Tag: coping mechanism

When the Holidays stink and so do you!

Elliott Christmas Day

Do you watch endless Hallmark Christmas movies and feel more people of Walmart? I do. Do you feel like everyone is in love but you? Do you wonder how everyone else does it as you sweep up more dog hair than the dog is wearing, and the cat knocks the tree over for the third time? Does your gingerbread house look like a gingerbread ghetto? Does everyone have their lights up before you? If so, you and I should be best friends!

Christmas, Bountiful Utah, the year is %$ AD or (Not telling because it will date me) After Divorce. My ex-husband had just bought all five children very loud musical instruments, toys that required batteries and assembly with no less than 1 million moving parts. My mother was taking video #nofilter and no way to disguise my sleepless life. I was dating someone new, but neither of us had a Christmas budget. All the packages were coming from my sweet mom and dad.

Imagine my kids’ joy when they opened their new coats, hats, gloves, and boots. Wrong! And we caught all the complaining on film. Even though it was one of the worst winters on record and snow was as high as my mother’s eaves, they were not thrilled. My 3 and 5-year-old sons had grown so much they couldn’t zip their leather bomber jackets, but still cried when I said it was time to give their old coats up.

We decided to put the new coats on, load the kids in our VW Van and go to see the lights on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The kids were crying and I was the Queen of this particular pity party! I had been feeling sorry for myself all day.

As we drove to Temple square the radio reported that local homeless shelters were overflowing due to the extremely cold weather. There was a shortage of blankets and coats. Anyone having coats or blankets to donate should go to the shelter and drop them off as soon as possible. It was a crisis.

We just happened to be an exit away from one of the shelters. We pulled off the freeway through mountains of snow and chugged into an icy parking lot. The shelter looked like a refurbished grocery store with automatic sliding doors. People were in line behind the glass doors.

We parked and the kids began piling out of the van, while I gathered their old coats. My kids were crying and complaining. The boys were refusing to let go of their old jackets when the glass doors slid open and a man pushing a shopping cart came out.

The man’s clothes looked paper thin for the freezing winter weather. We all froze. Startled at the gaunt figure. The cart was full of layers of newspaper and I wondered if he was going to use them to pad his clothing.

“They’re full!” he called to us as he came closer. “But don’t worry, there is a Christmas dinner being served at the freeway underpass and I will find you a place to keep warm.” I was shocked. There he was with nothing in the world but a shopping cart full of paper and he was taking care of us!

“It’s ok.” I stammered. “We are just bringing coats to donate.”

He smiled and said, “Kids! Look! Coats!” The papers fell away and two small children in torn, dirty t-shirts emerged. My heart broke and all I could do was hold out the coat in my hand. Meanwhile, silently, my kids began throwing in the leather bomber jacket, all the other coats, their new gloves, and their new hats.

The kids in the cart will forever be burned into my memory and heart. Joyfully they celebrated as they put on the coats and hats. “Merry Christmas!” Their father called as he wheeled them over the icy ground towards the freeway. And suddenly I knew. I knew no matter how bad my life was, there was always something I could do for someone else.

There will always be someone in more need than me and some way for me to forget myself and see angels among us like this sweet man. This man, who had nothing, and yet was ready to take care of all of us.

I did stink! I had been indulging in self-pity when all around me were opportunities to love others. The Savior was born on Christmas day to a circumstance as humble as this man and yet we celebrate that birth and look to that small baby in a manger to save all of mankind.

Christmas. The first Christmas was never about getting. It was always about giving. The message that changed the world and caused the angels in Heaven to sing was one of love and hope for all mankind, even you and me. Even when we stink just a little.

Merry Christmas

Here is a Thanksgiving message from Elliott. He grew up to smile and can’t wait for Christmas Day.

