Category Archives: standing strong

Not Alone

I was sexually assaulted. I remember that day so clearly. My family was visiting relatives in Chicago and we had gone to the Museum of Science and Energy. I think I was about 8 years old. There was one display that I was particularly interested in, but did not get to see when my family was around because there were so many people. After my family started to wander off, I stuck around to look at the display. I was surrounded by a group of older children. I thought nothing of it until someone slipped their hand up under my skirt and started to fondle my private area. I was shocked! I didn’t know who the person was, I didn’t look up and I didn’t look back. I broke away from the group and ran to find my parents.

I didn’t tell my parents about the incident because I thought they would make it my fault. I carried that memory with me for a long time before I told anyone. I thought it was my fault – if I had gone with my parents instead of staying back, it wouldn’t have happened. Forty years later, during a counseling session, I mentioned the incident in passing. My counselor said, “What? Go back to what you just said.” I did and we talked about it. It was good to finally get it out in the open.

I told my ex and my children about it once it came out in counseling. I didn’t tell my mom until several years later. I was angry with her and my dad for not protecting me. After I told my mom, she told me that she, too, had been sexually assaulted by a family friend as a young teen. We cried together.

I am glad that the sexual assault that has been so hidden but pervasive in Hollywood is finally coming out. I glad that more and more groups are tackling sex trafficking and bringing that horrendous practice out into the open. Women and girls, even men and boys, need to know they are not alone as victims of sexual assault.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please call your local law enforcement agency. A victim of sexual assault feels shame and guilt. They need to know that whatever happened was not their fault, no matter what anyone says. Please seek help and support to get beyond this horrendous experience. Please commit to walk with your friend as she heals and recovers from this trauma. God Bless you.

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The Song That Gets Stuck in Your Head

We’ve all had this happen at one time or another. You hear a song, or someone mentions a song, and before you know it, that song is stuck in your head. No matter what you do, you can’t get that song out of your head. I’ve had the experience as a parent where children’s songs would get stuck in my head. That’s annoying!

There are other things that can get stuck in our heads, too – painful memories, regrets, words we’ve said to our children that we shouldn’t have said, stupid things we’ve done. Words are often the things that get stuck the most – verbal abuse from a parent, mean words from grade school bullies, abrasive words from a spouse. It’s bad enough when a song gets stuck in your head, but when the painful words and memories start taking up residence, it gets worse. How do we get rid of the painful things that get stuck in our head?

  • Face it – head on: A counselor told me one time: “To feel is to heal.” As painful as that memory or those words are, if we let them come back again and again, they will continue to inflict damage. Facing that memory or those words takes courage. Journal about the memory or words and how it/they made you feel. Go into as much depth as you feel necessary to finally beat the wind out of the thing! This may take some professional help, but once you’ve beaten it (the memory, the words), let it go.
  • Share it: Talk to a trusted friend, a clergy member or seek out professional help. Don’t let the thing get so deeply embedded in your soul that it begins to fester. To share the thing is to bring it out into the open. Letting others know about the thing tends to loosen its grip on you.
  • Say it out loud: The deep dark recesses of our minds are fertile ground for stuff to rot, fester and grow putrid tentacles. Give words to the memory or the painful words. Speak out your pain – either alone, with a friend or in a support group. Tell it out loud how it makes you feel and how you are done with it! There is something about confronting the thing out loud that also lessens its grip on you.
  • Use it: There are so many people who harbor deep painful memories, whose ears ring with painful words. Once you’ve let the thing out, use it – write about it, paint it, dance about it, sing about it, take a very long walk, run up and down the stairs in your office building or at the local high school football stadium. Do not allow the thing to regain entrance into your psyche. Work it out of you.
  • Leave it alone: Don’t keep going back to that memory or those words. Look at that thing like a gross pile of feces, because that’s what it is. It doesn’t give you life or bring you joy. Don’t go back into the dark corner with it and allow its tentacles to wrap around you again. It’s something that should make you want to vomit – leave it alone!

Conquering these things in our lives takes time and willpower. Some people can get these words and memories out of their head relatively easily. For others, it takes time and professional help. Don’t berate yourself if it takes you longer to move past these painful words and memories. You know yourself and you know how much time you need to heal. However, I would caution you – don’t dwell in these dark places. Give yourself permission to move into the light and closer to healing. Stay tuned. . . .

Going Gray

I colored my hair for years – blonde, auburn, dark brown. My natural hair color is a dirty dishwater blonde. Several years ago, I started going gray. In fact, I found my first gray hairs when my second son was in high school, as I knew I would. I thought I was too young to be gray. Then I met Cycle Dude. His natural hair color is a dark brown. He started going gray when he was in his late 40s. He is now 60 with a very attractive salt and pepper hair color. I thought, “If he’s not dying his hair, I won’t dye mine.” So, I didn’t.

