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Being By Yourself

Twenty-two days ago, I walked away from an abusive woman who controlled my every waking moment for an entire decade. The most important realization I’ve come to since I left her is that my life has shifted from a reality of absolute chaos to a spiritual quest for internal serenity. I know now that I began this blog not to write about America’s detrimental political system or even to discuss the need for the church to accept the LGBTQ community.  There will be other times and places for those discussions. I was inspired to create this space for this time in my life, to reach out to victims of domestic violence in my community; other women and specifically my family in the LGBTQ community. I am not writing as one who has it all figured out. On the contrary, I am at the beginning of my journey. However, God has given me a gift to write and so, I am going to blog through this journey. This journey of starting over. In the process, I pray that other women and  men who are currently suffering at the hands of an abusive spouse or intimate partner will find this blog and realize that there is hope. There is help. There is a community waiting in the wings for the moment you decide to exit stage left, or go out the front door, if you’re not a theater person. However, I will warn you that when you leave, your first instinct will probably be to seek out a new love. You’ll need it. You’ll have a million good reasons why you need love in your life after all you’ve gone through. Don’t do it. Not yet. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, you need to be alone. Well, I would advise you to find a pet. In the weeks following my break-up, I found an amazing woman who lives in another country. I told myself that because of the physical distance between us, it was safe to “court” her via social media. It wasn’t. I had inadvertently put myself in a situation where I was waiting for someone else to approve of me, to like me, to be attracted to me, in order to gain the strength to move on. I will share with you what I learned after a couple weeks of this. You will NOT be ready to enjoy a healthy relationship until you become a healthy person ALONE.

The first step in taking your life back is recognizing what you’ve just been through. Throughout the years I spent with my abuser, my life was controlled by her chaos, drama, narcissism, and anger. Her contempt and disregard for me as a human being me led to fighting, beatings, and daily verbal assaults. It didn’t take long for an overwhelming sadness to grow inside of me. Along with the sadness, I found myself in a perpetual state of confusion. I found myself constantly apologizing, but never understanding what I had done wrong. I spent half of my life defending actions that wouldn’t require defense in a normal domestic setting and pleading for forgiveness for said actions. However, the most innocent act or word could and would provoke an hours long tirade and beating so, I spent the other half of my life walking on broken glass. You may be reading this as one who has experienced it. You know this pain and I’m so sorry you do. If you haven’t, I am so happy for you but please keep reading. You may find yourself someday with a narcissistic control freak and if you see these patterns begin to develop, you’ll know to get out. Finally, you could know someone who is struggling through an abusive relationship. Keep reading, you could be the person who helps them get out.

There is an absolute, recognizable cycle of domestic abuse. Dr. Lenore Walker developed the cycle of violence theory. It has three phases, which are generally present in a violent relationship. Phase One consists of tension building. This is the “walking on eggshells” phase. To the outside world, everything is fine. This is when I would convince myself that my life was enjoyable. There are a lot of old pictures on my Facebook page of these times. In all honestly, though, there was always a shadow cast on those pretty pictures. A shadow of a dark reality. In my heart, I was just waiting. Waiting. Waiting for the trigger. There is always a trigger. In some cases it can be something as minimal as saying “and” instead of “or”, as it generally was in mine. In other cases, the abuser will become convinced that their partner is cheating on them. This was also common in my case, although I remained completely faithful throughout our 10 year relationship. In any case, there is a trigger followed by an explosion. This explosion can involve a physical beating or a psychological attack. Either one is equally detrimental to the health and well-being of the abused person. As a victim of both, I learned that the bruises healed and my hair grew back but my self-esteem, my confidence, my joy, my love of life, weren’t so quick to heal. In fact, I am prepared to face the reality that the rest of my life could be spent rebuilding what she destroyed INSIDE of me. Finally, the third phase of the cycle of violence is the Honeymoon phase, or the Reconciliation. This is what keeps the victim in the relationship. If there is one question people have asked me since I left that I wish I didn’t have to hear or answer, it would be this one: “why did you stay?” The answer for the abused party will most likely always come from the actions of the abuser during the third phase. In my case, she would convince me that I deserved the moon and the stars. She would make me dinner, she would bring me coffee in bed. She knew me, there was no doubt about that. I realize now, looking back, that she didn’t get to know me for my own sake, or because she truly loved me. She learned me, she studied me, in order to manipulate me. No matter what level of education your abuser has, there is one thing they have surely mastered and that is how to manipulate you. Don’t let their actions during the honeymoon phase fool you. It’s just another aspect of their abuse. They’re toying with you. They’re playing you for a fool. You’re NOT a fool. You’re probably a kind-hearted, beautiful human being who would give a homeless person the shirt off your back. We are generally their targets. We are unassuming, we are kind, we are naïve but not in a negative way. We love life, and people, and we see the best in everything and they see these qualities as weaknesses they can use to become masters over us and masters of manipulation toward us. However, no matter how long you’ve been in this abusive cycle there is a way out. You must reach out and tell the truth. I wish I could write a “how to get out” manual, but I’m too fresh out and everyone has a different path. My writing isn’t going to be a step-by-step guide to leaving an abusive relationship. My goal is to help people acknowledge what they’ve been through, take their lives back once they’ve left, and find themselves again.

