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Don’t Let the Narc Mess With Your Heart

14 Feb

Think about all the lies, the put downs and the gaslighting.

All the times you tried to explain your heart
to someone who was committed to misunderstanding it.

All the times your empathetic heart was used by the Narcissist,
who said it was your own fault.

All the times the Narcissist stepped on your heart,
then said you were too sensitive.

All the times you were told to ignore your heart,
and sit down and shut up and put up.

Think about the beatings your heart has gone through.
Think about all the times you ignored your heart—
because of the Narcissist.

There was a time when your heart said, “Speak the truth,”
but the Narcissist said, “Shut up.”

There was a time when your heart said, “Watch out,”
but the Narcissist said, “Don’t worry.”

There was a time when your heart said, “This is a lie,”
but the Narcissist said, “Trust me.”

Listen to Your Heart, cherilynclough.com, https://www.etsy.com/listing/505157007/listen-to-your-heart-print-valentine?ref=shop_home_feat_3

There was a time when your heart said, “Remember,”
but the Narcissist said, “Forget.”

There was a time when your heart said, “I’m worth it,”
but the Narcissist said, “You’re not worth it.”

The truth is you ARE worth it–

You are worth speaking your truth,
You are worth explaining your fears,
You are worth remembering your pain,
You are worth sharing your heart
And you are worth having a relationship with someone
who treats you with respect and honesty.

It’s way past time friend, to listen to your heart.

Healing from Narcissistic Abuse–Remember to Release

30 Dec

So this last year you discovered you were in a narcissistic relationship or even raised by a narcissistic parent. You’ve probably also discovered the narcissist will never see it, will never agree with you about this and of course will never change. Bottom line the narcissist is not interested in your happiness.

Realizing this probably brought a sense of peace because now you no longer need to jump through hoops to play a game you can never win. You’ve survived the holidays with a good friend and a couple of pets, but now what? It’s time to

RELEASE:

re·lease
rəˈlēs/
verb
 
1. Allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free. 
“the prisoners would be released” to set free, let go/out, allow to leave, liberate, set at liberty

2. Allow (something) to move, act, or flow freely

It’s the end of the year–time to remember and release. It’s time to clean out the closets and give back everything you don’t need. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need more guilt trips, shame or arguments about who I am and what I believe or how I choose to live my own life.

So where is the line for narc returns? Where in the world do we give all this crap back? Not to a store. Not to a friend or spouse, and certainly not to the narc.

Of course we are speaking of all the non-material junk dumped on us by critical, judgmental and narcissistic people. It’s not like taking a sweater the wrong size back to the store. At first it seems there is nowhere to take it, so we hold it all inside wondering how to absorb the pain. But you get to decide how this story ends.

Remember how those twin towers fell on 911? They imploded because they could only hold so much stress. People implode differently, we can only hold in so much heartbreak and stress and if we don’t figure out how to let go, we will eventually crash. Many have paid with their health, but narcissistic relationships are not worth trading for your health, so it’s time to remember and release.

You can call up the narcissist and demand an apology, but if you are dealing with a bonafide narc, they won’t say sorry. You probably know that will never happen.

You can play the victim and whine to your friends and spouse (whining and telling your messy story are two completely different things). You can feel like a victim, but then you’d be giving the narcissist even more power to ruin your life. Maya Angelou wrote, “Don’t whine, whining just lets a brute know there’s a victim in the neighborhood.”

Sharing your messy story will help you get your power back because it heals you and those who listen. You can also journal. It’s fun to release our stories—through writing and art. A couple years ago, I took an art journaling course from Brené Brown that was really fun and healing. This opened me up to taking more art classes online and I have found profound healing through making and releasing art. Telling our stories heals us, but it also heals others. It’s good for all of us to know we are not alone.

You can defend yourself and try to correct all the lies the narcissist has spread about you to friends and family, but the truth is it’s not you, but the narc. And your true friends already know the truth and the others won’t care.

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

My favorite Art I made in 2016–A reminder! Prints and cards available here

You could also join the narcissist in beating yourself up and giving shame messages to yourself, but ouch, why even go there? Shame never comes from Jesus.

We remember and release. It’s a lot like catch and release if you like fishing. Don’t be scared of what you will find in the past. If you invite Jesus into the past, He will sort through this mess with you. If you don’t do religious stuff, you can still go through the spiritual practice of remember and release.

