Friday, March 28, 2014

I'll Get You My Pretty.....

"Nothing is easier than to denounce the evil doer; Nothing more difficult than understanding him." Fyodor Dostoevsky

I hope you'll all humor me reading this post, I am not sure how much sense it will make, but I am wide awake and am hoping I can sort my clouded mind out by writing, so here goes.....

I never found great satisfaction in fairy tales growing up. While I know others got teary-eyed that the glass slipper fit or that Prince Charming awoke sleeping beauty it never worked for me. I was much too busy focusing on the fact that the rotten step sisters were allowed to get off and go on to bully someone else or that no one dealt with the wicked witch. For me it wasn't a happy ending because the bad guys got away.

I much preferred movies like the Wizard of Oz, where houses fell on witches and evil melted. It wasn't until tonight that I realized why my all time favorite movie is Willy Wonka. That entire movie is not about Charlie winning, truth the scene with him at the end where he is rewarded is only a couple minutes, it is about the other characters being called out and held accountable for their bad behavior. To me that is how the world should work, and I struggle because it doesn't.

Over the years I have read a fair share of research on how growing up abused changes a person's brain. There are theories on neuroplasticity, on how the limbic system (which regulates emotion) is altered, how the neurotransmitters and their synapses change. No one disagrees it has huge impacts. But what I have never seen is any writings on how it changes ones perception on right and wrong, yet I am realizing this week it has a huge impact, especially if the abuser was never held accountable for their actions.

Where is all this coming from tonight?

This has been a tough week for me in the realm of good and evil. On Saturday afternoon I
was stopped at a red light and my car was rear ended by a drunk driver. Both cars were totaled, I have been to the ER twice now and the doctor's office once. I am beaten up, my brain has been shaken around and I am lucky, incredibly lucky, to be alive.

The first few day after the accident I was in a fog, side effect of a concussion, and I just kind of functioned but didn't really face what had happened very deeply. As Monday and Tuesday rolled around I had to start facing it all, even though my brain wasn't ready. I started to learn the facts of what had gone on (that the driver was more than 3 times over the legal limit, that her employer allowed her to drive home that drunk). And more importantly I had to face that once again right and wrong, good and evil didn't pan out the way I believe they should. The driver was released from jail without having to post any bail and for now go on with her life, and possibly do this again before her next court date. I learned that the insurance industry is a racket far beyond anything I imagined. One of the biggest slaps in the face I had this week was learning that yes I have lost wage coverage on my insurance but it pays out at approximately $6.75/hour ($250 max a week), so I will be compensated at less than minimum wage despite having a really good paying job. I also learned that the entire system is so messed up that states like Minnesota are pretty much pre-designed to burden the innocent party no matter what. MN is what is called a no-fault state related to insurance. This basically means no matter how wrong someone is, they aren't held accountable off the bat. Everything first has to be paid through my insurance and then if we fight hard enough it gets repaid to my insurance by hers. This whole concept has floored me. Add on top of that that insurance looks at the cash value of your car and not making sure you are back in a functional vehicle (yes I now have a car payment also) and it was too much for me.

Growing up with a father who had no moral conscience, having been paralyzed by a surgeon's mistakes who was never held to task for it, this being the second time I have had a car totaled by a drunk driver (was in a similar accident when I was 16 and that person was never fittingly dealt with either despite it not being his first or last DWI) I have a hard time emotionally with this kind of situation. It makes me terribly angry. But anger is a weird emotion for me. A therapist years ago helped me understand that because my father's anger was big and explosive and ended up with people being hit or the likes I do everything in my power to hide from anger (mine or others). When I get angry I turn it inside myself and it ends up as depression and some not so pretty thoughts about my life.

And that is definitely where I headed this week as the fog started to slowly clear and reality started to sink in.

But looking back over the last few days I am seeing it differently tonight, because just like Cinderella had her Fairy God Mother, and Snow White her dwarfs, I am surrounded by some amazing people, and one of them chose to kick me in the butt and remind me how dangerous my line of thinking was. That I was giving the very evil I was angry at more power over me by making the bad the focus and that I was missing the good parts of the story, and was doing it at my own expense.

I was so laser focused on the drunk who hit me that I was not even seeing all the people who have rallied around me this week. The friends who in the minutes after the accident dropped everything they were doing to come take care of me and protect me; all the folks dealing with the new home I was in the process of buying who worked together to change the closing date so I could get that done before I had to buy a new car; the friend who pushed me towards a great lawyer who has navigated all the insurance stuff for me; the friends who are giving up their time to pack my house and move me since I am physically not up to doing it myself; friends near and far away (and my new found brother and his mom) who have checked in on me and offered support over and over; the friend's mom who moved all her work to the ER this morning so that I didn't have to drive myself.

