The way is love

Graphically real in a full monty kind of way

Feeling free–It’s about beliefs

It’s one of those days where I feel as if something is changing drastically.

As if my world is moving very differently.

I sat writing this morning wondering what was going on around me. What could I feel so keenly?

And then I thought about it some more and realized that it was more likely something going on inside of me than outside of me.

I tend to attribute changes to my exterior world, at least at first, but I have learned with experience that in a lot of ways we create our own realities.

And I have been feeling very different inside myself for the last few months. I would say it began in September and hasn’t ceased since then.

Of course, the changes within me have happened gradually. Bit by bit parts of me have kind of woken up. The possibility for awareness was always there, but just hadn’t opened its eyes yet. My eyes are now open.

I have been dreaming a lot. And my last dream really made me think.

Dream: I was walking down a hallway with doors on either side and bright light coming from the end of the hallway in front of me. A woman was standing off to the side in one of the doorways and she told me to do something. I very quickly and decisively told her why I wouldn’t, that her request was unreasonable and holding my shoulders square and my back straight, I kept walking right past her without looking back, and walked into the light at the end of the hallway. The woman was shocked and watched me continue walking in disbelief.

I believe the woman was my old self.

I used to believe I wasn’t lovable. That I wasn’t worthy of other people’s love and respect. I don’t believe that anymore.

I used to believe I couldn’t support myself and my son. That I didn’t have what it took to look after myself and my son in this world. I don’t believe that anymore.

I used to believe that being in a relationship meant being treated as second and being disrespected. I no longer believe that anymore.

I used to believe that I had to sacrifice my own happiness for that of my parents. I no longer believe that anymore.

And though I have been coming to these realizations since I left home at 18, it has still taken me 27 years to fully learn these lessons by degrees.

Because I grew up in a household where I was taught I was inconvenient, a nuisance, a suck, less than in pretty much every way, I grew up believing I was unlovable.

And that trickled down into everything else I did. Even though I was a very good student, and was praised highly by my teachers, I never felt good enough. And even though I went on to get a good education, I still believed I couldn’t support myself and my son.

And because my relationship with one of my parents was abusive, I believed that being in a relationship included abuse. So I accepted being treated as second and disrespected.

And sacrificing who I was for my parents was part of the abusive cycle and also being an only child. So much pressure was put on me to look after things when I was far too young, in some ways my parents actually reversed the parent-child role with me.

It is only within the last year or two that I’ve learned to have fun and not take life so seriously. In other words, I’ve stopped being so goddamned hard on myself.

And I laugh a lot more and worry a lot less. And I believe in myself.

This is not a coincidence. We are so often harder on ourselves than anyone else. And take responsibility for others who really are not ours to carry on our shoulders at all.

But I have learned that some people are lazy. Becoming, growing, changing is a lot of hard work, and most people simply don’t want to do it. So they latch onto someone else who they expect to do it for them.

I have been that someone. And when they weren’t happy with their lives, who do you think they blamed? Me. So much easier to blame me than for them to actually grow up and take responsibility for themselves.

But that woman walking down that hallway towards the light was refusing to carry anyone else any longer. I believe that was the look of shock and disbelief on the other woman’s face.

I used to think that if I didn’t carry people no one would love me. I no longer believe that any more.

And no wonder my world looks and feels different. Carrying those false beliefs around must have been a heavy load, and must have obscured my view of my world too.

If my world looks different, I believe that’s a good thing. I am finally seeing myself for who I really am, not who others have wanted, needed or expected me to be.

I feel free. Now I think I’ll go dance and giggle some more.

 

 

 

 

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When abusers come to visit

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I have some guests coming up for the weekend. My mother and my step-father.

When I talk about being abused as a child, it was by my mother.

And, yes, I do still let her into my home. Why?

  • I have a son and he has the right to have a relationship with his grandmother
  • I confronted her about the abuse and she apologized
  • We have worked on our relationship for over ten years and she accepts what she did to me, she doesn’t deny it, and she allows me to be myself

I know most abusers don’t admit their actions. And in that way I suppose I’m lucky, if you could call it that. At least she accepts what she did.

I am under no illusions that she is “better,” however.

She said she doesn’t remember what she did to me. I believe her because a lot of people when they’re abusive and mentally unwell don’t know quite what they’re doing. That’s no excuse, don’t misunderstand me. I still know what she did to me was very wrong, and I am still working through the wounds.

