In honor of John

don  1

Two years ago I walked in to a physical therapist’s office not knowing at all what I was facing. I think back to that time in my life and it is hard to remember the fear and pain I was in all the time. It was so pervasive that I was unable to even sense how deep it was. I just lived with it. I did not know what flight, fight or freeze was and how the limbic system worked. I did not understand much of anything that was going to be presented to me in the following years. I had expectations of walking into his office and he would look at me, give me ten exercises and tell me to be on my way. “See ya next week.” I was so wrong.

Every week I would show up and like a terrified animal, I would wrap myself up as tight as I could get and almost cringe as I walked into the office or into his treatment room. I hated that yellow room. It scared me. But the daemons were all of my own making. It took months before he could even touch me to help me. Looking back it is hard to remember what it felt to be that scared all the time. It is hard to remember how hypervigilant I was all the time. I was a terrified human being whose bruises were apparent to everyone. I felt disconnected to everyone and everything. No one knows how really bad it was except John, who stood at the edge of the rabbit hole and extended his hand. It was his pulling me up to the next level that allowed me to fight for myself and ask for more help. His investment in me gave me strength and hope, something no one else had ever done for me.

Something amazing happened. I began to trust him. It was his faith in me and the courage he gave me that allowed this healing to occur. I asked to heal and I made a commitment to work on healing. My wounds were very big, some so deep that I did not even know all the pieces. Together we would eradicate the fear as they surfaced and together we would face them. I spent hours writing and sending him my thoughts; pages and pages of it. He patiently would respond with encouragement and hope. It was his hope, his light that gave me the strength to continue.

And I did continue. I found other guides who joined my crusade to aide me. I would crash and burn continually. I literally fell on my face once, but I spent hours doing face plants in a metaphorical sense. I think back and I wonder why would anyone go through something like this? Well, like the chicken, I wanted to get to the other side. We even would fight as I thought I wanted something I felt he was not providing. He was wise and knew in time I would get what I needed. Like a young child, he nurtured me and showed me that my impatience was not a bad thing but I needed to learn to trust. I still struggle with this but I am so much better.

My wheel has turned and I continue to grow. I have been blessed with a new teacher who I connected with a year ago. She has taken me places I never would have dreamed of before I walked into that small office two years ago. I write this in an effort to encourage others who are as afraid as I was to seek help and support. I am hoping someday I will pay back all that I have received by helping others find the strength to heal. I will never have the words to express the extent of my gratitude for all those who have helped me.

Tomorrow is my last scheduled visit with John. It is bittersweet because he has been such a huge part of my life. But because of his work with me, I know it is time to move on. I am hoping he will let me see him periodically.

Mr. Borden, know this: I will love you eternally. My gratitude will be demonstrated by continuing to work and grow and not falter on this quest. I know I was a challenging windmill, sir. Never doubt your power and magic as you do possess these things. My light burns bright because of your light. It will be with me always. Thank you.

 

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Fear fighter

Spring on Lake Ontario

Spring on Lake Ontario

When my parents were growing up, there whole world was tenuous at best. They came into the world at the end of World War I and by the time they were young adults, they were facing World War II. In between there was the depression. My mother’s parents separated and my grandmother moved back to the farm in West Virginia to have help with her two girls. My father’s brother and father died tragically in a car accident on a rail road track at the hands of a fast train when my father was 3. I watched my father’s business dissolve and he lost sequent employment until he finally was forced to retire without any pension and live on social security. I was with my mother as I witnessed the ravages of cancer take her at 59. I was bedside when my father crossed over 11 years later. I lived through the time as he adjusted to only having one leg. He had an amputation when he was 54. Their life was based on fear.

They lived in a time when how things look was more important than how things were. They were taught propriety and keeping up appearances at all cost. My parents were extremely judgmental. My father felt it was his duty to evoke his opinion on every difference in a person including the color of their skin. My mother was appalled by any person whose appearance was less than perfect especially weight. She never had an issue and was blessed with the ability to eat like a horse and remain tiny.

Their marriage started out with all the trappings of being very wealthy and successful. My father was excused from the war because he was a sole heir. My mother began her family with the comfort of domestic help and doting grandmothers. All of this was lost by the time I was five and by the time I was 14, they were living in an apartment and my mother was employed for the first time since she was married.

They lived in fear and they were angry. Both of them drank every night. Their ritual of cocktails, as they called it, was their escape of their world. It began as a habit of glamour and social acceptance and became their island of peace. Unfortunately, the results of their self-medicating turn ugly and their anger was often leashed upon me. I was the last at home as my other four siblings had moved on with their lives. My mother and father instilled fear in me and they taught me to be judgmental as it was necessary for survival at the time.

I am writing about this because I am working very hard on letting go of fear. It is extremely hard for me and I have to work on it every day and every minute. I have learned techniques to establish a sense of safety when I recognize that fear is creeping in. I hear my parents’ voices with their exaggerated warnings. I hear their voices also in judgment. This is the hardest thing to cut out as I replay their criticism willing. And while I am getting better at not uttering out loud comments about people, I struggle mightily with silencing the critical and nasty voice in my head. It is because I believed them.

I had to focus on why the two people in this world who had the power to influence my being more than anyone would be so cruel. It is because they lived in such abject fear. It is their fear, not mine. It was their world, not mine. I can forgive them as I understand and I can release their grip. I would not have been any better in their circumstances and I think few would. But it is not my truth.

So every day I am allowing the cleaning out of their thoughts. Sometimes it is painful but with the understanding that I am no longer buying into it, I can release it. This is a slow process as it is very deep. I had thought I had gotten past the need to do this, but then I realize that it is a step process. And this is what I want to share more than anything.