Maybe it’s been awhile since you cleaned out your closets, if so, you might need to go all way back to 1999. But no matter how far back you go, remember and release will help you make room for a better new year.

You can write a letter to the narc and tell them how much they hurt you and mail it in a bonfire. Remember the narc doesn’t care how you feel so this part of release is important, but don’t mail it to your narcissistic parents or ex-lover. This is just so you can acknowledge what happened and forgive yourself for letting them do this to you.

Whether you tell your story, journal or make art, if you are a Christian, Jesus is different from the narcs and He cares about people who are abused, so He is leading you away from the narcs. Some Christians will say give it to Jesus, and that sounds nice, but to date no one has actually shown me what that looks like. A friend suggested we invite Jesus into the mess and that seems much more feasible to me. Jesus is knocking on the New Year’s door of your heart and he is asking to come in, we don’t have tidy up our hearts for him—he already knows all of our secrets and he loves us anyway.

If you are not religious, you can still find gratitude for your journey with different signs along the way where the universe or karma was bringing you to a better place. Someone is watching out for you despite the pain. Open your eyes to this new and healing journey.

Remember and release has nothing to do with forgetting. As a matter of fact when we journal, make art or tell our stories, it helps us to remember and release our pain so the healing can continue.

After you clean out the closet of your heart from all the junk the narcissist dumped on you, chances are there will be a big empty hole left where the hopes and dreams you had once resided. That’s okay, it just leaves more room for new people and better dreams.

It’s time to start dreaming now how to make 2017 a better year. What have you always dreamed of doing? What will help you live a better story? It is only through releasing that we begin to live a more whole-hearted story.

I plan to RELEASE:

The Narcissists to play their own games
and eat their own word salad without my help–I’m so outta here!
Release the Flying Monkeys to their illusions
Release my own expectations of other people
Release all guilt and shame trips
Release weight
Release fear

And let’s not just release negative things:

I plan to
Release BOOKS I am writing
Release ART I am making
Release LOVE!

What are you going to release?
Please feel free to share in the comments.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
-Mary Oliver

 

 

 

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?

Daring Greatly–The Courage of the Roosevelts

29 May

Jeri grew up with a narcissist mother who put her down and told her she was stupid and ugly. She has now come to a place where her marriage has failed, her family seems to do nothing but criticize her and her health is of some concern. The other day, she explained how the prospect of surviving a lonely existence on her own terrifies her to the point she wonders if the world even needs her. Jeri represents thousands of ACONs who lack confidence from narcissistic parents and are still reeling from the pain of betrayal, but it might surprise her to know she is not alone– she stands beside some great people who have overcome similar abuses and some of them bear the name Roosevelt.

I’ve recently watched the PBS documentary by Ken Burns about the Roosevelts which is now on Netflix. It is titled “The Roosevelts, an Intimate History.” I have often heard people refer to the “good Roosevelt” and the “bad Roosevelt” meaning whichever political party they ascribed to, but I have been greatly inspired by both President Theodore Roosevelt and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as Teddy’s niece and Franklin’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt (who ironically never had to change her name.)

These presidents were fifth cousins and both were supportive of each other. Their family tree though intermingled, was not a very compatible one. Eleanor was the strong link between the two of these men because she was Teddy’s niece and FDR’s wife and both empowered her to live out her own life of service to others.

Courage, cherilynclough.com, www.etsy.com/shop/LittleRedSurvivorArt

Prints and Pillows available here

Teddy Roosevelt was older and born sickly with such bad asthma that no one expected him to grow up. His younger brother was stronger and more popular than he was and because Teddy was bullied and picked on because of his size, he was afraid to go places without his brother when he was a child. He overcame his illnesses and grew up to become a very strong figure both physically and mentally.

After falling in love with a beautiful woman and marrying her, he lost his wife two days after childbirth as well as his mother to Typhoid fever in the same night. He was left with a baby girl named after his wife, but he never spoke of the loss of his wife again it was such a tragic event for him.

Despite his personal pain, Teddy Roosevelt worked hard against unfair working conditions among the factories and mines to limit the power of big industry over the average worker and in American politics. He was well loved and very popular and did much good for our country. His famous speech “The Man in the Arena,” aptly describes his own journey and has inspired millions to get up and try again.

Teddy’s brother, who had been so physically strong, was the father of Eleanor Roosevelt. He became an alcoholic and ended up in an asylum before he died. After his death, Teddy took Eleanor under his wing as his favorite niece.

