gratitude

When The Ghosts Try To Find You

Hmmmm….. Where do I start?

I’m a positive person… so let’s start there.

When I hear people’s stories I am amazed by the tapestry woven in this world by each of us. Our struggles, our triumphs, our pain, our joy, our grief, our growth, our journey. It is incredible. I’ve heard so many of them. Some quite tame. Some more harrowing than even I have ever ventured to fathom. Everyone has survived some hurdle of some sort. Everyone started at nothing and transformed into a unique creature. And no two stories are alike. There are similarities, sure. That’s how we relate. We all have regrets. We all have stories that pain us to recount. We all have something to be grateful for, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, there’s something to be valued there nonetheless. It is beautiful.

When I take a step back from the canvas to take a better look, I’m in awe of God’s handiwork. The detail is incredible. And the colors… my GOD, the colors. When I take it all in, I can’t help but be filled with gratitude, because I am a part of this work of art. This makes me a work of art. This makes each of us a work of art. And valuable beyond words and beyond our wildest dreams.

Honestly, this blog post has been on my mind since I started writing again. This subject matter is what brought me back to my writing. And it is one that is very close to my heart. I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to disclose what I’m about to disclose. I know people are going to read this and honestly believe I’ve lost my fucking mind for sharing it. That’s fair, but can you lose something you never really had? That being said, this, like everything else I share here, and plan to share in my memoirs, affects me quite deeply. It is no different than my depression, or my eating disorder, or my addiction. I have a past that isn’t pretty, and its a mess, but it is a valuable mess. It has brought me to where I am, and despite the painful moments, life is so much better here and thus, I am infinitely grateful to have arrived where I am.

I think I’m going to start with the story, and tell what it is about at the end. Not to make you suffer for it (mostly heh heh), but because I’m reconsidering how I always deliver this information. And I don’t want you to get lost on the subject and either stop there, or not hear anything I have to say after that. I think that’s where most people get hung up. Or maybe I won’t tell you at all, we’ll see. My writing just writes itself sometimes, I’m just here to transcribe.

Let’s refer back to the fact that everyone has a past. I have shared far more of my struggles on this blog than I care to go back and read about. My archives are just that. You’re welcome to read, just don’t forget to focus on how the story ends. Because its a happy ending(ish). That being said, I have a trauma history that I am careful to disclose in little pieces when getting to know someone new. We typically don’t know each other long enough for them to know it all. They usually get halfway(ish) through. *Insert funny meme about depressing subject matter here, to soften the blow of this part,*

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So… that’s about how that goes. (I’m trying to figure out how to follow that… positive… right) My life is the tapestry. Everyday there are many things to grateful for. I see on a daily basis how God works in my life. He reminds me constantly of how much He values me, and how GOOD He is. (I think I wrote that part for me.) And… then the past is dark. There’s the trauma, the destructive tendencies that came from them, and now… the medical ramifications of it all. This is where things start to come back to haunt me. I have an uncanny ability to forget the past. I forget the people who hurt me. I’ve forgotten most of my traumas. I forget guys most easily. I’ve had guys come back to me 10-15 years later telling me they’ve loved me all this time (super convenient for me, right?) and I have barely or not at all remembered who they were. Yesterday, I found a blocked voicemail on my phone from a “Mike” who proceeded to tell me that I was wicked and evil and to lose his number. It was weird because I have no recollection of who it is, and I had blocked and deleted him from my phone, so apparently I used to know. The funny part is that he told ME to lose his number. Oh the irony! Anywho, I am able to wipe my past away, and I believe God has blessed me with that. It is hard for me to beat myself up for anything when I can’t remember it anyway. When my eating disorder recovery caught up to me, my heart stopped working. I had medical ramifications. They were serious, but I overcame them. I am starting to have pretty serious side effects from years of taking the same meds. It is requiring me to address new medical issues brought on by that. Everything comes at a cost, right? But one thing I have because of my past that never lets me forget is herpes. It barely affects my life at all besides taking a medication for it daily. But I take like 13 medications, so what’s one more? I don’t ever have to think about it until I find myself starting a romantic relationship. Then it plagues me. When is the right time to say it? How do I say it? Should I say it? Should I even try relationships at all? Most of the people I’ve told up until 2018 have taken it quite well. It has never ended a relationship until now. Most people are ignorant on the matter, and I’ve memorized all the data to relay. I’d share it here, but I’m feeling real “who gives a fuck” at the moment now, so I don’t really care. I guess that part was redundant. Others know enough about it, to realize it shouldn’t be a concern with someone informed on the matter. My vision is starting to blur.

