Bitter or Better is Our Choice
By Bernadette A. Moyer
I could be bitter but I am better! Earlier today I caught up with an old friend, she is like a sister to me. She is that friend that makes me happy, she calls me out when I am wrong, supports me at my best and at my worse. She gets me and in many ways we understand each other, in many ways we are alike. In her company I am lifted up and we always learn from one another.
Today she said something to me and about me. She said. “After everything you have been through and I could name the list, you continue to amaze me because you could be bitter and you aren’t, you have one of the biggest hearts I have ever witnessed. I know a lot of people and most would be bitter but not you and your heart.”
She is right I could be bitter! She knows me well as we have been friends for 18 years now. The list is long on what I have experienced in my lifetime. Some of it is really very hateful, hurtful and unattractive. But my heart doesn’t work that way. I have always viewed every single experience as something I could learn from. What was this or that supposed to teach me and by viewing everything as a learning opportunity I grew my heart bigger and I became better and not bitter.
We don’t get to control what happens in our lives or what other people do but we do get to control how we choose to respond to it. I may not always be happy with the outcomes of the things that have hurt me. But I always responded with a heart and with a conscience and in a way that I could live with, this allowed me to be better and not bitter.
When we rise above it, when we are faced with adversity and heartache, our own character is tested. Real character isn’t about how we handle the easy stuff in life, it is about how we handle the challenges and often it is about how we act when no one else is looking.
On reflection one of the things in my life that I am most proud of is how I handled my first husband’s death and his funeral. He was previously married and divorced with two children. When he died his kids were young and still in elementary school. When I was asked who I wanted to be in the first car with me my response was swift and heartfelt. I had his children and their mother with me. To me, it was the right thing to do. When I met him he was already divorced, his ex-wife and his children never did anything to hurt me. My view was that having them with me and close to their father was the right thing to do and it was one that I could easily live with.
The single line that has helped me the most in my life is from the book, The Four Agreements and I have written about it often, the quote is; “nothing other people do is because of you, it is because of themselves.” Not only has this made sense to me but it has virtually saved me and released me from the hate and the lack of love from others. Their actions are their choices, when someone chooses to behave in a certain way that is all about them.
The people that set out to hurt other people are lacking peace and love and there is usually a good reason for that and normally it comes from what they have done and their own actions. They are living in a way that requires them to justify their behaviors. If they can make someone else look bad they can justify what they have done. This may work in the short run, but in the long run, they have to live with themselves. We may be able to fool others, but we know who we are and what we are made of, we know better than anyone else.
I have never viewed myself as a “victim” but rather as a “survivor” and this allowed me to “survive” and even thrive in the face of adversity. I have also learned that just because I have a heart and a conscience that I shouldn’t necessarily expect the same from others. Some people just don’t have it.
We could all be “bitter” over something if that is what we decide but we also can choose to be “better” and being “better” just feels so good and right and contributes to making us better! Given the choice I choose better over bitter every single time…
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Everyone Has “A Story”
By Bernadette A. Moyer
Everyone has a story! We all do! They say, “Writers are observers of life.” Every few months if not every month I hear from someone that thinks they want to write and they have a “story.” They have a story to share. Usually it is about something they experienced and learned from and wish to share with other people.
I think we all crave a “connection” the ability to connect to others and find common ground and share. We are all more alike than not. That is probably why I have a hard time when people do things to others that they wouldn’t want done to themselves. But that is another story.
When I am approached my answer is always the same, “just write! Jump in and start!” For most of us our “story” is already written we just need to get it down and share it. Often times the hardest part is the jumping off point and just getting started. Most often I find after starting is just flows and takes on a life of its own. It is for me, a truly organic process.
I also ask the same question, “Who is your target market audience?” If you are writing for yourself that is a diary or a journal. If you are planning to write your story and you wish to share it with an audience, who is that audience? What group of people will read your written work? What do you wish to accomplish by writing and then sharing?
Most everyone can relate to someone else and their experiences. We are not alone. There isn’t something that has happened that someone else hasn’t already experienced but the difference might be how we handled it and what we learned from it. Can we now inspire another person with our writings and our story, our life experience?
