In the midst of the final weeks of my first semester for my Masters of Social Work I have plenty of reasons why I don’t have time to write. There are papers to write, reading to complete and process recordings to be done, but I secretly long and crave to write FOR ME. Among the busyness and stress of life I find the inability to remember my feelings and thought processes. Writing helps me do it. Writing for myself is a treat. I sometimes wish it was more of a staple in my diet.
In the past 8 months or so my life has been through significant changes. Good changes, but foggy nights like tonight remind me how far I have really come and how powerful a memory can really be. Leaving my internship tonight the fog triggered thoughts and feelings of almost 6 years ago when I was raped. As time goes on and changes for the good occur it is easy for me to push against these thoughts. I realize that my brain doesn’t want to let me do it and nor do I think in the long term I should. I certainly don’t want to dwell on what happened, but if emotions come to the surface I need to accept them for what they are. It’s a bit of what mindfulness teaches us; not to try to stop negative feelings, but rather become aware of them.`I believe that these things come out for a reason; as an opportunity to process and feel what I may not have been able to feel previously.
Accepting the thoughts and feelings associated with my rape seems to push against rational thought. There is much joy and childlike anticipation in my life right now and my past self would say that I’m finally “going somewhere”, but my past self would try to ignore the past. I’ve seen myself do it before when life is good to try to “leave behind” my past, because who wants that crap among the beauty. The still small voice inside of me say “I do”. I’m not a separate entity from my past, but living art. My life isn’t broken up into different paintings. The rape isn’t an “ugly” painting that I get to throw out, but rather different strokes in one painting to create something magnificent. If you think about it aren’t the greatest artists the ones who can take a mistake or a flaw and use it in their art. If we kept throwing out the ugly, hurtful and dark parts of our lives we would never get anywhere. If we instead accept them as part of who we’ve become how much more grace and beauty will be evident in our lives?
Beauty isn’t having it all together, but rather accepting all our brokenness in order to create beauty in the world around us.
Guess What? …….I love you! These were the words that would hear from Grandpa almost every time I saw him. As a kid instead of answering with “What” I would already know and say “I know I know you love me!”. There was never a moment as grandchildren that we didn’t know we were loved. If it wasn’t through words it was through actions. Christine, Adam and I have many fond memories of outings with Grandpa. From trips to the movies, playing on the swings, the hammock at the house, and wonderful memories made in Williamsburg Virginia. Speaking of swings I remember I was about 3 years old and I knew Grandpa would come push me if I had asked. So I wandered over to a neighbor’s yard (where there swing set look so wonderful) and proceeded to sit on a swing and shout “Grandpa come push me”. In no time Grandpa came not to push me , but to escort me out of the neighbor’s yard! I had yet to understand that I couldn’t swing wherever I wanted!
Grandpa’s booming voice in the typical “Tomlinson fashion” was a source of Joy and smiles. You could always hear the joy that radiated from within in his voice! It was through him I began to understand the real meaning of my middle name “Joy” . It didn’t mean everything was perfect, but instead it rested in the hope that is in Jesus Christ, and for that we have Joy. Grandpa always demonstrated that truth!!
I’m blessed and proud to say that I was able to share the title of U.S Marine with Grandpa. Right before I went off to boot camp he gave me his Eagle Globe and Anchor Emblem from his time in service. I will always hold this dear. He shared with me his book of his time in service in the 3rd Marine Division. I was honored for him to have such pride and joy in my service. I can hear him singing the Marine Corps Hymn to me as I remember him. He made sure he knew what PFC stood for which was “Praying for Corporal”. I prayed and prayed and I reached Corporal! And shared the rank of Corporal with him as well!
I’m grateful for each moment that I had here with him and I rest assured that he with my Savior! As the Marine Corps Hymn says I’m sure he is walking Heaven’s Scene as a United States Marine, because once a Marine Always a Marine!
