Boundaries

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(trigger warning. childhood abuse, sexual violation.)
 
People without boundaries get angry when you start setting them.
 
When I was a child, my boundaries were crossed all too often and because I was dependent on the boundary-crossers for survival, I had no choice but to allow it. As an adult, I didn’t know I had a choice–until recently. The last decade has been a journey to Self by laying down the shit that’s not mine to carry…like generation after generation of abusive behaviors and actions.
 
It stops here.
 
People are angry with me for stepping out, for saying “This doesn’t feel healthy to me” and for not engaging in those situations. They try to make me feel guilty with some false sense of nobility–“This is family, you should (insert guilt inducing activity.)”
 
Family. Those are the people who trampled my boundaries in my toddler years and continued to do so (and still do, to this day.) These are the people that believe they get a pass on their bad behavior because they’re related. They believe things passed down to them (just like I did.)
 
The truth is that boundaries are healthy for families.
 
People are uncomfortable when I speak my truth. It makes them squirm when they hear me talk about the abuse I endured. Maybe they didn’t know my abusers as abusers. They don’t want to believe it. They don’t want to hear it. They want me to shut up.
 
They want to shut me up.
 
That’s their road.
 
It’s not up to me to change their minds or prove to them I’m telling the truth. It’s not my responsibility to help people accept that I was abused. Maybe they were abused as well, it’s quite likely given that we shared space with the same people. Maybe they like to keep their problems hidden under the rug or maybe they feel more comfortable being the victim.
 
I get it. I was there, too.
 
I hid things, like I was supposed to. Like I was taught to. I hid in my toy box. I hid under the stairs with the spiders. In our house there was a 1970’s empty brick planter in the entryway that was normally piled high with coats that I hid in, There was a space in the wall across from “the bricks” that was meant to be a fireplace, but it was just an empty hole in the wall that I hid in. I hid in the doghouse with my favorite dog. I hid in the woods by our house, I hid at the playground at school. As I got older, I played hiding games. We played “Ditch” around the neighborhood–a pre-teen version of hide and seek. When I got my license I played “Fox” a teen version of hide and seek with CB radios. I hid at the beach, I hid at my friend’s houses.
 
I started hiding with alcohol when I was 12. I drank to lose control but I couldn’t lose control. No matter how drunk I was, I was still in control. There was no hiding. And then I wanted to die. I read books like Carrie and Thirteen is Too Young to Die. I wanted Lupus so I would have a reason to die. I fantasied about how amazing life would be if I was dead. I tried to take my life, but something always stopped me. Like I wasn’t allowed to die. Like I had to keep facing these abusers and keep kissing their dead bodies in their coffins because “this will be the last time you ever see them.”
 
No. Because I see them in my mind and in my dreams and in my distorted and warped life. I see them every day. I see them in the foods I eat and won’t eat. I seem them in the clothes I choose to wear because pants and tight jeans make it super hard for sexual predators to put things down there that don’t belong. Dresses are a wide open invitation for violation. But dresses are for girls and it’s not ladylike to wear jeans and have short hair and like sports. Then I don’t want to be a lady, because the ladybits are what is attracting this unwanted, uncomfortable behavior from adult men who aren’t supposed to do this sort of thing and I don’t want to be lady.
 
Then I was the victim. When my first abuser died, I watched the whole family cry and grieve and mourn…and I was relieved. Even the ones who saw the repeated behavior and knew it was constantly happening were sad and upset and hurt. I was not. That was the beginning of the separation. I was still very young, though, and without guidance, so I did the best I could. I pretended that I was sad for them because when I wasn’t, they were uncomfortable. I started keeping a journal and blaming everyone. All of those who knew what was happening, all of the people who should’ve helped me and didn’t. I blamed them and then I blamed God and then I blamed myself. That brought the anger. The rage. The fury.
 
And doctors wanted to send me to mental facilities and drug me.
 
ME.
 
Because something was wrong with MY behavior because my boundaries were destroyed and people used my body like a sex toy. Because everyone put the blame on me with their actions, in-actions, and unwritten rules of conduct.
 
Every time I tried to escape it and get away from it, someone from the family would bring the guilt to my table. So and so is dying, you *have* to visit. So and so is getting married, you cannot miss the wedding, they’re family. So and so is having a baby shower, you *have* to go, they’re family. You can’t stop talking to so and so, they’re family. You don’t do that. It’s not right. They’re family.
 
