As I’ve written previously, I started on a creative journey pretty soon after the pandemic hit and we all went into lockdown. (I also turned to gardening, so I’ll probably write about that on here as well. Our tomatoes went crazy and I’ve also turned to canning in order to keep up with my crazy tomato plants!)
Like crocheting, I have found painting to be a very meditative process. It allows me to focus on something other than the many thoughts swirling in my head. A high school friend had painted some whimsical insects and I commented on them. She told me about Tamara Laporte at Willowing Arts who had just launched a taster session called Kaleidoscope, which offered about two weeks worth of free art lessons. Obviously, the hook is to get you interested in the free lessons in order to hopefully get you to sign up for the full course, which I subsequently did. From Kaleidoscope, I heard about Lifebook and it is there that I heard about Effy at Effy Wild. She offers weekly journal prompts and so all of the above is to say that today’s post is answering her journal prompt.
Explore hope in your art journal. What are you hoping fo right now? How can you represent that? What does hope feel like in your body? How can you express that?
(So obviously, I’m not doing this in an art journal (I plan to buy one or a few for next year), but thought this would be a good topic to explore.)
I’m going to take this to a micro then macro level. Hope feels me with wistfulness. It means to me that I long for something to be true even if it may not materialize. The sensations I feel in my body can be described as an anxiousness that is not necessarily the bad kind of anxious. I also feel optimism that what I hope will be true because most of the time, my hopes are the things that are generally within my control. Right now, what I hope for is that I will get to see my grandkids over the holidays. This should happen as we try to take the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe. Even though my husband and I travel, when we return from traveling, we automatically self-quarantine for the requisite fourteen days. We also wear masks, observe social distancing to the extent possible, use hand sanitizer religiously and don’t hang around in large crowds.
I also hope that my parents continue to remain healthy and don’t come down with COVID. Their age and their health puts them at heightened risk if they were to get it. My mom had to be tested this past week as she had some of the symptoms (which are also typical of a cold), so we are waiting for the results of that. I just want all of those that I love from my parents, kids to grandkids, to friends to all remain healthy through this crisis. I don’t want to lose anyone and so this hope is one that creates anxiety because I cannot control what happens to my loved ones.
On a more macro level, I’m hopeful that we will have a vaccine sometime next year. That with the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris that our country will start repairing itself from the damage created by the current president and his GOP enablers (he who shall not be named on this blog). I’m hopeful that we will return to a more loving country and return to the ideals that have been set forth in our constitution. (Unfortunately, we have never, even gotten close to achieving these ideals.)
What is your relationship with hope? Do you embrace it, even when what you hope for seems impossible? Or do you reject it for fear of being disappointed? If you let yourself fully hope for something, what would that feel like?
I’ve been one who most people view as optimistic and one with a can-do attitude. I’ve always tried to approach life from the viewpoint that I could achieve anything that I set my mind to. Hope is what drove me to go back to school with three young children, it is what drove me to pursue each pathway in my career, it is what drove me to try to save my marriage, it is what helped me through the dating process and finally, to say yes to marriage to my new husband (even though I was really, really scared about being hurt again). The biggest disappointment was the end of my marriage and yet for six months, I had hope that it would work out in the end. The fact that it didn’t was a huge learning process for me because it taught me that as much as YOU may want something, sometimes it doesn’t happen and while you may have scars and emotional bruising, in the end how you choose to deal with that disappointment will define how you deal with any major disappointment in life.
So what are you hopeful for?
It’s been two years since my life changed in a way that I never anticipated. I still struggle with being alone. I still struggle with this new reality. So much has changed over these past two years. I think it’s hard when you are forced to make a decision that you never wanted nor anticipated. And again, I struggle because I think I should be further along and that I shouldn’t miss my old life (and him) so much.
So I’m kind of feeling stuck at the moment. Which means I probably need to do something to kick-start me in a new direction.
I need to plan something to do for next July. Create new memories for July.
