Fatally Attracted

“The moment you feel like you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away.”

I have been manipulated by people my entire life.  To even make this statement out loud strikes at the core of what I value most about myself – my intelligence.  How could someone so smart be so stupid and allow herself to be used and abused so intimately by so many? My greatest relationships have been the most disappointing – the most manipulative.  I thought this cycle of behavior began with my marriage, but in a revelation last week, I discovered this disturbing pattern began much earlier in my life – with my father.  And this new discovery sent me into a tailspin that revealed a level of myself I had not yet seen, and one I wasn’t certain I was ready to look at up close and personal.

They say, “Hindsight is 20/20.”  How many times do we hear this statement and never really stop to think what these words mean?  My observation has been that people peering into your life from the outside – the ‘cheap seats’ as I like to call them – always have the best vantage point.  It’s just so seemingly easy for them to speak volumes into your life:  you should choose this relationship; you shouldn’t buy that house; no, don’t have children now; oh gosh, you bought that dress?  But many times I find the ‘cheap seat’ advice is guised as judgment, even by the best meaning people.  Even with a pretty spin, judgment still stings, especially when some of the words ring true.

Over time I’ve learned to listen first, reflect on the person’s heart who’s laying down their pearls of wisdom, and respond less.  Oh, it’s not been an easy lesson by any means – I will be the first to tell you.  That sting is still there – maybe just not as painful as it once was.  But when you can trust the one who speaks into your life, trust that their heart is not intentionally trying to hurt yours, the pain is short-lived and you’re left with the nuggets of truth to take away.

So this is what happened for me last week.  A painful, but heart-full exchange, truthful nuggets, and reflection.  It was in that reflection time I found my brain spiraling out of control, and I needed to put those thoughts to paper before I simply lost my mind.  That exercise – release of my thoughts and feelings on a blank paper – proved to be so powerful and freeing…I’m not sure I can completely put into words what all I accomplished with that simple act.

I have shared my childhood experience here before.  I am a steadfast believer in the fact that there are no accidents – all things happen as they are meant to.  And while we may or may not receive answers for the tragedies we experience here on this earth, they all absolutely serve a purpose.  I don’t know why I was molested as a child, and quite frankly, I don’t need to know now.  I am, however, learning over time how even though I had thought I was not impacted beyond the end of that event by what happened, that is not exactly true.

As I sat with my therapist this week, recapping what I had discovered in solo work, questioning how I could have been so foolish to allow myself to be continually manipulated, she stopped me and posed several questions to help me work through my harsh conclusion.  Who was the parent and who was the child in the relationship with my Father?  Obvious answer there.  In my marriage, why did I choose my husband?  That he lived 1000 miles away and I was looking to escape, and his family seems so welcoming and I desperately wanted to belong to someone’s family.  In my friendship with X., what did she bring to the table?  Strength when I was at my weakest and availability when my other friends were busy with their families.  So with this information, was I ‘dumb or stupid’ in making the choice to be with them when I made my original choices?  No.  I made good choices at the time.  However, I am drawn to this type of personality – a controlling, manipulative, overbearing person.  Each and every relationship I have had has revealed this trait.  And I bounce from one relationship to the next to the next.  And if I don’t identify why I make this choice each time – I will continue to make this bad choice for myself again and again.

So what we decided together is that I need to trust ME more, pay attention to the red flags that I see coming up instead of avoiding them, and take my time, allowing people to earn my trust, instead of giving it away too freely.  Wow…that seems like it would be so simple, but believe me, it is not!  Doubt is sneaky, creaping in to every little crack and crevice you have, and seriously…I have too many!  But I am wicked proud of the work I continue to do, and I am thankful for the people I have who speak into my life from their heart.  I love them more than they know…and they know who they are.


That Still, Small Voice

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

I love my showers.  In the winter, the scalding water warms my chilled body down to the bone, where the snowy cold has robbed me not just of my body temperature but many times of my spirit.  In the summer, the cool water seeps deep into my pores, chilling me beyond what air conditioning can do in the most refreshing of ways.  What I love most about the shower is the silence, the peace, the solace – time for reflection, a collecting of my thoughts, my only true haven.

