Growth & Change: Actions

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It took me a long time to accept the fact that I cannot control other people's actions. That sounds like a no-brainer, but really think about it. How often are you in a good mood and then an irrational driver cuts you off in traffic, and suddenly you become filled with road rage, you speed up, flip them off, and race away? We often will change our actions/responses according to how others behave.

For example, I once had a co-worker who had the worst attitude in the mornings. Most days, this co-worker would walk in the door and not speak to anyone. At first, I took it personal. When they would walk in the door, I would immediately feel tension. I eventually stopped speaking in the morning, to accommodate the culture this co-worker was creating. It got to the point where everyone in the office would be quiet for an hour or so in the morning. Over a few months, the mood became grumpy.

Finally one day, I thought - WAIT A MINUTE! This is just not who I am. Sure this co-worker may be in a bad mood every morning. I can't control their actions. But I can control my own. I decided from that day forward that not only would I cheerfully say, "Good morning!" every day, I would also play music to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. I started arriving to work early to ensure that I had time to settle in before this colleague arrived so that we could set a different tone in the building.

And you know what? It worked! My colleagues became more joyful. We laughed more. By not allowing that one person's actions to determine my response, I became more of myself.

The example above is a little bit easier to digest. But what about when it's hard? What about when you and your significant other have gotten into a huge fight and you're both waiting to see who will be the first to apologize? What about when your family member says something racist and you have the opportunity to speak out, but you hesitate? What about when there is an injustice happening in your workplace, something that goes against your values - how do you respond?

This idea that you cannot control other people's actions is real. But you can control your actions. You can control how you respond. You can decide to speak up in that meeting when something sexist was said. You can call out that family member for their racism. And on the lighter side, you can still choose to say, "Thank you!" to the cashier who was rude to you while you were checking out at the corner store.

A huge step on the journey to becoming unapologetically yourself is to acknowledge that you matter. 

How you respond when the actions of others are less than ideal add to your character, for better or worse. Your actions and responses matter.

Your voice is important. Your perspective is valuable. Your presence has significance

You cannot control other people's actions, but you can control your response. And that gives you even more freedom to be you.

Unapologetically,
Pam

SEX, LOVE, & CHRISTIANITY: Part Two


A lot has changed in my life since Part One of this series. I got married! In fact, when I wrote Part One, my partner and I were already engaged. He proposed to me two months prior to that post, but we chose to keep our engagement private. We only celebrated with close family and friends.

Our wedding anniversary is coming up soon and I have been reflecting on my journey to sexual healing (cue Marvin Gaye).

As mentioned in the first post of this series, my introduction to sex was through sexual assault. Yes, I am a survivor! And DeMico and I chose to wait until marriage to have sex. I know there is a lot of conversation around this topic, especially with celebrities like Ciara & Russell Wilson and Meagan Good & DeVon Franklin having open conversations about "The Wait." When it comes to consensual sex, I want to express my conviction once again that:

Sex is about choice. Whatever you choose, nothing can separate you from the love of God. Period.

I chose to wait because I needed to heal. I chose to wait because I wanted to be free from the sexual trauma of my past. I chose to wait because I wanted there to be absolutely no guilt and no shame when DeMico and I became one for the first time.

Now, we are One. And I want to talk about the healing that has taken place.

Mental Block
To give you a bit of context to help you better understand my process to healing: My sexual assault lasted many years. During those years of abuse, I had a tactic for survival. I learned to separate my mind from my body. While my body was being used, my mind would go elsewhere: to a book I read about true love, to a song we sang at church, to a distant memory of a family vacation. I became very adept at removing myself from the situation in hopes that it would be less real. My biggest fear was that I would carry this tactic into my marriage bed.

Spiritual Block
The first step for me in addressing that fear was recognizing I could not heal alone. There is this idea in Christianity that when bad things happen, all you need to do is pray about it. Prayer is indeed powerful. Through prayer, I learned forgiveness. I found hope for a better life. My spirit healed. But:

Prayer alone was not enough.

After many years of prayer, my body and mind still hadn't healed. My body's natural response to the idea of sex was separation, shame, fear, and neglect. Deep down, I always knew that:

There is a Divine nature to sex and intimacy.

But, I had not experienced it yet. As I prepared to become One with my husband, I was ready to do the work required to reverse the patterns that were created from my trauma.

Practical Tools
I wholeheartedly believe in the power of counseling and therapy. I advocate for it at all stages of life. Therefore, I chose to see a therapist to help me wade through all the learned behaviors and mental blocks that developed from my past. I needed practical tools to prepare for sex and intimacy.

As I began therapy, my counselor taught me that the sexual practice I developed of separating my mind and body is called "Dissociation." It is a direct a result of my trauma. According to the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, dissociation is a word that is used to describe the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated with each other.