The ground shifted
Under her feet
What she knew
Scared to cross
Of the old
into the new
Uncertainty filling the chasm
she steps across
knowing the cost
It is the loss©christal july 2019
of almost all
that she holds dear
in order to save herself
My brother called me stupid
All the time when I
was a little girl
I now have a bachelor and a master’s degree
My husband said he couldn’t
stand the sound of my voice
at the end of our marriage
I now have a weekly podcast
I refuse to let the limitations
of others define my own
©christal hall 2019
I’ve thought a lot about forgiveness over this past year and a half. I am not there yet for more than a few people in my life. And I don’t think I will ever be there for my brother. What he has done is not forgivable. As I work through my shit, I realize more and more the connections from my childhood to me as an adult. My brother was a shit brother and he is a shit human being.
I’ve spent a whole lifetime working on getting rid of his voice in my head. The one that constantly ridiculed me as a girl. Who never stood up for me and in fact, made sure that every day I knew how much he despised me.
Think of this. You are a young adolescent girl. Kind of awkward and unsure as your body is changing, getting pimples, budding breasts that bring attention you don’t necessarily want. You enter your brother’s room to tell him something from your mom. His friends are in there with him and he starts with the usual, “hey ugly, get out of my room.” Ugly was a noun my brother used to describe me daily. That with fat and stupid.
Here is the other secret.
My brother started sexually abusing me when I was about 7 years old. This went on for about 7 years. The only time my brother was nice to me was when he wanted sex from me. Then I would hear nice things from him. I was no longer ugly. I was no longer fat. I was no longer stupid.
If you know about trauma bonding, know that it happens when someone is cruel to you and then shows you love. You live for the moments of love.
I knew two things might happen when my parents would leave me to babysit my younger siblings. Either my brother would be nice to me so that he could do sexual things to me OR my brother would torment me. There was never any in-between.
One time when my parents left, my brother got very angry with me. I don’t remember exactly what for because the reasons never justified his behavior. His anger turned to aggression. My brother grabbed be by the hair and dragged me over to the stove-top. The burner was turned on. He forced my face inches from the burner.
I think that night the police were called because the neighbors could hear the yelling and screaming. I was too scared to tell the police what really happened. My parents were furious. I was too scared to tell them what really happened.
Another time my brother choked me to the point of blacking out.
I really never knew what he was going to do to me the moment my parents left the house. As I said to my therapist, my home, the place where you should feel safe, never felt safe when my brother was around.
So no, I can’t forgive him. I want no part of him. There are others that he has victimized. Theirs are not my story to share. However, I know that I wish I would have done more. I wish I would have stood up sooner.
I don’t forgive
in order to bring
I forgive as
an act of defiance in
the face of your
I forgive as I
refuse to let any
part of you hold
christal hall ©April 2019
She is soft-edges
on her heart
Her eyes smile
Betraying the depth of
on her soul
She is strength
Hardened by words
Her smile is warmth
beneath the surface
She is love
Hear heart beating
© by Christal February 2019
Something that I have done a lot of over the year and half since the ex dropped the bomb is listen to podcasts. There are a lot available out there to listen to and cover everything from politics, true crime to self help. Prior to the bomb drop, I was partial to true crime podcasts, like Serial and Undisclosed. Then during the tumultuous months of trying to work things out with the ex, I found myself listening to Rabbit, which was fantasy type story. It kept my attention diverted to something that was both riveting and mysterious.
In the past few months as I work on determining what I want (besides a solid relationship which seems to be as elusive as a unicorn at this point), I’ve turned to the category of self-help. The one podcast that I enjoy the most is by Cathy Heller who is the host of “Don’t Keep Your Day Job,” which is all about finding the thing your passionate about and working on trying to make it your hustle.
The one piece of advice I’ve heard over and over again is that you don’t have to be an expert and that your experience will matter to someone. I’ve taken this to heart and mulled it over. In my current (paid) job that I have, I help people every day. It is what I’ve always been drawn to do. I get great satisfaction knowing that I can help someone through a difficult situation with their work.
I never thought it would be possible to help others as they navigate this journey of being in a loving, committed marriage to feeling like your universe has been completely turned upside down by the one person you trusted the most – having your husband decide that they are done with the marriage.
