Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (Read 2/22/18 to 2/25/18) - 5 Stars

This was my February Once Upon a Book Club Book.  I loved it!
It is set in Alaska in 1974 and moves forward to the 80's.  Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.  His 13-year old daughter Leni and wife Cora must learn a whole new way of life, and learn how to truly become survivors.
It was beautifully written an a joy to read.  I got really drawn into the story, and at times couldn't put it down.  It was heartbreaking and beautiful.  I admit, I cried the entire last 30 pages. 

Asurmen: The Darker Road (Warhammer 40,000) by Gav Thorpe (Listened on 2/22/18) - 3 Star

This is another Warhammer 40,000 book, but this time I listened to it as an audio book, it is short about an hour long.  The Phoenix Lord Asurmen joins the warriors of the craftworld Ulthw√© on a quest to the Crone Worlds in search of the oracle Hiron-athela. It is believed that this being holds an artefact that could safeguard Ulthw√©'s future.  
This was an ok book, it had a great radio dramatic feel that was a bit distracting from the story, too much background music.  But it was fun to listen to.  I was disappointed that there were no flashback to after the fall and when Asurmen was becoming the Phoenix lord.

Children Who See Too Much: Lessons from the Child Witness to Violence Project by Betsy McAlister Groves (Read 2/16/18 to 2/21/18) - 2 Star

Betsy Groves works with children traumatized by witnessing violence. In this book she shows how children understand, respond to, and are affected by violence, especially domestic violence. She uses clinical case studies to show that being young does not protect against the lasting effects of witnessing violence.  I thought it would be a far more enlightening read than it was, I felt like it a giant brochure for her program, Child Witness to Violence Project.  There was so much about the program and not enough about the children and effects/solutions.  I was very disappointed.

For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn (Read 2/11/18 to 2/14/18) - 2 Star

I don't remember why I put this book on my TBR pile.  It was an ok read, it was just very obvious stuff to me.  The data from her questionnaires, was interesting and confirmed so much of what I felt I already knew.  The inner lives of men, is really not that big of a mystery.  Love Languages was a much more enlightening book.  Maybe I read them out of order.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Jain Zar The Storm of Silence by Gav Thorpe (Read 1/30/18 to 2/10/18) 4 Star

This is a book about a character from the table top game Warhammer 40,000.  It was a gift from my boyfriend, because I like the characters the Eldar.  I have read one other book in the same universe by the same author and I had a really hard time getting through it.  But this one was much better, I really liked how it gave some history of how the character became who they are, and had some nice battles in the present day.  It was a really good mixture of action and storyline.  I was able to easily connect with the main character, and really liked her.  I also really liked her characters attributes etc, I just wish the models were more appealing to me.  It had a nice even flow, and the battles were detailed, but a non-player could enjoy the book too.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Children and Trauma: A Parent's Guide to Helping Children Heal by Cynthia Monahon (Read 1/24/18 to 1/30/18) - 2 Stars

I had picked this book up, thinking it would help me help my children through the trauma of the divorce and all the ugliness before it.  But I felt that this was not the book I thought it was.  It said it was for parents of children who are traumatized by disasters, accidents, or violence.   So I was thinking my children seeing my Ex's abuse of me and destruction of our home, then his attack on my father constituted violence.  I wasn't wrong, but this is for children who are much more traumatized than mine.  It had some interesting insights and tips for helping children, but I felt like it was for parents who had truly been traumatized by horrific things and in comparison mine were just fine, healing quite nicely thank you.
I think that for what the book actually is, Monahon did a great job providing support, suggestions and tips for parents to help their children.  It was very comprehensive, with case examples, some of the case examples were really hard to read.  If your child has been in a hurricane, car accident, kidnapped, seen someone die, etc this is the book for you.  If your child is suffering from some lower-grade trauma, divorce, changing schools, death of a pet, well this may not be the book for you.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood (Read 1/21/18 to 1/24/18) - 5 Star

