The following articles were authored by DragonLady

Perspective and attitude

Perspective has a way of changing your attitude. Being the control freak that I am, my perspective has always been self-centered. My personal comfort took priority in how I looked at the world and situations. When things didn’t (or don’t) go the way I think they should, I end up on the pity pot only seeing the bad and never the good.

This has been most evident with my relationship with my dad. Yes the verbal abuse did a lot of damage. Yes, the lack of affirmation negatively affected me psychologically which in turn affected every relationship I’ve ever had with anyone including God. This was understandable and even excusable when I was a child. I didn’t have the capacity as a child to do anything more than develop ways to cope that allowed me to emotionally survive. Those coping skills long outlived their usefulness.

Since my mom worked outside the home when I was a child, I spent a lot of time with my dad. It was practically 24×7 until I started school so I am naturally like him in many ways. My mom did her best to counter many of the negative traits I picked either by imitation or genetics, but in ways that did not teach me to disrespect either of them. I am grateful for that now. Now I can see him as a father who did the best he could amidst his own character defects. And he tried to raise me to be respectful of others and independent and grounded in faith in God.

I just finished reading Barnabas Piper’s book The Pastor’s Kid. I’m a deacon’s kid, but much of what Barnabas wrote mirrored my own DK experience. I found much healing through his experience as a PK. I can now look my on my dad with a different perspective not only because of what Barnabas wrote of his experience, but also through working through my own issues and character defects.

Daddy taught small groups off and on at church up until I was 15. Throughout those years I saw him do a lot of study in preparation for teaching. He didn’t do it silently and would discuss it with my mom. It one pretty much one sided, but he was teaching as he was preparing to teach. I reaped the benefits of his preparation in that I was given a strong foundation for my own faith. Both he and my mom always encouraged me to study scripture for myself and not just blindly believe everything I heard either from the pulpit or from the classes I was in.

Acts 17:11 NIV ”
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

This was instilled in me more deeply than Missionary Baptist doctrine. Daddy learned what other denominations believed and taught me that as well even going to far as to teach me there was no doctrinal difference between Missionary Baptists and Southern Baptists. He made sure that I knew salvation was in Jesus and not in a particular church. That was a priceless gift.

When I started kindergarten, Daddy sat me down one day and had what I thought at the time was a weird talk. He talked to be about black people. Up to this point, I really hadn’t been around many black people because church and family were lily white. I don’t have any preschool memory of black people who weren’t on TV. He made it a point to explain to me that there was no difference between us and black people except for skin pigmentation and that didn’t matter. They had the same hearts and minds and I was never ever to call a black person “nigger” because it was hurtful. When I was older the conversation made sense, and it’s another thing I am grateful for because even though I wasn’t able to completely escape Southern culture race issues, that one conversation always came back to me to remind me that we are all human and I need to respect and love other people no matter our outside differences. It’s what’s inside that matters.

Daddy was a very smart man who could do just about anything. He was electrician, plumber, auto mechanic, small engine mechanic, gardener, and carpenter. He was also a fantastic cook who made the best apple and coconut cream pies I’ve ever eaten. He taught me much of that though mostly by watching and listening. But I do remember him taking the time to teach me how to do simple auto maintenance like checking and adding fluid and changing a tire. He is why I know my way around a breaker or fuse box. Throughout my childhood he did a lot of electrical, plumbing, and carpenter work for his sisters, widows in our community, and other family and friends. He taught by example to help others. And much of those skills he taught me explicitly were done before he went to prison I think because he saw I had the desire and the capacity to do minor maintenance and repairs that my mom lacked. She could cook and clean, and even do some gardening, but because she worked full time, she didn’t have time to do everything that needed to be done and had no inclination towards mechanical stuff. He ensured we weren’t left hanging, utterly dependent on other people for little things.

