Stepping Out

It is super scary to step out of hiding. I picture myself standing just inside a cave, where the light is seeping in. Freedom is just on the other side, and nothing is stopping me from leaving, except for myself.

Wave after wave of “what if’s” come crashing into the opening of the cave and I close my eyes and hold my breath. Dozens of ideas come through me, and I file them away in a folder in my phone list, no good. Already having made myself vulnerable in my previous posts, I realize that now it’s time to make that leap, find my focus…but fear holds me down. It keeps me inside where it’s safe.

Fear is supposed to make us grow, but the only way it succeeds in doing so, is if we face it. How can I ask my children to be brave and do difficult things when I cower and let fear hold me back from some of the simplest of tasks.

Fear has kept me from publicly sharing a photo of me and the person I hold most dearly.

Our relationship, our identities, the family we’ve built, the values we hold; these are all things for which I am so thankful and proud. My wife and I rarely get pictures together aside from a selfie, and we haven’t yet had that dreamy couple photog session. My mom snapped this picture of us and it just captured the pure happiness and love that any couple would love to rush to Facebook and gush over. Before I could even figure out the perfect words to go along with it for a post, I deleted it. Before I even hit publish I already had critics and disapproving voices in my head. This is the same thing that happens every time I begin to see a plan come into focus for this blog. I know what I want to say but I’m scared.

Two things are being accomplished here.

First, I’m publishing this totally gorgeous picture of us because, I love it. And because worrying about the what if’s really scare me, but I gotta dip my toe in the water sometime. My first step out of my comfortable cave is to put up this photo.

Second, I’m ready to make the leap. Topics will vary but be based around my little large family, and can include many things ranging all the way from recipes and paint projects to parenting advice, being gay (cause that’s what I am 🤷🏻‍♀️), and everything in between.

This is me, one step closer to freedom.

How do you find your worth when you don’t trust the appraisals?

It’s after midnight and I’m lying here, tossing and turning and mulling over the day. Words exchanged and charged emotions that left me feeling vulnerable, and scared. For hours my brain has non stop been looking for a solution, scanning the situation for the right answers, how to change, how to be better. But something new happened this time, I stopped to ask myself why this was still lingering and taking up so much of my peace? This situation passed and things were still okay afterwards. It was just a bump in the road, and we survived. I was looking for a solution to a situation which had already been resolved, punishing myself for something that wasn’t even happening.

This cycle of anxiety seems foreign to some people and yet to many of us this is the reality of our lives. It leaves us feeling broken and scared a lot of the time and worried that we can’t measure up. We feel like we have no value. How did we get here? How did we get to the point where we feel that our worth is so low that we can’t possibly ever have an opinion, have an argument, disagree with something, etc.? There are many different paths that have led us here, each one unique in our understanding of how we have sunk so low in our opinion of ourselves. I’m ready to begin my re-evaluation. It’s not as simple as it sounds, but I’m ready to work on it.

You may have a friend, or even a spouse who needs constant reassurance of their worth to you. Now, some of them may just be a bit narcissistic, but some of us genuinely have a hard time believing that we are worthy of love. Not living in our heads, you might say that is crazy, how can you feel that way? Lots of reasons, but that’s for other posts. Lying here, with my after midnight musings.. I thought, what if I just trusted the appraiser? What if I took stock in what they told me and tried to believe it? What if I decided that it’s okay to disagree sometimes AND still sleep peacefully at night? Because it really is okay. Because I’m a person of value… and I’ll keep saying it to myself until I believe it.

Make Your Peace and Own It Too

Forgive and forget, what a complicated idea. Should we really forget things that should be a lesson to us, what if we forget and the action is repeated? How can we forgive when so many times our transgressors don’t see what they’ve done, and more often we choose to stay silent rather than to let them know what they have done. Like I said, it’s complicated.

Who is it really hurting when you’re holding a grudge, especially if you choose not to confront someone whom you feel has wronged you? Of course, the ideal way to handle it is to talk to the person, but we rarely do. And what happens is they either think they’ve gotten by with whatever happened without you realizing what happened; or they have gone so long without you approaching them that they have long forgotten and/or hope you have; or in some instances they genuinely do not realize they’ve done anything wrong. Now, I’m not telling you that the best thing to do is to never speak your piece, and there are absolutely instances where no forgiveness is justified. This is not about those times. This is about the times when forgiving can heal you. When forgetting doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting the action, but letting go of the hold it has on you, moving on from holding it against the person.

