PTSD and abuse. How do you know for sure? January 09, 2022

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If you can’t remember how do you know it happened? You could be wrong.

I can see how, lacking memories, skeptics might question my claims of child abuse.

I’ve been thinking about this more intensely this weekend. It’s not that I haven’t spent time with it before. I have… decades in fact. Just not intensely.

This is the first time I’ve managed to lay it all out in order.

Just because my mind has refused to remember extreme pain, that doesn’t mean I have no memories of the rest of my life.

As a child, I remember poverty, insecurity and instability with a self-employed father full of brilliant ideas that didn’t always pan out. Highly sociable parents who loved to party and run with the fast crowd. An alcoholic father who was not always a nice, or faithful man. Dad was never alone much either.

Once the line has been crossed from inactive to active it can never be uncrossed. My conscious mind may refuse to remember the painful violations but my body remembers. Going forward, my unconscious thought patterns, reactions, and expectations were shaped by childhood experiences. As a teen, looking back, I recognize thought patterns that could only come from experience. With nothing to compare to, how could I know an inexperienced teen wouldn’t know what I knew. My naivete was in thinking I went in to marriage as a novice.

The most compelling indicator of abuse, though, was triggers.

For many decades, involuntarily, I refused to question anything. Thought patterns, reactions, hints, not even consideration of the to-question-or-not-to question dilemma, none of it. Subconsciously I knew I wouldn’t like the answers inspection would bring and my mind steadfastly refused to go there.

It was many decades before I gave triggers much thought. They were just a normal part of life. That is how it often is for the abused. Only when we see how others live do we recognize that what we live with is abnormal.

In the beginning most triggers seemed to be related to men. They range from a quick shut down, to knee-jerk reactions, to panic attacks. After years of examining root causes and then dealing with them, there were changes. Or, maybe it was whatever was next-in-line showing up.

The most recent episodes have taken me by surprise. With dysfunctional family dynamics there were multiple levels of abuse, much of it emotional. These lessor? triggers are taking their turn at gaining attention.

Reactions provide compelling evidence of abuse but the final nail in solidifying the idea was my brother insisting I admit it happened.

If there is any lingering doubt acesaware.org (Adverse Childhood Experiences) has extensive questionnaires offering insight. They name the minimum number of boxes it takes to assess probability. I passed the exam with flying colors. More than the required number of boxes checked off.

One of their areas of discussion is health issues. Aggravated by unaddressed abuse trauma. Two areas show up for me. Digestive and autoimmune. They have become more pronounced with each passing year.

A selfie standing on the kitchen floor.

This has been going on for more than ten years. I have a specialist appointment in a few weeks but it doesn’t look like there is any cure. This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve had skin issues most of my life, if it leaves one area it pops up in another. Why fight it?

There is no room left for doubt about what happened to me.

One more note: the As a child, .. paragraph above provided ample reasons for the checked off boxes on one of the questionnaire pages.

If you suspect you may be a victim check out acesaware.org , it is sponsored by California health and has a wealth of information and helpful tools available to everyone.

I hope this made sense.

C-PTSD conversation December 12, 2021

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Trigger alert. Don’t read this if you are easily triggered or distressed with abuse stories. For sure don’t read this if my story distresses you. (family, friends.) I do promise there will be no explicit details. Generalities are bad enough.

Why now? you ask… It’s time.

If you are a praying person, I would appreciate your prayers. This is going to cost me, big time. It has to happen sometime and it feels like the time is now so I’ll carry on.

Why even do this?… It will be cathartic.

Advance warning – I do plan to end on a positive note. Something healing happened this week and I will share what that was.

Most of my life has been intentionally lived as if my past never happened. Parts of my adult life have been lived as a public figure, no one connected with me knew my background. It was all a secret.

There are two reasons for not speaking up sooner. One was that I had deeply repressed memories (still do) and wouldn’t admit to my suspicions without proof. My brother made me admit the abuse about 15 years ago when I was no longer a young woman.

The second reason (excuse) was tied up in protecting the reputation of the abuser. My outlook on that aspect has changed and protecting him no longer seems as important. I guess I was reluctant for family reasons too. None of that seems as important now either..