Eleanor, who never quite got over losing her father, did not find love in her mother who hated her overbite and called her “granny” because she was so ugly. Eleanor never felt loved by anyone until she met her distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but even before he married her, his mother was over-protective of her son and tried to dissuade him from marrying her. She was never a friend to Eleanor. She considered her grandchildren as if she were the mother and Eleanor was a house-guest. In every pursuit, she seemed to work against Eleanor. After Eleanor bore him five children, she discovered her husband had been cheating on her for years with his secretary. She was devastated, but he agreed to never see her again and they moved on.

Without any power in her family and feeling powerless since her mother in law seemed to be raising her children, Eleanor began to help with those who were struggling during the depression and found her own life work in public service. Later, when her husband contracted polio, she and FDR must have struggled with depression, but they both tried to be positive for the sake of their children.

For two years FDR worked on walking, but he never really walked again. He moved his legs in a very painful manner with braces on his legs to hold him up. In all of his speeches where he looked like he was standing, he was more like propped up and leaning on something. This all happened before he even ran for president. Most people would have given up, but Roosevelt did all he could to be as strong as possible by swimming and strengthening his upper body.

He must’ve done something right because he was our longest serving president and was elected four times, bringing our country through the great depression and WWII. Some criticized his New Deal and later others would criticize the Manhattan Project which was started under his watch, but helped end the war with Japan. Whether we agree with his politics or not, FDR was trying to serve the people in the best way he knew how. He believed Hitler was evil long before he could get us into the war and he did his best to end Hitler’s reign.

Despite all the good Roosevelt did, he was scandalized by relatives and Teddy Roosevelt’s oldest daughter Alice, publicly said she would vote for Hitler over her cousin FDR. FDR said he didn’t care if he ever heard from that evil woman again. This documentary could well be titled, “Roosevelts, a Triumph Over Narcissistic Relatives.”

While FDR worked on his New Deal policies, Eleanor became more and more popular by writing a column every week. The nation respected her opinion and when her husband was criticized, she spoke out to support him. This couple could very easily have given up. FDR had a lifetime struggle with his illness and Eleanor was often dealt blows about her own self-worth, but they were united in service for a love of the American people.

On the day FDR died, he was working on a speech to encourage our country’s involvement in the formation of the United Nations. His last words, written in his own handwriting read:

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow
will be our doubts of today.
Let us move forward with strong and active faith.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

When Eleanor went to bring FDR’s body home after he died, she was devastated to be told he was still entertaining his old flame and one time secretary. She could have given up after he died. She could have floated on a river of tears for her losses of not having a loving and supportive family from her mother and father to her husband and mother in law, it seemed most people betrayed her. The one exception was her uncle Teddy Roosevelt. He was one person who had a great influence on her character and life because of the love he instilled in her for the common person.

After FDR’s death, a reporter approached Eleanor but she told him to go away because it was over. She spoke too soon. She continued to serve people of all backgrounds and nations–even winning over her critics by helping to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the United Nations.

Despite all the narcissistic people who let her down, despite her own fears and doubts about her worth, Eleanor declared she found a way to love by loving other people. Her advice is helpful for those of us who have judgmental and unloving parents and who wonder if we will ever be able to do something of value to contribute in this world. If you are afraid, take hope in her words:

Courage is more exhilarating than fear,
and in the long run, it is easier.
We do not have to become heroes overnight–
just a step at a time, meeting each thing as it comes,
seeing it’s not as dreadful as it seems.
Discovering we have the strength to stare it down.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Watching this documentary has greatly encouraged me to try harder to bless others despite my own struggles. I highly recommend it for anyone struggling with narcissistic relatives, self-doubts and fear of failure. The truth is each of these courageous people either dealt with narc parents or some sort of health issues and adversity, they also made many mistakes themselves, but they never gave up. As a matter of fact, it seems their trials only made them stronger.

The world breaks everyone
and afterward
many are strong in the broken places.
-Ernest Hemingway

Re-Framing Our Life Stories

25 Feb

A couple years ago, a man in my church told me to hurry up and finish my memoir so I could move on with my life. Sadly, this person has probably never read a memoir unless it was of a sports hero. He was assuming I was damaging myself for writing about my unconventional childhood, but I’m so glad I ignored his advice. For the last five years, I’ve been writing my story and re-framing the events in my life and it’s been a very therapeutic process. Even if you are not writing a memoir, you can benefit from re-framing your life stories. Here are some things I have learned in the process.

