Self Esteem

Worthy; recovering from emotional abuse, January 10, 2014

Image Most of us step into marriage with the greatest expectations of a lifetime spent loving and being loved. Sure, we’ll have our ups and downs, just like everyone else, but we’ll work through whatever comes our way, together, because that’s what people who love each other do, right?

I married my second boyfriend. Throughout high school and college, I can count on one hand the different guys I went out with, so it’s safe to say I didn’t date a lot. I was that other girl, you know, everyone’s “little sister.” I had a herd of “big brother” friends and protectors, but few expressed any romantic interest.

When I married “Don” (not his real name), I was just finishing nursing my wounds from the “big breakup” with my college sweetheart. It had been two years, and “Don” seemed the antithesis of my first boyfriend. He was a few years older, reserved, cerebral, in the ministry, and an east-coaster. My first boyfriend was from Chicago, so dating someone with a completely different philosophy on pizza might be a good idea, right? Word to the wise, don’t base your dating decisions on hand tossed versus deep dish. Just sayin’ ;p

“Don” and I took a lot of walks. He was a great conversationalist and offered a lot of deep thoughts and clever phrases. He was fun in a dark, droll kind of way – Mr. Rochester to my Jane. The romantic in me thought it was a match made in Victorian literature. Ahem.

The first few months of our marriage were nice. Peaceful, quiet, normal, until that morning – the morning “Don” wasn’t waking up for church. He was going to be teaching, and I was supposed to lead worship, but I decided to let him rest a few more minutes since he obviously was tired. When I still couldn’t rouse him, I became worried. He seemed totally unresponsive. I remember sitting down next to him on the edge of the bed, my hand on his shoulder. “Don?” I asked with a gentle shake. Nothing. “Don?” A little louder, a little more urgent. Then, he awoke, but the man who lunged from the bed was no one I recognized.

He was raging, and I was dumbfounded, confused and silent, just watching at first, trying to wrap my head around what was happening in front of me. Words spewed from him like venom. Harsh, unfounded accusations, cruel curses, and anger. Still, the only thing I understood was that I needed to keep out of his way.

I watched what seemed like slow motion as he flew his fist against the hallway wall, leaving a crooked imprint. I remember thinking he seemed so calm and focused on his movements. Elbow back, fist tucked under chin, then a deep breath and BAM, another hit, this time splintering a hole in the coat closet door.

The energy rolled off of him, and he suddenly seemed exhausted. He walked to the bathroom and locked himself inside. Quiet.

I sat on the couch, feet tucked under my knees, nightgown pulled down tight, like a little girl watching a scary movie. The phone sat on the coffee table. I stared at it, weighing my options, my future. All I had to do was make one call. My brother would come and get me, and that would be that. But…

If I made that call, there would be no hope of saving my marriage. No hope of rescuing that happily ever after. My family would lock me in a closet before ever letting me come back, and there would be no vouching for “Don’s” safety. I am the baby of five, and let’s face it, big brothers are big brothers.

That’s when I heard him crying, from the other side of the bathroom door. Obviously, “Don” must be sick. He had never acted that way before. Maybe he needs some medicine, and some counseling. Something must be wrong, and it was my place to help him, wasn’t it?

And so it began. Friends, finding yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship is as easy as a Sunday morning gone wrong. If you find yourself in a situation where you need help, or you see that someone you love needs help, please, be brave. Make the call.

Love you, lovelies.

The Journey, January 8, 2014 “What do you crave?”

ImageIt happens every day, more than once and, usually, more often than necessary. It starts innocently enough. Maybe you begin to feel a bit fidgety. Your toes start wiggling, and your mind becomes a bit distracted. Could you be…hungry?

Yes, of course, that must be it. It’s been at least an hour or two since you’ve eaten, and now you’re starving, famished even, and on the verge of dramatic interpretation as you stumble toward the vending machine in what you assume can only be a low-blood-sugar induced stupor. The oxymoronic vacuum of feelings sucking at you from the inside out must be a craving for something sweet. Or something salty. Something substantial, or just a little something to tide you over. Peanuts or pizza? A diet Coke and Doritos, or a handful of mini-marshmallows (don’t ask)?

