Archive by Author

The Sound of Gravel–Book Review 

16 Sep

There’s no place like home–unless it’s a shanty reeking of mice droppings without indoor plumbing and hot showers and there are live wires hidden everywhere. The house Ruth Wariner grew up in was more like a booby trap than a home.

Located in the village of Colonia LeBaron, her childhood home was in a compound started by her grandfather and led at one time by her father who was considered a prophet in the Church of the First Born of the Fulness of Times–a spinoff of what most would call fundamentalist Mormonism. Ruthie never knew her father because he was murdered by his brother in an act of Cain and Abel betrayal. She was not even given her father’s name. Her father had dozens of children. But this story is not about Ruth’s father, but rather what transpired as the result of her mother becoming the second wife of another man. This is the story of betrayal and survival, poverty and resilience and a story of teenage hate for her narcissistic step father and a pitiful love for her mother.

We rejoice with young Ruthie as she discovers her new friends are actually her half-sisters and she finds out she is not alone. We sigh with annoyance every time her mother becomes pregnant because we wonder how she will be able to clothe and feed yet another mouth in this world where men are rarely home to help with the chores because they are off spending time with another wife.

Although I was NOT raised in a Mormon cult, I once again found some things in common with a polygamist’s daughter. I’ve also reviewed The Witness Wore Red by Rebecca Musser. Despite the similarities of growing up with Mormon fundamentalism, these two women’s stories are quite different just as two Baptists, Catholics or Adventists can have completely different stories.

I like to think of memoirs as true life fairy tales where young girls who spend their childhoods cooking and cleaning and babysitting get to find joy eventually. We can learn from each of our stories and we need all of our stories to build a better future.

So back to what I found in common with Ruthie:

1. The most obvious was her physical situations which included constant moving, using an outhouse and sleeping in inadequate beds and shivering in the cold without heat due to extreme poverty and lack of electricity and hot running water. Which is mostly the result of the second thing I found in common.

2. We were both raised in a religion focusing on isolation from the world where a call to separate from Babylon includes conspiracy theories and fear of the government. A dream to be self-sufficient and prepared for the desolation or time of trouble. This includes conversations and fear messages about the end of the world with an emphasis on salvation by works.

3. While Ruth’s step father and mother did things my own parents would call unthinkable, there was a common thread of constant moving, parental control, lost education, teaching children to lie when it’s convenient for the parent and using children as house slaves while taking their money. Her step father has all sorts of broken down cars he plans to fix which once again I can relate to only too well.

4. There are many smaller similarities which bring familiarity to Ruthie’s story for me. My first memory is of my own mother baking bread in juice cans and sorting dried pinto beans. Ruthie grew up sorting beans and baking in juice cans too. Like myself, she was the main daughter that her mother relied on to care for the younger children. It’s like our mothers got the same memo on how to raise a daughter to do your chores.

There were two very ironic moments in the book for me, the first was where her grandparents shook their heads sadly and said they felt powerless to help their daughter and grandchildren because of her step dad. I’ve seen such shaking heads only too well–although I did not understand the depth of it until I left home. Her step dad asking her grandparents for a loan to buy a trailer for them to live in was de je vu for me too.

Speak the Truth, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13762555-speak-the-truth-healing-flowers?asc=u&c=540575-healing-flowers

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The second most bizarre moment for me was about music. It seems like such a little thing, but music connects us with hope and one of my biggest struggles with my father throughout my childhood was his oppression in trying to control my music. The scene where Ruthie’s step father listens to Kenny Rogers “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille,” while Ruthie begs him to listen to John Denver’s “Country Roads,” could’ve been taken from a chapter in my own book with the exact same songs. As a matter of fact I have a chapter written which includes these songs in a different order but reading Ruthie’s version freaked me out.

Other than these things, whatever harm my parents allowed by their actions was mild in some ways compared to the negligence of Ruthie’s mother and the evil of her stepfather. My own parents would consider the things Lane her stepfather did unconscionable. And my mother is a germaphobe who would bleach any signs of mice droppings and never serve me a fly in my food. However as we all know from counseling we cannot compare our stories as one being worse than the other. All abuse is abuse regardless.

Without giving away the plot, let me just say Ruth Wariner survived the unthinkable several times over, yet she wisely tells her story with the innocence of childhood, much like Jeannette Walls does in “The Glass Castle.” As Wariner describes her family’s drama in understated tones, she chronicles her private traumas with skill and uses her real life plot twists to keep the reader turning page after page wondering what else could possibly happen to this girl.

This book contains triggers of various kinds, so read at your own discretion with a box of tissues. However Ruth does NOT write as a victim, she writes as a shining star–one who shines most brightly against the darkness of evil. In the end, Ruthie triumphs against the face of false religion and abuse and learns to speak the truth–even when her voice shakes.

Ruth Wariner, thank you for sharing your story in The Sound of Gravel with the world. You truly deserve your place in the Sheroes Hall of Fame!

The Hidden Elephant of Narcissism

9 Sep

There’s a phrase, the elephant in the living room,
which purports to describe what it’s like
to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser.
People outside such relationships will sometimes ask,
“How could you let such a business go on for so many years?
Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?”
And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation
to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth:
“I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in.
I didn’t know it was an elephant;
I thought it was part of the furniture.”
-Stephen King

The Persuader came after me twice when I was seventeen. Once was for not cleaning the kitchen fast enough and the second time for running away because my parents wouldn’t let me go to school.

I recently wrote a book review for a book by Shannon Thomas titled Healing from Hidden Abuse. I found her book compelling because she uses the term “hidden abuse.”  I hadn’t heard that term before but I really like it. I like it because for most of our lives those of us who grew up with narcissism in our families struggled with invisible bruises and scars. Like the elephant hiding in the room, we couldn’t always see it for what it was, but we felt it. And we aren’t alone.

The neighbors didn’t see it. The pastor didn’t see it. The teachers didn’t see it. The grandparents didn’t see it. Aunts and uncles didn’t see it. Because the abuse was hidden. It was hidden behind closed doors. Shame poured on like syrup on pancakes if we didn’t go along. It was hidden in the dark corner of the house and the darkest corner of our souls where so many times we couldn’t even see it ourselves. Sometimes it was hidden where nobody could see it except for God.

And the question for many of us is, “Where was God?” We can take comfort in the fact “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9). And Jesus says, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all” (Luke 8:17).

