Sunday, July 19, 2015

Grief: 43 Days And Counting

For those of you who don't know, I was with my best friend of 25 years as she faced dying. I was with her the whole 2 weeks until she passed. Including a 5 day hospice experience. We are 40 years old. I am not the same person, but others and me, wish I were.

Greeting guests at the wake/funeral.

We were 15 when we met. We worked together at a Frozen Yogurt shop in the late 80's when they were still really cool, before they disappeared for over a decade, and then came back with a vengeance. We clicked right away because we both were bit of outsiders in school. It's not that neither one of us had a lot of friends in high school, but we didn't like the cliques, the partying, and the usual stuff that came along with typical weekends of high schoolers. So we clung to one another, and a sisterhood formed; a bond just as strong as any out there. Maybe I can share more about "our story" later, but for now, I am in need to write about my experience with the strangest, most awful, dreadful thing I've ever felt: grief.

Amy died 43 days ago, and I am just now able to put a blog post together, which I don't even know if you would call it that. If my whole body has been in a super dark gray cloud, a 1/8 of my head is out of it.

I use to think I knew what people were feeling when they lost someone. Wow, I knew nothing of their loss and pain, NOTHING. And I'm here today to tell you that if you have not experienced great loss, you don't either. You think you do, just like I thought I did, but you don't. And the moment you assume to know, is the moment you have hurt the person grieving. The moment you start to compare your loss to theirs, is the moment you've practically lost all trust in the person grieving. It doesn't help. I repeat, it doesn't help. There are a handful of things that help, and an even bigger handful of things that do not. Maybe I'll get into that later, but who knows because it's a miracle and only by the grace of God that I've gotten this much written. And I write because I've been blown away at how many people who have had great loss have reached out to me, telling me to keep sharing and that hearing from me, me (mainly through instagram and FB), has helped and encouraged them!!! What?! How can that be? I'm new at this, I have NOTHING to offer. So I think. But again, that's the power of courage. Courage to share our stories. Courage to be as real as possible. I'm knew to this grief journey and because I've shared thus far, other grievers have been encouraged. And by golly, they've encouraged me.Not because I'm something great, or know so much, but because I spoke up, I shared. I shared my heart. Everyone needs to hear from our hearts.

Self care in grief consists of: Beach, sunsets. a lot of coffee, essential oils, and buying oneself flowers on the street. And a lot, a lot of mingling with strangers.

One of the first things I read when I lost Amy was "the more the affection for your loved one, the greater the loss." Might sound like, "duh", but for me it wasn't. It helped me instantly understand why I felt the way I did. So traumatized, so deeply hurting, intense pain, utter confusion, and for over a week after it happened, a shock that put me in a smoky fog.

I had lost grandparents before, but I had never grieved for them. I didn't know 2 of them very well, and the one grandpa that died that I loved dearly, I was very sad and missed him a lot, but I didn't really grieve. I didn't go through the stages. Oh the stages, I know them so well now, except I haven't gotten to ACCEPTANCE yet, that's coming; I guess it's the last stage.I'm still in the BARGAINING stage. I actually feel stuck in it. But the grief counselor is going to be helping me through it. Yes I said through, which indicates it will end.

So the affection you have toward your loved one--you can see how losing a child then is the most unfathomable in loss. There are different levels of loss. Mine is a very high level because of the length of our relationship, the depth of it, the greatness of it, the complications of it, the Christ-centered part of it and on and on.

For the first several weeks (and I'm just now slowly coming out of it), I didn't feel like a normal part of society. C.S Lewis says in his book A Grief Observed, "Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers."  If you can relate to that at all, then I submit you know of grief. I did not want to go anywhere, talk to anyone or socialize. I felt like an outcast.

I think to myself: Am I even still a regular American citizen? I have no idea. All I do know is that in grief I find myself in 1 of 3 places over the last several weeks following Amy's death--

My bedroom in a pool of tears, holding my dog so tight I squeeze his insides, or at the Cross. A blubbering mess of tears in my husbands arms crossed over the kitchen island unexpectedly while making dinner (which is a huge accomplishment for the grieving), all with slime from my saliva pouring out of my mouth and onto his arm hair.
Grief finds you on the floor, in the tub, on the sofa, and in the flower shop at any give moment.
It finds you sniffy pleasant scents, eating croissants and remembering what your loved one would like and love. The colors, the movies, the songs. Grief finds you crying in the Trader Joe's isle at a cheesy love song from the 80's cuz you know your loved one would love that song and the lyrics are quite fitting. It may also find you spending a little money. It finds you with little to no appetite and getting lots of massages due to the physical condition of your body. Grief settles in the body physically too ya know. Grief finds you desperately wanting to call, text or go visit with your loved one. It leaves you in your desperation wanting to hear their voice. Knowing you never will and hoping you can accept it. It finds you drinking lots of water so you don't get dehydrated. It has found me at the ocean, at the sunset and staring out my bedroom window. At first I tried to think the thoughts of my experience with her the last two weeks of her life, back into existence. Like literally thinking I could do that. So I guess grief finds you sort of crazy.It finds you struggling to deal with life's particulars: answering questions, listening, responding to emails, texts etc.