Tomorrow I have to go to court. Yes, that’s pretty personal for a blog that’s going to be shared openly on social media but I’ve learned that transparency is the best way to help people and help myself. My abuser has filed a restraining order against me, claiming that I abused her. It’s ludicrous and I’m angry about it, but I decided that she’s dictated my life with negative emotions long enough and this is just another way for her to try to control me and steal my happiness. She’s not worth it. I’ve found a few really good friends who have helped me through this process. Remember, I said not to get in a romantic relationship. I never said you can’t have friends. Quite the opposite…surround yourself with them! You need support right now more than ever! However, for every hour you spend with friends and family, make sure you’re spending one by yourself. Depending on the length of time you spent with your abuser, you might not remember who YOU were before they came along and now is the time to find out. I’ve been doing a lot of reading. That’s my thing and I wasn’t able to do it for 10 years because she liked to watch TV. It’s time to find you again. If you don’t have a clue, start with who you were at 17 years old. What did you like? What did you do for fun? Somewhere in your distant memories, you will find clues to unlocking your identity. It is imperative that you find the real, true YOU before you find yourself with a new person. Honestly, when I first realized this I was pissed because I’ve been lonely for a decade. The last thing I want to have to do is wait even longer for true love. You know what I’ve realized though? I need to love me before I can love another person and I can’t love myself without knowing myself. Neither can you. Find you. Love you. We’ll get to the rest down the road…way down the road.

Many Blessings and Much Love!

 

 

From Dirt-Shit Brown to Emerald Green

Today I took my dogs for one of their daily walks through the horse pasture. They love it, I think.  I really can’t tell actually. They snort and piss on everything in sight whether they’re happy or sad so maybe I’m speaking for myself and I should say, I love it. Today as I meandered with my beloved pugs, I noticed something beautiful and alive and completely out of place. See, this horse pasture doesn’t look like the luscious, green acreage you see in movies and in pictures like the one I used for this post. No, the pasture I’m referring to is ugly and brown. Seriously, it’s a fucking eyesore. The horses offer the only beauty on this landscape. Everything is brown, for miles around. Brown dirt. Brown shit. Brown hay. More brown shit. Today, however, there was new color on the dirt-shit brown spectrum. Green. See, someone forgot to turn the water hose off yesterday…(I swear I don’t know who would’ve done such a thing)…and so one of the pastures flooded. Today, there was an enormous patch of new, luscious, green growth in the midst of all the god-forsaken brown shit. I know, you see it coming. The metaphor as old as time itself. Seriously, in the beginning God said “Let there be light”, and then Jesus saw a patch of green grass in the middle of a dry desert and said, “Look, Father, that patch of green grass is like one last breath of life in a weary soul. The whole desert could be just as green as that one patch of grass if the soul were simply watered more often.” Why do you think He calls Himself the Living Water? Okay, I digress that I don’t know how it really went down and I know my version of the story isn’t in Genesis, or any other Book of the Bible, but I think it’s believable. The bottom line is that writers, philosophers, preachers, and other deep thinking people have been using this metaphor for eons because it’s so perfect and true! That beautiful, green growth was beneath the dirt of that ugly pasture the entire time, it just needed a little water to grow. Guess what? If you’ve been in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship for any amount of time, your spirit really is like that dry, dirt-shit brown pasture. No offense but hear me out. You’ve been walked all over, you’ve been shit on, and your spirit hasn’t been watered in a very long time. However, the good news is; it won’t take a lot of water to bring you back to life. So today I’m going to write about a few ways to water your weary soul. You’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make a narcissistic asshole happy…(I’m guessing)…and now it’s time to remember how to make YOURSELF happy!

Chances are it’s been a long time since you planned an entire day for yourself. Chances are you’re too broke to do that much right now anyway so I have a great suggestion: a Netflix marathon, or a dozen of them. I know you’re thinking I’m crazy but hear me out. Or read on. Whatever. Anyway…while we were in our abusive relationships, our lives were chaotic all the time. Abusers cannot function in sane situations, so they often create chaos so they can blame it on us. For example, when I was with my ex, we could never keep the car cleaned out and it was always my fault. That seems stupid, right? Of course it is. However, to a narcissistic bully with an inferiority complex, its an excuse to tell me I’m the reason for the mess and thus, a failure at life. Guess what! Since I left her, that car has been spotless. As was the case with pretty much everything she blamed me for, she was truly at fault. My point is…you’ve been subjected to a life of chaos and you need to relax! We live in a society that looks down on things like binge-watching “Stranger Things” for an entire day. I say…binge away! This is something I KNOW you probably weren’t able to do in your relationship so it’s time to break loose and binge away! You can watch whatever you want, for as long as you want. Try to choose something funny, though. You want to know what I’ve been watching? Well, my sister and I always loved watching movies together. When we were kids, through our teen years and into adulthood, we had certain movies that we would watch together. When we lost Cat a couple of years ago, I brought all of her things home and she had collected all of our movies over the years, and then a bunch of her own on top of that. I’ve been watching them. Sometimes I’ll watch one two or three times if I want to. See, I’d like to believe that if Cat were alive right now, she’d be here with me and we’d be watching our movies together. So that’s what I’ve been doing to water my dry pasture. So, my first advice to you is to binge-watch as many movies and shows of your own choosing as you want. Until you have some money saved up, and then you can move onto the next step.

Like me, you all had things you loved to do before you became entangled with whatever brother or sister of Satan found you, fooled you, beat you and lost you. Maybe you loved to shop. Maybe you were an avid reader. Did you love going to the theatre? The zoo? Golfing? Did you play tennis? Basketball? Softball…(for those of you who play for my team)? How many of you were able to continue enjoying your favorite past-time after you met Mr. or Mrs. Wrong Dickweed? That’s what I thought. None of you were. You know how I know that? Because as much as those assholes we were with wish they were unique, they’re not. They’re all the fucking same and you don’t deserve that and neither do I! Okay, so back to my point. It’s time to get back to your favorite past-times. If you don’t remember, find a friend who remembers. If you don’t have a friend, ask family, and since they probably won’t remember then ask yourself. It’s easy. Ask yourself what you would do if you could do ANYTHING at all…and your answer will come to you.  Now, if you start day-dreaming about that once in a lifetime trip to Greece, reign it in a little. You’ll get there. I’m telling you to ask your soul where it will find rest and revival, and the answer will come to you. When it does, don’t make excuses and don’t put it off. GO! You deserve to be happy! Personally, my healing comes from music and theater. So tonight, I’m buying myself a ticket to see one of my favorite singers in concert all by myself. Every time I’ve seen this woman perform, I’ve had to share the experience with someone who doesn’t appreciate it and I’m not taking that chance again. This time, it’s just going to be me and the music, and it will be healing. I can’t wait.