 

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Love through my eyes

Yup! There it is! True love! After all the Disney princesses, the romance novels, vampires, and werewolves, I never expected to see true love demonstrated so clearly. On the left, my cousin (more sister) Jami and on the right her husband Joe in their natural habitat- the kitchen. But first, the back story.

Time Out For Women (TOFW) is a long-standing L.D.S. tradition hosted by Deseret Book. Thousands of woman meet for a weekend to listen to best selling authors and musicians while taking time out from our crazy lives. Sounds like a weekend at the spa, right?! Wrong!

It is a weekend for us girls to meet at some poor unsuspecting friends house, talk non-stop, eat all their goodies, and laugh until the sun rises. We spend hundreds of dollars our favorite books, art, clothes, and music (Oh, that old book?) and eat mounds of ice-cream and drink diet coke. That’s right. Mormons drink coke.

Friday night we started by driving hours, waiting for parking, running for good seats and ended by talking over ice-cream until well past 1 AM. At that point, we decided to be grown-ups. So, we talked for another half hour and promptly went to bed. Joe, being amazing, sat up and waited for us to get home, made sure the house was clean and took care of the family left behind.

Early Saturday, before the sun even rose, we got up to get ready to do it all again. While we chatted non-stop over cold cereal I watched Jami lay a towel over the burners on her stove. Without missing a beat in the conversation she plugged in an iron. She got me more cereal and while chatting away ironed the front of the shirt she was wearing. No lie! Without taking it off! It was amazing! If circuses didn’t involve creepy clowns, she could have joined as a contortionist.

Where does the love come in? Somewhere between telling me about babysitting and her son’s new school she called Joe. Magically, he was there. The chatter continued. She handed Joe the iron and with three words, “Iron the back.” Without missing a beat he started ironing the back of the shirt she was wearing. True love, right there in the kitchen.

What is true love? I don’t know what the rest of the world thinks it is, but I learned a lot about it at TOFW. In this case, true love was as much unspoken as spoken. True love was a connection between people who dance through life gracefully as a team. It is a dance this author only knows how to observe, and one I wish for everyone on earth.

I want to share with you some of the great things I learned at TOFW about true love and more. Later this week, I will share my favorite quotes. But for now, here is a personal lesson I learned about love.

 

Here is a group shot we had taken in 2014 at TOFW Portland. Little did I know, it would be one of the last few TOFW’s we would be able to spend with our beloved Aunt Joann. This year, while we took new photos, I relished every second, no complaints. Life is short. Time with friends, family, and loved ones has become more precious to me with every passing year, and loss.

True love, to this author, is making time, spending time and giving time to the ones we love. Connections are created in long lines, great music, late night laughter, and in the simple moments like ironing a shirt.

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Joy! It’s right in front of you! A little to the left…..

A Christmas Story

Once upon a time, there was a little princess who lived in my castle with her 5 brothers and sisters. She loved to read. She had a favorite, “Harry Potter,” by J.K. Rowling. She was given the first book, the first year it was released and she was a major fan and Christmas was coming.

The King and Queen met in the counting-house and counted all their gold. Each prince and princess would receive special gifts from their royal parents in the amount of $100 dollars! It was a fortune.

The King and Queen called all their little royals to the throne room and asked them what they wanted for Christmas. The little princess was the first to announce her request for all things Harry Potter. She wanted the broom, the hat and most of all the wand.

The King and Queen wanted very much to make the little princess happy, but their kingdom was in the country of Oregon, in the City of Seaside, far, far away from any Malls or shopping. This was a dark time, before Amazon, and they did not know how they would ever fulfill the princess’s request.

The Queen immediately announced the need for a quest. She had the King gas up the royal junker and with peanut butter and jam sandwiches they made the long trek over the mountain, through the snow, hours of driving with only an AM radio, to the magical mall in the city of Portlandia. But, alas and alack, no sign of anything Harry Potter.

They charged from mall to mall while calling with their magical 3-pound cell phone, Finally, as the sun set and rain fell, they located all things Harry Potter in the mall of Washington, at the All Things Expensive, Rare and Must Have store. The shelves were almost bare, but the King wasn’t afraid.