I personally have no desire for vengeance or revenge. I believe such feelings are harmful, but I don’t blame people for having these feelings. It’s easier for me to release resentment because holding a grudge has never been my style. And part of the reason for this is I often didn’t realize how much I was affected by this hidden abuse. I justified my feelings. I rationalized my abusers’ behavior. It was so hidden sometimes I couldn’t even see it.

People have asked me why, thirty years after the fact, I feel a need to write this memoir. Because of hidden abuse. Because the abuse of thirty years ago has left welts on my soul that never seem to heal and it wasn’t until I read Shannon Thomas’s book that I understood why. It’s the secret. The cover up. The denial that I joined in to save my own mind at times. And it would be great to say it’s all water under the bridge, but it’s still not over. When your parents lie and talk about you and try to turn everyone away from you, you know it’s not over.

What bothers me the most, is the lack of honesty. When dealing with right talkers, they see every conversation as a game to win. It seems some want to win by a technicality where they don’t speak an actual lie, but they live one. Or they use that old trick of all politicians and say they don’t remember. They figure if they can just forget an incident I can too. And if we all forget it, it never happened. The problem comes because I am still reeling from the effects of the past and now dealing with the lies repeated to me.

Honest Elephant, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23109846-honest-elephant?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child

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Not every lie sounds like a lie. Sometimes lies are simply a piece or part of the truth. Sometimes lies are told in silence through facial expressions which fail to reveal the heart. Sometimes lies are told by telling a part of the truth and omitting significant details.

Sometimes lies are told with vague words and lack of commitment as some do when they say your outfit is weird or unique or interesting when they really mean it’s ugly. Or when they ignore the rest of the truth and speak only enough of the truth to entice the listener to accept their words as the end of the conversation when in reality so much more has happened and needs to be discussed.

I think the worst lies are those said to appease the conscience. When some says I love you, but they can’t stand you enough to call you once a year or share what is going on in their own life because they merely call you to say they called you or to get information to carry back to the narc.

This is how I was taught to be dishonest as a child. To prevaricate and rationalize our position to soothe conscience and say the least I could, so as to not to be caught in a lie. It might seem like a white lie, but such subtle techniques destroy relationships and families. And it helps us confuse God with our parents which is just another lie.

As I think about my life and where I long to be, it’s always, always in that place of honesty where faces are true and we can look into each other’s eyes and not hide a thing. I crave emotional honesty. I soak up spiritual honesty where our stories are messy, but we can tell the truth about our dirty secrets anyway.

A huge part of the pain of this hidden abuse continues because of the secrets we have had to endure and the fact we can’t mention the past long enough to heal because it might offend the narc. So yeah, thirty years later and we still don’t talk about it. I am reminded of an episode of the Judds where Ashley told her sister about her memoir. Wynonna was upset and said, “Why did you have to do that?” And Ashley replied, “Because you and mom wouldn’t listen any other way.”

My heart ached for Ashley. She gets it because she has lived through hidden abuse. Sometimes people don’t respect us and probably won’t respect us–even when we write the memoir, but we must respect ourselves because our stories matter and God himself does not ask us to hide in the dark.

Meet me at the place of honor
Where past is not a dirty word
And memories–good and bad,
Can both be heard.
Where truth we welcome and lies we shun.
With nothing between us, we can be one.
-Cherilyn Clough

How to Thrive After Narcissistic Abuse

7 Sep

It’s been three years since a friend invited me to join a private group on Facebook. I didn’t believe the group was for me so I ignored the first request. After a second offer, I joined to be polite. Within an hour I found the answer to a puzzle that had been plaguing me for most of my life. I discovered the traits of narcissistic personality disorder and on the eve of my fiftieth birthday, God gave me the great gift of understanding and peace.

I’d been writing a blog about God and my own questions and doubts, but this understanding of NPD healed my struggles on a new level because it helped me realize it wasn’t God who had abandoned me, it was my parents.

If you are new to understanding Narcissism, here are three tips that have saved my life:

  1. Find Community and Support for Your Dreams

No one can face life alone. We were created for community, but many of our narc parents didn’t stay in community. We were forced into isolation because we grew up moving a lot or had to avoid people to keep the family secrets behind closed doors.

Finding a good therapist and group of healthy friends is your most important job. No one can survive alone and by making you the scapegoat, the narcissist wants you to feel you have no one to turn to, but the good news is the world really is full of loving people.

  1. Don’t Let Others Define You

The Narc can try to put you in a box or send you out from the camp as the scapegoat, but this says more about the narc and flying monkeys than it does about you.

There is a line the Narc likes to use: “If everyone else has a problem with you, then you must be the problem.” This is a narc fantasy and only works for the narc in their limited world. Think about it. How many friends does the narc have? I’m not talking about Facebook connections which are mostly acquaintances. I’m talking about real friends who live in community with them for years. Most narcs don’t have many friends because they are judgmental and litigious. They either can’t stand people who don’t meet their needs or they sue them.

The Narc might think of you as the scapegoat, but what does this say about them? They are cowards who use group think to control others? They are so ashamed of their own choices they would rather lie about you than let you speak the truth about them?

What does it say about you that you have been used as their scapegoat? You must’ve been courageous enough to speak the truth or taken a stand that defied their plans. This means you stood out in the crowd by thinking for yourself.

  1. Re-Parent Your Child Inside

Every person will need to decide for themselves what they missed as a child and what they need today. I believe it’s possible to be re-parented by God. God showed me what Narcissism is on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. It was a painful blessing, but this road led to peace because now I have a name for this hidden abuse.

Keep your eyes open and read the gospels because as time goes by, you will find little signs from Abba that you are his beloved! We are all his beloved, but only a few seem to grasp this concept.

As I began my recovery from narcissistic abuse, I began to paint and write about what I discovered. This has helped a lot of people and I really can’t take credit for it because I’m just passing on what has been given to me. I have dedicated this year to writing my memoir and writing my stories has brought a lot of healing and peace too.

Memoir Elephant, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23081518-memoir-elephant?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child

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I’ve had flying monkeys question me about my blog and upcoming book as though I am writing to hurt my parents. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love my parents no matter what they’ve done or not done for me. I simply wish to have an open and honest relationship with my family because the dysfunction and lies were making me sick and I was forced to take the road less traveled if I wanted to be true to myself and God.

