Watch Me Shine

I’m sitting here tonight with swollen eyelids from the massive amount of crying I’ve done today and feeling like a scolded child because, to add insult to injury on top of my already really bad day, I got in trouble at work. After an almost 2 hour meeting going over issues from several days ago, I was sent home on suspension for the day. Let me tell you, nothing sucks worse about being in a really bad spot financially like losing out on 5 hours of tip making. It’s just been a genuinely terrible, stressful, hard to handle day.

After this day of tears and frustrations, I’m left thinking about a conversation a dear friend of mine and I had on Sunday. I had opened up and was telling him some intensely private information about my past. The stuff that I was telling him about is some of the hardest times I’ve ever endured in my life. As I told him my story, I told him about how this is why I write to reach out to others. I want to lift others up that feel broken by life because I’ve been there. I also talked about how when I go through hard times now, I reflect back on how hard my life was then and remember that I got through it even though I felt I wouldn’t. It lets me know I can make it through anything now. Then…it was like life had to challenge this statement with today’s issues.

In Where Are My Happy Memories?, I talked about how negativity has had a major impact on my life, and why my brain automatically moves to negative thinking. I’m in a position lately though, that I need to make this change. It is having a negative impact on my personal life and my professional life. And frankly, I’m tired of it. Others notice negativity, from potential romantic partners, to friends, to employers and coworkers. Yesterday was quite eye opening for me in this realization.

We can be our own harshest critics. I know this is true for many, and it’s definitely true for me. Lately though, I’ve realized I’m not only hard on myself, but others too. I want to nip this in the bud now. I want for being harsh and being negative to no longer have a solid place in my life. As I was encouraged by my friend yesterday in my steps to being more positive, I realized and told him, “This is my chance to shine.” It’s true. This is my chance to make serious and noticeable changes. This is my chance to prove to others and myself that I can be successful and get through this on the up side. This is my chance to make change and be different.

So, with this new knowledge and motivation, I’ll begin working on me again. I know that I will get through this current hard stuff. I also know that I can be positive. I know that this can be life changing. So, my friends, watch me shine.

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Life Lessons In Death Dreams

Years ago, after my daughter passed away, I was diagnosed with PTSD. Sadly, my worst symptom is nightmares. Over the years, it has gotten better, and I don’t suffer from the nightmares nearly as much as I used to, but when they happen, they have a big impact.

I had one last night that was so intense, I thought I was going to throw up from the intensity of the feelings that I woke up with. I had a very detailed dream that I was going to die. In the dream, I knew I had a date coming up that I was going to be killed. I didn’t want to die, but somehow it was going to happen, and I didn’t have a choice. I scrambled trying to get my affairs in order. I dreamt of taking my middle son shopping for all of his favorite clothes. I remember thinking that it didn’t matter how much money I spent because there was nothing I needed money for once I was gone. It brought me joy to see the happiness in his face, and I was trying to memorize every second of our time together hoping I could take it with me in my afterlife. I dreamt of holding my daughter and bawling my eyes out, trying to tell her what was happening and teach her every life lesson I could think of that she would need living without her mama. In the dream, I stayed off of my Facebook until it was time to do my final status to say goodbye to the world, wanting to leave words of wisdom behind. I remember desperately not wanting to leave and not wanting to be without my children, and hoping that in Heaven, the time would pass quickly until they were with me too. I was terrified and full of sadness. In all of this, I was suddenly faced with the fact that I had wasted so much time in my life. My focus hadn’t been where it should be, I hadn’t cherished my children enough, my life was wasted, and it was too late to change anything.

I woke up in tears and breathless this morning, praising Jesus that it was just an awful dream. Even as I write this, there are tears streaming at the memory of how it all felt. I got out of bed and just wanted to hold my kids tightly. As I was driving them to the bus stop this morning, I was thinking about the lessons here. I’m NOT dying right now. While I have wasted time in my life, I can change that now. I can refocus and make the time I have count. I can’t go back and change any of my yesterdays, but I can change today and keep that change up for my tomorrows. Life is not guaranteed, and this nightmare was a lesson in being present here in the present.

