Triggered

As I better understand the relationship between past traumas and present behavior, I am more aware of situations that trigger emotions tied to the past. Triggered is a strong word in the traditional use in psychology. No, I do not experience panic attacks from my triggers but I do get an emotional response.

The week of February 15th, Texas experienced a terrible winter storm that left many, myself included, with rolling power outages and boil water advisories. My thermostat read 58 degrees at the coldest point. My house has a fireplace. I had never gotten it inspected, so I did not try to use it. I actually had covered the fireplace opening with plastic to keep out the draft that was coming in.

Today, I had someone come out to inspect my fireplace. The inspector removed the plastic, pulled out his flashlight, and looked into the firebox opening. He tells me the damper was open and that was the reason for the draft. He demonstrates how to open and close it. He tells me to get a new grate because the old one is broken. He tells me that my chimney is lined with thick metal tiles and is safe to use. He is done in under ten minutes. So, now I’m feeling a little silly for having someone come out for an open damper. He kindly reassures me that I did the right thing by having someone come look at it first. Routine service, so what could be triggering about that?

I bought a house few months ago and quickly realized I did not know some basic things. Things a father should have taught a daughter. Things a husband would take care of for me.

Bang, bang.

I hate not knowing something. It leads to frustration and anxiety for me, someone who loves to be in control. I try to know every contingency and have a plan for that. Nuts, right? I did not get my driver’s license until I was twenty-nine. Part of the reason was because I had no one to teach me. Many of my friends in college were taught by their father or uncles. I did not have that luxury. I eventually paid for driving school and got my license. I could have used the chimney during the winter storm but I did not. Aside from not having any fire wood, I simple did not know how to use it. During that storm on Wednesday, the coldest night, I was afraid for a quick minute. I thought had I been married my husband would know what to do.

Truth is, I don’t know if my father could have taught me to driver better than Dominga my driving instructor. I also don’t know that a husband would have known how to use the chimney either. Situations that are traditionally handled by men in our society, like the the chimney, or auto repairs, or lawn care trigger an emotional response that I am missing something, like the knowledge from a dad or support of a husband. And because I lack those things, my life is somehow harder than it needs to be.

Truth also is, God has always shown me how to get through any situation or perceived lack. I know my life is blessed because God is the center of it.

It’s like the scripture in Isaiah 54:5,

For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

God has really taken care of me. I have been able to move across country, buy cars, and buy a home all by myself. I still desire a husband but I am not lacking because I am unmarried. I am a full, happy person. Anything I want to do or need, I make it happen. God helps me in every situation, every time. Those moments when I am triggered, I remember that fact.

The Obligatory Happy New Year Post

It is December 31st, 2020. It has not been a tough year for me. It has been a challenging three years for me. With all of the many challenges, there have been major highlights – my move back to Texas and my first home – to name a couple. I hate to break it to you but that’s life. It is full off ebbs and flows; highs and lows. Regardless of the day, I choose to be happy.

There in lies the rub. How does one choose to be happy? You choose which thoughts to follow. I can have a great morning and then a thought of what could possible ruin it will come. I deliberately vanquish that thought and replace it with a greater one. Who we are begins in the mind. Similar advice is given when embarking on a weight loss journey. When cravings occur, you must replace the bad food habit with a good one. Every. Single. Time. No do that with the mind.

This is why breathing exercises work so well to halt racing thoughts or heightened anxiety. You are forced to change your thoughts from the issue causing anxiety to your breath, the most basic element of being. The Bible says;

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7

We are because we breath. Elementary my dear Watson.

I have a theory that we have memorized a soliloquy of negative thoughts about ourselves. That scene is turned on intermittently. We know if word-for-word, like the Sophia speech in The Color Purple, All my life I had to fight . . .

Today, write a new version. Start with what’s good about you. I know this is difficult, especially, if you are only used to the abusive version. I’ll start.

