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“I don’t know if you know who you are until you lose who you are.” Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift “I Knew You Were Trouble” via MTV.com

So I’m sitting on my porch right now determining if I should brave the cold to go outside and look for meteors. Who doesn’t like shooting stars, as long as they aren’t headed towards you? And I’ve only seen a few in my lifetime thus far. And it feels like something nice to do tonight. So if you guys sit outside right after I post this we can sit out together and watch for shooting stars. But I’m probably going to be a little mad when you see them and I don’t.

The quote in the title is at the end of the video for Taylor Swift’s new song, “I Knew You Were Trouble.” I like this song. I like this concept a lot. In life we tend to learn a lot by making mistakes. Taking the wrong roads is one of the ways we learn the most about ourselves. We learn about how we react, how far we will go in situations we often thought we’d never see ourselves in to begin with. Not getting lost takes an active effort to constantly be finding your way out. Ironically enough I think it was a shooting star that helped get me lost on a journey one night that lasted far longer than it ever should have. But on that night, he walked in the doorway, and in my head my only thought was, “God I hope he’s the reason we’re here tonight.” And it turned out he was. So we went for a walk along the beach, which at that time was still unlit, because a year prior the hurricane had knocked out the road, the power lines and the majority of the houses and businesses in the area. It started out cloudy, and as we got down by the water, the clouds opened up, and like magic I looked up and there was this stupid shooting star that I made a stupid wish on. And I spent nearly 4 years trying to figure out why and how to walk away for good. But I did know he was trouble when he walked in. I just didn’t know how to walk back out back then.

It’s strange to talk about , because it’s been about two years since I’ve felt much of any way about him, but as I look back,  I was singing along to a different song the other night wondering what it was that made me care so much for so long, or what it was that had made me so sad before (the song was “Sad”  by Maroon 5, so these were very appropriate thoughts) and it turned out the reason I was sad was because he chose not to love me. It’s not that he didn’t, or that he couldn’t, it’s that he made the choice not to. And that’s the choice that everyone gets to make. That’s what makes everything such a gamble. That’s why the stakes are so high. Because at any point at any time someone can choose to walk away. Family, friends, relationships have a habit of changing, and we have a habit of leaving people behind. But it’s when the stakes are high that we feel most alive. There’s something in there when you go all in that makes you want to believe. It lights you up. It’s explosive. It’s life-changing. And sometimes we really don’t know how to get back to who we were, because we never really knew who we were before. And maybe we can never really know who we are, because we are constantly changing and life is constantly pushing and pulling. But it’s those battles that in getting past everything so there’s a clearing out there and we can look back and see who we are at that moment in that time, and that’s how we can see who we want to be. Because if we don’t know where we are starting from, we have no way to know where to go. And sometimes the stars lead us astray because until we’re lost, we can’t be found.

Now let’s go look at the stars! (Unless it’s daylight where you are… in which case I hope it’s a beautiful day!)

And if you need a book to read while you’re waiting on the stars, or some Christmas shopping to finish up while you’re waiting, you know, buy this. 🙂

What’s his name?

Since writing my book, the number one thing people ask me is, “Who was the boy?” My response is always I can’t remember anymore.  It’s been interesting, because even though I know I wrote about him, I didn’t actually think about the fact that I would be talking about him to people. And even though I don’t normally tell anyone who he was, it’s a really strange thing to go back to. Made stranger by his random reappearances as well, but that’s not the point.

One of the things I usually end up talking to people about is whether or not I think it’s possible to find that more than once. For a long time I really wasn’t sure that you could have that again. That you could have that connection, that intensity, or just the easy familiarity upon meeting. Lots of people refer to him as my soul mate. I don’t. But that’s partial bitterness that I’m working on leaving behind. But with each day that passes (and with each interaction I have with him) I’m reminded more and more that it would make no sense for it to not be possible to have that more than once. I think the biggest issue is being closed off to it after the first time.

It’s hard to reopen your heart, it’s hard to even want to envision a world differently than you had when your heart was open. But it’s possible. And it’s important. Because even if we were left broken, we have the capacity to pick up the pieces and come back to life. We can come back stronger than we were before. We can go places with more courage, more faith, more hope, because we already know how to be open. We already know how to love. We know how to look and see where we need to grow, who we need to be to find a path that will last. One that fulfills us. One that reminds us we are whole just as we are. And we will invite people who are the same. People who won’t run, people who won’t lie, people who won’t make it a point to destroy the things they love, as long as we make it a point to come back better and stronger. (PS please take heed to, “When someone shows you who they really are, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelou) So it never really matters about ole what’s his name anyway. Being open was up to you. Being open is still up to you. And anytime we begin a journey more wise than the first time we tried, the potential for reaching our goal is increased exponentially. So take the time to grow stronger. To reach higher. And to remind yourself that you were always whole to begin with.

