Naked In The Grocery Store

Spilling my guts out in near-gritty detail was like going through hard labor and ending up having to get an emergency c-section. I have been recovering ever since.

I had a professor in college whose work I loved, and who I enjoyed, partially because of his laid-back yet engaging way of teaching, (Printmaking and Design) and partially due to the fact that he found my creative brain entertaining. Evidently I was born to evoke strong emotions, delight being the favored one. There is a feeling of accomplishment and confidence that accompanies praise which fuels the passion for one’s pursuits. Being that I was constantly trying to prove my worth, these were the little victories that carried me toward my goal of success. He taught me the value of my ability to think outside of the box and be unabashed in wherever it led me.

For example, one of my early design assignments was to take 36 squares and inside those squares to draw a circle and a rectangle. My best friend and I, whose brains worked in synch, did the assignment together and showed up in class fairly proud of our individual interpretations.

Everyone put their work up for the class critique. When we saw what others had done we looked at each other with sheepish grins, our eyes cocked. What we saw was not at all what we had done. On their poster board were 36 squares placed neatly in rows, and inside each of those squares, a triangle and a circle placed according to their own creative interpretation.

We had taken creative interpretation to a whole new level, one our teacher could not help himself from chuckling at as he leaned back, arms crossed, with a finger to his mouth as if challenged for words. Here is what he saw from my friend and I; on each poster board we had made a circle out of 36 squares and inside that circle of squares we had artfully placed our triangle and circle. We were commended for our work in surprising him with the unique way that our brains had executed the project. This still makes me giggle. Can’t remember our grades, but I definitely remember our momentary shame being turned into a feeling of pride that only helped us to further appreciate our senses of humor and individuality. Not surprisingly, we are still the best of friends.

Another critique took place in my painting class. The teacher was out sick that day and so the same aforementioned teacher was filling in. The assignment was to create a painting with a minimum size requirement depicting something personal. I had been really challenged by it. My painting style is not classic or traditional but more illustrative and whimsical, which was a stark contrast to what I was feeling at that time. I wanted it to be fantastic and pleasing but with two days left before it was due, I could not for the life of me figure out where to begin. All I had was a quite large blank canvas and supplies.

During this time, in my early 20’s, I was living with my sister and dating the man I would later marry. Our relationship was intense, codependent, abusive, and toxic to the point where I did not know where he ended and I began. It was blindingly painful. He was an obsessively possessive alcoholic I was determined to “fix” because I believed that love had that power. He would get verbally abusive toward me for any man who could not keep himself from looking at me, and call me a whore, as if I was to blame. I had to dull myself, watch what I wore, how I walked, who I talked to, how I talked etc.

I can’t remember the specific trigger, but out of deep anguish I was motivated to pick up my paint brush, and though it was a frenzied couple of days with little sleep, my pain manifested itself on that canvas, to my satisfaction.

On the right side was a large depiction of my face in black and white acrylic paint, screaming and crying in agony with my hands at my temples as if my head might explode. Below me was what looked like an audience, each person the same gestural image of a guy tilting his head back, guzzling from a bottle. In the midst of this audience rose a giant bottle of beer with the same guy being pulled out of  it by cherubs. He was besotted and his body, limp with the weight of it, proved too heavy a task to lift, but they were trying so hard. 

The background to my left and above me was like a sunrise of colors going from darkness to warm golden light. To my left was an image in solid black of a female form, arms and legs spread into an “X”, inside a cage, grasping onto the bars, desperate to be released. 

The rest of the piece was done in collage. Above the cage, a cut-out image of giant hands outstretched  with doves carrying a banner that said, Loving God brings peace. To the top right was a torn piece of sheet music for the song, “Tomorrow”, from the musical Annie. It read, The sun’ll come out TOMORROW, so I gotta hang on til…

Here is my teacher’s response to it-

He took a step back, once again with his hand to his upper lip and his other arm folded as he took it all in, and chuckled before telling me I had hit a home-run in creating a very personal image. He said it was like walking naked, in a grocery store, under fluorescent  lights. He said it was uncomfortable in that way, but powerful. He liked it.

I won 2nd place in my student art show for it. I wish I had a picture to share, but sadly my greatest breakthrough work of art was most unfortunately destroyed. I had it resting on my easel and one day I came home to find it had been stabbed in the eyeball and my face torn beyond repair. Not a good time. Well, it was never a painting that begged for display anyway. 

But I digress. That process of creating was also like a long painful labor ending in a C-section. I had no choice but to go through it. I knew it was going to be raw and hard to look at. I did with paint what I am now doing with pen in telling my story.

There is nothing on earth more cathartic than having the ability to express yourself without limitation, pushing beyond  the fear of judgement and criticism. I’m not here to offer some Hallmark story about overcoming my adversity that makes people feel warm and fuzzy so as to distract from the true ugly and insidious nature of emotional trauma and mental illness. I’m shining a light on the darkness.

