Thursday, November 17, 2011

Who do you think you are?

How well do you know yourself? I was faced with this question last week. No one really asked it of me, but circumstances forced me to ask it of myself. I had started walking one path and then found myself faced with choosing between two different directions and I was surprised by the choice I made. Maybe it was the right one, maybe not - only time will tell. I didn't expect myself to choose what I chose. Did I make that choice for me or for someone else? I still don't know - that's the kind of thing I never really know - but I know that my heart was speaking to me that day, and it wasn't entirely at odds with my mental process. Sometimes, the voice of the heart must be heard.

My problem is that I have spent a large portion of my life making the choices others wanted me to make. This continual selling of my identity in order to gain momentary peace has left me indecisive and uninformed about the reasons why I do the things I do. It also leaves me second-guessing every single decision I make and wondering if I made it from my own identity or someone else's. So why is it so hard to assume my own identity and give power to my inner authority? And why is it so easy to give my personal power away?

I have some ideas about that. Being raised in a very authoritarian environment was not conducive to learning how to make healthy choices. I've spoken about that here before and don't need to enumerate the ways in which my ability to choose was co-opted during my childhood. I think I could have recovered from that in time and with the independence of adulthood, but then the sexual assault happened, and that made dissent a fearful thing. With the word "no" came great pain, both physical and emotional. This was reinforced much later on by my abuser, who inflicted emotional damage each time I dared to disagree with him. Though I know intellectually that I can't give away my own power, I still find it difficult to make decisions and hold to them in the face of someone else's desires when they are in conflict with my own.

So now that I have finally awakened and understand that I have sold myself and my identity for the price of short-term peace, what do I do about it? How do I recover? I recognize that with this behavior I am avoiding the pain of the moment but inflicting pain that may last a lifetime. I am forty years old - I can't continue to lie to myself about improving my situation "tomorrow" or "next year" or "when I'm more ready." Regardless of age, the truth is that none of us are guaranteed any amount of time. There may not be a next year, or even a tomorrow. I may never be more ready than I am right now.

I have spoken here about this process before and have never come to any conclusions about how to help myself. At this point, I realize that no one can tell me how to get better. I have to take responsibility for choosing what is right for me and not what others want me to choose. I can do it by not making snap decisions, by thinking things through even when it is hard. I can recognize that momentary peace or gratification do not compensate for hours of regret or pain later on, and act accordingly. I can do these things...but will I? Yes, I promise myself that I will - starting now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

All Good Things...

Not so long ago, I made the mistake of believing that there were certain things I would never do. I believed I would never leave my husband or end my marriage. I proved myself wrong back in 2009. I believed I would never live anywhere except my hometown, but when my marriage ended I had to find full-time employment at a level that would support my family, so I packed my bags and moved seventy miles away. I also made the mistake of believing there were certain things that other people wouldn't do - I never believed that my husband would stop loving me, but he did. I never thought that the man I dated after my divorce would deliberately hurt me, but I was wrong. I never thought anything could alter the way I felt about the man I have loved for the last eighteen months, but here I am in the aftermath of that catastrophic change, and I feel hollow inside, as if some vital part of me is missing. There is more emptiness than pain. All good things must come to an end. I know this is true, but I do not approve, and I am not resigned...

So here I am, examining the bits and pieces of another relationship that is ending. In sifting through these ashes, I wonder where we went wrong. Didn't we love each other enough? Weren't we there for each other? Was there something we could have done differently, something that would have saved us? How do we re-vision our lives without each other as a part of the picture?

I have some answers, but not enough. Sure we love each other, but love isn't the only important thing in a relationship. There must be respect and trust - love without these fundamentals is a house built on sand. Were we there for each other? Mostly - in some ways, neither of us was able to give enough of what the other needed. It wasn't because we didn't care or didn't try - we both put a lot of effort into making things work out. Was there something we could have done differently? That's the hardest question to answer. In the end, something happened between us that created a gulf that could not be bridged. Sometimes, relationships are just too broken to be repaired. Sometimes it is better just to leave the pieces behind and move forward.

Now we are both tasked with recreating our lives without the other. His absence leaves a hole in my heart. Will I always be empty? much as aching hearts and wounded souls like to believe that the pain of lost love is permanent, I know from experience that eventually the emptiness gets filled. If we are lucky and purposeful, we fill it with things that are right and good and true. Sometimes we treat our emptiness like a landfill and pour in toxic things that end up causing us even more pain. My intention is to just let the emptiness be for a while and fill it with nothing. Rather than rush on toward something new, I'm going to take my time and give myself to the transition. I want to see where it takes me.

In the meanwhile, I'll work, spend time with the kids, and go hiking. I'll finish up my degree, and maybe have time to read something besides my accounting textbook. Eventually the numbness will fade and maybe then I'll actually feel something. Maybe there will come a time when the two of us revisit the relationship; when old wounds have healed and even the scars have faded. One thing I know is true - there is no certainty in life, and we should never say "never".

Saturday, November 5, 2011


"...your restoration is what we pray for." ~ 2 Corinthians, 13:9
Recently, I have been at odds with myself and with my life. There are multiple causes - difficulties in relationships, in setting healthy boundaries, stress brought on by the significant life changes I've engendered and endured in the past three years...all these things have had me feeling as if I am out of balance, as if there is some fundamental inconsistency inside me that I cannot seem to reconcile.

Today, I realized something about the malaise I've been feeling. I came to understand that at our core, we are truth, innocence, and power; we carry the likeness of the Creator of the Universe. If we are out of balance with ourselves, then we are indeed out of balance with God, since we have within us as an inner truth the animating spirit of God breathed into us at our creation. We must seek to be in balance or to find harmony with our core in order to be the people God would have us be. I have always known that going to the woods was healing for me when I felt out of step with who I was. Now I believe I know why.

Wilderness is healing for this condition because it is in nature that we see the beauty and wonder that lies hidden inside each of us. God's loving creativity is revealed in nature - it is an external representation of our own internal truth. When something is out of place in our lives - an addiction, a fear, old wounds that won't seem to heal, or just burdens from our past - we should look for ways to balance ourselves with God. Nature is a good vehicle for achieving that kind of balance. There are other ways that are effective too - I experienced one a few weeks ago when I participated in a community service event known as ImpactJC. I'll write more about that another time. Creating art, writing, the self-discipline of Yoga or martial arts - all these are ways to restore harmony and balance within ourselves. How incredible that we can be in tune with God simply by coming into harmonic resonance with who we truly are!

I stood on ancient stones today with the sun directly overhead and looked out over a blue sea of mountains and mist. I felt the peace of God wash over me. The burdens from the past that I have carried for so long felt a little lighter. Nothing about the difficulties I've been facing lately changed. Instead, I changed; I recognized the inner truth of who I am - a human made and nurtured and loved by the Creator of the Universe with the power to create and sustain a life that is pleasing and harmonious - and I felt restored into my rightful place as a child of God.