Resurrection

Twenty-two months… it’s been twenty-two months since I published a blog. I started this blog two years ago with the main goal of helping myself find … well myself again. It wasn’t about anything other than that. I love to write and have found that writing my thoughts out helps me. I didn’t, and don’t, write these so anyone would read them. In fact, if I were being completely honest I am surprised that anyone ever did read them and find anything of interest or value in them, but I still wrote them because they helped me process and work through thoughts and challenges. So then, why would I ever stop you might be wondering and I guess the easy answer is peer pressure. One would think that when a person reaches the age that I have dealing with peer pressure would be a thing of the past, but apparently, at least for me, it is something that is still lingering, hanging around like that pesky fly that always seems to need to land on my hand rather than one of the five million other places it could land.

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It all started one drama filled weekend. I woke in the morning to messages and distraught emails from someone asking how I could write about them in a blog. My blogs have never been written to speak negatively about anyone. Do I have negative memories that involve people from my past? Of course, I do, for if I did not then I would most likely be completely without issues, not needing to write to work my way through any of my issues. Somehow, in my goal to write a blog about me, that had a purpose of helping me, it became all about someone else. One innocent blog and chaos ensued.

When I got the emails and messages I immediately responded that I had never intentionally written anything that I ever thought would hurt anyone. I never wrote anything that was untrue and I never used anyone’s name. I apologized profusely because I have too much empathy to ever want to cause anyone any pain. I immediately removed the post that they had found so upsetting.

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In the days and weeks that followed, I started numerable blogs but was unable to finish even one because the therapy part of it had been taken away from me amid tears, my own at the thought that I had inadvertently hurt someone, and threats. Weeks turned to months which, like a river, flowed into more than a year. Then, like the first blade of green spring grass after a long, cold, snowy winter, I pushed my way through the writer’s block and decided that it was time to reclaim my passion. Like a phoenix, I will rise from the ashes and begin to write again, for me.

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A phoenix will always rise again.

I write for me and about me. It is as simple and as complicated as that. So, if you are reading my blogs and don’t like what I have to say please move along, comment if you like as I am always up for a good debate, but know for a fact that this blog is not about you or for you. It’s all about me, and all for me and, for perhaps the first and last time in my life, I am going to be selfish and continue to do what I love because I deserve to do what makes me happy regardless of what someone else might say.

 

The Girl With the Butterfly Tattoo; My Story Isn’t Over

I am not a fan of pain. My husband is fond of saying that pain is his friend because when he feels pain he knows that he is still alive. I, however, am a baby when it comes to pain and as such had sworn innumerable times that I would never get a tattoo. So how is it possible that I am now the Girl With the Butterfly Tattoo?

The progression wasn’t a slow process. I did not begin admiring tattoos, the wonderful artistry and the means of expression they provide the person sporting them… well I did and do but that wasn’t the inspiration for my tattoo. My husband had three tattoos before he joined my tattoo day to get his fourth. I supported his decision to get each tattoo. I admired the thought that he put into each, as each was tattoo was a process for him that required thinking about the specific meaning and inspiration of each tattoo and the image that would best represent that meaning. My only requests of him were that he not become addicted and end up covered head to toe in tattoos and that he should not ever expect me to get a tattoo. I did not think that anything ever could or would make me want to get a tattoo. Why would I want to put myself through pain for no reward? Things change quickly, however, and I went from not ever wanting a tattoo to feeling like I needed one to be able to continue functioning in life in less than a week.

First, let me state, that I have blocked many things that occurred in my past. There are some things that I have had to force myself to forget for the sake of my own sanity. There are other things that are horrible to remember and, although I haven’t been able to completely lock them away, I have been able to force them into a small box in the back of my mind so that they are not able to affect my everyday life. Sometimes, something will happen and they will rear their ugly negative energy and immobilize me for a moment, and sometimes even longer. I never know when something will bring the memories forward and there came a day when I was slapped in the face by an incident which caused me to become immobilized for much longer than the normal moment. That is when I became the Girl With the Butterfly Tattoo.

