Change

Change

There was a time when I swam every day. Diving into the cool water, adjusting my goggles and stretching into the stroke. Glug glug glug, breath. Glug glug glug breathe. Back and forth. Counting the yards. Thinking of nothing. I swam for hours.

I didn’t know it then, but I was trying to swim away from my life. After I swam I would eat a 3 Musketeers and ride the bus until it brought me back to my starting point, then I would get off the bus and walk home.

At this time I was in a relationship with someone I fondly refer to as “the meanest guy in the world”. We worked together at a job I didn’t like and every day after work he would call and ask me to come over. I hadn’t yet learned how to say no. So in order to avoid him I would swim and ride the bus. On the occasion when he did catch me at home, I would go to his house and stay for hours, then walk home across town much too late in the evening for my early morning shift. (I also had a hard time saying, “I have to go.”)

Now that many years have passed, I understand that the relationship was hard to let go because he would be just nice enough to keep me coming back. When he thought he had me he would be the meanest guy in the world, and when he thought he was losing me he would be the nicest guy in the world. I also wanted to be with someone mean.

Being with someone mean gave me permission to be mean. We would have shouting matches where I would say all the mean things I had been saving up. All the tension I felt would be released. Shouting until my face throbbed had a cathartic effect on me, if only momentarily.

He was also kind. And when the meanest guy in the world is kind, you cling to it. I clung to it. And despite all the times I told him to leave me alone, and I never wanted to see him again, he always called a few days later, laughing and joking and pretending like nothing had happened. And when someone acts like they want you that much, it is hard to be mean.

So I swam and I rode the bus and I ate 3 Musketeers (a candy bar which I never liked much and still don’t, but that kind of sums up my life at that time); and eventually, after so many afternoons of me not being home when he called, the meanest guy in the world called me in the evenings. Then he resorted to stopping by for a friendly visit. His visits always left me feeling glad I didn’t see him more often. Eventually I moved and didn’t tell him. I haven’t seen him since. But he did come to me in a dream once.

In the dream he talked a lot about nothing. He told me he was gay now. And he complained about the abusive relationship he was in, and how they kept breaking up and getting back together, and how this time it was final, and how his boyfriend was such a jerk. And I knew he was the same as he ever was. I hadn’t missed a thing since we lost touch.

Years later, I suppose I can say all that swimming and bus riding really did take me away from the life I didn’t want. I swam away from the need for drama, or the idea that drama was interesting. I swam away from the belief that pain made me deep and romantic. I swam toward a life that is peaceful and beautiful, where I am free to be kind. A life I wouldn’t have been prepared for in the past.

P.S. I am now married to a very kind man. I told him if we had met years ago I would have been mean to him then because I felt the need for one party in every relationship to be cruel. If I had been with him in those days, I would have been the cruel one. He responded by saying, “I would have let you too.”

Music makes me tired. Is that normal?

We are human, and we are alive for the soul purpose of connecting and healing.

Let me start by saying I understand and believe those words, BUT today and every day at work, someone turns on their music loud enough to fill an enormous space. Sometimes I like this music, but mostly I don’t.

As I sat today, being annoyed at the music player and jealous of those with earbuds, I considered my feelings of connection. Is it better to connect the room with music that is not agreeable to some? Or is it better to keep the room quiet while allowing everyone to have their own private Idaho with earbuds and iPod minis? No connection. No interactions.

If I were the organizer of the world, I would always keep everything silent. But whenever I have the opportunity to keep things quiet, within minutes, someone is saying, “Why is it so quiet? Let’s turn on some music.”

Today, as I thought about this, I assumed everyone enjoyed the noise of music, if not the music itself. Just then, my coworker said, “is that music bothering you?”

I said, “Not at this exact moment.”

She laughed and inserted her earbuds. So, not everyone is in love with the generic noise.

I thought about the ear plugs in my purse. If it bothers me too much, I will just get those out. When I kept thinking about them, I figured it was time to bring them out. So I dug around in my purse and pulled out the little ear plug container, but when I looked inside, it was empty. So much for my escape plan.

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Maybe next time gadget.

Shhh…don’t tell, but my mom is Santa

So blogging on the train won’t work the way I thought it would. The girl who agreed to pick me up is now sick for an unspecified amount of time. I guess I could ask around if anyone else could pick me up,  but I don’t want to be that girl.

So at square one, I am back to squeezing blogging in when I can, which will probably be more now that Christmas craziness is over.

This was the first year I planned my own festivities instead of going along with everyone else’s. I even did a Santa thing. Sheesh, I have tons more respect for my mom with her ten kids. Not just all the presents every year, but all the Santa stuff. Not to mention Christmas breakfast and Christmas lunch. That’s a lot of preparation.

