Grief, Stubborn Hope or Faith

Facebook reminded me of my father’s death 6 years ago in the form of people’s well wishes, and my own grievances captured for infinity on social media. And that’s how I measure the month of March now, and have for the past 6 years. Anytime Facebook chirps up with a reminder from the Marches of my past life, I calculate in my head how far I have to go until the day of my dad’s death, March 14th.

It cheats me, stealing away elements of joy from other pending events, like the birth of my daughter (11th), or my wedding anniversary (27th).

That being said, grief for me, is now much less painful than it was even a year ago. I am not brought to tears anytime I think of him. I’ve stopped having to remind myself that he is dead. I still deal with issues, like reconciling who my dad was to others vs who he was to me, vs who he really was, as himself.

When someone dies, it gives us this opportunity to re-evaluate life, whether we want to or not. Looking at my dad through the eyes of grief has helped me see him, not as I saw him as a child, but as another human being, imperfect and full of regrets. A person who suffered with loss, depression, anger, and injustice. He fought to feel normal, to be happy and content, and to have faith in a God.   Maybe it was this perseverance that made his faith beautiful to others, he struggled to believe it. It was the underlying frightened little boy who went off to war and came home fucked-up, that people saw and related with. He walked like he had no doubts, even though deep down, he questioned it daily.

He was either a faithful servant of his God or a stubborn hopeful… but what is faith if not a stubborn hope for something you have no evidence for?

And though my grief has evolved past the days of laying in bed with it, at times it seems an awful lot to bear the thought of not seeing my dad again for what remains of my life. That could be a long time, or I could get COVID-19 and die in two weeks. Life is a gamble. Why we as humans plan anything is a mystery to me. But we do, we go along pretending everything will be okay. Most of the time it isn’t, but again, it’s this stubborn hope, or faith, that keeps us together at the seams.

We move on, don’t we? After our lament, the world begs us to put our sadness in a box and to jump back in the game. Allowing grief to happen is necessary, it is a painful experience we must go through and in time we learn how to navigate and dance with it.

For me it is like this: I picture a little girl waiting for just the right moment to jump in a game of double dutch jump rope. Timing, hearing the wack as the ropes plastic beads hit the cement, knowing that if she does jump in, her calves and ankles will likely feel the sting of the ropes. But how do you avoid that? She can’t. In order to move forward, she has to learn timing and have patience, allow herself the stings and failure…..The dance, it gets easier. But the little girl doesn’t forget the sting of the rope, it stays with her.

Grief doesn’t leave us, it sleeps in. And in the corner of our minds, it is there. It comes to us in the air, when we smell patchouli, or when drinking coffee and watching the way milk mixed with black coffee comes together, a creamy mushroom cloud exploding up and out to the edges of the cup. In music it drums, transporting us back to moments, delicious moments that we can never touch again, but lives on in the encyclopedia of our lives.

On Forgiveness or Forgiveness, Ugh.

I’ve been staring into space, trying to come up with the best way to approach the subject of forgiveness. Pondering what it means to forgive, I am challenged. I am thrown into a vat of experiences, past and present, that swirl with opurtunities for forgiveness. It begs me to be present and honest. So here goes.

There once was a man……

We will call him dumbass, I mean Bob. The history of our relationship with Bob would best be described as rocky, due much in part to Bob’s drug and alcohol abuse. In recent years however, he seemed to have gained a new perspective. Like Toad in The Wind and The Willows, a new Bob was born. A reformed Bob, a Repentant Bob, “In a flood of remorse he vowed to forsake the follies.” Bob had found Jesus, his business cards even said so. He was a new man.

Except that like Toad, he was still the same worty amphibian underneath. He had quit drinking and popping pills, but he was far from sober minded. By the time we figured it out and severed ties for good, he had attacked. His attack came loaded with manipulations and lies that threatened our family, our way of living, and our ideas of what justice looked like. Lawyers were hired, law enforcement were involved, and our little world was turned upside down. Fear and helplessness were common emotions during this time, except when replaced with moments of deep grief where I mourned the loss of justice, or what I thought it to be. Like Lucy in It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, I raised my fists to the sky demanding my restitution, or rather justice. Where was it? How could someone be so hateful? How cruel people are capable of being.

