Facebook

One lunch time whilst on Facebook, I watched an interesting video clip and decided to repost it. It was an animated illustration of an abortion. It wasn’t overly graphic, it was just a factual clip.

Mr Impatient demanded to know why I had reposted the video. Before I could answer I was bombarded by questions; Had I been pregnant before? Had I ever had an abortion? Was there something I needed to inform him regarding any past pregnancies? Whom did I know that had had an abortion? Was I still friends with them? Though I wasn’t the one speaking, I felt the need to catch my breathe!

“The answer to all your questions is no, but if I had a friend who had an abortion and you knew them, I wouldn’t tell you.”

“Why?”

“Because it would be their business, not yours. Furthermore I see no reason to subject any friend of mine to your constant judgement.”

“You’re not being honest with me. You’re hiding something from me. I want the truth Byooti!”

“Same answer as before nothing has changed.”

“I want to know the truth, you . . . ” and on and on he went. Well I was in a good mood that day. I simply watched the big kid have his usual tantrum. He eventually ran out of steam.

“Do you believe in abortion?”

“No.”

“So why did you post it?”

“Well you must remember that I’m Facebook friends with a number of youth from church. I don’t necessarily know what they might be going through. I don’t know if any of them are struggling with deciding to have an abortion or not. Equally they may know someone who is struggling with the choice. This simply gives them a side of the story. I’m just sharing information. Ok?”

It wasn’t the first time that social media had become a topic of dispute. He had asked me once why I was always posting but never online. I explained that I had never really used Facebook’s messaging service, but if anyone dropped a message my appearing ‘invisible’ wouldn’t stop me from replying. He said I was being deceitful, that I must be hiding something if I never appear online🤷‍♀️. In another argument he stated that Facebook was for kids. I replied that I didn’t have any children as Facebook friends which meant that everyone I kept in contact with were adults.

That was when I realised that he was trying to control my social media life. The toxic / narcissist always seeks to control the circle of family and friends. I set up my Facebook account while I was doing my teaching degree years before we met. I was unwilling to deactivate it because it was the only way to keep in touch with all my friends who live all over the globe.

I  defied him. I often wish I had defied him over many other things, but firstly, you learn to pick your battles very early on and secondly, I’m not built or wired to fight everyday which it often feels like when you are married to a narcissist.

The old testament tells the story of King Jehoshaphat who was full of fear because the Ammonites and the Moabites were about to go into battle with the children of Israel. He sought God in prayer for he couldn’t see a way out of the situation and perceived great loss of life. God spoke through Jahaziel ” . . . Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” There is absolutely nothing you can do to make a toxic relationship work. Only God can change the tide. This battle isn’t yours so just give it to God.

Email musings.

I had some time on my hands the other day and decided to do some tidying up . . . cyber style. Email inboxes have a sneaky habit of becoming overrun with all sorts of things. I like to organise my mails into folders so that it’s easy to find things I may later need without having to browse through thousands of emails. I found a folder named ‘Mr. Impatient’. I thought I had deleted everything to do with him. Naturally I was quite curious and took a look.

I recognised immediately the correspondence between my lawyer and I, but there were a number of emails from my ex-husband too. Seems like I was about to take a trip down memory lane!

I don’t remember what my initial response to this email was, but that I day I did just shake my head and chuckle. There was a book we were reading which encouraged a sports team like mantra “team x”. The couple are supposed to replace the x with their surname. It’s a simple reminder that spouses can use between them when things get a little rocky; “We got this, we are team Jones!” “Babes don’t give up. We are team Thomas. Don’t let this setback stop us.” You get the idea? So I laughed at his reminder that we were a team because he wasn’t behaving like a team player.

Notice that the email was supposed to be a prayer on behalf of our marriage. He acknowledges the sovereignty of God and His capability to lead and restore. Also notice that he never recognizes his own toxicity and destructive role in our marriage. Can God help us if we don’t submit our will to His? Oh well, that’s water under the bridge now.