Getting there: It’s just like riding a bike (and promptly crashing it into a wall!)

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When I think of how many times I’ve had to restart my plans sometimes it feels like trying again is absolutely useless! It seems like every time I start to get going where I want to go, something happens that sets me back. Whether it’s a trip to the hospital, a refusal of help when I really feel like I need it, or a lovely company opting to “go a different route,” things constantly come up that force me to start back again down the road having to find an alternate route.

There are times when I literally think crashing into a wall would be a better option than this continuous struggle to get back up and find a new path. It happens so much with writing, because this is one of the hardest paths I’ve had to travel down. There’s so much life happening all the time that I think it gets to be too much. It’s hard to struggle to get to a place where Jack and I will be okay on our own. And I worry a lot that I’m not traveling down the right path for us. But I think the only way to teach him not to give up on his dreams is to not give up on mine.

In life I see person after person come to me about their careers. People ask me about their careers more than anything else. It’s frustrating to see so many people who want to accomplish their dreams, but have found it too hard to keep starting over. And it’s understandable. It’s hard to constantly try to find your way, and to see that every time a door closes there are other options and that you SHOULD take them. Everyone has a breaking point. And sometimes a break does allow for a chance to refocus. To find more drive and clearer direction for where we need to go. We have to determine what we can give up and what we can’t. The path is filled with introspection and action. Both have to work together.

It’s similar to a relationship. Which the title completely applies to as well! (at least for me!) Relationships have their ups and downs. Some relationships have to end, and we have to start again. It’s important to not make the same mistakes repeatedly. To constantly be learning and growing, so that we can find the person we actually want to be with, instead of the person like the others who it didn’t work out with. These paths are so instrumental to our happiness and well-being that their importance cannot be overlooked. We have to know ourselves well enough to know where we want to go, and who we want to go there with. We have to be able to get back on board and ride with fluidity, avoiding the bumps and holes and walls!

The nice thing about riding a bike, is once you get back on it, it has the capacity to get you where you want to go. From climbing the Alps to down along the shoreline. When we know figure out where we are going, the transportation is already in place. So even though it seems hard to jump back on, it really does get easier. We acclimate more quickly. We can maneuver more precisely with each time we choose to ride again. So even though there are walls, and we seem to crash a lot, we have the chance to recover, and get back up better equipped than we were before. Where there’s a wall, there’s a way around it 🙂

Part 2 of forgiveness continued from yesterday

And I think with each realization, I began to release that fear a little bit more, and a little bit more. I tried it again the next day and the next. Until I finally felt like I was able to really let go of all of the angst that I felt about school and the way things happened when I was younger. I decided it was time to try something bigger.

Figuring out a way to forgive someone who I didn’t know, as my uncle’s murder case had gone on unsolved, was a very hard thing to do. I didn’t know his face or his name. I just knew that in a matter of seconds he sent more fear through me than anyone I had ever met. He took away the most precious gift we have. He was callous and cruel. And forgiving that seemed an impossibility and probably not a necessity. But somewhere in me, I knew that I had to find a way to stop letting fear rule over me.

I honestly don’t know that I have completely let go today, although I feel that I have. I’m fairly sure that since forgiveness like most things is probably a continuous process the fear will reemerge from time to time. But what I was able to do by saying that I was letting go of all of the hurt and fear that you’ve caused me over my life was to take back control of who I wanted to be. I was no longer going to be scared with so much of me stuck in place by the actions of that person. I wasn’t saying what happened was okay. It was not. It was and will always be a horrific, unnecessary act. But letting that act interfere in my life by continuing to worry, hate, and fear was no longer going to happen. My uncle was not living in fear and hate anymore. He is no longer bound by such human emotions. He simply exists in love, and to honor him, I should try my best to, as well.

Maybe it’s easier not knowing who to blame. But there was a time when I would look at everyone and think, “It could have been you.” Or I would refuse to look at anyone, because I was completely unwilling to let anyone in at all. To be in the place I am at now, where I’m no longer afraid to live and look people in the eye is amazing to me, because sometimes I was worried I’d never get here. The place I am at would have never been possible without the option of forgiveness. Forgiveness gave me the means to take my life back. It was able to help me restore my joy and my ability to love. It has truly made all of the difference in the world.

Even when I do have moments where I go back and I feel like I did back then, they are fleeting. I know they won’t last even when I’m experiencing them. That is the most wonderful change of all I think. Living in happiness, feeling worthy of what I have is something I hope I never trade in for fear again.

