How to Break Free from an Unhealthy Relationship

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“Broken Hearted” 11 x 14 pastel in matt & ready to frame

I enjoy watching old re-runs of “Raymond” on T.V. The humor reminds us of our own humanity. This dysfunctional family makes us laugh as we see the painfully obvious results of their follies. Personal relationships should help us grow and learn, and bring joy and satisfaction into our lives. In “Raymond” we see the twisted insecurities that bring the exact opposite.

I thought about Raymond when I read a local article written by Jayme Hodges, MSW, of the Lee Memorial Behavioral Health Center titled “Unhealthy Relationships Not Always Apparent to Those Involved.”

Jayme wrote “We often focus on the positive qualities of a person, which can distort our perceptions of any negative behaviors. We also may explain away negative behavior by saying ‘he or she is just having a bad day’ or ‘he or she is under a lot of stress.’ Low self-esteem and/or low self confidence also keep people in unhealthy relationships because they believe they can’t do better.”

From my own experience I would add that you shouldn’t feel guilty if your gut instincts tell you that something is amiss. Your mental and emotional health depends on an accurate analysis. Discussing your feelings with a close friend or a counselor will help to ground you in reality.

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“Drawing and 1st level of acrylic paint on a family portrait”

How can you tell that you’re not overreacting or just imagining things? Hodges suggests “Pay attention to your own emotions and listen to those around you. Take the time to reflect on the relationship because you will have a better chance of recognizing if the relationship is unhealthy and what steps you can take to work on or end the relationship.

“If you are experiencing an unusual amount of emotional distress – especially if it interferes with your ability to complete routine daily tasks; if you are more irritable or angry with people or situations, or if you are isolating yourself from family and friends when you normally would not, you should consider seeking professional help.

“Interpersonal and romantic relationships are important to your mental and physical health. These relationships should help us grow and learn, and bring joy and satisfaction to our lives. Healthy relationships should be an equal partnership. They should be built on trust, respect, honesty, support, open and effective communication, listening and fairness.

“Unhealthy relationships, on the other hand, are often marked by manipulation, lack of trust, abuse – which could be emotional, physical and/or sexual; coercion and threats; constant criticism and lack of support; and isolation from family and friends.”

#hopeful in India

“#Hopeful in India” 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

Raymond and his family seem to be stuck in a never ending cycle of insults and abuse, floundering in the aftermath of dysfunction, but it provides their audience with laughter and feelings of sympathy. We warm to their imperfections and assaults on one another. But in real life, the results of this kind of behavior in relationships can be disastrous.

If you are experiencing any of these dark and imprisoning tactics, please seek help. Your mental and emotional health depends on it.

Beneath the Surface – the Past always Catches Up with you

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Bill Cosby’s arraignment for “aggravated indecent assault” i.e. multiple rapes and alleged rapes has shocked the nation; especially his long-time fans and admirers.

Cosby represented the all-American family and basic goodness. He made us laugh. He made us smile at our own foibles in parenting.

His story reminds me of a similar one about a former cop who got arrested for child porn and spousal abuse.  Known for protecting others, he couldn’t protect his own or himself.

And what about the neighbor’s husband who ends up in the headlines, after his death, for his reputation as a pervert and philanderer. When the grieving wife settled his affairs, she discovered letters and other evidence of his misdeeds in his desk; confirming what she suspected, but could not prove. She continued to find the tell-tale signs of his indiscretions long after he was gone.

The past always catches up with you. Some people manage to keep the surface of their lives smooth and unfettered, but deep within is a raging sea. What triggers these unexplained blips that appear in an otherwise normal existence?  Is it a controlling environment and too much stress? Or simply a need to indulge a secret and a hidden piece of life that no one else has access to?

My husband and I share an office which I’m discovering is a big mistake. He sits right behind me. While I’m trying to create, he reads his emails and laughs out loud. At other times, he shares his mail or what’s off the top of his head. When my children were young, I learned to continue regardless of the interruptions or noise. But as I’ve grown older, I’m finding the ability to focus is more difficult.

I usually head for my desk when I wish to write or catch up with things. To do this requires concentration and imagination. My husband follows me like a puppy dog into the office. I should feel flattered that he likes my companionship, but my irritation sometimes boils over in unflattering ways.

I go to the office when I want a moment of communion with my higher force and muse. The other day I listened to some Christmas music from “Child of the promise” a musical production written and arranged by Michael & Stormie Omartian in the year 2000.

The solos by Elizabeth and Mary fill me with joy and allow me to worship in a way that is only possible with music. Of course, that brought protests from my husband, who looked upon it as an intrusion  into his space, even though I was there first to be alone. He views the office as his and his alone.

God gifted me as a writer and an artist. So why then did I have a large family and demanding spouses?  Alone time has always been rare and difficult to find.

