Making Peace With Limbo

As with all my blog posts, they begin with a need – either mine or that of someone I know and love. The concept of living in limbo is no different.

I was recently talking to a long-time friend. She knows me well. We attended the same church eons ago when she was married to her first husband and I was married to mine. Although our circumstances have changed drastically in the past twenty-five years, our friendship has remained the one constant.

I was sharing with her (to be honest, I was complaining to her) about how I was still in limbo. Every time I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel, a big dark cloud rolls in, obscuring my view of possibilities and hope, and once again leaving me in the midst of Limboland.

I’m tired of it. It’s exhausting.

My friend said to me, “Well, you should be used to it by now.”

Thanks a lot, dear friend. That’s all the encouragement you have to give?

But actually, that’s exactly what I needed to hear. I’m way past, “Oh, this is just temporary. It will get better, you’ll see.” Or, “Look on the bright side.” If one more person tells me to look on the bright side, I just may impale them with a flashlight!

No, I don’t need empty promises or platitudes of better times ahead. I need honesty. Raw honesty. And that’s exactly what my friend gave me.

So, what do I do in the midst of Limboland? Like Disneyland, it seems to stretch on forever, but not nearly as much fun. In fact, in many ways, my life more closely resembles the Haunted Mansion than Cinderella’s Castle!

I should probably define Limboland just so there are no misunderstandings. I refer to limbo as that part of life where you’re surviving from one day to another, one paycheck to the next, but you see no reason why. What’s the purpose? Where’s the direction? Is it ever going to end? And if so, will it be a welcome relief or an, “Oh, crap, it CAN get worse!”

My friend Jodi is in Limboland. She’s a beautiful 30-something, independent woman who is doing a great job raising her daughter on her own. She has a good job, family who loves her dearly, and from the outside looking in, she has nothing to complain about. But she’s lonely. Jodi wants that special someone to share the rest of her life with and right now, in limbo, that desire overshadows the other positives in her life.

My friend Brian has cancer. A remarkable new treatment brought him back from death’s door, but the last remains of the cancer refuse to go away. So, he’s considered stable. Not recovered, not in remission, but stable. Which is amazing in and of itself. His doctor, an unbeliever, told him he was touched by the hand of God. If that’s true, which Brian truly does believe, then why doesn’t God heal him all the way? If this drug is so miraculous in conquering the large mass of cancer that was killing him, why can’t it do anything with this last little bit? Brian is living in Limboland. No longer making plans to die, but unsure how to live.

Heather, a girl I grew up with and reconnected with on Facebook about twelve years ago, recently endured a blow that set her world spinning. And that’s putting it mildly. I don’t know the details of her early adult life, just a quick rundown of the facts. But basically, she married, had children, one of whom died as a baby, and divorced. Somewhere along the way, Heather met  Mr. Right. They were perfect together. They married and worked alongside each other in a family business, and their perfect present overshadowed their painful past. Reaching retirement age, they bought the perfect piece of waterfront property to peacefully spend the rest of their lives on. Months later, paradise was shattered with the news that Heather’s husband had stage 4 cancer. He died within the year.

Heather’s world was shattered. All her hopes and dreams, gone. How does one pick up the pieces and live after mercilessly being thrown into limbo?

I admire Heather more than I can say. She believes she was left behind for a purpose. She says she has a job to do that she has to do alone, and once she’s finished, she will join her beloved in Heaven.

That job, that purpose, is what keeps Heather getting up each morning, even though each night is spent in tears.

In the midst of life’s dichotomies, one person’s discouraging vulnerabilities are actually an encouraging boost to another person. Weird. But true.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I work part-time in retail. Every day is a struggle to be nice to not-nice people. Some are just mildly rude, others mildly stupid, and others are outright mean. All of my managers are super nice to everyone and I wonder how they do it. I struggle to be nice to not-nice people. Our company has a no confrontation policy which basically means we let people get away with anything short of murder. They can be degrading and insulting to us, but we are not allowed to tell them they are out of line. I understand the legal ramifications our company would face if we all told mean customers where they could go, so I get it. But it’s hard.

Case in point. One of my regular customers who comes in every Sunday to do his shopping has cancer. He’s a very nice, middle-aged man who’s worked all his life. He went in for knee surgery but his elevated enzyme levels alerted the doctors to the fact that he has cancer. Now unable to walk well and no longer able to work, he’s fighting for his life. His self-esteem has to be scraped off the floor every time I see him. Every week he says, “I’d give anything to be able to work again. I hate using these things (food stamps!” And every week I reassure him. “You’ve worked hard your entire life. You’ve paid into them for years! Now they are here for you to use.”

Mean woman saying, “You seemed to have enough time with that guy.”

I wanted to say to her, “Oh, you mean the very nice man who has cancer and is fighting for his life? That’s the one you don’t think I should spend a moment with, listening and caring?”

One day, one of the managers I greatly admire came up to me and said, “Miss Diane, I just cannot love these people anymore.” I gave her a sideways hug and for a moment we leaned our heads together in camaraderie and sighed in unison. Then we quickly pulled apart and she said, “Thank you. I needed that!” and off she went on her merry way.

That moment of vulnerability meant more to me than I can say. I felt understood, even though she was the one looking for validation and comfort.

My empathy gave my manager the understanding, validation, and comfort she was looking for. But in giving it to her, I inadvertently received it myself! In healthy relationships, when we meet the needs of others, our needs are met as well. (It’s important to note here that this is only true in healthy relationships. In unhealthy relationships, the opposite occurs – one does all the giving while the other does all the taking and this scenario will never benefit either one.)

