Happiness

Smile

I used to smile a lot. When I was a child… I’m sure that it was endless. I was a rambunctious little kid with a determinable spirit, in fact, when I was a toddler, my mom walked into the study to find that I had climbed the bookshelves as I smiled and waved to her from the top of the shelf. Either way, I remember smiling, a lot.

I stopped smiling along the way because of rape, abuse, and domestic violence.

Smile

I took this photo at a time where I felt, emotionally, that smiles were perfunctory at best, and I believed this. No one will like you if you don’t.

It isn’t true though, I know that today. I am almost two years past when this photo was taken and I smile now at the most ridiculous things. Sometimes it comes easy, like when I’m with my husband or my mom, they are the most vibrant people I have in my life and they love life, it’s infectious.

I smiled this last week because I am doing something new. I started a job, by choice, not by need. I felt proud and I was excited for what this next step in my future holds for me and I couldn’t help it, I was smiling. Smiling because the office I went to work for obviously had an interior decorator or smiling because the people in the office were so pleasant. Smiling because I will get to see my husband more when he switches out of the current job he is in. Smiling because the air smelled like Seattle rain, coffee, morning traffic, and my awesome Pandora playlist.

I was walking back upstairs to my office today when I came across a man I haven’t met yet, going into his office, he looked about 10 years younger than my father was when he passed away, but from his pose and gentle smile I felt a familiarity, he reminded me of my dad, so I smiled. I smiled because he reminded me of my dad, of love, of happiness, of a man who enjoys life, and who’s enjoyment of life is infectious. The smile was there on me. Then he smiled back.

It was in the next seconds that he turned to me as I passed him and he said – “your smile just made my day.” I looked at him and smiled even larger and thanked him for the compliment … then I passed him, headed towards my office he called out to me “I hope you give that smile to your father every day!” 

It stopped me cold. I didn’t want to say “my father passed away, I miss him more than you can imagine, I wish he could see that smile every day, I wish I could hold him, touch him, hug him, tell him how much I love him…” …… these are things we don’t say in the perfunctory world of passive aggressivo though….. so I turned around and held back my tears as I smiled again and said “I used to.”

I saw the look on his face as he realized that my father was gone, then he said “I hope you will think of him and smile like you just did for me.”

I said that I would, then I walked back to my office and I sat at my desk thinking about how terribly I miss my Dad, but it brought about a new thought for me, why not smile like I would for my Dad? It doesn’t hurt people to see a smile on someone’s face and I think that it is something we are missing in today’s world of duckface and selfie’s.

Consumed

I turned 29 about a week ago. Leading into this birthday, I started focusing on the future, I felt like a switch had been flipped, I needed what has been my life over the last “few” years to change. Then I started counting the years it has actually been, it wasn’t just a few… it has been 9 years, 9 years since I had a nervous breakdown and since that fateful day I have been consumed. Consumed with the horror of what happened, the fear of it happening again, terror of the unknown, panic attacks, and an inability to move forward.

I need this to change. I need positivity, I need hope, faith, strength, endurance, happiness, life. I made a decision on the morning of my birthday to no longer keep focusing on the past, being consumed by it. That has to end, I don’t live there anymore.

I wish I could write about happy things, but what I know, what I have lived, is dark and ugly.

So, final post on the dark truth before I start to shape my writings into something more positive.

I don’t remember my exact age when I was molested, but I was very young, and he had been a trusted family friend who was morbidly obese and could barely move. I never went near him again after the first time he touched me, he did end up going to prison (for touching/raping other girls) and he died there as well.

11, the summer that I stayed with my Grandmother and in those fateful months I lost all of my trust and faith in extended members of family. My cousin accused me of stealing her things, even after proven innocent, I carried the stigma of thief with *most of my extended family. I was a verbal whipping post for my Grandmother and cousin that summer. My sister was taken 75 miles away and I was left alone with them. Slapped every time I objected to being called names, I started to spend all of my time hiding in a room in the attic or outside in my Grandfather’s barn. Years later, I was still the one to blame if something wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

15, when I was raped by someone I met only hours earlier. My best friends and peers shunned me. He threatened to kill me and my entire family if I ever spoke out about it. So I didn’t.

19, when I broke up with a boyfriend who would go on to attack me physically, punching a hole in the wall when I ducked, breaking into the bathroom while I was showering to grab me by the hair and slam my head into the wall, raping me for leaving him.

20, when I moved in with a man who was so emotionally abusive that I would start my day by throwing up from stress, choked me and threw me into furniture when he was drunk and angry, and cheated on me with other men.

