healing

There Are No Safe People. There Are Only People Who Are Sometimes Safe.

For much of the past few years, I have scrutinized (okay, judged) people, and then placed them into one of two categories: SAFE and UNSAFE.

I think I have done this all of my life, but it started as a conscious process when I was seeing a counselor and working on healing from childhood verbal and physical abuse. I have always been one who feels deeply and wears my heart on my sleeve. Pair that with poor boundaries and a faulty verbal filter, and I found my raw heart spilling out like so much vomit whenever some asked how I was, looked into my eyes, or just happened to sit or stand next to me. As you might suspect, this method of sharing my heart was not only unproductive, but my intense emotional sharing was off-putting to my friends as well as the total strangers who happened to be within target range. My counselor wisely encouraged me to hold some things close to my heart, to purposely choose with whom I share, and to ask three or four close friends if they would be willing to be my support people during crisis. (Having more than one support person during a crisis is helpful because it is a lot to ask of one person to bear your burdens. It also takes the pressure off of having to rely only on one person to be there all the time, and one can benefit from the differing perspectives and wisdom of each person.) I was also encouraged to purposely choose with whom I share my heart – not everyone is worthy of my story.

Although I am not in crisis mode at this time and have worked through years of healing and growth, I continue to label people in my life as safe and unsafe. I have some great friends with whom I can share the deepest secrets of my heart – my failures, doubts, imperfections – and they love me and accept me and even call me out on my bullsh*t from time to time. These friends are a priceless treasure.

It is fairly easy to tell which people in your life are unsafe. These are the people who do not listen.  They gossip. They judge or criticize when you share your heart.  They tell your secrets, or worse yet, they use them against you. These are the people with whom you share cautiously, if at all.

Safe people are more difficult to find, but once you find them, they are precious.

These are the people who truly listen. They hold close the secrets of others. They listen with and open heart, and do not judge or shame. They do not offer unsolicited advice, and if they do offer advice, it is with love and in your best interest.

They tell the truth in love, and with a dose of hope.

You feel free when you share your heart with them – like you have been released. And they just ‘get’ you.

In the past couple of years, I have hurt and been hurt by those whom I considered the safest people in my life. Recently, many of my main circles of safety have deeply wounded me – these are my closest bosom friends, my dearest family.

My safe people have become unsafe. Or have they?

Maybe they have just become . . . people.

As much as I would like to think that I am a safe person for others, I have wounded others in much the same way.

My safe people have done unsafe things, and so have I.

We have shared information given in confidence that purposely hurt another friend, used knowledge of a painful situation to shame someone and get revenge, did not listen when someone was sharing their heart, and then gave advice that led to even more heartbreak. We choose to refuse to reconcile a broken relationship despite repeated attempts to make amends, refused to take steps to make amends while attempting to manipulate someone into continuing to be victimized, allowed someone to continue to victimize others, and then defended their behavior. Rather than showing remorse and making a sincere attempt to reconcile, we do not take responsibility and own our own behaviors. We offer unapologies such as “I’m sorry you felt way” or “I’m sorry you saw things that way” rather than “I was wrong and I am sorry“.

There is a danger in labeling people as safe.  Because – people. We are people.

And as much as we try to love one another perfectly,  we just cannot.

What happens when your safe person, or people, are unsafe? What happens when we unsafe and cause someone pain. Does that mean we are without hope? Must we look for new safe people – who we will trust until they, too, prove themselves imperfect? And how do we keep trusting, sharing our heart, just showing up, when our safe people have let us down?

What if we stop labeling people safe/unsafe? Maybe people are not only safe or unsafe. Maybe they are just people who are sometimes safe, sometimes not.

Some people who are more unsafe than others, and they may not deserve the honor of your story. There are people who are more safe than unsafe – but they are people, and at some point, they may not be perfect. Because they are people. And so am I. And so are you. So what do you do when your ‘safe person’ lets you down? The rug is pulled out from under you. You have lost your safety net.

What if it is a primary relationship, like a best friend? A sister? A parent? A spouse?

