Monday, November 24, 2008


I've been thinking a lot this week about stories. Not the kind I write, but the stories we tell ourselves about other people's words and actions. We can't help it—that's what people do, we try to make sense of things and we do it by making guesses about what the other person might have meant by what they said or did. Or we tell ourselves stories about how people OUGHT to treat us.

The problem is that so often we make the mistake of assuming these stories are truth. This is a problem because the stories we tell ourselves are often what determine how we feel and how we act toward others. And how we act toward others, in turn helps determine the stories they tell themselves and therefore how they treat us. Which means it's easy to get into a downward spiral if we—and they—tend to tell negative stories.

Even worse, the stories we tell ourselves are often based in our own fears about ourselves. It may never occur to the other person to see us as stupid but we may tell ourselves a story that assumes they do—IF that's one of our fears. On the other hand, if being stupid is NOT one of our fears then even if the other person IS trying to say we are, we either won't hear it or we won't care. Because we know on such a deep level it isn't true. But any time we tell ourselves a negative story that touches on one of our fears about ourselves we are reinforcing that fear and making ourselves unhappy—while the other person goes on their merry way.

That's the thing. The stories we tell ourselves rarely have any impact on how the other person feels—but they have a huge impact on how WE feel.

I've been thinking about this as I watch people—including myself—prepare for Thanksgiving and I listen to the stories being told. I hear expectations of being treated badly or anticipation of levels of harmony that aren't likely to play out. I find myself wondering what would happen if each of us just went forward. No stories, just waiting to see what happens. Maybe WE would act differently—and therefore get different results. Maybe WE would think of new ways to respond if someone did treat us with disrespect. Maybe it would free up our energy to be able to either ignore trouble or to walk away from it—or to choose new traditions entirely.

There is something I heard Wayne Dyer say: What you think of me is none of my business.

How much of our energy goes into worrying what others think of us? What if, instead, we could use that energy to do things that would let us like ourselves better? What if we were able to see people as they are—not in terms of whether or not they will validate us?

It's an interesting experiment, stepping back from the stories we tell ourselves and just...being. Just letting events unfold—rather than trying to anticipate them. I know this is a tough exercise for anyone who has lived in an abusive situation. Survival often meant being hyper alert and anticipating possible (probable?) dangers and situations. If, however, we no longer live in such situations, we might be better served by letting go of those defense mechanisms in most situations NOW.

I think it's going to be an interesting week. I'm trying to let go of the stories I tend to tell myself and see what happens when I do. I'm looking forward to discovering the ways my life will get better because of this new approach to life and my interactions with others. I realize, you see, what it's cost me to tell myself these stories in the past. There is real power in switching our focus from surviving/getting through a situation and in asking ourselves instead: What could make this a great experience for me?

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

Monday, November 17, 2008


I know I'm behind posting. Blame a bad cold to start with. Add to that contact with my brothers for the first time in a long time. One brother's house burned down. He and his family are okay but the house is a total loss. It is strange to feel all the emotions this evokes.

I grew up feeling responsible for this brother. Stopped my mother from throwing him against the wall when he was an infant and I was about 3 years old. Gave him the attention no one else in the family did. Only to have him side with my older brother at the worst of times.

I know my brothers were as trapped as I was. They made very different choices than I did about how to handle that reality. And to this day that hurts—and makes me wary of them, deservedly so or not.

I hurt for my brother and the loss he has suffered—even though I know he has a community of people who can and will help him. I ended up talking to my other brother because he, too, was concerned when neither of us could at first reach our brother to see if he and his family were okay and whether or not their home was.

I find myself still protective enough of my brother(s) not to want to specify what went wrong as we were growing up even as I know I'll never be able to trust either of them even now. I find myself angry that in many ways they have happier, more prosperous lives than I do given the past. I find myself thinking that while I do not want to be capable of making some of the choices they did, perhaps I can look at how they were able to get to where they are and whether there is anything positive I can use without violating my own core set of values.

It is strange feeling this empathy for my brother at the same time that I feel wariness and remember hurt. I am grateful I can feel that empathy. It is the lack of that capability that allowed my abusers to do what they did. I want to be someone capable of loving and caring about even those who have hurt me. (Though I am NOT going to choose to put myself in possible harms way just because I do!)

