Stop This World

Gracefully going from victim to survivor to servant

The Marie Kondo craze has hit!  You don’t know about Marie Kondo and her tidying up revolution?  Well, if you have been to a local thrift store or Goodwill in the area you will probably notice that there might be an ever-increasing number of items on the shelves.  You can thank Marie Kondo for this.  Her method of tidying up, also called the Konmari method, is changing the way that people look at their possessions.  The whole basis of the Konmari method is,

Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.

Now, I know that this sounds extremely cheesy and all emotional but it actually works.

Okay, a few things before we move forward with what you might think is a post about how to tidy up your space. 

  1.  I like clutter.  I need to have some clutter on my desk at work, on my dining room table (what?  You use your dining room table to eat at?  Not me.  It is a horizontal filing system).  I’ve had a couple coworkers in the past get so annoyed with my clutter that they have ‘offered’ to help clean up my desk.  I told them in no uncertain terms that if they did that I’d fire them.  I know where everything is in my piles!  I also have a sinister belief that people with perfectly clean desks are up to something…or they don’t have enough to do.
  2. I don’t like being dirty.  As much as I’m not a fan of cleaning, I also don’t want my space to be dirty.  In my world clutter doesn’t equal dirty.  Wipe things down, dust, vacuum, etc.  Will I clean around my piles of clutter?  Sure.  If the spirit moves me maybe I will even pick up my pile of stuff to clean under it and then put the pile of stuff back.  You neat freaks are totally freaking out right now…I can sense it.

  3. I’m sentimental.  My dad taught me as a kid to save tickets from events, newspaper clippings, programs, etc so that I can look back over the years and remember those events.  Well, I listened to him very well and now have small bins of all these memories.  I love going through them occasionally and reminiscing.  FYI-Marie Kondo is not getting ahold of my sentimental stuff.  Not gonna happen!  She can come and rip my ticket from the 2002 NCAA Frozen Four Championship game (Go Gopher Hockey!) from my cold, dead hands.  Not happening.

  4. I come from a family of people who really appreciate inanimate objects and the memories they produce.  Some might call this being a pack rat.  I call it cherishing memories in an organized way.  My dad will not let any newspaper or magazine out of our house until he has looked through it from the pile of already read materials.  My grandma is going through her closets (again) and just found my dad’s pencil pouch from elementary school.  I ooh’ed & ahh’ed over it and thought it was so cool that she saved it.  She also has an unbelievable amount of fabric from her days of sewing my aunt’s dresses, from my aunts 4-H projects, from my 4-H projects and most importantly her quilting.  She is not one to waste anything, so she is taking all these scraps and making them into more quilts.  I was just there visiting and I excitedly pointed out which fabric came from my 4-H sewing projects and other activities over the years.  I like that kind of thing.  I think it is great that she kept all of the fabric over the years…even if she is kind of cursing herself right now for doing it.  When I am 87 like my grandma, I might not have scraps of fabric, but I will have the best collection of concert tickets in southern Minnesota.  So, liking clutter is in my DNA.  I can’t help it.

  5. I have moved my clutter three times in seven years.  I moved from Minneapolis to Indianapolis to D.C. and back to Minnesota.  Guess what?  I went through all my things each time and got rid of carloads of stuff.  When I moved from D.C. I really purged because I had such bad memories of so many things.  I sold all my furniture (and I loved my furniture).  Sold 2 bedroom sets, book cases, living room furniture, décor, etc.  Time to start fresh back in Minnesota.  Guess what?  My random clutter and insane amount of clothes followed me to all my destinations.

  6. I like clothes.  No, I love clothes.  I have no idea where this comes from, but I’m sure it has to do with not having name brand clothing growing up and now I want all the clothes I can get my hands on.  Well, not so much anymore, but in my 20’s & 30’s I was accumulating clothing like I was running my own boutique.  Did I ever pay full price for my clothing?  Heck no!  My mother taught me better than that.  I love the hunt of a good deal and finding beautiful clothes.  My mother (and grandmothers) also taught me that you don’t get rid of anything if there is still any use in it.  So that means that I have clothing that is 20 years old and I still wear it.  Again Marie Kondo, I’m not getting rid of my Gopher Hockey sweatshirt from 20 years ago.  It’s just not happening. 

