The book Educated & Breaking My Upbringing

books school stacked closed

Two of my therapists suggested daily meditation to heal my brain. Both therapists also suggested Yoga (as did my family doctor). I smiled and nodded and ignored the advice. Later I vented to my BHH: I don’t want to exchange one brainwashing for another brainwashing! I want to break my upbringing not repeat it!

Yoga, to me, is a bit like tattoos. People get really into it and then like to show off their ‘newest ones’, often times on Facebook. Meanwhile I had a foam mat and soy milk in the fridge before FaceBook existed. I would contort my body in a ‘new one’ and immediately holler, “come, quick, come and look!” to my children and husband. I would even bow and say namaste to others, who didn’t know what the heck I was talking about, (which only fueled my ego more).

The practice did not do much for me physically, other than make me walk around taller because I believed I was ‘all that’.

After I got sick (PTSD/Anxiety), the physical therapist who helped me unthaw my anxious-neck, (and who also works closely with my family doctor), warned me not to do Yoga. She lowered her eyes and whispered, “It is not safe for a lot of people, and if they push themselves, or have poor supervision, it can be dangerous. I wish he (my doctor) would quit telling so many people to do it.”

I was glad that at least one professional I was seeing was affirming what I’d already decided was not ‘for me’. Shortly before I got so sick, the ministers I was listening to on youtube (to try and undo all the religious abuse I’d endured) all warned me about yoga being a possible doorway to demons. Through them I learned what namaste actually means (the divine/god in me recognizes/honors the divine/god in you). Turns out I was the idiot tossing around a phrase that I had no idea of the meaning. As a child, when someone was acting full of themselves, we used to say, ‘Wow, who do you think you are–God!?’ So it was for me. In my early thirties, I had all of my life ‘figured out’ (or so I thought), one might even say I was acting like I was God. I mean, some of my favorite lingo was…calling myself god… so there’s that.

After I crashed, burned, and could barely leave my house from social anxiety, I knew certain things wouldn’t work for me, no matter if every expert on the planet says it’s the go-to-thing for healing PTSD and Anxiety (and most do).

Meditation gave me pause because I was a huge daydreamer as a child; to escape. (And, again, I knew I needed to break the upbringing; not continue it.) So I sought out benign activities that would calm my central nervous system without reverting to childhood brain numbing tactics.

I’d always enjoyed nature and watching birds. So one of my changes (and fill-ins for daily ‘meditation’ time) was to become a seed-toting, birdbath warmer in the winter, crazy bird lady. If you feed and water them; they will not disappoint you. Now I simply walk by the window, and I am immediately drawn in, letting my brain get fixed by the jays fighting over the peanuts. It brings me complete pleasure and peace, without having to think about anything, beyond whether or not the feeders need refilling.

All that birdwatching transfers to nature watching in general.  When I travel anywhere, my mind is immediately soothed from sunsets. Snow. Rain. Clouds. Trees. Birds. Butterflies. Even examining the unique plant in the corner of my accountant’s office can calm me now.

There was one survival tactic from childhood which was beneficial to me: I was a voracious reader. I believe that reading so much planted the seed to break away from my abusers. So, as I’ve written about prior, I started to read again after I got sick. Seriously read–for enjoyment as well as for learning purposes– all of which is very healing for me.

The book Educated by Tara Westover is everywhere right now. At my local Barnes and Noble, there are copies around every corner and across many genres. I’m glad I had already read it prior to my last trip to B & N, otherwise I might have thought it was being completely overhyped. (I sometimes intentionally avoid highly marketed offerings.)

BUT. It is worth the hype. Seriously. Best book I’ve read in years.

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. For me, I found it incredibly helpful in viewing my own past, and my own journey out of a damaging upbringing. Presently, I am aware of the lingering trauma bonds from my family of origin. Such strong bonds make this time of year (holidays) hard. Seeing the author’s ties to abusive and neglectful family members–her willingness to return ‘again and again’ to her family home, (at least one poignant ‘return’ occurred at Christmas time), and my desire (as the reader) to scream through the pages “STOP! QUIT GOING BACK! DON’T GET INTO THAT VEHICLE WITH YOUR INSANE, ABUSIVE BROTHER AGAIN!” gave me serious pause.

