Monday, October 31, 2011

Courage and Heart

The Latin word for heart is cor. The same root word as courage.

When we ENcourage another human being, we give them the heart to do what they need to do.

When we DIScourage another, we take away their courage and freedom from fear.

Do you want to ENcourage or DIScourage those you meet today and tomorrow?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When Marriage Fails inspired by Lost Edens

This post was inspired by Lost Edens a FromLefttoWrite book club selection. Lost Edens is the memoir of Jamie Patterson. This is not a book review but rather a post inspired by reading Jamie’s book.

“Why do people get married?”


“No, because we need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet, what does one life really mean? But in a marriage you’re promising to care about everything, the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all the time. Every day, you are saying your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.”
Masayuki Suo (from the movie Shall We Dance)

With time, therapy and additional self-understanding I have forgiven myself for mistakes. I now embrace my bad marriages as part of the journey to find myself, know myself and esteem myself. Understanding as relates to men in general did not come easily for me. I didn’t have what psychologists call a “daddy hole,” the emotional lack of relationship with your father, I had a Daddy Crater and I learned to fill that crater in unhealthy ways.

Daniel Allen Moore (a pseudonym)
"I think we all wish we could erase some dark times in our lives.
But all of life's experiences, bad and good make you who you are.
Erasing any of life's experiences would be a great mistake."
Luis Miquel

My precious Mark and Denny, ages ten and thirteen, walked me down the aisle of a packed Central Baptist Church to start the wedding of my dreams and the marriage of my nightmares. Moisture filled eyes followed us to the altar. Everyone celebrated that I had found a young, good-looking professional man because they had also watched and prayed as I lost Bart to cancer. My irrational thought that two and one half years totaled enough time to get over my grief just points out how grief cripples your judgment.
            I accept full responsibility for this huge marital mistake. However, I do wish to note for the record, that no family members and only one friend voiced misgivings about this match. Even my therapist later apologized that he had not noted the signs of --what? Mental disorder? Dysfunctionality? Woundedness? All of the above? And that’s just the part that related to Dan! My part in this colossal mistake? I underestimated the psychological healing I had yet to do. Clueless concerning damage from some childhood wounds, I didn’t yet know the therapeutic work left for me to do. 
Shortly before the wedding, my groom-to-be commented, “Your friends seem to think of you as being very sexy. I’m not comfortable with that.”
“No kidding.” I replied. “Did you think you were the only one on the planet who had noticed?”
The warning gong should have clanged at that time with concern over his unhealthy attitude about sex, relationships and more. At the time, it just ticked me off. This constituted the beginning of my daily urge to say to him, “Do you have applesauce for brains?”
On the honeymoon when he brought up issues he had not mentioned in a year and half of dating--all issues related to his need to control me, such as what I wore, where I could go and who I could be friends with, my stomach knotted in fear. My expression in all the honeymoon pictures looks like I’m gritting my teeth. I was. He assured me he just found it “necessary to rake back the glitter” when confronted with someone who shimmered like Brenda. I replied, “You’re doing the job with a god damn backhoe, not a rake.”
One of numerous difficult issues in eighteen months of marriage surrounded the issue of humor. Dan had no access to humor and my boys and I survived on ours. Intestinal gas is a sacrament to adolescent boys. Dan denied he ever experienced such a human failing. Mark would lay in wait outside the bathroom door and scream at the top of his lungs if a sound close to gas emitted from behind that door. How can you refrain from laughing at that? One therapist pointed out to Dan that the boys and I also laughed at ourselves which he seemed incapable of doing.
Mark impersonated Dan in Saturday Night Live style. Dan, handsome and very well built, bore the unfortunate characteristic of a high waist. In a culture already pushing pants to the lowest possible place on the hips, Dan’s high waist supplied a perfect set-up for caricature. Mark would pull his pants up to his armpits and imitate Dan’s overly-serious mode of speech. I tried on most occasions play the adult and refuse to laugh at these impersonations. I threatened dire consequences if they didn’t cease and desist. Laughter often won.
I offer no excuse for my part in this gigantic mistake. Devastated by Bart’s death and desperate for emotional security, I thought I found a good man. A college professor who attended church, had two sons of his own, Dan shared many of my values and desired the kind of home life I wanted for my boys. His issues with sexuality and obsessive, irrational thinking escalated from the honeymoon until the day our divorce finalized. I learned an important lesson about myself from this marriage: I had very low tolerance for someone who needed to control me in order to feel safe himself. Circumstances necessitated that I become my own authority at an early age, he didn’t stand of chance of controlling me in my forties. I also learned that I didn’t possess enough relationship skills to bridge the psychological divide between Dan’s dysfunction and my own.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Celebration of the Life of Marilyn Moosnick

I first met Marilyn when she recruited me to raise money for the renovation of our Opera House in Lexington. I think it was full of pigeon poop at that time. What a delight to be part of that effort. The Opera House anchors the corner of Broadway and Short and gives hundreds of organizations a place to perform.

