Why Christmas music makes me cry…

I woke up with morning with that odd mix of irritation, sadness and confusion.  Nothing had happened, so why was I in such a funk?  More importantly, how was I going to break it.  I started with the obvious.  We traveled for Thanksgiving and came straight back to the grind of the week so the house wasn’t in order, that tends to make me feel out of sorts so I organized the kids room and front porch, threw out some things, took others to charity.  Doing for others always makes you feel better right?  And it did……but not like it usually does…..I was still off.

Then I decided to begin the Christmas decorating, maybe that would help, but first I had to go get some new things, it was the music in Lowe’s honestly that did it.  It brought everything flying back into my mind so clearly that I was shocked I hadn’t realized it why I first woke up.  Its almost December.  Friday is December 1st in fact.

I’ve had 6 miscarriages.  All but 2 have been in December.  The last two being the furthest along and the last one being by far the most traumatic which was in late December and thus mentally, intrinsically linked to Christmas music.

Its not just the music.  Its the season.  During the last miscarriage I was under so much pressure to perform as if nothing was wrong.  We had three other children that I wanted to provide a good Christmas for (one a one year old) and my in laws were going to be in town and staying with us.  Unfortunately, due to the other miscarriages, we had kept this pregnancy a secret planning to reveal it at Christmas which put me over 12 weeks and thus in the safety zone.

The week prior to Christmas at my 13 week mark I week for my check up and my doctor failed to find one heartbeat, I was devastated.  The week before we had two.  He consoled me, prayed with me and told me to come back the day before my in-laws landed. I did and learned we lost the other.  I endured the week of their visit in a blur of hiding and crying in my room and probably more alcohol than is healthy and had surgery the day after they left.  New Years Eve.  They played Christmas Music.  My in-laws never even knew I was pregnant.

I have since more than made my peace with God.  I understand why I went through what I went through and I whole heartedly accept his decision and love Matthew (our youngest, born the day before Thanksgiving the following year) so much that I can’t even contemplate him not being in our family.  That being said, even 8 years later, Christmas music makes me cry.

The body always remembers grief and makes you acknowledge it, no matter how hard you try to move on.  Outside of the mother that lost the baby though no one else really acknowledges a lost pregnancy, it really is a lonely grief, especially years out.  I have learned though, that taking a few minutes to look at those old sonogram pictures tends to keep the grief at bay for another year.

Bad Habits Die Hard…..

I was speaking with a friend today about our exercise class.  We planned to go this morning but a meeting came up for me, than tomorrow I can go, but she can’t and on and on…. We reflected on how this has become our usual saga.  The times I am free, she is slammed and when her schedule is better, mine is crazy.  But then as I was driving home for lunch I kept thinking, I could have squeezed in class if I really tried.   True, it would have meant skipping lunch but with more prep on my side, it was doable.  So could I not make the class, or did I choose not to make the class.  The reason it becomes important in my life, is because I have a history of being very excited about exercising for a few months until I see results and then just loosing interest…….so am I busy or falling into bad habits?

I counsel people daily that are fighting the bad habit demon.  Some are as innocuous as my exercise aversion and some are far more deadly.  At the core though they have the common thread.  We know what we are doing something bad for us.  We know we should be doing something different, but we make excuses for our behavior to justify it in our own eyes and in the eyes of those closest to us.  The question that arises in therapy is often why?

The answer is often what is in inside yourself that you are trying to disown?  We hide through our bad habits what we don’t want to acknowledge in ourselves.  Sometimes its a past hurt or trauma or some action that you’ve linked to the habit.  Sometimes its a current situation that we need to deal with such as anxiety or depression.  But until we own it, name it and deal with it, the habit is almost impossible to break.

I have clients use line journaling often to get to the bottom of their emotions.  They start of with a simple statement of their current feelings “I am mad/sad…”, the next line is “I am mad(sad) because and on and on. If you are unsure of what is prompting your behaviors this is a good place to start. Look for patterns in your habit. Days, times, activities or moods.

If you do know and you are ready to start breaking the habit find replacements for your time or a plan that you can put into place.  Of course, it always helps to have support so let a friend or family member know what you are going through and enlist support and remember everyone has good moments and bad moments.  If you have a bad one, don’t let it ruin your day.  Pick yourself up and move on to a better day.

 

Finding God in Tragedy

As the details out of Las Vegas continue to unfold more and more questions are raised.  The usual why did this happen and how could this happen of course. Then comes the blame and the divisive talk. And then inevitably we get to “where was God?”