And this is where I find myself today. Hanging off a cliff without a safety net.

How do I move from being a mere warrior to a survivor? How can I be brave and open my heart again? How can I be a safe person for others, and how do I make amends when I have blown it?

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt Wikipedia Commons

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt Wikipedia Commons

How can I drag myself out of the pain of heartbreak and disappointment to just show up when all I really want to do is run screaming from the room and hide in bed under the covers? I don’t have all the answers, but here is what I do know: People are always going to be messy, but God is always good.

People are always messy.

God is always good.

I would love to write “Here are the steps on how to keep showing up when you’ve been wounded” but I am still thinking this one through.

I would like to hear from YOU. How do you continue to show up and engage when you have been wounded?

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The Day I Forgot To Breathe

photo credit: WikiMedia Commons by Toni Frissell

photo credit: WikiMedia Commons by Toni Frissel

This morning I forgot to breathe. I slept through my alarm, and rushed to a meeting. I spent the afternoon working on numerous projects, and when a colleague called to give me a report to follow-up on tomorrow, I noticed a tension headache beginning. That’s when I realized I had forgotten to breathe. Bear with me while I explain.

While looking for balance in life, it can be helpful to identify the biggest obstacle – or what’s in your face the most?  As I identified my longing for a quiet, peaceful place to sort this all out, I jumped right ahead to list all the distractions that I’m chasing. However, I skipped over one of the most important parts of this journey so far –

Finding a place of peace amidst the chaos.

In my intense, passionate, and distractable psyche and spirit, how do I learn to be still? How do I learn to sit with feelings that are uncomfortable? How does the person who keeps the television 0n for background noise at all times learn to quiet my racing thoughts? How do I stop that physical reaction to conflict, or shame, or disappointment?

When I returned to counseling a few months ago, my counselor suggested a book called the The Healing Power of the Breath: Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enhance Concentration, and Balance Your Emotions. I wasn’t opposed to the practice of deep breathing, but to be honest, sitting still for any length of time has never been my strong point. I get bored, my mind wanders. I start making a grocery list. But I have found that as I get older, and particularly as I am attempting to sift through some of the chaos in my heart and mind, I am developing a love and even a longing for times of quiet. Still, empty quiet. 

This may sound wonderful and lovely and normal to you, but for me – this is nowhere near my normal. But things are changing. I know that part of it is my decreased ability to multi-task as I age. I also believe that the chaos has sometimes served as a coping mechanism – if I am too busy, too distracted, too chaotic, if there is always noise, I don’t have to deal with whatever may be sitting there in the dark shadows of the quiet. In my search for balance, I am realizing the value of sitting in the quiet, and bringing to light what is in the dark shadows.

One tool I’m finding helpful to fight the distractions is mindful, or coherent breathing. I’m just learning, and I’m not consistent, but I have to admit, when I start my day with deep breathing, there seems to be a difference. I haven’t read much of the book – I mean, it’s a book about breathing – but the book came with a CD which I keep in my car and practice on the way to work. It’s not ideal, because you’re supposed to be seated comfortably with your eyes closed. I have tried the deep breathing exercises in the mornings (when I remember) and it may be a placebo effect, but I am beginning to notice a difference. Or should I say, I noticed a difference today when I did NOT start my day with deep breathing. I find myself using it while I drive and when I am beginning to feel stress or anxiety. When I practice deep breathing, it is easier to not react to stressful situations, and it seems easier to remain calm and not have such  an intense emotional reaction. It can also be really helpful to relax and clear your mind when you’re trying to go to sleep.

A few years ago NPR did a story on the biological changes that occur when we practice deep breathing, the body’s ‘built-in stress reliever’:

“Research has shown that breathing exercises like these can have immediate effects by altering the pH of the blood, or changing blood pressure. But more importantly, they can be used as a method to train the body’s reaction to stressful situations and dampen the production of harmful stress hormones. . . Rapid breathing is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. It’s part of the “fight or flight” response — the part activated by stress. In contrast, slow, deep breathing actually stimulates the opposing parasympathetic reaction — the one that calms us down.” (Just Breathe: Body Has A Built-In Stress Reliever by Gretchen Cuda)

I’m just starting with 3-5 minutes, in the morning, and sometimes at night. I try to set my phone alarm, and pratice coherent breathing before i ever get out of bed. I even found an app to keep track of the time for me.