20, when I had a nervous breakdown. Which is ultimately what saved my life.

My life today is completely opposite of what happened over these years. My life is amazing, but I am only just starting to heal. That seems to unreal but at 22 I was safe and as each year has progressed I have made healthier choices for my life because I’m learning ….that I’m worth it.

Freshly 29, I see a future and I plan to focus on being the healthiest I can be for it, not on living in my past. Working through what happened instead of letting it consume me.

And removing my makeup every night. After all, it’s time I start behaving like an adult.

See no evil

The eyes are the window to the soul. – English Proverb 

Last Sunday, the Seahawks went to play the Broncos. Diehard 12’s, my husband, my family, and I were amped. At one point I really took notice of my husband’s face and he looked like a kid at Christmas, his whole face was lit up and his eyes sparkled. I took a close look at my mom when she came over and saw that her eyes sparkle too. These two people are the happiest and healthiest people in my life. They have a joy that they just wake up with every day, a great attitude, and a zest for life and you can see it in their eyes.

When I look into my eyes, I see pain, I see a vacant look on my face, and it feels so bleak. I don’t want this. I see bruises that aren’t there anymore and I see memories that I wish I could forget.

I want the sparkle, I want the inner happiness, and I am willing to fight for it, I just don’t know exactly what I am fighting. Fighting ghosts is what we call it, depression, PTSD, night terrors, an inner feeling of dread that something bad is going to happen weighs on me and there is a part of me that is trapped inside, screaming to get out.

Sidebyside

 

Matthew 6:22  “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”

I don’t remember what day it was that the light left my eyes, but I know it was many years ago and I’m only just getting to a place where I’m fighting to get it back. I know what it has been like for me, but I am having an even harder time watching it happen to my sister. My heart hurts remembering that I saw the light and sparkle in my sister’s eyes leave on the day of her wedding. She carries the vacant look that goes along with the phrase “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Abuse sucks the life and the light out of us. With every fist and kick, the breath that is knocked out of you from a physical abuser can take away the sparkle and light that once was a part of us. With every tear that comes shaking out of us from the unkind words, slanderous speech, vindictive behavior, and negativity of an emotional abuser, our eyes cease to glow.

 

I need to get to know you

It’s been a while. I stopped writing because I felt like I was feeding anger instead of moving forward with hope and I needed to get my head straight on that point.

The husband and I moved to a new apartment, it’s newer, spacious, and peaceful. I’ve been running myself ragged the last two weeks for this move and trying to do more than I think my body could undertake. I started having massive panic attacks again this last week and yesterday I couldn’t get my heart to steady after one panic attack in the morning. I spent the whole day trying to breathe but labored with each breath, I could feel my lungs aching from the strain.

Because panic attacks are what they are, I of course think that I must be dying. This sounds like it’s funny, but it isn’t. It’s terrifying. This impending sense of dread and death is a stealthy stalker and when you’re having a panic attack, it can be crippling.

Before we went to bed last night, I told my husband what I was feeling and he did his utmost to comfort me and assuage my fears. As he rubbed my back in this steady motion that he’s learned calms me, I wondered how he knows just what to do.  It was at that moment that I realized how I am literally uncomfortable with myself. I wrote myself a quick email last night detailing all that I am uncomfortable with, like my appearance, my smile, the way I talk, the way I walk… the list was endless.

I went to sleep, trying to relax and breathe, thinking to myself and telling myself “I need to get to know you.” I need to listen to my body and take care of it, not hate it for what happened. I need to look at my face in the mirror and not imagine the bruises that aren’t there anymore. I need to let myself start to feel happy again without guilt. Neither my body or my mind has relaxed in the last seven years and in the last six months I’ve known that this needs to change, I can’t live like this anymore.

I have this recurring dream where I see myself, barely in my 20’s and the shower can’t clean enough off. I’m mute, paralyzed, and scared. There’s a party going on outside the bathroom and I just see the dirt trails going down the drain. Every time I have this dream I feel like fighting. Fighting for life, fighting for myself, fighting for happiness, fighting for this to end. All of it.

I need to get to know myself again.

Practically Single

It’s been wholly uneventful this last week as both the husband and I were sick. So I really have nothing to blather on about.

It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

My husband tells me this all.the.time. I tend to devote my schedule to things that are just busy work instead of devoting time to things that would make me successful as a writer and healthy as a person. I don’t do it intentionally, it’s like housework, there is always something that I could be doing to maintain our house, to keep it clean, clutter-free, but I could, and have, lost days, weeks, and months to that activity and it resulted in not spending time writing, working out, and I was left feeling like I hadn’t gotten any further in life.