I had friends who were writers that found a means to create. One put a hair dryer on her head and concocted stories in a whirl of white noise? Another friend locked herself in the bathroom so she could think and pound out her thoughts without being disturbed.

I used to create on my daily walks. My husband would jog ahead and I’d commune with nature and create subject matter. Sometimes I’d use this time to pray and converse with my higher power and muse. Now he no longer jogs, but walks beside me, usually expounding upon some political angst or philosophy. He uses me as his sounding board and silent companion. I end up feeling frustrated for lack of two-way conversation or the “space” I so desperately need.

Sometimes I lose my cool. And sometimes he does, too. When you’re with someone 24/7 you have to make space in order to survive. If you can relate, be sure to define the times and places where you need a quiet spot for down time. If you fail to do this, don’t be surprised if you end up in a screaming match wondering what just happened.

When it comes to Advice or Help, Who do you Trust?

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“Blending In” 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (A red wing blackbird flutters its wings and replicates the sunflower petals.

LINK TO PAINTING 

Young children come into this life trusting others, mainly because they’re so dependent. They soon learn who comes when they cry, who feeds them and makes them comfortable. If this care is consistent, they not only trust the giver, but come to depend on their care. As trust develops, bonding strengthens between mother and child, and father and child.

When I was dating late in life, I was criticized for being overly suspicious and hesitant about many things. “Why don’t you trust me?” one person said. My answer was simple: “Trust must be earned. It is not given away.”

I still believe that to this day. You can get completely over your head or in a whole lot of trouble if you simply trust everyone who comes into your life. Young children and teens are vulnerable to compliments, gifts, suggestions because they are so open and trusting. As you grow into adulthood, you learn, oftentimes from hurts and mistakes, that not everyone is trustworthy.

I was offered a lift to church one evening by a neighbor’s son when I was in my teens. I’d seen him in their driveway over several weeks and months. When he asked if I’d like a lift, I hesitated, but only for a moment. Before I could change my mind, I was bouncing along in his truck ignorant and happy until he passed our turnoff. When I complained, he said he had an errand to run, and it wouldn’t take long.

I protested with urgency, explaining that I’d be late, but he ignored my pleas. When we got to the end of town, he pulled into a darkened lumber yard. We were the only vehicle in the lot. As he jumped out of the truck, I told him to hurry, that it was important that I get to church.

He walked some distance away into the darkness. A light never came on anywhere, and I began to fear he was misleading me. I prayed for all I was worth. “Please Heavenly Father, help me be safe. I just want to get to church.”

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“Sunshine” oil on 11 x 14 canvas

LINK TO PAINTING

About 10 minutes later, he walked back, jumped into the truck and wheeled away. Without another word, he drove me back to church and dropped me off. What went through his mind that night and what his real intents and purposes were I’ll never know. I only felt grateful that through my prayers and persistence, I was kept safe.

I’m always reminded of Ted Bundy’s handsome face. He fooled many young women because of his charm and good looks. But he was anything but nice! Trust must be earned. If you want to keep your own daughters safe, teach them this principle. Trust is dependability and consistency. It is not a promise made by a stranger or a bad friend. Trust is built by knowing someone and what they do.

Sometimes your gut will unmask a villain, but only if you trust your first impressions and instincts. Sometimes you scold yourself for feeling bad about someone because of their looks or their color. Instead, you should trust how you feel in their presence. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll trust in the Lord to help you make the right decision.

The State of the Nation is only as Good as the Hearts of its People

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“Cafe’ Costa Rica” acrylic on 20 x 20 canvas (SOLD), prints available (close-up of coffee beans)

When I was raising my family, multi-tasking was encouraged for everyone who wanted to succeed. Instead of lighting the home fires, women were encouraged to engage in career acceleration, pushing many out of the home and into the marketplace. That’s when the songs “I am Woman” and “Nine to Five” were the beat we marched to in our efforts to accomplish more in less time and to be more productive.

I once bragged to a friend that I could bathe my two youngest while cleaning my bathroom fixtures and scrubbing the floor all at the same time. I made my own cake mixes, yogurt, granola and bread to save money, and I could whip up a meal and have it on the table within 30 minutes without the benefit of microwaves or crockpots.

"Queen of Diamonds" 20 x 20 acrylic mixed media on canvas

“Queen of Diamonds” 20 x 20 acrylic mixed media on canvas

A generation later, the results were a nation of hyperactive insomniacs who didn’t know how to “chill.” Multi-tasking became the cause celebre´ for depression and nervous breakdowns; the culprit for lack of focus, and the fragmenting of a person’s time and energy.

We were accused, by the so-called experts, of short-changing our spouse and our children. Some women came back home and recommitted themselves to family life, while others were too entrenched in the upward climb to turn back. They had come close to the “glass ceiling;” and by golly, they were going to crash it if it killed them. The casualties were enormous. The ones who made it never looked back.

