Monday, January 28, 2008

Interesting Week

It’s been an...interesting....week. Yes, that’s the word...interesting.

There was the identity theft to deal with. A cancelled credit card, monitoring other accounts, alerting credit bureaus, calls to shut down a fraudulent account elsewhere, calls to get fraudulent charges off the legitimate account.

There was the phone call from my daughter (that woke me up one morning) to say she had hurt her neck and she couldn’t move. (And a day spent helping her and ruling out serious possibilities.)

There was the potential flame war in the online class I’m teaching that had to be put out as soon as it began.

Mind you, there were good things, too. And a choice about where to put my available focus. I say available focus because certain things had to be dealt with. But once they were, I had a choice. I could complain and fuss and keep focusing on how unfortunate these things were and how they were eating up my time OR I could choose to say to myself: Okay, I can handle each of these things. Everything will be okay. Now, what can I do that’s fun now that I have a spare moment?

There is value in running a quick mental check of what it’s useful to do in a given challenging situation. There is even value in considering problems that could arise out of these situations. And then taking steps to deal with the situation and possible future consequences.

There is no value in running scenarios over and over again in our heads and focusing on how horrible they make us feel. There is no value in constantly replaying them—except to notice how well we coped (when we did) and what we might do more effectively next time around.

There is no value in seeing ourselves as victims to whom bad things will continue to happen. There is great power in noting what our strengths were in the situation and building on them. There is even power in noting what was difficult for us and then obtaining information or skills so that next time we might be better prepared.

There is little value in trying to find someone to protect us forever and great value in learning the skills and acquiring the tools we need to protect ourselves.

This past week could have—and in the past might have—felt overwhelming and confirmed in me a sense of victimhood. Instead, it became something that reaffirmed my faith in myself and my ability to cope with life’s challenges.

The scare with my daughter became a chance to spend time together and grow closer.

The situation with identity theft, while not pleasant, ultimately will be a blip in the screen for this month—much less this year or my lifetime.

The potential flame war became a chance to draw the students closer together with a greater appreciation for themselves and what they had to offer each other.

We can’t control what happens to us. We CAN choose, however, how we will respond and where we will put our attention.

There is a certain emotional payoff in being a victim. There is a far greater payoff in seeing ourselves as strong, competent, evolving, resilient individuals.


It takes a great deal of strength and courage and resilience to survive abuse. It takes even more to choose to face the past and our fears and shadows and work to heal. The more we see ourselves as having the qualities of strength and resilience and courage and competence, the more likely we are to succeed and the happier the lives will be that we create for ourselves.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Survivor Meme

I’ve been tagged by Kahless at Random Kahlesswith a “Survivor Needs” meme.

Rules:Please link back to the originating meme at Survivors Can Thrive , so people can see its origins, get ideas for their own self-care list, see who’s already been tagged, and maybe we can track how far this meme goes. List 25 needs and 5 wants. Try to restrict your needs list to things that have to do with being a survivor of some sort of abuse, assault, etc. Your list can be anything you want! Use this list to remind yourself to get your needs met this the New Year. Pass on this meme and tag five people to play this meme with you.

25 NEEDS (in no particular order):

1.) sunshine (helps me feel happier)
2.) time alone
3.) time with friends
4.) to be close to my children—if not geographically then emotionally
5.) to be treated with kindness and respect
6.) to have at least one person truly believe in me
7.) to have at least one person truly see and understand what I’ve been through
8.) to have at least one person truly understand how difficult it sometimes is for me to deal with things other people consider so easy to handle
9.) to continue to grow
10.) to have laughter in my life—every day
11.) to write (and give myself the voice I didn't have growing up)
12.) to share my love of writing with others (and know I have something of value to offer)
13.) to have people listen when I say something matters to me
14.) to share in and learn from the wisdom of others
15.) to love wholeheartedly no matter what the other person says or does—and to see the good in them (so that I do not become like my abusers who couldn't love)
16.) to set boundaries and be willing to walk away if the other person will not respect them
17.) to know what I need and honor that—no matter what anyone else thinks I should say or do or feel—and to be willing to say so
18.) to be able to truly honor and respect and believe in myself
19.) good, healthy food
20.) time to honor my spiritual self and my spiritual journey
21.) a spiritual community to be part of
22.) to be financially secure (fear of not being able to take care of my financial needs kept me in situations I should have walked away from much sooner)
23.) to exercise in ways that are fun and keep me in good health
24.) to honor my body and lovingly take care of it including going to the dentist and doctor for regular checkups and care (something that used to be hard for me when I hated it and blamed it for betraying me)
25.) to protect myself even as I open myself to new friendships and put myself out into the world in ways I haven’t done before


1.) a new book contract
2.) a sheltie or collie puppy
3.) time by the ocean
4.) to see people to treat each other with kindness and respect and understanding
5.) a partner in my life who will love me and treat me with kindness and respect who
6.) to share the things that helped me as I made my healing journey

I can love and respect, someone who would truly enrich my life

The final part of this I’m clueless about. I have no idea who to tag since it seems that everyone I know has already been tagged. Perhaps...