Each day I interact with a myriad of young adults. I talk to them, help them to the best of my ability and I get to know them. On this particular day a young lady walked into my office appearing distraught. Now her story is not mine to tell so I will simply say that when she self-reported being the victim of a sexual assault I felt my mind and body freeze, as if all the oxygen had been sucked from the room. I forced myself to focus on her and help her in any and every way that I could while trying to forcibly shove the memories back into their little black box in the back of my mind. I managed to do everything that I needed to and could for the young lady before the walls seemingly crashed in. The rest of the day is a blur, as is most of the week. I know that a lovely coworker covered for me so I could leave my office. I remember walking out of the building and sitting in the sun, just staring at the sky for an unknown length of time. I think I called my husband to cry and I know that I had to relive everything as I typed up the mandatory incident report so that the powers that be would have everything that they needed. I also remember that the only thing in the present that was important to me at that time was making sure that the young lady knew that someone cared about her and that it was not her fault in any way.

An entire week progressed like that. The memories of a rainy night when a 17-year-old, naive, college freshman endured a similar fate some 25 years before would not be ignored. Finally, I realized that sometimes locking memories in a box is a disservice. It is the challenges in our lives that help us grow and make us stronger. Avoiding a memory did not stop it from hurting me when I least expected it. When I came to this realization I knew that this was a lesson I would need to remind myself of, but how? That’s when it came to me. I didn’t want a tattoo I NEEDED a tattoo. I NEEDED a reminder of just where I have been and what I have endured and overcome. Twenty-five years prior I did not want to go on with life but I did. I forced myself to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other every day until it felt normal to get out of bed every morning again.

Taking inspiration from my husband’s tattoo process I started thinking and researching. That is when I came across Project Semicolon. What is a semicolon? By definition, a semicolon is a punctuation mark (;) indicating a pause, typically between two main clauses, that is more pronounced than that indicated by a comma. A semicolon is a placed at that point in a sentence where an author could choose to end their sentence yet chooses to continue. A semicolon tattoo was perfect for me. Now I know that you are thinking, ‘but you said you have a butterfly tattoo”. I do. I have a butterfly who’s body is a semicolon. The butterfly represents a metamorphosis which was just what I needed, and it also represents the thyroid (which is, unfortunately, also a challenge in my life).

Two years later and my butterfly tattoo is a part of me that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It serves as a reminder of what I have overcome as well as what I can do to help others in similar situations. It reminds me that I am stronger than I think. It reminds me that My Story Isn’t Over.

 

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My butterfly semicolon tattoo and my husband’s bat semicolon tattoo.

 

 

Trust is Earned and Once Compromised It will Never Be the Same

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When I was young people use to often call me naive. Naive as Merriam-Webster defines it means having a lack of experience or knowledge, being innocent or simple. I’m not sure if I was naive, although I was young and therefore lacking in experience, or if I just so wanted to believe in the innate goodness of others and so I gave my trust too easily. What I didn’t realize, back in my younger days, is that trust needs to be earned, not given freely. As stubborn as I am, and being the eternal optimist that I am, life had to show me multiple times that just placing my trust in someone is a good way to end up hurt and taken advantage of. The problem with trust is that it is like God. You can’t see it, you can’t feel or touch it. You just have to have faith in it. I believe in God without any doubt, but through many years and many painful experiences, I have decided that when it comes to trusting someone you should always proceed with caution. Betrayal can come from the most unexpected places and I’ve dealt with it from people whom I would never have thought would lie, deceive or otherwise betray me.

People whom I have given my utmost trust and with whom I have shared my most sacred secrets have turned out to be unworthy of even receiving a minute of my time let alone my trust. Trust is an important aspect of living life. What kind of life would we have if it didn’t include at least some measure of trust? Imagine if you couldn’t trust the bus driver to take your kids to school. Couldn’t trust the teachers to teach. Couldn’t trust the bank to keep your money safe, the mailman not to steal your checks, the restaurant to serve you fresh food or your co-workers to work safely and not endanger you. If you go through life trusting no one then you are doomed to live your life as Mel Gibson’s character in Conspiracy Theory, trusting no one and believing that everyone is out to get you. Seeing danger at every turn and trying to accomplish everything on your own. Basically, we learn at a young age that we have to trust in order to get along in the world. You trust your parents because you have to in order to survive. You trust the bus drivers and teachers because your parents hand you over to them. Unless you find a friend who lies to you or you experience deceit in some other manner you would never really have a reason not to trust everyone with whom you come into contact. Sure, parents tell their children not to trust strangers and that everyone is not nice and honest but does a child really believe that unless they learn it first hand?

