Compassion

When People Don’t Like You

So here’s a hard pill to swallow: not everyone has to like you. And the truth is, not everyone is going to. You can be Mother frickin’ Theresa and someone will find fault in something you say or do. They may not like your mannerisms, or the car you drive, or the way you dress. They might like you a lot until you say one little thing in particular. They might notice a habit of yours that drives them absolutely mad. They might not like your hair, or your face, or your body, or the way you talk. They might think you’re generally an okay person, but your personalities just clash. You may have too little in common, or even too much. The list could go on ad infinitum.

This can hurt. Especially for people pleasers who vie for the approval and validation of others. Or if you happen to quite like or admire the person who just doesn’t like you. Rejection is hard, no matter which way you slice it.

The secret to navigating rejection is in checking yourself and knowing yourself.

First, Checking Yourself: We always need to be considering our part in things. If you think you cannot be objective in this task, seek the guidance of mentors. You need to identify if you are being toxic, or if you have done some harm in the situation, and take steps to make that right. A lot of times in life, offenses are assumed to be on the part of the other person, when in reality, more often than not, it is a two-way street. Your responsibility lies in keeping YOUR side of the street clean. In any given situation, that is all you can do.

Next, Knowing Yourself: After you have done the first part, the second is in knowing yourself, and knowing your worth. The first part certainly helps with the second. Once you have done the right thing, you can rest in the peace of having done what you could. Honestly, that is often far more than most people do. You have taken a huge step towards integrity. Integrity is the most important characteristic a person can have. Are you the same person behind closed doors that you are on the outside? Do you make an effort in every situation to be honest, and genuine, despite fear of vulnerability or repercussions? Do you admit and apologize when you are wrong? Do you love others and offer compassion? Do you lift people up, and refrain from tearing them down?

Its important to know that no matter how hard you try, you’re never going to be perfect. The important part is trying. The most important thing we can do in our lives is to continuously learn, grow, and improve. We didn’t come here to stay the same our entire lives. We didn’t come here to develop resentments and take them to our graves. Let that shit go.

Your expectations for perfection from yourself and from others is toxic.

All we can ever do is try. If you’re doing that, you’re succeeding. If you’re constantly trying to be a better human being, you are a good person. Try to understand and learn from people who don’t like you. Their disdain for you says far more about them than it does you. People do not exhibit hate, without it being built on a foundation of pain. These people hurt. And part of being a good person is offering compassion to the hurting.

It is important also to not judge these failings in others. Gossiping, laziness, emotional instability, etc. Try to avoid judging them in others, because I promise, if you do, you will find yourself doing the same exact things. Realize you have no room to judge, before you ever have a chance to become exactly what you are judging.

At the end of the day, having done all that you can, there will still be those who don’t like you, and that’s okay, because you’re okay. You are enough, whether or not anyone else has the ability to see that. And as long as you rely on others to decide who you are, you will never realize how valuable you truly are.

Dying to Wake Up The Child Within

Saturday, September 22, was the 3 year anniversary of when I was raped… most recently. Let me explain. This was not the first time. I have a long history of surviving these experiences, starting as early as the ages of 3 and 5. And this is not uncommon. Many people, especially those who started their lives as victims, are victimized again. Predators have a keen sense of who would be a good victim, and those who were victimized in their formative years know no other way of being. It has taken nearly a decade of intense therapy to unlearn the things that I was taught as a child victim.

I hear a lot of people substitute the word “survivor” in place of “victim.” In the years that you are just surviving, this is very accurate. You’re a victim when it happens, and a survivor in whatever you do afterwards to keep yourself alive, moving forward. I developed addictions, an eating disorder, and other self destructive behaviors to survive. My brain could not cope with reality. How could it? Reality was a living nightmare. Pure hell. These are the things I did to survive. To kill this thing inside of me. To get by despite it all. I thought I was doing pretty well. I didn’t realize the extent to which these experiences were destroying my life, until my behaviors came to a head. It was life or death from there. Keep doing what I was doing and let it kill me, or fight and as a result, live. My problem was, I didn’t want to live. I had no interest in it whatsoever. Which is why I nearly died numerous times. But there was some sort of secret spark in me. It was the bane of my existence, and it wanted me alive, when every other part of me wanted to die. It was my incurable hope. And thus, this blog was born, to document it. To explore it.

