When It is Worth the Risk

 

My friend, Karen, would call what I’m about to do: dignity.

I’ve been working on this post for about 5 days now – such progress in my first week without cable TV – ha!

When was it worth it to me to risk of facing my demons?

When it helps me heal so that I can help others. In my humble opinion.

I’m feeling especially brave today.

And, almost 3 years ago today, this was my heart’s cry one weary night because abuse assaults your soul and you feel like a part of you died that day…

I heal a little more each time I can share openly. And, what I’m about to share is about me, but also to help bring awareness to those little ones still out there being hurt.

Also, to the little ones now big ones that may be your friend, co-worker, spouse, parent, relative…that may need just a little more compassion and patience.

And, because we all have a story or two. All of us. I am so encouraged when someone respects themselves enough to share their story – so here’s my effort at respecting myself.

I was abused at the age of 5 by the dirty hands of a neighbor, who happened to be a sheriff – oh, and his daughter was my best friend. I also remember him peeping in my bedroom window, scaring me any chance he could: when I was picking honeysuckle on our shared fence, he would hide on the other side and try to grab me. I never screamed, though.

Or when I’d go to his house to play with my best friend, he’d be hiding behind the door with pantyhose over his head and jump out and grab me.  Why didn’t I scream?? I just was scared – and then he’d just laugh. A dark laugh. Really messed me up. This was all leading up to the actual abuse. I know now it’s called “grooming”  – testing his boundaries with me and my reactions. Educating myself does help me take the power back. (Hero Project)

I lost my best friend after I told my parents he hurt me, just as he promised.  I remember standing in our front yard crying because she was in her drive way and wouldn’t look at me after it happened. No telling what he was telling her. But, I had nightmares more about losing her at first.

I was pretty fortunate, though – my parents believed me. Called the police and had him charged. Then, got me the HECK out of that neighborhood.

The first trip to the police station, the office that “interviewed” me was horrible. I was alone in an office with him, and he starts raising his voice to me, telling me I’m a liar, no one will believe anything happened to me and that I was destroying a man’s life. Then, he tried to get me to physically REENACT what happened to me. I just started crying.

The lies I started believing were that my voice has no place and does not matter. No one will believe me. And, speaking up meant being scared and bad things happened when I did. I lose people. Beginning of people pleasing. When the shame of that evil was placed on me. Took me so long to distinguish between the shame of the evil and what was mine to carry: which was I was not shamed.

As in the Bible, anything done in the dark is brought into the light. Someone called my mom from the police station and told her this guy was the friend of my perpetrator’s son, also in the force. So, could I come back and give my statement to a female office with my parents listening in?

My mom filled in those blanks for me! Thankfully, I can talk about all this with her. And, my dad now, too. That’s part of healing – I don’t want to be shamed or silenced when I need to talk about it. It puts me backwards. I didn’t do anything wrong, so in talking about it openly confirms that.

In my speaking up, his wife and daughter finally left the bastard. GOOD!! I STILL think about his daughter, praying that if it’s good for her and me, one day we would reunite. I want to know she’s OK – because I’m confident he was abusing her. I pray for her regularly. And, I want her to see I’m OK.

But, my awareness of what that year of knowing him did to me didn’t start to be clear to me until after 1 failed marriage, a giant heap of debt I couldn’t even breath, a weight out of control in my mind, and relationships that just always wore me out. I was functioning in a level of depression/PTSD for so long, I just didn’t even know it.

What a gift when my counselor here in Texas named what I was showing symptoms of: you are not crazy, Melissa. You are functioning in crisis mode as things are triggering you. PTSD. It’s tricky, but manageable. And, she would say, Melissa, I feel like your journey is not just about you. You will impact others. Of course, I couldn’t see it yet. Too wrapped up in getting through it. And, frankly – I was jaded.

I think it surprises people when I share that. Not all people, just some. I wanted to seem like I was good. You know, normal? Not so sad, disconnected, confused, forgetful, checked out.

Most beautifully, the story of how I have come to face my past, began with awareness of others’ incredible tragedies. Hang with me here, it’s worth the read. I do apologize if it’s a big choppy:

I was cleaning out my bedside table just this week and ran across a c.d. I’d been looking for and some journal pages from years ago. As I read them, I started to remember myself back then. It’s funny, the issues I’ve spent the last 3 years facing and working through, I was unable to give words to in these pages. Yet, my struggles and confusion were very clearly connected to them.

I smiled and knew – I have healed.