More to mull over as I drink hot tea and try to convince my poor dog that today is NOT a good day for me to take her for a walk in the windy cold outside.....

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))) to all of you,

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Who Am I Now, pt. 2

I've been thinking more about this and truly appreciate everyone who has taken the time to comment on my last post.

I find myself thinking that part of the problem is the definition I have of survivor of abuse. The image I carry in my head that I don't even consciously know I do. And I'm thinking that maybe what I need to do is redefine that label—just as I've redefined other major labels in my life in recent years.

Part of it is trying to decide where to put my energy and focus. Trying to figure out what my sense of responsibility is telling me to do—and how that fits with where I would put my energy and focus if this wasn't part of my life.

I find myself looking for change in all sorts of areas of my life. I took off the slipcover on the couch so that it went from dark green to lightly patterned beige. I'm looking for curtains for a couple of rooms in my house—after being perfectly happy with just blinds for the past couple of years since I moved in here. I'm rethinking how I fix my hair and the clothes I wear. I adopted my dog just a couple of months ago. I find myself even changing what I choose to eat.

In other words, it's not just the question of being a survivor—and how I define that and how “visible I do or don't want to be. I seem to be redefining myself—and my living space—in lots of ways, without knowing why or where it's taking me.

I catch myself thinking: I can't, I can't. I stop and remind myself that probably I can—no matter what it is—that I have been very successful in the past in a number of areas.

I catch myself scolding myself for some mistake made in the past—and have to remind myself that it wasn't a disaster and was part of the learning process.

I find myself calling in my mind to people who have helped me in the past—wishing they could give me answers now. And I remind myself that mostly they listened and I figured things out myself. I remind myself that the choices I regret most are the times I didn't listen to my instincts—especially when I listened to the advice of others instead.

So I'm changing. That's a good thing. I'm just not sure where it's taking me—or why it's happening now. In terms of the question of being a survivor, I suppose I need to stop thinking of it as all or nothing and perhaps ask myself instead: How can I incorporate this identity into my writing and life in a whole new way? What options haven't I thought of? How can I use the positives to give me greater confidence than if none of it had ever happened?

Bear with me as I explore possibilities. I hope that each of you are having epiphanies of your own as you make your journeys—and discovering reasons to smile and laugh and know your own strength and capabilities.

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

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Who Am I Now?

For a while now, I've been asking myself the question: Who am I now? By what labels will I define myself? Which old labels am I ready to let go of? And as I ask myself those questions, I keep coming back to the biggie: Do I want to still define myself as a survivor of abuse?

It doesn't impact my life on a daily basis any more. It doesn't trigger shame or guilt—any more. It doesn't determine my self image or expectations for what I can do—any more. And yet....there is a part of me that says it's important so that I can stand for how far we survivors can come. So that I can speak to how deep the scars can go in children who are abused. That part of me says that if I stop seeing myself as a survivor, I'm abandoning other survivors.

So why not just keep calling myself a survivor? I'm not sure. On some level I worry that despite my denials, I am limiting myself in some ways by seeing myself in those terms—as a survivor who was deeply scarred even if those scars have pretty much healed now.

So I don't know. Do we ever stop calling ourselves survivors? Why or why not? I'd really like to hear all your thoughts on this.

There was a time I thought I'd write a book about surviving abuse. Now I'm not so sure it matters—that what I have to say would be of enough interest to anyone. There was a time I thought I could be a positive example for other survivors—now I wonder if that's just hubris because each of us has to find our own way out of the pain and past. I used to wonder if I had to make my experience mean something and now I wonder if it's enough just to be happy and discover where life takes me if I don't see myself in terms of being a survivor.

Note; There was a time when I would have been denying my experience if I had said I wasn't a survivor of abuse and it would have been because I didn't want to face all the memories and emotions and shame and guilt and despair. This is different. I'm at peace with who I am and my life relative to the abuse.

I'm not usually this confused. I don't know where I'm going with all of this. No doubt I'll explore it here as I explore it within myself.

I'd really like to hear your thoughts and how YOU look at this issue.

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