My authenticity does sometimes make me feel like I am completely exposed, but it is  expressed with purpose and conviction. I’m not here expecting not to be gawked at, shamed, ridiculed, applauded, my sanity questioned. I know exactly how uncomfortable and insane it is to be standing naked in the grocery store, but I am here nonetheless, despite my discomfort.

I am the lobster. I refuse not to molt. It is only when life becomes unbearable that we feel motivated to find solutions. As long as there is fight in me I am surviving. I want other victims to know that about themselves. There is no right or wrong way, only productive and destructive ways.

At long last, I have this survival part down, but my soul craves so much more than that. I want to thrive and I want to show others that they can too.

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The Day I Rested My Boots By The Fire

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It was a cold day that had started out sunny. I knew there was a 100% chance of rain later, but nothing could take away my joyful anticipation. A group of riders were meeting at the farm to grab our horses, get tacked up by 10am, and have an off-site excursion to a friend’s place, Timberline Ranch, several miles away.

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She and her husband had just finished clearing trails in their woods, and we were all happy to christen them, especially since it was hunting season and our usual acreage was off limits.

Riding my favorite horse along the quiet country road, seeing all the farms and fields, had me feeling a sense of nostalgia that was tied to a childhood dream. The entire ride became a prayer of gratitude for experiencing these moments and the joyful contentment I felt.

We were greeted at our destination by a cozy fire and hot coffee. We all dismounted and took a break before hitting the trails, then settling in for lunch. I got some coffee and went to sit by the fire, putting my boots up, and taking in the sights and sounds; cattle mooing next door, the crackling fire, horses and people talking. I was transported back to a golden memory of a day, so simple yet profound.

My daughter was 2 months old and I was getting ready for my first job since giving birth, my first day away from her after eight long and painful weeks of trying to get her to latch on. Despite the overwhelming challenge, I was committed to successful nursing. I have never endured more physical and emotional pain in such a short, yet endless-seeming concentration of time. By the time I took this job, however, we had triumphed and I was well into the breastfeeding zone, mastering pumping and storage in preparation for this day. I felt like I deserved some kind of pioneer-woman, mothering, hardship medal!

It was on this grey, rainy November morning that I got that reward. We were cozily nestled in the glider for her morning feeding. The house was still but for the sound of rain as I watched it fall. It was like a symphony to my ears along the with the precious, sated coos of my baby, finally being nourished by the body that had carried the hope of her arrival since I was a child nurturing my first doll. Her tiny little hands were opening and closing on my chest like a kitten making dough, occasionally resting to play with a button on my blouse. High on a mother’s love and the rush of Oxytocin as my milk let down, I felt a sense of bliss as time stopped and the only existence was the two of us, in this moment. It felt like heaven and I never wanted it to end.

I’m reminded of another day when Bella was about seven and we had gone for a long walk. We stopped to rest on the sidewalk a bit and she climbed in my lap, gave me a big kiss, and said, “Mommy, this is the BEST DAY ever!” I was able to capture that treasured moment with my phone.

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As I sat by the fire drinking my coffee with my feet up, looking around at this group of people whose friendship I treasure, I felt a wave of that same bliss wash over me. Mentally, I fell to my knees in gratitude, holding back tears of joy, tears that are now freely flowing as I write. I wanted to remain frozen in this moment, in this entire day. What makes these memories/feelings so sublime is the way that God is able to turn off my body’s score card that 98% of the time has me “waiting for the other shoe to drop” so to speak. That’s the voice of fear that comes from the child who is trapped behind the door at the bottom of the well, for in her experience there is no ability to see beyond what she has known; the inevitability of lasting peace.

This day in all of it’s simplicity was a turning point within me, for I invited that sad little girl who was peeking out from behind my horse, gazing longingly at me, wanting so much to come out of that shadow, to come and join me. All she had ever wanted in life was now before her and I am finally able to make her know that she is safe. Now that once broken child in me will live forever in this moment of bliss and if there is any shoe dropping, it will be because I am kicking them off after another full day of living in gratitude that I am able to experience riches that no amount of money can buy.

Truly, greater is the reward of contentment when repetitive discord has one falsely believe that they are not entitled to it. It’s been a long, hard road, but I am finally there.

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Choosing Your Door

I remember sitting in the Baptist church that I occasionally attended in my early 20’s and the intense feelings that would come over me during the altar call. It was like my body heated up and there were bees buzzing through my veins. Not an uncomfortable sensation, it was an urgency within my spirit, a magnetic pull toward something that I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt, I was destined to accept.  It held no judgement or condemnation, in that I knew I would not be punished by God if I rejected the call as I had done so many times before. I simply knew that this was a door behind which stood a lightness of being, a loving hand of guidance toward fulfilling my mission in life, and though I could choose to ignore it, I knew that to do so would make my journey all the more arduous.

