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Category Archives: women

And It Cliqued, Just Like That.


Women.cliques

Here’s the thing about women. They are POWERFUL. They have influence individually, but in groups, they are exceptional. And if anyone has been to middle school, or high school, you may have experienced some of that. Whether in a school dance or at a lunch table, school age groups of females have been a force to be reckoned with. I know this because, well, I am one. And from experience, I know how hard it can be to operate around a group of females. A bad hair day, or the wrong jeans are sometimes all it takes to feel the brunt of a gaggle of ladies. We women can be cliquish. Dramatic. Catty. Gossipy.

Or…

powerful womenWe woman can be inspiring. Empowering. Encouraging.  This is what I experienced tonight. I experienced a MeetUp group called Onederous Women. Onederous Women chose into creating an inclusive space where networking was not a cattle call for business cards. I experienced a space, instead, where strengths were shared.  I got to be part of a space where women met to empower, enjoy, and partake of each other’s lives.

It was an honor.

Imagine this: Nourishment for the belly and the soul all in one room. Practical solutions to everyday problems. A group of problem-solvers devoted to hearing a call and responding. That’s what happened tonight. Right there in the basement of a church, inspiration happened. Bravery happened. Connection happened.

And I was in awe.

I choose to believe it was all for me. It had to be. Because it was that specific to me. No, seriously. Look. I have needs. And wants. We all do, but all I can do is speak for me. So, again,  I am saying that I lack in many areas. And mostly, I get to them eventually. EVENTUALLY, some things get handled, but some just keep getting pushed to the bottom of the pile. But it was a bit uncanny that so many of my needs and wants and lacks were being solved in one room, at one time. The room was filled with innovative solutions by women who utilized their talents, their experiences, their sorrows and joys into a workable resource that filled a need.

My need, tonight.

Check this out. I need a tailor. For my husband. We have been looking and looking, but never really got around to pulling the trigger. So we just let it hang out there, in nebulous space. Also, I need to eat healthier. I say it every day, and so does my daughter and hubby. Again, nebulous need. However, I also need a practical way to travel. It has become more important. Also, I need clothes that rock. But I just hate shopping.

stuffNebulous space gets a bit crowded sometimes.

So many more. I need guidance with my finances on an ongoing basis. So does everyone I know. I crave knowing what I don’t know. I stink at sending out cards and correspondence. I am on a journey of discovering how to heal and move forward. I need help knowing how to market to people who are looking for what I can do for them (Freelance writing, by the way. Shameless Plug.) Blah, Blah, Blah. I lack in many areas, but what I lack the most is a cheering section of people who know how hard it is to be living life as a woman, and know how to help.

I didn’t even know that having a one-stop problem-solving shop was an option.

These ladies brought all their power together and what came from it was an alliance of possibility. Power radiated throughout that room, and I don’t know that they even realized it. Actually, they probably do. And now, so do I. Think about the power of possibility. Now add to it the real-life applications, the experience, the innovation that comes from hard working business-minded women. It adds up to much more than hope.

lightbulb momentIt is what makes success.

If you have one whit of sense, you will seek out this group. For networking, sure. For fun, yes. But for a life-changing experience, definitely. Be part of a power clique.

 

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It starts at the Marrakech Grill…


“What DO you want to be when you grow up, Shar?” It’s the same question my husband has asked me for years. Only this time, I have an answer. I hesitate before speaking, though, and think about how to respond.20160116_121227.jpg

We are at the Marrakech Grill in Denver, and I am on the hunt for the Happy, Fat, and Full. Those are three words that have become important to me. I don’t use them to describe my belly. I use them to describe my overall well-being. The short word would be BLISS. If I am happy, fat, and full in the wallet, I can relax. If I am happy, fat, and full in my marriage, I can relax. If I am happy, fat, and full spiritually, I can relax.

The Happy, Fat, and Full means I can enjoy the moment.

I look down at my plate and start the mini ritual that makes up my meal. Thinking of the salad scene in the Barbara Streisand movie, “The Mirror Has Two Faces”, I skewer the tender bite of Shish Kebab chicken on my fork. Then I add a bit of green pepper for balance and crunch. Next, I lightly skim the bite through the tzatziki sauce. Lastly, I plop it on the mound of Saffron rice, picking up several grains, to make THE PERFECT BITE. I bring it to my lips and… MMMM… it is.

The Perfect Bite. 

