Are you going to get bitter or get better?

That’s a question we should probably all ask ourselves from time to time.  It’s a crucial question during times of personal adversity/trauma.  Are you going to let life’s misfortunes define and color the rest of your days negatively? Or are you going to risk allowing your soul’s light to shine into the darkness and get better?

I ask my clients these question every single day.  I may not use those exact words, but it’s essentially what I am asking when I ask questions like:

How are we going to work toward resolving your complaint or current struggle?
Are you ready to move yourself toward of place of personal growth and healing?
Are you planning on coming into my office, complaining each week about the same thing and then asking me why you don’t feel better?
Are you finally ready to work on the past, the trauma, the wounds, the pain?
Do you finally believe me when I tell you that you learned to believe that you’re
weak? Or that you’re worthless?  Or just not good enough.
That you don’t deserve healing?  Or any other negative self-belief.

The thing is, we learned to believe those lies during times of struggle and personal adversity.  We developed that inner narrative with time…and sometimes with years of practice.  We rehearse those negative words over and over again on a daily basis.  We whisper them to ourselves when we’re trying to sleep, late at night, with tears soaking our pillows.  Those self-deprecating words are the lullaby of the hurting.  But they aren’t true. Not even one of those lies is your soul’s truth.  Your inner self and inner truth is loving, positive, generous and kind.

The beauty of the present moment is that with each breath, we get to decide.  Are we going to work on getting better and healing or are we going to let life make us bitter?

There is no “right” time to start working on healing.  It’s never too late.   It’s never too early.  You can’t be too young or too old.  It doesn’t matter if you’re an eighty-year old who is counting your last days in a nursing home, if you’re a sixty something year old military vet with PTSD, or a teenager in the middle of the worst possible life.

We can HEAL, get BETTER, and GROW.   And most importantly, we deserve it!  The universe wants this for us.  You only have to want it for yourself.  I don’t believe what I’m writing because it’s what research tells me believe.  I know this truth because I have not only experienced healing and growth, I have seen countless people do it right in front of my eyes with the help of EMDR therapy.  I feel so blessed to have this tool to share with my clients who are working on (or at least trying to work on) healing, growth and improvement.  And I’m so grateful for how it has helped me.

What I want more than anything is to see the people I care about (family, friends, my current and former clients) thriving and living the wonderful life that is waiting for them on the other side of their pain. It’s always so easy to see the bright side of someone else’s pain because the weight of it isn’t dragging you down.  It’s not always that easy to see the bright side of our own seemingly hopeless situation.  That’s why we need each other.  To help each other by pointing out the bright side when it’s so hard to see in the middle of a dark and lonely room.  Sometimes we need our “tribe” to point out our strengths and our resilience.  Sometimes we need them to just remind us that there’s light and that you just have to keep moving toward it and open the door.

Not everyone will believe it though.  They need to trust you.  But mostly, they need to trust themselves.  They need to believe that things can get better and that they’re worthy of it getting better.  Sometimes this takes time.   Sometimes they run away and come back.  Sometimes they just run away. Some people simply decide to not get better.  They decide to get bitter.  And that’s their choice.  We have to respect that.

It might hurt when you care about someone who makes the choice to get bitter.  You might try your best to help them see the truth but do not pry open their eyes.  Do not beg or cry or plead.  They have to do this on their own terms.  In their own time.  Otherwise, the light they might find won’t be their own and they’ll end up bitter anyways.  I’m at an age now where I have two aging parents, both of whom I love very much.  But one has shown me what it looks like to get better and the other has shown me what it looks like to get bitter.

I’m at this point in my life, this mid-point, where I get to decide which way I’m going to age.  I’ve decided that I’ll work on getting better.  And I’ll work on helping others who are trying to get better to figure out how to do it.  I don’t care how long as it takes, just as long as we’re moving.  Because as I help others on their journey to peace, I also find peace.  I learn and grow alongside them.  It’s such an honor to be there with them.  The feeling I get when someone is moving toward their place of peace and authenticity is so powerful and I just want to sit there forever.  And that’s why I can’t sit and stay stuck in the bitterness of other people’s life (bitterness is not the same as pain).  Because I know how amazing it feels to grow and find peace and I want to share that with others.  I don’t want to sit and watch someone I care about growing more bitter.  Even if it’s become your place of peace and comfort.  It’s just not mine.

get-bitter-or-better-life-daily-quotes-sayings-pictures

 

 

A relationship with my body?