Allow me to refocus.

A lot of people get to my age and have shit. They have regrets, failed marriages, failed careers, kids to raise, they have a lot of stuff. Luckily for me, I have an advantage here, because I’ve worked diligently on overcoming my shit. I’m now doing better than the majority of normal people I meet. That aside, since 2018 began, this issue has come up for me. And it has been a hangup every time. I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong here. Like, have I suddenly lost value? Something about me just isn’t THAT wonderful now? Maybe I’m less interesting. Maybe people see my face and don’t really listen to a word I have to say anyway, so when they bail, they think “just another pretty face, the world is full of those.” Or maybe people have developed a superiority complex, or I’ve developed an inferiority complex. Maybe it is my delivery? Maybe it is my timing?

But the gist is that I walk away having taken a significant blow to my self worth. And I’m not sure I’m equipped to put myself in that situation again. So… I have two options in that case. Stop telling people, or stop being open to romantic relationships entirely. Obviously, I don’t consider the former a legitimate option.

Every time it happens, I recount every mistake I’ve ever made. It all comes back. Every choice. Every regret. “If I just hadn’t gone here.” Or “If I had never talked to that person.” And by the end of it, I am so daunted that I’m buried in everything I’ve ever done wrong. And it all looks like too much to ever escape it, Which is a really horrible place to be, because the truth is, I already HAVE escaped it. I’m on the other side. I am a new person. In these moments, I forget this. I forget my value. I forget my worth. I forget God’s grace, and the way God sees me. I forget that I deserve someone that sees me through THOSE eyes, and loves me in THAT way, and I really don’t need to waste my time on anything less anyway.

You know… I have these moments and I wonder what good God’s redemption is when I have to live out the rest of my life in a world full of people who only see what’s wrong with me, and with each other, really. If my mistakes will always define me, even though I’ve let them go. Again and again, I’ve let them go. What’s the point? Is there no escaping this? Will I be punished for my past forever? Should I just walk away from relationships entirely?

Luckily for me, I have my writing. Seriously, I realize I just poured my guts out, including a lot of TMI, but here’s the thing about my writing… People have ALWAYS read it and come to me and said “me too.” “You put into words what I’ve never been able to express.” They’ve related. I know from the research that I’ve done that this is an EXTREMELY common issue. And I know there are A LOT of people out there who suffer through this in silence. I seriously doubt there are many other people out there willing to share that. Since the beginning, one of my biggest frustrations about this is the fear surrounding it. It is shrouded in silence, and no one wants to say it, and so no one knows anything about it. And if people knew, it wouldn’t be nearly as scary.

So, this is where I come in. And my words. Because they are all I have, and that is where my power lies. So do with it all of it what you will.

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I am redeemed.

 

Farewell California, Hello Home

I’ve always wanted to live in California, and swore I’d never live in the midwest. ¬† As I get older, however, I find my priorities are changing. ¬†Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of being in a year-long season of summer, here in San Diego, California. ¬†I couldn’t be more grateful for my time here. ¬†I do believe I have been pretty spoiled. ¬†The twelve step community here is vast and supportive, probably the best in the country. ¬†The weather is almost always sunny and mild. ¬†There are constantly resources galore at my fingertips.

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Coronado in all its SoCal Goodness

And now… I’m saying goodbye to it all.

For the midwest.

I came to California straight from residential treatment in Chicago.  I had 5 and a half months of treatment, and California was the place and I made a home.  I got connected right away with meetings, and built a safety net of support around me.  I have an amazing dietitian and an incredible sponsor.

As I have processed this move, I am starting to really take in all I will be saying goodbye to, and it has me asking, “is this the right choice?”

The YMCA here is incredible. ¬†With one membership, I have access to 4 different Y’s. ¬†They have classes like NIA and Meditative Yoga.

I can order Thai delivery.

Seriously, it is almost always sunny.  And I have a tendency toward seasonal depression.

Who would leave this?

When it comes down to it, California just isn’t a reasonable place to live, especially for those of us who are not gainfully employed. ¬†Becoming a resident of California isn’t cheap, gas isn’t cheap, taxes aren’t cheap.