As for the boy I loved, I forgave him initially a long time ago. Maybe it sounds pretentious and maybe sometimes it didn’t seem true, but the day I asked for the rainbow, I had also asked for forgiveness. I wanted it for me and for him. And my experiences with him are the most prominent reminder I have that those moments of unforgiveness do reoccur, but I always have the capacity to utilize my self-control and refuse to allow any of the things either one of us have done in the past to keep me down.

At my very core, I wish him the best. I want him to believe in himself and to experience all of the wonderful things there are to experience here. And although for a time it felt like it was necessary for me to be there and see those things through with him, I did finally get to a point where it doesn’t matter if I ever know. I don’t want those things because I want to be with him. I want those things because I refuse to be angry and upset with him. That only stifles us both. I want them because he’s worthy of feeling this joy and chasing his dreams, too. With forgiveness I can choose love over fear.

When it comes to forgiving myself, it really is a challenge sometimes. What we have when working internally is the insight that we knew better ahead of time. When I made choices that were not consistent with the things I wanted in my life, it was always hard to feel like I should be forgiven for those choices. But when it came to forgiving myself for putting Jack in the position he is in, that was the hardest thing for me to do. We label someone a liar after only one lie, but how many truths must a person tell to be labeled honest. The negative is just so easy to hold on to.

Sometimes I still go back and note that I really did know ahead of time that I could do things differently. I didn’t have to listen to what the people around me were saying. I didn’t have to listen to what his father was saying. I had the chance to say no. And I didn’t. I gave in. I let go. And I hurt the person whose life I was responsible for. I cried many, many times trying to think of how it could even be conceivable to forgive myself for that. I wasn’t asking Jack to. I knew that was far too much to ask of him. But I also realized that keeping that guilt and holding onto that self-contempt was unhealthy for both of us. We both needed me to be the mom he deserved, and the only way to do that was to choose to let go of that pain.

I had to forgive myself, because holding onto something I couldn’t change was irrational and detrimental to our progress. I was determined to love him. I was determined to be the best mother I could for him. And to do that I had to choose to forgive. Sometimes I do still get a little overwhelmed, but I know how to bring myself back to where I need to be for us both. Back to forgiveness. Back to self-worth.

I promise not to publish such long posts again. But I had a lot of people asking me about forgiveness and if they thought it was real, or if it could truly happen, and I felt it would be good to just go ahead and post the chapter, because it does matter. It does happen. It is real. And it makes all the difference.

Chapter 16 – Freedom in Forgiveness

This post is a little long, I apologize. And it’s the first of two posts on forgiveness, because I’ve had a lot of people asking me about the subject lately. And I touched on it a bit yesterday, but decided to go with the long answer today, and that comes in the form of the first half of chapter 16 which is dedicated to the subject in my book. And here’s the post:

I think there is probably nothing that I have learned that has been as helpful as learning the importance of forgiveness. When I used to look back over my life, the list of people who had treated me unfairly was pretty long. I remembered everything, every conversation, every mean look. I knew who said what, who did what, even back to elementary school. I could go through them in my head, which I did somewhat often while I was in middle school and high school. I held on to the anger and the fear, and I would sit and remember why I was holding onto it.

These were people who were mean to me for no reason. I hadn’t done anything wrong. Or in the case of family incidents, I was right and they were wrong (I can’t help that this is ALWAYS the case – please note my sarcasm here). But there were people and times where our interactions made me feel like absolutely nothing at all. I felt so overlooked, and at times so betrayed, that forgiveness was nowhere on my radar. The things that happened to me were wrong. And I should be angry. I should hate them. But what holding onto that hurt and anger did was keep me right where I was.

Every time I thought about the things that had happened I was that girl, in that moment, feeling that hurt and scared. I never really snapped out of it. I let those things rule over me. I let my emotions get overrun, because I became too afraid to even want to be close to anyone. I felt unworthy, because all of those people on my list wouldn’t have treated me as they had if this weren’t the case. And it wasn’t until I was removed from the situation, I graduated and left for college, that I came to realize that the stuff that happened, for the most part, really did not need to continue to affect me.

As long as I let those thoughts and those actions rule over me I was letting the fear win. I allowed the treatment of kids who felt just as awkward and fearful (otherwise the interactions would have never taken place) to make me feel like I deserved to be treated that way. I had a small, but wonderful group of friends, all of whom I still try to keep in touch with today, but even with them, I didn’t really understand why they were my friends. I felt like they had so much more going for them than I did.