After years of combing through my memories and writing about it, I want to paraphrase my own version of that famous quote by Eric Lidell: God gives me insights from my life and despite the pain, when I write, I feel his pleasure.

In writing this memoir, I have learned a secret:

Memoir is not about the mean things that happened–it’s finding meaning in the things that happened.

Why You Need to Talk with Your Younger Self

25 Aug

Have you ever met a stranger who reminds you of your Grandma? Or reminds you of a mean aunt who verbally abused you? When we react to other people and various stimuli, we are often reacting to our past experiences. These clues might seem like nothing at first, but consider how the triggers of the past influence the decisions and relationships we have today. This is why you need to have a talk with your younger self.

Do you love the smell of crayons and hate the smell of dodge ball rubber? This could be your seven year old self sending you messages about how fun it is to make art and how dangerous it is to get hit with an ugly red ball. Do you love certain songs and hate others? Perhaps this is your teenage self feeling nostalgic or remembering a sad episode of your younger life.

There is meme circulating through social media telling us to stop looking in the rear-view mirror. It reasons looking back is wrong because that’s not where we’re headed. It seems like sound advice until we remember there’s a very important reason for the rear-view mirror–to protect us from backing up into places we don’t want to go.

The rear-view mirror could even save your life by avoiding an accident. If we ignore the rear-view mirror we might crash, but a smart driver understands when to look in forward and when to look in the mirror. It’s the same way with remembering the past and planning the future.

Your body and character might have changed, but deep in your mind, there is still a place where that little child resides in fear or joy and longs for love. You can’t ignore that voice because it influences your life today.

I’m all the ages I’ve ever been.
-Anne Lamott

Life is mostly going forward, but sometimes we run into situations that require looking in the rear-view mirror. To refuse to listen to your younger self is like backing up without looking in the mirror.

Elephant Girl, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13518803-elephant-girl-inner-child?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child

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One reason we need to remember our past is to make wrongs right. If you have a narc parent, they won’t help you do this. As a matter of fact they will do everything they can to discourage you from remembering the past. Their behavior is not about you, but about them because they aren’t proud of the way they treated you. They will say why can’t you forgive and forget? Why do you have to live in the past? They will talk about you to other people because they would rather lie about you than hear the truth about themselves. They will send in the flying monkeys to shame you for remembering the past.

(I’ve been accused of living in the past but I am a seven on the enneagram.  If anybody knows anything about an enneagram seven, they realize we love to think about the future and care very little about the past.) It doesn’t really matter what others say, remembering the past is a gift we can give ourselves.

For one thing it’s impossible to completely forget the past, because the body remembers what the mind forgets. There is a place in the brain that stores our memories and sometimes without even trying, a memory comes back and slaps us in the face. This is body memory.

Those of us who were belted can feel it all over again whenever we see or hear a belt slapping against something. My body has never forgotten the stinging on the back of my legs or the bruises as they formed. To even see the belt section on a department store as a middle aged woman has freaked me out.

One conversation I’ve had with my younger self is to explain how the belt was wrong. I didn’t deserve to be belted over and over in anger. This was not based on a true understanding of scripture. When the twenty-third Psalm states “Thy rod comforts me,” it’s not talking about a beating. Shepherds don’t beat their sheep.

It’s important for you to remind your little girl or boy inside they are no longer in danger and no one can harm them now. It’s okay to speak your truth and it’s okay to tell your stories. People who are angry or shun you because you choose truth don’t deserve to be in your life.

As I am writing a childhood memoir, I’ve enjoyed connecting with my younger self. I’ve learned I can love this little girl inside and protect her. I’ve had to teach her a few things like the fact she can’t eat all the junk food she wants. I’ve had to teach her to exercise more and that self-care is not selfish. I’ve had to teach her it’s totally okay to say no to projects she’s not interested in and it’s always right to avoid unsafe people.

I’m also teaching her it’s okay to put on nice perfume and get your hair done and dance with your husband and go on a road trip and take time to smell the flowers. The lessons I’m teaching my little girl are endless. I care for her like I would a real child because I’m giving her the love and freedom she didn’t get years ago.

What about you? How are you talking to your hidden child?

Here are some ideas you might want to try:

Have you reminded her how Jesus cares about her heart?

Have you helped her accept the apology she never got?

Have you discovered how she was asked to play a game she could never win?

Did one of her parents or both use her as a mirror?

What are the rules she grew up with that need to be rewritten?

Remember to make this fun, give your child the freedom to dance, rock out, make art, vote as she likes, dress to express herself and tell her stories.

It is never too late to give yourself the childhood you’ve always wanted.

How to Know When It’s NOT Your Fault

18 Aug

When I was five years old, I was standing outside the swimming pool when my mother asked me to watch my one year old brother while she went inside to get my new born sister who was crying. I watched my brother faithfully. I watched him flip over on his little paddle board. I watched his feet kicking in the air. I watched him just like she told me to until she ran back out the back door and thrust my baby sister into my arms and flipped him right side up. Like a good baby, he was holding his breathe. My Mom was naturally upset, but then she accused me of trying to drown my brother. For the most of my life, she has referred to this as “the time you tried to drown your brother.”

My dad came home and gave me a pep talk on how since I am the oldest, I need to watch out for the younger ones. This led to a lifetime of me serving my family long after my siblings were adults. By birth order, I felt responsible to make other people happy.

After studying child development in college, I discovered something about this incident. Children under the age of eight process words literally because they can’t think in abstract. I was a normal child who had no intentions of harming anyone. To be labeled as someone who tried to harm a sibling was unfair, but my mom probably didn’t realize this at the time. Plus I was standing outside the pool. I had no training for lifesaving. We had just put up the pool for my sister’s birthday and she took to it like a fish, while I was afraid of the water.

My mother gave me an impossible task and I was asked to play a game I could never win. What was even more unfair was the responsibility put on me by my father to serve my family at such an early age. This included cleaning house and childcare at that age, but later turned into giving them my babysitting money and later providing for my relatives and paying their bills while I often neglected my own. I was taught to put everyone else first because that is what Jesus required of me. Like Carol Cannon says in her book, Never Good Enough, “I learned to give myself away before I even had a self.” While the Circle of Giving requires us to give, such giving can only come from the heart.