I also found this one amusing. Now that I had left, he recognized me as a child of God, however there were many times when he accused me of not being a Christian or worthy wife. Mr. Impatient often accused me of having a ‘hard and unforgiving heart’. The reality was that I was protecting myself. When someone asks for forgiveness, and if they are genuinely contrite, there will be a change in behaviour. Now it may not be straight away and it may not even be a complete turnaround, but you will see an effort to do and be better. Well evidence of his remorse was bountifully lacking. When he did apologize I accepted it in good faith but never placed any value in it, after a while you stop caring because the apology is inconsequential. I was surprised that he admitted to having a problem ‘anxiety attacks’ but this didn’t go far enough.

The toxic individual will say and do almost absolutely anything to win you back. The display of rueful acts is actually quite surprising . . . well until you decipher the pattern! Rest assured that it is totally short-lived and so phony that they should be recipients for The Oscars! Preserve and protect your heart from the fraudulent performances. These are put on so that you will be drawn in time and time again. Every time you fall for the apology you develop unfounded hope that things will change and get better. The fact is it rarely does. The cycle merely repeats and becomes more frequent and intense. Toxicity has a tendency to rub of on its victims in one way or another. If you are stuck in such and unfortunate relationship, don’t allow the situation to change who you truly are. Embrace the Almighty Father. Always. Allow Him to keep you true.

Bring us back to you, God—we’re ready to come back. Give us a fresh start. Lamentations 5:21

The Message Bible

Break the silence!

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

A few folks have posed the question of why I never said anything to anyone about my abusive husband. I only had one reason; when you’re married you naturally want to guard the boundaries of your marriage. It is a sacred circle where ONLY you, your spouse and God dwell. That doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to a trusted objective friend about certain things, and this can be positive or negative stuff. However, there are some things which should remain within the circle of three (you, your spouse and God). What happens in the marriage, stays in the marriage . . . sometimes.

It is incredibly difficult to open up about spousal abuse in ANY of its forms. You find yourself whirling and trying to understand what’s happening to you, you can’t even begin to explain to anyone else what is going on. You barely know yourself. When people say “why doesn’t she / he leave?”, they don’t understand how painful and even judgmental that question is. Unfortunately, you really have to live the life of a victim to fully comprehend the gravity of living in an abusive hell. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. You said your vows and meant it. The other person was banking on your allegiance to “till death do us part”.

If you ever get the courage to open up about your abuse, you have to consider the repercussions of your dark confession, because once you know something about someone, you can’t unknow it. For the most part he came across as a charming and warm gentleman. People that I introduced him to were probably receptive to getting to know him because of this. Would their perception of him change? Would their interactions with him change? Would he be given a second chance if he changed?  How could others genuinely ‘reconcile’ to him knowing he was a ‘Jekyll & Hyde?’ Would they believe if I relayed the unspeakable? If I had spoken to others regarding my situation I couldn’t be sure that they would be able to give him the second chance that comes from forgiveness or that they would wipe his slate spotlessly clean. While I was married, I confided in Neriah (who later came on holiday) and my other friend. Both lived abroad and therefore their paths were not likely to cross with Mr. Impatient. Breaking the silence within your own community doesn’t feel so easy though.

It is not an easy decision to make. There is always the possibility of the harsh judgemental ignorance of others telling you that you should have prayed harder, had more faith, never given up or that God hates divorce. Yes, he does actually. It’s in black and white written in His word. There is no ambiguity here. God saying he hates divorce is not the same as Him saying that He hates the divorcee. To face the callous injudicious comments of others regarding your separation or divorce from your abusive spouse is to be abused all over again. Who wants to put up with that? This is why some victims will forever remain silent.

Break the silence; such a powerful hashtag, worthy of viral coverage on social media, highlighted by celebrities. There is much to lose and much to gain by breaking the silence. Everyone will know that you are / were a victim. You might be perceived as being pathetic for putting up with ‘nonsense’, or pitied for being too weak to walk away. On the other hand, breaking a sordid secret is very liberating. It’s all out in the open, no reason to hide or make excuses anymore. Speaking out takes the domination away from the abuser and places autonomy in the hands of the victim. Starting over can be daunting but only you will determine what your reset will be. You won’t be bullied or manipulated. It will all be on your own terms. Freedom from abuse creates your new life, a metamorphosis of your former self. A new self that you owe yourself.

. . . anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it! 2 Corinthians 5:17

The Message Bible

Music

I love music! It’s among the best gifts God has given to mankind. I enjoy listening to gospel, r’n’b, reggae, jazz, lovers and Motown. I even have a few playlists on YouTube so that I can have my favourite songs to hand. I also sing. The first time I sang in public I was about ten or eleven. My siblings and I were absolutely mortified because mum made us wear angel costumes as we sang ‘Angel Band’ by Charley Pride . . . in church! That was the start of singing gospel. My brother sang lead or tenor and my sister’s and I sang alto and soprano. Picking out the harmonies came naturally to us. We all sang but none of us played any instrument, so a cappella was our thing. I have a longstanding relationship with music and as such, many songs trigger recollections of the past.

The other day I was listening to my ‘break ups’ playlist. No I have not broken up with anyone, I just think the music is great! ☺. I listen to this playlist as much as any other. The pain of separation and divorce is long gone so its easy to sing along to these songs. Even though break up songs inevitably trigger memories, the don’t come with tears. This particular playlist contains songs by Rhianna, Adele, Beyonce, Duffy, Lemar to name a few, even Glee the tv show. I can’t say which is my favourite since they are equally sad but beautifully sung.

Oh it tears me up
I try to hold on,
But it hurts too much
I try to forgive,
But it’s not enough to make it all okay,                                           

You can’t play on broken strings
You can’t feel anything that your heart don’t want to feel
I can’t tell you something that ain’t real”                                 

‘Broken Strings’ by James Morrison

I remember hoping that every tomorrow would be better, that every  prayer for a change in his narcissistic behaviour would be answered. It often felt like I had a box of forgiveness tokens that I just freely handed out, never even really bothering to listen to the end of the apology simply because I realised that the remorse wasn’t genuine. It had become a meaningless ritual with no real conviction behind it. You allow your heart to get numb because its easier than allowing it to deal with raw pain. Then you find yourself lying and replying “I love you too” when you don’t have anymore feelings. It easier to say this than to say what’s really in your heart to say, to explain all the anguish. Emotionally you have been deprived for so long and so deeply that you can’t survive. If you stop watering a plant it will die. Period.

Listen to the song here in my heart
A melody I start but I will complete
Oh, now I’m done believing you
You don’t know what I’m feeling I’m more than what you made of me
I followed the voice you think you gave to me
But now I’ve gotta find my own, my own.                                  

Listen by Beyoncé Knowles

The few times when I did sing in the house I was shut down. He made fun of me whilst trying to explain that he was only kidding and that I was too sensitive. Mr Impatient said my singing sounded like a joyful ‘noise’. Eventually he made it quite clear that he didn’t want me to sing and that he didn’t like my taste in music. I only sang or played my music when he wasn’t at home. Effectively, he silenced my voice in all the ways which were important to me. He had no time for my opinions, conversation or ideas especially as it related to our marriage and future. Being silenced makes you feel incredibly invisible, like you don’t exist. Reconnecting with your voice and using it freely again is an awesome blessing!

You know I used to paint such vibrant dreams

Now I’m colorblind, colorblind

When did my heart get so full of never mind, never mind

Did you know that you stole the only thing I needed

Always black and white in my eyes

I’m colorblind

Colourblind by Emeli Sande

When you are privileged to find someone who colours your world, it is indeed a blessing. Because of our humaness we will still have grey rainy days and sometimes those grey skies are self-inflicted, inflicted on us by our significant other or simply the curve balls of life. However, how reassuring to know that you both continue to share an umbrella when the grey rainy days come? Some have to stand alone in the deluge by themself. Sometimes the other person leaves, sometimes we leave. Perhaps, regardless of who leaves separation is a hard pill to swallow. To feel loved is to be empowered for lifes long journey. It is disorienting to be thrown from colour and thrust into black and white. We were created to receive and give colour in our lives and that of others.