So here I am – hosting a podcast called Overcomers: Living a Full-Life After. It is scary, exciting and exhilarating to be putting this out in the universe. Talking to women and helping them through their struggles. It’s something I wish I had when I sat by myself alone more nights than I care to count wondering when my husband would come home.
My podcast is currently on Stitcher and Google Play – links to both are on the left. You can also find me on Podbean at Overcomer: Living a Full Life After.
I belong to a few divorce groups, some are women only and others are a combination of men and women. When I first started on this divorce journey, I mostly sought out groups that were about healing and recovery. There are some groups that are great at this, while others are nothing but bitch/slam fests when it comes to the exes. I think all of this is good in the recovery process as long as it moves you forward.
There have been a couple of posts where I’m left shaking my head and really want to tell the poster that they need to get serious psychological help. Or at least acknowledge that they need help in order to move forward. I know what it feels like to be sad, angry, resentful, and all the other emotions that come from divorce – especially when it’s not something you want.
One group I belong to is specifically for women whose spouses cheated on them. One of the women in the group decided that she would post the name and phone number of the other woman (OW). She asked others in the group to text the OW, or more specifically, “go after the bitch.” And, of course, there were plenty of angry women in the group who were willing to oblige. I’ve been there where this woman was and am not proud of the barrage of texts I sent to the OW who was cheating with the ex. It wasn’t one of my better moments. It has never occurred to me though to ask other people to do this as well.
When we act out like this, we lose our dignity. We give power to the other person. I think we also feed into the dichotomy that the exes have told about us and it justifies their bad behavior to the affair partner as well. In this process of healing, I wish I would not have ever sent the texts that I sent. I cannot change the past, but I can do better now. Despite my worst moments over the past few months, I have not contacted the OW again. I don’t want to give her any more of my energy.
In another group I belong to, another woman had an affair while married. She is struggling with that decision and generally wanted to know how other women who had done the same thing managed with the guilt they were feeling. I applaud her for being vulnerable and posting her story. Another woman in the group though actually tried to justify her bad behavior by stating “that if your needs are being met at home, then you have no reason to cheat.”
Um, fuck no.
This was the same bullshit line that the ex used on me to justify his bad behavior. First, there is this little thing called “communication,” which is essential in any healthy relationship. If you don’t feel like your needs are being met by your spouse, then you need to talk about it. The ex told me he had been unhappy for years after he dropped the bomb on me. He also told me of the things he was unhappy about me, which I then spent a good 7 months trying to correct. I can’t help but think that had he had the courage to have this difficult conversation of his dissatisfaction with our marriage or the with me and really given us the opportunity to work on these issues, we might still be together. Even more importantly to me, if we had tried to work on things and it didn’t work, then we could have agreed to end things together and perhaps the pain that’s been created in this aftermath would not have been as great.
Second, happiness does not come from other people. If there is dissatisfaction, then you have to first examine if it’s internal or external dissatisfaction. The infatuation that comes from getting involved with another person while still in a committed relationship, hides the work that needs to be done. Something I have had to learn for myself is that I was not responsible for his happiness. I think that this is something that the ex is learning as well. I have been working really hard to own my shit, to examine how I got here and have never been unwilling to admit the mistakes that I made in my marriage. We are human and mistakes will be made. Having the expectation though that someone else is responsible for meeting your needs, for making you happy, is an excuse to justify for your bad decisions.
You need to own it in order to grow.
Turning inward, shriveled petals
Seeking the nurturing power of loving
Words never spoken
You are beautiful and you are loved.
Small, powerless, wilted and bent
Deprived of sustenance needed to grow
You are beautiful and you are loved.
Feeling the sun, receiving its grace
The wind whispers the secret through
time and space
You are beautiful and you are loved.
Buds unfurling to face the day
Stem stands tall, confidence blooms
She rises up and she knows
She is beautiful and she is loved.
©Christal Hall February 10, 2019
When you start missing him, you need to remind yourself of the torture he inflicted upon you. Someone who claims to love and care about another would not have done what he did. You need to remind yourself that you are worth so much more than the love he chose to give when he felt like giving it as if you earned it for being good, dutiful, obedient.