Munch Munch Munch. Chew Chew Chew. My husband watches me through this ritual, like he always does, with amusement and patience. He knows I am stalling, and he knows I know he knows. Twenty-four years of partnership is a good start to getting to know each other’s habits, I guess. He takes a bite of his own food, Chicken Shawarma with Basmati Rice, and seems content to wait me out. I swallow and start talking. “I want to write on purpose. With purpose, I guess. I want to be a travel writer.” My husband swallows, takes a swig of his Coke, and says simply, “About dang time.”

And it is.

For twenty-four years he has asked me what I wanted to do, or be, when I grew up, and at first I thought he was just teasing me. I mean, what else could I be, other than a mom and a wife? I had started off early with those two things on my resume, and had become resigned. Eighteen years old early, to be exact. But even before that, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be. The closest I got was knowing I wanted to travel. I wanted to see the world.

pic of grantsvilleGrowing up in a small town had given me a taste for solving the mystery of what it was like Somewhere Else. Anywhere Else, actually. My parent’s library painted pictures of rain-forests on misty mountains, and gently lapping waves on a sandy, palm tree-laden islands. I wanted to see everything in reality. Up close and personal-like, and it all started outside of my small town.

But how to start? It just seemed a bit overwhelming.

My older sister got out to see the world. She was an exchange-student in France, and then a nanny back east, and I admired that. I didn’t like her when she left. We fought a lot growing up. But when she came back, she was different. She talked differently. She walked differently. She dressed differently. She was calm, and confidant. She seemed happy and… content.

I wanted that.

So I decided to be a nanny as well. In spite of my dislike for children. Uh… yeah. I, at 18, had no desire to be around children. And may I just give a big ‘ol apology to the kids I babysat, and also to their parents? No, nothing bad happened while on my watch. No, your kids weren’t monsters. No, I didn’t neglect them. I just didn’t know what to DO with them. So they played with board games or watched TV, and I watched them play, kept ’em safe, and looked at the clock. I had no clue how to engage with them. Mediocre, for sure.

new born baby ultrasoundImagine my surprise, then, when I picked up a permanent babysitting job. My own child. Karma started early, I believed, so I cancelled the nanny job I had lined up in Washington D.C., right after graduating high school, and began the adventure of motherhood. No regrets, whatsoever, for my son. He is 23 years old now and an amazing guy. Four sons and one daughter has given me quite a journey. However, my husband would ask that question every once in a while, and it would make me wonder.

He would usually ask while I was changing a diaper or feeding someone. And I would usually return the question with a withering look or a bark of a laugh. Being a mom and a wife was my life. My journey. My adventure. It’s all I had time for.

Right?

Well, as I finished my delicious food in the beautiful atmosphere of the Marrakech Grill with the love of my life, I looked back at my adventure. I realized how much I had hidden my head in the sand when it came to his question. “What do you want to be when you grow up, Shar?” This was a question I secretly shied away from. Because deep down, I wanted nothing more than to be out exploring as much of the world as I could get to. And that did not include me being in one spot, watching everyone else experience their life while I was “The Heart Of The Home”.

I didn’t feel like the heart of a home. It seemed ludicrous for me to play that role, actually. Especially starting out at 18 years old. I was to be in charge of prepping the place for others to enjoy. I was the warden, the custodian, the support group, and the clean-up crew for the family, of which I had created and which had come out of my loins, so they could learn, be safe, and grow.

Ludicrous!

I wanted to explore the world, but did not allow myself to think about exploring, because that would be the opposite of responsible. And it became supremely important to be responsible. In fact, it became everything. All consuming. I had to show others, and myself, that I could be a grown up. So I did. I did it the best way that I could, pulling on whatever lessons and experiences I had at 18. I learned along the way.

Spoiler Alert: It Got Good.

Looking back, the journey got intense. Many times. But, along with the intensity came this: THE LOVE. THE COMPANIONSHIP. THE BONDS. I hadn’t counted on that. I don’t know why. I mean, I had heard so many times in my community that the calling of motherhood was the highest calling there was. A huge blessing. I just never believed them, while I was having back labor,  fainting with every pregnancy and earning bed rest. I didn’t recognize the blessings while cleaning up toys and books and dinner and kids faces for the umpteenth time in one day. imageI surely didn’t see any while holding a crying infant as my two-year-old screamed bloody murder at a Wal-Mart, with so many of those same community mothers looking on disapprovingly. I didn’t count on the blessings of love, because I was busy babysitting. Nevertheless, the bonds between my kids and husband grew.

That bond grew between those kids and I, in spite of the chaos that is motherhood. As they grew up, my adventure became less about being on the hunt for sleep and privacy, and more about individual memories where they would play the piano with me, or dance around with abandon while I played it. Or sharing jokes and stories while we drove around, going from scouts to camps to play dates.