There is way more glass slipper in this story than there is evil step sisters, and I just needed to be reminded the stories are written that way for a reason. That they are still happy endings even if the punishment didn't fit the crime. That I do get to ride off on the white horse (ok she isn't white but go with it) into my new life in my new home despite all this. That which pages we choose to remember of our fairy tale are a choice that we make, not that are made for us!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Home is where the heart is....

Time for another big change (definitely one for the better). I am making the next life leap and moving. For the past almost three years the important things in my life, especially my horses, have been shifting north. My riding and my horse time and being with most of my horse friends required a 40 min to an hour drive in each direction, and my life was dictated by weather, and road conditions and being able to commit at least 3 hours of time. Too often my heart had to accept canceling a riding lesson or skipping a ride or bailing on friends, and it was wearing on me. The end of this month that changes.

I will be moving to Stillwater MN, and will be just over four miles away from the barn. Close enough to give treats and get hugs even if I am not riding. I will also be much closer to Joker, and will get to see him more too. 

Moving to Stillwater feels in a lot of ways like going back to where I grew up, a small town, with rolling hills, historic buildings, large farms and nestled on the shores of a beautiful river. It looks a lot like Columbia County. The plus, it also has a business core, so unlike Germantown where the nearest grocery store was 30 minutes away, I can get to the real world in about 15 minutes from my new house. Best of both worlds.

As I have been planning for the move it hit me how much how we decorate our homes really represents where we are emotionally in our lives.

This will be the third house I have owned.

My first home I bought I was barely out of my 20's. I was just coming off 10 years of being seriously ill. I was in the process of making a huge career change and wasn't sure where that would go. My life was very unsettled and unsure, and my house ended up the same. Most of it never got decorated or even had furniture even though I lived there about 4 years. I made sure the bedroom and my office were functional, but I never even put a couch in the living room. My life was out of sorts and so was my home. I wasn't sure who I was headed to be and my house reflected that.

Fast forward to 2008, I was approaching 40 and I was well ingrained in my new career, I was professionally stable and that was my prime focus. My personal life was pretty non existent due to travel and my work focus, life was about making a name for myself and that was all I saw. I picked up and moved to MN because it was the best option for my work life. I bought a very classy, elegant townhome in one of those upscale developments where you drive in and think "wow, she's made it". My home was decorated the same way, to impress. Beautiful art on the walls, great furniture. A great place to entertain for work, which I did. But the irony to this home, there was and is very little of me visible anywhere. In my home office I have pictures on canvas of my cats, but other than that anyone could move into my home and it be theirs. The personal effects are so minimal that it was staged and ready to start showing for how I lived in it. I had made it professionally, but I really had no clue yet who I was on the inside and had very little comfort with myself and that was clear in my decorating choices. I was trying to fit in and impress.

I find myself at a very different place as I think about decorating my new home. I have come a lot closer in the last few years to a comfort level with myself and I want to surround myself in my home with things that matter to me not that will matter to anyone who enters my home. I want pictures of my horses and friends and family. I want warm, cozy, comfortable. I want people to know I live there and what is important in my life. If I see something that speaks to me I want it out and visible even if it doesn't match the coffee table or go with the chair. I want to come home and feel surrounded by my life not living it for someone else. If you come to visit expect the curtains may not match the cool cowgirl boot I am using as a door stop or that my show ribbons are going to be decorations in the guest room. I am moving into that time in my life where I am ready to enjoy the life I have built in every way. I love where my life is right now and my house truly will be my home this time!!!

Hey anyone with a truck want to help make that happen in 3 weeks *smile*

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I want to be bitter, I want to hate, I want to be angry......

"Either be a sheep or be a wolf...just wear it" RM

Often in this blog I dance on the line between sharing too much of my personal life and sharing what I feel others can benefit from reading. I don't always get the dance right, especially when it involves other people, and I apologize now if anyone involved feels this was too much sharing. But when I started this blog I had one goal, share the parts of my life that I have struggled with, that have helped me grow, and that I think others can find comfort in, merely by hearing they are not alone. And after a lot of soul searching this fits all those! So here goes.

