I needed distraction & escape tonight.
My mind is still processing the past week. I miss my dad. I am glad he is finally at peace. I keep picturing his home and the chaos and madness it represents in my life. On top of that, while at home I also met up with some of my friends from my youth and we discussed the abuse that happened under our parents and our church's watchful eye.
I am facing so many demons right now, back to back to back.
Picking up my kids yesterday and spending the afternoon of a snow day with them was a perfect welcome home. We unpacked my suitcase and sorted through all of the treasures I brought home from my dad's house. But each treasure is a memory.
I didn't sleep well last night. I spent too much time replaying the past week. I enjoyed so many great moments connecting with my family, but there really wasn't much time to mentally process the twist and turns.
4:50 am came way too early today. I had prayed for at least a two hour delay due to the snow, but our school status showed "normal". I made it through my day as normal as I could, but I don't feel normal right now. I feel prickly, tender and agitated.
When I picked up the kids from school today, I did the normal "tell me about your day and what homework do you have" routine. My son announced that the only homework he had was to read his book. I asked him what book they were reading. He told me it was a book about a boy during the Holocaust. I didn't recognize the name so I just continued driving.
I went in to Liam's room to see how his reading was coming and he said he was done. He showed me the book again and where he had read to. As I opened the cover to read about the book, I noticed it was about a boy on Schindler's List.
How funny I told him. Schindler's List was the movie I first saw Liam Neeson in and was when he became my favorite actor. Rob Roy is my other favorite Liam Neeson movie.
Both are about the difference one person can make in the world.
I first learned about the Holocaust in third or fourth grade by reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I have never been able to pin down why I connected so deeply with this book and the struggle of the Jews during WW2, but I did.
My family is not Jewish or gypsy or Polish.
The only people different than me that I had ever met in my small town life were vegetarians. I was in fourth grade and they ate very weird food for southerner's. I didn't even know anyone Jewish until I met my Dad's girlfriend and her daughter on my first trip to Europe at age 20 to see my dad. I was so glad she didn't think it odd that we spent vacation time traveling to WW2 sites.
I would love to fancy that in a former life I was a Jew in Europe or maybe someone who helped the Jews around me. All I know for sure was that a spark was ignited in me and I have soaked in everything that I could about the people who helped, the people who killed and the people who survived.
The more I read, the more my heart broke for these families, these people.
Late this afternoon my son handed me his book. I finished it shortly after dinner. I devoured it and enjoyed every moment of escape it brought me. I like to read the books my children do, but there isn't always time. Honestly, I don't always have any interest in their "required reading material." Tonight I had plenty of interest and had only hoped to catch up with his bookmark. Instead I finished it shortly after dinner. I devoured it and enjoyed every moment of escape it brought me.
The author does a great job at describing the horribly ugly part of what life in the ghetto was like while still writing from the youthful prospective of a boy. The hunger and the lack of food is what I hope makes this boy's story come to life for my always starving, never full string bean. I hope this book shapes my son's life like Anne Frank forged mine.
Other than bringing my children into this world, some of the other really powerful moments of my life was getting to go to Amsterdam and visit the office that Anne and her family hid in.
The office hiding the staircase to the attic is very small and each sound echos. Each step up the narrow too short stairs into the attic brought the book alive. I stood on my tippy toes to look at the only window Anne had into the world. I measured off with footsteps how very small the space she and her family occupied with the other families in hiding with them. Now as a mom to a daughter who whistles all day long and a son who is becoming a grown up and children who walk like herds of elephants, I look back at my moments in that attic and cry for the daily, hourly stress families in hiding faced.
We still have so very far to come as a people to protect, to feed and safely shelter the weakest among us. There are still so many places in this world where parents fear for their children and their safety every single day.
My son is just beginning to expand his knowledge to the realities of the world and I expect there to be a day when he asks me how we continue to let hate and fear dominate so much of the world. For today, he believes that this was the only holocaust that has happened. I believe him to be a man of great heart and empathy.
I hope he will always believe in the difference one man can make in this world.