This post will be shorter than most of mine…you can breathe a sigh of relief. I know, I’m long-winded and I’m NOT working on it because it’s who I am and who I am is GOOD ENOUGH! Yeah…start claiming that for yourself. Stop making excuses. We live in a culture filled with people who believe they have a right to judge you and they don’t. There’s nothing wrong with you. I mean, if you’re an ax murderer, then you definitely have something wrong with you, but if you’re reading this you’re not an ax murderer. I hope. You might have almost been the victim of one, though. For all of you beautiful, broken people with dirt-shit brown spirits, go get yourself some water! Watch those funny movies! Go play that game of tennis or golf or softball or rugby! Go shop like your name is Carrie Fucking Bradshaw! Do you! You never know, you could end up flooding your pasture and accidentally bring your spirit back to life a lot faster than you imagined! Just do you bitches! Remember that no matter where you are, how old you are, or how alone you feel, you are surrounded by the light of a million stars who are going through exactly what you are right now! Whether you can see us or not, we are here! You are loved, you will be loved again, and you will LOVE YOURSELF AGAIN! Water that dried out spirit and let me know how it feels to come back to life! Love and Light to all of you!

 

 

 

No Regrets…Not Even One

You must not regret staying in the abusive relationship, you must not regret the years you lost, and you must NEVER regret or forget the past.

People told me it would happen. Friends and family alike, they all said pretty much the same thing; “at some point you will miss her, and that’s okay. Just remember you’ve done the right thing.” In every case I did the same thing, I smiled politely and nodded while in my head I thought, “you’ve all lost your fucking minds!” Well, it literally pains me to say this…and I do mean literally…this is physically hurting me to admit, but they were right. This morning I woke up in a ridiculous amount of pain. I struggle with chronic pain anyway—that’s what happens when someone takes you by the hair and slams your head into the wall repeatedly for years. Many of you reading this probably have some back and neck problems, whether you’ve been diagnosed and treated or not. So this morning I woke up in more pain than usual. A lot more. Still, I pulled myself out of bed and lumbered out to feed 19 horses and 6 ponies. Now, how feeding works is as follows: I drive a four wheeler ATV that is hitched to a small trailer bed to the hay barn. That’s the fun part. Then I climb an enormous ladder to the very top of the stacks of hay and use all my strength to throw enormous hay bails off the top. Then I climb down and fight a couple of those bails onto the trailer bed. It’s very physical work and NOT work that’s easily accomplished when my pain is already elevated. As I ducked under the electric fence to feed my first horse Blackie, I actually thought for a moment, “did I do the right thing? Was life easier with her? I mean, she did take care of me a lot of the time. Of course, it always came after she kicked my ass, but she did take care of me. At least I wouldn’t have to be doing this.” At that point, I wanted to slap whatever voice whispered that shit into my brain so hard that it would be knocked so far away from me that I wouldn’t be able to hear it’s weak-ass bullshit if it was screaming through a megaphone! Instead, I shocked myself on an electric horse fence and figured that did the trick. My point is, I am sure people have told you that you will miss your abuser and I’m sure you’ve thought the same thing I did, and that’s okay. Those people are all just trying to help you, and many of them have no idea what you’re going through right now so they’re giving you the only advice they have and that’s okay. At least they care. I’ve gone through it so let me break it down for you. You will have moments when you miss the life you had with your abuser and you may even have moments when you miss the piece of shit who put their hands on you. That’s okay. You must not regret staying in the abusive relationship, you must not regret the years you lost, and you must NEVER regret or forget the past.

As I briefly addressed in my last post, you stayed in that relationship because you are loving, kind, empathetic, compassionate, and you had faith that the person you loved would change. See, for almost all of you, your abuser had two very distinct sides. Personally, this was especially true because my ex suffered from borderline personality disorder. Yes, that means what you think; my ex had multiple personalities. With her, there were three distinct personalities. There was Kimmy, the little girl of about eight years old who was meek and kind and almost scared of the world. There was Kimberley, who was basically normal, with an edge. Then there was Kim, the evil motherfucker who destroyed my life for 10 years. I didn’t stay for Kim. I wanted to kill Kim a hundred times a day. I prayed for Kim to leave. I even wondered if an exorcism would work a couple of times. God, I wish I were kidding. I stayed for Kimmy, and for Kimberley. Now, you’re probably in a situation that isn’t as confusing as dealing with three different personalities. You’re probably in (or were in) something that went like this: 1. There’s a big blow-up, you get your ass kicked verbally or physically. 2. He or she is really nice to you for awhile (this is called the Honeymoon phase). 3. You walk on egg-shells for awhile. 4. You hit a trigger. 5. Start over at 1. Depending on how long the second phase lasts, their meager attempts to be a decent human being might have been enough to keep you for five or fifty years. When you are tempted to regret staying in the relationship, you must shift your focus to something positive that came out of it. Maybe you have beautiful children, or beautiful pugs, like me. Maybe you moved to a town or city you really love. Maybe you went to school and got a degree. Maybe you learned to be responsible. Maybe you got a job you love, or even better, a career you love. Maybe you’re just a little bit stronger than you were before. Maybe. You need to look at those years with your ex and find something, anything, positive that came from them. Your positive aspect may not be as obvious as children. However, I can almost ASSURE you that you will find something to focus on, something that is NOT regret.

