June 19, 2012

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Soar - There is always hope! January 1, 2012 I officially opened a journaling e-course on my Ning group, Just Be Yourself called “Soar.” Soar’s purpose in a nutshell, is to help us become the women we desire to be and to help us make the most of each day we’ve been given…so that we don’t merely exist, but that we appreciate all we have and all we are…that we learn to let go of the past, live today fully, and embrace all our tomorrows. I decided to share bits of those lessons here on my blog. In lieu of my journaling, I created a digital “dress” each week that includes the quote of the week. I’ll share those as well. Here is Soar Lesson 1: Letting go… I’m an not advocating that I’m an expert in anything (except maybe procrastinating or getting sidetracked!), but I will be sharing some of my own experiences. So please, if I suggest something, don’t be offended! I in no way mean to hurt anyone’s feelings or want to make anyone feel badly. There are things in our pasts that are painful or disappointing. Maybe it was something serious like being abused (whether sexually, mentally, emotionally, or physically)…maybe you have family or relatives or friends that don’t get you. Maybe you’ve been taken advantage of…whatever the circumstance, whatever the memory, whatever the situation, and I’m going to say this a lot…we are not what other people do or say to us!!! EVER!!! We cannot be defined by what other people think. Only you (and if you’re a woman of faith, God) truly knows what’s in your heart! Maybe you’ve hurt someone else…I’ve hurt people by just not thinking or taking into consideration how the other person would react. And I felt horrible about it. No one can “take it back,” but we can make things right. But what if we were the victim? What then? What if the person who hurt us isn’t sorry and won’t acknowledge any wrongdoing? We can’t control another person, but we can control our own minds (for the most part)…sometimes we just have to let go. We can’t change the past (but wouldn’t it be cool if we could? But if we could, would we be more careful? Uummm…). But, we can change the way we feel about it. I was the victim of abuse, and although I won’t go into details right now, I was sexually abused by two older men when I was about eight or nine years old, and I was raped when I was 24. Add to that a bunch of other “stuff,” and I grew up feeling ugly, fat, and stupid…and the truth is, I was none of those things…I honestly believed it though. I began drinking when I was 15, and by the time I was 25 I was married, had two children, divorced because my first husband was abusive, and I was depressed! I was drinking a lot by the time I was 25…there was so much hurt and pain…inside I was screaming for someone to hear me…to understand what I was going through. I felt unloveable. And, on August 15, 1981 I attempted suicide. Thankfully I didn’t succeed, but I truly believed at the time that I and everyone else would be better off with me dead. Obviously I was suffering from depression, and I had developed a drinking problem because of it. I was in treatment for depression and chemical dependency for seven long, long weeks. It was both horrible and the best thing that ever happened to me…I’ve not had a drink since that night. I continued to suffer from depression for years, but not to the degree it had been. Now, I have bouts of depression, mostly because of chronic physical pain, but I no longer want to die. The first night I was in a mental ward, I felt I had literally hit rock bottom (and really, I had)…I had to give my ex-husband temporary custody of our two children because I had no idea how long I would be in treatment. I can’t describe how much I truly wanted to die as I laid on that bed…I turned my face to the wall in an effort to forget where I was, and at that moment, staring at the window that had heavy wire mesh over it, I suddenly realized that if I was meant to have died that night, I would have…I had grown up attending Sunday School, and we had attended church…I was baptized and confirmed, but trust me…God did not seem to live at my house! To me, church was just someplace my mom made me go every Sunday, and as soon as I was out of the house, I quit going…but I knew that there had to be a god out there someplace that cared about me…because I was still alive…and thankfully I asked Him for help…I knew that if I didn’t get the treatment I obviously needed, I’d just get out and try again…so for seven, long, painful weeks I faithfully attended my appointments and my group therapy…I talked about things that had been kept secret my whole life. And, I learned I had to let go. I could not let those painful memories dictate who I was…I could no longer believe those lies. I HAD to get better! So, this week, think about something painful that you have to let go…something that is not doing you any good by clinging onto it. You are not defined by how someone else has treated you! You are worthy of good things. You are a person that deserves love and care! There is always hope. Always. Without hope we have nothing. Maybe circumstances in your life right now suck. Sometimes life does suck. Sometimes bad stuff happens. Sometimes it’s very painful to deal with. BUT, holding it all inside is not going to do you or anyone else any good. Today I am not telling you that you need to forgive those who have hurt you…I just want you to let go of something that is holding you down! If you let it go, you’re going to feel lighter…you’ll be able to breathe…you’ll feel light as air…and then your heart will begin to…soar! Now that we’ve hopefully done some soul-searching and let go a burden that has been weighing our hearts down, it’s time to rise up! Think of a happy memory…just one…I want you to visualize when it was, where you were, what happened…now think about what you see, what you hear, what was said, what you smelled…that’s it…engage all your senses…now, remember how good that felt? Remember how happy you felt? Did it feel like your heart was just jumping about inside of you? Were you excited? Or just feeling content? Rising up… A dear friend of mine, who is absolutely a devoted mother, made her two small children the most adorable flannel pajamas for Christmas…they got to wear them Christmas Eve. She emailed me pictures. And those pictures brought back a flood of memories from my own childhood. My mother used to sew a lot of our clothes when we were children, until I learned to sew, and then the task fell to me. There were five children in my family…four girls and one boy…I’m the eldest…I was seven when my brother, my youngest sibling, was born…I can’t imagine having five children ages seven and under. My family was very poor at that time, so when my mother sewed us new clothes, it was quite a big deal. Every winter she sewed us a set of new flannel pajamas…one pair each, each winter. One year she sewed my sister and I long flannel nightgowns with long sleeves…the hem and the sleeves had ruffles. I don’t remember what my sister’s nightgown looked like, but mine was red and white pin stripes…I remember thinking it looked like a candy cane…I was five years old…I remember distinctly how it felt when I put it on for the first time…how cuddly I felt…it was like wearing a hug. And I didn’t get many hugs when I was five. I don’t remember getting any hugs when I was five. But I remember that red and white striped nightgown! I remember how happy it made me feel…and when I see candy canes I’m reminded of that nightgown. You see how something as simple as sharing something of your own life can impact someone else’s? My friend shared a special family moment with me, which prompted my own memory, and I shared that with her…now we both have added to those special moments…NOW when I think of handmade pjs, I’ll think of her and her adorable children in their new pajamas sitting by the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. This is definitely something I should journal about…my memories…my friend’s gift to her children…I don’t want to forget… And that has lifted me up…my spirit…my heart…is rising up! And, lastly, let us all try to be kinder and gentler, no matter what our circumstances. There is so much hate and cruelty in our world today. We have become such a casual society that even good manners are ignored. Let us try to leave each day a good memory for someone…so each week, let us be challenged to perform one act of kindness. I’ve got something special planned for it, but for now…just give someone a smile, hold open a door, shovel a shut-in neighbor’s snow, make soup for a mom with sick kids…sometimes the smallest of kindnesses elicit the greatest of joys! Be a smile for someone today! * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * As always, thank you so much for stopping by! Hugs and Toodles! (The e-course is still open for new members. There is no official class fee, but I do suggest a monthly donation of $5. New lessons are posted every Monday, and include a written lesson with journaling prompts, a word of the week, a quote of the week, and usually include bonus printables…graphics and pages that are optional for use.)

Anita Van Hal

I'm primarily a self-taught mixed media and folk doll artist who lives in the west-central part of North Dakota. I love living the creative life!

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