Understanding the Hardship of Abuse While Feeling Grateful for the Blessings that Continue to Flow

I love how the Universe works when I am centered and tapped into flow!

Yesterday (November 19th) was one of my ex’s birthday. I used the occasion to do some inner work around gently removing (with love and gratitude) any remaining energetic cords between us that were constrictive and celebrating the ones that were expansive. I also did some inner work around forgiving myself for my choices, replacing shame with compassion and grace.

This inner work ‘celebration of sorts’ wasn’t at all what I had planned for my day. But, there it was, front and center and my heart asked me to do it, so I listened. I wanted to write here, because it was an important part of my journey, but then the day unfolded and completed.

Imagine my surprise, and delight, to be reading Vidya Sury’s most recent article “Turning Troubles Into Triumph” this morning and seeing an invitation to participate in a blog link-up with the theme of finishing this sentence (either literally or within your article): “The hardship I am most thankful for….”.

Well, there is Universe gently nudging me to share with you, so here I am, sharing. Maybe yesterday it was too fresh and I was still processing the message but, today, it’s settled and I am open and ready to keep creating *grin*.

One thing about Universal messages and signs: People often ask me ‘how do you know a sign is meant for you?’ Well, this is a perfect example: the sign is an affirmation of direction or an answer to a question about something currently in my realm, it feels very light-filled and clear and I can logically understand what it is referring to. Part of my way of intuitively moving through each day – and ultimately, my life – is to be attuned with my heart whispers and aware of whatever is resonating with them in the physical world, which includes being open to notice and understand Universal messages and signs.

To be clear: I don’t ever think in terms of *hardship*(although people who are familiar with my life experience will tell you I’ve moved through quite a few of them). I can, however, feel something as challenging – a stretch physically, emotionally and/or energetically – but I’m truly so grateful to be alive that I’m celebrating the blessing of being in this moment even as I am processing and moving through ‘hardship’.

With that, I would say my greatest hardship has been (and might still be) living in abuse from childhood on, then living with patterning from that abuse for the rest of my years. While I’ve done tons of research and study on abuse (and the dynamic of pain and the energy of how patterning works and how to re-create patterns), it’s taken years of dedicated presence and awareness for me to understand my own patterning (passed on through generations of women in my lineage who were abused).

Along the way, I share my experience, because even if you’re not in external abuse, there is a great chance that you are in some way abusive to yourself in thought, word and/or action and maybe something in my words and experience will inspire you to make a different choice.

My greatest blessings, then, have directly unfolded from this study and research, which began about 18 years ago when I chose to become a mother and knew I wanted my child (then children) to experience a life full of peace and possibility. I did the work to learn about how to create spaces that were peaceful and comfortable and then how to be that peace and comfort to them, later with clients and now with myself as well.

Enter: ex-boyfriend who celebrated a birthday yesterday. I call him ‘sailor man’. He came into my life at a point of great transition, right as my almost ten-year marriage was unfolding to an ending that my heart knew would ultimately be a blessing but my being had zero idea how to process. After being at home with my kids for their life (at that time five years) I found myself needing to work to earn money, so I took a job at the local harbor cafe, then would take daily walks at ocean’s edge after each shift, wondering will I ever feel peace, did I deserve to feel peace?

Ah, well, you probably already know the type: he was tall, dark, handsome, a charmer. At the time, he was the sailor man that many girls wished to spend time with. However, he was quite a loner – a man hanging on to past hurt, causing current pain and drama and quite addicted to numbing that pain in specific ways (none of which I knew at the time).  What opened my heart to connecting was this:

  1. One day, he asked me what type of art I liked. I told him something about loving my children’s drawings and he responded with something like ‘that’s awesome, but what type of art do you like when you’re not in your mother role’. What?! Do I exist outside of my mother role?! I remember in the following weeks asking each mom that I knew the same question. They were just as surprised as I – what an eye-opener for each of us!
  2. My daughter was about to have surgery (one of many at the time) and he asked me how I felt. I explained that I felt calm and faithful for her. As he did with the art question, he asked me how I felt as a human being, beyond being her mother. What?! I could have feelings outside of mothering?!

What he – and you as you are reading this – didn’t know was that for much of my life my voice was silenced. As a child, I wasn’t asked what I thought or how I felt and when I volunteered that information I was often criticized or disciplined. I was so distanced from what I thought and how I felt, that as an adult, I didn’t consider it at all. (Knowing me now, isn’t that so odd? I intuitively feel my way through life *and* in my energy work with clients, my first questions about understanding the energy in your space is “what do you think and how do you feel?”)

He also spoke to me about his love of sailing, including following the current, being ‘one’ with nature, feeling such peace on the ocean. All of my life, I had wanted to live on a boat; listening to him speak sparked my passion.

