Practicing Forgiveness

I am not a forgiveness expert. This is not expert advice. This is my perspective based on my experiences. I cannot know whether what I believe to be true for me is true for you. I share this for your consideration only and welcome dialogue about it.

I’ve been given a lot of opportunities to learn how to practice forgiveness in my life. It’s one of the most common places I get into energetic conversations with friends because I seek to forgive the violence and abuse I have experienced in my life. The energy comes around the idea that the people who have harmed me do not “deserve” forgiveness and that to do so would make what they did “okay.” In my mind, nothing could be further from the truth.

I do not practice forgiveness for the other person’s well-being. I practice forgiveness because it supports me letting go of the prison that is formed when I allow someone else’s past choices to harm me impact my current reality. There are so many places already that the abuse I experienced has impacted my reality, and I have to fight the patterns I was nurtured to develop all day, every day. If I spend my time focused on how upset I feel that I have been abused such that I have to do this work or the amount of work I need to do to change these patterns, my attention is misdirected back to the person who abused me and not to my work on changing the pattern.

I use the term “practice forgiveness” because one of the things I never realized, despite 12 years of Catholic School and more church than I needed in a lifetime, forgiveness isn’t a one time thing. It isn’t something a church does or a god. It isn’t an event, it is a practice. Forgiveness is a choice that I make regularly, whenever I feel overwhelmed by the difficulty of having healthy relationships and start spinning in the anxiety and voices of my childhood. When my heart starts to race and the tears start to fall and I feel as though I am a victim all over again and powerless, forgiveness reminds me I am not. Forgiveness reminds me that I have accepted what happened and decided to moved away from that experience. Forgiveness supports me moving my internal energy and dialogue to those things that I can do to move on from those things and practice letting go of the energy around “what was done to me.”

I am not always successfully able to forgive. There are days that I feel the pain and anger and let myself ruminate in it. Usually, there is something going on that I need to sort out and giving myself permission to not always forgive perfectly has been very important. If not, practicing forgiveness of self is also important. There is nothing wrong with me not forgiving sometimes. Sometimes, it just isn’t there and that is okay.

Forgiveness takes as much of the power back from those people who I practice forgiving as I am able to. It allows me to find a space for me to exist outside of those things which would otherwise consume me. Without forgiveness, my struggle to learn self-care and self-love would not be possible. For me, practicing forgiveness is a selfish act. It isn’t about making the other person feel better or anything like that. It is about me accepting what has been done to me and taking the focus off people who have harmed me so that I can focus on my own health and relationships that nurture those.

For me, forgiveness is about the internal dialogue that I have with myself about the experiences I have had and how I respond to them. It does not erase what has been done. It does not change what has been done. Forgiveness is the decision that I make. One of my favorite quotes is from Viktor E Frankl who said that “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Practicing forgiveness gives me space to grow rather than suffer.

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Parenting post abusive childhood

Abuse is a heavy topic.  It’s not something people are comfortable talking about.  I think that is mostly because it isn’t something people are comfortable hearing about.   In fact, while the society surrounding me says that “child abuse is wrong” (harumph harumph) very little…VERY LITTLE is done to address or prevent it.  There is so much that could be done that doesn’t cost anything.  But, that is a post for another day (whee!)

I am writing this because I am very lucky.  Someone, somewhere told me abuse was a cycle and that it could be broken.  That combined with a core desire to be a good mother which was rooted in early childhood kept me looking at recovery from a very young age.  Throughout my life, I have been given the gifts of perspective and some relationships that I believe were the difference between my success or failure.  I cannot stress enough the value of mentors and good therapists.  I cannot stress enough the dangers of bad therapists.

I am writing this because I  have spent a significant amount of time with children and adults who were abused.  As a result, I have learned that there are a lot of “normal” things that parents who were abused as kids experience as a result of their own abuse as children. No one talks about these things.  So, here is a start to talking about it.

Abuse is called a cycle for a reason. Often, the cycle has been going on for generations.  I believe that it can take more than one generation to heal from the effects of abuse.  There studies supporting this theory, but, I have experienced it to a degree that even without the data, I would believe it.  Sometimes, less abusive is progress in breaking that cycle.  The person who most significantly abused me made significant progress in getting us out of the cycle that plagued her family.  She did everything externally that she could to try to break the cycle.  She is brave and brilliant and is one of the best nurses I have seen.  But, no one escapes the level of abuse she experienced unscathed.