My showers lately have been different – noisy, distracting, befuddled.  I haven’t been able to connect with that place of peace I need so desperately as of late.  Miscellaneous noise and others’ junk whirl overhead like a swarm of bees, robbing me of my soul connection.  I have allowed it to continue – I make no qualms about this – but I haven’t known how to stop the distractions…until today.

Today, as I watch the water spin down the drain, that still, small voice I’ve been missing for months whispers my name and demands my attention.  The voice only I can hear speaks into my being, and suddenly all the confusion and lack of clarity I’ve been experiencing for the last few weeks becomes transparent – gossamer even – and I know what I must do, and how to get to where I need to be.

For the first time in weeks, I feel light again.  Upon deeper inflection I realize though I’ve made great strides in the recent past, I’ve chosen the wrong road of two presented before me.  And while I thought I’d chosen well, I chose the easier of the two paths, which typically would cause great disappointment in myself.  But today I resolve to make a better choice, with the new information, and leave my weapons on the ground – I’ve been beaten down enough.  Even this revelation is a huge one for me, and I find myself a little giddy at my progress.

I intend to reach out to that voice again tomorrow.  I really hope she’s not a stranger…I’ve got plans for us!

I’m Teflon…Sometimes

Life is full of disappointments.  From very early on in life, we learn this inevitable truth.  As children, we find out we cannot eat candy 24 hours a day.  As adolescents, we learn the lasting scars of being chosen last for the team.  As teenagers, we somehow survive the gut-wrenching anguish of losing our first love.  As young adults, we experience a missed job advancement or failed financial venture.  As young parents, we die a thousand deaths that first time we cannot take the pain away for our child.  As experienced parents, our hearts shatter the first time our child yells in anger that they hate us.

Each time, with each newly experienced heartache, we shut down just a bit more.  The human heart can only tolerate so much before the brain takes over, and instinct takes charge.  In the battle between heart and mind, the heart will always lose – the brain is programmed to dominate every time – this is by design.

But the problem is that our hearts are unaware of our brains ‘survive at all cost’ mentality.  Our hearts are stubborn, see.  They are the ‘David’ in this story.  They might be smaller and weaker, but don’t bother telling them that.  Because next to the heart’s bathroom mirror is a mantra – a daily pep talk, if you will – ‘I can and I will.’  The feisty little heart refuses to understand that it’s delicate and fragile – disposable even.

Someone who suffers a trauma typically learns how to bypass the heart-brain circuit fairly quickly, for self-preservation purposes.  Without this ability, the presentation of each new rejection is like reliving the trauma over and over again, regardless of what it was originally.  The same mental anguish, self-loathing, personal disdain and downward spiral ensue with no ejection handle available.

This ‘heart bypass’ might look plastic in nature – with no real ability to attach to anyone or anything.  In my case, I have become ‘Teflon Girl’ – able to leap huge piles of BS in a single bound, especially when spewed from the male species, without getting a speck of crap on me.  It really is an art form, getting into and out of the suit so quickly, but I’ve noticed a few flaws in the design as of late.  ‘Teflon Girl’ does not have hinged elbows – that is, she straight-arms all recent male relationships, careful to keep them far enough away from the cargo inside.  While that’s great potential damage control, when and if you actually do want to let someone in, trusting that feeling is made all the more difficult.

Another flaw with ‘Teflon Girl’ – as in life, the coating has started to wear thin from overuse in a few areas, especially around the heart.  And as much as the brain says “You didn’t hurt me.  I’m Teflon.” the heart knows better.  This heart is hypersensitive…it feels every beat – irregular, skipped, crushed, longing – nothing gets past this baby.

The last flaw I’ve noticed…there’s no helmet with the suit, leaving the brain completely exposed to all attacks.  My brain, I would say, is my greatest asset, but also my greatest liability.  It is a wealth of information, humor, personality, spunk, and gifts.  But at the same time, my brain cannot leave a question unanswered, a puzzle unsolved, a problem unresolved or a stone unturned.  My brain never stops running – ever.  So when attacks come, which lately seem constant, my brain goes into hyper-drive;  first, trying to fend off the assailant, protect at all costs, formulate a plan, and rearrange strategies and then after the attack, to assess the damage, replay the battle, and ponder the lesson gained.