I remember when I played softball, Daddy would practice with me. I hated it most of the time because he and Mom both concentrated on my weakest area of catching which was grounders that I had to run for. Haha. He only missed one of my softball games. He didn’t miss any basketball game I played. He was there for every play and concert. When I was in the hospital he was there when my mom needed to go home and rest and a lot of the time when she was there too. He made me stay in bed when I was sick and made me drink lots of water and made my favorite foods so that I would actually eat. He helped me with homework and would play games with me. He even taught me how to play poker. Thankfully I didn’t get inherit his ability to count cards and don’t like losing money so as not to have a gambling problem. ;-)

He was overprotective in a lot of ways and tended to over and under react, but I understand now that it was fear that caused it. He didn’t necessarily love me in the ways I wanted, but he did love me and I can look back and see that now. He made many mistakes, but he made those because he had his own sickness and demons to contend with. He couldn’t be a perfect dad because he was human. But he did love me and he did try the best he could to raise me to put my faith in God and to grow up to be a responsible adult rather than a perpetual impulsive child. For that I can be grateful and honor him with love and respect.

Taking the plunge…again

After I got home last night – and ate because I was hangry – Chad came out on the porch to talk with me. It was a nice talk even though I had to tell him “No, we can’t afford that,” to which he didn’t whine or beg, but just accepted with an “Okay.” I think we might both be growing up. haha :) So anyway, I said, “Oh, hey, did I tell you I am getting rebaptized Sunday?” His response was great. “Did your first one expire?” The delivery made it funny. And I gave him a serious answer.

I was originally baptized when I was 14, and it was a valid believer’s baptism by immersion. So why do it again? I mean, really, I’ve never thought I needed another one. Truth be told, I still don’t think I need another one because my original was valid. However, when I did my 3rd step prayer, it amounted to a complete rededication. So partially because of that and partially because I have a much better understanding of the significance of baptism, it’s more to me of a complete ownership of my faith as mine rather than somewhat of my parent’s faith as it was when I was a kid.

So Sunday afternoon after the 1pm service at newhopeSanford, I’m taking the plunge…again.

Step out

I’ve done a lot more reading than writing lately. Obviously. In fact, I just finished a book that stepped all over my toes with regards to my character defects. Most of those defects are rooted in my childhood coping skills that I hung onto well into adulthood. Or maybe I should say “hang” instead of “hung.” It’s an ongoing battle.

I like staying in my comfort zone. Like probably isn’t the right word. It’s more of a love/hate thing. Monday afternoon I was sitting on the front porch reading when I saw a van slow and then turn in our driveway. My thought was “Crap! Jehovah’s Witnesses.” I ended up wishing it had been Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was a Kirby sales team.

I let that young man do his demonstration though I had no intention of buying a Kirby. I don’t care how good it cleans, even if I could drop that kind of cash for a vacuum, I will never buy a Kirby. There is a reason why, and I’m not going to digress into that. But the team was really nice and didn’t overly pressure me. And I was definitely outside of my comfort zone the entire time.

I read a blog post Wednesday that picked at some old childhood wounds. Rather than stuffing and burying, I let myself feel the pain that I never let myself feel. It wasn’t comfortable. In fact it hurt quite a bit. But I am looking at it differently than I used to.

Rather than wallowing in self-pity, I let myself feel the pain in order to heal. I grieved the childhood I didn’t have and the relationship with my Dad that I didn’t have. Instead of asking “Why did that happen to me,” I simply told myself “Yes, it sucked. Feel the pain, and then let it go.” I saw a friend later on who told me I looked like I needed a hug. Oh, yeah. I did. I gradually felt better as the day went on because I didn’t focus on how I wish things had been, but rather accepted how things were. Most importantly, I don’t have to let that crap dictate who I am.

Today I am ok. I’m not pink cloud happy, but I don’t want to ball up in a corner and bawl either. Ok, maybe a little, but ain’t nobody got time for that. The comfort zone isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. There is no growth and more discomfort trying to maintain comfort. There is no real peace. There is no life.

So step out of the comfort zone and start living.

Changing ain’t easy

I have had a raging case of PMS since yesterday evening. TMI you say? Perhaps, but hey, it is what it is. Everybody and everything has been getting on my nerves. When I’m not angry, I just want to sit and mope. I want to eat all the things, and it makes me a little angry that there isn’t any chocolate in this house. Well, there might be some cocoa, but I sure as heck don’t want to cook.

I did do some work though. I did a couple of hours of coding, which did not improve my mood even though it was slightly easier coding in Dreamweaver than just typing all of it manually. Of course it didn’t work, and that pissed me off. But really, I have never written any code that worked the first time. And I love troubleshooting. Since then I have realized why it isn’t working and it’s not my code, but at this point I am not going to log into GoDaddy and upload it. After all, I need to save some work for tomorrow. ;) And I practiced for Sunday.