Dove real beauty campaign

I found a draft to this blog a few months ago. I wrote it two years ago. When I found it, I realized how little progress I had made on my quest to learn to love my body. And I felt ashamed of my lack of progress. I wanted to post the blog, but I didn’t because I felt scared. I was scared of not only being utterly honest with myself and my (small) audience, but of the feeling of vulnerability that comes with exposing yourself completely; heart, soul and mind. I looked at it again and I decided to risk being vulnerable. I decided to be bravely vulnerable today. Deep breath…and here goes.  Two years ago, I wrote:

I have a question.  How do I form a positive relationship with my body?

I want to stop hating my body.

I’m a mental health therapist.  For God’s sake, I teach people how to build self-esteem. How to have positive relationships. How to communicate effectively. How to move past old hurts and emotional wounds.  But having a relationship that’s positive with my own body?  Yeah, I can’t seem to figure that one out.

Do you know why it bothers me so much that I struggle with my body image? It’s not because I’m a therapist. It’s not because I’m supposed to be a role model for countless teen girls and woman also struggling. It’s because I’m a mother of two extremely beautiful young woman who I can see are also struggling. And while I know the blame for that lies in a thousand sources, I recognize that I am also responsible for it. I have not modeled to them how to love their body, how to feel comfortable in their own skin…and this is this one of my greatest sources of parental shame and regret. I always intended to raise confident women. Women who believed in themselves. Ones who were completely and effortlessly comfortable in their skin. But I didn’t succeed. Why? Because….

I hate my body. I absolutely hate how I look.  Naked especially, and in almost all clothes. I could take the easy way out and say that it’s because I’ve gained weight with age (and happiness and increased health). But that’s a lie. I hated myself when I was super skinny too. I have literally always hated my body. I don’t hate my face. I don’t hate my personality. I’m generally a fairly confident person. But my body? Yep, can’t seem to form a positive relationship with that part.

Hate is a strong word, I know.  I suppose I don’t always feel that strongly about it. But I always feel at least slightly uncomfortable with it.  And if I’m distracted from thinking about the discomfort, I can easily feel at ease.  But reminders are everywhere.  Reminders are on television shows, movies, commercials, magazines in the checkout at the store- literally everywhere.

So, I started to wonder, besides the media (which is a huge contributor) exactly when and how did I learn to hate my body?

These answers pop up:

  • When I was six and my mother began to start constantly dieting. She was beautiful and perfect.  Sadly, someone taught her to hate her body, too. My internalized message: “No matter how perfect you are, try to be more perfect.”
  • When I was eight and my Dad made me get off his lap because my butt was too boney and then he and my brother teased me for being so skinny.   My internalized message: “I’m gross”
  • When I was 12 and started getting teased for being so flat chested. Internalized message: I’ll never be like the women in those magazine, I’ll never be good enough or desirable.
  • When I was 14, 15, 16 and everyone asked if I was anorexic. I wasn’t, by the way. But I was already suffering from serious body image issues.
  • When I saw pornography for the first time. (Please don’t act like you never have).  My internalized messages: Women are objects, men want women who are super thin, who have flawless figures and huge boobs.  The deeper message: I’m not good enough.       And I never will be because my body can literally never look like that. It would be genetically impossible. I truly did not realize I was looking at mostly edited images.

And then it was set in. I. Hated. My. Body. Completely and totally. I could not stand what I saw when I looked in the mirror. Whether I’m 90 pounds or 130, whether I’m twelve or thirty seven, sometimes I really hate my body.

body image quote

Sometimes I hate my body when I see celebrities in magazines.

Sometimes I hate my body when I see seemingly perfect women on TV. I’m more educated than I was back in the day, so I fully realize that it’s mostly photo edited images I’m comparing myself to, but sometimes I still hate my body when I see it.

I hate my body when I put on clothes and they feel tight.

I hate my body when I try on clothing in stores and see myself from all angles on the fitting room mirrors.

I hate my body when I shower.

I even hate my body when I pee and look down at what I think is an absolute disgusting stomach.

It’s awful to hate your own body. It’s like hating a big part of yourself. It makes me so sad that I have taught my beautiful, perfect daughters to hate their bodies too. I never told them explicitly how much I hate my body, but I’m sure the message is loud and clear in multiple ways.

This year, I’m going to try to learn to love my body. That doesn’t mean I will learn to lose weight. It means I will learn to love my body; to treat it well, both emotionally and physically. I’ll stop comparing it to all the other bodies. I’ll stop judging myself and my body so harshly. I’ll treat my body the same way I would treat the bodies of my children, my clients, my mother, and all other women. There is a lot of work for me to do, to learn how to love this body that I’ve practiced hating for thirty seven years. But I’m going to try. For myself and my girls. And I challenge you to do the same. Love yourself. Treat yourself with compassion. Stop judging every pound you gain or morsel of food you put into your mouth. Don’t let society tell you how you should look and subsequently feel about yourself.

Kayla and Megan, I’m genuinely sorry.Body image blog end body image quote

Personal Legend

“But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.”