Each day, I know I have to get up. I have to have my coffee. CHECK. Then what? (I remember asking my closest and now (only) best friend the morning Amy died---"What do I do now? And I was serious---"Just lay here, do I eat? Move? Stare out the window? What??" She said, "What you're doing right now is what you're suppose to be doing." So I laid in bed for 9 hours.)

Ok, now that I have made coffee and sipped a little, I'll check email and Facebook, even though I have little interest in what's going on with others. Pretty insensitive right? I know, that happens with grief, I guess. Apparently it's quite normal. It's not that we don't care necessarily, it's that chemically the brain cannot retain information when grief is thick and going strong. So I guess I'm off the hook then.
I've learned lots of interesting things about how grief happens and works. I guess the reason we go through shock when it first happens is because if we felt everything all at once, we couldn't handle it. So we have this built in system, thanks God, that prevents us from feeling all the pain all at once.

So then, I might have to take my dog out to go potty, that seems pleasurable and fairly simple, yet I'm reminded of his frailty now and scared of losing him and how much Amy loved him like her own. Then I get back to my small apartment and feel frustrated by the small space and little messes I can't keep up with, so I think, ok, I'll go to my room and stare out the window some more.

I then have a slight renewal of energy so I make some phone calls and "take care of business". And in my day I may get a text from a friend/s or any given family member, and then I have to have a response I don't feel like giving. I feel I have to be a certain way, even though that's not how I feel or where I am mentally. But they can't handle it or me if I don't respond to what they want from me. But I do it anyway.

Then my husband and daughter who are both naturally bubbly, continue to use their usual excitable voices to ask me how I am, just like they did before Amy died. And before she died I would typically answer with the same, equally excitable voice and tone, because the three of us have that in common. But now? Well, just find either one of them and ask them what kind of response they get.
I then proceed to wander around my apartment, thinking, "hmm, what's next?" Oh well, I think I'll eat ice-cream, because I can.

"No one ever told me about the laziness of grief. Not only writing, but reading is too much. Even shaving." C.S. Lewis A Grief Observed 

I keep wanting and wishing moments back because the more days that go by after her death, the more distant they feel. At first I was haunted by the "movies" that were playing on repeat for weeks, but now they are fading and that is scary to me. C.S. Lewis was fearful of this too, (he lost his wife), the memory fading. And if it continues to fade will that mean the moments never happened? Will it make me feel further away from my loved one? I don't want that.

I mentioned earlier that I was in the BARGAINING stage and let me tell you, I do not wish this on my worst enemy, if I had any. It's an awful nightmare you wish to wake up from day after day. The thing about grief is that you know it will be there the next day and the next, so it's dreadful. It's not that I question WHY. I've already wrestled with God on the tough theology questions and confusion years ago when I struggled with infertility. The bargaining is more like, "Did I say the right things? Did I say enough? Did I do enough? What If I would have done this or that instead?" etc..
It's tough accepting that the things I did indeed say and do were enough and noticed. Dear God I pray they were noticed by her.

I've also experienced something I use to do myself. Ignored others grief.  Others not asking you at ALL how you are or how you are dealing. I've read this is common because sometimes the people in our lives don't know what to say or they think what they say won't be enough or that they will make it worse somehow, or they think it won't matter. So they stay silent. I have also learned that the people in our lives can be overwhelmed by the depth of our pain in our grief, that they literally back down and out because they don't know what to do to help. I myself, remember making these mistakes with others I knew were grieving. See, one can know a thing about something, but until it becomes an experience in your own life, we really don't know.  That is why we shouldn't be so quick to judge or criticize others. And every single story of grief is different and unique because every situation and person is. I give grace, because I have needed it so much before.

Ya grief creeps in and all you are left with is longing for your loved one. Wishing them back into existence.Wishing and begging to go back in time like that's a possibility.

Then there's the perspective of death itself. Which I'll have to save for another time. God has been speaking to me about this a lot. Eternal perspective. Oh I have known and know a lot about it...the epitome of a christians life is having eternal life, but again, when a thing happens to you that is real, it's all together another thing to believe or see or accept that one thing you thought you knew. So there's another journey for me.

Here is a verse I never knew existed and this is my aim for growth and understanding:

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." Psalm 116:15

For now I'm thankful for all the family and friends that have loved and supported me through this time. God has provided sweet strangers for me throughout the weeks as gifts to my heart. Things you know are divine. I have received cards, gifts and precious messages. Nell's has been a source of healing and so has worship. I'm grateful to have a community, even if it's not the community back home that I miss, to help navigate me through this time. It's not conventional, but I've appreciated it where it's come. Thanks for reading and for caring enough to spend this much time on something I've tried to write, because I'm sure it was a jumbled mess, sort of like me.