There are circumstances in our lives when we look back and see our part in a crumbling relationship. People, I have searched every narrow crevice of my heart, overturned the cobwebs, and gone through every file I can see. Just as I felt at the time, and as I do now, I have no doubt, that we did right by Bob.

Which brings me to the part that really hogs my hooter….Everyone loves him. He’s Mister Congeniality. Most narcissists are. They have the ability to hit you with a bat and convince you of their innocence, even though they still hold the weapon. The aching reality that people didn’t see him for who he was, angered me. People HAD to know the truth! They needed to know that he was in the wrong, and we were RIGHT!

Well….

“Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” Anne Lamott asks in her book Small Victories. She answers herself by saying, “Hmmm, let me get back to you.” Sometimes the urge to be heard and understood is much stronger than the need to be happy. If I let go of this pain and with it, the need to be right, it feels like letting go of a safety net. As long as I have this sweat gripped, justice filled rage, I feel like there is hope that someone out there will say, “Yeah that Bob, what a dumbass, I believe you”. (And in this fantasy, it is someone large and influential, like The Rock, Dwayne Johnson. Who would question him?)

But back to that being happy bit. Holding on isn’t making me happy. Wishing Bob’s cancer would return and eat him up, isn’t helping. Maybe that sounds cruel, but for what Bob put our family through, it would be a kind death.

It. Is. So. Hard. To. Forgive.

So, how do we do it? How, on earth, in my little ol heart, can I BEGIN to forgive this man? How do I give a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card to someone who I would rather see mauled by an extremely large and aggressive, man-eating lion? The offense just feels too big to forgive.

Perhaps the answer lies in a C.S. Lewis quote, ” If we really want to learn to forgive, perhaps we should start with something smaller than the Gestapo.”

Bob is my Gestapo. And this means, I am starting smaller.

I started by forgiving the little girl who stole my Poochie doll when I was around four years old. Next was the guy at the gas station who called me a racist, when I unknowingly parked at the gas pump he previously payed for. I forgave the lady who threw herself off of her lawn chair yelling “Control your dog!” when we (my pitbull and I) simply walked by. I can even begin to forgive myself for not trusting my gut with Bob. But forgive the devil himself? Hmmm, let me get back to you.

I don’t have the answers as to ‘how’ to forgive, I think, like grief, forgiveness is gone through in different ways, it is a very individual experience. Here’s what forgiveness is looking like for me.

When I think about Bob, maybe I allow myself a little room for letting go, which may mean that I am not dwelling on him or the past as long as I normally do, or it may mean I don’t fantasize about a large hippo taking him out by sitting on him with it’s very large derriere. I may practice deep breathing whenever my anxiety is triggered, or I feel the impulse to scream…loudly. Sometimes, I just skip the breathing, and I scream anyways. (It can also be effective to combine the breathing and screaming.) Then, I pray, because I am a spiritual being and somehow, God or no God, it makes me feel better dammit. Lastly, I remind myself, this practice of forgiveness, is for my benefit, not Bob’s. It’s also helpful to remember that forgiveness and absolution, are not the same thing. Just because I chose to forgive, doesn’t mean you deserve my trust again, or that we are going to be friends ever again. The point I m getting to rather clumsily is this, forgiveness is a practice. It is a very mindful decision to acknowledge and accept our hurt, and purposely lay down our anger anyways.

I am learning to forgive, by failing miserably at it. Like Edison discovering 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb, so is my journey in learning to forgive. I am quickly understanding what works, by recognizing what doesn’t.

What works is chosing to continue to lay down the burden that this anger towards Bob has become. I am learning that embracing life with all the many good and bad experiences, along with all the knotted up feelings and emotions that comes with them, is the beginning of chosing to rise above it all, and actively participate in my own well being. Some days are easier than others but I refuse to allow my anger to steal the opportunity for joy.

All of this to say that each day, I call a truce with myself. And Bob? It will take some time, but already I feel lighter….okay maybe not lighter, but I am confident that I will……………..once I remove the hippopotamus from on top of ‘Bob’.

