confusing hookups and some tough life lessons…

There have been a few guys who never demanded it, didn’t expect it. Waited for it. Honored me, themselves.

Made me feel wanted without feeling violated, and respected without feeling unwanted.

As I’ve learned to really value myself again, to own my potential and interest and strength and beauty, I’ve quit frequenting convenience stores. I’m going all gourmet with that *sh. Making it count, making it last, keeping it for the best moments, the best people.

You can judge me all you want, condemn me, preach at me for my casual discussion of sex. But this learning curve of sexuality, of understanding how to take care of myself, but also simply rediscovering that I am WANTED, was a powerful and beautiful thing.

Simple lessons in profound ways, through profound pain and much confusion, but lessons well-learned.

*CHEERS*

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Evolution of Self

Evolution of Self

I woke up today, and I went to brush my teeth… and as melodramatic as it may seem, I stopped, and I looked in the mirror. And I saw myself, for the first time in a long, long time.

I saw a woman who is a fucking fighter, who never gives up and who champions her own dreams when no one else will.

I saw a mother who has scraped together a living for her and her son, who refuses to live in fear and torment of tomorrow’s worries by delighting in today and working her ass off without complaining.

I saw a daughter and sister who revels in the beauty of her family’s unconditional love and support.

I saw a friend who is honest, straightforward, no bull shit, true to herself, and puts others first on the reg.

I saw a girl, who was so lost, so hopeless, so empty, so without self-awareness, or knowledge of her own beauty and inner strength and potential… I thought I saw her, and then she was gone. She is gone. I don’t see her anymore.

Now I see me. I see resilience, tenacity, faith, courage, relentless confidence in the promises that tomorrow brings.

This is not boasting. This is beautiful, powerful self-awareness that has come through MUCH pain, trial, hardship, counseling, and a never-ever-ever-give-up mentality. It has come through acknowledging aloud every struggle and downfall and steep climb. Through empowering others and learning wisdom and deriving strength from coming alongside them.

I see beauty. I am beautiful. I don’t know why, and I am not full of myself, but I am. I am beautiful. I genuinely see it.

I see strength. I have an emotional strength that is unbeknownst to many, but that everyone is capable of achieving. I am so. Strong. I have survived SO much. I am a champion.

I see love. I love others selflessly, without looking for what I can get from them. I treat others well even when I am mistreated. That is real love.

I see intuition. A woman who FINALLY goes with her gut and listens to herself and does not apologize for it. Those gut decisions have never steered me wrong.

I see faith. Tested faith. Confidence in the promise that I will never walk alone, no matter how alone I feel.

I see integrity. Someone who is true to who they are when the world thrives on duplicity and secrecy. Someone who is straight up and confident but open-minded.

I see potential. So. Much. Potential. Mentally, emotionally, and physically. Who I am today I was not, or did not see, a few months ago, or over 9 months ago when I walked out that door and drove, sobbing, begging strangers for money for gas, to West Chester, PA, where I stayed in my old boss’ attic for 2 days with my son before I moved home to my parents’ house. I did not know then, what I was capable of, who I am.

I have so far to go. So much to learn. So much to do, so many people to help and inspire and lift up, so many to be inspired BY.

But I see ME. I see her. That WOMAN. In the mirror… and I love who she is, and all she is becoming.

What an incredibly powerful feeling. I have to share this quote again:

“You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.”
― C. JoyBell C.

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Beauty

Beauty

I shed tears tonight for the first time in a while.

Not for anything recent, but for the self-revelation of these last eight months or more; the deep, abasing knowledge that I gave so much of myself to someone who debilitated my heart over the course of many harsh words, criticisms, and pain, like acid, dripping on a ruby red stone.

When I left, I was still in a daze. For about a month I rode the high of freedom and the conceptual reality that I could spread my wings. Shortly after, I realized I was still chained to the ground, emotionally and mentally and in some ways physically; a prisoner of the past and of enabled allowances for degradation of self.

I began to realize that I had allowed my integrity to myself to be swallowed up in the all-consuming desire to make someone else happy; to conform to their reality, their opinion, their ever-changing versions of temporal happiness and pleasure. I lost myself, in being someone else, for someone I never asked to change for me.

The damages of this extend through to today. I am growing in confidence, there is a smile in my eyes. There is a person – and actually many persons – in my life who show me what it means to be seen, trusted, respected, acknowledged, affirmed, valued, and I am daily more aware of the deep worth I bring to the world, and to others.

