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Uncategorized, Warrior's Voice

Grieving in Silence

I attended a Zoom conference today with the author of, ‘Motherless Daughters’, Hope Edelman. I wasn’t exactly sure of what to expect from the conversation as I have not yet read her book. As I logged in, others were logging in as well. Women from all over the world. Many from the United States, others from India, UK, Singapore, and other countries. Women of all ages raging from early 20’s to late 80’s joined the Zoom connection to hear what Hope had to say.

Hope shared a brief synopsis of her story in how she lost her mom when she was quite young and how she has found the process of grief varies in many ways. Whether due to the age you are when you lose your mother, the circumstances around her passing, how you, your father, and other family members processed or didn’t process the loss, all may effect how you have grieved and continue to grieve. She also introduced an online course she will be launching in January for a fee of $197.

What stood out to me the most was actually my lack of grief in the loss of my mother comparatively to the comments being typed into the chat portion of the Zoom conversation. I was devastated when my mother died suddenly after a very short battle with breast cancer. One that we thought she was actually winning. I can still see, feel and hear conversations in her hospital room in the couple days before her vocal chords were paralyzed. The day she gave her last breath will never leave my memory. I cried, long and hard. I spent the entire summer focused on my nieces and nephews, to surround myself with what mattered most to my mother.

And yet, as summer came to a close, it was back to life as it was. While sitting and listening to the women on this conference video still grieving, I connected to my lack of long term grief. Not lack of love for my mother, but lack off allowing myself the space and ability to continue to bring her memory with me today.

I am an ‘out of sight out of mind’ kind of person. It became evident to me when I traveled with a girlfriend to visit another girlfriend who was battling cancer in 2017. We had all been through our own battle with breast cancer around the same time with varied diagnosis. Now this friend was fighting colon cancer, stage IV. While I was away from my family, I noticed my friend calling home a few times each day to say hi to her husband and her daughters. It was then I realized I don’t do that. Have never done that. I thought long and hard about all the times Tom and I had gone away on a overnight getaway and determined I never once called to say goodnight to my children while I was away.

It’s not that I didn’t miss them. Many moments I would think, “Oh, I wish Tom was here to walk on this beach with me.” Or, “I wish M was here to play in the pool, he would love this!” Or, “Laurie and I should go here some time.’ And upon returning home, I would grab hold of them, give them hugs and kisses, and say, “I missed you so much!” I was very happy to see them indeed. It just never occurred to me to call them while I was away. (On another note, I also have not been prone to bring home gifts/souvenirs when I have been away.)

In giving this more thought I noticed this to be true in other areas of my life as well. If I left a job, I did not keep in touch with co-workers. When a friend has moved away, I have easily lost contact with that friend. Facebook has allowed for the most recent friendships to remain superficially connected, yet without it the relationship would be lost.

I did not grieve when my father passed shortly after my mother. I felt the lack of grief in his passing was for very different reasons. The zoom meeting today touched on how grief or lack thereof can vary based on the relationship you had with the loved one before their passing. This has always made sense to me. With a tumultuous at best relationship with m y father, a heart of pain, misunderstanding, memories of physical and emotional abuse over shadowed his death.

Today I found myself pondering about my childhood and how our family functioned in high stress times. Times, where I believe now, a therapist would say were traumatic, life altering moments. What I can recall is a great deal of silence. Our home became full of silence. Rooms that were meant to be shared, living spaces designed for the family to gather, empty. Each person went to their private space, including our mother, closed the door, creating a sea of silence throughout the home.

I spent a large amount of time at home, seemingly alone, even though others were there. And when our mother left for work, to visit our father who was living elsewhere at the time, the phone never rang. She didn’t call to check on me, to see how we were doing, to say good night. I don’t recall waiting for a phone call, or wishing I had received a phone call. It just didn’t happen. Not from her, not from friends, not from anyone. This was my normal.

