Tag Archives: strong

Life’s Purpose

People want purpose.

They want something to live for, rules to live by, rewards and struggles and triumphs.

People want to define value by what they achieve.

What they have.

Who they marry.

What group they identify with: gay, straight, religious, atheist, athlete, musician, hipster, corporate, blue collar, white collar, married, single, middle class, poor…

I grew up thinking my value was defined by how many people I “converted”. How “close I could get to God”. How much better I could get at being “perfect”.

What if, instead, our value is defined by our self awareness?

What if, instead of fighting to identify, to redefine, to blend, you fight to find yourself?

What if you use your challenges to ferret out your strengths? Your triumphs to encourage you to sharpen your gifts?

What if you spend life surrounding yourself with people who push you to be the truest and best version of yourself?

What if your income, your possessions, your relationships, your studies, your job, your future are simple tools to discover the deepest parts of you?

I would submit that the end-goal of life is never a line in the sand, a box of things, a relationship and its tenure…

The end-goal of life, of my life, is knowing myself better.

You discover, with time, as you let yourself into YOU, what you are capable of, what you can achieve.

You discover your self-discipline, the lengths of your patience, the better parts of your character, and the struggle to preserve them.

And from there, you give back.

Until you really know what you are capable of, until you know yourself, you cannot truly capitalize on your abilities.

When you pause to study yourself, you begin to be awed by your own potential.

Learn your potential. Fight for your individuality.

Don’t blend, cave, surrender. Be you, find you, develop you.

Learn the value of “I can”, and learn to DO, by learning the essence of the person behind that knowledge and its implementation.

Stop focusing on what the world thinks of you, what your friends think of you, who you want to look like and become, and start delving inward.

Turn your focus to being the best and truest version of your very own individual self.

I promise you, that’s the best place to find happiness, and to develop purpose.

Your integrity to yourself is the greatest and most beautiful thing you can achieve in this lifetime.

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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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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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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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RAW pt 3: Heartache

RAW pt 3: Heartache

There are many beautiful things about love.

How you DEFINE love changes as you mature, as you experience life, and as you learn from your mistakes.

One of the worst things about love, in my opinion, is that it defies logic.

Emotion. Masks. Truth.

Part of the recovery process includes a constant battle with your EMOTION over what you know to be LOGICALLY true.

The further you are distanced from a situation, the more your subconscious chooses to cope with pain and the logical decision to remove yourself from a bad situation by bringing up the happy memories, and glazing over the recent ones.

You think about the intensity of the passion that you had with someone, the raw feel of being acknowledged on an intimate emotional and physical level.

You remember a million, billion moments of laughter; inside jokes, near escapes, late-night talks.

You remember the first kiss, that special look; your song, your favorite restaurant.

You remember Valentine’s day at a crab shack, watching a documentary on weapons… the most romantic thing in the world, somehow.

You remember a sleepy getaway to Williamsburg that resulted in a not so intentional pregnancy.

You remember rescuing a dog from the shelter, throwing a ball for him and taking walks in crisp fall air.

You remember that desperate desire to be in their arms again after long periods of time apart, the glow on their face when they see you, and you run to them.

You remember being held amidst significant physical pain, comforting hands and a warm breath of promise in your ear.

You remember a frosty morning on the beach where he turned your world upside down and promised to begin a new life together.

You remember a sunset glow and wedding vows, and a crazy party with amazing friends.

You remember how you lit up their world.

You remember them holding your hand as you struggled through labor, and the deep comfort of their presence.

You remember the incredibly, beautifully, priceless, unforgettable moment when you both saw your son at the same time.

You remember that special smile, and the rush of being together.

You remember all of the beautiful moments, the sunshine times, the passion and the beauty and the laughter and the good in your relationship: a beautiful friendship.

No relationship is ever completely bad. None.

Something drew you to that person, something made you stay.

There were happy moments. You will remember them.

They will play tricks with your mind, and attempt to soothe your fear.

You will find times where you want to say: “f*ck it”, and go back, and try, as you did over and over, ONE. MORE. TIME. One LAST time, right? One last time, for the hundredth time.

In these moments you have to struggle to fight for truth. You have to remember you walked in the good of how God led you.

You don’t want to, but you have to allow reason to overcome your emotion. You have to purposefully recall everything you’ve pushed to the back of your mind in order to cope.

You have to be real with yourself.

Face it.

Cry if you must.

Surrender.

And step forward into your future.

Letting go of the past, opening your arms to the unknown…

that is the greatest achievement for you,

right here,

right now.

“The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.”

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RAW pt. 2

Someone asked me recently why I blog about what I’m going through. I stopped to consider this.

Here are the main reasons I’m sharing this journey:

1. Writing helps me both face, understand, and accept things in my life.

2. Sharing as a person who has been through an abuse situation allows me to reach out and touch others, and hopefully to keep people from this, or worse. The pain it takes to own it publicly is less painful than my heavy and constant concern for the safety and wellbeing of others in similar situations.

3. Communicating raw emotion and processing things out loud humanizes my pain, and does not let me run from it.

These are the main reasons that I am publicizing this journey.

raw.

Today, I woke up late. I scrambled to pull on my slacks, a dress shirt, my rarely-used blazer.

No makeup.

Coffee, black.

Cold.

Ice on my car.

Dad’s help.

Driving… empty.

8:32-11:23 is a haze…

I remember that I walked into the courthouse, I saw him.

Shaking, in a corner, in two seconds.

Fast as I could.

In a ball, everyone watching.

Humiliating.

I stayed there.

The security guard motions me to a chair, kindly.

Shake my head.

People walking by, looking.

Him, upstairs, looking.

Humiliating.

9:03.

The girl with a similar case from the last court hearing walks through security.

I breathe again.

We link arms, and we go upstairs.

I find my attorney.

He gently reminds me:

You won’t win this.

(No evidence.

I left too soon.

Did I leave too soon?

I wasn’t waiting anymore.

Maybe I left too soon.)

Courtroom.

See him. Relaxed. Like nothing is happening.

I’m shaking, violently.

Furthest corner, furthest bench. Edge of the seat.

She comes back and holds me, and I hold her when her him walks in.

Her case is open,

closed.

Evidence.

She’s safe, she breathes.

I’m a deer in the headlights.

Everyone sees me, I feel so small.

I try to be smaller.

Less visible.

Maybe they will all go away.

Case is moved to another court.

The attorney asks:

do you still want to do this?

I consider running.

I remember how many times I ran.

No more running.

I barely walk.

Heels…

stupid.

Maybe I can crawl.

Humiliating.

The judge is my first judge. From last week.

I breathe.

It begins.

My memory stops..

I remember tears.

Shaking.

Looking for a trashcan to be sick.

I remember the judge, his pity.

I remember many, many words exchanged.

Attorney’s.

Mine.

Judge.

Not his.

So few words.

Protecting himself.

I know it’s over.

I knew it would be.

I thought I would be more afraid, when it was denied.

No evidence.

But no,

I feel courage.

I didn’t run.

I was small.

I was shaking.

I could hardly breathe.

But no running.

I stood.

I stood up.

I faced it.

For the first time in a long time,

i begin to feel

I will be okay.

I walk out.

Alone.

Shaking still.

Tears.

The guard catches my arm.

He says

“You will be okay”.

I nod. I smile.

I say “yes”.

And for the first time in many months,

I believe it.

“The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places”

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