The reason for the abuse and the form it took is complex. I’m fairly certain there was abuse in Dad’s background which would explain why his alcoholism was firmly established by mid teens. It would also explain the sex addiction which probably started in early to mid teens as well.

An unplanned pregnancy (me) with unwanted responsibilities and lifestyle changes added rage to the mix.

Double addictions along with rage brought variety to the abuse. Selfish, immature, vindictive traits, didn’t help either.

So, all of that to say the abuse started early and took different forms depending on mood and availability. As the years went by access became more readily available. Mom had a job and also spent significant time in hospital fighting cancer. The last two years with him were the worst.

Dad was an extrovert and there were always visitors on the property. He was not adverse to sharing with his friends. As the abuse progressed I was groomed and trafficked. Money was a big draw. He was always in need of another bottle of whiskey. He was proud of his grooming.

My brothers and I were rescued as I turned twelve. Mom had to spend another stint in hospital and we were sent to stay with my grandmother. She insisted.

The door in my mind was slammed shut on all of the repressed memories. The experiences endured were unpleasant and as a teen there was not a speck of me wanting to be sexually active with boys. I’m grateful.

There were little clues in some of my irrational responses and thought patterns back then that might have been a tip-off if I had been willing to examine them.

Over the years prayer has been a very important part of my healing journey. I keep asking God to heal the exposed broken places that I have no idea how to fix or move past. He has been healing me incrementally for years, and friends and family are noticing the difference.

The positive note to end this post is about one of those healing times.

One of the aspects of intimacy, the experts say, is the connection formed in that moment. Casual or serious makes no difference.

I know it’s true. The relationship changes once that bridge has been crossed. The connection with your first is probably the strongest. Dad was my first and there were many more after him.

The last while I have been allowing myself to relax and let memories resurface if they want to. Sometimes it’s been emotions, sometimes bits of memories. There has been a heavy sense of connection to Dad.

This week in answer to prayer that connection with him has been broken. It’s gone, for him and all the other men he allowed in my life. I felt the emotion drain out of me and now I feel nothing for him.

I’ve let go of anger, I’ve forgiven him, the connection has been broken, and now the secret has been revealed.

There will still be triggers, more healing needed, and more issues to be faced. In the aftermath there will be a price to pay for sharing this story. It’s part of the deal.

Despite all of that I’m celebrating, in a numb kind of way. The secret is out. Another hurdle in the healing journey has been crossed.

If you made it this far, thank you for listening.

The sun is peeking from behind the dark clouds.

Enjoyed, current, and possible next, November 28, 2021

Enjoyed and current read are both in the same series.

Not Until Forever: A Christian Romance (Hope Springs Book 1)

As she focuses on her career, Sophie doesn’t let herself think about what she gave up when she declined Spencer’s proposal five years ago. So when she’s called home to say goodbye to her dying grandmother, she goes out of her way to avoid seeing him. Of course, that means he’s the first person she runs into. Much as she fights against it, being near him stirs up old feelings and makes her question old decisions.

Leaving college to help on the family orchard cost Spencer the woman he loved. But he couldn’t turn his back on his family. Now that Sophie’s back in town, Spencer’s determined to protect his heart. Only he senses something new in Sophie—something that makes him think maybe they could have a second chance. But when his family needs him again, he feels like he’s repeating the past. Only this time, he’s not sure what choice he should make.

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Book one was a pleasurable read and I am looking forward to more enjoyment as I finish Book 5. Those in between these two have been previously read and enjoyed.

Not Until Christmas Morning: A Christian Romance (Hope Springs Book 5)

Leah has always been a fixer. That’s why she decided to foster a troubled teen. And it’s why she’s determined to give him the perfect Christmas. It might also be why she feels compelled to reach out to her grinchy, reclusive neighbor Austin. But she’ll have to be careful that reaching out doesn’t turn into something more—she’s been hurt by crossing the line from friendship to romance once, and she’s not willing to let it happen again.