If given the choice, would I be willing to go through difficult times so that I could be a help to others in similar circumstances? Absolutely not. I’m not that selfless. But I’m not given the choice. God gives me today and says, “Deal with it.” I deal with it by sharing with others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding True Love – Part 3

“Marry your best friend. Someone who speaks highly of you. Someone you can laugh with. The kind of laughs that make your belly ache, and your nose snort. The embarrassing, earnest, healing kind of laughs. Life is too short not to love someone who lets you be a fool with them. Make sure they are somebody who lets you cry, too. Despair will come. Find someone that you want to be there with you through those times. Most importantly, marry the one that makes passion, love, and madness combine and course through you. A love that will never dilute – even when the waters get deep, and dark.” (Harley-Davidson)

A friend of mine who recently lost her best friend, soul-mate, lover, and husband to cancer, posted the above quote on her Facebook page. My heart goes out to her. She is a beautiful, healthy woman who will survive this greatest of all losses. But she hurts. She’s still a whole individual so she will not dissolve into nothingness from this blow, but her best friend is gone and she will always feel that pain.

I would like to add the following to the above quote my friend so graciously shared: “Someone who is proud of you; someone who admires the person you have become; someone who is honored to introduce you to family and friends; one who makes you feel special by opening doors for you and letting you go first. One who intertwines his fingers with yours and gently puts his hand on the small of your back. You should feel treasured by the way he looks into your eyes and listens with his heart.”

Small gestures speak the loudest; words mean nothing if not backed up by action.

We women need to pay attention to the intent of the heart and expect the best. From someone who’s been there and back, it simply is not worth it to settle for anything less.

Marriage can be God’s greatest gift or Hell’s worse nightmare. Choose wisely. Never let desperation be your guiding principle. Happiness lasts for a time, but regret lasts forever. Don’t gamble with your future. Bet on a sure thing. Watch for the signs and listen to them.

While going through my last divorce, a friend of mine reminded me, “Well, it’s better to be lonely than to be lonely and miserable.” She was right. I was lonely. I missed being a couple. But I was often lonely in my marriage, as well. When we weren’t on the same page, when differences in values, priorities, and goals separated us, I felt alone even though my husband slept next to me.

The act of being married really doesn’t mean a whole lot.  I say this because simply being married doesn’t guarantee you anything – not love, not connection, not security, not joy, nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. I truly believe in the institution of marriage and would very much like to marry again. But the license itself does nothing to guarantee a good marriage. A good relationship, shared values, priorities, goals, and adventures, do. So, in my opinion, a healthy relationship shared by two whole individuals is the key to a good marriage.

A healthy relationship shared by two whole individuals is the key to a good marriage.

For those of you who think that just getting married is the answer to your lonely life, as I did, then please believe me when I say, it’s not marriage itself that will bring you joy, but who you marry and when and why. First things first.

First, get yourself into the healthiest most whole version of yourself.

Today a friend shared this quote on Facebook: “I’m proud of the woman I am today because I went through one hell of a time becoming her.” (Life Learned Feelings) I can relate.

Secondly, look for a man who has done the same. (I’m primarily writing to women here, but the same principles apply to men.)

Thirdly, recognize desperation for what it is and don’t let it cloud reality.

Fourthly, be choosy. Not in an, “I want a 6-foot-tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed, Nascar driver,” but in an, “I want a man who values what’s important to me; I want someone who makes me laugh; I want a man who encourages me to follow my dreams; I want someone who I feel safe with.”

Add to the above list whatever is important to you, then look for a man who you can share that kind of relationship with.

So, where do you find this kind of relationship? I’m still working on that. I do know that the local bar is not a good place to find good husband material. Neither is your bff who’s never had a stable relationship in her life.

My expertise lies primarily in how to avoid the pitfalls of getting into the wrong one, not necessarily in how to get the right one. Sorry. My journey is not yet over so I don’t have all the answers. I just wanted to share my experience with you in case there was common ground you could glean from, and hopefully, help you avoid the same mistakes I’ve made.

 

Finding True Love – Part 2

This past week my friend said to me, “I just want to make you happy.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I knew what he meant. We mean a lot to each other and it’s important to him that I’m happy. It was a sweet gesture and I appreciated it.

I also knew he couldn’t make me happy. No one can. It’s not his responsibility to make me happy. Only I can do that.

As I see it, this is the definition of a healthy relationship: I ask myself, “What am I passionate about? Where do I find joy? What brings meaning and purpose into my life?” Then I go out and do it. My friend should do the same. He should ask himself, “What am I passionate about? Where do I find joy? What brings meaning and purpose into my life?” And then he should go out and do it. As two fulfilled, joyful people, we could then share our lives with each other and be richer for it.

My therapist once explained a healthy relationship to me in this way. He said, “If two people are each lacking and incomplete, when the winds of adversity blow (and they will), neither one will be able to support their own weight, let alone the others, and they will crumble to the ground. If one person is stronger than the other, the weaker one will lean against the stronger one thus supporting him, but without a counterbalance for the stronger one to lean on, the couple will topple. If, however, two people are individually healthy and whole, then when the gale forces blow, the two leaning up against each other will provide the strength and fortitude necessary to withstand any storm. The two together will be much stronger than either one of them alone.”

A healthy relationship is not built on need, but on fullness.

Last night I watched a movie where the hero and heroine were having this lovely romantic scene and the guy says, “I’m nothing without you.”

I almost laughed. Really?  I thought. Then why would she want to marry youWho wants to be with a nothing? Be something. Be something she wants to marry, you doofus.

Truth is often wrapped in lies and this is never more true than with our society’s beliefs about love and marriage.

We have this idea that we are incomplete; we’re lacking; we aren’t whole; so we embark on a seemingly never ending quest to find that special someone – the missing piece – “the one” who will complete us.

There is truth in this thinking. The Bible says three cords are stronger than one.

But there are inherent flaws with it, too. Yes, we should strive to be whole and complete, but another person will never do that for us; we need to do the work ourselves, for ourselves. Not to please someone else, but to bring joy and satisfaction and self-confidence to ourselves. In other words, to bless ourselves.

We all have an underlying desire to help others. The hero concept is inbedded in our DNA. That’s why so many of us are either trying to rescue others or have others rescue us. We inherently recognize our need to be saved. But we go about it in an ineffective manner.

