Everything I Know about Fighting I Learned from my Son

If you fell down yesterday stand up todayIf you met me today, you¬†would say that I was a fighter. A strong woman who won’t take sass from anyone. Such was not always the case. I suppose I have always been competitive. In fact, I’m Sure I’ve always been competitive both with myself and others. We may be friends, but if you play a card game with me the gloves come off! ūüėČ Fighting however is a different matter altogether. ¬†Being sexually abused stunted my growth in so many ways.I didn’t get the chance to learn to fight small skirmishes and build my stamina over the years. I lost the first battle. A huge battle. And the scars went to the core. Instead of coming out of it with my fists raised to the sky I learned to contract into myself. Curl into a little roly poly until the danger passes. If fighting and losing was going to hurt that badly then why do it at all.

Then I had my son. There’s something about holding a tiny defenseless baby that smells like heaven.Instinct and love tell you that you must do whatever it takes to protect this child. That’s what ‘good’ parents do, right? What if you don’t know how to fight? What if the idea of it grips you with terror? If my son asked me how I learned to fight, I’d tell him this:

From the time I was pregnant I fought the nausea, the weight gain, the labor pains. When they let me take you home, I fought the panic that I had no idea what I was doing.

I warred against insecurity, ignorance, and impatience.

Croup, ear infections,and teething became my world and I fought for sleep.I wrestled to comfort you, quiet you, soothe you to no avail.In the morning I went to work and fought to stay awake.

I fought to maintain your home in the face of my divorce and when your father threatened to abduct you, I fought to hide you and keep you safe in my arms.

As a single mom I struggled to support us, to find time with you between jobs, to make sure you felt loved and not left.

School was hard for you and I campaigned for your education, to understand you, to support you.

They diagnosed you soon with ADD and then with Bipolar disorder and I rose up against dread. I battled to get appointments, good doctors, the right medications. I pushed against their assumptions of your bleak future and counter argued with hope.I devoured every piece of information on mental illness and armed myself with knowledge.

As you slept at night and I sat by your bed and cried. I fought the fear that I could never be worthy of being the parent you needed. I cried out to God for the strength to be your champion.

I waged war with ¬†broken school systems and burned out teachers. I stood strong during IEP meetings and counseling sessions. I became the parent who wouldn’t take back down because of bureaucracy.

I fought bad influences and bullies. Internet filth and video game overload.

In the most challenging combat I put myself as a barrier between you and your stepfather’s cruelty. Some battles I won, but too many were lost. ¬†Paralyzing fear attempted to keep me down but with each encounter I slowly learned to stand for us.

I endeavored  to discipline you, teach you , love you, protect you. Sometimes; many times; from yourself.

I fought my own demons and dark.

I went to war on my knees in fervent prayer. Over and over and over.

I fought against you. You fought against me. And sometimes, we fought together.

When you became my prodigal son I fought to teach you responsibility, accountability, consequences. I fought to be a good parent (whatever that is)

You pulled away and I fought to be part of your world, to let you go without losing you, to accept your differences, and to make you know that my love was eternal.

Fighting for you gave me strength. Praying for you deepened my faith. With every blow I landed for you another one of my own demons went down and I found my armor, piece by piece. My son, I know I gave you life, but you gave me back mine.

affliction

Breaking Ties with Toxic

Recently, I was listening to a dear friend of mine talk about how difficult it was to break away from a toxic family member . She feels torn. Sad. Angry. Family is supposed to help each other; not hurt one another. Maybe if she just ignored him . What if she was nicer? Wait, what if she confronted him?! Then he’d see how much he was hurting everyone and he would change! She feels like she needs to repair the relationship because that’s what good Christians do. We are supposed to turn the other cheek; 70 times 7 and all that stuff. Right?

Her dilemma resonated so deeply with me. I spent most of my life believing those lies and only had the strength and wisdom to change about 5 years ago.I am a recovering Enabler. We are the people who want to help everyone and fix everything. You can usually spot us by the heart on our sleeves and our rose colored glasses. We truly believe¬†there is good in everyone no matter how much $%^& it’s buried under. I’m not saying this is inherently a bad thing. I still believe there is (mostly) good in everyone. The difference is I now recognize the¬†people who want to change for their betterment and those that don’t.Guard your heart

Toxic people are the ones that give you that ‘ugh’ feeling in the pit of your stomach. They are the ones that make you cringe when you see them on your caller ID. The ones that leave you feeling drained and unsettled after being with them. My sister has been instrumental in teaching me this. While I ignored the ‘ugh’, thinking I could somehow love the jerks out of their jerkiness, she was walking the other way saying, ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that!’ Hence, I married two of the jerks and finally , after learning a thing or two, married my Knight.