Forgiveness for people who don’t ask for it, or realize they need it is not for them, it is for you. We might be able to find a reason in our minds why they may have acted the way they did, but not always… but we can set the intention to forgive anyway. You may be asking yourself why you’d do this? I don’t know about you, but I cannot hold on to a hot poker too long. Swallowing poison does nothing to your enemy.

When we find it difficult to let go of something, and we aren’t willing to do anything about it, the time comes to ask ourselves why we are letting it have power over us and take up space in our lives. That’s something a great friend asked me recently when I showed my heart in a vulnerable moment. It was a question that freed me. It was when I began to unravel and started this journey. I thought the answer was to confront the situation, but then I asked myself if I wanted to relive the terrible feelings and deal with the consequences of the conflict that would bring me. And letting it go may not have been the number one right answer, but it is the one I chose. And it made me feel better.

The tricky part is when other people want to remind you of the thing. This is where the owning your peace comes in… it is okay to tell people that you have forgiven, that you have let go, and moved forward. Let them know that your peace won’t allow you to go backwards, because the forgetting part isn’t necessarily that you’ve written it out of your mind, but that you’re putting it behind you. It will not stay behind you if you allow it to stay in your conversations or if you’re bringing it up as a character testimony. You can make the choice to continue letting something hold a power over you and take up space in your life, or you can choose to leave it in your past, take away its power, and make room for the new and better things in your life.

Everything is an Illusion -and- A Beginning For Me

I can’t tell you exactly why putting my words out there just feels like the right thing to do these days. What I can tell you is that there have been days when I felt so isolated and alone in my feelings, and I came across a friend who shared just a glimpse of their pain, of their understanding, of their growth, and without them even knowing, it let me see that I was not alone. There is hope. You see we are told all the time to just be strong, just go on, just look on the bright side, that we are afraid to let people see what might be conceived as a weakness. So we begin the toxic practice of burying our feelings, of not letting anything perceived as negative or hurt come through. We are afraid that people will turn away from us and they do, they absolutely do. Because seeing a “weakness” in someone else makes us afraid there might be a weakness in us… or even worse it angers us because we know that we are supposed to hide that weakness, we can’t show others we are not happy and cheerful and strong at all times.

It’s these perceptions and social parameters we place on each other that lead so many to become even more broken. What if everyone could see into our hearts? Could see that just because you have a season of hard times it doesn’t make you weak… what if we could help each other understand that during those seasons we didn’t just plow through and persevere… but that we persevered because we felt those things and we handled them and we grew from them, and the handling and growth is what led us to be strong? So many times, especially in the age of social media, we see the things that people are going through, but it is through very filtered lenses. We think wow, look what they have battled and they are smiling all the while!! Why can’t I be so strong? What is wrong with me? My problems seem like nothing in comparison. We don’t stop and think that before the smiles there was pain that had to be vanquished. We forget that they are human. We forget that we are too.

It’s time for us to realize that most of the things we see out there are illusions, smoke and mirrors. One of my favorite quotes is from Teddy Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and it resonates because it is so true. Comparing what we have inside of us to what we see out there in the world is so harmful because just like the pain we are hiding, we have no idea what is behind the sunny side that others are showing. We don’t know what seasons they went through to get to where they are. We see what people want us to see. We tell ourselves that no one wants to know our pain, and we bury it. We pretend to be shiny happy people like everyone else, and the cycle continues. We hide.

I want to start a project that encourages people to open themselves up to be receptive to someone who might be in silent pain. To check on each other. To say, I’m here if you need to talk. To remind you that you are strong even if you feel weak, you are valued. I want to be a receptacle for people to put their feelings out there. Even if they are a stranger, they can reach out, send an email, remain anonymous if they wish. The concept is still rolling around in here, but I want to put it out there and make it real, even in its tiny baby stage. If this sounds like something you would like to be involved in, please feel free to comment or contact me 💖💖.

I wish you well today.

A Little Bit Brighter

There have been a few times in my life when I have examined myself and realized that I felt a little lost. It was that kind of feeling where if someone had asked me to describe myself, I wasn’t really sure how I would respond. I am sure that this is something that is totally normal. After all, we all go through various stages in life, we spend time growing and changing and adapting to the world. I think it is in those uncertain times when we really do our growing, when we find the person that we are, or will become. We choose that direction at the fork in the road, and the conditions of those paths shape us. But there are times when life just happens to us, and the fork in the road is blocked by a wall making no easily accessible path. For the last few years I have been at that wall; sometimes sitting there pondering it, sometimes beating my head against it, celebrating at it, living by it, curled up in a ball next to it, hiding from it, ignoring it… in general, just stuck. Stuck is a scary, dark place to be.