A friend of mine posted a status on Facebook this morning talking about similar points as this post, and she said, “You’re sitting there banking at the hope of your tomorrow; an uncertain future. Live your life, now, while there’s time. Stop putting your happiness into a savings account. Spend it, daily, while you still can. Love, now, enthusiastically. It’s the investment with the largest return.”

I can make my time count now. I can watch less television, spend less time on social media, spend more quality time with my kids, spend less time waiting for the weekend and more time finding happiness in each day, and spend less time wallowing in misery and more time working towards goals. We’ve all heard that saying that life is short, and this is true. The older I get, the more quickly the time passes, and I want to make the most of it.

So, okay, Universe, duly noted. Thank you for this necessary reminder. In this death dream, I’m reminded that I need to live life.
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Helping Through Hurts

Sometimes we are on the verge of learning a new lesson or changing something big in life and all we need is a gentle nudge in the right direction. This is a huge reason that I write so passionately and honestly. I write in hopes that if I bare my soul, my heart, and even my faults and mistakes, I can maybe have an impact on others. So in that style, here goes…

Many people know, but in case you are not aware, October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. I have my own personal story of domestic violence and feel blessed to not be in that situation anymore. I would rather be single than to ever have to endure abuse again.

When I was 16, my mother did not like not being able to control what I did with my newborn. When we butted heads when my son was 3 weeks old, my mom kicked me out. Shortly after, I got a call one day saying she wanted to talk to my son’s father and I. When we arrived, she told me that she didn’t want to be legally responsible for me anymore and so she was going to sign for me to get married when I turned 17, “If you want to,” she said. There was never a real choice though, and so wedding planning started.

I was young, I was stupid, and I knew getting married wasn’t the right thing to do, but one week after turning 17, I did it anyway. I got pregnant again right away, when my oldest was just 4 months old. I was terrified but so badly wanted to just live adult life already. We were poor and we struggled in many ways, but it wasn’t so bad at first. My oldest was the easiest, most happy baby in the world. Being his mom meant everything to me, but I had no idea though that life was about to seriously go downhill.

My next child was a difficult baby and I felt like a failure of a mom. I was only 17 and married with a toddler and an inconsolable infant. Life was hard and my husband was not helpful. We were just kids trying to be like grownups and we didn’t have the life tools yet to be successful. Add a few more years, a few more kids, an opiate addiction and alcohol abuse on his part, and then the death of our youngest… this was the perfect recipe for things to take a turn for the worse.

The abuse started out as mental and emotional. Calling me names, making me scared, telling my kids awful things about me (as they were just toddlers and preschool age). Then I endured horrible, ongoing sexual abuse that I won’t lay out the details of. Then he began trapping me in rooms, holding me down, shoving me. I had a few scary moments where I thought he was going to kill me. I’ll never forget scrambling across the rough concrete of my driveway on my hands and knees while drunk as he was turning his truck around in the yard to come after me. It was very rare for me to drink at all in those days, and to be inebriated and suddenly terrified of him was more fear than I would ever wish for anyone to feel.

I was isolated, I had no friends, and no close relationship with my mother. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. To make matters worse, my now ex-husband lost his job and lost his CDL. We had no way to pay bills, and we were going to lose our house. We were going to have to move an hour away to move in with his family. I didn’t want to. My only option was to ask my mother for help. I was scared because she’d told me when I moved out at 16 that I would never be allowed to move back in. I asked anyway. I told her that he was abusive and that I wanted to get away. I asked if my children and I could move in until I got on my feet. Now, I don’t remember clearly if it was in this moment or another that she said it, but in my memory, my mother told me, “You’ve made your bed and now you have to lie in it.” Either way, this was her line of thinking and I was told no.