I won’t pretend to be the first person to point out the differences between craving and hunger, but I’ll be happy to be the millionth person to bring it up again because I make it no secret that I’m an emotional eater.  🙂 I wear my insecurities, heartbreaks, and suppressed feelings on the outside, for everyone to see. So much for that magical cloak of invisibility, eh?

Just last night I found myself craving something. My day had been lacking in certain ways, and I was feeling unsatisfied because there are some things that I want to be different, but I just don’t know how to change them. Turning my thoughts away from the seemingly impossible, I stood up and began wandering. I wandered into the kitchen, put an errant cup into the sink and looked around at a whole lot of nothing. The last of the good Christmas treats had either been consumed or pitched, and all that remained were a few random hard candies. Bah, kids’ stuff. I leave the kitchen, disappointed and dull.

I know I should focus through this hunger and spend the energy on something useful, like writing, but I find myself standing in front of my dresser, instead, dolefully rummaging through my sock drawer (don’t ask). Nope. Nothing exciting there, unless you count the walk down memory lane courtesy of my favorite pair of socks – black with a vine of little red roses that I’ve saved since high school. (Yes, I have hosiery with history. Please don’t judge.)

And so, the walk through my house is fruitless, turning up not one bit of chocolate or chips or anything to feed my craving. So, I did the next best thing — I went to bed a little early and found myself having a good cry. Was I crying because we were out of chocolate? No. Was I crying because I was hungry? No. My tears were cathartic, calorie-free, and maybe, just maybe, what I had needed in the first place. Maybe I wasn’t hungry. Maybe I was sad, lonely and disappointed. Maybe what I craved had nothing at all to do with food. Maybe instead of chocolate chunk cookies, I had craved cleansing. Instead of shoveling something in to push down the hurt, I just needed to let it out.

As we walk this journey together, you and I, please let me challenge you as I challenge myself. Be true to yourself. But, before you can be true to yourself, you have to be honest with yourself. Come to terms with the terms of your life. If there’s something you don’t like, do your best to change it, at least the parts that you can. Cheer up and do something positive. Resist the temptations and get rid of the tasty goodies. Save your sock drawer for socks 🙂 Look for the value in the emotions you are trying to ignore. Acknowledge them, work through them, and then let them go.

Live true. Live free. We’ve got this :0)

 

The Journey, December 21, 2013

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Many years ago, when I was overweight the first time, a dear family friend offered to pay for a few counseling sessions for me. The counseling was a gift of guidance through some rough waters I was navigating at the time – college, boyfriend, my father’s deteriorating mental health. I met with the counselor for my first session. She and her husband shared a counseling practice in a detached office space behind their Chicago-land residence. She was middle aged, blonde, and petite. We talked briefly about a few things at first. I call it the “getting to know you” stage. Then, she said something that took me by surprise.

“You’re really tiny, aren’t you?”

Confession – I was VERY overweight at the time, considerably more  than I am now. Her words stunned me.  And, they frightened me. My obesity failed to hide my 5’2″, small-boned frame from this woman. Somewhere inside, I was tiny, and the realization that she noticed was terrifying, even though I didn’t know why. And, at the time, I wasn’t willing to find out. My first visit to that counselor was my last – I didn’t go back.

Over the years, I have occasionally thought about that day, about her words and my reaction.  As miserable as being overweight can be, it can serve as a great excuse to get you out of all kinds of situations, both passively and actively. It provides a protective barrier of insulation, literally and figuratively. Unfortunately, it’s not very versatile. There is a price to pay for trying to make yourself invisible to the world. The price? Success. For every bad thing you think you’ve protected yourself from, there is a multitude of positive experiences that you deny yourself, and the people around you.

Invisibility doesn’t equal immunity.