He joisted past the paisley hippie and lept over the Tickle Me Elmo line. Glory was in his grasp. He had 4 action figures and a magic wand all for a little more than gold he had saved.

As he and the queen went to pay the merchant they found one last thing, a 7-dollar pair of Harry Potter Pajamas. It was a sign! They bought the pajamas, even though they were far too small for the little princess and would have to be given to the royal toddler.

The night before Christmas, the royal parents began preparations for Christmas Morning and the royal family social media Christmas photos by having elves deliver new Pajamas to each of the royal princes and princesses.

When all the princesses and princes received their new, clean photo ready pajamas, they were thrilled, except for the little princess. When the little princess saw the little toddler in Harry Potter pajamas, her Harry Potter pajamas she wailed! She felt betrayed, heartbroken, unloved and green with envy! The little toddler, however, felt wet, so she giggled, laughed and ran for the bathroom with joy. The little princess chased her. The little prince chased the little princess. The dogs barked and the Royal parents, royal mouths fell open. How had they made such a tactical error! What would they do!

“What shall we do?” cried the king.

“Oh, what shall we do?” Cried the queen.

They could have given the little princess her Harry Potter toys but then she wouldn’t have any presents to open Christmas morning. They couldn’t find another pair of Harry Potter pajamas in their tiny kingdom. All they could do was try to comfort the little princess.

The king called the little princess to his royal throne. He pulled the little princes onto his lap, hugged her and wiped her tears.

“Don’t worry,” the king whispered to the little princess. “Have faith,” he said. “You know I love you and want you to be happy. Your Christmas is coming.”

That night the little princess went to bed early wearing her “Fozzy the Bear” pajamas. She lay in her bed, tossing and turning because as everyone knows, Christmas Eve is the longest night of the year. The clock kept forgetting to tick, time kept forgetting to pass, and Santa kept setting the clock back to eat just one more cookie and maybe some dough.

Finally, the stars got tired of twinkling and Santa’s sleigh was empty. It was time for Christmas morning. Excited to see the joy on the little princesses face, the king and queen snuck downstairs and tried to program their new ten-pound video camera. One by one the little royals began to stretch and open their eyes. It was Christmas morning!

The Royals ran from their tower. They ran downstairs, around hallways, through ballrooms and finally made it to the throne room and the royal Christmas Tree.

The camera was rolling and the paper was ripping. Squeals of delight and joy came from every child, but the little princess in Fozzy Bear jammies.

The king was dismayed, the queen was faint and swayed. The little princess opened package and after package, Harry Potter action figure after action figure and finally a magic wand. She tossed each gift aside and cried!

Not knowing what to do, the king turned off the camera, got down on one knee and said, “Oh my little princess, what can I do to make you happy?”

There stood the littlest princess, surrounded by everything she had wished for, prayed for, written Santa for and she pointed her finger and cried. “I don’t have any Harry Potter pajamas!”  The king followed her pointer finger to the end. It pointed to the toddler wearing Harry Potter pajamas. There, the princess’s gaze was fixed. The room was full of Christmas and all she could see was the Harry Potter Pajamas she didn’t have.  

Do you have a pair of Harry Potter pajamas in your history? ‘

Many of us have had disappointments, bad experiences and major losses in our lives. Maybe we had a failed marriage and now find ourselves alone. Maybe we did everything right and lived every commandment and still were abused.

Maybe we have prayed, wished and wanted to be healed for years, to find joy. Maybe we are like the little princess. Are we surrounded by Christmas? Are we surrounded by children who love us, have a good friend, have a home, food, blessings so many people in the world lack and still focused on Harry Potter pajamas. If you will just look a little to the left…..