The last seven days have been some of the most emotional of my life (and for those that know my history that is hard to accomplish). My life is never boring and often out does those bizarre "made for tv" movies. More than once I have looked at what goes on and thought 'if someone else told me this story I would question if they were making it up'. But it's all is my life, and I try to embrace that.

If I had to sum up the last week there is no better phrase I could use than the title of this blog..."Totally Predictable Unpredictability". The crazy is expected even though it still hits me from left field, especially when it comes to family.

For those of you who have been following my blog since the beginning, much of the history behind this story is in previous posts. But I thought a summary was in order for those who haven't or who haven't kept a flowchart *smile*.

I am 43 years old, I grew up in a home with a mother, a father, and a younger brother and sister. Our home was less than happy on a good day and down right abusive on a normal day. But for the first 14 or so years of my life I thought were your average abusive, dysfunction family. To the outside world we put on great facades, at home we lived in hell and it was what it was. Then when I was around 14 I stumbled across a cassette tape that would change my world forever. My father had recorded some of his most deep dark secrets....previous marriages and families, children out of wedlock, a name change (or two as I now believe). I kept that knowledge to myself for a long long time, but also kept my eyes open. I found a will with previous children's names, I found out his true age (he was 30 years older than my mother). Despite me asking both my parents for answers they never gave them. Many secrets and lies went to his grave with my father in 1997.

Through all that time, and even into my early adulthood I blamed my father solely for everything. He was the monster. And he was don't get me wrong. But I saw my mom as more a patsy, a victim by choice. As far as I could see, she did nothing per se wrong, but she never had the backbone to stand up and make things right either. She preferred to be seen by everyone as the victim, the one to pity, she still embraces that role.

Thinking back maybe this is why I struggle so much when people want to feel bad for me, to show my sympathy or pity. I hated how she relished that role and I avoid it. I want people in my life to know what is going on with me, to understand what I am going through, for me to not be alone it, to have support. But the minute that turns to pity or sympathy I find myself running away, hiding what is going on to try to prevent that. Even when the sympathy is valid or warranted, it makes me feel too close to who I don't  want to be, even. But that is another blog for another day. Back to the warped history lesson...

My view of who was responsible for our lives being the way they were changed drastically in 1991. I learned that year that I had an older sister (4 years old than me who my parents had had while my dad was still married to someone else, that they had opted to put up for adoption. Julie finding us opened up more questions than answers about both my parents. But over time I made peace with it, mistakes happen, we make decisions in life. My strongest morals tell me no one is perfect, but what matters is when we make a mistake we stand up, take responsibility for it and try to make it right as best we can. Neither of my parents had this same moral leaning. But even that I came to terms with. I thought.

I have always kept looking to try to find the children my father had with previous marriages and women before my mother (there may be many of them the more I learn) as much to try to understand my own past as anything. And I have always expected that one of them might find us, especially in the age of But I hadn't expected what went on this week.

Somewhat accidentally (via FB) last Saturday I asked my brother I grew up with, Thom, who someone on his FB page was. Thinking I knew the answer already he told me this was our brother, from both our parents. Born between Julie and I, while my parents were still not yet married. Once again put up for adoption. Predictable Predictability! Part of me was shocked, part of me thought "another day in our family".

Since then I have gone through EVERY emotion in the book. At this point, a week in I am emotionally exhausted, I feel very empty and drained. Learning about Greg has been a blessing, he is the kind of person I would love to know even if we weren't related. Smart, Sarcastic, Blunt. I have only known him a week, but have to say so far he seems the most like me of any of my siblings, well the ones I know about. But it has also come with a lot of knowledge that has been hard emotionally. Greg has also been on the hunt for information about my mother and father. He has helped me find some puzzle pieces I couldn't. And he has given me an ally in continuing the search. But the answers I have gotten have been hard. Learning that my mother fabricated lies as well as my father, learning my mother refuses to step up and acknowledge her choices, learning that my father's secrets and lies go even deeper than I knew. Finding the name of one of his other potential children (now deceased). Another sister. It has left me very very tired and drained. I have gotten through little this week besides work (thank god I a great at my job and can do that in the worst of times). I feel very empty and adrift over it all.

I will not soften any of what I feel, I find my parents' behaviors morally vile. They are not people I would want to know if I wasnt related to them. They are no one I would ever want to be. Yes I get it, I didn't walk in their shoes, I cant understand what they went through, but despite that I morally can not condone their lies, and that today they do not take responsibility for their go back to the quote I opened with, that they wont wear it. And that I can not be ok with or forgive. I can forgive their actions, or at least make peace with what they did, it is what it is, but their lack of ownership is not something I can set aside. It is too core to how I see the world.