Friday, May 15, 2015

When It's Not What You Wanted

A bit gloomy.

I will hardly use the word want anymore in my vocabulary because first of all, most of the things I have wanted out of life and in life, have simply not come. Plus, being a christian, it's a bit, I find, of a self focused word, when my aim is to be God-centered and others-centered. So I've trained myself in "I shall not want", and it's been good for my soul. Because let's face it, life has thrown many, many curve balls my way, and it's been far from a life I envisioned or planned. And honestly, I worked through a lot of those and have gone through suffering, for years even. It's not that I thought life was "done" with me, or that God wasn't going to grow my character more, I guess I'm just surprised that this move to CA from MN hit me so hard, I thought I had matured enough to handle it better. I wouldn't say I'm in a suffering time as much as I was in the past, but whatever it is, I'm going through it. Although all suffering can be good. It catapults us to the next level of healing, growing, and maturing. Maybe now's the time for me to use and put into practice what I gained in my, what I call 8 years in the wilderness. We'll see.

I'll start by saying, I did not want to move to California. When you hear from others the hard stuff they have to do, and even the hard stuff I've had to do that I never thought I could or would, you think, "No way in H-- am I doing that!" You think to yourself, "there is not a chance I would ever do that." But then the T in the road appears, and you have to choose. Because believe it or not, we always have a choice, always. And that is just what happened. My husband said he wanted to work for a tech-start up in San Francisco, he applied to probably 80 jobs and got 3 offers and accepted 1 and here we are. When he first mentioned it a year ago, I thought it was a fun, passing thought for him. I thought I'd let him have a little fun looking for jobs out west and just leave it be. He'd "get over it". But then he was laid off from his job in MN last Fall, and it became more real and serious. By the summer of 2014, he was adamant about moving and I had to make a choice. Because I did have a choice. Never in a million years did I think I'd be faced with that choice. I've said before how close my family and I are, and the pain of leaving my parents was unbearable, unthinkable actually.

Bay Bridge to Oakland, from Fisherman's Wharf

So for months and months, all I heard about was San Francisco. San Francisco this, San Francisco that. Can you see where I'm going here? Do you hear some bitterness in my sentences?  You'd be right. Because not only did I never think and never did I want to leave my family, friends, community and Minnesota, a life I had there for almost 40 years, but I also didn't want to.....wait for it......

live in Oakland.

Ima be extremely honest here. I am mad that I live in Oakland. Wow Gina, get over it. I am trying to get over it, that's the point with this blog post! I mean Oakland!? Give me a break. I moved and left everything behind, aside from my husband and dog (my daughter is here, but moving back to MN in August), to be in Oakland??? I thought we were moving to San Francisco?? That's all I heard about for months and months. And my husband still gets SF every single day. He works in the city. So he has no problem not living there. But do you see how unfair this is people??! Sure, we are only 7 miles to SF, just across the Bay, but I wanted and still want my daily life to be there. That's a once in a lifetime thing. I'm highly frustrated, and am still mad or whatever it would be called, maybe I'm not happy. But who cares about being happy. I have joy joy joy. What do I need to be happy for? I'm ticked off we don't live in San Francisco because that's where I want to live. I never wanted to be in Oakland. So now what? (I guess you could say I needed to get that off my chest).

But our lives are actually what we have, not what we can't let go of wanting or wishing for.

You think I'm pretty spoiled and selfish don't ya? Ungrateful too huh? Ya, well, me too.

The thing is is there is a lot going on in my life that makes me very unhappy. I won't list them all. There is a list of things going wrong too. There is a lot of confusion, frustration and tears. A LOT.

But next to that list of all that is "wrong" and all that makes me unhappy, is a longer list of all that is right and all that makes me grateful. You see, I've talked about it before, happiness is temporal. It's based on circumstances. And let's face it, a good portion of the time, they bite. Reality bites
We all know life is hard. Really hard. In many different ways for every single person. So the first thing I can do is focus on the list that surpasses all that is wrong and icky. The grateful list of all the gifts and blessings. It might sound cliche' but it literally helps. It works, I promise. Our minds can't serve a good and a bad thing at the same time. If we focus on the good thing, and the gift, and keep doing that, the negativity and countless things that are wrong, will fall by the wayside. But that's just it, we have to do it. We have to work in our minds. It always starts in the mind. Tracking and policing our thoughts, and steering them toward what is good, and what we do have. Things that make us rich. SO rich! The other way of thinking makes us so very poor. When we don't look or count on our circumstances to give us total fulfillment, we will find peace. And out of peace comes joy.