Let me just say this once and for all. Fuck family. (and for those who need direction, this is not my angry voice. This is my calm, it’s time to stand in my truth voice.) Fuck this idea that because we are related I have some obligation to continue with the fuckery that goes on within the dysfunctional walls of someone else’s definition of family.
 
This is me, no longer hiding, no longer being a victim, and no longer blaming.
 
This is me saying I take responsibility for my health. My mental, emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual health. This is me saying if you don’t like my life-choices, my boundaries, and my decisions to enter into healing, it’s ok. You’re allowed to not like me, or not like what I say, or not like what I do. You’re allowed to feel everything that you feel. As a matter of fact, I recommend it. And maybe it’s good that I hold a mirror up to the illusions. Maybe you’ll recognize that the things we’ve been taught are untrue.
 
Because it’s not that I want things to be this way. Believe me, I’ve been trying to change this since I was a little tiny girl. I’ve been trying to fix the family since the moment I was born–and that’s no exaggeration. I was born into people wanting to kill themselves and was heralded as the “one who saved me.”
 
How many times did I try to save those who wanted to be dead?
 
How many times did I rush to their sides?
 
How many nights did I sleep in hospitals?
 
How many empty bottles of alcohol did I secretly dispose of?
 
How many secrets did I keep?
 
How many affairs did I witness with my own young eyes?
 
How many letters did I hide in my top dresser drawer?
 
How many empty pill bottles did throw away?
 
How many deviant sexual acts did I endure?
 
How many punches did I take to save someone else the pain?
 
How many drug dogs did I turn loose in houses so there would be no surprises for the rest of you?
 
How much sick porn did I throw away so you wouldn’t see it?
 
How many lies did I keep for you?
 
To make you comfortable so that you wouldn’t have to deal with this mess?
 
How many nights did I soothe those with unspeakable nightmares?
 
How many times did I stare down the business end of a weapon not knowing if I would live another moment?
 
I get it. I get that my stepping out and away makes you uncomfortable. It’s not been easy for me. I own that I have caused you pain. But like childbirth, some pain is necessary. I’m choosing the pain that brings joy, just like labor pains are the prelude to the purest love a person here can feel. Rather than choose the constant pain and agony of the past, I choose the present life-giving pain of separation. As a baby separates from the mother’s womb, it’s a painful, traumatic ordeal. But in the end, it’s all worth it.
 
I hope peace and love are found for those on the other side of my boundaries and separation.
 
It’s time for me to step into the light.
 
Whether or not others are ready or accepting of that is none of my concern.
 
I wish no one harm or malice. There are just some situations here on earth that require physical separation. Like a baby can’t live in the womb forever, I can’t stay in the darkness I’ve been in.

Stop Telling Me What to Post (or not to post) on Social Media–The Blue Mug Edition

It started like it normally does. I couldn’t concentrate, I followed links out of my Facebook feed and read articles. This one happened, I read it, saw comments on the publisher’s feed, and then I shared the article with my own little message:

“Here’s the thing–if you don’t like pics of my food, my dogs sleeping, my Christmas tree, or of my husband of 20 years and I hugging, *then unfollow me* mmmmkay? Because I’m not changing what I like for what you don’t like ?”

1419148_10151978089964264_20737953_oThe comments kind of blew up.

A friend said it bothered her when people posted pictures of Starbucks cups with their names on them. I replied that my cup never has my name on it, so I’m in the clear. (And since she posts from her husband’s account, I told her it bothered me when husbands and wives shared accounts.)

My friend Katey shared the page.

Let me tell you how I met Katey. One year, I was sponsored to go to this Christian blogging conference. I went and roomed with a girl I’d never met,  Brooke (who happens to share a birthday with me) Brooke and I were introduced by Toni on Twitter. Toni and I lived in the same town and both homeschooled our sons, who are the same age. That first conference, I also met Dawn and we became quick friends.

Year two of the conference came around and I didn’t have money to attend because Phil had just been fired from his job and we had just moved because of that huge shock. Dawn took up my plight, encouraged me to rely on the help of others and in 3 days, my entire trip was paid for. I roomed with Dawn and Katey and another gal that year. Katey and I, both being INTJ’s really got along and have every since.

Present day, Katey’s  friend Cassie requested to be my FB friend (I accepted) all because of this article telling me not to post more than one picture of month of my husband.   We started being rather sarcastic, because apparently we’re all really good at it.

Cassie posted that her husband was home then posted a picture of him and the kids.