  7. My wardrobe has changed.  When I lived in Washington, DC as an executive I wore dresses and suits quite often.  And, given the heat & humidity in DC I wore more dresses than I ever thought possible.  Moving back to Minnesota has me dressing more casual and I am just fine with that.  The first few months after I moved back home, I don’t think I actually wore a blazer, dress or dress shoes.  I lived in yoga pants, a t-shirt and flip-flops and was just fine with it.  Now, I enjoy getting dressed up when the situation calls for it but those dresses for the hot, humid weather are not doing me any favors in frigid Minnesota.

  8. Did I mention I like clothes?  I can honestly say that I have gone through my closets countless times over the last five years and I always think that I made a decent dent in getting rid of things.  Honestly, I did make a dent but you can barely tell.  This past year I have delivered clothing to a friend who is running an organization for struggling women several times.  I can always find a reason to keep something.  I just think, “I’ll wear that again someday.  Why get rid of it when I know I will need it someday?”

  9. Books, books, books.  I think that you can gather from the above points that I have an insane number of books and I keep adding to that collection weekly.  I typically have a few books going at a time.  I need a book for all moods!  Again, I have purged my books a lot over the years, but I could still be a librarian.  Oh well.  I’m a poor Marie Kondo student.

  10. I leave a trail.  You can usually tell where I have been in the house by the trail I leave.  Again, I’m not dirty but rather unorganized.  I leave books & journals everywhere, my bible, my planner, my mail.  Basically, anything that is made of paper gets left everywhere.  I wish that I could say that it is because I simply don’t have a place to put all the paper since I’m living with my parents, but that’s not it.  Well, maybe a little bit, but I was like this for the past 25 years living on my own.  I’m just not organized and don’t have the patience to put things away where they should be kept.  My mantra is that I’ll organize things later.  Later rarely comes.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Is it so that I can embarrass my parents and sister with my love of clutter?  Maybe.  Honestly, I tell you all of this to prove that I have taken some of Marie Kondo’s advice and it feels good.

In the middle of one of our snow storms in Minnesota I decided to bite the bullet and try the Konmari method of tidying up.  The first step is to start with your clothes.  I won’t go into detail but what makes this different is that you take all of your clothes out of your closet and set them out, or in my case, pile them up.  Then, you go through each item and determine if it will serve you well in your future.  Does the item bring you joy?  Do you smile when you wear it?  If it doesn’t spark joy, then it is time to say goodbye.  If you watch Marie Kondo’s shows you see that she actually says thank you to pieces of clothing.  I didn’t do that, but I did think of each item of clothing that I decided wasn’t going back in my closet.  Is this dress something that I want with me moving forward?  If not then, thank you, next.

This is the best purging of clothing I have ever had!  It was definitely cathartic to consciously select which items are moving on with me in life. I didn’t have the guilt that I typically have with getting rid of things. My inner voice says, “I paid $xxx for this dress & I only wore it twice. I’ll get more use out of it I’m sure. Not sure when, but I will.  Hang on to it.” Not this time…if it doesn’t fit the frame of mind and new chapter in my life then you will be donated.

I’m donating clothing that is perfectly good and I still fit into, but I have memories around clothes and it is time to move on from the memories.  I don’t need to be reminded of negativity when I’m trying to start over again.

What items don’t suit me anymore? 

The beautiful black dress that I wore to court where we struck a plea deal.  I bought it to wear for Christmas events and work, but we struck a plea deal in December and I wore this dress.  I wanted to look amazing to let my rapist know that he hadn’t ruined me, and that dress did that for me.  I thought I would wear the dress again, but I haven’t.  I wore it once and the memory is singed in my brain.  It will serve someone else better in the future and they can make good memories in it.