Why don’t you try it with me for a few weeks, and then report back?

 

deep-breath

This begins at your natural breath rate and very gradually slows your breathing down.

Beginning Steps for Coherent Breathing

• Breathe through your nose with your eyes closed.

• Taking your time, count slowly and silently in your mind: As you breathe in, . . . two . . . as you breathe out . . . two . . . repeat this for two breaths.

• Taking your time, count slowly: As you breathe in . . . two . . .three . . . as you breathe out, . . . two . . . three . . . repeat this for three breaths.

• Taking your time, count slowly: As you breathe in . . . two . . .three . . . four . . . as you breathe out . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . repeat this for four breaths.

• Taking your time, count a little more slowly: As you breathe in . . .two . . . three . . . four . . . as you breathe out . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . repeat this for four breaths.

Once you learn to breathe at five breaths per minute, you will not need to use these learning steps. You will be able to just start and within a few breaths you will be in the correct rhythm.

Balance: What’s “IN YOUR FACE” the Most?

by Kristin Meador

I wish I could start out with a lovely list of “Ten Steps To Finding Balance in Your Life”. The all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking part of me would love this. But I know it’s going to be more messy than ten simple steps. So I’m going to write about my journey. You can follow along if you want, but I’m writing this for me, and my two or three friends that follow along. Anyone else is gravy.

Step 1. What is “in your face” the most?  Years ago, during my first round of personal counseling, I was dealing with a dysfunctional family, a past eating disorder, a history of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, multiple miscarriages, having three babies in four years, my chaotic ADD life, and a broken marriage that we were struggling to repair. I told my counselor “I don’t even know where to begin!” So she asked me, “What’s ‘in your face’ the most? What seems to be a common theme? Which issue is causing you the most distress? Let’s deal with that one first.” As any honest, broken person knows, our lives are messy. Rarely is there just one issue that we are dealing with. Often the issues are interrelated and overlap, but if you think about it, there may be something that stands out. Let’s deal with that one first.

photo credit: Creative Commons by John Veldboom

photo credit: Creative Commons by John Veldboom

So that is where I will begin – What’s in my face the most? Having said all that, I honestly can’t say.

My thoughts are racing, my brain is overwhelmed.

There are not enough hours in a day. I feel like I’m always busy, but I never seem to accomplish anything substantial.

I am not eating healthy, I have gained back every pound I had lost and then some, and I am tired and sore and overweight and unhealthy. I’m restless in my life, and I know that I need a change, but I’m not sure what. I have unfinished projects and goals at work, but I am overwhelmed by every day tasks. I have so many things I want to do – remodel my house, travel, and write, to name just a few – but I can’t seem to start a project, let alone finish one.

I have broken relationships that are calling out to be healed and reconciled. I long to find a church family, or a spiritual community, in which I can grow and serve.

More than anything, I long for a peaceful, quiet place in my soul and spirit so I can sort all of this out. Hey guys – THAT IS WHAT IS IN MY FACE THE MOST. Those things in my life that are distracting me from the most important work I should be doing – finding balance. So there we have it – step one is complete.

Next post –

2. Squirrel! How to Stop Chasing Distractions

My Search For Balance

Including TTFN Facebook – by Kristin Meador

photo credit: Creative Commons - Ozan Hatipoglu

photo credit: Creative Commons – Ozan Hatipoglu

It’s time to step back and take a break again. It may be my ADD, or my history, or my dysfunction, or just my personality style (likely a bit of all of these), but as much as I hate to admit it, I am often and all-or-nothing, black-and-white type of girl. All my life, the concept of balance and the discipline that balance requires has eluded me.