The Boy on the Wooden Box, a Memoir Leon Leyson
I am thinking that the next trip back east to see my sister will include a trip with my kids so that they can experience The Holocaust Museum in D.C. The exhibits don't require a great deal of in-depth reading to understand the enormous scope and loss that happened in such a short time, while so many chose to not get involved.
Sunday evening I got a group email from Danielle LaPorte titled Swallowing your words, paying rent in hell, and maintaining appearances. Why we make (unhealthy) compromises.
"We compromise -- we swallow our words, keep paying rent in hell, and maintaining appearances, because we're afraid that we won't get what we really want if we... really tell the fucking truth, choose joy over pain, and show up as ourselves. But if we don't really tell the fucking truth, choose joy over pain, and show up as ourselves... we'll never get what we really want."
Her words have been swirling around in my mind sweeping over my thoughts & memories.
I am a swallower.
I swallow down my truth.
I swallow down my words.
I swallow down my emotions: anger, cutting words, disappointment, rage, fear, and sadness.
I also swallow down my decisions. I do not like finding the courage to speak my truth or my decision and being faced with defending & explaining them.
I have not yet become comfortable just stating, "My gut tells me this is the best decision for me."
My experience has been that if I can't properly defend my choice or if my argument is not based mostly in facts then I am invalid, that I am wrong. I did not grow up in a home being told that decisions should be made based on your gut feelings and that you can trust them. I was not told it is okay to make mistakes, that they are part of the learning process. I did not learn that facts are what you use to justify your choices to other so they will agree with you and leave you alone to live your life.
I did not grow up in a home where things made sense. I grew up in an home of alcoholics where it was best to not rock the boat, where mistakes were huge problems, where logic was slurred and irrational and where excuses were made for every one and every thing.
Learning that I am a swallower late in life has made my body very sick. Swallowing down has taken a huge toll on my body physically.
I am an enabler & co-dependent, aka a fixer. Give me a mess and watch me take action. Give me someone else's emotions to tip toe around, while ignoring my own and I sigh a huge relief because I know this game and have played it hundreds of times. Shuffle shit up, Tetris shit into the closet and close the door (and pray no one opens it), if I move fast enough and keep all of the plates spinning, then my life seems normal. From a distance, with your head cocked slightly to the left, with the sun in your eyes, it appears that my life is freakin fab-u-lous and parts are.
That is the kicker, some parts always are fabulous.
I am beginning to see that when I feel the need to weigh the good against the bad, I need to set the scale down and walk away. Nothing I want in my life should require me to make a list of whether or not the good out weighs the bad. Finding myself sitting there with list in hand needs to be a huge sign that my life is completely out of whack and that I have made several, bad compromises and swallowed too much down.
What do I fear will be the outcome if I said and did what I need to do? I am afraid I will upset the world, that I will send those I love into a downward spiral from which they will never recover. I am afraid that I will have to explain myself. I am worried that without my assistance, the people I love's worlds will crash and burn. I am afraid I will be blamed. I am afraid I will be deemed unworthy & unlovable. I am afraid that I will be judged selfish & ungrateful. I am afraid that I will find out that I am nothing special. I am afraid that if I only focus on me, then I will have no one to blame when I fail.
I am afraid I will fail and everyone will tell me I should have just "made do".
The problem right now is that things have been churning and burning for long enough that I can feel the bubbling up that means an eruption is near. I wish that I could push it all back down and take the time to deal with one swallowed issue at a time, but that is not how the science of this works.
So, some shit is about to explode up & out of me and it is never pretty like volcano erupting on Discovery Channel, unfortunately, it is much more like projectile vomiting from a horror movie.
The only cure for swallowing is speaking my truth and while I am taking small unsteady steps that direction, I have decades of unconscious habitual swallowing to rehab. Each morning I wake up with the clear thought in my head that today I will speak my truth, all day, not just when it is easy. Some days I speak my truth all day and it feels really good. Some days I swallow so much you can hear my guts rumbling from two rooms away, but each day I wake up remembering that it is a new day. Each day I start again.
All I know to do is to keep showing up.
I know that the only cure for the vomiting is to say what I need to, without fear.
It is my truth and if I want other's to love and accept me, then I have to love and accept me too!