Whatever any of us thinks we’re saving ourselves from by hiding behind weight isn’t worth it. There is suffering even in the so-called invisibility. Trust me, being overweight doesn’t make you invisible. It makes you misrepresented. You don’t take as many chances. You deny yourself opportunities. You don’t let your talents shine. You don’t contribute as fully as you might otherwise. You can’t fulfill your true earthly purpose when you’re not being true to yourself. And, you know what? That’s really sad.

It came as a surprise.

Until that day in the counselor’s office, sitting in a plush, overstuffed chair, I had no idea that I was invisible. I wasn’t consciously trying to hide who I was from the world. What’s more, I had forgotten that I really was, well, tiny. Could it have been that, instead of hiding myself from the world, or at least, in addition to hiding myself from the world,  I was attempting to hide myself from myself?

Why would I do that?

I don’t know if I have the answer to that question. When I consider it, I think of words like self-preservation, denial, fear, lack of confidence. That’s probably a good start. I think that when we are in situations we feel we have no control over and we need comfort that we can’t seem to satisfy, we turn to alternatives. Some of those alternatives are healthy, and some are not. I don’t think any of us do it on purpose. Who would want to be unhealthy? Who would want to be overweight? Who would want to be invisible?

Breaking true.

So, I’ve lost around 15 pounds now. I probably have around 80 to go, at least. And, that’s okay because I’m moving in the right direction. I’m more comfortable with who I am than I have ever been. I’m looking forward to moving forward in this journey, and to learning more about myself and the world and my place in it. The exciting thing is that the ride is so much more fun with my eyes open 🙂 Because I am willing and able to look at myself and the truth of my situation – the truth of my health, my priorities, my options, my dreams, my environment, my family and friends, my job, my past, my now, and my future, I have all the tools I need to break through to my next goal, and the next, and the next.

I hope that, as you move forward in your journey, whatever it may be, that you choose to be bold. Be willing to open your eyes to yourself and the world around you. You deserve to live and walk in the truth of who you are. Brave is as brave does 😉

 

 

 

 

The Journey, December 1, 2013

The time…
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has come.

My diet survived Thanksgiving, I think.

I haven’t weighed over break, but I will be doing that tomorrow at work. My biggest worry is that I’ve gained, my biggest hope is that I’ve remained steady, and my biggest wish is that I’ve lost. Right now, I’m hoping for keeping steady :). Y

Regardless of the results of tomorrow’s weigh in, I have come to an unsettling realization of truth. Yes, I have been making more healthy eating decisions. Yes, I have been making progress, and I’ve lost 13 pounds. But, I know something is missing. I know that I need to once again take up exercise (insert noir film foreboding music – DOM, dom, DOOOOMMMMMM!).

I have mixed feelings about exercise. In the past, I have enjoyed it, and I have loathed it. It has served as both an escape and a punishment, and as leverage by a man who once swore an oath to love me and cherish me. At one point, I ran several miles a day, every day. Biked, hiked, and did ridiculously challenging (and effective) toning exercises, all in pursuit of that elusive carrot called “good enough.” Good enough to love, good enough to keep. Even though it’s been 7 years since that relationship dissolved, it is still a struggle to tune out his words. Yes, it was a very dark time in my life, but I always had hope. Sometimes I borrowed it from the few people who had an idea of what was going on. Sometimes I pulled it up from somewhere deep inside. Sometimes God poured it over me in the most unexpected ways.

So, today, as I look at my running shoes, mocking whispers from the past rise up, trying to tell me I’m a failure. Trying to tell my I’m not pretty. Trying to tell me I’ll never be “good enough.” And, do you know what I say to that? ENOUGH! I’ve always been enough of anything I’ve needed to be. I’ve worked hard, I’ve learned, I’ve grown, I’ve given, I’ve loved, I’ve hurt, and I’ve failed. But, I have NEVER GIVEN UP. I might have a soft voice, but in my heart of hearts, I am a fighter. I am stubborn, and when I’m broken, I am remade stronger than I was before. It might take me a while to heal. It might take me a while to tie up the laces. But I always have hope that I will, one day. And today, my friends, is one of my many, many “one days.”