When I tell people I’m writing a memoir, most people are positive–although some are not sure exactly what a memoir contains. Some think it’s a book by a famous person and since I’m not famous, they probably think I’m big headed and delusional. Others imagine since I had a strange childhood that I want to write some “Mommie Dearest” revenge memoir to take down my parents, but that’s not my style or personality. Others imagine I’m writing a biography and ask if I’m going to include this or that in my book.

So then what is a memoir? I think of memoir like a series of snapshots–only in words, to describe a theme going throughout a life. Memoir is an opportunity to re-frame a life, but sometimes I think the genre itself is misunderstood and needs to be re-framed.

Reframe Butterfly, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/21112144-butterfly-reframe

Print Available Here

Memoir is a Process
Writing memoir is as much about researching your past as writing about it. Sometimes research involves looking up facts to match dates, but other times the research is in your head–trying to make meaning out of events that happened long ago when you were small and not in control of your life.

Writing Memoir Can’t be Rushed
A very time consuming part of the memoir process is actually preparing for the art of memoir. This includes studying writing methods and reading the memoirs of others. Like a large painting, memoir writing must be done in stages, brush stroke by brush stroke with loving care. And like the stories behind a painting, there is so much more than meets the eye.

Jeanette Walls, author of The Glass Castle says it took her five years to write out her stories. This is common among memoirists. After the stories are collected, we search for the plots in our lives. Discovering the plots and meaning is a much deeper process than just writing a chronicle of events. It requires deep introspection on the part of the writer. Due to the emotional nature of childhood memories this cannot be rushed. Every memory has it’s own baggage and/or joy. To fully engage in the details, the writer must process many emotions, but this is where the healing comes as we re-frame those memories and make sense of them.

Not All Memoirs Are Boring
You may have an image of memoir in your mind. Maybe you read a long and dry account of someone’s life and wondered when you could get rid of that book. This is not a good example of memoir. The author did not study up and learn to process their story so it could be palatable for others to read it. If you want to read good memoir, look for best sellers who are not celebrities.

Don't Shut Up Pillow, CherilynClough.com,http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13999494-dont-shut-up?asc=u&c=540504-survivor-girls

Pillow Available Here

I’ve read dozens of memoirs by now and the Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is one of my favorites. She wrote it in an easy to read, fascinating style. So did Maya Angelou who’s first memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is now a classic. These women are masters at story telling. Their memoirs are like poetry and stir the deepest part of my soul.

But other memoirs are not so great. Failings in memoir include those who seem to be writing a long endless list of sad happenings or dry chronological lists that state “I went here and did this and then I ate worms.” What is missing in these memoirs is a sense of plot. When the memoirist’s voice drones on and on even the most empathetic listener is tempted to fall asleep. If only these authors had studied the art of memoir and discovered the plots in their lives, they would find a much greater blessing for both themselves and their readers.

Memoir is Not About Revenge
If your only goal is to shame your parents or ex, you won’t find any joy in the journey. Writing memoir is a huge waste of your time if your desire is to expose your family. There are faster ways to do that if that’s your goal. Memoir is a very personal journey about you and your relationship with yourself and God which just happens to include other people.

I am choosing to change all names and places to take away the potential pain for any involved in my story because my story is not about my siblings or parents or neighbor’s–it’s my own experiences. Yes, we all have experiences in common, but like witnesses at a traffic accident standing on different corners we all have a unique perspective. No one can tell someone else’s story. It might be hard for some people to understand, but no two siblings had the same experience growing up. Age and gender and temperament all influence how a parent treats their children differently.

Memoir is Not for Everyone
Not everyone wants to tell their stories and not everyone wants to hear our stories. People are in different stages of awareness and waking up. Not everyone deserves to hear our stories. People who are not awake often want us to hurry up and be quiet, but our stories are not for them. We should cherish our stories, but save them for those who are worthy to hear them.

Not All Memoirs Are Sad
Who doesn’t have a story or two to tell? For those who had unconventional childhoods the temptation is to tell the obvious–the many moves or the beatings or the traits of the enmeshed or isolated family patterns. Sometimes these stories are sad and there are people who want us to be quiet–either because they can’t relate or because they want us to shut up and save the family reputation, but I don’t think anyone should shut up, I think we need to reframe our stories and possibly reframe why we tell our stories.