When I started the work I am doing on myself, it was overwhelming all that I had to deal with. I am not one for going slow. As I peeled layers back, new raw sores would appear. There were times when I would think I was never going to get through and eventually I did. I am sitting here in the realization it was and is all perfect in its manifestation. There were some huge hurdles that needed to be jumped and then removed. And with every jump and successful landing, I became stronger and mightier. I am quite confident that the path is peppered with more and will be through the rest of my life. It is called being human. But every time my feet hit the ground again, I am fortified for the next. I realize, actually as I am writing this, that I am not as afraid. There is movement forward when you work at releasing the things that weigh you down. Ah, the pun of what I just wrote. We will save that for another time.

Letting go 2014

falls TSP

Yesterday was a beautiful day in upstate New York. I put all the laundry and shopping off my to-do list and my husband and I took a ride in the Finger Lakes. The trees on the outset were not showing any promise but by the end of the day, they had sprouted and lawns were greening up. We headed to an Amish store where I buy my oatmeal. We then proceeded to a state park I had not visited since 1986. I did not tell my husband about the memory attached to the park because I wanted to see what would come up for me there.
Back in 1986, I was married to someone else. And that someone else betrayed me by having an affair. I found out in the worse way and it destroyed me. I knew he was unfaithful, but I never had to really face it. There was no escaping it as he had to tell me he had the possibility of passing a STD on to me. The humiliation of it all was so great. At that particular time, I wanted to save the marriage and so we headed off to a park to walk and talk. This place has a falls that is magnificent. The idea of being in a neutral ground was mine. What happened out of this was to be with me forever.
We got to a place where there was an overlook. In those days, they did not protect everything from the stupidity of humans. You could walk to the very edge of the rim and look down. It was very high and dangerous. I am not one for heights. I walked to the very edge where a tree was growing and wrapped my arms around the tree. I lost all awareness of him or anything else except this one thought: If I let go and fall, all the pain will be gone forever. I was so hurt I seriously contemplated letting go. I have never shared that.
I did not let go, not of the tree and not of the pain. We walked the hiking trail (those were the days when I could hike for miles) and he continued to share his tale of lies. I asked too many questions and he fed me crap for answers. He continued to lie about the situation by declaring it was a one shot deal and it was over. I of course found out it was nine months in the making and he never ended it. In a last ditch effort to hurt me during our divorce, he sent me something in an envelope with her return address on it.
I worked very hard on saving the marriage. We remained married for another 16 years. They were not good years and he continued to lie. He became violent and very angry. He pinned all his errors on me saying I caused him to be that way. I should have sought help sooner, but I was too afraid and ashamed. It is this knowledge of helplessness and shame that I want to help others learn to survive by offering counseling. One day he pushed too far and I realized I was at the lowest point possible. He requested to bring his girlfriends into the home for overnights. I had moved out of our big bedroom into the guest room at that point. He left for a hunting trip and I went to a lawyer. He was served at work in front of all his asshole buddies who were also doing similar feats of crap to their wives. It was the beginning of learning to be a warrior for me.
But yesterday, with my gentle and kind husband, I could no longer walk to that spot as it was fenced. There was also no hiking to be done. I was just grateful we could walk even a very short trek to the current viewing area. The falls were there and not much else had changed except me. I was so glad I did not let go back then.
As we continued on with our day, we went to several other falls so I could take pictures. As we were driving I realized that I had let go. I let go of the pain and I let go of the shame. Being honest, I have not completely let go of the anger but it is truly a tiny part of me. I think it remains so I will continue in the fight to help others. My ex and I parted legally in 2002 and that was the last I ever saw or heard from him. We had spent almost thirty years together. It took over twenty-eight years for me to realize I had finally let go of that tree. But I did not fall, I learned to fly.

cu falls

Winnie and Me

winnie the pooh
I just watched a wonderful webinar with Dr. Bruce Lipton who wrote the Biology of Belief. He is a biologist whose work with stem cells led him to some very interesting discoveries. Some of you may know his work. I read the book a while ago and was not able to “get it” all. Tonight’s webinar is in a series of Wednesday night offerings. Two weeks ago there was one that was like a wake up slap that led me to more understanding about the connection between the brains older systems and the connection to neuro imprinting to the way I live and why.

Tonight Dr. Lipton was talking about the fallacy that we are controlled by our genes. The way we are is not genetically predisposed at all. Matter of fact, according to the good Doctor, genes are not at all involved in why we do the things we do. He says that it is from the imprinting done in utero and up to the age of seven. I will try to explain his theory. And it is substantiated theory which I am personally engaged in understanding.

He explains that you take stem cells and put them in a petri dish, they will multiply exponentially until they create a new body of cells. He says the material they grow the cells in is basically man made blood and that the human body is a living petri dish. The correlation is the same for growing new cells and hence we survive biologically, growing new cells multiple times, just like the plastic petri dish.

But he says that what is different in his studies is that he could impact the cells in the petri dish by changing the environment. No frontal cortex there. In previous things I have read, and also in this webinar he talks about stress hormones and the impact they have on the body. We know that being under stress the body releases chemicals to react and to survive. There is no “thinking” when this happens. It is automatic. Matter of fact the thinking mind stops and the brain goes to a lower system that automatically “knows” what to do. He said they observed a change in the cellular makeup when they introduce stress chemicals such as cortisol even in the petri dish. This is just a real quick overview of what he was saying.

