Morning Walk

 

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Owls often perch in this old oak.

I have to say that there was a time when I would have titled this, “Mourning Walk” because I often tried to use my walks as a time to mourn and grieve, but I discovered something in the process of trying to simultaneously walk and grieve. It was difficult to do both.  I would leave my house with intentions of being alone so I could cry, but the tears usually disappeared ten to twenty minutes into the walk. For me, taking a walk can do miracles for creating a bit of peace in my mind. Sometimes just a tiny “bit” of peace is enough.

Unless I have an appointment or need to meet a deadline, the purpose of my walks is not to reach a specified destination. The purpose of my walks is to deliberately take in each moment, to let my senses soak in the scenes, and to let my mind and soul connect with God’s grandeur. Sometimes I have to slow down my brisk pace in order to let the experience go through me. I enjoyed one of my recent morning walks so much; I wanted to share the experience with others, so I slowed down and took a few photos (Please don’t judge the photos. They were taken with my phone!).

I have many walking routes that I enjoy, but none of them have sidewalks or busy streets. I walk in the woods. I walk where I can hear the rustle of quail as they fly from their hiding places. I can smell the pungent fragrances of wild grasses that leave my walking shoes wet from their dewey blades. A breeze might gently move a wisp of hair over my face, tickling my nose. Overhead, in the soft blue cloudless sky, I often hear the shrill cry of a hawk looking for prey.

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A rare close-up encounter with a vulture!

The glorious sensory experiences fill my mind and nudge the pain and realities of life into  faraway back-corners of my thoughts, giving me a bit of peace from the noise of trauma. And that is why I go on a morning walk.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

-Henry David Thoreau

 

My Sunday

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Source: http://www.lds.org

She was sitting directly in front of me during our church sacrament meeting. She usually kept to herself, sort of quiet. Her hair was colored blond and styled simply. I don’t remember her walking into the chapel; all I remember is how the back of her head looked.

It was fast and testimony meeting day when members of the congregation are invited to go to the pulpit and share their testimonies of Christ. We do this once a month, so it’s kind of a routine thing. The meeting was spiritually up-lifting. It felt good to soak up the inspiring thoughts, stories, and testimonies of others.

I looked at the clock. It was time for the meeting to end. I picked up my hymnal and prepared to sing the closing congregational hymn as the bishop approached the pulpit to close the meeting.

That’s when it happened.

The woman in front of me stood and walked toward the pulpit. She raised her arm up toward the bishop, gesturing for him to wait. The bishop nodded his acceptance of her request and sat back down. I thought she was brave to hold up the meeting like that.

She walked to the steps that would take her on the raised platform where the pulpit stood. Then she stopped. She just stopped there. She didn’t move. She was frozen in that spot.

It didn’t take long for others to notice that there might be a problem. In one graceful motion, the Women’s Relief Society president, left her seat and approached the woman from behind. She gently rested her hand on the woman’s back and then came to her side, whispering in the woman’s ear.

At the same time, the organist quickly left her bench with an understanding smile. She was facing the woman when she moved toward her, all the while trying to reassure her with a confident “you can do this” kind of nod.

There they were in a small huddle. Three women. One was in need, and two were reaching out. The huddle lasted at least two minutes, a long time when a large congregation has nothing to do but wait.

After whispers and reassuring smiles, the two women moved aside while the other woman found her intended destination at the pulpit.

She was crying. She was embarrassed that she was crying. She didn’t want to cry and so she had stopped at the steps hoping to manage the tears. “The tears keep coming out,” she said as she broke down again.

And then her story unfolded. She used all the couched and coded messages of a betrayed wife: “alone” “family in crisis” “pain” and “hurt.” Her final statement was emphatic and her voice rang clearly through the chapel. “I am strong and I will be ok! I know I will!”