We moved and life went further downhill. The abuse got worse, the drug use was worse, and I was miserable. I was able to attend community college though and made a friend. I quickly came to trust her and opened up to her. I knew my life was bad and that I was on the verge of disaster. One day, I was sitting on my balcony telling my friend about whatever recent abuse was going on and she said something that would forever have an impact on my life. She said, “If in 20 years, your boys treated their wives like your husband treats you, how would you feel about that? Or what if in 20 years, your daughter’s husband treats her like your husband treats you?” I felt horrified even picturing it. She went on to say, “This is the example of what marriage is to your children. You are teaching them that this is okay.” I knew I had to change it.

This conversation was the beginning of the end. Shortly after, there was another fight. My husband was throwing furniture across the room. I was scared and my kids were scared. I tried to get them into the car to leave, but my husband disabled something in my car so that I couldn’t start it. For the first time, I had the courage to grab the phone. This time, a report was made. Not only was a report made, but the courts put a no contact order into place. I truly believe this saved my life. No matter how much my feelings softened over time apart and I began to miss the old good stuff, I was not able to have that order dropped. It gave me time to think and realize that this was my chance, it was time to get away from him.

While there is so much more to this story, the important part is where my friend had the courage to gently nudge me in the right direction. I didn’t suddenly change everything that day, but it made an impact on my life and forever changed our lives. If you are enduring abuse, this is me nudging you with my story. It doesn’t get better, abuse only gets worse. Please, seek help. These days, we have Google and there are infinite resources available at your fingertips. Reach out. It gets better when you get away.

Much love,
Moonshine Niki

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I Deserve Respect

A few months back, I wrote a blog called Do I Deserve Love? In this blog, I talked about deserving self-love and love from others. Since writing this, I’ve done much thinking about how I deserve more than just love; I deserve respect.

I think we all know that relationships start off great or there wouldn’t be a relationship in the first place. What blows my mind though is how much I didn’t have enough respect for myself that, as quickly as my last relationship went downhill, I didn’t walk away. I knew that I deserved respect from him, but I didn’t demand it. Instead, I cried. Pretty much every day. He walked all over my emotions, and I allowed it. He didn’t respect me, and worse than that, ~I~ didn’t respect me. I would often look in the mirror with tears flowing, watch the brokenness on my face, and know that some day I was going to write this blog.

This whole respecting myself and demanding respect from others is apparently a current theme in my life. I’m often stubborn and it takes a lesson a few times for me to get it. So right now, I’m under a wave of this current one. From the ex that I let hurt my heart repeatedly, to the “man” that couldn’t respect me enough to keep his hands to himself after I’d repeatedly said no, to so many more I don’t wish to list here, I have allowed disrespect. Looking back on all of this hurts my heart deeply. No matter how broken I’ve felt from the pains of my past, I’ve not deserved the treatment I’ve received. I haven’t deserved hurtful words, I haven’t deserved crying myself to sleep wondering and questioning my worth, I haven’t deserved to be strung along and let down. What I do deserve is respect–from others and from myself.

While I didn’t see it initially, respect and love go hand-in-hand. It is impossible to truly love without the respect. I get this now, and it’s the first step to gaining any kind of a meaningful relationship in life. So now I’m at the beginning of a new chapter once again, and I know that it starts with respecting myself and no longer allowing giving my attention to anyone else not first giving me respect.

I don’t know when love will enter my life again. It could be next week or it could be years down the road, so for now, I’ll be loving myself knowing that the right man isn’t going to hurt me and make me question my self-worth. Never again will I lose myself in disrespect. Instead, I’m losing the losers. Adios, baby!

I choose respect. I choose love. I choose me.

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Where Are My Happy Memories?

Two days ago, my therapist gave me a writing assignment (bless her heart, she already knows me so well). Here’s the thing though, for the last two days, I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what I’m going to write.

I’m supposed to write about something positive or happy memories. She explained that for those that suffer from PTSD, our brains become hardwired to always see negative first and that focusing on the positive helps to redirect the brain. It didn’t seem like a big deal when she said it, but now that I’ve had time to think about it, I totally get it. Every time I think of something happy or positive memories, I immediately associate it with something else bad. Every positive moment cancelled out in my brain by the negative. I think about events with my kids and immediately, my brain is telling me, “You can’t write about that, you haven’t been a very good mom.” I thought about memories of my dad (my step dad) when I was young, like him teaching me how to drive or playing one-on-one basketball like we used to do, and my brain responds, “You shouldn’t favor your dad, you are a bad daughter for not being closer to your mom,” or, “How can you write about your dad when your relationship is virtually non-existent now?” It’s hard enough to come up with a positive thing to write about here at all, but even worse my mind is telling me constantly that I’m somehow bad for it.

