Forgiveness · Maturity · Musings · Personal Growth · Relationships · Silent-Treatment · Vulnerability

Me: The Emotional-Abuser

BATTENING DOWN THE HATCHES

His words and gesture hit a nerve. An internal wound. It’s been replaying in my mind all week – in slow-motion, in fast play, when I’m busy, when I’m quiet. I see it in nauseating detail. I could describe it all pixel by pixel.

I immediately battened down the hatches.

Battening down the hatches means to prepare for trouble. A nautical hatch or hatchway, pictured below, is an opening or doorway in the deck of a ship, covered with a door or wooden grating to allow for access or ventilation to the lower decks.

wooden hatch

Fig. 1 Hatch on old wooden ship (VOC)

“When bad weather was imminent, the hatches were covered with tarpaulin and the covering was edged with wooden strips, known as battens, to prevent it from blowing off. Not surprisingly, sailors called this ‘battening down’.” (Martin, 2019)

I’m pretty good at foretelling a storm and bad weather was certainly imminent last Tuesday night. I swiftly slipped into my deck before he could say “Ahoy mate!”, and securely battened my hatches.

I do regularly-scheduled emergency drills and have gotten pretty good at this. I have done my due diligence and prepared for such events. Down here, it’s cozy, warm, dark, and dry. I have emergency supplies that could last me months. I am in my safe place. I even have a contingency plan for my contingency plan. That’s what it looks like on the inside.

That’s rather different from the outside, where it looks a lot like the ole’ silent-treatment. He hurt me and I shut down. Physically, I am ignoring him. I am avoiding the subject and even eye-contact. When he enters a room, I leave. I use a different tone with him than I do with others.  I withhold attention and affection.

Emotionally and spiritually, I’ve gone from hurt, to sadness, to anger, and entered vengeance-mode. I will have the last word, literally. I think I am better than him. I’m holding him in contempt to make him squirm. I know it bugs him and I hear myself cackling the gleeful anthem of revenge.  I aim to shame him into changing and cooperating with me – or else. I am manipulating. I’m trying to play the parent and make him the naughty kid. I am withholding forgiveness. I’ve locked him out and I’m fondling the key in my pocket. I am punishing him. In my passive-aggressive craze I foolishly think I am winning.

This is emotional abuse!

“They battened the hatches,

But the hatches didn’t hold.”

Bob Dylan, Tempest

I may very well have started off with a good point, but I turned left on Main onto this well-worn back-alley to hell. He hurt me and I had trouble communicating that. I became the victim. I propped up my persona, flipped things on him, and expected him to take full responsibility for the problem that he created.

“Don’t be dramatic, Hannah. You can’t be an abuser,” I hear a well-meaning friend quip, “you’re so sweet.” Wrong!

It’s interesting that this – fundamentally – has little, if anything, to do with him. It’s a lousy coping mechanism I’ve adopted and honed over the years. I’ll save you the details about my adverse childhood experiences and why I am like this. At the end of the day, it’s like hearing from the guy who can’t pay his rent – only the last line matters.

It’s time to call it what it is. I’m unhealthy and immature, even crippled in this area. I have engaged in very pre-adolescent behavior and been driven by fear and shame. In the process, I have hardened my heart.

They say the fish is the last to see the water. Decades ago, he called me out on giving him the silent treatment. I didn’t consciously know I did this. I’d never even heard the term.  After I realized it, I justified it as just a small thing I do.

Recently my friend Patti said the silent-treatment is emotional abuse. Whaaat??!! I was frying other emotional fish at the time so I stuck that one in the freezer. Today, I opened my freezer hatch and it hit me between the eyes like an anchor – this is a HUGE problem I need to be rid of.