The green wrap dress that I never wore because I was too self-conscious with my low self-esteem.  And, when I see it in my closet it reminds me of when I bought the dress.  I was on leave from work and went shopping at a pop-up market.  I found a couple dresses and the sales person gently touched my arm and asked if I needed any help.  I immediately jumped, shrieked and the anxiety went sky high.  I was still in the fight or flight stages 2 years after the assault even if I didn’t realize it.  The sales person meant no ill-will and was simply seeing if I needed a dressing room.  I look at that green dress and I think of anxiety. Goodbye beautiful green dress.

There is a mulberry colored dress that will serve somebody very well.  It was a favorite of mine and I wore it quite often to work.  Unfortunately, I also wore it to the pre-trial hearing where I had to see my rapist for the first time since the awful evening.  I was torn on getting rid of this dress because it has those bad memories associated with it, but that day is also the day that I stood up for myself and made the defense attorney back down.  I was proud of myself, but I don’t need to be thinking of being on the stand when I wear a dress. 

Finally, there is the leopard print blouse that I wore quite a bit but I look at it and think of my 40th birthday party and being so depressed and miserable.  I could still get a lot of good use out of this blouse, but it’s time to go.

Pretty much anything that I bought during my time in Washington, DC is getting donated.  I just don’t need those things around me.  So, to whomever ends up with my clothing in the future, I hope that you can make wonderful, positive memories in these clothes.  They served me well in the past but don’t serve me well anymore.  It’s time to start over.

Jayme Closs is home.  Praise be to God!  After 88 days of being held in captivity and watching her parents be brutally murdered, she found a way to bravely escape. I can’t imagine all that she has been through, but I am so happy that she is safe with her extended family now.  It appears that she has so much love and support from her family, friends & community.

If you are not familiar with the Jayme Closs case you can go here.

When I heard the breaking news that Jayme had been found I was transfixed to the television and crying tears of joy.  The news reporters were also crying because of this miraculous event.  This 13-year old girl had been found safe.

After crying tears of joy, I continued crying.  I realized that I was also very sad and scared for Jayme.  My anxiety kicked in and I was trying to figure out what was going on in my mind.  It’s not like I watched my parents murdered and was held captive for 88 days. 

So why was I so sad even after Jayme had been found?

Well, I realized that I am so heavy with sorrow for her because the grieving and healing she needs to go through will be hell on earth.  Literally.  My mind goes back to the depression, anxiety & PTSD that I suffered from for nearly four years.  Every single day I not only replayed my assault and the aftermath in my mind, but I asked God when this will all end.  When will I not have these thoughts every day?  When will this not define who I am?  I really just wanted to wake up one day and it all be better.  Couldn’t it just be a bad dream?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a bad dream, but reality.  The hard work never got easier.  Doing the work is hard and repetitive.  I really didn’t know how the brain functioned (still don’t) and didn’t understand how trauma affects the brain.  After 1 year, 2 years, 3 years why couldn’t I get better?  Why?  It was so frustrating because I was putting in the ‘work’ of therapy, mindfulness training, yoga, support groups, etc.  I was working hard and getting nowhere.  I’m a hard worker naturally, but typically when you work hard at something you will have a tangible goal in mind.  Graduating from school, getting a raise, finding a new job.  Getting better isn’t the tangible goal I thought it was.  What is getting better?  What is healing?  Does healing have an end?

I kind of at least wanted a ribbon or medal for my efforts along the way.

I’ve written in previous blog posts that I was very confident that I would be over my assault and moving on with my life within 6 months.  Totally doable in my mind.  What I didn’t realize is that after 6 months I was just getting past the shock phase.  Some people are in shock from trauma for a few days.  Others, like myself, are in the shock stage for months.  I really thought I was making really good progress, and I was, but it was slower than I ever imagined.  The brain doesn’t recover from trauma like a broken bone does.  You can put in all the work, what I term physical therapy for the brain, and still not feel like you are making any progress.  Or, you know you made progress only to have something trigger you into the depths of despair again.  It might be something as simple as a smell or something as big as a detective calling you. 