He said something I did not know and that I think was terribly important and connects more in the arena I have been studying. He said that an unborn child learns stress before he/she is born if the mother is stressed. The chemicals are transferred into the placenta and into the child. So a child whose mother is under stress will impact the child automatically, imprinting the circuitry that creates fear stimulating the fight, flight or freeze mechanisms. And once the child is born, that impact is continuous up until the age of seven. And why? Because children fire a different brain wave called theta, which is the same brain wave that accesses the subconscious in hypnosis and deep mediation.  Children are truly sponges and are constantly pulling information in and imprinting it in their subconscious. So if you live in an environment that is chaotic, abusive and violent as a child, imagine what that does. And as an adult, you may cognitively think you are not upset, or that things are not bothering you, but your body is off doing its own thing. And viola…

So I said something in a previous post about my science project. It continues and this week was not as successful as I had hoped it would be. I employed a tool and some other techniques to help stabilize my reactions and my physical well-being. Nope, did not work. I know this is going to be a long process because there is a lot to retrain, but I was disappointed in myself very much. I had a horrible day on Monday but thought I had everything under control. But I did not, and I reacted poorly which ended up making things worse. And even when I THOUGHT I was good, my body was preparing for battle. And so, I erupted at the wrong thing. Which afterwards, my physical condition went to hell. My gut instead of shutting down went the other way. I never know which it will be, which is fun. I have not slept well and now my left ankle is as big as a tree and pain is coursing through my body. Just in case you may not know, inflammation is a marker for stress but it often appears after the initial dosage of stress chemicals assaults the body. So, for me, there is a cyclical pattern, which believe me, I want to stop. I explode or get terribly depressed or a combination of the two, I tighten up all my muscles causing cramping and the inability to breathe deeply and my digestion is interrupted, followed by intense Psoriasis and arthritic flares which appear anywhere. Dr. Lipton talked about how babies who are stressed in utero often have digestion issues because the blood flow goes to the extremities and not the visceral organs. Instead the abundant cortisol transfers into fat and deposits in the abdomen to protect those organs. Hello…. I was born with huge digestion issues that were only resolved by giving me small feedings of  goat’s milk as an infant. My digestion or lack of it has plagued me my whole life. And my Winnie the Pooh shape is a testimony to the production of said deposits.

I know I have not discovered anything new. There is a lot of information coming out on all of this. There are a lot of reasons why but the answers to stopping it all seems to vary. But it is just a relief for me to know there are reasons things are the way they are. And I continue to learn.

Laying down the sword

I have been very blessed to have come upon some answers that I have been seeking. My journey is totally a spiral that spins slowly as I ascend my path. I have been stuck for a while in a holding pattern that has not been very pleasant and was getting to be incredibly frustrating for me. I discovered something and I always think I have come upon something so wondrous I have to share. In truth, this is nothing new. It just is sinking in. For me it has been a real big ah ha. I have put together a concept and it makes so much sense to me. And as I have also been told, the answers come when you are ready to hear them.

I started this entire journey without the realization that it was going to be a journey. I went  in August of 2012 to see a Physical Therapist for relief for my ankle and other chronic pain. He practices a therapy called Associative Awareness Techniques. John explained continually what he was doing and the theory behind his work. Here is the link to his page http://rochesterptwellness.com/ if you want to find out more. I am going to explain it a bit simpler because this is the first piece to understanding my connection. I am also referring to information from a book called Hardwired for Happiness. The author, Rick Hanson, PhD., gave a webinar recently that I participated in and the connection was made for me.

We have an area of our brain that controls fight, flight or freeze. I have written about this several times. As man has evolved, much of the components of our brain did too. The area of the brain that controls fight, flight and freeze has not. It works much the same way as it has for thousands of years. Input comes in and the system fires off a warning to the body to prepare for war. This is a simplistic explanation and there is a lot of reading you can do to learn more about this. Anyone who had PTSD should read and understand this system.

This was the piece I needed to connect to move to the next level. The system fires and the body reacts. Often I am not aware of the firing until I am in a full freeze. For me, the freeze makes my body stop functioning. My chronic symptoms is I breath very short breaths, my muscles contract for a prolong period of time and my digestive systems stops. But this was something I was watching and could not connect why it happened and why I could not stop it from happening. I have full blood labs done every three to four months, sort of as a science project on myself. I went back and looked at the last year and a half and discovered something that was scary. My labs fluctuated as my stress did. There are many chemicals that are secreted to help the body prepare for threats. Glucose is used for energy and cortisol is used to pump the systems up. That is a cheap explanation, but it will do for my purpose. My glucose follows a very definitely a rise and fall as I am stressed. What I am speaking about has nothing to do with diabetes as I fall within the parameters for normal most of the time. The chemical that is more dangerous is cortisol.

I am not going to go into a biology lesson here. I am going to relate how this has impacted me. Cortisol is not supposed to constantly flow into the body. Small shots of it are designed to produce a response to help the body be more “strong”. Think of it as a natural steroid. In a normal situation, the threat dissipates either by leaving the target alone or killing it. That is natural. Through time, man has learned to receive input and then react, which keeps him/her safe. When the system is subjected to repeated onslaught of threats, the system basically gets stuck in “on”. The body does not have a chance to remove the chemicals from the system. So they build up. Cortisol turns to fat and that fat is deposited on the abdomen to protect the organs. That is a very simplistic explanation and I am purposefully keeping this short. I went back and looked at my labs and my triglycerides definitely track a reflection of what was happening to me at the time. All my labs dropped right after I returned from the River this summer. Matter of fact the doctor asked me about what diet I had been on. I certainly did not diet during my vacation. I relaxed. Last year, I had been and was faithfully participating in Weight Watchers and actually gained weight. It was so confusing to me I went to three nutritionists at work who also were stumped. But this was the time I was unearthing a lot of my history and working on the traumas. This is not about dieting, this is about how much our systems control us and we need to learn to reprogram them.

