Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NO MORE Years a Slave

After watching the highly acclaimed feature film on slavery, I had time to think about the themes of the movie and apply them to my life. The main story of slavery aptly applies to my mental and emotional state for many years. Living as a slave to fear, inadequacy, anxiety and depression, I was a trapped in my own living hell. Not any longer!

I was just journalling this morning, cup of coffee by my side, morning sunlight on my face, that life has a peculiar way of teaching you lessons...of teaching ME, especially (I'm kinda hard-headed).

Photo I shot onstage at a
Sunset Celebration, Times Sq,
Fort Myers Beach
It was two years ago that I met a woman who would rock my world...both literally and symbolically. We played in a cover band together, getting to know each other over 9 months time before we ever officially dated. Then came the moment of that fated first kiss...and I was hooked.

Fast forward through that struggle of a blossoming relationship and here I sit today ready to close that chapter of my life. You see, I'm going down there in a couple of days to retrieve the last of my things, pay off a debt that I owe and get my drums out of storage.

It wasn't easy coming to terms with the fact that I was unevenly matched with a woman that I once thought could be a lifetime partner. We both carried our own baggage into the relationship, but we just couldn't manage to bridge the gap between us and share the heavy load. And to be honest, I went in kind of blindly and foolishly before my divorce was ever final. Lesson learned.

So I get to finally close that chapter of my life this week. Not an easy thing to do, as it's taken me nearly 10 weeks to arrive safely at this juncture. But I'm here.

I won't go so far as to say that I was a slave in that relationship, but I certainly felt stuck for a number of months. Unable to get my shit together, get up and get out, I remained and fought through the emotional rollercoaster of "should I stay or should I go." That's on me. Nobody else to blame. I was just fighting some personal demons. They are the ones who enslaved me from childhood.

But a slave no more, I'm ready to embrace my newfound freedom. And again, to be clear, I'm not talking about freedom from the previous relationship with an incredibly beautiful woman (photo above). No, I'm talking about personal freedom from some demons, some hangups that have haunted me all my life, held me captive through fear and intimidation. Those demons made me believe that I *needed* someone to fulfill or complete me (I realize now that's called co-dependence). I didn't and I don't, but I realize that now. Lesson learned.

I won't go again into another relationship quite so needy or ready to attach. I'll take it slow, allow things to grow organically. I won't ever allow myself to feel stuck ever again (I did that to myself). And I won't go back to slavery...EVER...AGAIN!

Those demons can SUCK IT!

That's all for now. Peace my friends. And thanks for listening.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

free form flows

waiting for calls or e-mails that would never come
words that could have soothed and healed
were never going to be spoken
not by the willfully victimized
certainly not by the broken

trust was shattered long ago
never to be restored
the cornerstone of loving
of giving and receiving
taken for granted or ignored

party on the longheld cry
for past pains and sins
you'd rather cover and deny
why cry out for help
when that would lead others to discover
what's become a latent choice
over and over and over

alas the wounded soul
one day will recover
might take a minute longer
then another and another
but time heals all wounds they say
whoever they might be
take these scars and grow
forever, still, a legacy you'll leave

Friday, April 04, 2014

How do you mend a broken heart?

They say that time heals all wounds, and I'm sure that it's true. Sometimes, it's hard to believe, though, when you're in the midst of the healing. And what of the lingering scars? The heart is never truly the same, ever again. I know that mine won't be.

Some call my previous relationship a total rebound. I'm not sure I'd qualify it as that, even though I've considered it. To me, it seemed like much more. And if you asked her, I'm sure she'd say that it was much, much more than that. Whatever it was, it happened. Two hearts were broken. And time? Well, it's just begun the process.

It took me several weeks to come to grips with the fact that I had suffered another broken heart. Because, truth is, I asked for the breakup. She didn't want it. I knew that my heart was no longer in it 100% and there was always the lingering issue of distrust. It's possible that we both sabotaged the relationship. I'm willing to accept my share of the blame. But no matter who shares or accepts what portion of the blame, it doesn't change the simple fact that two hearts were broken, wounded and left bleeding. It just took me longer to realize and accept it.

