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Mmmmm….has parent changed me?

Do you want the short answer or the long one?

Based on a gloriously harmonious day or on a –stressed out, exhausted, I feel like a rag and I want to throttle you- days? …

Parenthood has defiantly thrown me to these extremes as well as everything that falls in between. So the short answer is yes, parenting has changed me tremendously from reacting with fear to responding with love. It has been the most challenging experience I have ever undertaken as well as given me a hearty dose of humility, empathy, and resilience. It has spiritually, emotional, mentally, and physically healed me.

The long answer: I was born hardwired for fear and hyper-sensitive. Experiencing or even witnessing violence, especially during the crucial period of brain development under age of five significantly affects brain development and can make a child feel scared, anxious, worried, confused, angry, and insecure. This list of feelings sums up my battles in life to a “T” and parenting triggered every one of these vulnerabilities.

You see, even with extensive experience working with children and degrees in elementary education, psychology, human development & family studies and marriage and family therapy, I still felt inadequate and unprepared for parenthood. I even had a self-imposed rule to wait till I was married for 5 years before having children. I began joking with my partner that we needed to have kids so I could have more credentials for my practice as I specialized in children and parenting issues.

After a snowball effect of interventions and traumatic labor, my first son was born 5 months shy of my 5th wedding anniversary, yet I was too tired and hungry to hold him. The natural concoction of bonding hormones was disturbed and my predisposition lead to post-partum depression. I spent a large part of his first year just going through the motions, feeling like a failure and even resentful. Then the anxiety and shame over what I thought I should be doing kicked into overdrive and robbed much of my joy.

During this time, I also worked with families involved with Department of Family Services providing in-home, intensive family therapy. After a couple miscarriages and another pregnancy, I took part in intensive therapeutic and parenting trainings that introduced me to how trauma affects brain development and regulation abilities in children. The light bulbs went off in my head like a fireworks display. So much of my life made sense and new connections made. Then I had another traumatic labor, this time ending with a stillbirth.

WOW…talk about turning your life upside down…try holding a dead baby…your baby.

Althou1935_1079097454232_8939_ngh this was extremely painful, the perspective it gave me toward life and parenting was astounding. You can read more about my processing of the stillbirth here. It encouraged me to truly process my grief, to dig deeper, try harder, and keep learning. I took more trainings on understanding brain development and healing trauma. Having a child actually gave me more compassion and understanding for the 24/7 demands of parenting and complexities of the parent/child relationship.

I chose to put my relationship with my child first and take responsibility for getting my own and his vital needs met.  I chose not to conceive again till I had no fears about the pregnancy and accepted the reality that I may never have another live birth. I did eventually go onto to have a positive and empowering birth experience with my daughter who I had a home, water birth with. I had to consciously filter out other’s opinions and outside influences to tune into my mind/body/soul connections and innate intelligence. I was better able to parent from my heart and less from my trauma.

My relationship with my children has been a mirror to my soul. The reflection is not always pretty, yet I can easily see when my intention, thoughts, feelings, and actions do not match and align them. I am blessed to have 4 angels, 2 children, a supportive partner, and a peacefully chaotic family. As the more I focus my energy on the integrity of my relationships, the more I have of the gloriously harmonious days. Now don’t get me wrong, I am human and still have those other days yet they have shortened into moments, happen less often, and are easily remedied with a hug, silly face, or a happy song. I can truly feel how every day is a gift.

This has been more like my medium answer because honestly, I could go on and on about how evolutionary principles, attachment science, quantum physics, and a love-based paradigm shift could maximize human potential and heal the world…But I’ll just leave you with my poetic version of how parenthood changed me:

lessons from my son meme

I strongly believe that where you choose to focus your attention and energy is what you will get more of. This current election is challenging to say the least. I have to focus hard not to fuel any more attention for “Zaphod Beeblebrox” (my family’s way to say you-know-who with giving him as little as possible of our energy), I can’t help but get triggered by all the surrounding victim-blaming and crazy-making comments. I go right back to all the times it happened to me and the decades of emotional pain and suffering.