For more of Danielle's insight & inspiration, head over to her web site http://www.daniellelaporte.com/
On Twitter: Jack Kornfield@JackKornfield Oct 20, 2014 at 5:55 am
The Path Is Not Linear but Circular and Continuous - http://goo.gl/hlEzET
How can this be?
I grew up believing that grown ups got jobs, worked hard, found a partner, got married, bought a house, had children, set aside money, retired, gardened & played golf & traveled and then died.
There was a starting point, a middle point and a end.
That life map was simple & clean to understand. I could measure where I was on the path by checking off my accomplishments. Until I derailed my life train.
My derailing was my divorce. We had worked hard, bought the house, set aside money and then due to unemployment, the money all got spent, we almost lost the house, and the we killed our partnership.
Then my life became about starting over. Looking back this has been the fatal flaw of the past few years for me. I thought I was supposed to start over on the original path. Like a board game, I thought I was supposed to go all the way back to the start point and work my way back up. I have been beating myself up with all of the "shoulds" based on where I was supposed to be based on the original life map.
If you haven't read my piece A Nasty Case of the Shoulds, please do!
After my derailment, I started back at square one. It took forever for me to find a job. Because of my kids school schedule and location, my hours 3 days a week are limited. I have been shocked at how much of a problem employers see this as. You get my 20 plus years experience for $12 an hour tops but my having early two days a week when I can work 16 hour days the other two days a week doesn't fit your acceptable model.
I found a job that worked around my children's school schedule and could use all of the skills and experience I have collected in my 20 plus years working.
I found the partner. I had created a list for my searching and he met all of the important qualities I wanted.
I found the house. I moved out of my girlfriends basement and into my huge 3 bedroom old victorian rental with a fabulous porch & large back yard, within minutes of jumping on the highway to get to my kids school.
My children and I settled back into our rhythm and life was normal again.
I felt like I was really doing a good job checking off items again. Now I was on the path to being able to start saving and boom I would be totally back on track for my 40's. Right?
Then my ex husband stopped paying me. That was a huge financial hit.
Then my soul crushing job and the stress it created made me very, very sick and put me on very, very expensive daily medicine.
Then the company I worked for took a huge loss. I took a pay cut.
I was renting my little dream home, but it is not mine. It is tied to my job. If I leave the soul sucking job, I leave my sweet little house.
You know that moment when you find yourself sitting, confused and lost? That is where I am. Confused and lost. Kicking myself for all that I should have done that would have been better than what I did.
Why didn't I go back to school so I could get a better paying job to provide for myself? Then I remind myself that I didn't go to school because I have barely been able to scrape by financially and with time as it is. If employer's are not accepting of needing a flexible work schedule I have lead myself to believe neither will college. Sorry Mr. College but I can't take classes after 2 on Monday's & Tuesday's and every other Friday because I have to go pick up my kids from school in the mountains. Then I only have them on Monday & Tuesday evenings, so I can't take classes then or I would miss out on being with them. As you can tell this is a big one I keep kicking myself about.
I am ready to succeed financially. So much of my stress (and most people's) is just trying to make ends meet each month. But I think I am going to have to wait on the school plan until my kids are grown up. I am trying to convince myself that I will catch the school train on one of the next go rounds.
So, why did I get back on this damn path. It didn't work for me the first 20 years, but it is all I know, and I reached for the security of it. The reality is that there is no security in it at all.
I really don't like the idea that life is not a straight path, but "circular and continuous" as Jack Kornfield suggest. I don't like it, but I know he is correct.
Even before my first derailment, things were starting to spiral out of control.
Several lay-offs, draining of the retirement funds, almost losing the house because we couldn't pay the mortgage and the healthcare payments. We would have years of barely scraping by, followed by a year or two of great success and stability and then another cycle of lay-offs and loss. This was repeated several time over my 16 year marriage. Crazy how I forget that. I like to look back and see that we were on a steady track to retirement, but we weren't.
So I have found that I have been kicking myself for not having made it farther down the path of success, when I should be reexamining why I am so anxious to return to the life map? This map has not worked for me yet. When does one accept that the traditional model is a lie? And even if I accept it as a fallacy, what do I replace it with?