I have the resources I need to handle this and need to grow up in this area. I can state I need space. I can process the information and my emotions and come back to it in reasonable time. I may not like how he addressed the problem but it’s on me to respond maturely. For me, this abusive behavior walks hand-in-hand with other avoidant ones such as procrastination and evasiveness, but I’ll stick that in the freezer for now. As Michelle Caswell, of Purely His Inc. states in her book by the same name – which is changing my life – we can choose to have this take 7 minutes, 7 hours, 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months, or 7 years. I’m going with the 7 second option!

My husband has come a long way in learning how to handle me in this. He no longer stands above and bangs on the hatch to ask if I’m okay or when I’m coming out; or worse, what’s wrong with me and when am I going to learn to communicate. Paradoxically, all this questioning somehow made me rub my hands in satisfaction. He realizes he can’t change me and has chosen to walk the high road. He doesn’t have to play my game. He is the stable one. He continues to say what he needs to and refuses to walk on egg-shells. He finds things to do during times we would be spending together, since I’m not available now. He continues to show affection as I allow.

Today I listened to Dr. Les Carter on his YouTube post “The Silent Treatment” and journaled, “Thank you Lord that he is his own mature adult despite my behavior.” I’m also happy to note that, over the years, I’ve gone from having a massive automatic hatch, pictured below,

massive hatch

Fig. 2 Massive hatch (Folding type, 2017)

To the medium sized hatch pictured below. Note how much muscle it takes to open it. I was willing to do that hard work rather than change.

medium hatch

Fig. 3 Medium-sized hatch also called a dog-hatch

(howlingpixel, 2018)

To this little guy:

small hatch

Fig. 4 Small hatch

I’m done being the hatch queen. The batten queen. It is a fruitless work of darkness, regardless of its size. As I strain towards maturity, I am learning about and living the power of vulnerability; and stripping the false security of shame and fear by unmasking myself. As a powerful healing tool, the Lord gave me a picture of a big red button on my forehead. It says “Expose It”, as driven by the words “Everything exposed by the light becomes visible and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” (NIV, Eph. 5.13).

red button

The “Expose It” Button

So I just pushed that button. I’m doing the arduous work of stripping my safety cabin of its supplies and charm. I’ve spent too much time making it cozy. I’m packing up the comforts and bringing them on deck. I’m locking that last little hatch and tossing the key overboard into the sea of forgiveness.  I did the best I did with what I had. So long little room. It’s a new day. I’m growing up… I’m going up.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. VOC  ship old hatch cannon port rope wooden http://m.imageafter.com/image.php?image=b3_woods023.jpg
  2. ‘Batten Down the Hatches’ – the Meaning and Origin Of This Phrase
  3. Gary Martin – https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/batten-down-the-hatches.html

Dylan, Bob. “Tempest.” Tempest, Columbia Records, 2012.

4. osprey-marine.co.uk. “Folding Type” https://www.marineinsight.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/ospera.jpg, Tanumoy Sinha, Naval Architecture, Different Types And Designs of Hatch Covers Used For Ships, 2017.

5. A hatch on USS Blue Ridge with the hatch dogs clearly visible. https://howlingpixel.com/i-en/Dog_(engineering), 2018.

6. “Construction of ship hatches.” http://www.crewtoo.com/crew-life/helpful-info/don’t-play-with-hatches-construction-of-ship-hatches/

7. The Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2011.

 

Clutter · Eagles · Gratitude · Meditation · Musings

IT’S INCREDIBLE FROM HERE!

I had an amazing experience at 3 a.m.

I have been a chronic clutterer. My piles drive me crazy. They are everywhere. I desire that the a cure me for that habit. I long for clean uncluttered surfaces. I love it when all my things are well organized.

I sat to meditate. As I breathed very deeply and came into a relaxed state, I entered the shelter of His wing for help in this area. That wing is my favorite happy place. I love the feel of His heartbeat from here. Here, I feel small and warm, nurtured, protected. I am wanted here,  I belong here. Very deeeep breath…

He slowly fluttered then flapped those mighty, giant wings, and mounted steadily, powerfully, magically to the skies on a tour of where I sat.

