Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dealing with difficult memories

Guy Winch says that how we look at our difficult memories can help us heal.  Lifehacker has an article about his idea.

http://lifehacker.com/make-a-slight-change-in-perspective-to-minimize-painful-1325509215?utm_campaign=socialflow_lifehacker_twitter&utm_source=lifehacker_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ch..ch...ch...changes

It has been way to long since I've posted to this blog. Life has been full over the psst months with changes, adaptations and planning for the future.  J and I were married in June, had a wonderful and relaxing honeymoon and then went back to our work and community lives. About a week after retuning from our honeymoon we had a terrible shock when J's Mom, only 66, died suddenly and very unexpectedly.  We are still adjusting to that as we walk through the grief journey.

Quick interlude on my parents - things went well with them at the wedding. We were pleasantly surprised that they took the time and resources to come to my mother-in-law's funeral. My father said "you're both our kids, we love you and you need us." Oh how things have changed.

Our summer was also filled with moving J from his apartment to the house I have rented for a number of years, dealing with some of his mom's stuff and very busy work lives.

Before we knew it the High Holy Days were upon us with their joy, work and respite.

Oh, and I've been taking a programming class.

One of the other exciting things is that we found a house to buy! We have a signed contract with the buyer and hope to close around Thanksgiving or a little later. Buying the house is exhilarating and a bit scary. I'm not looking forward to packing a third house this year, but it will be worth it.

So, in a nutshell, things are busy and the beginning of marriage has been a whirlwind.

I hope that things are okay wth you.

Your sister thriver,
Leah

Monday, February 27, 2012

Update on My Wedding Dilemnas

As you might have read in a previous post, I am getting married in June.  I decided from the beginning to include my parents and they have (somewhat surprisingly) been supportive.  I had been worried about what to do with some of the traditional father/daughter moments.  After a lot of thought, discussion with my fiance and sitting with my options, I've decided to let my dad be involved in some of those moments.  For example, we will follow the Jewish custom of both parents walking me down the isle.  However, it is important to me to walk some of the way myself, so they will walk me halfway, they'll continue to the huppah and then I will walk the rest of the way.  The harder decision was what to do about the father/daughter dance.  J (my fiance) and I decided that we would have the parent dances simultaneously - he with his mom and me with my dad.  We are doing it to Sunrise/Sunset and immediately after the song J and I will dance together again while my parents dance together and J's mom/brother dance.  I'm not thrilled about it, but for a variety of reasons it is the right thing to do.  Hopefully my father will care enough about "what people think" to be appropriate during the dance.  I'll definitely keep my dance frame locked (remember that scene from dirty dancing.)  I hope that I don't come to regret this decision, I don't think I will.  Things have been so positive lately that I'm choosing to remain optimistic.

Your sister survivor/thriver,
Leah

Monday, January 02, 2012

Abuse in the Military - "The Invisible War"

A groundbreaking and important film called "The Invisible War" will be shown at this year's Sundance Film Festival on January 20th.  The film examines the underreported epidemic of sexual assault in our US Military.  Based on my time in the military, I believe it.   "It is estimated that up to 30% of  women who serve in the U.S. Military have been raped by a fellow soldier.  Only 8% of these rapes are reported (so we can assume that the numbers are much higher).  Only 2% of reported rapes receive convictions"



You can learn more about the movie and contribute your own story on Twitter @Invisible_War and  Facebook.com/InvisibleWarMovie.  You can also go to the Where is Your Line site on The Invisible War, Nancy Schwartzmann of The Line is the movie's Campaign and Advocacy Director.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Taste of My New Family

JE and I recently travelled south to spend some time with his mom.  While this was the third time that I spent time with her, it was my first time in her home.  She's a lovely and gracious hostess, throwing a party for us so that her friends could meet us, making sure that we got to meet/see family, treating us to dinners out and in her home, and sharing her love with both of us.

I am overwhelmed with her generosity, love and care.  She continues to welcome me into the family with open arms and an open heart.  Once during the trip she called me her future daughter-in-law and the next day called me her daughter-in-law and even daughter. I'm glad that she sees me as a family member even though it isn't official yet.  The day before leaving I asked her if I could call her Ma.  She cried while saying yes.