I posted a picture of the French-press coffee I was making, blue snowflake mug included.

Cassie posted a picture showing that we were both drinking coffee out of blue mugs.

I had the same mug in my cabinet, so I took it down, switched and took another picture and posted it.

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Katey wasn’t drinking out of a blue mug, but a mug that was a present from Cassie.

Then a mutual friend of Katey and Cassie’s  (Lisa) said she had a blue mug.

 

As Lisa was posting a picture of her blue mug, I was linking to the story of my blue Starbucks mug. The one that Jill gave me before she died. Jill loved to shop at Goodwill and picked up things at random. She’d never been to Starbucks, but loved the blue Starbucks mug and knew I loved Starbucks, so she bought it for me. Later, I took Jill to Starbucks for the first time in her life and she kept the cup insulator and wrote a note on it for me thanking me for “sharing the love.” She meant my love for Starbucks and my love for her.  I broke the blue Starbucks mug Jill gave me and on the anniversary of her death this past January, I wrote about it because I woke up crying. I drank out of the mug on her birthday and the anniversary of her death because I miss her and I allow myself the time to grieve her.

Imagine my shock when I received two boxes from two different friends with more blue Starbucks mugs in them!!! (Linda and Sheena) Linda sent me two (one arrived chipped) Sheena sent one. So now I have one chipped one in my art room that holds water and paint brushes to remind me that even broken things have value and two good ones in my counter to drink out of as I wish.

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Lisa read my post and then tells me her story about her blue mug.

“My PawPaw was a very unique man. During the last year that he was able to live independently, he purchased quite a few random things, including a blue Starbucks coffee mug. He wasn’t a huge coffee drinker, which made his purchase of a very fancy Starbucks coffee maker and random blue mug even more bizarre. I can remember my aunts commenting about his purchases while they packed up his belongings. He was coming to move in with my mom, and I was helping to pack his things for storage. The best we could come up with was that he bought it because it was blue – his favorite color.

“Two years later, after his funeral, mom reached up into her cabinet, retrieved PawPaw’s blue mug, and gave it to me. Since I was the only one who really drank coffee, and I loved Starbucks, it only made sense for me to have his mug. For years, I drank from that blue mug, almost daily, without crack or chip. Two over zealous little girls, wanting so badly to help their pregnant mommie, dropped the bubbly blue glass while trying to wash dishes. The chip made my mug unsuitable for coffee sipping and it was retired to the craft shelf where it still sits, holding my seam ripper and tailor’s chalk.

“The mug in the Facebook picture is a replacement blue mug, purchased by my mother at a yard sale. I still drink from it, every day that it is found clean in the cabinet, and I think of PawPaw. I think of how God gave him the inclination to visit Starbucks one day, and buy a coffee maker, and a random blue mug….just for me.”

But Lisa still has the chipped one.

Just like me.

She uses hers to hold sewing supplies.

I use mine to hold paint brushes.

Lisa said, “God takes all the little broken pieces and puts them together.”

Amen, sister. Amen.

So here were are, each one of these ladies intricately laced into my story of friendship. How I lost Jill too early to breast cancer and how God has blessed me with Toni, Brooke, Dawn, Katey, Linda, Sheena, and now Cassie and Lisa.

Because of Social Media and because we were being ridiculous and posting silly things that some people don’t want to see. So thanks but no thanks,  John Weirick, author of that blog post telling me not to post stuff because it ruffles your feathers, I will continue posting blue coffee mugs, kissy face pics with my hubby, my food pics, my dogs sleeping, and anything else my little heart desires because the beauty of Social Media comes through in many forms, even blue, chipped, and broken Starbucks mugs. Especially in brokenness. 

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EDIT TO ADD: Lisa just messaged me saying she was AT that second blog conference. I was doing Visual Prayer during the key note address and my whole table joined in. She made one and gave it to her mother!!!! Lisa was also sponsored to go to the conference. Her mother’s life was torn apart and the one thing that couldn’t be physically torn in half was the Visual Prayer Lisa made for her that evening.

I’m kind of beside myself here.

Rooted {Listen to Your Mother}

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The barren branches of a mature lilac bush shiver as winter’s breath exhales on them. From the warm and peaceful place inside our new home where I sip my coffee I see them.

Stripped down.

Fragile leaves and blooms gone. Awaiting spring.

Thick branches crossing over one another. Roots unseen stand through the bitter cold.

I used to believe my mom was a weak woman.

Physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse by many different men in my young years ripped through my innocence like rain on tissue paper. She was supposed to be my umbrella. Big and obvious. Shielding and protecting, not folded up in the corner.

I didn’t want to be a girl. I wanted to play football and tackle. Play Army and shoot. In fourth grade, I shoved my knee hard into the boys because I knew where to hurt them so I could watch them fold over, cower, and cry. I wanted to be a truck driver. I refused to wear dresses, and she knew why.

When I watched the 1985 Chicago Bears Superbowl, she said to me, “Girls don’t watch sports.” I never did figure out who she wanted me to be. I just knew it was never who I was, so I stopped trying to please her and everyone else, and I took the sopping wet and torn tissue paper life and recycled it into something more like a cardboard shipping tube.

And I ran.

Away from that life and dysfunction. I met a gorgeous cowboy driving a semi in a traffic jam. I became a truck driver. A couple months later I ran away with him to a new life, a new state, a new family. I learned to stop hurting boys.

Mom called regularly. We made fun of her for always asking what we were making for dinner. I taught my husband Slovak cuisine handed down from my mother, the only part of my heritage I wanted anything to do with.

She visited often. Then I had a boy. She stayed with me after his birth because my husband was still over the road, only home only one out of every twenty-nine days. She hated pictures of herself, and except for a few of my newborn photos, I don’t have a single image of the two of us. She let me take a few of her with my boy, though.

We fell on hard financial times soon after, and mom welcomed us back into her home. I hated being there. Failure washed over me. I did nothing but work to get out of there. Just like before. And I did. I got as far away as I could.

She visited often. And called to ask what we were making for dinner.

Then doctors found a five-centimeter brain tumor on Dad’s birthday. She had brain surgery on their thirty-ninth wedding anniversary, and she could no longer talk, and she tried to write notes but strung all her words together into one big long word, then just letters and numbers and then she was dead in eight weeks.

It wasn’t until then that I realized how constant, consistent, and predictable she was.

The deep roots of her love are like the veins and arteries of my heart pumping, beating, giving life. The branches of her love, even when exposed and bloomless in winter’s grasp, still reached out and survived. The lilac blooms of her love, the ones that happen quick and fade fast but are full of fragrance–that was her laughter.

I started to see how fiercely she loved. How her protection wasn’t in the fight, but the hearty nature through harsh climate, the slow and steady growth of downward roots and outstretched branches, the expected budding, the hopeful blooms.

I don’t have her to run away from anymore and I find myself running toward things. I make art now to speak the words my soul can’t bear saying. I take pictures of expecting mothers who are full of joy and full of baby. I take picture of moms who smiling lovingly at newborn wrinkles because my mom’s frown in all the photos I possess hurts my heart. I take pictures of families and of moms and daughters so that the daughter will have at least one photo of her and her mom to cling to because I don’t. I try to fix things for people who don’t even know and will one day silently thank God for it.

She didn’t physically visit my last house. And she won’t physically visit this new one. But this old lilac bush will soon be full with lush greenness and spotted with purple cascades that have waited out the harshest winter and it will inhale the warmth of a new season.

Mind Blown in The Middle of Nowhere

When I first met Phil (nearly 20 years ago!) and decided to move to Missouri to be with him, I had never been very far outside of the heavily populated confines of Northwest Indiana. Lake Station, Indiana was about 25 minutes to downtown Chicago on a good traffic day from the house I grew up in.  I was a city girl.

He is a country boy. He grew up on an 80 acre farm in Owensville, Missouri and spent summers fishing on Table Rock Lake in Shell Knob, Missouri.  In Shell Knob, nothing was open after 5pm and the nearest Walmart was a solid 45 minutes.  We lived with his mom for a few months–so Shell Knob was my first Missouri home.  Phil’s mom still lives there today.

It was quite a culture shock for this girl. There are plenty of stories to be told–most all of them making fun of my lack of knowledge of all things country–and you’ll hear them if you ever come have dinner with us.

Today’s story is about  how God speaks to me in (seemingly) everyday, normal situations.

When we found out we were moving to Cedar Rapids, I (of course) Googled everything I could think of…including churches. We like to be with congregations that are moving forward, that have up to date websites and social media accounts.  I found one with a youth group YouTube video and they were just buzzing with energy and God’s love. I showed Phil and Zane and said I think it’s where we should try first. They agreed.

