Saturday, August 20, 2016

Putting my story to bed - maturity

I am back from the big a event and a longer than usual visit with my sister.  It all went perfectly and the happy couple are happily honeymooning in a secret location on the coast of Mexico.

The first night as I sat at a table with my life size version of Cruella Deville I felt like I was having an out of body experience. She talked to me between barking orders to her own daughter about how she should be minding her great granddaughter. This is my stepmother of course  the one who forced me out of my own home at 16 with my dad standing by her side silent.

I sat there staring at her for awhile she still looks 20 years younger than her age. This for sure is not an accident many hours and many thousands of dollars on beauty products have made her the person she is today.  I don't think she has had surgery just hours of pampering.

Okay that is about only the venom I can come up with about her.  Truthfully and thankfully this was a final chapter of closure for me. Her daughter, from the marriage before my dad, talked to me about the fun times we had together.  She was six when they married and was uncontrollable and pulled a knife on me once when I was babysitting her. She would get so mad that she turned purple.  I would beg my dad to not leave me alone with her. Fun times for sure.

My sister and I were talking about how bad she was and she mention the time I tried to throw her down the stairs. I corrected this story she had about me.  I told her she was throwing my stuff down the basement stairs and it was crashing and breaking.  I did tell her if she threw one more thing down the steps she would be going down too.  This was the first time I stood up to her physically.

I know I always harp on the idea that everyone has their story.  The stories we have about other people and even the stories we have about ourselves are distortions of the truth.  A memory of an incident that we have rehearsed over and over in our own mind tweaking it ever so slightly each time. We carry this with us and attach either happy thoughts or resentments to these memories. It is just our version of what happened and seen through the eyes of in this case two people that were eleven and fifteen.

The idea of my step mother is my final story.  The one person I had stories around that still hurt me. It is time I put them to bed.  Over the course of our visit she told her own story several times of how her first husband cheated on her and left her. She didn't date for six years until she met my dad. When she was telling this to me I thought "you have never gotten over that have you?" Just like I have never gotten over my story of her the way she treated me and the fact that her rejection changed the course of my life forever.

It isn't easy for me to let this go and to forgive her, not that she is asking, for the part she played in alienating me from my family.  I do take responsibility for building on that alienation instead of returning to the scene of the crime as an adult and demanding my rightful place in my family.

I have spent most of my life with the child inside wanting them especially my dad to see my worth and tell me he loved me and wanted me to be a part of the family.  He never knew how his indifference to me has made me spend a lifetime trying to feel worthy of love.  He did love me and said it the few times we spoke but he was shut down emotionally. His family are all like that people of few words or emotions and I knew I would never get what I wanted from him. I accepted this.

In our minds we carry versions of our stories.  Our own versions and clinging to those versions can keep us locked in a darkroom.  It can keep us busy not living for today and we can find other people that are stuck in the same kinds of hurts that make us feel it is okay to stay stuck.  It does feel comfortable and familiar.  We definitely have a right to feel hurt and what happened to us is unfair but now it is time to move on.

This has been a process of maturity for me I didn't want to admit that I was the one keeping this going. I have given up most of my story and don't tell it too often these days if it might help someone, like here or if someone ask me. This I feel is the last piece of the past holding me back.

It isn't easy living without a story and for some it is unthinkable. I had someone ask me once "I am my story where would I be without it?" I said "free maybe".  This idea of life without a story means for me that I have to find something else to fill that space.  My life feels a little lighter since I got back.  I did have grieve the loss of my stepmother story more lettling go and I may have to put it to bed again at some point but for now I feel free.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Peace - Cinderella - Finding happiness

I have the real weekend off and have slept in until almost 11 both days.  I haven't done that in a very long time.  I don't feel particularly tired but sleep is the best remedy for most things physical and mental.  The next few weeks will be busy and it is probably good to get it while I can.

We have a big wedding coming up the first of August my nephew is marrying into a pretty prominent family in his town.  There is an event every day for four days leading up to the wedding.  I have had to go out and buy the hopefully appropriate clothes.  My life has been more the life of a monk than a socialite so it is pretty stressful. The women at the first store kept saying "you can't wear that" finally settling on a top for the rehearsal dinner.