First of all, God, our creator, the creator of the universe, is the only one who can truly save us. So, He has to be the first one we turn to for guidance.

Secondly, we need to work on fixing ourselves, not others. We can only be a blessing to others after we are a blessing to ourselves. We get the proverbial cart before the horse. We go about doing good things in a backwards manner and then wonder why we experience unfavorable results.

It starts with us. Do we recognize and honor God’s design and favor on us? Do we work with that design? Are we grateful for His favor?

If I was miraculously proposed to this coming week and we planned the wedding for six months from now, would that make me a different person from who I am today? Would being an engaged women make me better? Would being a married woman make all my fears and insecurities flee?

I can honestly say, no, it would not change me. I would still be the same person. I’d still have the same likes and dislikes, the same passions, the same fears, the same insecurities.

Sometimes people expect their circumstances to change before they do. “Once I get engaged, I’ll start working out,” or, “Once I’m married, I’ll stop cussing.” No you won’t. If it’s not important enough today, it won’t be important enough tomorrow.

On the other hand, new information and insight can motivate us to change for the better. “Now that I understand what an impact what I eat has on my health, I am ready to make healthier choices,” or, “Wow. That cuss word coming out of my 3 year old niece’s mouth didn’t sound nearly as cool as when I said it. I think I’ll give up cussing.” These are examples of growth and maturity and that’s what we should be doing all the time. But if we expect to change overnight once our circumstances change, we are deluding ourselves.

Our circumstances change when we do.

If we want changes in our lives, then we need to make them for ourselves. Once we are healthy individuals, then we are ready for that special someone who has also been working on themselves.

We attract what we are. We will never attract someone healthier than we are. Therefore we need to be what we want to have.

We need to be what we want to have.

Finding True Love – Part 1

Yesterday I re-posted this quote on my Facebook page: “When God sends you the man you are called to be with … you will know. This man will speak to not your flesh, but your spirit. You will experience something with him that you have never experienced before. He will love you in ways that other men didn’t. Wait. It will be so worth it when you meet him.” (#NeverSettle)

I received several responses to my post, as I knew I would. This is a touchy subject. Not because we don’t believe true love exists, but because most of us have not experienced it. And we’re left wondering what’s wrong with us. Why do some women find it but we haven’t? Are we doing something wrong? Are there no good men left?

A long time ago I heard someone say, “Instead of asking ourselves, “What kind of man do I want?” we should be asking, “What kind of relationship do I want?'”

Well, I’ve always known what I wanted in a relationship. I had it once with a 16 year old boy in my home town but those days were long gone and after graduation I headed off to college in search of “The One.”

I chose a Christian college in another state and dated anyone who asked me out. I met a lot of really nice young men, but none of them felt right. I began to think that if I wanted to get married (which I really did!), then I was just going to have to pick one of them and hope that love would grow. That’s what was taught in the contemporary Christian circle I was a part of – you don’t fall in love, you grow in love. OK, I told myself. If that’s the way it is, then I’ll choose a good man and learn to grow in love with him.

I married him the summer following my sophomore year. We were good friends and I liked him and I respected him and he treated me well. When I questioned my parents and my friends concerning my doubts, they all pretty much said the same thing. “Well, you could do worse,” and “We don’t always get what we want.” Thanks a lot, I wanted to say.

The clincher was the day I went in and talked to one of my female professors. “I really like him, but I just don’t like him in that way,” I told her. She wholeheartedly agreed. “God just calls some of us women to be single.”

That was it. I was not going to be single! I went straight from her office and told this young man, who I had previously broken up with several times, that I wanted to get back together and get married.

Two enormous red flags jump out at me as I recall this point in my life. One, Why the heck did I go to a single, middle-aged woman to ask her opinion on love and marriage??? Secondly, What makes a man take a girl back who repeatedly breaks up with him because she just isn’t sure???

My third question is, Why are we so quick to ignore red flags? Everyone I talk to who has regrets says the same thing: “I saw the writing on the wall. I saw the red flag flying at full mast. But I wanted it to work out so badly that I chose to ignore the signs.”

I could be the poster child for ignoring red flags.

While I’m not discounting the fact that people can and do grow in love, I’m also not discounting that magical falling in love element, either. I think both brains and emotions need to be considered. I was following my brain to the exclusion of my heart because I was taught you couldn’t trust emotions.

Well, in my experience, you can’t always trust your brain, either. We need to listen to them both. If one or the other is screaming, Halt!, we’d best do so and consider why. When the brain and emotions align, then you’re probably on the right track.

Years after my marriage, my husband and I attended a famous Christian artist’s concert where he told the story of the first day he met his wife. He was walking down a hallway and saw her coming from the opposite direction and he took one look at her, said that’s the girl he was going to marry, and he did. That was years ago and to my knowledge they still have a vibrant marriage.

When he said this, something within my soul yelled out, “I knew it! Everyone discounts love at first sight but I just knew it existed!” Well, for some people, at least. But I knew it was possible, despite all the naysayers. So, why didn’t I listen to my heart? Why didn’t I live according to what I believed was possible?

Because I was desperate. I was needy. I couldn’t imagine doing life on my own and I was so desperate to get married, I settled on what I could get instead of waiting for what could have been.

Please understand what I am saying here. I am not in any way bashing my husband (well, ex-husband now). I didn’t settle in marrying him; I settled in marrying for the wrong reason at the wrong time.

If I would have listened to my heart, which I believe the Holy Spirit speaks to me through, then I wouldn’t have been so afraid of what it was saying. I would have been willing to put off instant gratification in lieu of something much better.

But I was afraid to even listen to my heart because I knew what it was telling me and I didn’t want to hear it. I was 20 years old and I wanted to get married. Now!

After reading the comments to my post last night, I had to take a good hard look at myself. I believe in true love. But after two marriages and two divorces, I have to ask myself some pretty hard questions. How did I get from that 15 year old girl who started out on the right track to the 60 year old woman who still longs for a solid relationship but has so far come up empty handed?