Since I'd sorta started the separation last year, in my own heart and mind, I thought that I'd already dealt with all of the hurt feelings, the disappointment that it wasn't what I thought, and the anger over being so blind and foolish. I was being blind and foolish to think that. :)

The day I hit the road aboard a Greyhound bus, the realization of "goodbye" hit me as I crossed the bridge out of town. It came crashing down all around me and I cried for a good 20 minutes, trying to hide my sadness from the other passengers. That was just the beginning...and it was a LONG ride home.

Going to bed alone for the first time in more than a year, I began to taste loneliness again. That was sobering, too. I wasn't quite prepared for the loneliness and all the crazy thoughts it causes you to entertain. But that still didn't unlock the buried heartache.

I'm not sure what the key was that opened that door or when it even happened, but for days now I've been dealing with the real heart of the issue, if you'll excuse the pun. I'm fully accepting now that I have suffered another broken heart. I wasn't anywhere near being over my girlfriend, no matter how much I'd fooled myself to believe that I was. I still love her and care for her very much. But I no longer give her the power to hurt me. The damage has been done. No need to exacerbate the pain by revisiting the wounds.

That is why I've tried like hell to live in the present. It's hard for me, though. I'm programmed to keep going back and analyzing things, looking for areas where I was wrong, where I acted foolishly or where I could have reacted differently to what was going on. That's just how I'm wired. I'm very critical and analytic like that.

Going back to re-read old e-mails, journal posts, blog posts and to look at photos on Facebook only perpetuates the painful memories of what was and wasn't there. Sadly, I can't keep myself from looking at all of it from time to time. And maybe that's part of the process, too...the healing.

At any rate, time has just begun to tick away. With every tick of the clock, I am hopeful to find some small dose of healing. I know that I've made some strides just this week, but that came only after taking two steps back. Hey, I'm hard-headed, too, and sometimes slow to learn. And admitting that my heart was truly broken was a huge step forward.

Several friends have told me this week, "it's obvious you still love her and care for her," and I'm glad they can see it. I doubt that she believes it, and I guess that doesn't matter anymore. I'm ready to live and let live. I want us both to move on and find true peace and happiness within ourselves. Only in reaching that Nirvana, can we be fully who we are and offer "the treasure of us" individually to someone else.

Here's the perfect song to accompany this post:

Well, here's to recovery...Cheers!

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The sacred dunes at the state park

They may not be the Mountains of Mordor, but these dunes might as well be. I once took a pilgrimage there with "my precious."

These photos, shot Sunday morning in Panama City Beach, show the very spot where I carried a then 3-month-old baby girl, wrapped in a warm, fleece blanket. It was October thirteen years ago and I was taking my oldest daughter on her first ever trip to the beach. My folks and my sister's family were visiting from Indiana. As usual, I was up before the dawn. My new baby was still sleeping, but something was drawing me into the pre-dawn solitude towards the pristine, sugar sand dunes of the state park, just a few hundred yards from our condo.

I wrapped my already swaddled bundle of joy in my favorite blue, black and white blanket, as it was chilly on this dark morning along the Gulf coast of North Florida. I walked with her and a disposable camera, as I didn't have my Kodak digital camera back then, through the cool sand up into the dunes. Found a nice spot that sheltered us both from the wind and planted myself in the sand, clear of any sand spurs. Surrounded by those green and white blanketed hills, I waited for the sunrise. But I was met by the Divine.

Those of you old enough to remember the mini-series, Roots, will certainly recall the dramatic scene where the father, played by John Amos, raises his infant into the air symbolically. That is precisely how I felt in that moment, like I was offering this precious baby back to the cosmos, or back to God, from whence she came.