What would another person reading MY story say to me? Likely they’d be screaming silently too: “Your life is so good now; you have every right to ignore and walk away from the people who did that to you! Don’t screw it up by going back into relationship! And, for God’s sake, don’t let yourself get physically near to any people who have once physically abused you, you are crazy to do that!”

It is so obvious when separation NEEDS TO HAPPEN in another’s life. Not so clear in my own…but as a result of reading such a poignant memoir of a neglectful and abusive upbringing– something in me was just…severed… it was getting ready to happen, but some major movement inside of my heart definitely DID happen after reading Westover’s book Educated. For that, I am so thankful.

There is tremendous value in sharing our stories; letting other people see ‘themselves’ in the things we share.

The hearers/readers are able to choose their own form of healing, knowing what has and has not worked for them in their own past. It’s best when there is no strict ‘formula’, or method that someone else is suggesting. Let the reader figure it out. Likely their mind already knows the way out. It just needs some nourishment to get there.

It’s a lot like putting seed in a bird feeder. The landscape changes for the better when someone is willing to put food out. No thinking required. Just sit back and enjoy your brain being fixed.

The Compulsive Woman (a book review)

woman in pink white floral apron smiling while holding a white creme food during daytime

I found a used hardcover book which intrigued me so much it ended up in my bi-weekly bag-of-thrift-store-books: The Compulsive Woman by Sandra Simpson LeSourd, published in 1987. The book no longer had a jacket/cover so I had no idea of its genre. But when I read the title I actually laughed out loud. And then I got a case of the giggles and said aloud: Man oh man do I need this book. I felt myself being looked at funny, over the racks of donated sweaters on the other side of the thrift shop. Whoops. I said that kinda loud, so I smiled gamely and went back to perusing titles…thankfully the other book nuts at the shelves were too engrossed themselves and didn’t hear me.

Since I am also a ‘compulsive woman’, who throws used books into shopping baskets with abandonment, I knew the book would be worth the quarter it cost me.

Turns out it is a Christian self-help book; not that surprising since the thrift store I found it in is a Christian based outreach and often has donated Christian books. However, this is not the usual Christian self-help book. It includes a biography of the author’s life–a completely honest and transparent story that doesn’t sugar coat anything she went through. And what a story it is! It was pleasurable to read through, as it read like an autobiography (interspersed with some solid self-help charts, quizzes and resource pages), I broke my own rule and read it in the evening (usually I read fiction and lighter things a few hours before bed. Keep self-help books, which are heavier reading, for daylight hours).

That was last week. I have since ordered and received a used copy of her follow-up, entitled ‘The Not So Compulsive Woman’. What I have read so far of the second book is also easy to read and very helpful for me. Here is the thing which resonated the most, for me, from The Compulsive Woman:

  • Compulsive people will move from one addiction to another if they don’t root down and address the core pain (usually from childhood trauma or dysfunction) which caused them to choose compulsions-as-coping-mechanisms in the first place.

The author was addicted to many things-alcohol, food, cigarettes, TV watching, shopping and at one point she also joined a cult. Whenever one addiction was overcome, it just segued into another. She was using her own willpower to change, rather than admitting defeat and gaining insight into her past and her own personality. After she gave up smoking she replaced that with a chocolate addiction which had her compulsively baking brownies in the middle of the night. She shares about it on page 121:

I had thought willpower was the answer–if only I were strong enough. I know now why that was a typical, erroneous, thought of a compulsive person: “Willpower as a pure act,” writes Dr. Theodore Rubin in The Winner’s Notebook, “invariably comes from compulsive drives and contracts and further contributes to compulsion. there is no real self involved in an attempt to overwhelm a disastrous situation by an act of ‘strength’ alone. It just doesn’t work. Insight, on the other hand, involves real knowing of self and real self-involvement on the deepest level.”

What are compulsive drives and contracts? It sounded a lot like making inner vows to me, which I wrote about yesterday.

Again, this idea that we just move from one compulsion to another…and ‘switch addictions’ is an ongoing theme of the book, and it has also been something I’ve touched on a lot in my own therapy/recovery process.

Which is why I included a couple of posts on this subject before I write anymore posts about My Anxiety Diet. It is important not to just switch compulsions, making more contracts or inner vows with ourselves only fuels overall compulsion, when making any major lifestyle changes.