After losing his leg, his friend, and his faith in Afghanistan, Austin figures he’s about as broken as they come. Hope Springs is simply a stopping point—a place to rehabilitate his leg, get over the burden of his PTSD, and get back into shape to redeploy. He has no desire to get to know anyone while he’s here, least of all the meddlesome—if sweet—woman next door. But when she calls on him to help her make Christmas special for her foster son, something compels him to relent. Soon, his heart belongs to both of them.

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Under consideration for next in line, there are two.

Non fiction – Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition.

Fiction – The Bridge

Notes on Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt Nov 21, 2021

Last time we ended just before the topic… Changing the channel on our invasive words and thoughts.

Page 92:

There are a number of components and I will highlight a few that stand out to me. There is so much more to be said, reading the book would be helpful.

...how you can start: Change what you tell yourself. … Talk back to your inner critic.

The most important battles we fight, many times, happen internally.

The past can be healed in only one way: Forgive it. That is the one thing you can do for yourself that can change all of your tomorrows.

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Page 93 – 96

I’m going to deviate from the book here. The author is dealing with shame in this section and uses the example of the Prodigal Son in the Bible. He tells how the father, with love, received his son back home. Despite his “bad boy” lifestyle, wasting his inheritance, and returning home in disgrace.

The father is a picture of the way God loves us and receives us no matter what we’ve done or what has been done to us.

I’m deviating from the book, though, because I think it’s important for us to understand the difference between shame and guilt. The information I’m about to share I’ve seen expressed in many places over the years, but for today’s purpose I found it laid out on verywellmind.com under living with BPD.

I’m paraphrasing here for space sake.

Guilt is the feeling you have related to things you have done. With guilt you can take steps to make things right and move on.

Shame is the feeling you have related to you are, or who you’ve been led to believe you are, your whole self not just an event. Shame it is not as easily dealt with because there is nothing you can do to make restitution. It’s about who you are, not something you’ve done.

There is an excellent ten minute podcast on their website discussing the shame we have been hiding and the link is posted below.

https://www.verywellmind.com/the-verywell-mind-podcast-5113058

The important take away from the podcast was this: there are two things shame cannot survive. One is exposure, tell someone. The second is empathy, tell someone who understands and is supportive.

It’s very important to find the right person to confide your secrets.

If shame is an issue for you, and it is for those of us who have survived an abusive life, this is highly helpful information.

So, back to the book. Check it out for the larger conversation.

I’m not sure what’s next but we will find out.

Notes on Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt Nov 20, 2021

Continuing on from where we left off last time. A few more relevant quotes.

Self condemnation: page 84

When we let lies overrule love, it affects those around us. We tend to take out our frustrations, lack of self-worth, shame or guilt on those we love. We cannot possibly love like we’ve never been hurt if we do not love ourselves.

another very important quote, same page:

If you struggle with shame, you may have trouble extending grace to others. If you struggle with finding self-worth, you may find it difficult to trust those around you.

Page 88:

We wear all sorts of things that keep us in bondage. Shame. Condemnation. Brokenness. Fear. Anxiety. Anger. Unforgiveness.

We are living in a mental cage. Page 89

Imprisoned with painful memories, with failures from the past, with self-sabotaging thoughts, with fear of an uncertain future.

Page 90:

When you start believing the lies about who you are, you begin to destroy your destiny.

How to change the channel?

That will be tomorrow’s topic.

These quotes are not the whole story, we need to read the book to see the full picture.

Well, I’m reading the book. I’m sure you will find it helpful too.

Current Read “How can I ever really forgive?” November 15, 2021

Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt, now that’s something many of us can relate to. Having been hurt.

This book has been out in the open on a shelf for a number of years. Tonight I decided I need to read one of the many non fiction books I’ve been stock piling the last few years. The name of this one popped into my mind before I could even cross the room.

It’s something, because as I read the first two pages I found a conversation pretty much like the one I’ve been having with a friend recently. Hurt, betrayal, pain, a universal problem.

This book talks about all of that and it includes the author’s personal story of pain. Lending credibility because he has walked this road himself.

Jentezen Franklin is a well known public figure and his story is out there but this time it is his telling.

