Tag Archive: fear


A Breakthrough – Part 2

Ok, where do I start? Before my husband and I got married or were even a couple we were close friends. As a matter of fact, our friendship meant so much to us it almost kept us from getting together. We were afraid if we took our relationship to the next level and it didn’t work out we’d lose the friendship that meant so much to us. We would spend hours talking about anything and everything and even though we didn’t always see eye to eye we listened to each other’s point of view out of respect. I found him to be intelligent, charming and challenging.

We all have hardships and go through tough times, but my husband has had to deal with more than the average person. For our friendship, that meant a lot of the time I was helping him deal with the emotional aftermath of it all and that was fine with me. It made me feel needed and like I was making a difference. The more he let me in the more we connected and eventually I knew I could no longer be just friends. He felt the same way and we became an official couple in August 1995 while visiting San Francisco with my mom.

Through unforseen circumstances we ended up living alone together, something I would’ve never chosen and don’t recommend. But that’s what happened and through the daily stresses of life and the nagging feeling that we had taken things in the wrong direction our relationship started to break down. The mutual respect eroded away and instead of being the close friend he could go to for support I became the one who took the brunt of his frustrations. What was once a life that felt perfect and almost magical became a mentally painful and unhealthy existence. But I was committed to him and making it work. I couldn’t handle the thought of losing him and the friendship we once shared.

Looking back, I have no doubt that a regular person would’ve left many times over and moved on, but because I grew up in an abusive home I had learned to put up with more than anyone should. I can’t blame him for the state of our relationship, either, because we teach others how to treat us. If I had stood up for myself and made it clear that some things were unacceptable, things would’ve been different. He either would’ve respected me more or ended it, but I didn’t. I became less and less the person who had overcome her childhood and more and more a doormat who was losing her identity all because I was afraid to lose him.

At this point, you may be thinking that he’s a horrible person. I hate to portray him that way, but the truth is that he did do some horrible things. He never hurt me physically, but he caused a lot of emotional pain. That’s what happens when two people with  lot of unresolved issues get together and become each other’s world. Being so young and living together was like putting our relationship in a pressure cooker and neither of us held up under the stress. There were times when I hated him and I’m sure he felt the same about me, but I never stopped loving him deep down. Many times we almost ended it, but decided to stay together despite everything. It was like a crazy roller coaster ride that I didn’t know how to get off and didn’t really want to. I just kept believing that somehow we’d work through it and get back to the way things used to be.

Despite all the red flags, we ended up getting married in July 1998. I hoped that making that commitment would allow things to settle down. We left California and headed for Oregon for a new beginning. But old habits don’t stay behind. We moved in with family by marriage on my husband’s side, but things continued to be the same. There were bright spots. There always were. Just enough to keep my hope for a happy life together alive. Then I found out I was pregnant. For most, that news would’ve brought joy and excitement. For us, not so much. The added stress almost ended our marriage, but again we decided to stay together and try to make it work. We moved out on our own and it was tough. A new baby in a healthy relationship can be difficult, but for us…well, I’m sure you can imagine. Eventually I lost count of all the times we almost split up.

That sweet little baby brought a new sense of purpose to our lives, though, and slowly we began to figure things out. Just when we started to gain some momentum in the right direction I found out I was pregnant again despite our best efforts to keep that from happening. When he was born I fell in love all over again, but the stress of providing for our growing family was driving a wedge between us again. Our relationship was nowhere near a place that could handle more strain and we ended up separating. We had both had enough and as much as it killed me to let go of the hope I had for us I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I can’t even tell you now exactly what it was that made us decide to go to counselling and get back together. I’m sure it had to do with the kids and not wanting them to grow up with divorced parents like both of us had. And despite everything I still loved him. We didn’t stay in counselling as long as we should have and so even though we were making some progress there were many times when it felt like we’d move one step forward  then two steps back. Then I was introduced to a book that gave me the tools I needed to make some changes that finally pushed us out of that rut. That book was The Love Dare. When I started it my husband wasn’t even speaking to me and for what seemed like the thousandth time I was sure our marriage was over. But I took it seriously and by the second week not only was he speaking to me again, but he was buying me flowers for no reason. Things were starting to feel a tiny bit magical again.