Write the Truth Original Art, CherilynClough.com,www.etsy.com/shop/LittleRedSurvivorArt

Original Art Available Here

Writing Memoir Can Bring Joy–Even Through the Pain
Another bonus to actually doing the work of memoir is discovering the joy that sometimes was overshadowed by loss and pain in the past. Remembering allows us to rediscover the good times as well as the bad times. There is wonder and joy in the journey as we examine our lives.

Memoir is About Re-Framing–Not Making Stuff Up
Memoir is not fiction. We don’t rewrite the facts, but what we do when we re-frame is come at the story from a new angle so we can see it in a different light. An example of re-framing is the story of how I started the fifth grade late two years in a row and left early before the school year was out both times. I was once angry my father let this happen. But looking at my grandparents’ headstone a few years ago, showed me the dates when my father lost his mother in late September of my first fifth grade just before we moved. His father died in November a year later when we moved again. I can see how young my father was when he lost both parents within a year and was struggling to support a young family. It didn’t take away from the bullying I experienced at one school, but it did allow me to have compassion and understanding for my father.

I once wrote to Jeanette Walls and I was grateful to get a reply. She told me, “If you have a memory in your life that you don’t want to explore–that is the very thing you must explore!” She was teaching me to re-frame the past to gain greater understanding about myself and those events. She also gave me her mother’s advice to, “Write the truth!”

Writing Memoir Helps Us Re-Frame Our Lives
Even if I never publish my memoir, I will benefit from this process of re-framing. Finding our life plots require waking up and seeking clarity. Our memoirs reveal the treasures of our lives. Every life matters, but nothing is more important than understanding our own journey. To re-frame our stories allows each of us to be more fully awake and to live more wholehearted lives. Memoir also provides empathy and encouragement for those who are still in the middle of such stories.

Since I started writing memoir, I’ve been enjoying the process of re-framing my life stories. I hope you are learning this too. It’s been said memoirs are modern fairy tales, but I think it’s even bigger than that–I think our life stories are God-stories. We are part of a vast play ordained in the cosmos long before we were even here, we were dreamed up in the mind of God and all of our stories are interesting to Jesus. Let’s re-frame our memories and find our God-stories.

P.S. If you are interested in writing a memoir, I highly recommend the book and workbook by Martha Alderson, The Plot Whisperer.

You Decide How the Story Ends

1 Dec

Once upon a time a girl grew up with narcissistic parents who didn’t meet her needs because they were too busy trying to fill their own. She survived hard times, but she had no clue what she was missing or how other people lived. Through the struggles of a messy childhood and lonely adulthood, she journeyed until one day she saw some light. She moved toward it until she found herself outside of the cave she had been raised in. For the first time in her life she saw what she had been missing and she was both elated at the discovery and saddened by the life she had been living. Thus she began to search for happiness.

Despite her relief at finding light, the world outside the cave was almost too bright, for one thing it seemed unpredictable and scary at times. In such moments, she found herself longing to go back into the darkness where life seemed safe and predictable. Yet she knew such safety also stole her freedom for she was basically used as a slave by her family. Now that her eyes had become accustomed to the light, she could’t see very well in the cave.

Other times she wished she’d been born a princess and had never known the darkness of the cave because those memories seemed to follow her everywhere and often darkened her path and gave her anxiety. Even the smell of leather brought on a panic attack because it reminded her of the many times she had been beaten with a strap to appease someone else’s anger. When the darkness followed her, she often heard the contempt of her abusers and accusers she often wondered if she could ever find a good life.

On her journey she came around the bend and met an elderly woman who pulled back her shawl and offered her a leather book. The girl plugged her nose at the smell of the leather. The old sage was bent over and her hands were gnarled. For a second, she held her crooked finger to her lips before speaking,“Here is a gift. It holds the secret to a happy life.”

The young girl was curious why the old woman would offer it to her, but she accepted the book out of kindness. The woman continued in the opposite direction, while the young girl opened the book in her impatience only to discover it full of blank pages. She turned and called out to the woman. “You have tricked me! There’s nothing in this book!”

The old woman took her time to turn around, then with a face full of kindness she replied, “Write in the book and you will discover the key to happiness.”

