Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Getting Over Emotional Hangovers

Jumping in Puddles asked a great question: How do we bounce back from emotional hangovers?

The first step is recognizing this is what's happening and that we don't have to feel this way—we have a choice.

Second step is doing what I call emotional aerobics. This means:

1)Reminding ourselves of every situation we have been able to handle, every success of our lives, every strength we have, every reason that exists for us to believe we can cope with what is happening.

2)Doing things that make us smile and therefore reminding ourselves that NO MATTER W HAT we can have moments of joy in our lives.

3)Asking what good could come out of the situation.

When we do these things we are reminding ourselves that we are not hostages to anyone else or any events in our lives ANY MORE. It is how we choose to handle the challenges that arise in our lives that determines the quality of our lives.

I know that's hard to believe when we're in the middle of a difficult situation. Believe me, it took conscious effort and daily aerobic emotional exercises to cope with the chaos of my visit back to NJ. And even so it took me a week to shake off all the effects—in large part because until the emotional hangover lifted, I didn't even recognize that was what was going on. Even so, doing the 3 steps above made a huge difference.

I didn't get mired in fear based thinking. I didn't retreat to old behavior patterns with my ex or with my son. I didn't give in to depression. I did manage to find some things to bring back with me. I did manage to be upbeat with my son and set appropriate limits. I did manage to cope with the crises that kept arising—without getting drawn into doing things my ex asked me to do that are no longer appropriate (like finding and buying 4 new tires for his car).

Remembering that we DO have choices, that we can create moments of joy, that we can choose how we respond to situations is immensely powerful AND the key to bouncing back from emotional hangovers.

Here's hoping all of you keep bouncing back from any emotional hangovers you might be facing! Sending blessings and safe and gentle ((((((hugs))))))).

PS Check out what Keepers has done with some of the sayings from my Survivor's Manifesto!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Emotional Hangovers

Well, I've figured it out. Emotional hangovers last about one week after I get back from NJ and dealing with my ex and the old house. One week to shake off those patterns into which I sometimes fall. One week to shake off the self-doubt and depression. One week to remember who I am NOW and how good my life is NOW. One week to shake off the regrets and self-recriminations.

Now I can get back to my work whole heartedly. Now I can put my mind to really looking at what I want to do and have in my life. One week to be back to laughing and feeling good.


What triggers YOUR emotional hangovers—and how long does it take YOU to get over them?

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


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hopes and Dreams and Fears

One of my deepest fears for my son, when he was born, was that he would end up in an institution where he would be abused. His behavior issues in the past ten years woke fears I'd once put to rest. So....you can imagine the mix of emotions I felt when I went to look at the group home while I was in NJ last week.

It was wonderful. It was everything I could hope for, for my son. It is a place where he can be safe and grow and let go of old habits as he gains new ones that might actually serve him well. No matter how good a mother I could be, I can't give him the opportunities he will have there. It was good to be able to put aside that fear.

Now...hopes and dreams. A friend of mine likes to say that hopes and dreams die last. I thought I'd put mine to rest. And this visit sure reaffirmed I was right to divorce my ex. But....I came back grieving. Grieving for the knowledge that I can't grow old with the person who watched our children grow up with me, the father of those children, a person with whom I shared my life for 30 years. Even if I find someone else, that person won't know those years, those challenges, those triumphs and the moments of despair.

It's painful to grieve. It would be worse to pretend I didn't feel these things. Knowing and grieving will let me move on to the next phase of my life more completely than if I didn't.

Let me be clear: I do NOT feel sorry for myself! I had the courage and wisdom to get out. I had the skill to do so in a way that left me options. There just was this piece of grieving that I didn't know still needed to be done.

So I'm back home. I'm catching up on things I couldn't do while I was gone. I've been grieving and now I'm starting to look forward rather than back. Because now I can. I have choices. I have time and space to work on creating the life I want to have. Including maybe getting a dog—though I haven't found the right one yet.

But I move cautiously. It would be part of my nature to do so even if there hadn't been so much abuse in my life in various forms. I am wary of old patterns. I am still feeling out what it is I want—and what it is I believe I can have. And I am rewriting any beliefs I discover that no longer serve me.

Here's hoping you are all rewriting the beliefs that no longer serve you—and discovering what could make YOU happy. Sending blessings and safe and gentle ((((((hugs)))))),


Friday, July 18, 2008


Some things I realized this past week. Some are liberating. Some make me cringe—except better to have the self-awareness and know so that I can be on guard against playing out those patterns in the future.