In a lot of ways I find it ironic that I can have her in my home and enjoy spending time with her.

For a while it was still a bit sick, I still wanted to earn her love. When my son was young I still carried that everlasting hope that she’d become the mother I wanted to have. The mother I deserved. But I know now she will not be that woman.

I went through years and years of hating her for what she did, but I didn’t express it and turned it inwards, hence my depression and anxiety.

I think her behaviour really hit home for me psychologically after I had my son. I have always considered my son a miraculous gift, and I could never imagine treating him the way my mother treated me. The idea is abhorrent to me. I am not an abuser, never have been. Maybe that’s why I can forgive her to a certain extent.

I know for myself that keeping that anger alive ultimately only hurts me, and the people I love. If I’d kept holding onto the anger I would’ve become more and more diseased by various physical and mental problems because I’d be holding that hate inside myself. I have decided I just don’t want to do that.

And over the last two years since I had my breakdown, I’ve been slowly ridding myself, layer by layer, of all that pain and hate. It’s been very hard to let go because I’d learned to use it as fuel to keep going on. But now I use love as fuel, and that’s been an eye-opening transition for me.

So when my mother walks through my door this afternoon, I can honestly greet her with my heart. Not a naively hopeful heart, I know she isn’t the mother I really wanted, but in some ways I feel lucky that she’s my mom. And I think that’s healthy, and okay.

 

The good, the discouraging and the perspective

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I feel pretty mixed up today.

I’ve had some really good things happen and some discouraging things happen. I suppose somewhere in between them there’s balance.

Good things

I received a really nice message from a man on a singles site. I had shown interest in him and he let me know that he’s about to meet someone and doesn’t like to pursue more than one woman at a time. He said my profile was very interesting, but he wanted to see how things go with the other woman first. I thought that was very honest and filled with integrity. And I thanked him for letting me know. He’s renewed my faith in the online dating scene.

I also found out that my ex-husband, the father of my son, wants to spend more time with my son. My son has been with me 100% of the time for about six months. I guess his dad is missing him. So I may have my three evenings a week back, and my son may be seeing more of his dad, which is very good. Especially since my son’s 16. He needs a man’s influence in his life too.

Discouraging things

I woke up and realized I have a yeast infection. Often after I take antibiotics I get one. I just feel as if with my woman garden (thank you Jenny Lawson for this term!) it’s been one thing after another. First the UTI, now this. Blah!

I know it’s not really a big deal or even that unexpected, but I’m tired of feeling tired. The UTI kind of knocked me out, and often the yeast infection medication does too.

I’ve been worried about making enough money for a while now, and it’s damned difficult to be productive when all you feel like doing is curling up in a ball and sipping on tea! Something about this feels so November in Canada. It’s a month where everything is going to sleep or dying, we are overwhelmed with grey all around us and it’s getting cold and it’s dark so early we feel like going to bed at 5pm. Not an inspiring month.

And when I went for my healing treatment on Monday apparently the first two chakras are linked to creativity and our financial life. Figures! No wonder my woman garden is unsettled.

Perspective

But then as I was driving back from the pharmacy feeling sorry for myself I realized that compared to some of the things going on in the world, a yeast infection isn’t much. And the UTI isn’t much either. Even my financial concerns are only temporary.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims in Paris and the countless others physically hurt from the terrorist attack. Now that is something really beyond discouraging, and has made me realize I’m having a pretty regular day.

 

The dangers of denying who we are

Jacqueline Snider

I have a history of denying my self.

  • I have been underweight for most of my life.
  • I have lived my life to please others, including my parents, my boyfriends, my husbands and my son.
  • I have denied my feelings to make other people happy.

These behaviours are not uncommon for a woman in North America, and likely in a lot of other places in the world too.

Rather than growing up being encouraged to look within myself for my direction on my health, relationships and career, I was encouraged to be what others were comfortable with me being. And that has done me a lot of harm.

That mentality of living for others, trickles down into all sorts of dangerous and insidious places.

I consider practically starving myself very dangerous. Being on the border of anorexic for most of my life and actually being proud of denying my body what it needed is very sick. It was partly a form of control on my part, but also I was denying the fact that I’m a naturally curvy woman. There’s so much media pressure to be a skeletal woman that it’s hard when you’re more naturally curvy, as most women are and should be.