I feel rage and want to shake the world… You cannot possibly understand the layers of internal torment a survivor goes through before they even utter a word about one incident and I can guarantee that for every one incident there are plenty more. I was 11 years old when I woke up in the middle of the night at a sleepover being molested. I was 16 when I first told someone, 31 before I made a report. That is 20 years and the cascade of negative effects that engulfed me are beyond years or words.

I would wish everyday  for it not to be true, well at least everyday I was conscious for and not a disconnected robot. When triggered, I would play every second through my head over and over again wondering: How can this happen?… But then again, how could it not…I didn’t even know that it wasn’t suppose to happen.  What I learned most from society, religion, and home was that men are allowed to do whatever they want to get their needs met and women are meant to serve and be submissive. I never knew I had a choice nor had any skills to know how to say “no” even if I known I had the right…

The daily battle of getting out of bed and desperately wanting to escape… the hypocrisy, the madness, the suffering. Then on top of it all, you are trained to put on a happy face and pretend everything is fine because god forbid you call any negative attention to you or upset anyone. When you can’t sleep at night and the touch of anyone, even those you love, makes you freeze and want to crawl out of your skin… And then again, you still have to pretend; I a woman, this is the role I must play. It is the only life you know…

Thank goodness for graduate school and specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy that I learned that I had rights and the skills to stand up for myself. Reporting is one of the scariest things I have ever had to do. Fortunately, I discovered that often times the actions that are the scariest to do, are the ones that will eventually transform us the most. I started to make the biggest strides in my healing after I finally made the report in my 30’s.

I am dumfounded that people can’t see how scary it is to report. Your exposed again, reliving the assault yet this time magnified and re-traumatized. It is gut-wrenching enough within you own mind, body, and soul, can you even imagine your most vulnerable parts being broadcasted!?  I assure you, no amount of money or  so-called “publicity” would every make up for this suffering.

When I hear a person share their story, I just want to hug them, listen with compassion, and hold their hand through this seemingly endless journey of being able to trust and feel joy and pleasure again.  I choose to put my energy and attention for empowering and supporting people. I want everyone to know that no one has the right to touch you without your conscious and informed consent and you have the right to change your mind at any time. I believe this video sums it up nicely:

 

I also believe that everything and person has value, so hoping that “Zaphod Beeblebrox” is a motivating force to awaken and elevate our collective consciousness for a compassionate and relationship-rich society where we are all responsible.

For more on my story and supportive links, read forgiving sexual abuse .

“One good thing about music, is when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ~Bob Marley

There is no doubt what a healing agent music is. The instant I play my favorite music, my mood is elevated and I am instantly motivated to tackle the worst of chores or problems. I often want to share my favorite songs but then I talk my self out of it as music is such a personal experience. One song can bring joy to one, yet trigger another to despair or anger. As I am on a mission to heal and not harm, I err on the side of caution.

Very early in my relationship with my partner, we would debate on what is good music. He was big on the technicality and diversity of music where as I strongly felt that no one has the right to judge what music is good or bad for another. I believe that what ever music moves you, gets you to sing, dance, smile, or at the very least, get you to forget your suffering for a few moments, then that is good music.  With all the suffering we have in the world, the last thing I want to do is judge another for something that brings them joy. We need more safe places to process and express negative thoughts and feelings and music is the ultimate medium.

Music has kept people alive and given hope through out civilizations and horrendous periods of time like the during the Holocaust and slavery. I have started a YouTube station of all my favorite songs throughout my life  and my son asked why so many of my songs were depressing. I told him because I was suffering from depression and those songs saved me. To know that someone else could express how I was feeling, validated my pain and made me feel I was not alone. As I healed, I discovered the moments I would break out in song and dance are my purest expressions of happiness…

Happiness is

 

 

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2013/12/17/health-benefits-music/4053401/

 

Enlightenment

Here’s a link to a biographical talk I gave on what “Light” means to me https://soundcloud.com/waitalks-1/light

