Pulling the Trigger

I’m not the first to say it, this election has been triggering. For immigrants, for People of Color, for women, for men of conscience. For, well, almost everyone.

Today was the latest scandal about Trump’s “locker room talk” in 2005. I won’t even bother linking to an article about it. It’s not worth it, if you haven’t read about it then don’t bother, it comes down to this, rape culture is real.

Several weeks ago something happened in my life that made all the triggers go off. Just about all of them. I was telling my therapist that I was already on high alert because every time I turn on the news I get triggered by something.

I was raw and exposed, again…

Being “triggered” basically means you have an emotional reaction to something that is from your past. It’s like PTSD only hopefully on a less severe level. It could be anything. Smelling old spice aftershave that my grandfather used to wear. Spelling the cologne your rapist was wearing.

The thing about being triggered is even the most self-aware people can be triggered and not know it for minutes, hours, days. Over time I have developed internal “check-ins”. “What’s bothering me?” Oh… that explains it.

Think… anything that comes out of Trumps mouth for the people he is talking about.

Anyway, I was talking to my therapist, “I’m tired of being raw, I’m tired of being exposed, I’m tired of being triggered by everything every time I turn around!”

In other words, I needed to have a little more control.

He asked me a very therapist-y question. “Is there any time in the past where you have had this happen and how did you handle it?”

Okay, fair enough, well played therapist man.

I told him a story of when I was in seminary and I had several issues of “serendipity” or “coincidence” and I decided to make a spiritual discipline out of it. It had happened so many times in a row that I felt like I was out of control.

I felt that these were messages from God that I was not paying attention to. So I chose a number, the trinity would guide me (remember, I was in seminary). If someone came to my mind 3 times in a short period of time I would call them. If I came across a book, movie, someone mentioned “you should do something… go somewhere… think about” if it came up 3 times, I would no longer put it off.

This is a spiritual practice I still do today and has become highly effective.

“So”, my therapist said, “Let’s try it.”

For the last few weeks every time I’ve been triggered by something I used it as an opportunity to release it and extend forgiveness for the thing triggered.

When I was 19 I read the book “Mastery of Love” by Don Miguel Ruiz. He said something about forgiveness that I have never forgotten.

forgiveness-card

“When you can touch a wound and it doesn’t hurt,
then you know you have truly forgiven.”

It was damning to me. In fact, it was one of those things where I said, “That’s impossible.”

Years later, I know it’s not. It can happen. But like a wound a doctor heals, it has to be checked, and sometimes hurts more to look under the bandage. Sometimes the wound reopens.

When we are triggered we reopen a wound that has yet to be healed. And they’re everywhere. Elsewhere in the book he speaks of having a skin condition covered in wounds that have become “normal” and people without the skin condition are considered the freaks.

If I use his analogy to contemporary issues I could say that the people without the skin conditions are “woke”.

So for the last few weeks I have been trying to see triggering as a spiritual practice. It is time to change the dressing on that wound. Changing the dressing is the healthy way of addressing the wound.

I realized I had a choice, I could ignore it (and the past tells me it will reopen the wound and the pattern will continue) or I could address it. By addressing it, I could use the opportunity to heal to extend forgiveness.

This is what I know. (and yes, I am closely reaching my self-help cliche mark for one post). Withholding forgiveness hurts me more than it hurts you. Throughout the weeks as my therapist and I have talked about how my spiritual practice is going, I have noticed it wasn’t just about needing to be in control of my emotions, it was also about living into who I am.

I am not a person who withholds forgiveness easily, especially people I love and have ongoing relationships with. Triggers are an opportunity to live more fully into my scarred, but healed self.

Funny how God works sometimes…

 

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Stand by Your Man: The Affair Issue

There were a lot of factors that went into my suspicions that my husband was having affair. He was a professional man, a corporate lawyer, worked at all hours, at work or at home. We had been married a long time and he would go to the movies or get drinks with work friends, just as sometimes I would.

