Best Diet Plan Ever…Forgiveness

It’s been a while since I posted and everyone is just coming off of the New Year and maybe has made some New Year’s Resolutions. While the holidays were filled with tons of stress and I really struggled, I had a great visit with my kids. I didn’t see my son much, however, my daughter and I had such a wonderful visit.

When my kids headed back to school, I started thinking about the New Year and how we often make resolutions that involve health or organization. Once the stress of the holidays left me, I felt so light. And I have been feeling very light for quite some time, except, of course, for situational stress. I realized that as I look back on the last year or so, I have lost a ton of weight. But the thing is, the scale says the same thing. What’s happening? Well, I look back on the last year and a half and realized I have stopped harboring anger.

What did my anger look like? Well, I find when I am angry I ruminate on the object of those thoughts. I compare my life to their’s. I find ways to make myself a victim of that person. Every part of it is unhealthy. It is hard to let go of the anger. It’s much easier to feel that way, but it’s also a much bigger weight to carry. I have said for years and years that I have forgiven my ex. I said it while we were still married. I thought I had, but I realize I hadn’t. I spent almost 10 years hoping to become a better person so my ex would still love me. The thing is, I wasn’t able to be a better me…the real me, because I was still broken. I couldn’t have conversations with my ex without thinking mean thoughts. It was ugly. This past year and a half, I have focused on myself and the relationships around me that are healthy. I have built relationships that I can keep my baggage out of.

Here’s the thing about forgiveness. No matter how much you want to get rid of that extra weight, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. It’s self discovery. Finding yourself allows you to let go of what you harbor. Allows you to realize, what people do to you is a reflection of them, not who you are. It is a road of self confessions. Maybe my husband didn’t want to be with me anymore because I no longer wanted to be with him. And boy did I show that every day. While trying to outwardly be an amazing person, I was actually becoming someone hateful and ugly. I would get in bed and turn my back. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t forgive, because I never felt like I could step back and work on just myself. I was always working on saving a marriage.

Once I had the time to care for myself and rediscover me, I could see what I needed to do to stop allowing this baggage to follow me around. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying people are at fault for being hurt by someone. That is not it at all. But, how we react is up to us. Once I chose to focus my efforts on loving myself, I was able to move away from my anger. I was able to face the person I had become that allowed myself to react the way I did. My self discovery also required help from friends and family that were honest. Honest to the point that I had to face my demons. I don’t speak up for myself because I am afraid people will walk away from me. I am too eager to please others. What that meant was that I allowed people to stay in my life that weren’t healthy. I was too afraid to be alone to ask them to leave. It also meant I wasn’t always an honest friend. I was too afraid to be honest if something bothered me. All of this is a work in progress and it’s hard work. I can still fall back into my old ways. But I have learned that I don’t have to carry that anger with me. When I take inventory on my life, I don’t have the vacations I used to. Life isn’t always as easy financially. But my happiness is through the roof.

Anger and hatred weigh more than the heaviest of barbells. And we don’t just do 3 sets of 10. We drag it behind us. So, when you hear the term ball and chain, it’s not the people around us that are our balls and chains. It’s our anger and resentment. You don’t have to tell someon you forgive them. They don’t need to ask for forgiveness (most never do). Look at ways to improve yourself, and never look back. Let that shit go.

Consent… Because it’s not just about saying “No”

I found an amazing page with a great definition and guidelines for consent. http://teenhealthsource.com/sex/sexual-consent/

It doesn’t matter what your age, race, gender identity, political affiliation, religion, etc. Consent isn’t just about saying no. It’s about saying yes and enthusiasm. A good example: My daughter has Lyme. She is often in pain and hugs can be miserable for her. I never hug her without consent. And sometimes, I get the teenage response “sure.” You know the one…sure, I will do that but I’m not happy about it. So, while she doesn’t tell me no, and her words say okay, it’s not enthusiastic. It’s not genuine but she doesn’t want to say no because she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings. I opt to not get that hug from her. I can wait for when she is ready for it.

You see, I use that example because consent is not just about sexual touch. That’s a big piece, but any touch can be unwanted and we should respect everyone’s personal space. I am a huge hugger. I am a touchy feely person. But, if I feel the urge to give someone a hug, or just provide a calming touch to the arm, I ask, and read the response.

The other night, my nephew sent me a text all about consent. He found it in the following link: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/698733 . It discusses the fact that consent just isn’t really enough. Consent should include negotiations. These negotiations should not just include whether or not to have sex, but also how to exit sex. Yes, exit. Because many things can happen between consent and the end of sex that could change one party’s mind. There must be an exit plan also. Dare I say it…Vanilla relationships should also have a safeword. And the inbetween should be negotiated too. What do you like? What woulld you like to explore? What are your hard limits, things you expect to never be asked to do because you have already set that limit?

I grew up in a pretty sex positive environment. But I still didn’t feel comfortable sharing my fantasies. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was a freak. I am so far beyond that. I really don’t care what people think. If you can accept me for exactly who I am, you probably don’t belong in my life. If not, be with people you can accept. I’m not everyone’s taste. But, when I figured that out, I was able to talk with potential partners and share what I like and what I don’t.