"I have learned in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content." 
Philippians 4:11
Being content as "satisfied to the point where you are not disturbed or disquieted. It doesn't say satisfied to the point where you don't want change, but satisfied for now. Being patient through the changes, and confusion. The possibility of trusting God, that He didn't necessarily cause this, but He can do something with it, if we allow. Accepting that things take time to bloom. Flowers don't grow overnight. 
We can stop being agitated and disturbed; we don't have to allow ourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled. Jesus left us a legacy of peace, and He wants us to use it.

Be present to the gift of now. Ann Voskamp 

And every milestone moment always forks and you get to choose which road you’ll go — bitter or blessed. Ann Voskamp 
Don’t grieve that it’s gone, wonder that it was. (Wow, I dare us.) Ann Voskamp

Along with our thinking about our thoughts, and how that can really save us in tough times; just managing our thoughts and directing them to what you have, not what you don't have, can be key. I would even go so far as to say it can be a survival tactic. At least it is for me.

I've also got to get to accepting. This might not be where I want to be, geez Gina, who are you kidding you're in the BAY AREA, you basically ARE in San Fransico! Give it some time woman! And maybe we can move to the actual city of SF in a year or two. But for now, you still live in one of the most sought after, beautiful places in the country! Ok, am I talking in first person or second here?!

I can learn to accept and "get over myself", when it comes to living in Oakland. I think one of the reasons I don't want to be here is it feels more permanent. And I don't want this move to be permanent. SF is less permanent. The bottom line is none of this is what I wanted or asked for but I'm here now, and I can work with it. I just have to get to accepting. I have to radically accept that this isn't what I wanted, and I do have to "start over" but that in time I trust God will reveal how He wants to use me here. I have to trust that my character will grow, that my marriage will become even stronger, that I will gain new experiences, (I already have), that if I surrender to what I don't want, I may just find a few things I do want. I may just see things in a new way if I allow myself to let go of what I want and wish was. Because the reality is that I do live in Oakland, right now. The reality is that I am away from family and friends.  The reality is that I don't have my rhythm here. The reality is what is, what I wish for or want, isn't. So I gotta live in what is. Because it's honestly all I have. And it's all you have too.

See, it's not so bad. Sitting in North Beah in SF having coffee.

Where you are at in your life and what you are going through right now might not be your first choice or your second choice for that matter. It might not be what you wanted.But you are going through it. It's what is. It's reality. Demonstrate your power of choice where you can, train your thoughts to good and gratefulness, and you'll find more and more that the thinking on what you want or wanted will soon vanish. With perseverance, which we all have a need for, and some patience and a lot of prayer, we can learn to embrace what is instead of what isn't. We can start seeing the good around us and stop wallowing. I know it's what I need to do. It isn't easy. I need to choose to see things in a new light. I need to choose to see that this is a huge adventure that is actually a gift! I've got to start enjoying and accepting that I live here. I am committed to trying, and looking at my situation with new eyes. Afterall, that's usually all we need.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kicking & Screaming

I'm almost done. Throwing a fit that is. Even though I just learned this week that my house has been flooded in MN and basically the whole house except 3 rooms has to be demolished. What?! Shock I tell ya, shock. Utter and complete.
Thankfully, we will only have to cover the plumber and the work he does to fix the culprit. Not too bad, hopefully. But State Farm is covering all the damage. Shopping anyone? Well I am still mourning from the move, now I'm envisioning, well I don't have to envision, I saw pictures, my house a total mess, and gutted. I don't think I've seen a bigger dumpster in a drive-way. I'm not totally up in arms over this, all I want is peace like a river, remember? No matter what's going on around me.

Sometimes in that peace, even though that's what grounds me, I do have tantrums. I kick and scream. This move has got me kicking and screaming and complaining more than I ever have in my life.
But hey, at least I am doing SOMEthing. Sure, I don't think it's healthy to kick and scream for a very long extension of time, but at least I'm "in the game", at least I'm "fighting". Fighting for what you ask? Wholeness of course.

I remember my husband use to say to me when we were in the thick of our marriage crap, "At least we are still together, there is something to be said for that." I don't agree. People can be together for years and years, and not be "kicking and screaming". I was always the "fighter" not my husband. I was constantly looking for resolution in a way that made him uncomfortable. I didn't mind getting my hands dirty and getting down to the nitty gritty of our troubles. I would not go down without a fight. I didn't give up. And in the end, he didn't either, because soon enough, he started fighting back too.
Sure, there is something to be said for staying together, whether you deal with your issues or not, but how are you made more complete, whole and ultimately, holy? How is that real? What is real about that? We are all afraid to get in the game for different reasons, but none of the excuses are good enough if you ask me.

