Tag Archives: reflection

Bitter or Better

Standard

There’s a saying I see often that says “you either get bitter or you get better.”  It refers to anything that goes wrong really in your life.  But I think it mostly refers to relationships.  At least, that’s how I relate to it because I have really had to work hard at not being bitter and angry quite a few times in my life.  Two major relationships have challenged this for me.  And I struggled with it for many years with the sexual assault as well, but more internally.

With the first relationship, I really struggled with that feeling of bitterness.  And anger too.  A complete lack of forgiveness because I was young and I thought of forgiveness as excusing his behavior.  Behavior that made it ok for him to abuse me and then walk away from me and a child. I held onto the bitterness for a LONG time. I’ll come back to that.  Maybe.

With my marriage and divorce, I’m still struggling.  Mostly because I have kids with a man who chose to mostly check out.  He won’t help me coparent because it’s too difficult for him.  He won’t really talk to me at all.  He will allow email.  Wow, thanks.  That’s super helpful when one of the kids is going through something and I’d like his support and opinion on how to handle it.

I do not get that at all.  I won’t apologize that my kids are closer to me than to him and so they come to me with things.  That’s because throughout their lives I was there for them and tried to help them learn how to solve problems knowing that mistakes are ok.  I let them know their feelings are never wrong, they have the right to their feelings.  And so they came to me and then I shared with their father how they were feeling.  But now that we aren’t together, I’m not allowed to share their feelings and discuss things with their dad.  I’m suddenly a liar who obviously changes what my kids tell me to make their dad feel badly.  Um, hello?  The people who would be hurt if I did that are my kids, and I would never do that to my children.  Never.  I would never decide for them how they feel.  I could not hurt them by making up things and passing them off as their feelings.

Deep breath.

The first four months after moving away from their dad, I felt like that almost every day.  Just angry and bitter.  And I really had to work on it.  I had to decide it doesn’t matter.  I can be a great parent to them without him.  And I can support them through hurt, and choices, and happiness.  And they will absolutely be ok.  I still have plenty of time to show them how to take care of themselves and be proud of who they are and the feelings they have in going about their lives.  And the best way I can do that is by showing them how I will live a life being true to myself and how I really feel.  I will not be with someone who tells me I shouldn’t or can’t feel what I feel.  I will never, not ever, accept someone telling me my feelings are wrong.

Listen, I AM wrong many times. If I present something as a fact and I can be shown the correct information, I accept that. If I go East from Wisconsin to find Wyoming, I’m not going to try and say I’m correct. I fully accept responsibility at work when I do something wrong, or say something I shouldn’t, or forget to complete something due.  But when I feel something, I own that feeling, and that is never wrong.

I knew when I thought about dating that I would never date someone who doesn’t have what I consider successful, honest family relationships and at least one friend who knows everything about them. I would say now that the lack of that is a giant red flag for relationship success.  You can disagree if you want to, but I can tell you that based on these two challenging relationships in my life–if someone doesn’t have a close friend(s) and doesn’t seem that honest with their family about who they are, it is likely because they aren’t capable of the empathy and emotional openness that is required in a forever relationship.  And that is just not ok.  At least, not for me.

The last hurdle for me in releasing the bitter from my divorce and being truly and completely better, is accepting that his truth is fine because it is his to live with as he chooses and I don’t have to worry about if he never accepts his part of the responsibility for why we are divorced.  This is very difficult for me.  Because I believe that he is of the opinion that I just gave up and walked out on him without trying.  He has actually said that I am the reason he doesn’t see our child.  AND THE WORST is that he truly believes and said to me several times that the problems, the reasons it ended, were ALL ME.  And that is so hurtful it makes me furious.  I own my problems.  I have said them to him and I have worked my ass off to change in the ways necessary to be a better partner.

Here’s the deal with change:  everyone does it, and if you get pissed off and say things like why should I have to change anything, you should just accept exactly who I am…that’s because you are unwilling to see that something can be improved and should be improved so that you are capable of relationship compromise.  Just like you learned as you grew up from being a child, and then a teen, and then a young adult.  If you act like all change is bad, and you function at 40 just as you did at 20, then you are probably a ridiculous person I don’t even want to be around so, whatever, stay exactly the same then.  I never asked him to change what makes him who he is for real, way down deep where his morals, values, and desires are found.  I merely asked for us to consider, together, how we can both have our needs met for love and safety, and how we can do better to respect and love each other.  To change…together.  To grow…together, instead of apart.