Anyway, I couldn’t stand my bitchiness anymore so I texted Petra to whine. She told me to organize something. HAHAHAHA! Right. Like I even know where to start, but I did remember about partially cleaning the toilet this morning and gave her all the details of that. That led me to make myself go finish cleaning it. Which was oh so gross. Once that was done, I looked at the shower curtain and decided it needed to be washed. Well, heck, might as well clean the shower too. It just snowballed and I cleaned the whole bathroom including baseboards and walls. Then I thought, “Huh. That was a lot more productive than sitting on my pity pot wishing I could drink a glass of wine.” Because of course it would be at least a whole bottle.

During one of my many breaks, I read this blog post: The Problem with Asking for Advice. He hit me right away with this:

Often, when asking for advice, a person isn’t really seeking something new. They’re just looking for validation, affirmation of a choice already made. And this is a problem.

That hits close to home. But, after reading that and looking back on what I have done today, I can see where I am making changes in my behavior when the crazy creeps in. I didn’t want to write code today. I didn’t want to call the security office at work to see if I can get back in the compound yet and work on site. I didn’t want to practice. I definitely didn’t want to clean. But they were all things that needed to be done, and they all kept my mind occupied with something besides obsessing over escape. I mean, for real. It’s just freaking PMS. It will pass in a day or too and then I can piss and moan and whine about having cramps for a couple of days and look all miserable like Brownie when she has her “special time.”

I was telling my therapist last week about the trip to Arkansas and some things I did to make a little bit of peace with the past. She didn’t let it pass and “forced” me to go more in depth about one of the things. Then she asked me what I had done about it at the time. I kind of laughed and said, “Well, I avoided.” Then she laughed and sarcastically said, “Really? You avoiding?” because she called me out on that months ago. That has been a hard change to make. But as I work on changing that behavior, I can see that it really is easier to confront something or someone that is legitimately bothering me in some way than avoiding the situation and storing up resentment. Go figure. ;)

And funny enough, just writing this has chilled me out.

Moving on

My name is Martha, and I am a Missionary Baptist deacon’s kid (DK). And I’m an alcoholic. I just reported the latter to my security officer so it can’t be used against me now. My co-workers know too. My mother does not, and I intend to keep it that way because that might be the one thing she doesn’t forget. ;) And I got sober before I got the nose ring. haha! :)

I was told not too long ago that I have been pretty open about blogging about my “junk.” Well, now that I have dragged all of my skellingtons out of the closet to my sponsor (and lived through it), I feel much more comfortable sharing my junk publicly. Because I kept a lot of crap bottled up for so long that I nearly imploded. It’s been a year now since my emotional breakdown which could in a sense be considered my rock bottom even though it took me a while after that to admit that my drinking was a problem that was perpetuating my other problems.

I read a couple of articles this morning that hit home and prompted me to be willing to put some more of my junk out there.

5 Reasons Pastors Kids are Leaving the Church – Guest Post by Emily Wierenga

Do Prodigals Feel Welcome At Our Churches?

I learned as a DK very early how to keep up appearances. I knew the right way to speak around the right people. I learned how to smile and pretend everything was okay. I might have missed my calling as an actress because I kept up quite an act. Things were not okay, and I was not okay. My dad was verbally and emotionally abuse to my mom and I, and it couldn’t be shared. So we suffered in silence. I can’t speak for her, but I can speak for how it affected me. It nearly destroyed me. I learned not to trust anyone, and not to respect authority, but to go through the motions as if I did. Of course that can’t be maintained, and so I would act out. I felt different from everybody like I didn’t fit in.

Then I got drunk, and that changed everything.

It was my 3rd time drinking when I hit that sweet spot of drunk where I felt good. I was confident and relaxed for the first time. I could be myself without analyzing everything that I or anyone else said or did. I enjoyed life, at least until I sobered up. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I never did drink like I “normal” person. I drank to get drunk – trying to get back that feeling of that first good drunk. Sometimes I did it, but more often than not I went way beyond that sweet spot. It became a means to escape. It didn’t matter how many hangovers where I swore I’d never drink again, I was going to end up doing it again. And when I did, I was going to drink until there was no more alcohol or I passed out or I was throwing up. I would feel guilty the next day, but still kept drinking.