And while this seems somewhat straightforward, it is exhausting.  I have been working so very hard on me for the last 2+ years, trying to rebuild what I allowed to be torn down and demolished, and have made excellent headway.  I have learned to distinguish happiness from façade, learned that I won’t fall completely apart if I’m not always black or white, and that I am strong but that doesn’t mean I cannot ask for help when I need it.  There are still many areas that are works in progress:  realizing what I am worth and not accepting less, being alone and being lonely are NOT the same, and listening to and trusting my inner voice.

So as I’ve observed these design flaws, in ‘Teflon Girl’ and myself, I’ve decided to give us both a break.  Every superhero has their kryptonite.  For me, I am absolutely my own harshest critic.  The sooner I ease up on the negative self-talk and soul bashing, the sooner I can continue the rebuilding process.  Maybe I’ll even use stainless steel…everything sticks to that!!

Getting to Gray

The last few days have been a series of revelations for me.  I know every day should be a revelation of sorts, but some days I’m pretty thick, set in my own thoughts, my own ways, often bogged down in my own junk so much I have trouble seeing over the piles I’ve created for myself.  But these last two days there’s been a clearing of sorts, and I can’t keep quiet about it anymore.

One of my Pastors preached this morning on a very sensitive topic for this world, homosexuality, and he did a phenomenal job.  The irony was that it was his last sermon at our church, as he and his family are moving to a new job, a new state, and this, as he plainly stated, would clearly not have been his choice of topics to leave his legacy upon.  And while I have my thoughts and beliefs on this topic, I don’t want to write about that tonight.  What I do want to take away from his message, however, were his exceptional parables and use of visual aids, and how relevant they are to what I’ve been revealing in my own walk.

For most of my life, I have been a self-professed ‘black and white’ viewer of the world.  Things were simply wrong or right – and each of us came down squarely on one side of that clearly drawn line or the other, with little room for ambiguity.  And while it’s been explained to me prior to now that the world exists much more in an area of grayness, I struggled with my delineation and my vantage-point so much that there was little room for the grace necessary to view that gray…until this point in my life.

The examples given today’s sermon were so telling: how we manage to draw our lines in ‘waves’ to allow for what we view as acceptable into our area, and back out for what we clearly think is less than.  The dilemma, however, is that these lines are drawn by us…by men…with all our failings and shortcomings.  When God originally drew this straight unwavering line, He allowed for grace by way of a ‘door’ – Jesus – for we sinners to pass to the good side.  When I stand in judgment of someone who fails my ‘moral line’ test, I have no ‘door,’ no safe passage for people to overcome what I have deemed appropriate behavior.  I can be as ‘moral’ as I’d like to appear, but if not for that doorway left open for me, every minute of every day, I am nothing more than those I quickly, mindlessly cast over the line.

God wants us to care about people – on both sides of the line.  Without Him we have nothing, plain and simple.  We can do all the right things, live what by worldly standards, appears to be the best lifestyles, but without an eternal destination, that line might as well be a spiral staircase to nowhere.  If we don’t learn how to extend grace, love and compassion as Jesus did to those who live differently than we do, we are not in obedience to God’s will.  It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

I have been working on this behavior of mine – this judgment I do in silence – for months now.  Yesterday as I relayed the story of my week to my therapist, I was overcome with many emotions.  I was talking about how tired I am of being strong; of always being the bigger person; of how this whole process of going to court month after month is wearing me out physically and emotionally, and that I just cannot continue to do it any longer; that I am thankful to have someone in my life that is simply my companion – that cares for me in little ways that were taken for granted for so long I forgot what it felt like to be cared about in such tiny, insignificant ways; that I don’t want to keep fighting and I want to let the kid’s dad come to events and not feel like I’m doing something wrong.  I looked up and she was smiling, and then she said the nicest thing she’s ever said…”You’re gray now.”  My instinct was to argue, because I know I still have a lot of work to do…but for just a moment, I let that sink in.

