Category Archives: Growth

You. On a plate.

So, I’m watching Masterchef right now (You know, the  show where Chef Ramsay gets to yell at people, but with less bleeped-out profanity.  Oh, and Graham gets to look cute and nice with his perfectly-sculpted poofy hair-do, and Joe gets to be harsh, angry, and critical, in as nice a way as possible).

See?

The contestants were given the opportunity to pick their own Mystery Box Challenge ingredients to produce what the judges termed “you on a plate.”  After the contestants got the ingredients for their best dish, the judges pulled the rug out from under them and told them to pass the ingredients for their best dish to the person in front of them, then cook something incredible.  You can imagine the immediate looks of shock and horror.

Being the “I see metaphors” type, my brain immediately engaged in how this particular episode relates to the basic premise of this blog (In case you hadn’t caught on, I believe you have a choice in life).

How many times do we feel like we get to serve up the best of ourselves to the rest of the world?  I mean, really?  How frequently do you feel like you are in your element and winning this game we call life?  I would venture to guess, not that often.  To use cooking metaphors, this is probably because you are trying to use all of the wrong ingredients.  Maybe you thought were an introvert, but you’re really an extrovert.  Maybe your parents guided you (with good intentions) into a profession that doesn’t really feel right.  Maybe you just got caught up in a whirlwind of bad choices and now you’re stuck with the consequences.

Like this:

A plateful of good intentions gone wrong.

(Excuse me while I go retch in the loo)

Anyway, the point is that the best you is somewhere in there, waiting to come out and live in the real world.  Like I mentioned yesterday, all the ingredients you need to be the best you are already there inside you.  That’s right, you, on a plate.  That’s right, the best you can be served up on the plate of life.  You just have to clean out that pantry, chuck out the bad stuff, and get busy making greatness.

Looks gooooooooddd, doesn’t it?

But, let’s be real: changing your life takes time (i.e. lots of counseling.  And tissues.  Don’t forget the tissues), courage, intentionality, and perseverance.  But, it can be done.  No amount of whining, angry eyebrows, or feet shuffling will ever convince me otherwise.

You just have to decide

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It’s up to you…

A life coach told me soon after meeting me that I was “visionary.” I just can’t help but see the “big picture” pretty much everywhere I look. I can see the good and the bad all at the same time. This can be frustrating if I see something (or someone) headed in the wrong direction. This can be useful if I am planning something. I can choose to use my personality trait for good, or for evil. In the words of Mr. Monk, “It’s a gift, and a curse.”

Personality traits are like that, a gift AND a curse. You and I were pretty much born the way we are, we didn’t have a say in the matter. We are like lumps of newly formed clay, ready to be shaped by family, time, and circumstances. Very occasionally that shaping forms a near-perfect human that can manage life well. But mostly, we turn out slightly misshapen, with an oddly placed handle here, or a slightly twisted rim there. Then we become adults. All of that molding and shaping that had been going on by the people in charge of us comes to a screeching halt, and, well, we are what we are.

Do you feel like this inside?

Then, we go through the fires that hardens the clay and solidifies the shape we were when we stepped into adulthood. Because life is like that. Trial by fire. Will we survive, or won’t we? Sure, we have to accept ourselves for who we are, and so should our loved ones. But, I truly think that this only goes so far. It’s hard to be around someone with an anger problem. It’s hard to keep throwing paddles and a boat out to someone who is stubbornly (yes, I say “stubbornly” because you and I can choose to be despondent, or not) stuck in a pond of despondency and despair.

We start to feel the the moments that the oddly placed handle gets in the way, causing all sorts of problems. We feel embarrassment when the slightly twisted rim keeps spilling the liquid inside at all the wrong times. Sometimes whole pieces fall off, or we are dashed to the tile floor and break. In many cases, people throw up their hands after several failures and say, “I’m never going to change!” We are what we are, right? Why bother trying? Well, yes, and no.

The truth is, we can’t change our genetic inheritance, but we do have a choice in how we use those traits: we can choose to stay the way we were shaped, or we can choose to, effectively, start over by smashing up the broken vessel and getting some fresh clay. You already have the ingredients you need: personality traits, learning experiences, belief systems, relationships, and etc. You can decide which ingredients you are going to use, and which you are going to throw out. You can decide how those personality traits will manifest in the real world. In other words, you decide who you are and how you behave. You get to choose the colors and the shape. That’s right. Shall I say it again?

YOU GET TO DECIDE.

Frankly, It really doesn’t matter what came before. All of those childhood experiences that brought to where you are don’t matter much. What matters is what you decide today. Do you struggle with fear (like me)? You can decide today to make a step toward freedom from that fear. Do you struggle with an addiction that rules your life? You can decide today to get yourself to the appropriate help according to your needs. It’s your choice. It’s up to you. You could change from the above to this:

Isn’t this beautiful?

