Turn the light back on.

A sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering.  Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their life. -Vasudev-

I am a creature of habit.  Consistency and predictability feel good to me.  I love to have fun but it’s better when it’s predictable fun.  The kind of fun where I know where I’m going, I know where I’m going to stay when I get there and I know what I’m going to do while I’m there.  I like knowing when I’m leaving and when I will return.  I don’t have to have everything planned down to the second (a rough estimate will do)  but I’m much more comfortable being able to anticipate possible outcomes.  I do this with everything.  Not just fun stuff.  I am a recovering control freak and I hate admitting it. See if you can wrap your mind around this.  It’s not so much that I want to control everyone around me… I want to control MY environment.  And if that means I have to control the people around me so that MY environment remains safe and stress free, well, I will do my damn best to do so.

Being the ever wondering woman that I am, I traced this all back once again to fear. I can even take it one step further into the labyrinth of my psyche and tie it all up in the big red bow of the fear of not being able to fix an unanticipated problem should it occur.  I’m a fearful control freak fixer.  How’s that for a title? Yes, I was the family Savior who offset that intensity with a shot of comedy which came in handy for disarming warring parties.  If I see I can’t fix a situation, I will most definitely fling some dark humor at it.  Usually it works like a charm.  It’s unexpected.  It catches people off guard and causes them to stop fighting and start laughing.  At the least, it distracts whoever is holding the grenade long enough to reconsider pulling the pin and lobbing it into the middle of the room.  Just for kicks and giggles let’s amend my title to Fearful, Funny, Control Freak Fixer. That’s a lot of “F’s”.  When I seriously think about these things, I’d like to say a lot of “F’s” but not the ones in that title. I’ve done these things so long, I have earned a PhD in Fearful, Funny, Control Freak Fixing!  FFCFF for short. That’s a highly dysfunctional degree. Thank you, thank you very much.

People like me usually avoid change like the plague.  Change is uncomfortable.  Change is scary. Even good change is stressful so it produces the same physiological effects as bad stress.  Even good stress causes rapid heart rate, sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, rushing adrenaline, etc.  Just like bad stress causes.  Physiologically, good stress and bad stress are no different.  They are only different in how they are perceived.  The physiological manifestation is also the same in fear as it is in falling in love.  Give that a minute to sink in.  The positive form of stress which is beneficial is called “eustress.”  Something like moving to a better house is stressful but it’s eustress.  Rooting out old destructive thought patterns, defense mechanisms and self-defeating behaviors cause eustress.  It hurts but this is one kind of unpredictable fire I will hurl myself into with little hesitation.  I will gladly take on personal suffering if it brings about positive transformation in my life which then flows outward into the lives of the people I love.  If Mamma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.  Intentionally or unintentionally.

Taking a new direction in life is not always done because you want to.  Sometimes you do it out of necessity.  The old ways aren’t working anymore.  Maybe they never worked but you’ve finally figured out the problem wasn’t everyone else…. it was you all along. Human beings only decide to change when it becomes too painful not to. Intensely personal, big change shakes things up.  Endings and new beginnings cause inner conflict, obstacles (both inward and outward) and general mayhem.  It usually has to get much worse before it gets better.  Re-breaking an improperly healed bone hurts like hell but it has to be done unless you want to limp for the rest of your life.  I’m tired of limping.  I’d like to run or maybe at least kinda jog.

You can’t get a PhD in FFCFF (or the other highly specialized degrees in familial dysfunction) just anywhere.  You have to get it from your family of origin.  They are the ones who have the secret rules and regulations that are passed down from generation to generation.  Your family of origin keeps the storehouse of information you must memorize locked tightly away and they dispense snippets of dysfunctional wisdom to you as you grow up. Finally one day you’re just as educated in outdated coping mechanisms and clouded insights as the rest of the gang.

I’m not only fascinated by the study of spirituality and psychology but also by genealogy.  My people have always been such a mystery.  There was very little family heritage discussed and I discovered through my research it was because there was an awful lot of trauma that these people lived through.  They either just didn’t want to talk about any of it or they couldn’t understand it themselves.  The information I’ve uncovered going back 5 generations and more is sad indeed.  Very unfortunate things happened.  Four and 5 generations ago there was an inordinate number of orphans in different branches of my family tree.  One generation after another, children were losing at least one and sometimes both their parents to then be raised by other people who may or may not really have had an interest in caring for them.  This was on both sides of my family.

For instance, my great grandmother on my mother’s side was widowed twice by the age of 35 and only had 1 child (my grandmother).  I could not locate her on any later census records so it appears that she died also.  My grandmother survived and went on to marry a man, have 12 children and then be abandoned by him. My mother was one of those 12 children and she wound up in a Baptist Children’s Home with the other siblings until she turned 18. What an emotional train wreck.

My great-great grandmother on my father’s side of the family was also widowed very young and had only one child from that marriage. That was my great-grandmother. My great grandmother married a man and had 4 children.  After discovering that he was having multiple affairs and drinking constantly she divorced him even though it was the 1950’s.  One of those 4 children was my grandmother.  My grandmother married a man and had 3 children. He moved her to Washington state and abandoned her there with their 2 children. On top of that, she was expecting another child at that time.  She had a college education, luckily, so she went to work to take care of herself and her 3 children.  He showed back up again and moved them to Idaho.  Finally he moved them all back to our home state, then took it upon himself to disappear yet again.  When he was found, he had become a black jack dealer in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He finally came home and she allowed him to come back into the family.

I’m telling you these family stories to establish a framework, a flow chart of sorts, to help you to see how family dysfunction doesn’t just spring up overnight.  It is planted, fertilized and it grows. The stories of death, widows, widowers, orphans and abandonment go back even further than the ones I’ve mentioned. Generation after generation of fear, anger, loss, sadness and despair pile upon each other when nothing extinguishes or counteracts any of it.  Layer upon layer it builds, rotting and stinking until it’s so deep that everyone is flailing in the muck, drowning and dragging anyone they can grab hold of down with them.  They don’t intentionally want to drown anyone else, they just want out and their own flailing destroys those that come near.  It is a black hole of angst with a soul crushing gravitational pull that seems inescapable.  Things aren’t always as they seem.  It can most certainly be escaped.  The deal is though, that someone has to figure out what is going on and put a stop to it.  Someone has to find the main power source and flip the switch. The gravitational pull that has kept everyone struggling in the dark has to be broken.

My personal excavation of long dead ancestral stories has proven fruitful.  I have located the main power source that has fueled the black hole which consumed them.  I’m flipping the switch.  No more. It stops with me.  As much so as I possibly can.  I don’t want this legacy for my children, even though once again history has repeated itself in my generation.  My oldest son grew up a child of divorce and at the ages of 1, 2 and 7, my youngest children lost their father to death. I too became a young widow.  It seems like a curse, doesn’t it?  A repeating set of circumstances that keeps presenting itself until someone learns the lesson to be gained from it.  I think I’ve got it.  My finger is poised on the switch.

I am in no way saying I’ve discovered the secret to cheating untimely, young, physical death.  I am speaking of something much bigger than that.  Physical death is simply a transition from one life form to another.  We are energy spirit beings and we do not die.  We change forms.  When the biological form we now inhabit ceases to have the ability to sustain life, by either being broken beyond repair or simply wearing out from decades of use, the form stops functioning.  It dies.  Like an old motor vehicle that just won’t start and run anymore.  When the biological form we inhabit  is of no further use to us, our true selves, our spirit beings, step out of the vehicle and into a new and different existence.  Death is just another part of life.  It is guaranteed.  If you have been born into this world, you will one day pass out of it by the process we call death. Whether tragically young, at a ripe old age or somewhere in between.  Death will happen to us all.  Bearing that in mind we can cross that off as being the main power switch that needs to be flipped to shut down the black hole.  Death cannot always be predicted or circumvented.

I want to paint a picture so vivid for you that you cannot help but feel the magnitude of my discovery and then consider it long enough in respect to your own lives, that insight can occur to assist you in your own personal growth and change.

What I have discovered is that the main switch that got flipped was a switch that had been shut OFF.  Not turned on.  The switch that was flipped off long, long ago which cast my family into darkness was labeled…..

L O V E

I’m going to try to draw as much of a straight line as I can to connect the dots.  I want you to be able to see and make sense of how this all began and then snowballed into the tangled knotted mess that it became.

In the beginning, it appeared that the men, the fathers, died or were killed in war.  Records showed they were solid citizens who owned land and earned money to provide for their very large families.

The families appear to have been separated so that other members of the extended family could assist in raising the numerous children.  This was obligation and not necessarily because the children were loved or wanted.  It was the way things were done way back then.  You “took care of your own” whether you wanted to or not.  Most families had many, many children.  Ten or more children was not uncommon.  That is a lot of mouths to feed and taking on someone else’s young children was a burden.  They weren’t old enough or big enough to work on the farms or be productive in any way.  The orphaned and abandoned children were basically housed and fed until they were old enough to be put to work.  When they could leave and be on their own they did.

These children never knew what it felt like to be consistently loved. They never knew what it was to be wanted. They never knew what it felt like to be safe within their own home.  They were picked up and carted off at such young ages that they didn’t know why they were being taken away… they just were.  FLIP!

They grew up feeling they didn’t fit in and knowing they were a burden.  They worked as soon as they could and they left as soon as they could.  Alone.  FLIP!

They married and had children of their own.  They knew how to work but they didn’t know how to love.  How can a person know how to love if they have no understanding of what love really is?  People who never received the unconditional nurturing love of parents have short circuits emotionally.  Guess work is all a person like this can do.  Guessing and mimicking superficial examples they observe in others who appear to have this thing called “love.” Maybe love appeared to be a house to live in and something to eat every day.  Maybe that’s love.  Maybe love is having a spouse. But once you acquire a spouse, you have to take care of  that person not just physically but emotionally. There’s more to it than just possessing another human being and calling them “wife” or “husband.”

And what about the children that came out of these relationships? They were children, being raised by an adult or adults, who didn’t know how to love anyone, because they were not loved themselves when they were children.

You cannot give something away that you do not possess.

Down through the generations of loss and abandonment, the women in my family formed very dark opinions about men. I know for a fact what my grandmother and great-grandmother thought.  I know because they drilled it into me from an early age.

  • Men are bad.
  • The only thing men want is sex with whomever will give it to them.
  • Men are undependable thus worthless.
  • Men leave.
  • If you want anything in this life, do not sit around thinking some man is going to give it to you.  You get your butt educated and take care of yourself. Nobody is going to take care of you but you.
  • If you want children, fine.  But don’t expect to get any help from a man in raising them or caring for them.  He’ll be around about long enough to make them, then he will be off to another woman.
  • Don’t let a man run over you.
  • He’ll use you for a doormat as long as you lay there.
  • Own your own property.  That way, when he leaves you, you will have a safe place for yourself and your children.

My God, my God. These women who came before me were living in utter darkness and had no hope whatsoever that life could be, should be, was INTENDED to be different. They didn’t believe good men existed, so, there were only differing degrees of bad, hurtful men.  The way they understood men was sort of on a continuum. Like a scale from 1 to 10.

A (1) on the scale could possibly kill you in a drunken rage.  A (10) might intermittently have a job and maybe go to church with you on Easter and Christmas.

The men who appeared better than that on the surface were surely liars and probably secretly beat their wives, or gambled or drank too much.  Just not in places where anyone would ever see any evidence.  I am not kidding.  To put it on paper in black and white reveals the absolute absurdity of their skewed belief system.  I remember my aunt saying, “Even ugly men cheat.  They just cheat with ugly women.”  Oh my God in heaven above please help me!  Their beliefs were absolute blanket statements that left no wiggle room. Half the world’s population was determined to be evil or at the least just ignorant and useless. What a crock of shit.

The black hole caused by the initial deficit of love so very long ago had sucked these people in so far that they didn’t even believe love existed.  It was just a fairytale.  The words, “I love you”, were reserved for children on occasion but that didn’t come easily either. I think there was a fondness between some of the adults but never any outright displays of affection or verbal affirmation.

My saving grace came in the form of my grandmother who raised me until she died a couple of weeks after I turned 13 years old.  She taught me that courage was being afraid but doing good things anyway.  She saw to it that I had formal music lessons and became a classical pianist.  She instilled in me that education was the key to everything and not going to college wasn’t an option.  She showed me the unconditional love of a parent for a child. She believed in me.  She was my only safe place. And then she was gone.

There was a second time that light penetrated the darkness that I had inherited. It was the bright flame that my husband, the father of my three youngest children, bounded in with and waved around in front of my face.  He waved that light around and said things to me like, “I love you,” and “I’m not going to leave you,” and “I know you don’t believe me but I’m going to show you.”  He even told me once he was going to “wear me down.” And he did just that.  I learned that there really are good men. He showed me that it didn’t matter how difficult things got, he would absolutely never leave me. He knew how to love and once he started loving me he never stopped… until someone killed him.

It doesn’t matter what the struggle is that you, me or anyone else comes up against in life.  Struggles will come.  That’s just the way it is on planet earth.  The difference in how the story plays out is whether you face that trouble with love or you face it with fear.  I’ve said before that I believe hate is not the opposite of love.  Fear is the opposite of love.

Where fear abounds, the light of love will be snuffed out.

The women that came before me wore their thorny crowns of fear jammed tight onto their heads.  The branches of suspicion, mistrust and doubt kept out any new ideas or fresh hope that could have changed their way of moving and being in their lives.  The blood of their ancestors suffering dripped down their creased brows and into their tired eyes, blinding them to any hand of love that may have reached out to wipe it away.

I choose to defeat fear.  I choose to defeat fear by acknowledging it and dismissing it, with a wave of my hand or a nod of my head.  I choose to believe there are good men as well as good women in the world.  Simply by acknowledging these things and changing my expectations, I flip the switch marked L O V E back on in my life. I don’t have to accept pain and mistreatment as a standard.  I get to choose to move through the tunnels of sadness that will sometimes appear in my life, always following the beacon of light that ever beckons me to break free once again into the warm light of love. You see, the love never leaves us.  It never goes away.  The dark times that come, only dim our experience of the love for a short while, unless we focus on the darkness.

What we focus on, we become.

My desire is to focus so steadfastly on the light of love, that eventually I will become that light.  What I have, I can give away to those who need it and want it.

My ancestors did the best they knew to do with their limited understanding.  If they would have learned better, they would have done better.  They weren’t ready.  We evolve as we are so able.  I thank them for the good things they taught me. I thank them for shelter, food and clothing. I thank them for the music they gave me. I proudly take that with me. I release the skewed generational teaching that fear makes me safe by barricading my heart away from others.  I allow those illusions and delusions to go.

As I write these final words, I am weeping.  The profoundness of this discovery is so far-reaching that it changes absolutely everything.  Not just for me but for my children and my children’s children.  For the good people in my future who will show up wanting to love me and who need my love.  I will allow love and give love and accept love with an open heart that is unafraid.  This is big stuff.

The light of love is on and I am home.  Finally.

Love,

Me

Predictable Endings

“One day she finally grasped that unexpected things were always going to happen in life.  And with that, she realized the only control she had was how she chose to handle them.  So, she made the decision to survive using courage, humor and grace.  She was the Queen of her own life and the choice was hers.” -Queenism-

We all have major themes that define our lives.  Our lives are not chaotic messes as it appears they are sometimes.  There is a rhyme and a reason for everything that happens.  No coincidences.  No event or situation without merit and value.

These repeating themes are there because these are the things we need to work on or work through for our personal spiritual growth.  Maybe they keep repeating because we don’t deal with them in a productive manner and we have to keep facing them over and over again until we figure out a better way to respond. A more loving way to respond.  Both to others and ourselves.  Perhaps we face them repeatedly because we aren’t understanding the lesson we need to learn from them.  Nothing happens in our lives randomly.  Nothing.

If a vinyl record gets scratched, the needle will get stuck in the scratch or in the groove it is traveling in as the record spins on the turntable.  Painful events in our lives are like the scratch in the record.  Sometimes we get stuck in the gouge made by the painful event in our lives and we just can’t move on.  Or we think we have moved on but we make a rotation and there it is again.  Anger.  Grief.  Betrayal.  Heartache. Loss. Insecurity.  Sometimes our needle gets stuck in one of those grooves and it just goes around and around and around, never making any progress for years, never going on to finish the song.  Never moving along to the next song on the album.  Spin, skip, spin.

In dissecting the cataclysmic events in my lifetime, I have discovered that regaining balance seems to be one of my major recurring themes. Coming back to center after being knocked out of orbit.  Finding my footing again after tragedy.  Regrouping and moving forward stronger and with even more determination to live out my life’s purpose with clarity, passion and meaning.  I have also discovered that I don’t recover well from grief and loss. I hide from it.  I construct elaborate defense mechanisms to make sure that a certain challenging situation never happens to me again. I pretend that everything is okay and I’ve moved along just fine.  And I have moved along.  Moving along “just fine” has meant grabbing the situation by the throat and choking the living daylights out of it by micromanaging and controlling anything and everything that could remotely appear to be leading to similar circumstances.  This makes it appear to myself that I’ve got everything under control and exponentially lessens the probability that THAT will not happen again.

When I begin digging around in my own head, I don’t always like what I discover about myself.  I believe myself to be one way because I tell myself I am, but in fact, I have pulled the wool over my own eyes. I want to remove the wool.  I want to see myself as I truly am, not just what I want to believe I am.  I want to know why I do the things I do and think the things I think.  I suppose that is why I was drawn into an education and career in psychology.  If I can understand why I am the way I am, I can learn new ways of thinking and being in the world.  The events that have completely knocked me into the middle of next week have been the very pivotal points in my life that have provoked me to dig deeper into my own soul for answers.

