It’s not quite daylight as I type this. I left my glasses upstairs, so the words are a bit fuzzy here on the screen. I will return when my husband Lee gets up and get them. He was still snoring ever so sweetly as I crawled quietly out of our bed. I did not want to disturb him.
I have been awake since before six this morning. I do not usually plan any of my posts too far in advance. Instead, I sit down and wait to see what comes through me.
These days there is a constant flow of things coming to the forefront of my mind, and I have had difficulty nailing down just one. Reflections, ideas, or something I might say that could help others on this journey called life all come rushing in. I want to be a positive force in the world and for those I encounter. Whether in person or through my writings.
My prayer today is that something below will resonate with you.
Gandhi said to be the change you wish to see in the world.
It took me a while to understand the meaning of that quote. It does not help the world if I myself am a mess. I can be kind, volunteer, donate, and do things that seem to matter, but the change ultimately starts with my internal self and me. I cannot ask for peace in the world if I am not practicing peace and am at peace within. I can’t promote love if I do not love. I cannot speak about others having boundaries if I do not have my own. Most importantly, I have discovered it is extremely difficult to do anything if I am ungrounded. I hope you never feel such but being ungrounded to me feels like I’m coming unglued.
Every one of those things helps us to be the change, but they also take a lot of work.
This past weekend, I had an experience that almost sucked me in. I repeatedly asked myself if my response would bring anything positive or be worth the cost to me, and the answer kept coming back as a firm NO. I can admit it took a few times for me to finally tell myself not to go sit on that side of the table.
I have lived so much of my life at a table filled with chaos, death, and fear (bitters). I know the feeling of being at the mercy of the place inside us that can take over — if we do not learn to be vigilant at being in tune with the deeper part of ourselves. Unfortunately, so many of us were never taught the ability to ground. That takes practice if you didn’t learn it early in life. Grounding requires us to stop and breathe — to check in beyond the emotions of the moment.
Growing up, I learned to have no boundaries and to be whatever the person in front of me needed me to be. So often, when I tried to set boundaries, punishment followed in some form. This left me in a state of instability, and I had no tools in my kid’s toolbox that helped me cope.
My dad had a violent temper, and I walked on eggshells to avoid setting him off. So did my sister and my mother. I did whatever it took to make him comfortable and happy even though he was constantly unhappy and telling me why there was no happiness to be found in this world. I love him and, to this day, feel sad that he couldn’t get past his own pain.
He wasn’t the only one. One of my aunts once whipped mine and my cousin’s legs, drawing blood because we rode our bikes to a creek near their home. I was visiting, and my cousin didn’t say the stream was forbidden. All the cousins visited the creek close to my home regularly. Back in those days, we roamed the countryside a lot. Regardless, my aunt was livid when we happily rode back up in the yard. We were pouring sweat and filled with joy. We had just had a wonderful adventure. She had her switches ready, and she held nothing back. I say that not to make her look bad, but in hindsight, I feel sad for the little girls who endured the emotional pain that came with the physical pain.
Fifty-six years of life, and I still recall many along my journey whose lives were nothing but anger, misery, calamity, and chaos. When I was happy, one of my early childhood influencers regularly told me that I must always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve sat on that side of the table more than I would have liked and been forced to eat those meals. Every one of those tastes horrible. Bitter.
My heart beams with joy to share that I have also sat and tasted on the opposite side. And let me tell you, that side is so much sweeter. When you get a taste of that sweetness, it makes you want to figure out how to get more of it, like chocolate or whatever your favorite dessert might be. The emotions that come from sitting on the sweet side make you never want to sit on the side of bitters again. That takes work.
I have also sat at the table of depression/anxiety, which is a different place altogether. I don’t want to come across as having no understanding or empathy for mental health crises and issues; I have plenty of both for those who suffer. I learned from that chair that being well takes some work too.
I’m convinced that many people do not even know they are ungrounded, lack boundaries, or are bitter. I think that those might be all they know, so how would they? Others? Maybe they didn’t start out bitter, but then life dealt them too many plates of painful circumstances, and they snapped. Without a doubt, I have met some that have to know it, but they don’t care. Changing would mean they had to do something besides their usual, which would mean looking within.
If you are ungrounded and lack boundaries, you become bitter eventually.
Bitters don’t want to look inside. That takes work, and it can also be painful as flipping hell.
Growing up surrounded by bitters was hard. Up until the past several years, they have been the predominant people in my life. I had some like Mama who never let her pain show, but most were not like her. The bitters — nothing, and I mean nothing, could make them wake up and realize life was passing them by. Mine too. Years passed, and they stayed bitter. They found one reason after another to do so. From the outside looking in, I felt so sad and helpless. If I could find the light in the darkness, why couldn’t they? After all, I was just a child, teen, or young adult. They were the big people — the grown-ass adults.
I was able to hold the light through some really tough times throughout my childhood and early adulthood. But then, people I loved began to die unnaturally, or life hit me upside the head with a cast iron frying pan. I got a taste of why the bitters were the way they were. It was easier to be angry and wallow in self-pity. It was easier to vomit my stories/pain all over everyone instead of asking what they might be there to teach me. I had sat down at that table again and didn’t even know it. I was totally ungrounded and had no clue.