Deep breath.  Clearly this is my work.  Accepting that he wasn’t willing to do the work and that even if it appears that he is trying harder in his new relationship than he did with me, it is not the truth.  At first we did really well, with the help of a counselor.  But he just decided it was too hard to remember that “stuff.”  Which to me said, accept when I don’t care about you or your feelings of safety, or don’t.

I don’t.  Deeper breath.

That’s ok.  But really sad, because it meant we had to never be together again.  And that is not what I wanted.  You see?  I’m still bitter.

But I marched myself right back into a therapist office last week to get it all the way right.  To get all the way better and lose the bitter for good.  Because ultimately, I love the memories I have of my family with him and our kids, but I am much happier now.  I am with a man who I have always dreamed about because not only does he completely “get” me, he is very tuned into communication and love instead of just having a giant ego that only wants to be right.  We aren’t perfect, but we are absolutely perfect for each other.  And when there is conflict, we work it out and respect each other without trying to prove each other wrong and hurting each other with words that can never be taken back after being said.  And I will love him forever.

Loving him makes me want to be the best me.  The best me, and even better.

KK

Advertisements

WILD

Standard

**This post discusses the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.  I wasn’t able to include page numbers to completely give credit to each quote because I have only a digital copy of the book and so that won’t be the same as pages in the actual book.  But I made sure to use quotes and it is not at all my intention to try and claim any of her awesomeness as my own.

This book means a lot to me.  I don’t remember why I picked it up or how I heard about the book.  But I am so thankful I did.  I just saw the movie this week and I loved that too.  Not nearly as much as the book, but the movie had all the parts I had hoped to see and all the feelings the book had me feeling.

The book was in my life at exactly the right time and reading it gave me exactly the validation I needed to make some final decisions.  To understand what I needed to do to more forward in my life.

The first big moment for me in the book was her discussion of why she chose a new name after getting her divorce.  The weekend I read the book I was alone at a cabin with just my dogs.  Silence and beauty all around me as I sat by the fire and in the cute cabin and read her story.  She says she knew if she got divorced she couldn’t stay her married name, but “I couldn’t go back to having the name I had had in high school and be the girl I used to be.”  And as I read that I knew that it had described exactly how I was feeling.

I had filed for divorce that same year and had been living alone for only a few weeks short of one year.  I was beginning to think a lot about my name and the choice I had to make in keeping the married name or “restoring” my maiden name.  To me, keeping my married name was never a valid choice.  I don’t mean it to sound as harsh as it likely will, but I just didn’t want to keep that connection to him.  It is who I became because I married him and I wanted a full disconnection from who I had allowed myself to become in our marriage.  However, going back to my maiden name seemed like going back to the girl in the corner.  The girl I didn’t like or accept.  And the girl who was sexually assaulted.  It felt unsafe and just not at all who I wanted to be again.  It was difficult for me to accept that because I also have very warm connections to that name.  I am close to my father, I was very close to my grandfather, and my maiden name is both the middle name for myself and for my son.

When I read that part of the book where she decided to choose her own name, I put the book down and just sat with those feelings.  And very quickly I decided that I would do that myself.  I would choose my own name.  I would decide later if I would keep my maiden name as my middle name, but I spent the next few minutes sitting by the fire thinking about what my last name should be once I was single.  I didn’t expect to come to a decision so quickly, and I won’t describe the personal moments that led me to my name, but it was a completely clear moment.  One of those moments that takes your breath away because it is so perfect.  I knew sitting by that fire who I would become.  And then I laughed and said right out loud to my dogs and the horses nearby, “that.  is.  awesome.  and that’s what i am going to do.”

Cheryl Strayed’s description of her feelings about divorce just hit exactly on the types of things I was feeling and had been feeling while deciding to move out and then go forward with divorce.  Reading her story validated my feelings and allowed me to give myself a much needed break from punishing myself for my decisions.

She wrote “as close as we’d been when we were together, we were closer in our unraveling, telling each other everything at last” and I understood that feeling in a personal way.  My husband and I had been close in some ways for many years, but never quite the way I needed.  I wanted a best friend to come home to and I never felt comfortable sharing my whole self and my whole, true feelings with him.  But after I moved out, a really strange thing happened for awhile.  I did feel closer to him and him to me.  We had long discussions and said things we should have been saying all along.  I felt closer to him than I had felt for years.  Which led to a period of us accepting separation as an option when we had always said if we couldn’t live together, there was no point to staying married.  So for the next 8 months, we lived separately and we talked and got together often to see if we could fix what was broken in our relationship.  We didn’t succeed, but I’m thankful for the time with him because feeling close to him then allowed us to move forward and not go through an angry, hateful divorce.  We were able to talk and be with our kids and treat each other with respect.