Today, I don’t see myself as a survivor. I am beyond that. I use the terminology, because it is what people are familiar with. Today, I am a thriver. My life, my success, my flourishing, is my big “fuck you” to everyone who hurt me. Though, today, I’m not angry or bitter. I let that go. It was too heavy. I punished myself with it long enough, believing that I was somehow punishing them by doing it. All I knew was someone had to pay. But I forgive myself for that now. I didn’t understand. I forgive most people, but contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is not necessary for healing. Some things, only God can forgive. I am only human. Today, my heart hurts for that little girl, for every little girl still living and suffering. Not just those who are still being abused, but those who are now grown women, with little girls still trapped inside, reliving it daily. Punishing themselves for the acts of others.

Look, I’ve come a lot further than a lot of former victims ever do. I’ve been blessed. But I do know this: I am supposed to share my experience so that the others know it is possible to not just survive, but to thrive. To use the pain as fuel. To live your meaningful lives. These are things you CAN overcome. As a matter of fact, there’s now even a name for that: posttraumatic growth. And you can achieve it. I promise you, you can.

I don’t want to make it seem like these these things won’t affect you for the rest of your life. They never go away. They will always hurt. At times, they still haunt me. But it is possible to get to a place where they no longer control you. Where they do not shake you. Where you can observe them from a distance that will prevent you from broken by them every. single. time. You’re heart can hurt for the child within, but you will be equipped to comfort her with the compassion you never received. You. Can. Heal. And you can help others do the same. Once you find that love for yourself, you will want to share it with others. ALL of us who were victimized deserve that.

The shirt I made in treatment in 2012 for The Clothesline Project.

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My Sister and Me at a local suicide prevention race. 🙂

The Fear of Commitment and My Walk With Christ

Seven years ago today, I sat in church pews long after the congregation had left. Tormented about making a decision to follow Christ or go home and die. I had questions, tons of them. And fears and doubt and hesitation and anger. One thing I did not have was anything left to lose. And that’s how this all began…

My parents like to frequent the same restaurants. They find one they like and go there loyally from that moment on. There was a tea room in a nearby town they discovered, and fell in love with. Once they became regulars, they got to know the family who owned it. The family had lost a son to suicide some years back, and they got to talking about me. I’m not sure exactly what those conversations looked like, but obviously my having lived a suicidal life arose at some point. When I moved back to the area, I became a pet project for that family. No one in the family was more relentless in this pursuit than Kathryn. Kathryn was obnoxiously enthusiastic about Jesus. Like… she REALLY effin loved Jesus. Her spunk drove me insane. I was low energy, grumpy, and wanted to be left alone. I’m not sure how I responded when she started inviting me to church. In my head I imagine smiling, nodding, and shrugging it off. She did not stop asking. Eventually, I decided I’d just shut her up by obliging. “Then,” I thought, “She’ll leave me alone.”

So, that Saturday night, I went. I was planted in my chair through the entirety of the ordeal. My arms were crossed. I had a scowl on my face. I did not sing. I did not stand. I said nothing. “I’ll go, but I don’t have to enjoy it.” I guess I thought if I was enough of a jerk, it’d scare them away. Or maybe I just assumed I knew how church went, and I thought it was all a crock of shit, and all Christians were the same, predictable. As I heard the pastor preach, though, something in my heart started to open. I was certain he’d say something to piss me off, but he did not. Everything he said, I could get behind. It was hopeful, and beautiful, and inspiring, and yet, I was dead set on never going back after that. Kathryn, on the other hand, had different plans. Kathryn kept inviting me back. So, eventually, I surrendered and kept going.

I’d heard the “altar calls” many times, before the night of March 27th rolled around. I don’t know if it had crossed my mind. It probably had. But I’ve always been one to question authority. If this Jesus had so much hope and love and forgiveness, why were Christians often the worst of the jerks? Is God a man? Why is God a man? Men had never done any favors for me. If EVERYONE has access to the forgiveness of Jesus, then that means that the people who abused me when I was a small, helpless child had access to that forgiveness. “Some things,” I believed, “are simply unforgivable.” Where was God in all of that? The altar call came and went that night, and I wanted to go up there, but I wanted answers to all these questions and more, first. As ridiculously impulsive as I’ve been all my life, I wanted to be certain before I committed to this nonsense. I let the call pass, and after service, I started assaulting the pastor with questions. Eventually, he had to go. I sat in the pew, the church now empty except for Kathryn, her sister, and myself. I looked at the clock, then the door, and thought to myself, “If I go home tonight, I’m going to kill myself.” I figured, that this decision could not hurt, so I was going to try it.

