Friday, January 25, 2013

The Best Thing I've Ever Written

Not this post.  A different post.  In fact, several different posts.  Because every now and then I write one of those posts.  And someone comments or sends me a message or tells me in person that what I've just published on my blog is the best thing I've ever written.

Those are good days, I'm not gonna lie.  I enjoy hearing that from people.  But how can multiple posts be the best thing I've ever written?

When I first got that comment I tried to analyze my post.  What had I done differently?  What made this post better than other posts?  How could I replicate that?

And I've learned that it's not all about me and what I put out there.  That's part of it.  But another part, maybe a more important part, is what's going on in the reader's life when they read what I've written.

Sometimes I write funny, although mine is generally a dry wit.  Sometimes I write tragedy.  Sometimes I write philosophical.  Sometimes I write spiritual.  I even occasionally write slap stick.  And any of these could be the best post I've ever written -- for you, at that time.

My writing is most powerful when it touches something within the reader.  Maybe I made you laugh about something you were taking too seriously in your own life.  Maybe I answered a question you had.  Maybe I helped you find the path you were looking for.  Maybe I inspired you to make a change.  Maybe I offered you hope or strength when you needed it most.  Maybe I pointed out something so obvious that you've always known but have never told yourself.  Maybe only one sentence from an entire post pierces your heart but was exactly what you needed that day.  Or maybe so many other things.

The more I've blogged, the more I've learned that the best writing is a collaborative effort between the writer and the reader even if we never talk to each other about it.  And I am so lucky when I get to know that magic happened because someone who read what I wrote told me it touched their heart.

I hope I have many more best posts in me.  I hope you are moved by what I write.  I am honored to experience the magic with you.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Seeing in the Dark

A couple of weeks ago my PTSD was triggered.  Enough that it was making my life difficult.  I was putting on a good front, but inside I was in turmoil.  There was intense fear, uncertainty, lack of direction, inability to communicate, and an overwhelming desire to hide.  My mind was obsessed with thoughts of an experience from my past.  It was trying to process things that still aren't clear.  And I was in a state of panic that I couldn't get out of.

I spent a couple of days in this state.  I tried to relax my mind and focus on other things.  I tried to distract myself out of it.  I tried various calming techniques, including meds.  But it wouldn't go away.

And in the back of my mind I kept thinking, "Maybe you should try to see this."

My word for the year is see.  While I did my best to define it in that post, there is more to it than I was able to say.  There is an element that can't be explained but is understood in my heart.

Finally, on the third day out, I decided I was ready to try.  But I didn't really know how.  When I'm trying to see a positive moment I try to be more present.  More in the moment so I can see and feel the things I was missing that I want to experience.

But the memory that triggered me was something I didn't want to be more present in.  It was something I didn't want to experience more.  How could I see it?

When I know I'm headed in the right direction but am not sure how to proceed, I pray.  I ask Him to help me see the next step.  Then, whether I understand or not, I take that next step.  It's worked beautifully for me many times throughout my life.  But I only ask if I am really willing to take the next step no matter what it is.  That's why it took me three days.  I wasn't ready until then.

This is a deep and powerful experience for me.  I will try to share it in a way that is honest but also respects the sanctity I feel about it.

I knelt in prayer and conversed with God.  I told Him I was afraid but was willing to see and know what I needed to in order to heal.  I opened my heart in willingness to learn more and take whatever step was directed.  I expressed my fear.  He expressed His love.

And I saw that past experience with new eyes.  With new understanding.  It only took a few moments with God to find the peace I'd longed for. 

It doesn't always work this way.  Often my prayers are one-way communication, usually due to my rushing and being disconnected.  Sometimes prayer after prayer seems to go unanswered.  Or I don't see the answer.  But other times I open my heart enough that we are truly together in conversation.  I pour out my heart and then He fills it.  This was one of those moments.

I was filled with calm.  I knew I was on the right path.  And he told me something I needed to hear, "Your role is so important."

I think that will get me through just about anything.

Monday, January 14, 2013

What are My Options When My Husband is Mean?

I get this question over and over on my other blog.  The post that gets hit the most by internet searches is My Husband is Mean to Me and the Kids.  Women who are struggling search the internet and find my blog.  They are in ugly situations and don't know what to do.