Christ is the healer of broken hearts! He can and will mend any broken heart when it is brought to him. Stepping out after being hurt can feel intimidating but don’t let the past determine your future. If God has a blessing for you in the form of an umbrella holder don’t turn them away. God’s blessings are His perfect will for us. Why miss out on that?

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;

if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

The Message Bible

Golden Anniversary!

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

My parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary today, congratulations mum and dad! They don’t read my blogs, they know that I went to hell and back in my marriage and that fact is enough for them. Reading any details would be too painful for them, but I have their support!

I remember when I said “I do!” It was supposed to be until either of us died. No one thinks about divorce on their wedding day. Nobody intentionally marries just to get divorced later down the road. Nobody. But it happens.

As I reflect back on the journey of my parent’s marriage, I reminisce hilarious, funny and great times. I recall some setbacks and challenges too. Marriage is not for the faint hearted. It is a commitment to yourself, your spouse and ultimately God.

A cousin of mine once asked me if I would do it all again. Yes, I would. I believe in the institution of marriage because the concept came from God. His ideals are perfect, but we humans keep messing up those same values which He meant for our good, health and happiness. Our imperfection doesn’t invalidate His ideals for humanity. If every husband and every wife ‘died to self’, wouldn’t we have more joyous relationships? Less dysfunctional homes? Wouldn’t Christendom then bring more glory to the Father?

I’m presently in my late 40’s so I don’t know if I will ever celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary, but I will celebrate everyday of life!

Stillness

Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side.

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.

Leave to thy God to order and provide,

In every change He faithful will remain.

Be still my soul,

Thy best, thy heavenly Friend,

Through thorny paths

Leads to a joyful end.

Katharina von Schlegal

This hymn came to mean so much to me whilst I was married. It anchored me when times were turbulent in my marriage. Consistent arguing is very draining especially when you’re unused to living in chaos. Emotional waves were bent on drowning me but because I had memorized the words long ago, I would recite it in my mind. It was my life jacket and kept me from going under many times.

It often consoled me as well. The storms came at me daily. Though I can laugh now, the words famously sung by Tammi Tyrell and Marvin Gaye, “The world is just a great big onion” often popped into my head. How can one person cry so much and so frequently? That was one serious phase of onion! It was probably just as well that the words were lodged in my mind, who can read from a page when there’s a waterfall coming from their eyes? I was comforted that one day my thorny path would actually come to a joyful end.

The child of God develops faith through the various circumstances called life. It is only through the continued experiences of adversity that we learn to depend on our Heavenly Father. It’s another level of faith to maintain a sense of peace and hope when your life is turned upside down. Remember the story in the bible when the disciples were sure they would drown because the storm was so tempestuous? Yet there was Jesus fast asleep, seemingly oblivious to the danger. Is this the faith God asks of us? That even when ‘death’ seems to be the only possible outcome we should still trust Him to deliver us? To be at peace in the face of ‘certain destruction’?

Well in the face of abuse it definitely feels like you are surrounded by destruction. Even if there seems to be no physical escape there is spiritual refuge in The Almighty. He is the strong high tower that we must always run to.

Be still, and know that I am God . . . Psalms 46:10

King James Bible

The First Christmas

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We were married at the beginning of the month of December and so naturally I was looking forward to our first Christmas holiday break. We couldn’t decide what or how we would celebrate but we agreed it would be with each other. In the morning he declared that he wanted to visit his mother. It took me by surprise but as he promised to return by late afternoon I wasn’t perturbed. This would give me an opportunity to visit my family for a while. He got ready and left. I immersed myself in a novel I had started reading some time ago while music played in the background.

I answered my phone as it rang. He was checking in with me, how sweet! I could hear the usual cacophony of music in the background and asked how his mother was and told him to pass on my regards to her. He said that he planned to spend another hour or so then he’d head home. I whizzed into action. It wouldn’t take me much time to get ready, but I wanted to be able to spend a decent enough time with my folks. I ate something light as we had decided that we should eat dinner somewhere then walked the short distance to my families’ home.