She was unable to look internally to work towards a path of healing. I believe she thinks it would be too painful to heal. In large part, she truly believed that her abuse toward me was a sign of her good parenting.  I currently choose not to be in contact with her.  It’s okay to stop consenting to and participating in abusive relationships. It’s okay to love your abuser and still walk away. I believe it is my responsibility to my children to maintain positive boundaries and good mental health.  This decision was a reflection of that.

It took me years to get over the shame and guilt of the what felt like impulsive responses that  I felt to abuse my children.  I once thought of them as instinctive, but it is a learned behavior. It is normal as an abused child to grow up to be an abusive parent. Parenting was learned from abusers. That is why it’s a cycle. The impulsive response  are based in what is known and experienced.  I have learned how to cope with these impulses  put them in perspective.  Twelve years into this and I have done pretty well.  I think the secrets are deep breaths, pauses and mindfulness.

Another challenge faced and not discussed is that the traumas experienced as a child are packed away in layers that get peeled back as a parent.  I am constantly surprised at how something like my kid not brushing their hair can trigger a memory of mine being cut off because I didn’t brush mine.  Sometimes, it’s just a moment of “oh, yeah…that.”  Other times, it is like a sucker punch.  That’s normal too. I’m including a link to information on PTSD as well as Complex PTSD which is a bit different, but common for people who were abused over a long period of time.  If it feels like you are right back in it sometimes, please read the article. It might help.

The worst of all of the abuse I experienced was the distortion of thought.  I had (have?) some distorted thinking around my relationships, including how I relate to myself.  I was and still can be self-abusive. I just don’t have physical scars to represent it.  However, I am making consistent improvements.

Here is the thing that I want everyone to know.  I am healing wounds that I felt like might be impossible to heal. I am learning to live a happy and healthy life. I am learning to have healthy relationships.  I want to offer my experiences as hope for those who need it. I can’t do the work for anyone else and I am not going to lie, it’s a lot of work.  The peace of mind I feel in my life is worth every bit of it. Take care.

Boundaries Are A Beautiful Thing

Until relatively recently, boundaries were this thing I had heard rumors about.  Seriously, outside of a general understanding that physical aggression was not okay most of the time,  I had very few boundaries.  I was raised by someone who truly did not believe I had a right to a single boundary. Combine that with a childhood obsession with soap operas and Whitney Houston songs…Let’s just say an adulthood of healthy boundaries wasn’t looking promising.  Fortunately, there was never a time in my life where I was going to let my childhood experiences stop me from being who and what I wanted to be.  It turns out good boundaries are a very important part of that.

My journey to this lesson seems to have begun with a conversation with a friend about new relationships.  When they mentioned boundaries being important, I basically laughed it off and said “why would boundaries be needed?”  I actually think I may have actually used those words.  I think some moments change us without us ever realizing it at the time.  Because whenever I ask the question “why” it inevitably leads me to unexpected places.

Boundaries are a meaningful way to support a mutual understanding and facilitate the voluntary engagement in relationships.  Regardless of the relationship and whether it is a personal or professional relationship, boundaries are essential for health. Boundaries lighten the burden in relationships by offering the opportunity to say “this is how I want to engage with you.”  They can be simple or they can be explicit.  It’s up to you and the person you are setting boundaries with.

Recently, I have pushed myself to the point of physical discomfort to verbalize boundaries to individuals and lots of individuals at once. It is my belief that personal responsibility means knowing what you know what you will and will not accept from others in your life.  It also means communicating that to others.  It is not a reasonable expectation to think someone knows what your boundaries are if you haven’t told them.  You would tell someone “don’t smoke in my house.”  Equally acceptable is telling a friend “I am not comfortable talking on the phone.”  My friends accept this about me and all work with me to work around that in our relationships. I am grateful to them for that.  Boundaries are often fluid. As situations evolve, so do boundaries.  But, I don’t think that happens if they aren’t respected.

As a result of boundary practice, I have learned is that if I do not know what I would say “no” to, I end up saying “yes” to things I shouldn’t. Without boundaries, I was ruled by others expectations and my own feelings of duty and obligation.  Without boundaries, relationships were lost due to my own fear of setting clear boundaries and stated expectations.