I can tell you without question that he was in every miracle story coming out of Vegas, in the heart of every person that was running into the line of fire when others were running out.  Giving courage to the first responders that ran into the hailstorm of bullets repeatedly to save lives.  Thats where God always is.  He is in each and everyone of us that invites him in, allowing us to accomplish superhuman feats of bravery and strength.

See we hear these stories often, but many quickly dismiss them and deny Gods hand.  That being said, when there is a tragedy on this level these same people are quick to look around and ask “Where was your God?”  God never left, but maybe you did.  And its time you came back.

I implore each of you this week to look for grace in yourselves.  To hear focus more on the miracle stories than the what if stories. The what if there was a second shooter, what if he was on a medication, what if he …… Instead, start looking for Grace, Miracles, God.  Because, I promise, if you seek, you will find.

Its not about me, its about you….the truth about gossip.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said,  “Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events and shallow minds talk about people.” This is one of my favorite quotes of all times.  This is also one of those quotes that depend on the type of person you are, as well as your personal history with gossip and slander, it maybe an ouch or amen type of statement.  For me its an Amen type of statement.  I don’t use the word hate lightly but I hate gossip in all its forms.  I have been the subject of it in many different stages of my life and now as a therapist I counsel others who are being victimized through it.

When kids are young, we call it bullying.  One girl doesn’t like another and starts a rumor and off the other girls and boys scurry to spread it and even more disheartening, others rush in to listen. Everyone loves drama. What does that say about the person initiating the gossip though. As adults we sometimes call it slander, but its no less painful when someone tries to attack you personally or professionally by spreading lies or even just voicing their questions or opinions about you in a way that can sound like facts to others. “He can’t possibly afford that on what he makes, he must be spending his family into debt.” A person that says something like that from the outside, most likely has no idea what the man makes or what the family spends. The person is making assumptions and then making statements that sound like facts based on those assumptions.

A great joint study recently came out of Nebraska & Washington University and was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. This study shows that people are more inclined to gossip, or even just talk negatively about others if they have narcissism, personality disorders, depression or a slew of other negative personality traits. In short, what your mother used to tell you to help you feel better is true.  Its about them, not you. Positive people tend to see positive traits in others and therefore speak positively about others.  Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.

The caveat to this is that narcissist rarely if ever recognize themselves as being such and likewise, gossips/slanderers rarely if ever recognize themselves as such.  They are just concerned, worried about others, making sure others are informed about the situation…etc.  Whats hard to understand is why they don’t just talk to the person they have questions about?  Typically it comes down to how they feel about themselves.  If they feel negatively about themselves, they are less likely to just talk to the person in question.  The other answer according to the study is drama.  The more they talk about others, the more the spotlight is on them.  They become the center of a situation that ultimately has nothing to do with them.

So what is a person to do?  As hard as it is, we rise above.  We don’t give in to the gossip, if you refuse to listen or engage with a known gossip who do they have to talk to?  We pray for them to see the error of their ways.  Gossip has gone on since biblical times, it is actually mentioned 32 times in the bible and Moses himself was a victim of gossip back in Numbers 12:1 for marrying a woman the rest of his people didn’t approve of.

Lastly, tighten your circle, know your friends.  And remember that if someone is gossiping to you, they are also gossiping about you.

Do They Love the Mask or You?

I started thinking earlier today about how often we hide behind a mask, especially when we first meet someone new.  The polite nod when they say something we disagree with, the biting of the tongue when a blatant lie is told in your presence or even worse when you are just less than your true self because someone, somewhere along the way made you feel you were too much.  Too loud, too zealous, too emotional …..just too.  So the mask comes on and sometimes stays on far too long. But what happens when you look around and take note and think how many of these people really even know me,  much less love the real me?

A few weeks ago I was given the chance to speak about my past encounter with human trafficking.  This was the first time I had to take off my mask in front of a large group of people and I was surprised at how easy it was, how freeing to speak and act from the heart without filtering everything.  But that being said, I didn’t have anyone that I feared judgement from at the event. The group was mostly strangers.  Just one close friend came for support, my husband was busy with work and I didn’t take the children.

I later posted the video of the talk to Facebook and was again encouraged by others reactions to the video, so I finally got the courage to show the video to my husband and that was where the fear really was.  Could this man handle the rawness that is me without the mask, the pain the horror of my past?  I won’t go into how it all played out, but I will say that I do feel a subtle change between us that possibly could have been prevented by having the courage to reveal the woman behind the mask sooner rather than later.   I have worked with many other couples that report similar situations as well.  Woman or men who have hidden past traumas or a history of abuse that is in no way their fault, but when it is revealed to their husbands, it is a very hard pill for their spouse to swallow.