I have come so so far. That’s when I popped that c.d. into the player to hear that one song on it – the only one I listened to. The c.d. is part of a Freedom campaign to raise awareness & fight against Human Trafficking. The band is called Over the Rhine, the song is called “

.”

You see, that’s how God really reached inside my cloudy, hurting heart and helped me find my words. I know, it seems weird being a writer looking for my words. But, I guess, really it was my voice I had been looking for. I’m sure many can relate.

It started one night in Washington. I was working on an art project and a Lifetime movie came on about Human Trafficking. I sat there for 2 hours, crying, riveted, horrified. I couldn’t believe I had no idea of that kind of pain happening. But, it stirred my heart in a way that I was nauseous.

Fast forward, a couple of years, the movie is on again. A reminder. This time, I decided to look into it further.

I checked out a couple of books: one on a survivor from the Rwandan Genocide, Imaculee Ilibagiza called “Left to Tell” & one written by the President of the International Justice Mission, Gary Haugen, called “Terrify No More

I was being changed from the first pages. Honestly, I couldn’t put them down – I switched back and forth between them reading them simultaneously. Then, I get to the part in Gary’s book where he details why he got into the Human Trafficking fight – he had made a trip to Rwanda after the Genocide. And, it broke him. He knew he had to be a part of fighting.

Recounted here: http://voices.yahoo.com/a-review-gary-haugens-good-news-injustice-9101315.html

OK, hang with me a little longer – coffee break?  I’m connecting stuff that was pretty powerful in my little life.

I sat there, rubbing my eyes, thinking – how in the world did I pick up two books where the author was inspired by the other’s history? Seems silly, but I felt compelled that something bigger was being taught to me. I did feel pretty small, like, what could I do about this hurting and horrifying reality?

Well, I was also training for a 18k Trail Run – so I was on the treadmill a lot back then (would do me good now!). As I was running one Sunday morning, a fantastic MercyMe song in my ears, I started praying. Asking God, why am I so unable to stop thinking about those children I’m reading out. Borderline obsessive. I even thought I could hear their names at night when I tried to go to sleep – I would cry and pray for these imaginary children.

Again, the word was compelled – I was drawn to this. I asked myself, how could I even begin to be a part of that fight and what was this undoing beginning deep within me?

I started having more symptoms of my own heart’s cry for attention: short – tempered, isolating myself, migraines, huge forgetfulness, unable to recall things, a deep pinching over my hurt – acute panic.

Well, at church that morning, we walk in and the lobby is plastered with Human Trafficking posters! As, they’d joined other churches in the area in a campaign against it. My husband started laughing because I’d shared with him. I was like, what?! Found out there was a free seminar that afternoon. So, I attended.

It was a very quiet meeting. Very respectful of what we were learning about. A grassroots musician played songs he’d written of specific girls he’d met that had been terrorized. The speaker, an author out of California, wrote a book called “Not for Sale.” I, of course, like all in the room, was just moved to tears.

I walked away stunned. Sick. Changed. Determined to fight with them.

But, my soul was crying out for me to pay attention to it FIRST.

Not in a selfish way, but in a: please help address your pain first.

My symptoms just continued. I switched careers thinking that would make me feel better. But, you can’t run from something inside of you. I still had not connected the dots. At this new job, I full on fell apart. Faced bullying at work, but was asked a life changing question from a dear, godly woman in the office: “Why can’t you speak up?” Then, she looked at me all soft as I just stared at her. I couldn’t even get a word to come out. She said, “Ah, it’s just not in you is it?”

I was like, what? WHY aren’t I able to speak up? What’s wrong with me? I could see I was contributing to the situation, but couldn’t, just couldn’t say anything.

So, the little blackouts started – all at work. When triggered in my cube, feeling so trapped, and surrounded by people that were not kind. I had no idea it was recreating the setting for when I was abused in my neighbor’s bathroom.

As things do, one day IT HIT ME. I was with a wonderful friend at her daughter’s dance practice. Her little girl had asked me to come – who could say no to her? ADORABLE. So, while we were there, my friend asked me if I’d ever taken dance when I was little? Yes, I said, I took a class or two of ballet and tap.

As I said this, like a flip book of memories rushed through my mind of myself at that age – the age the abuse happened. Same age as several of our friends little girls. And, that panic I’d been experiencing suddenly became clear: that’s where this was all coming from.

The body has a way of making you deal – but your mind has a way of making sure you’re ready to remember the worst first. So, body got my attention – my mind finally started releasing the memories. No wonder I was always just so tired.