You have to understand this baby was a miracle blessing to me at the time. I've even written how she saved my life. But in that moment, I felt something more than mere gratitude. I felt the hand of the Almighty in a very real way. I was humbled beyond measure. I knew that I didn't deserve the great prize I had won, but I was going to cherish it with everything in my being. And that I have.

I have an outstandingly beautiful and gifted daughter who is about to turn 13 this summer. And as I walked that same path over the weekend, I was struck again by the beauty of those dunes and what they represent to me. I was overcome with emotion, as I am now, typing this through tears.

It was another pre-dawn stroll along the beach, like I'd had back in 2001. This time, I had my digital camera, and though the pics didn't all turn out spectacularly, I have them as a token...a reminder of what happened in my life over a decade ago. Those dunes will always hold a special place in my heart.

They are now a sacred spot. And just like the photo below, of the sun rising over them, the sun rises everyday in my life, rain or shine, because I have that bundle of joy in my life.

I love you, MK.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Advice on love, relationships

I’ve got some news for this guy, this “love expert” Gerald Rogers and I’ve got 4 years on him. I was married 20 and I was the one to file for divorce, so I’ve got a little different take on things. Unlike Mr. 15 Minutes of Fame (he appeared on the Today Show after his post went viral), I don’t ever intend to marry again. Will I fall in love? Probably. Will I find a committed partner to share in my golden years? Maybe, we’ll see. What I won’t find is another co-dependent, mutually devastating cluster like I was in.

