What About a Holiday?

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I’m sure it was not like last year. But what it made me realize is that family is what is important and also that family can be extremely annoying and possibly cause nervous breakdowns. Still, they are family. But honestly, holidays can be stressful even without a pandemic.

So my Thanksgiving was quiet. But the food was nowhere as good as my mom’s. But it was peaceful. Sort of.

I had a couple of “firsts” this past week. It was my first time going to the emergency vet (with my mom’s dog) the night before Thanksgiving. He’s a sick pup. Still in the animal hospital slowly recovering. For two hours Wednesday night, my mom and I sat in the car, in the dark, in the rain, while we waited for someone to take the dog inside. Then we had the form. Then we waited for someone to come get the form. Then they told us to sit there until the vet checked him in…which if we had waited, would have taken another two hours.

We left. I told the vet assistant that I was going to get my mom home…she’s 93 for God’s sake….and that they could call her there.

It’s been a very emotional roller coaster the last couple of days and I have never prayed so much for a human being as I have for that dog’s recovery. He is my mom’s companion. Her world. In this crazy, pandemic don’t leave your house world. She is alone without him.

Then my friend’s father passed away. I have known the family since I can remember being alive and she is a good friend and I could not see her while she was up here from another state where she now lives and her dad was dying. I emailed her. Then I saw her in the crowd (outdoors with masks) at the graveside service. Was able to speak to her for a second.

There are many things horribly wrong right now. Too much suffering going on. But it’s tough when you know your mom is having her Thanksgiving dinner alone or you can’t properly comfort a good friend at a tough time. I know the reason for it and I am not going to complain because so many people have it worse. But by not having what you take for granted, it kind of makes you thankful for what you have always had and thought you always would have.

Things can feel really depressing right now, so it can be difficult at times to keep going and just doing the things that need to be done. I remember going to be evaluated for a college study of some sort years ago. I was interviewed and was then asked….”how long have you been depressed?” Huh? Depressed? Me? Hmmn. I’m not depressed. Well…maybe. I do cry a bit now and then. I do feel like everything is a chore. Not much brings me joy.

You can be depressed and not know it. So this is just a reminder….there are online services. National Suicide Prevention Hotline. It’s not just for when you are about to jump off the bridge. It can be for when you feel overwhelmed and find yourself crying or unable to sleep. There are also counsellors who are doing on-line work these days. So, please take care of yourselves.

Other feelings can sneak past as well. If you marry a narcissist, you may find that you aren’t the only one affected by the union. Your children will most likely carry on the unseen trait and be abused or abusive. Being able to talk to other survivors who have sailed in the same boat that I have, has opened my eyes. Doesn’t make me any smarter, but it does show me that other people out there have experienced similar things in their families and ask similar questions about life.

I see clearly my grown children and their patterns when it comes to picking romantic partners and what they consider “love” and “normal”. Hey, don’t look at me, I don’t know what’s normal either. All I know is that when I look back on my love life, the main common denominator is…me. And again, we don’t start out in the middle of the web, so….how do we trust ourselves to know what is really love and normal at the beginning of getting to know someone?

I keep telling my kids that if they want their lives to change, they need to change. Counselling can help. Sometimes it can. Sometimes friends can help even more by their knowledge and their example. But I have one son who doesn’t believe in abuse unless it’s physical. Perhaps that is just an easier way to not work on your problems. Because it is not easy. Way easier to blame someone else. And, the thing is, as one who has gotten caught in too many webs myself, I know that even when someone is emotionally and verbally abusive and abusing their power at your expense, there is that narcissistic/co-dependent dance that we do. And so we blame the other person because we can’t see where we end and they begin. Even when someone points it out to us. We have to see it ourselves. It’s sad. So sad. And so very hard to see past the web to realize it is not normal and that we can get out and be okay. It can take time.

This week, I spoke to a young woman who told me about a priest who was trying to groom her and her friend. I can’t get into the whole story, but when I look at that sentence, I see that these were young people who knew what was going on….and knew the name for it. And knew where to call to talk about it. I know that we all tend to get disappointed and disgusted with “the system” and how hard it is to get justice, but to me, this is huge. This is a start. Education. Coming forward may not bring justice to our stories, but it may help someone else. And that is what I told her as well. Did not tell her what to do, but told her that when someone makes a report, it helps others to come forward and do the same.

Last week, I spoke with a mom whose son had stayed silent about his abuse for years. He stayed silent until he saw SNAP survivors on the news talk about their abuse. It can be frustrating to feel like you’re doing nothing to change anything. That you are only talking about it. But these stories show that the work we are doing….everyone….all survivors….does make an impact and a difference in the world.

Four years ago, I had no idea what happened to me. I thought it only happened to me. I was ashamed. I did what I thought I had to do so I wouldn’t get a priest in trouble. It seemed to go against everything….and against God….to speak against a priest. And to speak against a priest who I thought had feelings for me…which must have been something I did….I felt all alone in the world.

I felt inside everything that society says on the outside when they victim shame someone. I was not a child. I should have known better.

And then, it took so very long before I believed that I belonged with other survivors. I learned about the term “grooming” and about cover ups within the diocese. I learned that adults are abused very often and that they are too ashamed to speak out.

And if this knowledge becomes more acceptable to adult victims of clergy abuse, perhaps we can heal more of those who are still out there living in the shadows and blaming themselves. Perhaps the time will come when there will be no more second guessing about whether or not it is right to make a report because we may get laughed at or told to come back when we’ve “got something better than that”.

Maybe with enough knowledge and seeing other people brave enough to talk about this issue….and believe me, it is terrifying to be threatened by the person who is abusing you and then to be torn apart by those who are supposed to help you. To be seen as someone who is trying to bring down the church. Maybe with enough knowledge and small victories…other survivors will begin to see that what happened to them has a name. And that it was not their fault.

Have a great week, please take the survey, and if you are an adult survivor of abuse by a priest or other religious person, remember we meet next Sunday at 7pm EST.

What a Fool Believes

I was watching some more Dr. Phil this past week about something called “Catfishing”. Catfishing is when someone presents themselves as something they are not in order to scam someone. Usually they are looking for money.

It seems impossibly absurd. How in the world could someone meet someone on-line and send them their life savings? Why would they do that? What could make them do that?

There are so many answers as to what could make a person vulnerable. Gullibility, greed, loneliness, isolation, fear, need, co-dependency, lack of confidence….these are some.

When someone gets into a relationship….and I use that term even though there is likely an imbalance of power as well as dysfunction…but when there is an interaction between two people which may be perceived as a relationship by one of the people…there is something that draws that person into the web.

Cult members, people in abusive relationships they can’t seem to escape, people abused by those in power over them, people in dead-end relationships with emotionally and physically unavailable people, and people who end up being conned all have things in common. They didn’t start out in the middle of the web.