Suck it the fuck up.
Stop giving away your power. Your tears are gifts that should be bestowed on a man who values the creature that you are, not the one he wishes you to be. When you call him at your weakest moments, you are feeding the beast of his vanity. His voice is your drug. His silence is his weapon. Remember how he has not been there for you when you felt like you cannot do it anymore.
He doesn’t care. Not in the way that you need him to anymore. The man he used to be was an illusion. The veil has been dropped to reveal the man he always has been. Stop serving his ego and start serving your own. Loving, valuing, best friend, these are you and you are these.
Leave his smallness behind to let your greatness bloom. You do not need to shrink anymore. He sought to dull the brilliance of your diamond soul because he was flawed. His hatred of himself manifested in a hatred of you. Weak men cannot handle the strength of women like you.
Love yourself for others to love you. Your happiness, well-being, are all within you. This cannot be found through others. Instead of searching for others to fill you, fill yourself with what you have to offer the world. Your kindness, warmth, power, brilliance – as you radiate out, you will draw others to you. Never let anyone have the depth of power you gave him.
Let go of those who do not feed your soul.
(This was for another assignment for the Write Into Light course I took last year. It was too painful at the time to continue, but I’m now in a place where I can AND the assignments go away soon.)
Divorce sucks. It just does. It sucks whether you want it or not. It is the realization that a promise that you made with the best of intentions is now broken. The future you envisioned is changed. And if you take this journey seriously, you will be changed as well. It will be a painful process, but I firmly believe that if you let yourself feel what you feel, express what you need to express, and work through what needs to be worked through, you will be a better, stronger person. Your life will be one of contentment and with very little regrets for living your life on your terms.
One of the criticisms I often hear is that someone leaving a relationship should not start dating right away. I do think that getting into another relationship right away may be a form of escapism which has the potential of hurting an unwitting partner. I chose to join an online dating website about a month after I asked my ex to leave our home. Getting out there helped me to see that there were others who wanted to be with me, so in a way it was a boost to my confidence. My intent was not to have a relationship with one person, but to figure out what I would want in a future relationship. This could only happen through dating a variety of men.
While dating, I am also working on myself. The damage done during the end of my marriage brought up a lot of trauma that I had managed to bury for many years. This trauma is part of what allowed me to stay for months instead of walking away when the emotional abuse started. If I experience discomfort during dating, I find myself questioning where the discomfort comes from. Every decision I make is mine to be made. Yet there are times afterwards that I find myself questioning how I got into a particular situation.
For instance, I started communicating with one man who I will call Tom. He was a successful businessman who owned his own home, had two older children, and wasn’t looking for anything serious. We started texting each other and things moved to more sexual in nature. I don’t mind sexual talk in texting and think that it is fine between two consenting adults. We decided to meet up. We had a drink, talked and then we had sex. I consented. I wanted the sex as much as he did. Yet, after I left, I found myself crying, angry and sad that I was in this position.
What position is this exactly? I felt ashamed for having sex with a man I had just met. In the moment, I felt no shame. In the moment, I felt sexy and powerful. After the fact though, I felt ashamed. This made no sense to me because I knew going over there that we were having sex, so again, it was a decision I made for myself with full knowledge of what would happen.
I am a survivor of sexual abuse. When you are sexually abused, there is secrecy and shame that comes with it. You are told not to tell and you are made to feel ashamed about sexuality. As a young child, I remember feeling proud of my body. I remember stretching in the morning and just feeling glorious wonderment when I would look at my body. That joy of my body was taken away by my abusers. I let that transfer into my relationship with my ex which impacted our relationship over time. I let that impact my feelings about sex and thus let my abusers have control over my sexuality decades later.
The year since I asked my ex to leave has been a year of growth, self-reflection and self-love. I have learned by dating what I want for my future. I have also learned that I enjoy sex. That I can be sexual on my terms. Dating has helped me, despite claims that people should not do this right after a break-up, for me it was the right thing to do. I own my sexuality and will not let my past define my relationship with it any longer.