I wanted safe. I married my ex because he wasn't intimidating. Only there isn't much safe about someone who lets you drive on the freeway after midnight in a car where the tire was down to 12 pounds of pressure earlier in the day. Or who creates constant chaos. (Did I mention he also “forgot” to tell me about the broken pipe in the laundry room and I discovered it when my son did laundry and the floor flooded?)

I also tried to be the "easy" wife. No drama, no hassles, only a partner who would be of value. I didn't realize he'd value me less, not more because I did.

When I was married, there was a payoff in the chaos. People felt sorry for me and angry on my behalf. And I felt safer because if I didn't want to do something I could use the chaos as an excuse.

I want and need calm in my life. I no longer want chaos.

I can walk away from the house knowing I was wise not to try to keep it.

I know that even if I were the best mother in the world, there are things my son will gain by being in the group home that I could not have given him.

I know that had I gotten custody, my son would not get into a group home for several more years—if ever.

I was reminded how much happier I am where I am now than where I was living for so long.

I can watch my ex with his girlfriend and be happy they found each other. And know that I feel no regrets over choosing to walk away.

I only had a chance to contact one or two old friends. Even in these friendships, I could see patterns I am choosing not to repeat in new friendships here. They were what they had to be when I was married, but as I change, as I grow I can choose different friends and healthier friendships.

It is neither wise nor useful to see myself as having been a martyr. There were choices I could have made. I didn't make them because I was too afraid. Trying to be safe is sometimes the most dangerous thing we can do.

In the midst of all this, a friend died unexpectedly. She hadn't even been sick. I got back here in time for the funeral yesterday. It was a reminder to LIVE, really live—not just endure.

My daughter is coming over for lunch tomorrow. She wants to help me find a dog to adopt. I will cherish the time we spend together and be grateful for her presence here in town while she gets her PhD. And I will know that the best gift I can give her is to see that at any age one can make new choices, at any age one can change and grow, at any age one can create a healthier and happier life.

Here's hoping that each of you are creating the lives YOU want to have.

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

Monday, July 14, 2008

Theater of the Absurd

It's pouring rain which means the carpeted family room is about to start flooding.

There's no umbrella in the house and my son has to get to the bus to get to his day program.

The downstairs toilet is overflowing any time water goes down the drain in any other part of the house.

And my ex isn't answering his cell phone so I can ask:
a) Where are the umbrellas?
b) What plumber does he use to clear out the drain from the street to the house.

Add to that not telling me the tire on the car was low on air and you have a pretty good picture of what my life was like all the time for close to 30 years. I call it the theater of the absurd.

Now, one way or another I'll manage. I always did. If I can't find out what plumber my ex uses I'll just go down the list in the yellow pages. (Though a plumber who knows the recurring problem would save time.) The tire got plugged. If need be I'll drive my son to his program. And to hell with the carpet flooding, if it comes to that.

As I said, this gives you an idea of what my life was like for so many years.

I am so grateful that it is only occasionally that I have to deal with this kind of chaos any more. It reminds me how and why I felt overwhelmed for so many years. It reminds me, too, of old patterns and the need not to fall into them again.

Being a martyr isn't nearly as useful as taking action to deal with whatever one needs to deal with—AND getting away from someone who creates perpetual chaos. (Not having the problems in the first place beats the sympathy one gets from having to cope with chaos.)

I no longer assume the problem is me (because who would be crazy enough to do this kind of stuff....I MUST be missing something).

I don't waste time trying to analyze his motives. Doesn't matter. He is who he is and not likely to change. If there's something to deal with, I deal with it.

I give voice to my unhappiness now—rather than trying to smooth things over or pretend they don't matter. These things do matter. I matter.

I CAN MAKE CHOICES. I can make choices about how I handle things now, while I'm here, and I can make choices about what I will do in the future.

And in a couple of days I can go home. Away from the chaos.

What is YOUR theater of the absurd and what choices could you make that would make your life easier or better? What are the patterns you might want to change about how you act and react to situations?

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

Friday, July 11, 2008

Alice in Wonderland

When I go back to the old house to see my son, I never manage to successfully anticipate the form the weirdness will take. It makes for...interesting visits and I always feel like Alice in Wonderland. Well, except when I feel like Sisyphus trying to roll the boulder up the hill, over and over again....

This visit is no exception. As I like to say, my ex has been very good about making sure I couldn't possibly second guess my decision to divorce him.