The other thing these chemicals do is cause inflammation and they will in time shut down the immune system. The more stress I face the more in pain I am. I was looking at it completely wrong. I was blaming myself for all this. My resolve was that I caused the pain I live with because of something I did and you know what? It only made things worse. Because I WAS prepared to make this all my fault, I was never going to get out of this rut. It is a rut I have been deeply entrenched in again these past months.

So here is the kicker. We are hardwired to accept negativity. It is that warning system that keeps us safe. Instead of looking at a possible threat and not heeding it, the brain automatically fires “Danger Will Robinson” and off the systems go. For me and others who have been exposed to an abundance of threats, the systems are hyper-vigilant. That means basically we have hair triggers. The littlest of threat sets off the systems. And threats are subjective. What sets me off may not set you off. That does not matter. What matters is that they go off. And what also matters is it was a brilliant part of my survival. I did not fail, I kept myself safe. That is crucial to understand that there is no failure here. And for someone like me who is uber-sensitive, I pick up threats, perceived or real, very easily and without awareness. This is also not a failure but I gift I need to learn to use better.

The next step is going to be a challenge and required the piece of information I did not get before. The resolve or remedy that people have prescribed to me has not worked because I could not grasp the last part of what I just said. There is no failure. It is what it is. I have been beating myself up for the last 18 months because I thought I was the cause of all my issues. And instead of understanding and releasing the blame, it was snowballing into a serious guilt trip. Try to imagine what it feels like when you are threatened and realize you are the threat. Your mind should be picturing a cat chasing its tail because that is what it has felt like. And when the cat catches its tail, it only bites itself.

With the understanding now that everything I have done to keep myself safe was for my highest good, I can let go. It is not a quick drop because there are a lot of years, like over fifty, of living in a state of a threat of some sort. I have to add this piece I got from Dr. Hanson. The immediate threat may be very small, but the body seeks to connect from history which will impact the resulting release of chemicals. In other words, like a junkie, I need more chemicals for less threat. The littlest of infractions will set off a huge response. That was such a relief to read because I thought I was going nuts. I could not understand why I was reacting to things that others would allow to roll off. I would have moments of explosion and crying and I could really feel all the chemicals flowing through me. The aftermath would be physical pain and of course confusion and remorse. AND then the cycle would continue because I was not really removing the last dose of chemicals and would be on constant alert. In other words, I would perceive threats that were not there because I was “high” from the last situation. I would spiral out of control and it is an awful feeling when you hit bottom and realize what has happened. The result was shame and that feels terrible. How do you dig yourself out a cycle like that?

I will tell you what most people say and it does not work. “Positive attitude.” WRONG. It does not work like that. You cannot flip a switch and just tell your brain to be happy. It does not work. And this was the connection I needed. Much like the neural pathways that were created to keep me safe, I need to create a new system of pathways that will program a different response. Just being happy does not cut it unless the chemistry follows. That is the piece that is missing with most programs and why they fail. We think we can think our way into happiness and joy and we cannot. We have to train all of our  systems to do that through the brain. And the rub of course and why it is so hard is because I have been living in a state of threat that has conditioned me to respond more to negative stimulus than positive. We all are programmed that way. Some of us are stuck. But we can get unstuck.

That is where the difference is than just saying “have a better attitude”. I do not have a reserve to draw on to know what that feels like. According to Dr. Hanson and others, we take in negative input very easily and we hold on to those feelings longer and then we put them in storage to draw on. My storage is very full of negative responses. He goes on to say we move past positive responses automatically because our brain has been preprogrammed to do that. His explanation is that if we do not automatically do that, we would not perceive danger for what it is. We would walk up to the big kitty to pet it not realizing that the tiger is sizing us up for dinner. My autopilot has kept me safe, but the danger is not here anymore. I can relax my systems and become more real with my experiences and react better.

This was made me decide how critical this is to do. I AM the only one who can do this for me. I am slowly killing myself with the chemicals that are coursing through my body constantly. I am very aware how much I am physically deteriorating lately. It is exponential to the stress I am subjecting myself to, which is exponentially growing in reaction. I am spiraling out of control, and a control I do not have.

And the remedy is so simple but was beyond my grasp because I was too busy being thinking this was all my fault and I had failed. I did not fail at all. I was a warrior who survived a hideous battle at times. It was my war and mine alone, and no one can judge it because they did not live it. I kept this all tightly bottled up inside because I thought people would think I was a victim and failure and criticize me for not snapping out of it. Be happy and saying “Just be” was never going to work for me because…… I was “just being me.” But I allowed the judgment of others to influence that because I wanted to be happy and “just be.” But it was their “just be”, not mine. I know this now. The way I am was and is not my fault. No failure here at all. I am only human and this was my protection, my armor. The shield and sword needs to be set down now and only used sparingly. The vulnerability of this is mind blowing.

The next step is the training. I need to treat myself better to experience better responses. It is going to be a program of drills much like a warrior would do. This is where my work is going to take me. I literally need to stop and really smell the roses. I need to SEE the color, SMELL the fragrance, FEEL the air around as I am enjoying the rose, and SENSE what is going on in my body at that moment of pleasure and imprint it. And I need to do this a lot. I need to step away from negative situations faster. I need to spend more time doing things that bring me pleasure. I got away from doing that again. I was doing it this summer with the garden. In truth, there were times when I would make myself sit in my garden chair and I would fight with myself internally because there was always something else I should be doing. Chores are always, always there. But if I keep going like this, I am not always going to be here. I do not relax. Those who know me will agree to that fact. Again, it is a response from my past. But in my reading and working with people, I know now I must allow my systems to heal and rejuvenate. Down time and play is essential to well-being. Just like sleep is required for optimum performance, so is pleasure and joy. They are generated from experiences that transmit and program our brain to know what that is. Depletion of those things will kill you as much as anything will.