I’ve read that everyone is susceptible to gaslighting and brainwashing. Everyone. That’s scary. So if you have a charming individual with an agenda and a trusting or lonely person in need of being attached to someone or in need of being needed by someone, or in need of belonging to something or a part of something, or a grieving person in need of comfort…the spinning of the web could begin without it being noticed.

No, these particular people are not being abused by clergy, but there is something similar going on here.

People who set out to con other people can’t have a sense of caring or at least see their victims as human beings who are being hurt. They want to gain something at that person’s expense. And they use emotional manipulation in order to get what they want.

They fish pretty much literally as most predators do. Cast the line and test the water and see who takes the bait. And they learn what to look for and what to say to pull someone further into their trap.

Much like a priestly predator, their true face is not shown to their victim. Usually images and pictures are stolen from accounts so that the person being targeted thinks they know who they are talking to. They begin to form a connection with their new friend, and slowly and patiently as they get to know the person’s weaknesses, the new friend will begin to turn things around and use what they know to become more than a friend. Soon there will be promises and talk of love. The person who is lonely and looking for a human connection or comfort or belonging will let down their guard…as one is supposed to when they are in love….and they will begin to let go of reason.

Even when a red flag pops up, it is ignored because only the good is seen. Excuses are made for things that are rather not seen and acknowledged or questioned. Many times, the con artist will use a belief in God as proof of their kindness and genuine feelings and ability to be trusted.

So convinced are people that this person is who they say they are and so willing they become to remain connected and loved, that they will make sacrifices and give to their beloved without question. They do not want to lose this person’s approval. They will turn against family or friends who try to get them to see what is going on. That is how convinced they are of the reality they have created with this imagined illusion of love. But in reality, they are caught in a web of deception.

I’ve heard a couple of times from people who don’t understand how adults can be abused. I got an email once that said “they should know better”. And another that said “it is probably easier for an adult to get over what happens to them”.

Like the people who are catfished, nobody is stupid here. Red flags are seen but gaslighted away so that self-doubt and a feeling that you are a bad person for questioning anything surfaces. The victim may have an altered version of what love should be or is used to accepting crumbs from the people they have been in relationships with. Crumbs are often accepted instead of the whole cookie because we don’t believe we deserve the whole cookie or that anyone else would think we were worth the whole cookie. That and crumbs are usually intense and intended to make a person forget anything that seems off. Crumbs keep people hanging onto dead end relationships. People don’t want to starve emotionally and they depend upon other people to feed them.

Emotional abuse and control and manipulation is not something that is solid. It waxes and wanes. If I’m losing you, I will be extra wonderful…I will “change”. And we accept that because we get used to the flow. We get used to the abuse until it becomes “normal”.

You don’t get it, we think. I know this person loves me. You just don’t understand. I need them. They need me.

So far into the web that we can’t see the spider guarding the exit. Or perhaps we do. Perhaps the mask has come off and it’s no longer a need for love but a need to live in the hell in which we are trapped.

Getting back to Dr. Phil, he told the victims of the scam artists that it was not their fault as they had done nothing wrong. They were vulnerable. They were hit up by predators.

And they needed to grieve and to let go because to them, the relationship was real. So they needed to grieve the loss of what they perceived as a real person in their life. I think we can relate to that.

There will always be people who will take advantage of other people for their own benefit…and there will always be people whose heart will unfold with their goodness when they believe someone who they have feelings for. Whether that person is someone unknown on a computer, a manipulative relative willing to do what they need for money, a person who misrepresents themselves to use someone, or a priest who gets off on coercive control being a part of their sexual satisfaction.

Good hearted adults, lonely adults, grieving adults….they are all vulnerable adults. And just like catfishing, when a priest uses his power to con someone emotionally to get something from them, it is a crime.

Be good, stay well and please take this week’s poll.

Sorry, Blame it on Me

No surprise that chocolate cake turned out to be the most popular choice in last week’s poll. Although there were many votes for other kinds of cakes. Guess we just love our cake.

This week, I want to talk about blame and the role it plays in abuse.

I remember growing up when my father would get a few drinks under his belt and he would lash out at my mother. She would remain quiet and let him yell, but he would still blame his actions on her.

We as kids would be told the story of how his father was a peaceful drunk, not hurting anyone in the world. But then his mother would let into him and she would keep at him until he blew up and got upset. My father would compare himself to his father and say that just like his dad, my mother was the match to his dynamite. It was all her fault that he couldn’t control himself.

And sexually, back then….I was taught that was the woman’s responsibility. Men were not responsible for their actions.

So when my ex-boyfriend threw me down in front of our high school and began to beat me over the head with a jean jacket that had about a hundred snaps on it….that was naturally my fault. As the priest who counselled my ex and me said….I had led him on…my ex-boyfriend, that is. Wasn’t his fault.

The further back in time you go, of course, the worse it was when it came to human rights. When I was in high school, I think we were on the cusp of change. We were taking the pill, whether or not the pope approved, people were living together more and more before they got married, and unlike our parents, women were now expected to work outside the home….baby or not. It was an uncomfortable growing phase for society. Around 1972, on an episode of “All in the Family”, Gloria talks to her husband, Mike, about working part time and still being able to keep a nice house for him. We had not yet entered into a phase where women were co-breadwinners.

Given the information we had about life and being a “grown up” in the 60’s and 70’s, when the 80’s hit and women had to work full time and juggle children and find decent people to watch your kids because Day Care and Family Leave didn’t exist as they do today, life was a shock. I remember my mom taking care of my kids and saying that I was “choosing a career over your kids”. But I didn’t have a “career”. I had a job to help pay bills.

Another thing that we started to see changing around that time was single parents. As if being a double parent wasn’t hard enough. But people no longer felt compelled to stay in a marriage until death. Abusive situations were beginning to be recognized. The term “marital rape” became known and questioned. Questions such as “how could a person be raped when marriage assumes consent?” came into being.

So much enlightenment for those of us who were raised with our mom as a housewife and dad as the breadwinner and basically an abuse of power being the norm in our household.

And the blame that the person leaving an unhealthy relationship would carry….not only from the spouse they were leaving, but also from their own parents and the spouses’ family.

The feeling of being alone and unsupported with no guidelines as to where to go next.

When society as a whole is used to placing blame on the victims and those without power, and automatically giving respect and honor to those who have the power, you end up with rampant abuse of children and adults made even more vulnerable when they have nowhere to turn but back to their abuser.

How many survivors of abuse have heard the words “Nobody will believe you”? Or have found that when they tried to tell someone what happened, were told it was their fault? It’s still happening today.

I have heard stories of children being abused by the priest who was the “family friend”, who when trying to tell their parents what was going on were punished and told to apologize to their abuser.

Or adults who were shamed and asked if they were aware of the seriousness of their statements against the clergy who were acting inappropriately.