I spoke to my sister and she is stressed 10 fold.  We both are wishing we were thinner about now but not enough to jump on the diet path.  She will be in the official pictures and I will not.  She told me she has tried on 30 dresses and her final picks got the thumbs down from her son.

Pieces of my past will be at the table every night.  My step mother will be the honored grandmother. Hopefully it will be a big table and I will be at the other end.  She is the last person that can still stir something in me. If she had been kinder and more loving my life would have been different. I was an obstacle to her something between her and my father.

It was a true Cinderella story with the chores and all.  She didn't reserve her treatment for just me but even her own daughters.  She was an angry women who was left by her first husband the love of her life and she could never accept this rejection.  The "I am not enough story" manifesting it 'self just below the surface. I understand and have compassion for this story now but I don't necessarily want to sit next to her at the dinner table. 

If you believe in God then you have to accept that everything happens for a reason.  Life is laid out in a divine plan and we are exactly where we are suppose to be a nice story.  This thought can keep you going but I now believe that life is just life.  When bad things happen we just find a way to get through it the best we can and when good things happen we just try to enjoy the moment. 

I try my best everyday to just be kind and compassionate.  Realizing that everyone has their own story that they are living and that it has nothing really to do with me.  I can't change them just give them encouragement and if they reject me or love me it isn't something about me it is about them.

When I am at my best I choose to not take it personally.  Sometimes when I want someone to like me or do something I want them to do and they don't I slip away from peace and back to pain and frustration.  Luckily it doesn't last too long and I can return to peace.

When I head out to family central in the next few weeks I will have many opportunities to test my faith and use what I have learned. I am going with an open mind knowing I am healthier spiritually than I have ever been.  I am no longer Cinderella trapped in a bad situation I can't escape.  I escaped without the prince and the story wasn't the fairytale I wished for but I have found my own happily ever after.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Al-Anon - Cleaning house

I am home for the second day of my weekend.  I didn't even bother to pack up my computer in case I had a work emergency. I have been doing the ordinary things that one does in life like cleaning and laundry.  I have to admit that during my depression I got out of the habit of regular anything most less cleaning.  

When I lived with addiction cleaning was what I did while I waited for my love to have that last drink and come home. I would get calls every hour saying "I am leaving right now" this was before I even knew I was dealing with addiction.  I thought if he loved me he would rather be with me than out drinking with his friends.  I blamed myself for his behavior I was never a happy person in those days I had found my happiness in him and I knew I was losing him which made me so controlling.  

Everything was the same as it had been before but for some reason he was staying away more and more. I tried to be prettier and keep the house clean.  I tried not to nag him about not coming home but I did try to find out what it was about me that was keeping him away.  Desperation is so attractive.

I was so young then in my early twenties trying to create the family I felt I missed out on in my life. I wanted stability and love so I latched on to someone who said they wanted the same thing.  I didn't know the strength of addiction and I had built my self-esteem around the fact that this fabulous person loved me so I must be really special. Everybody did love him all he had to do is enter the room and the sun came out.

I was losing and I blamed myself.  I knew if I tried hard enough I could solve this puzzle and things could go back to the way they were before I just had to keep trying. You know how this ends and for me I was lucky because it ended with a beginning.  I started my spiritual journey in Al-Anon.

I thought I was alone with all those desperate thoughts in my mind.  I thought I was alone with my schemes to control him to make this marriage work. What I found out was that my situation was mild in comparison to what others had suffered.  I cried after my first meeting because I didn't feel so alone anymore I could begin to stop blaming myself for everything.

By then he had left me for someone else so I never had to practice what I had learned with active alcoholism. What I did get to do is see my actual part in the drama of my life.  I could see just how much of my own power I had handed over to this person if they didn't love me then I was unlovable. I wish I could say I haven't repeated this exercise again and again in the years that have passed since then. 