I wish I could say that I’ve continued to do everything I learned from that book everyday since I read it, but old habits are hard to break. As much blame as I can lay on him for the problems in our relationship, I have to accept responsibility, too. Our friendship, the foundation of our relationship, was broken down from both sides. Along the way, I stopped listening to him and trying to see things from his point of view. I started feeling like I already knew what he was going to say and would cut him off before he could finish his thought. That made him feel like there was no point in talking to me so the two people who once shared anything and everything suffered a complete breakdown in communication.

With the help of my wonderful, supportive friends I realized that I couldn’t continue to be a doormat and expect our relationship to heal. I had to start respecting myself if I wanted him to respect me. Going back to work played a huge part in that as I felt like I was contributing not only to our family, but to the businesses I worked for. I was able to start lovingly, but firmly communicate to him what was unacceptable and what I needed from him even though sometimes I felt like I was talking to a wall. Then I discovered Turbo Jam and Chalene Johnson. Her outlook on life has pushed my “recovery” to a whole new level and my life has completely transformed.

So what does all this have to do with staying in bed with my husband until 3-something in the afternoon on a day he should’ve been at a job fair giving his resume to potential employers from all around the country? Well, despite my new outlook on life and the vast improvements to our marriage we’ve never found our way back to the friendship we once had. Of course, after all the years of trials and heartache I know it will never be exactly the same as it was, but I believe in some ways it can be even better if we can rebuild it. One of the most frustrating things has been that I’m learning how to be happy and successful and even though I’ve been able to share that knowledge with my friends I haven’t been able to with him, the person I care about the most who needs it the most.

The alarm went off when it was supposed to, but neither of us got up. Then it went off again with the same results. Finally, it was time to get the kids up and off to school so I got up and took care of that. He still wasn’t up despite much nagging and pleading from me. Taking into consideration that he normally only gets 3-5 hours of sleep on  weekdays and that we had stayed up until 4:30am getting everything ready for the job fair, I wasn’t at all surprised that he wasn’t getting up. I climbed back in bed and quickly fell back asleep next to him. The next thing I knew we were both waking up and it was after 1:00. So much for the job fair.  

Out of nowhere he started to ask me some pretty odd questions saying he just needed me to answer even though it didn’t really make sense. I went along and that led to a conversation about why he does what he does…including skipping the job fair even though we spent all night preparing for it.  A real conversation. Both of us taking turns talking and listening. He was opening up and asking for my help and I finally had answers for him. It was amazing…dare I say, magical. The conversation even turned to me when he asked what kinds of things I was dealing with. I realized that I couldn’t remember that last time he had shown that kind of interest in my well-being and it took me off guard. I’ve spent lots of time talking with friends about my issues, but in that moment I didn’t know what to say. Finally, I found a way to open up to him and trust him with my vulnerability. I think he sees me differently now, in a better light because he’s realizing again that we’re in this together and need to lean on each other the way we used to all those years ago.

At one point, he started to say something and I felt like I knew what he was going to say so I cut him off. Instead of shutting down, he pointed it out and asked if he could finish. When he stopped talking I asked if I could respond and he said no. He could see it was killing me and explained that that’s how he feels when I don’t let him talk. It was the most vivid “a-ha moment” I’ve had in a very long time. I felt such remorse for making him feel that way for all these years that saying I was sorry didn’t feel like enough. Over the years, I’ve apologized for many things that I ended up doing again and again so I know the words probably didn’t mean much to him. But the point hit my with such clarity that I can’t imagine doing that to him again. Not that the temptation won’t arise, but the understanding I have now will always make me think twice before I open my mouth and close my ears.

Yes, he missed the job fair, but it worked out for the best. We had a major breakthrough in our relationship which to me is more valuable than all the money in the world. There will be other opportunities and I know he’ll end up where he’s supposed to. The important thing is that we’ll be there together, happier than we would’ve been if things had gone as we planned, and for that I am eternally thankful.