This became the foundation of my spiritual journey. I let Jesus into my heart, a decision that was not made hastily. Later I would realize that He had never not been there, but I needed to be reminded of who and what I was, and God in His/Her infinite wisdom knew exactly when and where to meet me. I am now blessed with knowing where and through whom the light of Christ shines, and more importantly taking that light and shining it where there is the greatest need. I believe that we are all equal, sovereign beings, and that love is the greatest universal source for change in this broken world. I have immeasurable love for those outside the realm of religious acceptance. I think that religions have their own bad apples, that many have unwittingly given themselves over to the “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, which is why I trust only the discernment of my heart. When the heart is rooted in unconditional love, you will Commune with God in many different languages, and also with others who may do so in a way that you have falsely been led to believe is wrong.

I am reminded of 1 John; 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

And prior to this verse it is written, GOD IS LOVE. Humans have been making it complicated in a manner that sets nation against nation, breeding hatred and contempt since the beginning of time. They have also been using the Bible as a weapon to defend these acts, while blind to their own abomination and deceit. Man has perverted the Truth of God to maintain false patriarchal governorship.

Today is 11:11. There is much information to be found by searching the significance of repeated number sequences. It is said that men have been getting more in touch with their feminine side and that the power of Love is balancing out the feminine and the masculine, restoring peace and allowing a collective rebirth of our world as we know it. If more of us unite in love, we will destroy the secret cabul, the darkness that drives our bitter divide and seeks to gain power and wealth while annihilating anyone who does not step in line with their agenda. 11:11 is like a door behind which the lightness of being, and loving hand of guidance not only restores unity amongst mankind, but lifts the veil of deceit that has bound us to the slavery we have unwittingly been shackled to.

Just as with the unfolding of a spiritual path seeking Truth and Divine guidance, we know when we are being called to awaken. Many are caught in the web of fear that has been carefully woven for the very purpose of distraction and mind control. All you need to do to break this bondage is focus on LOVE. Love your neighbor, forgive those who are blind, go out of your way to show love to a stranger every day, even if it is only with a smile. Love is the only weapon that will ever conquer. If we are practicing it, God is with us; the Universal Source of all energy and existence. You don’t have to believe in God to love, but you will be guided toward blessings and answers to questions you didn’t even know you had if you do. It really is that simple. Screenshot_20181111-125227_Facebook

It’s Like This

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Are you stuck having “one of those days” ? I’m talking you feel splayed out, face down, overwhelmed, every single day?

Let me ask you another question… Have you felt hopeless and paralyzed for so long that you cannot even remember the last time you were at peace with your life and the choices you make?

Oh HolymarymotherofGod, I have been there! I’ve been there so many times that it’s like punching an alternative time clock into a separate, familiar existence; a place where colors dull, and fear causes your surroundings to become somehow misshapen. Here it is summated in a Bible verse; Proverbs 26:11

Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats their folly.

It truly is as unpleasant and ponderous as that. I’m by no means judging here, but speaking from my own experience where I recently had the opportunity to, well… survive another one of these episodes and examine it. It’s ever so dramatically yet appropriately termed “the dark night of the soul”. It’s dark alright. It ranges from shades of gray to pitch blackness. It’s an awful place that I resent returning to and resigning myself to accept as a regular part of my life.

Like most people who suffer with Depression, I have falsely adorned myself with lugubria as a cloak, shutting myself down in order to protect myself, while shielding others from having to stand beside me in the rain. It makes perfect sense when I am in the thick of it. It’s likely one of those coping mechanisms born out of a deep need to feel secure. Deep it runs, which is why I refer to it as being at the bottom of the well.

Is it inevitable that I will return to that place? If that is my folly, I got a bum wrap! Although I suppose self-medicating with sex, drugs, and alcohol yield the same end results. (it just is much more fun in that setting…. until it isn’t) I don’t yet know if I can say that I will never return. I can say that I woke up one day and decided I’d had enough, that I desired the joy that I know longs to bust loose in me more than remaining stuck on the misery merry-go-round.

I don’t know if my Depression and Anxiety would be as bad as it is were it not for my childhood trauma. Abuse leaves a person with deep invisible wounds that bleed in conjunction with the process of accepting the unacceptable and embracing the healing. It’s like bloodletting. But how long do I have to do that and am I able to decide when it will stop affecting my quality of life?

I look at the word “healing” and know that it is a verb. I think that one action that needs to be taken is making peace with the darkness. It will always be there, but the degree to which it enslaves me becomes a choice once I acknowledge it. I will break it down using logic, a most useful tool.