As I moved forward in living alone, I referenced the book often. I read parts of it over again and looked back at my favorite quotes a lot. I liked living alone and I still do. Cheryl Strayed wrote “Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.” I like that because to me that is one of the best things in the world…being alone. And I’m thankful that I can be alone and be comfortable and happy. I’ve not always been good at it because I didn’t like myself. It’s one of the best benefits I’ve received from therapy. I know now that I can be alone and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I want to be completely alone all the time or forever, but when I am I know that I’m still with a person who’s pretty great.

I lived alone for about a year and a half before the day of my divorce arrived. And even though it was the day my marriage would be ended, I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel happy or relieved or angry or scared. I just felt like it was what was necessary to do what we had already done in separating ourselves and agreeing that although we loved each other, we just didn’t work the same way we once had and that wasn’t enough for me. I kept thinking of this quote from the very same book, “I didn’t feel sad or happy. I didn’t feel proud or ashamed. I only felt that in spite of all the things I’d done wrong, in getting myself here, I’d done right.” And no matter what else I was feeling, that day I just knew I had made the right decisions for me.

In moving forward now in my life, I still think of Cheryl Strayed and her story often. I’ll probably read the book again someday. There are a lot more quotes I read and think about on an almost daily basis.

Although our experiences in life were not the same, I understand the enormity of the quote ”what if I forgave myself?” Her quote goes on, but that’s the part I cling to because that’s what I have left to do with the girl in the corner. I must find a way to forgive her. And to accept that she is a part of me. A part of me who deserves forgiveness and love.

Thank you, Cheryl Strayed, for being brave enough to share your story. It has played a large part in my healing and my ability to move forward each day to rediscovering me.

KK

Taking on the girl in the corner

Standard

***I kind of feel like this post, and many to come, should have some kind of trigger warning in addition to the fact that sometimes I will add sexual assault disclosure warnings.  But I am not sure what kind.  So let me just say please be self-aware when you are reading this post and any posts going forward for awhile.  This is very new to me and I have not spoken about it with the majority of people in my life or disclosed it publicly.  I have barely been able to recognize and name it and accept it myself.***

Well, here it goes.  I have committed to another 12-week Adult Sexual Assault (ASA) therapy group and it starts a week from today.  It is technically the same group I did last year.  The topic and goals will be the same and there will be a disclosure.

But for me, and I can’t even believe I am saying this, I think it might be scarier this time around for me.  The last group was extremely tough in many ways and disclosing that college rape experience was SO challenging.  However, even though I needed to rid myself of some blame, guilt, anger, fear, and shame, the completely logical side of me lived every day knowing that it really had not been my fault at all.  Getting through the group last year was about making a declaration, shaking off the shame, and recognizing that I have the right to complete healing in order to rediscover the me that was lost and ashamed and terrified. The level of healing that I have experienced from completing that group has been just awesome. I am thankful every single day for that group therapy success.

This time I will tackle some experiences with a specific person from my past that in my head are much more complicated AND that will force me to examine, discuss, accept and cooperate with that girl in the corner.  The one I avoid and ignore and cover with laughter.  And for the last 7 months or so, I have gone back and forth in my individual therapy between being ready to tackle this and trying to convince myself (and my therapist who wasn’t buying it) that it’s fine if I never deal with it because it doesn’t really affect me on a daily basis.  But it does and I don’t like that.

The worst part of taking on the girl in the corner is that I don’t like her and I don’t even feel like she is worth my time.  And I am ashamed of her.  And I sometimes even hate her.  And I don’t feel like anyone will believe her.  I judge her and disregard her.  I call her names and I blame her.

For anyone reading this post who hasn’t followed my previous posts and feels confused, that girl in the corner is me.  A younger me.  Somewhere between 16 and 20 most of the time.  And once in awhile she’s 38 year old me.  And I shoved her in the corner a long time ago, never to be dealt with again.  Or so I thought.

For this session of group, I may be disconnected or distant or crazy or mean or many other things.  Maybe I’ll be fun and happy most of the days.  Maybe I’ll look like I’m listening to you and have to ask you to repeat yourself.  I really have no idea what to expect.

So for now, I just want to say that I have great people around me and you each know who you are and what you mean to me.  If I don’t call enough, or laugh enough, or respond enough, or reach out to you it is NOT because you don’t mean the world to me or I don’t trust you or want and need your support.  This fight for healing is going to be difficult.  Because today, I can’t even talk about the experience as rape or sexual assault without immediately victim-blaming my very own self.