Once abortion was legalized, women were set free to crash the barriers that had held them back previously. The toll has only recently been felt as the Social Security Fund dries up because there are not enough workers to replace those who either have been aborted or who are on welfare. America has painted herself into a proverbial corner.

The women whose children grew up and moved on in their absence feel cheated of the experience of motherhood. They rushed here and there, watched their kid’s games and celebrated their achievements, but do they really know them? How many times have they actually had a loving conversation without telling their kids to “hurry up, we’ve got to get going?” or criticized their obnoxious antics and behavior.

Today, we look around us and see not a nation of happy and well-adjusted people, but a country full of drug addicts who participate in road rage, riots in the streets, and mayhem. Our leaders are immoral and dishonest. The people in whom we put our trust are untrustworthy. Tyrants rule in our board rooms and on our streets. We have made a mockery of that which once was sacred and blasphemed the God who gave us life.

"Blending In" 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (How often do we "Blend in, rather than Standing Up?"

“Blending In” 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (How often do we “Blend in, rather than Standing Up?”

Collectively, we desecrate the holy, the weak, and elevate the swindler and the swine. We worship pleasure and wealth and turn our backs on the lowly and common. Children in many cases dishonor parents and parents turn their backs on the children who need them. There is a lack of common decency and respect. “It’s all about me” rings from the rafters of homes, automobiles and businesses. “I want what I want, and I want it now.”

Never in the history of the world has there been more need of a Savior to bring us back to our Heavenly roots. Jesus said: 7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love, does not know God because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is God: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for sin.”
(I John 4:7-10 NIV)

“If this is true,” you say, “then why isn’t there peace on earth? Why is there so much violence?”

First off, God is not the author of confusion, nor violence, nor evil. Mankind does that very well without him. Before Christ was crucified, he did clarify this point for us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you.” (In other words, His peace is within) “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Our world could use a little more peace, especially in the hearts of its people.

"Lady in Waiting" oil on canvas (prints available)

“Lady in Waiting” oil on canvas (prints available)

So much for Thrift for Thrift’s Sake

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“With these Hands — Love” a child loves her daddy while he sleeps.

Some people are more thrifty than others. As a spouse, with a family, you learn to pinch pennies, clip coupons and sometimes go without. But when thrift becomes the dominant force that drives your focus, and people’s feelings become less important than the “all mighty dollar,” you have a problem.

My daughter was married to such a man who suggested that she fashion her own sanitary products in order to save money. They also fed their dog old bakery scraps they received for free. In the end, the dog’s diet made him fat and unhealthy and their marriage started on the road to ruin.

These thrifty types will crop a dog’s ears and toenails without proper medical skill or tools. They find any means to get ahead even if it means “fudging” a little here or there, or even lying if necessary.

"Bella Bellissimo" acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)

“Bella Bellissimo” acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)

I also endured years of lectures about how much shampoo I should use (a dime-size dab); how many squares of toilet tissue was appropriate, and how much I was allowed to cut off the top of a strawberry. If I told you all of the other rules that surrounded my day, your head would spin, so I won’t.

“Waste not, want not” was not only a saying, it was a way of life. Our parents and grandparents went through the Great Depression. They lived in fear that there may not be money for the next meal. The Salvation Army and other charities kept many people alive until they could get on their feet.

For those lucky enough to have the space, a garden and a few chickens provided the sustenance to feed a family and perhaps sell the extra produce for money.

On a well-traveled road not far from where I live sits a small stand with a canvas top for protection from the rain. A brother and sister “man the fort” on weekends selling Georgia peaches, home-grown tomatoes and sweet Vidalia onions.

In our present economy there are signs everywhere of poverty and continuing unemployment. When the Stock Market plunged to new lows, I wondered if our country would slide even further into hard times.

“Money is the root of all evil,” the Bible says. But it is the obsession of money that is evil. The kicker is that thrifty people sometimes obsess over finances and subordinate other people’s needs in their miserly attempts to save money and to get more.

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel in Bristol; matted and ready to frame.

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel in Bristol; matted and ready to frame.

We’ve all read stories of millionaires and billionaires who died in poverty without ever spending a nickel for the simplest of pleasures. They didn’t take it with them. They never shared their abundance with a loved one or a neighbor. They went tight-fisted to the grave, but their grasp, their hearts were empty.

Money hard-earned should be saved, invested, and wisely spent. Being thrifty is prudent and smart when you have little of it and your needs include retirement, a home, and your children’s education. A couple need to work on this together and in consultation with each other so they have mutual goals. It is lack of communication that is the downfall of many.

Being thrifty is a good thing in hard times. Obsessing or pinching pennies and allowing money to become your focus, your God is when it becomes a destructive force which may lead to evil actions and failure.

