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How did I forget?

I met with my counselor last week for the first time in about 9 months. As we were talking, she does her magic and asks a few questions…

(I’m going to stop here for a minute. I have literally just finished a grad school class on cognitive behavioral interventions. My entire final was a live “practice” combining and using questions to help a person see where they can make changes. I made a perfect score. I literally just learned questioning skills. Insert eyeroll.)

Continuing on…as I sit in her office, it occurs to me that I already knew how to manage what had spiraled out of control in my own life. My mind is reeling with the thought, “Are you kidding me?” I had slipped into behaviors without even a conscious thought about how much stress they were causing me!

The process of awareness and using tools to function in emotionally healthy ways simply need to be rebooted sometimes.

I’m going to be honest. On my way home from her office, I was annoyed that I had forgotten that I had choices. I was living in my past reactions within the abuse cycle, and I had totally allowed myself to slip into old habits.

As I have pondered it since then, I have chosen to embrace the fact that I slipped into old patterns. It happens, and I wasn’t paying that much attention. I have just been “getting through” each day.

The difference now is that I know what to do. I know where to look for help if I need it.

But here’s the thing.

I accidentally isolated myself. It wasn’t intentional. It really did just happen.

FYI-isolation is my thing. I am really, really good at it. It’s how I survived in years past.

We absolutely cannot isolate if we are to live meaningful lives!!

Period.

Yes, we get busy. Yes, it has been hard because of the pandemic. Yes, we are busy with work, kids, classes, church…whatever the things are that fill your time.

But we need people to connect with. People to keep us in the present. People to bring us out of our headspace.

(And if you know me, you know how stuck I can get in my mind. I a bit of a weird-o about that. I can also get stuck trying to disappear into reading. And sometimes, I can even get stuck just sitting in my living room doing nothing…it is kind of ridiculous.)

So here’s the deal. I’ve been moving forward, step by step, since the day I found out my ex-husband was gay. Sometimes we get stuck in old patterns of behaviors. Except now, once the a-ha moment comes, I know what to do to get unstuck.

Moving forward isn’t about never looking back and never having another problem.

It’s all about the a-ha moments. They should totally give us a boost of confidence that we are awesome at this moving forward thing. We know how to get ourselves out of stuff. And even if we don’t remember, we probably know where we can go to get a little help!

Keep going. We’ve got this.

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Fresh Eyes

It is 6:30 a.m. the Saturday before Easter. I am alone in a bed and breakfast just a few miles from home, and I have been consistently working to catch up on all of my classwork that has fallen through the cracks the last few weeks.

Why am I in a bed and breakfast? How am I even paying for such an indulgence?

After receiving my tax return, I put it all immediately in my savings to offset the lack of income I will have this next summer…although I also need new tires for my car, my computer is dying, and I have holes in my rental house walls that need professional repairing. (Yes, I am rambling…sometimes fear creeps in.)

But my mental health was failing. The busy-ness inside my home was creating a whirlwind inside my brain. My young adults come in and out. My teenager is struggling with his schoolwork. My home is cluttered. I have been in and out a lot these days. I could not seem to clear my head long enough to focus on what needed to get done.

I realized that I could push through, but I know me…at some point in the near future, I would eventually lose it and hurt someone’s feelings. I have been jumping from activity to activity, attempting to see progress within the house while also trying to get some of my schoolwork (and real work) done. I have been doing a minimal job of completing my schoolwork, not allowing myself to fully grasp the information I need for my future. And in general, I have been walking around frustrated at everyone instead of taking the time to process my feelings, deal with them appropriately, and communicate them.

So I gave myself a budget and permission to spend 2 nights away from the chaos. To clear my head and focus my vision.

Plus…there is this other thing that has sneaked in and has been causing me a bit of unexpected emotions. I needed to allow myself to feel those, so that I can continue moving forward.

I don’t think a lot of people allow themselves to deal with their sh** after a divorce. They move forward and carry all of that mess with them…either that, or I cling to my sh** for a long stinking time. But I don’t think so. I think that as a society, we expect people to move on quickly from their feelings so that the discomfort for those around us can go away. And people move forward believing that the sh** will just go away if they keep doing stuff to push the emotions away.

