Alive to Thrive: Season 2, Episode 1
Video is 7 minutes long.
The first time I sat on a counselor’s couch, I had no idea what to say. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything but rather I had no idea where to actually begin. The same can happen with writing and journaling. Let the following prompts get you started.
1 – The start of something new. What does starting over look like? Where are you? How does it feel?
2 – When you think back on your happiest times, which memory comes to you first? Why do you think it stands out?
3 – You’re standing on stage. The spotlight is on you. An audience waits, leaning in. You have 20 minutes. What message are you going to share?
4 – We’ve all sat in the pit before, the hole where it’s dark and feels hopeless. But then a face appears, someone showing up for you. Who is it, and what happened next?
5 – It’s 3:00 in the morning and you’re awake. What has you awake at this hour? What can you pour out of your heart that will allow you to sleep?
6 – What is the one question you wish people would ask, and how would you answer?
7 – Write about 3 things that you learned about yourself since surviving your painful past.
8 – How do you face the whispers of fear and anxiety that creep in when you’re trying to grow?
One idea a day. Do one every single day or combine them to create and heal and grow.
Combine with journal prompts to write and create!
Art Therapy January 2018
1 – Begin again
2 – In pieces
3 – Courage
4 – Letting go
5 – Rise up
6 – Growth
7 – Who are you?
8 – A deep thought
9 – Note to self
10 – Boldness
11 – Self-care
12 – Your “tiara”
13 – Speak out
14 – Looking up
15 – Dreaming
16 – Strength
17 – Having fun
18 – Future
19 – Shine your light
20 – Going forward
21 – To be alive
22 – Be where you are
23 – Your tribe
24 – Me too
25 – Holding on
26 – I want you to know
27 – One word
28 – Something new
29 – Own your power
30 – A new path
31 – Your beautiful self
Many use their pasts to help their present and future selves, but many more cling to the pain of what was and don’t move forward. Take what you can use from the past and let the rest go. You deserve to live with joy, to thrive, not to stay in a pit of pain.
Your future begins right now. Let’s move past the past, starting…now!
Why I wore a tiara grocery shopping, walked 1,000 miles, and told strangers about my dark past by Angela Giles Klocke
I’m passed out on the living room floor, drunk on strawberry wine, surrounded by wrapping paper, tape, and toys, when I’m wakened by a quiet but persistent knocking at the front door. I glance at the clock. It’s after midnight. I haven’t been out long. Drinking away Christmas Eve was a good plan to get through, so I’m a little pissed as I stumble to the door to find Mom and my oldest brother standing there. Though they’ve driven over eight hours, I resent them in that moment. I don’t want to feel right now. I just want to get this night over with so I can get through Christmas day and on with my life.
I resent them even more because here they are again, a team, like they’ve shown up together to save the day. I don’t need them or want them there. A sleepy stupor awaits after weeks of no rest and no peace.
“We came to bring Christmas,” they say, way too chipper for this hour of the night.
Christmas has already vomited all over the living room, though. When death visits, people bring food. And when death shows up right before Christmas, people bring toys for kids instead. Even with all everyone has given them, I still bought gifts, hoping to numb them with toys the same way I needed to numb myself with strawberry wine.
Mom and my brother unload while I sit on the floor and continue to stare at unwrapped gifts still awaiting tape and paper. A waste, all of it. Paper meant to hold back surprise just ends up revealing one more cheap plastic doo-dad that no one really wants.
They laugh, oblivious of my mood, of my drunkenness, of my life. I’m free now so I’m supposed to be happy, I guess.
My earliest memory of these two together has them laughing too, oblivious of my feelings, only on that day, somewhere when I was 7 or 8, they were laughing at me.
These two have been a team as long as I can remember. Though my brother believes me to be Mom’s favorite based alone on the fact that I’m the only girl out of four kids, everyone knows these two have the closest bond.
That day so many years ago, the idea that it was the two of them and then us was solidified in my heart all because together they thought up a prank to play on me. I don’t associate much of my childhood with warmth and real humor — only a series of events meant to be funny to them but which always caused pain for me.
Mom called me in from the yard, where I was out exploring the four acres of pine trees we lived on. I loved finding new treasures — sand dollars, arrowheads, and fun rocks. I often whisked myself away to lands of make-believe in an effort to carve out a fanciful life, one where yelling and hitting and fear did not live.