The night before your Christmas can feel like forever, but we have a loving Father in Heaven who wants us to be happy, and as our Heavenly Parent knows what is best for us, what we need and what will bring us joy. Is he showering you with little blessings, while he asks you to be patient, little princess, and have faith? Your Christmas morning is coming.

It isn’t too early to celebrate….is it?

 

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Stand by Survivors in October 2017 Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Safe House discounted in honor of survivors

In honor of

October 2017 Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Cedar Fort and I have partnered to give you

Safe House

on Kindle for .99 Cents!

Go to Amazon HERE.

And because we believe everyone deserves a Safe House, there are 8 copies of Safe House in a Goodreads Giveaway HERE!

AND just to make sure you are aware and have a great autumn read we are giving away a copy of Safe House on New LDS Fiction

during October Thrills and Chills HERE!

AND to keep you in good books for the winter, we are giving away another copy of Safe House at the Rockin Book Reviews Blog Hop HERE!

Haley Miller of Captures photography created the photo above for you to share and let the world know you stand by survivors. Make it yours and pass on the message to the world, we are more than victims, we are survivors who can heal, and help others.

I believe survivors and those who have never experienced abuse need to stand together and choose love, hope, and healing. We can make the world a better place one heart at a time.

Here are some inspirational quotes from a recent LDS conference to get you started. I hope you enjoy them.

 

In Loving Memory of Robert D. Hales

 

 

Please standby survivors.

Share our Domestic Violence Awareness photo or an inspirational quote and let the world know, we are so much more than what happens to us.

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Let’s talk! How understanding domestic violence saves lives

KSL.com Action Proposed After 9 Utahns die from domestic violence related incidents in June

“SALT LAKE CITY — Heather Smith Wolsey had tears in her eyes as she thanked Salt Lake County leaders Tuesday….”You don’t know it yet,” she said, choking back tears, “but you’ve done a great thing….Wolsey told of how she lived in fear of her abusive ex-husband, how she “would scream so loud and he would hit so hard,” and yet she felt alone, wondering why none of her neighbors ever called police for help…  Wolsey celebrated the expected passage of a resolution declaring “freedom from domestic violence a fundamental human right.” KSL.com

After seeing the KSL news story linked here, I asked a friend and Utah resident what they thought. They shared their family member had been a victim and at the time they had no idea.

Understanding domestic violence saves lives! 

You can make a difference. You can learn the signs, ask questions of your loved ones and call for help. 

Signs someone may be a victim:

  • Their movements, spending, clothing, choices are controlled by their partner or they have to ask “permission”
  • They wear long sleeves in hot weather or have injuries that are not consistent with their explanation
  • They seem isolated or have excuses to avoid connections outside the home
  • Their house may be very clean because if it’s not they are in trouble.
  • Signs of extreme jealousy
  • The Abuser shows up unexpectedly at work, school to check up on or help the victim

Here is a great description of what an abusive relationship may look like from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Take Action!

  1. If you hear someone screaming or calling for help, call 911. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way
  2. If you suspect a friend or family member may be a victim, ask. Give them the National Domestic Violence Hotline phone number- 1-800-799-7233), so they can locate services in their area
  3. Become involved in local services and awareness events. Learn  and share your knowledge

Break the silence!

Safe House is a fictional novel, meant to both entertain and enlighten. My hope is to bring awareness through the story. What is your story? What are you waiting for?

Let’s talk! 

 

 

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Independence Day! From survivor to advocate

 

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise…”

Maya Angelou Excerpt from “Still I Rise.”

Many times I have sat with a survivor of abuse while they wrestled with the decision to stay or go. It is a decision they have to make for themselves because no one knows their story better than they do. Ultimately they alone have to live with the consequences of their choices.

Change, leaping into the unknown can be totally overwhelming. But, every once in a while a survivor doesn’t get to choose. Life, police, a call from a neighbor who heard the fight change the course of their lives in one day, like a storm blowing in and washing away anything familiar and comfortable. They find themselves battling for their children, their freedom and the right to choose.