We live in a world today where we have DNA matching. Yet, of all of the rapes that get reported….that get reported….there is still only a 3% conviction rate for offenders. There are stacks and stacks of rape kits awaiting processing and of those that get processed, more likely than not, there will not be a DNA match if the offender was someone the victim did not know.

So as we venture away from the “safety” of being a life-long couple….we become vulnerable adults. Living alone, on-line dating….just being single and attempting to look attractive or being interested in having a sex life, having a couple of drinks while out and about…..all these things can and are used as tools of blame against a victim.

Are things beginning to get better with the “Me Too” movement? In some ways, possibly. I think perhaps people are a little more willing to come forward, and are successful in cases where there are many complaints against one perpetrator.

But more and more of what I read about what goes on in this world, makes me see that sexual assault is in no way slowing down. And the extreme violence against the helpless makes me sick.

All of this does not help when the victim has been shamed and threatened into silence and is terrified to speak. They have to speak facing possible retaliation. They have to talk about personal things that have been done to them. And there is a reason why there is the saying “don’t shoot the messenger”.

This has nothing to do with anything, but years ago at work, I got an obscene advertisement sent to my mail. I worked for the government, so I reported the incident to our computer people. Our computer people instructed me to forward the obscene email to higher up computer people, which I did. Well, I guess nobody bothered to tell anyone what was going on, so when the higher up computer folks got the email I sent, it looked like I was some deviant employee who should be immediately fired. Luckily, things were straightened out.

My point being, sometimes when you try to do the right thing by speaking up, you can be perceived as the one causing the problem.

I know from experience that it’s difficult to “tell on” a priest. I hear a lot of stories where people have received dirty texts, or where the priest comes to their house, or calls them, or they are actually touched or raped. And despite single people seeming to be more vulnerable, this happens to married people as well.

It’s absolutely mortifying to tell someone that a priest is not acting right. For me, I had no revealing texts, and I was not touched or raped, I just had the way he was acting and the things he would say when nobody was around.

Looking back, as hindsight is 20/20, I guess I should have taken my chances, but that is not so simple as it sounds when you are in the middle of being gaslighted and you feel that everything that is happening is your fault. And the priest would just confirm that. You are unstable. Imagining things.

You would be blamed and the predator would laugh behind your back and go on to abuse another day. And that is what ended up happening to me anyway. And it was devastating.

But what is more devastating than anything is what happens inside of the victim. The self-blame.

I’ve heard so many times….”I was in my 50’s…I should have known better”, “I know it was probably because I was wearing jogging shorts at the time”, “I was so stupid, I thought it was a relationship”, “I didn’t want to lose his approval”.

I blamed myself. I was fired because I did not initiate sex with my boss…a priest. Because in some way I called him out on his behavior and made things difficult for him. So I was fired. And then further harassed and shamed by the head of Human Resources. And I blamed myself. Though I wasn’t quite sure for what. For not going along with what it seemed everyone wanted? Just do it and keep quiet? Don’t make waves? I hated myself. I wanted to die. I know that many people who have been victimized feel the same way. And because my abuser never touched me, I was confused as to if he had really done anything wrong.

My head did not clear for a very long time and it only happened after telling my story to other adults who had been abused. And still, there are parts where I blame myself. Times where I and people I listen to will try to explain why they allowed something. “I froze so I thought I allowed it, I didn’t know I had been raped.”

You know what? It’s not your fault. You were a victim of someone who deliberately picked you to be their target and they abused you and messed with your head. They abused their power and they knew the rules of the game and how it would end. You didn’t even know there was a game. You were just dumped when your use was exhausted.

It was not your fault. Before any of us are going to be able to begin to fight back, we have to believe that.

Have a good week. Please stay safe and healthy. Eat some cake. And take this week’s poll.

It’s Hard to Be Humble

That’s right. That’s all I’m going to say about that. I’m trying to avoid anything political because I think it was just about to make me ill as it has been so in your face along with being kind of locked up in the house. Kind of like how those guards I read about punished prisoners by putting them in a room where they played the “Baby Shark” song over and over again for hours at a time.

And I don’t want to fight with people who seem to want to keep fighting. Heck, even the poll this week avoids the issue. (Hint…it’s about cake…have two birthdays here this week.)

But I have to say that I am becoming somewhat more politically awakened. I no longer feel that it does not matter who wins or who sits in the white house because it’s not going to affect my life. I started watching a documentary on Fascism. Got interrupted but will finish it at some point.

And we lost Alex Trebeck. I must be getting old because it seems that death is visiting the planet on a more frequent basis lately.

This past week, someone who caused a lot of problems for me where I used to work, passed away very suddenly. And I found I had mixed feelings.

We have probably all run into someone like that at least once at work. Someone who whether for retaliation or just because they don’t like your face will seem to have it in for you. This person threatened many people. She would watch people coming and going in the parking lot, stand in the hallway and note the times people came in to work….things like that. And if she could use anything or twist anything around….she would run to the supervisor or stir up trouble with other employees around you.

So I had a very unpleasant time with her for awhile some 20 years ago.

I don’t know why people are like that. This person was intelligent, cared about animals and was very talented craft-wise. So why the need to hurt other people? She was not in a supervisory position….and yet, people listened to her. She knew how to kiss up to those above her.

She retired some ten years ago, so I hadn’t seen her in awhile. Had she died when she was in the middle of tormenting me, of course I would have felt relief. As it is, at this point in time, being separate from her and living my life unbothered, I have different feelings about her demise.

People come and go in our lives. I can and do remember those who have hurt me in my life. It is said that we remember how people make us feel. But alas it seems that those who make us feel good are gone too soon from our lives and those who makes us feel sad and alone and afraid are more numerous and seem to stick around long past their welcome.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about spiritual growth and reincarnation and such and from studies done, it would seem they have come up with a theory of different levels of spiritual progression. So, that is seen as an explanation as to why people commit crimes and are horrible to others sometimes and as to why others are more at peace or more gentle or are more likely to try to help humanity .

And when we pass over, we review our lives and feel the pain we have caused others and we learn so that we can come back next time and try to continue learning.

I want to believe that because it makes me feel like I can let go of whatever leftover anger I had because the person she was in this life is no longer on the human plane but rather in a state of understanding and learning and humility. A state where we are all in this together and no longer separated by egos and limited knowledge and fear and self-preservation.

Interestingly enough, on the tier of growth, law abiding church goers, are not at the top of the list of the most enlightened. It is actually when you step away from the “group”, the “laws” and having someone tell you what to do and how to think that you begin a journey on a more spiritual path.

So think about that for a moment. If you are feeling like an outcast from the church or “forced out” or are feeling a bit lost and betrayed church-wise. it could be for a reason. I believe that many survivors were chosen by the predators they knew because they were seen as good and trusting. Perhaps a higher spiritual vibration was what attracted the predator because that person was seen as being a safer target.