  1. I am a loving, God-fearing woman. I work hard and try to treat people with love and respect.
  2. Yeah me! I bought a freaking house in a pandemic. God is good. Am I right? lol
  3. I have lost most of my regained weight. I have renewed focus and determination regarding my health goals.
  4. I am over 10k words in book number 2!

As I was typing, I resisted the urge to temper my good things with an ‘I am not perfect’ or a ‘It has been a struggle’. No qualifications, state what is great about you. It is important to celebrate your wins. Even small incremental ones. If you did 1 sit-up, tell yourself, “You did that!” You drank 8 glasses of water today, “You go girl!”. You caught yourself before spiraling into destructive thoughts, “You da man!”.

You are worth celebrating. You are loved and needed. I am telling you, now tell yourself. Choose your thoughts. As a man (or woman) thinks, so is he. Real talk.

Say What You Want and See What You Said

I don’t want a dog. I want a husband.

There I said it. I am single and I bought a house but I refuse to buy a dog, or a cat, or freaking fish. Thank you to all of you well meaning friends but I don’t want animal companionship. There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that I would like to married. There is actually power in confession, words are a creative force. My heart’s desire is the same. There is no alternative.

I define settling as not believing in the truth of your first conviction. It’s like my house story. I wanted the house I currently occupy but there were two offers on it prior to mine. I later saw a duplex that was ‘good enough’. I was on the verge of taking it when the seller of my house called us and said those other offers fell through.

*praise break*

Settling can also occur when you were never sure what you really wanted in the first place. Some of us date who is available and accessible at the time. Then we try to form out of the dust and clay a man/woman fashioned to our liking. Spoiler alert – that does not work. I took the time to write down the qualities of the man I would like in my life. Most are character qualities but some are physical. It took me a long time to accept that desiring a physical quality was not superficial. Attraction is important. Funny thing is, I did the same thing with my house. Yes, I wanted a home that was sound structurally and in a safe area; however, there were aesthetics that were important also. I wanted a brick home, a big back yard, French patio doors, no carpet, and lots of natural light. My home has all of the above and even faces the east. Every morning, I open my blinds and let the sunshine fill my life. Write it down!

It is difficult to find what you are looking for when your search is too broad. This works for homes, companions, and even Google. Get specific.

You have to be radical about your dreams and desires. Not everyone will see or agree. That is okay. What is the type of life you want to live? Design it in your mind first. You have to visualize before you actualize. Then write it down. You can journal or create a vision board. We all know the result of settling. Why not try going for your heart’s desire? Just do it.

Please share your thoughts.

An Ugly Goodbye

“Be mindful of how you leave,” a stranger posted in a Facebook group in response to someone who had just purchased a home and wondered if she should pay her last month’s rent. Many years ago, I worked at a bank. The teller called in and quit, no notice, only to come back a few weeks later and ask to have her job back. The manager said no and added, “Never burn your bridges.”

I recall telling my ex that I was thinking of moving back to Dallas. I did not owe him an explanation but I wanted to have a “good” bye. He became angry and told me that if I made the move, not to expect any help from him. Then, he stormed out of my apartment like the villain in a Tyler Perry movie. Ironically, his outburst only made me more determined.

If a relationship ends, it just means that you are no longer sharing the same path. It does not negate all of the good that occurred. Breaking bad makes it difficult to salvage any future benefit. Life is cyclical. Sometimes you pass the same tree twice, once on your way out and then coming back. Imagine getting lost because you cut down the tree as if you would never need to cross that path again.

There is another school of thought. It includes a clapback, a telling-off, a burning of bridges. You may feel empowered by that course of action. It’s just not my style.

  1. Always say goodbye. The word ‘goodbye” is derived from the phrase, “God be with ye.” It is wishing someone well although your journey together has ended.
  2. Always give a two-weeks notice. Tie up loose ends, close out projects. Leave guidance for your replacement.
  3. Break good. There is no need to get even. A pure heart is open to all of the blessings and promises of God.