Eventually, I knew what to do with these kids. I stopped babysitting, and started mothering. And it got good. Along with being responsible and in charge all the time, the good stuff canceled out the heartaches. I think it still does. So now, my journey of motherhood will not stop, if I start writing and traveling while I do it. It will just be a different role: Empowerment Coach. “Yes, it is about time, Husband.”  In the Marrakech Grill, I have found my Happy, Fat, and Full.20160116_121213.jpg

 

 

New place, New moment.


“Ya know something good about being old? Ya just don’t care anymore. You’re lucky, Mom. KBYEEE!”dropping off L. at school in slippers I still remember this sentence coming from my sweet seven-year-old’s mouth, and at the time I was horrified because I knew exactly what he was talking about. He had decided, based on my unkempt presence that day, that I was old enough to not care if I wore shoes or slippers, or even day-time clothes to take him to school. (I had also forgone the bra and makeup that hectic morning, which just made it worse.) He hugged me quickly, jumped out of the car, and thought no more about it.

I went home and ate some chocolate.

That was during my chaotic time as a stay-at-home mom of three boys, one husband, and a household to boot. It was when Elementary School and the ultimate homemade lunch was all consuming for me. Shoulds ruled my life. I SHOULD be a part of PTA. I SHOULD be a better cook/wife/mom/container gardener/scrapbook-er. I SHOULD be put together, somehow. I would SHOULD all over myself regularly, but at least I had my youth. I was twenty-seven at the time, and was pree-ty proud of myself for surviving any given day.

I just felt tired constantly, that’s all.

Now L. had no idea he wasn’t complimenting me. There was real admiration in his words that day. All he knew was that I spent time with him each school day approving some semblance of an outfit for him, but lucky me, I got to wing my wardrobe. And that was something to look forward to. It’s been fifteen years since he bounced off to school after dropping that bomb, and it’s taken me until I reached the ripe old age of forty-two to agree with him.

Now L. was talking about clothing choices, but I am thinking of the SHOULDS.

I never did buy in to the PTA. Or scrap-booking. I just let ’em go, somewhere along the line. Probably in my Thirty’s. I worked on being a better mom/wife/container gardener, and I’d say there is good improvement, but room for more. But I have outgrown the SHOULDS, for the most part. They are exhausting, demanding, and unrealistic, and who has room for those things AND uncomfortable bras?

Just sayin.

I say I am now old enough to start loving the skin I’m in. And shoes? I am old enough to be happy with my choice of shoes, slippers or not, no matter who’s looking, but that could just be because my shoes are of a bit better quality now, and therefore comfy. I dunno. Let’s just call ’em investments. But while I am on the subject of age, let’s get to the good stuff. I am old enough to make myself a priority, and it looks like this:

  1. Aloette skin care product lineSkin Care. I’m not talking about using the same lotion my husband uses for his callused feet. Nope. I mean my own stuff. The good stuff. With words like Moisturizing Beads, Soft and Silky Radiance, and Satin-ee Serum. (I am not doing the Plumpers, Pouty-Faces, or Lashes-For-Miles. Let alone Age-Defying anything. I’m no Betty White, for crying out loud.)
  2. crab-legsCrab legs. Spiders of the sea. Bottom Dwellers. Whatever you wanna call em, I’m a fan, and I am old enough now to splurge a bit for a lunch or three. I frequent Joe’s when I want to sit in the sun by myself, open up my laptop and write in peace and quiet. Scotty the bartender knows me by name, and he knows that when I ask for extra cherries with my Coke, what I ACTUALLY mean is an entire bowl full of cherries. “Because life is like a bowl full of cherries. Maraschino, even.” Scotty says it, and I believe him now.  I tip him well, just for that.
  3. nap with slippersNaps. The greatest part about being old enough for my kids to get themselves up and out the door for school/work is my naps. KA-CHOW, SUCKAHS! While my kids are out using their boundless youth for things like curling luscious teen-age hair for hours on end, or screwing up their 20’s with rash decisions, I am watching them walk out the door with glee, just to book it back upstairs to climb into my very soft, very luxurious bed. With a push of a button, I enjoy a massage at zero gravity while listening to the sounds of ocean waves from Alexa, the electronic robot that husband ordered from Amazon.
  4. bliss-out-yoga-pose-vivian-neoFinding my bliss. I know, I know. My kids and my husband are my bliss. They are, actually. But I have time, now, to enjoy a hobby/job/cause that brings me joy in addition to them, and so I hone my education and skills at being a Financial Coach, renew my annual pass at the Rec Center for Deep Water Aerobics where I am the youngest one in the class, and Write about whatever the heck makes me smile or cry.
  5. lady cryingCrying Whenever I Darn Well Please. Nope, I don’t turn away if my kids come in the door. Or my husband. Or a stranger. I’ve been through some SSS….tuff. I’ve earned the right to be authentic, and nuts to whomever feels uncomfortable about it. I went a lot of years pretending that “It is no big deal”. Whatever the deal was, it was imperative that I didn’t upset the kids. Or anyone else. Well, that phase is done, and they all have big kid panties they can put on. I know, because I gave them as Christmas gifts.

