You’re Worth It

Yesterday rocked me.  Not in a “this was the best day ever” sort of way.  No, yesterday I was brought to a place of self-loathing and degradation that I haven’t visited for quite a while now.  It happened within a span of maybe 5 minutes, and it was a complete stranger who took me there.  I had never met him before, I had absolutely no opinion of him, or need for his approval of me, or desire to impress or offend him whatsoever.  So much of the time, we focus on how our need for approval from those we love and care about can affect our decisions and feelings and actions.  But it is just as much a reality that the right words, or look, or lack thereof, from a person who has absolutely no previous involvement in your life can uproot deep wounds, and rip the stitches right out of a part of you that you thought was starting to heal nicely.

My initial desire was to jump on this keyboard today and blast the story of what happened to me to the world.  Because, can you believe that guy???  But here’s the truth:  sometimes we can get so caught up in the details of an event that we fail to really make space to process how those details have impacted us.  So instead, here’s what’s on my heart.  Maybe if I write it out for all of you, it will help to remind and encourage me as well.

1. YOU KNOW YOUR BODY BEST.  If you are feeling pain, and someone dismisses the idea that there’s anything really wrong, please remember this:  they are not you, so they are not the authority on your pain.  No two injuries, whether physical or emotional, are the same.  Don’t ever let anyone bully or force you into reducing your suffering to a level that makes THEM comfortable, because that decision to dismiss yourself could cause your ailment to become worse without the attention it needs and deserves, and it will cause intangible pain–in the form of second guessing yourself in the future–that far exceeds what you’re experiencing in the moment.  YOU are the authority on YOU, and you should ALWAYS fight like hell to protect and care for yourself, because you’re worth it.

2. BANDAIDS DON’T FIX BULLET HOLES.  Taylor Swift can preach.  This statement doesn’t only holds true when addressing a former friend who’s done you wrong.  It also fully applies to the level of care and love you give yourself.  We are so quick to throw a bandaid on our wounds and keep on going, because any strong person would, right?  But do you know what happens when a broken bone isn’t set and casted and allowed to heal properly?  It’s prone to re-injury in the future…permanent, painful re-injury that is even harder to heal.  So give your injury a chance to heal.  Give your grief time to subside.  Validate your feelings of mistrust when you’ve been mistreated.  You are not a robot.  You are a perfect creation of intricate, delicate, resilient pieces that should be treated with the upmost care and attention, because you’re worth it.

3. YOU DON’T HAVE TO PERFORM FOR ANYONE.  Sometimes, when we’ve been suffering for what feels like forever, we notice that our pain is making those around us uncomfortable.  It’s not that they don’t understand why we aren’t peppy and bright, but we’re conditioned from a young age to respond simply and positively to the question, “how are you?”.  When our response is an honest, but not-so-cheerful response, it can disrupt the perceived natural order of things.  So we (translation=I) tend to start acting peppy even when we’re feeling terrible, because there’s no sense in dragging the world down with us.  Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a lot of worth in thinking positively and optimistically about even the most dismal of situations.  I’m a HUGE believer in not losing hope.  But sometimes you’re exhausted and you need the tiny bit of energy you have left within you to work on the healing process, so you don’t need to waste that energy on entertaining others.  You are allowed to have bad days, bad weeks, bad months, even bad years and it doesn’t make you less of a value to the world around you.  You can and should be honest with the people who love you, and whom you love and trust, because those people, even if they are a little taken back by your admittance of struggle, will continue to love you, and you deserve to feel that love, because…can you guess?  You’re worth it!

