No Longer Living In Fear

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I have had many of you write and ask what is going on in my life. Thank you for that.

I have not written about what has been going on with me and B because…I have been afraid…afraid that I look weak…that I appear small…worried that I appear to be less of a feminist than I once believed myself to be and didn’t want to be a bad example for my daughters. I have had my doubts…afraid that what I have done was not the right thing, the smart thing, or the best thing. Afraid that I am a poor role model. But now that I have gotten my bearings and some time has passed; I know how I feel about the choices I have made for myself and my family. For many women it would not be the right decision, and I get that…but for me, at this time in my life, my choices have been the right thing for me to do as I enter my sixties.

A RECAP

After separating and filing for divorce for four months, an unexpected job offer came B’s way which entailed moving to Texas. He walked the Pacific Coast Trail trying to decide what he wanted in life…his family or HER. Of course, I had no idea that was what he was doing. Therefore, I found it interesting, that when he returned from the great walk, he appeared to be a changed man. He sat me down, apologized over and over again, admitted his mistakes, came clean, and told me that he wanted to make me and our family the foremost thing in his life once more. After proclaiming all of this, he immediately called HER with me sitting beside him and he told her together that we were staying together as a couple while explaining her that the five year affair was over. Well, her stripes came out for him to see in full glory. This woman, who had told him numerous times that she wanted to see us together, began sending me conversations that they had had in which he was not overly kind in his assessment of me and our relationship. It was painful to say the least but also very eye opening for both me and B to read these texts and  it gave me some insight that I so desperately needed.

And so it was in the month of August when I literally found myself with the shoe on the other foot after all this time and I was the one choosing whether B and I would be together again. Being together is what I thought I wanted for the past year-and one-half,  yet, faced with this unexpected change of his heart, I found I was unsure what I really wanted for myself. Did I want to start a new journey on an entirely different path or did I want to try again with a man who broke me into little pieces but also knew where the glue went to help put them back in place? Would I be making a decision out of fear or would it be because whatever decision was truly the best for me?

Confession time: Soon after separating, I joined a dating service…not so much because I was ready to date (I knew I was not) but because I felt that it would help me find me again and what I wanted or did not want in my life. And after much discussion with my therapist, we found that for me, it was the right thing to do. Frankly, I was surprised at the number of men who found me funny, sexy, beautiful and more importantly just plain interesting. And it felt good to have my worth acknowledged even though we all know the person who had to acknowledge that worth was really only me. I also rapidly found that I knew after a few emails that certain qualities in a man no longer interested me. In truth, I only met one of these men in person but I have never laughed so much in my life. He helped me to view myself in a way that was more realistic with who I actually am and it felt lovely. No, he was not who I would want in my life on a permanent basis but he was a lovely and wise diversion and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to give that up for B.

So I debated and wrestled with myself. I worried and fretted. I witnessed the pain the upcoming divorce was having on my kids and one of my teens was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia which brought me to this truth: I knew I did not want to traverse that diagnosis alone.  So I went to my lawyer and tried to protect myself to the best of my ability…and we moved as a family.

Of course, moving has not released me of all the distrust and pain I have felt over the past five years, but then again, I knew that it would not when I made the decision to try and rebuild our relationship and our lives again. At times, it has been a deep and dark struggle but I also know that it would be an skirmish if I was with ANYBODY because betrayal is a difficult thing to overcome. I think the worst thing about being betrayed is that you stop trusting your own perceptions and have to re-learn how to trust yourself  again which takes guts, time, and determination.  In addition, I knew that when I made this choice that trust would not come easily…and it hasn’t because…. TRUST=consistency/time …. and I have not had enough of either to let go of the hyper-vigilance that the affair has instilled in me.  And yet…happiness and joy has arrived again. My ruminating about the affair has decreased. The trust still has to be earned but with each act of love, each moment that we carve our for our relationship, and each time we have a deep conversation, I little smidge of it arrives to take the place of doubt.

So we have been here for over two months and so far it has been pretty darn good.  We have done a lot of traveling to local sites as a family and B and I have had many date nights…some good and some not so good…but we are trying hard to listen to one another again. Yes, it is early and with the chaos of a move comes a time where real life and true feelings are suspended and now comes the hard part…day to day living without the excitement of a move impinging on our daily lives.  But for the most part, I am happy with the decision that I made and if I made the wrong one I guess I will have to live with the painful consequences. But if I made the right one…I see a better life together before us that will sustain us in our old age. Don’t get me wrong an affair is a horrible thing… but maybe… just maybe… it has been the catalyst for changes that needed to be made in order for our relationship to survive and flourish over the next 30+ years. We shall see… but in the meantime I am determined to become my true and best self, let go of the anger and disappointment and if B doesn’t like it, frankly, he doesn’t have to live with it. For I am no longer living in fear and never will again.