You will notice that cooking classes have not made it onto my list.

So now I am older than 27, and I found 7 gray hairs last week alone. I pulled them out immediately, of course, as I’m not ready to be Betty White, but I realize that I am more fine with them than I was before. I think it is because I simply didn’t know that it could get good. Getting older, I mean. I didn’t really think that becoming a little calmer, wiser, happier, and having a little fatter pocketbook could balance out the start of wrinkles and gray hair, along with a few more lady lumps.

In the youthful years, I did not take into consideration the look that so many parent’s of 20-something’s have on their faces. I didn’t recognize that small, knowing, smile that the oldsters would give me as I passed them in the halls of church, or in a park, or at a store. I thought those faces were smiling at me because they envied my youth and ability to keep it together at 4 pm, in spite of having 3 boys, a stroller, and a dog as my entourage.

Nope. Not even close.

Those 40- and 50-something parents couldn’t care less that I had water bottles for hydration, snacks that were organic, and that I had just managed to have my oldest son hold on to the pet leash AND his terror of a younger brother without having an all-out brawl. In fact, they probably glazed right over the drama and smiled simply because they knew that once I survived that part, I could partake in what they were on their way to do: Go have a conversation that had nothing to do with kids or bills. It was an encouragement smile, tinged with just a bit of relief that they didn’t have to get involved. It was a placeholder smile, just waiting for me and my entourage to move past them so they could high-five each other and say, “We’re out of that phase! Hallelujah!” and then head on over to find something to do that had nothing to do with surviving the day.

Who knew that was an option? I certainly did not, as I let L. out of the car that day so many years ago. It was a hope, but not a certainty, all vague and foggy, and as I learned that I was no longer as young as a youth, it let me start revving up for the good part. The Today’s.

I’m older, sure. But not old. Old, I have decided, is just about 20 years older than I am at any given moment. And when I am Betty White old, maybe I will look to change my passion to acting.

And then they can make a Bobble-head of me, too.betty white bobblehead doll preview

 

 

 

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There’s The Wedding, and Then There’s The Wedding…


There is going to be a wedding.

The question was asked. The answer was given. The status change happened on Social Media. It’s gonna happen. I couldn’t be happier for them. I mean, what isn’t awesome about the opportunity for a stellar day dedicated to a fantastic couple, right? The decor and food, the people and gifts, the love and the toasts and the vows and the dresses and the pictures and…and…

Wait. WHAT?

What was that one word? VOWS? Oh. That’s right. The Vows. The part of the wedding that is, after all, the point of the wedding. The MARRIAGE part of the wedding. Well. There is the wedding, and then there is The Wedding.

Look. I don’t want to get all preachy. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. I don’t want to… blah blah blah (cue all the other politically correct sayings that preclude me softening the blow of what I am going to say anyway)… but what I will say is something I wish I had listened to a long time ago. Like 24 years ago, to be exact.

It is this: The Wedding is, first and foremost, a WEDDING of two souls. A blending and a taking on of each other’s lives. So take it seriously. It is a commitment for two people who were (up until this point) just hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company, to become one team.  Like, One Team, One Dream, baby. A well-oiled machine. And that takes commitment, yo. Intention with commitment and time.

Oh.

And before you decide to bring up the “I have to be me/I need my own space” debate, let me stop you right there. It would be pointless to have a clone of yourself, or the other person. Dur. So that’s not what I mean. I am talking about stacking the deck in your favor. When people go from being single to being married, they are forming a different entity. They are merging their lives, their beliefs, their traditions, their finances, their family and friends and habits and CREATING SOMETHING NEW. Something more than they were before. Now listen up. I didn’t say something INSTEAD of what they are. I said something MORE. That means you get to be you, AND you get to have more of what you want. It is an enhancement package. You get to be a team.

That is something to celebrate, for sure.