4. YOU ARE NOT WHAT SOME JERK DOCTOR WHO HAS KNOWN YOU FOR 3 MINUTES SAYS YOU ARE.  Ok, that example was pretty specifically for myself.  But it’s true for whoever you want to insert into the “jerk doctor” part of the sentence.  There are people who have known you for years and couldn’t possibly make a judgment call on your mental or emotional stability, because you are a constantly changing, evolving, growing human being.  So don’t you for a second let the flippant, rash opinion of a stranger grab a hold of your truth sensors and tell you that you’re less than.  You have strengths, and weaknesses, and intelligence, and reasoning, and abilities that nobody but you has.  You are exactly who you are supposed to be right now.  If you seek the advice of someone about a certain struggle you are having, please weigh carefully what they know of the situation before you take their word as gold.  And if you haven’t solicited their advice, and they aren’t a person who cares deeply about your personal well-being, then screw them.  They do not have permission to make a judgment on any part of your character, or well-being, or physical or mental state, and you certainly do not have an obligation to respond politely or with appreciation for their unrequested garbage.  You always deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, in all situations. Because, and please hear me: You. Are. Worth. It.  il_570xN.755451938_iorq

That Time I Hurt Someone I Loved

I’m really struggling over this post.  I started this blog to be transparent with the world, about hurt, and trauma, and triumphs, and shortcomings.  That last piece is really tough.  I mean, it’s one thing to share with whoever may stumble into this world of mine that I’ve been scarred by the words or actions of others.  But to confess that I have undoubtedly scarred others by my own words and actions?  Ouch.  Big ouch.  Pain-in-my-chest-like-I’m-having-a-heart-attack-but-really-it’s-an-insane-amount-of-anxiety ouch.

Here’s the reality of the situation:  we are ALL guilty of scarring others.  Sometimes we leave little knicks with a snide comment or a bit of gossip.  Sometimes we rip somebody’s chest open and machete the crap out of their heart with words we don’t even sincerely mean, but that can never be fully forgotten or reversed.  And sometimes we chip away at the same wound over and over until a tiny tear is suddenly infected and in need of the type of healing that we aren’t able to offer.  I am guilty of all of these.

My natural inclination is to simply leave it at that.  Hey, well all mess up.  I’ve messed up, I’m human, and I don’t claim to be perfect.  So here’s my apology, world.  I’m sorry for not being perfect.  But that apology has about as much depth and feeling as a #sorrynotsorry meme, and if I’m going to be committed to being raw and real with all of you through these posts, then I need to be willing to share my uglier moments right alongside my moments of strength and triumph.  Here are some mortifying confessions and apologies.  My hope is that some of you will read these and know that you are not the only villain in the world.  I hope you see my mistakes and know that you can rise above ANY mistakes you have made.  I hope you see my heart and it encourages you to pursue your own confessions and apologies, because in those moments of truth there is healing, not only for those you have hurt, but for yourself.  Names have been abbreviated to protect the privacy of anyone implicated.

When I was in the sixth grade, I had a friend who was super cool in my eyes.  Not necessarily “popular” cool, but she owned her hippie style and listened to Pink Floyd when the world was obsessing over Boyz II Men.  I envied her, because I was always hyper-aware of what people thought of me, and she could care less.  She was a great friend to me, and during a time when I was desperate for any escape from what was happening with my step-dad and I at home, she provided a calm, no-questions-asked reprieve as often as I wanted.  I should have been severely protective of our relationship, and willing to go to bat for C at all costs, considering what she meant to me.  Instead, one day she decided to skip school to hang out with her next door neighbor (who was a couple years older than us and a couple notches higher than me on C’s friendship list) and I immediately threw her under the bus (not literally; I was vindictive, not deadly).  I went to one of our teachers at school, and just to make sure no stone was left unturned, I told my parents as soon as I got home, as well.  C got in a lot of trouble, and a part of me felt good about that.  I told myself, and her when she asked why I betrayed her, that it was for her own good, that I didn’t want her to start heading down a bad path, that I cared about her and wanted her to avoid hanging out with bad influences.  On a level, all of that was true.  But real talk, I wanted her exposed poor judgment to somehow reflect how good and honest and responsible I was in comparison.  C, I don’t know how or why you forgave me, but I’m so thankful you did.  You are my oldest friend, and even many years and states removed, you are so loved and cherished.