We had just left an amazing youth group headed up by a couple (they’d moved to Indy to plant a church) who had become two of my closest friends, so to find something with as much energy and love, I knew would be a monumental task, but I asked God for some help anyway…because he’s good at making the impossible possible. At one time, we’d thought God was going to move us to Indy to plant a church with them, but I guess God had Cedar Rapids in store all along.

On the Cedar Rapids youth group’s website, under the “upcoming events” tab, it showed their mission trip for the summer:  Indianapolis.

Ok, God. I’m listening.

We’re here and almost settled in. I took Zane to that youth group for the first time last night. We met the youth pastor (Tom,) Zane introduced himself and Tom said, “Zane?! Really? That’s my son’s name!”  (his adult son!)

Tom asked me some questions, what brought us to town, what we did for a living, and Tom is a trained artist who doesn’t do art anymore and said, “You must be really good to make a living at it”  and was thrilled with the success of Visual Prayer.

I left Zane and headed to Starbucks to work on some word art. When I picked him up, I was introduced to a few other adults and one of them asked if we had any other kids and I rattled on about Jess and Mike and grandbabies and they asked where in Missouri and I said near Branson and they said, “Oh! That’s near where we take the kids to summer camp, have you ever heard of Shell Knob?”

Insert Wile E. Coyote screeching halt.

Are you for real God? Have *I* ever heard of Shell Knob?!

I LIVED THERE.

Out of all the places in the United States could’ve been transferred. Out of all of the churches I could’ve picked to try…the one we pick goes to Indy for missions trips and Shell Knob for summer camp.

You are coming in loud and clear Good Buddy.

Mind. Blown.

Broken

5 years ago today I lost my best friend. I’ve written about her quite a bit.

The Jim Mug

Four Leaf Clovers

The Shit Shovel

Her blog is still there and I read it over and over.

I miss her.

 

 

I broke the Starbucks mug she gave me 🙁

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I still have her words, I can still hear her voice. I still find little things from her around my house and they always make me smile.  I took her friendship for granted.

lots of things are happening that remind me of her. when i spent her last New Year’s Eve with her, I had to take the elevator up to her room in the hospital. Stepping off the elevator if you made a left turn you’d go to the maternity ward, a right turn took you to the oncology unit.  She slept a morphine sleep and I sat with my journal, listening to a baby cry and breathe his first days of breath while she was breathing her last breaths.  this new year has brought daily news of cancer and death and daily news of new pregnancy.

it takes me back to her hospital room. and i miss her even more.

I’m pretty sure I won’t find another friend like her. And there are days that I just can’t get her out of my mind.

like today

and as I face something kinda scary today I wish she was here like she was when Zane was born. She just knew what to do. what to say. and i hate that she’s gone. i hate it.

LoveYouMissYouBye <3

 

 

I have to add this:  I cried the whole way through this post. Still haven’t stopped. I pushed publish and within seconds she messaged me saying God woke her up from a sound sleep and prayed for me as the Spirit led.  God is so good to me. Her obedience astounds me.  I feel like this is related to my word {restore}

2 years.

4 years ago today I created my first Visual Prayer.

2 years ago today, I sang Amazing Grace to my mom as she took her last breath on this earth.

today is difficult. this whole week has been challenging.  we almost lost dad. it was so close, i couldn’t think of anything except how are we (my brother and sister and I) going to hold it together if we have to bury dad the same week we lost mom?

I’m sorry I didn’t have more faith. I’ve asked God’s forgiveness over and over for that this week. “I believe, help me in my unbelief!”

After we knew dad was making a pretty miraculous recovery, A friend said something about answered prayers. I thought to myself, this hasn’t happened before. This recovery is a new thing for me. The list of very close friends and family members I’ve lost in the last 6 years is staggering. I think I counted 9. Jill, Sara, Uncle Ed, Grandma, Mom, Phil’s  Dad, Grandpa Jack, Grandma Schalk, and Grandma Barnes.  Almost 2 a year. When dad was intubated I’m sorry to admit I didn’t even think recovery was an option.

And so today is…bittersweet.

Grieving my mom in a way I haven’t experienced. Watching my dad reach for my sister’s hand the way he did mom’s was so touching. I’m glad my sister can be his comfort.  He and I haven’t had that kind of relationship.  My mom and I never had that relationship. I distanced myself and pushed away for most of my life. And on top of the grieving, so relieved that dad is ok. Amazed that he didn’t die.  I’m exhausted physically and mentally and truthfully cannot process yet what just happened.

Reading this post again again and trying to remember to count the blessings not dwell in the pain.