But that isn’t really why I’m leaving.

See, two years ago today, my sister gave birth to the most adorable little guy ever. ¬†(Not that I’m biased) ¬†She and I had been marching forward arm-in-arm in the firm resolve that neither one of us would have children, and then, as if in a single day, she changed her mind. ¬†It wasn’t just a day actually, she gave more thought to it than I have ever seen a person reasonably consider such an option. ¬†She did not make the choice lightly, and I respect her for that.

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meeting Sven for the first time

When he came along, my life changed. ¬†As I faced this baby, I faced the realization that this may be the closest I ever come to having a child. ¬†And I wanted to be a influential part of this child’s life.

As my moods and my troubles ebbed and flowed, I was almost always tangled in my own darkness. ¬†The October before I went into treatment, I missed a chance to visit my nephew due to being hospitalized. ¬†I insisted that I come see him before going to treatment and my sister told me that she’d rather I not be around him at the time. ¬†As much as it broke my heart, it was my sister’s wishes, and I respect her more than anyone.

When I was in treatment and I needed motivation, my sister and my nephew were the ones I was working to get better for.

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my sister and my nephew

Now that I am doing well, I have the opportunity to move close to my nephew and be a full time aunt. ¬†For him, and for the new baby, who is due in August. ¬†ūüôā ¬†I get to help raise mini-feminists! Haha… ¬†Hey, they might not have listened if it came from a parent, but from a crazy cool aunt, maybe they’ll take in what I have to offer. ¬†You never know. ¬†I may never have kids of my own, but I will have a hand in raising some little beings into some incredible people. ¬†That is invaluable.

So, I’m leaving all of the conveniences that are California, for small town life. ¬†Part of it is a sacrifice, but mostly it is a privilege. ¬†I’d rather be the full time aunt, than the twice-a-year aunt. ¬†Not that there’s anything wrong with the twice-a-year aunt. ¬†But if this is the closest I’ll come to children of my own, it is best I be vigilant.

To be honest, SoCal wasn’t a great fit for me anyway. ¬†I’ve always been a country girl, so with the almost 4 million people in this county it is a bit crowded. ¬†Everyone here is skinny, and hell-bent on staying that way. ¬†Not a good place for eating disorder recovery. ¬†And really, the weather is too warm for my taste. ¬†I miss seasons. ¬†And after all, who needs a YMCA membership, when you’re chasing around two little kids? ¬†Or doing baby lifts?

I’m closing a chapter of my life and starting an incredible new one. ¬†I’m moving somewhere I plan on staying for a while. ¬†I’ve got a good 13 or so years before I’ll start considering a new home. ¬†(Teenagers are a whole different ballgame!)

I may not be employed yet, but I already have a full time job: Loving Aunt.  And I plan on doing my job most diligently, and with the greatest of care.

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A Little Old Lady With A Walker Once Taught Me…

One afternoon, I was sitting with my mother on a bench at the front of one of those cafeteria restaurants. ¬†I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those, but the elderly seem to frequent them. ¬†The food is awesome and affordable, and the only downside is having to wait in a (sometimes very long) line for your food.

Anyway, as we were sitting there, a little old lady with a walker started walking into the restaurant. ¬†Right behind her, a woman was pushing an elderly relative in a wheelchair. ¬†She must’ve been unable to see how far away the lady with the walker was, because she accidentally hit the little old lady in the back of her ankles. ¬†As the lady stumbled, I watched with horror, unable to figure out what I could do, and afraid that she was about to fall to the ground. ¬†Though the lady stumbled, she did not fall. ¬†She was startled, but caught her breath, and walked on.

As she was stumbling, something stood out to me. ¬†Not knowing whether or not she was bound to impact against that floor, every step she took, she said “Thank you, Jesus! ¬†Thank you, Jesus!” ¬†That struck me as bizarre. ¬†I remember leaning over to my mom and whispering, “If she almost fell, why would she be thanking Jesus?” ¬†My mom’s answer was simple, but powerful, “I guess because she didn’t fall.”

At the time, I thought, wow that’s really stupid. ¬†I mean she almost just fell, I would be pissed at that lady who almost knocked me over!!!

My, how time changes us. ¬†When I look back now at that powerful, teachable moment I’m amazed by that woman’s response. ¬†I almost envy it now. ¬†I think wow, what a positive perspective to look at something like that and see the good in it.