It’s like this-

Can the darkness continue to exist if I ignore it? Yes, because it was written into the fabric of my life. Just because I ignore something doesn’t make it go away. (not that I haven’t given it my best shot, and not that I haven’t tried to pretend it’s not as ugly as it really is.) Has it killed me? Almost, a few times, but no. I’m still here, which means I have successfully coexisted with it, regardless of the struggle, my entire life.

To make peace or to acknowledge it is not at all the same as accepting defeat. It is a more spiritual reckoning of sorts where I lay down my weapon and understand fully that without the terror of darkness, I would not know how redeeming and glorious the light is. The work that needs to be done within me takes place in the day, where things are brought to light. It is the night, (darkness) that ushers in the dawn. It serves a most valuable purpose. I am tired of rehashing the pain from the memories that linger in the night. I am ready to see them clearly now, which means that they are residual energy from the past that no longer have the power to hurt me.

I tilt my hat to the darkness as a  formidable foe, but more so as a venerable teacher. After all, to the victor belong the spoils, and I am ALL about claiming the victory.

Threads

A secret place tucked away in the woods
Where I would sit alone
A tree-shaped arbor as a door
Small pool to a stream with a waterfall
And a mossy green rock, my throne
Soothed by the wonder
Of birds and trees
A child torn asunder
Learned to call nature her home.

Faith was never a thing I was indoctrinated into, but an inner “knowing” that resided in my heart as far back as I can remember. Even as a confused, angry, sad, and fearful victim of sexual abuse since the age of three, at the hands of my stepfather, I always felt a presence that felt instinctively familiar to me. Born into this human flesh from the heavenly spirit realm, or “God ’s pocket” as children are often told, is something that has just recently, after half a century of life, been made very clear to me. It is as if all of my experiences are laid out on a long scroll-like tapestry since birth, with pinpoints mapping out my journey; little snippets of memories in the form of any and all senses, that somehow connect in a meaningful way. I call these connections, Threads.

I was so fortunate to be brought up in a small town surrounded by deep woods, at a time when small children were set free in the mornings to explore the world, and return at leisure until the streetlights came on. For me, there was more fear in my home than outside of it. I found my solace in nature.

One day, one of many, where I would pack the same bag with the same items I deemed necessary to survive, and dramatically announce that I was running away, while slamming the door several times, I set off into the woods. My histrionic display having gone ignored, I felt desperately sad and could not control my sobbing as I ambled down the same path of the well-worn trail so familiar. This time I decided to veer off, as if being summoned through the brush, and discovered a magical place that immediately captivated me. The sound of faintly trickling water drew me to a natural arbor through which was displayed a small pool of water leading to a winding stream, surrounded by beautiful moss-covered rocks, one of which made a perfect little seat. I spent hours there, well beyond the loud calling of my name to near sunset. I felt like I was a suckling babe at the bosom of pure LOVE, being nourished and fortified to withstand the world I had no choice but to survive. It became my haven, the place I would run to when I needed to escape. Even when we moved far away, I held the golden memory of it in my heart, and always searched for a new special place.

Fast forward 44 years. After two failed, abusive marriages, struggling to heal and navigating my way through Depression, Complex PTSD and Anxiety, I have finally found a place for my weary heart to call home. I reconnected with my first love who will be my last love, who is my best friend and eternal twin flame. He has taken in me, my precious daughter, 3 cats, and one blind dog, giving us a wonderful new beginning in our new house. As I have uprooted the demons of my past I have begun to make great strides in taking back my power and utilizing healthy tools with which to rebuild the joyful life I so desire. One of these tools is my daily walk which takes me to a glorious park called The Botanical Gardens.

The Gardens are surrounded by a lake with many meandering paths through woods, azaleas, and beautifully landscaped flowerbeds with fountains, footbridges, and statues. There are gazebos and many benches dedicated in loving memory throughout the park. One day I turned a corner to find something I had never seen before, as I was still exploring it all. A sensation of weightless euphoria and nostalgia swept over me as I approached it, and upon arrival, tears of joy. It was a small pool with a waterfall leading to a meandering stream, and there before me, a perfect rock to sit on.

I was no longer escaping, running away in fear, but walking in glorious freedom and strength, and I had come to a place in my life where the memory I had tucked away in my heart had at long last brought me to my haven, both within and outside of myself. This was what I thought of as I reveled in how far and winding my road that had led me back to this familiar place. I am only just now realizing, as I write this, the symbolism of the rock (God). Before I tie it into my story, it even further illustrates what I have been trying to explain about Threads.

A bible verse I had committed to memory sometime in my twenties, to comfort me in times of fear, was Psalms 27:v1 which says:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength (rock) of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

And so it is that these little things, seemingly unrelated to anything at the time we experience them, become Threads that we can see much later, have been woven together very specifically to teach us about ourselves, life, and our place in this world. These many threads weave the tapestry of our lives.