If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right — Henry Ford
I don’t know what happened to me when I was four years old, but something did. There’s a picture of me from that summer, smiling shyly at the camera, my hair cut in a short bob, wearing a cute sailor dress.
The Weight of the Whole World On My Shoulders
The only clear memory I have of that year is of running away from home, or trying to. We lived in a nice neighborhood, at the end of a cul de sac, in Roswell, New Mexico, with lots of other military families. I was walking down a broad sidewalk, past neat houses with perfectly trimmed lawns. I wasn’t crying, but I was terribly sad, carrying a weight of sorrow much too big for a four-year-old. I was determined to get to the end of the block and just keep going — somewhere. As I walked, I became aware of a shiny, late-model sedan creeping along the road, keeping pace with me. It wasn’t my parents. I didn’t know who it was. I stopped, realizing they weren’t going to let me escape. At that moment, I wanted the earth to just open up and swallow me. I didn’t want to go back, but I was trapped. It was the saddest day of my life. I felt i’d just been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
I Still Don’t Know What Happened
What was so terrible? What happened to me? I wish I knew. I came from a large family, where the older ones were assigned to watch the younger ones, and my parents expected us to work out any problems among ourselves. It was a perfect recipe for psychological abuse and sexual harassment. Even now, decades later, my husband is surprised at my lighting-fast reflexes. I explained to him I grew up in an unsafe environment with zero protection from predators, even in my own family.
Another memory: I’m eight years old. We’re in a new house, in San Francisco. My dad has retired from the military, so I’m told this is our forever house. I lie down on the carpeted floor in our bedroom closet. I take a breath and hold it. Seconds tick by and I realize my idea isn’t working. I’m still alive. I don’t know how to stop breathing. Dying was the only way I could think of, to escape.
It was dark and miserable inside that prison. There wasn’t a speck of light. It was so oppressive, you couldn’t think straight, logical thoughts. The walls closed in, so you couldn’t stand, or take a deep breath or smile. I remember feeling I could scarcely move, my limbs felt so heavy. Too often, I was weak with terror that closed over me like a blanket, suffocating me. I felt like I was dying, but I didn’t die.
I thought leaving home meant I’d be free from Fear and Self-loathing, but they came with me wherever I went. Despite their efforts, I finished college, married and had children. Then my first husband left me for his girlfriend. I found myself raising five children, including one with disabilities, alone. I felt prison bars closing around me. Once again, I was trapped.
I tried fighting the terror. I made myself smile at the children. After all, I loved them, and they were wonderful. They deserved a cheerful, supportive mom. I tried to do better. I listened to my children and told them they were loved. But late at night, when they were sound asleep, the prison walls closed in. I rattled them, angry and frustrated. Why was I still trapped?
It took many years before I noticed the prison door was open. It had been padlocked all through my childhood. Now, I could walk out at any time. But prison was all I knew. I’d been there so long. How could I break free, for good?
“New thoughts,” I told myself firmly. I took one step outside the prison walls, then another.
The walls would come back sometimes, especially at night. I had nightmares of drowning, floating on a raft at sea, surrounded by huge obstacles so I couldn’t see which way to go. But I learned to look up and find sunlight. When I did, the prison walls were gone.
I began to sing, something I never dared to try, growing up. Singing meant drawing attention to yourself and if you did, you’d be punished. That was the cardinal rule: “never stand out, or you’ll be sorry.” But now, I could sing solos and lead a choir, write pageants, direct concerts. No one yelled at me, no one hurt me.
But I was still hurting myself. I would put myself down, imprisoned by my own negative thoughts. That’s why Leslie Householder’s lessons were such a revelation: throw out those negative thoughts and think new ones. Stop believing the lies.
When I read The Jackrabbit Factor, I realized “thoughts can change.” My thoughts could start helping me instead of hurting.
Instead of calling myself a loser, I can be a winner. I succeed. I am rich. I can think new thoughts and hold on to them for a few seconds, at least. My faith can go from zero, to — well, the size of a mustard seed.
This is real. All that stuff in the past, those were lies. I can stop believing the lies. Those suckers were persistent, let me tell you. Some of them were stuck on me like glue. Until I learned to open my hand and let go.
Now, when people tell me they loved my solo, I can smile and say, “thank you,” without flinching. I can share my gifts and be glad they make others happy. I can share joy and that’s amazing.
I can take a deep breath and sing, loud and clear.
That was the hardest physical barrier to overcome, after years of psychological abuse and sexual harassment: I had to learn how to breathe. Even today, I can be sitting at my laptop, typing away and suddenly realize I’m not breathing. Now, I sing every day, just to remind myself to breathe deep.
I got up early this morning and wrote out my shopping list for the universe:
Thoughts are real and I can have new ones anytime I want.
My wonderful new husband has my permission to love, cherish and care for me to his heart’s content. He’s very good at it.
I give myself permission to smile and laugh, to breathe deep, sing and dance any time I feel like it.
I can. I do.
I give myself permission to succeed.
I am all right. I breathe deep, stretch and take on a new day.
It’s like going shopping with an unlimited credit card and no bill to pay at the end of the month.
I can have whatever I say, just like in Mark 11.23. God’s training me to be an overcomer, and there’s no mountain too high for His word to reach. I’m not trying to do anything by my own power. I get to use His. He told me I could, in Luke 10.18–20.
It’s like Leslie Householder says, “I have a choice and I choose to believe.”
When I first started practicing positive thoughts, I thought it was impossible. So I set a very tiny goal, to hold on to a positive thought for two or three seconds. By the time I got to 17 seconds, I was flying. It’s like, as soon as I started practicing, the universe met me halfway. Then I found Leslie’s book Hidden Treasures: Heaven’s Astonishing Help With Your Money Matters where she confirmed that’s exactly what God does for us.
What do you want? Breathe deep. You are loved, you are free. Reach your hands up to the sky and give thanks to the One who created you. Tell Him:
I made it. I’m here. I love You too. I am.
Then, write out your shopping list: love, acceptance, freedom, peace. Sit back and mull those concepts over for a while. Let them sink into your soul. Let yourself be happy. Let yourself be loved. That’s the secret; that makes all the difference in the world.