Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: An Unusual Birthday Gift

Today is my birthday, and I celebrate today by acknowledging YOU, who have each and all helped make my past year the wonderful year it was! I reread the comments on my last post and felt so affirmed and blessed that each of you is a part of my community.

Today something important happened that I am now celebrating, something that is not traditional birthday fare.

One is that I stood up for myself with someone who does not value who I am. It was very, very hard, but it was one of those situations where I didn't make a decision---something primal just rose up in me that refused to accept being consistently treated in a poor way. It reminded me of a situation years ago with my mother.

My mother was my primary abuser as a child. One day, after 16 years of physical and verbal abuse almost on a daily basis, instead of hiding the bruises, I put on a dress (in those days you wore dresses to school, not pants!) with a lower neckline that showed the bruises where she had tried to strangle me the night before. I even pulled my long brown hair back into a ponytail so that the bruises could not be missed. I didn't decide to do this consciously; it just happened. For years I had hid the marks---for my whole life. I knew that was what you were supposed to do.

My teachers all asked me what had happened and I told them. I told them how she hit me all the time. How she screamed at me. Some days she beat me, as she'd say, "until I draw blood". My mother lost her job as the school truant officer. There were no other consequences, as it was a different time, but she never hit me again.

Back then, no one talked about child abuse. I don't think I had a conception of it as being "abuse". Something in me just finally knew that trying to strangle your daughter was wrong.

It was a very good feeling to stand up for myself. And when my mother died 6 years later, I didn't cry. I still have not cried, nor do I miss her.

So, standing up for myself was the absolute most important thing that I could have done for myself this year on my birthday. The feeling I have is one of sweet safety, holy self-care, the great kindness of the Universe, the incredible feeling of being loved by God and of knowing that His love is immense.

If any of you watched Saving Grace (my favorite television show) last night, the expression on Earl's face as he told Grace how much God loves her---this face, and what Earl said to her---it made such a deep impression that it carried me to a safe place, just as God carried Grace and Neely to safety in the show. It stayed with me through a difficult night. I don't think I will ever forget it.

So despite the unusual circumstances, it is truly a happy birthday for me. I feel those feelings---the feeling of "NO!" and the feeling of safety and love---and I would not exchange them for any other birthday gift at all.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Wish I Were Patti Digh

Come on now, don't you? Patti is the hands-down heroine of my lovely online community, a well-deserved position. And it's her birthday today, too, so I thought I'd admit my secret longing.

I know it's not cool to compare yourself to other people, but I'm not cool, and I do it, even though I know how silly it is. I'd love to write like Lori-Lyn, or have the energy of Jessie or Jane. I'd love to be as smart and brave and well-loved as Kelly or as wise and profound as Chani. I long for the groundedness of Patti. I want the multiple successes of Heather. The ability to be the best friend in the world like Rick. The productivity and perseverance of Kate. The positivity of Carmen. The realness of Suzi. The raw talent and beautiful blog posting ability of Kim. I could go on but I won't.

Instead, I'm me. I am definitely not cool, am rarely funny, only occasionally witty, and just from time to time have profound things to say. Today it's enough, though, and I'm really happy just being Olivia. I admire my wonderful friends, all of you, and feel so blessed to have you in my life.

During this dark time, I wrote 37 ways I feel like a failure and then reframed them all. This was a very helpful exercise as these things were there, you know, even though I wouldn't admit to believing them--they were there. After having completed this exercise and purging those "forbidden" thoughts, I do feel much better. I also think that everyone feels this way from time to time.

I have had nothing whatsoever to say to anyone here on this blog, on Twitter, or in my real life. Nothing. Not even in my journal. Then this morning I got an email from a friend that was very real and admitted some struggles...something about it's realness and vulnerability helped me to crack open my thinking and writing block.

You know, in our community we write when we can uplift and encourage, or say something of "value", but less often or not at all when we are down. I think we feel some pressure, or at least I feel some pressure, okay, to deliver something of value or inspiration to those who read our blogs. I know that at times (like when I was a life coach) I felt a great obligation to deliver positivity and to role model for my clients.

I think I have gotten over this, in that now (after weeks of depletion, depression, and isolation) I would rather be real even in this despairing time. Some bloggers I know have done this well, like Suzi and Angela and Jane. I would rather have the courage and authenticity to cover the dark side of my life as well, as they do. I think they are brave.

I think that sometimes we are not authentic because we are afraid we will look weak or not be loved. At least this is why I withdraw from this, one of the best places of my life with the safest people I know.

Also, it is easy for me to write about things that are commonly held values, but harder for me to write about things that are not. For example, I would feel comfortable writing about fantastic drumming at church, but not about amazing worship at church. It's very silly, considering the safety of this community, and it has astounded me how I am still such a slave to social conformity and social approval.

It reminds me of the time years ago when LoveHubbie and I were fundamentalist Christians. I was afraid to let my friends know that I loved labyrinths and drank wine, and that LoveHubbie secretly listened to NPR in his car. We'd never let anyone know that we did such things. We have blamed this on "the fundies" as we later called scornfully called them, but in reality it was our own desperate need for social approval fueling our desire to conform.

It is easier here to write about nature, our art, mindfulness and acceptance, celebrations and family, and harder to write about things like hunting, failure, neediness and wanting to be stroked, admiring Sarah Palin, bankruptcy, black moods, Jesus, mental illness, suicidal feelings, and cancer. I'll be mysterious here and admit to some but not all of these things.

The older I get, the more I want to be authentic. I hope that I am finding a good, sturdy and enduring way out of my dark cloud. Today is a good day. I got out of bed and am having a Sacred Sunday and a true day too. I am at last able to connect in some way with all of you. I am totally fine--totally fantastic, actually--being me, and even fine wanting to be Patti Digh. I am able to see and taste of some of the sweetness of life.

And thank you, my good friend, for opening up a little more to me, and for provoking me to open up more myself.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I'm Still Here

I am still here on the planet, just struggling a bit lately with depression. I extended my staycation, and am still staycating.

I saw this on Ken Robert's blog, Mildly Creative, and had to share it with you: