Monthly Archives: November 2014

Thanks and forgiving

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Thanksgiving is difficult for me.

For all the years I was dating and married, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. We always went to Ohio to see his side of the family. After a night of feasting, we all left to spend the rest of the long weekend at cabins in a state park. Lots of family gathered. There were 4-5 cabins full of people. We shared meals, hikes, games, swimming, new babies, the loss of loved ones, fun stories, and lots of laughs. The kids grew up with the other kids and always looked forward to the time with them.

And then I moved out. My first night in my rental house was November 6, 2012. And as I settled in, Thanksgiving came closer. I was miserable thinking of the family that I wouldn’t see again at the cabins. The lack of closure with all of them. He said I should come along, but it didn’t feel right.

As I watched my kids drive away that first year with their father and I cried, I realized the saddest part was not the loss of time with my husband. To be honest, I never really spent much of the cabin time with him, so it wasn’t him I would miss. And then I got mad. Really mad that after everything I had done to try and keep my family together, it wasn’t enough. I was the only one working so hard. And that sucks. I wasn’t just losing my husband, I was losing so many loved ones all at once. And losing that special, yearly time with people I love dearly is really yuck ick no good.

That first year I hosted a Thanksgiving pajama supper with my mom and her best friend. And it was great. We watched movies and relaxed and I even did my first Black Friday shopping to one store.

And I was ok.

Last year, Thanksgiving was bitter sweet. I had just lost my precious dog Casey at the beginning of November. I had decided that I was going to just relax with my dogs for the long holiday weekend when the kids left and I had even bought special treats. But I was SO sad when he died and I worried about the time alone. I have great women in my life. So two of those women loaded up their own dogs and came to my house for the weekend. We relaxed, walked the dogs, watched movies, talked for hours, and had lots of treats.

And I was ok.

This year as October began to pass me by, I started to get nervous and realized it was about Thanksgiving. I didn’t have plans. I started to think of all my options and thankfully, I do have lots of options.

But Thanksgiving is difficult for me.

So I decided it has to be something pretty different to make me feel good. Because this year, I’m officially and no longer married. And it is the anniversary of my Casey’s death. And I’m feeling a bit unforgiving and bitter. Not about my marriage ending. At least, not all of it is about that. I’ve had some other challenges this year and in general, I just feel unsettled. Anxious. Depressed. And unforgiving.

So one day at the end of October, I booked a flight to Alaska. And then I hoped to God that my friend was ok with that (she was) and would want me to stay at her house and share her holiday.

I’m on the plane now as I’m writing this. And I know it was the right thing to do. Because I cried when the plane took off. I cried a lot. But only for a few minutes and then I just felt peace. A release. A comfort in knowing that I am taking care of myself. A comfort in knowing that my kids are with family having a good time. A comfort in knowing that I’m still stepping forward each day and not feeling stuck.

And I’m ok.

Thanksgiving is difficult for me. And so is forgiving. But today as I have been in this plane for nearly 7 hours I have done a lot of thinking. And I think I’m ready to let go of some stuff that’s been stuck. I miss my life sometimes so much, especially when things get tough for me in whatever way they’re tough. But that life is not me anymore. And that’s ok. I miss it. And that’s ok too. But I don’t miss who I let myself be and what I hid behind and what I ignored.

I want to forgive. Mostly myself. Not because I feel all to blame or anything ridiculous like that. But because I’m really hard on myself for the decisions I’ve made for me. But I spent countless hours evaluating and examining those decisions and I know I made them for the right reasons and with clear information. One of my most favorite things I have ever heard in any church is “Your direction, not your intentions, determine the course of your life.” And my direction is good.

I am not a failure. And I am not to blame. And I am not selfish and closed off and broken.

I am ok. I am me. And I forgive me for not letting that feel good.

I’m maybe always going to have to do something crazy over Thanksgiving because I will always miss the cabins and the family I lost when my marriage ended. But that’s ok too.

I’m starting my own way of celebrating this holiday. And I’m always going to make sure and take some of the time to forgive myself for the times I don’t give myself any or enough credit.

I shall call it ThanksForgiving.

I like it. And I’m ok.

KK

I reported my rape, but I don’t know if I’d make that same choice today

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Rape accusations and stories are in the news a lot lately. Whenever I see an article, I have two immediate reactions.

One is complete emotional pain for the victim. Because without question or hesitation, I believe you. And I hurt for all you will go through now, and possibly forever. You have done something extremely brave by telling. By reporting the crime against you. I wish for you to have strength, support, and hope for what lies ahead of you. I believe in you and I am so proud of you for being brave. For becoming a survivor.

After my feelings for the victim comes anger. So very much anger. I have an immediate anger for how the media reports these stories because they aren’t taking any time to do it right. I get so mad that they continue to lack the ability to inform without further perpetuating this rape culture that is all around us. The culture that blames the victim and questions why the victim didn’t do a better job of avoiding the crime. The culture that immediately defends and feels badly for a football player whose career might now be ruined or a celebrity who “has no reason to rape” because they are plenty popular and/or good-looking to not have to rape someone.