Real change comes from insight, from knowing ourselves, from being gentle with ourselves. And for me, that insight and knowing and acceptance of myself can only come through Jesus. He died on the cross in order to save me from…ME. If He can save a wretch like me, then everyone who admits their sins and calls on Him for salvation can also be saved.

Do you know Him? Does He know you?

I am praying for my readers and I hope that you will pray for me as well. Pray that God continues to give me insights into myself so that I do not fall into the compulsive traps of more ‘self-will’ rather than insightful surrender to the true Healer, and true restorer of balance, health, and life.

Shalom <><

 

 

 

Update on The Melt Method

adult alternative medicine care comfortI met, briefly, with a local Melt instructor. She told me the very basics of the method and showed me how to do the main techniques on my hand. As I wrote about prior, I was hopeful it would work for me since it is a hands-off massage method.  (I experience great relief when my BHH rubs out the tension in my upper back, but I don’t do well with massages from others.)

I told the local Melt instructor the basics of my story (PTSD) and history of physical pain and past attempts to correct my posture. She was intrigued to learn that the Melt Method uses similar language as I’d been learning in cognitive behavioral therapy–particularly regarding the rewiring of neural networks in the brain. I was intrigued to hear that the Melt Method recognizes that incorrect posture is often emotions based.

I purchased $170 of materials. The materials included a book, “The Melt Method” by Sue Hitzmann, four instructional DVD’s, a blue foam roller (much softer than the spine stretching roller a physical therapist once forced me to purchase during physical therapy torture) and a bag of small blue balls of varying degrees of firmness. While it was a lot to invest initially, I reminded myself that one physical therapy visit, complete with painful massage, was costing my health insurance at least $170 a visit.

I am reading through the book. I have watched about half of the DVD’s. I have begun by doing the basic ‘beginner’ exercises, on my hands and feet, as well as a ’50 second facial’ exercise, (which I find very relaxing) all of which takes about ten minutes a day. These basic exercises use the larger and softer balls from the ‘bag of balls’. (shown in photo)IMG_3067

A main theory behind MELT is to rehydrate the fascia, connective tissue which is everywhere and which is believed to be crucial to sending feedback from the muscles and skeletal system back to the brain. Fascia helps your body ‘talk’ to its other parts. The theory is that fascia tension and dehydration in the hands and feet can affect your entire body, hips to neck.

There are several components to using the balls on your hands and feet. Gliding (which preps the fascia), sheering (which rehydrates the fascia) compression and rinsing (which spreads the rehydrating effects around), and then drinking lots of water after a sequence. These techniques will then be learned and applied to other areas of the body once you work past the beginning phases.

Doing the foot and hand sequences was all going well and fine for me. I had some localized pain in my hands a few times and so I eased back on the amount of pressure when I did a glide and shear technique.  Overall, though, doing the simple hand exercises already seemed to be making a real difference in decreasing my arm and hand pain and increasing flexibility.

But that foam roller that stretches out your spine… Yikes. It was softer than the physical therapy spine stretcher I still have (and ought to toss!). But it was still quite distressing for me to lie down on that thing. It also made me feel quite funny in my neck. Memories of my months of near-immobility, from strained neck muscles and PTSD rearing up all at once, returned every time I tried to lie down on that blue torture device.

I was scared.

I had a few traumatic flashbacks of my time in physical therapy–during which I forced myself to go through manual massages with a therapist I couldn’t stand and slowly progressed deeper and deeper into physical immobility and pain rather than being released from physical tension–as my therapist had outright promised me would happen if we just kept massaging out all my tight spots.

Ugh. It was a hard time for me.

I didn’t realize I had PTSD at the time, neither did my doctor who had prescribed physical therapy. Eventually I found a physical therapist, and a therapist-therapist, both of whom understood the emotional component of my physical pain. It has lessened. But the physical pain has not fully resolved, despite several years of treatments.

The Melt Method uses a lot of similar techniques to physical therapy–including that spine roller which made my hands sweat just looking at it… Therefore I knew that before I could go any further with trying this new method, I was going to need to face up to some more fears.