So if you are feeling bad about yourself or unworthy or less than the “holy ones” or the church going people who want to accuse or shame you….or if you are feeling like we are living in a world that is out of control….well, look at the bright side…if this is true about reincarnation and different levels….you are probably way ahead of most people on the spiritual wellness chain and won’t have to come back near as often as the rest of the people who deliberately hurt others or eat Tide Pods and other things for attention.

At least, that’s my hope. Cause I get tired of all of this hatred and anger and pain in this world.

Please take a moment to tell me about your favorite kind of cake. Because, yes. Because. That is as deep as I want to get. Don’t care who anybody voted for. Have a wonderful and safe week everyone.

I Wanna Be Elected

I like to use song titles in my blogs and this one is a really old one by Alice Cooper. But I guess it fits this week.

So I will venture into politics a bit but not so much as to try to be offensive. We have an election tomorrow.

I recently asked everyone who you thought you were….who would you be if you were not told who you were or who you should be in order to please the people who took care of you or in order to belong and to fit in. Well, now I am asking….who would you be voting for if not for the news?

This is just a hypothetical question really. I’m not asking anyone who they are voting for or why….I am just saying….if you weren’t bombarded daily by news on-line or the debates on TV, or commentaries or constant tweets or all of that….if say you only had the radio like they did 100 years ago….and you heard what was going on in the world with limited media coverage….with radio and newspapers on the kitchen table at breakfast…do you feel you would know enough in order to make a choice?

What would you think about the state of the world if your access to knowledge was limited to a presidential fireside chat, the main news of the world, and local happenings? I don’t know if that was the case 100 years ago, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t news 24/7 at the time.

I can’t listen to it anymore personally. It’s just too much. There is so much negativity along with what else is going on in the world.

I believe that survivors of abuse are generally more sensitive to stimuli and to negativity as it is, so with all of the horrible news at our fingertips instantaneously, how are we to get through each day?

How do we rationalize our emotional reactions and go about our daily lives in this world that appears to be more chaotic and unsteady around us? And how do we keep ourselves from adding to the negativity?

I know from reading the polls that people who read this blog turn to prayer and counselling in tough times and that playing and listening to music is the most popular escape. And I think it is good to escape a bit. I think we need to escape a bit. And I think we also need to make sense of things in our minds.

This past week, I allowed myself to get pulled into my son’s relationship and I emailed two friends about what was going on. I was told I was being co-dependent and needed to take care of myself.

My point is….how can we expect to have any control over the world in which we live if we can’t even do anything much about what is going on in our personal lives?

So, part of helping ourselves is to watch what we say to ourselves.

For myself and in my own family, I hear the words “I had to….whatever”, “she is doing this because”, “You wonder why I drink”, “I have to get involved”.

And my feeling is….if you hear yourself saying that you have to do something….you don’t “have to” do anything. You are choosing to do something. And when you look at someone else as if they are the problem that needs to be fixed and you are living in a world where you are just reacting and not taking action….nothing will change as long as you are saying…”I can’t because they…..”. If someone is pushing you to the point of breaking….get help. And for me, who can relate to all of these things I say….while it’s good to have the courage to speak my mind, I cannot save anyone….except for those who cannot save themselves. Those who have no voice.

But I’ll tell you….whether it’s family, politics, or the awful things that are happening in this world…..we need to stop the words inside that cause inner turmoil. Truth is….we don’t have a lot of control over things. But over and over again, we hear that it begins inside of us. Change begins inside of us.

You know, the more I learn, the less I know. But I don’t think I have ever felt as helpless as I do now. My energy just feels scattered, not knowing where to turn next….who to help next….what is right?

I think it was Shakespeare who said that all the world is a stage and we are playing a part…and according to people who delve into our spiritual natures….that is what our reality is. A play of sorts. As I said, I know less and less. But what I keep coming back to is the care of the self and that we are all connected spiritually.

I also read about promises this week. That was a good one. I think it was like Dark Promises or something like that. It’s when you are in the love bombing stage of a relationship….or it could be even with someone who does not have an agenda but still for you….there are said or implied promises of love and of a future and we begin to envision this happiness and future….only to have it ripped away. That happens, doesn’t it? It can be done by a Narcissist, a predator, a married person who says they want to leave their spouse for you, a parent who makes a promise and breaks it….all of these things that you trust…only to have that trust taken away. Dark promises. I saw someone reply….so how can we trust anyone?

I think the answer is….we really can’t. Can we trust everything we hear or read? Can we expect the politicians to take care of us? Can we expect our loved ones to always agree with us or to know what is right for us? Can we believe that we will never again be betrayed by someone we hoped we could believe? Can we hope we will never be hurt by anyone again?

No, we really can’t. But that doesn’t mean that we are stupid or not good enough or not worthy of good things. We are.

I have an activity for everyone this week. I want everyone to sit in a quiet spot for a half an hour. I want you to put on some music you enjoy listening to. And if you have any scented oil or lotion, I want you to get some of that as well.

Now put on the music and take a bit of the lotion or oil and rub it onto your arms lovingly. Feel your arms and as you rub in the lotion or oil, know that you are worth this. Now close your eyes and shut out the world. Smell the lotion or the oil. Listen to the music that you love. Feel the comfort of the chair or bed or cushion you are on. And know that you are worth this. You are what matters. Nothing that anyone can do or say to you can change your value or self worth. Just breathe.

And no matter what happens to the rest of the world this week, please stay safe and healthy and be at peace, if just for a moment.

Please take a moment to answer the poll. Thank you

It’s The End of the World

Life just keeps getting crazier. Or maybe it just seems that way because we have so many more images coming our way in so many forms.

I’m going to refrain from being political, but….Holy Heck, Batman. Whatta week.

I live with someone who has the news running on TV a lot. I can feel it affecting me physically and emotionally so I try to take it in little bits, but I can’t listen to things over and over again. And I feel like you have to sift through to find facts and anything decent in the world. There’s so much that’s horrible.

That’s why when I did find some good news, I wanted to pass it along here.

Did anyone read about the five year old boy who attacked some armed home invaders that were going after his mother? All this little guy knew was that nobody was gonna hurt his mom. He threw his toys at the men and then grabbed ahold of one of the men’s arms and wouldn’t let go. The men left them alone and the family was not harmed. A five year old. A baby. His love and determination gave him the strength to fight back. May not truly be a “happy” story, but it is a story where good wins out over evil and that doesn’t happen often enough. And whenever good wins, it brings a bit of hope to the world

Sometimes I think I don’t get triggered like a lot of folks because I was not physically harmed. But there are things that truly affect me because I can feel the sensations seeing the image or hearing the story bring about. And it doesn’t have to be anything truly awful for me to become uncomfortable.