I learned of him in an interview on a popular podcast. I was impressed and bought his book the first chance I got. In paperback so I could mark it up and take better notes.

I’m looking forward to this read. I think it will answer a lot of questions and probably raise a few more.

Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt: Hope, Healing and the Power of an Open Heart

The human heart was created with a great capacity to love. But along with that comes a great capacity to feel pain. There is no denying that those who love us, who are closest to us, can wound us the most profoundly. That kind of pain can be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. And it can feel even more impossible to continue loving in the face of it. Yet that is exactly what we are called to do.

Sharing his own story of personal pain, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Jentezen Franklin shows us how to find the strength, courage, and motivation to set aside the hurt, see others as God sees them, and reach out in love. Through biblical and modern-day stories, he discusses different types of relational disappointment and heartache, and answers questions such as Why should I trust again? and How can I ever really forgive?

The walls we build around our hearts to cut us off from pain are the very walls that block us from seeing hope, receiving healing, and feeling love. Here are the tools and inspiration you need to tear down those walls, work through your wounds, repair damaged relationships, and learn to love like you’ve never been hurt.

Resources PTSD related October 31, 2021

An ongoing discussion today prompts the sharing of these resources for those of us with abusive backgrounds. The effects can be far reaching but not beyond help.

I was introduced to these books when I joined a group working with other women like me, and they were invaluable. A public library may even be a good place to find these.

The New Codependency: Help and Guidance for Today’s Generation

In Codependent No More, Melody Beattie introduced the world to the term codependency. Now a modern classic, this book established Beattie as a pioneer in self-help literature and endeared her to millions of readers who longed for healthier relationships. Twenty-five years later concepts such as self-care and setting boundaries have become entrenched in mainstream culture. Now Beattie has written a followup volume, The New Codependency, which clears up misconceptions about codependency, identifies how codependent behavior has changed, and provides a new generation with a road map to wellness.

The question remains: What is and what is not codependency? Beattie here reminds us that much of codependency is normal behavior. It’s about crossing lines. There are times we do too much, care too much, feel too little, or overly engage. Feeling resentment after giving is not the same as heartfelt generosity. Narcissism and self-love, enabling and nurturing, and controlling and setting boundaries are not interchangeable terms. In The New Codependency, Beattie explores these differences, effectively invoking her own inspiring story and those of others, to empower us to step out of the victim role forever. Codependency, she shows, is not an illness but rather a series of behaviors that once broken down and analyzed can be successfully combated.

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Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

In a crisis, it’s easy to revert to old patterns. Caring for your well-being during the coronavirus pandemic includes maintaining healthy boundaries and saying no to unhealthy relationships.

The healing touchstone of millions, this modern classic by one of America’s best-loved and most inspirational authors holds the key to understanding codependency and to unlocking its stultifying hold on your life.

Is someone else’s problem your problem? If, like so many others, you’ve lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to someone else’s, you may be codependent–and you may find yourself in this book–Codependent No More. The healing touchstone of millions, this modern classic by one of America’s best-loved and most inspirational authors holds the key to understanding codependency and to unlocking its stultifying hold on your life.

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Along with these two books this next one is important companion book

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Do you feel like your life has spiraled out of control? Have you focused so much on being loving and unselfish that you’ve forgotten your own limits? Do you find yourself taking responsibility for other people’s feelings and problems? In Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend teach you the ins and outs of setting the boundaries that will transform your daily life.

Boundaries, a New York Times bestseller, will give you the tools you need to learn to say yes and know how to say no. Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend are here to share the lessons they’ve learned in their years of practicing psychology and studying the patterns and practices that support clear biblical boundaries.

C-PTSD conversation October 28, 2021

Walls or Boundaries?

This week I have been thinking about walls.

The emotional walls many of us put up to protect ourselves from hurt (emotional) or harm (physical).

The trouble with those walls – they don’t just keep out the bad stuff, they keep out the good stuff too.

Some of us have flimsy walls that go up and down, depending on what life is doing to us in the moment.

Others have walls that have grown in thickness and height enough to compare with Fort Knox. That’s the famous institution where the USA keeps it’s gold bullion. The ultimate in fortress walls.