I had some very mixed feelings going into this book.  It was recommended to me 3-4 years or so ago by my therapist, and I have only now gotten around to reading it.  Even though I stopped therapy 2 years ago this month.  I was nervous to read this book, scared that I haven't come as far in my healing as I felt I had, that it would show me how much further I have to go.  And I am scared to write this review, because my reading showed me that the woman who this book would have helped 3 years ago, isn't the woman I am today, but I still need to be vigilant and continue on my path.  I feel that I have set a standard of honesty in my blogging, when I first set up my blog my goal was to post my honest opinions about ALL the books I read.  The last few years have been a bit sporadic.  I barely blogged at all last year.  But I re-commited my self this year, and I feel that I need to live up to that commitment.  I'm fully aware there are few if any regular readers, so commitment is not for others.  I felt that by skipping this book because it makes me uncomfortable, would be reverting back to old behaviors, that I would be hiding from instead of facing the truth.  I know that there is also shame involved, shame of who I was and I don't want everyone to know that "bad" part of my past.  But I feel, right or wrong, that skipping this review would be regressing for me.  And I have fought too hard and long, and done so much work on my healing process to back slide now.  But be prepared, this is going to be a very personal review.
This book is about examining relationships, and how a person, mostly women, participate in those relationships in an unhealthy way.  I loved my ex-husband too much, he wasn't the worst one I had loved too much, but he was the one that I changed after. The entire book was like reading my journey in the 4 years that followed, 2 years of very intense, very regular therapy, and then 2 more years of continuing the growth and the skills I had learned and application of them, to reaching where I am now.  I understand why my therapist wanted me to read this, it describes the way my marriage was at the end far to perfectly.  The preface spoke to my state of mind when I started seeing her in 2014, "Indeed that both were literately dying of their addictions, he from effects of chemical abuse, she from the side effects of extreme stress."  I still cringe at calling myself addicted to love, it has such negative connotations in my mind, but just because I don't like it doesn't make untrue. 
The book  says "Loving too much does not mean loving too many men, or falling too often, or having to great a depth of genuine love for another.  It means, in truth, obsessing about a man and calling that obsession love, allowing it to control your emotions ad much of your behavior, realizing that it negatively influences your health and well-being, and yet finding yourself unable to let go.  It means measuring the degree of your love by the depth of your torment."  That was me, maybe not the way I viewed myself but me.  
There are 15 characteristics of a woman who loves too much.  Some of them I fully agree with, some of them I feel like are not really applicable to me.  But lets look at them:
  1. "Typically, you come from a dysfunctional home in which your emotional needs were not met."  Yes, I absolutely did.  I faced the falling apart of my family, in a very long drawn out and very high conflict way, starting at about the age of 8.  I had no financial security because we were constantly on the verge of loosing our home.  I couldn't trust my family members to not betray or lie to me, not even my parents.  My parents themselves, made me a full working partner of the conflict, and put the burden of making adult decisions, in the form of a "vote" on shoulders that were far too young and far too immature to handle it.  So we have all this emotional and financial issues at home, then we pile on it a large amount of bullying at school.  To me it felt extreme, but I am not sure that the word is appropriate in today's world, I sadly hear about children on the news the have it much worse than I did.  But in my life, from 1st grade until about my sophomore/junior year of high school,  going to school was hell.  There were times I was physically ill because I couldn't handle the abuse of the other children and it would get me sent home and away from them.  I never did contemplate suicide, nor in the 80's/90's was that something my bullies told me to do.  They just enjoyed making me feel small and stupid and ugly.