This work is not a switch on the wall. It is not like there is not an abundance of joyful and pleasurable things to experience. The key is to be mindful of them. It is going to take a concentrated effort to reprogram. Fortunately for me I have a strong connection with nature which always brings me joy. But I am not ready to share my intentions here.

 

Dinosaur Brain….really?

IMG955468

Today was one of those days when subtle messages are being sent and I was able to perceive them. I have a tendency to be pretty empathic….ok, a lot empathic. It is not always good, believe me. I sense things people really do not want me to know that they are feeling. Sometimes I know what they are feeling and sometimes it is just a premonition of something coming. It is interesting how my sensory input has changed to be so much less about me and my reaction even though I still sense feelings coming off of others.  Now, I know it is their feelings and I do not have to take offense or take their feelings on. There is a lot of freedom in that. It makes being uber-sensitive a lot easier to live with.

But today something kept popping up. It is a banner I truly wave. It is about acceptance of image or body acceptance. And it extends to in-general acceptance. We have a campaign going on at work about better health. I am all for being optimal in your health, whatever that means to you. But this campaign is totally setting people up for failure. It started out by making participants answer whether they had good self-esteem. It went on to categorize things that you did or did not have “esteem” about. None of them were about things that really matter. It was about weight, physical ability and food. Did you walk 1000 steps today? Were you successful in your diet? I wrote back to the committee who was soliciting comments a retort about esteem being something set up and enforced by outside resources. Esteem is not really intrinsic and sets up the person for failure. Any time you measure yourself against a matrix, you will fail. There is always someone better. I went on to talk about self-compassion over self-esteem, which I know should shock a few of you. I will save what I said for a later post.

Then tonight, I was glancing at Facebook, and there was a post about a reporter who got a nasty email from a viewer about her weight. I have watched it a 100 times. She was elegant, brilliant and righteous. It is about time we stop the abuse and prejudice against people of size…. Or of anything physically descriptive of a person when used in a derogatory comment. “She is so fat”… for example. You would not say anymore, “she is so black”. Or “she is so hair-lipped”, or “retarded” (you better not say that in front of me)….or “deformed”. But we are perfectly comfortable labeling someone of size as being fat and meaning it derogatorily. I am fat, but I am also blond, freckled and actually quite beautiful.

Then tonight I was listening to a podcast by The National Institute for the Clinical
Application of Behavioral Medicine
.
This was a dialogue with Daniel Amen, MD. I admit I did not know who he was and I do not want to anymore. The topic was supposed to be the difference between the male and female brain, and it was science based. I am very interested in neuroscience. I find it fascinating what the grey matter can do. This podcast started off talking about the differences in brain structure and function. He proceeded to discuss hormones and their influence on thinking and somewhere he digressed into weight. He was talking about the different impact foods have on the brains ability to process. He proclaims a high fat – high protein diet is the way to go. No carbs. But then I was beginning to realize he sells his products. (I went and Googled him. You do the same if you wish.) He then went on to say that fat people….yes FAT people have an 8% brain cell deficit……….. ohhhhhhhhhhh can you imagine how that sat with me. I am sorry DOCTOR….people lose more than that on one drink. (In truth alcohol does not kill brain cells, it damages the connections of the dendrites used for communication, but for my point I will say this.)  But I kept listening and he proclaims he is the creator of the “Dinosaur Brain Theory”.  He is proud of this…. He says that FAT people are like dinosaurs, big bodies, small brains. I ripped the head set off my head and wanted to go through the computer at him. Are you freaking kidding me? He is proud of this statement and “theory”. I am so sorry Doctor to tell you that being Fat and Lazy is not new, just insidiously cruel and only a reflection on how stupid you are. But this jerk is running around telling people to pop hormones and eat fat and have high cholesterol, which is all fine and dandy if you are not fat. Oh and make sure you have enough testosterone too.  Yikes… I think he is a testosterone brain or more commonly known as a dick head!

There is a lot of movement being created to educate women and girls about body acceptance. I am all for it. But, I think an important piece has to start with education of everyone. It is not ok to derogatorily refer to anyone by their shape or size or physical appearance. It is ok to be who you are no matter what it is. It is not ok to make people feel bad about themselves, whatever the situation is. I would hope you would not comment on someone for example who stutters. Some would say that is different, a stutterer cannot control their stutter, a fat person can control being fat. THAT debate is for another time. AND I will welcome anyone who wants to debate it. And being fat does not automatically mean the person is lazy or over eats. I plan on returning to this topic and often. But for now, I am getting off my soapbox. Take care folks in what you say. Or even think as some people can sense the things you do not express. 

New Year’s Wish

I do not subscribe to the falderal of the New Year celebrations any more. I did in the past. I used to either host an event or go to one of the swank celebrations with friends where we got dressed up and had a full fancy dinner and drank all night. My body could not with stand that now. Being absolutely boiled is not the way I ever want to be now.  I have some funny moments from then though. The best or worse, depending on your point of view, was from almost 35 years ago. We were at one of those galas at a hotel when my then husband had downed a bottle of Jack Daniels pretty much by himself. He was a big man and it had been a long evening. The effect was that he lost all inhibitions and was extremely social. He also liked to go nude. So with the effects of the Jack encouraging him on, he decided to wander the halls of the hotel we were in, naked, somewhere around 4 am. It was a different era and he was not alone, I soon discovered, as I went to get him. Now-a-days, he would have probably gotten arrested. There was no harm in what he did other than to be in public with a blunt instrument….. Sorry, I had to…. HA! But as I said, it was a different time in the history of the world. I miss the freedom of that period and I miss some of the grass root efforts that I participated in an endeavor to save the world. I really thought it was possible back then. My young adult life was spent consciously being involved. Somewhere the air was let out of my balloon and heavy weights were added. I have spent over a year trying to free myself from the muck.