I was extremely fortunate that drinking never got me into any trouble with work or the law. I never missed work because of my drinking, didn’t go to work drunk, and rarely went in with a hangover. I never got into any trouble with the law. But for the grace of God, it never progressed farther than having Petra tell me I needed to stop for a while. Which, of course, I couldn’t.

What really stood out to me in the first article I linked above is: “PKs aren’t given a chance to experience God’s grace and mercy; they’re just forced to memorize the concepts.” The same was true for this DK. Grace and mercy took a back seat to following rules to maintain your own reputation among other people. Or rather my dad’s reputation which he destroyed himself.

In the second article, there was this: “And when prodigals bottom out, they often return home and to the church.” I returned to the church before I actually bottomed out, but I nearly left again. I did leave the Baptist way behind because I could still see and feel that pressure to maintain an outward appearance of righteousness. I couldn’t live up to that standard as a child and I can’t live up to it as an adult.

What I can do, though, is learn how to rest in the finished work of Jesus. It took over 30 years for it to finally sink in, but I am not accepted and loved by God because of anything I have done, am doing, or will do. It is through Jesus and Jesus alone that I am made righteous. He paid my debt. I have nothing to earn. The best work I can do on my own is like a used tampon before God. Oh yeah, that’s the literal translation of “filthy rags” in the Bible. But if Christ’s death on the cross is not enough to pay for my sin, it’s not enough to cover anyone’s and none of us have any hope. The justification of salvation is an instant event, but sanctification is a process rather than an event. That is why I can put my junk out without wallowing in the pit of self-pity from guilt and shame due to not being perfect. That’s why I no longer look at trials as punishment but as instruments of growth because they are chipping away at my self-centeredness and my guilt and shame of not being perfect. Only Jesus was perfect.

I have 5 1/2 months of sobriety by the grace of God, one day at a time. I am making peace with my past and letting go by the grace of God, one day at a time. I am learning to open up and call people when I am feeling the insanity of the committee in my head and need someone to talk to and to talk me down, by the grace of God, one day at a time. I am learning to live in the present and not reliving the past or trying to control the future, by the grace of God, one day at a time.

Adventures in Arkansas

I really should have sat down and written last night when I had things to say. Or at least made a note of what I wanted to write about like I suggested to Petra. Haha! But in my defense, I was sick as a dog from the flight back from Arkansas. But Enterprise hooked me up with a sweet rental car:

I almost didn’t make that trip. I really didn’t want to. I didn’t want to face my mom’s health issues because avoidance is my default action (or inaction as it were) when I can’t practice full on denial. But I plucked up the courage to do it anyway. Oh my word. Her short term memory is completely gone. She had a stroke while she was in the hospital recovering from pneumonia (and she has COPD), and while the memory issues could be attributed to Alzheimer’s, her inability to say the right words is not something she had prior. It was hard. Hard to listen to and watch her struggle to get out what she wanted to say, and hard to figure out what she meant. But she gets around fine, and I wore her out! Because that’s how I roll. ;) She’s in the nursing home for rehabilitation, and they let me check her out and run her around.

I took her to the Veteran’s Walk of Flags by the hospital first. We did not walk the whole thing.

But my cousin Sharon was interviewed later that day while she was there:

Flags Flying for Veterans In Morrilton Today

It is such a beautiful and humbling display, and I feel honored that I now have a flag among so many others. I am so very grateful to Sharon for making sure all the Eoff family veterans got flags.

Then we went out to the Bishop family reunion and I didn’t take a single picture of any of my family. :( I did take one down at the creek:

Because the reunion isn’t just complete without a walk down to the creek. It was the thing to do when I was a kid, and it still is at 44. Not that I got off the bridge because the possibility of falling and getting wet doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Mainly because I didn’t want my phone ruined. haha! But I had a great time, and didn’t get glutened. Mom seemed to know everybody and that was great! I had a good talk with my sister-in-law even if it was short and kept semi on the down low given what I shared with her. And throughout the weekend I got to have really good visits with family and a couple old friends and my mom’s neighbor. And then after I dropped Mom off Saturday night and left the nursing home, I drove around town and bawled.