I’m nearing the end of my first two courses in my Masters of Social Work, and things have been crazy. I expected this, but my schedule did not build in the buffer of “life happens”. I’m in thick of work, school and interning at the Children’s Hospital and it can be incredibly draining. Interning at the Children’s Hospital has definitely been an amazing experience, but definitely difficult at times. Since the beginning of September there has already been 2 patients that have passed and one who is not expected to make it till next year. I appear to be holding up well emotionally, but giving of myself all day definitely has shown me the need to decompress. Thankfully I have an hour car ride home that allows me that time, but it is up to me to make use of it.
This past week I quickly saw how small blips or problems could quickly throw off my steady pace. All it took was a glitchy phone and a misplaced driver’s license and I was in tears at lunch time in my car. I felt like the two added tasks would take away all the needed time (when reality it wouldn’t). All I could think of was the papers I had to write and preparing to teach a class at my job. I was extremely thankful for Dave’s steadiness, because although there was not much that could be fixed, at the current moment I needed some rationality and stability.
This brings me to my title of strength based practice. In my studies in social work we are told to utilize strength based practice which focuses on what strengths the client has and forming positive goals (i.e. spend an hour a day with family as opposed to decreasing time on computer). The idea behind this is to develop confidence and esteem in areas that exist in order for a client to feel able to make changes in other areas. The application of this is necessary in my own life and I was extremely blessed to have Dave point out some of the positive side, when I was being irrational. It reminds me of what kind of positive goals can reinstate or add to my life (that are not too lofty!!!)
Although I wanted to do weekly yoga in class I realized that isn’t always feasible with my schedule; based on this realization here are my new goals:
1. Exercising 3-5x a week with one session being a yoga video. ( I would love this to be everyday but due to my schedule this makes me prone to failure and being self-defeating)
2. Set aside a day for school work and house chores (Tuesday) Unless I completed a majority of work on another day I need to use this as a dedicated day of work (this might help my sanity).
3. Adding mindfulness meditation to the start of my day (I’ve been telling myself this for months! Funny how one can neglect to do something so beneficial)
4. Utilize other people to help me see the positive in the situations and asking for help when I need it!
5. Blogging Bi-weekly (this might be lofty for me, but I enjoy and I definitely missed doing it!)
In the flash of an eye or the sound of the word memories can come flooding in. No matter how distant a trauma is or how far away it is in your conscious thought; it only takes a tiny thing for the mind to remember. I have had several of these moments lately. One was where I was sitting in my car and I saw someone who looked almost exactly like my 3rd rapist. Part of me was convinced and then I looked closer to realize it wasn’t. In that instance my mind was racing. It wasn’t the first time my mind had gone to those moments. In church the series has been about hope and made me remember some of my darkest moments. I started thinking of myself in the car right after it happened in complete despair believing this is all my life would ever be and wanting it all to end.
The mind is an extremely powerful thing, and learning to become mindful and connected is imperative. In these particular situations there were definitely more relative things that triggered me, but other times not so much. I would say one of my biggest struggles would be connecting emotions and feelings to the actual incident. It is one thing to tell the story and process it verbally, but it’s a whole different ballgame to have those emotions connected while it is being told. I do believe that accomplishing this is extremely important, because without the integrity between the incident and the emotion; emotions will come out sideways. Emotions will come out regardless it just a matter of where and when it does. It definitely is a goal of mine to better connect the two.
On another note I have made positive progress in regards to yoga which was one of the goals that I had mentioned in a previous blog post. I have been going to yoga once a week and it has definitely been good for me mentally and physically. Not to mention it is also been a way for me to bond with my boyfriend; since I dragged him along :-). One of the key things it teaches is how much strength mentally and physically can be built by being still. So often life tells us that in order for us to become stronger and grow we have to move constantly (whether it be physical exercise or mental activity), but it is that constant busyness that can start to actually make us weaker. Failure to give the mind and body a break can end up having negative effects in all aspects of a person’s life.
Yoga reminds me of the lesson that God tries to teach us “Be still and know that I am God”. Today I will take steps to be still and rest in God’s overwhelming grace.