They read what I wrote.  They understand too well because it fits their lives.  They ask me what to do.

And I have no idea how to answer them.

When I was in the middle of it, I didn't know what to do.  And I didn't dare talk to anyone about it to try to get answers.  I didn't think anyone would believe me.  I was afraid it would make my husband angry.  I thought it was a sign that I wasn't good enough.  I didn't try enough.  I was a quitter.

I don't believe those things now.  I'm better and he's better and I wish that for everyone who reads my blog and feels a kinship.  But I don't know how to make it happen for you.  And it's not the only correct outcome.

My husband had a breakthrough moment.  Then we both had a lot of therapy.  He got better.  He got worse.  I got better.  I got worse.  We even separated for a while.  And after years of hard work by both of us we are good.  Almost all the time.  But I don't believe most abusive relationships will work out like this.

And I remember feeling like I didn't have options.  I was trapped.  I couldn't support myself and the kids without him.  If we divorced, he would have the kids some of the time on his own and I wouldn't be there to protect them.  What if I was wrong and things weren't as bad as I thought they were?  What if he was right and I was blowing things out of proportion and it destroyed our marriage?  What if I ruined his life because I didn't work hard enough at our marriage?  How could I handle the embarrassment of a divorce?  How badly would I damage my children if we divorced?  How badly was I damaging my children by staying?  If I divorced him, he could choose to make my life a living hell.

I was so scared of taking the route of divorce.  I didn't want to be with him.  I prayed he would leave me.  On really bad days I prayed he would die.  Anything to relieve my suffering and protect my children.  Without me having to take that horrible step I didn't want to take.  There were too many things I couldn't predict and control.  That's what made it so scary.  And after so many years of abuse, I didn't believe in myself anymore.  I didn't believe I could make it.

I didn't know my options.  I know them better now.  But I don't know all the options.

I know that I can leave without explaining myself.  I know I can call the police and have him removed from the home if he is threatening us or in a rage.  I know I can get a restraining order against him.  I know I can get therapy and become healthy myself even if he chooses to never change.  I know I can talk about it to others.  I know I can tell him how I want to be treated.  And I know I have to be willing to stand behind my words if none of this changes him.  Because he won't change unless he wants to -- no one will, no matter how much someone else wants them to.

I'm asking for help now.  These women cry out to me.  Often, they post anonymously so I can't even respond to them.  But I'd like them to have answers.  I like them to see options.  I'm asking for help from anyone who reads this and knows something.  If you've had experience with an abusive marriage, and know options, please share them.  Any info is welcome.  Therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, police officers, and those who've been there.  Please comment and share what you know.  Please share this with others who may know and ask them to help.

Please comment with respect.  Please don't judge or preach.  Please don't tell these women what to do, just help them see options.  Each woman needs to listen to her heart and choose for herself.  I recommend lots of prayer if you're a believer.  I recommend therapy if you possibly can.  I recommend writing if you don't dare talk to anyone yet.

Please try to believe in yourself again.  You do have options.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Moment in Church

As I've begun this year trying to see more divinely, I've found that it has very little to do with my eyes and a lot to do with my heart.  In fact, with my whole soul.  I don't know why there isn't a name to describe what it means to feel something with your whole soul.  I know I'm not the only one who's felt it.  There should be a name for it.

Yesterday, as I sat in the chapel and the meeting began, I remembered to see.  I paused a moment and had an inward conversation with God and asked Him to help me see these people around me the way He sees them.  I opened my heart.  And He began to open my soul.  Just a tiny bit.  And I was flooded.  Intense and overwhelming love doesn't begin to describe what I felt in that tiny peek.  It was so intense that I shut my heart.  I had instantly started to cry and knew this was just a taste.  I wasn't ready for the display I might cause if I kept my heart open and allowed Him to continue pouring.

God, being who He is, respected that.  He found another way to teach me.  To give me a bit of what I was yearning for but I was ready to handle.  As the meeting progressed I was filled with the love the people in the room have for each other.

I am Mormon.  We don't search until we find a congregation that fits us.  Our church is divided into wards (congregations) based on boundaries.  Areas are divided up and we are assigned to a ward.  This means we go to church with our neighbors.  As I've written before, my neighborhood is amazing!  I wish I could explain it in a way that you could understand.  Someone who has moved away read that post and remarked that she missed our neighborhood because it was as close to Mayberry as she'd known.  That's a pretty good comparison.