So out into the world I went, yes naive and trusting if that is how you would like to describe me or full of optimism in the innate goodness of people and the world, as I like to think of myself.  I trusted my high school boyfriend, he lied and cheated, and so the cycle began. I would begin a relationship with someone, give them my trust and inevitably they would betray that trust in one way or another. Once the trust was betrayed it seemed to become irrevocably broken. It wasn’t necessarily the end of the relationship, but once I found out that they had betrayed me it was pretty much impossible for me to re-establish that same level of trust. During a conversation about lies and trust with a friend a few weeks ago I pointed out how one small lie can change the entire nature of the trust that you have with someone. If someone will lie to you about something small and relatively unimportant then won’t they easily choose to lie to you about the big things? My very wise friend said to me,

“Here is what I want you to do. Take an ordinary sheet of paper. (go get one….I’ll wait…….) Crumple it up and smoosh it as hard as you can. Done yet? Now open it and try to flatten it out. Now repeat after me…trust is like a crumpled piece of paper. It can never be perfect again.”

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Lisa, my dear, I never knew you were so wise beyond your years, for you are exactly right. I’ve been lied to by friends and lovers, children, parents, and siblings. I’ve learned not to just give my trust willy-nilly and what I am currently struggling with is how do I get past a breaking of my trust? As Lisa so wisely pointed out, it can never be perfect again. I’ve heard it said that you can believe half of what you see and none of what you hear and perhaps these are good words to live by. Trust only what you know to be true by your own resources for lies and betrayal can come from directions where you never would expect them to. Love with all your heart, but still take care to guard that which you hold most precious.

Life is Never Easy

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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted. I could make excuses such as being busy or just plain being lazy, but to be honest I don’t know the reason. I started a post a couple weeks ago and have it about ninety-five percent complete but I’ve never finished it. The subject, self-confidence, is one I’m not ready to come to a conclusion on yet I guess. So what brings me here today you might be wondering. I’m kind of wondering that as well. The last two days have been a little rough and sometimes I have to question life in general.

People who know me would say that I am an optimist. In fact, I refer to myself as the eternal optimist. I am starting to realize, however, that although it is good to always look for the positive in people and situations one should always remember that no one and nothing is perfect. People, at least me and I’m sure that I am not the only person, strive for perfection. They want the perfect life. The definition of perfect may vary but everyone wants to live life in a way that makes them happy and I’m sure that they would prefer that their life be absent of drama and strife. We struggle and work towards what we want and hope that someday we can settle down into a near-perfect life.

How can we not see the rich and famous smiling for the camera, living in mansions, traveling on exotic vacations on a whim, driving fancy cars and always appearing happy and not want at least a small dose of what they have? Looking in from the outside their lives appear perfect. Of course, we also see the public figure who has issues with drugs or alcohol and we struggle to understand how they could throw away all of the wonderful things they have. Are they just so foolish that they cannot appreciate the many blessings that God has seen fit to give them? What we don’t see are the issues behind the perfect facade. In recent months we have seen beautiful, famous women whom we have always seen smiling for the camera choose to end their lives for some reason which we cannot fathom. We have seen inspiring, talented actors throw their lives away for just one more high. To us, the faceless, nameless majority, we cannot comprehend how someone who has it all could just so easily throw in the towel and walk away from the perfect life.

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What I have come to realize in the past few days is that it really isn’t ever going to happen. No one is ever going to have a perfect life. Yes, we may have blessings, but there will always be something, even if it is hidden behind a beautiful smile, that keeps life from reaching the status of being perfect. Life will always bring disappointments, generally when you least expect them. People, even loved ones, will do things that you thought they would never do. Trusts will be broken. Life hurts, it’s hard, but no one ever promised us that it would be easy.  The best we can do, any one of us, is to live for the wonderful moments and make it through the tough ones as best you can.

Words Hurt, So Why Do Some People Wield them Like a Knife?

I wonder, do some people sit around whiling away the hours trying to create phrases that will cause the ultimate pain to others? Does it bring them joy to see others hurt? Words can hurt. They can cause damage to a psyche that might not be reparable. I believe we all utter words thoughtlessly occasionally. After a conversation, we think back and realize that something we have said might be taken in a way that would be hurtful or insulting. These unintentional slights shouldn’t be taken personally and should be forgiven with little fanfare. It is not these small social faux pas which I am referencing. I am referring to the intentional vindictive comments thoughtfully and specifically designed to cause the most pain. I’ve had what feels like more than my fair share of these insensitive and downright mean comments tossed in my direction at different periods of my life and being the extremely sensitive person that I am I’ve taken most of them to heart. I can’t help but wonder why others failed to learn at some point in childhood the all-important lesson to treat others the way that you want to be treated.