When I really started exercising, I could not start slow. I started running and loved it so much that I would jog every single day, and ended up injuring my knee to the point that I can no longer run.

If I read a book, I can’t just read a chapter a day. I read the whole thing over a weekend. If I love a tv show, I don’t just watch an episode at a time – I binge watch a whole season in one weekend.

If I clean my house, I can’t just straighten it. I have to CLEAN each nook and cranny, every drawer, every corner. (And I usually will do it clockwise.)

I am the same with the issues in my life that plague me – my unhealthy eating habits, my lack of exercise, my disjointed time management, my broken relationships. I either need a strict plan of action, or I fail miserably. All or nothing, black and white.

Sometimes this serves me well, When I am passionate about an issue, a project, or a relationship, I am ALL IN. But it’s also exhausting, And it prohibits any semblence of normalcy in most areas. I would rather be going on a 6000 mile road trip – or sleeping all day. Everything in the middle seems too hard. Or stressful. Or boring.

I’m 50 now. I think it’s time to grow up a litte and get some of this figured out once and for all. So my search for balance is going to include another break from Facebook, for one thing, A few weeks ago I deactivated my Facebook, and although I missed everyone’s coming and goings, there was a sense of peace and freedom that was very surprising. I will probably write a few more posts this week, and then if you want to follow me in this process, you will have to find me here at This Beautiful Holy Mess. So where to start? Find out here.

My Briar Patch of Cynicism

Photo credit: Creative Commons

Photo credit: Creative Commons

I can’t trace the exact path that led me into the briar patch, but I can certainly remember some of the stepping-stones. Weariness of a broken world, wounds inflicted by loved ones, and although my heart is always bent toward Jesus, I wanted  to distance myself from a group of people who had become more defined by hateful words than the acts of love and acceptance that should define the word “Christian”.

Photo cred: Ricardo Gutierrez

Photo cred: Ricardo Gutierrez

It was uncomfortable at first, trying to manuever my way through the thorny vines so as not to get stuck. The vines slowly became tangled branches and formed a dense thicket where I could hide. As the branches surrounded around me, I felt protected, safe from predators. And after a while, I began to see a

tragic beauty in my discontentment,

Photo credit: Luis Soares

Photo credit: Luis Soares

and although the dense vegetation blocked out the sun, it also provided shade. I found that it was easier to bed down and rest in the coolness than to try and claw my way out of the thicket. My hard began to harden without the warmth of the sun. My friends who tried to pull me out were sometimes injured by the barbs. Other friends were happy I was in the briar patch, because they were living there, too, and they were glad to have company. A few unfortunate friends were injured by just brushing by, as they got stung by the surrounding nettles – a sting that does not fade quickly. The briar patch became a lonely, cold, isolated place, and I longed for the sun on my face.

So now I am now trying to make my way out of the briar patch – 

I am lifting my head out of the shadows and into the sunlight. I am trying to blaze a trail out of the tangled vines, but the thorns are sharp, and I can assure you, I am not getting out unscathed.

image

 

One of the tools that is helping me to clear the path is an author named Sarah Bessey. She paints a beautiful word picture of playing the music of cynicism like practicing on a piano, and the struggle to learn a new song of  goodness and truth, gentleness and beauty, faithfulness and kindness.  She proclaims, “I won’t desecrate beauty with cynicism any more. I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath. We’ll practice the ways of Jesus over and over, until the scales fall from our eyes and our ears begin to hear.”  You can read her whole post here. (It is part of my new favorite book, Jesus Feminist, of which she is the author.)

photo credit: Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons

photo credit: Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons

So if you feel stuck in the briars of cynicism – if have been wounded, if you are disillusioned, if you have lost hope, you are not alone. But it’s time to break free – wash off your scrapes, bind your wounds, and cut yourself loose from the tangles. Step out of the dark thicket and into the sunshine. Share your story. Look for rays of hope – women who are telling their stories of love and change, people of faith who are working for social justice, wounded warriors who are ready to walk with you, and help you blaze a new trail.

It’s time, sisters and brothers, it’s time.