  1. Make the effort, of course. Be romantic, sure, but guard your heart. Gerald says, “She chose you,” as if you had no say in the matter. Go in with your eyes wide open and realize that you chose EACH OTHER. Both parties should be equal in their giving. And if you learn to love sacrificially, you’ll never go wrong in trying to outdo your partner.
  2. Guard your heart (see above). Love yourself fully and don’t settle for someone who doesn’t love themselves. You have to protect your own heart fiercely. But if you radiate that kind of love and confidence, you’ll attract the right kind of woman.
  3. Fall in love. Again, be romantic. But know that love is not just some gushy mesh of sentimental feelings and words. Love is action. Be a doer, not just a talker. Show your love and stay connected. It doesn’t fall just on you, but you can certainly lead by example, or better yet, LOVE by example!
  4. Be realistic. She’s not perfect and neither are you. “Always see the best,” as Gerald suggests is not reality. There will always be things about your partner that could improve, and that may even bug you. Get past them. If they are immovable objects that would hinder your moving forward, either get help or get out. “Focus to the point where you can no longer see anything but love?” C’mon, dude, get real. Again, love is not some puffy cloud of lovey-dovey feelings up in the stratosphere. Love is both a choice and an action, but you have to see your partner for who they really are, warts and all. If you can’t handle that, then stay single.
  5. Show tough love if absolutely necessary. Everyone has faults. Some people that we love NEED to change for their own good. Sometimes a tough love approach is the only way. Is it our job to change our partner? No, certainly not. That burden falls on them alone. If you can lovingly help your partner see where change is needed, then is it more loving to avoid the challenge or to meet it head on? Ask yourself the difficult question.
  6. Be accountable. On this point we both agree. You share half the burden in the relationship, whether there is credit or blame to go around. Accept your share, apologize if you have to and carry on. You can only control you, period.
  7. Be honest. You have to be honest, first, with yourself before you can be honest with your partner. Are the things bothering you because of your own faulty perceptions, past hurts and failures? Be honest with yourself before going to your partner with a grievance. If there IS someone to blame, it could be the both of you. Only an honest, adult discussion can get you through what’s troubling you. For one person to bear the brunt of the blame is completely unfair and unbalanced.
  8. Be who you are. Don’t put on masks for your partner and don’t expect her to wear them either. Give her the freedom to be who she is and to express herself genuinely. Don’t make assumptions about gender roles, like Mr. Rogers. The man doesn’t always have to be the pillar of strength upon which she leans. You should be equal partners in the relationship, able to lean upon each other. She will be your pillar at times, as you will be hers. It’s no one person’s job to be the Rock of Gibraltar all the time (refer to #4 and  #7).
  9. Be silly. Be child-like, but not childish, and laugh as much as possible. Gerald hit a home-run on this one. I was suckered into believing, at the beginning of my marriage, that I had to “behave like an adult.” I lost the utter silliness that my ex and I had shared, at times, as a young couple. Laughter is, indeed, a good medicine.
  10. Know and speak love languages, fluently. If you don’t know them, then read Gary Chapman’s book about them. Go back and re-read #3. Love is action. Actions speak louder than words. Put your love into action by speaking your partners love language fluently. Be a doer. Be sensitive. Read the damn book, already!
  11.  Live in the moment. He was close on this one and the one, above. Be in the moment, fully present and appreciate what you have.
  12. Sex is good. And in a committed relationship, it should be fantastic, but that only comes through connection. Stay connected. “Masculine presence?” What the hell is that guy smoking? And how many Harlequin romance novels has he read, anyway? Sometimes your partner will want you to be the aggressor and other times she will want to dominate. Sex, as in love, is a give and take. Communicate. Be in the moment and give it all you got. If either of you has hang-ups about sex, then please go to a counselor or sex therapist. It will kill the romance, otherwise.
  13. Learn from your mistakes. And if you see old patterns popping up in your relationship, nip them in the bud. No one is an idiot, but only a crazy person keeps repeating the same mistakes/patterns and expecting a different outcome.
  14. Be passionate. Know what you want out of life and go after it. Allow your partner the freedom to do the same. If she has different interests than you, then encourage her to explore them fully while you do the same. Giving each other the space to enjoy different things just makes sense. Don’t give up the things you are passionate about just to please your partner and don’t expect her to give up those things, either. Enjoy your differences. Admire the passionate side of your partner and encourage her pursuit of things only she enjoys. In other words, don’t be a controlling douchebag!
  15. Trust. Ahh, the “t” word. One of the most difficult things to cultivate and maintain in a relationship. Sure, there is a level of vulnerability that you must maintain in order to have it, but you don’t have to be gullible. Trust is given but it is also earned. Be a trustworthy person and get to know each other. If she is trustworthy at the same level, then be as vulnerable and transparent as you want to be, but go in with your eyes open and your heart exposed. Know that it can be broken or hurt at any time. Being able to trust depends on your full willingness to be hurt at some point. Only gullible, foolish people give away their trust immediately and without reservation.
  16. Allow your partner to love you. Trust and vulnerability go hand in hand, see above. But allowing someone to love you when you are completely naked to the core is really difficult. Some people just can’t handle that another person would love them after seeing just how vulnerable they are. You are loveable. If you love yourself fully (see #2), then you should have no difficulty in receiving love from your partner.
  17. Never stop dreaming together. Growth comes naturally. People tend to give up on their dreams, however. If you have an equal partner who shares your hopes and dreams, then you have something really special. Foster that sense of wonder and romance in each other. Don’t ever lose it. Setbacks will inevitably come, but they can be overcome when you are a team.
  18. Money. Interesting Mr. Rogers should bring it up. Marriage is nothing but a legally binding financial contract. Surprised that his divorce didn’t teach him that. Keep money out of it. Relationships are about people, not about improving your financial future. Common sense dictates that you’ll have to combine and share resources, but don’t let them get in the way of relationship. Things are just that. Things. They are unimportant. The love of your partner will get you through just about any problem in life. Money solves nothing. My divorce taught me that marriage, in the eyes of the state, is nothing but a business agreement between two parties. Who needs a contract to live with someone they love?
  19. Forgiveness is for you, not your partner. Don’t think for one minute that forgiveness is about releasing your partner from blame. It’s about releasing yourself. I think that’s what Mr. Rogers was getting at, but he talks about the past like it can be left there and never brought up again. See #4. Don’t live in a fantasy world where everything is unicorns and rainbows. Skeletons won’t remain hidden in a closet. They rattle around and make noise. The past will always be part of your present and future. You can’t lock it up and throw away the key, pretending that it never happened nor will ever affect you again. That’s foolishness. Your past is what shapes you. Your history with your partner is the only foundation you’ve got. If there are cracks in it, deal with them. Do your best to patch them, but don’t ignore them. The same goes for you as an individual. Embrace your past. If there are cracks in your character, do what you can to fix them, even if it means seeking professional help. Don’t you want your partner to have a whole and complete person to love? Well, you can’t be whole and complete until you learn to forgive. Start with yourself.
  20. Repeat #3. Learn that love is a choice, a sacrifice and an action. If you really chose love, then you’ll choose to act, to put the other person first and to succeed. Success depends on the both of you, but it starts with you. That’s the only thing you control in a relationship is you—how you act, react and respond. Choose love. Real love, not the gushy sentimental, Harlequin romance love that Mr. Rogers is seeking.