This next one is a two-part apology, and it’s a big one.  I was barely 16.  A new boy had joined our school and one of my best friends was immediately in love.  He was a bad boy whose parents had sent him to live with his grandparents, and his grandparents asked T’s parents if their good girl daughter could buddy up with him.  T was happy to oblige.  She made it no secret to me that she was interested in him, and a good friend would have respected those boundaries and steered clear.  Not only did I disregard my friend’s feelings by pursuing this boy for myself, but I lied to her about it and snuck around with him behind her back.  I knew that it would upset T if I told her that I liked this guy and wanted to date him.  But if I’m honest, I was way more concerned with protecting my image than with protecting her feelings.  I ended up giving him my virginity.  Here’s where it gets super ridiculous.  I was so worried that he might have impregnated me, that for a couple of weeks I would regularly throw my stomach into my bedpost, hard enough to leave visible bruises all over my mid-section, in hopes of “breaking up” whatever might be forming inside of me.  T, I am so very sorry that I had such little regard for you when you were nothing but loving and giving to me.  I’m sorry that I lied to you and made you question your instincts.  I’m sorry that I was truly a shitty friend to you, because you were, and are, a person who deserves better than what I offered.  To my own body and womb, I am tormented over the naive and terrible choice I made to inflict pain and injury on you.  I am haunted by those actions of mine on a regular basis, and especially as month after month, year after year goes by without the presence of a child growing inside the safe haven that I am constantly worried I might have destroyed single-handedly.

Lastly (at least for the purposes of this post, because I could fill an ocean with my shortfalls), I would like to offer a public apology to my husband, and a confession that pains me most of all.  Yours is an injury I’ve been working on for years, one that I continue to reopen time and time again.  I don’t even know how to word this with finesse, so I’ll just come out with it bluntly.  When I feel hurt by you, my weapon of choice has consistently been to remind you that you’re not worth the fight.  I am so quick to remind you that I wasn’t even sure that I should marry you to begin with, and that I should have trusted those instincts; or that I gave up on us a long time ago, and I’m only still here because you convinced me to stay, but I will easily throw in the towel and move on if you don’t keep me happy.  I’m sure this go-to of mine could be explained away with a myriad of old wounds of my own, or reflexes to protect my own heart, or other similar excuses.  But at the end of it all, I still choose to cut you with words that, in those moments, I’m hoping will make you feel small and inferior and worthless.  That is horrible.  Please know that I will continue to work on removing this wretched behavior from our life completely.  Know that I do love you, so much, and that I am severely grateful that you are my husband, despite the fact that I convey the exact opposite in moments of anger and frustration.  I am especially grateful that you have chosen to continue to work to love me better, to make me feel more loved, even when I haven’t reciprocated.  You are my rock, and I don’t ever want to do this life without you.

My fear right now is that those of you who read this will think less of me, will stop wanting to read what I have to say, or, if you know me, will prefer to bow out of our relationship.  Really, who would want to know a person who has shown such little regard for others?  But maybe someone will relate.  If so, it would mean the world to me if you shared.  Have you ever hurt someone you loved?  Have you ever pursued your own gain at the expense of someone else’s loss?  If sharing in the comments is too daunting (I don’t blame you), you could go the more ambiguous route and tweet me a simple #Imessuptoo @thstangledheart.  If you stick with me after this, THANK YOU for seeing past my failures and loving me anyway.  It means more than you know.  il_570xN.755451938_iorq

This New Respect For Myself

I’m sitting in the airport as I write this. I’m heading to see my parents for a few days. I haven’t seen them in about 8 months, and I’m looking forward to staying up late, eating a giant bowl of cereal while my mom and I gab into the night, or making a run to Lowe’s with my dad, just the two of us, and sharing with him about all the great things happening in my life right now; he’s a terrific listener.  A few years ago, there’s no way I would be taking this random trip alone, and here’s why:

I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life. I don’t think this is the worst thing in the world. Because of my need to focus on the happiness of others, I get to experience these really tender moments of catching someone off guard when they aren’t expecting to be catered to.  I love seeing others feel loved and cared for, especially when it’s someone who doesn’t get to feel that very often. I wouldn’t trade my “gift of service” for anything. But it has its drawbacks, too.  I tend to be so concerned with other people’s comfort and happiness that I will sacrifice my own needs and wants for the cause.  Sometimes this is right and noble and good.  Other times, it’s just silly and it doesn’t benefit the receiver or myself at all.  One area of my life that has been heavily affected by my need to please is my marriage.