I was lost, because I was fearful. They all had plans, and I was absolutely certain they would fulfill them. I wasn’t the friend I could have been, because I knew they’d probably leave me behind. It’s not a good way to live your life, being that fearful. And the feelings I had were in large part due to my inability to forgive, because I couldn’t forget or overlook how I felt in those moments where I was hurt. Forgiveness is a continuous process. We have to forgive others and forgive ourselves. I used to think one was more difficult to do than the other, but I think they are fairly equal in their difficulty.

When Dr. Eger came and spoke to our Personality Theories class, she talked about forgiveness. She said that every night she prayed for the Nazi members who took her and her family captive, and who killed all but two of them. She and her sister were the only survivors. She told us that feeling guilty, because we didn’t have to go through what she went through was useless. And she was right, although this was very hard for me to comprehend. Comparing our lives to others does nothing but confuse us and give us excuses to stay where we are. She said we all have the option to be happy. But we cannot be happy if we don’t forgive.

I didn’t know how to imagine her forgiving those men for what they put her through. I didn’t know if she really had done so or not. But I believed that if anyone knew what they were talking it about when it came to forgiveness, it was quite likely to be her. That summer after I made the decision that I wanted to be happy, I decided that at 23, I wanted to start forgiving people for what had happened in my life and just try and see where it led me. I didn’t really know how to forgive, so I remember just sitting in my room praying and saying to the universe silently, that I forgive you. I am letting go of all of that fear and hurt. It doesn’t matter anymore, I thought. What good is it doing me to hold on?

“Whisper words of wisdom, Let it Be”

We were watching the Queen’s Jubilee Concert tonight, and Paul McCartney was singing “Let It Be” and Jack recognized it as the Beatles. He said that was his favorite Beatles song, and I agreed. Normally I just indulge him, but in this case it was true. I love “Let It Be” and though I find it excessively difficult to distinguish favorites most of the time, and even moreso when there are so many great songs to choose from, “Let It Be” has been my favorite Beatles song since I first heard it.

It was written at a time when there was lots of turmoil going on in their personal and professional lives. They disbanded shortly after, and the song is sort of an anthem to the end. And it got me thinking about how life has to move in waves. Things have to end regularly for us to continue on in our lives. Friendships end. Relationships end. Parental roles change. Jobs change. The tide continuously turns and churns. And we have to be able to let go of those things that will inevitably come to an end. And we need to let go of those things that we are allowing to hold us back. When we look back over the years we can see just how quickly life does move. And if we aren’t moving with it, it’s easy to feel left behind. Our friends and family move on to other things. Our focuses change. They grow as life grows. Our interests change. Our habits change. Life in its nature is full of letting go.

Distinguishing between what to hold onto and what to let be can be difficult. We have to work for the things we want to keep. We have to work on ourselves. Work on our relationships. And work on our careers. But we have to be aware of what it is in our lives that we haven’t let go of that may be holding us back. Sometimes it’s as simple as an argument that we are holding a grudge over. Sometimes it’s a turn down a path we didn’t plan do go down. It can be holding out simply because we don’t want to be wrong. Whatever the case, when we are holding on to things that are holding us back it makes it nearly impossible for us to be happy in our lives. We have to learn to let go and let it be. It’s funny, because there is a tremendous freedom in letting go and letting it be. I have never found more peace in life than when I finally let go of the things that were holding me back the most whether it was through forgiveness or simply no longer holding out and giving up who I wanted to be for a relationship, the freedom that accompanied finally letting go was amazing. We can do things to help ourselves. We can do things to learn to let it be. And it’s important that we take the time to do them. Because no matter what you are searching for or fighting for, there will be an answer, if you just let it be 🙂

I also want to thank the following bloggers for nominating me for the following awards…I do appreciate all of the kindness you all have shared with me on this blog journey! 🙂

The Reader Appreciation Award

anotherbattle.wordpress.com

Thanks for writing award

http://mysoulfulhealing.wordpress.com/

Day 6 – Somewhere between love and fear

After attending the wedding last night and thinking a lot about relationships and love in general this weekend, I’m going to share a little bit of what my failed attempt at love looked like in contrast to what love might actually be. If any of you know better, feel free to chime in, as I’m extremely open to learning these days 🙂

There was a point in our “relationship” (I refer to it this way, because it really never was one) towards the beginning where I remember thinking to myself, “I’d give up everything if we could just be together.” And I meant it. I would let go of every dream, everything I wanted to do, all of the places I wanted to go, if we could just work. If we could be together, and I could settle and teach or something like that, and he could be whatever he wanted, and I’d just love him. That’d be all I needed. He’d be all I needed, because we’d be together. I’d have what I always wanted. Someone who let me love him, who I knew was capable of loving me, and one day I might coax him into actually doing so.