It feels nice to be building a relationship with a positive mother figure. I feel lucky to have her in my life and am glad that JE has a close relationship with her.  (But am thankful that he isn't a mamas boy in the negative sense of the term.)

Thanks for letting me share.
Your sister survivor/thriver,
Leah

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Need Your Advice as I Plan My Wedding

The wedding planning has begun.  We have a date, location, officiants and have begun many of the other items on the "to do" list.  When we told my parents, they were supportive and excited for us.  I wasn't completely surprised because our communication has been better, more respectful and more patient lately.  Not all smooth sailing (what parent relationship is even before factoring abusiveness), but not a nightmare either.

A bit of background;  so far I am planning to have my parents at the wedding.  I haven't decided yet what ritual roles they will be invited to participate in.  Right now, I don't feel a need to exclude them, nor do I want to make it obvious that I am limiting their role.  Those of my family and friends who know the history will understand what is happening and those who don't won't.  The day should be about J and I, not about "protecting" myself from my parents.  I plan to ask two friends to be on "parent patrol"  - prepared to intervene and step in if necessary. (One has already volunteered to do so.)  

So, here is my question. How have you navigated having abusers/parents at a wedding/important family event? I am confident that I (with help of my fiance and friends) feel safe and focused on the really important things that day.  It is the process of figuring out what I am comfortable with that I am less sure about.  For example, my finace would like a mother/son dance.  I don't particularly want to do father/daughter dance with my dad.  My fiance's father is deceased, so that isn't an option.  Should I just not dance when J dances with his mom?  I don't really want to keep him from dancing with his mom.  Should I ask a friend to be my dance partner?  Won't that make things stick out to everyone? Should I just pick a short song and dance with my dad, keeping a nice proper dance distance from each other? I am at the stage of processing, exploring and trying to figure out what feels right.  It would help me to know how other survivors have handled it.

Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for sharing your ideas.

Your sister thriver,
Leah

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Engaged!

I got a wonderful surprise recently - a marriage proposal.  J, the man I've been dating, asked me to marry him.  He asked in a windeful, surprising and joyful way that fit us.  Now the planning begins.  We chose to tell our family, including my parents and sister.  So far, so good (mostly), only one stressful phone call about family stuff.  Should be interesting.  I hope that we don't regret the decision to involve my parents. They have hurt me before, so I am skeptically optomistic. 

Thanks for letting me share,
Your sister survivor,
Leah

Friday, November 04, 2011

NaBloPoMo Blog Het theme for 11/4

Thanks to Blog Her for the daily writing prompt.  Today's prompt asks about the tools we use when writing.  I write and post St the computer.  I've kept handwritten journals in the past, but I find myself typing more often then not.  At the same time, there is something more intimate and personal about handwriting. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Apps Against Abuse Contest Winner!!!

Yesterday, Vice President Biden announced that one of the winners of the Apps Against Abuse contest is Circle of 6, an app developed by Nancy Schwartzmann of The Line Campaign @thelinecampaign and a team of other activists. Way to go Nancy and colleagues!  Take a look at the app at Circle of 6.  Read a Chronicle for Higher Ed blog post about the contest.

It is always great to see activism and collaboration improve our world!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn....

Last time I posted, I shared my relationship with DL.  It continues to go well.  I find myself growing in unexpected ways, dealing with old wounds in new ways and, surprisingly, facing changes in my relationship with my parents.  I've been talking with them more lately, sharing more of my life with them.  Yes, I'm still protective of what I share and how much I let them in, but I'm risking a bit more lately.  It feels good, and I hope that I am not getting my hopes up too high.

Your sister survivor Thriver,
Leah

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beautiful Surprise a Year Ago

I couldn't have imagined some of the things that happened during this past year.  I had not a clue they were coming.  Not a hint.

A year ago tonight I met a friend and her husband for what I was told were drinks and the chance to meet a new person in town who worked with the friend.  She had called me about a week before and said, "hey we have a new person at work who doesn't know anyone.  Will you meet him so that he knows other Jewish people in town?"

Little did I know that when I sat down at that table that a friendship would start that would blossom into a relationship and into being head over heals in love.  Now I can't imagine my life without DL (is it too sappy to call him DL for dear love?) We speak and/or see each other every day.  My day starts with a good morning phone call and often ends with a good night phone call.  Yes, we are pathetic (in a good way.)