I prayed and asked God to show me what else might be going on physically and emotionally and spiritually. And I saw myself like Lazarus. He’d come out of the grave alive but he was still wrapped up in burial cloths. Removing the burial binding was work either he, or others close to him, had to do. Just like a burial shroud, parts of me are still tightly ‘wound’ up, something is still trapping me around my core–my spine. But what?

Further prayer and therapy session ensued.

I believe the thing tying me up is hyper vigilance. A state of being that I have adapted and ‘known’ for my  entire life. Beginning as a baby when I was born into an abusive home–being on guard was just how I have always been. Not being on guard, being relaxed, still makes me nervous.

I worked through a lot of those feelings in my next therapy session with my Christian therapist, who totally understood the hyper vigilant state I had chosen and why I was choosing it. Basically, I am in the process of reframing my need to remain vigilant with a trust that Jesus and angels are guarding me in the midst of the dangers and therefore I can relax and start to unwind those grave cloths which still have me bound in so many ways.

But I couldn’t, and can’t, shake the feeling that while the spiritual and emotional element is huge; something physically has gotten out of whack with my body. Therefore it needs to be something physical which rights it again.

Hence, I prayed and got out that blue melt roller a second time… I propped my head up on a small travel pillow, even though I could find nothing in the book or video saying you could do that..it just mentioned propping your arms up on pillows, not your head… but the pillow made it far more bearable. For a few days I didn’t even try to do the rebalancing sequence (which is part of the ‘beginner’s protocol). Rather, I just acclimated myself to lying on the spine stretching roller using the travel pillow to prevent any neck strain. Even with the pillow for support, I could only lie on it for about a minute before my neck began to warn me it was too much. I also worked through some inner fears while lying there, turning them over to God in prayer.

I stopped and tried it again the next day. Each day increasing my time a bit.

The other day I was finally able to work through the ‘rebalance’ exercise while lying over the blue roller, head propped on a travel pillow. But I didn’t assess, and then re-asses afterward, as the DVD and book states you must do.

While I was excited that I could do the sequence without my neck warning me to stop; I didn’t feel any real improvement. I kept reading the book, regardless…and voila, I finally read far enough in the book to see the emphasis the inventor of the method places on both initial body assessments, and then reassessing your body AFTER doing any of the sequences. When people fail to do the assessments, they rarely improve.

woman in blue dress lying down on the street

That’s when it all kind of just clicked for me. I needed to allow my body the time and space in which to talk back to my brain, and make those internal connections, as well. I followed the assessment instruction (lying on your back and assessing all the areas which are out of alignment)–then did the rebalancing sequence on the foam roller (propping my neck with a small pillow)–and then re-assessed my body once again (lying on your back on the floor and noticing all the areas which went back into alignment).

Taking the extra time to ‘assess’ before and after a sequence can seem like a waste of time (hence I was skipping that part), until it ‘clicks’ in your own head and you get what your body needs…in fact, I had a hard time even finding an ‘excercise-ish’ photo of someone lying in a relaxed, listening, pose on their back–hence the strange photo above of someone lying in a road!

But I believe it is those crucial moments of lying down and listening and tuning into your body that are encouraging your brain to start communicating again with the autonomic nervous system. I have the feeling that this simple technique is a huge discovery, training your body and brain to talk to each other again– especially for anyone recovering from massive stress, trauma, anxiety, etc. (like me).

For me, my autonomic nervous system is clearly still out of whack and not communicating well with my brain. I am wondering if that miscommunication between mind and body is playing a role in lingering body pain. Years of my central nervous system ‘living’ in fight, flight, or freeze states has probably contributed to that miscommunication.

If you took the time to read this far, I figured you might appreciate an update. So one final note: I am still in the beginning phases of trying this method. Time will tell if it is going to be effective in treating the lingering physical effects of PTSD and anxiety disorder.

For now I remain cautiously optimistic that these hands-off massage and assessment sequences; in addition to therapy, prayer, and support from others– can help me unwind from the lingering tension.

 

 

Has anyone tried the melt method? (Self-Care. Managing body pain)

Here is a link if you haven’t heard of the melt method.

https://www.meltmethod.com

After a recent ‘breach’ of my boundaries by an abusive family member, I have experienced an escalation of body pain. I believe it’s from stress (the ‘S’ in PTSD is a nasty thing that can cause all sorts of issues!); and possibly some spiritual warfare as well. I’ve been asking for prayers and praying myself and it has helped a lot as well. I’ve upped my self-care as well.