My Own Person, cherilynclough.com,http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/15253730-my-own-person-sunflower?asc=u&c=540742-survive-to-thrive

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Fast forward a few years and this concept of being responsible for others was extended when I was high school aged and wanted to go to school. My mom said not to mention my depression about not going to school because it might cause my dad to have a heart attack. She was asking me to choose between having a high school education and supposedly killing my father. There are names for this kind of gaslighting. My mother in law calls it a mind-F_, but to be nice for the internets, I will call it a mind-warp. It’s the same thing.

If you grew up with a narcissistic parent, chances are you have been given impossible mind-warps. Perhaps you felt responsible for the rest of your family.  Maybe you’ve even been told you will be responsible if you go no contact because someone was abusive to you. I have a friend who was accused of giving his mother cancer because he didn’t allow her to continue verbally and emotionally abusing him. These accusations are not only cruel and unfair, they are just plain wrong.

I had a friend who was suicidal a few years ago and I spent hours–no weeks listening to this person talk for hours on end. I tried to do everything they taught me as a volunteer at helpline. I did my best and yet this person lied about me and later told others I made it all up. That’s the day I walked away from the role of hero I accepted when I was five. Today, relationships have to pass three criteria if someone wants to stay in my life—respect, honesty and taking responsibility for their own choices.

  1. Respect

Many narcissistic people have very little respect for others. They would like to use your time and money and anything you are willing to give them to meet their needs. This is called narcissistic supply or narcissistic feed. It could be money or it could be ego stokes. In either way, the narc wants to use you. When you realize someone merely wants to use you, it’s time to move on, because there is no relationship without respect—anything less is simply a transaction. I say let them get a job and go to their own bank.

  1. Honesty

Very similar to respect, there is nothing to base a relationship on without honesty. Otherwise people are just pretending to be someone they are not. This is what happens when someone falls in love with a narc. Or even the fantasy of a trauma bond that some people cling to when their parents are proven incapable of loving them unconditionally. Even if you could believe their lies and ignore reality, you still wouldn’t have a real relationship. Don’t let people lie to you.

If someone uses you and then they lie about how they used you, it’s time to realize you are not their kind of people. You’re not the one making the choices here, the person who uses you and lies to you and about you is responsible for their behavior and lying and pretending to be someone they are not has consequences. Which brings us to number three—taking responsibility for self.

  1. Each Person is Responsible for Their Choices and Behavior

We are always responsible for self before we can be responsible to others. And there is a big difference between being responsible for others and being responsible TO others. When you have a job, you are responsible to do whatever you have agreed to do, but you are not responsible for how the other person reacts to what you do.

When you fly, you are told to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others. This is not selfish, but the only way to help others. To say putting on the mask will kill someone else who refuses to put on their own mask is unfair. They might never say that on a plane, but people use similar distortions in real life all based on the false idea we are responsible to please others while they abuse us and lie about us. I don’t buy it.

When people blame us because this person might die or will never be the same because we asserted our right to live drama free without manipulation, those blaming us are simply shifting the responsibility around. This is often the heart of dysfunction and codependency–refusing to be responsible for self and while blaming others for our choices. Yes, there was a time when I bought things for people instead of paying for my own bills, but it was my choice and when we know better, we do better. I can own that responsibility and I own the responsibility today to allow only true relationships in my life.

There are still warped people who will blame you for the choices others make because you supposedly failed to cover (lie) for them. It’s not you, it’s the narc. There will always be ignorant people who accuse you of not honoring your parents because you stood up for truth and respect. You won’t be able to help the blind, but remember this for yourself–honesty is always, always married to honor. You can’t have honor without honesty and you can’t honor someone who lies to you and about you.

Most of these mind-warps would be hilarious if they weren’t true and just in a movie. But sadly, mind-warps are the symptom of broken relationships with self. Before the narc had a broken relationship with you, they had a broken relationship with their own self. They refused to be honest with self and failed to give themselves respect and in turn, stopped being responsible for their own choices and looked for a scapegoat to continue their fantasy.

I’ve rarely met someone who is estranged from their parents or child who doesn’t still love them. It’s true there is a difference between narc shunning and no contact, but most people who go no contact only did it as a last resort because continuing to have contact was too much for their own health and sanity.

When people break any relationship by acting in dishonorable and disrespectful ways, you can still love them and pray for them from a distance even when they won’t say sorry, but you are not responsible for their choices and you are not obligated by scripture to meet their needs or hang out with them. Allow me to repeat, you are not responsible for the choices of others. God created us to live in freedom and it is not right to allow others to take it from us.

So How are We Responsible to God and Others?

God has asked us to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), but how does this play out with those who are abusive to us? To do justly means once again to be honest and fair. This means we don’t pretend hitting children is okay. We don’t lie to protect the family secrets. We do justly because God does justly and God never changes or denies who He is to soothe the minds of warped human beings.

To love mercy, means we will be open to letters of apology and treat even those who have harmed us in a kind manner. Our God is a God of second chances and when someone sincerely asks us for a second chance, we can offer hope to them. But—(and when dealing with narcs there is a big but)–the person who has been abusive in the past will need to show sincerity and ask with honesty or it’s not real.

To walk humbly with God reminds us of the proverb, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” We are not better than others. We do not esteem even our abusers as less human or less made in the image of God than ourselves. We have simply learned there can be no relationship without these three—respect, honesty and responsibility. For those sincerely willing to try living an authentic life with these three criteria, we can always open the door, because with God, all things are possible.

Healing from Hidden Abuse Book Review

6 Aug

It’s not the load that breaks us down–heaven knows if we could see it all at once we might just shift our hips and find a better way to carry it–no, it’s the shrapnel of life that keeps turning up in our relationships or the gloom we feel when we’re alone due to the painful reality of a heart being torn out and left bleeding on the couch.

It’s not so much the shape of the matter as the absence of love–like a hole left behind when one piece of scripture is wantonly ripped from the Bible and taken out of context. It’s not the big things that tear us up, it’s a million little rocks in the soup of life that ruin our meals. It’s not the actual mass of the load as much as it is the way a thousand little things stick to our back like ornery burrs on a dog’s coat.

This is why recovery can’t happen all at once or even as fast as we hoped. Have you ever sat in slivers and had to get help in taking each piece out one at a time? That’s basically what recovery from abuse looks like. There ain’t no hurrying what cannot be hurried.

