self esteem

No Picking at Your Past

3863_1140532066489_4079474_nNight before last, I slept in a bed for the second time in two weeks. My son, Cub, whose leukemia is currently in remission, has been in the hospital for 13 days with a fever caused by a random spore that “thrives in the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys.”

When I woke up, I felt refreshed, and hopeful. We had finally, after more than a week of spiking fevers, discovered the cause, and were applying the cure. Cub will get to come home soon, and things will get back to our new normal. But, something didn’t seem quite right with my idyllic musings. My face hurt. More accurately, my chin hurt.

My gingerly exploring fingertips were met with an angry hot protrusion. A blemish. A big blemish.

I groaned. What am I? Fourteen again? Sigh.

Before I even got out of bed, my mind was flooded with memories – awkward memories of braces and boys, misery and missed opportunities, layers of embarrassment over family secrets and a negative-on-the-number-line low self-esteem. Blemishes.

Have you noticed that your past seems to pick the most vulnerable times to pop up in your life? Like, when your child is sick, or you have money problems, or relationship issues?

God’s Word says, “Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19

When your past rises up and tries to drag you back to places you’ve outgrown and overcome, don’t go. Turn instead toward the new path. God promises to make your direction clear in the confusion of the wilderness, and to refresh and sustain you in the draining isolation of the desert.

Your now and your future need your full attention. Leave your past in the past. You don’t need it anymore, dear hearts. ❤

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The Journey, February 26, 2014, I gave up diet soda!

Sugar by any other name…

Imagejust isn’t sugar.

So, 6 days ago I decided it was time to give up diet soda. Brilliant, right? I wasn’t really happy with my decision. It was more of a deep-seated recognition that I needed to do something different. I needed to drink something different. Like, something that didn’t taste like liquid Raid.

You may be asking, “Marilyn, why would you drink something that you don’t like?”

Excellent question. As a matter of fact, I have been asking myself the same thing for, oh, the last 25 years or so.

I didn’t start drinking diet soda until later in my high school years. Prior to that, I drank things like iced tea (strong, no sugar), milk, juice, water, and the occasional Coc’-Cola, which, by the way, is my favorite carbonated beverage. Once in a while, I would play refined and have a nice cup of Earl Grey with cream and sugar. But diet pop? Ugh. Until…

Somewhere around the age of 16, I decided that my size 10 Irish/Italian curves could benefit from a bit of slimming down. Mind you, being a size 10 in 1986 wasn’t a bad thing. There were no size 2, 1, 0 or 00 to obsess over in the Wal-Mart Lees for Her section. But, what if…I was thinner, would I get asked out more? Uhm, no. Even after my conversion to diet soda, I only went out on a date like twice in my entire high school career. — junior and senior proms – with guy “friends.” And, honestly, after looking back at old pictures documenting my size 8-10 fluctuation over those years, I don’t really think my size was what kept me from getting asked out, but that’s a different post entirely.

But, what really matters is that at the time, I thought it was why I didn’t get asked out. So, I drank diet soda by default. Real soda was for people who didn’t have weight problems. Right?

Ahem. Well, I’ve learned a lot since then. It’s not necessarily about what I eat or don’t eat, or what I drink or don’t drink. It’s about portion and variety and self control.

For over two decades, I have consoled myself with something I didn’t really like, but felt that I deserved because what if I couldn’t control myself with the “real thing?” What if I stopped drinking diet soda and gained weight?

Well, guess what? Drinking diet soda didn’t keep me from gaining weight, and it wasn’t the “secret weapon” back when I was thinner. I gained weight because my input exceeded my output. When I was thin, my output exceeded my input. Period.

I’ve been drinking alternative beverages for 6 days now, and I haven’t gained an ounce. (Yay, me!) And guess what else? I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve had to drink. Milk, iced tea, water, vanilla chai, and the occasional Coc’-Cola. 🙂 And an unanticipated bonus? A fuzziness that I didn’t realize was there seems to have lifted from my brain. BOOM! How cool is that?

What’s the takeaway from my a-ha moment? Don’t be afraid to try something different. Change course just a little bit. Be brave. Be wild and crazy. Be daring. Go left instead of right. Try a vanilla chai. It might just be worth it 🙂

Irreplaceable

One of my favorite quotes is credited to renowned 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde.

He advised, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

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Dying Star Photographed by the Hubble Telescope

My first husband had a saying, too. A bit more Poe than Wilde, his words were the cautionary, “You can be replaced.”