Yet, none of this was suspicious to me.

I started to raise questions when his phone, which he was almost always attached to, became off limits to me. I became suspicious when he had “tv dates” with his friends from work. Constant texting. Complacent about our relationship and friends. The only time I saw him smile for a while is when he would get a text, and hide it from me. Then, the lies about what time he was getting home, where he was going, and with whom.

Before “I knew” I felt like I was having a pre-midlife crisis. (I was too young for midlife and too old for quarter life). I tried some self care. I worked a lot (and I mean, a lot), I started running, did a lot of yoga, and even more therapy.

“What was wrong with me?” was constant question in my head. I told my therapist, “I don’t understand: I have a great husband, a great marriage, a great job, wonderful kids. I mean it’s not ‘perfect’ but it’s all good, so it must be me, right?” I consumed myself with projects and, well, trying to become perfect.

I was trying to figure it all out. It was like a puzzle, but the pieces were too complex. When Christmas came around I threw a dinner party for some of my husband’s work people (that’s what wives do of successful husbands, right?). In the end he only wanted to invite his two closest friends, one of whom was going through a divorce. I thought she was the one he was aways texting.

I was wrong.

As soon as she walked it, I saw the way they looked at each other. She barely made eye contact with me. And I knew instantly.

At dinner, I sat across the table from her. She sat across the table from me. Sat across *my* table, eating the dinner *I* made. I was trying to make sense of it all, and couldn’t. I subtly snapped a picture of her and texted it to my best friend.

“Ummm…. I think my husband is having an affair with this woman.” Processing the situation was being blocked. “No!” my brain said, “this is NOT happening!”

We looked a bit alike and had very similar personalities. That night after they left I confronted him. I didn’t want to know and truly believed nothing physical had happened… yet.

But I saw it all. One wrong decision on his part and it could all fall apart. We talked through all the ramifications. Affair with a superior, a partner in the firm. An end of his job, this marriage and our family. No. It’s ridiculous, no affair was worth that.

I told him what I have advised others throughout the years. “She is not worth more than my marriage and my family.”

Yes, it really is that simple. And that hard. 

But a few weeks later there it was. Lies, staying out all night, more lies. I knew it.

The thing about it is, affairs are things that happen to other people. Not my family. Not my husband.

Before we even got married we would talk about how we could see a one night stand happen to people, but affairs? No. Sex wasn’t going to end my marriage. But being in love with someone else? A longterm intimate relationship and my husband lying and being completely complacent towards me? Yeah, that would never happen in my family.

Years later, here I am. It did happen to me.

I dealt with the “stand by your man” complex, a lot. It was 8 months after that dinner my husband said, “I’m done.” Yes, you read that right, HE said, “I’m done.”

If I learned anything it’s this: You have no idea how a couple works or the compromises they make.

I never used to understand Hillary Clinton, or women like her. I had little to no respect for women who stood beside their public husbands and held their hands when their husbands publicly admitted one of the most personal, and heart-wrenching things a husband can do with to a wife.

But it’s easy to judge other people’s marriages. When you’re standing from the outside.

clintons

What I now know about Secretary Clinton is this, what she did was one of the hardest things any wife could ever do because we all make compromises in marriage. This was not going to end hers. 

That is strength.

I had many friends (although VERY few people knew what was happening in my life) who didn’t get it. “Leave the bastard.” “Why are you letting him put you through this?” were all things I heard on a regular basis.

The answer was simple: He’s my husband.

Here we are, years and years later and not only did she stand by her husband, she kept her head high, and she kept to her dreams and she is now running for the highest office in the country. My marriage was not nearly (understatement of the year) as public as the Clinton’s was, but if my husband had had to do a press conference, I would have been there “betraying the sisterhood” just as she did.

This presidential election has seen more than enough ridiculous accusations, but right before the first presidential debate Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign said it was going to put Gennifer Flowers in the room during the debate. It obviously didn’t happen, but even the gall to bring it up. NO!