Griffen’s death was a huge wake-up call. Not just that we die but that we must appreciate every moment, for, in a blink, a life is gone. He made me even more aware of how I want to get this life thing right. I obsessed about a conversation with my sweet blue-eyed boy before he went off to college. What did he want to do with his life? He wanted to change the world, he told me. But, as fate would have it, he couldn’t do it the way he or I imagined.
After his passing, he helped me to start asking some tough questions. What was I here for? What did I want to do with this life before me?
Baby steps by baby steps, the answers came. I wanted to live my life in a way that would honor my little brother. I wanted to let go of the rage I felt at his death and find peace. I wanted to let go of the darkness of grief and see the light again. I didn’t want to be the bitters. I wanted to figure it all out and hold onto the lessons. Doing so while letting go of the things I no longer needed. I soon found that, just like most of my life, some could not do it.
I remember a phone conversation with my dad a few years after Griffen passed. He was going on and on about how he didn’t want to live since Griffen. I summoned the courage to finally tell my dad that he had other children who loved him. He curtly told me that none of us mattered — all that mattered to him was Griffen, and he was gone. Okay. What does one say to that? The next day he called and left me a voicemail saying he knew what he said hurt me. He went on to say even though he knew it hurt me; it was the truth. He was sorry the truth hurt. Nothing mattered to him without Griffen, he said. We all grieve differently, and that was his way.
Me? No thanks to that way. I knew Griffen wouldn’t want that and I did not either. I was determined. I worked my ass off to get through the pain and find life’s sweetness after my sweet little brother’s death. I found a sweetness that I had never known. How did I do that? I constantly wrote in a journal. I walked through every emotion. Sometimes, I crawled. I was present through the anger, the hurt, and the loss. It took being present every second, not just some of them.
Griffen’s passing set me straight on what really mattered. Not the trivial daily annoyances. The big things! Death makes us aware that nothing is permanent. Not life. Not death. No problem. No solution. Every second is a new beginning, and it is a choice.
I thought I got that and wished I could tell you that after Griffen, I held on to the sweetness and never faltered, but that would be a bald-faced lie, as some of you already know.
2015 turned out to be the year to top all years regarding that cast iron frying pan. It didn’t just turn out to be one thing. It was another and then another and then another. 2015 turned into 2016, and that turned into 2017.
And then my Mama died. Her death and all that preceded it almost sucked the life and light out of me. I now understand that I was ungrounded for most of those years. I wanted to quit like never before. So one day, when I tell those stories, you might all say, Holy Shit — how did you make it? Well, it wasn’t easy. It took a lot of work. Thankfully, I had a few people who refused to let me give in.
One of the worst parts was that I was in therapy during that time, only to discover that my therapist was not just a horrible therapist but a horrible person. But that is another story for another day. I just clearly heard my Granny bolt out loudly with ….. you shore can pick ’em, gal. Granny is right, and she would know because she was one of the biggest bitters of all. I loved her despite that.
After my horrible therapist experience, I swore I would never enlist the help of a therapist again. My life was dark and ugly. I was dark and ugly. I had become like the ones I did not want to be — swore I never would be — bitter. Here I found myself again with life giving me a choice. I could be bitter or get a therapist and do some work. I chose the latter.
Thankfully, I met an excellent new therapist named Mary. Mary helped me realize that childhood trauma and boundaries were the most significant issues throughout my life. I had plenty of the first and none of the second with no one. So if something felt uncomfortable, I faked it, usually pretended to be happy, and kept going. People walked all over me, and I let them. I feared someone would be angry and lose control if I spoke up. My experience was that losing control meant violence. My failure to speak up cost me more than any money I will ever have in any bank account.
Mary helped me realize that even the best relationships fall apart without boundaries. We lose where we begin, and the other person ends. It is very unhealthy for everybody involved. She also showed me that without grounding, we fall apart.
Baby steps. Baby steps. Mary gave me a safe place to see that it is not just okay to have boundaries but absolutely necessary. And that it is just as important to stay grounded. If you are grounded, the boundaries come much more effortlessly.
There will always be something, as Mama used to say. Mama was more than right. There have been “somethings” since 2017. Plenty, as many of you who know me know. My husband, Lee, fell off a ladder and got a traumatic brain injury in 2019.
That led to a challenging time in our business and life. We lost several folks we thought to be friends. What I discovered and know to be true is that kind of friend was never a real one. My life has since opened up to others I hold dear, and I know they feel deeply for Lee and me.
Sometimes you have to clear space in your life to make room.
It has taken five years of deep and hard work with Mary, and I still catch myself falling into old habits. But, it is getting easier, and I have finally found life’s sweetness again. And this time, life feels even sweeter than it ever has before. So, I’m going to hold tight to that.
I have spent so much of my life flailing. I knew that, but I never understood why or how to stop it. Being grounded with boundaries makes me feel stronger than ever. It helps me connect to my Soul.
These days I’m practicing knowing that no matter what happens, I have a deep connection to the One who breathes life through me and a knowing that I will be okay no matter what.
I am the most thankful I have ever been for my journey and every single person on my journey.
I am a testimony that you can be victimized, but you do not have to be the victim. My days are joy-filled because I have and continue to process the things that happened and happen to me. Doing so has allowed me to finally be the change I wish to see in the world.
If I can do it, you can too!
With Much Love and Light!
P.S. I welcome all comments and stories of grounding, boundaries, and overcoming. We are in this together and stronger together!