For some reason most of my life I have had difficulty following what seemed simple directions. This usually led to people being very frustrated with me and me feeling stupid. “What’s the matter with you!?” seems imprinted in my brain. It’s like I lacked common sense. I also was considered gullible because I truly believed what people said to me. After decades of depression and anxiety, I realized that maybe I am blessed with an uncommon sense, a deep awareness, and understanding of ways not many see. We are meant to be different as we each have a gift to share. Here’ a poem of mine as I discover my gift:

I feel like I am an infinite dimensional being living in a 4D world

Like a star trying to squeeze through a peg hole

I feel forced to live one reality whilst my soul yearns for another

I’m straddled across an abyss, terrified of being torn apart or falling too deep

I know the inherent value of both sides but the pressure to pick pulls at me

I feel stuck, conflicted and intensely in tuned to the extremes

The suffering and fears

The joys and trust 

Who am I and where do I belong?

Enlighten me

Maybe I am not meant to choose, yet be a bridge…

#ChildAbusePrevention #SexualAssaultAwareness *Trigger Warning*
It seems on a regular basis, there are certain sexual abuse and molestation stories that make headlines, one’s that finally get people’s attention. Truth be known that every 107 seconds, someone in the US is sexually assaulted (see https://www.rainn.org/statistics). The statistics are worse worldwide. These statistics do not surprise me, I am actually more alarmed that many others are surprised. Our society is a petri dish for sexual abuse. Sex is a basic physiological need. Healthy sexual development begins at day one of life. Our society tends to shame and repress our natural desires of sexual expression. So what do we do when we are not allowed to find healthy ways to express ourselves, we hide it and seek out any opportunity we can get no matter how wrong it may be. Next, we will take advantage of vulnerable people to get our needs met. On top of this, we have a double edge sword in our society where we “train” children, our most precious and vulnerable, that they must obey authority figures and they have no rights to say “No.” Then we neglect to teach children how to tune in and listen to their gut/intuition/heart/inner voice, let alone the skills to assert themselves in any context.

For more examples of this, check out: http://everydayfeminism.com/2017/04/ways-we-ignore-childrens-agency/#.WO-xaW7ZzO0.facebook

Sexual expression is a very complex and sensitive issue because even though we have been trained to feel mentally or morally wrong in most situations, it is fundamentally a physiological need so it still feels good physically. It is not enough to have the one ‘big talk’ or random assertion that “You should have no one touch you” and “to tell mom or dad if someone does”. It is a constant open dialogue in small teachable moments throughout life. It is in the subtle messages you send via your choice of words, clothes, media, and so on. Although it angers me how ignorant people are to these messages or that children are having sex and that trusted adults are molesting children everywhere, I understand why we ignore the signs. To accept that this is going on in your city, your school, and even worse, your family would mean that you have to accept the responsibility that this went on without your awareness. Of course, it is easier to be in denial, it is a natural defense mechanism as who would want to take any responsibility for suffering.
And the common reactions of when these stories of sexual abuse make headlines, “Yay, let’s string ’em by their balls and make them suffer” or “They should rot in jail!” make me feel sadder. For me, those reactions are just as violent as the crimes themselves, ignore the root problems, and no one can heal. I was given inappropriate attention since I can first remember, I was molested by a neighbor and sexually harassed on a regular basis whilst attending a catholic school. These events had led to traumatic consequences and emotional scars that I am still healing. Yet, I forgive every one of the boys and men who used me as an object and no longer wish ill on them. I know that they were doing the best with the resources they had. I do not blame them as we live in a culture that promotes sexual abuse. I choose to be part of the solution. I empower, educate, and support people to find healthy, respectful, and non-violent ways to get their needs met.
Here are a few links to get you started:

http://birdsandbeesandkids.com/

http://somesecrets.info/blog/2013/12/29/how-to-educate-your-child-in-body-safety

http://goodmenproject.com/families/the-healthy-sex-talk-teaching-kids-consent-ages-1-21/

http://coreparentingpdx.com/2013/sex-can-your-kids-really-talk-to-you/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joyce-mcfadden/things-little-girls-need-from-their-fathers_b_3348956.html