I don’t know how long I stayed at the dance studio, but I went home all shaky. Crying. Of course, not saying anything to anyone at first.

And, that began the 3+ year journey of facing IT. Sometimes I’m really angry about it. Like, God, can’t I just have a chance at normal without some kind of reaction to a situation or person, or sound. I’m highly sensitive as it is.

But, I wonder: what I would be like if I hadn’t been abused? I have no idea.

All I know is, I’m healing. I’m stronger. I’m braver.

And, my heart knew even back then, part of the reason I wanted to recover was to HELP OTHERS.  It wasn’t just for myself. But, I needed to give that little girl in me time to come out of the darkness into the Safe Arms. And, build up trust that even though life WILL continue to throw punches, reminders, evil deceit – what happened to me is OVER. Even if I relive the emotions when I’m triggered, the truth is it is OVER.

But, facing it was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And, it wasn’t pretty. The deep roots of lies planted in me were fierce.

Because facing it as an adult, I truly grasp all that happened to me, what was robbed from me, and the unjust damage done to my femininity and intimacy.

But, I believe in restoration.

So, I came back “home” to Texas. I just needed as much leverage in my brokenness as I could find. Something about being here, gave me a little more power in this. Hard to explain unless you’ve been there.

Without key people in my life I could not have come as far as I have.

So, the thing now is: remembering enough to keep fighting that evil. Because it is real. And, it is attacking people and their souls. And, when I get all mixed up, I know now I can work through it.

So, as I heal, and I share, I look to reaching out to those who are still in that dark place of facing IT.

And, now, it is my HONOR.

He came to bind up the broken hearted (hidden message)

Thank you for listening.

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The Song that Changed my Life

Heart-shaped cloud

Heart-shaped cloud (Photo credit: aivas14)

A little over a year ago, one Sunday morning, I was driving along the beautiful back roads of Texas. It was my favorite road: winding, quiet, bordered by farmland complete with horses, cattle, sheep, goats. The early morning sun cast sparkling light on the dew drenched grass, creating just pure shine. It was the only place I could feel any peace.

I don’t know why it took me moving all the way back to Texas to end up on that road to find the beginning of my healing. I just know that it did.

My heart was tight with pain and anger. When would I ever feel better instead of worse? I was still grasping to make sense of things that just did not make sense.

When no one can reach me and I don’t even want to talk with God, songs always get in. Truly amazes me.

So, I put in a c.d. I recently bought about songs to help raise awareness about the tragedy of Human Trafficking. And, as the song played, my heart felt warmed and started to release: and that pinching over my heart I’d had for about 3 years because I just could not cry – started to let up and tears spilled out of me.

Wanted, releasing tears!

A Farm Road Just Outside Winchester

A Farm Road Just Outside Winchester (Photo credit: neilalderney123)

It starts off just as sad as I was. But, the ending…ah, that ending. Was exactly what my heart was craving – hope and crisp belief that I’d be stronger because of all this.

I realized on that road – I was ready to pursue the end of this pain.

That did not come quickly or easily, but by God’s grace – it came. And, that’s what matters to me.

The song sounds like it is about dying, but truly in dying to the way we have been – we can truly come alive in newness. That’s what it’s about.

Come to find out, the song is based on Revelation 21:4. That’s highly significant to me because back in college, I had a horrible time of things one semester – and found that verse. It comforted me to no end. Look how it came back to me. Remarkable.

I don’t care what anyone says, words can change a heart – especially the Holy words.

My favorite lines – such artistic writing – caught my attention:

“There are those who know sorrow, and those who must borrow,

And, those whose lot in life is sweet.

When I’m drunk on self pity, scorn all that’s been given me,

I would drink from a bottle labeled sure defeat.”

As I drove, these words are where my healing began:

“Then the skies, they fell open,

And, my eyes were opened to a world of hope falling at my feet.

Now I’ve no more or less than anyone else has

What I have is a gift, a life I cannot repeat.”

check it out for yourself: (ignore the cheesy angel pictures in the video):

What song has changed your life?

Space matters

In an ever increasing world of do more, go faster, work more efficiently – I find more and more my space matters!


I work essentially in a little box. It’s a nice box, mind you. Brand new, clean, organized.

But, it is a box. I can touch all four walls by sitting in the center of it. Short walls, lots and lots of distractions by the flow of people around me, the copier, the lock and unlock of the door just a few feet away from me, the break room in front of me.People hanging over my cube wall that’s about 12 inches from me. Of course, at least I have walls!