We all get ourselves in crappy situations, whether it be by choice or by chance. Life happens to all o f us and it's hard sometimes. It's un-fun, yes, that's a word. But in those times, fight for yourself, fight for what your heart can learn. Fight for a bigger picture. Fight for a brighter day. Fight for answers, there just might be some. Ask questions, dig deep. Confront yourself and others. Seek. Search. Rest. Get angry. Get sad. Feel what you feel. Get your hands dirty so to speak. Don't sweep it under the rug because you don't "want to go there". I'm telling you, it's worth going there. Kick and scream. Get in the game. Find a solution. Do what it takes, really. You might not get your desired, perfectly imagined outcome, but at least you can say you did it all, felt it all, said it all, and you didn't go down without some blood, guts and glory. Face yourself and others. Pray. Read. Write. Find solitude. No matter what, or where you find yourself, let the less than ideal situations that are so painful to walk through, teach you something you don't know yet! We have to go THROUGH NOT AROUND to solve things sometimes and to arrive at a healthier, better place.

No excuse is a good excuse.

If I hadn't kicked and screamed a bit in the last 4 months, I wouldn't be where I am today. If I would have held all I felt and experienced in, I would still be mulling and whining. I have almost arrived to a place where I am close to being done whining. Are you?

Your external outcome, meaning the world around you, where you live, who you live with, where you work etc.. might not change. But if you change and fight and kick and scream until you are done dealing with what you're dealing with, you'll go places internally far beyond what you need externally. That's why "peace like a river" changes everything. Because externally it could all be falling apart around you, but if your fighting for inner peace, and a more whole you, it won't matter. The outside doesn't have to change the inside.

when this quote says "work around it" it doesn't mean skip it, like sweep it under
the rug. they are saying, find a new way to live with it.

I've learned the hard way that in the darkness, better vision usually grows. But I have to be the one looking.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Peace Like A River

The little orange arrow button in blogger that says below it "New Post" has been hit. Gosh, it's been, what, 3 months? Hi there friends. Thank you for being so patient with me as I go through some craziness in my life. The kind of craziness that only allows for waking up each morning and putting one foot in front of the other and that being about all you can plan for the day, for months straight...that kind of craziness. I have been thinking nonstop, "where will I ever, ever start", as far as blogging and writing. It's all been so overwhelming that too much is flooding through me to even think clear or feel clear for that matter. Let alone write clear. We'll see what happens here. I did hit the "New Post" button after all.

Life is rarely about the circumstances. Or let me rephrase that, it shouldn't in my opinion be all about the circumstances. But we do it, we make it so much about them. What's going on in our lives, how are jobs are going, how bills are coming along, how we are kids are behaving, if we get a new car, new house, new clothes. If we are going to a party, if we get to wear a pretty dress to the party, if we get voted MVP at work or on a team. If we have lost weight and can fit into "those" jeans now or again. If we get raises, if someone likes us, if someone hates us. If we get praised or if we get put down. If we are noticed or if we are unnoticed. And on and on and on. Pick your own.

Thing is, I am fully aware of life having super high moments/times and super duper low times/moments. Deaths, births, losses, illness, accidents. And in those times it's natural for feelings, of course to fluxuate! Don't misunderstand me! God gave us emotions, we were made to feel. When something is cause for highest celebrations, celebrate! When things are cause for lowest mourning, mourn. Go through it.

I was sitting in my new little nook area the other day which is basically my living room and my kitchen, well, I guess you could say it's my office too LOL. I was eating breakfast and looking out my amazing kitchen window that was open so I could hear and see the birdies in my eucalyptus tree-never thought I'd say THAT--And I thought, "I feel at peace, so much peace." And then I thought if this move across country had happened even 3 years ago, I wouldn't have the peace I experience today. God was working. I didn't realize, (I don't realize half of what He's up to), was preparing my heart for this. At least that's one of the things He was doing. God was using the drama, trauma and pain in my life then and in those certain hard times (mainly my health and marriage and my daughter going off to college), to create a peace that surpasses all understanding in me NOW!
There I sat, in mid-morning, feeling total peace regardless of my current, tough, trying circumstances. It didn't matter that all around me were things I'd rather not have be, what mattered was internally how I was handling it and how I actually feel at total peace.

It doesn't matter who is with me (and let me tell you, I am longing to be with my family and friends, I ache for them), or who is not with me. It doesn't matter what size this apartment is, and how much strife it's brought me trying to make our lives work in this tiny space. It doesn't matter that I've literally had to throw AWAY my possessions because I don't have the energy to sell them and we have no car to go donate them. It doesn't matter that I am in bed at least 3 times a week because of all the exhaustion from walking and moving. It doesn't matter that the comforts of what I know have been stripped away (not totally, I found some comforting things the other day while unpacking that reminded me of home personally), it doesn't matter that Nell's was full of fleas and I had to pick them off and comb through him non-stop. It doesn't matter that doing laundry in the dingy basement of our apartment is expensive ($2 to wash, $1.75 to dry), and hauling it up and down is tough. It doesn't matter if the rap music upstairs or the Amazon bird downstairs is driving me crazy! What matters is what's anchoring the peace in my heart and why!