Time in therapy has helped my hubby and I realize that our combination of “baggage” is like the perfect storm. For years, we fed off each other’s unhealthy tendencies the same way I pig out at an all-you-can-eat dessert bar: it was sticky and messy and we loved and hated every minute.  My husband brought a strong parenting complex to the same table I was dishing out my “please love me”‘s at. So it played out like this: I would ask for validation for EVERYTHING, which fed into his compulsion to direct me in everything, which reaffirmed my need for his approval, which solidified his bend toward expressing approval or disapproval for every decision I made, and round and round we went. At our worst, I was so nervous about receiving disapproval from my husband that I would hide tic tacs to snack on in secret, because I enjoyed eating them more like candy and he had a strong opinion (that he freely and firmly would express to me, should he see me munching on them) that tic tacs were meant to be eaten one at a time, as any breath freshener should be.  It seems like such a ridiculous issue now, but 3 years ago this was a very real problem for us.  Needless to say, if eating a little box of tic tacs without concern was an issue, the idea of taking a solo trip to see my parents for a few days was a non-issue, because it wouldn’t have even been put on the table to begin with.

At that point in my journey, and in our marriage, I would never have even brought something like this up, because the moment the idea struck my mind, a hundred other thoughts would have talked me out of it.

If I’m gone for 4 days, he’ll have to take care of the dog by himself. 

I shouldn’t be spending money on a trip that’s just for me.

He’a going to have to drive me to the airport and pick me up, and that might be a hassle with his work schedule. 

All of these reasons and more would have convinced me that even bringing up the idea would be selfish, and a waste of time. Because although he wouldn’t tell me “no”, any hint of displeasure was just as definite to me as an actual no would be, and would make me quickly retract my request altogether.  I had such a low regard for my own needs and wants that I would constantly over analyze every decision I wanted to make to determine who it might affect, how it might affect them, and whether those effects might put anyone out on ANY level. If the answer to that last piece was yes, I would retract and rethink my decision, no matter how badly I wanted something or how much it put me out to change my direction.

Then one day my therapist asked me something that changed everything for me. She asked me, “Jennifer, what would happen if you just made that decision for yourself anyway, even if it did upset someone? What’s the worst case scenario, realistically?”

I didn’t have a great answer for her question that day, but the idea has stuck with me and here’s what I’ve discovered: when I consider myself in my decisions, turns out worst case scenario isn’t that bad.  In fact, sometimes–a lot of times–worst case scenario doesn’t even come close to happening! What DOES happen when I trust myself and care for myself in my life choices, is that I gain the respect of those around me.  My husband starts looking to me to make more decisions, because he sees that I’m not only capable, but willing to do that.  My friends become more aware of me in plans that we make, so they happily ask for my input when choosing activities or dining options.  My family is understanding when I say I can’t visit or do certain favors, because I have set boundaries and clear expectations so that nobody expects more from me than I can reasonably provide.  At first, making this shift in my priorities was uncomfortable on an excruciating level. Like, I’m talking painful.  Tears would be shed over asserting to friends that I really DIDN’T want to go to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.  But then it got a little less stressful, and I started feeling a little bolder, and then one day I made a decision for myself and actually felt really good about it!  And I realized that I was worth it.  I AM worth it! I am worth considering, and I am worth making sacrifices for, and the people who love me get JOY from seeing me happy and loving me well.

So tell me, what is your worst case scenario? What do the whispers in your subconscious tell you about your worth compared to others?  Where is your confidence lacking, and what do you think would happen if you flipped the script?  Do you have all those terrible and scary answers in your head right now?  Good.  Now I challenge you to tell those thoughts to bite you, and step out of your box on faith!  Do something for yourself today that is really scary and just trust that it isn’t going to end in tragedy.  Embrace the idea that you might actually find that YOU are worth it!  And if it feels like that thing you want to do is so scary that you’re choking on your fear, grab a glass of water, take a big gulp, and push past that moment, and I promise the other side will be so much more than you could ever imagine.  Let’s change the world by loving ourselves a little better today!  il_570xN.755451938_iorq