An Eye For An Eye

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Ever since I saw this story in 2009, I cannot help but think about it and the ramifications. The story is here:http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/02/19/acid.attack.victim/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

The story is about a young woman named Ameneh who lives in Iran. She was unfortunate enough to have a young man sit next to her in college. He purposely brushed up against her and she was outraged. It was then that he began a two year pursuit of her. He harassed her and threatened her and even asked her to marry him. She however refused his advances.
One day after work she was approaching the bus stop when she heard someone behind her as she turned around she saw him and the next thing she felt was intense pain. He had thrown acid on her face. It immediately burned her entire face, her eyes, her arms and hands. Her mother kept the clothes she was wearing which shriveled and burned too. She was left permanently scarred and blind.

She has asked her government to blind her attacker with acid in the Islamic law tradition of “an eye for an eye” known as qisas. My understanding of qisas is that when used the punishment cannot not exceed that done by the perpetrator. Recently the courts in Iran have denied her attackers appeal and he could at any time be blinded. It is my understanding that he would have acid dropped into his eyes not sprayed on him in keeping with what qisas demands. She says her request is not one of vengeance but so that he can never do the same to another person and basically to show men that they cannot get away with this type of behavior. Human rights activists are outraged. I for one have been sitting on the fence quietly digesting the facts of this case and trying to come to some conclusion, none of which appear very satisfactory to me.

In researching this issue I was stunned to find out that in Bangladesh alone there have been over 2,600 acid attacks since 1999 against woman and young girls. According to IRIN, The UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs most of these were a result of land disputes, refusals of love declarations/proposals or problems with dowries. According to human rights groups these sorts of attacks are common in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq and India. Often times women who take their cases to the courts find that they are met with disdain in which they are told that if they had only agreed to what the man had wanted they never would have had this problem.

In many countries women who have failed to dress modestly, meaning that their legs or heads may not have been covered or improperly so according to an arbitrary set of standards; have also been victims of acid attack.

Especially chilling is the story of the 11 girls and 4 teachers attending the Mirwais School for Girls in Afghanistan. On November 14, 2008 three men on motorcycles sprayed them with acid. The act was meant to intimidate the girls of the valley to remain uneducated and to stay away from school. In an incredible show of bravery almost all have returned to school refusing to be intimidated.

In 2002, parliament enacted two laws against acid violence: Under the Acid Control Act of 2002, the unlicensed production, import, transport, storage, sale, and use of acid can result in a prison term of 3-10 years. Those who possess chemicals and equipment for the unlicensed production of acid can get the same prison term.

One doctor sounded an optimistic note: “Since then, acid violence has been showing a rapid decline,” said Shamanta Lal Sen of the burns and plastic surgery unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).

According to ASF, 221 and 192 people were subjected to acid violence in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In 2000 and 2001 their number was 234 and 349 respectively.

Combating the crime of acid throwing is not easy as it appears to be a fairly common occurance in some countries. And little is done to the perpetrators except for them being ordered to make a minimal financial payment as a form of restitution. Two thousand dollars hardly begins to compensate for the intense medical care required when skin is melted and burned to the bone. Further, in a country in which beauty means so much and disability renders one invisable and obsolete, permenant disfigurement is tantamount to sentencing one to death because eventually there will be no one or no system to take care of the victim. First the victim is victimized by the attacker, then often by the courts and finally shunned by society as a whole. And the offender knows all of this and delights in it.

If it is true that prison terms have reduced the number of acid attacks then perhaps it is possible that even tougher mandatory sentences would help to decrease the number of incidences. But then again,perhaps, if Ameneh Bahrami is right, the blinding of her perpetrator may have more of an effect on stopping acid attacks than any laws presently on the books. Furthermore,if she does nothing and he attacks again her refusal to take action will make her accountable to the next victim for their injury.Lest we try to forget the man who is to be blinded is not an innocent man being used to advance a cause but he is the man who knowingly plotted and planned to disfigure and rob an innocent young woman of the life she knew and loved. He succeeded.

According to a story in the Washington Post… More than two weeks ago, Movahedi was led into court by two policemen. He showed no remorse when the court ruled on the case. When the judge asked whether he was ready for his punishment, Movahedi said that he still loved Bahrami but that if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.

“They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I’m not sure that she cannot secretly see,” he said. “The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven’t done anything bad.”