In summary, boundaries can be hard.  It continues to be worthy of the effort. Boundaries are a beautiful thing. They have dramatically improved my life.

 

 

 

 

 

Rape Culture in My Community

The first thing you need to know is that I love my community.  I don’t know what lottery I won to be surrounded those who make up most of my community.  One of the things I appreciate the most is that we challenge the existing ideas and are not led easily to that which doesn’t meet our core values.

Yet, I am fearful about actually publishing this.  It isn’t meant to be an indictment or an assignment of guilt.  It is meant to provoke and challenge the status quot and hopefully, change some of these dynamics.

I think the first step is to define the term “rape culture.” Here is a superficial definition.: Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.”  It’s a definition, but, to be honest, I would suggest my definition is that rape culture are the ways in which society blames and shames victims of sexual assault and normalizes non-consensual sexual violence.

Rape culture in my community is when a person’s pattern of sexual assault is revealed, the response from many is to defend the person who committed these assaults and question the character of the victims.  For those of you actually in my community, you need only look at the Facebook page to understand rape culture.  I understand there isn’t a lot of information and the questions asked are valid. The judgements are astounding. The jokes, disheartening.

Rape culture is what assisted in a member of my community developing and hiding a very easily revealed pattern of sexual assault that seemed to be common knowledge among many of those in my community with nothing being done to stop or prevent it.  Rape culture was present in the jokes made about this person having a widely held reputation of doing exactly what he was accused of. I continue to have a really tough time trying to understand this.

Rape culture is what prevented these people from speaking up. Rape culture is why they remained anonymous. If it was safe for a person to come forward in our community, they would.  For me, a safe space is an environment where people look out for each other and hold each other accountable.  A safe space would not put a victim of sexual assault under intense scrutiny as though they should defend themselves.  Though the statics vary, the false allegations of rape and sexual assault are between 2%-5%.  For me, a safe space is only a room if someone is escaping an abusive situation.

I am not sure where to go from here. I think that the decisions made to extricate this person from their position of power were difficult decisions to make, but they are crucial. If we want people to trust our community over the state, we have to actually be able to resolve problems. In a voluntary society or self-governing society, we have a responsibility to hold ourselves and each other accountable and make sure that those who would hurt our community ar1e not part of it.  We talk a lot of big ideas, now we need to learn to live them.

 

Hello

Dear Adele,

Hello, it’s me. I love your song, but mostly because your voice is amazing.  As for the lyrics, I’d like to share some of the tough lessons I have learned about love and relationships reflected in your song…My hope is that they might help you understand some things that might be make it easier to let go of this pain that you are focused on in your song. Pain that is apparently, very old.

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet to go over everything“…If this person wanted to meet to go over everything, they would have responded to your previous attempts…any one of the thousand of them.

They say that time’s supposed to heal ya but I ain’t done much healing“… It’s true time will help you heal, but, you have to do the work. Healing doesn’t happen automatically.  It isn’t your ex’s responsibility to heal you. It isn’t even your therapists. It’s yours.

Hello, can you hear me”… If I were this person, I’d be asking you the same question. Silence is a message.

I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be
Who we used to be isn’t going to result in moving beyond this place you are stuck. If you are still who you were, that may have been a contributing factor to your lack of healing.

There’s such a difference between us and a million miles” That might be intentional.  You seem like  you might have a habit of conflating things. In addition, it seems like boundaries might be an issue.  It seems like a million miles isn’t quite enough.

I must have called a thousand times“…You probably should have stopped at about 10.

To tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done“… Like the thousand messages and phone calls? Sometimes, consequences of our actions hurt.  The people you hurt do not have a responsibility to absolve you of your guilt nor do they owe you the privilege of an apology.  Also, are you aware of what you are currently doing that might be problematic?

“But when I call you never seem to be home”…Okay, for real?  Are you serious right now?  If you have called someone 1000 times and they haven’t returned your call, then they have said all they are interested in saying. You are deluding yourself to think one more call might do the trick.

At least I can say that I’ve tried you tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart“…When relationships end, you don’t always get to say your sorry.  It is a painful truth that sometimes, people disappear without the closure you would like.  To hold onto that for years does you no favors.

But it don’t matter it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore” This sounds a bit passive aggressive to assume that you know what is going on in your ex’s life…especially given the lack of communication in the years since.  Also, is it wrong that someone moved on from you after you broke their heart? Were they supposed to live in suspended animation after your relationship ended? Is that what you did?