So much of my thirty-two years have made sense to me. It seemed that in spite of the trauma I had endured, or bad experiences I had encountered, I always had that disposition which allowed me to see the glass as half full. It wouldn’t matter who you asked and about which age, I was consistently described as a kind person who could see the best in anyone. Kind became who I was, and who I wanted to be. I set my goals by this, and dreamed about making a difference in the world.

Nothing would break this resolve for almost thirty years. Not the sexual abuse I suffered at nine, or the silencing I experienced from not being heard; not the pain from 3 years later when I was heard and had to endure the process of seeing someone convicted; not the mental torment of being an abuse victim; not the failed marriage at the end of college; not the crappy self-punishing relationships that would follow… I was unbreakable. I forgave people who didn’t ask for forgiveness, who never even admitted to me that they had done wrong. I looked at things from other peoples’ points of views to explain their behaviors, I felt for them and excused them. Little did I know that this process was less of a kindness and more of a coping mechanism. That’s not to say that empathizing with people and attempting the understanding of another person is not okay or right, but just that the deep need I had to do this in particular was a way for me to cope with the things that had happened to me, and the way I was treated by some people. I felt indestructible, and if anything, my experiences empowered me to want to go forward and find a way to do good in the world. To be good in the world, for the world.

And then I hit that wall. I cannot tell you the exact moment that I hit the wall and began to crack. One day the world began to feel way too big, and the troubles of the world began to sit directly on my shoulders. I stopped feeling like I deserved to have anything good in my life because there were others in the world who had nothing or less than nothing. I felt like what is the point of doing anything when how could a microscopic spec possibly make a real difference? This didn’t necessarily stop me from being kind, or finding empathy for others, but I began to lose sight of a purpose in the world, and I started seeing the scales of good and bad people tip out of balance. For a person that lived so long wearing rose colored glasses this was very overwhelming and confusing. Outwardly I remained the same as I always had been, but inside I struggled with the feelings that it just didn’t matter.

Having a very rough pregnancy which ended in a truly traumatic birth really did me in. As a lot of people know, eclampsia ended my pregnancy 11 weeks early, and my beautiful boy was born at 29 weeks. I woke up in the hospital no longer pregnant, and my baby had been taken to another hospital. It would be about 5 days before I would be released to go and meet him. I was in so much pain but I pushed through it Because my sole purpose became helping him thrive. Oh he was so sick, what a tiny 2 lb baby hooked up to monitors and a machine breathing for him. I couldn’t hold him much, and there were times when my holding him was actually bad for him. I had to learn what to do if his sats dropped and he turned blue. And once or twice he did turn blue…in my arms. During this time I was 1400 miles away from home and lived in a Ronald McDonald House. This is a very condensed version of events. My mom flew up and drove me home 68 days after he was born. We came home with an oxygen generator and medications. We spent 4 days in the car stopping every 2 hours to get him out of the car and sleeping in hotels where every 3 hours I had to feed/pump and administer medications. Two times his oxygen machine ran out of battery and it was almost catastrophic and when we finally made it home it became one specialist after another for months. I saw a crisis in everything, I was scared of my own shadow. The wall grew even larger. I felt strong for him, but I was more broken than ever. I wanted to be the person that I used to be, but that person was shattered and damaged beyond recognition. I tried to live the same way, but I was just a shell.

It’s cliche to say that love lifted me, but it did. The love of my son, eventually of my daughters, and of a woman who saw through the shell and reached in and began dusting off the broken pieces, these things began healing me. This didn’t happen all at once, and has not always been a pleasant experience. At times I’ve felt that there wasn’t any hope, I was broken beyond repair and I was going to just have to learn to live with this new version of myself. But little by little pieces of the old me, my true self began to slip through, fighting with the parts of me that felt the weight of the world, that saw a crisis in every move, who wanted to hide from it all. I’m not saying I could never have achieved this on my own, but I could not move forward with these journals without giving credit where credit is due, and credit is due to the woman who helped me glue myself back together and reminded me who I am inside.