Even though it wasn’t an official walking group day, I headed out for a quick stroll around the neighborhood before taking my son to his basketball game. Since I was staying pretty close to home I wasn’t sure if I’d find too many interesting things to take pictures of. I don’t normally enjoy photographing buildings and I was surrounded, but was pleasantly surprised, though, that several things caught my eye. I guess I shouldn’t have been since we always find what we’re looking for if you’re paying attention. For example, the grass not two steps outside the door to our building.

Or the flowers already blooming on the tree…

…five feet away from the tree that was having a hard time letting go of its leaves.

Nature was spreading out and taking over, forming a canopy of intricate branches and deep, vibrant green.

Didn’t notice the almost hidden view of the stream until after I had passed it. Once my brain registered what I’d seen out of the corner of my eye, I back-tracked to see if I could get a good shot. This one’s not perfect. Maybe I’ll try again next time.

Another sign Spring is just around the corner.

Love these trees. They’re everywhere around here and each one is different.

Happy with the images safely stored in my camera and realizing it was almost time to leave, I headed back home. That’s when I saw him. He was sitting on the sidewalk next to a medical building across the street from our apartment, surrounded by his backpack, other bundles, and a sign that said FOOD. My initial reaction was to immediately turn left and cut across the parking lot to avoid him instead of continuing on past him. Just as quickly as the desire to escape an encounter with him entered my mind, so did a pang of guilt. I’ve been talking about treating people, even the ones society has forgotten or looks down upon, with respect and kindness and have even stepped way out of my comfort zone to interact some of them.

So why was my first reaction to this man to go out of my way to avoid interacting with him? Perhaps it was a hint of fear because I wasn’t used to seeing homeless people so close to my home and he didn’t appear to be fully capable of making wise decisions, but I know it was mostly because I didn’t want him to ask me for anything. Even though telling him I didn’t have anything would’ve been the truth, I knew I’d be uncomfortable. Yet there he was in my path, a person just like me, so I kept going. He did ask me for something as I approached, something I could give. Instead of asking for food or money or a cigarette, all he wanted was directions to the nearest place where he could get a cup of coffee.

It was a good reminder that it’s much easier to tell other people what they should do than to actually do it ourselves, but if we want the respect of others we must talk the talk AND walk the walk. We are an example to everyone we come in contact with, especially if we have kids. They hear the words we say, but ultimately imitate what we do and if those don’t match up they won’t respect us or embrace the values we want so much to teach them. Each and everyday we need to look at ourselves and make sure our walk is in line with our talk. Not an easy task, but like most things that push us outside our comfort zone, worth the effort.

You have no idea how close I came to posting another photo of poop today. Apparently, it was just too cold outside to take the dog all the way out. Letting it do its business just outside the elevator was close enough. I’m trying to keep a positive attitude and not dwell on the negatives, though, so I refrained from taking the picture. Instead, I’ll show you how gorgeous the view was from the deck this morning.

It was really, REALLY cold this morning. I was seriously considering just walking to the tree, taking a photo and turning back.

I didn’t do anything to alter the color on that shot. The sky really was that blue. When I approached the tree I realized I was getting bored with photographing it from a distance so I got as close as I could without ending up in the blackberry bushes. Once I took the picture I decided to keep walking, but just couldn’t bring myself to taking the same route I normally do. Even heading East just didn’t seem appealing. It’s not like it wouldn’t have been beautiful or that I couldn’t take any good photos. I just wanted something new and different.

I took a path I hadn’t been on before, but it put me right back at the tree with the confused moss. I still wanted to see something new and different so I crossed the bridge and turned left knowing that I’d eventually reach the Knickerbocker bridge where I could head back. I ended up on a gravel path that didn’t have much to look at so I started taking pictures of the frozen puddles. So much for new and different.

As I walked along, avoiding the mud, I was starting to think that I was just going to have a collection of puddle pictures to post. I ended up taking others, so I’ll just show you my favorites.

My positive attitude was rapidly fading as the lack of interesting things to look at allowed me time to ponder my total loss of control the night before. I kept trudging along through this wasteland, wishing I had just gone the regular way. The railroad tracks that were a ways off to my right were suddenly much closer to the path.