Fortunately, my therapist started pointing out to me that I was making strides in my healing after several months.  When I would get triggered during the first year it would typically take me 5-7 days to fully recover and feel like functioning again.  As time went on she pointed out that it was only taking me 3-5 days to recover and then 1-2 days.  My mind was building resilience and that is a good thing.  It didn’t feel like I was making any progress at all, but I was getting there.  Slowly, but surely.  There was light.

I just wanted a silver bullet.  That one thing that would make all the awful thoughts go away.  Would yoga do it?  Accupuncture?  Sound therapy?  Hypnosis?  Where was the silver bullet or magic potion that would take it all away?  The silver bullet was myself.  I had to invest time in myself to get better.  I didn’t choose to be raped.  I didn’t choose to bear this cross in life.  But, I could choose not to be a victim and not let this define my life.  Sounds easy, but is really hard.

 I’m still working on it.

Nobody else can put the work in for you.  You may have all the support in the world (like I did) and still struggle 24 hours a day.  In our society of quick fixes, we want things to be better immediately.  If I can get a pack of antibiotics to make my sinus infection go away in 5 days, then why isn’t there some quick fix for trauma and PTSD?  I was trying to find the holy grail of recovery.  I just wanted to snap out of the funk.

Granted, there are some quick fixes out there like drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.  Quick fixes indeed, but they won’t give you long term results.  Several times after a therapy appointment or having a good cry at church I would wonder if this would do it.  Would I have finally done enough work for God to take away my suffering and for my brain to heal?  Did I put in enough work? Did I suffer enough?

I felt like I had to suffer.  I deserved to suffer. That is part of the shame and blame of being assaulted.  I felt like I deserved it for some reason.  Like I had to suffer even more to make sure that I was fully engulfed in shame and guilt.  Why?  I don’t know. 

Something I didn’t realize along the way is that you put in the work of talk therapy and all those other things, but what you really need is time.  Time to just be.  Your brain can’t heal itself quickly and you need to be patient.  I consider myself a fairly patient person, but when it started taking years to recover from my trauma I was losing hope fast. 

Thinking about Jayme Closs, I’m so very happy that she is safe and sound.  I cry because the work ahead will be almost as bad, if not worse, than the trauma she endured.  I never thought that was possible until I went through it.  You get retraumatized and have to live through the awful things over & over again.  It just doesn’t stop.  Then the questions will start, “why didn’t you do this, why didn’t you do that?”. This makes me sad for Jayme and her family. 

What would I tell Jayme? 

Be patient with yourself
Be patient with your family & friends
Let those you love take care of you
Sleep some more
Take bubble baths
Slow down. Healing isn’t a race
Write in a journal 
Hug your pet 
Smile when you feel like it
Ask for help
Accept help
Take care of yourself through doing your favorite things
Go to therapy
Move your body-dancing, yoga, anything that makes you feel alive
Do what makes you feel safe

Know that you are a loved child of God.  There is so much evil in this world, but God has given you the tools to find your way through. 

Don’t let anyone tell you when you should feel better.  You will feel better when you feel better.  There is no deadline on healing.  Period. 

Your journey is going to have points of great darkness and also points of profound light.  Don’t let the darkness get you down.  Work through it and find your way.  Take a break when you need it, but never quit.  I had months and years of long darkness but knew somewhere deep down that I was making progress.  I promise you that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I never thought I would find that light, but I did. I’m here to tell you that I have faith in you, and I pray that you heal wholly and at your own pace.

Finally, I would tell her that you are so loved by thousands of people.  I would give her a big hug, cry tears of joy with her and tell her that she is going to be better than okay.  It might not be tomorrow or next month, but someday in the future she is going to feel great again and this awful crime will not define her life.  It will be a chapter in her life, but the great novel of her life will be so much more.  To Jayme, I’m proud of you and I pray for you on your journey of healing.

Jayme, this is where the healing begins.


Here is a song by Tenth Avenue North that I listened to & meditated on a lot over the years:

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