  2. "Having received little real nursing yourself, you try to fill this unmet need vicariously by becoming a care-giver, especially to men who appear in some way needy."  I was the perfect child.  I did not get in trouble at school and I always did what I was told.  We lived on a 50-acre working ranch, and both my parents worked full time off the ranch by around age 11.  So I became a latch-key kid with a lot of responsibility.  I had a lot of chores around the ranch, not that chores are bad, but there was a large amount.  I was responsible for not only daily cooking, cleaning, and laundry in the house.  But because we had animal I was in charge of daily feeding, milking, cleaning barns and lots of other regular animal maintenance.  All of my friends knew that if they wanted me to be able to go out to do things they would have to come assist in my "chores" before I could go.  Outside chores would usually take me 3-4 hours a day to complete then I would need to cook dinner and clean up after dinner.  Somewhere in there I need to find time for homework too, because I needed to maintain my A average.  Because if I was perfect, then everything would be ok.  My sense of self worth was a result of the carrying responsibilities that were very nearly beyond my capabilities as a child,  I earned approval by working hard, taking care of others and sacrificing my own wants and need to others.  I was a great martyr.
  3. "Because you were never able to change your parent(s) into the warm, loving caretaker(s) you longed for, you responded deeply to the familiar type of emotionally unavailable man whom you can again try to change through your love."  My dad is a quiet man, he doesn't express feelings of love, he was always willing to give a hug or tease, but he rarely would compliment or say he loved me.  My mom was always cold, but the longer the situation at home, the fight for our ranch, carried on the more distant and colder she became.  She shut down, and sadly she is a very closed and bitter woman today.  Sometimes it is still hard to be around her.
  4. "Terrified of abandonment, you will do anything to keep a relationship from dissolving."  Absolutely, I had a bad habit of holding on far too long, and way past a relationships expiration date.  
  5. "Almost nothing is too much trouble, takes too much time, or is too expensive if it will 'help' the man you are involved with."  I threw money at my ex-husband and our relationship that was unreal, expensive gifts and trips we couldn't really afford, anything to "make him happy."
  6. "Accustomed to lack of love in personal relationships, you are willing to wait, hope, and try harder to please."  Again, I would do anything for the person I was with.  If I could just wait it out, if I just had faith in our love, if I worked just a little harder, it would all be ok and we could be happy. 
  7. "You are willing to take far more than 50 percent of the responsibility, guilt, and blame in any relationship."  It took my therapist a long time to convince me that I was not 100% responsible for the issues in marriage, that I had no control over his choices, and that my choices were not directing his.
  8. "Your self-esteem is critically low, and deep inside you do not believe you deserve to be happy.  Rather, you believe you must earn the right to enjoy life."  I was "like many women who love too much, she was obviously a very responsible person, a high achiever who was succeeding in many areas of her life but who nevertheless had low self-esteem."  I did not believe I was worthy of love, I did not believe I was lovable, I saw my self as an ugly, stupid, horrible woman.  Between the bullying in school and my rapist and his verbal abuse, I was shattered and all I could see was the broken ugly edges of myself. It took me a a very long time to love myself, and sometimes I still don't.  
  9. "You have a desperate need to control your men and your relationships, having experienced little security in childhood.   You mask your efforts to control people and situations as 'being helpful'."  I would go to extreme lengths to "help and support" him, which in actuality meant I enabled him, and was controlling.  Because making him "live up to his potential" I was rescuing him, which made me the hero, and I could control (or at least thought I could control) the damage he could do to me.  I should not have been surprised our relationship imploded.  
  10. "In a relationship, you are much more in touch with your dream of how it could be, than with the reality of your situation."  It was this dream of a perfect marriage that I was chasing, the perfect family yada yada yada.  I kept up the illusion very well and rarely let other see the issues inside my home.  In fact, my divorce came as a complete shock to some since I had done such a good job of keeping up the illusion of a happy marriage.
  11. "You are addicted to men and to emotional pain."  This is the hardest one for me to relate to, I did have quite a string of poor choices for partners in a row, and they did cause me a lot of emotional pain.  But it is the word addict that I shy away from, that is still the hardest for me to claim.
  12. "You may be predisposed biochemically as well as emotionally to abusing drugs, alcohol, and/or certain foods, usually sugary ones." I have never had an alcohol or drug abuse issue.  I drink, but not excessively, and my dislike of drugs (even just weed) was a major fight with my ex-husband constantly.