Now being part of a team means bringing each person’s strengths to the table, so to speak. It is laying out the strengths and weaknesses honestly, and saying, “Look. We have a goal. In order to accomplish this goal, we’re going to need every idea, talent, intuition, and resource we can get, so here is what I have.”  In a marriage, by the way, the goal is to love, learn, grow, and have joy…TOGETHER. To be married because it’s a want-to, not a have-to. So get that “I need me time” crap out of your head right now, because you are automatically assuming you can’t have BOTH personal and married time, and that just sets the expectation that there is never enough. Which is crap.

Kapeesh?

If you can buy in to the wanting to be married, then buy in to the importance of making a marriage a want-to instead of a have-to or a  should. Ya know, “I HAVE-TO be getting home. I SHOULD tell him/her about this. I SHOULD see if I can help. I HAVE TO cook/clean/fix this.” Living in “Should’s and Have-To’s” sucks. Stack the deck, right up front by doing some legwork. So get all of the resources out where you can see them and use them. What do we like to do? What do we not like to do? What will we avoid at all costs? What can we do well without even thinking about it? This would take a meeting, logically. (And if anyone reading this has ever been in a meeting, I need you to quit rolling your eyes. Seriously.)

My husband and I don’t work for the same companies, but we are in meetings constantly. He works with teams a lot. So do I. We both use project-based goals. We both work from home, but work with clients, teammates, and have people we report to. We interact with people both in our home and off-site. There have been large, and I mean LAARRRGGGEE amounts of conference calls, Skype, and in-person meetings between the two of our careers. So please get where I am coming from when I say we have some experience in knowing what makes a pointless or annoying meeting, and what makes a productive, positive, even fun meeting. Basically, it goes like this: A big key to a successful meeting is communication of what roles people play. But an even bigger key is knowing what the point of the meeting is, and sticking to it.

Keeping The Thing The Thing, ya know?

Look, it doesn’t matter who caters the meeting, or where the meeting is, or who runs the meeting. I mean, it makes for a more pleasant meeting to have something to chew on while Bob or Dorkus starts a PowerPoint slide show, and I absolutely pay more attention when my tush is on a cushioned chair instead of a plank of wood or standing in a doorway. But no matter how decadent the setting, if the meeting is not relevant, then my time has been wasted, and so has everyone else’s.

So isn’t it kind of key for two people who want to align their lives, to take some time looking at what is important to each of them? Uh…YA-UHHH! Thus the meeting. The sit-down. The beginning. Anything important and lasting and good takes planning for it, right? A trip. A job. A party. A place to live.

A life.

Alrighty then. Here is where I wish I would have taken this advice. My wedding was my wedding. There were guests. There was a cake and gifts and music and awkwardness and laughter and then…. It was done. I intentionally left out all the describing words because it ended after a day. That part is irrelevant, other than as a memory. Harsh, I know, but the advice I minimized cost me YEARS of frustration, trying to figure out how I could have been taken by surprise when this particular topic came up, or when that particular situation reared its head.

I skipped the legwork.

My husband did not marry the venue. Or the cake. Or my dress. Or the music. But he did marry all of what comes with me. We chose to blend our lives, and that is the good and the bad. The positive and the negative. Which, I am telling you, came as a SHOCK down the line. Now granted, we didn’t live together first. We went from our parent’s homes to our own home, so everything from morning breath and snoring, to attitudes about keeping the house in order, was a new thing.

Those things got worked out, eventually, but there were things that really should have been talked about before we leaped into a committed life together. Things that would have made our lives, and our children’s lives, simpler. Things like…Religion. (GASP!) Life Insurance. (Hand over mouth.) Budgeting. (Ewww.) Parenting Styles. (Well, now that’s just too far.)

Suck it, Propriety.

I regret only a few, few, few things in my life because I deeply feel that the good and bad has made me who I am now, and I worked quite hard to accept and enjoy who I am, but seriously… I would be an idiot not to regret asking the hard questions when it would have made our life easier. We stacked the deck against us in so many ways because of it. I was too enthralled with having a wedding to ponder for long on what the wedding was for. The wedding could have been planned for and executed and thought of later with just as much joy and excitement as it already was, but with a more complete understanding of what to expect, if I had simply spent more time heeding advice to make The Thing the Thing.

The wedding is exciting. The wedding has a lot of magic to it, and should be remembered fondly. But The Wedding Vows… that is a FAN FRIKKIN TASTIC ride. It takes time, and heartaches, and patience and joy and love and loyalty to the team and goal to make it valuable, and it is SO WORTH IT. But for crying out loud, have a meeting first. Take notes. Get some great munchies and a soft place for your butt to go while you do it.