And that is a miserable feeling.

One I am proud to say I am ready to leave behind to continue rediscovering me.

So look out girl in the corner, I’m coming to rescue you and learn to love you again.

KK

Quitting is not the same as failing

Standard

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

Peaks and valleys

Standard

Healing is like hiking up a mountain.

At the beginning, you are faced with a beautiful challenge and you are full of excitement.  You begin your journey with hope, positivity, strength, and energy.  As you begin to ascend, you get to areas where you begin to feel challenged.  These challenges don’t stop you, because you are still full of that energy and strength.  You climb higher without any thought of stopping, sometimes looking behind to see how far you have already climbed.  After some more time and some more elevation has passed under your feet, you need to take your first break.  You stop to look around at your accomplishment so far and you feel great.  You reflect on the achievement, but you are also very aware of the challenges you still face.  As you begin to walk again, you feel the distance you’ve already climbed as a weight, lessons learned, but positive ones that you carry with you.  You begin to meet larger challenges, steeper, rockier areas that slow you down and make you take more time so that you can move forward without falling. As you press on, and the challenges continue before you, you start to wonder if you should turn back or keep going.  You start to have moments where you wonder if it is worth it to go farther, or where you reach valleys that appear to actually be going backward a bit, or you may wonder if you even can continue at all.  At some points, you may have to take more breaks, but you believe the view from the top will be worth all of your efforts.  As you reach the most challenging areas with not much distance yet before you, you still consider stopping.  You say to yourself that you have come SO far, far enough, and the view is already beautiful and fulfilling.  If you have loved ones with you, either in person or in spirit, you know they want you to succeed and will support you whether you stop here or continue.  You think about things that have inspired you, and what made you decide to start this journey in the first place.  You feel exhausted, you focus on your breathing, and you may try to convince yourself that you have gone far enough and don’t need to go any further.  Something inside you drives you to continue and as you reach the peak your efforts, your strength, your challenges become more than you can handle.  You scream with joy, you laugh, or maybe you cry tears of joy for the success you achieved in getting to the top.

At the top of a mountain, there are many moments to take in and enjoy.  You take in these moments without any thought for the fact that you must go back down to complete the journey.  You reflect on your journey so far and appreciate the struggles that led you to the top.  And as you face the descent, you feel complete.

Getting to the top isn’t the whole journey.

As you begin the descent, you realize that you have accomplished more than you ever thought possible, and you didn’t consider the rest of the path in front of you to hold just as many challenges.  Yes, you really HAVE succeeded in discovering and accomplishing so very much, but you must not just plow forward now without any focus.  Because if you plow forward as if there are no more challenges, you may begin to move more quickly than you can handle.  You may stumble or fall as you move too quickly and don’t give the path the ongoing attention you need to give it.  Take control of your descent as part of your journey and you will see that you have as much to learn from this path as you learned from the larger challenges you faced and conquered.  Yes, you will reach the bottom eventually, but not without moments where you are challenged, tired, or want to give up somehow.

And just when you think you have finished, there will always be another mountain to climb.

KK

Therapy Thursdays

Standard

Today is the beginning of Therapy Thursdays!

I have been going to my individual therapist on Thursdays and now my 6 week group will be starting as well.  I am so looking forward to being back in a group and I so hope to see some familiar faces.  It has been a rough week and a half and clearly I’m not sleeping well again since I am up writing this at 12:09 am, so Therapy Thursdays will hopefully ease the highways of thought going on in my head constantly.  I skipped my individual session last week so she’s really gonna be working for her money today cuz I have some real hot messes to admit to and discuss.

I have challenges, everyone does, and lately I am feeling those challenges become more than I can handle.  I’m hiding, avoiding, ignoring, minimizing, and just generally not dealing with things I need to face.  For me.  And for everyone in my life.

Luckily, I have really good peeps in my life.  And I’m almost to the weekend where I get together with many of the best women I know and love.  And after this weekend, I will put my effort into my solo camping/cabin trip for this year.  I haven’t done it because I’ve had a busy year with the big move and dating and stuff.  But it is time.  I can feel it.

I need nature and just me.

I took one of those Facebook type tests today and however ridiculous they probably are, it indicated that I have a need to be in nature alone.  That nature is what my subconscious focuses on most of the time.

For reflection.  For comfort.  For me.  And that is so true.