It is okay because I have learned enough not to go there for too long. I have had to learn to love myself whether anyone loves me or not.  I am loved but it is conditionally even my love for myself is conditional.  Only the God of my understanding can offer me anything else. 

Today I am finishing my cleaning for no other reason than to do what needs to be done.  I am a little on the sad side today and I am wishing I had someone to share my life with not just anyone but someone that I could have a healthy relationship with.  Maybe someone to share these chores. Tomorrow I will be back in the thick of things and this day will be a memory. I better get back to my cleaning.  al

Monday, July 4, 2016

Trusting the flow - Paint - A color change

Since I have been resisting my life for so many years it feels really good to just accept things the way they are and just go with the flow.  I have been bringing color into my life first by painting my office a wheat yellow with an accent wall of drizzle blue.  It caused quite a stir with the head designer who prefers everything to be gray.

I have been gray long enough.  She said that it would have to be painted over this was a sad moment for me.  First my ego was like "do you think I can't pick colors?" I let it go and decided to bring the paint home an paint one of my bedroom walls with it.  It feels like the sun is setting behind my bed.

By some miracle the owner got wind of us painting our offices and came down to see for himself.  He said it wasn't his pick but it was nice.  I paid his son to paint the office so it wasn't like nobody knew it was happening.  When I did that it felt like I was committing to the job for the first time. Investing in a place that I have spent on average 10-12 hours a day for three years.

Ironically one of our cabinet companies came out with their new brochure with the exact same two colors.  I, not so secretly, felt vindicated.  

I am on a roll transforming my day to day life with color.  I had my house painted a few weeks ago and it looks awesome.  I was going go for the same wheat color on the front door but it turned out more like banana to me.  I will repaint once the weather gets cooler.  When I presented the colors to our committee I wasn't 100% sure so I picked harvest from the color brochure. Maybe it is a banana harvest not wheat. 

Yesterday I hung ten pictures up the stair way which has been blank since the great room was painted last year.  In my OCD mind I wanted to lay the pictures out neatly on paper an mull over my choices but it never happened. Ultimate the ADD side of me kicks in and I just started hanging pictures  and it looks great. After 12 months in 30 minutes I have an art wall. 

This is the inner battle that I have dealt with all my life.  Analysis paralysis versus just jumping in with no plan exactly.  I have learned to just trust myself and accept that this is who I am and that intuitively I will make the right decision. If I don't life will go on and I will get over it. 

I call it being in the flow especially at work.  With sales you never know who the real customers are or who should get my attention. I only have so many hours in the day so I have to make a decision an go with it. It always works out and I am finally learning to trust that my instincts are right. 

It feels good to let go of the wanting I have carried for so long.  Wanting things to be different than they are today or worse wanting the past to be different than it was.  I have moved back to the doing part of myself instead of the being part or the thinking part. I am finding my own peace painting, cleaning and pulling weeds trusting the flow.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Don't take anything personally - A veil or an iron mask

Don't take anything personally.  This is something I learned from a book called "The Four Agreements"  This little book really condensed down all of life's most complicated issues. 

Every day I encounter a lot of different people in my work.  Some with grand ideas and no budget others with unlimited budgets but expectations that something must be done right this minute. I call it a design emergency.

On Friday I had a call from a guy who said he talked to me months ago about replacing his flooded kitchen but went with someone else and they did a terrible job he wanted to know if we could come out and fix it.  On Friday  I said "today" he said yes and he said he would pay any amount.

I imagined what one might have going on in there mind that they thought they could call up at 3 o'clock on a Friday and get someone to come out to there house the same day. I was polite and explained that getting materials to match his cabinets would take 3 weeks.  I did say back to him that he did hire someone else to do the job and he should contact them if he wasn't happy with the work.

We all bring our own baggage to the table every experience we have had that created the person we are today.  I like to think of this as veil that we see life through.  Some have thicker veils or even iron mask that they look through.  It is only their own reality and can be so far off from what is actually going on. I use to try to penetrate that veil when I could see how much it was hurting them. Not realizing that I too had my own veil.