Beacon

You are my North.

In this crazy world of mixed up lives and even mixier emotions, you hold me steady, always.

You are my beacon, when I feel I will be lost to the unforgiving waves that threaten my faith in myself, you whisper confidence in my ear.

You are my warmth. When I am cold and feeling the rage of an unjust world, your touch reminds me to soften my face, and to love anyways.

I am more me with you. Alone, I can feel the shadows creeping, telling me lies, feeding the flames of anxiety. You silence this stranger inside of me.

You, you pull me home, show me who I really am, you stand me up and support me when I want to crumble.

You are my better half, for better or worse, we cling to one another, through the good and through the bad, we stand.

I will follow you through muck and mire, through the really dark and the depression. I will hold your hand.

I will be the wind at your back, pushing forward and then, I will support your legs when they threaten to collapse.

When your head hangs, and your shoulders slump because you feel the weight of this world, I will help lift that burden and point your face to the sun.

When you are weary and worn from the climb, I will carry you. In the storm, I will be your lighthouse, your beacon, guiding you gently around the danger.

I will hold you steady, always.

I will be your North,

……………and you will be mine.

Lamp Lighter (When I’m Old)

When I’m old and crinkly,

I want to remember you,

And how we shared beef stew

On your last nights sleep.

When I’m old and stinky,

I want to feel the weight in my arms,

Of your little body as I bounced you,

In hopes you would rest.

When I’m old, grey hair sprouted,

When I close my eyes, I hope to see,

Your little head tilted sideways at me

Because we called you pretty.

When I’m old and withered,

I want to think back on you,

And all your many helpful ways,

Your thoughtfulness for others.

When I’m old, my bones grown tight,

May your laughter be my lullaby

Taking me to far off places

Where we dance, as we did when you were two.

When I am old and fearful

Let me remember your bravery

How you stuck up for that girl,

When others made fun of her headdress.

When I am old and memory failing,

Let me remember these moments,

Of pride. Of love. Of kindness. Of generosity.

They will be the lamp that guides me home.

Heal Thy Self…Ouch

“Own your own experience.”

It sounds exactly like something we should be doing.

No doubt, you have at least heard, if not, seen this slogan. Maybe it was posted in big bold letters on Facebook, or you read it as a caption accompanying a powerful image, while scrolling Instagram…. But what does it actually mean to own our own experience?

My own interpretation of this catchy quote, is simply, take control of your life. No excuses. Doing this can feel like quite the mountain to climb, depending on the hand you have been dealt, specifically, if in your backpack, there is trauma.

When trauma is a part of our experience, we are responsible and we owe it to ourselves, and those we love, to repair what has been stolen from within us. People, WE are responsible for our own healing. However, the idea of having to clean up a mess we didn’t make, feels unfair and even injust to someone still trying to come to terms with everything that has happened to them. Sadly, this isn’t a glass of spilled milk your partner left on the counter. You can’t just leave it there and hope they get the message, and clean it up. If you leave it, it will do what milk does, it will sour, get moldy and stinky. So it is with trauma left unattended ; Anger, depression, deep sadness, confusion, they all LOVE trauma.

Ignoring the issues won’t magically make things better, just like acknowledgling them, but doing nothing, will produce the same results. We have to be proactive about how our brand of trauma is affecting our lives. It has become a part of our present and it will become a part of our future, affecting our mental and emotional health, our personal and professional success, and our relationships. It’s effects….self-abuse, the feelings of anger, outbursts, frustration, depression, isolation, etc., will not be confined to just us, but will become a part of our family, our friends, our children’s lives, as they will often be on the receiving end of our pain.

So, owning our own experiences authentically, I believe, is dealing with our very own brand of bullshit. Being honest with ourselves about who we really are, and what we are allowing, or not allowing, aids us in working towards the best version of ourselves that is possible.

It means back breaking work, because a lifetime of pushing down feelings, hurt, and pain can make facing our problems and dealing with the effects seem overwhelmingly impossible, even on good days. But we MUST, for the sake of our families, our future and ourselves, we must. Otherwise, the abused will become the abuser, the inflicted will become the inflictor, deep despair will become infectious.