At the end of the day I wouldn’t change a thing about the talk itself.  I’ll still be a speaker whenever I get the chance.  I feel its Gods calling for me and I understand that sometimes following God means relationships with others take a bit of a beating.  I am hopeful that at some point my husband learns to love the woman behind the mask as much or more than the woman with the mask intact.  I caution others to take the mask off earlier.  I am sure there were opportunities that I was too afraid to take.  I don’t know that it would have made a difference in the reception but at least I would have known how much of a mask I would have to wear and for how long.  Crowns aren’t the only thing that gets heavy.  Masks get pretty heavy too, you have to take them off from time to time and let yourself breathe.

I think being honest with yourself about your mask is the first step.  Own it and know when you have it on and off.  Know what you will and won’t ever be willing to deny, no matter what.  Then find a solid group of people that know you without the mask. Spend time with them and allow yourself to breathe.  But be cautioned that once you realize how good that feels, the mask gets that much harder to tolerate.

 

Maybe God sent You!

I was with my kids in the car the other day and a song came on that considering the topics so many are discussing was perfect.  I spend a lot of time it seems having to explain or even defend my faith.  The overwhelming question I get is why does God let bad things happen in this world.  I have always believed two things,

1. that most bad things come as a byproduct of sin and not God and

2. that all of us need to go through hard times to make us better, stronger people, but I digress.

The song said, “I lift my hand to heaven and a shout to God why, why don’t you do something and he said, I did, I sent you.”

It hit home.  I thought pretty deeply about that. If you know me personally, you know that one of my personal life quotes is “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something”.  I take that very personally.  I speak at events, deliver food to the elderly and minister to the homeless.  I have always felt that I was called to do these things and thought that talk is cheap but even the smallest actions have a ripple effect that can reach the ends of the Earth.  But what if we all acted this way.  I get push back about time.  “I just don’t have time.”  I doesn’t time to keep a blessing bag in your car for the homeless or thank you cards for police officers.  Delivering food for the elderly is an hour every other week.

I will confess that there are some days I just don’t feel like it at first but I will also confess that its not all about the deed.  Doing things for others makes me feel great.  I feel happier afterward.  I prescribe it to my depressed patients and I see the results.  If you are feeling down, do something for someone else.  You will be shocked at the results in your own life.

What if,  instead of lamenting about Gods lack of action on the state of this world, you took action personally in your little part of it.  Even in some very small way.  Imagine the ripple effects it could have.  We can change the world, one small deed at a time.

Why is it so hard to just be quiet…..

I posed I question on Facebook the other day.  What if we all just went back to the rule we had when we were little and “if we didn’t have something nice to say, we didn’t say anything at all”?  I’ve been trying this myself for about a week and I will admit it’s harder than it sounds at first, but it’s also peaceful.  The peace comes from the lack of arguments one gets in.  After all if you don’t say anything to a negative person or you find something positive to say, they can’t come back at you in a negative way.  Why then is it so very difficult to do and why do we seldom do it as a rule?

I think to answer that I have to tell you when it was the most difficult for me.  It was about topics that I strongly disagreed with.  People that had a complete different view-point then mine or people who were on a very negative rant that I didn’t agree with.  Walking away from those was tough and I didn’t always succeed.  Everything in me wanted to argue my viewpoint.  Point out the error of their ways or thought patterns.  But why?

Why does it matter if they see things the same as I do.  Why does it matter to any of us.  We are all so very different, with different upbringings and different values.  Yet it seems there is the mass idea that we have to “win” everyone over to our way of thinking all the time.  The only thing I can come up with is ego.  In these times of me, me, me.  It seems the egos of everyone is getting a bit out of control.  Few people think to put anything before themselves so therefore they and their ideas have to be right.  All the time.  To question that or disagree is a direct shot on their ego, so its taken very personally.

You may think I’m talking about big political topics here but I have seen some pretty heated debates about everything from parks to hair salons as well.  When someone thinks they are right, they will argue their point until friends are lost and family members no longer speak.  It’s ok to disagree and still be friends, in fact if you can handle the challenge you can actually learn from the experience while still maintaining your own ideas.

I’m not saying not to stand up for what you believe in.  I strongly support that.  But before you type a response on everything that aggravates you on Facebook or Twitter, I challenge you to do three things.  Ask yourself if you would speak up in person or are you hiding behind the anonymity of the internet,  ask yourself if there is a positive way to go about responding and finally make sure that it’s the cause and not your ego driving your response.

Try just walking away from the petty arguments and need to be right for a week and you may find that you like the peace so much you never go back into the fray again.