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The problem is a widespread one. As a society, it’s deemed somewhat acceptable to insult others. I read a silly celebrity news article recently about a celebrity couple. The famous actor husband had cheated on the famous actress wife with a woman half her age but, the article stated, the couple was completely committed to saving their marriage. A nice sentiment and something you don’t see often in Hollywood but, as I perused the comment section this question came to my mind, as more than once readers had commented that the actress was “ugly with a horse face” so who could blame Mr. Famous Actor for cheating on her anyway. Why is this ever an acceptable comment to make? Just because the woman acts, why is it okay to insult the way that she looks? Why is it okay for the media to call a woman fat simply because she is shaped like a woman and not a preteen? They don’t call actors fat when they put on a few pounds, but as soon as an actress gains five pounds she is either pregnant or fat.

I’ve heard and read so much recently about what a problem bullying is with today’s youth. Where do we, as a society, think that they have learned not only to behave that way but that it is acceptable to do so. Our youth has seen this and learned the behavior. They’ve seen it at home, they’ve seen it as they interact in their daily lives and they have seen it often in media. I do not understand how the values of society became so lowered that it became acceptable to judge someone when you don’t know them or anything about them. Judgment seems to have become a way of life in our society. People see a homeless person on the street and obviously, they are just a lazy bum. That girl you see who has a lot of friends who are boys, well she’s obviously a whore. A man has a female friend, he’s obviously cheating on his wife. If you think someone is too pretty obviously, they had plastic surgery. If they are natural looking you point out the features that you don’t like and call them ugly. It just goes on and on without thought or care about how words can hurt.

Most people who are guilty of these offenses are amateurs in the scheme of insulting and judging. They save their evil comments and spew them forth to hurt those who have crossed them or been deemed guilty of some sort of offense, perhaps simply existing when the insulter does not like them. Personally, I have been a victim of this from people who do not even know me, have never spoken to me and know nothing about me other than some action that they have judged without knowing the truth of circumstances. I try very hard to not judge others and, if I find that I am, I make sure I do not say anything that will be hurtful. I can’t say that I am always successful but I do try more than most. I do not publicly fling insults at my exes or my husband’s ex, although I cannot say that the courtesy has been reciprocated. In my mind we have children in common and as much as I may feel an insult is warranted why should our children be subjected to and witness such behavior. What does it teach them? Not something that I want to teach my children. One of my exes once called me an evil, vindictive, selfish, bitch. It was about seven years ago and each of those words still cuts like a knife. After me trying so hard and giving so much to our relationship at our parting that was the last thing he had to give to me, words that were so hurtful they felt like a physical cut to my soul.

The professional hate spewers are the media. They pick apart everyone. They insult the famous constantly. They don’t look right, they don’t weigh right or they don’t act right. Just because someone chooses to entertain for a living does not give the media the right or obligation to pick apart their every look and action. Why do we, the public, allow and encourage this? We don’t have to visit their websites, buy their magazines or watch their television shows. We do not need them to pick apart the outfits worn by celebrities and then grade them. A woman, or man, is beautiful from the inside out and the trappings they wear on the outside have nothing to do with anything. They are simply an expression of personality and whose right is it to judge that with a pass or failing grade? This is how it starts, the judging and bullying. Someone behaves differently, dresses differently and you judge them… pass or fail.

I know that I, one person, cannot fix this problem. I cannot create a kinder world but I can pray for it. I can teach my children to be kind to one another and to the world. I can also write this blog about it and hope that, perhaps, it makes someone think and maybe pause to reconsider an ill-phrased statement or an insult thrown in anger. Maybe it will stop someone from putting an insult in a comment about a public figure because even if the celebrity doesn’t see it someone else will and think that it’s okay to say such things. I beg you all… be kind to one another. Do not use words to hurt. Love your fellow man and woman, love yourselves, your children and help to create a society that doesn’t feel it’s okay to judge and hurt others. Karma will catch up with you someday and when you are the one being judged be sure you can stand tall and proud, confident in the life you have led and the legacy that you leave behind.

Nature versus Nuture

It’s an age-old debate in the field of child development, what influences form the fabric of personality. A personality forms a life, in my opinion. The way a person approaches all aspects of life is influenced by their personality. Does one approach a challenge with joy or as if it is an annoyance? Optimism or pessimism? Happy or sad? Worried or carefree? Outgoing or shy? Confident or timid? When is it determined how we will interact with other people and circumstances? Is there some magical fiber in our very genetic makeup that tells our brain how to behave and react or does our environment form the way we interact with the world around us?