If this experience, this current season has taught me anything, it’s that we all have room for growth.  I have gained so much over the last 26 months – the greatest being happiness.  But not to be forgotten are also strength, self-confidence, self-worth, a better relationship with my children, a good beginning on determining my value, forgiveness of myself and pride in who I am.  Never again will I let another person define me.  And hand-in-hand with that, I do not define who anyone else is.  My challenge is to love others, as Jesus loved them.  As my Pastor said today, I’m going to trust the One who drew the moral line for me, and get out of the judgment business.

My Nephew…the Graduate

I have known you every day of your life.  I have watched you blossom from a wish and a prayer before you were even born from within the womb of your Mother.  I witnessed you spring forth into this amazing world full of promise (with the biggest head we had all ever seen!) and I cherished the moments as you learned to navigate that same world full of wonder, intrigue and the smallest bit of spunk.  It was obvious you had gotten those traits from me – your favorite Aunt – but I digress.

Academically you have certainly found your way, rising to the occasion to meet each and every challenge placed before you.  You never left a stone unturned in your quest for knowledge, and your excellent performance throughout these last four years has solidified your place in an exceptional program in Clemson University, and I certainly could not be more proud.  You will go forth, you will be a mover and a shaker for the next generation, and I have less fear knowing that a young man of your caliber will lead those that come behind him to a vision seen early on and never once given up on.

Athletically, you left every single thing you had on the field, each and every time.  Whether it was baseball, soccer or football – you gave it everything you had and then 20% more for the team.  Your unfailing giftedness is a tremendous God-given talent, and I know you have appreciated this high school experience with these very friends – this ‘family’ to share this last year of lasts with – the ultimate prize being the Football Championship.  I will truly miss routing on “My #55” from afar each Friday night, but I will ready myself to route you on in different ways, in different endeavors, but still filled with the same love that has always been there.

Dalton, as I observe you as a person, a young man – I can only say how pleased I am at the choices you’ve had in your life, how grateful I am for the parenting nuggets you chose to retain and take to heart, at the courage of your convictions that drives your decision making process, and how you remain unphased by the world and its attempts to derail you and your goals.  Always stay true to yourself, and God will honor your decisions.

You have accomplished something incredible here, and in such a way that merits recognition.  You are a leader among your peers, a stand-up guy, and someone any of the lower classmen would be crazy not to emulate.  Accept this responsibility and use it to its fullest potential, in college, in life, in the working world – wherever!

In closing, you are an admirable man.  You are an honorable man.  You are the kind of man I want my son to aspire to be, and that I want my daughters to be drawn to.  You are loving and giving.  You are well-prepared for your future, and because of this you will go far.  God will continue to bless your obedience to Him as you continue to seek His face.  Your foundation is strong and your pathway is clearly marked.  I cannot wait for the next seasons to be revealed.

I love you, Dalton.  I love who you have grown to become.  I wish nothing but the best for you at Clemson, and if you find things get a bit too rough, I always have your back.

Love Always,

Aunt Melissa


He Heals the Brokenhearted

Psalm 147:3  (MSG)

2-6 He heals the heartbroken
and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
and assigns each a name.
Our Lord is great, with limitless strength;
we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does.
God puts the fallen on their feet again
and pushes the wicked into the ditch.

I am about as broken as a person can be today.  All my ideals have been smashed to the ground and stomped on in a public spectacle.  I don’t know which emotion to feel more fully – embarrassment, heartbreak, disappointment, disdain, anguish, disillusionment, disgust – they all seem relevant and yet so far away from me at the moment.  I am numb and overflowing with sadness.  Sadness for myself, for my children, for the plight of the justice system, for the path of this country…

While I am now legally able to reveal the details, I don’t think I can in this post…everything is still too raw and new.  I just need to write down this experience – to express how this step – these 24 hours have been in the path of seeking righteousness.  And how truly empty and dirty I feel at the end of the process – not what I had anticipated at all.

See, though I have strived to live a life of truth, to be that example of truth for my children and those around me, ultimately NO ONE within the walls of the Justice System cared about truth when all was said and done.   The irony of it all – the part that snaps my brain like a twig – is that I told a lie yesterday in front of a Superior Court Judge.  I plead to a charge I was not guilty of, accepted responsibility for something I most certainly had not done, and along with that plea, gave up 3 more years of my career potential.  Faced with 2 impossible choices, I had no other option but to choose the least damning to my children and my friends, all of whom would be swept into the wake of evil and hurt this system was intent on inflicting upon me.