BUT: The melt method, of self-care and body pain management, has now been suggested to me three times in the past week from different sources/friends. That seems too prescient to ignore.

So if you have read this far, I appreciate prayers for healing and protection as well as any feedback on this exercise method. Have you tried it? Heard about it? Have you practiced it at home, or with a certified instructor at a gym? Did it help you manage your pain?

Smells are the worst…and the best! (Wisdom gained: #5)

woman wearing sun hat smelling yellow rose

Airplanes, buses, crowded waiting rooms, and other places where I might have to sit close enough to people to smell the garlic in their teeth from the salad dressing they ate for lunch (sometimes the day prior), yes–those confined public places are the worst for me. Because half a lifetime of traumatic experiences left me with a sense of smell so heightened my BHH teases me that if things go south at our store, I could always get a job working alongside police dogs.

I frequently need to open windows at work, in car rides, or at home, to get rid of smells which are overwhelming me. My husband once came home from a Bible study event smelling like strange cologne that I knew was deifnitely NOT his cologne. He’d simply sat next to a man who was wearing a whole lot of cologne that evening, hadn’t hugged him, just sat there beside him…which is why “How in the world did you smell that?” is a frequent expression around our house.

This super-sniffer-power of mine makes life interesting. I’ve learned to travel with several scarves, and I spray them with a scent that I find calming before traveling, particularly on airplanes. If it gets too bad, I just wrap a scarf around my neck and breathe into it and go somewhere else in my mind. The scarf trick has saved me a few times. A flight from LA to Minneapolis once had me beside a musician (his carry-on was a guitar) with an exploding human head tattooed on his forearm, a green army jacket with grime on the sleeves, and the smell of hangover-vomit and weed on his skin. When he fell asleep with his mouth open I noticed, from the air drifts finding my nose, that he hadn’t brushed his teeth either that morning–after clearly vomiting bad food and booze from the prior day. And there was even a seat between us.

That was a long flight.

Thankfully, I had a scarf wrapped around my face to mitigate some of it.

When the PTSD was at its worst, smells were also the worst. They triggered such horrific memories. The smell of pickles on someone’s breath. The smell of hard boiled eggs, after a few days in the fridge.

On the flip side: as with a few things ‘anxiety disorder related’, there are some really great benefits to this super-power-nose of mine. Certain smells are instantly calming for me. Lavender. Bananas. Roses (but NOT rose-water: ICK). Lemons. Grapefruit. Peonies. A tiny bit of eucalyptus (but not too much or it has the opposite effect). The smell after it rains. Basil. Bread baking, cake baking, (anything baking really), cinnamon, apples, and all sorts of bath products (except those I can’t stand). Bitter cold winter days, when my nostrils nearly freeze shut and the air is so far south on the thermometer that nothing harmful, or beneficial, could still live in it. That is the cleanest and best smell ever. It’s something only northerly dwellers might understand. Though I dislike being cold, when the temperature dips like that, the scent of that frigid air is divine. Almost as good as when a cultivated field starts to thaw in farm country and you can literally smell ‘earth’ floating on particles in the air. And so while scents can be triggers–they can also be great grounding and calming tools. The right ones instantly lift my mood and bring me peace. Smells add a richness to my life, and writing, that I am not sure others (who haven’t had trauma heighten their senses) experience.

A good nose is even quite beneficial at times.

I have smelled cooking fires before they started. Propane leaking from tanks before anyone else. Smelled rotten meat and other foods before eating it or feeding it to others…known exactly how many drinks my rebellious teenaged children, or younger mentees at work, had the night prior, (before they could dare lie to me).

Which is the point of it all. When the body is in heightened response to a threat, the senses are all heightened as well, to keep you alive and out of danger. So you may not see the danger yet but you can sure smell something being ‘off’.

Even though my stress levels have come down and I’m not being triggered into fight, flight, (or freeze) responses as much anymore, the heightened sense of smell is there. I’m accepting that it is just part of what makes me, me.