July 4th we celebrate Independence Day, or the day our nation declared independence following the Revolutionary War. 

As a mom and peacemaker, there is a part of me that wishes we never went to war and that peace would follow a lovely bake sale, awareness march and agreement to disagree. However, some of the greatest warriors I know have had to face some of the darkest places on earth to win, maintain and fight for our freedom. Just like some of the most amazing survivors I know have endured the worst kind of abuse, power, and control.

The definition of freedom, “Noun. The power or right to act or speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

Safe House is a fictional novel about two women who crave freedom and yet love their families. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (www.ncadv.org), 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 4 men have been victims of some sort of intimate partner violence. The National Human Trafficking Hotline took 7,572 calls from people reporting they were being trafficked in the United States in 2016. It is estimated 20.9 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor.

What does this mean to you?

This means the battle for freedom is far from over, but the battlefield has changed. It is now our own homes and neighborhoods. And while a part of me wants someone else to fix it, as survivors, or supporters of survivors we can choose to become Advocates.

From survivor to advocate!

Many times I have spent long hours with men and women who came to my attention as victims and then decided to become survivors. Every once in a while I see a survivor come out of their own personal storm and become an advocate, fighting for the rights of other survivors, sharing their stories, and celebrating their freedom. When I see that spark of fight,  that fiery survivor and warrior say, “No more!” I have been known to smile and declare, “Happy Independence Day!”

 

 

 

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Survivor

I may be a little unraveled, like a dress caught in the rip tides of the cold Pacific Ocean, weighed down by sand and coming undone, but I survived. And even if the tide comes in again and tries to drag me back to the cold, dark sea, I will survive. I have learned to swim, I have learned to navigate the currents. If I can just reach God’s hand someday, I will learn to dance on top of the water in celebration of finding the joy beyond the horizon of endurance.

There was a time when I spent my nights watching the moon and moving stars, anxiety rolling me over and over. Then I realized, I could travel with fear or faith, the outcome was always better with faith.

When I looked at my life through the lens of fear, the sun never seemed to rise and the day was a chain of storms, and energy spent trying to control an uncontrollable universe.

When I finally let go and swam, I looked up at the Son, and let the mighty waves carry me to shore. I learned that I arrived at the almost the same destination, filled with joy. In the light of hope and faith, I saw the miracles which had been there all along. I was delighted by the blessings laying scattered on the sandy beach. In the watery reflection of each day, I caught a glimpse of Heaven.

New Testament, Matthew 14

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

More soon.Photos may be copied, shared, printed or used by anyone for the purpose of healing and spreading joy. FaceBook link here. Instagram here. More about Haley Miller and Captures Photography here. More about Shannon Symonds novel “Safe House” here.

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Captured by the sea!

 

Announcing an exciting new collaboration to illuminate healing from abuse and capture hearts!

What happens when creatives have an idea and they collide? Vikki Downs, Cedar Fort Marketing Director sparked an idea. What if we combined art and writing to bring awareness and hope to survivors and their loved ones?

And what if you could contribute?

That was all it took!

I called Haley Miller of Haley Miller’s Captures Photography. Haley, a true creative listened, was inspired,  packed and here in two days! Driven by the power of an idea and the family van!

Haley had been creating beautiful photographic art like the pieces below.

She dreams of bears
And she dreams in bears
 

 

I have long believed in the power of changing one heart at a time.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men in the U.S. have experienced intimate partner violence, rape and/or stalking.

Abuse is a difficult subject.  It is easy to swipe past it on our screens. One-second glance and it is gone. But that same one second of time can be used to touch a soul.

What if every day we all shared one positive thought, we cared for just a minute and we all encouraged the survivors in our world?

That is why I will also be adding a page to my website for Haley Miller’s Photographic art and for you to share your stories. We want to hear about moments that have changed your heart or acts of service you are doing to touch others.