And then….?? Well, then, maybe you both can watch the PowerPoint slide show with the lights dimmed down…

 

Of Endings, Beginnings, And What Happens In Between…

Of Endings, Beginnings, And What Happens In Between…

Life is about cycles. Day follows night. Sun follows storms. Good days happen after bad days. Last week was…a bad week. Now when I say “bad”, what I really mean is “hard”.  I mean, for instance, when sunny days happen outside my front door, there really is not a whole lot for me to do except enjoy it. I dress for it (shorts and my go-to sandals that dress me up, or make me look devil-may-care casual), and drink in the beauty and joy that come with the day. On the other hand, when it rains or snows, my stress level goes up. I have to PLAN, for heavens’ sake. There is the wardrobe dilemma (boots or Keds). And, do I don the downy coat that is stifling (but with sleeves that only go to the top of my wrists, which leaves a gap between my gloves and the said coat), OR, a warm-ish jacket (two sizes too large, but one that Is more pleasing to the eye). Once I’m out the door, there is then the windshield issue. Scraping the darn thing with the defrost blasting, or just making sure the windshield wipers work? When that is settled, off I go in the car. The last, and most important thing to think and plan for is, WHERE THE *BLEEP* IS THE BLACK ICE/STANDING WATER?? Basically, I feel a bit assaulted, right off the bat.

So, yeah, I enjoy the ease of things. Which makes last week…bad.

I’m sure most people have flashbacks. Memories that come up vividly. Sometimes, they are from our mind, and sometimes they come up in the form of body memories. Like, I have memories of teasing a cow out in a pasture as my dad fixes a barb-wire fence. I spook the cow. I run away, scared that it will chase me, and jump into the old work truck that just happens to have rolls of barb-wire still in it. I gash my leg, my dad rushes to me, scoops me up, and dashes to the house. He saves the day, and I still have the scar. I usually just tell people, when they ask, that I fought ninjas and got a souvenir. Now, every once in a while, I can remember what the pain of the gash felt like, even though it was several years in the past. I think I was about 6 when it happened. I am now…um… a few decades older. We will just leave it at that. Nevertheless, every once in a while, I feel it, remember it, and it still HUUURTS!

The memory startles me.Then, I think about it, feel about it, and let it go. I move on and my world moves forward. The thing is, I relived it for years. My leg hurt a lot, and for quite a while, during which I became scared to go out in the pasture. Even now, cows are something to be respected. A few decades give that wound a lot of time to fade into the past, I notice. But the scar stays. The body memory rolls right along and keeps pace with my life. I guess it has it’s own cycle, in a way.

This gives me hope, then, about something else.

I have another set of memories. They have their own set of scars and body memories. They also started when I was young. Those memories are more complex, layered in with several memories that were formed as a teen, and again about 5 years ago. They are incredibly painful, and even though I have worked to leave them in the past, they come and go in a cycle. Certain things trigger them, and when they come up, it is…bad.

I go from living a sunny day kind of life, to an overcast, drizzly life that is full of heartache. In fact, I hurt all over again. I feel kicked in the gut, and bruised from head to toe. I shake. I cry. And, the worst part, I freeze. Not the cold kind of freeze. I mentally check out. In the “fight or flight’ arena (and to my shame), I do the “flight’ part, mentally. This shows up as holding stock-still when someone touches me or hugs me, even to comfort me. My reasoning is that if I am still, then it will all be over soon and I can survive. Or, maybe the other person will lose interest. Or, maybe they won’t see me.  Idunno. Makes no sense logically, but it is how I have reacted since I was little.  I feel, as I look for any reason at all in these situations, that this knee-jerk reaction comes from when I was little and physically weaker that the opposing force. I shrank down mentally, then, and just turned to stone, weathering the incident.

And that is my shame.

I was once told me that my virtue was the most precious thing I had, and I should protect it with everything I could. I should kick and fight and bite, if that was what it took to protect this gift. It was God-given and was only for marriage. It is hideous to me that it was taken from me, but more hideous that I froze when I should have been fighting. Back then, I decided that I was a bad person for not physically fighting, and not worthy of the gift I was given. I also decided that I was supposed to be in this role so that others wouldn’t have to get hurt. I would be the focus of the damage. Not them.

Fair trade for a bad person.