I have also heard it said that you need to have a certain amount of life experiences that most often come with age, until you really have something to write about and that is worthy of sharing. I always encouraged my kids to write. Many times they would ask me, “But what should I write about?” I always had a list that I could just rattle off things like 1) what is feels like to be a twin 2) what it feels like to know that your birth mother died and you never got to know her? 3) What you had to do to become an Eagle Scout 4) baking your first cake 5) first dates and the list goes on and on.
We all have “a story” and we all have something we can share. Stephen King wrote a book years ago titled, On Writing that I found helpful. I also used to read books about marketing your story and your book. There is no greater high for a writer than to be read, to be understood and to have that reader connect. I have often said, “That is my paycheck” when someone reads me, gets me and can connect to me from something I have written and shared.
There is a lot of healing for many people in writing, I, myself included and everyone has their own form. I think of it as an art form, the way we express ourselves and how and what we share. Just like an artist with a painting. That art makes you feel something and it is an expression from the artist. Writing to me, is that same experience. It should make you feel something.
So here is to all the writers out there that have a story to share, my advice, just write! Jump in and just get started, you never know where it will lead until you write it! Write!
Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
New book ALONG THE WAY available at http://www.createspace.com/5705583?ref
By Bernadette A Moyer
Sexual abuse has many victims, the obvious victim of the abuse and all those who suffer from the fall out. There is a tremendous amount of fall out associated with sexual abuse.
I am not a victim of sexual abuse and yet it has impacted my life in a significant way. There was a time I stood up for a child who claimed they were sexually abused. I took a stand against the person who they claimed abused them. Little did I know at that time the cost of my decision. I did not ask for sexual abuse to impact my life nor did I ever welcome it. Decades later I have learned more about this subject that I care to admit.
The term, “secondary survivors” is a term that I found in my research and attributed to all those people that surround the victim. The people who were not directly abused but whose lives were impacted by all the fall out related to the abuse.
Because the abuser had married into our family and because he had married my mother I would eventually lose my mother and my four sisters who followed our mothers lead of estrangement. When I was told of the abuse, I confronted the abuser and my mother. There was only one face to face confrontation and little did I know at that moment in time that I would be deleted from the family. They basically killed the messenger.
The “killing” would take place in many forms from denial to abandonment to discrediting; by speaking out I became a huge target. It was easier for all involved to make me look bad rather than to take a good hard look at the person who was being accused of the abuse.
In order for my mother and my sisters to believe the truth, and to believe me, they would have had to change their life and they weren’t going to do that.
Years later I had a social worker state, “It must have been really hard for you to give up your family?” without thought my answer was “What choice did I have?” The child who made these claims was not taken seriously by any other person in my family but me. In the company of the extended family they took the victim into the abusers company. They were notified of the allegations and did nothing about it. Not only didn’t they protect the child who claimed abuse, but they brought their own infant babies around the person accused of sexual abuse.
From the moment this came into my life I tried to educate myself by reading up on it, talking with professionals and working in an environment where abused children were believed, helped, supported and healed.
Again, in 2011, I met with all kinds of professionals on this subject. My experience happened in the late 1980’s today our society is very clear on how these matters should be handled. I met with private detectives, social workers and with child advocates. I also became friendly with several professional mental health care providers who specialize in sexual abuse cases.
One child advocate made a statement that will stay with me forever. She said, “This is not how a loving family would have handled this. They would have said, “We love you, we love this child, we want to get to the bottom of this because we don’t want to lose you and this child to ever feel uncomfortable. Why are they saying this, what happened and what can we do to remain a family?”
These statements were never made. The advocate also stated, “What your family did is how guilty individuals react, I have seen it over and over again. What guilty individuals/child molesters do is try to turn as many people against the accuser, including the victim. It happens every single time.” She was 100 percent correct.
Hopefully the sharing of my experience will help to educate. It isn’t just the victim that will need help and support but all those around the victim. The ripple effect can and does destroy families.
I thought it was the right thing to do, to stand up for and to protect a child. Little did I know that in doing the right thing I would be making myself a huge target.
Now more than 25 years later I can see how my actions immediately following made me an easy target. One PhD. stated, “You made it easy for them by walking away.” He also gave me articles from JAMA, the Journal of American Medical Association. In those articles I read about the divide between social workers/mental health care providers and the legal professionals.