So, I do like everyone says to do (as if this is some magic that will transport me to some place quieter) – I put my ear buds in. Stream Pandora – and click on my favorite station: Train.

For a few minutes, I am absolutely transported. My foot begins tapping, I’m moving my head to the beat a little bit…and my mind starts to clear and focus again. Then, the interruptions begin…

“Hey, sorry to interrupt you!” – first person stops at my desk. Oh, yes, of course, what do you need?

Phone rings. Yes, I’ll send that over to you.

Try again – ear buds back in.

“Do you know where so and so sits? Oh, sorry to interrupt you…” Oh, ok – who are you? Yes, I know where they sit.

Someone stops by to discuss a project. Yes, I already sent you an update – did you check your email yet? It’s ok, here it is.

I have to IM someone for an answer. Three other people ping me at once during that conversation. Whoah! Settle down there, Communicator.

Finally, everything stops again. Ok, now, where was I? Oh, yeah, ear buds – project. Go!

“Hey, hey, do you know where I can find…oh, sorry to interrupt you! Do you know how to use the copier?” Ha ha, yes, it looks easy but it is out to trip us up I just know it.

At this point, it’s only 8:15 AM. I give up. Just put the buds away – give into being available as needed. Learn to work focused in an unfocused space. But, at least I’m helping people…right? I mean, isn’t it rude to try to keep working with ear buds in when a living breathing person is standing in front of me?

Don’t get me wrong, I can do this. And, I love helping people. Some days it’s even fun to have a truly collaborative space. But, that’s if I don’t have to work on anything by myself – HA!

The question I keep asking myself: why do I look so cranky and irritated? Why does my head hurt all day? I am forgetting to breathe. In a culture of no privacy, all access I find I’m losing myself.

This introvert is craving space. Space to think and restore. I am energized in a quieter space.

Well, I find it a hollow place for me to be very long. Push, push, push. But, what am I working towards? I’m not advocating low accomplishments.

I’m simply saying my space matters. Your space matters.

Which has led me to truly evaluate: how do I give myself the space I need?

I can’t very well control every situation and have it molded to my personality. But, can I create enough space in my day that I can better handle the smaller spaces?

I read an interesting blog posting by Melody Ross (founder of the Brave Girls Club): I am taking a 90 day break from Facebook…

This got me thinking about all the stories I have yet to write that are swirling about in my head. All the art I’ve yet to release from my soul because I am still sitting here watching t.v. So, it may not be a Facebook break I need, but a break from things that do not add back into me.

I know that I know, I have so much in me wanting to get out – good things, inspired things. I just need to give myself the space to release them.

I crave a quality of this life. Where time to think and consider a choice is valued.

Maybe I’m just a hopeless creative soul –

Lucky me. 🙂

If I could create a workspace for myself, I think it’d be a mix of an outdoor nook and an eclectic indoor room with a fire place, a coffee maker (of course!!) and splendid window with a view of the ocean or Irish rolling hills of trees. Twinkling white lights hung around the room, soft chairs with foot stools, a bed for Cleo.

Something akin to The Secret Garden meets Harry Potter – enchanting, you have to walk a trail to find it, duck around trees, but once you do – that’s where the magic happens.

And, you watch – I will have a space like this, maybe several.

So, let it begin TODAY: 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon of writing. Sketching. Fabulous. I feel my soul restoring already.

And, the idea of an art journal – fabulous! I am beginning this today as well. Mixes my love of words on paper with the expressions of my heart in the form of art.

Some creative spaces:

My favorite magazine: Where Women Create

Different Office

Pixar Animation Studio

What about you? What would your space look like? Or maybe you’ve already created it – please share! Send pics!

When Things Do Work Out

(Big Heart of Art by qthomasbower on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/qthomasbower/3470650293/)</p>

Life is a mystery. Who hasn’t heard this before? Who hasn’t experienced life to be at times so perplexing it leaves you breathless, sometimes hopeless and dizzy from all the confusion.

When things do not work out, it seems we have been taught that this IS a part of life, if not life itself. Life is a mystery. You never know what you’re going to get.

For some, it may even be that their lot in life is to merely cope with life not working out on a consistent basis. They have become so adept at dealing with the hardships of life that the luxury of asking themselves: what do I want? what do I love? is just that…a luxury that has yet to be indulged.

Why do we teach so much of dealing with what life hands us as hardships? Because: life is hard and all too often cruel and senseless.