Here’s where things didn’t add up to me, though. Each time this happened (several times as a child with 2 different men, 2 times as a teen, and once as an adult), they were people I didn’t know well. Or at all. So, how could they possibly know to treat me like this? How did they know that I would let this happen? That I would freeze? I must be a magnet, I would think. I did deserve it. It was all I could come up with. I decided, as well, that this was what was expected as the result of attention from men. I came to expect it. It became what was a typical “Man-Trait” to me.

I hated it each time. I would cry silently, trying to tough it out. I would squirm. The last time I even belittled him while it was happening. Right out loud, instead of in my head. But that was as brave as I got. The only “logical” answer I could come up with was that I secretly wanted it. I basically was ASKING for it. I mean, when I  told a certain adult about the 1st time, when as a kid I didn’t even know the names of the body parts that were violated, I was told that I was having a bad dream and I shouldn’t talk badly about a guest. I didn’t know at the time that she was mostly asleep (it was past midnight), and I didn’t know she was a deep sleeper. In fact, she didn’t even remember the conversation. But I did, and it reinforced to me that she knew what I was happening, and was on the side of the guest. I resented and spent a lot of time loathing her. Later, as a teen, I talked with a religious leader. A man in position of power who was to be trusted. As I stumbled to describe my shame, confessing that it had happened a few times since, he let me know that I had brought this on because I had most likely dressed immodestly or had given an indication that I wanted “attention”. Again, it reinforced my belief that I must desire it somehow. And if I desired something sick and twisted, then I MUST BE SICK AND TWISTED.

I knew I was a bad person.

Now, I have an amazing husband. He is amazing in that he has full knowledge of my past and he loves and accepts me anyway. Not only does he accept me and love me, but he has partnered with me in recovering. He has encouraged me, held me while I’ve sobbed, and provided much needed logic when my emotions were taking over. For instance, he encouraged me to talk. To participate in therapy. Life Courses. Writing.  Whatever it was that got me through the pain and the shutting down part.

Because I did. Shut down, I mean.

At first, in my marriage, and then as a beginner at being a mom, I pretended it didn’t happen. I told myself I didn’t have time to dwell on it. So I stuffed it down. It came back up, though. So I pretended it wasn’t a big deal. Then, I simply pretended I initiated it. That was the most comfortable reason. Finally, I pretended it didn’t matter. And THAT became the cycle. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m Fine. I’M FINE. I AM EFFING FINE!!!!!  I’d blow up over something small. Then would come coldness. And physical sickness. And emotions that I didn’t care to link together. And I’d rationalize and bring the excuses. “I must be PMS-ing.” “Its just the baby blues.” “it’s just been a hard day/week/month” Oh yeah. And there was, the bedroom. The intimacy.  Uggg. The intimacy was … traumatic. For both of us. I’d break down, He  would scoop me up and wait it out while I sobbed, wondering what he did wrong, what he could do to fix it, and not knowing how. I’d fall asleep with tears on my face, and then I’d get back to life. BADA-BOOM BADA-BING.

This was the cycle.

So why bring it up? Uh, because it doesn’t really go away. It settles into the background quite a bit of the time, and life goes on. But every 14th of February, Valentine’s Day, I have the complete experience of wondering “How will I deal with it this year?”. Like clockwork. Five years ago, at 3 a.m. -ish, on V-Day, I awoke to an unpleasant experience with a man I’d never met. A co-worker’s boyfriend’s roommate found me sleeping on the sofa. And, I froze. I effing froze. As a grown-ass woman!. Again! As a mother of five, a wife, a grown-up, I felt helpless. All of a sudden, I was small again, and it didn’t matter that I was pinned down or that I could barely breathe with him on my chest. I just knew I had to disappear.

I was reliving my own personal hell.

When it was over, I was pondered the only victory I had. I belittled him out loud, and eventually squirmed enough that he fell off the sofa and crashed over the coffee table, bringing the boyfriend out to see what was wrong. The roomate fumed as I told the boyfriend to stay with me until the roommate left. And finally, the a-hole did. But not before he paced the room, glaring and threatening me behind his roommates head. Later, I pondered what I did to cause it, but mostly, I found that I had broken one cycle, at least. This time, I took initiative. I wasn’t the little girl anymore. I found my voice a bit. I didn’t have to do what men said, just to be polite. I stopped it.

I was also in shock. I drove home. It wasn’t until I got there, an hour later, that I put a name to what had happened: Assault. No. (gasp.) Rape. That was an ugly word. One I shied away from desperately. It was the first time I had ever allowed myself to believe that I did NOT want what had happened. In no universe did I bring this on. So I told my husband. We went to the hospital, and also reported it.

It was another hell.

