Tag Archives: pain

What Doesn’t Kill Me

If you look back on a brief synopsis of my life the last decade, you’d wonder how I am who I am today, how I am where I am – and where the hell I’m headed.

  • 7 years of chronic illness. Hospitals, dressing changes, PICC lines, never a normal life like all my friends had from 18-24… so much crying and so much fear. I went to bed wondering how much pain the next day would bring.
  • 3 years of intense emotional and physical pain in my marriage. Leaving and starting over as a single mother. Begging for money from strangers on my drive. Minimum wage, credit cards. The devil at my back, driving me to succeed because a Little Someone needed me to.
  • Moving for an opportunity that fell through 2 weeks after I had spent my entire, meager savings relocating and signing my first lease as a single mother. Getting a job two days later that fell through 2 months later when I was fired for reporting sexual harassment. Washing cars to make ends meet. Studying my ass off to recertify as a trainer. Never knowing every month if what I had would be enough. Eating rice cakes and peanut butter to survive. 11 things in collections… I simply couldn’t pay them.
  • Finally relocating for a better life, with someone I truly loved who treated me well, and MAKING it, first time in my life I wasn’t afraid of not surviving… breaking up 11 months later and facing my life head-on again, with a dramatic increase in living costs, and no help – once again, single mother, running from all of the possible failure at my back.

With the amount of fear and crying and that tight throat feeling I’ve had this last decade or more, I should be a bitter, jaded, angry, person. I should be cynical, fearful of change, living in anxiety and closed off to risks. I should be, but I am not.

“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” – we have all heard it, but it’s not automatically true.

What doesn’t kill you can leave you broken. Your pain can debilitate you. Change you, degrade you, hurt you. Leave you alone in the darkness.

What doesn’t kill you can leave you destroyed – a shipwreck of humanity on the shores of broken dreams and one too many prayers for salvation.

Or…

It can make you stronger. But you know what the difference is in that “or”?

It’s just YOU. YOU are the difference. Your choice is the difference. Your determination, your ability to keep your chin up no matter how many times life throws a left hook and drops you. No matter how many times you’re beaten down and broken and hurt and afraid, no matter how many times you hit the “can’t” wall – no matter how many times life abuses your hopes and tarnishes the beauty of your optimism – YOU ARE THE DIFFERENCE.

You decide what you will make of your pain. You decide what will come of your past. YOU. YOU DECIDE.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL TO ME. The little things are precious. Human connection is empowering. The ability to relate to others in pain I’ve experienced is priceless. Faith is a beacon. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I live hopeful, determined, progressive, disciplined, driven, strong. The world is bigger, more open, less limiting for the limitations I’ve experienced.

Life has never been easy for me, but my callouses are hard-earned, and impenetrable. I’m tough as nails, because I CHOSE TO BECOME STRONGER.

I am deeper, wiser, kinder, more hopeful, more loving, more outward-focused, more joyful, because life didn’t kill me. It didn’t break me. I pick myself up every damn time, and I FUCKING CHOOSE TO LIVE.

Here I am in sunny San Diego, surrounded by amazing friends, strapped again but LOVING the fact that I GOT MYSELF HERE. I toughened up, I CHOSE. I DECIDED TO BE STRONGER.

What didn’t kill me made me BEAUTIFUL.

Never forget that YOU are the determining factor in your life… who you become will be a result of what you choose to do with what COULD kill you. BE STRONGER. BE WISER, BE MORE FAITHFUL, DRIVEN, PASSIONATE, OPEN, LOVING, KIND, POWERFUL, CAPABLE…

Be STRONGER.

I believe in you.

smile

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The Importance of Being Earnest

If you haven’t seen the iconic “Importance of Being Earnest” movie, it’s a fluffy, cute romantic comedy starring some fan favorites. You can check it out here. The movie is based on a book by Oscar Wilde, and stars two men pretending to be something they are not… and remembering this film sparked some thoughts for me today.

Our culture is increasingly driven by two powerful “I” words: Ignorance and Image. It feeds off of those who can pretend to be what they are not, and those who believe them. Problem? I think so.

This generation is more belabored by bull shit than any previous generation. We’re surrounded by photoshopping, inflation, exaggeration, comparison, greed, and lies. We’re inundated with it. We live and breathe it.. and most likely as a result, we think it.

When you’re constantly exposed to small amounts of toxic chemicals, they can kill you. In the same way, the constant barrage from a culture based on things that are FAKE (Image) can promote similar tendencies in our own behavior if we are not keen to ascertain them (Ignorance).

Some people are clearly and maliciously fake. They pretend (and pretend very well) to be something or someone they are not. To want things they don’t want, to be what they think you want them to be for whatever end they are serving. Others of us, like myself, may slip into these habits from ignorance – from a lack of alertness to this common cultural bias toward being fake.

I see this in how I present myself to people. I may cater my words, retract a perspective, suggest something that is slightly untrue but not entirely false in order to gain approval or commendation. I may not do this maliciously, or often, but I may still do it. When I do it – or when I catch myself doing it – I hate it. I hate everything about it.