As she returned to her seat, I found myself looking at the back of her head once again. I wondered if she knew the stories of the women that came to her aid. I wondered if she knew that our Relief Society president was betrayed by her husband years ago and she now lives a life that is exemplary of the power of forgiveness. I wondered if she knew that the organist has battled depression and anxiety as she works through marital and other family issues. I wondered if she could ever guess that the sister behind her, looking at the back of her head, is also a betrayed wife. I wondered.

I tapped her on the shoulder. I swallowed the lump in my throat as I leaned forward  and whispered in her ear. “You are not alone.”

We, none of us, are alone. We are in the company of many good women that have walked through the refiner’s fire and come out on the other side with more resilience and strength. We can stand together with confidence. We are strong and we will be ok.

 

Post-Trauma Growth

 

Was I asleep during the lesson on post-trauma growth, or what?

I’ve been traveling through this healing process armed with a load of information on post-traumatic stress disorder. I have done my homework for LifeStar and I’ve added additional work for my individual therapy. I’ve had a laser-like focus on kicking betrayal trauma in the butt and not letting the sinful behaviors of one individual, my husband, destroy who I am. Honestly, if I hadn’t worked so hard, I would have ended up in a mental ward somewhere because I was a big terrible mess. No exaggeration. The sudden discovery that I had been deceived for thirty-seven years hit me like a nuclear bomb. It’s been two years and there’s still some fallout from that nuclear mushroom cloud.

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Photo Source: US Dept. of Energy/atomcentral.com

Maybe my focus was too narrow. I don’t know. There were many times that I read how people were blessed and found even greater happiness after trauma. I had faith that what I read was true, but it all seemed so subjective. At times, I thought the promises of a better life were reserved only for the recovering addict. After all, he was finally free from the prison of his secrets. It seemed absolutely possible that his life would be much better after finding recovery.

I, on the other hand, thought my life before the nuclear bomb was pretty awesome. So, maybe the promise of a better tomorrow, for me, meant that I would finally live with more clarity and a better understanding of who my husband really is. I would finally live without his emotional brick wall that so often separated us.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Regardless of  the potential for “better tomorrows” or an “improved and better marital relationship,” I just marched forward on my focus of becoming healed and whole again. Post-trauma life seemed like a far-away land that existed in some faint dream. I operated on pure faith that my post-trauma life would be worth the work I was doing. I operated on faith because I didn’t have enough concrete evidence to do anything else.

So, what the heck? There IS concrete evidence, folks! There’s actual scientific research on post-traumatic growth or PTG. Hey, if it has its own acronym, you know its legit! Maybe the dark fog of trauma caused me to ignore this stuff. For whatever reason, as I begin to step into a post-trauma life (I like to call it “the after-life”), I’m now bumping into all kinds of verifiable and credible research on the subject of PTG.

For all of you that are still trying to find your way out of the dark hole of trauma, the hope for a better after-trauma life is real. Keep clawing your way out, because the light and sunshine ahead can actually be brighter than you’ve known before. You have to walk through a sometimes fiery path to healing before you will understand how this can even be possible, but it’s true. I’m beginning to see a new brightness of hope and joy. And . . . studies give some proof that this is possible. Check out Google Scholar for the research like this one from Jenna Van Slyke, M. S.

Although traumatic experiences can sometimes result in severe psychological distress, they can also result in positive psychological changes as a result of the trauma survivors’ struggle with the trauma. Also known as post-traumatic growth (PTG), these positive changes may include the development of new perspectives and personal growth. Current studies have shown that 30% to 90% of people report some positive changes following trauma.

. . .  One of the better known scales, the Post-traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI), measures five broad domains that comprise a significant amount of the variance in PTG: a greater appreciation of life, closer relationships, identification of new possibilities, increased personal strength, and positive spiritual change. Greater appreciation of life following a traumatic event can be represented by a shift in priorities and taking pleasure in aspects of life that were once taken for granted. Trauma survivors may also experience increased compassion and empathy for others, which allow them to cultivate deeper and more meaningful relationships. Identification of new possibilities and increased personal strength can also be seen in trauma survivors who display high levels of PTG. For example, an individual may display higher levels of self-efficacy or a stronger belief in his or her ability to overcome obstacles. The same individual may experience a change in values post-trauma and find that he or she is able to identify a more fulfilling path for the future. Finally, trauma survivors may also experience a positive change in spirituality, perceiving themselves as being more capable of connecting with something greater than themselves (God, the universe, nature, etc.), regardless of religious affiliation.

