Under the Influence

I couldn’t imagine living through what was happening.

Well, I knew I would live through it, I just couldn’t imagine what life was going to look like or how I was going to keep going. This wasn’t my plan! I thought I had it all figured out, then life took a turn and I wasn’t prepared. Deep in my heart I knew I was being watched over, protected and guided. So I surrendered and released it all. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I handed it all over to God with one request.

Use me. Use this. Put me where you want me and guide me to be the very best example of love, strength, faith, and kindness I can be. Please let my light shine from within.

For the next 20 years, I told the best story I could about everyone involved and I practiced forgiveness. I forgave myself. I forgave them. I described a situation where, although it was devastating, those involved didn’t know what they didn’t know, and they did it all out of love. That was my story and I’m still sticking to it.

I grew up in a house where it was commonplace to live two lives. The one everyone sees and the one that goes on at home, behind closed doors, when you are all alone. When I was a child, my mother told me the question, “How are you?” is always rhetorical, no one cares, and no one ever wants to know the truth (I think this also is where I learned to use absolutes.) She said I should just smile and say, “Fine, thank you.” This didn’t make sense to me because when I asked how someone was doing, I meant it. Still do. In any case, the habit of saying, “Fine, thank you” while dying inside helped me to survive. Barely.

When it happened I felt completely blindsided, unloved, unwanted and unworthy. Childhood and teenage beliefs of my being in the way and useless were triggered. I left Texas on a wing and a prayer, fueled by ignorance peppered with courage, and I had a plan. What is important to say here is there is no room in a happy, meaningful life for blame or negative feelings. I know it was my perception of what was said and done that influenced my actions. It’s not what others say or do in life that matters, it’s how we feel about what others say or do.

I gave my washer/dryer to my mother. I donated all of my furniture, linens, dishes and cookware to the church. I loaded up my Chevy Blazer with what I had left. The important stuff. Family photos, books, 10 copies of my resume, a stereo and a microwave (it was the nineties.) I had no home, no job, and only $1,000 cash that my mother convinced me to tape to my stomach so it didn’t get stolen while I was on the road. She might not know me very well, but she does know I can’t stop myself from making eye contact with strangers at gas stations and soulfully asking, “How are you?” I’m pretty sure I’ve always seen the value in human connection, in truly seeing and hearing everyone I meet.

I drove to Denver and within two months I had a job at Janus Funds. Within a year I was promoted to assisting the Executive Vice President and began traveling across the United States with the Marketing Department as an Event Specialist. My boss always made it easy for me to fly through Texas (Hint: this will be important later in the story) to visit the person who matters most in my life. I spent every cent I made and every minute of vacation traveling through Texas. I couldn’t stand being alone during waking hours with nothing to do because my heart was broken and I had issues to ignore, so I began taking acting lessons at The Denver Center for Performing Arts. On the advice of my instructor, I got a headshot and started acting in Denver. I married someone and we got transferred to Austin where I pursued acting and teaching classes with incredibly talented actors at Alleywood Studios. There I was in Texas, scared, hurting and confused for three years before moving to Los Angeles. I lived in California for 13 years, acting and writing while again spending all my free time and money visiting Texas. I was also honored to work in the West Coast Office of The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees for many years with union professionals I respect and to whom I am grateful for trusting me with promotions and duties I had no idea I was capable of handling. One of these duties had me traveling the United States and Canada every six months and whenever I could, I flew through Texas. The entire time this was going on I was afraid something would happen, I would let my guard down, and someone would find me curled up in the corner of my office wearing a business suit and crying my eyes out.

I moved some more, got other jobs, became divorced and learned how to survive, all the time traveling forward. Always moving onward, growing, learning, making mistakes, making amends, finding the good, seeing the joy, being grateful and very often traveling through Texas. What I couldn’t understand for those 20 years was if I had forgiven, why was I still in so much pain every single minute of every day?

Two years ago I became overwhelmed with a “knowing” that it was time to overcome my worst wounds and move to Texas for a while. I’d tried this once in 2012, it fell through, I was devastated and told myself I’d dodged a bullet. This time my intuition was strongly telling me something was about to happen with my family and I trusted my faith to be bigger than my fear. Again.

Having that trust brought me an answer to the question I’d wondered for so long and that is what I’m sharing with you. As mentioned previously, I’d forgiven everyone, but I was obsessed all those years with wondering “how someone could do that to someone else.” Does that mean I hadn’t truly forgiven? Nope. It means I had forgiven all, but wondering how they could have done it in the first place means I hadn’t released judgment. There is a difference. Holding onto that judgment without even realizing it, was only hurting me all those years, not them. So when I saw it, I let it go. I let it all go, and it looks like I had to once again “go through Texas” to do it. To heal. Once and for all.

What happened years ago doesn’t matter, that’s why I’m not divulging the details. It was an incident then (according to Elizabeth Gilbert’s description) and now it’s a story. I no longer remember the pain, I only remember the wisdom.

We are always under the influence of something or someone. Next time you have a decision to make, ask yourself if you are under the influence of what your inner self knows to be true, or the influence of what others might think. Trust yourself even when it doesn’t make sense to anyone else.

Love always, T


2 thoughts on “Under the Influence

  1. Thanks for sharing this personal wisdom. This is what stuck me: “I know it was my perception of what was said and done that influenced my actions. It’s not what others say or do in life that matters, it’s how we feel about what others say or do.” I do know perception is reality and trying to have the perception that best allows us the least pain and increase our ability to move forward is challenging.

    I so appreciate you sharing your insight and life lessons to help us all see that while perception is reality, we all have a choice on how to see our own reality – for better or worse.

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