Not giving the close proximity of the tracks much thought, I continued on. The rocks had become larger and more difficult to walk on so I kept my head down to avoid tripping. I’m sure there were some lovely views of the river on my left, but I couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t even look up long enough to notice the two quail until they flew away as I walked right past them. All thoughts of what I ate the night before were gone. All my concentration was focussed on where I was going to place my next footstep. I did notice some interesting things that I would’ve otherwise missed had I been looking up.

By this time, I was just hoping and praying that I would reach the Knickerbocker bridge soon and that I’d even be able to get on it from where I was. Obviously, I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere because I was certainly not on the South Bank path. The last thing I wanted was to have to retrace my steps. Just as I was taking the next photo, I heard a sound coming from behind me…

…a train whistle. I turned around to see if I could tell how far away it was.

Suddenly, I was acutely aware of my surroundings. Two paths, one easier to walk on, but close to the tracks and one muddy and uneven, farther from the track, but closer to the thorny blackberry bushes and the drop off above the river.

I figured I could stay on the easier path until the train got closer and then hop over to the other. As I continued on I tried to remember just how far the cars stick out over the tracks because even on the difficult path I still wouldn’t be that far. A thought crossed my mind, “I’m either going to die or get a great shot of the train.” Then I noticed a sound was missing. I couldn’t hear the train moving on the tracks anymore. “I’m saved!” I looked back again and noticed a familiar sight that made me feel both comforted and full of regret that I hadn’t been content with the beautiful walk I could’ve taken. One that never made me wonder if I was going to die.

Then I heard it. The train was moving again. I looked ahead and much to my dismay, the rough path ended leaving just the one that I knew would put me close enough to the train to lick it as it whizzed by. What was I going to do? Even if the train passed by safely there could be another and I’d have nowhere to go. I moved past a group of trees to discover a wide spot that would give me plenty of room to stand safely while the train went by…and just in time.

Talk about feeling vulnerble.

After it passed, I saw where I actually needed to be.

Unfortunately, this was the only way to get down there.

“But wait! Maybe there’s a way down on the other side.” Nope.

So I went back to the rocks and tried to figure out the best way down…besides on my butt…that was a given. As I scaled down the “cliff” I wished I had some gloves, but I made it.

Once I got back on solid pavement I noticed some interesting and amazing artwork under the bridge.

Back out of the tunnel, I was so happy to be taking pictures of lovely trees with bright green ferns and moss.

In just minutes I was on the Knickerbocker bridge. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be on a bridge. Well, except for the time I was falling in love with the man who’s now my husband as we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Safely back on the North Bank path I looked back across the river and saw the train track I was walking next to.

So today’s life lesson is: always be prepared. No wait, that was yesterday’s. Ok, it’s actually: Don’t take a nice, quiet, peaceful life for granted. When we think we’re bored and search for something new and exciting, we often bring trouble and drama into our lives. There’s nothing wrong with having adventures and taking risks, but there’s a right way and a wrong way. Always be prepared…and have a back-up plan. I guess it actually was part of today’s lesson after all. 😉

I only took a few photos on today’s walk for two reasons. 1: Uploading all the photos from my phone caused me to go over on my data plan and the batteries in my actual camera were dead. (Note to self…buy rechargeable batteries.) 2: I was distracted by the events that transpired last night and my reaction to them.

The night started off as usual. I read for a little while in bed before the book slipped from my hands and hit me in the face. I turned off the light and went back to sleep. My husband tried to wake me when he finished his online tutoring so we could watch a movie on Netflix together. As usual, he was not successful. Once I’m out it takes a lot to get me out of bed. I continued to sleep soundly until a sound began to creep into my dreams. It was banging and shuffling and grew louder as I came into consciousness. Still half asleep, I tried to mentally locate the source of the sound. Then footsteps, running fast. Just as I realized they were coming from the hallway outside our door a woman’s desperate voice cried out, “Somebody help me! Help me, please!”