For those who are on this survivor’s journey, you’ve probably discovered healing is a continuous process. Now that we’re awake, we’re always learning new ways to heal and deal with in life. So what can we say to our friends who ask if we are over it yet? The first thing I want them to know is this is still me with a few scars. Like the skin horse in the Velveteen Rabbit, I’ve survived some rough handling, but I’m still here and I am myself now more than ever. I’ve also just read a new book that can help lighten the load.

Healing from Hidden Abuse Book, Shannon Thomas

The book is titled Healing from Hidden Abuse and I’d like to tell you a little about it. The author is a Christian counselor named Shannon Thomas. Her writing style is comforting. Thomas understands what it means to be abused, (I won’t give away her story here) and that might be why this book seems like a like a conversation with a good friend.

At the beginning of the book, Thomas reminds us that abusive people are everywhere—at work, at church, in the family, etc. It’s not enough to get safe from our abuser, because part of our healing is learning how to recognize unsafe people and maintain our boundaries to avoid future abuse.

In the last three years since I learned about narcissism, I’ve read at least a dozen books about abuse and I can tell you this is one of the best. Healing from Hidden Abuse especially hits the mark for ACoNs and those who have dealt with the hidden abuse of narcissism.

The first part of the book is very validating. For many of us who grew up with abuse, it’s been hard to recognize and name this abuse because what we lived through seemed normal to us at the time. I appreciate the way Thomas defines the difference between psychological abuse and emotional abuse. She says people can be emotionally abusive due to drug addictions, alcohol, etc. yet still have empathy for other people, whereas psychological abusers will abuse others because they get some sort of thrill from it.

Regardless of why such abuse happens, one of the most puzzling things for a survivor is the secrecy and clandestine nature of the abuse. When no one else sees what we’ve gone through or the abuser questions us like we are the abuser, it sometimes makes us question ourselves. If this is happening to you, this book will help you realize this is a form of gaslighting.

One of the most healing truths I discovered in this book is that our good points—resilience, empathy, and compassion actually made us targets for psychological abusers who were looking for people like us so they could milk us dry. I have often thought it was a flaw of mine that caused the abuse, but reading this book, I discovered it was not my flaws, but my strengths that allowed me to be targeted by the abuser. If you are the type of person who likes to make lemonade out of lemons, this is truly a book for you. There is nothing wrong with making lemonade–but we need to learn who is safe to share it with.

This book is easy to read, yet it packs a lot of information. I found myself marking the book and going back to re-read pages again. Sometimes I wondered if I would end up marking the entire book. It’s not only a validating resource, but it is also a great reference to have when issues or situations flare up again.

The first section examines patterns of psychological abuse. This book grew out of an online survey as a research project. If demographics are not your thing, just skip that chapter because it basically just affirms why the rest of the book is necessary and why Thomas’s six stages of healing actually work.

Thomas explains many terms we use in recovery community such as flying monkeys, hoovering, smear campaigns, love bombing, etc. I’ve written blogs on many of these topics before, but I found Thomas’s in descriptions informative and fascinating. I learned a few things here and I am sure you will too.

My favorite part was the recovery section. Thomas reminds us that the word survivor means to carry on despite hardships and to outlast and persevere. She points out the goal of surviving is to remain functional and what last half of the book is about.

This book is packed full of practical suggestion to help you overcome the emotional pain in your life. One of my favorite tips for those who are struggling with no contact is to put a photo collage of all the good things in your life on your phone. This is a reminder of what is going well in your life and why you need to protect your heath and the relationships that matter to you and not waste your time arguing and being emotionally attacked by your abuser.

This book describes in detail six steps of healing from psychological abuse. These are solid and easy steps to understand and follow. And it also includes understanding the ways we have contributed to our own abuse. Yes, we are responsible for the ways we have allowed other people to treat us, but this is not a shame walk, it’s a freedom walk. It’s a place to learn how to avoid landmines in the future.

When I read Thomas’s six stages of healing, I recognized these different stages in my own journey. I am sure you will too.

Here are the Six Stages of Healing

  1. Despair: The realization that life has become unmanageable.
  2. Education: Learning the specific methods of psychological abuse.
  3. Awakening: Awareness that other people have had similar experiences and recovery is possible.
  4. Boundaries: Implementing emotional and/or physical distance with an abuser.
  5. Restoration: Living purposefully to restore what was lost during the abuse.
  6. Maintenance: Returning to earlier stages to heal at a deeper level and maintaining recovery from abuse.

The book gives in depth tips for getting through these stages. If I’d had this book years ago, it would’ve taken the shame away of being scapegoated by my abusers and fast forwarded my healing, but I am grateful to be one of the first to read it now.

I recommend this book to anyone who has suffered any form of abuse and for those who have friends or family in abusive situations. This book is full of tools and wisdom to change lives. Reading it has filled me with clarity and peace.

You Won’t be Left Behind–Unless You Choose to Be

5 Aug

If I could go back in time, I’d go back forty years and give my thirteen year old self some advice: You won’t be left behind–unless you want to be.

It was popular to wear red, white and blue in 1976 because it was the bicentennial year and everyone was celebrating the fact that the United States had survived two-hundred years, but some had doubts it would last another ten.

I’m not sure if there is a plague more hostile to a civil land than conspiracy theories, but in 1976 conspiracy theories abounded. The kids at school the year before had been consumed with rumors about Big Foot and UFOs, but now that we had a born again Christian headed for the White House, the ultimate bogey man—the “mark of the beast” threatened life as we knew it. My parents didn’t send me to school that year because they figured it was the end of the world and Jesus would come before I grew up.

Jimmy Carter was running for president and nearly everyone I knew was against him. He was despised for being a Baptist and laughed at for being a peanut farmer. People hated that his sister was a woman preacher and his brother was a drunk. The people at church said Carter would destroy the separation between church and state and bring on a national Sunday law to force all of us to worship just like him.* They even said it was the beginning of the time of trouble.

There were other signs of the end around us, we had just gone through a terrible energy crisis and what could signal the end of the world more than running out of fuel? Another natural alarming sign was the fact that Mount Baker had started letting off steam the year before and everyone was wondering when it would blow. It was particularly scary because I lived on an island in the shadow of Mount Baker and the thought of being stranded on an island in the middle of a pyroclastic flow brought on nightmares of the apocalypse.