While there might be some positive aspects to the years you spent with your abuser, I can say with abject certainty that you WILL feel like you lost the years of your life that you spent with your abuser. The truth? Yes, those years are gone and you will NEVER get them back. If you are truly struggling with this, then it’s time to have a ceremony and bury those bitches. Seriously. You can write a letter about how you think they should have gone. You can collect pictures of you and your ex. You can write about how those years DID go, you can write about every awful thing that happened to you. Whatever you do, put a collection of those years together in some tangible form and then make a bonfire out of that shit! Just BURN IT! Those years are gone and any time you spend wishing you could get them back is time you’re losing in the present. Seriously. Yearning for those years is simply extending them. They’re still stealing time from you. STOP! We have a lot of catching up to do, my friends, and we aren’t going to get SHIT accomplished if we keep boo-hooing about the years we lost with Mr. or Mrs. Dickweed. By the way…I know that talking about Jesus and cursing are kind of taboo in our society but I love Jesus and I love to curse so, there. Anne Lamott does it too, and she’s a best-selling author so, there. Again. Listen, God has an amazing plan for your life. If you don’t believe in God, I don’t know what to tell you. I believe God has an amazing plan for your life, even if you don’t. What I tell myself, when I dare to throw a big-ass pity-party over my lost decade, is that God will use those lost years for His glory and nine times out of ten, that’s good enough for me. When it’s not, I have to search those years for the good that came from them. You might spend a lot of time doing that but I prefer to look ahead at what I CAN and WILL do now that I am FREE!!! Don’t forget, my friends, that you ARE FREE!! You can do anything you want now! You can talk to anyone you want! You can laugh anytime you want! You can love how you want, when you want! You can have the friends you want, you can eat the food you want, watch the shows you want, watch the movies you want, go after the job or the dream you want! We need to all STOP looking at the past and start looking at ALL of the amazing opportunities that are right in front of us! I get that it’s not always that easy and for some reason I am going to have an EXTENSIVE talk with Jesus about in the hereafter, we as humans are constantly focusing on what we DON’T have or CAN’T have, rather than all of the amazing awesomeness that’s right at our fingertips. You will do this. It’s just human nature. You will also cry…A LOT! Honestly, you’re going to need a shit-ton of Kleenex. Like, if Costco had a sister-store that sold even more shit that you don’t need in even bigger bulk, that’s where you would need to go to buy the Kleenex you’re gonna need because at the end of the day, you cannot and should not get around the fact that you are a victim of domestic violence and that doesn’t mean you’re just a statistic. It means you are a beautiful, broken human being who was singled out by a predator and taken advantage of by a deeply broken and disturbed human being who belongs in jail. Period. So, buy your Kleenex, burn the shit to the ground, and start looking ahead because your life is in front of you, and you have the pen to write your own story now!

Don’t regret the past but don’t forget the past. Moving forward from any substantial time in an abusive relationship requires a three-fold psychological undertaking. First, you have to sift through your past to find the diamonds that years of hard-ship rubbed to light. You are now all filled with these gems of wisdom that you can use to build your future and maybe even help others build theirs. Like I’m doing now. You probably won’t accomplish this step consciously. It will happen in little, subconscious moments when you realize that you’re better in some area than you were before the relationship. For example, I was so irresponsible before my relationship that my credit score was a negative number. I didn’t pay anything. Ever. Now, I am on top of my bills, I’m working on my debt and I feel good every day I do something I like to call “adulating”. Yes, I still love my days in bed with my pugs and my Netflix, but I also enjoy knowing I’ve become a responsible member of society. More importantly, I know what to look for in the people I surround myself with. I am going to commit an entire post to this issue because it’s such a biggie for victims, but the truth is that all of us will naturally be attracted to people with abusive tendencies, or at the least extreme narcissism. It’s just your reality, and you need to know it so you can avoid another mistake. Depending on how long you were in your abusive relationship, negative character defects in people will be normal to you until you get the therapy and the time out of the relationship that it takes to see those qualities and fucking RUN! I don’t know how long that is, but I know that I’m really far away from it. Character defects like jealousy, control, narcissism and egomania will be normal to you for some time but you might be able to get a jump on it if you start trying to see those characteristics in the people around you. Co-workers, peers at school, even church members could be used in this exercise. You have to remember things in your past to do this, but you can begin learning to use things from that pile of rubble behind you to build an Emerald City in front of you. I have to run…and like I said, I will write a whole post on avoiding another asshole! Love and light to all of you!

 

Finding Home

There is something you should know about me before you read any further. I am a Diva. I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I don’t know a lot about myself, which is what I’m writing about today, but I do know that I am a D-I-V-A; and I’m living on a horse ranch. It’s dirty, it’s smelly, and there are about three roosters who battle it out every morning at 3:45 to see who can crow the loudest. Unfortunately, they live about 20 feet from my front door. Fortunately for them,  I stand strongly against animal cruelty. And gun violence. My point is that from the outside looking in, I don’t belong here. A woman who has lived on this ranch for six years bluntly told me so, in no uncertain terms. She said it nicely, in the way that people who’ve had a hard life make you feel guilty for even thinking about judging them. She came up to me and said, “you’re so pretty. You don’t belong here. I belong here. You don’t belong here.” I thought to myself at the time that she was right, but I told her she wasn’t. Honestly, though, what makes me any better than this poor woman with no teeth? Nothing. Not a damn thing. At this point, we both live in a trailer, and we both feed animals to pay the rent. There it is. I’m not ashamed of this fact anymore, which is why I’ve brought myself to writing today. I haven’t written since I moved onto the horse ranch because I’ve really been struggling with some ugly truths and I needed to reconcile them in my mind before I could come to this place and offer anything but a ghastly, angry rant. Today I would like to discuss what home means to you now, and what it could mean to you in the future.  The author and poet Christian Morgenstern once said; “home is not the building you live in, home is where you are understood.”  Dorothy said, “there’s no place like home”. I would like to say that you will never find a place to call home until you fully understand and love yourself, because home is inside of you. if you are a victim of domestic violence, in order to learn through what you’ve just experienced, and avoid carrying bad habits into your new life, you must learn who you are, learn to love who you are, and stay single long enough to truly discover the beautiful and amazing person looking back at you from the mirror.