I sat in my  living room on my comfortable, gray plaid chair. I bought it at Thrift City many years ago. I remember smiling when I saw it. I am grateful that I enjoy thrifting and that I have discretionary funds to do that for pleasure.

From here I can see my wonderful Tiffany-like lamp. It is exquisite and brings me much pleasure. I got it on OfferUp from a precious lady who was happy to discount its price for me. But when I saw it, I was so enthralled that I paid her the full price and more. It reminds me of God’s call to be generous and how he is happy to lavish wonderful gifts on us. Please open my eyes more and more to the rich blessings that are hidden in generosity.

From here I can see my beautiful beige leather furniture. I used my first salary after grad school to buy it. It too is gorgeous. It reminds me that He gifted me with an amazing education in a foreign land. That my parents and family sacrificed so much for me to study back home, and counted it a blessing to sacrifice and send me to school here. It reminds me that He helped me persevere through much hardship. He established me in this astoundingly loving community that has embraced me as its own. Not all have that rich experience.

From here I can see the grand fireplace that is the focal point of this room. It is magnificent in its grandeur. I thank God for the beautiful rough-hewn stonework and  the massive rustic woodwork, complete with the squiggly signature where a playful worm doodled its way along the wood, and the craftsmanship that went into building it. It reminds me can I have a very beautiful roof over my head and a place to call home.

From here I can see my easel. I have several art projects going. Watercolors, acrylics, wood burning, photography. It reminds me that I have been given an incredible gift of creativity that I neither deserved, nor worked for, nor even requested, and that I have the wherewithal to practice and enjoy it.

From here I delight in seeing the gallery that my friend designed for my artwork. It reminds me I have a host friends who greatly enrich my life. It reminds me that I have art work I produce to share as gifts with those that the Lord has gifted me with. I can hear the buzz of numerous conversations from various parties,  as friends and family gather in this room for celebrations or simply to enjoy each other.

From here I can hear busy activity in the room next door as my caregivers and residents interact with each other. I hear the clanging of pans in the kitchen and the laughter as stories are shared. It reminds me that I am blessed to own and run an adult foster home and to have the skills and capacity to care for precious medically fragile seniors. It reminds me that their families have entrusted their treasures to me, an honor I do not take lightly. It reminds me that I have a father, and though I would love to care for him, that is not my blessing today. That honor goes to my sister who has poured her life into his. For that I am very grateful. It reminds me that I have precious family scattered all over the world and that I can see them from time to time. I am grateful that I can speak to them on the phone almost anytime. It reminds me that our bonds are tight, precious, and indestructible despite the miles.

From here I can observe Paul in his school corner working diligently with his two computer screens. It reminds me that I have time and the privilege to home-school my son. It reminds me I have a first born son. It reminds me that for the last year-and-a-half, every night at prayer, he starts by saying “Thank you Lord for letting me home-school, and letting my mom home-school me.” He is technologically savvy and teaches me many technical things. He is a minimalist and uses only a few things in life, unlike his mother. It reminds me that he is growing up too fast when I hear his deep booming voice. He is funny and healthy and intelligent and gentle.  His fat, sassy cat, Rose, sits on his desk or on his lap. I love to see them together. When she was just a kitten, she sat outside the shower stall and curiously watched his blurred form  through the etched glass walls, waiting for him to come out.

From here I can see the pull-up bar that James leaps to before bounding into the room, like a trapeze artist flying into the circus ring from the rafters. It reminds me that he is a cheeky  bundle of gregarious energy who can’t help but burst into every room he enters. It reminds me that he is gifted with agility and remarkable coordination. It reminds me that he always has something exciting or funny to tell me, or a new idea to share. He is very emotional and feels things, happy or sad, very deeply. The commotion reminds me that he is home from school and happy to be here, and that the calm of the day is over.  It reminds me of his teacher, Ms Willms, who is a delightful blessing to our family and who loves him dearly.