I read this week about how people get hooked by the love bombing of the Narcissist. And this is nothing to be ashamed of. The Narcissist/Predator has evil on their mind. But they use kindness and sharing and compliments as bait. And like a drug dealer, once they see you are hooked, they keep coming back, but they begin to manipulate when and how much “love” you will receive. This kind of mind play can affect anyone, but can you imagine what devastation it can bring to someone who grew up with no secure connection to anyone or to someone to whom love was conditional? To believe love is not something you deserve but something that you have to earn and that can be taken from you if you fail….and to fall into this trap….can be life threatening.

This is what keeps me fighting….I know what that devastation feels like. I know too what it’s like to have someone tell you that it’s your fault.

Which brings you right back to the belief that no matter what you do, you will never do enough…be enough….and the self-hatred threatens to finish the job of destruction started at the hands of an evil, unfeeling manipulative liar. The coward knew they would destroy you. And they didn’t care about that. They did care, however, that you were “fun” and that you entertained them and amused them. And they made damn sure that nobody would believe you.

And this is not just done by priests and it is not just done by men. But when a priest does it, people are more likely to believe them and to turn against you.

I continue to move, inch by inch helping survivors because I am mad as hell. I am angry for every adult who has been abused and has had their child snatched from their arms or have had their church turn against them and call them names. I am angry every time someone in power calls a woman “cute” when she is doing her job. I am angry when a victim is afraid that people will find out what happened or they change their career goal because they have been traumatized. I am angry when someone asks me if perhaps I came on to the priest. And I am angry when someone is left alone and ripped apart from the inside with nobody who will talk to them because they don’t want to lose their job by speaking out. And I am angry at the games and the cover ups.

Wow….I didn’t know all of that was in there. Guess I’m angry. It’s not nice to be angry, is it? We should probably do yoga or meditate to get rid of that feeling.

But you know what? Sometimes it’s also healthy to cry, to yell, to scream, to run, to punch a pillow. Or to write. Because every feeling matters.

I may have mentioned that I don’t get angry often. Or at least I don’t express anger often. It’s gotten a bit easier over the years, but I don’t often have a good, gut cleansing…..I feel tons more anger than I do fear….how dare you…burst of honest anger.

Express instead of repress (or depress). Outward.

And this one time, I was with my two boys when they were probably like around 9 and 6 years old and we were at a park by a ball field and this group of kids came by. There was a mob mentality going on. About six kids or so were going after this one boy….I mean, really angry and wanting to hurt him.

So the meek little mom in me tried to reason with the boys….”Stop that guys, you are going to hurt him….stop!”

One of the boys who was on the attack turned around and looked at me and said “F*** you, lady!”

And at that moment, I just felt a surge of white hot anger come from somewhere and I swear, a part of me that I didn’t know was in there said…..”What?! What did you say to me? Don’t you EVER talk to ME like that!”

You could hear a pin drop. They were in shock.

The moment had passed. I too was in shock. It wasn’t planned, but it worked. They stopped beating this kid and the kid who got mouthy apologized to me.

The thing that felt great in that moment was that I didn’t think….I didn’t feel like I needed to forgive anyone….I got angry and because I was able to express that feeling, a potentially dangerous situation changed.

I want to harness some of that feeling again. I want everyone to harness some of that power of expressing that emotion again. Because they are getting away with it. Those who are abusing others. Right now. They are hurting someone right now. The person who hurt you may be doing the same thing to someone else.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me angry.

Comment here privately with the name of the person who abused you so our list can grow. I think you can email me here as well. Let’s come together and fight back.

Have a wonderful and safe week and don’t forget to answer this week’s poll….it’s an important one….

Who Are You?

Last week, most people said they still practice all of the rituals of the Catholic Church.

So, who are you really? When I was a child, I remember one night being in bed asking myself where I existed. What made me, “me”?

You’re brought up to identify yourself as others label you. You are told your name, your age, your sex, your religion, your culture, and your race. You learn boundaries by what other people find acceptable. Someone may ask you what is your favorite color or your favorite toy, but the colors and the toys are limited to what you are given.

You may look in the mirror and compare yourself to others. I am short because others are taller than me. My hair is not as nice as someone else’s. My eyes aren’t really brown but I call them brown because they don’t fit into any other category. People tell me I look like my father. Nobody ever tells me that I’m beautiful or smart so I guess I’m just okay.

I find out who I am by comparing myself to others and by who I like as my friends. I find out who I am by how other people react to me and if they like me or not. As I grow, I begin to form opinions.

As an adult, I know myself for what I do. I am a wife. I am a mother. I work in an office. Every day, I do the things that I need to do in order to do the things I am called successfully. I am so busy and I just do and please and take care of and that is what I am. For years, I live in a box that has no doors or windows. Asking any questions could thrown everything off.

But then something changes outside of me. My husband leaves. My kids grow up and leave home. I retire. My parents pass away. Suddenly, I don’t know who I am without a task to perform or someone to please.

Who am I? I know what I like to eat. I know what tv shows I like to watch. I know that most of the news in the world upsets me. I know that at times, I feel sad and scared and tired. And vulnerable. And I wonder at times how it is that sweet innocent babies can grow up and become monsters. How does that happen if we all start out so good?

But the question still remains…..who am I? If you take away the input of others or my physical characteristics or my experiences in life…..if I go back to the beginning and start fresh….if I had no idea who or what I was other than what I was inside….who would that be?

I’ve always felt that your surroundings are a reflection of who you are. Someone who may want to delve deeper into that might say that if you are surrounded by riches, it is because you tapped into your best self or you felt you were worthy of such things and therefore such things materialized. And if you are living in squalor, the same would apply….you don’t feel you deserve and therefore do not have.

Could be true. When I walked into my friend’s house two week’s ago, I saw two things….the first was perfection. Her house looked like it could be in Home and Garden. Collections held in a lighted breakfront with not a speck of dust to be seen. A room just for her artwork. The second thing I saw was her creativity everywhere…from her pictures on her walls to her homemade curtains. When you walked into her house, you got a good feeling.

My house…my house is always a work in progress, as I like to call it. But actually, it is just cluttered. And I hate clutter. But I also hate to throw things out. And I find that I spend so much time working on the clutter that I never seem to get to the things that I’d really like to be doing.

So I did some reading….research…into the subject of getting to know one’s self and what I found was that the more we think we know ourselves, the less likely we really do.

So that was pretty discouraging.

But don’t let that stop you. The more you know about yourself, the better your life will be. The less likely you will just follow along with someone else’s plans just to please them and the more self-respect you may earn for yourself.

I understand that many thoughts and feelings have been implanted through your life. And then as a young adult, if you enter the world with a head full of faulty thoughts about yourself, the world is only too happy to reflect anything negative back to you.

So take a little time to ask yourself some questions and do so without criticism.

What are the things you value? Family? Art? History?

What kinds of things make you want to learn more about something? Ancestry? Old coins? Photography?

What kinds of things tend to get you angry or upset quickly? Perhaps it’s when someone doesn’t respect your space or when you read an article about animal abuse?