That’s really all I have to say on the subject. Maybe I missed my calling as a counselor. Life has taught me some tough, but invaluable lessons. One of them was not to marry someone, at least not until you’re older and really know who the hell you are. Love yourself first. That’s how I’ll end this long post. Love yourself and the rest will follow.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mind-cleansing walks in Springtime bring about control

I've been saying the Serenity Prayer a lot, lately. Not the verbatim prayer (at left) that you'll hear at most A.A. meetings or self-help groups. No, I've just uttered some version of that prayer nearly everyday. It has helped.


I've been taking walks around the lake in our neighborhood, enjoying the Spring weather here in Tallahassee. The mild temps, sunshine and fresh air are good for my soul. The walks are good for my body. The Serenity Prayer and the reaffirming self-speak have done wonders for my mind and emotions. The last few days, I've been referring to these walks--2.5 to 4 miles--as mind-cleansing walks. And they have been. It's been my chance to center myself in the middle of the day.

The last year has been a grueling one. I'd even argue that it's been one of my worst, possibly second all-time. I've survived a divorce, a failed relationship, an extended separation from my children and other minor set-backs along the way. I've always heard what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but that hasn't necessarily been the case except for in my darkest times.

I did come out of a severe depression in 2000 much stronger, but still battled many of my demons. I even survived a suicide attempt at the end of that year. A few months later, I was restarting my life in a new house and about to adopt my first baby. I learned a lot about myself in that year of about-face orientation. I still had a lot to learn and I'm not always the easiest student. I can be quite stubborn and hard-headed.

A look at Springtime Azaleas in bloom all around my
Tallahassee neighborhood
After some serious setbacks in 2006 and 2008, I was still determined to maintain my course even if I wasn't headed in the right direction. Fast forward to 2013 and circumstances tried to kick me down again. Out of that tumultuous year, I do believe that I have emerged even stronger still. So maybe it has taken several years and a couple of really bad ones to get my attention, but I have learned and grown.

It's been on these mind-cleansing walks that I've seen the most evidence. Take today, for instance, I put into practice the learned art of self-compassion. I walked 2 miles around that lake, speaking affirming words to myself that entire time. Thankfully, I didn't encounter too many others on the walking path. After a rough and emotional morning, it was the perfect therapy for me.

I read a book about self-compassion in December 2012 and it was quite eye-opening for me, but I won't repost here what you can read in my blog entry here. Suffice to say, that this was quite an accomplishment for me, and putting it into practice today made me realize just how far I've come since 2000. There was still so much critical energy, so much pessimism and self-doubt in me even after I recovered from my depressive episode. It took years to finally overcome that, and I still struggle with it.


“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” ~Maya Angelou

It was just a few days ago on one of my mind-cleansing walks that I accepted an important truth and slayed an age-old myth. That myth is the one that convinces us we are in control. As I was contemplating this blog post, I ran across another good one by a dog trainer in Texas. He talks about The Control Myth and how it skews our thinking (Note: this is more than a blog about dogs, so take a minute to read it, it's really good).