As I tried to sleep through my first night on the ranch, I fought hard against a nervous breakdown. It was coming, and I knew I probably wouldn’t survive it. Not with all my faculties in tact, anyway. I kept picturing nurses in white smocks tying my to a bed. In a straight jacket. I had spent the week leading up to my move onto the ranch telling all of my friends and family that God had answered my prayers for a place to live with a place on a horse ranch! I couldn’t let them know that I was starting to think God was asleep at the wheel. Jesus had taken the wheel and now he was driving my life off the side of a cliff. No, that’s not possible. So as my mind reeled, I started to wonder why God had brought me here and those thoughts allowed me to finally drift off to sleep. Until the roosters woke me up a few hours later. My job consists of feeding nineteen beautiful horses and six cutie-pie ponies twice a day and in exchange for that, I get to live in an enormous trailer with my pugs and my hamsters. No roommates, no drama, no astronomical rent. It sounds like a dream come true, right?  As has often been the case in my life, though…reality came in and fucked up my dream. If you have recently left an abusive situation, or one in which you are simply unhappy, and you’ve found yourself at rock bottom, (or one step above rock bottom), don’t start thinking you’ve made a mistake. Believe it or not,  you are probably exactly where you need to be. I say probably because I don’t make blanket statements and if you’re in a really jacked up situation where you’re more miserable than you were before, you probably need to make a change but if you’re just on a horse ranch, or something like that, where you feel like you don’t belong, give it a shot because this might be that stop on your yellow brick road where you get to know YOU, and then home will be just around the corner. I should get a trophy for that run-on. What I have learned in the few weeks I’ve lived here is that I don’t know much about myself, and this place that seems so opposite who I am has proven to be the best place for me to get reacquainted with…me. So, if you’re living in a shitty, run-down apartment with a thousand roommates, or a shelter for battered women, take this opportunity to turn that shithole into your haven of peace and rest. Take this time to find YOU again, and I promise you that the interior of the place your living in will start to reflect the truth and beauty you find inside of you. Trust me, there is so much beauty inside of you that when you find it, you’ll be amazed at what has been laying dormant inside of you this whole time. You might be a little pissed at yourself at first, but just let that negativity go and focus on where you want to go. Like the Wizard says; “you’ve always had the power inside of you, you just had to find it for yourself.” God put me on a horse ranch to teach me that lesson.

When you first become single, you may find yourself instinctively looking for another relationship. I’ll join the chorus of friends and family members saying the same thing; DON’T GET INTO ANOTHER RELATIONSHIP! Here’s the deal. You’re probably that one who is always thinking about someone else. You’re the one everyone comes to when they need to talk, when they need advice, when they need…anything. If you’re not that one, then in some other way you find yourself in other people. We are the epitome of “people people”, and we’ve taken this nature to the extreme by staying in abusive relationships. People always ask the question I hate, “why did you stay”, but no matter how much you try to explain it to them, they’ll never get it. We stayed because we are loving, caring, compassionate people and those assholes who beat us were also broken people who had been abused as children and disregarded by society. Often times they have no family to speak of, and the family they do have is in and out of their lives because they’re in a cycle of abuse just like the one you were in…or are in. Either way, we didn’t stay because we’re weak people. We stayed because we are compassionate and empathetic and filled with a desire to love broken people. Well, now I challenge you to direct all of that inward. You need to love YOURSELF, and you can’t LOVE yourself until you KNOW yourself, right? It’s impossible to love something or someone you don’t know. So it’s time to get to know you. When you become single, and you instinctively start rationalizing getting into another relationship, I want you to go look into a mirror and list twenty things you know about yourself. Not the food you like or the music you listen to…I mean REAL SHIT about yourself. If you can do that, they go…get laid…you’re ahead of the pack. Real talk, though, if you’ve spent any amount of time in an abusive relationship, you’ll struggle to list ten unwavering facts about yourself because you’ve just spent three, or five, or ten, or twenty years trying to be someone else. At some point in those years, you lost you, and now you must find you, love you, and then maybe love a plant or a dog for awhile, and THEN…and only then… you can go looking for love. My belief is that when I’m ready, when God says I’m ready, love will find me. I stayed with my abuser for ten years, and within days of leaving her I found myself crushing on this woman from a very distant place. She’s beautiful, accomplished, seemingly sweet, and she speaks with an accent that gets me every time. I thought she was my one, and I thought that after nine years of misery it would be okay to jump into another relationship. I was so wrong. This woman is still beautiful, accomplished, sweet and sexy as hell every time she opens her mouth. This woman will still be there after I find myself, and if she’s not, it wasn’t meant to be to begin with.

I wish I had the magic formula, or the hidden key, to self-discovery. A million books have been written about the infamous question we’re all trying to answer; “who am I?” Well guess what? NONE of those books have the answer because the answer is inside of you and the path TO the answer is inside of you. I did hear something once, and please excuse me but I don’t know who said it, but I did find some truth in it. Look back at yourself when you were about 17, try to remember what your dreams were and what you wanted to do with your life, and that will give you a good place to start rediscovering yourself. Unfortunately for some of you, the abuse started before you were 17 so you’ll have to go back farther. What did you want to be when you grew up? A veterinarian? A doctor? A theatre director? A singer? No matter where you are in your life now, those childhood dreams matter. Maybe you’re 40 and you wanted to be a doctor or a vet but you think you’re too old now. Well, maybe eight years of school would be a little much but four to six years wouldn’t be bad. You could become a nurse or a vet tech. Or you could go to work on a horse ranch. The fact is that most of you aren’t living the life you dreamed of, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late or that those dreams don’t matter. I challenge you to look inside yourself, get to know you again, grow to love you, and don’t be afraid to remember what you wanted to be…because anything is possible if you believe in yourself. I send this out with love and hope for all of you!