The glorious truth? I am many things, but replaceable I am not. And neither are you.

Sure, most any woman would be capable of keeping house, running errands, and taking care of things in general. But all the little things that make up who I am are the sum total of my DNA, my life experiences, and how I’ve chosen to respond to those experiences. Never before, and never again will there be another Marilyn Elizabeth Luce Robertson who is like me. I am one of a kind – irreplaceable, for all of time.

Recently having lost my mother to leukemia and congestive heart failure, I have understandably been thinking a lot about life, purpose, and the brevity of our window of influence on our world and fellow man. I’ve been spending some time in the past, remembering good and bad and relishing both because it was real and true and mine – my life with my mother, who was irreplaceable, too.

I have also been thinking about the future. My future as well as the future my mother stepped into just over three weeks ago. I’ve been reading a variety of accounts about heaven by believers and non-believers alike. I even watched a video clip of the transcendent theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking describing his belief on the afterlife, which is that it is non-existent. He explained that he sees the body as a highly complex computer that eventually shuts down. And, when it shuts down, that’s the end of it.

Be assured that I have neither the desire nor the ability to debate Mr. Hawking, one of the premiere minds of the last century at least. No, I will not debate Mr. Hawking. However, me being me, I must beg to enter the conversation in my own way, here on my little blog. I don’t even want to approach the idea of heaven. I want to start with the basics – the belief that we do or do not have a soul, which Mr. Hawking seems to believe that we do not.

I would argue that a computer does not have a presence, as a person does. Any intelligence that it has, has been created on it’s behalf. It does not have a hunger for knowledge or a need for relationships. It doesn’t dream of flying or exploring beyond the stars. It does not know jealousy, compassion or love. Even advances in artificial intelligence are only the product of man’s invention and intervention. I do not see the logic in using the creation to define the creator. Even we Christians do not do that. We believe we were made in God’s image, and we strive to reflect His character. It’s not the other way around.

About now, I am guessing that you are asking yourself what Stephen Hawking’s spiritual view has to do with  Oscar Wilde and my ex-husband. Where is Marilyn going with this?  Don’t worry, I have a plan 🙂

One of my favorite laws of physics states that two forms of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time. When a computer dies, we put it in the trash, take it to a recycling center, or stow it in the garage to save for parts. It does not transform of it’s own accord. Unlike, say, a star. When a star dies, it changes form and in most cases, it eventually explodes, sending all the things that it once was out into the galaxy.

If I had to explain the spiritual side of death scientifically, I think I would do it this way. When a person dies, everything they were goes someplace else, not totally unlike a star. When I explained it to my 5 year old son, I told him that when Grandma died, God gave all the parts of her that belonged to the earth back to the earth, and that He took all the parts of her that He breathed into her, like her personality and charisma, her humor and love, all the things that made her irreplaceable, back to heaven with Him.

I think that makes a lot more sense. Sorry, Mr. Hawking. Even Transformers believe in the AllSpark.

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.

Worthy; Recovering from Emotional Abuse, December 31, 2013

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Even as I typed the title of this post, I hesitated on the word abuse. It’s almost 7 years since my first marriage ended, and I’m just now accepting the truth in all its fullness.

Although friends over the years have urged me to write about my past experiences in my first marriage, I have done so minimally, for a variety of reasons. I don’t want to be seen as a victim. I don’t want to purge my closet onto an unsuspecting public. And, I’ve wanted my past to be, well, my past. But, for reasons I don’t claim to understand, I have felt a stirring in my spirit over the last few months urging me to share something from this carefully tucked away part of my life. If God has put this on my heart for you, please, be touched, be blessed, and be safe. Before I even begin, I want to urge anyone who might be reading this while feeling endangered to GET UP and GET OUT to a safe place. You and your children, if you have children, deserve to live in peace.

Now, most stories start at the beginning of something. But, the moment that has been coming to my mind for several weeks is from somewhere close to the middle of my story, so that is where I will begin.

My husband and I had been married for a few years, maybe 3 or 4. I had lost a lot of weight (like over 100 pounds) and was quite active, but it wasn’t enough for him. Nothing seemed to ever be enough.

We had purchased our first pair of trail bikes. They were budget 18-speed bikes and heavy, very heavy. Mine was too big for my height, and my toes couldn’t touch the ground while I was seated, causing me to lean and hop off my seat whenever I came to a stop so I could get my footing.