Now, I don’t like to fly, and have been terrified of flying since 1999. So as I drove up to RDU to leave, I thought I would try a little something different than I normally do. See, normally the DragonLady doesn’t get on a plane sober. Granted, last summer I flew sober, but I was a wreck the whole time. This time, drinking wasn’t an option I was willing to entertain so I prayed and asked God to remove my fear of flying. You know, it worked. I was not at all scared coming or going. Even with the turbulence and thunderstorms around Charlotte. And no, I didn’t ask God to give me a good rental car. That was pure bonus. hahaha!

Learning

I wrote a pretty lengthy post last week, but I couldn’t come up with a title for it. Then, after a few hours I decided the whole thing sounded whiny so I just scrapped it into the draft oblivion. So I decided instead of pissing and moaning I would just share some stuff I’ve been learning/coming to terms with lately.

1. It’s ok to be vulnerable with friends. In fact, if they are really your friends, it is pretty safe, and it helps build the relationship.

2. You shouldn’t ever hold on to guilt that isn’t yours. Ok, you shouldn’t ever just hold on to guilt at all, but you can only make amends for what you do.

3. You can’t earn grace and you don’t deserve it. It’s not an entitlement. Neither can you lose it.

4. Relationships are more important and more valuable that material things, but are harder to make and keep. Which makes them more valuable.

5. You don’t have to know everything. It’s impossible anyway.

6. You can’t do everything. And nobody is self-sufficient.

7. Hurt people hurt people. That doesn’t make it ok, but keeping that in mind helps considerably in being kind and loving to people who have hurt you. I don’t advocate allowing physical abuse, however.

And knowing is half the battle

Petra (who needs to blog) diagnosed me as an Aspie. And then I took like 3 or 4 Asberger’s/Autism tests, and I scored pretty stinking high on all of them as being on the spectrum. I also tested likely to be dyslexic and something else with a similar d name that I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to search my email for. She also diagnosed Jamie with Asberger’s, and Jamie took the tests too and self-diagnosed. What have I done with that? Not much besides mentioning it to our therapists, and I wasn’t really able to convince any of them. But all that said, it explains some things beyond just being introverts.

I had a session with my therapist last week, and I ended up telling her the one thing I haven’t ever told anybody. I really hadn’t planned on dropping that little skeleton to her, but it came out. And I didn’t even have a meltdown in the process, though I think my tear ducts are broken. ;) Anyway, after talking though the whole situation, she told me that I seemed to have a kind of survivor’s guilt even though I was not one of the victims. Just collateral damage.

Not being one to just sit on that, I looked up survivor’s guilt and it is a facet of PTSD. Then the lightbulb turned on, and it was as if all the pieces finally fit together as to what the heck is wrong with my head. It’s no longer “What the heck is wrong with me?” Now I know. Now I understand. Finally. This is why I either overreact or shutdown. This is why I bounce wildly between high and low and angry. This is why my fight or flight is so extreme with flight being default. This is why I am such a control freak.

But knowing is half the battle. Now that I know the why, I have a long road ahead of continuing to process and let go of what wasn’t mine to being with and own what is mine.

serenityzz11

There are days

There are days when all seems well.

There are days when everything is dark and foreboding.

There are days when it seems like everything is going wrong.

There are days when all is bright and light as a feather.

There are days when the darkness is so thick it can be felt – heavy and soul-crushing.

There are days when there is just too much, and it’s overwhelming.

There are days when you just can’t stop smiling, and everything rolls off of you effortlessly.

There are days when the pain is so great that you don’t think you can possibly take another breath.

There are days when the fear is all encompassing, and you feel like you are going to explode.

This too shall pass.

“Like I always do”

Insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Been there done that. Still do it. But some other things have occurred to me lately that expand on that. One glaring thing has been my obsessive need to control everyone and everything around me in an attempt to maintain my protective comfort zone bubble. That bubble burst last summer, and I have to remind myself sometimes every few minutes that I can’t put it back together. Nor should I even try.

Another aspect of that is perfectionism. Or better yet, perfectionism on top of thinking you can and/or have to do everything. That’s another bubble of mine that burst last summer and almost got me and Jamie arrested. Ok, that’s an exaggeration. (Why must I look up that word to spell it correctly? Every.Single.Time?) It would just have been a ticket. And I should tell that story sometime. Anyway, point is, it is not weakness to need help. You can’t do everything, and you can’t do everything perfectly.