  13. "By being drawn to people with problems that need fixing, or being enmeshed in situations that are chaotic, uncertain, and emotionally painful, you keep from focusing on your responsibility to yourself."  I focused on building my ex-husband up, his teenage years had been very awful, drug problems, getting kicked out of his house at 16.  I felt he just needed someone to show him how great he was and he could shine.  As the marriage fell apart I focused on our relationship, and fixing it rather than looking at myself, because looking at myself meant I had to face my own demons.  My role in my marriage was to understand, encourage, and improve my ex-husband.  That doesn't sound so awful does it, but it doesn't work that well when the person providing this "help" is not healthy herself, who uses him to focus her energy on instead of her where it should be herself.  This left my ex-husband, resentful and critical of me, and I stopped being a solution to his problems and became the cause of them in his mind.  Which as the relationship continued to fall apart, and the harder I tried to fix and failed, the more desperate I became.
  14. "You may have a tendency toward episodes of depression, which you try to forestall through the excitement provided by unstable relationship."  I have had 2 episodes of depression, the first was right after my rape.  The second was in 2014, and one of the reasons I began seeing a therapist.
  15. "You are not attracted to men who are kind, stable, reliable, and interested in you.  You find such 'nice' men boring."   This was true, I never wanted the nice guy.  I wanted the "bad boy" reformed by my love, but still a little dangerous.  I am very happy to say, this isn't the case any more, these are the exact qualities I want and in dating after my divorce if they were missing, the stable and reliable most importantly, I rejected them.
So if seems like a lot of self reflecting and self-analysis, that is because it was.  The 15 characteristics of a woman who loves too much was briefly described in chapter 1.  The  next 9 chapters discussed those 15 concepts in greater details, and with some examples from case studies.   "A Woman who loves too much is used to negative traits and behaviors, and she will be more comfortable with them than with their opposites unless and until she works very hard to change the facts for herself."  This is why my years of therapy were for me, I finally choose to change the facts for myself.
There were a few sections that really stood out to me.  The chapter about needing to be needed, spoke volumes to me about growing up too fast and learning how to take care of everyone but ourselves.  I didn't begin to learn to care for and love myself until I started my therapeutic journey in 2014, at the age of 34. 
I was amazing at denying, denying there were problems with my relationship and with myself.  This denial was a major contributing factor to my marriage ending.  First the issues was the denial itself, the fact that I painted that perfect couple image.  Then when I stopped denying, he was unable to face the truth himself. 
During my time in therapy, the more I healed, the more I faced my demons and faced my co-dependency and addiction to love (never called that by my therapist), the worse things got with my ex-husband.  The book takes about love addicts being married to alcohol or drug addicts who decide to get sober, and things getting worse for the woman because "His recovery made her lack of recovery to obvious for them to be comfortable together any longer."  Except in my case I was working on recovery and he was not.  Reflecting on this, I realize my recovery may have pushed him further into his addiction, and he absolutely did try to sabotage my recovery.  This does not mean I take responsibility for his addiction or his actions while high in any way. His choices were his and his alone, I cannot control his choices, then or now.  But I do acknowledge that may have had a part in his decision process, most likely on a subconscious level.  Understanding his potential state of mind, does not mean I have a responsibility or guilt for it. 
Another chapter that spoke deeply to me, was the chapter discussing the fairytale of Beauty and the Beast.   This as always been my favorite fairy tale, I always felt though that the general conception of the story was wrong.  It is generally thought that Beauty's love for the Beast is what transformed him into the prince.  And yes on the surface, that is what happened, but even as a small child I knew that there was more to the story, but I couldn't explain what it was.  Reflecting now, back on it, I couldn't explain it because I didn't understand the concept of acceptance.  Beauty and the Beast is about acceptance.  Beauty accepted the Beast for exactly who he was, she didn't want to change him, she didn't ask him to change for her.  She did not pity him, she saw both his good and bad attributes and loved him for the whole package.  Because of her attitude of acceptance, the Beast was freed to become his own best self.  His turning into a prince was a symbolic projection of Beauty being rewarded for her acceptance with her own perfect partner, and not a transformation of the Beast into something he wasn't.  This showed me that the place of acceptance of others and myself, that I am finally reaching, is a goal that I have been striving for since I was a girl.  A goal of who I wanted to be before I even fully understood what the it meant.  Acceptance and being accepting of others struck a chord and has remained there from a very early age, and I am finally able to realize that ability and practice it.