When I was younger, I believed we all mattered and we all were important. I took to my soapbox whenever I could. I protested unfairness and unethical behavior globally and locally. I escaped from my parental home very early as a method of survival. I spent the next part of my life as a young housewife entertaining and being creative in artistic endeavors such as theater and music and working mundane jobs. But I still was involved in local organizations that benefitted humanity. Slowly, my world turned dark and I turned inward. There were times that I would bravely climb upon my box to protest conversations within the constricting circle I had been allowed to participate in. I would take a stand on inequity and unfairness with a group of supremists whose narrow view was blinded by hatred and ignorance. After being kicked enough times, I crawled to the safety of silence. I allowed fear of being ostracized to mute me and I lost a big piece of myself.

I am acutely aware of the resurgence of the feelings of becoming involved again. See, I do believe we all do matter. Every single one of us including me. And injustice and inequity is rampant and will continue if we allow it. There are so many wrongs out there that I am afraid the world has turned a blind eye to it all. I think there is a broad spectrum of acceptance and tolerance of evil  today which for someone like myself is hard to look past. I am not sure where I am going with all this as it is hard to narrow down a direction of what to focus on to participate in. I have a few key areas of interest like domestic violence, gender discrimination and body acceptance, but there are so many things to get involved in. There are enough causes for everyone to find their niche.

So that is my New Year’s wish for everyone: Find something that is important to do that will heal the world and in doing so, you will heal yourself. And the circle will grow. Sending love to you all.

Squirrel writing: “who am I?”

I just had a very interesting conversation which follows a series of thoughts and other conversations I have been having for a while. “Who am I?” This simple question is not one that really is so easily answered. So I am writing because that is one thing I do know that I am; a writer. I put thoughts into words and then through my fingers on to keys which translate the thoughts into concepts which I share. This to me is what I do as a writer. By putting my thoughts on paper, I am trying to figure out my dilemma because in a face to face situation, I was totally inarticulate. I needed time to digest what was being said and then a realization hit me which I will share in a moment.
Some of you will start right now shaking your head because you know where I am going with this….”just be.” My old nemesis. But this is more than “just be” being…. It is trying to figure out my comfort zone with myself and what that looks like. In trying to figure out the person who is me and that I am comfortable with, I realized I am not sure of what me really is. But then on further thought, maybe I do know who I am and it is not fitting what everyone else thinks it should be. For someone to say to me “just be”, I have no clue how to define what that represents. My past precludes one simple answer to that. My body and mind have been in a protective war for so long, that my natural state of being was hyper vigilant and afraid. I have worked hard to knock down many walls and peal back many layers only to discover ….what? I have been so barricaded and so wrapped up in protecting this being from being hurt that to remove the battle is very unsettling. The adjustment has made me extremely vulnerable and even more susceptible to critique. No wonder I struggle with just be. I am almost 60 years old and I have no clue who I am. Or do I? And am I still requiring some form of validation because I have no reservoir of internal knowledge that I am truly ok? My mirror is so clouded with the transgressions of past relationships that to reflect with approval on myself is foreign and that the concept is making me uncomfortable. The old way of either being put down or putting myself down was how I have rolled for most of my life.
Here is where I struggle to articulate any cohesive response. Because I still have fear of exposure, I hesitate in any action of self-proclamation. And truly, why wouldn’t I? So the simple response and about all I can give is: “I am”. That’s it, “I am.” So when someone says I am not being me, who are they to say so? Isn’t this a fun riddle? There are lists of things that I know I am. We all have them. So why isn’t the person who has a list of things not being themselves when they are doing something on the list? How is saying that not being judgmental? How are the things that I do not being me?
I have been called an actress. So how is that not also a part of me? I like to entertain and I like to be funny. Making people laugh brings me joy. I do play roles; we all do as life demands. Mothers are mothers when their kids need it. Teachers are actors who portray educational concept so their students can learn. Who gets to say that is not me being me? I do keep a lot of stuff to myself and I do put up walls but it is as life demands. It is also because I am so vulnerable and uncomfortable with opening myself to being criticized. Funny thing is does not stop anyone from making comments as they see fit. I know I still hear and react to negative comments and why wouldn’t I? It is what I have always done. I am learning the skills necessary not to react but it is going to take time and a lot of acceptance of myself. See what I said about not having a reservoir of knowledge on knowing what that feels like. Hence my struggle. But this is me for now.
There are stories that make up who I am. There is history that I cannot do anything about at this point other than let them be. I do need to keep working on the release of the pain it caused and the other manifestations but the story is still there. However, I do not want to be known as a victim who survived. The details are not important anymore. I am learning that it is not necessary to relive all the crap we have walked in our lives. It really does not do any good unless there are pieces of the puzzle that we need to fit together. Sometimes the finished puzzle is horrible. But we learn from these things and so when I am with others who have lived a similar situation I understand. I have turned some things around in my life that could have brought me to a standstill and incorporated the lessons to help others. This is being me. Yes the “bad stuff” is part of my life, but it is not all that makes Jane- Jane. “I am”
But there are things that some people will never understand because they have not gone through similar things. I am so glad for them. Truly, glad. And I cannot explain to people what it feels to be me, either. And you cannot explain to me what it feels like to be you. What I think I am coming to figure out that the only reality we do have is acceptance. It is very easy for me to accept other people. I have always loved the “underdog” and advocated for others in need. But I do not do it easily in myself……because I did not know I was so broken. That is what just popped in my head.
This is taking me somewhere, which is why I like writing… keep coming along if you want. So “I did not know I was broken” was very interesting when it popped in my head. This journey I have been on has not been easy at all. But I will not argue with the fact that there was much need for healing. Broken is not the right word, but in need of healing is better. (When I reread this statement after eight hours of writing it, it offended me which is good. I am not broken.) This comes back around to acceptance. I can easily accept that I needed to heal. But to say I was broken makes my life a mistake, and error or travesty. And it soundly was not. “I am” for a reason. Granted I do not have the answer why, but I am ok with that. I am on the route and every day is another step to that answer.
But there are many things that are not going to change overnight. Being me is also not being patient by the way. I know that very well about myself. So there are things that will not become apparent to outsiders because the insider (me) is still learning to accept new feelings and be comfortable with that. I will share an example.
A year ago, no one could touch me without getting a reaction which was usually a withdrawal or flinch. I still flinch to a degree but now as much. But there is still trepidation of physical contact and I still have trouble with it. I am much like a beloved dog who was abused by others and reacts by lowering the head even when their loving owner pats their head. And as much as I do not like to be touched, I struggle more with touching others. I am uncomfortable and at first I thought it was because I am embarrassed. I realized something today when I had time to think about it. It is much more that I am afraid the touch will be rejected. Also, there is still a huge fear that by reaching out to touch someone, I offer myself to have my arm grabbed and twisted or that I am leaving my body unprotected. I keep my arms very close to myself. I never paid attention to it until now. That is conditioning and it will take a long time to heal from.
And for those of you who know me outside of the blog world, you may be wondering how I can do Spiritual Healing Touch if I cannot touch people. That is very easy to answer: because it is not me who is doing the healing. I am only a tool or conduit. I take myself right out of the equation. I am perfect for this work because I can only do it if I take myself out of it. I accept this and I am fine with it.
This post is a fine example of what I call squirrel writing. It is when I just let my mind wander and change my thought path much like my dog would do if he saw a squirrel. This is how I work stuff out. Going back to the question of who am I? I do not know if I can define that. I know there are things I want to change. My focus is on learning to hear the good. I need to work on building a bank of self-resilient and non- deprecating thoughts to pull from. Unfortunately there is a lot of mud to get rid of first to uncover any pool within. I need to stop worrying about that. Today is now and this is what I have to work with. Nothing is permanent. I think my work is only beginning on the discovery of just being me. And yet, every day “I am.”