Eventually, he taught me to sail.

But, more than that, he taught me to ‘be the captain of my own ship’. Having been raised to be subservient, to be the ‘gift’ to the man and allow him to lead always, the idea of captaining anything wasn’t in my realm of being. However, there I was a single-mom, and learning to captain my ship in all ways was something I needed to do. It began there, on the ocean, and spilled over into my life.

When you are the literal captain of a ship, you have trained to be in that spot through reading but also many hours of experience. You understand everything about this mega-ton ship and the weather and the relationship between the two. You remain calm in heavy weather, (if you’re good) you understand your passenger’s desires and make sure that they have a wonderful experience, you lean into the conditions not away from them.

That went against everything I had been taught in life and opened the door to everything I understand and am, now. 

He was (and probably still is) an excellent sailor. I was out there every day, while the kids were at school, first with him, then with other teachers and finally on my own. Through a sailing club, I had access to all kinds of boats from really small, simple sailboats to the latest and most beautiful big cruising sailboats. I began to charter trips for others. I began volunteering as crew on race boats.

I began learning to feel currents and wind patterns. I became one with the ocean and nature. And, yes, I felt that blissful peace of being just me, the blackness of night and the sparkle of stars and the presence of Source energy, out in the boat on the ocean at night.

After about two years of sailing, I was in the marina office, when a person came in with an ad for a boat they were selling. I bought it. And, I lived on it (by myself with the kids) for almost five years. At the time, there were many families living aboard boats but I was the only single mom on our coast from San Francisco to San Diego, Ca. living aboard.

While sailor man was around during the first part of my journey on the boat, by then, our ‘true colors’ were shining and I realized I was back in this abusive dynamic. Blah. I think many people there assumed that he helped me, but I did the boat thing on my own (at first, he did help but he created bigger messes so I learned to say ‘no, thank you!’). He was far too gone in his own stuff to have been there for me in mine.

But, first, from those years on the boat, my kids and I learned so much that enriched our lives and made us each who we are today as individuals and as a family unit. I personally learned the depth of unfolding and trust in flow and source that eventually evolved in this current work I do now through Facets of Joy. I had two life-changing, amazing relationships (with guitar man, then traveling man) after him that also opened my heart and led to now, but those relationships, and this work, wouldn’t have happened had I not known and shared with him many years ago. So, thank you, sailor man.

Now, for the hardship. You may notice as you read, that I share paragraphs of specific blessings, then a short blurb on the general feeling of hardship. In general, I don’t like to pass pain along. But specifically, his part isn’t mine to tell – although it was what created then exacerbated the feeling of hardship in my life.

In general, I can say, when I moved on the boat that changed the dynamic between us and there was lots of drama and emotional and physical pain. At that time, I had the boundary of not allowing him to interact with my kids (but I also understand that when my energy was re-directed to healing myself from the latest over-the-top dramatic experience, it wasn’t then fully on, or with, them).

I don’t share specific examples publicly, because as I shared above, I’m only one-half of the experience. As the recipient, not the giver, I don’t know how to share examples without mentioning his part. You would be shocked, perhaps horrified, if you knew even one event – several together required lots of energy to process. A big event would happen maybe every two weeks, then take lots of energy to heal and center back into my faith around my daily life – so it felt like it was on-going for quite some time. Since it was only one part of my life, the balance from the beauty and goodness in all other areas helped offset the pain in this one.

Please, remember, this wasn’t new to me – this was a repeat pattern, so while it sucked, it was also familiar and while I didn’t then have the skills to extricate myself from the complete pattern, I did have the skills and knowledge to disentangle from the surface ties that bound me – even though, the huge inner knot remained and needed to be dealt with, I felt enough freedom and joy to at least ‘survive’.

However, this time was the first that I could clearly see how my relationship choices mirrored my experience with my dad. It became very clear to me that I had lots of inner work to do. From what I had learned about peace and possibility for my kids, I knew something different (‘better, more resonant with love’) was possible for me to learn and experience, too. I was scared. And, I was full of determination, courage and faith.

My friends and loved ones knew what was happening – I would share specific experiences with them – and they all kept helping me apply band-aids. Like Taylor Swift says now “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes” but I very much appreciate the love and support I was feeling then. I could tap into that and find the inspiration to keep creating.

Because, remember, I was busy learning how to be a single-mom, living on a sailboat (which was its own big transition), loving the beauty and joy of living a dream with my children. This relationship that I was in was so incongruent, it was pretty clear.

On the same weekend my dad was hospitalized for attempting suicide, sailor man threatened it as well. Talk about a sign!! That coincided with a very close friend telling me something no one else had in my whole life, along the lines of ‘hey, I love you and I’m not going to watch you hurt yourself and I’m not going to help you fix it – after you’ve been out one year, connect with me and I’ll be there.”