There is a graceful art to leaving, like serging the edge of fabric to keep it from fraying. It’s an extra step that keeps the framework intact. Keep your heart pure and your integrity unscathed. You are not judged by how others treat you but how you treat others. Never let anyone’s negativity change who you are. That way you show up as your full glorious self at the next destination.

Are Soul Mates Really A Thing?

There is a story of a couple who were married for 44 years. They died hours apart in the same nursing home. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a man’s wife was trapped under the rubble of the bank where she worked. He would come at night after the rescue crew and dig for her by hand. She was eventually rescued alive. What kind of love is this?

Previously, I asked if Soul Ties were real. What is a soul?

I really like this interpretation from Merriam-Webster:

a person's total self

The bible actually uses the word translated as soul to describe the corporeal and not the spirit. So, soulmates in this instance would be a two living, breathing beings with such a strong compatibility it would appear they were made for each other. Other biblical guidance describes the soul as the totality of your mind, will, and emotions. So, a soul mate in this instance is someone who is mentally, temperamentally, and emotionally compatible. Sounds tough.

It is not good to be alone.

I get conflicted about this statement as a self-sufficient introvert of sorts, but even I get lonely. And, yes, being alone does not equate to being lonely. However, being lonely is not a crime. It is, also, not a defect of character.

“And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:18

Concept of Lifelong Mates

Swans Mating

Swans bow their heads toward each other when mating creating a heart shape. They also are lifelong mates. There are several other animals who mate for life. It is not inconceivable that humans are also a species who can have a lifelong mate. Humans are different from animals in that we are self-aware and we have free will. Something other than a biological urge or imprinting has to keep us committed to another human being. We have to exercise our mind, will, and emotions to choose to stay committed.

Although, I am not sold on the idea of soul ties, I am feeling the soulmates concept. What say you?

Why I Love You by Major (Cover)

The Parable of the Talents is story in the Book of Luke in which a king leaves on a journey. He gave three servants talents (money); one servant received five, the second received two, and the third received one. The first two through effort doubled their talents. For their stewardship, they were rewarded handsomely. The third hid his in the ground. For his laziness, he was dealt with harshly.

God has blessed us with many talents. They are to be used to multiply the love he has given each believer. Are you aware of your gifts?

I know my talents. I am a writer. I write love stories. So, many readers have shared how Ruth’s Awakening: A Love Story mirrors their own struggles with church, familial obligations, and unrequited love.

I am also a singer. I was on the Praise and Worship team and sang in choirs for years. The lesson of the talents is that our gifts are meant to be developed and shared. Sharing multiplies its value. I felt led to share this song. You never know who needs to hear that they are loved.

You. Are. Loved.

When the Lights Go Off

When I went a way to college, I wanted the “college experience.” I am a first generation college graduate. My only exposure to college life was via the “A Different World’ TV series. S college life goes, I made some friends and we went out from time to time.

One night we got all dressed up to go to a house party. I remember wearing this brown marbled velvet dress. Yes, the 90s fashions were poppin’ lol. We happened to get there early or everyone else was late. I am not sure which. With the lights on, the scene was unimpressive. About 20 or so college age kids sitting around a house waiting for something to happen.

On queue, someone turns off the lights, the music starts, and everyone gets up and starts dancing. The party had officially begun for everyone except me. I felt like Dorothy hoping for the wizards favor only to find a man behind the curtain orchestrating the special effects. Was the party not a party because I had seen the scene with the lights on? I don’t know. It was the instinctual behavior change of everyone around me that got the gears in my mind tuning. Why do we do what we do? What makes something cool versus not cool? What makes a party a party?

So, I never became the party girl. I never frequented the clubs. I was no longer curious about what was behind the velvet rope. I had witnessed the magicians slight of hand and was left unimpressed.

Have you ever experienced this phenomenon? When did the mystery end for you about a thing?

A Pillar Of Salt

Salt is good. It flavors. It preserves. It prevents spoilage. It was once used as currency, it’s value was deemed so great.