 

 

The Key To Success – Part 3

Maybe the key to success is not focusing on succeeding like we’ve been led to believe, but by simply doing the next right thing.

All of the following quotes are from successful people who were once just like me – a nobody with a passion. They were criticized, told they were stupid, told they didn’t have what it takes; many were penniless and bankrupt in both pocket and spirit. And yet they pressed forward. Why? Because they couldn’t stop themselves. An inner drive kept them going when the world told them to stop.

  • “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” ~ Samuel Beckett
  • “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”  ~ Confucius
  • “Great success is built on failure, frustration, even catastrophe.” ~ Sumner Redstone
  • “Failing is one of the greatest arts in the world. One fails toward success.” ~ Charles Kettering
  • “Failure provides the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” ~ Henry Ford
  • “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” ~ Thomas Watson Sr.
  • “Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy
  • “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot … and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan
  • “I never learned a thing from a tournament I won.” ~ Bobby Jones
  • “Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end result of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of decline and decay.” ~ Eric Hoffer
  • “Flops are a part of life’s menu and I’ve never been a girl to miss out on any of the courses.” ~ Rosalind Russell
  • “The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” ~ Edwin Land
  • “I don’t believe I have special talents, I have persistence … After the first failure, second failure, third failure, I kept trying.” ~ Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Prize winning  Physicist
  • “Every great cause is born from repeated failures and from imperfect achievements.”  ~ Maria Montessori
  • “No matter how hard you work for success, if your thought is saturated with the fear of failure, it will kill your efforts, neutralize your endeavors and make success impossible.” ~ Baudjuin
  • “Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.” ~ Washington Irving (The above quotes were taken from But They Did Not Give Up, found at https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html, with many thanks.)

So, once again I ask, what is the key to success? As hard as it is to believe, failure seems to be the common consensus. Or rather, the guts to get back up after failure. Maybe failure is a necessary stepping stone. We step, we slip, we fall. We get back up and try for a better foothold. We may slip and fall again, but each time we get back up. We rethink and readjust, and step again. Eventually, we find ourselves teetering instead of instantly falling. That’s improvement. As we keep at it, we keep our balance a little longer as we build core muscles. And eventually, we have the strength and balance to step from stone to stone. First tentatively, then confidently, and eventually effortlessly.

The difficult part of this process for me is that it happens over and over again, in multiple areas of my life, over a lifetime. It’s not a one-time event. Every time I dare to dream, those desires take me to a place I’ve never been before which means more tries, more mistakes, more learning, more rethinking, more readjusting.

But, isn’t that life? What is life without a reason to get up in the morning? What inspires us but the challenge to succeed? To create something beautiful? To accomplish something noble? To bend and stretch and dance to our own tune? To hit higher notes and dig deeper and reach farther and see clearer? A cause worth fighting for.

We all have it. Some of us have several.

It’s what makes us tick. It makes us who we are and the reason God put us on this earth. It’s our reason for making a difference and our own unique way of making it happen.

“A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are for.” (John A. Shedd in Dream Big by Todd Wilson)

“Most people live and die with their music still unplayed. They never dare to try.” (Mary Kay Ash in Dream Big by Todd Wilson)

“Of all the people I have ever known, those who have pursued their dreams and failed have lived a much more fulfilling life than those who have put their dreams on a shelf for fear of failure.” (Author Unknown in Dream Big by Todd Wilson)

“What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do.” (Julia Cameron)

“Failure has a way of liberating you from superficiality.” (from the movie, Coffee Shop, directed by Kevin Sorbo)

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” (George Bernard Shaw in Dream Big by Todd Wilson)

“The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Frederick Buechner)

Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor whose entire family was killed, including his 24-year-old wife, went on to write A Man’s Search for Meaning. He says, “He who knows the why for his existence…will be able to bear almost any how,” and, “Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.” Viktor reminds us that there’s no mountain too great when you have a reason to climb. (Viktor Frankl: How Love got Him Through @ Life Stories)

“If you think you’ve blown God’s plan for your life, rest in this: You, my beautiful friend, are not that powerful.” (Lisa Bevere #WithoutRival)

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” (Bernice Johnson Reagon)

God hardwired us to make a difference. Our contribution matters. Our efforts, even though often unrewarded, matter. So, don’t cheat yourself or the world out of your gift. Shine in the darkness; be the voice of reason in the midst of chaos; be the calm in the eye of the storm.

What is success?

This is my definition: Success is being the best version of me and using my passion to make a difference. When persistence fails, ingenuity finds a way. It’s not so much what I do, but why I do it and how I do it. That’s why I’m writing this blog; not because I have all the answers, but because I will never give up trying to find them.

What is your definition of success?

“Every day God invites us to go on an adventure. It’s not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us. God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, “Let’s go do that together.” (Bob Goff)

 

 

The Key To Success – Part 2

As I was tossing and turning in bed this morning, groaning that the sun dared to peak it’s cheery face into my window at such an ungodly hour, I had an epiphany: Success is relative.

Case in point: Yesterday I failed at finding a solution to my lighting dilemma, but I succeeded in something I wasn’t even trying to do. In my anger and frustration, I wrote another blog post.

That’s usually what happens to me. I don’t wake up one morning full of vigor and inspiration and write a dazzling post that will amaze my readers. I wake up sleep deprived, grouchy as all heck, lost in feelings of failure, wondering why God’s keeping me alive another day, then write something totally illegible in my effort to vent.

After my emotional vomit has splattered onto the page, I go back over it just to make sure I haven’t missed a spot. I further my venting because once is never enough. At the same time, I tweak it a bit. Then I go back over it again because surely I missed a few points I want to further complain about, and I refine it a bit more. It’s like a criminal returning to the scene of a crime, unable to let it go. It’s horrific, yet beautiful at the same time.