Next Marilyn took me on a tour of the empty YMCA building to talk about renovating it for the Lexington Council of the Arts now LexArts. That led to years of involvement with that organization and my service on that board for over six years. Another anchor for the arts in Lexington.

I had just married Robert “Bart” Bartella when I met Marilyn. Bart was 32 years older than I. Marilyn chuckled when she told me about when she and Franklin first married. While the age difference was only twelve years, the greater gossip fodder was that Marilyn was Christian and Franklin was Jewish. She assured me the interest in mine and Bart’s marriage would get old with time and become very boring to gossipers.

One night many decades after meeting Marilyn, we were chatting at the airport as we each waited for a family member. When Franklin came down that escalator, the rest of the world faded away. As I watched them embrace and gaze into each other’s eyes, I saw the kind of love that can bridge whatever differences individuals may bring to the relationship. This kind of love encouraged Marilyn to convert to Judaism and lend her considerable talents to all manner of Jewish organization including being national President of Hadassah.

When Southern Baptists were first becoming radicalized, I was still Baptist (although even then a member of a very progressive Baptist church). Some of the evangelist actions of the Baptists during this time were extremely offensive to Jews. Marilyn pulled me aside at a wedding we both attended and said, “Brenda, what can we do about this? How can we build a bridge that will be beneficial for all?”

Building bridges, sparking change, inspiring others, encouraging involvement---that’s just who Marilyn was.

Rest in eternal peace, dear friend. Your work here was well done.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ashley Judd's memoir, All That is Bitter And Sweet

Ashley Judd’s new memoir, All That is Bitter and Sweet, defines recovery and bravery. Recovery from traumatic childhoods takes bravery for each of us walking that journey, but when you must do it in the spotlight of fame, the bravery must be kick up a notch or two.

Judd’s memoir doesn’t rest on her laurels of fame. And it’s not easy reading or a gossip mag for Hollywood voyeurs. Much of the book recounts her international work with poverty, women’s issues and sexual slavery. But her work is layered with the story of her neglect and abuse at the hands of her very flawed parents. Her story reveals how the need to do this work grows out of her own experiences of childhood.

As I have struggled these last three years to write my own memoir, I have come to the conclusion that you can survive and even thrive after a scarring childhood but the tenderness of that scar will always be with you. Ashley and I and millions of others will always be questioning life. Is that normal? Should I feel this way? Is it okay to be like me? What will others think? Do I have to care what others think? Am I free now to be and do what I want to be and do?

I also resonate with Ashley’s experience of how family responds when one of the family chooses to get off the dysfunctional, crazy-making merry-to-round and walk on the solid ground of mental health. Note to others who decide to “get well”: your family will not be sending you congratulatory notes or thank you notes. And Katie-bar-the-door if you are so bold as to tell your story.

This is Ashley’s account of when she dared to tell her Truth when her family came to her in-patient treatment Family Day:

“Giving voice to my reality, such a powerful theme in feminism was the empowering part. The scary part was that I had to accept, and yet take the risk anyway, that some people who were listening might never be safe or healthy and therefore might never be able to regard my story for what it was: my story, something to which we each inherently had a God given right. I knew that particular parts of the pain I was in growing up, and the thoughts and behavior born of that pain, would be ridiculed, rejected, pathologized, and held against me, maybe until the day I died. Unfortunately, I was right. Certain things I said were isolated and thrown back at me in the years since that day. But I do not regret standing up and saying, “This is what it was life for me.” 

Tell your Story, your Truth to someone today. It will start you on a journey of healing you will never regret.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

You are Perfect---Just the Way you Are

I filled the pulpit for a friend today. While doing sermon prep, I ran across a story/parable that fits nicely with the study I have been doing on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene’ Brown.

Why does it take us so long to realize we are perfect, just the way we are?

The Cracked Pot

A water bearer had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of these pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of a long walk from the stream to the master’s house; the cracked pot arrived only half-full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer only delivering one and a half pots full of water to the house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of his accomplishments---perfect to the end for which it was made. The poor cracked pot was ashamed of his own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the water bearer one day. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.” “Why?” asked the water bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”
“I have been able, for these past two years to deliver only half of my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way to the house.  Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from you efforts, the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, ‘As we return to the house, I want you to notice all of the beautiful flowers along the path.”
Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some.  But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half of its load again, so again the pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?” That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it.  I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them.  For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my table.  Without you being just the way you are, I would not have this beauty to grace my house.