From here I can see the sliding glass door through which my husband enters at the end of the day, lunch box in hand. It reminds me that I am blessed with a wonderful, faithful, diligent, funny man. It reminds me that he has desirable and marketable work skills. It reminds me that he is hard-working and rises early to provide for his family in sometimes difficult, and always challenging and dangerous situations. It reminds me that he is happy to be home. That sparks joy in my heart and erupts in a smile at the sight of him. It reminds me that I am happy to see him and to have him home.

My breathing is deep and relaxed even though I have been soaring on Eagle’s Wings. That is another of my happy places. The Eagle rides the wide currents down, down, down. He gently circles for a meticulous landing and berths me delicately on my gray plaid chair.

It’s 4 a.m. now. I am ready to go back to bed. Thank you for this incredible time in your presence my sweet Lord. I look forward to flying again soon.

(Images retrieved 4/3/19 from http://www.quotemaster.org/Eagles+Wings)

Musings · Sleeplessness

Grumpy Snore


image retrieved from cbnbaggage.wordpress.com

Rhythmically,

He growls like a bear,

Snarls like a gorilla.

Then groans like a logging truck,

and rumbles like a grown walrus.

He grunts and whistles,

Puffs, jerks, and snorts.

I stare at the clock,

And sigh,

Wishing the ruckus and the

Passing of time would ease up.

He awakens himself with a start.

And rolls over so we are grill to grill,

And grumbles, irritated, “You’re yawning…”

 

 

Anxiety · Blessings · Photography · Poetry · Snow

Rear View

I’m sitting in the car.

It’s freezing outside.

I’m on a hilltop, parked outside a gate.

I’ve backed up to the gate

because mama always said,

“Always think of the getting out,

before you think of the getting in.”

My son is feeding a friend’s animals.

I am waiting for him.

It’s been ten minutes.

I keep looking back in my rear view mirror.

At what point should I get out and go see what’s going on?

Macabre scenes are running through my mind.

I banish them.

Then I catch sight of this scene in my rear view mirror.

Glorious indeed!

And I am entranced in it.

I snap a million pictures.

He’s back, and says,

“Why are you smiling?”

“It’s the rear view.”

He doesn’t get it…

Creativity · Dance · Gems · Musings · Poetry

The Dance of the Jewel

You enchantingly craft your words…,

… gems that thrill our hearts.

Rather effortlessly, it seems,

You bend over your tureen,

Humming and thumbing your well-worn needle.

You squint and adjust your focals,

Shake the bowl in unspoken incantation,

You single out this stone, and set it by that one.

You stir the bowl again and pick another, then another,

And time. Stands. Still.

And when your rune finally ends

You tie all lose ends.

Defying all sense – you’ve mothered utter magnificence!


Then you package it like the treasure it is and push send.

My heart leaps at the notification,

Your happy picture lights up my screen.

I know that when I untie that silken ribbon,

Without fail, your words will take my breath away.

I’ll be grabbed by the gleam, the glint, the glimmer;

I’ll follow the flare, the flash, the flicker;

And frolic enraptured in glorious glee.

And my reading them over and over again

Twirls them faster and faster, arcane,

Leading the dizzying dance with abandon,

Prowess, and grace, and magnificent passion!

So write more

And more, my friend. Your gifting is like a whirlwind,

Currently harnessed and only let out a slight whisper at a time.

But when your needle touches a stone,

I espy a tiny spark and hear the howling roar within…

For my dear friend Amanda, who is reluctant to write…

Image retrieved 1/22/19 from https://static8.depositphotos.com/1450715/927/i/450/depositphotos_9275826-stock-photo-collection-of-glass-gems.jpg

Australia · Humor · Musings · Shopping · Short Stories · Short story · Thrift Stores · travel

Why Normal Women Shop at Nordstrom’s

In the US, I call it junking. The Aussies call it up-shopping. I like that term. Other references include thrifting, second-handing, and up-cycling among others. This is a highly skilled operation that few appreciate and even fewer master.