For me, Jesus is the only anchor for my soul. But I dare you to search. Seek. Find out for yourself what peace is. Because it's "not out there" in a world that is constantly up and down. Jesus is the PRINCE OF PEACE for crying out loud! So I think I'll choose that, Him.

The song "It Is Well With My Soul" is the ultimate ultimate of peace thriving in someone's heart. I am not there yet. Yes, I am content with what will come of me when I die, but I am not ready to die even though I know this. But, "When peace like a river, attendeth my soul" I do feel and relate too. A river is typically smooth, calm, it's not like a roaring wave the ocean provides. It's peaceful, it's anchored, it's not moved. We don't have to be either.

If you want to know how I'm doing? I'd say not all good and not all bad! I'm a mixture of everything and still smack dab in the middle of a transition! But you can rest assured that I am at peace.

"Ego says, "Once everything falls into place, I'll feel at peace." Spirit says, "Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place."
Marianne Williamson 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Places I've Been

I've been to some of the darkest places a human would 
rather not. I've felt the hands of evil, as a young child and
as a grown woman.
Hands that had the power 
for many years to rule my mind 
and my life.
I've had drama in friendships and relationships end poorly.
I've been to dark places in my marriage. 
Where I've barricaded myself
in the closet, with intentions to never exit.
I've gone to the place of utter despair in regard to
my own personal view of myself, through
eating disorders and physical harm.
Self hate is no place to be.
I've hidden in a dark cave, covered in shame.
Physically, I've experienced more
pain than most humans will ever feel in
their lifetime.
I've gone to places in my heart, I never thought I could, both
pretty and ugly. I've lusted,
been envious,
and stole.
I've forgiven, been forgiven, shown mercy, gave grace and 
lived a life of compassion. Those are unnatural to us
humans most of the time.
I allowed to let my self and God take me there.
I've been transformed internally and
 am embracing character building
all the day long.
But I've never been away from my physical elements for more
than weeks at a time.
I've never lived without my husband for an extendeded
amount of time.
I didn't expect my daughter to not spend a holiday 
with her family, but with a man that torments her soul.
These are places I did not expect to go.
I've never been a soldier, leaving behind his family
to serve his country.
I've never been a missionary, living abroad away from
all that's familiar.
I've never even been a college student, living out of my 
element for four years.
I've never had a job transfer.
Aside from being evicted as a single mom,
I've been lonely, desperate, burned out and at my witts end.
I've been mean, rude, and uncharming.
I've always had physical element comforts right with me.
I can be up in arms completely out of whack and all
mixed up, and 
still be ok knowing
 that my real landing place is God's heart.
I could be in a card board box on the corner of Hennepin
in the middle of a Minnesota winter, and still not be shaken.
That's how anchoring God's peace and love is.
He's showing me a new thing, and I'm not liking it so much.
But I need to go to more places, 
if I'm to be used for my highest purpose.
I didn't want to go to the other places either, but
the evil in the world provided some of those
and God pulled me through and brought beauty out of it all.
He'll do the same for this.
I just have to believe.
And I do.
We must go to the places we are unsure of, and trust that God
will use us in the process and in the outcome.
Going to unseen, unknown, unfamiliar places, bring
about goodness, and beauty if we let it.
Consider it a privilege.
At least that's what I'm doing.
Anything that is hard, is worth it.
I challenge you to go there.
Ya, you'll be mixed up and out of sorts like
I am, but you'll land safely to a new place, showing
and teaching you all you need to know.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Marriage:A Paradigm Shift

Disclaimer: This post or "advice" does not apply to women/men that are in a domestic abuse situation. I do not condone that behavior and would never suggest to stay in a relationship as so.

As per usual, I'm going to get pretty honest with you. Some people have wondered and asked why I talk about my marriage the way I do. There are two reasons. The first is because I don't know any other way to be. For me, personally, I don't feel I am being true and living authentically if I put on a show or pretend my marriage is OK, or even great, when it was not for many years. That's just me though, I am not saying everyone thinks or feels that way. For me, I have got to be real, I don't know any other way to live. And being real, means being transparent, open and vulnerable enough to share and keep it out in the open. Now there are a few things that I have not shared, that I will be writing in my book.
The second reason I share is because I want to be a vessel for others. I hope to generate hope for others in their marriages or in their own personal life. I wouldn't be sharing if I didn't see the need and I didn't hear the need--people have reached out, they want to hear from me. I am no expert, but I have been through hell and back for 7 years in my marriage and I made a nearly impossible thing work. I know others struggle, and others need our stories, because it brings them hope, it helps them to realize they are not alone.