But nothing was as scary as a man who came to church in a trench coat who said he’d worked at the pentagon and stood around telling us conspiracy tales in a suspenseful voice akin to M. Knight Shyamalan. He spoke for hours in an excited voice, but every once in a while he lowered it to a whisper to say he had top secret information, but he couldn’t spill the beans on it. However there were a couple things he could tell us. Because of his high clearance at the Pentagon, he had access to files that proved we were about to have a nuclear war and it was time for us all to move to the country and grow a garden and prepare for the time of trouble.

He also told a story about an unknown man who picked up a couple of hitchhikers who turned out to be angels. The angels only rode a little way before asking to get out at the next exit because they were on business for the Lord. As they got out of the car, just before they dissolved into the Bellingham fog, they whispered to the driver, “Jesus is coming very soon.”

Child's Starry Night, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13707342-childs-starry-night?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child

Prints and Cards Available Here

My dad reminded us that it was time to put our lives in order and give up all sinning, “so we can be perfect before Jesus comes.” He had me memorize the writings of a church founder that said “Jesus would not come until his character was perfectly reproduced in his people.” I really felt the pressure, not only did I wonder how I was going to eat dandelion greens and ferns and hide in the rocks of the mountains, but I was mostly afraid of Jesus.

I’d been baptized the year before and I thought I loved Jesus at the time, but since then, I’d sinned by listening to John Denver. People at church said syncopation was the seat of satanic power. Even though I had paid for it by having a belting, I still liked the devil music and I knew in my heart I wouldn’t stop listening to such music forever.

I had also been told I needed to be right with God because I would have to stand before God without an intercessor. At night, I lay wide awake in fear trying to remember if I had an un-confessed sin. I’d heard Jesus was the intercessor so it seemed terrifying to imagine he’d abandon me during the scariest moment of my life.

In my panic, I gave up sugar, chewing my fingernails, reading comics and thinking about cute boys because those were my most obvious sins at the time. Fear and abstinence of all my vices pretty much stole all the joy out of life.

So if I could go back in time and talk to my thirteen year old self this is what I would tell her:

  1. Mount Baker is not the mountain to fear—at least not for another forty years. So you have some breathing space on that one.
  2. Nuclear war might be a possibility, but it’s not the only thing to fear. People can and will survive nuclear disasters, but love will never survive pride and hate. Pick your battles.
  3. God (this includes the Father, Son and Spirit) has said he will never leave you or forsake you (Isaiah 41:10-13). If any religious teaching says he will abandon you, this is a false belief based on a misunderstood teaching. When the Bible says “He that is righteous still, let him be righteous still, and he that is filthy let him be filthy still,” this is not an arbitrary command of God but actually a diagnosis of our human conditions. It is the revealing of what we have chosen. God gives you freedom of choice and you get to choose if you want to be saved or not. It’s always up to you. God will not force you to be saved or lost against your will.
  4. What about that word perfect? Well in the original language it means mature or complete. Jesus wants us to grow up in Him and act mature in love toward other people like our Father in heaven and he gave a list of what that actually looks like (Matthew 5). So it has nothing to do with chewing gum or even noticing a cute boy.
  5. There might come a time of trouble, but with inferred and other modern diagnostic tools, it will be pretty hard to hide in the mountains unless God performs a miracle. But the good news is God watches over his people (Psalm 91:4).
  6. Ignore that scary story because those hitchhiker angels are false angels. Jesus said only the Father knows the hour–not even the angels in heaven (Matthew 24:36).
  7. Big Foot and UFOs will pose a very small threat to your life—so will listening to John Denver. Syncopation is NOT the seat of satanic power—pride and selfishness are. As you get older, you will discover that pride and selfishness destroy love but God’s love and mercy are greater than your sins (1 John 3:20).
  8. Jesus isn’t going to come before you grow up, so ask him to help you plan your life.
  9. Oh, and President Jimmy Carter? He might be one of the best men ever to take the job because he was all for separation of church and state after all. Don’t let faithless conspiracy theorists manipulate your life. No matter how dark it is outside, no matter how dark your soul, God can always see in the dark and he will bring his light into the darkness all you have to do is ask him.

Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?
To be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!

Then I said to myself,
“Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light,
they’re all the same to you.
-Psalm 139:-12

10. History will eventually repeat itself. We are in another election year full of conspiracy theories and fear messages, people keep writing to tell me they are so worried they can barely sleep. My advice is do yourself a favor and tune out all the fear messages and spend some time with Jesus.

When people start to tell me conspiracy theories or even plausible stories that breed fear, I walk away or take them off my news feed, because God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear.

If you are afraid of being left behind, read the gospels, learn to know what Jesus is really like. Don’t take someone else’s word for it. When you know Jesus, your fear will be gone because it’s his perfect love that takes away our fear. (1 John 4:17)

*PS Jimmy Carter said in an interview in 2012 he has always supported separation between church and state and even stopped having worship at the White House for this very reason.

Restoration from Narcissistic Abuse

29 Jul

When I was eleven, I had a tabby cat I loved dearly. When we moved, I had to start school late and to make it worse I had to take the fifth grade for a second time due to all of our moving. I was worried I’d never have any friends. But one thing cheered me, I had a little cat to sleep with me and sometimes she even put her paws up next to my cheek. I went to school for two months before we had to move again.

On this moving day, my cat couldn’t find her litter box because it was lost in the hurry of moving before the landlord got there. My dad hated cat messes and he went into a rage and rubbed the cat’s face in her poop. She scratched him so he threw her against the brick fireplace wall. The cat yowled in pain and ran out the open door. With tears streaming down my face and scared to say very much lest my father belt me, I went outside and called for my cat for the next two hours, but she never came back. My parents packed the car and left while I crooked my head out the back window to look for any signs of my precious kitty while we drove away, but I never saw her again.

For adults on the run, one cat was a just a small loss, but for an eleven year old girl who had very few friends, it was devastating. This happened in winter and a few flakes of snow fell while we left. I cried and cried because I was worried about my kitty, I knew she was hurt and I feared she might die or starve.

This was one of the most traumatic moments of my life, but when you live in a family that’s on the run and hiding, there’s no time to discuss how you feel, so you just stuff it—usually with food. I cried and cried and my mom gave me some peanut M and Ms (my future drug of abuse.) I was holding a large table lamp, but my body had to move so I started to rock back and forth in the car.  That’s when my mom turned around and said, “Stop that, what are you? Retarded?” I tried to sit still, but like much of my childhood, I couldn’t stop rocking due to the things that happened.