After another dozen or so do-overs, I realize what I’m feeling and experiencing is probably common to mankind and probably worth sharing because someone can probably relate. And BAM. Another post is miraculously added to my blog.

Have you noticed God working like this in your life? You set out on a mission. You’ve got this. You know what you’re doing. You’ve done your homework. Stunning results are in the bag. And then life happens.

What the heck? you find yourself asking. What went wrong? Why do things always go wrong for me? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with the universe? I had this and some undefinable, undetectable, invisible little urchin just stole what should have been mine!

I’m learning to take these events as they come, as part of God’s bigger plan for my life. I don’t know why things have to be so difficult for me when they seem so easy for others. I can’t answer all the whys. All I can do is push through one more time, do what seems right at the time, and trust that God has it all in his capable hands – my mistakes as well as my victories. Especially my mistakes. Have you ever noticed how God seems to like mistakes?

It seems as though He says, “Yes. I was waiting for that, Diane! I saw it coming even though you didn’t and I used special care in crafting a way through it that will bring you closer to me and my design for your life.

“Sweet daughter, you find it so easy to veer from my perfect will for you. I know the temptations you face. But you’re looking at the wrong things and that’s why you stumble. Look up. Focus on me. I’m not daunted by your mistakes. Rather, I like them. They decompose into the manure I use to enrich the garden I’m planting in you.

“Mistakes and failure are your friends so embrace them as the learning tools I intend them to be. Nothing is ever wasted in my economy. I have more than enough. I AM more than enough. You need never look to any other source for love and joy and success than Me.

“I love working miracles just for your benefit. Your tears, and yes, even your screams of frustration, are endearing to me. I would rather see your wrath than your complacency. I adore the life that bubbles from every emotion you feel. I feel it, too. Remember that I came to earth, not only to save your soul from the death that separated us, but to experience all you experience so I can say, “I’ve been there. I hurt, too, you know. I felt pain and loneliness and scorn and rejection and injustice. I got tired and experienced sleepless nights when I had more expected of me than I could humanly deliver. I get it because I’ve been there.

“So, stop beating yourself up. I love you and that’s all that matters. Fear? Failure? Mistakes? Regrets? They’re nothing. But the spunk and tenacity they develop in you? That’s priceless!

“I gave you emotions for a reason. Use them to your advantage and lighten up while you do so. I’d love to hear you say, “Well, that didn’t go as planned. I wonder what God has up his sleeve? Because I know my Heavenly Father has an awesome plan for using all the twists and turns my life has taken. Forget an easy, predictable life. Anyone can do that. I’m up for an amazing road trip with the master of adventure! So, bring it on, God!'”

I admit those were not my thoughts after months of unsuccessfully trying everything I could to solve my lighting issues with the wheel center hub caps. But maybe it should have been. When I woke up yesterday morning and said, “Today I am going to solve this lighting issue,” maybe I should have asked God, “What do you want to accomplish in me and through me today?” Because my plans failed. I’m no closer to a solution than I was yesterday morning. But I successfully wrote two more blog posts. Maybe that was the real agenda all along.

I went to bed feeling like a failure. God watched me go to bed and said, “Yes! She did it! Good for you, girl.”

Somehow I need to get on the same page as God. I’d save myself a lot of anxiety if I did.

 

 

 

 

The Key To Success – Part 1

I failed.

Again.

I have been trying for months to make this photo booth reflective enough to take great photos of the wheel center hub caps I’m developing for work.

I’ve spent countless hours watching You Tube videos. I’ve spent sleepless nights trying to figure out what I’m missing. I’ve talked to photographers I know, and just about anyone I can corner long enough to ask if they’ve ever successfully taken photos of shiny objects.

Nothing. No one knows anything. Thanks a lot, world. So much for Karma.

I’ve spend gallons of gas I couldn’t afford going from camera shop to camera shop. I’ve purchased brighter bulbs, black out curtains, and even a green screen, for goodness sake!

What a waste. As if I have time, energy, and money to throw away.

My very understanding boss says there’s a time when good enough is good enough. I appreciate his attitude. But I simply cannot let this go.

Feeling particularly angry this evening for yet another day of failure (it’s now 1:36 in the morning when I should have been in bed hours ago), a realization hit me. So far I’ve failed to figure out how to get rid of the dark gray background that shows up on my photo editing screen even though I’m using a white background when taking the photos. Yes, my unfavorable results defy logic.

But if I can let go of the emotional attachment to the expected outcome (is that even possible?), I realize that if I never fail, then I must not be doing anything. If I do nothing, I will never succeed. You’ve heard of the perfect storm? Well, this is the perfect vicious cycle.

Maybe Will Smith is right when he encourages us to fail young and fail often. (Three Ways to Fail @ Evolve Blog)

Maybe failure is actually the key to success.

Thomas Edison‘s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Winston Churchill repeated a grade during elementary school and, when he entered Harrow, was placed in the lowest division of the lowest class. Later, he twice failed the entrance exam to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He was defeated in his first effort to serve in Parliament. He became Prime Minister at the age of 62. He later wrote, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, Never, Never, Never give up.” (his capitals) (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4-years-old and did not read until he was 7. His parents thought he was “sub-normal,” and one of his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.” He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He did eventually learn to speak and read. Even to do a little math. (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded.  (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

R. H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York City caught on.  (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, received a “C” on his college paper detailing his idea for a reliable overnight delivery service. His professor at Yale told him, “Well, Fred, the concept is interesting and well formed, but in order to earn better than a “C” grade, your ideas also have to be feasible.”  (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

When Bell Telephone was struggling to get started, its owners offered all their rights to Western Union for $100,000. The offer was disdainfully rejected with the pronouncement, “What use could this company make of an electrical toy.”  (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs tells of his first attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer: “So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.'” (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Daniel Boone was once asked by a reporter if he had ever been lost in the wilderness. Boone thought for a moment and replied, “No, but I was once bewildered for about three days.”  (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