This blog is dedicated to my friend and hero…Alice.

 

 

 

Of God, Dogs, Thither, Family, Friends, Coffee & the Greatest of These…Love

Since September 18, 2017, I have realized that there are only a few things in my life I truly cannot live without; God, my dogs, my family, my thither angel, my 4 closest friends, coffee, and love. Yes, in that order. Some who know me would say that because my phone’s not on that list, I’m not being completely honest with myself or with the two people who will actually read this and I’ll digress, they’re probably right. However, my phone is only necessary in my life for what it does; it connects me to the four aforementioned closest friends and my family. So there.

Someday I will come up with a clever name for September 18th. Independence Day is over-used. Salvation Day is already taken by God. I-Got-The-Fuck-Out Day might work. Then again, I’m trying to stop cursing so much. Not because I believe that saying fuck is going to keep me out of Heaven as much as I know Jesus shakes His head every time I say it. Jesus already has a kink in His neck with my name on it, so I’m trying to avoid doing things in the future that will prompt the Almighty to shake His head. It’s so fucking, I mean bloody, hard. See. Anyway, September 18th is the day I finally left the physically and emotionally abusive relationship I endured for 10 years. It was one of the scariest and most liberating days of my life. I’m coming to realize that scary and liberating are often felt in tandem. Just think of sky diving.

I wonder if someday, in Heaven, God won’t replay the tape of the moments of my escape. I can almost foresee a day in eternity when my little sister Cat, who crossed the Jordan a couple of years ago, tugs on my arm. “C’mon, thither, you gotta see something,” I can hear her saying. We called one another thither as a term of endearment, Cat doesn’t have a lisp and (disclaimer) I’m in no way making fun of those who do. I can see us trotting down the streets of gold, arms folded into one another’s like a pretzel, saying “what’s up” to Peter, Paul, and Nana along the way. I can see us finally reaching the largest mansion on the block, Jesus’ place. I can see us going right in the front door, because there are no doorbells or knocking in heaven. Jesus can see you coming so what’s the point, right? I can see us walking into the most technologically advanced media room in existence and settling into the comfiest theater seats ever created. I can hear Jesus say, “I’ve been waiting to show you this”, and I can hear my little sister squeal with delight. I can see the excited expression on her face. This was one of the many moments in my life she’d wished she could have physically been with me, but now we can both admit she wouldn’t have traded Heaven for a million of my catastrophic “I need my thither” moments. Besides, she’s an amazing sister but she’s an INCREDIBLE angel! Now she’s my Thither Angel…so you know who I’m talking about when I say that. Now, back to Heaven, I can see us settling in, and watching as Jesus rolls the tape of my life to September 18th, 2017.

There I am, standing outside the apartment that I loved so much in the neighborhood I swore I would never leave, waiting for my get-a-way driver; a beautiful, mature girl only thirteen years my junior who is undoubtedly editing this piece as she reads it. From the front of the apartment where I’m frantically waiting with my beloved pugs, I can see the back of the apartment where my abuser could be pulling in at any moment. My head is jolting back and forth as I look down the street for my freedom car to the back for my abusers car. Three minutes felt like five hours as I waited until finally, I saw the front of my get-a-way car. My friend screeched to a halt in front of me, not even bothering to park. She instinctively knew better. I literally picked my dogs up and threw them in her car. Gently, but urgently.  They were the most important to me. I didn’t care if I got my clothing, I certainly didn’t care about my belongings, but I cared about my dogs. I ran back into my apartment and grabbed two suitcases I’d packed. I ran back out, and threw them in the trunk. I ran back in, always watching the back to make sure she wasn’t pulling up. By the grace of the Almighty God, she didn’t. I made three trips in and out before I finally jumped into the passengers seat and nearly screamed, very dramatically, “go!”. I don’t have to wait for Heaven to see all of this in retrospect. It’s a day I’ll never forget.

That day I took an interesting collection of belongings with me. I took my clothes, because I was afraid she would destroy them if I left them there. I took my sisters urn and some of her belongings. I took my dogs food and their bowls, and I took my coffee pot, grinder, and four bags of coffee I’d special ordered from Alaska. Bitch, you can have the apartment and the car but you can’t have my coffee! That’s pretty much what it’s come down to. My family, my amazing family, sprung into action the minute I called. My Dad booked a flight to come help me, my Mama Robin booked a hotel for me to stay safe in, and my bad-ass Mom sent a text to my ex that basically said, “If you touch my daughter, you’re going to jail, you psycho”…but in nicer terms because that’s how my mom is.

I’m writing this, though, because I know not everyone has family support, especially to the extent that I do.  This will especially be a problem for victims in the LGBTQ community, the people I desire to help the most. I remember thinking that there would be more religious members of my extended family who would find out about the abuse and use it as a talking point against “homosexual relationships.” Funny side-note, have you ever noticed that it’s only Pentecostal and Southern Baptist ministers who say “HO-MO-SEX-U-AL-I-TY”, and  pronounce every syllable as though it has an exclamation point on the end of it?  We gays don’t do that. Anyway, I know that in writing this, and in starting my work as a friend and advocate for victims of domestic violence, there will be many stories that are much darker than mine. I am aware that even in my darkest hours I’ve been blessed beyond measure. I have a God who loves me, as we all do, but I know He does and many people in abusive relationships don’t know that. Hell, most people in the LGBTQ community don’t know that God loves them. A recent poll found that only 58% of gay people identify as born again Christians. This shouldn’t be a shock, considering the way the LGBTQ community has been treated by the church. As a gay Christian, I can completely identify with both those in my community who do and do not believe in God. I spent 13 years in the desert, railing against God, when really it was “Christians” who had hurt me and taken God from me. Now, if you consider an LGBTQ victim of domestic violence, they are probably even less likely to believe in a loving Father in Heaven. This saddens me greatly and I am praying every day for a way to help these people find freedom, find themselves, and find God.