After my trip to CA with my girlfriends, I began making a point of calling home or sending photos to my son with a text letting him know I missed him. I have even called my adult daughter and my best friend a couple times recently to check-in. It feels odd, and yet oddly right. I am beginning to acknowledge I have been trapped living a life of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for a very long time. It was and is my coping mechanism to loss. Whether that be grief for loss, or guilt for being away and thus causing my children a sense of loss, or guilt for being away from my partner and leaving them alone taking care of everything. It seems as though it all connects back to how I felt as a child, but was unable to voice it. No one voiced it.

We grieved in silence. All we were going through. All we were battling in our minds and our hearts. All of the pain, hurt, fear, worry, was held in silence. I carried this into my abusive marriage. It was furthered by the notion that our problems were private and thus should not be discussed with others. Furthered still by the belief wherein all of our cares should be taken to the Lord in prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in prayer. I believe in a God who heals and provides and loves me, for me. I also believe in a God who wants us to carry each others burdens, love one another, and care for and grieve with one another. It has taken years to get past, to get over, to forgive and heal from what was taught to me for decades. To break through the silence I was held captive in.

I am uncertain of how to grieve in a healthy way, one that will hold the love I have for who or what I have lost, without holding me in a space of sadness or pain. I desire to incorporate sharing memories of the good times along with expressing the pain and hurt in a way of processing through all which was lost before my parents died and after. With the inability to share what was lost before, due to the learned nature of holding it all in silence, I have developed the habit of doing nothing rather than something.

And I believe I have continued this method of living in silence in other areas of my adult life. The uncertainty of what can and cannot be spoken about. The idea of if I do not talk about it, do not call home while I am away, then being away will have been okay and will not have caused any harm (real or imagined). My child, my spouse, my relationship will not be changed, altered or affected, as long as the time away (and fear of what being away may have done to those I left) is kept in silence.

If I call, then I am acknowledging that I am away, that I have left them, that I am having fun without them. For some reason, that has always felt wrong. Thinking back to when my mom would go away in the evenings to see my dad, that is exactly what it felt like. I was abandoned. Left alone, to fend for myself, tuck myself in bed, say my prayers in silence. We didn’t ever talk about it. And as long as we didn’t talk about it, it was okay. Without realizing it, I carried this with me as I grew, developing a part of my character. Silence became my grieving process and silence expanded and grew into many areas of my life in which I felt uncertain whether or not should be spoken of. I have kept myself from truly experiencing grief, rest, pleasure, fear, joy, separation, instead remaining silent.

Silence became something I dreaded. I found ways to not be in silence whenever possible, not knowing all I was doing was covering up what I needed to hear, feel, say. I have come to a place in my life where I rejoice in silence. I long for silence and cherish moments, if not hours in silence. And it is in this silence where I am hearing my grief, feeling my hurts, gaining understanding and the strength to voice it all.

Uncategorized

Current Read: Carry On Warrior

I will begin this blog post with the fact that I know very little about Glennon Doyle Melton. Not an avid follower of her blog, in fact I do not believe I have once opened the page. Now that I mention it, I will open it once I am done here. I have read one book of hers previously, LOVE Warrior. I think I liked it. Like many books I read, I soon forget the details after having put it down. The good thing is, I can pick it up and read it again and gain new insight. It does not mean it wasn’t a good book. If it were not a good book (in my opinion), I would not have finished reading it. Those I set aside, return to the library, pass off to a local free library before nearing the middle, let alone the end.

Last week I went to the library with the goal in mind of checking out a book to take with me on a trip to Miami. Visions of reading by the pool danced in my head. Little did I know, I would spend very limited time reading. There was more fun to be had, and I would enjoy it. Now that I am back home, I have opened the book and consumed 19 pages. A bit of Glennon’s story is coming back to me. Which either means, I know more of her than I thought, or she repeats her story in her subsequent books. Maybe both.