An expert said of Vince Lombardi: “He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation.” Lombardi would later write, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.” (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Babe Ruth is famous for his past home run record, but for decades he also held the record for strikeouts. He hit 714 home runs and struck out 1,330 times in his career about which he said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

After Fred Astaire‘s first screen test, the memo from the testing director of MGM, dated 1933, read, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” He kept that memo over the fire place in his Beverly Hills home. Astaire once observed that “when you’re experimenting, you have to try so many things before you choose what you want, that you may go days getting nothing but exhaustion.” And here is the reward for perseverance: “The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it’s considered to be your style.”  (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

When Lucille Ball began studying to be actress in 1927, she was told by the head instructor of the John Murray Anderson Drama School, “Try any other profession.”  (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

In high school, actor and comic Robin Williams was voted “Least Likely to Succeed.”  (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him “hopeless as a composer.” And, of course, you know that he wrote five of his greatest symphonies while completely deaf. (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Van Gogh sold only one painting during his life. And this to the sister of one of his friends for 400 francs (approximately $50). This didn’t stop him from completing over 800 paintings. (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Jack London received six hundred rejection slips before he sold his first story.  (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. In fact, the proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff. (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Charles Schultz had every cartoon he submitted rejected by his high school yearbook staff. Oh, and Walt Disney wouldn’t hire him.  (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

12 publishers rejected J. K. Rowling‘s book about a boy wizard before a small London house picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Michael Jordan and Bob Cousy were each cut from their high school basketball teams. Jordan once observed, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.”  (https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html)

Fail young, fail often. It somehow goes against the grain of logic. Or, does it? If we never try, we will never discover what doesn’t work. Each question leads us closer to the answer. Each try is one try closer to the solution.

If you aren’t failing, then you aren’t doing anything; if you aren’t doing anything, then you will never succeed.

Well, tomorrow’s another day. And maybe that’s the day my failure will finally pay off.

 

Co-Dependency Further Defined (Part 4)

Co-dependency. It’s not what we do, but why we do it.

Take my friend Emma, for example, who I introduced in an earlier post. If you recall, she was sticking it out in an unhealthy relationship convinced she was doing the right thing. But I beg to differ and here’s why.

If Emma and her husband were both committed to making their marriage successful and were actively seeking professional help in working it out, then I would give her credit for not giving up easily.

In such a case, honoring her marriage vows would be motivated by love. She would purely want to make it work for the sake of making it work. No hidden agendas. But the question is, are they both invested in such an outcome?

Are they both working on salvaging their marriage? Or is Emma doing all the work while her husband happily skips along in status-quo land? If she alone is trying to save her marriage, then she is demonstrating co-dependency, not love. She needs to make it work because she’s looking for a payoff. And for her, the payoff is the feeling of doing the right thing.

If guilt or fear is the motivating factor in staying in an unhealthy relationship, then the marriage is already doomed. You can stay together forever, but it will never be a real marriage. It’s fake. It may look whole on the outside but it’s empty on the inside and your marriage license is merely a piece of paper saying you file your taxes jointly.

This is the co-dependent’s mantra: If I try hard enough, I can fix it.

This is where Emma gets stuck. She thinks she can fix her marriage by herself. If she’s patient enough. If she’s loving enough. If she gives enough. If she’s unselfish enough.

What complicates Emma’s little plan is that her desire to make her marriage work is not the only factor in play. What does her husband want? Is he willing to put in the sweat in order to reap the equity? Is he motivated by love to change what isn’t working? Or, is he content with the way things are, thinking good enough is good enough? Or even worse, that Emma deserves to be his emotional punching bag?

My ex-husband use to say, “Either shit or get off the pot.” I apologize for the crudeness, but it’s so true. Either do something, taking real steps toward fixing the core problem, or stop complaining. Stop pretending. Be honest. Most likely you are fooling no one but yourself with your pretense that everything is fine when it’s not.

In my first marriage, our son came to us one day and said, “Mom, I love you and Dad, I love you, but I can’t stand being around the two of you together.” As a Junior in high school he moved out and went to live with friends. If that isn’t a wake up call, I don’t know what is. My husband and I were legally married, living under one roof, regularly attending church, and raising our children together, but we were failing miserably in giving them the home they so desperately needed.

That’s what we co-dependents do. We settle for what is instead of either making it what it could be or admitting it’s beyond repair.

I do not advocate divorce. I am, however, an advocate for healthy relationships. Therefore, if the one you’re with insists on maintaining their dysfunctional status-quo, you have not only the right but the responsibility to separate yourself and your children from the crazy-making. I’m not talking about imperfect people. We’re all imperfect. I’m talking about toxic people. Unsafe people. Crazymaking people!

You know who they are by the gut-wrenching feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when they verbally attack you for no good reason. “It’s your fault everything goes wrong,” they say. “You can’t do anything right. You don’t try hard enough.” You know the spiel. They’re very convincing and you find yourself walking on eggshells, trying to prevent the next outburst.

Even if there was a good reason for confrontation, the matter should be discussed in a respectful manner. Never, ever with insulting, name-calling, blaming, or shaming! This is verbal and emotional abuse and it causes as many scars as the physical kind. Do not be deceived into thinking it’s your fault or that you deserve it. No one deserves to be treated with disrespect.

But after two failed marriages already under her belt, Emma is desperate for the self-respect she’d get from doing what she considers to be the right thing. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that by allowing her husband to treat her disrespectfully, Emma is inadvertently teaching their children to accept disrespect and verbal abuse from others as normal. This is how dysfunction travels from one generation to another until someone has the courage to stand up and say, “Enough! No more!”

Recently on Facebook I read this post submitted by Whitney Renee Huntwork on February 19, 2017:

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

How we treat others and how we allow others to treat us, is a big deal. Larger than we realize. I was raised in an era where such things were not discussed. What happened behind closed doors, stayed behind closed doors. In religious circles it was considered sinful to separate for any reason and it was believed that you somehow earned heavenly brownie points for being long-suffering and patient and kind in the midst of abuse. That’s a lie.