1) Gypsy Heart
2) Lynn
3) Alex Marlin
4) Rebecca
5) Casey
6) anyone reading this who hasn’t already done the meme and would like to do so

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Confessions of a Dental Coward

I had an...interesting...weekend. A back tooth broke on Friday night and it turned out my dentist’s office was closed until Monday. Coward that I am, that gave me 2 days to worry (all right, let’s be honest, panic...) about what it would mean when I did go in. Add to that some difficult personal issues to deal with and...well...let’s just say it wasn’t the best of weekends.

Monday morning I called my dentist’s office bright and early. They told me to come right in and sure enough they told me I would need a crown—my first. I did what any self-respecting coward would—I told the dentist that previous dentists had had trouble numbing my teeth and that I was just warning him that I was a terrible coward when it came to dental work. He didn’t laugh. He didn’t pooh, pooh my concerns. He quite seriously assured me that he would make sure the tooth was numb, would stop at any moment if I was in pain, and that it would be okay.

He was as good as his word. Mind you, I’m not thrilled at how much dental work costs. I’m not thrilled I needed the dental work at all. Of course it helped that I did deep, calming breathing as I waited and soothing images while he worked but....still. I am profoundly grateful he listened and was so respectful of my concerns. And that’s why I’m sharing this story.

Lots of people are cowards when it comes to dental work. For survivors of abuse, there’s something more at work, though I’ve never been able to properly explain—even to myself—what that is. I do know that I’ve had times in my life when it was impossible to get myself to go to the dentist at all.

I tell this story because I think it’s important. I think we’re often afraid to tell people we’re scared. It feels like it makes us too vulnerable. And I’m not suggesting telling everyone we meet what our vulnerabilities might be! What I am suggesting is that we are not always powerless. We can tell doctors and dentists if we feel scared. If they are not respectful about how hard the experience is for us, we can look for other doctors and dentists.

In my life, I have been impressed with how often people have reacted with kindness and understanding when I have shared a vulnerability. I hope it gives hope and encouragement to others to know this because we all have to deal with doctors and dentists—at least sometimes.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Thursday, January 10, 2008

No Words

It’s been a while since I posted. For the last few days the words just weren’t there—which is a strange and scary feeling for a writer!

Part of it is that my online writing class started (the one I’m teaching) and there were some glitches that took a lot of energy and email and even some phone calls to straighten out. I also found that I needed to revise my planned lessons as I got a feel for the composition of the group.

Part of it is also that I find myself in a time of growth and that in itself can be tiring. Not a bad thing, just means I need more rest as I process this new sense of self.

I remember when I first was working with the counselor who I believe saved my life—both literally and figuratively. I must have indicated I wanted all this “stuff” over with in a short period of time because he commented that I was on a lifelong journey of growth. I have to say that really freaked me out. No way did I want to feel like THAT forever!

Now, in retrospect, I can see that a) he was right and b) it isn’t scary, it’s exciting. (Even at the time I was pretty sure that if he said it, it was true—I just didn’t want to believe it!)

Now I see that this lifelong journey is a good thing. I DON’T feel awful, the way I did at that stage of growth. Now I smile as I realize I’m going through a growing phase. I look forward with anticipation to the new good things it will bring into my life. It’s just a bit tiring, too, and I sometimes need to remind myself of that wonderful (and so true!) saying: The middle of change often looks like chaos.

I hope that each of you are finding moments of joy in the midst of your journeys of growth. Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Pragmatic Optimism

I’m a pragmatist. My training and degrees are in mathematics. Bottom line for me is: Does this work?

I spent much of my life a pessimist—sure life sucked and always would for me. And it did. I worked on healing and was in intense pain while I did so. Life was scary and I hated myself and my relationships were not healthy.

It’s only in retrospect that I realized there was a whole other—and far easier and better—way to do things. That’s when I deliberately became an optimist. Now the healing that hadn’t been working started to work. Now my life began getting better. Now I found myself—finally!—moving forward. I actually began making real, concrete changes in my life that worked. I actually stopped being afraid. My life actually got good.

So I’m trying to look back and take apart what happened and describe it here.

1) I realized that I couldn’t force myself to do anything. I didn’t work that way. I had to WANT to do it and believe that I could. Which meant I needed to....

2) Work on believing in myself. That’s when I began making lists of successes in my life and what I was good at. Reasons to believe I could and would succeed. Which meant...

3) When there was something I needed to face or a change I needed to make, I looked at possible ways to do it and asked myself: Which step uses my strengths and talents? Which one feels like something I can do? That doesn’t mean the step was easy or fun, it means I chose the one that was EASIEST of possibly a bunch of difficult steps. And to motivate myself...