Self-gutting

There is a lot going on in my life right now. I am embroiled in a huge test of how well I am handling “things” and it quick review I would say “not so well.” I thought it might get to me, and it is. I am fighting the physical reaction which is manifesting in my usual manner. My legs are locking down and hurting in various places. The symbolism does not escape me. It is the reaction I have had for a very long time but did not understand why. Understanding helps me to deal with it. Knowing how to knock the pain down certainly helps. I have been able to control the normal reaction of Charlie Horses at night and the pain is more of a nuisance.
When someone is traumatized, there is always the possibility of a reoccurring reaction to certain cues. I know some of my friends get this. An incoming cue, which can be anything, triggers the mind and the body reacts with fight, flight or freeze. This cue is first experienced during a traumatic situation. You may be aware of it or not. I have been educated on how to be aware of my triggers and stop my freeze reaction. My freeze reaction includes intense pain and cramps in my body but especially in my legs. I also have digestive issues which compounds things. The overall reaction brings on angst and often depression. It has been a lot of work to learn to recognize the symptoms before they get control. I have been slowly improving my mobility issues and other reactions.
As I said, I am not doing so good right now because of the intensity of what I am facing. I have a lot of wonderful people who are helping me through this. I still hate and probably will always hate, how this makes me feel weak and powerless. The exposure is totally belly up. I am grateful for those who have and will be guiding me through. It explains why there was such a sense of relief that I will be still working with my first guide and teacher. I am not “done” in any manner.
So what am I facing? My family. My whole friggin family. Next Thursday, my oldest brother is hosting a family reunion. This will be the second time ever since my Mom died in 1979. The last time we got together was 1986. (And that reunion was horrendous for me). My brothers did not come out for my father’s funeral. Get the picture of the family dynamics here? It is dysfunctional at best. My two brothers are coming, both from out West. I am not going into why my reaction is so horrific and let it suffice with; it is. There are very specific reasons why it is. In a gentle answer, I have not seen my one brother in ten years. My other brother I have not seen in over twenty. And my sister; I have been avoiding her for eleven years at all cost as she lives here. We visit with my older brother and his wife often as he lives close and I love them both. It is for them also, that we are going. If I was reading this, I would tell me do not go and be done with it. I thought about it, but the guilt of not going would manifest for a very long time. This is possibly the last time I might ever see them alive. I also think that this is a test for me, a mountain to climb and get over. The climb up is hard and jagged so far.
Just writing about this is causing my legs and stomach to cramp. So I am stopping. Sorry for the whining, but I did not write yesterday and I am not sure how much I will write for the rest of the week. This is my place to journal out my ideas and thoughts. This, however, is a deep wound and I not sure I want to eviscerate myself that much.

Secrets in the burbs…what is domestic violence

She stares at the wall and wondered how did I get to this place? She thinks to herself, “I am a good wife. I did all that I should and more. I must have done something so wrong to deserve the rising welt on my arm.”  The tips of his fingers were tattooed in purple.