And that doesn’t taste good.

Stop making excuses. Your molestation, your rape, false accusations, your abandonment, your car wreck, whatever it is, it isn’t your fault, and it is unfair ! But now, it is time to get better. If you never take those steps, and keep blaming the past for how you are, who you become and how that can affect others, will absolutely be your fault.

So, be proactive. Own your existence and your experiences. Maybe your version of doing this means talking with a therapist, or closest friend who can offer insight, and who will call you on your bullshit. Perhaps, it’s joining a community group online or in your city. It could be as close and tangible as keeping a mood journal, or reading an honest book on recovering or self- care (I recommend Emotional Sobriety) .

It starts with small steps. Our best future us is standing at the finish line cheering us on.

I won’t promise the journey will be comfortable, easy or fun. But, I can tell you from experience, it will light a spark that will turn into the smallest flame. That small flame will slowly grow, and as it does, the path will become illuminated…..

but only if you remember to tend to the flame…

Asylum From Abuse

I am not the girl I used to be

Trapped, things were tangled up inside of me,

no loosing them

Unknowingly, I pulled the knot fast

treading water, my future cast,

death of spirit before me.

Quiet, someone is coming

the pitter-patter of my heart, running I tried to hide.

But the hand that touches

Feels of warmth and soft, green brushes,

Thirsting, I reached out

Relieved to grasp, yet fearful to leave

the will overcame my anxiety,

no longer treading…

Dry and safe.

Asylum.

Finally.

M.K.

Life, For The After. Keep Going.

Life is hard.

Surprise! There’s no one life manual that explains, step by step, how to unfuck yourself. And, if you are dealt a shit hand, like a good lot of us are, you have even more to trudge through.

Maybe, you were a good kid, so very, very good. You never questioned the “truth”. Or perhaps, you fought against in the stream. Either way, you learned to anticipate what was needed of you without being asked, and you excelled at it. After all, the adults in your life were busy with other things, other plans, your siblings, their own problems… You have to be easy, because whatever else is going on in the family is a shit show. At the end of the day, what you’re left with for comfort, are the leftovers. And you have become so accustomed to their taste, you mistake them for care, you mistake them for acceptance, you mistake them for the love you deserve.

According to the silent cues of my well-meaning, religious up-bringing, I must be happy with scraps. I must turn the other cheek no matter the offense, after all being good, being forgiving , is it’s own reward. And News Flash! It doesn’t feel nearly as satisfactory as it was billed.

To top this off, early on, as a woman, it was understood that these rules of being “good, polite and pure as the driven snow”, only applied to the female body, not to the men in my family, church, community or world. When it came to sex, if you had a penis, you could do it with a goat, and it was aaalllll fine. But if a woman had sex outside of wedlock ( with a human mind you), she was a slut. S.L.U.T. Afterall, a woman was the bride of Christ, and the bride of Christ doesn’t speak her mind, and she isn’t allowed to think badly of people. Should she complain about anything, there is always an excuse ready to give for anyone behaving badly. So…you learn to keep your mouth shut.

Why say anything, when you know it will be “reasoned” away?

Time passes, and time, does not, as it turns out, heal all wounds. The little kid aiming to be easy and good, quickly turns 39, she grows, moves away, starts a career, marries, maybe has kids. No matter what she does however, the little child trying not to make waves, lives in memory. She is stuck, trapped inside, and has become captain of our minds and our faithful and constant companion. This ‘inner you’ chimes mental bells when a situation feels too familiar, and then she allows you to totally freak out and over react, in order to ‘protect’ and ‘save’ you; “Don’t think bad thoughts!”, her self preservation kicks in. She has the best of intentions, and these fight or flight tactics she applies, give you a protective place to hide and help you survive. These responses help you remain hidden, they help you to be “good”, and they help you to accomadate others over yourself. All the while, the little girl in your memory is stuck in deep waters, clanging bells and pulling leavers, just trying to keep you afloat.