Trying to please my parents, boyfriends, husbands and even my son comes from my early programming as a little girl. My mother used to yell at me, “Why can’t you read my mind?” so of course I did my best to read hers and everyone else’s. And I became very good at it, which is also pretty sick. That didn’t teach me how to read my own, however. In fact quite the opposite.

And then my feelings suffered immeasurably. Did I even know my own? Or did they change with every person I was with? And I totally lost touch with them when I denied myself so much that I had a breakdown. I was severely depressed.

And what have I been doing since then? I have been denying myself the right dose of anti-depressant medication. At first I took the full dose, but as I got better I tried to wean myself off of it. I experienced a boomerang effect that I caught fairly quickly, but it scared the hell out of me. My mind had started racing again, I couldn’t sleep, and my anxiety climbed. I went back up to only the half dose. And now I ask myself why. Why was I denying my brain and body what it needed?

That’s my pattern. It’s almost automatic, and it’s taken me almost two years to see that. I went to the pharmacy yesterday to get more pills and the pharmacist took me aside and asked me why I’m behind on my prescription. She reminded my I should not stop them. And with her insistent, rational words I had my ah-ha moment (thanks, Oprah!) and I thought, “My God, I’ve been doing it again!”

This time I wasn’t hard with myself like I would’ve been and I took the full dose last night for the first time in over a year.

I consider this a personal victory.

I don’t care when I realize these old automatic self-destructive habits are still part of my life, I’m just thrilled with myself when I do.

We must learn to be gentle with ourselves. And I moved another step in that direction yesterday.

 

 

 

Slowing down doesn’t mean doing less, it means experiencing more: Gratefulness project day 13

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I like the way the universe has orchestrated my life to move more slowly, especially recently.

Obviously a lesson I must learn. Slowing down (hence the yoga in my life!).

I tend to jump ahead when I would be better off taking my time.

I suppose I’ve always been impatient.

Likely a way to fill up my life doing, but also it runs in my mother’s family.

A lot of Type A personalities there!

Also a lot of failed marriages (80%!), and serious drinking (bordering on an “ism”).

So I suppose I come by it honestly, as they say.

But I’m learning that just because that’s where I come from that doesn’t mean it’s me, it doesn’t have to define me.

No, I have my father’s side in me too.

And then I have personal choice, let’s not forget that.

I have been choosing to try and slow down my whole adult life (and likely even before), but it’s only recently that I’ve identified it as important to who I am.

To the essence of me, myself and I.

I have always been very introspective. And a keen observer of human nature, but I have gotten caught up too much in other people’s needs and wants, and not enough in my own.

I see now that I need to know what my own needs and wants are to be half of any relationship. No one else can tell me what they are (though believe me people have tried!).

But if I don’t know, I can end up following rather aimlessly what other people “think” I should do or be or think or feel or whatever. (There’s that word should again. Not good.)

So over the holidays this year it’s going to be kind of different.

I didn’t put up a tree. I am not getting people Christmas gifts (I don’t have the money). And I’m not going to drink because I’ve stopped.

That alone will make it a very different holiday experience.

Also I have plans to work on myself and my communication skills so I will continue writing and I have books I want to read as well.

(I’m also knitting a sweater, which will definitely help me slow down. Just sayin’.)

I admit consciously slowing down doesn’t exactly feel natural to me, but over time I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

I know I can’t and don’t want to go on blundering around like I think in some ways I have in the past.

So today I’m grateful for the universe’s choice to teach me how to change my rhythm of life to one that enjoys smelling the flowers, breathing deeply, and laughing and being joyous.

I’m ready for it. And probably have been far longer than I ever realized.

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

I found yoga, or maybe yoga found me: Gratefulness project day 12

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Yoga, yoga, yoga.

I’m beginning to actually like it.

When I first tried it (several months ago), I found it immensely frustrating.

Moving slowly. Trying to breathe evenly. Balancing. Contorting my body.

And it’s hard. It can hurt.

How can I breathe evenly while I’m straining to balance and keep a position and it hurts?

Somehow, apparently, I can. Go figure! (And so can everyone else in the class.)

I know my yoga teacher (Brooke) will be thrilled I’m beginning to “get into” yoga. I think my body is thrilled too. My sciatica didn’t ache at all last night after yoga class.

Thank the Goddess above because the ache was waking me up.

So why do I like it now? And I didn’t before?

I think it goes along with all my other changes.

It may sound simplistic, but I just don’t see things or feel things the same way I used to.