Nowhere in the Bible does God say you should allow yourself and those under your care to be abused. Jesus was known for speaking up against pretense and injustice. He confronted sin while loving the sinner. He taught us when and how to be angry. Healthy relationships always has been and always will be His message to mankind. He died a humiliating and cruel death on the cross to restore broken relationships, first with God Himself, then with ourselves and then with others. There is hope, and there is help.

Thankfully, we have more resources available to us today to deal with such issues than did our predecessors.

Unlike them, we have no excuse!

Today a friend shared this quote on FaceBook: “I’ve found the key to happiness: Stay away from assholes.” (Enchanting Minds)

It’s time we realize that our co-dependency in sticking by an abuser is doing no one any good. It is, in fact, doing a great deal of harm! Whatever payoff we think we’re getting is not worth it.

Whether our motivation is to support the underdog (my motivation), or whether our motivation is to do the seemingly right thing (Emma’s motivation), it’s time we stop the crazy-making. Separate yourself and your children from it long enough to be able to accurately evaluate what’s really going on, what your options are, and what needs to be done next.

By all means, get help from available safe people and professionals. You are not alone. Yes, life is filled with problems and challenges. As a healthy individual, you can meet them with wisdom and courage.

We each have the responsibility of taking care of what God has given us: the opportunity for physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health. We do this best when living a crazy-free life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You A Rescuer? (Part 3)

Co-dependents are rescuers.

My personal rescuing method of choice was in the form of picking the runt of the litter. By bestowing my love and attention on the runt, the one everyone else over looked, I was validating her worth.

Case in point: As a child I wanted a puppy. After receiving the typical responsibility lecture that parents feel bound to give, my mom and dad gave in. We visited a local farm that was selling puppies. As we walked into the barn, several happy, bouncing puppies greeted me. I noticed several other families playing with the puppies, carefully choosing the one they would take home.

My radar, however, zeroed in on one particular puppy cowering against the wall. She had a scratch on her nose and she was significantly smaller than the others, indicating that her time at the feeding bowl had been limited. I could just picture her trying to eat as the other fatter, stronger puppies pushed her aside as they gobbled up more than their fare share. My heart went out to her.

I went over and picked her up. She shook in my arms. “I want this one,” I announced. My mom and dad looked at each other. “Are you sure?” they asked. “Wouldn’t you like one of the healthier ones?”

Their response only added to my resolve. “No. Lots of people want the others. No one wants this one. I want her.”

And thus began my life of co-dependency. You can call it kindness, generosity, a sensitive loving heart, but it was co-dependency in the making.

In junior high as Valentine’s Day approached, I knew what was going to happen. The popular kids would exchange valentines in order to preserve their elevated spot in the pecking order. Unpopular kids would give valentines to the popular kids in their effort to elevate their spot in the pecking order. The whole thing disgusted me. So I decided to do something to even things out a bit.

I purchased two types of valentines that year. One box contained your usual greetings. The other more expensive box contained valentines with the usual greeting, but with attached lolly pops. Then I carefully addressed each envelope, the plain valentines going to the popular kids and the lolly pop endowed valentines to the unpopular kids. I knew my action would upset the way things had always been, but I didn’t care. I was a rebel at heart.

I passed out my valentines, getting the expected response. The less popular kids were delighted. I can still see the looks on their faces! The popular kids were confused. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Who would dare do such a thing? Certainly not the quiet, shy Diane!

What they didn’t know about me was that, “I’m a December girl. I was born with my heart on my sleeve, a fire in my soul, and a mouth I can’t control.” I read this on a tee-shirt this past year and loved it. This is totally me.

The only difference is, back then I did control my mouth. I was a good girl and kept all my bad thoughts to myself. But you better believe they’ve been there all along! These days my mouth gets away from me sometimes, but I try to control it while still being authentic and forth right. I say what I think needs saying, but in an appropriate way. At least that’s the plan.

What I didn’t realize back then was that I was practicing reverse discrimination. To have been totally non-discriminatory, I would have given the same valentines to everyone. What I attempted to do was even the score. Bring down the popular kids and elevate the less popular. That is still discrimination, just opposite of the norm.

So, why did I do it? There’s payoff in co-dependency. You feel good about yourself; you feel like you’re making a difference. The difference between co-dependency and just plain having a kind heart is the need factor.

A kind person will do something just for the act itself. Help an old lady across the street, that type of thing. No payoff. Just do a good deed, no thanks necessary, and get on with your life.

The co-dependent will do the same good deed, but her motivation is for what she gets in return. She’ll help the little old lady across the street, then look around to see if anyone noticed. She needs this attention, this validation that she herself is worthy. It’s as if we give what we ourselves need, in an attempt to fill our own unmet needs.

After high school, my co-dependent heart when to college where I encountered more injustice. In my freshman year I became part of a group that just hung around together. Guys and girls, freshmen and seniors alike. It was an awesome group. No expectations or drama or games. Just pure enjoyment of sharing adventures. We would often go to John Bryan State Park. Sometimes only a few would go, other times the whole crew. Regardless of how many attended, we always had fun.

In that group was a handsome young man, a junior, who was a little on the quiet side until you got to know him. He was very intelligent but not arrogant. It was easy to be around him. One day this junior dared to ask a popular senior out on a date. She said no.

I was so outraged by this injustice, this sign that she thought she was superior and he beneath her, that I started paying special attention to him in an effort to even the score. Teach her a lesson! Show her what she was missing! I’d show her and the whole world how worthy this young man truly was! And when he asked me out on a date, I accepted. Not because I really wanted to go out with him, but to prove there was nothing wrong with him. He really was a nice guy and I liked him a lot. I just didn’t like him in that way. But my co-dependent heart didn’t know the difference. The payoff I received was that I felt good about myself. I was elevating this young man’s status from being rejected to being accepted and appreciated.