I’m from the old-school society that things that your value depends heavily on how much Integrity you have – another “I” word that is a million times more powerful than Ignorance and Image. When you have integrity to what you believe, who you are, what you stand for – and additionally, to the good and respect of others… you can do amazing things, and you can live with yourself.

It’s so easy to cave to this culture, to forget that we so quickly cater to the people around us in small ways. It’s so easy to let your guard down and be what someone wants you to be because you love them or because you simply want them to like you. But it is so, so detrimental to your character, and your relationships.

This can play out in some odd ways you might not expect. Someone asked me once if I regretted anything from my relationship with my ex-husband. I had to think about it pretty heavily. I finally realized I did have one regret – I regretted lying to him for years. Sound appalling? It is, but it was more subtle than you think.

These were lies of omission – of omitting how I really felt and thought about things. How I felt about him yelling at me, about porn affecting our relationship. How I felt about never seeing him, never getting time together. About his hours and hours on the computer and me crawling into bed alone every night. About sexuality when he wanted it, but only when he did… and always when he did, and how he wanted it. I lied about who I was by not saying how I felt. By not standing up for myself. By not being honest when things hurt me. By the time I did, he was genuinely shocked that I remembered every single hurt, abuse, and neglect. Every single malicious word. Every put-down. Every time I paid for his bad days. I remembered Every. Single. One.

My dear friend Josh was the unfortunate beast of burden right after I left my ex and drove in the middle of the night many hours away. He had to listen as I poured my heart out, brokenly, about finally leaving. About fear and pain and loss and hurt. We talked about a lot of things and he called me out when I said that my ex forgetting every little thing about me every day – likes and dislikes and holidays and birthdays and anniversaries – never hurt me. He said “when did the romantic Jen die? You know, it is okay to be a woman.” I burst into tears.

Have you ever heard the phrase “We accept the love we believe we deserve?” Neither had I until this year. But that is so damn true.

The more you lie to yourself, the more you omit things in your relationships, the less you say when things hurt, when they break you down – the less you listen to your gut instincts, the less you are honest with others about who you are, what you want, and where you’re headed – the more you cater and cave and conform… the more you will find yourself playing right into a culture of Ignorance and Image.

You’re losing your Integrity.

The little things that bother you. The repeated hurtful words. The distance or the disregard. Those things will destroy you – they will destroy your relationships if you do not speak up.

Have the integrity to operate outside of a culture of lies. Be earnestly, completely, fully yourself. Fully honest with yourself, and with others. If you do love someone and you do care about them, be honest now. Speak up now. Be real – NOW. Before it is too late and one day you break, and you’re real and raw with them and everything falls apart because it was based on lies.

The truth will either make your relationship stronger, or it will break you apart – and if the truth breaks you apart, you never would have made it. Wouldn’t you rather know now?

Be honest with yourself. Be honest with others.

Be real, and true, and raw with the world.

Be you.

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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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A poem. A River Runs From Them. Inspired by Jill Andrews’ “Always Be Sorry”

The deepest of duplicitous loves
Cause for tempests of doubt
Only the passion
Sustained in a vicious cycle
Of fear and distrust.
The greatest betrayals of belief
In a black hole of forgiveness
Transgressions disappearing
Into mercy
Extended once, twice too many times.
A small existence
Narrowed daily by broken confidence
Empty kisses
False promises
Embittered by betrayal of self
Soul sacrifices on an alter of commitment.
A past empty of companionship
A future shattered by fear
Broken glass on a dashboard of dreams.
Wounds so deep
A river runs from them
Memories of moments
Clinging to the dark corners of the mind.
Empty hands
Calloused heart
Virgin hopes robbed of their romance
Life of its sunshine.

Bitter darkness broken
By the sweet siren’s song;
Music, the poetry of the soul
Piercing through the marrow of pain
A thread of hope in the darkness of unforgotten misery.

[thank you to those who have recently revived a passionate interest in one of the greatest loves and the constant salvation of my life… music]

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Raw

Raw

Herein lies the beauty of my faith: my hopeless moments, the moments of “lament”, do not leave me there. Whatever your belief system may be, I hope, like mine, that it brings you powerfully upward and onward from your despair. Everyone has moments of discouragement and depression, but faith takes us higher. I see a broader perspective, a more beautiful inheritance. I see the firm foundation that takes me to a Rock that is higher than I. I am never left hopeless. In light of this, here is a glimpse into my soul this evening:

———–
I stare, empty, thwarted by a day of broken hopes and the shattered promises of my past. Physically at odds with the tenacity of my soul; the simple autopilot procedures of motherhood wear me thin: I am butter spread over too much bread, the fragile first ice of winter on a pond, a butterfly’s wing in a monsoon.

The book title eats at my subconscious as I consume my fourth meal of the day in a robot-like manner… I taste nothing. My mind wanders, and I briefly wonder if my bodybuilding goals have kept me alive with their nutritional demands.