The important truth that I realized on my walk is that I can only control three things--my actions, my attitude and all that goes on between my ears. I like to draw a small circle just in front of me when I'm walking and talking to myself (I know I must look crazy, but I don't care what people think of me). I make that circular motion with my hand and remind myself, "This is the extent of my sphere of control."

I can't control anything beyond that sphere, that in reality, encompasses only my body and nothing outside of it. I can't control people, the weather, circumstances, other's perceptions of reality, etc. I can only control me, and more importantly, what's going on inside of me.

This afternoon, I also ran across this cool little series on WikiHow about gaining control of your emotions. That one, for me, is huge, also. I was on my walk yesterday, a four-mile round trip to Publix, when I really had to do some digging to realize what was wrong with me. The day had started off rather pleasantly, then I let myself get upset about things outside my control. I went on my walk thinking I just needed to be more positive. Well, I realized after some digging why I was upset and allowed myself to just be upset for awhile longer. My feelings had been hurt, so it was okay...not to be okay. After realizing the root of the issue, I dealt with those negative feelings and then got past them, giving myself permission to go there and then walk out of it. That's an example of controlling your emotions. It doesn't mean allow only the positive ones. It allows space for all emotions to grow and subside.

For me, the control comes in when I deal in a healthy way with all my emotions. I don't bottle any of them up or try to stifle the painful ones. I just let them breathe. I go outside and try to focus on the beauty of nature. I try to live in the here and now, focusing only on my present surroundings. I breathe deeply and listen to my heartbeat. I try to keep my wandering mind in check. The last couple of days this has worked well for me.

As I continue this crazy, out of control journey called Life, I hope to gain more control over the things I actually have the power to do so. I will continue to let go of the things and people that I cannot, thereby denying the myth. I will continue to love and affirm myself in order to maintain a positive attitude. I will not be reduced, as Maya Angelou said in the above quote, by all the events that happen to me. I will stay rooted in reality.

Drawing a small circle around me, I can only control this area right here. :)

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Monday, March 24, 2014

No, thanks, I got this eHarmony!

I'm not looking to get married ever again. I came to that conclusion more than a year ago, the ink not even dry on my divorce judgment. Fresh out of a year-long relationship, I don't even want to date anyone!

So you might be asking yourself what I'm doing blogging about the online dating service, eHarmony. Well, I signed up last month for something to do and mostly out of curiosity. I didn't pay a subscription fee, I just created a well-rounded profile, uploaded a couple of pics and waited for the matches to roll in. And at first they did.

You see, anyone can put up an eHarmony profile for free. You can even upload pictures and bare your soul for the world to see. However, if you don't pay for their "expertise" you don't get to shop around too much, especially if you're a window browser like me. No, this site is only for the very serious--or desperate--depending upon how you look at it.

The first couple of weeks, I was receiving around 3 matches daily. This was apparently meant to whet my appetite. The entire time, eHarmony's been badgering me to pay to join their millions of subscribers. They don't know just how broke I am or how little I'm looking for a forever mate.

Suddenly, I stopped receiving matches. I get daily e-mails, mind you, but not matches. They've offered me free communication weekends--I'm already communicating for free, so that was bogus--free dating advice and discounts on membership. But really all their website amounts to is a huge marketing tool. And it was rated as one of the five worst websites by Time Magazine.

I don't pay for their help, so I don't even get to see profile pics of the other users. You know, because that would be superficial and shallow...not meeting their standards of compatibility. Since when is physical attraction not a key component of compatibility? Rather, I think the whole point is that they want to hold member's profiles hostage in order to make more money. And that's what this website is about. They don't care if you find a perfect match. All they care is that you keep looking...for as long as possible!

I'm really not looking...nor interested in dating at this point. I just wanted to see what eHarmony is about. It's about making money, plain and simple.

When I am ready, I'll try my luck on Facebook before I lay out cash for some website's help. At least I can see who I'm talking to...and make up my own questions for conversation starters. Follow Time's advice and steer clear of this money-grabbing website.

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