It’s as if my blinders have been removed, and everything important to me has become a lot clearer.

I know Brooke believes yoga changes people. And I think she’s right. Or maybe people change and then find yoga, it’s hard to say which happens first.

It doesn’t really matter. It only matters that we find it.

So today I’m grateful that I found yoga.

Or perhaps that it found me.

Now I need my own mat!

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Past loves teach us about ourselves: Gratefulness project day 11

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It’s incredible how much we can learn about ourselves from our past loves.

If we open up our hearts and really take an honest look it’s quite a revelation.

I have learned that their feelings for me were quite a bit more profound than I imagined.

Maybe that was me being blind or underestimating myself or them not expressing how they felt–or all of the above.

And maybe I underestimated how much I felt for them too.

Fear can really get in the way.

Fear can get in the way of seeing things as they really are, and also expressing how we truly feel. That’s a serious Catch-22 situation because if we distort reality and can’t admit our innermost feelings then what life are we living anyway? One rooted in fear, likely from our past experiences.

I know how profoundly the cruelty I experienced as a child affected me. And my opinion of myself. And how I tend to assume people will be very harsh with me. I don’t blame myself for that, I really experienced it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to go on. Or that I need to let it go on.

As a child I was caught, but as an adult I am not. But sometimes I have acted like I still am. I’m not proud of that, but I know it’s an old fear that’s lingered deep inside me for my lifetime.

And it’s a fear I’ve only been able to face head-on recently. And I am sorry for any people I have hurt along the way. I try to be brave, I really do. But I haven’t always been.

Little kindnesses touch me deeply now. I cry more easily and I laugh more easily too. I admit I am vulnerable.

Not like I was as a girl with no choice. No, now I choose to be vulnerable in a healthy way because it’s the only way to experience life to the fullest.

As my father gets older and loses his memory bit by bit, I lose him slowly. It is not a good feeling. That makes me feel vulnerable, but I wouldn’t want to miss his final years. So I will stand by him, even though I will often cry. Even though the table turns and I will parent him until the end.

That is life. Life is vulnerable, and yet incredibly strong too.

I have learned that I do not want to live alone. That is likely why I hardly ever have. It is not me. I like being part of a family. I like looking after people and a home and animals and people’s hearts.

I love people’s hearts.

And so today I’m grateful for my past loves. They don’t likely know it, but they’ve taught me more about myself than I ever could’ve learned alone. And I love them for it.

With love comes the possibility of being better. And I’m always trying to be a better person for myself, and everyone in my life.

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

My heart gets braver as I heal the broken pieces: Gratefulness project day 10

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I am learning patience and focus. I am learning what I really want.

I tend to jump right into things, but that isn’t necessarily good for my heart.

I get enthused and excited, and then my heart says, “Whoa! Go more slowly, child!” and then I’m overwhelmed. What I’ve undertaken sometimes my heart has trouble catching up with.

I know enthusiasm and excitement are good things to have, but they need to be in cahoots with my heart. This I have learned in a rather painful way.

And my heart wants me to learn how to communicate. To have the courage to believe I’m worth loving. And to have the courage to express who I really am.

That’s not saying that I’ve been ungenuine before, but I have jumped ahead of what my heart could handle. She’s very brave, my beautiful heart, but she’s been very broken too.

I am seeing that the both go together. My heart gets braver as I heal the broken pieces.

It’s so hard to know who we are deep within. There are some things I know about myself with assurance. But when I’m faced with love and anger and frustration, and I say things I regret or do things that don’t seem like me, I can lose my way.

I don’t like that feeling. I have felt very vulnerable in the past.

I am realizing that vulnerability is all part of being in relationships.

We can’t make everyone happy all the time, nor should we want to.

So we need to know what makes us happy and what we want in our lives.

And also how to communicate that to other people. That is something I need to work on.

And I am, and I will.

Today I’m grateful for being able to ask for what I want. It made me feel very vulnerable and sorry for some things I’ve done. But it also made me realize that I’ve really grown. In the past, I would’ve let it go and not asked for what I wanted. And I would’ve gone on likely to make the same mistakes I’ve made before.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

My broken pieces are healing, and I am learning to trust my heart more and more.

I won’t miss anything, nor do I have to move more quickly than I can handle, to end up getting what I really want and need.

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Never giving up: Gratefulness project day 9

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I went and got the book Couple Skills by Matthew McKay, Patrick Fanning and Kim Paleg.