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/parents/resources-for-parents

Books

Talking with Your Child About Sex: Questions and Answers for Children from Birth to Puberty by Mary S. Calderone and James W. Ramey

Birds + Bees + YOUR Kids – A Guide to Sharing Your Beliefs about Sexuality, Love, and Relationships: Everything YOU Need To Know Before Middle School! by Amy Lang

10 Conversations to Have with your Teen about Sex, Dating & Relationships by Dr. Pepper Schwartz

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I have hundreds of writings and insights to share yet whenever I feel inspired to post, I run into a wall, frozen in fear. I am terrified of causing a stir even when I know that evoking emotion is what we need to enlighten and motivate to change. It is as if I am still longing for other’s approval, to tell me I am good enough and my words have value. It’s like I can never shake the F’s in honors English class and will always be a horrible writer. Rationally, I know this is not true yet my soul aches from the former. I even know that it will be hard press to get others to believe in me, if I don’t believe in myself.  I am grateful that I have many aspects of my life where I do exude confidence and trust. I am blessed to have discovered that what ever I do focus my light on, it flourishes.  I look forward to the day when my light no longer scares me.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”  ~Marianne Williamson

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, its about learning how to dance in the rain.”

My son and I were playing outside when a storm blew in and he started to dance in the rain. No words could capture the peace and joy that exuded from my son as he danced. The harder the rain and the louder the thunder, the freer he became. His exuberance was so contagious that it lured me from my self-conscious, over-concerned lull to dance. Yet a twinge of guilt and negativity jolted through me like lightning. You see even in this moment of extreme happiness, there were loved ones gripped by fear, and possibly perceiving our actions as defiant and careless. Yet many are oblivious to the fact that I am well aware of the havoc violent storms can bring. I have lived through emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive ones. I know the extremes of dying babies. I know firsthand the feeling of being trapped in a pit so deep that death appears as a friend. I also know how precious this moment is for my son as he inherited my hyper-sensitivity to stormy thoughts. It doesn’t take much to trigger us to despair and panic. I have suffered too long under the guise of fears, anxiety, and depression. I have thoroughly assessed the risks and I realized that by letting go of attachment to outcomes, to fear less, and love more, I open my life up to peace and joy. Dancing in the rain are some of my happiest childhood memories and I wrap those moments around me like a security blanket and blessed to share with my son. I make the conscious choice to dance in the rain.

I had moments of dysregulation and anxiety over giving a presentation. My son nonchalantly says, “Mom don’t worry. Everyone loves you. God Loves you.”…

His words helped me  instantly feel blessed, relieved and positively focused.

Yet later, on the way to the presentation, my brain kept getting triggered to self-doubt, worry, “am I good enough” jargon. I caught my negative self-talk and remembered my son’s words. An internal dialogue began…

I tend to be my worst enemy and critique. I work so hard to give unconditional love, compassion, and kindness to all, yet I am still the hardest on myself and fall into judgmental thinking. Then I was reminded of one of the aspects of organized religion that traumatized me the most…religious people going around calling people sinners and condemning them to hell; one cannot get more judgmental than that. According to the faith I was raised up in, I was going to hell before I turned 15. People wonder why I battled depression and anxiety…what’s the point to keep living when it seems you only fail and let others down?… My mind wanders to a statement I heard that constantly worrying what other’s are thinking of you is living in hell. That definitely describes much of my life, a self fulfilling prophecy as such. I begin to feel angry. I am sick of paying for other’s transgressions: the peers who harassed me, the neighbor who molested me, the friends who slapped and back stabbed me, the boys who used me, the adults who looked the other way or drank and abused too much…

I stopped at a red light and my eyes begin to well. I become cognizant that I am close to my office building and what would people think of red eyes. I chose to redirect my thoughts to my son’s words, “Mom don’t worry. Everyone loves you. God Loves you.”…Then I picture my partner who whenever he hears my children share a brilliant reflection, he smiles at me at says, “That is you.”  You see, my partner and my children have taught me more about faith that no religion could touch and surpasses what any holy book could depict. It is in you, in me and everywhere in between. A wisdom and love that runs so deep that my ancestors and future generations dance and weep as one.