And I want to hate them both! I want to be angry at them! I want to be bitter! Logically it is the emotion I feel like I should feel. Part of me thinks if I was there this tired and empty would go away. But I can't go there. I can't hate them for the lives they treated with total disregard, because I have seen the impact of those lives. And there is no way I can say those lives shouldn't have happened, and to hate my father's inability to control himself and all the children that resulted (at least 10 or 11 if not more) would require me to say that. 

In finding out about Greg this week, I also got to talk to his adoptive mother. A sweet amazing lady who loves him with all her heart. He has a wife and children who adore him. He served our country for decades, he serves now as a minister. How can I say any of that is wrong. Julie has 3 children, she works in a nursing home, she helps those in need. How can I say that is wrong. The obituary I saw for the possible sister said she was a teacher, she had a family. She changed lives. To hate how she came into the world would mean I have to say the world would have been better off and I can't say that. Even for me and Thom and Candi (that grew up with my parents). We have people who loves us, we have made a difference. We have all had amazing lives despite my parents...there is no way I can say that it would have been better if it hadn't happened. And bitterness would mean all of us, those I know about and those I don't, were mistakes that shouldn't have happened, that we are part of their evil and lies and secrets. I can't do that to any of us. 

That has been the big life lesson for me in the last week. The lesson my life always seems to come back to, EVERYTHING, good, bad, right, wrong, evil or magical. It is all for a reason. That we may never understand it, we may not like it, it may hurt, it may cause tears, it make break our hearts. But it is still for a reason, it still has good in it. And it is our choice which we choose to see. I cant hate my parents, because to hate those of us that are the result is giving in to their patterns, and I will never be that person!

Welcome to the family Greg, watch out for Fridays and Cats *smile*

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Finding my own ruler......

"Dreams come a size too big so we can grow into them"

Let's see where did I leave off....Jasmine had moved to Minnesota and we were starting our journey together. In a lot of ways we are still at that point. As everyone is way too well aware this winter has been cold, snowy and long. Even though the barn has an indoor arena, we don't ride if it is zero or below, and MN just came off the longest streak of below zero weather in recorded history (just saw that lovely statistic this morning). That combined with my work travel and some health issues (mine not hers) have limited us riding much (think I have about 6 rides in over the last 10 weeks). But in its own way it has been a gift too, we have had a lot of time to just hang out, bond, groom and chat.

Despite much time in the saddle I am 100% confident I found the right horse. I could not be happier with her. She is sweet, dedicated, she loves people (and cookies) and she enjoys the attention I give her. Funny moment the other night when I went to answer a text on my phone (which required stopping petting her) she repeatedly kept trying to grab my sleeve to put my hand back on her. She knows I am her person, and that makes my heart smile. Of the 4 horses I have primarily had in my life (Cheyenne, Joker, B and now Jasmine) she is the one who seems to want the attention the most. Joker put up with it well, but Jas wants it. And that works for me!

For the little riding we have done I can also say she is the most talented horse I have ridden. She knows her job, she doesn't cheat and she wants to do it well. She also learned very quickly that I needed her to help me when I am in the saddle. She does a great job staying under me and that was something B' and I never really clicked on. She is patient with me learning her cues, and that is proving to be a steep curve for me. In a lot of ways I feel like I am learning to ride all over again. Some days I am totally ok with that, some days I feel frustrated with myself over it. But it is reality. And with reality comes decisions and I am spinning on some, which of course is what lead me to writing.

I am struggling, as I have my whole life, with giving myself permission to take things at a pace I am comfortable with, vs worrying about what others will think of me. A battle I have fought my whole life. Growing up there was a lot of expectations to have the highest grades, to be the smartest and to have the best. And if you couldn't reach those goals you were expected to pretend you were. Image above all else. Getting a B was never good enough, why wasn't it an A, if you came in second what did you do wrong that you weren't first. What little positive support there was in our home was withheld unless you were meeting that ideal standard. And if you fell below that you were discarded. I have carried that fear of being abandoned for being imperfect with me my whole life. It has gotten better with age, and as I have narrowed my circle of whose view of me really matters. But it is never far from sight. And right now I can feel it on my heels.

Show season is getting here, I am watching more and more FB posts of friends in warmer climates who are heading to shows. The first big MN show is in March and most shows start in May. Three months that will go by in a flash. And I am struggling with my feelings on it. 