I took a walk with a girlfriend the other day. She has elevated stress symptoms due to a lot of traumatic things happening to her in recent years. She was told by her doctor that she has ‘anxiety’. After we took off from the parking lot, the first thing I did was insist that we slow down and go for a stroll instead of a power walk. She responded almost immediately to the slower pace as I saw her facial features relax into a beautiful smile. And I asked her what she smelled; because I smelled such a strong scent from the pine trees that surely must be up ahead around the corner we were about to make on the park’s path.

She replied, “Ooh, ooh, I smell chickens, like the fall air is lifting up the scent of chicken feathers into my nose… but there’s something else too, mixed in…”

I prodded, “Do you smell the pine trees?”

“Yes, that’s what it was, I knew there was something else!!”

We rounded the corner and saw several free-range chickens coming out of the shade of three pine trees.

Yup. She’s had her share of fight, flight, and freeze responses. Unfortunately, her nose may be elevating her stress levels even more, for the time being.

But I assured her, that if she starts listening to her self and uses scents to calm and heal as well: then her nose is going to help get her out of it, too.

 

 

The truth isn’t always what the world says it is. (Wisdom Gained: #4)

close up photography of sliced cake

In business we have a saying: “Sell to the masses and live with the classes. Sell to the classes and live with the masses.”

For the most part, that saying holds true. Generally speaking (and there are always exceptions) high income earners can demand and expect perfection. Or they might haggle you down to near nothing in a deal…there’s a reason some of the ‘rich’ folks got where they are, and it is spelled s-h-r-e-w-d. As I said, though, there are exceptions. I also know some modern day Abraham and Sarah couples who have a great deal of means, holdings, and influence and use them to bless entire communities around them, as well as generations to come in their own families. And while I don’t know any personally, I do believe there are modern day Joseph’s who have the ears, and access to the purse strings, of world leaders. They have means and positions of power because God wanted them in such spots, in order to bring glory to Him.

Anyway, point being: if you want to invent or sell something that makes you wealthy, you are better off doing that with products that appeal to the masses, not the one percent of the highest income earners.

It gets a little stickier, though, when you start to consider gifting and callings in life, beyond sales-based business pursuits.

Consider Proverbs 22:29 Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.

Solid truth is far more nuanced than a catchphrase that speaks to worldly desires and gains. Which is why I love the Bible. It’s full of concise statements that work on t-shirts and coffee mugs. Yet within those wise phrases are nuances you could chew on for days. Particularly The Book of Proverbs. Which was part of my Bible reading plan this past week. A bit like what happened while I was reading Psalms this summer and I started noticing how much real world songs affect me…while reading proverbs I took greater note of how many wise things the people in my life say; some of them without even trying to be wise!

One saying that I liked and have repeated is something my secular therapist told me during a session, several years back now. I was lamenting some of the things I inadvertently passed on to my children, as a result of me not dealing with my childhood abuse sooner than I did. She bluntly told me, “That cake is baked.” And then she redirected me to working on myself.

It’s a catchy saying. There is a lot of wisdom in it. Sometimes you just have to move on from past mistakes and not spin them around so much in your head.

Yet the entire premise of Christianity shows that it is never too late to turn around. You may have to pay some consequences of past actions, but there is always hope for restoration nonetheless.

It was my Christian therapist, whom I started seeing later, who listened to my grief and worry that I had ‘messed up my kids’. She assured me that there is plenty I can do now, to strengthen and repair, some of the brokenness in those relationships.

My parents, and family of origin, baked me a cake that would not have won any blue ribbons at the State Fair (metaphorically speaking)…but I am decorating it to the best of my ability.

The thing is, though, as long as I have breath in me, I am honing my skills and serving my King. Therefore I can pour new batter into my grown children every time I speak with them, apologize to them, encourage them, and, ultimately, let them live their life and make their own choices and bake their own cakes.

So I actually don’t believe the ‘cake is baked’ when it comes to being a mother. I think that oven will be on and the cake tester will come out sticky, and not quite finished, until the day I die. And I thank God for that.

Milk Moments. (Wisdom gained: #2)

blur calcium close up dairy

A zealous approach to the Bible is considered a good thing for a Christian. That kind of maturity is known as ‘solid food.’ The metaphor comes from the Apostle Paul. He chided the early church about milk, since they weren’t grasping the meat of the Gospel message.