God has molded me into an incredibly strong woman, and for this I am eternally thankful.  But there are days, like now, when I fall to my knees, broken and bruised – after giving my best effort for the last 26 months – and my heart and my brain are having a difficult time rectifying what the point of all of this was.  I know all of the clichés…God has a plan, you’ll get through this, you’re better off…and while I might actually hold stock in a few of these, today, and perhaps tomorrow – I don’t care about those rote answers.

I want to know when our world stopped being about truth and doing the right thing.  I want to know when people like me, with good morals and high values, became obsolete.  I want to know when innocent people had to prove their innocence instead of the other way around.  I have never been someone who simply takes something at face value, and I don’t plan on changing that about myself now.  I’m not talking about fair or easy.  I’m talking about right and wrong.

What happened to me – the whole situation – was nothing but wrong.  I will get over it.  I will move past it.  I have forever been changed by it, as have my children.  But I will never accept that this is the way it is.  There is something very wrong with this world…very wrong.  And until more good people stand up and take notice, these wrongs will continue to happen – to all people.

The Truth Will Set You Free…Or Will It?

“The truth may hurt for a little while but a lie hurts forever.”

I have always prided myself on my honesty.  Not in an “I’m better than you!” kind of way, but mostly in an admirable quality way.  I will always tell you the truth, even if it leads to trouble – certainly not my intent, but in my attempt to be transparent, the line between ‘brutal honesty’ and ‘loving kindness’ sometimes becomes blurred.  I often tell too much, as has been mentioned to me before, again, under the guise of transparency, rather than misrepresenting myself in any way.

I’m not exactly sure where this strong belief in truth came from.  I know as a young child I struggled with lying.  I remember my mother and her disappointment regarding this very issue.  I also recall the secrets that were necessary that I keep – secrets that no child should be required to keep.  I do remember vividly my resolve that once that ugly revelation met the light of day, I declared mostly to myself that never again would I ‘hide things’ from people.

I also find it more than ironic how we convince ourselves that we’re not really lying by giving little pet names to the acts we commit – white lies, fibs, stories, half-truths, omissions of information – the more glorious the name, the less guilt we associate with the actual act.  But the bottom line remains the same; any time we answer a question with less that the facts, we are in essence, lying…nothing glamourous about that.

For the past 2 years, this very premise of mine has faced some strong adversity that has challenged myself and my faith to its very core.  And while I cannot yet quite share the full extent of what I am referring, suffice it to say that the very moral fiber on which I stand has been called into question throughout this entire timeframe.  At each bend in the road, I have stood firm, opting to choose truth over the perhaps easier path of least resistance, all the while wrestling with my logical brain as to why it was this way.  Why in essence was truth the ‘loser’ in this battle at all?  It would seem only right that opting for truth would lead to freedom on several fronts, not the least of which included in the world’s eye.

I think this has been the most difficult lesson of all – that the world, who at large never ceases to disappoint me, falls short on my expectations of holding up a measurable bar at all for values.  That in the choice of truth over covering your butt, hands down, covering your butt wins every time!  Even more, the fact that this shocks me has been the source of ridicule as well.  That a grown woman in 2015 has the audacity to stand for anything, let alone the truth, and walk out the courage of her convictions – well, apparently it’s simply unheard of…until now.

Now is when you’re going to want to scoot up in your seat…it’s getting good.  I don’t give a hill of beans what this world thinks of lying, covering your butt to stay out of trouble, saying the popular thing, looking the part, taking the easy way out…whatever.  Bring it on!  First, I don’t scare easy – my God is bigger than anything you could throw at me.  Second, I am raising 3 teenagers, essentially alone in this messed up world.  They are watching every move I make.  If I cannot be their good Christian example, who the heck will be?  Lastly, you know that saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”?  I do stand for something…I stand for good values.  I don’t care how rare they are.  I don’t care how old-fashioned I’m called.  I don’t care if I’m ridiculed.  I don’t care if this crazy world doesn’t understand me.  I know who I am – I know where I’m headed – I know where I’ve been – I know the truth…and with God by my side…I AM FREE!

John 8:32

32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”