I do recall the one thing in particular I liked about her book, the one I previously read. Her honesty. Not honesty as in, I am impressed she is speaking the truth. Honesty, in the sense of baring ones soul in an effort to expose yourself to yourself in an open forum. We can call ourselves out in our own minds and never change, but speaking our truth out loud, holds us accountable for what we have done, what we are saying, and what we will then do. I can appreciate the baring of her soul. I have sat down at my computer many times and began to do the same only to stop myself and delete it.

What would people think? It’s not my friends I worry about. It’s our clients. Our son’s friend’s parents. The soccer moms and dads. Those who would send us business, our current livelihood. One day, when I retire, I will speak (write) my mind freely. And so, with that in mind, I admire the way Glennon shares her thoughts, her truths, her life, as if no one is watching. Or at last as if she does not care who is watching, who is listening. Well done.

My truth for today is this, I am ever a work in process when it comes to my temper. My past aside, I stand up for myself far too quickly. I jump before being jumped on. I trample before being trampled. Words of edification are heard as accusation. Feedback heard as criticism. Suggestions imply I am incapable. Some would say, my reaction is justified or explained by how I was mistreated as a child and a wife. I choose to say, I must hold myself accountable for my actions no matter my past. I must reveal them to myself, own them, learn from them, grow and desire change. I refuse to remain a victim. I must be the change I want to see in the world. It starts with me.

Warrior's Voice

Giving Way to My Voice

‘Daddy, why are you so angry? Why do you have to hit me with a belt? If I promise I won’t do it again, do you have to hit me with the belt?’

‘Why does mommy lock herself in the bathroom and cry?’

‘Mommy, what’s wrong? I’m sorry that daddy hit Bill. I’m sorry that Bill made him mad.’

‘Mommy, why does daddy hit us with a belt? It hurts when he hits our backs and our legs.’

‘Get married? I don’t want to get married. I don’t even know if I want to keep the baby.’

‘I don’t want to look at porn. Aren’t I enough? Why do you want to look at that woman instead of at me while we are making love? How is it love, if you need to look at them having sex?’

‘I believe you are the head of the home, the man of the family. I believe that God put you there for a reason. You can make all of the big decisions, but why does that mean I have no say? Can’t I tell you how I feel, why I think what you are about to do is not a good decision for our family?’

‘Wait, you want me to do what?’

‘You want me to be naked in front of a camera that other men are going to be watching?’

‘It’s okay, because it is in our marital room and we both agree to it? What if I don’t agree?’

A running list scrolls through my mind as I lay awake at night. I should be sleeping, but I cannot.

Why do I want to write this book?

The question people ask me. The question I ask myself. The need for a simple answer haunting me again. ‘I need to create an elevator speech’, I tell myself for the umpteenth time. A well thought, canned response to the burning question everyone asks.

‘You deserve better than him.’

‘He shouldn’t speak to you that way.’

‘Don’t listen to his words. You are smart. You are beautiful. You have the potential to do great things.’

I have said these things to girls, women I have come across while out for a walk. From a distance I hear her boyfriend, her partner, ridicule her, defiling her with words of hatred. Tearing her down, beating her into submission, not for the first time nor for the last.

I should remain quiet. Mind my own business. I can’t.

I must speak out. I have to defend her. I need to be that person who will speak up for her, to her. Oh, how I longed for someone to speak up for me. To tell me, he was wrong. His words were wrong, I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. No woman deserved to be treated that way. It was not because of my sin. It was not because my heart was not right with God.

If I don’t speak up, who will?

If I give it too much thought, it overwhelms me. I cannot possibly save them all. I understand many do not want to be saved. Some do not know, yet, their need to be saved. Rescued. Many, so many, have tried to leave, only to return. Leaving is hard, unbelievably hard. Going back is easier. I know. How do you help those who do not want to be helped? How do you find those who need and want to be helped? Once you find them, how do you possibly help them? Their needs, all very different, are more than I could take on.