Haley’s art will be traveling with me to bookstores, book clubs, firesides, and events.

Has an act of kindness captured your heart or changed the way you feel about yourself or a survivor you care about? Have you participated in a service project for others?

Please share your experiences and we will share some of ours.

Haley capturing magic by the sea

I hope survivors and the world can walk together towards healing.

Watch for more magic to come!

 

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Find your inner creator and heal your art scars

My father Jeffrey was in the 5th grade in the 1940s. Christmas was coming and his class prepared to sing carols at the school Christmas concert.

The teacher stood at the front of the class and told all the children to close their eyes and put their heads down on their desks. She said she was going to walk up and down the rows. If she touched their head, they shouldn’t sing or they would ruin the concert.

Jeffrey listened to the teacher walk and then felt a tap on his head. Jeffrey stopped singing. In fact, Jeffrey almost never sang again.

At every church meeting, his children asked why he didn’t sing. He would tell the story of being asked not to sing and assure us he was terrible.

Finally, Jeffrey was the bishop in his church and sat in front of the congregation weekly. His grown children didn’t just encourage him to try singing, they badgered him. Bravely, Jeffrey did something unusual, he took a risk and sang.

Admittedly, when I heard his first attempts, I wanted to say, “You’re right. Please stop Dad!” But somewhere in his wobbly tones, there was a buttery voice and potential, so we smiled and he continued to sing, every note and every song just a little better than the one before.

No one who hears him today would think he had ever felt so much shame about his voice, that he had been silent for over 40 years.

Brene Brown, the author of “Daring Courageously,” said 85% of adults she interviewed remembered experiencing an event in school which was so shaming it changed their lives forever. 50% of those people shared the shame wounds were around creativity. Brene called these wounds, “Art Scars,” in her podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert on “Big Strong Magic.”


My father had a deep and painful Art Scar. But unlike most of us, he chose to risk being creative and sing. In taking the risk he has healed.

Do you have art scars? 

We have learned the human heart and brain are beautiful things, able to change and heal. Trauma survivors, wired for anxiety and stress can rewire their own brains by learning healthy “go to” ways to cope involving creativity and movement. But for many victims the thought of sharing their innermost feelings in a tangible way is terrifying and creates a fear of rejection, inflaming old art scars.

Many years ago the person I loved the most told me my writing and painting were foolish wastes of time for a young mother. Overcome with grief, and believing this older man, I put the toys of my youth away. Gradually something inside me began to grow. It was an unmet need, painfully growing until I recognized the importance of self-care and dusted off my paint brushes.

by Shannon Symonds, High School Years

Writing my book was a wonderful, private experience. I enjoyed every minute of it until I decided to take it to the next level and risk ridicule again by publishing.

I remember filling out the online book submission form and staring at the send button.  You could have sliced my fear of rejection with a knife. The triumph was hitting the send button. Success or failure, taking the risk was a moment of healing and personal growth.

Is there a dream, a wish, a creation waiting inside your heart?

Some survivors share their art scars or fear when I talk to them about letting go of addictions and filling their lives with healthy coping skills like writing or artwork. Do you doodle all day, but dream of creating a masterpiece?

Shannon Symonds First Watercolor

 

Brene Brown went on to say she used to believe there were creative and non-creative people. But after her research, she understood there was no such thing as creative people. She said, “There are just people who use their creativity and people who don’t…unused creativity is not benign.”

Find your inner creator!

It never occurred to my father, even after years of repeating his story, that maybe the tap on his head was just a mean boy sitting next to him playing a prank. If you have ancient art scars, speak as kindly to yourself as you speak to others. Take another look at your story and give it a happy ending.

Displaying your creation is not necessary for healing. The process is powerful enough.

It is my belief we are all children of the greatest creator of all time, our Heavenly Father. Everything we do is worthy of a magnet and space on our own personal refrigerator.