If you are struggling with, well, ANYTHING. Know that your one day is coming, perhaps today. Hang in there, be strong, and have hope. Lace up those shoes, lovelies. 🙂

The Journey, November 20, 2013

So, have you ever had one of those days when you just felt icky? You look at yourself in the mirror, and you don’t just feel like you have a double chin – you feel like you have a double face?? Yeah, me too.

Just last week, the day before my weigh-in, I felt that way. I almost didn’t weigh. I thought, maybe I’ll put it off a week. Besides, it won’t help my self-esteem if I’ve gained, right? Then I thought, no, be true to yourself. If I had gained weight, then I at least needed to face the truth and deal with it. Take my medicine like a big girl, so to speak.

While I was walking downstairs at work, heading toward the scale several of us use to track our weight, I kept thinking things like, “Well, I’ll do better from now on.” “Hopefully, I won’t have gained more than 1 or 2 pounds.” Or, my favorite, “I sure hope nobody notices my second face.” You think I’m kidding, don’t you? LOL

I stepped on the scale, expecting the ceiling to open up above me, and the scale to explode, ejecting me up and out. Usually, I look away from the number display, waiting a few seconds for it to settle before I face the truth. This time, I figured, go big or go home. So, I stood there, watching the LCD digits go back and forth, bravely awaiting my fate. Finally, they stopped. The number I saw took my breath away. I had met and EXCEEDED my 10 pound goal! Yes, friends, I’ve lost 11 pounds!!

I walked back to my office with a spring in my step, and stretching maybe a centimeter or two taller. I was so proud of myself! Then, since it’s a bit of a walk to the opposite wing of the building, I had a little time to think. I had almost chosen not to face the truth. I had almost chosen to hide. Again. If I hadn’t weighed, I would have accepted the idea that I had gained weight (and possibly had a double face), that I had let myself down and failed. I might have let myself become trapped in disillusion and decided to give up. But, I took a chance on the truth, and I’m so glad that I did.

Is there something holding you back from facing the truth? You know, if you’ve ever watched the old G.I. Joe series, you’ll be familiar with the saying, “Knowing is half the battle.” Friends, it’s so true.

If you can face the truth of your situation, no matter what that might be, you will have power in your life and over your life. When you make decisions from a vantage point of veritas, your north will always be true, and you will reach your destination.

The Journey, November 5

Well, it has taken a little while, but I am now down 8 pounds, and hoping to hit that first 10 pound goal by sometime next week 🙂 In the long run, I have many more 10 pound goals to go, but I am going to celebrate this one and not worry just yet about the next one. Afterall, there is (or should be) joy in the journey, right?
I have struggled a bit this week with enjoying where I am, not only with my weight, but in other areas of my life, as well. I have had to remind myself more than once that there is beauty, value, and worth in my life, in me, in the here and now. Of course, there are things that never fail in bringing a smile to my face, like my wonderful son and his effervescent personality. Or a beautiful sky. Or chocolate. ;p But, I think that there is something in all of us that wants to be seen, to be known, to be recognized as a precious, unique being. We desire affirmation.
For too many years, and even now at times, I looked to others for validation. Of course, this is normal to a degree. But, there is a difference between seeking the approval of others in your life and seeking permission and empowerment from them. We can trust some people with our power, but not all, and we are never meant to relinquish it. It was given to us to wield in love each in our own way.
Our power is made up of many things – the sum of our experiences, our strengths and our weaknesses, our gifts and talents, our motivations and passions. It is unique to each of us. Custom-fitted to our path in life by God to perfectly equip us for the long road before us.
It can be easy sometimes to forget who you are, who you are meant to be. It’s easy to blind yourself to your giftings and worth, to deny the fire that burns within. But, my friends, when we choose to do that (and yes, dears, it is a choice), we live a lie. We are commanded to walk in truth, yet we are so easily misled into thinking it’s okay to be false to ourselves. We are meant for so much more.
When I was a senior in high school, I had to select a personal motto for the yearbook. I chose, “To thine own self be true,” from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. I stumbled away from that many times. But, the words served as sort of a North Star over the years. I may have felt lost over and over again, but knowing that there was something more, somewhere, gave me hope that I would find the high road once more.
So, wherever you are on your journey, whether you’re working toward a healthier lifestyle, a new career, or a brighter outlook on life, remember that there is a better way, a higher way. And, every journey walked in truth will be a positive experience in the end. Hang in there, put one foot in front of the other, and soldier on.