For almost forty years after I lost that tabby cat, I’ve always had a cat, but never a tabby. When we went to the humane society to get a cat three years ago, my husband insisted on a half Maine Coon tabby kitten. I didn’t want her. I thought she was ugly, but he really liked her, so I agreed to take the little sprite and figured it would be his cat since we already had a black cat I loved dearly.

Can you imagine? I thought she was ugly? But only for five minutes, because I am a cat lover after all. Oh my word! She has stolen my heart like no cat I’ve ever had before! She sticks with me all day and all night long. Sleeps beside me with her paws around my arm and her face next to mine. She is the only cat who has ever slept as close to me with her paws on my cheek like that little tabby forty years ago. She sits at my feet while I write or wash dishes or paint. She is the most affectionate, smart and crazy cat I’ve ever had.  Here is a painting I made of her.

Kitteh Coon, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13518170-kitteh-coon?asc=u&c=541259-soul-sanctuary

Prints and cards available here

One day I said to my husband, “I wonder why I’ve never liked a tabby cat before, then all of the pain came back to me. Once again, I felt like that helpless eleven year old girl watching her father throw her pet and friend against the brick wall. Then I remembered all the shame that came when I was discouraged from talking or mourning about it. I literally started to rock back and forth just like I did as a child when I remembered this loss.

To be fair, my dad is an old man now who has been known to make a hot water bottle for a stray cat on a cold winter night. But this blog is not about him, it is about me and my healing from the past. If my parents were healthy, they would recognize it’s okay to make mistakes and apologize to your grown children so you can have an authentic relationship with them.

When we are traumatized we either remember it very well or we block it out. I have always remembered this happened, but I tried to forget the details. And one way I dealt with it was to never have another tabby cat. This way I could forget about my painful loss as a child. My plan to avoid dark tabbys was mostly subconscious, but deep down inside my heart I think I always knew. How can we make up such losses that seem to follow us like dark riders for the rest of our lives?

Today I was reading a new book titled Healing from Hidden Abuse. The author Shannon Thomas is a Christian therapist who has written the best book I have ever read on healing from narcissistic abuse. This emotional moment came up for me today because I was reading through the healing part of her book where Shannon explains how we can find ways to give ourselves some of what we’ve lost.

We’ll never get our missing childhoods back, but we can find some restoration in things that have meaning for us. For me, this started when I got this tabby cat. And even as I read Shannon’s book, I realized my Father in heaven was working to restore this broken piece of my heart. My husband picked out this kitten five months before I realized what narcissism is on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve always felt like that knowledge was a gift from God and now I realize God was even leading in which cat my husband chose for me.

What sort of losses have you suffered?

How are you finding ways to bring restoration back into your life?

We Are Shaped by Our Stories

14 Jul

You’ve probably heard the saying, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” One of my secrets is that my family was often homeless. It happened for a short time when I was eight years old. Then we lived in a cabin with limited utilities for most of seven years. During that time, we took our weekly showers at the state park. In my mid and late teens, we moved from campsite to campsite to motel and to cabin without any power or running water.

As I am writing my memoir of those years, I am struck by our resilience and our ability to ignore the fact we were homeless. We were more depressed over not going to school, so despite all the chaos, we never called ourselves homeless. My mom used to say she couldn’t wait until we lived like normal people. Not having real beds or a place to call home was hard, but the one thing my siblings and I longed for most was friends. We didn’t go to school so we only had each other and we missed the socialization and community of going to school.

My youngest siblings had at best a third grade education, but they only attended one year of formal school for first grade. At least I got to the sixth grade before my parents pulled us out of school. We are all good readers because of my second grade teacher who let me read all the way to the fifth grade readers. I learned so much from her that I eagerly taught each of my siblings to read before they even got to school because I was good at it and I loved reading so much.

The state of Washington had a law for kids between eight and fifteen to be in school. We were told my parents could be arrested and put in jail and we might get farmed out to foster homes if we were seen. We were told to hide below the car windows if we drove somewhere during school hours. We had to hide in the woods or the shed when someone came to our cabin or house. I lived in fear and dread of being caught.

Everything Shapes Us, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13519018-everything-shapes-us?asc=u&c=540575-healing-flowers

Prints and Accessories Available Here

All of this hiding and the loss of community and relationships further isolated our family. No one knew if we were belted, no one checked to make sure we had an education, no one realized we were homeless.  The worst part about all of this is we could not speak about these things.

Meanwhile we were told Jesus could come at any time so we needed to perfect our characters to be accepted by God or we would burn in the lake of fire. The cognitive dissonance I felt, still brings a tear to my eyes today. In my heart, I just knew I was lost because I was a fake and a liar telling people I was home-schooled, lying to bill collectors and hiding in a shed.

Whenever the world events inspired my dad to warn us about being ready for Jesus to come, I laid awake at night begging Jesus to forgive me, but doubted that he would. As I grew up and left home, these doubts still terrorized my soul. My dad referred to grace as cheap grace, so I had no faith in the grace that calmed others. I still feared for my life and carried the dread of Jesus coming far into my adulthood.

One day a film adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew began to change my picture of God. Every time I watched Bruce Marchiano’s portrayal of Jesus, I wept for the dawning realization that Jesus must surely love and forgive me. This drove me to share as much as I could of God’s love with others. It gave me great comfort to know that Jesus was homeless too. It felt like Jesus wrapped his arms around me and said, “I understand how that felt to not know where to lay your head or whether you would be safe.”

But the journey was not over yet, I had more to learn about God and little by little God brought seminars and people into my life to show me deeper truths about him and I began to trust God more with each paradigm shift. Sadly, it began to separate me from my parents. I eventually had to fire their version of Jesus to embrace the Jesus I was getting to know.

As the years go by, I’m learning more about the true Jesus and I am no longer afraid of God. The saddest thing for me is that out of my own family–my only peer group growing up, I have almost nothing in common when it comes to talking about God. Some reject God altogether, others follow and agree with whoever they are with at the time and seem not to do their own thinking. My parents, as far as representing God to us have epically failed because they refuse to acknowledge the wrongs of the past which would allow us all to move forward in truth and love.

Even in adulthood, we were discouraged from talking about being homeless, beaten with the belt and our loss of education. One of my siblings tried to speak of it in our twenties, but became the scapegoat where they had once been the golden child. Then, as I woke up in my mid-forties and realized the inability to speak of our secrets and pain had damaged me, I spoke up and became the scapegoat.

