As we are about to close the books on another calendar year, I wanted to reflect on my year and share some of the beautiful and gut-wrenching things that happened.
I left my home in November of 2016 to return to my parents’ home to help care for my step father, Ralph, who at 92 was declining in health. As he continued to decline, my role became more and more intimate. I spent many days listening to stories, helping him dress, eat, and move from room to room. A tender side of me opened in ways I did not know to be possible. When he passed away in April, I had no regrets. I will miss him terribly, but I know I have done right by him.
During this time, I took classes and got my certification to be a personal trainer. I learned wonderful things about the human body, how to care for it, and how exercise impacts our structure and well-being.
After Ralph passed away, my main concern was for my mom and helping her get connected to seniors in her community. I dragged her to card games and water aerobics. She loved both and is now supported, in her grief, by a community of peers.
In May, June, and September I traveled back home. In May, I spent five days each with two of my best friends from college. At Michele’s, I visited the State museum, dug for sapphires, and visited a brewery. Michele took me to a brewery even though she does not drink. I had one beer and took pictures. At Gayle’s, I stayed at her under construction, retreat center, which is situated in the middle of her family’s 25,000-acre ranch. Every morning I looked out and saw deer or cattle. I needed that solitude to write, reflect, and rest.
In June, my mom, sister, and I traveled back north to bury Ralph’s ashes. We traveled through southern Utah’s red rock terrain, visiting national monuments and parks. My friend Jon Paul and Abby were travelling across country and visiting Southern Utah at the same time, but we missed them by a few days. My sister drove us through the back road at Monument Valley, which was like off-roading in a Mercury. When she made it up the last climb out of the valley, a whole bus load of tourists gave her an ovation.
At our home town, we stayed with my sister’s friend, Joan. It was the first time I got to know her, though they’ve been friends for 30 years. We found comfort petting her cats and dogs, and one night we were surrounded by clouds shaped like UFO’s. She let us take over her house for a week; such generosity I will always remember.
We held two services. At one, the neighborhood children, now all grown up, shared stories and Ralph’s friends and coworkers openly wept. For me the best story was the girl, now grown up, who said, “He was the first man I felt safe around.” The second service included military honors, which I had never experienced before. Somehow, those three volleys of gun fire seemed the perfect way to honor the life of a man, who I called dad.
In September, I traveled to Spokane, at the generosity of my friends, Heather and Shane. We went for walks, ate food, drank a little too much wine, and visited a spa, where I was treated to a massage. Outside their home, I watched the Blue Angels practice for an air show. I felt the thrill of them rushing overhead, their diving and lifting in coordinated flights. I walked around barefooted, letting the grass tickle my soles.
Abby and Jon Paul were still travelling, and from Spokane, I texted them, asking, “Are you near Spokane?” They were one day out. The next day, they picked me up in the RV and I rode with them to Idaho, where we had spaghetti dinner in a park. After dinner, the children were trying to catch gold fish(!) in the stream that ran through the park, and their daughter (not their sons) succeeded in catching one with her bare hands. It was a delightful end to a short but lovely visit. With a hug, I was off to spend the night with another old friend, Lisa, at her cabin by the lake. We shared stories by campfire.
In 2017, I also helped re-roof my parent’s home. It was not easy getting on a roof at my age, and moving shingles around, but it had to be done. In June, I went back to my birth name, and retired the name I had taken on in 1999. I didn’t start working again until October, and although Arizona is not my home, I have enjoyed a multitude of beautiful sunrises and sunsets this past year. I found amazement in seeing 60-70 vultures flying and sunning themselves for a few weeks this fall, while they migrated.
During 2017, I continued blogging (30 this year) and tweeting (1000 + Tweets) and using Facebook to share the message that healing from spiritual abuse is possible. I started a book club in October and we plan to reconvene in January, branching out to do art projects and read internet articles. Through my work, I have made new friends; one of them, Maribeth, provided me with life coaching, and I have now signed up to take the coursework to become a wellness coach. We both hope to use the training to coach people who are recovering from spiritual abuse. I have a feeling that she and I will become allies in the work.
Please excuse me as I digress for a minute, and I hope it won’t trigger you if I quote the bible for a second, but it relates to why I am sharing my year.
In John, Chapter Six, Jesus asked his followers, “Are you thinking of leaving me?”
“Where would we go? You have words of life,” replied Peter.[i]
So often people think that they must stay where they are, even if it is spiritually abusive, because they cannot imagine life outside of where they are. I have shared my year because this is life. This kind of year, the normal and the difficult days, make up our life. Life is messy and beautiful. None of the friends I mentioned in this blog were known to me at the time that I left the group that spiritually abused me. I have now had their friendships for 25, 15, or 10 years.
Life did not regress into chaos because I left. Life turned into something beautiful, and that speaks to the healing that has occurred. I am grateful beyond measure that I left, and I am grateful beyond measure, for my new friends, for eyes that seek and see the beauty all around me. I am filled with the grace of friends who loved me enough to care for me throughout this year of loss and grief. I am joyed that I can learn and discover, and pursue new pathways for employment. Being able to study anything and everything is a gift.
If you are thinking of leaving, or have barely left and feel hopeless, just give it time. Seek to see the beautiful things. I count all I have lost as rubbish, because of what I have gained. Don’t give up; the first little bit is the worst. Then life gets better and better, even when there is loss. In 2018, may you know you are loved, may you enjoy the little moments, and may your eyes be opened to the good. Use your freedom to make new friends, go on adventures, and learn new things. Peace to you.
[i] This verse, John 6:68, is ripped from its context and is used as a thought-stopping passage in the group I grew up in. The intent is to prevent people from leaving. It scares people into staying because they think there is no life outside the group.
My blogs take on all topics related to recovery, including commentary on the intersection of spiritual abuse and current events.
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