It’s so typical of me to talk about myself I’m sorry” If you knew this was a problem years ago and still haven’t done anything about it, that might also be something you might want to look at.  Maybe if you did some listening, some doors and windows to new perspectives might open.

It’s no secret that the both of us are running out of time” It seems like your time together ran out a long time ago.  What is clear from the lyrics in this song is that your time together is long gone.  What time you are running out of is the time to find new love.

In conclusion Adele,  I think you have a great opportunity for growth. With some introspection and shifts in perspective, you might find happiness in love and the person you are obsessing over might find some peace. The choice is yours.

Sincerely,

Theresa

 

 

 

Thriving with Depression

Are you depressed?  Yeah, me too…it’s not all the time, but often enough that I have learned to deal with it.  I share this as a resource for others to consider.  I don’t presume to know whether this will work for anyone else.  It does work for me and continues to improve as I practice the skills.   This works for me because I have my basic needs met.

When I am really depressed and feeling like I am lost in the fog, I can feel pretty helpless.  That is the first sign that there is a problem.  I am the best person to help myself at this point.   I know when I need help. I know what help I need. I know how to get it.  I know when I am incapable.  I am learning to ask for help.

To feel helpless is usually an indication that I need to refocus my attention. This is true whether I am depressed about relationships that I wish I could change, a past that I wish had been different or the politics of nations.  A lot of my dealing with depression is the simple acknowledgement of reality as it exists. I tend to get depressed about things that I will never have the ability to change.  To me, this is an exercise in futility. But, this is about the process of dealing and healing and so here it is.

The first thing I do to refocus is to stop what I am doing for a minute and take a minute to breath and assess my environment.  When I am really depressed, I start by asking whether I have core necessities covered.  This is because as I am able to say “yes” to questions like “do you have shelter/” “do you have water?” “are you safe?”  As I answer those, I begin to at the same time build a foundation to work from. Also, I am well aware that not everyone has these things and so I build appreciation of those affirmations.

Most of the time,  my depression is low level and my environment can be easily improved to assist me in feeling better by asking less intense questions and find potential solutions.  Examples include:

  • Are my clothes comfortable? If not, what can I fix?
  • Am I on Facebook? If I am, there is an auto response, get off Facebook and hoop for a few songs
  • Am I thirsty? Get a drink
  • Is the music I am listening to helping me to feel better or feeling my depression? I have playlists of songs that sometimes lift depression, but this is my favorite.  I am morbid.  I find that if I embrace that, I am less depressed.
  • Is there a task that I am anxious about that I can complete and take off my plate?

As I assess these questions and begin to come up with answers, I help myself to begin to redirect my focus toward more immediate needs as well as put me on a problem solving track. I cannot always make all of the environmental changes I would like, especially at work. I do what I can though and often it helps.

Often, if the depression persists, I start to dig a little deeper to see if it is something more than environmental and/or situational.   Usually it is something else and typically it is a problem perception with regard to past or present.

Sometimes it takes me days to figure out what is causing the depression. Sometimes, the depression is situational and the situations are way more long term than anyone would comfortably admit. What works for me is letting the depression exist without my undivided attention by compartmentalizing my emotions.  I am sure someone would have some something to say about this. I find that giving myself time to work through depression without judging it or myself has been life changing. There is power in not letting the intensity of my emotions take over.  Emotions are temporary. Everything is.  Keeping that in perspective helps.

Additionally I consider what is at the source of my depression in this moment. Questions about this might be

  • Is it possible that I am seeing things from a place of distorted thinking?  Am I applying past events with other people to current relationships?
  • Is it normal to be depressed about this thing that is happening?

I allow myself to externalize the depression and think of other possibilities and often times, that helps.  If nothing else, it helps to reinforce that I am doing everything I can think of to address the depression I am feeling.

If I am depressed about the past, more often than not, it is because of the effect the past has had .  Complex trauma is like an onion; lots of layers that present themselves when you least expect it.   Parenting is proof of that.  I welcome the layers most days.  I work hard for these layers to become sources of personal strength.  But, those layers being revealed is more than depressing.  It’s still worth peeling them back.