I am writing memoir today because this is history–my history. I ignored the first twenty years of my life for the second twenty and woke up in great despair for swallowing all those secrets. The only way to find relief and live a wholehearted life is to tell the stories that make up my life.

“Hold those things that tell your history and protect them.
During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything?
The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important.
It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow.
But you know I was here.”
-Maya Angelou

Those who are perhaps not awake might say, “Forget the past and move onto the future.” But for me, the future is clearer when I can acknowledge my past. Maybe that’s because I am still the little girl beaten, the homeless big sister trying to comfort my mom and encouraged my siblings while we sleep on hard floors and eat m and ms for breakfast. I am still the teenage girl who weeps for friends and thrills to read novels which were taken away from her. I am still the young woman inside who determined never to let anyone control my life again. Anne Lamott is right when she says, “I am all the ages I have ever been.”

We can tell people what they want to hear, but when we are alone with the mirror, we have no choice but to tell ourselves the truth or die. I choose truth and life. It gives me great joy to know that Jesus is the Truth and he always supports those who tell the truth and he stands on the side of the truth.

Did you grow up with secrets?
Is it hard to tell the truth?
Will your family members openly discuss the past today?

Independence Day Again

7 Jul

Do you have an independence day? No, I’m not talking about a national holiday, but the day you were set free because you realized a relationship with someone you loved was not going to work any more? It seems we have many independence days along this journey from narcissism. Sometimes we have to get up and declare our independence just to get out of bed in the morning, but several years ago I claimed July seventh for my personal independence day. It started because seven is my favorite number.

My Grandma used to tell me I was lucky to be born on the seventh day of the month and the seventh day of the week. By lucky she meant blessed. She believed seven is God’s special number and in her Grandmotherly way she wanted me to know I was God’s special child. So I took joy in the number seven and adopted it for my own, but the good things God provides can sometimes be misused by his enemy.

Seven years ago my family went through what I call the great divorce. Two of my siblings divorced that summer. When I stood up for a child to have access to both parents in a nasty divorce, my parents tried to discredit the truth I spoke by writing a letter to a judge proclaiming me to be a liar and religious fanatic. They said I make stuff up just to hurt people. Of course those who really know me would realize this letter was a lie, but the fact my own parents lied about me and dated it on 7/7 was crushing. Even the date on their letter seemed to taunt me.

If it weren’t for God, my loving husband, my sweet friend Mary Lou who adopted me and a father and mother in law who gave me reassuring love, I’m not sure what I would have done. Since then, I’ve seen my parents twice in seven years. The first was when I asked them to join me at the Spaghetti Factory. It ended with my mom trying to shame me for telling the truth and my dad yelling at me in the parking lot and calling me mentally ill.

A year later on a bright blue sky New Year’s Day, I was sitting in church and felt it was a good time to let bygones be bygones so I asked my husband if we could leave in the middle of church service and I called my parents and we drove to their house. I felt they loved me and wanted us to have a relationship, but sadly the relationship could only be on their terms and part of their terms was for me to stop writing about my peripatetic childhood and most importantly the use of the belt and my being refused a high school education. They believed my only goal in writing about my pain was to cause them pain.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of my journey to emotional freedom from narcissistic abuse. Back then I had no name for my distress. I would never think of my parents as narcissistic because they’ve never been vain about how they look. I had no clue narcissism is often manifested by the fear of what other people think. And this fear propels narcissistic people to control and belittle those who don’t do what they want.

When I confronted my father about the letter to the judge, he laughed at me and challenged me to tell him what it said. Then he said he didn’t remember what he said because he just wrote it to discredit me. I’ll spare you the details of our three hour long conversation. Most of it was about my theology.

Wherever I’ve lived, I never really felt I needed new friends because my main friends were always my family, but after the great divorce everything changed. It felt like most of my family died in a bus wreck—except they were still alive—just not speaking to me. I think the death of cherished relationship before someone dies might even be worse than physical death. How I wish there was some magic cure for all of our misunderstandings about God, self-protection and narcissism.

As I was working on my memoir today, I noticed the date with great sorrow. It’s been seven years since they wrote the letter and over five since I’ve seen my parents. I’ve never been a grudge holder, but I’ve discovered without honesty and respect, it’s pretty hard to keep a relationship going.

I still love my parents–both of them. But the question is do they love me enough to be honest and treat me with respect? We can’t keep calling people who have very little to say to us and we can’t make people appreciate having us in their lives. Even God lets people go to their own choices. Fundamentally these lies have broken our relationship.

I’ve even had family members say you never know how long they will live, but then do any of us have a guarantee of tomorrow? I used to be the one who called everyone in my family to stay in touch, but after the great divorce, I realized relationships are a two-way street. I still wish I could be near my parents and do things for them, but I can no longer do it at the cost of my emotional, physical and spiritual health. Even Jesus said we have to shake dust off of our feet rather than stay and fight with people who can’t support us. If we are to reunite it will be up to their choices and Jesus.

Sophia Owl, cherliynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/22403369-sophia-owl?c=541259-soul-sanctuary

Prints and Accessories Available Here

Every year on July 7, I celebrate my independence day, because without that letter and the subsequent conversations, I might never have used the knife that stabbed in me in the back to cut the apron strings. Discovering the truth about narcissism a couple years ago, filled in another piece of my healing puzzle. Today I realize it’s not mean to tell my own story. As a matter of fact a good memoirist tells on herself as much as she does anyone else. This book I’m writing has been prayed over with many tears because I don’t want to hurt the people I love. At the same time, truth brings healing to all who embrace it.

So now it’s been seven years since that sad day on 7/7, seven years of mostly silence from my family, but I’m still celebrating my freedom from the control and expectations of others. I celebrate that I have a husband who has stood by my side and loves me for over twenty six years. I have now officially been with him longer than without him. I celebrate that I am loved by a loving father in heaven. I celebrate all the wonderful people who have loved me and befriended me in the last seven years.

And through my celebration I will continue to release and let go and of my own pain and expectations.  I will release art. I will release stories and books and I will release my gifts and love for God and people who are worthy of hearing my story.

So this is a little insight into my memoir writing and why I am doing less art and writing less blogs while I am focusing on my book.  I hope this encourages you if you are struggling to stand up to tell your story. Memoirs have been called modern fairy tales. We can never have too many stories because all of our stories matter.

Peace and freedom to all!