Hope 2012: A Blog Relay

There’s a blog relay going on during this Olympic season started by Melanie Crutchfield where she began blogging about hope, and passed the torch to other bloggers who then continued passing that torch of hope, and so on.  She will even be conducting a “closing ceremony” with excerpts from blogs in this relay.  The torch of hope has been dangling in front of me from many fellow bloggers, and I desperately wanted to write on it, but inspiration was failing me.  That is, until today.
This morning, I woke up from a bad dream.  It consisted of me being upset with some sort of thing Greg did or said, but whenever the action was completed, and I began to reason and argue with him, he morphed into my ex, and my past feelings of entrapment and desolation crumpled in around me. 

For those of you new to my blog, or unfamiliar with the details of my past, I was in a detrimental relationship for 6 years that I finally found the strength to get out of during the early summer of 2009.  I told myself that I never wanted to blog in any great detail about my ex, and that he didn’t deserve any mention or acknowledgement, since I’m still recovering from the scars he left.  However, with the way he haunts my dreams, I know I will feel better writing not about him, but about my struggles with him, the hope that was lost while with him, and the stronger person I’ve become without him.

It’s still too shameful to admit to myself, let alone the public, everything I endured while in that relationship, but suffice it to say that I was verbally and mentally abused, as well as threatened, frightened, and physically harmed.  It wouldn’t be fair of me to call him a “beater,” though I bore many a bruise due to his anger and myself being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  At one point, I think I was crying out for help by wearing shorts while visiting my family after receiving a softball size bruise on my upper thigh, but when my dad inquired about it, instead of telling him the truth of my ex’s anger, I told him it was just that: a softball getting batted into my leg.  For some reason, I kept getting sucked back into that relationship despite my wanting to get out.  I knew it wasn’t a good relationship, but I didn’t know how to get out of it, and thus, lost hope that I’d ever truly be happy, and resigned myself to the fate of dealing with him and living unhappily for the rest of my life. 
I sunk into a depression that swallowed me and pulled me into myself.  I rarely left the house except for work, and turned down outings with my friends and family.  Much of that was due to the dark funk I was in, but just as much of it was out of my distrust of him.  Though I never had solid proof of his cheating, I did have proof of his flirting through texts and social networking, and even proof of a dinner date he took with another woman. (he was good at manipulation and lying, but horrible at covering his tracks)  I thought that if I was always home, he wouldn’t be able to follow through on his plans with other women.  Constantly being around him and my creeping depression was slowly killing my spirit, and I was stuck in a vicious cycle where I saw no way out.
It wasn’t until our final days, that I overheard him making plans to get away for a weekend with another female.  For some reason, even this wasn’t enough to make me want to immediately break up with him.  It was when I heard him confidently tell this woman while chuckling, “Don’t even think about telling my girlfriend about this.  Alex(andria) tried that years ago, and it didn’t work.”  Which was true, and hurtful to hear out of his own mouth.
It’s probably hard to understand my rationale without knowing all of my heartbreaking background, but his evil laugh, and his cocky demeanor, as well as finally getting my solid proof of him sleeping with Alex was the final straw.  I had finally found my courage and built up enough anger to exit that relationship.  When it was done, there were no more tears.  I had never felt so free in my entire life, and as surprising as it was to not cry, it also made sense.  For the first time in years, I was truly, and utterly, happy.  All at once, my black cloud of depression lifted, and I started to recover my old self.
I suffered a great deal, but came out stronger.  I never understood why women stayed in abusive relationships until I experienced it myself.  In hindsight, it’s easy to realize how dumb I was, and tell myself how easy it could have been to get out, but at the time, it was the hardest thing in the world.  My hope is that other women (or men) feeling trapped in their abusive relationships will find their strength sooner than later, and that they can find support from others to assist them.  For me, it took the love and encouragement from two very special cousins and one irreplaceable best friend.  I don’t know that I could have done it alone, and I am eternally grateful to them for not putting me down, but constantly lifting me up and accepting my decisions no matter how harmful they might have been to me. 
If you are in a relationship that is ultimately damaging your happiness and ruining the person you used to be, my hope is that you look to others to help you find your inner strength.  Surround yourself with love, and don’t lose sight of your self-worth.  And those of you watching a loved one suffer; I hope that you will be the un-judging stronghold that they will need to pull themselves out.
And now I pass the torch.  What is your hope?  It can be a hope for you, a hope for a friend, or a hope for humanity.  It can be anything you dare to hope for, so hope away!    
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Unemployment Benefits