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Would you purposely hit your car’s engine with a hammer?

Would you throw your Ipad out the window?

Would you shake your working TV till it breaks?

Would you rip up your holy books?

We have all probably hit (or at the very least clenched our fists to) some inanimate object.  Whether it be the vending machine that ate our money, or the car because it stopped working, or the classic “punching the wall” scenario for just about anything.

There is a common denominator in all these situations: something did not work the way we expected it to. This disappointment quickly turns to fear that this will never work again or give us what we need, then frustration hits us, anger settles, rage takes over and flooding the rational part of our brain. We the unconsciously react with a fight response, as if our livelihood is being threatened.

It is against the law to destroy the American Flag and blasphemous to destroy the Bible. If you strike another human being you are arrested for an assault. Yet parents have the right to hit their child, our most vulnerable and precious gift, from God none the less. People even cite the Bible to defend this so-called disciplinarian approach.

I guess if the definition of discipline is to teach like Jesus did to his disciples, “spanking,” is teaching children. It is teaching them…teaching that when you feel out of control (i.e. people not behaving how you want them to or think they should be) that you can hit them to do what you want them to do.  Then magically they are supposed to learn not to hit, or they will get punished for hitting the person who has more power and control. Ironically, “hitting” is the lack of control of one’s physical, mental, and emotional capabilities.

I can see how spanking seems to “work” as the child will eventually submit and comply out of fear and desperation. Yet spanking destroys so much more than eyes can see as well as significantly impacts brain development and relational integrity. I also understand that anyone who spanks is really doing the best they can with the resources they have. We must consider the resources that were given (or beat in-) to them, and so on. If we react with blame, shame, and punishment, then we continue to strengthen the fear-based brain connections. We must find more resources to respond with love and trust as well as reduce toxic stress for all humankind to transcend the grips of fear and violence. Fortunately, the easiest and most effective tools are free to everyone: DEEP BREATHS, ears to LISTEN, arms to HUG.

Now, I can barely scratch the surface of this issue in this post but hopefully, empathy, compassion, and love will prevail.  If you are interested in some non-violent information or research on how physical punishment harms, here are some links:

http://acestoohigh.com/

stopspanking.org/research

https://www.cnvc.org/

http://www.childtrauma.org/index.php/articles

http://www.beyondconsequences.com/

http://www.nopunish.net/pwp-ch1.htm

http://www.wavetrust.org/

http://alvaradoconsultinggroup.com/

http://www.teach-through-love.com/

http://www.nospank.net/

http://www.kindredcommunity.com/2006/11/how-culture-shapes-the-developing-brain-and-the-future-of-humanity/

Oh, and my hunch is no one one would purposely (consciously) hit or break their working technological devices nor destroy their patriotic and religious artifacts they believe in.  We lose control when we are under stress and do not know what to do. Maybe we can empathize with children’s stress when they are acting out.  What are we really afraid of…our children’s future?… failing as a parent?…losing control?

Would you please be open to seeing life through your child’s’ eyes or remember how you felt when you were a child?

Would you please become conscious of your reactions and learn some new resources or skills so our children can learn respectful, healthy ways to communicate needs and process negativity or stress?

Would you please let go of fears and control for how you think things should be and just BE (a) PRESENT?

Our children’s minds, bodies, and souls are always working, very hard in fact. Would you please believe in and nurture them?

 “I have never met a person whose greatest need was anything other than real, unconditional love. You can find it in a simple act of kindness toward someone who needs help. There is no mistaking love. You feel it in your heart. It is the common fiber of life, the flame that heals our soul, energizes our spirit and supplies passion to our lives. It is our connection to God and to each other.”          ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

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