As I opened the door, it took all my self control not to salivate everywhere! The aroma of food was intoxicatingly delicious. My father was carving the turkey so I was just in time to gnaw on a turkey bone. They were surprised to see me but when I explained the plan for the day they nodded in acceptance. Around the time when I thought my husband should be collecting me, I gave him a ring but I didn’t get an answer. However, knowing the noisy environment in which he was, I wasn’t taken surprised that he hadn’t heard his phone.

He did eventually return my call. Three times. The first call was to say that he was going to spend an extra hour. The second call was to suggest that I just spend the day with my family. His last call was to insist that I spend the rest of the day with my family. I graciously excused myself from the family table and said that I was going to be picked up. I wanted to call him back but not where my humiliation could be overheard. I called Mr. Impatient back and tried to reason with him. The first 12 months in any marriage is about making memories of lots of ‘firsts’. I wanted to be able to reminisce on our first Christmas in years to come and smile with fondness. I reminded him that he had given his word that we would spend the day together. He wasn’t even sympathetic to my disappointment. I was angry, upset and hurt. I walked down the road and sat by the river to collect my thoughts. He rang but I ignored my phone. I needed to collect my thoughts. Was this how difficult memory making was going to be? The rain decided that this was also the best moment to put in an appearance. Now I was wet, hungry and miffed. I began the steep walk up the incline to what I called home.

This is what happens when you invest time and emotion with someone who is toxic. The things which you take an interest in or are important to you are pretty much shrunken into insignificance, but you dare not have the same attitude with the things that are of relevance to them. It is a very one-sided relationship. I am grateful that we serve a God who is interested in every aspect of our lives. He feels our hopes and shares in our despair. He is in tune with all our emotions, after all He did create them right?

Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. John 14:27

The Message Bible

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is defined as;

. . . the capability of a person to manage and control his or her emotions and possess the ability to control the emotions of others as well. In other words, they can influence the emotions of other people also.

https://m.economictimes.com/definition/emotional-intelligence

All humans have emotions, the degree to which any emotion is displayed varies from person to person and is usually dependent on the situation at hand. It’s a given that people laugh at parties, celebrate at graduations or weddings but cry at somber occasions like a funeral. Most people can emphasize with others even if they themselves have never experienced a particular situation. Some find empathy challenging. Others, like narcissists and other toxic personalities are incapable of seeing things from another persons point of view. They are totally egotistical.

In 1995, Psychologist Daniel Goleman developed the concept of emotional intelligence. It engages a range of aspects of emotions and social situations. Though criticized for not being an exact science, it makes thought-provoking conversation. Some put forward that it can be divided into 3 categories; emotional awareness, emotional application and emotional management. Others have a different take; emotional perception of others, emotional reasoning, emotional understanding and management of emotions. When you get to the real essence of emotional intelligence, perhaps everyone is saying the same thing but in a different way. Despite the overlap, the data is popular and widely accepted.

To be considered emotionally intelligent an individual must be very conscious of their own emotions whether they are in a positive or negative state, and be able to identify and manage them. Such individuals are also in tune with the emotions of others. This helps them to understand how their own emotions and certain situations affect other people. Daniel Goleman proposes that emotional intelligence has 5 aspects; self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Self-awareness is simply knowing how you feel and how those emotions will affect others. The self-aware person is able to determine how various factors affect them. Perhaps one of the things that an emotionally aware person remembers is that while they cannot control a negative impact, they do determine how they react to it.

Self-regulation is about staying in control. Self-regulating people are often those who avoid verbal retaliation, don’t make emotional decisions especially in the heat of the moment, avoid falling for stereotypes and don’t compromise their values. They have a clear idea of what is important to them so that when the occasion arises where ethics may be called into question, they know exactly where they stand. They take responsibility when things go wrong rather than blame others, and will bare the consequences. They are able to remain calm in volatile situations.

An individual who is self-motivated is driven simply because they are passionate about what they do. Money and status are no comparison to their commitment for the cause. They work to and set high standards for themselves and others. They enjoy the learning process. When a goal is set, they pursue it with great energy.