Those two Universal nudges were what I needed to remove my presence from abuse and begin the deep process of healing, which for me included learning self-love, self-appreciation and self-compassion – all of which I had shared naturally and joyfully with others but hadn’t ever turned inward. You see, if we look at the energy of abuse (in very general terms), if my base is love and I speak with love and compassion and am supportive and encouraging of myself, the energies in abuse don’t resonate and are really easy to deflect (because they aren’t in the realm of your being). So, self-love is essential as a tool for removing your presence, and healing from, abuse.

I spent the next few years with the kids on the boat, practicing all of this while learning to love myself as much as I loved (still love!) them. What I share through my work now, years later, that I am told inspires others and changes their lives in wonderful ways, all flows from that hardship. For which I am thankful for.

(And, to be very clear, there is no blame toward sailor man. I understand how a person can feel such pain and why they choose to share it. I share only gratitude for the blessings and wish him well – may he experience the peace of ocean in his daily life.)

Thank you for reading! I invite you to take a cleansing breath and then to share: As you consider the concept of blessings unfolding from hardship, how does that feel to you? Is it something you’ve experienced or something that feels unfamiliar? Please do share whatever you’d like from your own journey. And, if you have questions about something I’ve shared here, please feel free to ask.

I recently (last week) recorded a video interview with my friend Jenny Griffin from The Power of Change.me for her series on the dynamic between empaths and narcissists. I spoke about the importance of boundary work, trusting flow and the power of love. If this topic interests you, please do listen – here is the link: Jenny Talks to Joy Holland. Jenny shares the series links on this page on her site: An Empath’s Guide to Narcissist Interviews.

I use the concept of a sacred container in all of my work. For me, honoring my body as a sacred container really helps support my healing and growth in miraculous ways. I share this concept in my ecourse “The Sanctuary of You: Understanding and Appreciating Your Body as a Sacred Container“. The next session begins December 1, 2015 (I intentionally timed it to coincide with year-end/beginning and the holiday season).

My heart thanks your heart for your presence!

Much peace and abundant love,


PS. For context, the bulk of this experience spanned about 4 years beginning at the end of 2004 through 2008. The kids and I moved aboard the boat in 2007 and continued (are still continuing) to celebrate the unfolding of life from that beautiful experience on. If you ask them now, they were so far removed from my dynamic with sailor man that if you said his name, they would remember he existed, but because he wasn’t involved with our daily family life or our close circles of friends on the dock and in the harbor, his presence isn’t part of their memory and they would be greatly surprised to know of the intense drama.

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Comments on: "Understanding the Hardship of Abuse While Feeling Grateful for the Blessings that Continue to Flow" (14)

  1. Dearest Joy, I am grateful you chose to participate in this linkup (one of my favorites!). Some questions allow us to contemplate different perspectives of the same thing, and the answers we receive from that contemplation can be so therapeutic. If we’re inclined to look for the silver linings, there they are. If we choose to wallow in sadness, there we are. We have the choice to view it as we want. Much of human nature leans towards the brighter side – and the truth is, all our perceived or real “hardships” always come with a big chunk of wisdom/learning – whatever we want to call it.

    Life hasn’t been a bed of roses for me – but over time, as I look back, I only feel gratitude for all that I’ve experienced, for I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.

    Hugs. Your generosity in your words shines through as you mull over what you went through.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Hugs again!

    • Thank you, Vidya, for being so talented that I love reading your articles, so had the extra blessing of noticing this linkup and the fun of participating in it!

      I do agree that we had a choice to wallow or celebrate (although I also understand if the hardship has many layers to it, one might need to wallow a bit before even opening the idea of learning or celebrating).

      I believe everything I have experienced contributes to who I am today *and* for many years and still now, I affirm while moving forward that ‘learning is fun, delightful and easy’ so it is and shall be!

      Hugs to you, too *grin*

  2. Hi: An interesting post. We’ve lived such different lives that it’s difficult for me to understand fully. But maybe I don’t need to understand everything from a single short blog post? In any case, I feel that it is wonderful for your kids to experience living aboard, and creating a connection with the sea and with you. Thanks for linking up, and hope to see you here regularly!

    • I am so *glad* we have led different lives, Anna – that’s wonderful for you (and lights my heart!).

      I don’t know that many people understand the energy and long-lasting effects of abuse, unless they have been in it. I absolutely understand that one article might not add to your logical understanding, but in reading your heart opened to something new which increases peace for us all (and now mine has opened with your comment!).