I take naps. I go outside and play. I read books. I listen to music. I write. Sometimes, I call people.  The best thing I can do when I am depressed is do something about it. Feel it without judging myself for feeling it. Think of ways to process through it and act on the combination of those things.  It isn’t easy.  Even writing this, I feel like I am missing steps and over simplifying.  I believe, after a lot of therapy and blah blah blah…that I am the best person to help myself.  This is how I deal with depression, by doing something.  This and lots of love, family, friends and hugs. I hope it helps.

 

“When I grow up, I want to…” PorcFest & A Young Entrepreneur

“When I grow up, I want to…” “own my own” “start my own”

For some kids when you ask them what they want to do, they will give you an occupation. Most of the time, Kk has an idea for a business.  PorcFest provides the opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs to develop a business, even if only for a week.  My daughter has been wanting to start a business at PorcFest for a while. This year, I took this as an opportunity to give her room to explore her understanding of key concepts of owning and operating a business. The result of which leaves me with the intention to share this.

PorcFest is a great place for kids.  In fact, I would prefer PorcFest to Disney World.  It is much more authentic and offers unique opportunities for a young person to become comfortable with things like owning a business, public speaking, event management and anything else they might want to learn about while still having fun.  Yes, there are things that go on there that I do not find suitable for young children.  As a parent, I can avoid those things easily.  However, I would suggest that maybe having my child interact with a variety of people while still in  my care might be a better way to proactively learn to deal with challenging situations when I am not there in the future

Intially, Kk’s idea was to cook breakfast every day.  While that would be a profitable endeavor in the right situation, it would not be ideal for a tween whose parents were both volunteering throughout the week.   We talked about the market and what resources she would have readily available.  We discussed prep time and profit margin.  She determined she would like to have a “food truck” which was really a wagon with fruit and water.  She wrote a business plan.  After presenting it to her investors (us),  we advised her that we would invest in her initial inventory and she would be required to pay us back.

Just before PorcFest, someone reached out about some great cups with LED lights that he wanted to sell at PorcFest.  Kaelyn offered to sell his cups and in doing so learned about Partnership and contracting.  They also made the wagon much prettier and easier to organize.

And so, she hit the road with 4 Wheelin Fruits.

Fresh Start

4 Wheelin Fruits

She met her first customer about 10 minutes after starting.

First Customer

First Customer, Thanks Carla!

Then she worked on establishing a route

Poolside delivery

Poolside delivery

She did pretty well on her first trip through.  The hardest part of sales is the initial contact and she experienced that discomfort and pushed through as best as she could.

We talked about going out at night and decided to try to make something that might draw people to the cart.  We took about 45 minutes to set this up.  It was worth it. Here is where Kk learned about product placement.

Looking good

Looking good

We went out and she started selling.  I stood close by, but, not so close that I was hovering.  This was her business and I was there as a coach, not a boss.  There was a lot of interest in the cart and she took many of the opportunities to ask people if they wanted to buy something.

Knowing your market

Exploring Market Opportunity

People were drawn to the cart and it was going well.  Though, there was this one guy. At PorcFest, drunk fools are the minority, most people are looking out for each other, especially watchful of the kids.  This made this interaction significantly less risky.  He was loud,obnoxious and unaware that he was intimidating my daughter.  I called her Dad over and took this picture.

Dealing with customers

Dealing with “difficult” customers

I returned to her side and stood with my hand on her shoulder.    I showed her how to exit gracefully and warned her that “when dealing with a sloppy drunk person, you need to know how you should respond, not try to figure out how they are going to, because they are drunk.”  This was perhaps the one experience at PorcFest that I would not replicate outside of PorcFest.  However, in this moment, I was able to teach my daughter the value of walking away from a sale and a bad situation.  It is my belief that this lesson will serve her well throughout life long past childhood.

Over the next few days, Kk merged with another young entrepreneur (she was selling seltzer water) formed a partnership and split their profits.  However, Kk lost her steam for operating a business.  After all, this was PorcFest and there was fun to be had. As a result, most of the fruit went bad and we did not make back our initial investment.

It was very frustrating to see a net loss of what should have been a profitable endeavor.  However, I would rather she experience a business failing as a kid and start to understand the reality of operating a business.  I would support her doing this again.  However, next time, I would have her earn the money for her initial inventory investment. I think that would motivate her to make sure she made her money back.  We live and we learn.  More than any perceived failure, I see an experience that taught me and my daughter a lot and made our PorcFest one to remember.

See you next PorcFest!