Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sorry Not Sorry

So, I was watching a show on my computer the other day with my kids (American Ninja Warrior RULES!!!), and this ad came on.  Usually I mute the commercials, since it's not DVR and I can't skip them, but this one came up and caught my attention IMMEDIATELY! My heart rate picked up, and I wanted to run through the streets shouting, YES!!!!! THIS!!!!!  This is what we need to hear!  Even now, when I think about many of you I know out there, reading my blog, and how excited I am for you to see this, my heart is racing a little!  Please take a minute (literally, it's only 1:01 long) and watch this video.  It is worth every second.  In fact, if you're anything like me, you may watch it a number of times to let the full message truly sink in and let the seed be planted.  Here's the link:  Sorry Not Sorry

There's been some push-back to this video - people saying some stupid thing like "Way to teach women to not be polite".  I disagree.  Vehemently.  I have to admit, this topic gets my water boiling a bit - so to speak.  (You may pick up on this in just a bit).

The message, as I see it, goes so much deeper than many people realize.  We all bring our own stories; our own "filters" into the way we view things.  My "filter" includes not just my story, but the stories of the women I've come across over the past three years. Women who are so tired of feeling like they're the "bad guy" for asking for ______ (fill in the blank).  Women who have been gaslighted and told they were being too demanding; expecting too much; too co-dependent and should be focusing on themselves NOT the behavior of their SA; women who have been told they need to "move on" and "heal", even though safety has NOT been established in the relationship.

The result, far too often, has been that we feel like we have to apologize for wanting what we want.  Like wanting a healthy relationship is unreasonable.  Like wanting to feel safety in our relationship is asking WAY to much.  Like wanting to see evidence of change or remorse or desperation for freedom (from our SA) is just absurd!!!

I'm sorry, but I'M NOT SORRY!!!!
Add c

  • I'm NOT sorry that I expect my SA to live like he's desperate to be free - for life!
  • I'm NOT sorry that I require honesty and accountability in his recovery AND in our relationship!
  • I'm NOT sorry that I expect my SA to connect with and validate the pain I've felt and CONTINUE to feel due to his past acting out, and the collateral damage it's brought us!
  • I'm NOT sorry for wanting and expecting fidelity from myself AND my partner!
  • I'm NOT sorry for being broken, feeling broken, and needing things because of my brokenness!


Now hear me - I'm NOT saying I expect perfection.  I'm NOT saying that I don't expect recovery and healing to be a difficult, messy, and LONG road.  I know this takes time and hard work - I DON'T expect either of us to get there overnight.

I'm also NOT using this as an excuse to be demanding.   I don't use the things I want as something to hold over my SA's head.  This is not my point NOR my heart.

What I am saying is that I refuse to apologize, back down from, or feel like I have to beg for what is healthy and good.  And you don't have to, either.

What I am saying is that I will live my life, free from guilt, expecting certain things from the person I am in relationship with.  I will ask for those things, with love and respect - knowing I will gladly give in return anything I am asking for.  And so can you.

I will say I'm sorry when the situation calls for it (after all, I'm not perfect!).  I will say my "please" and "thank you's" - because I believe people have value, and I want to treat them as such - not for some stupid rule, and DEFINITELY not because I feel I owe it to them.

So, now I've shared my little impassioned speech on the topic of "sorry, not sorry"... what does this stir in you?  How do you relate?  Do you or have you struggled with this in your past?  Are you stuck there now?  If not, what helped you find empowerment?  

If this is a message you hear from people around you, and don't know how to respond, let me know.  I'd love to help you find the tools you need to be able to live from a place of "sorry, not sorry"!

Until next time, ladies, take care!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Musings on Authenticity

So, this post is a first for me, and I'm very excited.  Humbled, honored, and excited.
Curious yet?  I got my first request to blog about a specific topic!!!  
One of the women that reads my blog emailed me and asked me to blog about the topic of authenticity, and the challenges PSAs face as it pertains to this difficult attribute.  It came on the heels of my post about kintsugi, and was inspired by a blog she read about the "habits of highly authentic people". For a look at that blog, follow this link:
I've been chewing on this topic for almost two weeks now.  Questioning myself; reflecting on what it's taken for me and others I've observed to be authentic; letting the thoughts grow and refine over time.

So, where do I start?  