What are your talents? Don’t have any? Have you tried everything there is to try in the world? Are you limiting your view of talent because you feel that what you can do doesn’t count if it is not as good as someone else?

No comparing. None.

What kind of things did you dream about doing when you were a child? Did you want to be a movie star? C’mon it’s just us here….you can tell me. Too late, huh? Well, they are filming a TV show in my town right now and they were looking for extras. Who says you can’t do something like that? Nobody, that’s who. So what if your part is unnamed person on park bench feeding the pigeons? Do not belittle your dreams.

Do you have a hero? It could be someone known only in your family. Doesn’t have to be a really famous person. What do you admire about that person? Or it could be you admire a little something about everyone you meet. Could happen. I admire my friend’s creativity. I could be more creative. I have to allow myself the time for that. Creativity was not high on my family’s to-do list….although my father could build a porch on the back of the house. Or build a room in the basement. Not seen as creativity, but it was.

This world would be such a better place if people took an hour out of their workdays to have an art period. Let everything else go. Get your box of crayons. Nothing else exists but you and your drawing paper and your crayons. Can you smell them even now? That new box of crayon smell?

And speaking of crayons….what is your favorite color? My favorite crayon was magenta. I liked the name. What is your least favorite color? I don’t know if I have one. What colors surround you in your life? What color is your living room? The shirt you are wearing? The towels in your bathroom? If you chose them, they are things that you like.

What kind of things don’t you like around you? Very bright lights? The smell of cigarette smoke on someone? Perhaps something that triggers a bad memory?

Perhaps you like liver and onions. Or peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Fried.

Maybe you enjoy thrill rides like roller coasters and skydiving. Or maybe you prefer a game of chess near a fireplace with a glass of cognac.

These things all make up who you are. And that is okay. You are going to disagree with people on things because you are alike and are different from other people. Because you are you. Celebrate that.

But why do you like certain things when perhaps your brother does not? I don’t know. I can say that there are theories about past lives and parallel universes, but that may be more than we can handle if we are just trying to declutter things and get through the day.

It is what it is. But I do feel that we are spiritual beings inside of physical bodies. Call it a soul if you will, inside all of us. I’ve read that we only bring 1/3 of our soul with us when we are born and the rest of us “stays home”…..a place we can visit in our dreams.

But aside from all of that, my message this week is to get to know yourself outside of what you have been told you are. You have likes and dislikes and dreams and things that intrigue you. You are not just what has happened to you. Get to know yourself a bit without judgement or criticism.

Have a wonderful week, and take this week’s poll if you’d like.

Livin’ On a Prayer

I did my regular blog this week. And then for some reason, it just totally disappeared. I didn’t have the heart to start over again until now. I did find out that it was a glitch in the system that had nothing to do with me and that was easily fixable. But tell that to me after an hour of so of hard thinking and typing just went “poof” into thin air.

Last week’s poll revealed that most of us get our news on-line. That is no surprise, really. Do you think it is less biased that way? More factual than hearing someone with an opinion speak the words? I don’t know. While I think the press is necessary, I don’t like how they will lean in one direction in order to stir controversy. It’s getting to be that the more outrageous something or someone is, and the more attention they can draw towards themselves, the less facts and what is good or truthful matters. It’s all about ratings and headlines.

Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about your comfort levels with religion and the church and if you still practice your religion or what you do instead, if anything.

I have heard horrible stories about priests abusing power and using their place in religious society to misuse the trust that their position generates. I have also heard stories about priests using religious ceremonies or objects to sexually abuse their victims.

This past week, it came out that a priest was caught having sex on an altar with two (I assume) paid dominatrix. I hate to say this, but it’s too bad that the one time a priest was caught with his pants down, it was with someone who would not have some kind of proof for court.

But here’s the thing….what do you do when you have been abused by a priest or in a church setting or with religious objects….and you need some spiritual being to turn to in prayer or comfort from someone in a time of need? Where have you turned for your spiritual needs and group support?

I think the sad part of this is that many people probably have not even gotten to the point where they could turn to a higher power or to trust enough to be emotionally vulnerable in a group setting. And ironically, if a survivor has learned to survive with the help of drugs or alcohol, that is another layer of “getting past” as help comes in the form of admitting the problem and turning to a higher power and opening up to a group.

There’s so much sadness and as much as we support each other, for the most part, we are alone with our thoughts.

I encourage survivors to go to meetings on-line. Because I think there are steps to recovery. Different steps for everyone, and some steps more difficult than others, but difficult steps can spur growth and strength.

I remember after I was fired and I had to look for other jobs because I was given unemployment…because it was a screwed up situation that was basically a cover-up…..I told a therapist that I had applied for a position as a secretary in another church….a non-Catholic church. Her reaction was….”What’s with you and priests?” Which I now see was rather inappropriate of her to ask. What I was looking for was a chance to do-over or to get back something I had lost. Without realizing it, I was looking for another religion.

I haven’t actually converted to another church. Technically I still belong to my mother’s parish. But having been a person who always wanted to know more all of my life….and probably someone who asks way too many questions….hence the polls….I do think that by the time I had been fired from my job at the diocese, I had outgrown the rules that the church tries to impose.

Both of my children were baptized by a priest who is now in jail for raping children. And he had the nerve to ask me if I attended church regularly and how important was my religion and could he trust me to make sure that the Catholic faith was important to my kids?

So what do we do to keep our faith and our belief that we are not alone or unloved in this world that seems out of our control?

If you have joined another faith, has that helped? If you are still Catholic but don’t attend church, are you able to pray at home and find comfort? Do you still believe in a higher power….or has the betrayal of trust you have suffered also wiped away your belief in all of the teachings of the church as well?

I’m not here to judge. I am hoping that in some way, with or without religion, survivors can find peace within themselves. Personally, I don’t think priests or a building are needed in order to worship God or to live a Christian life or to live a happy life without any belief.

After I began to see what had happened to me and how not only how unfair it was, but how a criminal offense had been manipulated and covered up, and that this was just the tip of an incredibly huge iceberg of people who were getting away with anything because nobody was holding them accountable…. I began to disbelieve anything else they were saying as well.

And to me that means that I will be just fine if nobody blesses me and if I don’t confess my sins or go to mass or give them money or leave the church money in my will…..I am free to pick and choose what is best for me.

And I am free to choose to believe what feels right to me.

Right now, what feels right to me is meditation and guidance and angels and trusting and being connected to spirit and not humans with an agenda to control me with fear and to reel me in to support them financially. It’s sad…it is. But I think it has also taught me to think for myself and to trust myself first.

I think that is a lifelong process in itself. It’s not easy. Especially if you have anxiety issues or panic attacks or social phobias. If you suffer from those issues, you find yourself talking yourself down so much that you find yourself minimizing real threats at times. Which is another reason I believe in mediation and spiritual enlightenment and prefer those practices over being shamed as to how often I am supposed to attend mass. Just sayin’. Different vibe there.

