moving forward

Earlier this week I alluded to the “rabbit’s hole” I speak of in this post.  In honor of a new era,  I’m reposting this piece, a favorite of mine:

A few weeks ago I found myself sitting alone in a crowd, anxiously searching for a familiar face.

I was expecting a friend–until her text  told me not to. Now I was faced with sitting by myself at a celebratory service that would no doubt be an emotional, spiritual, uplifting experience (it was). I started looking for anyone I might know, a bit nervous but not wanting to seem so.

Thankfully, someone did appear, a more than gregarious man, well-known for being a bit of a character.  I’d only met him once for all of thirty seconds, but I didn’t hesitate to call out his name and invite him to join me. He did, and it made that service a whole heck of a lot of fun.

It wasn’t until days later it hit me:

this was not only the first time I’d had the courage to do something that bold, but I hadn’t thought twice about it. For years I’d sat alone in services and what-have-you, often because I was too frightened to reach out to someone and ask them to join me.

This was another significant change in me I could count as the result of terrible betrayal.

All my life I struggled with being pushed around by co-workers, boyfriends, classmates, even family. I simply could not stand up for myself. Try as I might, I was unable to say what needed to be said, or even imagine what that should be. Instead I would stand there, dumbstruck, humiliated and frustrated.

I desperately wanted the ability to detect when others were pushing me around.

That is, if I were sharp enough to see what was going on. Sometimes I’d be pushed pretty far before I realized it.

When that happened, I was left with shrinking further or getting back at people, although more often than not they brought on their own trouble with their back-handed behavior. I didn’t like dealing with things either way, however, it never felt good.

Instead, I desperately wanted the ability to detect when others were pushing me around and belittling me long before it got out of hand. More than that, I wanted to project an attitude that precluded demeaning treatment. I just couldn’t come by it. I had no idea how it worked.

Eventually I was pushed down a rabbits’ hole into a hell that wouldn’t end,

and it was that experience (a story requiring too much detail to go into here) that finally gave me the insight and ability to stay ahead of those who would defeat me. It took a long time, well after the peak of the horror, to fully develop the skills to face others with confidence and enough of a take-it-or-leave-it attitude that I could claim victory. Have I fully stepped away from the problem? Likely not, but I’ve figured out what steps to take.

I also realize I need to use those circumstances to my advantage, to work toward bringing me to a point where I can say, “well, I wouldn’t want to go through that again, but I’m glad it happened.”

I’m not sure when, if ever, I’ll be there, but I look to the good that’s come of out this, and it has been substantial. I used to resent being told “everything happens for a reason.”  While I believe good can come from bad, that doesn’t justify the bad.

I like what Dumas had to say. It acknowledges the bad, but gives proper credit to an overwhelming and affirming end result:

“Women are never so strong as after their defeat.”
― Alexandre Dumas, Queen Margot, or Marguerite de Valois

blue sky balloons

I hate that it took such drastic circumstances to bring about this change for me, and I sometimes wonder, if those events hadn’t conspired, would I still be where I was then, or would I have found another way to grow to where I am today?

I don’t want those responsible for my plight to believe there’s any justification to their actions. Likely they would have preferred I was left in defeat and despair anyway. Is success the best revenge? I don’t know that I’m seeking revenge, but success is by far the best outcome.


Image Credits: Butterfly field (Field of Daisies) © adimas – Fotolia; (Butterfly) © ecco — Fotolia; Balloons Flying High (Sky Background) © Andrii Salivon – Fotolia; (Balloons) © JRB – Fotolia.

Advertisements

Keep Going

“If you are going through hell, keep going.”
― Winston S. Churchill

 
It hurts. It gets old. It’s a dull pain one day and a sharp pain the next. Getting through the bad times wears you down and shapes you at the same time. You can’t see your way out and you’re convinced it will never end.

I’ve been there, and it’s hard. There are those saying, get it together. And you think you should have more together than you do.

Several years ago I was the victim of a horrible injustice, the target of powerful people convinced of a truth that did not exist. It ruined my life, no doubt about it. I was in a shambles. There seemingly was no way out of my situation, no way around the binding realities.

Whatever my part had been in the events that led to my despair, it was disproportionate to the result. I didn’t know who my friends were, who I could trust and who trusted me. Who cared for me?

Little by little I came to realize that the people most important to me cared. Yes, I’d lost some friends who bought into the half-truths and manipulated stories, and there was nothing I could do about it. Some of those people were important to me, and I mourn the loss of their friendship to this day. But I had to move forward, and rely on those who proved themselves true and kind of character.

My family saved my life. If nothing else, these events brought me closer to all of them, and for that I am grateful.

As time went on, things changed. I got a job, one I’m good at with people who care about me like family. While I still live in a less than desirable apartment complex, I have a new car (well, it’s a year old now) that has given me the opportunity to visit my mom on several occasions, both for pleasure and to care for her when she needs it.

And the future doesn’t look quite as grim. There appear to be options that will end all of this when the time comes.

Are these good times? Actually, I’ll be disappointed if that turns out to be the truth. These are better times, and hopefully good times, joyous times lie ahead. But I don’t know. I’m content with what I have now.

I fear the return of bad times, likely not the same bad times but something else, before experiencing truly good times again. If that’s the case, so be it. I can only take what I’m given and seek what can be found.

For my friends who are suffering, it can last an eternity, I know. Some of what gets you out of the pain is your own spirit, some is good fortune and some is dumb luck. I have no magic formula. But believe in the future.

Keep going.


Photo Credit: © EcoView — Fotolia

where I am, who I am

(c) Belinda Ostrowski

Apparently, by modern definition, I am a cat lady.