What I know now that I didn’t know then was, this young man did not need rescuing. He took the rejection better than I took his rejection. He was fine. I was the one who was not fine.

What about my other relationships? Pretty much the same MO. I was attracted to those who I perceived as needing my validation of their worth, thereby validating my own.

Therefore I went through my adult life both looking for those to rescue and those who would rescue me, since that was my underlying need.

It’s been eight years since my last divorce and I’m determined to do it differently this time. That’s why I didn’t jump into dating right away, like I did after my first divorce. I knew there was something about me that made me choose good men who were not right for me. It’s taken me eight years to come to the place where I feel I am finally ready for a healthy relationship.

I’m looking for my soul-mate. That one guy, although not perfect, is perfect for me and I, albeit far from perfect, is perfect for him. I still believe in fairy tales and I still believe in Prince Charming. Although, at the tender age of 60, my prince will most likely look like a frog to the rest of the world. Pot belly, receding hairline, you get the picture. He’ll probably have a lot of hair on his face to compensate for what’s no longer on his head. Men do that. I don’t know why.

That’s where I am in my life and he will be too, so I’m OK with that. I’m after relationship. Connection. Companionship. A feeling of safety and comfort in his presence. A warm feeling inside just thinking about him. That’s what I want these days.

I don’t need a rescuer, and I no longer need to rescue. God is my rescuer and as such, I am now able to freely give out of the pure desire to give, without attached motives.

My soul-mate, that perfect guy for me, will be my companion through the coming years, one who will bring a smile to my lips and a flutter to my heart. We’ll be that old couple on the beach, holding hands, looking tenderly into each others eyes. While others will most likely look at us and say, “Aww, what a sweet old couple,” I won’t even notice because their attention and validation is no longer important to me.

That’s when I’ll know, I am co-dependent no more!

 

 

 

 

 

Co-Dependency Defined (Part 2)

In my last blog, I encouraged readers to take steps toward ridding their lives of dysfunctional behaviors and relationships. But the deep level of anger I felt while writing that article surprised me. I had to step back and take a good look at myself to figure out why I had such a heated reaction to my own writing. Sure, it was hard to understand the hesitation that hinders so many of my friends from making healthy decisions for a healthier life. But it was more than that. It felt personal and the mother bear in me came out with claws flailing.

This week I had an epiphany that revealed why I had reacted so strongly. I was talking to my friend Emma, getting more and more upset over the fact that all she wanted to do was complain about her husband. She was either unwilling or unable to take responsibility for her own misery and do something about it. That’s when it hit me. Emma thinks it’s her responsibility to fix her husband!

“If I stay with him,” she told me, “maybe he’ll become a Christian. If I leave, then he won’t.”

“How many years have you stayed with him hoping someday he’ll become a Christian?” I asked.

“Twenty-five,” she answered.

“So, what’s going to change this year?”

She shrugged her response. I so wanted to quote Alcoholics Annoymous’s definition of insanity but held my tongue.

“Whose responsibility is it for his salvation?” I continued. “Yours or his?”

Again, she had no answer.

And that’s when I realized Emma was co-dependent. She needed her husband to need her. She needed to fix him. And for reasons she couldn’t even begin to grasp, this dysfunctional relationship had her in a vice grip she was unable to break. Misplaced loyalty and guilt had a grimy strangle hold around her neck and she was trapped.

I was Emma a decade ago. That’s why her dilemma felt so personal. Because it was.

My son was out with his wife one evening, and on the way home he became sick. As he struggled to get his car window open, he vomited. Window, door, cup holder, seat, floor, you name it. It was also below freezing so with the window now open, the vomit froze where it landed.

When they got home, he announced with disgust, “I’m not cleaning that up!” He has a weak stomach to begin with. He even detests holding babies because they might drool on him. There was no way he was touching frozen vomit, not even his own.

His wife was just as adamant. “I’m not cleaning it up, either! We’ll just get rid of the car.”

But me, being the loving (Note: CO-DEPENDENT) mother I was, went out into the sub-freezing night air, armed with a flashlight and buckets of hot soapy water, numerous cleaning paraphernalia in tow. An hour and a half later I came into the house and announced with more than a little pride that the car was as good as new. I felt like I deserved a standing ovation. I had scrapped, soaked, brushed, and detailed with a sharp knife every inch the vomit had touched.

You’re probably reading this and saying, “Oh, what a wonderful mother! So loving. So giving. So unselfish.” Well, that’s exactly what I wanted everyone to think because my motivation was not to clean frozen vomit, it was to earn my son’s approval. Actually, the whole family’s approval! It was to make him dependent on me because I was the only one (Note: THE ONLY ONE!) who would sacrifice so much for him. I needed him to need me, therefore I tackled the unthinkable. I was Emma.

You notice my daughter-in-law was not co-dependent. She didn’t need to earn her husband’s love or approval. She didn’t need to sacrifice her own discomfort. But, as a deeply co-dependent mother, I did.

In the end, they got rid of the car anyway, even after all my hard work. My sacrifice was wasted because my motivation was wrong. If my motivation had been to simply clean a filthy car, then I had succeeded. But my motivation had been to earn their love and make myself indispensable. My self-gratifying efforts were not rewarded.

That is what we co-dependents do. We waste countless amounts of energy, countless resources, countless hours, and sometimes countless years (Note: YEARS!) on people who do not appreciate us or what we do. The validation we so desperately seek is never realized.

So, do we learn? No. We try harder. We do more. And as our enhanced efforts are not appreciated, we grow resentful, blaming them for our unhappiness.

In actuality, we have no one to blame but ourselves because, as I explained in my previous post, we teach people how to treat us (I first heard this from Joyce Meyer). If we neglect ourselves, we invite others to neglect us. If we criticize ourselves, we clear the way for others to criticize us. If we abuse ourselves, we open ourselves up to abuse from others.

Demanding respect falls on deaf ears. It takes action on our part to motivate change. We have to pave the way. We need to break new ground. We need to start over.

We do this by respecting ourselves.