Of course this book doesn't just tell you how you are loving too much, it gives you 10 steps to recover.  I am proud to say that I have completed 9 of the 10 steps.
  1. Go for help.  This was me getting into therapy.
  2. Make your own recovery your first priority in life.  This was the first hurdle I had in therapy, making my therapy a priority.
  3. Find a support group of peers who understand.  This is the one thing I did not do, I never felt comfortable about going to an Al-Non meeting or any similar support group.  But I did turn to friends.
  4. Develop your spiritual side through daily practice.  I think this is why buddhism and the writings of Thich Nah Hahn spoke so strongly to me.
  5. Stop managing and controlling others.  This was letting go of the need to control other in my life and realizing that I can not control their choices and actions.  This was a very hard one to do, thank goodness my therapist was there to help me.
  6. Learn not to get "hooked" into games.  This is the dangerous one still, because I have children with my ex-husband there are custody issues, and this is where I am most likely to backslide.
  7. Courageously face your own problems and short comings.  Again therapy, and facing those demons.
  8. Cultivate whatever needs to be developed in yourself.  Continuing to grow as a person with books such as this, a process that will only end on the day I die.
  9. Become "selfish."  This one is hard too, but I have learned to ask for what I want and and need to take time for myself.
  10. Share with others what you have experienced and learned. This is why I blog, both with my other blog and this one.
After my divorce, I took some time off from men, I got my head on straight, I got to a place that based on my feelings, and confirmed by this book is a much healthier place relationship wise.  But I want to state clearly, that I no longer need to be in a relationship to be happy.  I was and am still able to be alone and find joy and be happy.  But I do enjoy being in a relationship, and I feel that because I did the work and learned to love myself, the relationship I have now is a healthy one, and many of the actions and habits that I previously did I am not repeating with my current relationship.  
The book described eros and agape love, Eros is the "passionate" love, the all consuming obsessive love.  A sense of suffering and a willingness to endure pain and hardship for the sake of the relationship.  That doesn't sound healthy does it, that sounds like my marriage and many of the relationships I had before it.  That sounds like exactly what I am working to not have.
So what I want is agape love.  "Agape: Real love is a partnership to which two caring people are deeply committed.  These people share many basic values, interests, and goals, and tolerate good-naturedly their individual differences.  The depth of love is measured by the mutual trust and respect they feel towards each other.  Their relationship allows each to be more fully expressive, creative and productive in the world.  There is much joy in shared experiences both past and present, as well as those that are anticipated.  Each views the other as his/her dearest and most cherished friend.  Another measure of the depth of love is the willingness to look honestly at oneself in order to promote the growth of the relationship and the deepening intimacy.  Associate with real love are feelings of serenity, security, devotion, understanding, companionship, mutual support and comfort." "For the trust and honesty of agape, must combine with the courage and vulnerability of passion in order to create true intimacy." The book explained it so concisely and exactly for what I want now that I had to quote it.  This is my goal now, this what I want and deserve from a relationship and I refuse to settle for anything less.  I refuse to manipulate my way here, only by accepting the other person for who they are, by allowing him to be who he is and by being who I am fully, can we reach this.  I think that I can recognize, strive for, and am currently cultivating such a relationship shows how far I have come in my journey.  
If any of this reminded you of yourself, I recommend this book.  I have touched on my personal revelations from this book, but there was so much more that didn't apply to me, but may to you.