Or not. It’s up to you to decide.

Nosce te ipsum: Know Yourself

*Author’s note: Before I get started here, I would just like to say, I love it when you come to visit.  Yes, I mean you.  I would love to sit down and have a chat with you.  I would love to hear what you have to say on whatever I write about.  So, if you come by, why not leave me your calling card, or a nice little note that let’s me know you were here?  Frankly, it encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing.  In other words comments are welcome and encouraged here.  I generally leave a little question at the end as a prompt to get a discussion going.  You can answer it, or not, as you prefer.

I had a powerful experience on Saturday that got my juices flowing and the wheels spinning for my little bloggity once again.  The sucky experience that I am having is still sucky and I am still experiencing it.  But, I feel the need to talk about something that I feel is very foundational to overcoming emotional difficulties: knowing yourself.

In “The Matrix” Neo  goes to visit the Oracle to find out if he is “The One” (i.e. the savior of their world).  She points to her little sign in her kitchen (which says Temet Nosce, by the way.  This is just a variation of the phrase) above the doorway and explains to him rather bluntly that if  you are something, you just know it.  You don’t need to be convinced by your friends, you don’t need constant reassurance, you just know it.  I know that I am a good mother.  I know that I am an artist.  I know that I am gifted in counseling others.  I know that I am a Christian.  I don’t need other’s to affirm this, I just know.

I truly feel that I am meant to do this blog, and to write books.  But, one thing I have had a hard time convincing myself of is that I AM a writer.  As in, “this is my identity.”  As in, “Hi.  I’m Stephanie.  I’m a writer”  (Not that I would actually introduce myself that way.  But, I think  you get my point).  I feel a little surprised when people praise my work here on this blog.  Sometimes, I almost don’t believe them.  Silly, I know.

This is mostly because I find writing to be a difficult, sometimes agonizing, experience.    I’m not goo-goo eyed over writing like some authors.  It takes me twice as long as normal people to write anything of worth or significance.  I find it excruciating to get started most of the time.  I find it difficult to maintain my focus once I get going.  I feel guilt for spending 2.5 hours writing 600 words.  I have to manage my ADHD and other learning difficulties to finish my task.  In other words, I just don’t LOVE writing like I love doing other things.  I have asked myself more than once, “How can I BE a writer if I don’t LOVE it?”

This question has stopped me from moving forward in doing the things that I am meant to do.  I just couldn’t see myself doing the things I am meant to do because I couldn’t (or perhaps wouldn’t?) believe in my identity as an writer.

But Saturday changed all of that.  I met with about 4 other people.  2 of whom I have known a really long time, 1 I knew fairly well, and 1 I sort of knew a little.  We met together to encourage each other.  To help each other overcome the log jams stopping us from flowing in our gifts.  I spoke for a while about where I was on a few things, including the I’m-supposed-to write-books-but-can’t-get-started-because-I-don’t-believe-I-am-an-author problem.  The leader of our group (Rob Stoppard.  A great guy, you should check him out) said to me people get stopped up in doing what they are meant to do because they believe lies about themselves.    Lies like “I don’t love writing so how can I be a writer”, or “I am never going to change”, or “I can’t change”, or “I will always be (fill in the blank)“, or whatever you say about yourself.

The only way to combat this is to change your habit of lying to yourself, and start telling yourself the truth.  I think if you look deep in your heart you can find your gifts, your talents, and your identity.  It’s like a treasure box just waiting to be opened, and you hold the key to open that treasure box.  And, if you open it you have to decide what you believe about what’s inside.  You have to decide that the treasure is who you are, or not.  But sometimes, even we do this, we get lost on our way back.  Parts of the treasure get lost and never make it home.  Like me and this writing thing.

The group had me do an exercise that has forever changed my life.  They first asked me to look in the mirror and say out loud to myself, “I am a writer.”  I felt more than a little shy about doing this.  So, they offered themselves up to act as a sort of mirror.  I had to look people in the eye and say out loud, “I am a writer.”  They took it one step further and had me say, “I am a famous writer.”  And although it was a little difficult to look people in the eye and say these truths out  loud, I did just that several times.  I stated a few other things I have had a hard time believing lately as well.  As soon as I said these things, it’s like a spotlight was suddenly focused on my poor, lost treasures.  I could find them, and bring them home.  I could take them within my psyche and revel in the simple pleasure of knowing myself.  It was like being born again.

And now, I feel free to do what I am mean to do.  I believe that I am a writer.  That even I can be a famous writer.