Out of those things have come a lifelong quest for spiritual meaning in life.  Not the religiosity that tells me exactly what to do, how to think and how to be, or face being banished to the pit of hell for eternity type of thing. That doesn’t interest me at all.  The type of spirituality that  looks for the answers to the bigger questions.  Why am I here? Just what exactly is it that my soul intended to accomplish in this lifetime? How does it all fit together in the big scheme of things?

I don’t pretend to know all the answers to these things and I don’t think anyone has all the answers.  It’s impossible to grasp completely how God and the Universe functions.  My little glob of grey matter behind my eyes and between my ears doesn’t have the capacity to completely sort out concepts so vast.  But I do know I have a much better handle on it than I did decades ago.

A biggie for me in learning to bring myself back to an even keel after a huge shift in my life circumstances is learning to trust.  I have a very hard time trusting that everything will be alright. Some of the situations that I have lived through were so horrendous that I honestly didn’t think I would live through them.  And to be honest, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to live through them at the time.  The delusion that I have lived, in order to keep any of this from happening again, is that I can micromanage my life into being safe.  What I’ve done in actuality is micromanage my life into a ditch.  I stopped dreaming.  I stopped daring to defy gravity.  After all, if I get up too high and an engine goes out what happens next ain’t pretty.  But you know what? That same engine probably will never go out again in the exact same way.  Statistically it’s just not significant enough to be having this much of a major impact on how I choose to live my life.

Sometimes I choose to participate in situations that I know will fail simply BECAUSE I KNOW they will fail.  Better the Devil I know, than the Devil I don’t.  I know what to do when the predictably bad thing happens, so go for it. At least it’s familiar. At least I think I have some kind of control over how to recuperate afterwards.  This dysfunctional thinking came from deciding a long time ago that lots of really bad unavoidable things happen in my life and it is much better if I can just see them coming. I have consciously and subconsciously refused to take risks on really great things and truly wonderful people who would have brought me happiness, peace and a sense of fulfillment.  Down deep inside I believed that it was arrogant to believe I could have stability, because when that engine unexpectedly drops out way up above the clouds somewhere… well, I just might not make it out alive again.  Don’t tempt fate. I’d rather the endings in my life be predictable. If the endings are predictable, I can control and temper my emotions and reactions to that ending. I can already see around those corners and have Plans B, C and maybe even D in place before Plan A even starts to smoke, much less explode.

This all sounds absolutely insane.  And it is.  But it’s a lot more common than most people know.

I see people all the time who have never lost anyone significant to death or those they have lost were on the periphery of their lives and the absence was not really felt on a daily basis.  The pain was short-lived and easy to ignore.  I know women who never suffered through multiple miscarriages.  I know women who have never been sexually traumatized at any stage of their lives.  I know people who have never been through divorce.  There are even women who have never been punched in the face and had their noses broken and their eyes blacked.  But guess what?  Those women aren’t me.

I have lived through each and every one of those things and more.  A toll has been taken.

It actually astounds me that my intelligence hasn’t disintegrated to the level of a bobble head doll.  That many blows to the psyche has the potential to rend and shred the strongest of dispositions until all that remains is a blank stare and a psychotropic shuffle.  I did do 8 years worth of antidepressants after my husband was killed but so what?  “Better living through chemistry,” is a mantra in sophisticated circles.

A very long time ago I got the idea that all this stuff somehow hooked together and if I studied enough, thought enough and analyzed enough, I could make sense out of the seemingly random, chaotic, brain bashing events of my life.  I’ve been looking ever since.  And yes, I’ve found answers that make sense to me.  The searching doesn’t stop and I doubt it ever will.  I am not a victim.  I am a survivor.  That’s how I survived and how I continue to survive.  But I want more than that.  I want to thrive.

I’ve also learned something else that makes a lot of sense to me.  None of it matters if I don’t continue to challenge myself and to reach back and help someone else who has taken a beating both physically and mentally.  I can’t “fix” anyone.  I’m still daily working on myself.  What I can do is talk about what I’ve been through, what I’ve learned and maybe, just maybe make it a little easier for another soul wandering through the maze that is life on planet earth.  I will  never have all the answers.  This is just life as I know it.

Love,

Me