I have shown the last two years, on two different horses, and I did it because I wanted to, I never felt forced, but part of me also did it before I was really ready (skills wise) because I feared not meeting what I thought others expected of me. I had a good horse, I was taking lessons, I could ride, I should be showing. The result was mixed. Joker and I did better than I thought, but never beyond walk/trot. And that success looking back came at a price to me. I was so busy rushing through my learning to meet this goal I had set of showing that I never fully learned what I needed to. I could get by, I could do it, but I never really got it, it never became natural.

Now I find myself at a similar cross roads, as I said in a previous post, life gave me a "do-over" when I found Jasmine. A chance to do it right. But at the end of the day I have to decide whether to take that gift or not. And at the moment that decision comes down to showing this year. I know it is expected of me by many, especially having just bought a world class horse and I fear the reactions if I don't go down that path, if we take a year off to learn each other the right now. But I don't feel ready, my heart isn't in it and maybe it is selfish but I want to take this at my pace. If I need 6 months for us to figure each other out at the walk, then I want it to be ok to do that. I want it to be ok to just enjoy my horse and not feel like I am going to be looked down on for making that choice. But that little girl inside me isn't sure I can handle when the looks and comments do come.

And when I stand and watch my friends show this summer and feel I didn't measure up. The voices are already there talking at me "you bought a show horse, you bought an expensive show horse, you could have bought any horse if you were going to just stay home and ride, what will the people who helped you find her think, they put a lot of effort into finding you a great show horse that now you don't want to show this year". I beat myself up as well as anyone.

But as I was mulling this over the other night sitting in the corner of Jasmine's stall, I had a realization. She truly could care less if she was riding around at home or in the Justin Arena in Fort Worth. She is happy being a horse, chasing her paddock mates away from "her" round bale, having her human come and love on her and bring cookies (never ever forget the cookies, mom!) and taking care of me. She didn't complain last night that we only walked and didn't trot or lope, she wanted to be loved on afterwards just the same. And realizing that made the picture a lot clearer.

I don't know what will end up happening, no show season this year, a limited only a ground class or two season, or trying to do it all. Ask me on any given day and the answer changes. How much permission I give myself just to be myself changes.

But in the end I know whatever I decide I am going into it with a partner who has no expectations of me other than to love her and bring those cookies! I can easily meet that goal!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Other side of the clouds...

I have been trying to make sense of my life lately. There is a lot going on all at once... new barn...trying to sell my house and dealing with some health issues.  All but the last item are good, but whether change is good or bad it is still disconcerting. A friend pointed out the other day that I seemed 'stressed, concerned or unhappy' and as I thought about her question, it does sum up my general mood lately, but for no specific reason I can give. There is a lot really great in my life right now, but that happiness always feel hard hard to reach. And that alone frustrates me, because I do recognize what a wonderful life I have. Despite all that life has thrown at me in the last 43 years I have carved out a place for myself in the world that I am really proud of. So why do I feel so detached from it right now?? And more importantly why is it that I can quickly go from mood to mood, blah to ecstatic, happy to sad, content to discontent, over nothing. What is wrong with me?

I had a big realization on all this this morning as I was sitting on a plane waiting to take off. 

On the ground in Minneapolis it was disgusting...cold, rainy, sleety, grey. Just ick. Words that came to mind were miserable, blah, gross.But then we took off. 

Did you ever think about the fact that planes fly into the strong winds, the bad weather to take off? To get that lift they have to go towards the bad not away from it? Something we all try to avoid in life is the very thing that gives flight. 

Thirty seconds after leaving the ground we broke through the thin cloud layer and the sky was blue, the sun was shining. The words that came to mind suddenly changed to beautiful, pretty, awesome. 

Nothing had changed, below those clouds it was still freezing and grey, but a mere few feet away the world was transformed. In that moment I got it, the trick to life, is remembering that the line between the good in life and the bad is very thin. And that the key is finding those people and moments that help us break through the barrier. 

Those things in my life are often a lot smaller than I look for, I spend my time wanting big solutions, the grand plan, the ultimate fix...instead of realizing that I only need to take a couple steps to totally change direction. It is a hug from my horse or time in the saddle, it is a text from a friend reminding me I don't have to handle the world alone (that it is safe to rely on others), it is knowing I have someone who will chase light bulbs for me. I didn't have to go 500 miles to find the sun, and I don't have to solve everything in my life to feel better.