With Kathryn and Bekah by my side, I bowed my head and prayed out loud.

Someone recently asked me what exactly it means to “accept Christ.” Here’s the thing, I didn’t really know at the time either. Truth is, its pretty simple. All it takes is a prayer, you’re own version of, “God, I’m tired of doing this alone. I need your help, your forgiveness, and your love. I believe that Jesus did all these awesome things to offer me that, and I am accepting that gift now, and accepting you into my heart.” Feel free to paraphrase as your heart guides. You could do it right this second, if you want.

God is not imposing. He waits for us. A lot of non-believers wonder where God is. God will not interfere in your life if you do not wish to have him there. He’s just waiting for an invitation. After you’ve offered that, he will take care of the rest.

I’d never doubted God’s existence. That belief came naturally to me, although the Jesus thing seemed weird. I didn’t get the death and resurrection concept. Seemed odd, zombie-like, and also there’s the cannibalistic symbolism of the last supper. It was pretty far out to me. I had been told numerous times in high school that I couldn’t be Christian if I didn’t do X, Y, and Z, and I thought “guess I’m not Christian, then.” So, for years I had left it at that. “Guess I don’t qualify.”

What Kathryn, and others in that church taught me, is all the hope that is found in Jesus. I had heard all the zillion things Christians are against, but not once heard about all the hope Jesus had to offer. Hope was something I could get behind. Hope was something I needed desperately. And who doesn’t need unconditional love?

After that night, things did not change instantaneously. It was a process, but it changed my life forever. I still had struggles, and sometimes still do. But the ball was set into motion. That was March 27th, 2011. In July, I had a near death experience that opened my eyes to spiritual truths I had previously been uncertain of, which led to my sobriety. By November, I was off to residential treatment, for all of my issues. Five months of treatment was covered 100% by my insurance. There, my meds got straight, I let go of my addictions, and my eating disorder. I had a chance to process a lifetime of trauma and grief. I moved to California on my own after that (somewhere I’d always dreamt of living), and started my life in recovery. I met a wonderful sponsor with whom I am still very close. I became strong in my recovery, and built a community. In the years since, every time I think things could not possibly get any better, they do. They get better to a new extent to which I had previously thought impossible. I have an incredible life. I have everything I need, do all the things I love, and have accomplished new goals, and set my sights on new heights. It is unimaginably awesome, and it only gets better. God certainly had way more in store for me than I could’ve ever dreamt for myself. I had previously believed I’d just be suicidal until I eventually succeeded in that, and that would be my life.

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I am a different person, inside and out.

In the past two years, I’ve lost 130 lbs. Thursday, I’ll celebrate one year of running. April 15th, I’ll be doing a TEN mile race!!! I’ve written this blog, and shared my triumphs and struggles, and helped numerous people. I have several sponsees, and find myself being told over and over that I’ve inspired someone in some way, or helped people out of ruts. All without even realizing I was doing it. And honestly, I feel like the wealthiest person in the world as a result. Sometimes, I pity the people who think they have it all, when all they really have is material wealth.

Did I know ANY of this was possible on March 27th, 2011? No. I had no clue. All knew was I had an option to go home and die, or try something new that could possibly help in some way. So, I took a leap. And this is where I’ve landed. It was literally the best decision of my life.

God has healed my heart of so much hurt. I was so relentlessly bitter back then. I was angry at God. I thought he was punishing me. I wanted nothing to do with a male God. I blamed him for it all. In the years since, I’ve recognized God’s presence in even my darkest moments. He never gave up on me. And I see it now. Little things I was blind to before. Look, I know people have hurt you. Maybe the church has hurt you. Your pain is very valid, but God is neither those people nor the church. Every time you were hurt, it hurt God’s heart as well. He hurts where we hurt. It pains him to see us mistreated and abused. I have learned this to be true. God is not angry at us for our mistakes. He sees us as beautiful works of art, and loves every little quirk about us. No, God is not a man, so don’t get it twisted. God is beyond our earthly limitations. These very concepts are boxes God cannot fit into. Many languages default to the masculine when referring to something ambiguous in that way. Is it right? No, but its easy. If you have a different pronoun you’d prefer, go for it. God does not want to punish us. God just wants to love unconditionally, and help us in this process we call life. God is always there. He is faithful and reliable. Does everyone have access to this forgiveness? Absolutely, but you should know that many people will not choose to pursue it.