Yet amidst this there is a conflict of self-analysis: a fear of acknowledging beauty or desirability, a constant, nagging thought that nothing good will last, that I deserve nothing so good as what is being given to me: that joy is only transient. There is a deep war between wisdom, learned from pain and struggle, and fear, also learned from the same.

Daily, I attempt to sacrifice fear on the alter of hope. Sometimes I win, sometimes I do not.

One very screwed-up way that fear manifests itself in my mind right now is an unwillingness to admit to any physical beauty – I think because I gave myself so completely to someone who informed me that I was no longer desirable or noticeable to them, I downgraded my self-perspective so that I could make sense of that type of pain.

People may tell me all they like, but I go in and out of seeing what others seem to see so clearly. This is no attempt to fish for compliments, because they are regularly given, but until I acknowledge it myself, accept it myself, understand it myself, remember myself that I am beautiful, it will not truly resonate.

I often wonder how to get there.

Grief is a journey, and a journey you cannot rush. I grieve the loss of my innocence, of my integrity for several years, of my stability in some ways emotional and mental. I am determined to reacquire all I had, and beyond, but fear sidelines courage on a regular basis.

I have learned to surrender to the ebb and tide of emotion. These days, it is far less violent and the waters of my tempestuous thoughts are regularly more still as glass. Slowly, surely, daily, the chaos of my life is unmatched on a mental level: I find myself retreating from the insanity into the peace and self-awareness I find in my own heart, rather than fleeing to the busy chaos of my world to escape the upheaval of my mind.

Much progress has been made, but much more is to come.

Say what you may, time is the truest healer. There is no band aid for what has been done to me, for what I accepted and endured. No quick fix, no easy button. Time will heal my wounds if I simply keep pressing on. Time will help me to learn, believe, and accept that I am beautiful, inside and out. Time will show me value beyond what I even knew I had before all of this pain.

I don’t believe in regrets, because we choose to learn from our experiences. There is much value in my life I would not recognize were it not for the pain I went through. However, if I could speak one thing to my younger self, or to anyone in a jealous, controlling, fear-dominated, volatile relationship where they are conforming to someone else’s desires for them, someone else’s picture of what they should be, it would be this:

let go. Now. Don’t do it. Stop. Run, flee, turn, escape. Never, ever, ever, change who you know yourself to be; never sacrifice your integrity on the alter of false emotion, great sex, a desire for companionship, fear of being alone. Never, ever, ever back down from your sense of who you are to make someone happy. Stand your ground, or pay the price. Compromise of character is a surrender of everything that will truly sustain you in the long run.

Do you know who you are? Find it. Acknowledge it. Refine it. Accept it.

Do not change it.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
― Mary Oliver

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Redemption

Life has been a wild ride

Of broken, faltering merry go round
Horses, wooden

Up and down;
Splinters of bygone pain,

Blistering skin,
Callouses, rainy

Storms and tempests wearing thin

Faith in the real

Truest forms of friendship:

The relationships which seal

Longevity with integrity and slip

A thread of hope

Through walls constructed for safety

Guarding hearts; rope
And steel, woven thick

From time and hurt

To keep out tricks,
Lies, false promises, the worst

Betrayals of love and truth.

That tendril curl, a vine
Twisting green, alive, promising
Thriving, growing, twining
From roots deep, shining
Sun’s rays from souls
Tenacious, unfaltering, beautiful
Made stronger with time and full
Knowledge of self;
Of value, of needs, of the world.

Dreams once shelved,
Dusted, cracked open, unfurling
Promises; tomes of wisdom,
Beauty, amidst unforgotten pain,
The surest confidence of future to come
Bright with honest gain,
Seen largely from contrast:

Diamonds of present company

More brilliant against mistakes of the past.

 

 

Image

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The Souls that Save Us

The Souls that Save Us

I’ve wanted to write a post for a while about the people in our lives; the constants, the ones that weave in and out, and the transient relationships which play a small yet powerful role in the process of our evolution of character and personhood.

Before I begin, here’s one. You should follow this man. Rarely am I hooked enough by someone’s transparency and writing style to read through the entirety of a post. Want to be inspired, encouraged, uplifted? Check him out:

https://badmuzz.wordpress.com/

There are many people whom I have crossed paths with over the years. I have learned something from each of them. I moved at least 8 (if not more) times in the past few years, and have come across some interesting characters. I have had people encourage, exhort, affirm, build me up; I have had others tear me down, use me, abuse me, mistreat me. I have had those people in my life who simply shine with the radiance of tested character, and the people whose presence is so negative that the room seems to darken when they enter.