Empathy is all about understanding the emotional make up of others and treating them accordingly. It is the ability to put themselves in another person’s situation. The empathic person asks themselves, “How would I respond in the same situation?”.

People with good emotional intelligence have admirable social skills and communicate well with others. They are able to manage conflict diplomatically, they manage changes well and are proficient at managing relationships and networking.

In short, an emotionally intelligent person thinks about feelings and will take a pause before doing or saying something they may later regret or that will hurt another person. An emotionally intelligent person strives to control their emotions and actually tries to see the benefits to themselves from the criticism of others. They are authentic in the way they relate and present to others, have no difficulty praising others or accepting feedback, they apologize and remember to forget once they have forgiven.  

God created us to be emotional beings and Jesus Christ is our master teacher. When He walked this earth He taught us to treat others the way we would want to be treated. He asked us to forgive those who wrong us and try to live at peace with our fellow men.

Rash language cuts and maims, but there is healing in the words of the wise. Proverbs 12:18

The Message Bible

Want to see how emotionally intelligent you are? Click on the link! https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/ei-quiz.htm

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/emotional-intelligence                                 https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_45.htm                                                                                                                      https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/13-things-emotionally-intelligent-people-do.html                                                                                                           https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-emotional-intelligence-2795423 https://web.sonoma.edu/users/s/swijtink/teaching/philosophy_101/paper1/goleman.htm

Healing over again

X years down the line, I tell people that I took the time to reflect and be introspective. After I had cried all the tears in my tear ducts, I decided it was time to seek counselling. The very last thing I wanted, was to be an emotional prisoner or victim to my past. Looking forward and moving onward were my ultimate aims, and in order to do this I knew I needed to be whole again.

X years down the line, I tell people that I’m actually fine. I can recall events without bursting into tears, feeling angry or sinking into despair. This is all acceptable but this initial healing happens within the context of only you. The frame of reference for healing happens because you are only dealing with “me, myself and I”. Healing is a painful but necessary process. I suggest to you that restoration is a very different ball game when you embark on a journey with someone else.

The next affiliation is like an exam! Firstly, are you really able to make yourself vulnerable again? You, more than anyone else in the world know exactly what you had to endure in that previous toxic liaison. Its probably normal to ask yourself a barrage of questions; will they hurt me? Will I be disappointed? Will they exhibit the same noxious habits as my previous suitor? They are all valid fears. Maybe the bigger question is; can I let go of all the negativity of my past relationship? Will I be able to put aside the past emotional baggage and travel this new road freely? Can I give this person a fighting chance to prove themself to me? Am I absolutely ready to invest in a relationship? Will I make this new person pay for the mistakes of my ex? No doubt fear will raise its ugly head but your grey ashes could be turn into something colourfully beautiful! Note I said could. There are many things that could go wrong even if you do heal well and open yourself up to another person. My
point is, don’t become what was done to you.

Certain situations and circumstances will throw you back in time, but at least this time you are being treated in the opposite of how you were treated before. You realise that now your emotional well-being is now being catered to, and the contentment of this can be overwhelming. If this realization but your tears are those of joy. When negotiation and discussion are the order of the day, you experience the respect you never had before. When compromise sits down with you, your value metre rises.

The book of Micah says;

‘And compassion is on its way to us.
You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing.
You’ll sink our sins
to the bottom of the ocean’ Micah 7:19

Micah was expounding about what God does with our sin. How about doing the same thing with our hurt? Why not hurl it into the sea where it can no longer cause pain and hurt? Let go and let God!

But it’s different with you: Be strong. Take heart. Payday is coming! 2 Chronicles 15:17

The Message Bible

Poetry . . .

I wanted to share some poetry today. The first, though entitled ‘Why She Stayed’ is also indicative of men in emotionally abusive relationships. Emotional abuse has no barriers, it doesn’t discriminate.

The problem with being the victim is that we keep giving chances only to end up with the same outcome. Once you stop looking to the perpetrator to change, and look to your own healing things get better. You can only change the situation for yourself.

Choose healing instead of hurt!

God, pick up the pieces. Put me back together again. You are my praise!

The Message Bible