That said, it's interesting to see how, each time I visit, I'm less likely to get sucked into the chaos. I'm quicker to recover after I get sand bagged. I'm more able to say to my ex: No, I won't do that for you. I'm less likely to freak out and start screaming: Are you out of your freaking mind?????

Ahem. Sorry about that. Seriously, it's always a good reality check for any fantasy “what ifs?” that I might have been having. It's a reminder that things really were as chaotic as I remember. It's a reminder that while I might wish all I want that things had been different, there's no way they were going to be. NOT because he or I were bad people but because the dynamic between us was destructive to both of us. Even the counseling we tried couldn't change that.

And seeing my son and trying to work with him, reminds me why the fantasy of how I wish things could have been with him wasn't going to happen either.

In any case, it's all a reminder that one can't go back, we can only go forward. We can only ask ourselves:

What's the best choice I can make NOW, in THIS moment?

How can I be the person I want to be in THIS moment?

What do I want to accomplish? What's the best way to do that—if it's possible?

All we have is THIS moment. And in this moment we have the power to choose who we will be. NOW. We can't control the outcome of what we do or how anyone else will act or react. We can choose whether or not we will act in alignment with our highest values.

One of my highest values is love and empathy—perhaps because those who abused me were so self-focused. What I have come to know is that it's okay to be loving AND protective of myself as well. Being loving does not have to equal being a doormat! Knowing that I can protect myself means I don't have to scream at my ex when he fails to be protective. (As in discovering he had me drive his car alone with my son after midnight on a freeway when he knew a tire might be very, very low on air.)

So I will spend this week with my son, loving him and helping him get emotionally ready for the group home. I will let go—as much as I can—of how I wish things had been. And I will honor how far we've all come. (And catch up on reading blogs when I get back home.)

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


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Claiming Our Power

We survivors are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as victims. And we were. But....what if....we have more power NOW than we ever realized?

No, I'm not crazy! Really! I swear it! Mind you, had anyone said that to me ten years ago, I'd have run the other way—sure they were making fun of me or crazy or totally out of touch with my reality. And yet, today, I really believe it's true.

What do I mean and how can it possibly be true for all of us?

1) We have the power to choose how we think about situations in our lives.
We can choose to look for the good we can bring out of every situation in which we find ourselves. We do not have to just think about what's bad about the situation. And in looking at the good we can bring out of it, we empower ourselves to move forward.

2) We have the power to choose how we will respond—or to choose not to do so.
We can consciously choose whether we will fight or talk or take quiet action. We do not have to keep playing out old patterns or react to life. We can choose to be pro-active.

3) We have the power to decide we will believe—about ourselves and the world around us.
We took in messages, growing up and because of the abuse that probably do not serve us very well any longer. We can choose to challenge any that hold us back from becoming who we want to be and having the kind of life we want to have. We do not have to hold onto the shame and guilt. We can place it where it belongs—with our abusers.

4) We have the power to choose how we see ourselves.
We can choose to see ourselves as strong, capable, competent, wonderful, joyful human beings.

What if all of that is true? What if we really do have that kind of power? Then we go from being victims to being thrivers.

That can be a scary thought if being a victim has had any kind of emotional or real world payoff for us. And yet, if we choose to see ourselves as powerful, capable human beings then possibilities open up for us. We are likely to draw into our lives emotionally healthier people than before. People who can love and support us and see us as the wonderful human beings we really are.

If it's too hard to see these things as true NOW for you, try it as a What If game. What IF I had the power to choose....? What if I could be strong and capable and able to choose my reality?

I know that as I go to stay with my (down syndrome) son this week I will keep asking myself: What if it all works out wonderfully well? What if I am able to let go and say good-bye to a house that once held so many hopes and dreams for me? What if I am able to be strong enough to truly wish happiness for my ex-husband and all that is happening for him now? What if I am wise enough to know the right things to say and do with my son so that his transition to group housing does go smoothly? What if I am fully aware of how much stronger and wiser I am than I ever knew when I was still married?

Every survivor's blog I visit, no matter how much pain is on the page or how evident the feelings of helplessness sometimes, I also see incredible strength and resilience and a beautiful spirit. It's time for all of us to claim that wonderful truth—that no matter what anyone has ever told us about ourselves, we are joyful, beautiful, courageous and wonderful spirits here in this world and we are profoundly fortunate to have the internet so that we can connect with each other.

Wishing for each of you a true sense of your very real power—this week and always. Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),