This quote also translates to bad relationships, those are very much the wrong wall that the ladder is leaning against. There is no ultimate goal in working your ass off for a bad relationship, but we keep doing it, why? For one thing, if you’re in a relationship with someone that has a destructive personality, is narcissistic, abusive, or is simply not into you – all of what you do to try and make it a success is just a way of not focusing on the truth of the matter.

And the truth of the matter is that the relationship is:

A. Simply a bad relationship.

B. An abusive relationship.

C. A Narcissistic relationship. Which is a one-sided relationship where you meet all of their needs and they meet none of yours.

I call all of the above on my last relationship and definitely on the one my twinsie is in. Where a narcissistic personality is combined with tendencies to be emotionally destructive, you are left feeling like everything is your fault, so you try harder. The truth lies in the fact that when your significant other is consistently indifferent to your needs, and instead focuses on themselves, they neglect you. When they neglect you, what they are absolutely saying is ….

I really don’t care about you and you don’t mean enough to me that I will spend my time on what you want, or what you would like to do.

They also won’t want to spend money on things that you want or like. Birthdays? Mother’s Day? Christmas? The least expensive of gifts, if any, and the least amount of effort on their part. If kids are involved you probably feel like you cannot depend on your significant other, being with the children is a chore for them and you are left holding the bag, carrying the weight, and truthfully, you are what I like to call “practically single.”

I know this well, I went through it myself and I see my twinsie going through it now. With the help of my therapist I learned that even with years and years of therapy that there are just people who will not change to care about you. So strong is their conviction that their needs, their wants, their life is not meant to be shared, but to be focused on themselves and them only. Sure they’ll say they want to change, they will apologize for neglecting you and they seem sincere, but it will happen again, and again, and again. The day that you stop listening to their words and start watching their actions, that is the day that you see the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

Strange isn’t it, each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he? – Clarence the Angel “It’s a wonderful life”

I think that this is true in two opposite ways. The good versus the bad.

1. The good man’s life touches so many other lives positively. Like my Dad, he loved life and the people in it intensely and they loved him back. When he passed away, thanks to Facebook, people from all his journey’s in life, all around the world felt a hole, mourned, and missed him.

2. The bad man’s life touches people so negatively that even after he has walked out the door, left the relationship, or even passed away, the hole that is left is painful, not poignant. The hole that a bad person leaves is like an open wound, jagged around the edges, inflamed, and still bleeding.

The future never just happened. It was created. – Will and Ariel Durant – To Your Success

You cannot take charge of the present if you are busy reliving the setbacks of the past. – Newman & Berkowitz – To Your Success

I struggled with leaving a bad relationship because I was busy focusing on and regretting the decision to be in it in the first place. I was embarrassed to admit that I wanted to leave because I had worked so hard to make it work. If I had not fastened my bootstraps and climbed onto my horse of freedom :it was actually a Chevy Tahoe:: I might still be with someone who would never care about me more than himself, who would continue to cheat on me, neglect me, and abuse me. So forget what bad decisions we’ve made, everyone makes them at some time or another, there shouldn’t be any shame in it, there should be freedom.

Live it

Get after it.

I woke up this morning and thought to myself … “Self, make today a great day.” I put the coffee on, made breakfast, and set out on a run. It feels great, my energy is high, I’m motivated to actually do something today. One part of this might be the colder weather, the approaching Christmas season, or perhaps, the wonderfulness that is Christmas music itself. Every year, Christmas season, I pull out the Christmas music. It makes me want to put on a frilly apron, wear cute shoes, and dance around my kitchen baking cookies.

Private victories precede public victories. You can’t invert that process any more than you can harvest a crop before you plant it. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I’ve said it before and here it comes again, I really do need to read this book. I’m gaining momentum in this process of changing my mind every day to change my life and it’s getting to a point where those around me are starting to see a difference. My inward victory over the pain, depression, and panic will someday be visible outwardly, and I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to not dreading each day, to instead be excited for it. I’m looking forward to one day being able to say that I am living as my Dad lived, joyfully.

More importantly, I just wrote “I’m looking forward” three times in a row – Four weeks ago I was in a place where I could not look forward, so much was my fear of the past that I had to keep an eye on it at every moment. So raise your coffee cups, here’s to private victories!

The effect of one good-hearted person is incalculable. – Oscar Arias

I have good-hearted people in my life, and it’s true, their effect is incalculable. The problem is, the bad-hearted people in our lives, their effect is calculable, we can tally it. I can remember every single detail of the times when I’ve been torn down, ridiculed, humiliated, and beaten. Every. Single. Detail. I can’t remember even vaguely, what beautiful things that loving people have said to me though.