Everyone is a part of your journey.

I tell people often that the reason I am not aggressively seeking a relationship, nor am a clingy, obsessive person, is because I have learned many life lessons about a word I overuse but love: transience; the very unquestionable reality of the brevity of existence, of relationships, of materialistic things, and of life. Everything is passing, waning; a breath away from moving on.

7 years of chronic Lyme disease taught me to hold things loosely: to treat them with care, to invest fully where I am (Jim Elliot: “wherever you are, be all there”), and to value what I have been given; but to keep open hands. What I cling to becomes my foundation, and shifts with the sand; the only thing that will endure is my God, and my own character.

I learned to treat my tomorrows without guarantee, to treasure the good people in my life and to remember that nothing given should be taken for granted. I love these lessons; I wouldn’t trade them for 7 years of perfect health and the return on all of the moments I missed as a chronically ill individual during that time frame.

Enter relationships: I feel I may be one of the few people that desires something lasting and beautiful but readily accepts that if something ends, and I have acted with integrity to myself and to the other person, it is because that part of my journey is over, and it is time to move on. Relationships are not an end-all. Make a relationship your everything, make someone your world, and you forget that you really should be with someone who helps you DISCOVER the world, discover yourself. It’s a partnership focused on life and learning: relationships are not an end. They are the means to the greatest end: discovery of self, of the world, and of God.

This also allows me to treat men (and women) like human beings: people I can learn from, hopefully mutually strengthen, encourage. I find my greatest validation in the benefit and impact I am able to somehow have on others. Men are not objects, either for sexual gratification or for “marriage prospecting”. They are people, and many have contributed to my life in powerful and healthy ways.

I have learned more in the last six months of pain and soul-rendering than I have my entire life about myself, others, and the world. Would I wish this on others? No. Would I trade it for ignorance, uncertainty, insecurity of self and less depth of relationship with God? Absolutely not.

Life can bring its worst. I am ready for it. This has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the unwavering assurance that “when all else slips away, He then is all my hope and stay”. In addition, it has to do with the powerful presence of courageous souls in my life who have paved a way for me, lifted me, carried me, tirelessly loved me… unconditionally so.

I have “Hope Anchors the Soul” tattooed on my right hip, from my favorite verse in Hebrews which says “We have this hope as a SURE and STEADFAST anchor of the soul; that Christ has gone before us on our behalf”. The same is true of the souls that have strengthened mine: iron sharpening iron, men and women teaching me about the depth and the brevity of life.

Thank you to the beautiful souls that have many times saved this one.

Dad: thank you for showing me what real love looks like. What a man should be for a woman, what a father should be to his daughters. I knew what my husband was not, because I know what he should be from your example.

Mom: thank you for your beautiful spirit. You empower others constantly and are the single most selfless person I’ve ever met. You never gave up your identity as a person, so you stand out as a mother who knows and values herself but also loved and pours herself into her family.

Liz: thank you for your ceaseless thirst for knowledge and your incredible capacity for pain. You fight onward when the world and your health are against you. You are my personal hero.

Katie: thank you for speaking truth with courage. Even when we don’t agree, you are the most truth-focused, honest person I know. You say it like it is, but you mean it from a heart of love.

Gran-jan: you are feminist through and through. But you deeply loved Paw-paw. You taught me to stand up for myself and my goals, and to follow-through, among many other valuable lessons. I love continuing to learn from you.

Paw-paw: you have gone before, but I remember you daily. I tell people all the time that you taught me this incredible lesson: “Never lose your curiosity for life; the moment you do, you stop living”.

Josh: thank you for the incredible, deep appreciation you have for women as a gender. Sounds odd, but you do. You cherish your lady friends, you treat them like gold. Thank you for being the first person to tolerate buckets of tears after I left. Thank you for reminding me that being feminine is not weakness.

Max: thank you for being a constant friend. We didn’t date, and we are both glad we didn’t – ha. You value me so much as a person that you want nothing else from me. This is rare, and beautiful. You approach the world with so much enthusiasm. I love it.

Cory: where did you come from? One of the best men I know. Your character and confidence shine as you continue to grow as a man… you are unashamedly you, but humbly so. God has used you powerfully in my life and continues to do so.

Katie D: you are fiercely loyal. I love you for it! You’re a champion of other peoples’ goals. That’s a precious thing. You fought for me when I couldn’t stand up for myself.