Going into a power dynamic, consent MUST be negotiated. When I look for a partner, I absolutely look for compatibility. But there is so much more that I look at, that I never thought about in a “vanilla” relationship. Safewords are always discussed. Not just how to exit the moment, but how to slow it down or redirect it. “Yellow” – Sir knows if I call yellow, I am starting to not enjoy something. It’s a way to redirect the scene to something that is pleasurable for both of us. “Purple” – well, that means I can’t take anymore and the scene is done immediately. I have talked with my Dominant about my limits and what I don’t want to and won’t do. Yes, we negotiated all of that. But, what’s more amazing, is when you have found a partner that will not just listen for the safewords, but continue to ask if you need to use them. For instance, when I have had a particularly emotional day, I like to be hit very hard. And, I cry. I can’t help it. This is such an emotional release for me. The pain of the belt brings all my emotional pain to the surface and let’s it all out at once. But imagine how that feels to my partner. I am not using my safewords, yet I am crying. He does not just listen for my safewords. He understands that is not good enough. This is about pleasure for both of us, not just him. When tears start, he stops, soothes me, asks if I want to stop…. Think about that for a moment. I have an exit plan in place already…no questions asked…just “purple.” My partner does not wait for “purple.” And he is constantly checking in. No matter how wild or crazy, the check in is a moment of gentleness and kindness. It’s a moment of such intense caring, when he stops and gently rubs my back and whispers “are you okay” or “Let’s stop for a bit and see how you are.” It is one of the sexiest things I can think of.

Vanilla relationships are the same. Shouldn’t we tell our partners in the very beginning what we are willing to offer and what we are not willing to offer? We should ask the same of our partner. Most people enjoy talking about what they like. It can be amazing foreplay. Negotiations will happen throughout the relationship. Limits change all the time. But when you start a relationship with consent in mind, it’s a great way to open up communication, and that’s the biggest part of a relationship.

As I said in the beginning, consent is not just about sex. It’s about personal space. It starts at a young age. If your child does not want to be hugged, respect the personal space. Ask permission before touching someone. Each time someone is asked permission, it empowers that person more to command respect of their body. But here is the thing. None of this will stop all the consent violations out there. Remember, consent is not just about saying No. If you felt unsafe to say no, if you felt you were in a position of not being able to consent, please remember there are resources out there. And never minimize how you feel when you don’t give consent. Rape is not the only consent violation. I have heard people minimize what they went through if it wasn’t rape. Any unwanted touch is a violation. If you’re married, your spouse still needs consent. If you need help, look to your local resources. Most local sexual assault agencies have hotlines. And many have advocates who will respect your decision to report or not. They can help you make the report. And they will believe you. If you find you need medical care, most agencies have advocates who can be there for you through that process too. If you are not sure of a local program, call RAINN at 800-656-HOPE (4673). This is a national hotline and they will connect you with a local provider.

What’s Your Story

I have been taking this amazing class for the last three weeks. It ended last week. That left me feeling a little empty. I felt connected with the class and was so grateful for all I learned. It was a class to become certified as a Peer Recovery Specialist. According to Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services website, https://www.tn.gov/behavioral-health/mental-health-services/cprs/peer-recovery-services/certified-peer-recovery-specialist-program.html, the definition is as follows: a person who has lived experience of a mental illness, substance use disorder or co-occurring disorder, who has made the journey from illness to wellness, and who now wishes to help others. Being a trauma survivor and surviving years of anxiety gives me lived experiences to work with others who feel as though I can relate to their struggles.

Throughout the class, we would occassionally share bits and pieces of our stories. Each person in the class brought such unique gifts. I believe we were a pretty special class. On the second to last day, we all took turns sharing our story from beginning to end. We did not sit around and mope about the struggles in our lives. We each told a story of suffering that led to amazing hope and transformation. We briefly spoke of our bad experiences, but turned it around to show how we all became survivors of what life handed to us. While it was an emotionally draining day, I was so encourged by how resilient people are. And one thing that seemed to be universal, was that when the skeletons are let out of the closet, healing can begin. I have released my skeletons, but not for the whole world. So, here goes.

As a survivor of childhood sexual trauma, my control was taken from me at an early age. As I got older, anxiety set in. I was afraid of things beyond my control. I was up all night with an upset stomach and was distracted in class. There were so many times I felt like I was floating towards the ceiling and watching everything around me. At the time, my toolbox of coping skills was empty. I didn’t know grounding tools to help with the dissociation. I was stuck. Not sleeping led to depression. I either could barely eat or I couldn’t stop eating. I hated my body, I hated that I couldn’t concentrate in class, I hated that I felt isolated from friends because of my anxiety, and mostly, I hated myself.

My anxiety lasted from my third year in college (1993) until May, 2015. What changed? While I had talked a little about my childhood trauma, it still felt like a skeleton. The day I became single, was the day I found the strength to let my voice ROAR. Silence, no more. For me, staying silent meant staying a victim. That day, I did the Linda Carter spin and Wonder Woman was born. I took care of myself. I built a support network that was amazing and didn’t judge me. When I felt myself getting down, I used the tools my therapist gave me to get through. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t an easy road. I fell down a lot. It took another year and a half to start recovering from the depression and really thinking I am worthy of amazing things. I love what I see in the mirror each day. Some days I would like a little fewer rolls, or maybe a little extra time to get myself organized, but all in all, I look in the mirror and I am that little girl that used to run around in those awesome Wonder Woman underoos with so much confidence. I was always her. I just forgot.

Recently, I had someone ask why the hell I would have gotten such a big tattoo for my first one. It’s a reminder to never forget that confident little Wonder Girl who would grow up to be a powerful Wonder Woman and would change the world of some people for the better.

My road to recovery is unique. Just as anyone else’s journey is unique. My experiences will be different than yours. But we can all find ways to relate to one another. I would love to encourage anyone who would like to share their stories to please do so. I would love to hear the amazing things you have to offer. To hear about your amazing strength. And if you aren’t ready to share your story, know that there is nothing wrong with that. Again, this is your own journey. When you’re ready, your path will be paved for you.

“The strength of my soul was born on the backs of moments that brought me to my knees.” S. L. Heaton