I will now keep a summarized list from the PTGI on my bathroom mirror. New work. New life. New focus.

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Click here for printable PDF of Post-Trama Growth seen above

Trust Fall

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My husband prays every day, aloud, during our couple’s prayer, that he will act in ways that will build my trust. Every day, he works on his daily recovery routine and tries to do things that will build my faith in him. It’s working. But. BUT. I think I might be foolish to ever fully trust my husband, again. The total trust I once had in my husband fell to below-ground level when he disclosed (under a bit of coercion) his infidelities. I appreciate  my husband’s consistent efforts to win back my trust, but (there’s that word, again!) I don’t know if I can, will, or want to 100% trust him, again. Maybe, after years of healing under my belt, I’ll feel differently. Right now, the thought of giving my husband complete trust makes me cringe with fear!

Will our marriage ever fully recover if I can’t totally trust my husband? Why can’t I just close my eyes, cross my arms over my chest, and fall back with the full knowledge that my husband will catch me?  Is it because I did that for almost thirty years only to discover the person I most trusted and who was supposed to catch me wasn’t even present? My trust was betrayed!

Though I feel I have forgiven my husband, forgiveness is not the same as trusting someone.

Trust is earned; forgiveness is given freely (Rhyll Crowshaw, What Can I Do About Him Me?).

The trust issue has been on my mind since a few days ago, after my husband got a text from a female client. The text popped up when I was using his phone while mine was charging. The text was strictly business. I have known about this client, but I haven’t met her.  So, I started to ask the betrayed-wife kind of questions. “Is she pretty?” “Are your conversations always professional?” “Is there any flirting or even a hint of flirting?”

My husband was defensive, at first, but then he patiently answered every single question. Then he paused before asking me, “Do you remember us having this conversation weeks ago?”

Nope! I sure didn’t remember. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t talk about it. My trauma brain doesn’t remember much.

Things changed for a short time after that. My husband kind of detached from me for the rest of the day. That evening, he said, “I’m tired. I’m burned out.” I didn’t understand exactly what he meant until he added, “Can you take care of dinner on Sunday?” That’s when I realized what “burned out” meant. You see, my husband, ever since D-Day, has taken charge of our Sunday family dinners. It is one of the many things he does to demonstrate to me that he is worthy of my love, that he is worthy of my trust. I never asked him to do it, nor have I expected him to do that or anything else! He just insists on making Sunday dinner, driving me the long distance to group meetings, complimenting me when it’s appropriate, calling or texting throughout the day, etc., etc., and etc. .  Well,  he took a very short hiatus from his trust-building activities when he realized his efforts might not produce perfect results.

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My husband uses this book for inspiration as he works to rebuild trust.

And I don’t blame him! This is a dilemma for both of us! He works hard to have me trust him while I’m working hard to never have a trust fall experience again. How is this resolved? It seems our efforts are in conflict.

Maybe, just maybe, we both have to accept that trust between us is going to look differently from the way it looks for other couples. Our trust is a “wise trust” that, unlike the ease of blind trust, requires work and a process. My husband must accept there are consequences to his past behaviors and that my wise trust in him will not be regained easily or quickly. I have to accept that, in order to live whole-heartedly, I must be willing to take a few risks that allow my wise trust to grow a little while still keeping myself safe from deceit. I believe that as long as we are both diligently working to improve the trust in our relationship, we are going to have a favorable outcome. In fact, research shows that working on this trust process can actually make relationships stronger.

Rebuilding trust after a betrayal is a gamble for both people.  . . . Rebuilding trust after a betrayal isn’t easy and it’s rarely fast, with many pitfalls along the way for both people. But most couples who succeed find that their relationships are much stronger for the effort (Joshua Coleman, “Surviving Betrayal”, Greater Good, Sept. 1, 2008).