I don’t know if I had a point with this post. I guess I just wanted to say hi. We haven’t talked in a while, and maybe my brain is a little pooped out with Christmas and with writing for eight hours a day. But I have been thinking about you, and wanting to write something awesome for your holiday season. So here is my post. It might not be that awesome, but it’s here and sometimes that’s all we can do.

Merry Christmas!

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A farewell to prison

Dear Ego,

Thank you for all you’ve done over the years.

I know you tried keeping me safe, you even tried saving me from life. You kept me in fear. You kept me hidden. You kept me from breathing. You kept me in pain. You kept me in prison with you as my sympathetic guard. You even let me outside sometimes all while telling me how cold and frightening the world is. Your descriptions were so real I felt the cold, I felt the fear. I didn’t want to be free in that scary world. I wanted to stay safely in prison where my jailer took care of me.

You, my ego, my jailor, are a great listener. You sympathize, understand, and support all of my fears. Silly me didn’t realize I was only repeating your lessons back to you. You convinced me prison was safe by showing me a cold empty world in which I was afraid to live.

But all of that was a lie. You lied to me, ego. The cold empty world is the prison I’m living in with you.

My senses are dead because I experience no opposition. The food is all the same. There is no delicious because there is no bitter. There is no captivity because there is no freedom. There is no warm sunshine because there is no cold. All this safety amounts to no safety at all.

This prison has been my normal, but there is a whole world of opposites I am ready to explore. Safety is not holding my breath in a prison cell with my eyes squeezed shut, hoping the world will be different, but afraid it will change.

Safety is experiencing the world and knowing everything will be okay. Safety is knowing I can handle everything the world offers. Safety is knowing I don’t have to absorb anything I don’t want to. Safety is faith and trust. Safety is loving without needing its return. Safety is allowing myself to be cold because I know I will be warm again. Safety is breathing in the air of freedom even if it smells bad or makes me cough. Safety is knowing that my strength, with God’s,  is enough to thrive in this beautiful free world.

Safety is knowing that even if I get hurt, everything will be alright and I can heal in this life or the next. Safety is knowing that no one can truly hurt me without my permission. I am safer without you and your lies, ego.

I know you pretended to care for me but it was only to serve your own purpose. I am feeling a little angry and resentful towards you, ego, but freedom is forgiveness so being angry just keeps me as your prisone. I don’t love you, ego, but I don’t have to love you to forgive you. You can keep your empty prison but I won’t be coming back to it.

Goodbye, ego, this is the last day of our acquaintance.

As I walked away from the prison and the small, cold square of sunshine it offered, where everything had been the same, I knew now everything would be different.

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Yeah, I just woke up from a nap. Can you tell?

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When I was eight years old (or somewhere around there), I learned about a school for gifted children. Since school was an anxiety trap for me, I felt going to the gifted school would be an escape.

I expressed my desire to go to this school to my parents, and they agreed to have me tested. (I think you had to have a certain IQ or something. I didn’t know the details. I was only eight for-crying-out-loud.)

As the testing day approached I started paying attention to everything I did. I looked at my bedroom and wondered if my room would pass the test. Maybe I should clean it up. As I put my clothes away, I noticed a corner of my shirt sticking out of the dresser drawer.

Oh no, I almost missed that. What if I’m missing lots of details that are unacceptable to the gifted school? I looked at myself in the mirror. My hair was messy. I never liked brushing my hair, but I picked up the brush and ran it through the tangles. Now maybe I will be more acceptable to them. But I didn’t know.

What did they want from me? Were girls with scabby knees allowed in the school?

When the day of the test arrived, I was terrified.

I was led into a nice big playroom where I sat in a kid-sized chair at a kid-sized table and a guy who looked like my older brother set puzzles out in front of me. Since it was just the two of us and not a room full of people, I soon relaxed.

The questions stressed me out though, like I was swimming in the deep end on my first day at the pool.

I remember several times, staring at a puzzle swimming in my tears. I didn’t want the brother-guy to know I was crying though, so I would pretend I had to go to the bathroom.

I don’t know how long I was there, but it felt long and short at the same time.

I never went to the gifted school, so I guess I didn’t pass the test, and they never even looked at my bedroom or asked if my knees were scabby.

I remembered this experience when I was waiting for my second interview at Live Your Truth, because I remembered thinking many of the same thoughts. Would they hire me if they knew I had a crick in my neck? What if my house isn’t clean enough for them?

Even as I had these thoughts I knew they were ridiculous, but they were still there. Although I have thought this way for years, this might have been the first time I was aware of it.

The belief behind the thoughts was this: I am not good enough as I am. People will pick me apart and not accept me because I’m flawed.