My heart began to race as I laid there trying to decide what to do. My first thought was to jump up and see what was happening. Then it occurred to me that if I opened the door the woman might run in followed by her persuer. The sounds from the struggle were coming from right outside our door. I didn’t want to take the chance of putting my family at risk. At that point, I was frozen by indecision. I heard the door to the stairwell across the hallway slam shut and then silence. There I was, still in my comfortable bed trying to make sense of what had just happened. Was this a prank? Remembering the fear in her voice I didn’t think so. Had someone else let her in or at least called the police? Surely. Should I get up and see what’s happening now? I knew I’d have to venture out of the safety of our apartment and my still sleeping husband who, as an infant, lost his mother to a burglar wouldn’t have wanted me to do that. As the questions swirled around my tired brain, I drifted back to sleep.

Again, a sound interrupted my dreams, more abuptly this time. Someone was knocking on the door. Again, unsure of what to do I was still. Another knock, a little louder. I though it might be the police so I sat up and began to head for the door. A third knock, still louder. Whoever it was, they weren’t going away. My husband woke up this time and in a whisper explained everything that had happened. He checked the peephole and said the police were talking to our neighbors across the hall. “We need you to answer the door!” The officer’s voice boomed as he knocked one last time.

I opened the door just enough so they could see me. The three of them began asking questions. “Are you here alone?” “Who else is in there with you?” “Is everyone alright?” “Did you hear anything?” I told them what I had heard, then they asked if I heard gunshots which I hadn’t. “Are you aware of any domestic disturbances here?” I said that things have been pretty quiet around here recently. They went on their way, canvassing the other tenants and we went back to bed. After tossing and turning for a while I was finally able to go back to sleep.

Despite all the commotion, the kids slept soundly through the night and got ready school just like every other day. The sounds of footsteps and the woman’s plea for help interrupted my thoughts as we performed our morning rituals. For a moment I wondered if any of it had happened at all or if it was all just a vivid dream. Once the kids were off to school I headed out for my walk. At first, the sun was shining brightly and it looked like it would be a beautiful day. I took a photo of a stream I pass by everyday.

My thoughts turned again to the woman. I wondered what she was thinking at that moment. Did she feel safe? Was she enjoying the sunshine? Did the morning bring thoughts of hope or more fear and desperation? Was she even thinking anything at all? As I headed West the sky began to reflect my mood. I couldn’t really enjoy the sunshine and was almost relieved to see the clouds taking over.

As I headed into the trees I asked myself why I hadn’t done anything to help her. I thought of the physical and mental abuse I experienced as a child brought upon me by a woman who was abused herself. Was the woman last night living with a person who caused her fear day in and day out? Could she be suffering as a victim of domestic violence right under the same roof? How can we live so close to others and never get to know them at all? Maybe it was a one time thing caused by too much to drink, but why didn’t I help her? All my reasons for doing nothing that seemed so logical at the time didn’t amount to much in the light of day. How could it be ok to do nothing when another human being was pleading for someone to help them? I hoped that somehow she got the help she needed and that today was a new beginning for her. The pain of abuse doesn’t end when the abuse itself does. It lingers on and constantly finds new ways into the life of the person who suffered and all those around them. It affects every relationship they have and can make them feel trapped and alone even when they’re surrounded by people who care about them. Even after years of healing, a single incident can bring back a flood of pain and fear leaving them wondering if they’ll ever really be free. That is what I experienced this morning as I asked myself why I didn’t help her.

By the time I reached the park and turned to head back it was raining. The drops on my face hid the tears that slid down my cheeks. I felt ashamed for not doing anything. Then I began to feel thankful for the life I have now. Thankful that with God’s help I’ve stopped the cycle of abuse in my family. Thankful that even though I can still feel pain from events that took place years and years ago I wake up everyday feeling safe. Thankful that I have the ability to help victims in a way that others who haven’t gone through it can’t. By the time I returned to my starting place I had a new sense of determination and the realization that I can do something to help.

We travel the same path over and over. When we’re able see it from a different perspective and decide to make changes in the way we travel the path it can become a beautiful thing…for us and the people we encounter along the way.