This coming August I will be starting my Master’s in Social Work and along with working will be interning 16 hours a week. I know now more than ever that I need to develop and fine tune positive habits in my life. I haven’t written in a while which has saddened me, because I know that writing is cathartic for me and it also holds me accountable. I know for sure that as busy that I might be I still need to make time to write. One of the biggest factors in developing good habits is that my internship will be at Valley Children’s Hospital. I was forewarned that it is tough and emotionally draining. I could end up assisting in grief counseling (for parents who just lost a child), families that have domestic violence, seeing extreme child abuse, and the reality of being around sick children when they pass away. I know that this experience will be amazing and will be extremely relevant to my future career path, but I know that self-care is imperative. In order to better track and hold myself accountable these are the following habits that I will plan to develop:
1. Mindful Breathing 3 minutes at least 2 times a day. This will probably be easiest to implement right when I wake up and during my lunch break. The hope of this behavior is to help maintain clarity throughout the day and to be able to stay emotionally leveled.
2. Yoga once a week. With my new gym membership that actually has yoga classes this should be easier to achieve. My options are either Monday evening or Saturday morning. Yoga will not only allow me to reap emotional benefits, but it will help my body repair from the other workouts I complete during the week.
3. Establishing and Keeping a bed time. Sleep is so imnportant to a healthy mind and body. The rest of these goals will quickly fall through if I’m not getting enough sleep. In order for me to get a decent amount of sleep I need to be in bed no later then 11pm on a weekday.
4. Drink at a minimum of 10 glasses of water a day. If my days are busy it can definitely become more challenging stay hydrated. I need to make sure I carry enough water with me to make sure that I can continiously hydrate.
5. Bring lunch and snack into work- As of lately I have failed in meal prep and I end up throwing food together and it isn’t sufficient or I go out to eat more than I should. Both of these things are not great keeping body in relative homeostasis.
6. Lastly MOVEMENT- This generally is exercise but it doesn’t have to be so formal. The key factor is finding a time to MOVE throughout the day. Whether it be running, the gym, playing basketball, walking, yoga etc.. the important part is that I’m moving
The above are the goals I would like to begin to work on and now is the time to take this one small sustainable step at a time.
Earlier in the year I posted about practicing mindfulness and yoga more, but I wasn’t as successful I would like to have been. The reality I have to think of is that life habits are not made in sudden changes, but rather in small sustainable steps. Although I definitely fell off the radar at times with my mindfulness practice and yoga there were still times that I made a point to do it. Even if that was 5 or 6 minutes. My initial commitments may have been too big initially. So I’m revisiting of trying to practice once a week, but I’m not setting a specific time of how long it has to be. I would like it to be an hour, but for now I would like to create a habit that I can maintain.
Part of the struggle that I have had with practicing yoga is although I know all the tremendous health benefits (mind and body) I still have this deep rooted idead that is still necessary to run or do some other form exercise. This is definitely connected to the obsessive nature inside of me. Thankfully I have had people in my life who have kept me accountable by telling me to do yoga and not run or do anything else. One of the benefits of yoga is learning to accept yourself and things just as you are. My hopes that I can begin to implement yoga in more baby steps that the obsessive chatter will begin to die down. When I rest in Savasana at the end of yoga class it is great time to remind me to “Be Still and Know that I AM God.” With each breath I try to quiet my mind and breathe in not only air, but God’s hope, peace and light. With each exhale I try to let go and release whatever burdens I’m carrying whether they be physical or emotional. Some days it is a lot harder to quiet my mind and I don’t always leave feeling calm, but the reality is that without discipline and practice that chatter will be screaming in my ears.
Through the quiet and learning to silence the chatter I will begin to find the godly contentment not just myself, but in the world around me. It reminds me not to charge against situations I don’t like but learning to “Just Roll with It”. So I’m taking things one step at a time, and moving forward to a goal of rest and not fighting against the world