~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I love to read. Reading has helped me to cope with some of the darkest moments of my life because by immersing myself in the world of a fictional character, I was given the gift of a momentary reprieve from my personal heartache. I learned about reading as a coping mechanism when my parents were getting divorced. I was ten. There was a lot of fighting and I didn’t want to hear it. So I would read. And when I read, I lost myself in another world. Books were truly such a gift to my soul. In those early days of my life, I would sometimes sit for hours in my room, not leaving until I completed a book from beginning to end.   I have read so many book in my life and often the question has been asked of which one was my favorite. Until recently, I couldn’t answer that question. I mean, how could I pick just one among hundreds that I have loved?

Then a few months ago, I began to read The Alchemist. It had been suggested to me multiple times by my clients. And so, on a lazy rainy day, when I felt like doing nothing more than curling up with a book, I picked up The Alchemist. This short, easy to read book turned me back into that ten year old girl, losing herself in the storyline, the characters of the fable, and I sat and read it from beginning to end.

This book literally spoke directly to my soul.

There are many inspirational quotes throughout this book that I could’ve easily picked to blog about today. In fact, it was somewhat difficult to pick just one to focus on today. This book is filled with lessons on life, humanity, the universe and our life purpose. I chose the one at the beginning of this post, because today it seems to speak to me the mostly deeply. Although, I have no doubt that if I were to do this writing tomorrow, I could very easily pick a different quote that spoke to my heart just as profoundly.

Why are we here? That’s a question I hear a lot. From my children, from my clients, from myself. The Alchemist merely confirmed what my heart had said for many years:  We are here to live out our life’s purpose; our Personal Legend.

When we are children, our hearts are pure and untainted from the world’s criticism. At this point, we can clearly see what our purpose on Earth is. But we sadly lose sight of that. Because instead of listening to our hearts, we begin to listen to the opinions of others. The more we ignore our own heart, the quieter it becomes. But the heart never stops talking to us. It never stops encouraging us. The Universe never stops giving us signs about whether or not we are on the right path, moving toward our personal legend; our soul’s purpose. And luckily, even if we stop noticing the signs and we stop listening to our hearts, it’s never too late to stop and listen. Notice. Pay attention. Watch for the signs.

Our purpose on Earth is directly aligned with the Soul of the World. And when we begin to live an authentic life, the Soul of the World rejoices. Our hearts begin to feel more peaceful. At this point, we are more open to the signs of the Universe and our intuition becomes a strong force that is impossible to ignore. When we discover our purpose, we are at peace. We are living.

This book was a gift to my heart and soul. Reading it was incredibly affirming for me. I believe that through the grace of the Universe, I was already living out my personal legend. I would recommend this book to anyone though, whether living your legend or still trying to find your purpose. Because you are here for a reason; there is a divine purpose to your life. All you need to do is discover it by listening to your heart and watching for the signs that the Soul of the World sends to you.

Leaps of Faith

I previously posted on hitting Rock Bottom. https://ramblingsofalifetime.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/destination-rock-bottom/

After I spent time at Destination Rock Bottom, I realized that I had nowhere else to go but up. Because I had made the choice that I wasn’t going to remain stuck at the bottom. Since my return back to reality, I began rebuilding my life. And while I’m currently in a (mostly) peaceful and happy place in my life, I continue to build on the solid foundation that I laid down for my life after my rock bottom. Here’s what I did:

I took a leap of faith. And then I took another, and another and another.

At the age of twenty seven, I returned to college. I tried the whole college thing in my younger years, but I was a young mother and I had a million reasons why I couldn’t do it. Mostly, it was just my lack of confidence. My anxiety. My fears of failure. And worse, my fears of success (I didn’t have a compass for that!).

I always wanted to become a psychologist. Since I was sixteen and I realized how badly the world seemed to suck, like most sixteen year olds do. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help people. I wanted to take a little of the suck out of life for people. That was always “just a dream” when I was young. I never actually thought I would do it. Kids like me didn’t usually amount to much, I told myself. A few “gifted” guidance counselors told me that too. Nice, huh? (You were wrong, Mr. Marchese but thanks for the encouragement, buddy.)

But after I hit rock bottom at age twenty five, I really wanted to try to make my dreams come true. I didn’t want to be a victim of my own insecurities. I wanted to teach my daughters that they could work hard and reach their dreams. I wanted to help others to heal after they may have hit their own rock bottom or to help someone avoid that place altogether. And I figured at this point that the worst had already happened, so I finally had the courage to try.

And so I went back. It wasn’t always easy. I definitely felt unsure. I doubted myself constantly. I felt out of place in college as an adult. But I went. Every single day. And I worked hard. I focused and kept my eye on the prize. At that time, the prize was getting admitted into the PhD program for Psychology. I had a nearly perfect GPA. I had research experience and internships. I created solid relationships with professors in order to secure myself excellent letters of recommendation. I did it all. I was a super student for the first time in my life.