I cannot express to you how wonderful it is to become aware of something like that. Once I become aware of it, I can change it.

I took a few deep breaths and said: “If they don’t want to hire me as I am, then I don’t belong there. If this job isn’t perfect for me, I will find a job that is. I don’t have to prove myself. I don’t have to try. I just have to be me.”

Then Tuesday came along and I went to the interview.

The company’s president said, “I didn’t really read your resume, I’m not a resume guy.” And three of the five people didn’t read my writing samples. They were all real people.

Nobody was trying to prove anything to me and I didn’t have to prove anything to them. This is a new place for me, not proving myself. And it feels wonderful.

I can honestly say that two months ago, or even two weeks ago, I might not have gotten this job. I would have been so tied up in my brain, I would have tripped over myself and landed on my face. It’s nice to know I’ve made progress.

Fun, no Fun

Computer went caput yesterday, actually the day before. So I called Microsoft thinking they would tell me something quick and easy to do to erase all the memory stealers that were showing up on my computer. Ended up being on the phone with them for over two hours, backing up and erasing my entire laptop and then resetting it up again.

So that is the reason I didn’t blog yesterday. Also because I had an intense, crippling headache (which is weird because I don’t really get headaches). But this was my outfit (if you look closely you can see the pain behind my eyes):

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I am telling you about this because while I was on the phone with the Microsoft guy, we had long periods of waiting for my computer to do its thing, and I guess he felt uncomfortable with silence because he kept saying things like, “So how is your day going so far?” and “Have anything fun planned the rest of the day?”

My answers were inconsequential and I could feel his lack of interest as palpable as if he were snoring into the phone.

What I couldn’t get over was how dull my life seemed.

“What do you have planned for the rest of the day?” he asked for the third time, as though maybe I would say something interesting if he kept asking.

“Just my normal routine,” I answered. “Grocery shopping, fix dinner, clean the house.” Sheesh! What else do people do on Wednesday? I could almost see his imagination. I was old. I was frumpy. I was wrapped in a shapeless sweater with my thin hair fuzzing out around my head, and I was surrounded by cats. Lots of cats.

What else surprised me was how pleased I was about my boring life. The more boring my life is, the more I love it.

When my job was hanging around drug addicts all day long, they always asked me if I did anything fun over the weekend. I usually just said, no, but one time a client asked me and I said, “If I did something that sounds fun, I probably didn’t enjoy it. If my weekend sounds boring, I probably loved it. So, no, I didn’t have any fun, and I had a great weekend.”

It felt good to say that. Maybe I’m wearing a sign that says, “I need more fun,” because I feel like some people are trying to drag fun out of me. Yesterday, while the Microsoft guy kept asking about my super-fun life, I realized I have no desire for fun. My idea of fun is writing a blog, or shopping for thirty minutes, or talking to my mom. But I might be misinterpreting the definition of fun with those. I enjoy them, but they probably aren’t fun.

So there you are, world, I’m not that much fun and I love it. This news might be shocking to some people, like when my mom told me she didn’t care about comfort, I couldn’t comprehend how someone could live their lives without comfort. I think the Microsoft guy would have been shocked to hear that someone under eighty exists with no desire for fun.

Utah vacation

Excerpt from my 1989 journal:

Dear Diary,

We’re on our way to Los Angeles. We haven’t even got out of Gilroy yet, and we’re stopping for gas. That’s all that happened. Nothing exciting has happened.

P.R. I bet this is going to be fun.

P.R. (again) P.R. means please read.

 

Sun. Aug. 6, 1989

Dear Diary,

I’m in Utah. It’s a lot of fun.

Yesterday Grandma woke up and found a little kitten laying on the patio, crying. She brought it in and gave it some milk. It was a Siamese cat. Her tail was bleeding and she had some broken bones.

Grandma laid her down. I came down and saw a little Siamese cat. Grandma was on the telephone and that’s where I heard the story that morning. I took care of the cat, then me, Grandma and April went to the store. When we got back, me and April checked on the cat. We took care of it. We named her mittens. If it was a boy then we would name it socks, but she died.

We had yogurt and animal crackers upstairs, but we watched mittens and took care of her until she was completely dead. Then we ate our food.

Well, I got to go to bed.

P.R. I got lots of mosquito bites. There are a lot of bugs here.

Love, Liesel Gowen

 

Wed. Aug. 1989

Dear Diary,

I’m having fun as I said before. Dad sent me a letter. He said that he would write to me once a week and every time he will write, he will send me a verse to memorize. But he’s only sent me one I’ve memorized already, but I have to stop because this pen is awful.

P.R. I hate this pen.

Love, Liesel