During sex, your mind and body should be connected with one another. Through trauma, I learned to separate them. Even though I had forgiven and released my spirit from the trauma of the past, I still struggled to feel a connection between my spirit, mind, and body. I still could not feel the beauty of intimacy.

In the first post in the Sex, Love, and Christianity series, I talked about how my mental attitude towards sex changed. So, I won't go into detail here about the mental work that I did in therapy to reverse my negative thoughts about sex. Here, I want to talk more about the physical work. How do we reverse those learned behaviors? How do we overcome our bodies response to sex after trauma? This is where my therapist's practical tools have proven to be most useful.

My counselor helped me identify practices that would help me stay present during sex. Whether you identify as Christian or not, you can use these resources. And if you are Christian, in addition to prayer, these tools will help you stay present and begin the good work of feeling the fullness of joy during intimacy:

1. Tune into your arousal.
One of the hardest things for survivors of sexual assault is learning how to experience pleasure that is free from guilt or shame. Sex should be natural and beautiful! But for some of us, it isn't easily so. I encourage you to find what turns you on. What arouses you? Whatever it is, cling to that when it is time for intimacy.

2. Engage all of your senses.
To ensure that you are fully present in the room, engage your senses. What do you feel? With your hands, your skin? What do you see? What do you hear? For those of us who dissociate, engaging our senses requires our mind to be present in the room. Once your mind is there with you, you can begin to explore a deeper sense of pleasure within your body.

3. Have a loving, supportive partner.
I cannot stress the significance of this enough. Having a partner who is patient, supportive, and loving will make a world of difference. They will understand if you need to take things slowly. They will care about your pleasure just as much, if not more, than their own. This will help you to feel safe as you attempt to re-connect your mind and body as a necessary step to sexual trauma healing.

God desires for you to have great, safe, consensual sex! These tools have been tremendously helpful to me on my journey to healing and freedom. I am so thankful to my partner, my counselor, my God, my tribe, and all of you for being on this journey with me!




Unapologetically,
Pam

Growth & Change: Managing Expectations

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I've been having a lot of conversations about expectations in my relationships recently. It seems like many of us are in a place where we are reflecting on where we are at this moment in our lives. For some of us, that has been satisfying. For others, it has been challenging. For example, one of my friends feels like her life isn't where she thought it would be right now, but in a good way. In a short time, she has gotten her dream job, a new romantic relationship, a new home, and has created a killer financial plan. When she looks back over the last few years, she says that this is what she prayed for, but didn't expect it to happen this quickly. Another friend has been in a job that she doesn't enjoy for going on a few years. She thought that after the first year, she would find other work. She hasn't been able to secure that new job yet. When she and I talked about expectations, she admitted that she is a little disappointed that her life isn't where she expected it to be right now.

My husband and I have been talking about expectations a lot, too. We are coming up on our first wedding anniversary. While we are SO excited to celebrate, we are also reflecting on this last year. Has it gone as expected? What goals did we accomplish? What setbacks did we see?

I was watching Jada Pinkett Smith's new Facebook series "Red Table Talk" and she said something profound:

"Expectations will steal the gifts that are sitting right there in front of you...Because you're so concerned about creating this picture that you have in your mind that you can't even see the blessing that is standing right there in front of you."
-Jada Pinkett Smith

It hit me so deep. Especially because recently, one of my dear friends said something similar. I was going through a difficult time and I was complaining about how frustrated I felt. I was looking to the left and to the right for a sign or for confirmation. And she said , "Don't forget to see the beauty in this moment." At first I was like HUH? She then gave insight into her own similar story and how when she looks back at that time in her life now, she remembers that she was happy despite the stress. That she had more time to do things she loved. That she filled that time with people and things that matter to her. And that helped her build a foundation for where she is now.

Because of our conversation, I sat back and took inventory of my life. Yes, I was struggling and it was hard. BUT, in that struggle, my husband I were getting closer. We spent more time snuggling and watching movies. And I had more mental space! I was meditating more. I was drinking more water. I was going to therapy. I was singing in the choir. I was doing things that genuinely brought me joy. She was right.

There is beauty in struggle. 

Since then, I have been working really hard to be present and manage my expectations. Sure, I have a dream, an ideal picture of things I want to be doing. But, while I'm working towards those things, I don't want to miss out on what's right in front of me. I am seeking the small miracles while working towards the bigger picture.

I encourage you to manage your expectations. Aim high! Dream! And while the dream is working itself to reality be present with the people and things that will feed your soul right now, in this moment.

One disclaimer: As I know some of my readers have experienced trauma, I just want to give this helpful tip. If the struggle you are experiencing involves abuse or harm, now is not the time to seek beauty. Now is the time to seek help and find your way out of that situation. After you are physically safe, I encourage you to consider therapy. Then, as you heal, I encourage you to look back to see the beauty that may have been present during this time: a friend who encouraged you or a neighbor who was kind to you. I believe in you.

Unapologetically,
Pam
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