It would be easier to go forward in my own life. To count my blessings and move on. To accept if I am needed, if they come to me, then I will help, if I am able.

Easier.

It was easier to go back. It was easier to stay. Easier to live with the hidden knowledge that I would most likely die. By his hand or my own.

It was harder to leave. Scarier to step out. Difficult to accept that leaving was my only chance to ever know if what I believed, what I questioned, was right, or wrong.

I left. I survived. I am alive.

That should be enough. Only, it’s not.  A purpose burns within me. It began as the smoldering embers of the fire that destroyed me. The fire of his words. The fire of his beatings. The destruction, the mayhem my daughter and I endured. Furniture broken, plates smashed against walls, hair pulled, evil spewed from his mouth, day after day. The flames put out when we escaped, not turning back, in the middle of the night, one last leaving, never to return.

The embers remain, smoldering, white hot, a reminder of all we survived. His words, his abuse reduced to ash, still there, in our hearts and our minds. For years a reminder, giving me strength to continue on, no turning back. The flames sparked when fear crept in, only to be put out once again through therapy sessions, through new found understanding, healing and love. Fear turned to anger a less vulnerable emotion. Anger raged within, crying out for resolution. Resolution, brought healing, forgiveness. Forgiveness, releasing me from the grip of my past. My pain, my hurt, my shame.

And yet, the embers, the ash remain. Eighteen years later, still there. Time heals all wounds, they say. My physical wounds have healed. Much of my emotional wounds have healed. The embers there, inside my heart, lingering inside my soul are giving way to my voice. They glow when I see abuse, when I fall into my own anger, they ignite when I write. The cries within me, silenced for years, rising up, longing to be heard, to be shared, to fulfill a purpose I have shied away from.

Telling my story, is not to shame my ex-husband. It is not to destroy him. He is but a human with faults and pain of his own. Telling my story is not to hurt his parents, his family, those who knew him. Many of them are family to me, to this day, people I admire, people I love, deeply. Telling my story is not to shame my family, my parents who are deceased, my siblings, who are alive and do not understand my need to share, to tell our family secrets. Telling my story is not for sympathy. I do not long for any one to feel sorry for me.

Telling my story, sharing my life, is to give way to my voice. If my voice can help one woman, awaken her inner voice, strengthen her to get help, to leave, to live. If my voice can help one child, open the eyes and ears of someone in their life who can extend the help they need. If my voice can awaken a young girl seeking love in all the wrong places. If my voice can open the eyes of an abuser to seek help, or a friend to call the abuser out. If my voice can open your eyes to the abuse around you and compel you to use your voice to help even one victim. If my voice can do that, then I must give way to my voice.

 

Image result for my voice quotes

May the embers of my soul never go out. May they spark in me the fire to speak up, to speak out. May them embolden me extend help to someone in need. May they live on, in others, long after I am gone.

Warrior's Voice

It’s (not) Just Verbal

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

This little limerick rings clear in my head. Kids all across America have grown up chanting this on the playground, in their neighborhoods, or sneering at their own siblings.

“I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks on you.”

Another limerick, one of the most common responses to a mean word when I was a child. We were taught this by our parents, our teachers. ‘Words are just words’, they would say. ‘Words can’t actually hurt you’, they told us over and over again.

Growing up, we were taught a bully, was someone who beat up kids on the playground, after school, or at the local park. Bullies picked on kids littler than themselves. It wasn’t their words you had to worry about, it was their fists.

‘You might need to defend yourself some day, if a mean kid, bigger than you, traps you in the school bathroom and won’t let you out. You gotta come out swingin’.’ My older brothers taught me that one.