When my school district first laid me off, my initial thought was that a Director of Education position at Sylvan would be a suitable alternative, so you can imagine my excitement, last week, upon finding a similar opening at a center nearby.  The day before I left for camp, I sent them my resume, and on Monday, I had a phone interview with the Sylvan franchise owner that went extremely well.  I was told that the next step would be another Sylvan employee contacting me within 24 hours to schedule a one-on-one meeting/interview.  I was never contacted.  After the first day passed without a call, I initially felt myself sinking into my worthless funk, but now that a few days have passed, I’m actually starting to feel relieved. 
I understand that if I really want the job, I should call the franchise owner again to follow up, but honestly, I’m not sure that I want to.  While that job will bring me around $100 less per month than my unemployment gives me, it comes with benefits and the potential to turn into a salaried job as the economy improves.  And yet, I don’t feel the need to fight for this job.  This could be due to my passive nature, but I really feel that it is due to the fact that I want to teach.  Period.
I’m fairly certain I could excel at Sylvan; even with the managerial demands the position entails.  I might even find some happiness working there; especially once the afternoon hits and the kids arrive.  But ultimately, I know my heart will be longing for that teaching void that this job would not fill.
And honestly?  Besides the waves of worthlessness that wash over me every now and again, I’m actually kind of enjoying my unemployment.  Due to all this free time, I was able to start this blog last June.  For as long as I can remember, writing has been gratifying to me.  I have volumes upon volumes of journals that span from 5th grade to my college years.  I used to write 13 page letters to my best friend on a regular basis before snail mail became outdated.  Writing calms me, and fills me with a sense of accomplishment.  If I hadn’t lost my job, I don’t think I would have found the time to start this blog, and I think that’s what worries me.  I don’t mind putting my writing on a backburner for teaching.  Working with children is my number one passion, and I look forward to the time when I can be back in the classroom.  But to give up my love of writing, for a job that is not where I ultimately want to end up in life, does not sound like an enjoyable alternative. 
Many may look at this decision as selfish, or even idiotic.  Believe me, I wrestle with feelings of guilt and laziness over being unemployed on a daily basis, and not aggressively going after this Sylvan job is taking it’s toll on me (the chewed, pink, raw skin around my thumbs are physical proof of that).  And while my intentions do have a dash of selfishness thrown in, I know I have to make happiness my number one priority.  If I start working a job that ultimately, does not leave me happy, and prevents me from continuing to write, I think I will only live to regret it. 
I’ve always strived to look for the positive in things, and I truly feel that my unemployment was a blessing.  Besides the fact that it gave me the opportunity to write and express myself, it allowed me to move in with Greg, and realize that, despite always being around each other, we still have the most amazing, rock-solid relationship.  It is a love and respect that I’ve never experienced before, and I’m so grateful to live with him and experience what a loving relationship is supposed to feel like.  Moving back to my hometown after twelve years away also strengthened and renewed my relationships with my immediate and extended family.  I’ve always been close with my family, but this proximity has been pleasant and uplifting for me.  I’m thankful for the chance to pop in and visit my grandma in the early afternoon hours, or to meet up on Saturdays at the park for a game of Ultimate Frisbee with my siblings, cousins, and friends.  If I were still teaching in Adelanto, none of this would be possible.
Judge my decisions if you want, but until I’m teaching again, I’m going to make the most of my unemployment and push my guilty feelings aside. 

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

…and society’s “beholders” can be pretty tough.
My eighteen-year-old cousin got Botox in her forehead.  EIGHTEEN!!!  The two, small, horizontal lines that she was looking to erase were hardly visible, yet, someone made it a point to let her know that they could see those lines and that they were unflattering.  This sickens and saddens me. 
First off, my cousin is smart and naturally gorgeous: the whole package.  I never even noticed the faint lines on her forehead; quite unlike the six, very noticeable, lines that have ran across mine since I was a child.  And secondly, how dare someone cut into her self-esteem by suggesting that her worth is in her appearance!  I am in no way upset at my cousin, but I do hold harsh feelings toward the unknown person(s) who made my little cousin feel self-conscious and subpar due to natural skin creasing! 
Society’s air brushed advertisements have already made our ideal looks unattainable.  We don’t need people we know to point out, what they see, as flaws.  My ex-boyfriend used to tell me that I needed to start wearing makeup more often, and that my jeans and t-shirt look should be varied with more skirts and blouses—and no, my hippie skirts did not count.  It begrudges me to admit it, but to this day, I do not feel pretty walking out the door without at least a little mascara on my lashes due to those past conversations.  Please do not think that I am digging for compliments, because I’m not.  I have enough confidence to know that I am, indeed, a beautiful person.  In fact, I snagged my current, handsome boyfriend wearing loose jeans, a t-shirt, and my usual “barely there” eye makeup, so I can’t be that bad.
I don’t know too many people who can truly say that they are one hundred percent satisfied with their appearance, and I don’t think that they need to be.  There is nothing wrong with striving for a healthy lifestyle or wanting to try new looks with makeup and hair.  All I’m saying is that society needs to back off of people’s natural looks.  Yeah, I’m starting to tug at the crow’s feet by my eyes, but I don’t need anyone else pointing them out for me!  I understand that my body is going to change, and I can’t say that I won’t try “age defying” creams as I get older, but at least I can be at peace knowing that my friends and family will always love me no matter how I look, because inside, I am a friendly and caring person. 
Words hurt.  Keep unkind thoughts and opinions to yourself.  Learn to love yourself more and more.

New year.  New thoughts.  New challenges.  You up for it?