So…onward to Therapy Thursdays and a chilly plan to camp or cabin on my own as soon as I can schedule it and make it work.

What do you need to do when you need to refocus your goals and recenter yourself?  Think about it.

KK

What needs to happen

Standard

IMG_2821

 

Read that a few times.  Give it some thought.  Now think about something that has happened in your life that you tried to wish away — the loss of a relationship, the death of a person in your life, an injury, a complete loss of a home from a disaster, domestic violence, alcoholism, child abuse, rape.  Now read it again.

Did those things NEED to happen?

There are several times I have struggled with this type of statement throughout my life, but clearly one of the most significant times this bothered me to read is after the rape.  WHY would anyone say that such a horrible thing would NEED to have happened to me?  Is there anything more awful than saying that NEEDED to happen to me?

A bitter pill to swallow for sure.

Except I completely agree.  Now.  Maybe not right after it happened when I was devastated, angry, disgusted, sad, suicidal, and horribly traumatized.  But now that I have gone through so much of my healing process, I can say something very close to that.  I can’t quite get to it NEEDED to happen, but I can say…

All things happen for a reason.

Is that the same as NEED to happen?  I don’t know.  In my head it isn’t the same.  But I do understand that all things happen for a reason.  And my being sexually assaulted is no exception.  I would not be who I am today if it hadn’t happened, that I can say for sure.  And after all that I have been through, I CAN say I like who I am today.  I want to be even more like the me I feel inside, but I am currently very satisfied and like the person I see in the mirror.

If I hadn’t been sexually assaulted, the rest of my life would have been different, I think we can all agree on that.  I would have stayed in school where it happened which means I would not have reconnected with a guy who later became the biological father of my son.  And that means I wouldn’t have my son, which would be NUTS because he is so awesome and has been an enormous part of who I did become and who I am today.  If I hadn’t had my son, I wouldn’t have moved to the town I grew up in to be close to my family.  And that means I would not have met the man I later married and he wouldn’t have adopted my son.  I wouldn’t have my daughter and the 20 years of memories that we made as a family.  And that would be sad.  Because my daughter is also awesome and I can’t imagine life without her.  Because we made a great family and had SO many fabulous years together. I wouldn’t change that part of my life at all.  The years I spent at home with our kids and building a relationship with my husband were GREAT years.  Now, there are many reasons why my marriage didn’t work, but I cannot say that me being sexually assaulted wasn’t a factor.  It was.  So I guess you could say that if I hadn’t been I might still be married, but you really can’t say that because of all the other things I listed which would have kept me from meeting my husband in the first place!

This next thing is difficult for me to say because I really don’t have any terrible feelings about my marriage ending.  I would say as divorce goes, ours was perfect.  We still have many nice conversations, can go out with our kids together, and we take care of each other dogs all the time for each other.  And I am very thankful that we get along that well and have respect for each other.  Clearly not everyone is that lucky.  Which makes it feel a little icky to say…If my marriage hadn’t ended, I would not be this happy.  Ewwww.  I don’t like to say that and considered deleting it.  But I can’t, because it is true.  I let myself fall by the wayside for most of the years of my marriage. I didn’t take care of me and I accepted things I would never accept now.

I lost me.

And now I am found.  And there is NO way I would give that up.  Ever again.

If my marriage hadn’t ended, I may not have ever reached the point in my healing that I currently feel and understand.  And going through that healing makes me the person I am today.  A MUCH more confident, healthy, satisfied me.  A me that has made so many awesome connections through telling my story and working through the challenges.  A me who has helped myself and others have an understanding of shame.  And an understanding of how to begin to let go of shame.  A me who is able to trust again and who is more willing than ever to step out of my comfort zone.

A rediscovered me.  A happy me.  A loving me.

If my sexual assault would not have happened, I wouldn’t be sitting in this cabin today in this beautiful place.  Reflecting on all my past and what I hope for in my future.  I wouldn’t be dating.  I wouldn’t have met the guy I look so forward to talking to and spending time with as much as we can.  And today, that is REALLY difficult to imagine because he has become so important to me AND to my continued healing.  He gets me, sometimes even when I don’t.  Starting a new relationship with this much exposure to what happened to me has been terrifying in many ways.  I can’t hide from it.  I am really thrilled that I don’t have to hide from it.  I can talk about it, answer questions about it, get mad about it, cry about it, and discuss it openly, with acceptance for his input.  And that is truly awesome.  WE are truly awesome together.

So today I am going to say…NOTHING has ever happened that didn’t need to happen.  And that’s ok.

KK