Running into the house as quickly as possible, because you never want Mom to have to call you more than once, I found her standing over my brother. He lay on the kitchen floor, covered in blood, and she stood over him with a butcher knife in her hand.
“I killed your brother and now I’m going to kill you,” she said, stepping toward me.
Fight or flight is strong with me, heavy on the flight, and I ran back the way I’d come. I’d head out straight across the street and have them call the cops, but if she was following, I’d dart left instead and run through the woods to another neighbor, one who was used to one of us kids showing up on their doorstep at least once a month, begging for them to help. I’d lose her through the trees; no one could jump and crawl as fast as I could.
No sooner than my feet hit the front steps, though, she was laughing. Worse, I could hear my brother laughing too. I turned back around and saw them both standing in the doorway, him still covered in blood, Mom still holding the knife, which was also covered in blood. A trick. A joke. A nasty prank.
The memory drops away to gray there, fuzzy distortions of how they convinced me to come back inside, how no one would really hurt me. But the damage was done, and it would be several more years before I put the pieces together: they were a team, and I was not on the team, and that was the day I learned I couldn’t trust even the two people I loved the most in all the world.
In my late thirties, when I share this story with my counselor, she leans forward, unable to hide emotion from her face. She is angry, disturbed.
“You do know that’s not okay,” she says.
I nod. “Of course. I know it’s not normal.”
“It’s more than ‘not normal.’ It’s cruel. It’s not how a mother behaves.”
I’ve known this but I don’t think anyone has ever just said that, that she was being cruel, not just using poor judgment.
But like so many other moments in our lives together, I pushed the bad things into the void and held on like hell to every good moment. Survival existed only in the good moments.
In the early hours of Christmas morning, I don’t think I can pretend I’m fine beyond what I need to give to my kids. I can’t play along, laugh, and pretend like laughter has a place in my life. Yet, I’m torn between my anger at seeing them and my pleasure at her showing up for me, for my kids. All I ever long for, all I keep wanting, is for her to be my mom, to love me the way I love my own children.
For 20 years now, I’ve gone through a season every December that is wrought with emotions that I can never quite put my finger on. Ultimately, I have to settle on “it’s complicated” because it is a mushy jumble of feelings that aren’t quite this or that. I am caught in a whirlwind that is not sadness, not happiness, not relief, not disbelief, and not grief. People ask if I’m okay and I just have to say I am because I think I am, and I am not, but I cannot answer as to why not no more than I can truthfully answer to why I am.
Twenty years seems like a long time to be in such a complicated relationship with memories of the past, but it is what it is. Each year, I attempt to unravel the spaghetti mess of feelings, and every year I end up sitting back and letting myself feel what I feel. Like flashes of lightning, I am at peace and then not. I am in 1997 and then not. I am in 1988 and then not. I am happy and then not. I am sad and then not.
The more I talk with other survivors, the more I see that this is a common experience that we struggle to define. We shrug and pet our feelings as if to give them comfort, yet we have no idea what we are trying to comfort because we aren’t sad or mad or happy or glad. It just is…these feelings…these things we have survived.
It’s complicated to explain. It’s complicated to understand. It’s complicated to carry.
The world says move on and don’t live in the past, and we aren’t, but parts of us go back without our permission. Hearts pound as we notice the date, as we pick up the scent of another decade, a time in life when survival was a real thing, not just something we now talk about. My breath catches when I hear a gunshot ring in the night and I cannot not see a body at the bottom of the stairs. Life has moved on, and yet I chew on these complicated feelings on autopilot, willing my brain to choose something better, to move into the beauty that is today.
The calendar makes it complicated. Twenty years cannot erase the pain and fear and new beginnings that all arrived in one complicated night of terror. I cannot celebrate being alive without the complications of the loss of life, and I cannot grieve the loss without the complications of joy for being here to live.
I’m not a therapist, but I know what I know, and I know what I feel, and trauma is just complicated, no matter how much time has passed, no matter how many times I’m told I should move on, no matter how much I should be grateful to be alive.
I am grateful. I am excited about life. And yet, here I sit on what is the last day of the complicated first two weeks of December, and I bounce through emotions that all mush together, and I want the day to end, and I want to reflect, and I want to have never had this story to begin with, and I want to use all the story to save others, and I want to be left alone, and I want to be close to people, and it’s just all so very complicated. Yes, 20 years later, still…
Read my story here: The First 22 Years Are the Hardest