“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!”~Rocky Balboa
My inspiration today comes from Rocky. I feel a little beat up by life recently…it’s taken a few swings and has made contact once or twice. (This is all figuratively of course, not a subtle cry for help…except to the universe). When I get knocked to the ground and feel like I can’t get up again, I think about quotes like the one above. No veil, no promises – just the fact that it’s not easy, it’ll probably get harder, but it’s worth pushing on and living bigger. Tears and fear of the unknown are so easy to seize while the will to push on is feint and easy to ignore. I don’t expect ease or luxury, but sometimes there’s a little whisper that tells me it’s all so unfair and that things aren’t coming as easily as I’d imagined. To that whisper, I must remind myself to push back and remember that the fight is worth fighting. I suspect that most of us opt for the victim status while pointing fingers outward at the reason we still lay on the ground. I have been hit, but I promise that I will continue to get up, try again, and ultimately win.
It’s about not letting life dictate the terms. It’s about believing in yourself. It’s about pushing forward when everyone expects you to tap out.
“….I firmly believe that any man’s finest hours – his greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear – is that moment when he has worked his heart out in good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” ~Vince Lombardi
A characteristic, mannerism, or appearance of a person, either subtle or overt, which implies unique, eccentric, creative, adventurous or unconventional thinking.
Letting loose, being down with your cool self, especially in front of a group of strangers. Your inner freak, that wants to come out, but often is supressed, from social anxiety.
I was at a paddling team party – more like a relaxed potluck dinner with a chance to sit back and enjoy each other’s company outside of a boat. One of the girls plugged in her phone into the stereo and put on some dance music, and it didn’t take long before a little dance party broke out in the living room. A couple girls were in the middle shakin’ it, then one of the boyfriends joined in. Then all of a sudden out of nowhere, one of the most quiet girls on the team stepped into the middle and just let go of any and all inhibition and went to town with funky dance moves. She was shaking and moving every part of her body to the music, and her smile was as big as her dance flare. All of us on the periphery stood there in shock at this new brazen dancing queen that was shining out of what we knew as the shy girl. She let her freak flag fly.
As I thought about it, I realized three false “truths” that many of us probably share:
1. We all have a freak flag we want to fly
2. We don’t do it out of fear of what people will think
3. We believe that the only way to do it is under some substance influence
We all have one, no denying it. If you don’t have one, you’re boring, but I don’t believe anyone is boring at the core – just on the outside. It’s just that most of our freak flags are folded neatly (from rare use) and tucked way in the back corner of ourselves. But we want to fly it. We want to let our weirdness and uniqueness burst out because it takes more effort and energy to suppress it and to project our current boring conformist exteriors. I want to be like that girl who just let loose at the party. I wanted to just jump right in and dance with her, but I stopped myself because I was afraid of what the other girls would think – which of course they wouldn’t have cared because I was one of those side-liners watching, and I was both impressed and jealous.
We stop ourselves because of fear. Fear of what other people will think, fear of what we may see in ourselves, fear. What’s that statistic? 90% of things that people worry about never happens. I’ve also heard that 78% of statistics are made up on the spot, but I really believe the worry stat – it’s gotta be in the 90% area. Fear of what others think is such a foolish but real guide by which many of us live…especially people pleasers like me. Who cares?! They certainly don’t!
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. ~Dr. Suess
As for the third reality, resorting to alcohol or any substance to boost our courage and lose our inhibitions – it’s a quick-fix, sure, but you’ll always wake up the next morning stuck with the same you…so you may as well make yourself a fun you all the time instead of just a weekend-party-time-fun-you version. Liquid courage is too quick of a fix…and I’m lecturing myself on this one. It’s surface-fix, not true-fix. I’m allowed to fly my freak flag AND be free of alcohol while doing it…what a concept! I bring up the alcohol specifically because I’m an anti-drug sorta gal, but I know lots of shyish people turn to drugs to bring out the fun them…stop it! now! Enjoy life naturally! And to all you non-shy types out there – if you see one of us shy people looking like we REALLY want to join in and dance, just grab our hand and bring us on the dance floor! If your freak flag flies a little more easily than others, help a sister or brother out!
“Why are we so full of restraint? Why do we not give in all directions? Is it fear of losing ourselves? Until we do lose ourselves there is no hope of finding ourselves.” ~Henry Miller
I think I turned a new, little leaf recently. Where does that saying come from anyways? I’ll look it up along with “up and at em” after this. I was at Starbucks waiting for an oil change, and was reading my new book about a man who found out he had pancreatic cancer and only had a few months left to live – to which his response was to design his last professorial lecture aimed to inspire both his students and his children to live life to the fullest. The book is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch if anyone wants to enjoy a quick read (and for me that’s almost always an oxymoron, but very true in this case).
It doesn’t take long after reading about a dying man’s last few months of gripping onto each and every moment to look at one’s own life and take stock. He didn’t even want to waste the time to get a refund when he’d realized the self-check grocery credit card scanner charged him twice for his bundle of groceries – that’s how precious time was to him. Yet just a couple days ago I actually pondered taking Nyquil to be able to fall asleep earlier because I had nothing left to do that day. It’s both humbling and humiliating, and I felt ashamed. Here I am blogging my bucket list, and blog after blog about how to live a full and healthy life, yet my words have fallen on deaf ears…and motionless legs it seems.