It’s one of those areas that we have to choose who we surround ourselves with. Who are your closest people? Are they positive, full of life, caring, respectful, loving? Or are they negative, bitter, resentful, disrespectful, and rude? I can’t describe the relief that comes from leaving relationships with negative people, but I can say that the sun shines brighter, the world is warmer, the trees are prettier, and your shoulders feel lighter. Obviously, leaving those relationships didn’t magically cure my depression or panic, but it did lessen the weight I was carrying around. I learned after many years that we can’t make others happy, we can only try to give ourselves a chance at a healthy life by removing the darkness that is negativity.

Keep a daily diary of your dreams, goals and accomplishments. Your life is worth living, it’s worth recording. – Marilyn Grey – To Your Success

Done, and done. Kidding. But seriously, in five words “Your life is worth living” – I know that I’ve been alive these last seven years, but I’ve been far from living. My Dad lived, my mom lives, but depression and panic kept me debilitated and holed up in a safe corner. At many points over the last seven years I couldn’t imagine even walking around my neighborhood because I was sure that I was going to faint and then something horrible would happen to me, so I wouldn’t go.

I changed that, I forced myself to get out, to go anywhere I feel like going. I suppose I’m not so much afraid of fainting anymore, I feel more like screaming “bring it on” and “do your worst” because at this point I’m mad that I lost seven years of my life to this panic and depression and I’m going to fight to make sure that I don’t live in fear ever again.

Sidenote: A huge part of deciding to stop being afraid was taking a five week self-defense course and I stopped saying I am a victim, I started saying I am a survivor.

SurvivorOh and because it’s awesome.

Unity … or no.

I made biscuits and gravy for breakfast on Sunday. While the biscuits were baking, and the gravy was thickening, that yummy, warm, fresh scent filled the kitchen. I had a flashback to my Dad being the one making this exact breakfast. I love these moments when I have a scent and memory that go together about my Dad, I breathe it in and have complete peace for a few brief moments.

Achieving unity – oneness – with ourselves, with our loved ones, with our friends and working associates, is the highest and best and most delicious fruit of the 7 Habits. Most of us have tasted this fruit of true unity from time to time in the past, as we have also tasted the bitter, lonely fruit of disunity – and we know how precious and fragile unity is. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I was living on the bitter, lonely fruit of disunity while I was with Aeron. When you are in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic tendencies and destructive behavior, there isn’t any room for two. They only have time and space for themselves, you aren’t an equal, you are a possession.

Just to set the scene, here are a few signs he is a narcissist ::I use he because it relates to my experience::

1. No empathy – most people care when you’re upset, but a narcissist will focus on how he feels, and how upset you just made him.

2. Sense of Entitlement – He feels entitled to things/successes even though he hasn’t earned them.

3. Exaggeration – embellishing everything, dramatic.

4. Needs excessive attention – He needs constant attention and becomes moody or upset when you’re attention is on something else.

5. Possessive and controlling

6. Behaves like he is the center of the universe

There isn’t any room for unity as a couple if you are in a relationship with someone that has these characteristics. When I was with Aeron, I thought that if I tried harder, did better, was prettier, skinnier, worked harder, cleaned better, made him happier, etc, etc, etc, that he would finally love me and we could be a happy couple. The truth is, he never wanted to love me, or anyone, more than himself. I deserved better than that.

The worst part of leaving was that I felt everything that he was incapable of feeling. I felt the pain of a relationship lost because I had put so much hard work into it, I felt bad for hurting his feelings when I left him, I felt awful for saying no each time he asked me to reconsider leaving, but because of days gone past, I knew his promise to try and to change was a lie.

There is in each of us so much goodness that if we could see its glow, it would light the world. – Sam Friend

 

Set your sights high, the higher the better. Expect the most wonderful things to happen, not in the future, but right now. Realize that nothing is too good. – Eileen Caddy

I set my sights high when I left Aeron, but recovering from the damage has taken so long that I’m only starting to look at them. I feel like I’m not done fighting because my sister’s husband is so much like Aeron, her relationship being so much like my last one in many ways. I see the weight of neglect in her eyes, I had the same look. I hear her put off her own feelings because he hasn’t cared about them since the beginning, and it breaks my heart.

I wish I could show her a picture of her sights set higher, of what she deserves to feel in this life; love, unity with someone who loves you, joy. How do you create a picture showing the weight that you carry by being with an emotionally destructive partner?

When we set exciting worthwhile goals for ourselves, they work in two ways: We work on them, and they work on us. – EDGE Learning

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