I had no idea this was coming - not.one.clue - as I wrote earlier in this post.  I had come to a place in my life where I knew that I could be happy and whole as a single person blessed with great friends.  And then, surprise surprise, DL becomes a part of my life.

Today we began the month of Elul, a month of reflection and preparation for the coming New Year.  It seems fitting and appropriate that today is also the anniversary of the day we met.

I pray that the year to come is filled with strength, hope, love, courage, healing and good surprises for each of us.

Your sister thriver,
Leah

Monday, May 30, 2011

More on My Mom - Update

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about the complicated and sad relationship that I have with my mother.  Thanks again to all of you who commented and shared your own stories, they helped.

So - - the update.  Someone helped me come up with the idea that we have a mother/daughter book discussion to try to be able to talk with each other and build a bit of a relationship.  (My mom and I both love to read.)  So, I talked with her about it and let her pick the first book. I've read the book and we should be able to have an interesting discussion about it when my mom is ready.  I hope that she follows through, reads the book and asks for a time to talk about it.  I hope that she doesn't disappoint me again.

From your hopeful sister survivor thriver,

Leah

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Joy!

Who was it that said "joy cometh in the morning?"  These days I feel like a new person and that a new day has dawned.  I'm in a new relationship with all of the excitement that it brings. 

I feel so safe and comfortable with this person.  When I shared my family issues he responded with such kindness and sincerity.  We have shared a lot with each other, building on 6 months of friendship as we now date.    I can't wait to see where this goes.

Your sister thriver,
Leah

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mom - A Complicated Word...Complicated Relationship...A Request for Advice

I've been dealing with being abused for many years.  I've done some healing  about the abuse.  I think that I'm in an okay place regarding my father.   I'm angry with him and I know that it is okay to be angry with him, to blame him and to place the shame of the abuse where it belongs - - on him.  (As simple as it sounds, it took me years to get here.)

Things are more complicated when I think about my mother.  Why?  Well, in many ways she failed me as a mother.  She didn't protect me.  She didn't stop my father.  Yet, it isn't that simple because she too is abused by my father.  Throughout the time I was growing up in my parents' house my father emotionally abused my mother, belittled her family, belittled her dreams, belittled her accomplishments and worst of all routinely sexually abused her in front of me and my sister (and even my friends! when they were at the house).  So, the part of me that knows that she is a victim, that she is depressed and that she too is stuck feels sorry for her.  How can I blame her?  Yet, I'm her little girl and she didn't protect me.  How could she not protect her little girl?  I feel protective of my friends' kids, of my students, of kids in the neighborhood.  How much more the maternal instinct must be.  Why didn't she protect me?  So thus it is complicated.

To my sister and brother survivors and thrivers - - if this resonates with you what advice do you have for me?  If your situation is similar how do you handle it?  Thanks in advance for your comments.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Back to...Life....Back to....Therapy

The realization crept up on me, slowly, like an old acquaintance.  I recognized its presence yet didn't engage.  Finally, I decided to pay attention.  It was time to go back to therapy.  So, I found a new therapist - with the help of some people I trust - and have had 3 sessions.  It is good to be back and work on the next steps of my healing journey.

Thanks for reading and thanks for letting me share.
Your sister survivor-thriver,
Leah

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Wishes for Wednesday

Hello.  I hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing today that you have an okay day in which you feel safe and maybe even have a bit of hope.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Survivorship, Friendship and Healing

I never expected that the things that are helping me recover from the abuse may help a cancer survivor.

A friend of mine is battling breast cancer.   She is in the midst of her second round of chemo and has radiation and then reconstructive surgery to go.  In the midst of her cancer fight, she has been faced with problems with her children.  The kids are young adults who can't/aren't able to help their mom (even emotionally.)  She's really been struggling with this.  She knows my story, including the years that I barely spoke with my parents.  She asked me about the decision, what it was like and what it has been like to be able to reconnect with them.  What I didn't expect was that some of the tools I used to handle triggers, conversations and interactions with my family would help her.  