I was bruised and cut already. I ached all over. I was shaking and hurting, but forms needed filling out. Personal accounting of the incident needed to be verbally shared over and over again, just so they got it right. Pictures of EVERY INCH OF ME were taken clinically and efficiently.   Now, I’m not saying that they weren’t as gentle as they could be. Or compassionate. They were. Many people there were furious. They let me know that I was right to come in. That there was no way this was consensual. Cuts and rips and tears and bruises were all documented.

I felt violated all over again.

The nakedness. The pictures that “Had to be documented for the record.” The chill in the air. The going from room to room to room, being poked and prodded. Never will I gloss over the words, “Rape Kit” again.

I share this because I took body memories home with me. I took phone numbers of advocates and officers and therapists and support groups, but  the biggest thing I took home was me wanting to disappear. I wanted to freeze all the  time. Getting out of bed was out of the question for quite a while. My husband and kids were supportive, but worried. I went from knowing how to live life to shying away from it. My mantra was, “Don’t look at me. Don’t notice me. I just want to fly under the radar.”

And I went there. I stopped singing. I stopped playing piano. I didn’t function at work. I gained 70 pounds. Anything I could do to stay still, I did. But, I did go to therapy. For years, actually. I talked about it, wrote about it, cried about it. And I saw slow improvement. I started being mom again. I started communicating with my husband and became much closer to him.

Except for the body memories.

They come up much less now, but when they do, I am right back in that hospital again. I’m exposed, and my everything hurts. All my private places, my vulnerable places… ache. Deep up inside me, I hurt, and I need to vomit. It comes up for days before the holiday, and I’m raw for days afterwards.

It’s hard to tell about. It’s hard to hear. Many people feel uncomfortable and wish I would keep it private. I wish, sometimes, that I could, as well. I’ll tell you why I don’t keep it to myself. It’s simply this: AVOIDING TABOO SUBJECTS AND HAVING ONLY POLITE CONVERSATION IS WHAT GOT ME HERE. Life is messy. I don’t like talking about it, honestly, but I will talk about it, and talk about it, and talk about it, until I don’t need to anymore. Until it is no longer a secret to me. Until it becomes something in the past. That will happen, by the way. Just like the scar on my leg. It happened, though. No longer will I buy into “You probably brought it on yourself.” and “We don’t talk that way.” Or “He is a guest in our home. Please be polite.” And definitely not “You wanted it. I can tell.”

That is the tragedy, and is over for me.

So here I am. I feel broken. And strong. I am a victim and a survivor. I am shamed and proud. I am terrified, yet ready to move forward. All of it at the same time, and that makes things complicated. I’ve been looking for closure, but I am learning that there isn’t so much closure as there is… forgiveness. From me, to me. Life will take care of the perps. Karma is a… well, you know. But what is imperative now in my life is allowing myself to forgive me for my weaknesses. My human-ness. My flaws. My should-have’s. That’s a tall order. And part of the cycle of healing.

It’s a start. Again.

 

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Sick Kids Rock…


Yes. I said it. I have a soft spot in my heart for the magic moment when my kids get sick. Now let me clarify… There is a difference between “Mom, I don’t feel good. Can I stay home from school?” And “barf, I just threw up!”

Here is the difference: The whining. THE WHINING!

when said child is not feeling well, all I hear is the reinforcement, in whining voice, that they are sick. In addition to the requests for water, takeout, and wanting the tv shows changed.

But when he/she is truly sick… This is where the magic happens.

My independent child goes QUIET. Quiet, do you hear?  She/he lays in bed or on the sofa and breathes in and out quietly. It becomes my job, nay, my labor of love, to change out barf bowls, bedding, and wash clothes on foreheads.

Now why on earth would this be a positive???

because my kids are teens. And young adults, that’s why. They spend their days cutting the apron strings and letting me know in no uncertain terms that they can “Do it on their own”.  This can make me proud that they do their own chores, laundry, and school work, but they also down play hugs and back rubs given by me. And they certainly stop initiating it.

So. So, I miss it. And for this reason, I selfishly love that they need me again. Gone is the need to push me away a bit. And in its place is an attitude of gratitude. They accept hugs and even kisses on the forehead. They say thank you for changing the cool wash clothes on their forehead. They are thankful for the medicine and glasses of water, or mugs of tea.

And that is what I love.

So I will take the late nights of staying up with them, and changing of barf bowls. Because what comes with it is the assurance that they still want and need their mom.

🙂

 

 

 

 

My Husband is Not My Prince Charming


While this is not my story, it is my view. I loved it. Amen, sistah.

My Husband is Not My Prince Charming.

 
 

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