After what happened with my fiance I have realized I need to learn to communicate better. I could’ve handled some of the situations differently. Of course hindsight is 20:20, but I am brave enough to admit I made some mistakes I wish I hadn’t.

First of all, in the future, I won’t make my relationship as public on Facebook. That was juvenile of me and I won’t do that again.

Also I have stopped drinking alcohol, which I know threw flames onto the fire of any anger I felt. I did things and said things I wouldn’t have if I’d been sober.

I also didn’t tell the whole truth about my financial situation and that led to tension between us very shortly after we’d moved in together. I will endeavour to be more truthful and upfront about my financial matters in the future as well.

But what I feel really frightened me was how vulnerable I felt when we argued. We are both passionate people with troubled pasts, and we brought a lot of old pain into our relationship. I think that can be said for anyone once they are in a new relationship in their forties. And I overreacted to one argument in particular. And I felt like running away.

I am not proud of that, but that’s what I did.

I don’t think I believed in myself enough to face myself. And in an intimate relationship you must face yourself. You cannot tell the truth to your partner if you can’t tell the truth to yourself.

I have done that over the last two plus months and I see that I need to learn how to express myself in difficult situations. Sometimes it is a good idea to take a time out and let the intensity diminish. But I feel I have the courage more and more to learn to express what I want and what I need without feeling as if I need to run away.

I guess I didn’t quite have that courage before.

I don’t know if I will ever be with my fiance again or if I will need to learn these skills at first alone and then eventually with someone else. But I am very proud of myself that I can admit I need to work at being a better communicator.

It’s ironic because I can write my feeling down, but when I’m faced with conflict all sorts of defence mechanisms come up that get in the way of my rational being. I know that comes from my childhood, and I know I need to learn to express how I feel. That it’ll be better for everyone when I can.

I admit it’s not going to be easy, but I know I must do it to be myself in any relationship, especially an intimate one.

So here goes…

I’m grateful for wanting to be better and never giving up. My personal life has been far from smooth, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy with some work and some patience.

Never give up!

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Yoga helps me find my soul: Gratefulness project day 8

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I went to yoga yesterday.

I’ve been having trouble with sciatica down my right side and I figured yoga would help, and it did.

I haven’t been a big fan of yoga. I like to move and sweat and suffer. Not stay still and hold a pose and suffer. (How very Type A of me!)

But yesterday I liked it more than I have in the past. I came home with an intense sense of peace, which stayed with me for the rest of the day.

I am coming to terms with the fact that I need to listen to myself more. My body gave me warnings that I was hurting it, but I didn’t pay attention and developed sciatica. It was so painful at one point that I felt nauseous.

I needed to be hurt before I took notice.

This is a recurrent pattern in my life.

I often push myself beyond what I can actually handle.

I know where it comes from. I learned to keep going and survive as a child being abused. I pushed and pushed to forget, to be my own person, to live up to other people’s expectations.

Now that I’m middle aged my mind and body simply won’t do it anymore. As Christiane Northrup says our minds and bodies are connected. The symptoms we have in our body are telling us something profound about our feelings, our selves.

I know some people think this is blaming, but it is not. It is simply a fact as far as I’m concerned. We are all energy housed in a body. How can our energy not affect our physical form?

I have decided to look after my body better. I have been strength training for over two years, but I also need to be stretching and listening to my physical form more. And if I’m doing that then I’ll be listening to my feelings coming from my heart more too. It’s all interrelated after all.

It’s not easy for me to do that. To stop and take the time to figure out how I feel and what I need and want to do. I still have a tendency to think about other people before me.

But I did go to yoga. And I am being more careful with my body. I’m going to go to yoga and strength train.

I’ve stopped drinking alcohol.

I’ve reduced my caffeine intake.

I’ve been getting enough sleep.

And I’m eating less and better.

All these things will help me stay focused on who I am.

There’s something profoundly unsettling about being in your mid-forties. You know you’re closer to fifty, but you also can look back and see a lot of the choices you made in your life, and why.

Well, at least I can.

I don’t regret the choices I made, but I also see that I could’ve done things differently.

So I figure if I am more thoughtful about how I treat my body, it is a good first step to learning how to treat my soul better. Because that’s really what I’m talking about, my inner being, my soul.

So I am thankful for my sciatica that led me to yoga. Without it I might not be here now taking more time to really get to know what my soul wants and needs.

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

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