When I met my husband almost 14 years ago, I thought he was and was going to be my "knight and shining armor"! I  had such high hopes and high expectations. He was bound to fail me.

I basically had a plan written out for him as to how he was going to behave and love me. And if he didn't do it that way, I'd sure make him. What a fool I was.

I put so much pressure on my husband for such unrealistic things, and when the pressure sunk in, he started to sink too. Now I am not saying it's my fault for his behaviors, I am just setting up a picture for all of you. The only person responsible for their behaviors is the person themselves.
I am going to share with you what has worked for me through the years, I'm not going to re-write about what happened because I wrote about that here , here, here, here, here , here, and here.

I don't think I am alone in saying that either my marriage specifically has not gone the way I thought it would or that my spouse specifically is not what I thought I wanted or I am disappointed in my spouse. However you want to spin it or word it, I know I am not alone in frustration, disappointment, heartache, and confusion. I want to offer you some insight that has helped me for the last 6 years or so. I say my wilderness time in marriage for me was about 8 years. I consider myself out of suffering and out of the wilderness to date.

1.) Look within-Find it in your soul to get brave and look within instead of looking at him. What I mean by this is stop looking and seeing all that is wrong with HIM and look at finding some things that might be wrong with you. It's one of the hardest tasks, but the most rewarding. I was so focused on all my husband wasn't giving me, what he was doing wrong, what he wasn't saying, and on and on that I needed to stop all of that in it's tracks---even though a lot of it was wrong and not ok of him---I needed to stop. I was out of control by constantly zeroing in on his faults and his poor behaviors and I wasn't doing myself any favors by doing this. When I say look within, I mean pray, seek, ask. Ask God to reveal your heart, look for something that you might not have seen before. Look for your own shortcomings so you can find a way to improve upon them. What I'm basically saying is find the things that you are doing that might not be helping, but hurting. Ouch, that's hard. We all have our own ugliness to deal with, we just are afraid to go there. I'm saying go.

2.) Your Husband Is Human-Seems simple right? Obvious? Well it wasn't to me. Gosh, I pegged my husband as Superman. Eye yuy yuy. But what girl doesn't want her Superman or a super hero? I put so much of what was impossible on him. It wasn't until he fell flat on his face in sin and mental illness and shattered my world that I realized that he was human. Just a regular, ol', fallen, broken, messed up human. It was not easy seeing my husband on his knees begging for mercy--actually it was one of the most beautiful things I ever did see, but not easy to see before me. Gaining the perspective that my husband is fallen, broken, fleshy, messed up, confused and in need of God, was the start of some things for me. I was able to muster up compassion.I was able to see him as I saw myself--just a helpless girl who needed a Savior and love, forgiveness and grace.

3.) Back off-This is one of the things I say the most to people that ask. Just leave your husband alone. I see how us women can handle things. Especially after we've been wronged or hurt. We have our obnoxious comments, we get little jabs in, we remind him of all he's done wrong, we try to change and fix him and his issues, it's never ending. We have endless "add-ons" and we need to just zip it. I had to back off because my husband was not hearing one word for 4 years practically. I literally tried to get him to hear me in every possible way you can imagine for 4 years straight. It wasn't happening. I learned through counseling how to live and manage and it worked for me. And today my husband has come around, but that does not mean every man will. I desperately needed him to hear me and for him to understand me, but it wasn't happening. He couldn't hear me because of the place he was at internally, (that's a whole other blog post). And whatever he needed to hear, whether I was right or wrong, it couldn't come from me. Sometimes our husbands can't hear it from us.
I had to edit myself like you wouldn't believe. It was a constant state of editing, you'd think I was a producer or something. I backed off, took care of myself, and decided to start hoping. Hope is hard sometimes because it's almost like we are hoping for a particular outcome, that may or may not happen. But I was ok with that, because hope is all I had. It takes bravery to hope.
So now that I have just told you to leave your husband alone and let him or someone else deal with his issues, let's move onto number 4.

4.) Ask Direct Questions-Whenever I would hear the phase, "He can't read your mind" I never understood what that meant. But what it means is we think that if it is perfectly clear in our minds how something should be or how something should go down, whether with the kids, or dinner or whatever plans we are thinking, we assume he agrees, and sees it exactly like we do. I'm here to tell you he doesn't. Not at all. A man's brain and a woman's brain are like complete opposites. It's annoying, I know. I can not begin to tell you how differently he thinks than you do. What is simple and plain as day easy to do to you, is not at all for him. And communicating is no easy thing either especially when you have kids calling your name all day long. But if you can gain this perspective, I swear you can gain the whole world!!! Not only are men and women's brains different, which means they are wired differently, but just as mere humans even in same gender relationships they have the same kind of issues because we are all different. Our family lives growing up, our life experiences, our life happenings and our beliefs...all shape who and how we are. I'm basically saying that we all think differently and we all process differently so we can't expect that our spouse will think like we do and process like we do. Yet we seem to expect them to? We can be passive aggressive or assume they know what we want. I'm telling you they probably don't! I know in a perfect world they would know what we want already but it doesn't work that way! We  have got to give them room to be who they are, without our strong, controlling personalities trying to make it be a certain way. If you want something done, ask him if he can or will do it. Yes, he "should" be doing things around the house and he "should" know to do it, but he doesn't. Or at least for some reason, he won't. SO, let's deal in realities. Ask him straight up a direct question, so you get a YES OR NO answer. If he says no, find someone else to do it, or do it yourself. And move on. Again, right or wrong, doesn't necessarily matter, because we are dealing with reality. Then make sure there is a plan that you both agree on and that you both know how something will go down. This will cause a lot less heartache, trust me.