The thing is, we are a family.  Like any family there are some people who don't always get along.  There are a few black sheep.  But mostly, we love and take care of each other.

And yesterday I felt that love in a way I never have before.  Instead of just feeling love for them, I felt everyone's love for each other.  All of them.  All at the same time.

In the Mormon church, the first Sunday of the month is Fast Sunday.  We are encouraged to prayerfully skip two meals in an effort to draw closer to God and donate what those meals would have cost to the ward.  This money is then used to help our neighbors as deemed appropriate by our bishop (pastor).  And on Fast Sunday we have testimony meeting.  Instead of our regular worship service where two or three members of our ward or stake (a group of wards) delivers a talk they have studied and prepared for, the pulpit is open to everyone.  It is a time when anyone from the congregation can get up and share their testimony with us.  Share what's in their hearts.

There were some beautiful testimonies shared.  But more than that, there was so much love.  It was the brave woman who talked about her recently broken home and asked for help.  She asked that we bear testimony to her children to strengthen them.  It was the woman who followed after her saying that if we'd been asked to give food to her family we wouldn't have hesitated; she asked that we not hesitate on this.  Several who testified pledged to support her and testify to her children.  It was the parents who bore testimony directly to their children so they would know their parents believe.  It was the awe mentioned by many as a young man we've all watch grow up passed the sacrament for the first time.  The love and pride we felt for him and his parents.  It was my dear friend who talked about living far from her family and her husband's family and reminded us that we are her family.  It was the dear sweet little six-year old girl who stood and testified that prayer is good and it will help us and make us happy.  And so much more.

I cried and cried.  The love my neighbors feel for each other is almost always evident.  We are a tight group.  But this day.  This day it was more.  It was palpable.  It filled the room.  My soul was swimming in it.  And God said, "It's kind of like that only better."

One day I hope to be able to let Him teach me the whole lesson.  For now, I'm grateful for the glimpse.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

In the Moment

My goal for 2013 is to fully experience life more.  To see the things I've been missing.  To not just pass through life but to suck the marrow from each experience.

I'm new at this, but I've begun trying.

For my birthday my two adult daughters sent my husband and me away for the weekend.  Just a couple towns over at a motel, but it was wonderful.  As part of our weekend away they'd also provided us with tickets to The Life of Pi, a movie I'd been wanting to watch.  And this is where my experience began.

It started out as a normal night at the movies.  We got snacks.  We found our seats.  We watched the previews.  I was there to watch a movie.  That's all.

But it became more.  The movie was so beautiful visually.  It was eye candy.  Many scenes like something out of a fairy tale.  As I was marvelling at the colors and effects that made it so magical, I remembered to see.

At first I was seeing the movie.  The details.  The texture.  The flavor of the film.  The movie was delicious.

But then I was seeing the moment.  With more senses than just my eyes.  I was seeing it with my heart.  My arm was laced through my husband's arm.  I noticed the feeling of his skin on mine as I rested my hand on his forearm, the tingle I still get when we touch.  I felt the shape of the muscle as he turned his hand.  And the outside of my arm was resting against his stomach.  I noticed each slow breath.  In and out in such a mundane way.  Something that happens over and over.  But in this moment I noticed the power of what that meant.  That meant my husband was healthy.  He was filled with the breath of life.  He was at peace, as shown by the slow tempo of his relaxed breathing.  I felt the heat of his body warming mine through the simple touch of our arms.  I knew he was happy to be there with me.  We were together in a very real way.  We were sharing a moment and I was seeing that moment.

You might think noticing these things distracted me from the movie, but it didn't.  It enhanced it.  It was like turning up the brightness.  The colors were stronger.  The glory was more intense.  The fairy tale nature of the moment with my husband slipped into the fairy tale of the movie.  The peace and joy of the moment brought contentment.  Which fit with the nature of the main character as he told his story.  He radiated peace.  He was happy in his life.  He was content.  And so was I.

Pi and I were together in that moment.  Both in the moment we were meant to occupy.  And filling up every bit of the space within it.  I can't wait to learn more.