One day, we loaded up our bikes and drove to a park on the far western side of town to try out the trails. It was a very hot and humid mid-western summer’s day. The park was large, with a sprawling trail. We headed south and looped back after a few miles to explore the north when we came upon a steep hill with a sharp left turn that looked like it had just been covered with fresh gravel. I switched gears and stood to pedal up the grade. My tire hit some loose stones in the turn, and my bike started to slip. I tried to catch myself, but my knee hit the ground before my feet.

It took a few seconds for me to feel the pain. At first, when I looked down at my bare legs, it just seemed like I had roughed them up a bit. Then, the pain quickly turned to a searing burn as the blood began to pour. I had basically skinned myself in a patch as big as my hand. My left knee was raw and bleeding down my leg into my sock. I was speechless and looked to my husband for help. He never got off his bike.

Instead, he laughed at me and accused me of wiping out on purpose to get out of my workout for the day. I remember him saying that adults don’t just fall off their bikes. Of course, even professionals in the Tour de France have wipe outs, but there was no point in bringing that up.

Then, he told me he was going to finish his ride and for me to have fun getting myself and my bike back to the car. As a coup de gras, he unclipped his water bottle, held it up, and shook it. His bike had come equipped with a bottle holder, and mine had not. For a moment, I thought he was giving his bottle to me, but he was just taunting me. He told me he was leaving me there and taking our only water with him. In his mind, he seemed to be punishing me and making my “plan” to sabotage our ride backfire.

As I stood there, bleeding and in pain, with at least a mile between me, my bike, and my car, I remember feeling stunned. There was a feeling of did he really just do that? Yes, dearest, he did.

I stood up my bike, took off my helmet and hung it over my handlebars and began limping up the hill, knee pulsating in a painful fury. I was in so much pain, but I’m not sure which hurt worse, my injured leg, or my injured spirit. I think that both were in a bit of shock.

Now, I’d like to step back for a moment and address something that I know some of you are thinking right now. Some of you are saying, “What a jerk! I hope she just takes the car and leaves him there!” That’s not what I did. And, it’s not because I’m weak or stupid. I am a strong-willed person with a genius level I.Q., and I can tell you why I didn’t leave. I didn’t realize I was being abused. What?? Yes, that’s right. In my mind, abuse was defined as physical abuse – beatings, and repetitive behaviors. My husband wasn’t abusive. He could just be a jerk sometimes. It wasn’t the same thing, was it? Of course it was, but for some reason I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that my husband, who could be so kind and good so much of the time, was an abuser. I told myself that he just had bad days.

You’ve heard the old adage that describes how to boil a frog? If you put a frog into boiling water, it will jump right out. But if you put a frog into tepid water and slowly heat it over time, it will not realize it is in danger. Right now, that’s the best way I know how to describe an abusive relationship.

So, back to the park. With every step, my knee burned and pumped out a fresh crimson stream. I got some sympathetic looks from the few people I passed, and I’m pretty sure I scared a little girl into wearing her Hello Kitty knee pads, and I finally, finally made it back to the car. Nothing in my first aid kit would cover the wound, and I had no water to clean it off with. I hobbled around the empty parking lot hoping to spy a nearby water fountain or a bathroom, but no luck. There was a gas station about another mile away, but I didn’t think I could make it. I sat in the car, waiting and wondering, applying pressure to my knee with the last of some take-out napkins I had found in the glove box.

After about 15 minutes, a car pulled up next to me. In the front seat were two women, and in the back were 2 or 3 children. I got out of the car, ready to ask if they were familiar with the park and happened to know where I could get some water. As I walked around my car to greet them, they saw my knee. As luck would have it, they were both ER trauma nurses who had never been to this particular park, but just pulled in on a whim. They whipped out fresh bottled water and a professional emergency kit and proceeded to care for me in the kindest of ways. They cleaned my wound, applied an anti-bacterial, and dressed it with a large Teflon non-stick bandage. Then, they gave me the whole box so I wouldn’t have to stop at the store on the way home. Then, they left. None of them set a single toe on the grass. To this day, I consider them my special angels.

A short time later, my husband returned, looking a little sheepish, but not apologetic. He drove us home and set me up on the couch with some pillows and an ice pack, but never spoke of his actions.

Friends, I cannot tell you why this was laid upon my heart to share with you. I fought against it for weeks because I could not see the purpose in sharing it. But, if you are reading this, and it has helped you in any way, then I am glad. Perhaps, if nothing else, my experience will help someone else take a fresh look at their own situation, and gain some encouragement to step toward freedom and peace.

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. 🙂