The prosecutors want to prosecute these crimes and the mental health care professionals have concerns about the trauma associated with the process. What if that abused child has to relive their trauma, tell their personal painful experience and what if they aren’t believed? Many mental health care professionals believe this could be even more devastating than the abuse itself.
One of the things that many parents and adult caregivers instinctively do when the child communicates abuse is to respond with a big reaction. This often sets the tone for easy manipulation and a child that grows up and has learned not only how to get a big reaction but how to manipulate people. This can further a continued victimization mentality.
I have learned so much and there is no perfect way to handle this, just about every day you can hear or read in the news about new cases of sexual abuse. But in reality a large majority of cases are NEVER reported. The shame, the embarrassment and the reliving of the trauma cause many victims to hold onto the abuse and to hold it inside. It doesn’t go away though, it becomes part of the life of the abused acknowledged or denied.
When I made my decisions as to how to handle the knowledge of the abuse, I never dreamt of all the fall out and of the years of anger and hatred. I have people in my family that delete other people in my family just for talking to me. My crime, I spoke out on the behalf of a child victim. Today I would caution anyone taking a stand. GET a STRONG SUPPORT TEAM of PROFESSIOALS WHO ARE WELL VERSED and EXPERIENCED in CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE. You absolutely can’t go it alone nor can you conceal what has happened.
By trying to protect my mother from embarrassment and a child from further humiliation all I really did was allow an accused sexual abuser off the hook. Even he deserved to have his day in court to determine the validity of the accusations. No one wins in trying to “protect” anyone from allegations of sexual abuse.
After my mother died and I was omitted from her obituary a friend of over 40 years sought me out. We were camp counselors together and my mother was the camp nurse. My friend knew my family and couldn’t understand why I was not included in my mother obituary. Sadly when we reconnected we learned we had even more in common than being teen camp counselors together. Her life was also significantly impacted by sexual abuse too. And the abuse was by a family member. The difference was that in her family it was believed and the family was loving and supportive toward the victim.
Sexual abusers don’t live in a vacuum, they have wives and children, and they have friends, neighbors, family members and co-workers. No one wants to believe that their family member, friend or work associate is a child molester. No one wants to believe it, not even the survivors or the secondary survivors!
Happiness is an Inside Job
By Bernadette A. Moyer
It has taken a long time for me to understand that happiness is an inside job. It was my husband who taught me this. Overall he is very content and can take or leave most things. Brian has an inner peace and strength about himself. He is always so supportive of me. For more than 15 years, when I was running huge social fundraisers he never missed a single event. He never hung onto me for his good time either. He would circulate and was okay with being in a crowd and with people or by himself.
Through the years people have told me, “you two look good together” but what they could never have known was our back story, our family history. We are very much alike and have a deep understanding on what it is like to move past the limitations of your first family. We also had the same track record in love. Brian and I both had a spouse who died and left us with children and another significant relationship end when they cheated on us and left us for someone else. We know what it is like to be hurt by love.
My husband Brian is one of 6 children, I am one of 5. Neither one of us is close to our siblings. He is the only one who moved away. He grew up in the inner city of Baltimore, in the “hood” the projects. They were really poor as kids. None of his siblings left there, not one of them owns a house or an automobile. He pushed past his initial life circumstances. Brian got an education and continues to educate himself as he is still moving up the corporate ladder.
He is the most responsible of all his siblings. When his mother passed his father had him take over. He isn’t the oldest but was appointed the guardian for his father’s care. Brian learned how to live without his siblings. In childhood family photos most often Brian is on one side of the picture alone in contrast to the other 5 who are grouped together. It appears to have started when he was just a toddler.
I am one of 5 girls and like my husband I have no relationship with my siblings. We weren’t exactly well off as kids either. They have not been in my life for almost 25 years now. And just like my husband they appear when they want to try and bring me down. They presume to know me but have not been in my life for decades. I don’t allow myself to get caught up in their cauldron of hatred.
My husband had and has an easier time accepting that his siblings are not a part of his life. I always wanted my situation to be different; I mourn for how I would have wanted it to be not for how it truly is and was with them. Like my husband’s family they don’t add anything positive to my life.