How do you live on this kind of life map once you acknowledge that life is not a destination. How do I get back in line, work hard,when realistically I will lose some huge portion of it again and have to start all over? What I need is a new concept that helps me to accept the ebb and flow that is life.
I both love and hate the impermanence that I am learning about. I love the idea that even though things are very difficult right now, that they won't always be. This is the hope I cling to. I don't love the idea that when I get everything in place and I feel successful, that it could all go away again. I so don't like this part of the cycle.
I have had my couple of good years and am fearing heading back into the instability and financial difficulties again. I keep hoping that as I grow older and smarter that each down swing will be smaller and shorter and less costly, but I don't have evidence of that yet.
MENTAL NOTE FOR LATER THINKING: I am guessing this is one of those limiting beliefs I keep hearing so much about.
So I am spending too much time being confused and lost and ignoring that I need to pay attention.
Yesterday at work my maintenance man staged a low level intervention. He told me he has noticed that I don't breathe a lot at the office, that I hold my breath. Then my admin, turned around and brought up my teeth clinching and endless head scratching (eczema). That they took the time to come up with ideas to help me is a huge testament to how very kind they are. However it also makes me pause and notice how much I am ignoring because I don't know how to fix it all. I have been burying my head in the sand.
It seems that I am fully capable of ignoring my body announcing that is is overly stressed. I cannot allow my health to become a part of this cycle. I am blessed that my friends took the time to tell me I am starting to scare people. But, how embarrassing to be that person who everyone is watching implode.
My goal this weekend is to create an idea of what a new life map looks like for me. What do I want to accomplish as milestones? What will success look like to me? Can I define enough of it in small daily moments that I don't ever feel like I am failing again? How do I redefine my life map to have more of the milestones be things that help me ride through the low cycles?
Time to start thinking about what small steps I can take to take care of myself and to help myself dig out of this hole I find myself in again. Time to pull my head out of my ass and start taking care of myself.
Step one to think about what I want my life to look like so I can see if anything I am currently doing supports the life I want. I am ready to go from surviving to thriving! I am going to end it here and get my notebook out and meditate before the morning gets away from me.
I have spent my life playing it small.
Fear has been a constant companion and a crazy mistress always pulling me aside at the party to tell me that my dress doesn't fit properly and is too tight, or that my makeup looks gaudy, or that everyone know I never went to college. She reminds me of where I am from, who my parents are and when I get too big for my britches. She asks me what is so special about me that I deserve happiness. She asks me why anyone would bother reading what I write, when there are real people with degrees and such who write big important books. She asks me who I think would come listen to my stories when the world is already full of self-help writers, with worse sad stories, and real success in lifting themselves out of the shit. She whispers her truths in my ears and her voice echos in my mind, even when she is not walking beside me.
I listen to her because so much of what she has told me has come true. She has foretold the end of all of my relationships. She has watched me jump from so-so job to crappy job. She has laughed at my attempts to pay my bills with what I make. She made sure I felt too stupid to get a real job when I was cleaning houses.
Unbeknownst to most, I make hard choices and decisions all the time. Life presents me with these options, forks in the road, and obstacles damn near weekly. Even when I make the right decision and everything seems to go alright, she is there with a smirk on her lips and rolling her eyes that it was "luck", not really anything I did. Sometimes she forecast that the success is only temporary, it certainly won't last.
She wears a crown that makes her the "What if" Queen and she likes to engage me in this game. It is difficult for me to break up with her, because she has been right about a lot. She has kept me on my toes when I was fighting for my children and my life. She reminds me not to get lazy or comfortable in my life. She has kept me always alert for the next shoe to drop.
I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert tell Oprah that she has spoken to her Queen and that she had to finally "mother" that part of herself by telling her inner child that it is ok, she can relax now, because grown up Elizabeth has got this all under control. I loved hearing this way of taking care of that scared inner child who has taken over the role of grown up in your head to keep you safe. I love the idea of comforting them and putting them to bed, tucking them in and reassuring them it is all ok so it is safe for them to relax and go to sleep. And as much as I have wanted to fire my inner child, in reality, she has kept me safe and she has done her best to protect me from the scary things out there in the world. She has remembered every time I got hurt and is in constant touch with the life line to reminding me of how awful it hurts.