I think we could all learn a lesson from that little old lady with a walker.

All I used to look at was the negative. ¬†Something small wouldn’t turn out my way, and my whole LIFE was OVER! ¬†Such drama. ¬†All I could see around me were the things that were going wrong. ¬†All I could have seen, had I been in that old lady’s shoes, was the fact that some reckless lady who doesn’t know how to push a wheelchair almost plowed me over. ¬†I’m a defenseless old lady, I would think. ¬†How could she?!¬†

angry old lady

How often we look at something and lament over what didn’t go well.

How little we look at a stumble, and rejoice in the fact that we didn’t fall.

It is my prayer for myself and for all of us, that we become a little more like that old lady.

Tonight, on my way home from the gym, I stopped at a red light.  Suddenly, there was chaos right in front of me.  Two cars almost hit each other, and then neither one could decide who should drive away first.  In a fury of frustration and anger, the driver in one of the cars threw up his hands, beat his steering wheel, and spit furiously what I can only assume were violent expletives.  There were two cars who almost hit each other, and the drivers were enraged by the series of events.  Two cars that almost hit each other, almost.

Safe, with both cars still in tact, they drove away cursing the universe for the negative thing that just happened, never seeing the pain from which they had just been spared.

How can we let one small unpleasant event dictate our days, or even our lives?

How can we overlook all of the little successes and blessings, thinking nothing of them?

That little stuff we’re overlooking… that’s the powerful stuff.

I look back on that small event at a cafeteria restaurant in North Carolina with gratitude.  At the time, it seemed like nothing, but it stayed lodged in my memory through a lot.  I am grateful that I can look back at that moment now and understand what that lady was thinking when she thanked Jesus repeatedly as she stumbled.

Wow! ¬†Thank God I didn’t fall! ¬†I may have stumbled, but I didn’t fall!

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I Stand Amazed

Driving home from a meeting tonight, I listened to my favorite group. ¬†They’re called All Sons & Daughters. ¬†This song came on: (close your eyes and listen) ¬†

This song brings me to tears.

Part of it is the way the describe the heart ache of watching Jesus on the cross, and the way the promise of His return is the only thing that kept them holding on. ¬†I totally understand this. ¬†It automatically sends me to a place where I think about that sacrifice that He made for me. ¬†For me! ¬†How totally absurd is that? ¬†I’m not even a smudge on the pages of history. ¬†I’m just one of billions of people walking this planet. ¬†But wow, He had me in mind while making that sacrifice. ¬†He wanted to set ME free. ¬†Of course, He wanted to set all of us free, but ¬†we weren’t just faces in a crowd to Him. ¬†We weren’t just another number among the billions. ¬†He had each of us in mind on that day. ¬†And there was this pain. ¬†Can you imagine what it was like to watch Him die? ¬†How it would make your heart ache to see someone you love go through that? ¬†But they held on, believing He would return. ¬†And here I am today, holding on with the same promise in mind. ¬†I never used to understand why people would look forward to the return of Christ, but I get it now. ¬†I would be so happy to get to be near Him.

By the time the song is over, I’m so aware of that sacrifice and what it meant for me. ¬†I am so humbled by Him making the choice to make such a sacrifice to set me free. ¬†I know that everything I have, I have because of God. ¬†All of it. ¬†All I want is to be the best person I can be, for God. ¬†I can never be worthy of what He did for me, but I want to be as close as I can possibly be. ¬†I want nothing more than to be a good person for the sake of trying with everything I have in me to repay this debt. ¬†I know I cannot repay, and He wouldn’t even want me to. ¬†He didn’t do it with our compensation in mind. ¬†He did it knowing that our freedom was the reward. ¬†Can you imagine how joyous it is to see someone you love set free from the bondage of this dark world?

I give you all the glory, God. ¬†I can never repay You, but I pray you see my heart and know how grateful I am to my very core. ¬†I’m nothing without You. ¬†Everything I have, I have because of You. ¬†Everything I have accomplished, is because of You alone. I want nothing more than to know You more and live a life that gives You glory. ¬†I want nothing more than to serve You. ¬†I am forever indebted to You, and forever grateful for You. ¬†I love You with everything I have, every fiber of my being. ¬†I am Yours.

I have this ache within me, knowing that I can never repay God for all that God has done for me.  What a humbling feeling.