But, what about when things DO work out? I venture to say if all you’ve known is no choices, no time to consider yourself, no guidance in honing in on your deep heart’s cries to express itself uniquely – then when things DO work out can be just as much a mystery as when they do not.

What would you do if you one day awoke to realize you have been given your heart’s desire? What if you had the luxury of time to devote to discovery and strengthening your talents?

I dare say, once you do know what it would mean to you for things to work out – it almost propels you forward towards it.

The hard part is often knowing: what would it look like in my life if “things worked out?” Or, has the hollowness of things not working out created enough of a craving in your soul, that all you think about these days are: What if ?

I don’t mean the What If that leads to the spiral of despair and worry – but the What If that lifts your heart, lightens your eyes, stirs that place in you that is creative and fully alive.

I’ll share a little story with you about a part of my own life. I am a writer. I have always been a writer. In my head, I see stories. All the time. In every situation, I’m drafting what’s happening onto paper, sometimes air typing in my sleep, constantly spelling words in my head. I remember as a child, my imagination so full I would fall asleep mid-story. Only to awake, and continue.

It hasn’t changed just because I’m an adult.  Though for a long time, I did dry up so to speak. Life took it’s toll and my soul was weary. The enemy tried to claim a hold on my heart and liveliness. By destroying me from the inside out. But, I am here. Still here. Stronger than I ever thought I would be.

And, in the newness of this life, I see stories again. Nothing to stop me but me.

Here’s part of the story: I’ve been allowing too much of my energy to be taken up with work. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like to work. But, when the dynamics are so challenging relationally, the stressors and triggers sometimes take me down for a time.

And, I have to retreat to restore.

I had made a list of the things that were stressing me in a bad way at work. You know what I mean. The bad stress is the one that causes nightmares, anxiety, panic attacks. Too much recovery time to deal. The good stress is the one that I find I am challenged to lead, or use more of my skills, to reach down further in me, draw more out.

Well, on this list were about 4 dynamics – you see, these dynamics were all pouncing on that part of my heart and soul that had been so dearly wounded. I could hardly see straight at times from the pain. Hardly hold myself together, sometimes just giving into falling all apart. And, believing I’d never have a wholeness in me where that wounding occurred.

But, by God’s unending grace, I found the strength to show up each day anyways. And, along the way, delighted to be blessed despite the seeming overtaking wave of confusion caused by these things.

I am here to say that all 4 of those things are NOW GONE from my work life.

One by one, they’ve gone away.

And, I learned something exquisite: I realized that the working out was NOT the removal of these things –

It was the beautiful, miraculous healing in my little broken heart.

That, is what has been worked out. Not that my life is all worked out, but that while enduring life, the working out of my heart has happened.

I am choked up at the relief that flooded over me that I had endured it all. Not only am I still  here, but flourishing inside.

My creativity is a direct reflection of my healing. The spark of life inside me is burning brightly and this gives me warmth.

And, I cannot express the gratitude that floods me, except that I’ve been crying on and off for days. That happy, letting it all go, crying.

It is almost MORE mysterious to me when things DO work out, than when they do not.

And, aren’t the childhood stories we so love the ones that help us see what it looks like when things do work out? Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan…we are drawn in because we can relate to some of the pain in the characters and we can also relate to hoping things will get better.

I’m more prepared to accept that I don’t usually get what I want, or what I dream about.

That when the opportunity presents itself to step closer to those things I desire – I’m almost scared.

Same analysis as when things don’t workout: what part did I play in all of this? Is this God? what do I do?

I’m happy to say that many times in my little lifetimes things have worked out for me. Over and over. And, yet, so easy to forget this in the struggling.

So, the opportunity set before me now that I’m experiencing a more whole heart: to do what I’m called to do: write.

And, do not stop.

I will do better to remember the working out of my heart’s healing in this life. And, share it.

Besides, in sharing how I’m learning to fly, someone else may find their wings as well.

And, I won’t be as lonely:

Captain Hook: You know you’re not really Peter Pan, don’t you? This is only a dream. When you wake up, you’ll just be Peter Banning, a cold, selfish man who drinks too much, who’s obsessed with success, and runs and hides from his wife and children!
Too Small: I believe in you.
Latchboy: I believe in you.
No Nap: I believe in you, Peter.
Maggie: I believe in you.
Thud Butt: You are the Pan.
Jack: You’re Peter Pan.
Tinkerbell: I believe in you… Peter Pan.

Friends and loved ones – here’s to the working out in your lives as well.

May the enchantments of your souls exceed the hardships of this world.

I believe in you.