Jess, Charisa, Em, Sam, Jordan: you always have my back, and I hardly know you. You all face your own struggles but take the time to affirm me and reassure me of my own value when my past sneaks up and trips up my confidence.

Kenny, Bill: gifts I hardly deserve, purely from hearts of kindness, from people I haven’t even met. Amazing.

Christina, Brittany, Kevin: taking me in like family. Resilient, confident, beautiful people and amazing personalities.

Joe C: kicking butt, going for your goals, steering me gently during a really painful time. You and your family played a crucial role.

There are a million more, I need to stop.

Thank you all. Every single name brings to mind something about you, some way you’ve contributed to my life.

I am a blessed, blessed girl.

Cheers to the bright future. Look for the souls that save you, and take your lessons to heart.

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Strength vs. Control: Dating 101 PT 1

edge

In the bodybuilding world, if we’re being honest, the focus is actually on how strong you LOOK, not how strong you ARE.

This is why crossfit competitors and powerlifters and competitive athletes have my respect. Don’t get me wrong, TONS of work goes into bodybuilding competition prep, but the focus is on how you APPEAR, not how functional your fitness actually IS.

Let’s carry this analogy over into my personal experience in the dating world.

Growing up in a strict church culture, I wasn’t allowed to date anyone until I was 18, preferably later. I was in two fairly long, committed relationships between the ages of 18 and 23. I was single for about 6 months and then met my ex and was married for 3 years.

My abuse counselor has been pushing me to be open to casual dates for the sake of self-recovery and healing as I make my way through the difficult process of moving on from an deeply abusive experience. Trust me, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea.

What I’ve found is that for some reason, I have been conditioned to view a certain “type” of guy as “attractive”: the guys who give off that strong, aggressively “masculine” vibe; the military guys, construction workers, trainers, cops, coaches… usually guys in that line of work are instantly “attractive” to me by the way they carry themselves and the confidence which they portray.

The key word is “portray”.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I am in NO way identifying these job descriptions with abusive behavior or writing any of them off. I am simply speaking from personal experience. There are wonderful, loving men in every profession and equally terrible, abusive, controlling men of every job description. I also have a deep personal respect for the careers these men choose and particularly for the sacrifices made by military men and their families. “Rah!”

No matter what the job description of the guys I’m typically attracted to, I’ve come to find that MANY times this “overtly masculine” vibe is actually a harsh mask for deep insecurity and controlling behavior.

Here’s a stellar example:

I meet – let’s call him “John” – John at the gym. John is pushing some serious weight, he’s rugged, tall, “confident”, and clearly approaches me to ask if I’m using the tricep press for one reason.

I’m flattered. We flirt a little.

John gets my number.

I have a deep feeling of concern which I ignore over attraction.

Texting happens over the next week or so.

John disappears. Then reappears, more interested then ever.

I fail to text John back one evening while working a 6 hour shift on my feet (no phones allowed).

I return to my phone to a string of insecure, concerned text messages such as “Where are you?” “Are you okay?” “I hope I didn’t offend you” “I didn’t mean that to sound that way” “I know sometimes I come off too strong” “If you’re upset at me you should tell me, you’re being immature” “I guess I’ll talk to you later, this is ridiculous”.

In the span of a few hours of not talking, in a non-committed relationship with someone I barely know, this man has gone from happy and confident to angry, upset, self-abasing, worried, anxious, critical, and dismissive.

Whoa. BRAKES ON.

If you find yourself CONSTANTLY having to reassure someone you’re not even dating (let alone actually in a committed relationship with) that you’re honest, loving, non judgmental, faithful, and available in order to make them feel they have self-worth and that you’re “into them”:

BACK THE EFF OFF.

One of the things I’ve learned in abuse counseling has been the vicious path that

  • begins with insecurity
  • moves on into fear
  • then to control
  • then to anger
  • and then to abuse.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Lesson #1: Don’t date anyone who “needs” you to be constantly affirming in order to feel they have value.

Here’s another scenario for you (these actually happened):

“Ryan” comes to me as a client via FB. We hit it off via email and move to texting or phone calls.

Things are going swimmingly: we have a lot in common, easy dialogue, attraction. I’m considering saying yes to the offer of a coffee date.

After a few days of talking, Ryan starts pushing a very sexual vibe into our conversations.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sex. I miss it. I had a deep, personal, intimate relationship with my ex and a very steamy sex life (at first). Might be TMI, but I’m just saying.