The girl rolled her eyes and continued her journey. When night came, she lay under the stars and wondered at the mysterious meeting. In the early morning light, she woke up and began to write about her journey the day before. She marveled at where she had been and how much she had seen. From then on writing became a habit and she even began to enjoy the scent of leather.

One day she felt lonely and discouraged and it seemed she had nothing good to write about. That was the day she began to write down her dreams. Each night when she felt her day had not gone as she had hoped, she dreamed a new dream for the next day and recorded it in the morning.

Like a winding river—ever changing and always moving, her journey continued for many miles and years. The young girl refused all suitors–until she found the prince of her dreams. Her family began to grow and she built a life worth living until one day she looked back through her book and realized her dreams had merged into real life. The things she wrote about were no longer a fantasy, but they had become real. By the time she realized the value of the gift the old woman had given her, she was no longer a young girl, but was becoming wise in years herself.

One day she met a beautiful girl full of energy, yet longing for stability. She recognized the pain and confusion that she had worn on her own face so many years before. She reached into her bag and offered a book much like the one given to her so long ago. As she held it out, she was surprised to notice her own hands had begun to grow wrinkled. The young girl almost snubbed the gift, then took it out of politeness. The woman sighed and smiled, because now she now knew the key to happiness is that we each decide how the story ends.

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
-Mary Oliver

Why Mary Dyer Deserves Her Own Google Doodle

18 Jul

This is a repost form a blog I wrote three years ago.
Recent events show me that Mary’s story will always be relevant until religious freedom is universal. 

Mary Dyer willingly walked to the gallows and hung 355 years ago as the first woman martyr on American soil. She had waited her turn at the gallows before. She watched her fellow Quakers die while she stood with a noose around her own neck. The first time, the noose was removed due to a last minute appeal from her son. She’d been warned to leave Massachusetts and never come back, but years later she came back to appeal for religious freedom.

Born in England, Mary Dyer married Puritan William Dyer in 1633. They immigrated to Massachusetts where William became a freeman of the Massachusetts Bay Company and held many important positions. They were admitted to the Boston church two years later. Mary was described as “fair” and “comely.”

At this point Mary was not a Quaker, but she was an open supporter of Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson. Hutchinson was the midwife who dared to teach women about God while women sat around waiting for a delivery. Her father had been a minister and she believed that men and women alike could hear from God and teach others. Mary probably met Anne at one of her births.

When Mary went into labor on October 17, 1637, she called for Anne. After hours of pain, Mary gave birth to a stillborn daughter. They knew that such a birth would be fodder for the imagination and superstitions of the Magistrates in Boston. At the advice of a well-educated doctor, they buried the child. The birth remained a secret for months.

When Anne Hutchinson was excommunicated from the church and cast away from society on March 22, 1638, Mary Dyer walked beside her. Someone asked who was that woman supporting Anne Hutchinson? Another replied, “The mother of a monster.” This remark was overhead by Governor Winthrop who immediately had the body exhumed. The baby was falsely described by Winthrop with such horror as to make it appear a curse from God—

“…It had two mouths, and in each of them
a piece of red flesh sticking out;
it had arms and legs as other children;
but, instead of toes, it had on each foot three claws,
like a young fowl, with sharp talons.”

Now it was Mary’s turn to be cast out from society, but her husband was well respected and they found refuge in Rhode Island. Then they went back to England on a political mission with Roger Williams. While living in England for five years, Mary began to follow George Fox, the founder of the Quakers. His teaching of the “Inner light” was similar to beliefs she learned from Anne Hutchinson. Mary returned to New England preaching the gospel wherever she went. These two women are considered by some to be the first feminists and women preachers of the New World.

The Puritans of Boston–despite fleeing their own religious persecution, had no tolerance for Quakers. In the five years since Mary left, things had only gotten worse in the New World. While other Quakers had been preaching and starting congregations all over the territory, laws had been enacted against–

“the cursed sect of heretics … commonly called Quakers”
which permitted banishing, whipping,
and using corporal punishment
(cutting off ears, boring holes in tongues).”

Upon her return, Mary, who was unaware of these new laws was immediately captured at the ship and thrown in jail. Her Quaker papers were stolen and burned. She was put into a dark cell with the window blocked to keep the light out. Because of her husband’s prestige she was set free on the condition that she never talk to anyone about her beliefs and leave Massachusetts at once. Mary went back to Rhode Island and preached everywhere she went.