Being able to see my inner child as a child playing mother, doing the best she can, was powerful for me. It made me realize I need to remember that I got this shit! I am a real mother and have done and continue to do a really good job as a mom, protector and provider. I have had enough small successes behind me now to not live in fear. It is so wonderful to realize that I am not broken and don't need to be fixed. I just need to put that scared inner child to bed, all tucked in and draw from my strength instead of reaching back for her fears.
I have been collecting women into the tribe that lives in my head for several years now. Kind of a panel of truly strong souls who get me deep down to my core, women of my choosing. Very different from my Queen who reminds me that playing small keeps me safe. My tribe are my constant cheerleaders and they keep a list of my successes handy at all times to remind me that I have a great success record to continue building on.
Several of my mental tribe were speakers at Emerging Women Live 2014. I was blessed that the event which costs a small fortune to attend, was streamed live for free. It was one of the best weekends of 2014 for my emotional self. The messages were so powerful and the energy was truly large.
Several months ago, I fell in love with the poet, Dominique Christina, after listening to her piece on her period. If I had just read her poem, well it stands on it's own, but to hear her speak it was unbelievable. She is so strong and on fire. She is in your face and unapologetic. She is truly fierce.
While she spoke she said, "I am absolutely all of my families unsaid shit." Dominique Christina at Emerging Women Live 2014
I am my families unsaid shit too! I am the holder of memories and mementos for my family. I am the remember-er of how things went down, colored through my young eyes. I am a survivor of abuse and neglect and while it is ugly to look at, it happened. While I still battle the worry of what my family will think of me telling my story, what price will be extracted by my ex husband, what the school and scout parents will think of me and what will future employers think of me, I hear the voices on my tribe panel reminding me it is my right to live my truth and to live my passion.
During this event Danielle LaPorte spoke, "Who has to get out of the way for you to shine?" Danielle LaPorte at Emerging Women Live 2014
My inner panel was screaming a hallelujah chorus of "Your damn self! Girl, get out of your own way." Stop playing small. Stop hiding. Stop being shamed into submission. Stop worrying about being found to be a fraud and not worthy. Stop being your own worst critic. Stop creating problems that don't exist because you are being supported in living your truth. This is what you were born to do. Literally, the pain and hurt I have endured has given me the platform from which to share.
My passion is to connect with others who have been hurt or are still being hurt so that they can see I am making it out and they can too. My passion is to stand as a guide and support and light beacon for those who need a better tribe panel of people in their head.
"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living." Nelson Mandela
I am done with living a life with no passion. I am done with my children being the only proper and palatable outlet for my passion. I am settling into the most wonderful time of my life where I can carve out time to create my life passion, my Melissa passion. I am putting my own oxygen mask on so I can lean over to assist others.
I am done. I don't want to play small or settle for less than the dream that has sat on the sideline since I was a young girl. That young girl dreamed of being a writer and a reporter. The grown up in me wants to be a writer too, so I am reaching down to lift her up into my arms so we can do this together.
I have woken from my slumber and have remembered why I am here. Though my voice will quiver and my hands will shake I too find courage when I stand and say, "This is who I am."
There is a huge chance I will be seeing my ex husband today. The thought of this makes me hold my breath.
We have Parent Teacher Conferences. We attend these separately, but as these are group settings that 20 or so parents share a time slot, there is a chance that we will be in the same group slot, but not together. These are horrible moments to share as I will one day share. Today, I can't go down that rabbit hole.
These moments are always so difficult for me because I have to do a great deal of inner work to stay focused and present when I am around him.
On the way to work today, my Angels gave me my mantra or focus point for my interactions with him by having the radio station play "Hey Jude," by the Beatles.
I know the words to most of the Beatles songs, but they are not a group that I choose to listen to. Today, for the first time my heart listened to this song. It is our song, mine and my ex's.
He didn't let me into his heart and that pretty much sums up why we are divorced.
From here forward, I will let the words of this song play in my heart when I have to be around him. I will take deep breaths and pray for him to open his heart to someone. I do wish happiness and love for him.