This weekend over coffee my friend told me about an article she read.  In the article an incest survivor who was a competitive diver told of taking back her power by screaming "no more" while at the bottom of a dive pool.  She came up for air strengthened and determined to survive and thrive.  I don't know the name of the article or the name of the diver.  My heart and inner chile cheered for that girl.

May we find strength, courage, healing and hope.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Death is Never Easy

A friend and colleague's father recently died.  He had the blessing and challenge of spending the last week of his father's life by his side.  He (and his wife and children) was there when his father took his last breath.

What is painful?  His sister couldn't be there.  It was just too hard for her.  She was unable to make the long (physically and emotionally) trip to be with her dad before or after his death.  My friend is both angry with his sister and feels badly for her.

So you may be thinking that she couldn't be there because her father abused her (this is, after all a blog about surviving abuse) and that he wasn't willing to accept responsibility.  Not exactly.  Yes, unfortunately, she was abused.  No one deserves that. No one.  At any age.  For any "reason."  She was abused by a family member, not her father, not her brother, not her grandparents....  Her father was not her abuser.  Yet, it seems that to her he is inexorably connected to her abuse.  Her father and brother do not deny that the abuse happened.  They accept what she says.  (Something for which I yearn but I have learned to let go of that expectation.)

I feel badly for her.  I feel badly for her brother (my friend) and for her (late) father.

I feel conflicted...because I understand the pain of abuse...the way it can impact all interactions with family...how it can take over your life.  Yet, I see too her brother's pain, his wish that she could be present.

Life isn't easy nor simple.  This is, however, a new scenario that remains on my mind.

What do you think?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Friendship

As summer begins to ebb, I reflect on its events.  One of the joys of this summer was the friends with whom I connected.  Some of them in my home, some in their home and some along the way.  I am blessed with amazing friends filled with depth, love, care and understanding.

Today I spent the majority of the day with a friend of 22 years.  Our connection with each other spans multiple components of our lives - including the challenges of surviving abusive childhoods.  Today we gathered to spend time with a mutual friend who is dying of a terrible disease of the brain stem.  It is so sad to watch her decline.  My friend is much closer to her then I am.  I try to be present for both of them.  Thank G-d for friends - at all times, but especially at times like these.

I hope that my summer of friends will continue into the fall, even if our connections are a combination of in person, on the phone, on Skype or Google phone through Gmail.  Technology allows us to connect easier and continue our friendships.

Your grateful survivor thriver.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

My Body, Myself - Fear, Healing and Body Image

As a survivor, I've often felt uncomfortable in my skin.  Some reading I did earlier in my healing journey helped me understand that this is partly because my father's abuse began before I had an understanding of where my body began and ended (the abuse began around 2).  I've heard that many survivors face this issue, regardless of the timing of the abuse.

I never believed people when they told me that I was pretty and in fact being told I looked good set off deeply-placed alarms that I didn't really understand.  I felt that looking attractive was a problem.  Why?  Because I was trying to find a way out of the abuse - - while I was still living in my parent's house and even afterwards, up to and through some of the healing process.  When I turned to food for comfort, I got the (backwards) "benefit" of gaining weight and therefore in my own "logic" felt "safer."

Recently I began to feel more "myself" in my body and I began to feel uncomfortable with my size.  Last September I decided to begin working on losing weight.  I was skeptical in the beginning, I didn't think it would work.  I wasn't sure if I would feel "okay" with being thinner.

- - - Important caveat - - - I do NOT believe that thinner is better.  If you are reading this post and are comfortable with your size - - whatever that size is - - then good for you.  If you struggle with an eating disorder, please reach out for some help.  - - -

So, because I felt that I was no longer comfortable with being overweight and out of shape, I began doing weight watchers (leave me a comment if you have questions or want my thoughts on weight watchers) and started to find some success.  Like all weight loss programs there have been ups and downs and I've had a relatively slow loss.  Now I am about 10 pounds from my goal.  This past week I reached a couple of goals-along-the-way: have a BMI# that is in the normal range and loose 30% of the weight I was when I began.  It feels good to achieve both of these goals, and I have a lot of hard work coming to get the last ten pounds off and keep the weight off.  (I keep telling myself that how I eat now is a lifestyle choice not a "diet" and is similar to the transition from being a carnivore to a vegetarian 17 plus years ago.)