I thought it was my gift to state the obvious (my obvious).  I do believe that it is gift or a curse that I have owned since I was a child mainly because I am a watcher and I don't easily get caught up in the drama of others.

My dad called it the spirit of decrement.  I don't use my gift anymore unless someone ask me specifically and even then I say what needs to be said in kindness and not self righteousness.  No one is my responsibility and it is not my place to interfere with their life lessons.  I can encourage but that is all. 

In my work I just speak my truth in the most diplomatic way and let the other person receive it.  I leave the outcome to a higher power and I now know it isn't my responsibility to change or convince the other person to do anything. I am successful most time because I can sense what concerns they might have and address those without pushing and without expecting a specific outcome.  

In my business I don't do well when someone feels they are having a design emergency and need someone right now.  Even if the money is good the toll it takes on me is no longer worth it.

I am past feeling like I need to rescue anyone. Since we must sell to survive the lure of money is always there just under the surface or the need to please can be even stronger. Now days I just accept that not everyone is a good fit for me.  

I am in the business of rejection.  Before I healed so many wounds from the past every time a customer didn't pick me it felt personal.  My self worth and livelihood was tied up in getting a yes from everyone.  It felt personal every time if they said yes it proved I was worthy and accepted if they said no I felt like something was wrong with me and my abilities. Just like my personal life.   

Today I trust that all is well and that everyone has to work things out for themselves just like I did. If I spend time with them even it they don't pick me.  I trust that there is an ultimate purpose for our meeting.  A piece of the puzzle of the universe that I am not suppose to know the reason for. Accepting this has helped me to relax and do my best and not take it personally.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Family connections - Managing the behavior of others

I am in a good place just enjoying the weekend how I imagine most people do.  I had an interesting conversation with my sister yesterday.  She has called me regularly over the years and I have made efforts to visit her and her family regularly.  Yesterday there was some real honesty about what she has lived with all these years. She even talked about visiting me here. 

Our conversations have been mostly one sided her telling me problems she is having at work or sometimes with the kids. She is usually driving someplace and just fitting me in where it is convenient for her and I am sure feeling like she is maintaining her outreach program.  These days it usually takes two or three calls for us to catch up with each other.  Mostly because she calls at 7am or after midnight.

She hasn't been here to see me since my divorce when I was thirty.  My efforts to see her and her family was my desperate need to belong somewhere. My last big effort was for my nieces college graduation when I had taken a week off work to drive nine hours to show my support.  I was called the night before and told by my sister not to come.  It was really going to be only family.

This was devastating for me at the time because I was still lost and searching for a way out of my depression.  I thought it was caused by not having a support system and in my mind I thought I should try once again to connect to my own family instead of trying to find a substitute family.

When I was rejected I thought okay enough I am going to have to be whole alone. Depend only on myself to find my way out of the blackness. It really felt good to not want that connection and to be free to just let that idea go for good this time.  My happiness does not depend on another or in this case does not depend on my family loving me or wanting me.

The truth about that particular rejection was centered around addiction. This is what my sister has lived with since she married her husband. First his parents with prescription medications and more recently his sister who's life has been destroyed by her own addiction.  In the end when I was uninvited it was because if I came then the addicted sister had to be invited too. 

My niece confided in me later that it wasn't the aunt's behavior that she worried about it was the way her own father acted when the aunt was around.  She said he is totally crazy trying to control her and worrying about her.  He ruins every family event because something isn't going the way he thinks it should. 

The addiction always gets center stage because we give it to it.  My niece said she would never have a big wedding because the stress of dealing with the family would be too much. My brother-in-law has been the real problem in the family and this is why my sister has been very selective about what she has told me over the years.

She has lived a life of doing whatever needs to be done to keep from setting him off. When has managed around him and is angry outburst. Even the kids have tried to help their mother manage around him. He has worn her out and they all feel she needs to be rescued my nephew told me he felt he couldn't have his own life because his mother needed him to be a father to his little brother and a protector to his mother. 

I told him his mother would be really sad to think he felt he couldn't have his own life because she needed protection and his brother needed a father. 