What seems like a million years ago now, although it was actually around 1991, I went all stubborn and declared to my father that I would no longer pursue the college degree that he had chosen for me. I went entirely rogue and changed my major, at the beginning of my senior year, from computer information science to child development. I can remember having two dreams as I was growing up, I wanted to be a teacher and, as I told my first real boyfriend (at some point before I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life in breaking up with him), I was going to fly away to Paris and become a writer of great stories.

I went into the study of child development very seriously, at this point I was already the single mother of (what I would later learn to be) an autistic son. As I studied about Tabula Rasa (the blank slate theory), an idea that dates as far back as to Aristotle and what is most likely the first psychology textbook in the Western canon, I began to form my beliefs on how we become the individual that we are. I studied Erik Erikson, Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget, B.F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov (we have all heard about his dog) and Maria Montessori, just to name a few. Of course as sure as I was of myself in my 20’s I was one of those people who believed wholeheartedly that the environment makes the individual. That, with enough love and nurturing, a child will grow into a wonderful, self-assured, confident and kind person. As the years have passed through, I have observed many cases where this is simply just not accurate. There are cases where two siblings, raised exactly the same, have polar opposite personalities. A serial killer who has a brother or sister who is the most giving, wonderful person you could find in the neighborhood. Adopted children who are raised by loving attentive parents who grow up to degenerate. Of course, these are not the rule but they do occur.

So how does this impact my journey to find myself and to figure out how I became the person that I am now? I’m not sure but I do believe that some of my characteristics, and your’s dear reader, were programmed into our internal hard drives from the moment of conception (or perhaps even before depending upon your belief system) while others have been ingrained into our core by the environment in which we have lived and the path which we have traveled in life. I believe that understanding and knowing yourself is the best way to become the person that you want to be. Learn your limitations. Admit your faults and understand what triggers those reactions or actions that you dislike in yourself. Try to create a plan to overcome them. Most importantly, at least for me, is to not beat yourself up if you behave or react in a way that you are trying to change, but try to look at the situation objectively and determine what you can, and will, do differently the next time.

Also important to me is how do I use my beliefs about nature versus nurture to help not only myself become the person that I want to become but also, and even more importantly, as a parent how do I ensure that my children have what they need but not too much? How do I help them become the best them that they can be? Where is the balance and how do I take what nature has given them and enhance it with nurture?…. Oh, the questions I ask myself, but those, I think, are questions for another blog.

Why start a blog?

The first question I must ask myself is why should I start writing a blog. What will writing this blog do for me? Will it solve world hunger? Create a stable political environment in the USA? Will I discover the cure for cancer? No, I seriously doubt that I will accomplish any of those lofty goals. I would love to feed the world, create a Utopian society and most definitely discover the cure for cancer, as I lost my beautiful mother to the disease in 2002, however, I don’t see these in the realm of possible dreams that I can accomplish.

I have not traveled the normal paths that most people traverse in their lifetimes. I became a single mother to an autistic son at a young age. I had trouble with relationships, a dysfunctional family life (of course who doesn’t in this day and age) and other than my parents, who have both passed on to a better place, I have had no support system until recently. I do have siblings but they were all grown and gone before I was really becoming an individual. As the years passed they lived their lives and never really bonded with me. I do not think one of them really knows who I am, for none of them has taken the time or shown any interest in getting to know me.

Friends are another great support system however we moved so often when I was young that I never had the opportunity to establish those lifelong bonds of friendship that some are blessed to have. I do have friends but they aren’t generally the kinds of friends you can call up at 3 am to come to bail you out of jail, if I had ever had the need to do so. There are a few people with whom I have shared my story and who I would say kind of know me but I could count them on one hand, even including the ones I have had to walk away from for bringing toxic influences into my life.

What I have come to realize is that I don’t know me so how can anyone else truly know me. Some people start a blog to impart their wisdom to those in cyberspace, they write blogs to network or advertise or perhaps to just keep family members informed about everything that goes on in life. There are many reasons to write blogs. I’m not in it to make money, to gather followers or to make my voice heard. I’m here because I want to find myself and perhaps my journey to do so can help someone else, provide humor or even allow others to encourage me. Welcome to my journey… it begins now.