Creating can be a spiritual experience in a lifetime of consuming. Creation is our chance to organize our thoughts and share our feelings in a tangible way.

This week, if you have a buried desire to create, take a risk. Don’t compare your first steps to world class musicians or feel pressured to share your beginning work with anyone who isn’t safe. Safe, as in has your back, will laugh with you if you hit a sour note and cheer you on for your courage.

 

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How to avoid being eaten by a bear

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good life really is.”  Marianne Williamson

Today I leaned into the joy!

It all started when I found five dollars during my morning run. I thought to myself, it’s a sign! Today is going to be great! Then my morning coconut milk, mate tea was free. My punch card was full and I thought, see! Today is going to be great!  I leaned into the joy instead of thinking all my fun tickets were spent and any moment something would go wrong, maybe even a random bear attack.

As a trauma survivor, I remember living for years with the fear that someone or something else was going to jump out and hurt me. Then one day I decided to take my life back. I remember the exact moment.

Choosing to change my thoughts

It was a summer day, I was 28, a mother of five children, in the middle of a two and a half year divorce. I was on the phone for hours with the gas company, insurance company and well you name it, struggling with everyone and everything while my children played joyfully in the yard.

Suddenly it hit me. The sun was streaming through the windows, the kids were waiting and I was letting the person, the trauma, the things that had hurt me poison this moment. The banks had closed. The courts had closed. Anyone who had traumatized me was far away and yet I was allowing them to consume my thoughts like a hungry bear.

That’s it! I thought and I took back my life. I decided I was not going to give them one more minute of this beautiful day. I opened the door, stepped into the sun, put the kids on their bikes and went for a run.

Okay, it wasn’t quite that simple, but that day began my personal struggle and journey towards taking back my life.

A few things I have learned along the way

Trauma and adverse childhood events change our brains. If you have a pulse, there is a better than good chance you’ve experienced trauma, and it’s rewired your brain. You may even spend some of your time on high alert waiting for something else to go wrong.

The Adverse Childhood Experience study reports that one in six adults have experienced 4 or more childhood traumas and two-thirds of adults have experienced at least one.

What happens to your brain if the bear lives at your house?

Nadine Burke Harris, explained in her Ted Talk, “… imagine you’re walking in the forest and you see a bear. Immediately, your hypothalamus sends a signal to your pituitary, which sends a signal to your adrenal gland that says, “Release stress hormones! Adrenaline! Cortisol!” And so your heart starts to pound, Your pupils dilate, your airways open up, and you are ready to either fight that bear or run from the bear. And that is wonderful if you’re in a forest and there’s a bear.

But the problem is what happens when the bear comes home every night, and this system is activated over and over and over again, and it goes from being adaptive, or life-saving, to maladaptive, or health-damaging. … High doses of adversity not only affect brain structure and function, they affect the developing immune system, developing hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed.”

The good news

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 
― Brené Brown

We now know we all have something called neuroplasticity. To put it simply, we can change our brains.

Dr. Amen in his book, “Change your brain Change your life,” said, “Most negative thinking is automatic and goes unnoticed. You’re not really choosing how to respond to your situation, it’s being chosen for you by bad brain habits.”

Today is a good day to make new thinking habits and to stop waiting for the bear in the woods to jump out and eat you!

Here are some ways to change your brain and your thinking habits:

  • Practice spending time in the moment focusing on things that bring you joy
  • Set aside time to do things to fill your emotional bank like gardening, writing, walking or listening to music
  • Recognize what you can’t control, and focus on what you can control
  • Look for beauty in your home, the world and the people you choose to spend time with
  • Choose friends who think positively
  • Invest in hobbies
  • Learn to meditate, practice yoga or find a prayer that quiets your mind when you feel anxious
  • Treat yourself with the same compassion and kindness you do others

It is my hope that you allow yourself to be happy because joy is one of the few things we are entitled to. We are entitled to find joy, feel joy and create joy whenever possible.

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