If we told our teacher a kid was calling us names, we were told not to tattle-tale. Nobody likes a tattle-tale. If we persisted, we were often called weak, someone with thin-skin. A good amount of energy was spent on strengthening our resolve to words. If we would only let the words go in one ear and out the other, surely we would be okay. They were just words. In strengthening our ability to let the hurtful words of others roll off our backs, we were taught our pain didn’t matter. It wasn’t real. It was weak. We were weak. Our voice, the one inside of us crying out, “That’s NOT okay,” was silenced.

I grew up checking myself, so as not to be a tattle-tale. Questioning my hurt, needing to justify my pain. Without adequate evidence of wrong doing by the other party, something more than words, it was better left alone. Time after time words, hurtful words, filed away in my the recesses of my mind. My inner voice wanting to call them out, but knowing better, I kept quiet.

“The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them.” Proverbs 12:6

Words are powerful. Words can build you up. They can tear you down. Words can put a smile on your face, or rip your heart out of your chest. They can free you from a misunderstanding. Or they can can cause division, destroying relationships, communities, governments. Words have the power to silence. To manipulate. To control. To kill.

While intentions were honorable, our parents and teachers were wrong. Sticks and stones may break bones,yes that is true. Words, can paralyze, hold captive, destroy, and even kill a person. By teaching us to ignore words, devaluing their power, we were taught to ignore our inner voice which protects us from potential harm. We were taught to second guess our ability to determine when we were being mistreated, manipulated. We were taught to ignore the early warning signs of abuse, to disregard our own voice.

Now, decades later, it is common knowledge that abusers first groom their victims. One method of grooming is to create a relationship that feels safe and provides a need the victim has. Establishing a dependency on their abuser allowing the abuser to get what they want while seemingly providing what the victim wants or needs. Another form of grooming is to use words to slowly tear the victim down, bring them into a place of submission. Initially the abuser will use minor insults which they will often reference with, ‘Oh, I was just joking. You know that, right?’, to put the victim at ease. This resonates with a person who grew up with ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’ philosophy.

As time goes on the grooming takes hold of the victim and creates the perfect environment for abuse. Many people share stories that begin with, “He never hit me, it was only verbal abuse, but……”

Verbal abuse.

Emotional abuse.

Verbal abuse, emotional abuse has the ability to alter the victims day to day state of mind. To change or stop altogether their ability to function at school, their job, in their home, and in many social environments. Over time and repeated abuse, the victim loses their ability to make decisions, causing them to question their judgement, knowledge and understanding. In many cases, verbal abuse, leads to brain washing, changing the victim’s perception of themselves, their beliefs, and the view of life and the world around them. It is under this control. this abuse, where many victims find them in a helpless position.

Overcome by low self esteem and self worth, they are unable to get a job with an income to provide for themselves (never mind if they have kids, other mouths to feed). Having been convinced by their past experiences as a child, no doubt reiterated over and over by their abuser, ‘they are only words’, the victim has never called the police to file a report. Ashamed of their inability to have a loving and happy marriage and out of fear of reprimand, the victim remains silent. Not sharing their plight with friends and family. They are isolated, beaten down, scared, alone, hopeless and stuck.

It’s not just verbal, it’s Abuse.

It’s time to stand up and speak out against all forms of abuse.

Warrior's Voice

Smell of Rain

On the walk to the bus stop I noted it must have rained in the night. The gravel beneath where my husband’s truck had sat light grey whereas the gravel around it was dark.

“Mama, I can smell the rain. Isn’t it strange, how we can smell the rain?” My son said as we walked hand in hand to the bus stop.

Strange, yes it is strange. And yet, every time I step outside after rain has fallen through the night I inhale, welcoming the smell of rain. Not as intense as freshly cut grass, a subtle scent all its own. The smell of rain is scent anew.

The scent is fresh. Like the removal of stale air that has consumed any sense of goodness in the oxygen which we breath. The air we had previously become accustomed to, not knowing it was anything but fresh and in fact was no better than day old bread left out to dry. Each day we had come out for a walk, inhaling deeply, satisfied. All the while filling our nostrils and our lungs with less than. Okay to be satiated, by stale air.