The thicker and higher, the harder it is to bring them down, never mind let someone in for a moment. A very lonely life.

At this stage for me, I have walls that go up and down. They are mostly down but there are still circumstances where I feel threatened, at risk, distrustful, and the walls go up.

A small percentage of the time they may be warranted but the rest of the time the threat I perceive is not real.

I’ve being trying to find a solution, a way to handle triggers and paranoia in certain circumstances and that led me to thinking about boundaries.

The beauty of boundaries is the height. They can be markings on the road, they can be curbs, guardrails, fences. They are usually something that allows for communication and interaction while still acting as a barrier.

I think changing from walls to boundaries will take some serious consideration. A change in mindset.

I haven’t figured it all out yet. How to establish something appropriate and workable. Since we don’t actually have physical boundaries it has to be something that can be expressed in words. Something I can live with and put into practice.

Mostly I feel uncomfortable in public spaces. It will be a challenge to find ways to make that work. What would it take to make me feel safe.

At this point I have no idea what that would even look like but I’m willing to consider it.

Mainly because walls are not working out all that well for me, wanting to leave isolation behind.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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This is a book I’ve had on my shelf for a very long time. I think I need to read it again. Maybe it will give me some good ideas.

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries is the book that’s helped over 4 million people learn when to say yes and know how to say no in order to take control of their lives.

Does your life feel like it’s out of control? Perhaps you feel like you have to say yes to everyone’s requests. Maybe you find yourself readily taking responsibility for others’ feelings and problems. Or perhaps you focus so much on being loving and unselfish that you’ve forgotten your own limits and limitations. Or maybe it’s all of the above.

In the New York Times bestseller, Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend help you learn when to say yes and know how to say no in order to take control of your life and set healthy, biblical boundaries with your spouse, children, friends, parents, co-workers, and even yourself.

Now updated and expanded for the digital age, this book continues to help millions of people around the world answer these tough questions:

  • Can I set limits and still be a loving person?
  • What are legitimate boundaries?
  • How do I effectively manage my digital life so that it doesn’t control me?
  • What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?
  • How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money?
  • Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries?
  • How do boundaries relate to mutual submission within marriage?
  • Aren’t boundaries selfish?

C-PTSD conversation October 22, 2021

FORGIVENESS

Forgiveness, or the lack of it, is a roadblock to a peaceful life, unforgiveness impacts the victim’s life more than it does the abuser’s. The abuser does not deserve to be forgiven and probably doesn’t even care about having it one way or the other.

There is a full spectrum of emotions to be had as a result of holding on to hurt. At one end – I hate him and will never forgive him (or her,) at the other end – I know I need to forgive and I want to but I keep taking it back. The level of peace or distress we have depends on which end of the spectrum we fall on.

Unforgiveness can act like a cancer. The harder we hang on to it the more it takes over our life. Bitterness and a host of other emotions can take root and grow to gigantic proportions. There is no peace to be had if that happens.

I guess if we have been severely abused and feel dispassionate about everything we don’t have raging emotions to deal with and we can live what appears to be a normal happy life. But sooner or later something will trigger a reaction, maybe even something gigantic. That’s me and my life.

It has taken many decades but I have forgiven my dad.

His abuse took on many forms. It started a few weeks after conception, rage at imminent and unwanted fatherhood. All of the years long abuse was fueled by rage, addictions, and immaturity. He wasn’t my only abuser, he allowed others access when it suited him. I can figure out about 6 of them, including a pedophile, but there is a knowing that I can’t escape, even though I want to, there were more, maybe even many more. You can see why all my memories have been repressed. There are a few vague memories, puzzling thought patterns, and many triggers, all leaving clues. And then a brother who insisted I admit I was abused.

You can also understand why, when I was 18 and he was found dead, I was glad, relieved.

After many decades I have forgiven my dad and the changes in my emotional well being have been dramatic. I’m grateful.

There were other significant abusers though and the forgiveness process for them is still ongoing, with no end in sight. I haven’t been able to forgive yet but at the same time I choose not to hate. That in itself has made life a better place for me.