Along the way, I would speak to professors about my dreams. How I wanted to make a difference. How I felt about the world. How social injustices upset me. How I wanted to empower people to be the captains of their own lives. And you know what they kept telling me? That I sounded like a social worker. My response? I’d scoff at them. What were they talking about? I was going to be a doctor of psychology!! In my misguided perception of what social workers do, I thought, “I’m not getting an education to take people’s children away from them” or “I’m not getting into all this debt to earn no money”.

And so I plowed away toward my dream. I eagerly (and confidently) applied to the graduate program of my choice. No others. Yes, I was so sure that I would get in that I tried nothing else. And on my 30th birthday, I checked the mail and enthusiastically tore open the envelope from the program of my choice. It was a rejection letter.

I was crushed.

Devastated.

I worked so hard for this? To not win my prize?

I spent the next few days crying. And then I remembered rock bottom and I got scared. So I carried on…

I talked again with my professors who supported and guided me. They again begged me to look into social work. They emphatically told me that my preconceptions of social work were entirely wrong. And so I listened, because what choice did I have? I went to the website for the school of social work and I realized that they were probably right. And so I applied. And I was accepted. But it felt like a lesser prize. Like I hadn’t really won. Like I was settling or somehow not good enough to win my true prize.

And I took another leap of faith.

On my first day of graduate school in the school of social work, I met a lot of people who talked about things that I loved and felt passionate about. Things like social justice, equality, empowerment, poverty, trauma, healing, culture and social welfare. My whole entire body lit up and I thought to myself, “Holy shit, I’ve got the soul of a social worker!”  I was more than excited. I was home. I was exactly where I belonged. And so it went on and for two years I worked really hard. I wanted to absorb every bit of this experience. I learned with passion, enthusiasm and gratitude.

I have no doubt that the universe had a plan for me. How else could I have ended up exactly where I was meant to be without even knowing it?

And here I am, six years after graduating from grad school and I am literally living out my professional dream. I own my own business. I provide therapy to people and I get to walk with them on their journey. I help to guide them toward their healing and I get to watch them begin to take their own leaps of faith. I support, I encourage and I guide toward healing. But most importantly, every single day of my life, I thank my version of God and the universe for my blessing.  I feel blessed to be in this position, living my dream and helping others to heal.

This picture prompt reminded me of my professional journey. From beginning to end. All the fears conquered.   All the milestones reached. All the lessons. All the support of those standing beside me, all the mentors, all the professors, the encouragers, all of my clients who teach me every day about strength, resilience and healing. All the leaps of faith.

jumping

A former bully’s regret…

Regret(s). I don’t have many, but I know I definitely have one. We all do, don’t we? I mean, I could say I don’t regret anything because if it weren’t for my past mistakes, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And that would be so nice, if it were true. My regret has nothing to do with where I am today. Not directly, at least. I mean sure, the fact that it occurred and that I regret it means I have grown and learned. But I can’t honestly say that if it weren’t for that one mistake that I wouldn’t be where I am today. Because I believe I would be. So the regret is simple. It’s a regret. It will always be a regret.

When I was a teenager, I was angry. I was an angry, mean, spiteful person. Sure, I know why that was, I was hurting. So I forgive myself. But I do still regret it. I always will. In my anger, I was a bully. I was mean to people who did not deserve my abuse. I was blessed about a year ago to hear from a former classmate who I had hurt. She reached out to let me and a fellow bully to let us know how we had hurt her. How brave is that? Her bravery allowed me an opportunity to apologize. Sincerely and genuinely apologize. And this is what I said:

Dear Person that I bullied, (when I wrote the letter, I used her name but felt it important to publicly protect her identity)

The other bully (Protecting her name, too) shared with me the message you sent to her, along with the article on the lasting impact that bullying has on young people. I’m not writing to you to look for forgiveness. I don’t deserve that and wouldn’t ask for it.

I’m just writing to tell you how truly, deeply, and genuinely sorry I am for the pain I created in your young life. That was a time that should have been happy and free of torment. You did not deserve, in any shape or form, the abuse you suffered because of us. I am so sorry.

I’ve thought of you often. I have not forgotten what I did or how I treated you. I’ll never allow myself to because to forget might mean it was okay. And it wasn’t and never will be. I think of you and I feel guilt, shame and regret. Not that this should matter to you. But I want you to know that it matters to me. You matter…and it just was so wrong.