5.) Share How You Feel-When you want to tell your husband that something isn't good between the two of you, or that something is hurting you, go ahead. Just make sure you tell him in a healthy way, using "I" statements. Don't point the finger at all he isn't doing and all he's doing wrong, that will make things worse. Focus on speaking from your heart and your point of view, and leave it at that. He may get defensive, he may not. If he does get defensive, at least you did your part in speaking up and that's all you can do. Typically, if you give your husband/spouse enough breathing room without attacking him with too many words, he will come around. Give him the space he needs to think and be and react. Us women are so strong and forceful, we need to relax. I think because of our perfectionism, and idealism when it comes to the household and children, we are very harsh with our husbands. I have found the more I back off and give him time, the more he will come around. But remember when you are sharing how you feel, keep the focus on you, not him, otherwise it turns into nagging and criticism.

6.) You Won't Get All You Want/Need-This is a hard pill to swallow. It was very difficult for me to learn this. But when I did, it helped me cope so much. I even learned that not one girlfriend alone can give me all I want. What a novel thought! It just means that each person has different values, gifts, and contributions. We are all looking for ways to get our needs met and one of the main ways we do that is by putting that all on our spouses. And it is not going to happen. If there is something you want from him that you aren't getting, ask him about it first, and then look for other sources. I am talking about possibly emotional support that you want, but your husband doesn't seem to give it to you. Or maybe you wish he was funny and you want some humor in your life, well, you might have to go find someone else that will make you laugh! Maybe you wish your husband was a shopper, but he's not, that's ok, find someone that will shop with you! There are many examples of ways we are not getting our needs or wants met. We can do something about it. I was naive and had watched too many fairy tale movies I guess.

7). You Always Have A Choice-I am not here to tell you that you have to stay in a marriage that you are just completely unfulfilled or unhappy in. I'm actually not here to tell you anything, I am just here to share with you a bit I have gained from the hell I lived in. This is MY PERSONAL experience and my story, it doesn't mean it's the same for you! This is what I had to do to survive. I made a choice to stay in the marriage because I could not support myself financially and I had health issues. Had I not, who's to say I would not have left? Now I stay because I want to be married to my husband and he ended up coming around in his own time. I changed before he did. So this is not easy work. And sometimes they don't come around, and sometimes we never change. It's always a choice to change or not change. To do the hard work, or to not. To stay or to not. You have a choice. It's an option. But I wouldn't leave until you have literally gone down"kicking and screaming". Most things are ugly before they become beautiful, just like a butterfly. Cheesy, but true. The process for that cocoon is not pretty, or easy. But if you are willing to literally give it all you've got and make a fool out of yourself along the way, I'd say you have a fat chance. I, at one point even left and went to a women's shelter, and I was not being physically abused. I was so judged for that. People thought I was crazy. But I was welcomed there with my 15 year old daughter because I was being emotionally, mentally and financially abused. He promised changes when I returned, and that didn't happen. So I dove into counseling and focused on myself and my kid, and got my mind and heart exposed and healed and learned to deal with my reality. Not what I wanted, or what I mourned, or what should be or what was wrong, but with REALITY. So much of the time we don't want to deal with realities, because we wish things were different. But reality is all we have. I promise you, it's better to deal in reality than fantasy.

Learning and grasping that my husband was not my GOD or Savior was one of the hardest things for me to grasp! I have always wanted rescuing! I have always wanted to be treated like a princess. I looked to my husband for this and it did not happen. Only my God could be my god. And when I was being drawn completely away from my husband, I was being completely drawn to God. God took it all and all that was broken and not of His plan was shaken to the point of being brought back to Him through reconciliation. Complete restoration. I do not believe God caused this, but He used it. It was our broken humanness that caused our mess. And we brought it all back to the only one that can heal, and redeem. We surrendered our hearts and minds. All in His will and ways and all for His glory. Without that, I wouldn't be writing this post. We knew only God could take something so twisted and ugly and make it worthy and beautiful. With open hands, honest hearts and seeking minds, God will work. I hope you're ready. Nothing is beyond repair!