A break for freedom

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1freedom

In the fall of 1984, I had hit bottom for the final of the final of the final time (but really final!) and unchained myself from all addiction, including, one year later, a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. I don’t want this post to be about my alcohol/drug past, which reared its ugly head in adolescence.  I want it to be about freedom. Oddly, without a bit of pre-planning, this topic came to me on Independence Day, but to me, every day is Independence Day. The one thing that no one can ever take away from me is how hard I worked—and spent every last dime—to earn my freedom. It took me ten years—my debt paid in 1994—finally to finish paying my rehab center in New Hampshire. I also feel proudest of the fact that no one ever paid a dime towards my years, and I mean, years of therapy. Sad people view therapy as a taboo. (I have discovered that the more someone equates therapy with a dirty word, he or she is the one who needs it the most!) Anyway, much like a recommended yearly physical on the body, I think people should have a regularly scheduled look-see on the mind too. At this point in mid-life, I can say, no one, absolutely no one, knows themselves better than I do. I owe this not only to hours of therapy, but also support groups, retreats, seminars and everything, including the kitchen sink stuff that I have done to peel every stinkin’ layer (ouch!) off me and uncover myself. ME.

As a young child, the real ME never emerged. Like many, I was polluted by adults who tried to carve me in their own image. Their paddles of shame bludgeoned my God-given spirit and left me flat. Thus, I had an instant love affair with anything outside myself that lifted me up and allowed me to be my authentic self–or so I thought. Of course, these outside things ended up, ironically, enslaving me until I broke free.

Freedom comes not from fancy cars and good-smelling perfumes, it comes from being who you are and having at least one good friend who will accept you on the days you look like you rolled around a dumpster!thCAHCR5FDfreedom2

Three years ago I experienced crisis in my life.  I held onto my house with bloody fingernails. I attempted to hold onto my marriage. I held onto everything that I thought defined me, but the truth is, I was holding onto a world that enslaved me. Crisis stripped me of so much again, but, paradoxically, gave me back myself. I am far greater than a house. Far greater than the car I drive or the job I do. Sure, a lot of “friends” who opted out of a stressful situation, dropped me cold, but I have a total of two friends today that have been my glue; a wonderful boyfriend who accepts me as I am. I have been gifted by co-workers who sometimes prove to be my lifeline. I have my children who know me perhaps too well and whose presence has allowed me never to have a bucket list to meet, because the unconditional act of mothering, to me, supersedes everything else in life.

Bondage, whether to money, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, people, places or memories scares me and robs my faith. Lately, with a birthday looming over my head, I’ve had a hard time fighting the bondage of aging too. I’m afraid that my body will fail me.

God willing, if my body does not fail me, I may end up pushing around a shopping cart with my belongings on the streets one day when I am seventy, but I’ll tell you one thing, I’ll be free of mental anguish, which you can have regardless of what you do or where you live. It all started so many years ago in New Hampshire, walking down a very long hospital corridor towards the exit door, fearful of the life I knew I had to go back to and revisit so many demons outside those walls. Of course the official motto in New Hampshire is “Live free or die” and to me that means peeling off the chains, inching forward, breathing, first shallow, then with practice down to your diaphragm in a place where every last tad of you, down to the wart hidden in the nape of your neck, has found a peaceful home.thCAFTUKWWfeedom3

Until next time….Faith forward!

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Angst of Anger

The tongue has the power of life and death.

–Proverbs 18:21

MH900282861  Crisis has brought out the volcano in me. I erupt, cover the landscape with lava, emit smithereens of debris on my warpath. Fortunately, I am over exaggerating. In retrospect, I could have striven through my world these last two plus years in volcano form. However, being a seeker of self-truth all my life, I have become an expert in knowing myself. I know my motives at all times. My self-truth. My vulnerabilities, in particular. With this type of knowledge, I have reaped a good bounty of self-control.14555 MH900282861I remember in my (pre-therapy) younger years, I was a volcano. This out-of-control characteristic gave me a self-centered, fake sense of control. A meltdown would give me an instant of relief, but the consequences far outweighed the cheap moment of gratification.

One of the best depictions of the different types of anger is compiled by Roger Fritz, MS, Life Coach in downloadable form.

Living through crisis can be a cheap copout for volcanic behaviors, but is it really healthy, productive and proactive? Yes, it can be a period of sleeping less, doing more; certainly feeling less than optimal, but does that give a license to deliver poor behavior to those around me? Years ago, nearly thirty to be exact, I started working very hard at being responsible for my own behavior. In the end, or somewhere in the middle of this very intense period of self-discovery, I decided that I wanted to inspire people from the inside out and NOT kill them—despite what I was going through or feeling at any given moment. Since I had spent my adolescence in darkness, I promised God that I would walk for the rest of my years, to the best of my ability, spreading light. In essence, I made a conscious decision to become the mirror of my world.

To bring this idea into the present, a couple of weeks ago, I had a doctor’s appointment. I had rushed to the office, arrived fifteen minutes early in the hopes that I would get out early and meet up with the “gals” for some needed downtime. Well, nearly an hour later and too late to meet my social plans, the receptionist finally called me into the office. The minute I walked into the room, admittedly, I was ready to tear into the ultrasound tech whom I encountered. In no uncertain terms, I told her I was mad as hell.

She started to apologize, saying, “I’m sorry. I know you are mad. You have every right to be. We are running behind…it was out of our control. Every patient had unforeseen problems that we had to deal with.”

Then full-knowing that I did not want to bust this woman with my lava outpour, I said, “Look, I don’t want to explode. It’s not your fault. It’s been a tough week…weeks…actually, it’s been a couple of really tough years.”

“Yeah, me too,” she responded to my disbelief.

This began a intense dialogue between us, reminding me that I wasn’t the only one in the world having to deal with crisis.  As it turned out, not only was she falling apart physically—knee replacement and so on—mind you she was only in her 40s—but she had been on the brink of homelessness! Imagine an ultrasound technician who couldn’t find employment for five years. What a sad state of affairs. The more this woman revealed, the more I realized that God constantly was at work in my life. Instead of having a cheap moment of exploding at this woman as if she were a punching bag or other object to use selfishly, I got to know her for who she was—a mirror of my own vulnerabilities, my own humanness, my own weaknesses—and strengths. Our intense encounter brought me hope—and faith. We faced life’s loaded gun chambers and didn’t flinch. We stood up to them as victors not victims.

MH900229149Although I had to nix my evening plans, I walked out of the doctor’s office with a bounce. I realized how this woman had strengthened my faith with her honesty and empathy. For the ninth hundredth time, I learned that I was not doing the arduous journey alone; that I did have the company of fellow travelers. One of the tricks, though, to meet these voyagers is to just be myself…in human terms, not volcanic proportions; the payoff is by not getting stuck in darkness as deep as lava, I am able to move forward on a path lit with superabundant light.

Until next time….Faith forward