Now, I have no love for Trump. None. Zero. I will not even pretend, and if for one second you think my being a democrat has anything to do with the fact this was too low, then you are mistaken.

Her husband’s affairs were not an abuse of power on her part. She was also a victim and if you think for one moment it is a sign of weakness, you are mistaken sir.

I know, because I am strong, and I made it through those 8 months because of that strength. However, thinking that it wasn’t the hardest thing I have ever done, and that it didn’t break me to the core of my being, than your wrong.

I have not had to sit across a table, room, or even see the woman that sat across the table from me at that Christmas dinner. I cannot imagine the plague that haunts Secretary Clinton to see her face and have her husband’s sins thrown in her face on a regular basis.

And my friend Carol, said it best.

carol-update

Bringing this up will hurt Hillary Clinton, I have no doubt about it, but I pray that it will not hurt her in the polls. Not simply because I am a democrat, but because any human being that resorts to this low of a blow deserves to be handed their hat, and asked to leave this establishment, forever.

May it be every-loving so. Amen

I Tell the Truth

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For years I struggled between truth and lie. I lived in a real life “two truths and a lie” game about how I was feeling, about who my family was, about who I was and what I thought. My thoughts and feelings were not my own, they were translations of what I thought people wanted them to be.

At school I pretended to be a good student and have friends. At home I pretended to not have too many needs and avoided eye contact (which lead to engagement). I played alone a lot, I sought refuge with neighbors who took me in to help them with their toddlers. As a teenager I went to friend’s houses and spent as little time at home as possible.

When I finally awoke to the idea that I had independent thoughts, ideas and feelings (besides what others around me had) I didn’t know how to handle myself.  Couple the emotional intelligence of a six year old with a personality that always did speak before she thought and there were many years of disaster, or word vomit as I like to call it.

For about 5 years I had no idea how to keep these newfound thoughts and opinions to myself, they would simply spew out of my mouth. Many times they were “funny, cause it’s true” but a lot of the times they were just hurtful. I didn’t mean to be hurtful but I felt entitled to my opinions and felt it was my right to share them.

I was wrong. And I am reminded of this dark period of my life, this thoughtless disregard for others, the word vomit period every time Donald Trump opens his mouth.

“I tell the truth.” he says.

I said the same thing. Only I would say, “I’m sorry you don’t like what I just said but it’s true.”

Just because it’s what I think doesn’t make it true, it makes it my opinion.

Truth is in accordance with fact or reality. Not “your reality” (like reality tv…) but actual reality, actual circumstances. Opinion is a view or judgement we make, not necessarily based in fact or reality. See the difference?

 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. –Ephesians 4:11-16

When Richard Nixon declared “I am not a crook”, it was his opinion, definitely not based in reality. It was, in fact, illegal. Bill Clinton rewrote personal history when he stood up and declared that he “never had sex with that woman” or at least convinced himself of that enough to sound convincing. Friends, when we allow lies to get so twisted in our heads they become truth we are lost, we need help.

We are all allowed opinions and in all honesty, truth is even a relative thing. If there are two people in a situation, there will not be two sides, there will be three. Person A’s experience, Person B’s experience and what really happened.

Speaking the truth in love doesn’t mean people won’t get hurt, but it means combining reality and fact with the emotional intelligence that you are dealing with someone with feelings and that has a different reality than you. Whatever you have to say is valid, and it may hurt, but the way you deliver it doesn’t have to be “for their own good” like an abusive father.

I hurt a lot of people, I said a lot of mean things, and the biggest pain for me in all of this, was that the reality was I was the one crying out in pain. My voice had been masked so much that words would just spew out without ever considering the consequences. 

I don’t want to get into a political debate, but I am terrified, terrified that a man like “The Donald” who spews vomit into the world and calls it truth has gotten this far in our electorate. Donald, it is not truth when it’s what you think, it’s opinion.

Speak the truth in love. And please, keep your “truth” opinions off the world stage.