In-laws, Outlaws, Cousins and Fam make Life a tad Richer and Fuller

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Scene from “Call the Midwife” PBS

The birth of a new baby always draws people together; the anticipation, the anxiety, the hope and excitement for the future are mirrored on each face.

Time inches forward. The waiting is stressful. We traveled from Fort Myers to Minnesota to welcome a new great grandson into the family.

Dick's granddaughter

Dick’s granddaughter

Yesterday I walked back and forth with the mother-to-be and her mother hoping to shake this stubborn little fruit from the tree. Overripe and bulging, Katie hoped that the bouncing and jostling in the crowd would encourage her son’s birth. And she was right. At 2:30 a.m. that morning, the contractions began. But the long labor and final delivery went on for another 24 hours.

This ordeal brings back many memories, not only of my first daughter’s birth after 24 hours of hard labor, but of five more who came into the world on their own terms. Their personalities were imprinted on their souls from the beginning. We saw glimmers of their uniqueness even before they were born and forever after. No two babies are ever the same. Each is a priceless jewel that opens like a bud in witness to a miracle.

Characters from "Call the Midwife"

Characters from “Call the Midwife”

“The PBS Show “Call the Midwife” will begin its Fifth Season next March through May 2016. Based on the best-selling memoirs of the late Jennifer Worth, “Call the Midwife” tells colorful stories of midwifery and families in London’s East End. Inspired by the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife follows the nurses, midwives and nuns from Nonnatus House, who visit the expectant mothers of Poplar, providing the poorest women with the best possible care.”

The show’s timeline is sometime after the Blitz in London and moves into the 1950s. Midwife is tender, revealing, and oftentimes traumatic as seemingly live births occur in the seamiest side of London’s East End. The characters warm your heart as you watch their personal struggles. The Midwives become the only strength and power many of these women and their families will ever know.

Nurses

Nurses

Wondering how my husband felt about watching this show, I turned to him and saw tears glistening in his eyes. “Isn’t that a beautiful sight?” I commented. New life really is beautiful and most parents will cherish the birthing moment forever even as the pain and anxiety fade.

We are heading out to Seattle, Washington, to see my oldest daughter and her children, and grandchildren. I haven’t been out there in a long time, and our reunion is past due. I’ll keep you posted with photos of the new baby and stories of our trip.

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Interludes of Happiness are the Underpinnings that Strengthen the Soul

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“Americana” acrylic on canvas

Just when you think your life is on an even keel, something or someone wipes the gloat off your face and you’re down. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s this: Change is inevitable. Unpredictability is the norm.

The in between times when love seems never ending, when peace pervades your universe and you think nothing can go wrong that’s just when it does. Those prime times are short and fleeting. They come and go like breathing in and out. They arrive just before or shortly after a crisis.

Make the most of these tender moments because they never last. They are what memories are made of when we have nothing else to live for. These heavenly highs help relationships weather the uneven tides of emotion and anger. They give life zest and nourish a heavy heart.

"Kindred Spirits" 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

“Kindred Spirits” 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

Think of these pleasant pauses, these cherished nanoseconds as seeds. They can’t be saved or stored except in memory; but they can reside within us and provide a web of interconnecting fiber that can give our life structure and continuity. These interludes of happiness “relieve the darkness of the past and the gloom of the present.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

Like a flickering light in the gloom of darkness, these seeds of joy gives us hope, sustain us, and keep our feet planted on solid ground even when all of life is crumbling around us. This kind of strength is what makes heroes out of common men. When a tragedy happens, they respond. They just do it, never thinking about the risks to their own mind or body nor their inhibitions and weaknesses.

Human capacity is never fully tested on this earth. Knowing that somewhere within us is the action needed to meet our convictions is reassuring. Manufacturers and engineers know all about tensile strength when it comes to machinery and materials. Tensile strength is all about the ability to be stretched or pulled out of shape before breaking. Even though human beings are not machines, they are still resilient and capable of super human fetes when necessary.

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on canvas

These seeds of hope, faith, happiness and joy that grow to fruition within us make us stronger, more teachable, and more bendable. This ethereal structure helps us to endure sorrow, pain, anger, hatred, envy or the loss of a loved one, the failure of business or marriage. This foundation is what helps you get up when you fall, and why you take one step after another even though you don’t feel like walking or going anywhere.

Savor the good times. Remember them in the bad times. Make more of these moments every chance you get. This is the web or safety net that will give you courage when you need it the most and the resiliency to hold on a little longer when your heart is breaking.

Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

Change comes to all of us. Nothing stays the same. Ride the waves, my friend. Your life’s journey will sometimes lift you up and at other times slap you down in the grit of despair. Don’t give up in the heat of the moment. Coast and surf until you gain some traction. You will survive.

(This blog was delayed by the unforeseen, but it also gave me my subject matter.)