Which is why I found it a little prophetic, or something, when my stress symptoms made solid foods, like meat, hard for me to eat. Literally. Going into fight or flight slows down your digestion. It’s gotten better but I still have a hard time digesting a large portion of meat in one sitting. Plus, for a time it was hard for me to chew solid foods. See, I had a chronically clenched jaw at night which was so painful that the muscle spasms went down into my neck and upper back. For a while I was limited to ‘soft foods’ and liquids.

In addition to the instruction to cut out hard foods, my doctor (and two therapists) urged me to quit putting hard-to-chew materials into my brain. My flesh was mirroring what was going on inwardly in my spirit.

At their suggestions, I made various lifestyle changes. I wrote about the novel reading changes here (if interested).

The novels helped me put aside the vigorous studying. But there were other changes too. For instance: I did zero evangelizing for a time. And I really stretched my faith by just being. Sitting around in rocking chairs trusting that God was going to restore me eventually. Trusting that He was accepting me just as I was–even nearly incapacitated with craven fears and raging stress levels.

It was strange and uncomfortable at first.

In time, I started to enjoy the softer things. Like going to the zoo on weekend trips to visit our grown children. Or taking several bubble baths. A day.

As a kid, my bath time was often in someone else’s old water already lukewarm and dirty. My toys were mostly hand me downs or ‘gifts’ from abusers intent on grooming me; as were most of my clothes. And I didn’t have a personalized stocking at Christmas time. At least not one like my older siblings. Theirs were large and had their names embroidered on them. Meanwhile I had a plain red slip of a thing at the tail end, lacking any identification. It was so small an orange could barely fit inside.

My BHH has tried to make up for some of what was missing in my childhood. Hence he indulges me with trips to the zoo. Buys me bubble bath and other gifts ‘just because’ and runs the tub near overflowing for me. Last year he bought me a Christmas stocking, with the initial of my first name embroidered on it. He filled it, several times before Christmas Day, with journals and note cards and candy and quirky buttons that made me laugh.

All that delving I had done prior to my changes, (delving into meaty faith subjects), had convinced me that Christmas had very little to do with Christ. I had grown wary of idolatry and I approached Christmas with restraint.

But when I saw that stocking with my initial on it–‘oh no, it’s pagan!’ wasn’t part of my thought process. Rather, I thought it was the sweetest gesture on earth. I realized that for the first time in my life, someone had taken time to buy me a personalized stocking.

I cried thankful tears. Tears of recognition and appreciation and a bit of regret as well. For nearly half my life I had had someone beside me to give me love, but I’d been dumping on him instead of appreciating him.

I was finally able to start receiving some of the love for which I was so very hungry. Love that had eluded me even as I was indulging in all the meat that I could, trying to fill that emptiness.

I had not received milk as a child. Metaphorically speaking. Oh, I was fed and grew to adulthood. Emotionally, though, I was starved. And so I started doing milk moment things, like those listed above, for myself. Others took note, and started doing them as well for me.

My heart still has the markings of an emotionally stunted little girl. It needs acts-of-nurturing, like the Apostle Paul gave to the early church, before it can mature into something harder to handle.

So I buy stuffed animals and put them on display around the house. I lolly-gagg on pinterest with pretty pictures of mopeds, trees, and beaches. I indulge with afternoons of reading or singing songs.

And I make myself warm milk. Literally. I found a recipe for something called golden milk, which has turmeric in it. It is super healthy but a bit of an acquired taste (unless you add a ton of honey!). Last fall I discovered a new warm milk recipe making the rounds on pinterest. I tried that one as well, making it my own with the addition of even more spices and switching the honey to maple syrup. When I first tasted it my heart was happy and I told myself to make it again…and add extra syrup please

Molasses Milk

  • 1-2 cups almond, coconut or regular milk
  • 1 T blackstrap molasses (or less if it’s too strong for your taste)
  • 2 t real maple syrup (or more to taste–I probably use about 3-4 teaspoons in a mug as I like it sweet!)
  • Pinch of each: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, (or allspice, and add or remove whatever spices you like/dislike)
  • Heat on the stove, or in the microwave, until warm. I’ve even made big batches at once to store in the fridge. (It’s also delicious cold).

This is a bit like sipping a gingersnap cookie from a mug. The perfect treat before bedtime–especially with autumn leaves falling around the porch, a fire blazing, a soft chair, and the understanding that the tougher things of life can wait until morning.