I’d like to explain…not that you need to read it. You don’t owe me anything, not even to read this letter. My explanation is not to excuse my behavior. It is not to ask you for forgiveness. If anything, I hope that it might help you understand and heal. I’m sure that you already know everything I am about to say. You’ve probably already learned this along the way of life…but I still would like to tell you.

I bullied you for no other reason than my own weakness. Unfortunately, something that had nothing to do with you, and certainly wasn’t caused by you, ended up hurting you and impacting you. I was weak. Too scared to be kind. You were a beautiful young girl. I remember that. You probably didn’t know it then, and I hope you know it now, but you were. My own anger at myself made me hate people like you. Not because there was anything wrong with you. In fact, the fact that there was nothing wrong with you probably made me hate you. I hated myself, my life, and I was a bitter, angry, mean person. You ended up being one of my targets. We were relentless. I am so sorry.

I suspect based on your letter to (the other bully) that this will not be any consolation to you, but I also want you to know that I paid my karmic debt in many ways throughout the years. I learned and grew and if I could go back and change anything in my life, it would be how I treated people when I was a teenager. I was too scared to be myself so I wrapped myself up in this tough act that made me feel safe. But I traded my own sense of safety for yours and that is a debt that deserves to be paid.

My oldest daughter, at the same age you were when we hurt you, was bullied just like I bullied you. There is no pain like the pain of watching your child get hurt like this emotionally, knowing that you caused the same pain to others, and that there is little you can do to protect her from the hurt. She needed counseling and still suffers from problems trusting that people like her. Like you, she is a beautiful. She is kind, thoughtful, compassionate…and does not deserve to carry these scars. I just want you to know that I get it. I understand very deeply the damage that I caused you…and your family.

I also work with young people, to help them cope better with anger and low self-esteem. I hope that I can prevent anyone from getting hurt the way I hurt others.

I’m sorry that this was so long. I felt that at a minimum, I could offer you an explanation and a very deeply sincere apology. If you want anything else, if there is any other thing I can do to help you heal from any lasting scars and hurt, I honestly would like to know if you would want to tell me. If not, I wish you peace. And I thank you for sharing your adult point of view. I am truly sorry.

Best Wishes, Kelly Kerr McCall

She responded well, with words of forgiveness but I am genuine when I tell you that that was not what I was looking for. While writing to her and hearing back from her was somewhat healing, she wasn’t the only one. There are others. I already forgive myself, but I will always regret the fact that my actions hurt people. I give back to the world by trying to help other kids who are getting bullied to cope and by helping kids who are bullies to learn how to love themselves enough to be kind and authentic. So in a way, my experiences helped me to be a better person and therapist, but it certainly did not bring me to living out my personal legend. It is a regret. One I will always have because you can’t change the past. You can only learn from it and while it’s true that I learned, that will not lessen the regret.

I hope that this blog post can help others to heal.  Both the bullied and the bullies.  If you’re the bullied, please see where it comes from; the bullies own insecurities and weaknesses.  It has nothing to do with you as a person.  If you’re a bully, please heal yourself so that you can stop hurting people and so that you will not have to look back at your life with regret.

The School of Life: An Overview of (almost) Forty Years

Here is a list of some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life. The list is not complete, because my plan involves being a student of life until my last breath. I believe that my soul is here on a journey of searching for peace, happiness, answers to questions and enlightenment. I am here to learn, to grow, to love, to create the best version of myself, to give, to live.

Lesson 1: Trust yourself. Listen to your gut and pay close attention to your gut instincts. If something feels wrong, it most likely is. I spent far too many years second guessing my own inner voice and that resulted in wasted time, pain, and regret. I listen to myself now. If I can’t hear myself, I stop and pay attention to my body and my inner voice. Because sometimes my gut is quiet, but it’s always present. Since I’ve started to listen, I am rarely ever sorry that I did.

Lesson 2: Forgive yourself. Part of being on this journey of life is making mistakes. A mistake does not define who you are as person. Be kind to yourself. Offer yourself the same gentleness and validation you would to your best friend. Don’t waste time beating yourself up.

Lesson 3: Everything does not actually happen for a reason. Sometimes really bad shit happens to really good people, for no reason at all. Don’t waste time looking for the reasons.

Lesson 4: Friends will come and go. Some will come back. If you lose a friend, ask yourself if it was a loss. Was the relationship reciprocal? Did you find happiness in this friendship? If not, let it go. Life is too short to spend time with people who are not good to you, who don’t see the best in you, who aren’t honest with you. Don’t be afraid to let go of toxic relationships. And don’t be afraid to re-open a door that you thought you had closed.

Lesson 5: Be honest with yourself. Live an authentic life. Don’t pretend to like things so that other people will like you. Because then they don’t really like you. Be yourself. The right people will accept that. It’s the absolute only way to find your “tribe”.