I can’t tell you how many times I get a compliment on an item I’m wearing, then when asked where I got it and answer, “I got that while junking,” I hear, “What?? I can never find good stuff at thrift stores.” I came to learn I had a rare gift – a knack for digging through “crap” and finding treasures. At first, it was much like the confusion a rich kid experiences when he finds out that not all kids get driven to school by a personal chauffeur. Then I came to embrace it.

I was at an up-shop in Rosanna, a suburb of Melbourne, today and had a memory of junking back home. One of my favorite stores, which didn’t last more than a year despite my concerted efforts to keep it in business, was just a few miles from my house. See, each junk shop has its own culture, it might be the smell, the general behavior of the clientele, or any other trade mark.

I would arrive at opening time after dropping the kids off at school and head straight for the women’s clothing section chomping at the bit to peruse the selection. It was the only time kids got dropped off at school early. Any more, whenever we’re early to go someplace, they say, “Mum, are you going junking?”

Here I was in my happy place, smiling to myself contentedly. Without fail, as I was sliding the scritching hangers along the racks, not a minute into my shopping escapade, the janitor would walk up to me with a massive mop, headphones in position, smacking chewing gum, and bobbing away to the music.

I understand and appreciate that the store must be mopped, but this bordered on the ridiculous. I could swear that janitor never saw me, though I was the only customer and he had 1,999 other sq. ft. to mop. He would walk right up to me and get to work. I’d courteously step off to the side, my hand marking my place among the hangers, like a finger in a book page, with the sloshing monster afoot.

“Excuse me,” I said to deaf ears, pushing my torso into the clothes, my head now swaying back precariously. He responded off key by belting the refrain of the Spanish music he was listening to, holding the handle like a mic, then returned to mop when he no longer knew the words. I tried waving him down. I leaned my head this way and that, like an owl, to meet his eyes – to no avail. I sighed heavily, waved again and mustered a brave, “Hola amigo,” and it was time for the refrain again. I could hear the accordion in his headphones and knew I stood no chance of being heard. Oh dear!

He turned his back to me, mopping a different section and I instantly dropped my foot on the floor to save my life, only to have the mop swing around like a mad Brontosaurus grabbing for an elusive meal. I skittered back onto the rack.

Every time I went to put my foot down, like lightning, the evil mop head came at me again and like a flash, I lifted my threatened foot into the air. Then greedy mop swished its gross saliva and lunged at my other foot on the ground. My footwork got fancier and fancier, pulling me further and further away from THE hanger. Determined not to lose my place, I had no choice but to scramble onto the bottom rung of the clothes rack. I had an epiphany and came to fully understand how a drunk falls on his face and busts his teeth without spilling a drop of his booze. I would jump on the very top of this clothes rack if I needed to!

My anxiety mounting, my heart skipped a beat as the round rack heaved towards me. One of its wheels was missing and it certainly wasn’t designed for this task in the first place. It leaned heavily towards me like a sail on a boat and I hung on for dear life. It stopped suddenly, one leg in the air like a dog at a fire hydrant.

It seemed, at the time, that the mop handle was twenty feet long and growing. Even as he moved away from me, the mop head still hurtled at me as he moved it back and forth. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the janitor’s attention. Flinging my purse back up to my shoulder I wiped the sweat off my brow. I hollered and waved frantically with my one available hand. Wide-eyed, I tried to take a deep breath and centered myself. I was now leaning perilously as well as trying to balance the rickety clothes rack. I started to feel dizzy and the room slowly spun a half circle. Then I realized that under my weight and with all the gyrations, the rack had come alive. It groaned and started to roll, squeaking maniacally and limped a wild wobble as it took off for the dishes aisle with all the mismatched glassware!

“Help!” I hollered, catching speed. I fluttered my hands deliriously then clutched back at the rack that now threatened to buck me. Closing my eyes tightly I braced myself for the inevitable crash.