And you are free to discover things about yourself you never knew.  You can go on a quest to find your treasure, to change your life into something better, to become who you are meant to be.

It’s your turn now…

Tell me something you know about yourself…

When circumstances drag you screaming down the highway of life

I haven’t been on here for a while, because a circumstance in my life pretty much sucks right now.  Out of respect for those involved, I am not going to divulge the details at this time.  Besides, this post is not really about the circumstance itself.  Rather, this post is about my response to the circumstance.

I’d like to start by saying that what I am experiencing is completely new to me.  The torrent of emotions is a bit terrifying because they are so strong.  At this stage in this current reality, I either feel everything, or nothing.  I’m either fully engaged in my terrifying emotions, or not at all.  I want to spend enormous amounts of time by myself.  I don’t want to cry in front of people (because I am already prone to crying at the drop of a hat, I cry about this without warning or much provocation) and have to explain myself.  I think you get the point that there is nothing in between either option.  Everyday is a fight to stay focused on life.  I have to be able to “do” my life according to it’s rules.  I still have a son to love and care for despite the circumstance.  I have a husband who needs my empathy just as much as I need his.

Life has taught me that new experiences feel awkward, strange, and scary. My brain has to store the new experience as memories and grow new neurons based on those memories so that the experience becomes familiar and part of my brain-scape.  Perhaps this is why a lot people dislike change so much, because the new experience takes time to get used to.  But, eventually one does get used to the experience.  One mostly knows what to expect, and (mostly) how to respond.  The stored memories and new neurons give us a structure to rely on.

Being the intuitive, introspective, deep-thinking sort, I will learn things from this experience.  After the worst of this is over, I will be able to look back and see the blessings, the bad stuff, the I-never-want-to-go-through-this-again stuff, even the happy moments.  Next time, I will know how to respond to the circumstance, and to my own emotions.  Next time, I might be able to find a middle ground between the terror and the numbness.

Despite the difficulties, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow.

I am grateful.

More vivid than usual…

*Dust, dust*

*Scrape, scrape*

*Wash, wash*

Ah, that’s better.  It’s been a while.  Sorry little blog.  I didn’t mean to let you gather so much dust.  I am much less distracted now and wish to renew our friendship.  Will you forgive me?  You will? Oh, thanks!

What better way to celebrate my reentry to the blogdom than to do a Five Minute Friday?

Let’s write bold and free for five non-stop minutes shall we?  Excuse me while I get out my timer…

Vivid

God makes everything brighter and more vivid.  Everything shines to my eyes when God is involved in the details.  Sometimes I stand like a child, awed by the sun, blinking back tears at the sheer joy of it all.  How could I not?  God’s love can be so overwhelming at times, flowing into every nook and cranny of my soul, making everything cleaner, brighter, more vivid.  When God makes something more vivid, I can see minute details I never noticed before.  A bead of dew here, a friends smile wrinkles there, a word well-spoken right in front of me.  How can I not notice the glorious and grand details of His design when my vision is clearer, when life is more vivid than usual? My heart is beats in tune with the details of His plan when they are known to me and I see the brightness of His glory shining for my unfettered eyes.

Thanks for being here!

You too little blog!

5mf- A single ray of light

It’s easy to forget in the deepest, darkest moments how connected I am. Connected to my immediate family, my church family, all the I have touched, and all the people I will touch. Pain can be overwhelming and convince you that you are alone, that going on with life is hopeless, it might as well end now before more suffering occurs. But if I take a moment to reflect on how severing those connections would hurt those I am connected to, the pain of leaving is great enough to keep me here. Connections are what is keeping me here fighting my way through the muck, the mire, the agony, the hopelessness and despair. Life is so hard all on it’s own. Life is harder when one is forced to deal with pain inflicted by other people who were bigger and stronger. The strongest connection of all keeps a small ray of light shining ever present in the darkness, in the deepest pain, the lowest despair. That connection calls me to take another step, no matter how much it hurts, even if I think my legs are broken, or my muscles torn. A single ray of light offering me hope. “Stay connected”, He says, “don’t give up.”

Monday Morning Meditations

Well, hello there blog.  Missed you last week.  I was constantly behind the eight ball and was constantly surprised by forgotten event after forgotten event.  Yeah, it was bad.  So, I just couldn’t find the time to sit down and put my thoughts here.  Oh, well.  Moving on.