The anger, the jilted feelings begin to take front and center as you question things you hadn’t before, you begin to realize that the little girl is very, very tired. Her arms ache from pulling the weight, her legs feel like cynder blocks. She has kept you safe and protected. But now, the help is destructive. Deep Anxiety, sudden and explosive anger, gut wrenching grief has become your norm.

If you ask the little girl why she still toils. She says, ” I’m waiting. ”

“For What?” , you may ask.

“To be seen. To be acknowledged. To be validated.”

Perhaps you step closer and watch her, still attempting to pull down leavers, far too heavy for any one person alone. “How long will you wait?”

No answer.

Closer you step, “What if the answer you want never comes?” The cranks and pops echo out as you watch this tiny little girl work like her whole existence depends on it. She is spent, but too afraid of what happens if she stops, if she lets go.

What if she doesn’t get what she has been waiting for. . .Fear keeps her going.

How long, dear friends, do we hold on waiting? For a magical change, or simply, for words that we long to hear from those we love? How long do we wait to hear, “I trust what you are saying, I see you, and how are you healing from the trauma life has bestowed upon you?” How long is too long to wait? Will it ever come, and if it does, will the words be enough, will they be worth the anger, the frustration and the hurt that comes from waiting for a long, long time? Meanwhile, so much time is spent pulling cranks and leavers, hoping, hoping and praying…..

Be better. Do better. CRANK. Be good. Turn the other cheek. POP! Don’t show how you feel. GURGLE. Be everything to everyone all the time. CRANK. Forgive AND forget. Be the peace. Be good, FOR GOD’S SAKE ! BE GOOD! POP, POP, POP!

That little girl working so hard, she needs a rest.

We can change. We can stop the cycle.

It’s hard, and it takes some courage and faith in yourself, but you can find a new path. And when I say it’s hard, I do mean, it feels upside down and wrong at times. It goes against everything you have been conditioned to think is right or normal. Nobody wants or wishes to have this job, Nobody wants trauma. I think of Lord of The Rings, Frodo says to Gandalf, ” I wish the ring had never come to me. ” Gandalf compassionately replies, ” So do all who live to see such times. ….All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” We can ignore the little girl and continue to feel the depression, the hoplessness, the frustration, we can lament the cards that were dealt to us…or we can choose a different path and for once, not leave our future up to the past that threatens to shape our future.

There is life after.

There is life, for the after of all bad breaks, all trauma, all bad hands dealt. To the little girl exhausting herself, just trying to prove she is worthy enough of love and acceptance for the way she is now, imperfect and beautiful, well…she deserves a coffee break. She deserves to bask in the sunshine of being enough, as she is.

All I want for you, for me, is to keep going. That little girl stuck, aching and exhausted, can be reassigned. She can give you water bottles at the mile markers in this marathon. She can tell you what she has waited too long to hear.

You are enough. You can make mistakes and still be loved. You don’t have to be perfect. Keep going.

Your experience is valid. (keep going)

You’re worthy. (keep going)

You are important. (keep going)

Keep. Going.

Keep The Truth

I am not the girl I once was.

I have been molested by loved ones, eaten by the idea of kindness, and brainwashed by belief.

I am left naked and wanting with no answers, except those same that I gave to others like me, before my awakening.

How hollow and ashy they taste when the shoe is on the other foot. I am choking, drowning , while others put me in the box of “backsliding “. I know the speech, I have given it. I know it better than I know myself.

Perhaps…. Fuck you. Not this time. I will keep the truth and I will preach it, afterall, it is what I was conditioned to do; Quietly or loudly, my bullhorn is at the ready.

I will keep the truth.

Ready Your Umbrellas

It’s a Weird life. Weirder still if you are present for it.

I am no stranger…. The beginning of many a good line, but true none-the-less. I’ve known loss, I’ve known sexual abuse , I’ve known exhaustion, betrayal, hate, and all the fill-in-the-blanks.

This is life, we get on with it. I am not here to play the victim, to be somebody’s pet or toy, or to fall into line. I am here to be me. One hundred percent me.

So, read along, or don’t, but my words will be truth to someone. Maybe you. Maybe the person you hate on me to….

Just read, consider, free your mind and be.

This is my prelude to my very own second-line.

Ready your umbrellas.