We are Fargo

By now, most of us have heard of the Wicked Witch of North Dakota. https://twitter.com/mlucerobertson/status/395934324588949504

She is a woman who has taken it upon herself to judge her fellow “villagers” in the Fargo, Moorehead, and West Fargo triad. Evidently, she feels parents are not doing a good enough job of taking their children’s health in hand and has decided to take matters into her own hands, thoughtfully choosing Halloween to make her stand. How considerate of her.

Without going down the road of the origins of the holiday or arguing who should celebrate what, let’s look at contemporary reality. For all practical purposes, our western Halloween observances are centered on children. We encourage them to enjoy their imaginations on this night over all other nights of the year. We tell them that, on this night, you can be anything you want to be. Superheroes, doctors, astronauts, robots, faeries. On this night, preschoolers toddle down the street, holding the hand of a loved one while wondering at the lights and decorations. They practice saying thank you to the friendly neighbors who smile and give them Tootsie Rolls. Older children spray imaginary spider webs while saving the world one grimacing jack-o-lantern at a time. The grandma next door admires a princess’ tiara and everyone hits the house on the corner because they give out “the good stuff.” Do I even need to pull out my The Great Pumpkin wildcard?

Unfortunately, for some children, thanks to the WWoND, the dream will be cut short because, instead of the candy their “slimmer” friends receive, they will be handed a slip of paper. The friendly pumpkin on the corner will serve as a temporary distraction from the cruel message it precedes. Some younger children might not be able to read the words, and some might not understand. But others will. Say, the ones 6 or 7 years old and up. The words will say something like, “You [sic] child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.” But the message…ah, now, that will say something much, much more.

To the child who receives such a letter, the message will be many things. Things like, “There’s something wrong with you.” “You don’t deserve to have the same fun tonight as your friends.” “You’re not good enough.” You’re not pretty enough.” “You’re not athletic enough.” “You don’t live up to my expectations.”
Labeling. Judgement. Cruelty. Injury. Harm. Brokenness. Legacy.

Some of these children and their families may have the ability to laugh it off. And, I say, more power to you. But, for some of the children who will receive such a note, on a holiday that is supposed to lay all children equal, the effects can be devastating, lasting far into their lifetimes.

For several years, there have been increasing reports in the media of children and young adults who have taken their lives due to being overwhelmed by bullying, cyber-bullying, and general harassment over their physique. Too fat, too thin, too tall, too short. These little souls had swords of words driven into them by people who were thoughtless and cruel. Those acts crushed their self esteem and tore their hearts asunder, and somewhere on a table in a house on a street in North Dakota, a woman has a stack of paper daggers aimed at the hearts of the children of her city.

I do not know her name. I don’t know her address. I don’t know her. But, I have felt the pain she is willing to throw at the innocents of Fargo, and there is one point that we agree on. It does take a village. It takes a village made up of a nation that is willing to stand up for its children. To protect them from cruelty. To protect their innocence. To protect their dreams and their futures by pouring so much love and encouragement into them that the harsh words of a stranger fall feebly to the ground and blow away with the wind.

And so, to the children of Fargo, and their parents, I stand with you. If you knock on a door or ring a doorbell and find yourself face to face with the WWoND, and she hands you a piece of paper, be strong and know this. She is secretly more afraid of you than you are of her, all bullies are.