Newsflash idiot reporters: rape is not about sex, it’s about power and destruction and humiliation and it is a CRIME. A crime that the criminal absolutely knows he/she is committing.

Let me tell you what happened when I was raped and reported it. I spent THE ENTIRE night explaining what happened to multiple people. To nurses and doctors and detectives and my loved ones. The humiliation of having to say exactly what happened to hospital staff and then again to police was almost more than I could handle. I asked to leave several times. The judgment in their eyes and their questions was so clear.

The news media on campus and in the city were all over the story by the next day. Printing my statement word for word. As if saying that I was raped was not enough. The details for everyone to read. Why??

It was 1993. Sadly, the news media has not improved at all. In fact, I would argue that now it is a lot worse. My name was never used and my face on tv during the hearings was blurred out. Not that it mattered since my name was quickly dragged through the mud on campus. I mean, after all, I was just some nobody who accused two precious athletes of a terrible crime. Why should I be allowed to feel safe in my dorm or walking on campus? Everyone there knew who I was, but at least the whole country wasn’t watching.

I was way better off than the victims of current times. Victims who are so quickly called liars, gold diggers, sluts, and so many other disgusting things. The second a report is out there the victims also face massive judgment on every social media site. I know I shouldn’t read the comments, but I always feel drawn to them. I always have that shred of hope that people will defend the right person. That people will say “I’m sorry that happened to you” or “I believe you” or “you’re amazing and brave and not at all to blame for what happened.”

Those comments are almost never there. And that makes me tremendously sad. And so so so angry. If I am filled with anger and guilt and shame just reading the horrible comments, then I just can’t imagine what the victim is feeling.

I did read the articles about my rape in the papers. And it was awful. But the newspaper wasn’t online and the articles weren’t posted on Facebook and Twitter. After a long semester of stubbornly refusing to be pushed out of my college by the harassment and lack of support, I made the choice to leave. And I could leave the media behind me.

Knowing what I know about what victims face in the media these days, I can’t say that I would be brave enough to report the crime and to make it through all of that. I don’t know that I would want to report it knowing that for the rest of my life I would feel the way I feel going to a doctor for even a routine check up or having some stranger recognize my name from a news story about the college I attended.

I hope that if you’re reading this and you’re a victim of rape, you can find the courage to report the crime and the strength to go through with holding the criminal or criminals responsible for their actions. I hope that you will stand tall and know that I’m proud of you for being brave. That I believe you. And that nothing anybody in the media could possibly say will make me have less faith in you as a survivor.

Be strong and be you. Because you are awesome just the way you are.

KK

I have the right

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This is a personal bill of rights from my most recent therapy group.  I believe it is from The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, but I’m not positive.  In any case, I am not trying to claim it as my own or not cite the correct source.  I got it as part of a packet of information.  And I really like it, so I wanted to share it.

Personal Bill of Rights

  1. I have the right to ask for what I want.
  2. I have the right to say no to requests or demands I can’t meet.
  3. I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.
  4. I have the right to change my mind.
  5. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
  6. I have the right to follow my own values and standards.
  7. I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values.
  8. I have the right to determine my own priorities.
  9. I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings, or problems.
  10. I have the right to expect honesty from others.
  11. I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
  12. I have the right to be uniquely myself.
  13. I have the right to feel scared and say “I’m afraid.”
  14. I have the right to say “I don’t know.”
  15. I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior.
  16. I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
  17. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
  18. I have the right to be playful and frivolous.
  19. I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
  20. I have the right to be in a nonabusive environment.
  21. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
  22. I have the right to change and grow.
  23. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
  24. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
  25. I have the right to be happy.

At the bottom of this, it suggests hanging this in your home and reading it daily so that you learn to accept that you are entitled to each one of these rights.  I believe that each person reading the list will have different ones they either find very obvious or that they haven’t given themselves permission to have before reading this list.  I put the ones I read and remind myself of most often in bold.

One of the things we focused on recently in group therapy is that the result or outcome of a person being assertive does not measure the success of the person being assertive.  If I am assertive on something that is important to me, THAT is the success.  Think about that for a moment.  It goes well with #9 on the list because being assertive does not mean that I then become responsible for the other person’s feelings or actions.  And I think that is really important for people to learn and remember, especially when feeling hurt, angry, disrespected, or sad.  You have the right to your feelings and your values and your standards.  And it is OK to make decisions based on your feelings.  I’m not saying make instant decisions without any thought.  But I am saying that for me it was difficult to remember that I DO have the right to make decisions based on my feelings AND I do not have to give reasons for my decisions or behavior.  I have the right to expect that my needs and wants will be respected by those I choose to spend time with in my life.  And I absolutely have the right to change and grow.