Lesson 6: It’s okay to say no. I struggled for years to say no. I would say yes to everything and resent it later. It’s not worth it. Your time and sanity are just as important as everyone else’s. If you don’t want to go to a party, don’t. If you can’t babysit someone’s children because you’re busy, don’t. If you worry about saying no because people may not like you anymore, see lesson five. And, consider the fact that if they don’t like you because you said no, then they don’t really like YOU, they like what you do for them. You’re too good for that.

Lesson 7: Assume the best. If you’re wondering what someone meant when they said something or did something, either ask them or assume the best and let it go. Most people will not intentionally hurt or upset you, so assume the best.

Lesson 8: Do not judge people. It doesn’t matter who they are, what they did, what you think. Do. Not. Judge. We are all here, usually doing the very best we can, so just be kind. I have never heard someone judge with a kind and open heart. Consider that we, as people, are all doing the very best we can. We all have lessons to learn. Don’t judge the path of another person. You have no idea the journey they may have walked to get them to their current destination. Live and let live. Once you let go of judgment, you will likely feel happier. I have noticed that those who judge the harshest are often the unhappiest. I don’t think that’s coincidence.

These are only eight of many lessons I’ve learned. There are plenty more and the list will always be growing. Each day brings new lessons. What are some of your personal life lessons? I’d love to hear about them.

lifelessons

Destination Rock Bottom

People often say that someone will not change until they reach “rock bottom”.   But where is Rock Bottom? I think it’s a different place for each of us. Yet it’s a ubiquitous phrase; something we can all relate to. Most of us can reflect on our past and pinpoint exactly where our Rock Bottom was. Or maybe you’ve found more than one place called Rock Bottom.

Maybe you lost someone that you loved.

Maybe you lost yourself to drugs.

Maybe you lost your sanity.

Or your freedom.

Or your health.

Perhaps it was the loss of your sense of self?

Or maybe you lost it all…

The list could go on and on but the one thread that holds these experiences together is the theme of loss. You can’t reach a place as dark as rock bottom without experiencing loss right alongside it. Grief. That’s a heavy word, isn’t it? We all hate to lose, but it’s something we all experience. A universal truth that is impossible to escape. If you live, you will experience loss. You will, one day, reach rock bottom.

It sounds so ugly, doesn’t it? It sounds hopeless. Lonely. Full of despair. Scary. And it is. At least while you’re there. Destination Rock bottom doesn’t have any road signs, not really.  Sure, you may have friends and family shouting to you that you’re headed in the wrong direction, but being human often necessitates learning on our own that which others have already learned. And so we carry on, wearily toward our own destruction, not heeding the signs of warning along the way.  Right into our own destination Rock Bottom.rock bottom road sign

What can someone hope to find at destination Rock Bottom?  One who hasn’t been there might think that this elusive place merely encapsulates misery. Darkness. Anguish. Isolation. And all of that can, and certainly will be found at destination Rock Bottom. But there is a side to this place that we sometimes forget to mention. There is also magic there.rock bottom magic

Prior to landing at destination Rock Bottom, I hated myself. I hated my life. I was deeply depressed but going through the obligatory motions of life because I had people depending on me. But I just couldn’t figure out my place in the world. Despite my blessings, of which there were plenty. Despite my amazing support system of friends and family. I just could not seem to figure out my purpose, where I fit within this Universe. I lost pace with the rhythm of my heart and I lost track of the dance of my life. And little by little I slid further and further down until I crashed into destination Rock Bottom.  I crashed hard.

When I hit the bottom, I looked around at the devastation and wreckage that was a part of my fall. And by the shear grace of God and the power of the Universe, I looked UP. That’s when I saw it; the magic of Rock Bottom.  What I saw was light.  It was HOPE.

Hope is the magic ticket out of destination Rock Bottom. It’s easy to lose this ticket, so you have to be careful, hold on tight, and act quickly. I took my magic ticket of hope and I started to crawl my way out.  My strength was compromised from the crash, so I had to rely on the people who loved me to help pull me out. That was one of the hardest parts; asking for and accepting help. It can make you feel so vulnerable. But through that vulnerability I found my support; my tribe. A few incredibly special people, mostly family, and a couple friends. And their support lifted me out just enough to make me see that I was loved. I was genuinely and purely loved.

Once I was out of Rock Bottom, I still had the journey of recovery ahead of me. You can’t hit rock bottom and expect to come out without some bumps and bruises. The best way I can explain it would be to say that my spirit had to relearn how to walk. But they were there every single step of the way, helping me to walk until I could run.

beautiful start

At destination Rock Bottom, I found my worth. I realized who I was. I gained a vision for my life, because when you have nowhere left to go but up, you somehow find the courage to dream. I discovered my resilience. My strength.