And then, rain falls. Our senses awakened. Eyes close, shoulders drop then rise, lungs expand, spine lengthens. Scent anew fills our nostrils from the freshly fallen rain having cleared all pollution.

 

 

“I’m sorry you have to live in this hideous apartment. You deserve better than this.” My brow furrowed as I watched his eyes scan the room.

Inwardly I chastised myself for opening the door to him. It was after midnight. I was alone in the apartment my daughter and I had fled to in the middle of the night just a few short weeks ago. The knock had startled me as I tip-toed around the lonely apartment. My daughter was at her first sleep over with a girl from her new school. She was only half a block up the street. I assured myself I could go get her if she needed me at any moment. I quickly realized it was I who needed her.

He stepped towards me. I backed away.

“You don’t have to stay here, you know. You can come back home. I forgive you.” Once again, I was in the wrong and he was here to assure me he would take me back.

I scanned the room just as he had. Mouth closed, words caught in my throat. Our living room had a full-size sofa and matching love seat, an oak framed glass coffee table and two matching side tables. a large tube television sat on a stand across the room from the sofa, antenna sticking up, reaching for the connection floating in the air above our home.

My hand slid across the clean surface of the dining room table in front of me. Large oval dark brown formica surface with heavy metal legs holding it up. Four solid chairs reminded me of captains seats on the Star Trek Enterprise I used to watch on Sunday nights as a kid. He stood behind one of the faux leather chairs, staring at my face. Our eyes connected. His full of question. Mine, empty.

“What are you thinking?”, he asked.

I shook my head.

“Come. on you can tell me. Really. I’m here for you. You and Laurie can come back to me. Like none of this ever happened. You can leave this dump and we can be a family again.” His eyes sparkled, pleased with himself.

I hadn’t understood what he saw when he first walked into the apartment. His words condemning what felt and looked beautiful to me. Each day I walked into this space, ever amazed at what my eyes beheld. The apartment was simple, comfortable, safe. A few photos of Laurie and I in frames I had purchased at Fred Meyer sat on the side tables. New memories we had created going on bike rides, just the two of us.

He spoke again, and it hit me, the air was growing stale. Each word he spoke emitting toxins into the space around us.

“We should watch a movie together. Maybe you could cut my hair.”

I glanced at the stack of papers on the table.

“I need you to sign these papers.” It was the first I had spoken since letting him into my home.

I slid the papers across the table toward him and grabbed a pen.

“What papers?”

“Divorce papers. It’s not final. I mean, if you go to counseling like you said you would, we can talk about working things out. But, for now, I need you to sign these papers.” I stared at him. He was silent. I willed him to respond, praying he would sign them.

“If I go to counseling, you’ll come back to me?” Don asked, his brow raised as he waited my reply.

“If you keep your word, we can talk about it. But first you need to sign these. I won’t file them yet. Please, do this one thing, for me.” I extended my hand offering him the pen.

He took the pen, looked into my eyes one more time before leaning over the table. I watched as he signed, tapped the pen on the table two times before setting it down.

“Can I have a hug?”, he asked.

I stepped towards him and allowed his arms to encircle my body. I kept my arms wrapped tight around myself, my body stiff to his touch. He held me for what seemed like an eternity. I cleared my throat and moved to step back. His arms released their hold on me.

“I’ll call a counselor tomorrow. You’ll see. I mean it.”

Don turned and walked towards the door to leave. I followed him, several steps behind.

His hand on the knob, he paused.

“I love you.”

I remained silent. He turned the knob, opened the door and left.

I closed the door behind him and turned the deadbolt. My heartbeat raced inside my chest. I turned back to the table and picked up the stack of papers, checking each page for his signature. Ninety days after filing, I would be free.

I inhaled. The air, like after freshly fallen rain, filled my lungs.