“Stronger for the effort.” The end result may never be 100% trust. The end result will be a stronger relationship because we are making the effort to restore trust.  I can accept that and I trust that it can happen.

I should mention that my husband’s hiatus ended after I made Sunday’s family dinner. I don’t know if my meatloaf was subpar or if my husband simply came back to recovery behavior. I think it’s the latter because I really am quite capable in the kitchen!  We’re both back on track with our trust restoration work and that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

Mulligrubs

Mulligrubs

I’ve been down in the mulligrubs. Yes. Mulligrubs. It’s a word my aunts would use and it seems to be the best description for my current condition. I haven’t been feeling physically well and have been cooped up in my house while the sun-filled outdoors is calling me. I’ve had too much time on my hands to think. With too much thinking time, my thoughts go dark and that has landed me in the mulligrubs.

I figure there must have been some lowly wife that lived way back in history that felt like I do now. She wasn’t depressed, she wasn’t super sad, she was just: meh. So, she pulled a ridiculous word from her head and declared to her 16th century peasant children, “Ye ought not to cause hindrance to ye mum this eve. She is in the mulligrubs.” Her children, no doubt, had no clue what she was talking about but the mere sound of the horrendous word, “mulligrubs” caused them to act with extreme caution. Thus, the 16th century mum got some peace.

OK. I obviously made that story up, but where do words come from, anyhow? Somebody invented them, I think. So, I am inventing my own new word: Dupid.  It rhymes with “stupid”. It’s a combination of the words “duped” and “stupid”. I am in the mulligrubs because I’m feeling like I have been dupid!

Let me give an example of my dupidness. I have a friend, I will call him “Farmer,” that is helping me with some gardening. I live in a very arid climate and the soil is rocky. Farmer told me that he could make my property green and blossoming with flowers. I said that we don’t have enough available water on our property to get everything green. I pointed to three small areas that I wanted to be “green and blossoming.” Farmer said, “I can green up this place and my irrigation system will be water efficient.” I doubted his claim, but he was so persistent. In fact, the more I protested, the more he dug in his heels. I decided to let him do things his way and I began to dream of looking out my windows and seeing green verdant landscapes.

We tested his watering system.

We ran out of water.

gardenHow could I be so dupid? I know better. Farmer told me what I wanted to hear. When I doubted his claim, he told me more things to verify his story. I think he actually believed his own story. I don’t think he has the ability to self-analyze and be honest with himself. Many addicts also lack the ability to do honest self-reflection. How can somebody be totally honest with others when they can’t be honest with themselves?

I’m more upset with myself than I am with Farmer. I know what my water system can handle but I allowed his confident proclamations to sway me. I’m in the mulligrubs because I’m recognizing a pattern here. I’m a skeptic when I’m initially presented with questionable information, but if somebody is persistent, I mistake that for sincerity. That’s why I now have an irrigation system that needs major alterations. That’s why I’ve been hurt in some past friendships. And that’s why I believed my husband instead of trusting my own instincts when I knew something was off.

Even with all my trust issues from betrayal trauma, I want to believe people. That’s being nice, not stupid. I’m a good person and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but in the future, I need to trust the gut-wrench that comes when I think information is being misrepresented. I don’t want to be dupid anymore. If I want honesty from others, then I also need to be honest with them. So, I need to say what I’m feeling. I need to let others know if what they are saying makes me feel uneasy. At the very least, I need to think on statements for a time, check the credibility of the info, and then make my decisions. No more dupidity. No more mulligrubs.

Emotional Sobriety and The Necklace

necklace beadsAs part of his recovery from sexual addiction and sexual compulsive behaviors, my husband has been learning to identify and feel his emotions. For me, this stuff is incredibly easy, but not so for my husband. He spent 50 years trying to numb his pain from his childhood sexual molestations. As a result of his pain-numbing, he actually buried nearly all other emotions, as well. It has been an interesting journey for us both as my husband discovers his emotions.