How many times have you heard people say “he/she changed” as a reason they broke up or stopped being friends?  I’ve certainly said it and heard it.  But change is always happening.  As people, we age and we learn and we discover and we CHANGE.  Change is good.  Change is ok and all people have the right to change.  People also say “he/she wouldn’t change” and give that as a reason for a break up.  But to be in a relationship, some things will change while both people still have their own values and standards.  And to me, that is how a relationship grows and strengthens.

I don’t give many specific details about my divorce because I don’t feel the need to disrespect my ex or our time together that way.  I think he’s a great person in many ways and I want him to be happy in life.  But what I will say is that (mostly) he did not believe that things should change without a specific and scientifically proven reason to have to change.  He didn’t want me to make changes without giving reasons and that violates one of the rights above for me.  I have the right to change and grow.  And healing and asking for things to change in our relationship was not wrong.  He has the right not to change, and often stated that he shouldn’t have to change.  And that is fine, he certainly has the right to his own feelings.  But I believe change is necessary.  Particularly when someone is healing.

One of the books I read when working hard to figure out if I could remain married or not is Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum.  I really liked the book and reading it was an important step for me in my journey to deciding what I could and could not accept in my relationship.  I still read my bookmarks often because I think that there are MANY good points about relationships in the book.  I think it is a good resource for any relationship, even one that is not running a risk of ending.  It has good relationship information and presents it in a way that gives the reader an opportunity to think about their own relationship skills as much as the skills and traits of others.  No book can decide for you whether or not to end your marriage, but for me books are always tools to help me understand life.  One of my very favorite things the author says is this:

“If I wanted to write a prescription for how to have a doomed relationship that was overwhelmingly too bad to stay in, I’d have both people say I can’t change, I won’t change, I don’t want to change, and I don’t see a reason to change, but if we find each other, it’s beautiful.  The point is that you’re entitled to feel you want your partner to change things about himself.” (page 140 of 279 on the kindle version of the book)

Relationships can be challenging, but understanding that each person is entitled to their personal bill of rights is a great start.  Honoring yourself and what you really value and believe is a great first step to finding happiness.  I have the right to be happy.  And gaining a better understanding of who I really am has helped me to find a lot of happiness.  And I’m excited for the future.

I have the right to be uniquely myself.  And rediscovering who that really is has been fabulous.

I’m having fun being me.  Be you!

KK

Quitting is not the same as failing

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I saw a post today on Facebook that said “You can’t fail unless you quit.”

At first, I thought I kind of liked it, but I quickly changed my mind and decided I think that is a statement that is unfair and untrue.  Quitting something is not the same as failing it.  Not at all.  I mean, maybe you will disagree and say that you think I failed, but I am going to tell you two situations where I think that isn’t true.

The first is that I quit being married and got a divorce.  And I don’t believe for a minute that being divorced means I failed at that marriage.  Sure, it sometimes felt like I was failing as I was going through the years where I tried my hardest to save it and remain married, but thankfully I have wonderful people in my life who made sure I understand that it was not a failure.  I was not a failure.  Either was he.  I married a great guy when I was just a young girl, and he was young too.  We had great times together and raised two awesome kids together.  We did a lot of things right.  We went through good times and bad times and tried our best to support each other.  But at some point as the kids got older, I realized that we never really had much to say to each other.  Everything was wrong.  I relied solely on my friends and other family for support when I was happy, sad, unsure, proud, scared, or whatever else I was feeling.  We didn’t believe the same things and we no longer had the same goals for our lives.  I’m not sure we ever did share the same goals because we got married so young that we didn’t talk about those things.  I know we did not have the same beliefs where it really matters to me.  We both got older and I realized that I didn’t have what I needed to feel secure or loving in my most important relationship.  I wasn’t sure that when I felt weak he would have my back.  I didn’t have a best friend.  I never thought I needed that in my husband.  And now I believe that I was wrong.  I want that person I wake up to every single day to be the person I tell everything about myself.  Without shame or any need to hold anything inside when it needs to come out for me to feel whole.

We quit being married, but our marriage wasn’t a failure.  One definition of failure is “a lack of success.”  Our marriage had many successful moments.  Many cherished moments.  Moments I would never want to erase or take back.

The second thing I feel the need to discuss is that I quit my most recent therapy group.  And that does not mean I failed.  Trying things is how we gain experience and knowledge as people.  And I was learning helpful things in the group.  However, I was also going through some things that meant when I was at group, I was preoccupied, anxious, and even angry.  And during a recent individual therapy session, I realized something that threw me off course.  WAY off course.  So I had to quit the group.  Maybe I’ll do that group again someday and maybe I won’t.  And that’s ok.  Leaving that group felt right the second I was done telling the facilitator that I had to quit.  And leaving it also gave me the strength to admit in my individual therapy that I have a big hurdle I’m ready to take on and move past.

And that is a success.  Not at all a failure.

So, I’m not saying quit everything you start or don’t try.  But I am saying that if you start something and can’t do it, or have a setback, or learn that you really wish you were doing something else, that is totally ok.  Start again.  Try something else.  And learn from what you quit because anytime you learn something, I believe that is a success.

NOT a failure.

KK