I can barely justify my lazy and uneventful days by saying I did find a new job and am simply waiting for it to start in a few weeks. I paddle on a paddling team four times a week, but takes minimal time. There’s simply no excuse to do nothing in a day – well, ok, if you’ve saved the world or did an Ironman the day before, you get a freebee. I don’t fall into that category, so I would like to plan this a little better, start making some active headway, start valuing my time, and get off my arss!
Things I’m going to try: learn to ride a motorcycle. I’ve wanted to do it for years, and it’s time to just do it…as long as I don’t tell my doctor dad who calls them donorcycles. It’s ok, I can’t tell my mom about my tattoos, so it’s about even…tattoos and motorcycles – I’m most definitely in a life crisis. Also, I’m going to work on the abaondoned guitar left under the house I’m staying in. I’ve started to learn many times, and have three chords solidly (E, A, G), but I’m going to learn at least one full song. In addition, I’m going to work on my herb garden and cook five new meals. That should be a good start for now.
The motivation to get up and do has just been non-existent, but after reading this book, I am simply left without excuses. I must walk the walk…which entails getting up and putting one foot in front of the other. The line in the sand has been drawn. Who wants to get up and DO something?
I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.
~ Audre Lorde
Growing up, vulnerability was not a good thing. I never heard, “I am lonely,” or, “I ache,” or, “I am confused.” …though I’m pretty sure they were all felt along the way through the years at some point. Mine was that image family from American Beauty – the one that looked great on the outside. We had it all – good house, my dad was a doctor, my mom was a nurse and dietician, three beautiful (ok I was pretty awkward until 30 or so) girls who were all smart and athletic, two small, white, fluffy dogs. We went to church every week, …the all-American image. We weren’t even that messed up on the inside, but then again, how would we know because we never talked about anything other than schedules, vacations, funny stories of the day – anything that didn’t have to do with matters of the heart. In fact, if someone got mad when I was young, there wasn’t even ever any yelling. The mad person would just walk away. Confrontation was completely foreign to me. I’m pretty sure this upbringing was not intentional – it was simply the pattern of my parents’ generation, and they were doing the best they could with the arsenal of emotional tools they had. No blame, seriously no blame.
But what resulted was a stunted ability – even a disability on my part – to let my soft underbelly show to anyone…ever. The answer to any question to my well-being was, “I’m fine.” …and then quickly change the subject. I learned quickly how to put the attention back onto the other person in order to keep them engrossed in conversation and forget to ask questions about me. Have I mentioned I’m a great conversationalist? You’ll walk away from a conversation with me feeling great and liking me more. Why? Because we talked all about you.
So what exactly does wearing full armor all the time get you? You get to know a heck of a lot about other people, and very little about yourself. You forget to ask yourself how you’re doing, what you’re feeling, and even what you want and don’t want. Because you don’t know where you are or what you want, you don’t establish boundaries for yourself – boundaries that are so very important to have. In essence, you forget to be vulnerable with yourself, and stop knowing who you are…you are not even comfortable in your own skin.
Vulnerability is opening up, being exposed, and letting in. It’s counter-intuitive to people like me where being closed feels safer. But look at what being closed prevents. It prevents connectedness with those around you and with the bigger world at large. You can’t participate fully in life if you’ve turned inward. You may see beauty, but you’re not letting it in. You may have friendships, but you’re always keeping them at an arm’s distance on the polite and small-talk level. You’re not letting yourself be known to the greatest person in your life – YOU.
Vulnerability is risky. Opening up means risking heartbreak, deceit, betrayal, and pain. I’m pretty sure that risk is the reason people who have been hurt in the past can make themselves go callous and put themselves on ice. But in this case, the case of life, even the people who get hurt time and again will say the benefits of vulnerability far outweigh the risks. You can meet new and wonderful people, deepen rich friendships, be open to new opportunities and experiences, and live more fully in a world of interconnectivity. But most importantly, you can love and be loved.
I found a list of things we can do to start on the path of vulnerability:
Trying new behaviors
Taking a risk
Initiating contact with strangers
Tuning into feelings of others and yourself
Willingness to get help for yourself
Being open to receiving help and support from others
Being honest with others and yourself when it would be easier to lie in order to avoid conflict
Accepting change when it comes your way
Looking for deeper reasons or motives for your own behavior
Self-disclosure of your weaknesses to others
Being direct and precise about your feelings, beliefs, and attitudes when discussing them
Willingness to listen to honest feedback
Dealing with anger in a productive, non-offensive manner
Letting go of fears that impede your movement toward others
Letting go of guilt or remorse over the past
Letting go of hostility, bitterness, and resentment toward others for past hurts
Development of trust in others’ good will
Willingness to be seen as weak or emotional
Accepting your humanness, failures, and mistakes as OK
Understanding the reasons you are risking vulnerability
Feeling secure enough to admit your failings, mistakes, and losses
A study was conducted and found that most people fall into two categories – those who have a sense of worthiness, and those who struggle for it. The people who had self-worth had one thing in common:
“Courage. The original definition of courage when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart – was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.” ~Brené Brown
I found my quotes in this good blog about vulnerability.