For me, 25 years of marriage (and a whole lifestyle) was a lot to lose…it would be for anyone. It was only 3 years ago that I was pursuing intense therapy to try and figure out if my marriage could be saved. Back then, my then-husband was working to convince me that he wanted to be married to me. So I kept trying to have an open mind and to be logical.

But on Easter Sunday 2018, a decision was made that confirmed that my marriage could not be saved.

And on this Easter weekend (2021), I am working to reframe that part of my story. Bear with me as a S-T-R-E-T-C-H Jesus’ story to help me along.

Jesus died…betrayal set that in motion. And then He rose again.

A part of me died…because of betrayal. But I am rising again as a new woman. (Told you I was stretching it a bit!)

When I choose to look at my life in this manner, I see encouragement. I see the hope I am giving to others. Has this path been difficult? Yes, beyond anything I could imagine.

When I look around at those who have suffered betrayal, I see many faces. Some of us fall into despair and cannot get up. Some of us fall into rage and become angry women seeking revenge. And some of us pray (beg) daily that God keeps our hearts soft so that we can gently lead others to see Jesus.

My season of difficulty has not yet ended, but I am seeing the fruit of sharing my story and of me leaning on Jesus.

**At least 3 women have come to me and told me that they left abusive relationships…because I shared my story.

**2 young men came to me and told me that they were groomed by older men in trusted situations…because I shared my story.

I have thought that I needed to stop sharing my story, but my story is important. My story gives hope to those who have experienced horrible things…and it is not even the worst one you will ever hear.

But it shines a light in the dark corners that some of us try so hard to hide. It creates a space for people to have a voice.

So this time away has given me fresh eyes. Some things I see:

  1. I love what I am learning, and I need to take the time to create a space to absorb all that I can.
  2. My children are experiencing growing pains and need the space to feel those pains without my intervention.
  3. My heart continues to heal. Allowing myself to feel those pangs of confusion and grief as they pass through my body, not judging them, but accepting them as simply part of the healing process.
  4. I am doing great things. Maybe not from a huge platform, but in teeny, tiny private ways, I am making a difference.
  5. And this job I have but don’t love…I am doing pretty good at that, too. Messages from parents expressing their gratitude about what they are seeing and hearing from my classroom are confirming that I am where I am meant to be.

I encourage you. When your mind is filled with an overabundance of moving parts, and you cannot seem to see clearly, give yourself permission to step away from it all. Fresh eyes bring clarity and peace.

The Best Gift

The best gift that I have given myself throughout the last 14 months is therapy.

When I struggled to know what to do next, I could see my counselor and she would guide me into figuring out what was best for me.

The only directives that I remember her giving me were 1) go get tested for every STD under the sun–BLECH! That was terrible to consider!, 2) find 2-3 close friends who can walk this out with you, and 3) find a support group of women who are walking similar paths that will understand where you are coming from emotionally. That was just on day 1.

Side Note-{Shout-out to pastors! A pastor friend gave me the same exact first 2 instructions as well. (Pastors-GO get the latest training so that you are ready to help people in crisis…in the beginning, when I didn’t have all the information and was incredibly overwhelmed, the very first person I wanted advice from was my pastor. I immediately wanted to know how to walk this out as a Christian woman. I did not want to mess this up.)}

Anyway, consistent counseling has helped me figure out my path forward, it has helped me see other perspectives, and it has provided me with the safest of places to come and grow.

Yes. I have walked to hell and back. Yes. I have been dealt a raw deal. Yes. What I’ve experienced stinks. But I needed to learn to look at all of that and grow from it so that I didn’t live as a bruised and battered woman or as a bitter and angry woman or as a woman destined to repeat the same patterns.

Today, I am here to tell you that it has been STINKIN’ HARD!! But oh, so very worth it!

Of course, I continue to need a lot of work but I want you to know that the most wonderful gift you can give yourself is being open enough to to become your best self…and for me that was my counselor who encouraged me to consider more than just my one-sided perspective but also learn to TRUST MYSELF.