And with that I began to rebuild my life. From the ground up, very slowly at first. But I built and built until all of my dreams were realized. I knew I would never go back to Rock Bottom. I now knew that I deserved so much more.  I learned that my tribe not only had my back, but they were cheering for me the whole time. They had the right to see me shine. And shine I did. So while I would never want to revisit destination Rock Bottom, I am grateful for the opportunity to have hit that place and manage rise above.

If yjk rowlingou’re stuck in your own personal Rock Bottom, I encourage you to look UP. Don’t let the fear of the unknown make you hide there, closing your eyes and waiting for it to disappear. Because it won’t. You have to make it disappear. And I know for a fact that you can. Because I did. J.K Rowling is right. Rock bottom can be a solid foundation on which to rebuild your    life.  So, what can of life do you want?

This blog post was inspired by Fort Hays University’s poster project on “Abortions of Convenience” which, along with a photo of a fetus in a needle syringe, states:


“The concept of my poster is to remind the pregnant women—who do not want their baby because it would disrupt their life—to stop and think before going through the process of abortion. Through my research, I found that insulin injection is the most common way to abort a baby in the first trimester. I also wanted to hit the viewer hard with a powerful statement: “abortion doesn’t make you un-pregnant, it makes you the mother of a dead baby.” It will definitely get one’s attention and hopefully change people’s minds about abortion. I hope to cause lots of conversation with my poster in order to bring about change.
—Gao Fan, 2nd Place, “Abortion of Convenience”


Dear Gao “Daniel” Fan:

Congratulations on your second place victory. I do hope that this (brief) moment in your career brought with it some sense of accomplishment. Because I, unlike you, do not judge the choices that other people make at various points in their lives. I understand that a moment in one’s life should not dictate who they are in their entirety.

So while you may, in your judgement, view me as a murdered, I will not allow your judgement of me to turn into judgement of you by thinking you ignorant or simple minded. For that reason, I will set my preconceived ideas of who you are as a person aside while I simply and honestly respond to your award winning piece of work. I was initially unsure if I should even name you in my post, thereby offering you more publicity than necessary, but I could not think of a better way to address your accomplishment.

Mr. Fan, you will never have to face the agonizing decision of whether or not to give birth to a child. For this, you are privileged. This privilege also renders you blind to the emotional and physical struggle associated with the decision to abort a pregnancy. I would have a similar response to your work if you were a female, but the fact that you are not makes my response feel more pressing. Who are you, as a man, to tell any woman what she should or should not do with her body? Who are you to judge the very nature of a personal decision when you have no real reference point for such a judgement? It’s ludicrous really.

Mr. Fan, you wrote that the concept of your poster was to “remind the pregnant women—who do not want their baby because it would disrupt their life—to stop and think before going through the process of abortion.”

I’m not exactly sure what on Earth would make you think for even a second that “the pregnant women” didn’t stop to THINK before they went through with the process of abortion. Now, I can’t speak for ALL women who have experienced abortion, I can only really speak for myself and the countless other women I have spoken to on this very topic, but you can rest assured Mr. Fan, that we ALL stopped and THOUGHT about it.

For hours.

For days.

For weeks.

Both before and after the abortion. We did nothing BUT think about it.

Please lay to rest your misconception that we just went carelessly skipping into the clinic and happily skipped out after, freed from the “burden” of our unborn children. We thought long and hard about it. We agonized over it. We prayed about it. We felt the very heavy and painful burden of that decision from the moment we discovered we were pregnant to the day we finally found peace and forgiveness within ourselves. A burden that I personally carried for over fifteen years. You have no idea, Mr. Fan. No idea at all.

You also wrote that you wanted to “hit the viewer hard with a powerful statement: “abortion doesn’t make you un-pregnant, it makes you the mother of a dead baby.

I don’t have much to say about this other than no frigen shit. We already KNOW that. We feel that heavy truth throughout our journey to healing and self-forgiveness. Truthfully, we feel it even after. That doesn’t go away.

So don’t worry, Mr. Fan. We are PAINFULLY aware of that truth each and every time we realize that we are in the month that our unborn child would have been born.

Or when we would’ve been celebrating a birthday.

Or when we see a child who would be about the same age as our unborn.

Or when we would be teaching them how to drive.

Or when they would be graduating from high school.

Or when we dream about what they would be like interacting with the children we were blessed to have.

The weight of your statement hits us hard every time we see something like this printed. Every time we see a post on social media showing us what aborted fetuses look like. Every time we see a bumper sticker that says abortion is murder. Every time we hold an infant. Don’t worry. We know we have a dead child. A loss by choice is still a loss. No matter how you may feel about that personally, it’s true.

Mr. Fan, you stated that your poster “will definitely get one’s attention and hopefully change people’s minds about abortion. I hope to cause lots of conversation with my poster in order to bring about change.