“Are you okay?” asked a worried Aussie lady at the up-shop, peering at me quizzically over her glasses as I hung onto the clothes rack for dear life. I barely heard her above the thunderous drumming of my heart and I opened my eyes. I slowly turned to look at her, my wild eyes darting back and forth in the bright lights. I noticed 2 other women glancing at me cautiously from around the corner. Their heads quickly disappeared when our eyes met.

“Yes. Yes, I’m okay,” I said confused and embarrassed, and peeled my pale knuckles off the rack. Very slowly, I planted my wobbly feet safely on the floor and stood a long minute to catch my bearings.

“I’m good… sorry… thank you,” I muttered foolishly and headed for the door, flushed. I could feel her scratching her head behind me and shrugging her shoulders in bewilderment.

And that, my friends, is why normal women shop at Nordstrom’s!

Image retrieved 5/1/19 from https://pxhere.com/en/photo/992185

Musings · Personal Growth · Thankfulness

A Heart of Gratitude

“Show me an ungrateful person and I’ll you a selfish person.”

Hannah T. K.

It is a staggering thought that if you are not currently or regularly grateful, you are dealing with a case of acute self-absorption and pride. If you have not thought or expressed gratitude within the last couple of hours, you could use a dose of  reflection on what you perceive your role to be in your own universe. Like the proverbial 3 year-old, almost all of us harbor the thought, maybe even sub-consciously, that we are the most important person in our universe. After all, if we didn’t exist, life would be over, right? Wrong!

The reason I don’t notice that someone held a door open for me, or slowed down to let me in in traffic is either because I am distracted or I am entitled. The former is excusable based on circumstances. The latter is abominable. Many of us have worked incredibly hard to get where we are in life but we may forget that there are others who work infinitely harder than we ever will and may never attain to what we have. Let us also not forget that despite our greatest efforts, our successes ride on the shoulders of others, past and current, who poured and continue to pour into our lives. It is a short step from taking things for granted to being entitled.


The benefits of gratitude and boundless to our physical, spiritual, and emotional selves. It infuses life and vitality. The harm done by ingratitude is equally incalculable to the ungrateful person. Those who have to be around that person soon feel drained and sucked dry – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. May we strive to be thankful people and to be reputed as such. May we aspire to be annoyingly thankful. May we be thankful for big things, and for small things, for really, there are no big or small things. Our thanks need to be expressed verbally and in actions.  Aim to make your verbalization of thanks deliberate, heart-felt, a sacred moment; not flippant or glib.

The antithesis of gratefulness is expressed in chronic grumbling, murmuring, complaining, frustration, and, worse, in put-downs and disappointments in others. These can be against ourselves, our loved ones, strangers, the government, and on and on.  These soon become habits, then a way of life that defines us. 


Visualize a gratefulness meter on a continuum – with ungratefulness on the left and gratitude on the right. Make an honest assessment of yourself or ask those who walk life with you where you are on the scale. Make it your goal to slide further and further to the right every day, and so increase your GQ  – your gratitude quotient. Thank God and people for
 for who and what they are, for what they do, and that they are. Thank the same person – your spouse, your kids, –  for the same thing you’ve thanked them for.  Open your eyes to something new to thank them for. Thank a person you’ve never thanked before. If you feel a complaint creeping up, rewire your brain by coming up with something positive to be thankful for. If you can’t think of it, keep your mouth shut, unless you can express the complaint constructively and offer helpful solutions.

A grateful person recognizes that they are the fortunate recipient of innumerable and constant blessings. They live in an incessant state of  awe and awareness of the beauty and the bounty around them, even in hardships, sometimes because of their hardships. They no longer take things for granted, indeed every experience and interaction, even the most mundane, becomes sacrosanct.

Be that person.

“Thankfulness is a habit that will grow us as a human being;       a habit that we can start immediately, and practice for the rest of our lives.”

Hannah Kolehmainen