I have two, and according to a recent New York Times article, that’s all it takes. Back in the day, it was somewhere in the double digits. Okay, maybe less than that, but having two cats then was called being a pet owner.

Walter Kitty
Walter, the cat who melts in your lap

So now, add “cat lady” to never married and avid knitter. Let’s not forget I lived with my mother for a time. Laughably, I fit a stereotype I can only hope is now as outdated as the former definition of “cat lady.”

If not, so be it. I fit it on paper only. I’m not to be pitied or mocked. Yes, I do get lonely at times. Everybody does. I remind myself then how many people my age are single for one reason or another, or worse yet, in bad marriages. Quite frankly, my situation is better than many, and not worse than most.

It took me years…

…to genuinely realize I’m valued and appreciated by others, and how essential true friendship is to contentment in life, how key it is to have people around me I can relax with and not fret about whether I’ve said or done the wrong thing.

I’ve learned to stay away from people who make me feel bad, whether or not it appears to be their fault. Sometimes I’ve taken the blame for things I’m not responsible for and find myself crashing and burning trying to right a wrong situation when the blame lies elsewhere.

In the past, and to a lingering extent still today, I tended to focus on the negative and be suspicious of sincere offers of friendship. What’s more, I always believed it was impossible for a man of worth to love me. Now, I apologize to any man out there who may have wanted to date me but didn’t because of the wall I put up. I never considered it this way before, but that’s a pretty rude attitude on my part.

I’m a bit offbeat, and happy about it.

There is somewhat of a dichotomy here, a flip side to that deeply held insecurity. On my best days, after a little mirror time, I’m confident in my appearance. I know I’m personable, kind, and empathetic. As one former boyfriend once told me (and although he meant it as a slam, I took it as a high compliment), I’m also a bit offbeat, and happy about it. In other words, I do have a fair amount of confidence in myself when I call on it.

That growth in attitude doesn’t change what I’ve done to get me where I am today. I can walk out the door, spinning on my heels with the belief I’m a brunette heartbreaker with the intellect and wisdom of, well, None Other, and thinking, men, I challenge you to be strong enough to take me on. (I have to clarify – I absolutely do not do that, and if I did, I can guarantee you with my next step I would, characteristically, slip on a banana.)  It wouldn’t instantly bring me what I may desire at that moment.

Here’s the thing:

I like cats, love mine, and I love to knit.  I wouldn’t give them up, the cats or the yarn, just because they might make me look laughable to someone cocky enough to think he or she will never be an object of scorn.

I am where I am because of who I am, along with the choices I’ve made and the choices made for me, twists and turns in life I have no knowledge of because they took place before they could be visible. I’ve made the life I have the way it is in part because that is the life I’ve wanted.

I believe in the power of subtle changes…In the meantime, I’m content.

A few years ago I had a glimpse of what it would be like to have someone in my life to be a support when I needed it most. I’ve handled sad and difficult situations on my own for so long that having someone by my side was new to me. It turned me around in the way I think about relationships, and I started to open up to the whole idea of something permanent.

Of course it doesn’t change the route I’ve taken to get where I am today, the reasons why and the consequences thereof. Being open to something doesn’t mean it will or even should happen, and I’m still not sure what I ultimately want. I have a comfortable lifestyle created from living alone.

Some of my family who have always been there -- and always will be.
Some of my family who have always been there — and always will be.

Yes, there are days when I sink into sad thoughts, but I know enough to realize a little time and maybe a good night’s sleep will bring me back to myself.

I believe in the power of subtle changes. In the meantime, I’m content with what I’ve been given, the friends and family who never fail me.

Just don’t expect me to ever change how I think about my cats. Only two, mind you, only two.

bored? maybe. board? no!

You don’t want to play board games with me.

Not because I’m so good. I’m above average with most, but no superstar. You have a decent chance at beating me.

Board game player isolated.Wherein lies the problem. I don’t like getting beat in board games. Really don’t like it. I pout when I lose, so no one else likes it either. But they’re none too thrilled when I win. I can’t help myself. I gloat.

For some reason, success and failure at Parcheesi & Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble & Monopoly, mean way too much to me. This isn’t a side of myself I’m proud of, so I haven’t played a board game in years.

(Last time I did, by the way, I was partnered with my brother in a game of Trivial Pursuit. We won in one round – the first round. Yes, I’m smiling a little too smugly as I recall this.)

Another place you may not want to be seen with me? Hockey games. I get really low-class in my bloodlust at the rink. I want to see people get hurt going after that puck.

So I don’t go to hockey games anymore either, because in that case, I’m actually a little scared of myself.

Where on earth does this behavior come from? I can’t point to anything, especially the hockey. No offense intended to the sport, but any other time I have virtually no interest in it. I don’t know the rules, the strategies, nothing. Get me live at a game, though, and I’m not me.

parcheesi

Okay, the gloat/pout thing could be a bit of perfectionism, and it’s a competitive side of me that doesn’t have much of a chance to show itself elsewhere, since I am definitively non-athletic. Fit, yes, but I can’t throw, hit or catch a ball. I’m not fast. You get it.

Ah, it’s becoming clearer. I’ve been on the bottom when it comes to sports my entire life. With board games, I have a shot (so to speak). Take that, mean girls!

I know, I know, I hear it. My conclusion here should be, “well, best thing is to give up this desire to beat everyone else. Just enjoy the games and the company with it.”

Rather, I find myself thinking, I need to discover something I can almost always win at.

Almost? Always.

I have a little work to do.


Photo Credits: (top) © isuaneye; (bottom) © carballo, (both) DollarPhotoClub.com