The phone rings and she rushes to pick it up. The voice on the other end in slurred tones explains how he will not be home until much later. She has spent the day in preparation of his homecoming. She hoped that her sacrifice of scrubbing and cleaning all day would help to clear the air from the previous night’s battle. She still was reeling from the accusations of inadequacy on her behalf. She thought to herself she had no right to provoke his anger. It was her fault he was coming home drunk and in the middle of the night. It was her fault he had kicked a hole in the wall. She had already cleverly patched and fixed it so no one would see. She would be a better housekeeper.

She sat and looked at the pile of bills. She just was wondering why there never seemed to be enough money, even though he was making more now than ever. She only knew that because he had to declare his income when they did their taxes. Fortunately, she too had a better income, but there never seemed enough. In a lack of trust, she had done something she felt terrible about and gone through his pockets. It then became a game she would perform every weekend. On Friday, after he cashed his check, he would have a bundle of cash in his pocket. On Sunday, the wad had dwindled. He spent his weekend days and nights in the company of others, leaving her alone and isolated. She felt little remorse as he was passed out in bed while she searched his pockets. Often there were other clues as to where the money had gone and who he had spent it with. Her own thoughts of other people being recipients of his income angered her as she had worked so hard to make the home a place he could be proud of.  She thought to herself how awful she must truly be if he could be generous to others, but not to her. When she had questioned him about it, his fury was so great that she had cowered in her chair and just cried. She received no answers and only shrank in fear while he spewed accusations of her treachery as he towered over her in anger.

She sat at the bottom of the stairs crying. However, there was great relief. It had only been the wall. She turned to look at the gaping hole where he had forced his fist. She had been so close to having that fist connect with her face as she had been standing right there when he delivered it. She felt the brush of his arm. She had warned him early in their relationship she would not tolerate being hit. This was twenty-two years later. She had spent years of being on the receiving end of her father’s anger and felt stoic in saying she would not accept that in her marriage. He had never hit her…but this was pretty close. She had just finished wallpapering and the hole was right in a place she could not cover. The paper was so pretty and very expensive, but she had bought just enough to do this one small wall. She would have to find something to cover it very quickly so no one would see the hole.

They were so young and barely scraping by. But the world was bright as they had just gotten married. She sat inside while he helplessly looked at the engine of their precious van. They had bought it for a song, but it had already taken them to wondrous places. He was no mechanic and had no clue as to what was wrong. He played with a few things, used a hammer to tap on some parts and then told her to get into his seat and start the engine. She dutifully did as he commanded. She somehow managed to break his expensive mirrored sunglasses. She does not remember anything other than the hammer hitting the glass windshield right in front of her face. She deserved it for breaking his glasses.

Silent tears fell as she bent to pick up the rubble from his fury. He was off to the emergency room as he had done something to his hand. She picked up pieces of broken china and glassware, thinking to herself how horrible she was to have made him stop watching his program and come to the table to eat the dinner she spent hours fixing. They spent so little time together since he had gotten on the force. His hours were late at night and he arrived home as she would be leaving for her job. She felt horrible for not understanding the pressures he was under and for making him so angry that he had destroyed so many things that she treasured. She wondered what story he would have to concoct to cover his injury. She knew it was bad as the thing he hit was not forgiving.

She sat in silence as her dear friend cried as she explained the bruises on her face. They had been friends for years and when their husbands both became law officers, their bond grew. She had remembered the tale of earlier in their marriage when he had picked her up and tossed her across the room and into a wall. She had asked then if there was any medical doctor she could recommend to help him with his chemical imbalance. She was sure that was what was wrong. This time, she had corrected him in front of their children. Her eyes, full of pain, looked for no sympathy as she was sure she deserved the lesson he had given her. They both knew they would reap more if the husbands even knew they were sharing their pain.

I could go on with these scenarios. This is what domestic violence looks and sounds like in the suburbs. It is common. It is prevalent more than people know. It is silent as the shame seems greater when it is happening in a culture where such behavior is crass and unacceptable. It takes place in the big houses. It takes place by well-educated and successful people. It is a dirty secret. The humiliation of one who is on the receiving end is so profound, seeking help would destroy any last vestiges of self-esteem. The fear of people knowing immobilizes the victim to total acceptance of their fate until the injuries become too great. Often, the perpetrator is clever enough not to leave visible marks, but the damage is there. The home is a prison. The environment is toxic and the individual suffers a life of shame.   

These scenarios are some of my story. It is my past and is now something I am able to use as a teaching tool to help others recover or become brave enough to walk away from their own situation. I did not have such strength and suffered in an abusive relationship for 27 years. It began before I was married. My friend also remained in her marriage for 26 years. In an act of irony, both of our spouses left us. We both are in a much better place for it.   

When I was going through my divorced, I joined an organization that helped people deal with their dissolving marriage. I did not speak of the abuse at that time, but I remember hearing other tales from the other participants. It makes one wonder how many do not get away. I now am involved in a group that specializes in dealing with survivors of domestic violence but live in the suburbs. Domestic violence has a different acceptance out there. The women who I have met are all highly successful professionals whose reputation could be destroyed with scandal. It is not that this groups hides, but the focus is different. The focus is on education. For the victim, it is recovery of a broken soul. But the driving force of this organization is to educate, and primarily men, on how to deal with their anger. It is education on respect, for themselves, their families and their spouse.   

If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, encourage them to find someone or some group to support them in surviving. If you know someone who feels justify in inflicting their anger on others help them too. The way to break the circle of abuse is to educated and provide resources for change.