This past week, I actually ventured out with someone I haven’t seen in six months to go visit a friend who lives in the middle of nowhere. She is a very spiritually connected person who I actually met at a spiritual development class last year. But she has such an amazing home. And the reason I say that is because the minute you walk in her house, you know who she is. And she said that it took her years to be able to get to know herself and who she was…..which is what I’d like to talk about next time. Getting to know ourselves.

In the meantime, please have a safe and happy week and please take this week’s poll. Thanks!

Roar

Last week I asked everyone what they enjoyed doing. The majority of people said that they enjoy playing music. I can relate to that. Music has power to change emotion. When I have been at my lowest, music has raised me up. When I have felt weak and scared, music has helped me to feel stronger and a bit more brave.

This past week the music world lost Helen Reddy, who in the early 70’s sang the anthem, “I am Woman”. I hadn’t internalized what exactly that song meant at the time it came out as I was still in between “The Partridge Family” and Carly Simon and music to me was just about fun and romance. I was really raised in a bubble. From Catholic grade school under my parents’ control to Catholic high school where my guidance counsellor suggested that I become a nun, to Catholic college which had a mostly female enrollment, I had no idea about women’s issues and struggles.

That is, not until I got married and had children and learned that your spouse’s commitment was not a given in marriage and how much that lack of commitment could determine how easy or difficult life could be. And that depending upon someone else for your well being and the well being of your kids was not a good way to enter into a marriage. I also learned that what looked good and attractive outside of marriage….someone who was physically attractive, someone who had a lot of friends, someone who was fun when he was around…..didn’t always translate well when he ended up feeling trapped and obligated and hadn’t the foggiest idea how to nurture a child.

It was then that I began to see how important it was for me to invest in myself in order to not have to depend upon someone else. But not right away. At first I felt bounced like a pinball between my husband and my parents. And then I felt that I just had the wrong man. It took a lot of learning and a lot of mistakes and a lot of accepting help that I didn’t want to have to accept because of emotional obligation…..and a long time….for me to learn to roar.

Even now, I don’t consider myself roaring. It’s more of a….okay I’ll get up and go another day and say a loud “meow”….I’ll get there, give me a minute.

I said last week that my grandchildren don’t speak to me. Well, yesterday was my grandson’s birthday. He’s an adult. He stopped speaking to me suddenly about 2 1/2 years ago. I had seen the signs but chose to ignore them as he was still sending me texts at the time wishing me Happy Birthday or Merry Christmas and I love you. And he would go out for breakfast with me when I was having my infrequent breakfasts with his half-sister and her mother. I told him I thought it was important that they stay in touch and he agreed whole-heartedly. But he told me that he felt that his father had abandoned both of them. I listened to him but said nothing, having to go to court in order to see my grand-daughter, but still staying loyal to my son, who was only half the problem.

The other half of the problem was alienation of affection, which is experienced by many people with children and grandchildren. That is when one parent (and sometimes that parent’s spouse) will turn the child against the other parent and their family. I always thought these kids would be in my life in some way forever….but when my grand-daughter turned 18, her mother said that our relationship was up to her now….and both kids shut me out at that point.

So it was my grandsons birthday yesterday. He is still on Facebook…has not “Unfriended” me, but ignores anything I post or message to him. My feeling….although it goes against everything that is me….is to let them go. I did add to my son’s birthday wish to him on Facebook, but I don’t have his address as he moved out of the state, so I cannot mail him anything. When I have sent anything to his sister, the check gets cashed or I assume. the present will be had….but I will hear nothing. No thank you. Nothing.

So perhaps “roars” can be silent as well. They are my grandchildren. I will always be here for them no matter what. But I have chosen to back away. I will always be in the background, but it hurts me when I expect anything, so I will expect nothing and not be disappointed. And I won’t continue to give anything to anyone who continues to ignore me and cannot say thank you. The same as I hope I would to anyone else who treated me as such.

It’s not so easy, though, is it? How many times in our lives do we have to walk away when we don’t want to….leaving a trail of feelings in our wake? And sometimes it’s not so much walking away but having someone walk away from us….and there may be a part of us that blames ourselves when it happens.

When trying to rationalize or to find peace, I will find myself saying to myself….if they are happy, that is what is important, or….I’m doing what is right by stepping back…or…well, it’s better to let them go if they are going to act like that.

But then I get angry. Why does someone else get to be called “grandma”? Or, why did the person who I got the job for get to keep her job and stop talking to me and I was the one who got fired? Or, why do I have to be the one who always has to understand and forgive and let go when I was not the person who asked for anything in the first place but then got attached?

The thing is, I don’t believe it is anything personal. As my dad always said….”People aren’t against you….they are for themselves.” In other words…..that’s life.

So we let go. I’ve always found that halfway is harder than all the way with something….whether it be relationships or smoking or something else. The only thing that finally gave me perspective about what happened to me at the diocese was getting away from it. It was horrible at first. Horrible. Getting kicked out. Feeling rejected and lost and blaming myself.

But with time, I was able to understand that not only was I not seeing the forest for the trees, but I was set up. And that felt almost as bad as if I had degraded myself feeling that it was something that I had to do or that God had somehow placed me there to do…or that I had failed. Confusion became clearer as I gained distance, to the point where I could actually speak to the bishop. But that took time and understanding and self-forgiveness.

So I do understand fear. And shame. And self-loathing. And not wanting to talk about it. And those are all things that keep you shackled.

I find it frustrating to see what the church gets away with and how it appears to be the one under attack. I find it frustrating to hear people express opinions about how most priests are good and that we are making a big deal out of a few bad ones.

It has to be as frustrating as say, a person who has been victimized hearing about how there are only a few bad cops or that I am a good person who is not prejudiced so don’t blame me. The fact is, if you have not experienced something first hand, you need to stop talking and listen to those who have experienced it. Stop being defensive, and be willing to listen and to learn. Forcing your opinion into things you have no personal knowledge of can feel disrespectful. Because to those who have been victimized, it is not always easy to find a voice. Especially when speaking up can bring about more problems.

Speaking out about something when it has not affected you first-hand….when you think you know what you are talking about, is hurtful to those people who have been through an experience.

Okay….been watching too much Dr. Phil.

It’s frustrating to me also to see people who are too afraid to move. Too paralyzed to speak. I want to tell them please….please attend a meeting. You don’t have to speak. You don’t have to show your face. It can help to listen to others and to know that you are not alone.

Meetings for those abused at the age of 18 or above are now held twice a month on bluejeans. The first and the third Sunday of every month from 7pm to 9pm EST. There is a weekly meeting just for men every Saturday from 1pm to 3pm EST. And there is a weekly meeting for women only as well as other virtual meetings. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask to be a part of a meeting. So many people have found them to be helpful.