Other Quakers found refuge in Sandwich, MA where freedom was granted to all religious beliefs. These men started a Quaker congregation that has met continuously to this day. Eventually spies reported these men and one of them had his right ear cut off. The struggle for religious freedom had immigrated to the New World along with the people.

Mary had been up for martyrdom before and despite the fact that she had been warned to stay away, she refused because she firmly believed that everyone should have the freedom to worship as they choose. She came back to appeal to the governor for freedom and chose to make her life an example. After she was hung, her dress blew gently in the breeze.

“She hangs there as a flag for others to take example by,”
remarked an unsympathetic bystander.
That was indeed Mary Dyer’s intention –
to be an example, a “witness” in the Quaker sense,
for freedom of conscience.”

©Lars Justinen/Licensed from GoodSalt.com

“In 1959 by authority of the Massachusetts General Court,
which had condemned her nearly 300 years before,
a bronze statue was erected in her memory
on the grounds of the State House in Boston.
A statue of her friend, Anne Hutchinson,
stands in front at the other wing.”

Mary Dyer found a cause bigger than the New World. Although she endured the loss of privacy and dignity throughout her persecution, she went to the gallows with a gentle smile on her face saying—

“My Life not availeth me in comparison to the liberty of the truth.”

So whether Google ever makes a doodle to celebrate the spirit and life of Mary Dyer, or not, I offer her up as an example of faith and freedom of conscience to men and women everywhere. Mary could have walked away, She had many opportunities to avoid such a death, but she chose to take a stand for freedom of conscience.

Mary, like Jesus, chose to lay down her own life for a greater cause–

No one can take my life from me.
I sacrifice it voluntarily.
For I have the authority to lay it down
when I want to and also to take it up again.
For this is what my Father has commanded.
– John 10:18

Mary Barrett Dyer– Notable Women 

Early Quaker History

Mary Dyer Blog

God Calls Women

16 Jul

Reposting this blog from three years ago because it is just as true today.

When God created Adam in all his perfection–God declared that Adam alone was not enough–so God created a woman. God created both men and women in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), but there is something unique about women. When God created Eve, God called her an “ezer kenegdo” which has been translated to mean many things including help mate–as though all a woman was created to do is carry a man’s water bucket.

According to Hebrew scholar Robert Alter, this term “ezer kenegdo” can also be translated “sustainer beside him” and is only used in twenty other places in the Old Testament (examples include Deut. 33:26, 29, Psalm 121:1-2, Psalm 20:1-2, Psalm 33:20 and Psalm 115:9-11). Every other time the Bible uses this term it refers to God Himself as a Lifesaver, so when woman was created in the image of God, she was created to be a lifesaver.

God’s enemy would squelch this lifesaver image of God inside a woman and has tried to limit her role to whatever selfish, sinful man throws at her. As you think of the Bible stories below consider how each woman had her part to play as an ezer kenegdo.

 ©Janet Hyun/Licensed from GoodSalt.com

When God wanted someone to carry and nurture the human race—God called a woman (Genesis 3:20).

When God wanted someone to protect and watch over baby Moses—God called a young woman (Exodus 2).

When God wanted to preserve and train His future leader Moses—God called a pagan woman (Exodus 2:10).

When God wanted someone to lead others with timbrels and dancing to celebrate the victory at the Red Sea—
God called a woman (Exodus 15:20).

When God wanted to show He can use anyone–even prostitutes—God called a woman (Joshua 2).

When God wanted to reveal His true prophet to the leper Naaman—God called a young woman (2 Kings 5:1-19).

When God wanted to protect and nurture the seed of God and the hope of the world—God called a woman (Luke 1:29-38).

When God wanted to remove the custom of stoning to reveal that His grace is greater than our sin—God called a woman (John 8:1-12).

When God wanted to break the tradition where only men could sit at a Rabbi’s feet—God called a woman (Luke 10:39).

When God needed people to support Jesus financially—God called many women (Luke 8:1-3).

When God wanted an evangelist to reveal the Messiah at Jacob’s Well—God called a woman (John 4:28).

When God wanted to anoint Jesus for the incredible work He was about to do—God called a woman (Luke 7:38).

When God wanted to announce Christ’s resurrection to the world—God called a woman (John 20).

God has not changed. His character is the same through all times, traditions and places—God still calls women today.