I tend to talk too much, and I tend to ramble when I write. I’m working on my cohesiveness, I promise. I began this blog by stating that there were 7 things I couldn’t live without. God, dogs, thither, family, 4 friends, coffee, and love. The greatest of these is love, and in my life, love comes from all of them. Yes, even coffee because God loved me enough to make coffee. My point is, that if you’re a victim of domestic violence I would challenge you to write down the things you can’t live without. Be honest with yourself. Before I left my abuser, I told myself I couldn’t live without my car. WRONG! I told myself I couldn’t live outside of my comfy mid-town neighborhood. WRONG WRONG! I told myself I couldn’t live without her. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!! I have realized now that it was her voice in my head telling me I couldn’t live without a car, without our apartment, and without her. This was an aspect of her control over me, and it worked for ten years. She made me feel like I couldn’t live without her when really, its only taken me 15 days away from her to realize exactly what I can’t live without. And surprise, she’s not on the list. Neither is the apartment, or the car.

So I encourage you, if you’re a victim of domestic violence and you haven’t been able to get out, make a list of what you truly can’t live without. If you can, go somewhere by yourself and meditate on it. If you have to, wait until your abuser is asleep and meditate on it. What do you love, what do you have, that he or she cannot take away from you? I know you have God, whether you know it or not. If you have no one and you’re reading this, my e-mail is courtneylparks33@gmail.com. Please reach out. I’ve just started my journey but I know I’ve been called to help so help I will. I will tell you all something. My abuser kept me from having friends. She just made it so uncomfortable that after awhile I stopped trying but the minute I posted that I’d left her, people came from everywhere to help in any way they could. You have people too. I have my beautiful, young get-a-way driver who still sits with me at work every night and still listens to my rambling. I have the nearly 30 year old doppelgänger of my little sister who has become my BFF overnight. I have my best friend of nearly 20 years now, who has loved me so hard from Albuquerque that it’s almost like she’s here. Last but never least, I have my other best, best friend in Alaska who I had to let go of when my abuser began beating me violently over our friendship. I should have let the abuser go, but instead I hurt this friend and yet, when I reached out seven years later, fearing she wouldn’t reach back, she called just an hour later and said, “did you really think I wouldn’t call?”. I love these women with all my heart…so much I almost need another heart. I love every single person who reached out on Facebook to send their support. I love my co-workers who have been so attentive and loving through the whole process. I promise, you have people like this too, people who are waiting in the wings to help you out. So, make your list. What can you not live without?

 

 

 

 

It’s A New Life…

When I was around the age of twenty, my favorite song to sing along to was from the “Jekyll and Hyde” original Broadway cast recording. The song was titled “A New Life”, and even at that young age, the song struck a chord in my soul. I remember believing that I had experienced the pain in the lyrics…

“A new life, what I wouldn’t give to have a new life, 

One thing I have learned as I go through life, 

Nothing is for free along the way..”

Yesterday I couldn’t find a song. That’s a problem for me because usually no matter what is happening in my life, I can always find a song. Yesterday, I searched the farthest recesses of my mind and heart for a melody to pull me through and I heard nothing. Then, off in the distance, ringing from old, buried memories, I heard that familiar melody. I found the song and listened to it. I remembered that twenty year old girl who really believed she felt those lyrics then. It made me wonder…did my soul know what I was destined to go through? Did my soul hang onto that song, knowing that years later I would need it for that moment yesterday? 

I just ended a 10 year relationship. For ten years I kept up a facade of happiness and love. Neither of those things really existed in that relationship. What did exist was physical and emotional abuse, manipulation, jealously, control, and hatred. Many people hold onto the misconception that abuse doesn’t exist in LGBTQ relationships. Furthermore, I have realized over the past few days that there isn’t a lot of support for victims of abuse in the LGBTQ community and I intend on changing that. It’s time to break the silence and talk about our experiences. Talking about the abuse doesn’t make you weak. In fact, it shows strength. 

I don’t know where I’m going to start, but I know this needs to change. We, LGBTQ victims of physical and emotional abuse, need to come together and heal together. 

We’re All The Same

I’VE WAITED A WEEK TO SIT DOWN AND WRITE…

Now that I’ve found time and space in this chaotic world to sit and do what I want, I’m struggling to find the words that have been swirling around in my mind for weeks. There is a piece of truth that has seemed to be magnified as of late, and I would like to express it to anyone reading this. If I could just find the words…

I’VE SPENT MY LIFE THINKING I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH…

I’m going to be honest. I have self-esteem issues. This isn’t something I readily admit to, but I have realized that in sharing the hard, uncomfortable truths about myself I might help someone else to deal with their own issues. Furthermore, I might be able to take some of the power away from my own feelings of inadequacy and begin to live my life in a state of honest and optimistic self-awareness.

I’VE SPENT MY LIFE LOOKING UP TO INCREDIBLE WOMEN…

While all of my dearest friends could attest to the role my heroes have played in my life, my mom or my wife could give the most adequate description of the love I have for these women. My sister was also an expert on my feelings toward my Divas, but there aren’t cell phones in heaven. When I say my Divas, I am referring to Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland and Whitney Houston. In high school, when all of my friends were listening to Nirvana and 2Pac, I spent hours in my room listening to my Divas and reading everything I could find on them. At that time in my life, I focused mostly on Bette and Babs. I listened to Judy and Whitney at that time, but my adoration for them grew later, when my struggles with addiction began to mirror theirs. I found comfort in knowing that I shared both strengths and weaknesses with the women I loved so much. In high school, I believed I could be as great as any of them. I will say something that I rarely profess; I am a really great singer. I used to down play my ability in this area. It wasn’t until this past year that I began actually telling people I could sing. My Wife didn’t know I could sing until I took her to a karaoke bar. The look on her face when I opened my mouth was priceless. Her reaction was one I had heard all of my life; “what the hell are you doing here?” Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to high school.