If it weren’t for her I never would have had the courage to open up these wounds so that they could heal. I would have continued piling on patches and telling myself everything was cool. Maybe writing about all of this in a public forum is self-indulgent, I don’t know. I could just go to therapy or write it down in private, but I think that for me, opening myself up to be vulnerable has been crucial. The first two blog posts felt difficult, painful, but necessary. After publishing the second one I felt a odd sense of peace that I couldn’t explain, like I knew I was going to get better. It’s a relief from a pressure you didn’t realize you had until the pressure begins to wane. The figurative wounds were opened and the draining has begun making room for the literal healing to happen.

I am standing at this wall at the fork in the road, but the wall has begun to weaken, there are spots where I can see to the other side. Finally, I am beginning to break through.

Flowers Blooming in a Cage

Two days ago I sat down and began a mission of healing. For a brief moment I trusted my instincts as I poured my heart out onto the page. Almost as if on autopilot, the words came forth and when I read them at the finish, I believed in what I was setting out to do. But then, doubt. What was I thinking? Writing in a journal, internal dialogue, personal thoughts, fine. But to put them in a public forum where anyone might read them, or maybe no one would. What were people thinking as they read them? Did they scoff at the ideas, the ridiculousness? The simplicity? I don’t belong here, I said. Opening up random blogs from strangers on the site, I devoured their depth and intricacies. I felt that I didn’t measure up. I wanted to end before I even made my second post. Lying awake at night, and all throughout the days I pieced together ideas in my head for the next entry, but it always ended the same way: in fear.

Fear is why I’m here. I’m standing up to myself and up for myself. Too long I have been living in my mind, and I am ready to be free. It has not yet become clear to me what I will achieve with this, and maybe that’s why it’s so important to continue. Fear of the unknown is a huge component of my state to begin with, maybe facing this fear is the first step to healing.

This morning I’m sitting at the dining table with two of my beautiful children as they draw pictures. I scan the scene and feel like the luckiest person on earth at that moment; in front of me is a bouquet of flowers my wife brought home as a surprise last Sunday from the grocery store. It strikes me that they are a few days old and still looking vibrant, some of the blooms have not even yet opened. The sunflowers seem like they might have reached their peak, at about a ¾ bloom, but they are as yellow and beautiful as ever, even with the small amount of dim winter light that the shades have let in, and the same water I originally put into their vase. Over the dining table, we have an industrial type chandelier, lending to the farmhouse/industrial interior; each of the several Edison bulbs are in their own hanging cage. To be cliche for a moment, this scene illuminated a light bulb over my head like an idea in a cartoon. The partially unopened sunflowers were like me, and the cage over the light bulb were like the cage of my mind, a trap that wasn’t quite a trap, because if I just looked down, I would see that the bottom of the cage was open, and I could escape. There is a way out.

Being aware that you have a mind that is not quite healthy, and yet at the same time feeling powerless to overcome and heal, is a very difficult concept to explain. It’s a reason why so many people struggle in silence. It’s a reason that, I dare say, leads to those heartbreaking instances when our friends, “who seemed so happy,” take their own lives leaving us very confused. You live inside your mind cage, looking up, and out, feeling like you are trapped and powerless. Like the partially bloomed flower you tend to yourself the best you can, using the resources available to you; but an artificial light is not going to grow you to your full potential. You will look healthy enough on the outside, colorful and pretty, but if you looked more closely you’d see the missing components. The problem is, you’re in a cage, how will you get what else you need? If only you could find a way out of that cage… and you can, but the feelings of inadequacy, of the weight of the world, of the feeling of being trapped, they consume you to the point where just the simple act of looking down to see that the bottom of the cage is open doesn’t even occur to you. Or, even worse, you have become so accustomed to your cage, that you see the opening, yet you are afraid to leave. You are more comfortable there than stepping outside into the real world only to find that you don’t belong there. Afraid of the unraveling affect that will happen when you are released from your mind prison. The truths you will need to face, the demons that reside there that will come out and beg to be vanquished. Your jailer will tell you anything to keep you in that cage.

I feel like I’m at the point of looking down and discovering that the cage has a way out, and yet, I’m only putting a finger out to feel which way the wind will blow.

*I feel like leaving this post as is will raise a lot of concern from some friends and family. I would like to put it out there that I do understand and appreciate that I have a wonderful life, loving people in my life, and good health. It is this understanding that keeps me looking for a way out of my cage and on the journey to a healed mind.