These days I feel like a car crash victim, only my mind has whiplash and my heart is in a million pieces, like broken glass on a dashboard of memories.

These days I cling to the awareness that my spirit is not broken, and my soul is my respite. In the depths of my soul I find tenacity and reassurance; hopes unthwarted by life’s tempests.

The book still lies, binding uncracked. I breathe out audibly and begin…

for the next few chapters I stare at the dashboard, at each of those shattered pieces of my heart. I examine their edges, I see where they fit together, where pieces are missing, and I wonder if they can be recovered.

Each fragment cuts into me as I seek to hold it, feel it, understand it. Some pieces are still too sharp, my mind is not calloused enough yet to hold them; I leave them rather than risk the deep wounds I could incur. They will be there tomorrow.

The melodrama is not lost on me, I laugh at it, wryly. I step back, out of body.

I see a pretty girl, curled up in a childlike position in an empty booth in an empty store. I see her innocence; a confused puppy-like commitment to believe the best that has led to far too many taps on the nose and a cowering fear of rolled newspapers and raised palms. So much pain in those dark eyes.

I see her fears, the inconsistencies of her outward strength with her terror of the future: how to be alone? How to provide for a little one when she slips in and out of conscious thought during her days. How to move forward when she cannot yet remember how to breathe.

I see her brokenness. I recognize the depth of her daily struggle to make sense of the past with her childlike-mind, to accept what has been done to her. I see her fighting to the last moment of every day to believe that there is beauty, love, hope, and a future free of terror and pain.

I see how wrecked she feels, how she wants to flee. To recover; to sleep for a long, long time.

She can’t, she has to move forward. Her child needs her… and yet she cannot even find herself, cannot put together those pieces which still cut her so deeply. Cannot take hold of the wheel when she is still finding her feet.

How to drive when up is down, when left is right, when over and under and backwards leave you spinning in the dry cycle of life’s most painful moments.

These are the days I thank God for autopilot; for a child to live for. For the wild restlessness of my spirit that has at times been a curse but these days is my salvation.

These are the days I cling by my fingertips to truth, to faith. Courage is a lion, snarling at my back in my mouse-like trepidation, my unbelief in myself. It intimidates me into acceptance, into running, scared. Amidst the fear I notice that my legs are strong, that I am still moving. I notice that my breathing steadies, that my vision clears.

In these moments I realize that all that matters is that I keep moving forward, albeit in pieces.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed”.

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Lessons I’m Learning #1

IT IS OKAY TO FEEL.

Not only is it okay, it is good.

Some women function regularly on emotional waves. Yours truly functions by shutting out emotion when things hurt. I avoid sadness and pain in my thoughts because of that weakness I hate so much.

Part of this is a coping mechanism for the tidal wave of emotion that comes with a severely painful situation, and part of this is a survival mechanism because I can’t afford to fall apart. I have a son and myself to provide for and responsibilities to meet.

Only teenagers can collapse in a puddle of mascara-smeared, powder puff tears on a bed of broken hopes and obliterated self-esteem, right? Nope.

I really do rarely cry, but I’m learning that tears or no, IT IS OKAY TO FEEL.

It is okay that when I caught a glimpse of his face when he FaceTimed our son, I had to rush to the living room with a sob caught in my throat, cover my face and weep: that is okay. 

The fact that I still love him, that I deeply miss him: that is okay.

It is okay to relive the pain in order to move forward, and it is also okay to relive much of the beauty and good. This type of nostalgia is not unhealthy; it is pure and unadulterated HUMANITY.

In the interest of humanity, let me be raw for a moment on this score:

I loved his passion for life. When we met he was as intense as I am in his curiosity, his balls-to-the-wall lifestyle and his deep and passionate love for and interest in me.

He was the first person to make me believe, by his very confidence, that I could be healthy again. He taught me to hope for healing.

He taught me to BS less and to say what I was thinking; to stop being a people pleaser.

I loved the laughter; SO MUCH LAUGHTER, it would break me into a million happy shining pieces in the best of ways.

I loved his deep awareness of God’s voice: he would hear from Him, make decisions, and every time things came to pass as he said they would, and he succeeded.

I loved his aggressive fearlessness. Where I was afraid to try new things, to travel, to live after years of sickness, he would hold me and remind me I was safe, but also that I had the power to do things, and possibly even to succeed at them.

He held me amidst significant physical pain and breathed through every contraction with me on our son’s birthday.

Wrestling and late night cuddles and the honeymoon effect of military lifestyle; I look back and love it and feel it all.

No one made me grin the way he did, and no one made me feel so like an 8 year old girl with her first crush.

I love what we had and what we were, and what he helped to make me be. I have a million things to thank him for.

I am human, I feel, I accept that feeling. I acknowledge the pain of rejection, anger, betrayal; of a beautiful thing turned upside down and backwards and inside out and broken at the hands of a fallen world.

IT IS OKAY TO FEEL.

This is how we know we are alive.

xoxoxo

-sportyspice87

Image

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