 I could have the struggle of love that they talked about. I could have the fight. I could stick through it all. I could withstand it all. I could give up my life and change his. I could lose myself and live just for him, and one day he’d be grateful and realize and love me back. But that’s a very dangerous thing to want. It’s funny, because I think the idea comes from fairytales and romance, but mixed with the basic struggles of life. There’s always a grand gesture where someone is willing to give up everything to stay with the other.

But the thing I think that gets overlooked is that the other person never lets that happen. Whether they end up together or are forced to let go, the thing that makes what appears before us love, is that it forces the person to do the right thing. The purpose is to build one another up. It is to see one another reach their potential. When we give up on ourselves and our dreams, we lose our purpose.

 We have so many facets to our being that need attention and care. When we begin to neglect those essential seeds, those things that make us who we are, the ones that grow us, we begin to wither on our branches. We damage our ability to create and share as our threshold begins to shrink. We can’t care for others, because we aren’t caring for ourselves. Our purpose fails to be fulfilled, and we become less fulfilling to others. We are not doing our part. We are not sharing our heart as it was meant to be shared.

We can’t give up everything for a relationship. That is not what love is about. It is about nurturing and growing one another mutually. Compromise, yes. Sacrifice, yes. But all in kind. Not one-sided. And always with the best interest of both people in mind. If the struggle serves only to bring one or both of us down, then the struggle is simply for the sake of struggle.

There is no capacity for growth when there is no foundation to grow from. Instead,  the system collapses upon itself, and digging our way out of such a mess rarely leaves a relationship intact, and even less frequently does it leave a relationship well-off. An insight that was impossible for me without deep reflection

Day 5 – Unconditional Love

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I’m sort of cheating today. I am in a wedding today, and I was at the rehearsal all last night, so I’m sharing my thoughts on love today, but from something I had previously written. It’s relevant, though I’m not talking about a wedding or a relationship in that sense. I’ve only had bad relationships, so that wouldn’t work too well right here. But I am sharing a story that describes what it was like for me to first encounter what unconditional love really meant. I hope you’ll enjoy it. And I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend, thus far!! Please share any thoughts you have on the topic!

 

I remember when I was a child that I always believed in unconditional love. I believed it existed. I believed it was something we all needed to know. I believed it was powerful. And I believed it was natural. I’m not sure where those ideas came from. I’d mostly call my upbringing one that was somewhat skeptical on the subject. And I remember thinking that there was something different about the way I thought about things compared to the people around me.

Even though I was fearful, I was always also hopeful. Down inside me, I just knew there was something great awaiting my life. I never knew what that could be, although at the time I’m sure I was hoping I’d be a singer. I just knew there was possibility. The older we get the more practical we tend to become. And after having fear wipe away the majority of my notions about me doing anything great with my life, I gave up on the idea that love could exist without problems, mainly jealousy. To that time, I had never known a friendship or any relationship really where there wasn’t some form of disappointment or some form of jealousy involved. 

When I turned 16 all of this changed. Well, maybe not all, but a major turning point did appear. My first nephew was born. When I found out that I was going to be an aunt I was so excited. I couldn’t wait. I was just thrilled. I loved kids. I was always good with them. My patience is at its best with children (at least until they become teenagers!) And to have a baby around after being the youngest child gave me the chance I never had before. I always wanted to have someone I could teach. I never had anything to teach my siblings. They were both older than me, and we were all always right. You couldn’t tell any of us anything. My main goal was simply to be better than them when it came to academics. Maybe that’s why I’m still in school. I should probably talk to someone about that. But, again I digress.

My nephew was born, and my love that I had so wanted to share with someone finally had a place. My nephew was a perfect little baby, and the day he came home from the hospital I got to spend time alone with him. I sang him Winnie-the-Pooh and hoped he didn’t cry, because I had never fixed a bottle before and wasn’t sure I could follow the instructions without burning the bottle on the stove. It was terrifying and wonderful all at once.

But I knew as I sat there with him that night that there was nothing that he could do that could possibly shake my love for him. And I wasn’t jealous. I wasn’t disappointed. I was just filled with love. I wanted great things for him. I wanted to do everything I could to help him be his best. I was excited to know him and to help him with his future. I wanted to take care of him, and I wanted him to be able to function on his own. I wanted everyone to love him. I was terribly upset at the thought that someone might ever be mean to him. I wanted to keep him safe and have him know only love, and even now sometimes I still think it’s unfortunate that life doesn’t work that way. But he was the first person who I was allowed to care for in such a way, and his presence along with my other nephews’ has helped guide me to the path I want and need to be on today.

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