Now, I have this dirty dishwater blonde hair with beautiful (gray) highlights. I’ve had several people ask me who does my hair color and highlights. I tell them it’s all natural. This morning when I looked in the mirror and saw my gray streaks, I thought, “My gray hair is like battle scars – I’ve earned every one of them and I am proud!”

Accepting my graying hair is accepting who I am. My hair is graying, I have scoliosis and I could stand to lose a few pounds. That’s who I am. I love Dove chocolate. If you’ve ever had Dove chocolate, you know they put little sayings inside the candy wrappers. One of my favorite sayings (that I have posted on my office bulletin board) is “Be proud of your age.” I am proud. I just turned 55. I have a good job, a man who loves me, three wonderful children and children-in law, my first grandbaby on the way, amazing siblings and mom, great friends and I live in a beautiful part of the country.

I accept that I am not perfect. I accept that I am not 25 anymore. I am looking forward to the rest of my life being who I am. I want to be a great Nonnie to my grandchildren. I want to be a wonderful companion to Cycle Dude. I want to be a loving mom to my adult children. I want to be a good daughter to my mom and a good sibling to my brothers and sisters. I want to be my best . . .  just the way I am!

Accept who you are. You are strong, you are beautiful and you are loved. . . . just the way you are! Stay tuned. . . .

Be Prepared

I walked into work Tuesday morning to find that a survey team from a national  healthcare accrediting organization was on campus. The people at Myjob have been preparing for this organization’s visit for the better part of a year. The organization comes every 2-3 years to inspect the hospital for re-accreditation. Even though we expected the survey team in the fall, my boss said they could come as early as late spring or early summer. My boss has been preparing his team for this visit since October.

I am glad we have been preparing for this event. I have learned a great deal more about healthcare and what it takes to run a hospital. I have learned that it is better to be proactive than not. It is better to anticipate possible scenarios than to sit back and “let it slide”.

One thing I have learned, especially through my divorce, is to be prepared. I can honestly say, I was not prepared to divorce and then to deal with all the emotional, physical and financial flotsam and jetsam that accompanied it. Sure, I knew it was coming – I knew that several years before it actually happened. But I was still not prepared.

I wrote about this subject in a post entitled, “Storm Warnings”. However, I’d like to apply a little of what I have learned in preparation for this healthcare accreditation organization visit.

1.  Categories: Organize your divorce preparations into categories – financial, household, relational, work-related, etc. Sit down and make a list of these categories, then add the following: under financial – income, budget, savings, retirement, emergency fund (even though you may get alimony, don’t count it as income because it’s not going to be around forever and you don’t want to become overly dependent on it); under household – will you sell your home? Move into a new home/apartment? Need to have a yard sale? Need to replace household items? (hint: estate sales are good places to get household items – furniture, dishes, etc. if you need to set up a home.); under relational – How soon will you tell people of your (impending) divorce? Who will you tell? How do you break the news to important people in your life (children, parents, siblings, etc.)?

2. Rank: Once you have your categories and have broken them down into sub categories, give each sub category a ranking from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) in order of priority. What things will you take care of first? What things can wait? Work on the #5’s first and cross them off your list when done. Number fives should be things like income (how are you going to support yourself?), housing (where are you going to live?), and debt (pay off old debts and don’t create any new ones until your are financially stable).

3. Finish: Once you have finished an item, cross it off your list. If you are really good and make a spreadsheet, hide that column/row when you’ve completed it. Once it’s done, it’s done.

4. Document, document, document: Keep a copy of all your records. Keep a phone log of your conversations with ex or of any electronic communication with ex. You may have to produce this information if it comes down to “he said – she said” in court. Be aware that unless you inform someone you are recording the conversation with them, that communication may be against the law. A good rule of thumb regarding keeping records and documents is 10 years. Instead of tons of boxes full of paper crowding up your spare bedroom, scan documents and store them on a flash drive, backup hard drive or on the ‘cloud’.

Everything we experience in our lives in a learning experience. We can take what we learn in one aspect of our lives (ex. work) and apply it to other aspects of our lives (personal). The thing is we should never stop growing and learning. And, yes, we can even learn from an unpleasant experience like a divorce. Stay tuned. . . .

I Was the Victim of Bullying

The year was 1972 and my parents had just moved our family back to Arizona from Ohio. My school-aged siblings and I were enrolled in a religious school – grades K-8. I remember that every morning, all the children in the school would file out of our classrooms, stand in two lines, face the flagpole and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Hail Mary. I was in 5th grade.

Fifth grade wasn’t too bad for me. The trouble started in 6th grade. Joey Polanski and his cohorts decided it was a good idea to relentlessly harass me. They would call me names, steal a basketball I had brought to school for recess, and in general, make life miserable for me. I told my parents, but was told, “Just tell them, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.'” Really??!! That was the solution? The teasing continued in 7th grade with Mike Hayes and his buddies joining in on ‘the fun’. Eighth grade was a blur because my mom had my little sister halfway through the school year.