This may be uncomfortable for some people to read, but I’ve decided to go ahead and put it out there on the off-chance there are people like me looking for help. Over the last 8 years, I have seen firsthand the corrosive effects of war on my husband and on our marriage. It’s a dark imbedded anger that he works his hardest to push back and ignore, but that sort of inner monster can only be pushed back so many times before it rears its ugly head again. The yelling, the explosive anger, the seemingly flip-of-a-switch change in temperment, the need to control, the isolation, the lack of motivation to do anything, the crazy-making, the denial…if any of this sounds familiar, please read on. I’ve halfway paid attention to the news lately and how some of the soldiers who had been diagnosed with PTSD were getting their status revoked because it’s costing the government too much to sustain healthcare and treatment for the masses of men having a hard time being “normal” again. That’s all my husband craves…to be “normal,” and though he’s never been officially diagnosed, it is plain to see that his life today is deeply affected and even impaired by his service in Iraq nearly a decade ago.
Let’s look at some of the stats that he and I fall into. In the past year alone the number of diagnosed PTSD cases in the military jumped 50% – and that’s just diagnosed cases. Studies estimate that 1 in every 5 military soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD. Unless he gets help, my husband will continue to struggle to do everyday things like paying bills and cleaning the house. He will be less self-disclosing and expressive, and will have increased problems with relationships and parenting. He will be jumpy with specific triggers like smells or noises that remind him of his traumatic war experiences. His jumpiness will also include increased and unpredictable anger bursts. Because his actual brain has been altered due to repeated exposure to cortisol (stress related hormone), he will continue to suffer from the inability to discern his emotions and match appropriate responses. He will also be in more of a fight/flight mode than the average person, who only reaches that stage in severe circumstances. His brain will be telling him there is a threat when there is none, so he will spend energy and compromise his well being at the expense of staying hyper vigilant. Because he had to act aggressively for long periods of time to stay alive, he will have higher levels of hostility and aggression that have become habitual and comfortable to him. He will be more likely to get into fights, drive aggressively, become angry at small tings, and overreact to any sort of challenge. He will likely live with survivor’s guilt that he lived and some of his Army buddies did not, and he may have associated depression which will cause him to gravitate away from exercise and toward comfort activities like eating or watching tv for long periods of time. He will continue to be easily overwhelmed by too much of any one thing – noise, people, activity – and will shy away from engaging back into this world.
As a wife of a soldier with PTSD, studies show that unless I get help, I face the following challenges. There will likely be more violence in my home when we have kids – with both physical and verbal aggression against not only the kids, but against me. Because of that environment, I will also be more likely to perpetuate the violence cycle and be verbally and physically aggressive to my children. I have a greater chance of developing my own mental health and social problems, such as anxiety attacks, social isolation and a nervous breakdown. I am likely to have lower levels of happiness, higher demoralization, and less satisfaction in my life. My relationship needs will likely go unmet as emotional violence continues and I develop a “caretaker burden” role. I will tend to take on more responsibility for household tasks and relationship maintenance with children and extended family. And finally, I will feel compelled to attend closely to my husband’s problems, and will work hard to manage and minimize his anger outbursts from cues I grow acutely aware of. All of what I go through is called secondary traumatization, and in some cases, secondary PTSD, and is the indirect impact of trauma on me due to being in close contact with my husband.
What to do. Sounds like a dead-end, doesn’t it? For a long time, I felt like it was, and I had no clue where to go or what to do to help me out of my war-torn hole. Beyond that, there’s little to no help on the internet or real world to find other people struggling with the same challenge. So, just like any problem in life, start with the basics. Learn a little about what PTSD is and the effects it has on the home life. In other words, educate yourself. The links below are a good start. Second, find a professional to talk to. The websites below also offer places to look for free counseling. Third, find others like yourself in a support group setting. Family members of alcoholics continually say the mutual understanding they get from people they meet in ALANON far surpasses the standard venting to friends and family. My family sees the pain I go through, but they do not fully understand the extent of my situation. I can share only so much with them. I need to find other spouses like me to talk to about this. After many calls, I found a group near me and have started going to the meetings; I get to see my pain mirrored in other women, and I have begun to see I’m not so crazy. And finally, encourage your partner to find help of his own. I’ve published this post with my husband’s blessing, and he had finally begun talking about his experiences with a professional. Unfortunately, the marriage is stagnant until both people are healthy, but the silver lining is that you’re now pursuing your own wellness in the process, and your self-care will begin to repair your soul. I don’t know what the soldiers on the ground go through, but I certainly know what the spouses back home experience, and I have so much sympathy for others that suffer silently behind closed doors, confused at the changed person who used to be their loving spouse. It breaks my heart that some of those spouses have chosen to end their and/or the life of their spouse becuase the pain is too much. The chance for joy again is not over; it’s just beginning.