I USED TO BELIEVE IN MYSELF…

I had dreams that could reach to the sky when I was a teenager. I was a relatively good kid. I drank at parties, but since I didn’t have many friends, that didn’t happen very often. I was an awkward teenager. Frizzy hair, overweight, terrible clothes. However, I had a voice.  I would spend hours and hours in my room singing along with Barbra and Bette. I didn’t just sing along. I sang the hardest songs with the highest notes until I sounded as much like my Divas as possible. Believe it or not, I came pretty close on even the hardest songs. See, I’d spent years singing in church, singing gospel music that worked and stretched my voice. Those years of training paid off when I got into high school and began doing musical theatre. I was in the chorus of “Annie Get Your Gun” my freshman year. The next year I played the lead role in “Hello, Dolly”. It was one of the best times of my life. I started to believe in myself, and people started telling me how great I was. My theatre director in high school was a fabulous woman named Bettyrae Easley, and she changed my life. She taught me how to dress, and how to wear my hair. She trained me in her home at no cost, and to this day I consider her my second mom. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why I chose to go to Nashville and get strung out on cocaine instead of going to New York City to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. I don’t know why I stopped singing for so many years. I don’t know why I became an addict so early in my life. I don’t know why I never found my niche or my calling, or why I have struggled so much with following the little dreams I have left. I don’t know why I’m still a bartender or why I’m just now making some headway in finishing my degree. I had so much talent, so much drive and ambition, so much faith in myself and God. Then life happened.

MY STRUGGLE IS NOT UNIQUE…

The reason I have laid bare all of the inconvenient and embarrassing truths of my life, aside from the simple fact that I know only my closest friends are actually reading this right now, is that I think it’s time for us all to be honest with one another. I am taking a step toward being the change that I want to see, and I am doing it here. See, when my life began to unfold, I made bad choices and I missed opportunities. At the same time, my faith in myself and my dreams began to disappear. The necessities of life began to usurp the necessities of faith and hope. With every passing birthday, I grew more detached from my high school self. Listening to my Divas became painful, as they stood as reminders of what I could have been. I gravitated to Judy and Whitney, as I could relate to their personal struggles. Eventually, I chose to return to college, get a degree and try to become a teacher. I decided that if I couldn’t become the next Bette Midler because it was just too late for me, I could at least be like Bettyrae, and maybe save someone like me from my fate. Hold up, though…I’m not eighty years old waiting to die. I’m only 37, and while I might not be the next Bette Midler I certainly have time to BECOME the Courtney Lynn Parks that God created me to be.

PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING…

Do you see how I could easily let the rest of my life go because of my perception? The facts of my life didn’t change from the time I decided to settle for a career and the time I realized my life was far from over. I just had to look at things differently. I think many of us look around at other people and we believe they have it all figured out. We believe that because someone is driving a BMW they have more money than us. We don’t see that they’re in debt, and they’re just praying nothing happens to that car because they won’t have the money to fix it. Speaking of money, as the root of all evil, it bears no significance on happiness or fulfillment. Sure, money can buy fun, and it can come in handy when you want to spoil your kids at Christmas, but what else does it do for anyone? I have realized, as of late, that I have fallen into a trap of believing that other people are better than me because I perceive their life as more put together or more on track than my own. The truth, though, is that we all have our demons. Yes, some are more prevalent and destructive than others, but we all have them. For instance, I spent 13 years believing that Christians were better than me because I was gay. Being raised in church, I believed that God hated me because I was gay. I spent years believing that God loved straight people more, and that I was a mistake. I know now that this was complete crap. There are more people in the church who know nothing about God than there are people outside of the church who really know and love God. My life started to turn around after God filled my heart with His love again. He began to change my perspective. For years I had gone through life believing that because I was an addict, because I am gay, because I didn’t finish high school, because I waited to go to college, because I suck with money, that other people were better than me. I didn’t realize that with every passing day, those thoughts began to take root in my spirit and tangle with the roots of my dreams, my confidence, my love, and my faith. Those destructive roots began to tangle with the Godly roots in my soul, until they nearly killed all of the gifts God had planted in my spirit when I was young. Note that I said nearly. I’m not going to say that I immediately began to believe in myself again. I spent years believing that I was a loser, so the transformation has been a slow process and it continues on today. However, what I want to leave you with is this; do not look to other people to find your worth. We are all born with gifts and a God-given purpose. No two people are alike and while you may find others who are kindred spirits, you won’t find anyone who is just like you. You’re not supposed to. You are unique. You are special. No matter what you’ve gone through in your life, and no matter what you are going through right now, you are a child of God and He has a plan for your life. Yes, you have free will and yes, you can put off that plan as long as you want but just know that all you have to do is make a decision to commit to becoming the person you were created to be and you can change your life. Stop thinking other people have it made and start looking for ways to make it yourself. EVERYONE is struggling with something and just as you might be thinking they are better than you, they are probably thinking you are better than them. Remember, in our society most people present the best version of themselves to the outside world. We hide our flaws, we hide our perceived failures, and often times we lie for the sake of pretense. I believe our world would be a better place if we allowed others to see our reality rather than their perception.

I STILL LOVE BETTE MIDLER…

As I write this, in an ironic twist of fate, Bette Midler is on Broadway in…wait for it…”Hello, Dolly”! I don’t know what it means that this woman I have spent my life looking up to is doing the show I did when my dreams and my faith were still young and untouched by this evil world. Maybe it’s a sign that God is going to restore my broken spirit to that time in my life. I don’t know. What I do know is that while I love my Bette, I am going to look at her as my equal. I am going to start believing in ME, and I hope you will too.

this is me in 1997…circa Hello, Dolly time. Now look at the image of Bette again.

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