I homeschooled my children for seven years. When they finally went to public school, I told them that if they were ever bullied, to let me know and I would be down at the school office in a heartbeat. I wanted to let my children know I would defend them because my parents never defended me.

My parents knew about the bullying, my teachers knew about the bullying, the school principal knew about the bullying, and yet, nothing was ever done. I was deemed “too sensitive” and it was thought that I should grow a backbone, or a pair of balls, or learn character from the relentless bullying. Instead, it brought thoughts of suicide, running away and abandonment. I guess in a way, the years of shame at the hands of those boys did make me a little stronger. In those days, nearly 45 years ago, bullying was seen as something that built character in the bullied. I disagree. It builds fear, anxiety and low self esteem.

Nothing was done to Joey and his Band of Brothers because he was from one of the most prominent families in the church community. At that time, I was sacrificed on the altar of  “Don’t make waves”. To this day, nothing makes me more angry than to hear about bullying, or to hear my mom talk about the friendship she has with Joey’s mom (I believe his dad has since passed on). Yes, I guess I need to “get over it” and yes, that experience did shape who I am today. However, I will never just stand by and let someone be bullied. Stay tuned. . . .

Don’t Despair

My choice of radio program for news and current events is NPR. Recently, they did a piece on life expectancy and how that has changed in the US over the past 20 years. The research quoted in the piece concurs that the life expectancy for whites is decreasing, especially among poorer whites. That information can be discouraging. While reading that piece, I also read a companion piece entitled, “Explaining the Forces Driving the Middle Aged White People’s ‘Deaths of Despair’. The information and research presented is quite sobering.

Granted, the study dealt with white people, but other races may also feel the same way – that a lack of steady, well-paying jobs for those people without college degrees can cause distress and depression in their lives. I can see how this – the lack of meaningful employment – could cause such despair. I saw that in my ex when he lost job after job after job – and he had a college degree!

What is one to do in a situation like this? You’re middle-aged, don’t have a college degree, but need to be able to support yourself. Many divorced or divorcing women find themselves in this situation. Along with the divorce comes lack of self-confidence and depression. May I suggest the following?

1. Consider community resources: Look into the community resources where you live. Changes are there are low-cost or free (re)training classes in several skills – clerical, retail, etc. Take advantage of what is available to you in your community. Your local YWCA may also have resources available for women returning to the work force.

2. Consider a temporary job: Placement services are always looking for temporary workers to fill in where needed. Your local university and civil service (city and county government) also have temporary job pools available. Temporary opportunities are a way to get your foot in the door for a permanent job.

3. Consider online or evening classes: Many community colleges have evening classes that cater to the working adult. Speak to the financial aid department and find out what kind of aid is available to you in order to assist you going back to school to hone current skills or learn new skills.

4. Consider a support group: We were not meant to walk through life alone. Find a support group of either divorced women or women (re) entering the workforce. By being a group of similar-experienced people, you will find out that you are not alone in your pursuits.

Start out slowly, setting and accomplishing small goals. One example is to improve your keyboarding skills or note-taking skills. Celebrate the small victories you have. Those small victories will go a long way in building self-confidence. Don’t despair. There is hope, there are resources, and there is a way to be able to stand confident again. Stay tuned . . . .

Beginning With Joy

Prior to my recent move, I asked a friend of mine to text me the questions one uses when sorting through stuff. One of the questions was, “Does it (the object) bring you joy?” If not, toss it or give it away. The thing is, so much of my stuff has to do with my children and they definitely bring me joy! Cycle Dude has given me until May 1 to sort through all my stuff. How do I condense all that joy?

Webster’s Dictionary defines joy as: “The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; delight; bliss.”

I must admit that joy was the furthest thing from my mind when I was going through my divorce. If you could have seen my emotions during that time, they were a swirl of nasty, acidic, putrid muck – rather akin to nuclear waste. Emotionally, I was a prime candidate for a Superfund cleanup site. Yuck, yuck and more yuck.

Yet, I had people around me who encouraged me to remember joy – my children, my best friends, Cycle Dude, my dogs. Moments of joy during my divorce were fleeting, but they were there. When I finally emerged from my toxic cocoon, almost five years later, I saw there were people waiting there for me – people who loved me and had my best interests at heart. It was not hard to feel joy, and gratitude, at their presence. My healing journey had taken on a whole new feel, beginning with joy.

Dear one, if you are at the point in your healing journey where you feel like toxic sludge, you are not alone. I encourage you to look for moments of joy – in God’s creation around you, in the laughter of your children, in the hug of a friend, in the taste of a delightful piece of chocolate! Your joy may come in bits and pieces right now, but soon, those bits and pieces will grow larger and larger. Joy is part of the healing journey. Stay tuned. . . .