I'm kind of a word nerd.  I'm not too great with spelling, but the meanings of words are interesting and powerful to me.  So, let's start there.  What, EXACTLY, does authentic mean?  There are variations, depending on which source you use, but the online Merriam-Webster dictionary describes authentic as: "real or genuine; not copied or false... true and accurate".  We can take it one step further and go to Wikipedia, to read the "philosophical" definition of authenticity.  Here it is: "authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures."
Being authentic is a struggle.  Period. ESPECIALLY for women - We're told how a "lady" should act, talk, look, dress... We're pressured both externally and internally to conform to what society says is "attractive", "fun" or "desirable". Being a little tongue-in-cheek, I'll quote Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice... 
"No (woman) can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with.  A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved."  I love Elizabeth's response to this, "I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women.  I rather wonder now at your knowing any."  (Side note - if you've not seen this movie, I HIGHLY recommend it!)
In addition to that, we live in a culture that repeatedly tells us to present our best self.  Our strengths; our accomplishments - those are the things we put on display for others to see.  If we were to expose our weaknesses - the things we DON'T like about ourselves - well, we're conditioned to believe that people will run for the hills if they knew those parts of us.
So, authenticity, even in "normal", everyday life, is difficult to live in OR find in others.
Add to that the complexities of being (or having been) in relationship with a SA.
According to the blog referenced above, authentic people could be summed up like this: They take care of themselves, exude and invite transparency, know themselves well, make the most of every situation, listen to others, don't complain, take full responsibility for their lives, support others, have high self-esteem, and don't get upset when someone doesn't like them.  I feel like Elizabeth - are there really any such people?!?  I'd be surprised if you know of any!
Now, I don't know about you, but the more I read and reflected on the messages of this blog, the more frustrated and angry I became.  *Point of clarification - I'm not disagreeing with this other blog, just challenging how this "simplistic" approach to authenticity is EXTREMELY difficult to MOST PSAs, not to mention minimizing of the damage that has been done to us.  There are nuances here that with a little change of wording or explanation can make a WORLD of difference to a PSA. 
She states, (Authentic people) "aren't afraid to express their opinions even though those opinions might be different than the opinions of the majority".  Well, as nice as this sounds, when you've been in a relationship where there is gaslighing, this is easier said than done.  Over years and years of your opinion being questioned and challenged by the person who's supposed to be on your side - well, you eventually begin to doubt that your opinions are valid or accurate.  If this goes on long enough, you begin to not only doubt your opinion - you loose it.  You don't even know what your opinion is anymore!  How can you express your opinion if you don't know what it is?!!!
"Being driven by inner-motion rather than external triggers".  In addition to the afore mentioned issues PSAs have with knowing and trusting their "voice" (or as this woman says, "inner-motion"), this statement, to me, is a bit minimizing of the trauma-response that PSAs have to deal with.  This isn't just a "mind over matter" kind of thing.  When we're triggered, we go into a trauma-response on the BIOLOGICAL level.  The amount of effort and intentionality required to "be driven by inner-motion rather than ... triggers", especially in the beginning of our journey (OR, if our SA is not stable in his recovery, and thus continually re-traumatizing us), is ENORMOUS.  
Our stories are different, but put them all together and PSA's have been gaslighted, dis-empowered, forced to face consequences that have NOTHING to do with their choices, told we're the reason for the issue/we're not good enough, and been isolated.  
So, what's the answer?  How do we, as PSAs, go about this fight to gain authenticity?  
As I was thinking about this topic, I was reminded of that movie, "Runaway Bride".  A part of the story that has always stood out to me was a very subtle part of the plot.  As Richard Gere's character was interviewing the grooms that Julia Robert's character had run away from, he always asked them, "How did she like her eggs?"  Their answer.... "_______, just like me." The point was that she always liked whatever kind of eggs the guy she was with liked - she didn't know herself. At the end of the movie, she takes time to find herself.  She even cooks eggs every way you can to figure out which style of eggs she likes the best.  

My point?  Authenticity begins with knowing yourself.  Or, in some cases, rediscovering who you are.  Some of us have lost so much of ourselves that doing this will take a lot of work!  

As I see it, authenticity requires three things: knowing yourself, accepting yourself, and sharing yourself (living out who you truly are).

So, firstly, what are some keys to finding yourself again?  I pose three questions to help you find yourself -either again, or deeper than you know now... (You should know, these three questions can't be answered quickly; this is a PROCESS that takes time, intentionality, and energy.)

     1. Who am I?
  • What am I good at?
  • What do I like about myself?
  • How would my friends describe me?
  • Where am I weak?
  • What do I NOT like about myself?
Here's where I change the wording of things.  In the way I look at it, authentic people don't necessarily focus on "self-esteem" (the confidence in one's own worth or abilities; self-respect) , but rather acceptance of who they are.  Acceptance.  Meaning, acceptance of yourself; acceptance that there are beautiful, wonderful things about you AS WELL AS broken and "ugly" things, too.  There's no need to defend your brokenness - you are what you are.  Stand in the freedom of being okay with who you are, right now, knowing that you are on a journey toward healing and wholeness.  

     2. Who do I want to be?
  • What characteristics do I want to exhibit?
    • As a person
    • As a wife/girlfriend/fiancee, etc
    • As a mom
    • As a friend
  • What do I see as beautiful and valuable...
    • Internally
    • Externally
  • How do I want to react/respond when faced with...
    • Triggers
    • Communication breakdowns
    • Scary or difficult circumstances
This is where vision comes into play.  Take away all the "What if's", and just let yourself imagine how you most wish you could be - ENVISION it!  Don't let any of the "I should be ... or I should want... or I should do..." enter into this visioning time.  We are trying to know ourselves - NOT what other people MIGHT say we should be.  This is also where thinking outside the box and trying new things can come into play.  Sometimes, a shift in perspective makes a huge difference - look at rediscovering yourself as an adventure, not a chore.  Have fun with it!

     3. What can I do to become this person?
  • Are there books or articles written on the virtues I want to grow in?
  • Are there activities that will draw out the qualities I want to exhibit?
  • Is there something new I can try that will help me get in touch with my likes and dislikes?
The last thing I see authentic people doing is sharing themselves.  As a PSA, this can be tricky - who can I share my true struggles and brokenness with? Who is safe?  This, to me, is where the value of support and process groups come in.  Whether it's one of my groups, S-Anon, COSA, church group... a "community" of authentic people is the best place to find healing and freedom; to live out our authentic selves.  If the group dynamic is too overwhelming to you, not appealing to you, or not available to you, then finding a person here or there - whether it's family, friends, or a helping professional - is crucial to living out authenticity. 

The other blogger said, "These (authentic) people are rare – it takes courage and self-confidence to be who you really are despite...".  I would agree.  It takes A LOT of courage - ESPECIALLY when some of us have been so knocked down - to take on this challenge of finding, accepting, and sharing ourselves.  But there's a freedom and empowerment that comes along with living from an authentic place.  I believe it's worth the effort, and then some.

How about you?  Where do you run up against roadblocks to being authentic?  What kinds of qualities do authentic people you know exude?  

And to my reader who requested this topic - I hope you have enjoyed this post.