4) I knew that browbeating myself didn’t work. What would? Creating some kind of reward for myself each time I did something difficult. Example: When I went to see my therapist, on the way home—EVERY TIME—I would do something that made me smile—no matter how crappy I felt. I did that because otherwise I would never have kept going. Therapy was just too damn scary and hard if I didn’t build in some kind of reward. (And oh, yeah, as I’d get to the office, before I walked in, I’d take a deep breath and go over my list of reasons to believe I could succeed.) Even that wouldn’t have been enough if I didn’t.....

5) Visualize. I would imagine succeeding. I would imagine being free of the pain. I would imagine believing in myself. I would imagine standing up to the things that scared me. I would imagine being happy. And that helped give me the courage to go on. The funny thing is....

6) The more I did this—choosing to be an optimist, choosing to believe I could succeed, choosing to build in rewards—the easier things did get and the more progress I made. I actually began to be happy. First in short moments, then in minutes, hours, and finally days. Now, when faced with anything I don’t want to do I....

7) Imagine succeeding. Break it down into steps and ask myself which I can picture myself doing with the least resistance. Figure out how to make it fun OR how to build in some kind of reward. I focus on the good that could come out of the situation—no matter how awful it seems in that moment. And I do that because....

8) I’m a pragmatist. Of all the things I’ve tried, optimism is the only thing that ever worked. And I’ve faced awful things in my life. So terrible that I sometimes feel like: How can I be me when this happened to me? But I am. Because looking back, even in the depths of my pessimism, there was a part of me just too blasted stubborn to give up. There was a part of me determined to find a way to succeed—if only so I could thumb my nose at those who told me I never would.

The process of recovering from abuse will never be easy. I knew that early on. But I decided one day that just because other people had hurt me it didn’t mean I had to keep hurting myself. I decided that I didn’t give a damn what other people thought I should do or changes they thought I should make. I was going to heal MY way—which meant finding the least painful route through the process. I was going to believe I was going to be able to heal—no matter what anyone else believed, therapist or not. I was going to build rewards into every darned painful step of the way—so that I wouldn’t be tempted to stop because THAT would have been easier in the short run. I decided to focus on where I wanted to be with my life so that short term temporary satisfaction wouldn’t tempt me to give up on the steps I needed to take to get to where I wanted to be.

I couldn’t have made it, wouldn’t have made it without cold-bloodedly choosing to be an optimist. I’d have ended up dead—by my own hand. I say that bluntly with absolute certainty. What saved me was each time refusing to think of how and instead making lists of reasons not to. I look back and know how close I came—over and over and over again.

I’d still be stuck in the middle of the nightmare of what was once my life if I hadn’t found a way to build rewards into the process of growing and healing. I wouldn’t be where I am—happy NOW—if I hadn’t made a deliberate decision to find someway, no matter how hard it was, to find a reason to laugh at least 3 times a day, every day, no matter what was happening—and the worse the day, the more important it was to do this.

I hope this clarifies somewhat the things I was trying to say in my last couple of posts.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Friday, January 04, 2008

Changes the Easy Way

Karma asked a good question that made me realize my last post was incomplete. I said we did best when we chose the path that was easiest. I left out one very important aspect to that advice!

Step 1: Decide changes we’d like to make in our lives.

Step 2: Look at possible steps to take that would help us move closer to where we want to be with those changes.

Step 3: Of the possible steps, choose the one that feels easiest, that feels like it might even be fun, the one that feels like something we can do.

Step 4: Take the action(s) we chose in Step 3.

It’s natural to want to be safe if there was ever a time in our lives when we really, really weren’t safe. We may find that it’s at the top of our list of priorities! And it is something very wonderful and something to be profoundly grateful for when we achieve it.

The challenge is that safety is often in direct conflict (or feels as if it is) with other goals we have. So the trick is to find a way to move forward that doesn’t require giving up safety all at once as we reach for our other goals.

One can’t be laughing and happy and having fun and be scared at the same time. That’s one reason finding steps toward our goals that incorporate fun can let us bring safety along even as we move in the direction we want to take. And as we succeed with those first steps, we are likely to feel stronger and more self-confident and taking the next few steps may feel like something we can do—even if they didn’t before.

If we are passionate about what we are doing, odds are that things which would otherwise scare us don’t—because we’re so focused on what we want to accomplish.

If we like the people we’re with when we’re doing something, it makes it easier to do new things—knowing they will support us. (If they won’t and what we want to do is important to us, it may be time to look for new friends!)

What I’m saying is that I know the desire to be safe. It’s one of my top priorities—even if I sometimes wish I could move it lower down on the list. The good news is that from my own experience I know there are ways to achieve those other goals without giving up safety. Not by attacking them head on doing the scariest thing first—at least not for me. That wouldn’t work—not for me. But by finding a path that is increasingly fun and involves something I care passionately about, it’s as if I bring my safety with me and I can move forward in ways I might once have thought were impossible.

Wishing for each of you paths of joy that lead you forward into the lives you want to have. Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),