I’m uncomfortable with the vibe. I’ve been used and hurt and I’ve come to understand that friendship and care are the basis for healthy relationships. You need passion and sexuality, but you can’t start there.

I’m very, very hesitant to give into this type of talk. Ryan pushes and uses all sorts of manipulating phrasing and sentences like “Guys need sex to feel love” (we’re already talking about love??), “You’ve just been hurt, you need to let go of it and move forward”, “If you never open yourself up to a passionate relationship with someone again, you’ll just be lonely forever”, “You know I’m not that guy, I’m really into you”, “I’m not asking for much, just tell me/show me ___”.

SCREEEEEEECH. BRAKES ON AGAIN.

There’s a REASON time has taught me to distrust this as a starting place for anything healthy and real and lasting.

Once again, it may come off as confident and flattering, but in truth it’s from a place of selfishness and control. It’s manipulative and it’s probably not new to them.

The right guy will understand several things about me, and these may apply to you as well (guy or girl):

  1. The right person will understand your hurt and be patient with it.
  2. The right person will value you as an individual enough to wait until you’re ready.
  3. The right person will be secure enough and ACTUALLY, truly strong enough to avoid rushing the relationship.
  4. The right person will let time develop intimacy and will not ask you to prove yourself.
  5. The right person will make you feel safe, vs questioning yourself every time they want something you aren’t ready for.

I describe my previous relationships and mistakes to people often as “instant coffee relationships”:

Very hot water. Add nasty fake coffee. Strong, heady, quick, hits you right away… and then the grinds start separating from the water, it goes all lukewarm because you only nuked it, and you’re left with a bitter aftertaste.

Lesson #2: The good stuff takes time.

So French Press that bitch if you want it to last.

Be very careful to cautiously analyze whether or not someone is legitimately strong in character, intentions, and integrity.

I’m learning to redefine “strong”, “masculine”, and “attractive”. I’m reconditioning myself to appreciate the humble, patient, loving, caring, quietly confident types. Those are the good ones.

You would think I would’ve picked up on that a long time ago, because my mother married one, and 30+ years later, they’re happy as can be.

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Living in the Moment

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“You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.”
C. JoyBell

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New Years REZ: simplified.

New Years REZ: simplified.

I started to write out my New Year’s resolutions… and they got really long and complicated. Yes, I want to learn French, martial arts, get my Masters degree, etc.

But since I’m not the queen of brevity, I sat and thought a bit and was able to summarize.

This year, I want to:

1. Be more: open myself up to love and to healing, and let myself shine rather than suffocating my personality or dreams to keep other people happy or unintimidated.
2. Do more: go hard after my dreams with all of the bull-headed tenacity I love about myself. Get it done. Do what I want (within reason), rather than what I’m “supposed” to.
3. Love more: more time with my son and more time with good friends. Narrow my circle and invest in those people. Have a few people that know me well rather than a hundred that know me slightly.
4. Learn more: keep an open mind. Take the best I can from every friendship and relationship; read, grow, explore, travel. Pay off debt and save money to secure my future.
5. Breathe more: take the time to slow down and think, to listen to God’s voice and guidance and to enjoy the simple things.

2013 was a year of pain, hard lessons, courage, and brokenness.

May my New Year be a year of healing, empowerment, beauty, love, and grace.

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Notes on Shame

Shame is the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you. You feel exposed and humiliated.

You are disgraced because you acted less than human, [or]  were treated as if you were less than human…

You feel worthless: of little or no value to those whose opinions  matter to you.

Someone who has been on the short end of a divorce – the spouse who wanted to stay in the marriage… despite all evidence to the contrary, if you are the forsaken person, you are sure there is something very wrong with you. You are worthless. It doesn’t matter that divorce is commonplace and you are (probably) not shamed by neighbors or fellow church members. You…heap the shame on yourself.

Verbally battered men and women are filled with shame. They have been told that they are wretched and, once they get worn down, they believe it. They feel compelled to endure the abuse in silence because it is shameful to reveal that someone who is supposed to love them now berates them.

Any rejection, neglect, or demeaning words by someone who is supposed to love you, such as a partner or a spouse, brings shame.

We can be bold in the face of shame because shame can be removed… shame is tackled best in the context of a relationship. Granted, going public with your shame is something you try to avoid, but being open about it, at least with someone who is a wise encourager, is part of the way out of shame… do not allow shame to intimidate you into silence.

– from “Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness & Rejection” by E. Welch

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