Let me share a story that illustrates what happens as my husband works on his emotional sobriety.

We live a bit of a distance from the temple, so I brought some casual clothes that I could wear after an early-morning temple session. I changed my clothes at my husband’s office and got ready for shopping while we were still in the city. I took off my nice long beaded necklace and draped it over my husband’s office chair. We were in a hurry and I guess I forgot to pack my necklace for the return home, so it remained on the chair over the weekend.

My husband didn’t report to his office until late afternoon when he discovered my necklace. He thought it would be a good joke to wear the necklace around his neck as he used FaceTime to contact me. I did have a nice laugh when I saw this big burly husband of mine with a dainty little necklace adorning his rugged plaid work shirt. After enjoying our little silliness, we discussed some mundane details for the rest of the day for several minutes. Then we ended the FaceTime call.

You’ve probably already guessed what happened. My husband forgot the necklace was still around his neck! He finished his office tasks and then left to pick up items he had ordered from one of his vendors. This particular vendor is one that my husband has done business with for many years. The clerk that assisted him was someone that knows my husband well.  As they finished the transaction, the clerk smiled and said, “Nice necklace.”

This is when the miracle in the story begins. Later in the day, my husband described to me how he felt this weird emotion when he realized he was wearing the necklace. “I think I was embarrassed!” he explained. “I don’t remember feeling embarrassed before. I used to just get defensive and lie, but instead I simply explained to the clerk  the truth about how I ended up wearing your necklace!”

I know, it’s seems like a really small thing, but in my world, this is really big. This is a sign of true recovery, not just the ability to abstain from lust and sexual compulsions, but the ability to connect with emotions. According to Dr. Ingrid Mathieu, “Sometimes emotional sobriety is about tolerating what you are feeling. It is about staying sober no matter what you are feeling. . . . It means that you don’t necessarily need to do something to make the feeling go away” (Psychology Today, July 2011).  My husband used pornography and lust to make his feelings go away. Now, he is learning to feel and deal with his emotions.

Whatever Jesus Lays His Hands Upon

I once made a poster for a lesson I was giving with these words from President Howard W. Hunter,

“Whatever Jesus lays his hands upon lives. If Jesus lays his hands upon a marriage, it lives. If he is allowed to lay his hands on the family, it lives.” 

I created that poster years ago while my kids were little. I’ve made countless posters over the years but this one, though the actual poster has long since been gone, stayed in my mind. I remember the comfort of the message. I remember using the words to help others, including my own children. Never in my wildest imagination (and I have a WILD imagination) did I ever think that this message would become a life-line for me and my own marriage!

Hunter quoteI know that my own personal healing from trauma and the rebuilding of my marriage will happen only through the healing power of Christ. I love the visual I see in my mind of actually inviting Christ to lay his healing hands upon me. It is interesting that President Hunter uses the word “lives” to describe the effect of the Master’s hands. To “live” is more than survival. It means to thrive, to be aware, to be part of something vital and organic.  Something that “lives” is able to change, grow, and heal.

I cannot live in the past and expect my life or my marriage to be the same as it was before D-day, when I learned about my husband’s transgressions, if I want to heal. I must embrace the opportunity to make a new and better life, to change and grow. I want to do more than survive my trauma from betrayal. I want to thrive and live! I want to heal and be whole.

The healing power of the Savior is exemplified in the story of the daughter of Jairus. The loving father, Jairus, with great faith makes his desperate plea to the Savior,“I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.”  President Hunter concludes the story:

“When they got to the home of the ruler of the synagogue, Jesus took the little girl by the hand and raised her from the dead. In like manner, he will lift and raise every man to a new and better life who will permit the Savior to take him by the hand.”

I think the next time I kneel in prayer, I’m going to envision the hands of the Savior reaching toward me. I’m going to work on actually feeling his touch. I’m going to see his hand in mine and let him lift and raise me to a new and better life.