Ameneh Bahrami has the right to ask for an eye for an eye and has sound reasons for doing so. First and foremost her attacker STILL doesn’t believe he has done anything bad as quoted in the article by the Washington Post.

Preventing harm to others is Bahrami’s goal and it is a noble one in a country where there is no justice for women. May her goal of eliminating acid attacks be the outcome of her quest and may women everywhere never have to fear such a barbaric act being perpetrated on them or their loved ones.

As John Stuart Mill has expressed, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”

 

 

Right Speech, Better Communication

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Throughout my life I have been a person who is expressive. A person who uses lots of words and used them well. Too well it seems. I used words to let everyone know exactly what was on my mind at all times. I let words leave my mouth like flying monkeys swooping up people without thinking about the true meaning of my words. I didn’t care how I said IT just as long as IT was said.

Recently, it has occurred to me that my words were hurting others and as a result they were hurting me too. I realized that I was not connecting my heart to my tongue and had no idea how to do so. Even though I knew I wanted to change how I communicated I had idea of how to go about it. But then I chanced upon the Daily OM and the course How to Communicate Like a Buddhist : Lesson 1: The Elements of Right Speech by Cynthia Kane.

Kane’s way of approaching communication is different from anything I had ever seen. She states that the real purpose of communication is to help ourselves and others suffer less. And when communication is looked at through this lens it tosses convention aside and it makes it crystal clear that if we wish to change our relationships then the words we use, the intention behind them, and the way that we speak through them must be radically changed into talk that is kinder, more honest and most importantly… helpful… to those receiving our words.

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The thing I love about this course is that you pay for it based on what you think it is worth to you. Kane’s talks are detailed, thoughtful and in short…amazing. In addition, there is nightly homework to help firm up the ideas you are learning and put them into practice.

So here’s to better communication everyone! May your words be true, kind and helpful and may your well-chosen words spur you on to better and more rewarding relationships!

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Fibromyalgia

I am a very lucky person. I have fibromyalgia but it is not as debilitating for me as it is for many. It used to be that I had tremendous pain on a fairly regular basis for days at a time but since I started following R. Paul St. Amand, M.D.’s protocols, I have found that for the most part I can live a fairly pain free life. That is why when I woke up in excruciating pain the other morning I was more than a little surprised and very disappointed.

It started with that deep ache throughout my legs as if a truck was laying across them. Moving didn’t help. Shaking my legs didn’t either. Massage didn’t work and beating on them to relieve the pain was for naught.

“Crap,” I thought with a sigh reaching for the aspirin before climbing out of bed. “I am getting old.This sucks.”

It was when I stood up that I realized what was happening. I could barely walk and when I did I looked like a 90 year old lady doing the Downtown Shuffle. I knew that the fibromyalgia had returned with a vengeance and I was pissed. Actually, I was pissed at myself because there are some things I can do to myself that trigger the pain. Yet, the day prior I  had ignored those triggers and ate myself into a sweet oblivion. Yes, sugar is one of my culprits and yet I dive into it like its a cool pool on a hot summers day.

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Usually, I don’t share the pain that I am in. Family members don’t understand why I can feel great one day and a week later be in so much pain. So I usually hide it…until I can’t. The pain makes me grumpy and I either can’t sleep or sleep to avoid the pain. I have serious brain fog (constantly) but I am thankful that with Dr. St. Amand’s help my days in pain are kept at a minimum.

I keep thinking that someday I will “get” it. That I will get tired of feeling crappy. That someday I will care enough about being pain free that I will actually “THINK” about what I am doing BEFORE I put things into my mouth that are going to hurt me later on. That I will care enough about myself to be mindful of what is going in and on my body. And it also occurs to me that perhaps this is some form of self punishment. I mean after all who would knowingly do something when they know they will severely pay for it later?

For now I will do what I can. Drink a lot of water and get out there and force myself to walk…miles. While it used to be I avoided movement when I felt this way, I have come to understand that for me, exercise, even if forced, seems to help alleviate the pain. And tomorrow I will try to stop crucifying myself once again.

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Parolee

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Sometimes I this “maybe divorce” makes me feel like a convicted felon out on parol. It isn’t a comfortable feeling and makes me feel jumpy in my own skin. And if the truth be told sometimes I feel as if B is the Parol Officer which sometimes makes me resentful and angry at the system that I have allowed myself to be incarcerated within.

It must be hard for real life parolees. Living in the shadow of an officer who in the blink of an eye has the power and absolute authority to send them back to prison. One false move and their life changes whether they want it to or not. You can’t help but wonder if they are constantly looking behind them and in front, unable to live in the present, due to the stress of staying vigilant like I am. Not being able to let your guard down is a terrible way to live.