Did you know the body is designed to desire salt in smaller amounts but as sodium levels increase the flavor changes from salty to bitter to prevent you from consuming too much? SOURCE

Maybe that’s what really happened to Lot’s wife.

As the biblical story goes, Lot, his wife (not named in the Bible), and family, are allowed to escape Sodom and Gomorrah before it is destroyed by God with fire and brimstone. Two angels warned them not to look back. They are well into their escape when Lot’s wife looks back. For her disobedience, she is turned into a pillar of salt.

Why salt?

Looking back to a past God has rescued you from is dangerous. Like salt, looking back in small reflective doses is good; to see how far you’ve come, to learn the lesson, etc. Nostalgia is a tricky feeling tho. It is a rose-hued cloud that filters out the negative realities of past experiences. That relationship that nearly destroyed you emotionally, financially, and/or physically, becomes a reel of only the highlights. While in Sodom, Lot’s home was surrounding by townspeople threatening to assault him and his guests. His entire family was in danger of being destroyed. Pretty bad stuff, huh? Yet, she looked back.

Bitter Betty

No matter what you think you may have lost, if God told you to move forward, do that. Your best days are ahead of you.

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things;  do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

If you believe your best job, relationship, or any experience is behind you, you risk becoming bitter. Like too much salt on the tongue. Your future is sweet. Keep pressing forward.

What say you?

God is Greater than . . .

These are trying times. Social unrest in the middle of a pandemic sounds like the plot of a dystopian novel. Yet, here we are.

Ironically, three months ago, prior to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, I had a vision board party entitled, Vision Forward. God’s plan for your life is not changed by earthly circumstances. He can and will bless you in the midst of the storm.

I was asked to bring the message for Valley Baptist Church Women’s Mission 5th Sunday Program. This is the first time I have been asked to bring a message during my whole stay in Texas. I am beyond honored that I was asked. This was supposed to be an in-person even but due to COVID-19 the event took place via conference call. The plan had to be altered but NOT aborted.

Who am I speaking to today? Do NOT abandon your plan. If it is God-given, push ahead. These are trying times but GOD is greater. He exist outside of time. God is eternal.

What are you working on now that you have had to reevaluate due to COVID-19, social unrest, or some other unplanned circumstance?

Below is a recording to today’s message.

Short Story – Part 5

Freeway driving at night with the sunroof open and the windows down is a religious experience. The crisp night air are baptismal waters washing away the stain of the past while propelling 65 miles per hour toward a future destination. The rhythmic drum of the tires against the asphalt became Savitri Pranayama as Brenda relaxed into its flow. The sight of Martin Johnson’s name had begun to weave itself into her brain and her stress level rose with every thread.   A growing ball of entwined what-ifs had occupied her mind for the past few days.  With the rhythm of the night, she began to untangle her thoughts. Why was she driving across town to meet with a man that had broken her heart 10 years prior? Was she hoping for closure?

She was doing it again. What her therapist called ‘rosy nostalgia’. Rosy nostalgia happens when one remembers the past as a series of great moments without the truth of the thorny times to being gravity to the memory.

She found a parking spot in the lot across from Books, Brews, and Coffee and sat with herself. She grabbed a pen and notebook she used to make her grocery lists from her glove compartment and began to write. Brenda stared at the list she had written. On the left side were the good things Martin had done for her. On the right, the bad. She assigned a value of 1-3 to each item, 1 for least emotional impact to 3, highest emotional impact. Brenda drew in a deep breath and exhaled a loud sigh.

She pulled down her sun visor and clicked the button for the mirror light. She was no longer a 20-something love puppy. She stared at a woman who had accomplished goals and faced fears. She had purchased her own home and gone to therapy to heal childhood wounds. There were tiny wrinkles on the sides of each eye that burst into existence every time she laughed or cried. This strong, beautiful woman did not need the past. She was creating her own future.

Thirty-three. She tore the page from her notebook and folded it into a neat square and started the engine. Heading home on that same highway, she rolled down her window and let the paper fly.