While trying to think of what the hell I’m going to write, all I’ve done is cry and put myself down and think of what a failure I’ve been. This is exactly why I went and got signed up for therapy in the first place. I know logically that the negative thoughts are lies from the years of pain and brokenness and trauma, but feeling differently is definitely going to take some work. So, for now, I’ll keep on trying to figure out, where are my happy memories?

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You Are Worthy

I am often trying to lift others up, both as Moonshine Niki, and in my personal and very real life. Using my gift of words for this is extremely important to me and is something of a life goal.

I told a friend today that I wanted to write, but that I needed a writing prompt. Shortly after this conversation, I got my inspiration. I was watching a show about heroin use in America. It showed a few people trying to make an impact in several ways, from court programs, to ministry, to emergency responders that administer Naloxone (commonly referred to as Narcan) to treat overdoses. These people go out trying to make a difference knowing that most of the time, addicts are going to turn right back to drugs.

As I was watching this, I started thinking about the drug users. They are miserable, they are afraid, they feel stuck, and they are a slave to the drug. They don’t want to be where they’re at, but changing it feels like an impossible task. There’s the physical component (addiction), there’s few places to turn to for help, and one aspect I feel that gets in the way the most–judgment.

We have all heard people say something like, “We shouldn’t waste resources on Narcan. Just let all the addicts die,” or, “They chose that life for themselves, why even try to help.” Society tells those struggling with a drug problem that they are worthless, they are scum, they aren’t worthy of life. To make it worse, those that are involved with drugs are often involved with other things that bring shame. Child Protective Services, theft, even from those that love and help them, prostitution, and other things that bring public shame and ridicule. So, for these people, the entire world is looking down on them, treating them like they’re not real people–just a problem draining society, and there are many roadblocks in the way. This does not make it easy to change.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely not making excuses for people continuing their lives like this. What I am saying is that it is not as simple as just deciding to stop. I’m also saying that the people that are trying to make a difference, the ones that still treat addicts like real people, that provide words of encouragement, and that offer support DO sometimes make a difference. While most turn right back to drugs, there are those that don’t. There are those that are at the end of their ropes and ready and the only push they need is a loving hand extended in kindness. They get clean, become productive members of society, and sometimes even go on to help those still struggling. These are the people that make it worth it to keep trying.

While I’m not working out in the streets, I’m obviously not a medical responder, and I don’t have some kind of ministry, the one thing I do have is my words. If there were more people showing kindness and humility, there might be more addicts wanting to change things for themselves instead of hiding away in shame with the one thing they feel loves them back, drugs.

So, I want to reach out to those that feel broken in life. I don’t care if you have made your own bed, so to speak. I don’t care if you chose to pick up a needle that first time. I don’t care if you have sold your body, lost your kids, have stolen, or have tried and failed repeatedly. I’m here to tell you that you still matter. You are still a human being worthy of love, protection, safety, and a good life. It is never too late to decide to turn it all around. You are never too far gone or a lost cause. I’m here to encourage you, and tell you that you are worth reaching out for help.

This is how I intend to spend my life. I hope to someday make a career out of it and do more, but for now, my words here are what I’ve got. For now, I intend to spread love from behind this computer screen until a new plan comes along.

And just in case you need to hear it again, you, my friends, are worthy.

Much love,
Moonshine Niki

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No Means No

I wrote this on the Moonshine Niki Facebook page a year ago today. I will never forever the event that happened the night before that made me feel so much fear for my own safety. I got myself out of that situation because I wasn’t going down without a fight, but I have no doubt that the guy that scared me so much felt he didn’t do much (if at all) wrong. 

Read it and know it, my friends.