Frankly, I just want to be let out on good behavior. I have served my sentence and have made major changes in myself along the way and while serving this sentence has made me be more mindful and has helped me not to yell (which has been a good thing for both me and my family) I am tired of being under watch. I just want to be free to be me again without the fear of separation hanging over my head.

 

*After I wrote this piece I told B that this was how I was feeling. With tears in his eyes he said, “I’m sorry. That must feel awful to feel you are having to live that way.How can we change this?”

 

YOU ARE THE JUDGE, JURY AND EXECUTIONER

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This weekend I was on trial. YOU KNEW I have been having severe pain for weeks and was having it when the “incident” happened. You knew my cousin was visiting but you would not step in and control the boys when they were so out of control.  You did not step in to help but instead chose to sit in judgement me when I finally lost it. And I didn’t even yell. NOT ONCE. How dare you!

You say,” I don’t know if I can live with you because you yell too much”, so I quit.Now its, “I don’t know if I can live with you because you sound stern and mad and point your finger.” How would you like me to handle discipline in our home so our kids know that things are a serious matter? Smile sweetly and in a chirpy voice say, “Oh please, sweet boys stop what you are doing. I beg of you?” UGH.

I am NOT your mother. You are NOT my son. I am who I am. A person trying their best. Changing. Me Changing. Yet somehow it always seems as though I am the person in this relationship needing to be the one to change…what about you? Are you putting as much effort into those things I told you I would like to see you change? Let me answer that for you. NO you are not.

So let me in on a little secret. People get upset. Yeah I know you don’t like to because you want everyone to like you especially our kids. Our kids who know this is your weakness and exploit it. Our adult daughter who admits this and says it sucks for the adult but is grand for the child. Guess what, I have emotions that I show which make you uncomfortable because you don’t or won’t show yours because your mother punished you for it and you are afraid that will happen with me. No insist that it will/does so you use it as your excuse not to figure out who you are as an emotional being.  And yet you stand in judgement of me. And if I don’t do what you want, what you need, then you will leave. But surprise it might be me whose ass is hit by the door on the way out because I have to be who I am and frankly it ain’t so bad. Sure there are things that need refining. But at least I feel. At least I can say what it is I know as my truth, my faults, my goods and my bads.  I show those sides of me and no one has to spend their energy trying to guess what it is going on inside my head.

And surprise, here is one for you…often I can even understand why you feel the way you do. But just because I speak my truth in the way I do and you get flooded…that has nothing to do with me but with your relationship with your mother and I cannot deal with that because it is your issue that you do not want to have to look hard at.

And so I go to my therapist and we go to joint counseling but when are you going to go down deep and work on you? I’m trying to change for me, for us and for our family and to do so I am having to go to places I don’t want to examine but I do it because it needs to be done. When are you going to get brave and do that too? When are you going to really look at how your past is effecting our lives now and in the future?

 

Understand Rather Than Judge

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Aim To Understand Rather Than Judge…perhaps some of the most important words ever written. Unfortunately, I do not do it well.  I often leap to a conclusion rather than trying to comprehend what the actions of others really mean and in doing so, I neglect to value the humanity of the person that is standing before me.

I understand the benefits of increased comprehension. Taking the time to understand another human being’s perspective requires practicing empathy and developing an understanding of another person’s place/experiences in life. And in actively practicing understanding it forces us slow down and to face our own bias and to recognize our thinking is often fraught with flaws. But the benefits of understanding rather than judging not only benefits “the other”, it ultimately is a blessing to us too. Practicing active understanding often allows us to make better decisions for ourselves and others because we are able to look at the whole picture from a different perspective that is often disparate from our original inclinations. It forces us to slow down and consider the numerous other possibilities that may be impacting ourselves, others and our decision making processes.

Judging is easy. Most of us do it on a daily basis without much thought to how we are feeling about what we are judging and why. But understanding….that is a tough one. For to understand it means we have to stop and really listen and absorb what is being said. We have to pay attention to the subtle nuances, the body language, facial expressions, tone of voice to really get a clear picture of what someone is sharing with us.

I judge. I judge a lot. No, not about the issues that seem to take up so much of our political discussion these days. I welcome everyone to my table. But I do judge myself and my family often way too harshly. Sometimes I leap to the worst instead of believing in the best and it hurts everyone involved.

So this week, I will be conducting an experiment. I will time to make sure my interactions are long enough to ensure I have taken the time necessary to permit true understanding and I will listen without judgement. This might take me some time but…I’ve got 321 Days To Fix This…and I will.