Another thing I thought about that might be helpful? A database of priests and those who have hurt us as adults…whether or not they have been deemed credibly accused. If you would like to name your abuser, you may comment on this blog at any time. It will not be published publicly.

Have a good week….please take this week’s poll. And contact me if you would like.

Haven’t Got Time for the Pain

So I had this thought…..if you were to write your autobiography…but you could only fill the pages with the happy times in your life…..how long would your book be?

For this experiment, you would totally erase bad thoughts and feelings. All your days would be sunny….except when you preferred a rainy night or a cozy snow day with a mug of hot chocolate.

How would it make you feel?

One day I happened to think about a dog that I knew when I was a kid. My neighbors had gotten a new puppy and had taken me up on my offer to puppy sit after school until they got home. It was a great gig. When they got home, they would give me a snack and sometimes pay me.

As the dog grew older….and this was in the days before leash laws….he never forgot me. I remember getting off the bus from school at the corner of our street and walking down the road to my house. And every day….every day…without fail, this dog would greet me. He was a big gangling mutt of a dog and when he ran up to greet me, he would oh so gently, jump up and put his paws on each of my shoulders and his face would be touching mine. I loved that dog.

And sadly, all good things must come to an end. But what a good memory. And as I was remembering, it was like I was there again. I felt the same feelings of being there by thinking about and reliving that memory.

Did you ever have a wonderful dream? One where you hated to wake up and realize that it wasn’t real? Don’t you hate that when your alarm goes off and drags you back to reality? For a moment, you had something really good.

I’ve heard it said that people are wired to pursue pleasure and to avoid pain. And the strongest motivator of the two is the avoidance of pain. That makes a lot of sense in a world where nothing makes sense anymore.

A heroin addict will continuously seek the initial high they experienced the first time they used the drug. Which drive is stronger for them….the pursuit of that pleasure or the avoidance of the pain of withdrawal?

And sometimes relationships will seem to be a good thing at first but soon prove otherwise. And we get caught in between searching for crumbs of pleasure while avoiding the pain of all of the unpleasantness that comes from leaving that person. Being alone. Not belonging. Financial struggle. Fear of losing control. Fear of the unknown. Fear of abuse.

I noticed something within myself this week. Kind of an underlying anger. You know how it is when you have had a relationship for a long time with someone and you get triggered because of something that happens? It may seem like a little thing to someone on the outside, but for you, who have lived through so much of the same thing over and over, that little thing is like shorthand for a much bigger thing.

Case in point…my ex brother in law passed away suddenly this past week. I’ve known him since high school. He came to a party in my parents’ basement when we were about 18. He came home from the Navy for his father’s funeral when I was pregnant with my first child and said he would marry me if his brother didn’t. I still have stuff that he sent home to us when we got married and he was stationed in Italy.

Well, I’ve known the family for many years and so I know how the family functions with picking favorites and alienating people and not speaking to people and such. I’ve seen deliberate hurt flung at someone with intent to destroy. So when the obituary came out in the paper, I was sensitive to a couple of things.

Firstly, his “beloved” ex-wife was mentioned twice in the first paragraph. Then, his parents, siblings, and kids. My sons are his nephews. He was their uncle who they loved. One niece was mentioned by name…..his beloved niece…..and “others”. My kids were not given names.

I know….doesn’t seem like a big deal. But it’s my kids being called “others”.

Okay, so this is how wars start, right? Over little things like this. But what it did was remind me that as much as I sometimes crave being a part of and belonging to that family….I don’t miss that ignorance of placing some people up on pedestals and others having to accept their role as bit players. And not being allowed to acknowledge it.

Thoughts can bring about emotions, that’s for sure. Good memories can elicit good feelings. Bad memories of the past can trigger negative responses. And we are wired to avoid pain.

So as you can see from my reaction to the obituary, it was not just about one lone instance that brought about a reaction. It was as if my mind and my body had years of memory stored within and just one little match was enough to set the blaze.

I say to myself….I’m happy I have moved on, I am in a good place pretty much, I forgive, I forget, I meditate, I have grown spiritually.

And then one little thing and I feel unsteady. I feel….feelings. Messy feelings. Anger, anxiety, fear, resentment. Pain. Deep buried pain.

Why? I’m medicated. I’m not still married. I’m past years of an emotionally dysfunctional childhood. I’ve divorced my emotionally distant, controlling and abusive husband. My kids have left home. I got over that too. My son got married without my being there. My grown grandkids don’t talk to me. I’ve accepted that I can’t do anything more about that. My brother is still alive after years of substance abuse intermingled with bouts of intense drama. I’ve gotten past being fired from the diocese and having cancer. I should be feeling peaceful now.

So why can’t I feel like I can’t relax? Why am I tense and angry and fearful? Why do I feel so damaged?

Well, the answer is….because your body remembers everything. And because your body has been through everything you have been through…..all of the disappointment, anger, loneliness, fear, abuse, depression, illness, pain, anguish….all of the feelings we may have even tried to deny or suppress…..your body remembers and is ready to do battle to protect you.

So it shoots out adrenaline when something isn’t life threatening, and it subconsciously warns you of things that may be a good thing for you because it’s afraid it may be a bad thing. It’s so used to reacting and of existing in a world where it has to watch out around every corner that even when you are laying in a hammock on a breezy afternoon under the shade of a tree….it’s restless. It can’t shut off and relax. It’s learned that for every good thing, pain is not far behind.

So when I said before that the highlight of your life may be a good day for painting or the fact that you can button your jeans……it may be because you are living in a gray world. A world where the colors are muted and not bright. Because if the colors get too bright, it will scare the heck out of you. Because you can’t let yourself feel too much.

But, I read this week that we can try to rewire our brains. Remember how I said that I wondered how many pages our autobiography would contain if it only held the good memories within? Well, sometimes our brains get so scrambled from trauma…physical, or emotional….that we fail to recognize the brighter colors of our lives. Is our life story just about trauma? Have we not laughed, loved, enjoyed the taste of food, been loved by an animal, snuggled with a child, brought joy to someone, opened the windows on a Spring day, created something beautiful, enjoyed an activity?

It’s hard when you have been abused to tell yourself that you are okay and that you deserve good things and deserve to be happy. Hard but not impossible. Not impossible but it involves conscious effort. It involves conscious positive thinking to begin to rewire the brain and the body.

I’m willing to bet you have worked hard for most of your life in order to get what you need in order to survive in this world. Food, clothing, shelter….stuff like that. Now it’s time to try to do and think and experience happy thoughts and people and activities.

Never easy. But never impossible.

I will close with part of a poem I wrote eons ago:

If I wore rose colored glasses, and you wore a pair shaded blue, we might see the same things in different ways, each from our own point of hue.

Have a great week….hope you were able to participate in the SNAP conference a bit. Please take the poll.