What I learned in my 40 years wandering The Desert of Enable, is that truly toxic people are so wrapped up in themselves that they aren’t aware or concerned that you’re being hurt.They need and they need and they need. And we, the big hearted wide eyed enablers keep on loving and loving and loving. We find it hard to leave because we just can’t understand Why they act this way. If only we could categorize it somehow maybe then we could fix it. Unfortunately, Toxics don’t change until THEY realize that they have a problem.

My other Desert lesson was this: Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting or accepting. Forgiving them means that I take my anger and frustration to God and let Him deal with it. (This.Is.HARD! Honestly, punching them would feel far more satisfying and be much quicker but I haven’t found any scripture to back up this method yet. Still looking.)

God tells me to forgive those who hurt me, but He never says to roll over and be used and abused. In fact, He says, “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” Ps. 4:23. As a mother and an artist, I need a clean open heart in order to love and create. If I let someone in who chooses to fill me with poison, then my ability to love is stunted and my ability to create is diminished!

There have been times when I confronted a Toxic with their behaviour and they were truly repentant and worked to make amends and repair my broken trust. Other times, my Come to Jesus meetings with Toxics have not gone so well. Those times I’ve been yelled at, put down, and told I was the crazy one and maybe if I was a better wife, friend, mother… they would be happier. Sometimes, the best way to forgive And save your heart is through prayer at a distance.Perhaps, sometimes ‘turning the other cheek’ means turning and walking the other way.

Never say Never

“Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are? Ha ha ha bless your soul. You really think you’re in control? Well I think you’re crazy, I think you’re crazy. Just like me.” – Gnarls Barkley ‘Crazy’

Someone says, ‘I’ll never have kids/get married/move from this town/go back to school….’. We laugh and reply, ‘Never say never!’ Sage advice that we’ve all spoken and eaten when we broke our own ‘Never’ vows. Time and circumstances change rapidly and unexpectedly. What was once inconceivable now enters the realm of possibility and probability. We see our lives differently so we make different choices. This is the operative word. CHOICE. ‘Never’ was a CHOICE we were making. Our destination seemed logical, planned, thought out. We believe we have a modicum of control.

Then out of the blue events happen that make you a victim. The rug gets ripped out from under you and panic mode sets in. How many of us have been in this situation? Life is going along just fine and Wham! Unexpected, unwanted, unimaginable changes occur. How we make decisions in those moments is based on our level of fear . No one. I repeat, NO one, knows how they will react when fear sets in . Fear paralyzes. It grips you and guts you leaving you void of reason. .

“I’d never tolerate my husband having an affair! I’d be out of there!” . But he did. And you didn’t.

“I’d never get raped. I just wouldn’t put myself into that kind of situation”. ¬†But you didn’t think it would be someone you trusted. And you didn’t think they’d convince you that it was your fault and people would hate you if you told.

“I’d never even think of killing myself. ” Maybe you haven’t felt that depressed yet.

“I’d never stay with an abusive man.” But you did hoping he would change and love you like he promised.

I’ve met women and been a woman who’s been dealt some of these cards. You know why we always say ‘Never’. Because it hasn’t happened yet! We believe we are invulnerable because we have to . In order to feel safe, we imagine that if we act differently , are stronger, more outspoken, more discerning than those poor souls, then somehow we’ll avoid those tragedies. As a survivor of abuse I can tell you that hearing how you would have done things differently only serves to make me feel blamed. We are already so good at blaming ourselves for screwing up and breaking those ‘Never’ vows that the last thing we need is for someone to pass judgement on our behaviour. All of us have lofty ideas of what we’ll do when (insert bad thing here) happens. The problem is that we construct those lofty ideas sitting in cushy chairs and not from a place of shock and fear.

Blame doesn’t promote healing it promotes hiding. Most of us have been hiding in the dark for a long time.Healing starts in the light. Let us talk and vent and say the disagreeable ugly things that make you feel uncomfortable about your own safety. But mostly, create a safe place of light for us to come to. Love and listen and then love and listen some more.For a victim to tell you their story is a courageous leap of trust and a great honor. Match that with your own bravery. The bravery to look into the things you are most frightened of to help another heal. I can’t think of a more noble position than that.

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible. And everything that is illuminated becomes a light”.¬†

                                                                                                                                             Ephesians 5:13