You got my attention, without a doubt. Congratulations on reaching that goal. However, you did not change my mind about abortion. Abortion is a very personal choice. For me, it was the right choice. At the time, for me personally, it was my only choice.   Sadly, I didn’t understand that for many, many years. Years I spent in self-deprecating agony. In shame. In guilt. In regret. In self-hatred. Any why?

Because too many in society told me I was wrong.

That I was a sinner.

That I was a murderer.

That I was deserving of God’s judgement and punishment.

I am none of those things, Mr. Fan. I am a human doing the very best I can and who did the very best she could all those years ago when she was in a situation with no easy answers. It took me many years to realize that my soul is not defined by one choice. I am much more than my abortion, although it does leave a mark on my journey in this world and has made me a more compassionate, empathetic and humble human; I am human. As are you. Please don’t judge that in which you can’t possibly understand.

Like you, I too hope that your award winning piece of work will bring about change. I hope that it will spark a more compassionate conversation about what it means to make this decision, how difficult it is, how we can heal from it and how we, as women, have the right to do with our bodies that which we think is right. We should have that right free of judgement, but more importantly, free of self-hatred and shame. Because if we could make difficult personal decisions without shame, we can heal. Help people heal, Mr. Fan. Use the gifts that you have to make a real difference; not to judge that which will continue to be done with or without your consent and understanding.

If I could offer you any advice or criticism it would be to fully understand a position from all angles before you take a stand. Listen to the souls of those who have walked the excruciating journey of abortion. Understand their wounds, while self-inflicted, are wounds none the less. Use the gift of your voice and your work to ease the pain of these wounds, not to rub salt in them. If you’re concerned about abortion, think of solutions to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Be proactive, not reactive. But above all else, be gentle with people and your words. The universe will reward you for this in many ways. Perhaps your next attempt at shedding light on a social issue will come from a place of compassion rather than judgement. And maybe then you will come in first place instead of second.

 

Protection

I’m a mother. I define this role as being a nurturer, an advocate, a support, a guide, a protector. I gave birth to two very beautiful girls. But I’m more than the giver of life. I’m a mother. As a mother, I encourage, I cheer, I watch in awe as they grow and learn, I love. I protect. I worry. I cry. I wonder if I’m doing a good enough job for them. I stress. I get angry. I freak out. Sometimes I yell and sometimes I can’t speak at all. I pray. I pray for them to grow into healthy, strong, confident and happy women. I pray for their safety. I pray that they hear me when I talk and they take something from my words, because despite all the chatter that it may sound like, my words hold a thousand “I love yous”.

My babies, while almost grown, will always be my most treasured and precious gems. My greatest source of pride. Born perfectly flawless; miracles to my world. At birth, their eyes would look up to me with adoration, with love and the purest form of trust. I vowed to protect them. When they were born, that was so easy! I protected them from the cold air with blankets and cuddles, from strangers with my arms, from hunger with food, from tears with love, from sickness with medicine.   Even in their toddler years, I could protect them. I protected by watching them play, kissing their boo boos, setting up play dates, teaching them right from wrong, good touch from bad.

In those early years of innocence, I never really thought about the world stepping in. Maybe I failed in some way because I forgot about that part. In my efforts to protect them, maybe I forgot to teach them how to protect themselves. My precious gems, while still precious, have scars. Scars that I can never remove. Scars that I can only acknowledge as painful and sit with them in their pain, but I can’t take the scars away. The scars are theirs to do with what they wish. I can guide them to healing, but they are the ones who decide how to heal those scars. They are theirs. I could not protect them from bullies, broken hearts, predators, depression, anxiety, negative peer influences. I could not protect them from life. Adversity. Trauma. So much of it was outside of my control.

The world stepped in and made it so hard. As they get older, protection sometimes feels impossible. With every wordly blow I have to watch them endure, my heart aches. My body numbs out. My mind shuts down. I feel powerless. That’s a terrible feeling when you’re trying to protect your most precious gems. You want to take them and hide from the world. How can you place an adult sized young person back into your womb? But you know that hiding from the world won’t work out well for any of you in the long run, that’s not protection; that avoidance and that’s not living. While it’s true that I would gladly take on the pain of all their scars if it could spare them just one trauma, that’s also not an option. I can’t spend time wishing for the impossible. I will protect by teaching them to fight back. When the world knocks you down, you get up and you FIGHT. You fight back by remembering your resilience and inner strength and not giving up. You fight back by healing. I will fight beside them and I will heal with them. I am a mother of children who have grown. I will protect by noticing the things I can’t control. By pointing out possible areas of danger and then picking them up and fighting with them when they fall. I will notice their scars and not be afraid to talk about them. My presence is my protection.