The kids have moved on the last of them moving out a month ago. My sister told me yesterday that he has run everyone off and that she has her own plans for freedom. I think now that she has raised the kids she wants to find some happiness and peace. 

Their lives have been forever changed mostly by one person and this person was not the addicted. The kids have learned things about relationships that are totally unhealthy.  They have learned that you have to manage people to keep the peace mostly in a passive aggressive way. When all else fails you can flee but ultimately this leaves a big whole that needs to be healed.

I am sorry my sister has lived with this situation we both have had a hard times in our lives.  It is too bad that we couldn't help each or even confide in each other.  We  have been alone and left to our own abilities to find our way out. Realizing that it isn't the addiction that destroys us it is our reaction to it and our fear of making the wrong that keeps us from finding freedom. 

I have left my expectations for being a real part of my family behind.  If it does work out that would be nice but if it doesn't I will be okay too. I have found the peace I have been searching for so long. I have finally let go of thinking anyone or even life for that matter owes me anything.

We are all doing our best and we must all find our own to peace.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Happy on the outside - Miss Wild and Dancing

have always felt like I was on the outside looking in I could see early on that I was different my family was different.

We were Pentecostal this never was a problem for me until my teacher Miss Wild in the 4th grade started an half hour of dancing ever Friday afternoon. I loved her she looked like Cher and was the coolest person I had ever met. When I went home to tell my mother about the dancing she was appalled and made me take a note to Miss Wild saying that I wasn't allowed to participate in the dancing.  Every week while the other kids danced I had to sit and watch.

It was the burden I had to bare for my families beliefs. I felt lucky, unlike some of the other kids from our church,  I was able to wear pants. I think this came about because I was a tom boy and it was more important for me to be covered then the rules of dress.

I was odd from the beginning even in my own family I didn't really fit in too well. I looked at people and what they were doing and saying and I just didn't get it. The girls in my neighborhood were all very tight DeDe and Beverly were best friends and when they had a big fight one of them would befriend me until they made up and then they both would reject me.

My mother suffered over my social problems more than I did and she was always looking for a solution.  No one was sure what was wrong with me and at one point I was put into special ed with Bobby who lived on my street who what definitely a little slow.

I went along with this because this is what my mother wanted.  It was a few hours of free time each week a break from the seriously boring school day. I felt sorry for Bobby not understanding that people were thinking the same thing about me. Today I would be diagnosed with ADD and put on drugs even then they did offer drugs but we were health nuts and my mother refused.

This period with Bobby didn't last long but it didn't help me to fit with my schoolmates either. When my mother died in the 5th grade it sealed my fate for ever being normal in the real world. Headlines "Pentecostal girl loses mother and any hope of being accepted by the outside world".  My skin was pretty thick by then and I had created my own world a place where I controlled all emotion.  I accepted that I was alone and would have to figure things out for myself.

I remember once telling my mother not to worry about me that I was fine and I would find my own way. This was when she was first sick.  I meant it and by that time I was pretty autonomous and felt and had found my place alone in the world.  I had know idea what was coming but I was strong and my will kept me going.

This is my story of life from the outside. I never felt a part of any group until I went to Al-Anon.  The brokenness and strength I found there seemed so familiar to me.  People strong on the outside but with so many sad parts on the inside.  Everyone had been through something and wanted to get better.

The acceptance I found there was incredible.  I became a part of a clique which became the closest thing to a family that I have had.  Some of us are still together but some are not as comfortable letting the past go and being happy and healthy.  It does feel really awkward to not being broken and trying to fix myself.  I have done my best and it is time to rest and enjoy what the day has to offer instead of looking for the next problem to solve. Filling my days trying to solve an outside problem and when there isn't one looking for one on the inside. 

I feel whole for the first time in my life. I have always believed that because I didn't fit in that there was something wrong with me.  The search for the cure consumed my life. I tried so hard to find a place where I did fit in that I gave up parts of myself to appear normal.  Today I know that I am perfect just the way I am and that girl in me that tried to sooth her mother's worries is still here today finding my own way.