Monday morning meditations are stream-of-consciousness writing with a one-word prompt (for as long as I like).  I was going to write about plenty, but I think I am going to write about control.  Control is a current theme in my life right now, particularly because I am in therapy (yet, again) and we are talking about how this plays out in my life.  And, I have a lot of feelings and thoughts on the subject.  So, here we go…

Control

People say that having control is an illusion.  I say that’s not true.  I have been controlled by other people many times in my life.  Anyone that has authority has control over other people.  A child is controlled by all of the adults in his life.  Adults tell a child where to go, what to do, how to do it, and punish any transgressions.  I don’t think this is a bad thing.  I think this is a good thing because a child needs to be guided in how to be a good citizen of the society they are born into.  It becomes a bad thing when control is used as a means to subvert and dominate for no other purpose than impose one’s will on the other person.  And this is no illusion.  A person that forces another person to do something bad or against their will has control of the other person.

My experiences as a child were of being controlled and forced to do things that I didn’t want to, or should, do.  By many people.  My mother continued to control me until I left home.  And, after I left home, she still had a hold over me until she died.  There was not a place I could go without looking over my shoulder in fear that she would show up and I would have to run and hide for face her.  Even as an adult, my mother controlled me with fear.  When she died, I felt so relieved.  I didn’t have to worry anymore.  The control was gone.  Trust me when I say that not feeling guilty about this is a struggle.

This feels like an awful shame to me.

But at least my fear of  being controlled explains why I behave like I do in certain situations.  And there has been plenty of that going on in my adult life.  He wants me to trust Him and to understand my choices.  There goes God again, working all things together for the good of me who love Him.  Healing can begin and I can look to God to help me understand what is really going on in a situation that feels like I’m being controlled by another person.  I can choose to submit myself to someone else’s authority, or not.  The “or not” part is freeing and puts the choice in my hands.  The best part of this is that I can look to God to help me understand my choices and walk into a situation with my eyes wide-open of my own free will.

It’s my choice now.

Telling My Story… My Mother

My relationship with and my feelings towards my mother are complicated.  Honestly, she was not a very good mother.  In fact, I’d say she was was a terrible mother.  It would be easy to just stop there and just hate her.  Jesus won’t let me just hate her, hence the complicated feelings.  My mother had it just as bad, or worse, as I did growing up.  According to her story, her father abused her.  He was also an alcoholic as was her mother.  I never knew my grandparents, so I cannot attest to what kind of people they were.  But, I don’t have any reason to doubt her story.

My mother just couldn’t deal with life.  She was alcoholic, adulterer, and a drug addict.  My mother was overbearing, confusing, mean, and selfish.  I never knew if I was coming or going with her.  I never really knew if she loved me or not.  She didn’t believe me I talked about the abuse that happened with my father.  She claims she didn’t know or notice anything.

When I was 19, I had met a man that was strong and tall and cared about my safety, or at least I thought so at the time.  My mother threatened to to hit me one day, so I left with this man’s help.  For the next 14 years, I kept myself separate from my mother.  I tried for one year in the  middle, until things went south again and I split.

Then my mother overdosed on opiate based painkiller about 8 years ago.  This was quite a shock and started the present journey I am on trying to cope with both the relief I feel at her death, and the sadness that I feel because I was never able to reconcile with her.

So now, even after all these years, I still feel have confused and complicated feelings.

God wants me to forgive my mother, over and over again.  He wants me to let go of my past and try to feel empathy towards my mother’s plight.  He wants me to heal from the wounds.

So, I keep pushing forward and keep trusting that He knows best, because, well, He does know best.

Some day, perhaps, my feelings won’t be so complicated.

5mf- Catch

Catch-

Catch me if you can.

I am running ahead at full speed.

Catch me if you can.

I fly by to fast to see.

Catch me if you can.

I run breathlessly as I wait.

Catch me if you can.

My need is for speed.

Catch me you did.

As you help me slow down.

Catch me you did.

As you teach me to breath

Catch me you did.

As you tell me your plan.

Catch me you did.

As you hold me in your hand.

Telling my story, part 2

I had a bad day yesterday.  It took extra effort to stay sane and focused and not allow the dissociation to overwhelm me.  Writing what little I did write was very hard for me.  The good news is that I have a counseling appointment with a professional tonight.

The healing journey can begin…again.

You know that expression “darkest hour is just before the dawn”?  I am in that moment.  I cannot see what is going on right now, nor what is coming.  I simply trust that it is good because I have nowhere else to go.  It is only the grace of God holding back the flood of emotions and feelings that can and will overwhelm me during my counseling sessions.  They should overwhelm me in God’s presence, because that is the place of healing.  My little 3-year old self cannot, and does not want to, hide any longer in the shadows.  Now is her time to come out and be present.  Now is her time to be part of the bigger picture I call my life.  It is time for this final piece to come back to me and be part of my life.

I am waiting for the dawn.