I am a kinder, more compassionate person these days. I make healthier decisions. I am a septillion times happier, seriously. I will always be a work in progress, but how far I’ve come is nothing short of miraculous. Anyone who knew me before will wholeheartedly attest to that.

I’ve had all of my questions answered. If ever I have new ones arise, God answers those as well. My heart has been healed. I can attest to God’s faithfulness. I celebrate this anniversary more than any other and always will. It is the longest I’ve committed to anything. There is no turning back, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you have questions, feel free to reach out. There is so much more to say, but this is just a blog, not my memoir. Stay tuned for that. I’m just happy to share this hope wherever I can. It is too wonderful to keep it to myself.

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Step 9: Making Amends

I finally reached step 12.  Although, steps 9-12 are an on-going process.  Nine is making amends.  Ten is taking a daily inventory, and admitting when you’re wrong.  Eleven is working toward a conscious contact with God, through prayer and meditation.  Twelve is helping others the way you have been helped.

I have worked all twelve steps, but these last four, I will still be working daily.

To be honest, I’m writing this blog post as encouragement to myself, prior to making more amends.  I’ve made an effort to do two so far, but going back to where I’m from is going to give me an opportunity to make a lot of amends with a lot of people.  Most of these, I am glad to do.  An apology for all of these people is long overdue.

There are a few, however, that I am scared to approach.  I’m sure a lot of people face at least one that they are hesitant to do.

See, the process is one of humility.  We admit that we were wrong, even in the cases where the other had a hand in it as well.  It isn’t our place to expect an apology from them.  We  are only responsible for our wrongdoings.  It is our chance to do what we can to clean up the mess we have left in our destructive wake.

Through the process of our inventory, we started to become humbled by finally facing head-on, the harms we had caused others.  The amends continues to humble us, but also empowers us.  It is our chance to clean the slate, and an opportunity to do things differently next time.  Finally, we can do all in our power to right our wrong, even though time cannot be rewound and actions cannot be undone.  It is a powerful step.

I’m hoping you all will pray for me in this process, that I will have the strength to do even the hardest ones, completely and with compassion.

This isn’t going to be easy, but I do hope it will help me in my work toward being a better person, and living a more fulfilling life.

Resentment, Roll Away!

I know the holidays can be this expectation-filled, anxiety-ridden ball of stressful days in rapid succession.  Let’s be honest, once Halloween hits, you know it will be the new year before you know.  At least, that’s how it goes for me.  I know the year is over with pumpkins and costumes.  The rest of it turns into a blur of get-togethers, sugar overloads, and family reunions.

I know a few people who were dreading the days they would have to spend with family.  There’s a huge expectation of presentation and performance with holidays.  We have to put on like we’re happy, and we love our dysfunctional relatives.  We have to catch up, and cherish time spent together.  We have to make a perfect turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, or other goodies.  We have to spend money and give presents we can’t afford to make someone think we can.  We have to try our damnedest not to micromanage, helicopter parent, or argue.

Heck, I’m visiting my sister, and I have already argued with my dad who happens to be 3 states away.  It is a stressful time.  We have a performance to nail, and dealing with traveling doesn’t make it any easier.

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I’ve learned something in the process of working the twelve steps that helps me in these situations.  See, a big part of why we [drink, use, overeat, under-eat, self-harm, gamble, shop, or ___(fill in blank)___ ] is because we carry around resentments.  It is a big part of step four, to work through those resentments–to realize that the people who have hurt you are sick, and need your compassion and sympathy; and also, to see your part in things and remedy the situation as best you can.

A lot of people go back to their addiction(s) of choice because they get a resentment, and it takes them back into sickness.  This is why, as in step 10, we continue to take a personal inventory and when wrong, admit it.  Resentments will kill us.  Resentments keep us firmly rooted in the problem.

This is why, I tread lightly on the grounds of my anger.  I do not want to become rooted there.  I have noticed that when I become angry, I can step away from the situation to let my feelings work themselves out.  It is easy, after having a little time, to realize where you too might have overreacted.  This is very helpful, not only in recovery, but in dealing with people or situations that can overwhelm you, such as holidays.

Always remind yourself of how precious your time is.  October to January just flew past your very eyes.  Keep that in mind.  Years and lives fly in much the same way.  Your in-laws or family may rub you the wrong way, but your time with them is short.   This may either be a blessing, or a reminder to enjoy them while they are here.  Either way, it is a good thing to keep in mind.

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”~ Dr. Seuss