What is my point beyond shameless bragging? I'm just beginning to realize that I feel safe feeling good about my physical body.  I am okay with being attractive because I am safe with myself and safe from prior abuse.  I know myself and understand that I being able to wear size 8 jeans is about health, wellness, healing and who I am today.

I hope that as I continue on the survivorship journey, that I can continue to live fully present in myself - physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Thanks for reading and for letting me share.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Excited to celebrate the renewal of the Torah and myself

Tonight we begin the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.  Shavuot celebrates the day thousands of years ago when our people first received the Torah.  Receiving the Torah is an active, rather than passive process.  We repeat it yearly on the holiday and daily/weekly/monthly when we choose to engage in Jewish life.  Such participation includes everything from arguing/discussing/debating faith with one another, with ourselves, with G-d to a full embracing of all components of Jewish life and living (and everything in between.)

The medieval Rabbi Bachya ibn Paquda taught many things, among them the idea that days are scrolls, write on them what we want to be remembered.  Blogging has been part of my journey - blogging about life in general and about my healing journey.  On this holiday, I am mindful that healing includes review of the story as a central component of growth.  I pray that my celebration of Shavuot includes being present with community at Sinai as well as present with myself and my own story. 

If you celebrate I hope that your observance is filled with joy, growth and hope.

Monday, May 17, 2010

No, this Blog isn't Done

...Yep, I am still here. I am still posting, just not very often. :-) Thanks for your patience with my lack of blogging.

...Recently I had guests in my home for about 6 days. They were in town from Israel visiting their daughter who is about to graduate from college. I haven't had guests for that long since the marathon hosting of over 70 people in our Israeli apartment (ah, grad school.) It was nice to have them visit and to show them a glimpse of life in America. They were patient, kind and accommodating. May we all be so lucky to have such guests.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The passage of time & healing

As we end the calendar year 2009 and approach another new year and new decade, I think about where I was (or more to the point wasn't) on my healing journey 10 years ago. In many ways I am a different woman now, calmer, more confident, less frightened and happier. What a joy it is to not have hypervigillance and anxiety be my first response - to know how to breathe and trust myself. Ten years ago I couldn't name the ways anxiety and hypervigillance were affecting me. Today I not only feel less of a need, but I read my reactions and can avoid the spiral.

Healing, growth and supportive friends bless me daily. I hope, pest and work on myself so that I continue to thrive more every day.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween

Today is Halloween or All Hallows Eve.  In America it is a day for costumes, pranks, candy and scaring ourselves.  It is fun to watch kids of all ages dress up, let loose a bit and confront the (hopefully) easily handled fears of halloween. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Jewels of Elul - Difficult Parents

We are in the middle of the month of Elul, the month on the Jewish calendar during which we prepare for the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).  Preparation takes many forms, including study and self-reflection.  Craig Taubamn put together a program called Jewels for Elul.  Each day of Elul he shares the words of a scholar, teacher, leader or person in the public eye.  The snippets cover many topics. 

Ever since I read Sunday's words by the journalist David Gregory, I have found myself returning to his words about forgiveness and difficult parents.  This can be a hard time of year to deal with abusive parents.  Judaism teaches that we do not have to forgive them for the abuse - especially if they don't ask us for forgiveness.  (In Judaism one is not forgiven by G-d for a sin against another person until one has asked that person for forgiveness.)  The relationship I have with my parents continues to change - - sometimes in a good place and often not.  Yet, I know that I must continue to come to terms with the abuse of my childhood in order to continue to heal.  This does not mean forgiving the abuse.  It means doing what I can to live as a survivor & thriver. 

David Gregory connects forgiveness with being good to others. 
"As Jews, we are obligated to honor our parents in the way we honor God. The idea reflects a simple truth: without them, we wouldn’t be here.
Such an obligation, however, is not always easily met.
I have struggled with my parents as I make sense of my childhood and what I think could have and should have been different.
At times, my relationship with them has been badly strained.
What has brought me back is my commitment to what God expects of me and what it takes to become a giving person...."
Read his entire statement at Jewels of Elul, go to 17 Elul, "The Gateway to Love."