They say that the abused often choose a spouse similar to their abuser. In my case he was nothing like my dad and I thought I had done well.

Dad’s abuse loomed large and took over the whole conversation. It took decades to figure out what was going on with these other two relationships. Emotional abuse is difficult to identify even though the damage is greater.

Emotionally unavailable was the problem. It manifests itself in a number of different ways, all of them hurtful. Physical abuse, I could have said I’m done. But in this case I couldn’t see any workable way to deal with the problem.

Inability to name the issues responsible added a whole new layer of hurt, in both relationships.

Eventually I knew I had to take the bull by the horns and force some sort of decision. We’ve been living apart for nearly two decades. The most distressing and ongoing issue was I still couldn’t figure out why. I needed to understand.

I’ve been praying about forgiveness toward him for years and gotten nowhere.

The other morning was a breakthrough moment for me. In a moment of clarity I suddenly recognized that the parent I patterned a spouse after was not my dad but my mother.

I married a man like my mother.

That thought made so much sense, it was like chains falling off. It’s that simple and I don’t need to figure anything else out.

There is still a long way to go but I don’t think it will take decades now. There is freedom in forgiveness and that will be enough when it comes.

I’m still praying though, because I still need help.

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What I wish I could have had.

C-PTSD conversation. October 21, 2021

I’m a peace maker at heart, wanting everyone to feel comfortable. I’ve been hesitant in talking about PTSD here very often because many of my friends are uncomfortable with the topic. Probably because they don’t have it themselves and can’t relate.

However, there is a growing audience for conversations around this subject. Personally, I see it as a good thing.

There are suggestions out there saying there are benefits to be had from writing about our experiences.There are also great benefits in hearing the stories of others. I’m finding both to be helpful in my healing process.

When I think about it, fellow bloggers are not obliged to read a post just because it’s there. I think I need to believe they can make a good decision for themselves without me shielding them. Read or not to read? They have a choice.

Earlier, I was researching some related PTSD material, doing a little fact checking before starting this. It added a few more questions to the mix.

One of my major symptoms is the startle reflex. Sometimes it’s strong enough to lift me off the chair. Not by much but even a sliver is too much in my estimation.

It’s amazing to me how reactions can change from person to person but it works consistently for each person. There was one guy in the office who could appear at my desk without causing so much as a ripple. There were two other guys who were consistently giving me heart attacks. I didn’t see them coming, didn’t know they were coming, so how did the right reaction happen for the right guy? One of the guys thought it was quite funny and took great delight in sneaking up and scaring me. Of course he had no idea what was behind it. Actually back then I didn’t either.

I’m guessing my hyper alert subconscious mind heard them coming and even recognized and identified the foot steps. I was used to these guys and I have no idea how my subconscious mind decided how to react to each one. Baffling.

Looking at them did not cause negative reactions, I had a level of trust which made it all seem rather strange to me.

I am guessing they remind me of someone who was a participant in a bad situation. One that I don’t remember.

Another trigger example related to men. One Sunday, more than 10 years ago, I walked in to the morning church service. As I crossed the foyer I looked up and saw the usher standing at the sanctuary door and stopped dead in my tracks. I wanted to turn around and run. I didn’t. After a few seconds I took myself by the scruff of my emotional inner neck and continued on past him.

I didn’t know the man, had never seen him before. There was nothing remarkable or scary about him. A short middle aged balding guy. Probably a very nice man.

I’ve never forgotten that morning. I still feel uncomfortable just thinking about it. I’m guessing he reminds me of someone. I don’t even want to know who.

You’ve probably guessed I rarely go to church much any more. I’ve gone from rarely missed to rarely there.

Too many triggers.

On a lighter closing note. One of my big plants is blooming for the third time this year. Unusual.

I couldn’t take a sharp in-focus picture to save my life, just saying.

I’m going to go read my book now for awhile and calm down about all of this.

It has been good though, I think.

It’s funny how the mind works. I had a whole other post in mind. One I was emotionally invested in most of the day.

In the long run, I’m sure it’s better this way.

Share your thoughts with me, I would love to hear them.