Do you see this woman? I came into your house.
You did not give me any water for my feet,
but she wet my feet with her tears
and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but this woman,
from the time I entered,

has not stopped kissing my feet. 
You did not put oil on my head, 
but she has poured perfume on my feet…
Jesus said to the woman, 
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
-Luke 7:44-50

Of Perfume, Tears and Grumpy Old Men

When Women are Called and the Church says No

Captivating 

Shine

21 Jun

To be yourself
in a world that is constantly trying
to make you something else
is the greatest accomplishment.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the hardest things to do if you grew up in an enmeshed family is be yourself. Sometimes it seems like everybody is working against you – the parents, the relatives, the teachers, the Christians and everyone who feels a need to tell you how to live your life. Opinions are abundant, but true God-given advice is in short supply. The truth is unless you learn to follow your own true North and listen to the voice of God’s Spirit inside of you, you will never be able to shine.

Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish. -John Jakes

Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish. -John Jakes

Here are five tips on how to shine—

1. Be Yourself
Ask God to show you who you are and ask Him to reveal what you can do to. Keep in mind God doesn’t make our choices —He gives us many opportunities and we get to choose.

2. Practice Good Boundaries
Boundaries reveal the lines drawn between you and other people. This is important because the only way we can truly shine is to separate ourselves from other people. This does not require being divided from other people, but knowing where we begin and others end. Sometimes we grow up in a family where others try to foist their ideas on us. Boundaries help us define who we are.

3. Explore What Makes You Come Alive
Is it music, art, dancing, writing or maybe even care-taking. Whatever makes you feel alive and gives you satisfaction.  Whatever puts a spring in your step and a song in your heart—that’s a clue it might be your calling.

4. Ignore the Critics
There will always be people who think you should do something different than you’re already doing. Some people want us to fit into their dreams and their schemes, but God has called us to be ourselves not extensions of our parents or teachers. Once you know what motivates you, it is time to let go of what the critics say.

5. Live Wholeheartedly
God has not asked us to live mediocre lives. God has not asked us to live out our parents’ dreams. God has not asked us to do servile work that doesn’t bring joy to our hearts. God has called us to serve in love and to do what we love—but only once we put these two together are we able to truly shine.

The place God calls you to is the place
where your deep gladness
and the world’s deep hunger meet.
-Frederick Buechner

Little Red Survivor Art Week One

7 Jun

For this Art 101 challenge, I’m taking heart from a story I read in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. There were two groups of potters who did an experiment. One group spent hours trying to do the most quality work they could do. The other group ignored the quality and turned out vessel after vessel. When all was said and done, the group of potters who ignored quality actually turned out higher quality vessels.

This is why I have decided it doesn’t matter if I make crap art one day–or even several days, because sooner or later I believe I will make something of quality. So far my favorite piece of art in this first week has a deep sentimental value to me but I am not sure anyone else in the world except my husband will agree. You certainly won’t find it hanging in the Louvre, but love is inspirational and love doesn’t care what the critics think.

So for day one I did a concept that I have thought about many times. Any one who grew up jumping through hoops to please someone will understand this one.

photo (20)

Day One

So for day two I had a concept of a series I would like to do for my website of Little Red with different mantras or words that bring healing or reminders for survivors. I started out on day two and three making a type of art that was okay but not exactly what I wanted. Here are the next two days.

photo (23)
Day Two

 

photo (22)

 Day Three

While this concept was still inspiring me, I felt it looked a lot like a Disney cartoon and although I like the fairy tale theme, I was not satisfied with the style. Then I saw an artist who is very skilled and asked her what she used for some texture. It was very kind of Lucy Brydon to share her secret with me. (Thank you, Lucy!)

So on day three I set about to make some texture and give my Little Red a more mature look. Here are the next three days.

When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.  ~Maya Angelou

When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. ~Maya Angelou


Day Four

Sing-1000
Day Five

 

Little-Red-Breathe-1000

Day Six

 

And now this last one is my favorite. It is my Maine Coon Mix named The Kitteh Cosette that we got from the Humane Society. She is the sweetest and busiest cat I have ever owned and I that is saying a lot because I am a life long cat owner. If I had a muse it would be her. She sits beside me and pats my arm as if to say, “You’re doing good, keep it up.”

Kitteh-Coon-1000

So that’s the end of week one. Seven days out of 101. I am not tired of painting yet, as a matter of fact I am just warming up. I hope the other artists in Art 101 are enjoying this as much as I am.

Thank you for checking in and have a good week.

Cherilyn