It took a long time for me to learn that my happiness was my responsibility. Mine alone. I have so many friends and even more acquaintances. Every job I ever held was in a highly social setting. Many people have lifted me up. And I have been called “inspirational” by more than a few people.
No matter how many people enhance our lives, we come into this world alone and we leave it alone. Today I am probably more content and happier than I have ever been. It isn’t based on other people or on things but truly comes from self-love and self-acceptance. I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses. I know who I am and I know my truth. I have an easier time discarding those relationships that are unhealthy and non- supportive.
Accepting that my happiness is my responsibility has allowed me to create an inner peace of love supported by my own strength. I don’t know why it took me so long to understand that everything I ever needed was already there inside of me. Better late than never … I suppose …
What I would say to anyone who is unhappy is you need to fix that. You alone have all the tools to be happy. It is there and it is inside of you. People may try and bring you down and may try to hurt you but that is their unhappiness and not yours.
We are all responsible for the life choices we make and the way we live our life. If it isn’t right for you, then it just isn’t right. Change it. No one can make you happy, no one, but you.
Happiness is an inside job!
By Bernadette A. Moyer
In order to fly we cannot be weighted down by things or by people from our past. We must be free.
Before an eagle of God can really start to fly into the heights that God has in store for us in this life, the eagle must break off any chains that are keeping him down and on the ground. For some of us these are issues from our past.
Jesus came to set the captives free and ones that are stuck may be stuck in wrong thinking that may come from past experiences. We must learn how to fully let go of our past before we can go full steam ahead with our divine destiny.
People get stuck and they get stuck in divorce, death and estrangements in relationships that have ended. I was guilty of this with a significant lost relationship and then it occurred to me, “How much more of your life, are you willing to lose to someone who cares nothing about you?” When is enough, enough?
We feel badly in the loss and we want to retreat and to give up burying ourselves, we pull the covers up and over our heads. But what does this really do for us? Does it make it better? Does it take the pain and the loss away?
We need to forge ahead in spite of our pain, forge ahead to newer and brighter futures. “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you, nor abandon you. DEUTERONOMY 31:8
Free yourself from that which is holding you back, like the eagle that God intended for you to be. Free yourself and soar like only you can do!
What Really Matters This Thanksgiving
By Bernadette A. Moyer
At the time of this writing I have been parenting for just over 34 years, there have been many years when I believed my parenting skills to be in line with my life’s greatest accomplishments and other times when I knew first hand that I totally missed the mark.
In parenting I learned that love truly is blind, that letting go is by far the greatest challenge and seldom does it matter what we really want for our children. In the end, it comes down to their life, lived out in their way.
I have loved and lost in parenting to where my skin hurt and the hole left in my heart was at least the size of a cannonball. My children taught me the true meaning of love, where you give and you give and expect nothing in return. It is the only relationship, when it is you who brings that child into this world and you who chose to give them life. You give life to your child who may live in a way that you may never understand but you know that the gift was in the giving.
With the three children I have mothered, I learned that each child is unique and different and comes with their own likes, dislikes, talents and abilities. I learned that where environment may matter, that does not translate into same environment and same outcome for each child.
It was in parenting that I learned humility and put myself in places and spaces that I would never have gone without the hand holding of my child who led me there. I learned that children have immediate needs and the adults in my life could wait. My children taught me patience and they taught me to trust in the letting go. My kids taught me that most children will be dishonest at times and not to take it personally or believe that because your view is one of a close parent and child relationship, it will mean honesty at all times, on all issues.
If the definition of forgiveness is defined as letting go of how you thought it should be, then again it was my children who taught me how to forgive. I learned to forgive myself, before I could begin to forgive them, or any others.
As amazing as giving birth is so is the circle of life, after 34 years of parenting I have learned so much from my children and all the many enrichments they have afforded me. Our children are all legal adults now and the greatest lesson learned is that each child was God’s gift to us.
Then came the day when we had to trust the process and the life cycle. The time arrived when they were no longer in our care nor were they our responsibility. It was then again when we knew to return them back to God who trusted us with them so long ago and who we trust will continue to protect them and to watch over them.
Happy Thanksgiving 2015!
(Updated November 2014 originally published in The Catholic Review and The North County News)