      The boat experience was wonderful for all three of us, individually and also together – we each have different ‘takeaways’ from our experience that will continue to inspire us throughout our lives. Thank *you* for taking the time to read and comment!

  3. Joy,
    I’m so very glad that you came across Vidya’s post and decided to join in with Finish the Sentence Friday. I hope to see you participate again. It’s a great group of supportive people.
    One thing that you wrote really resonated with me – it’s so easy to assume that we’re not victims of abuse and yet, we abuse ourselves so very much. I do and know that most people do. I love that you’re able to look at your past and focus on healing and on the light. That you could take an ex’s birthday and concentrate on forgiveness and re-patterning. I look forward to getting to know you.

    • From this one experience, Kristi, this link-up group seems like a wonderful group of people and I am so glad to have connected!! I look forward to getting to know you as well!

      Without having researched statistics, but understanding from relating with people and doing client work, I do feel ‘self-abuse’ is something most people can relate to, so if my words shine any light on that for you or anyone who reads, what a blessing then!

      That forgiveness work and re-patterning I did with writing this article has already resulted in an increased feel of peace and joy – a blessing I didn’t expect and am very glad to experience!

  4. I have had hardships, mostly as an adult—-all of the things I considered “hard” were about my health as an asthmatic in the day when good asthma medicine was not available. I did develop a nearly life-long eating disorder at 11 which I struggled with constantly and was very isolating. Because of the eating disorder, however, I understand people with eating disorders and how very painful and nearly unbearable they can be. As an adult, over 50, I took care of my beloved daddy who developed senile dementia, 24/7 because there was no money to hire anyone to help. From that experience (and another very painful thing that was happening simultaneously) I learned how strong I was which I had not known before. Again, I understand about taking care of people who are losing themselves, how painful it is for their caretakers. After that I had to live through 12 years of my husband’s alcoholism (now ended) which again, showed me how wives of alcoholics feel and what they go through. It also showed me how strong I am and how I do not give up on people or Spirit. Everything I have experienced has made me realize my own strength and how much I also depend on angels and God and the goodness of Spirit. It also has made me very empathetic with the people who are in situations that I went through. I am grateful for the experiences and I am grateful that they are over. I am now dealing with an auto immune disease and I am sure there will be blessings hidden in here, too. I am so glad to know more about your journey, Joy. You have come a long way and I am so glad you are sharing the work you have done to work through the patterns you inherited. Blessings to you! <3

    • Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience, Jean!

      As I read this “I learned how strong I was which I had not known before” – I am so grateful you experienced this blessing, although maybe not so grateful about ‘how’ it came to be! Feeling angelic and God-support and goodness of Spirit brings so much peace to your body, being and experience of life!

      As you are dealing with the newness of this auto immune disease, it might not be the best time to ‘count the blessings in it’, because you are still processing the feelings of being in it, but it is a great time to count your other blessings, to balance out the pain in the experience and remind you of the goodness of world, in general.

      Thank you for your love, support, kindness and kind words. Blessings to you, too!

  5. Such a gift – the comment from your friend that they’d be there in a year. And the fact that you recognized it as the nudge you needed? Magical.

    • Ah, Kelly, I didn’t in the moment it was told to me, feel it was a gift (that my friend said “I’m not going to help you fix this…..”) I was quite mad. But deep down I understood. That one person had the courage to hold up a mirror for me changed my entire life and inspires me to hold a similar mirror for others (although we have different ways of doing so!). And, they did come back and it was (and is) one of my most profound, life-changing friendships ever. As a matter of fact, the way I feel in that friendship – joyful and free to be myself and loved and appreciated for who I am, as I am – is the barometer I use to decide who to connect with as I move through life. *Magical*, indeed!

  6. So glad you joined in – welcome to Finish the Sentence Friday!
    I love what you said about forgiving yourself for your choices, replacing shame with compassion and grace. That is beautiful and so important. And I believe the Universe very much nudges and prods us and gives us messages.
    Learning from our past and allowing it to become part of who we are today and to shape our future is a great thing.

    • Thank you, Lisa! I love that we share the belief that Universe nudges and prods and gives us messages!

      The practice of self-forgiveness is something many of us don’t do – but opens flow as well as being heart healing. Moving forward, as long as I love and support myself, self-forgiveness comes right along with it.

  7. kathleen keil said:

    Hardship has made me hard core. The protective shell that containes my soft heart is so completely precarious that I find myself living in fear. This state of being was learned during the childhood I survived. I was verbally and or physically hurt every day… and with every gesture my parents lived. I am struggling to find a way back to a much greater time of mad creativity and passion. Then after having a child at 40, and soon after that menopause. Post partum and menopause at the same time. That was when the original realities came back and stymied my soul! so for nearly 20 years I am greiving the loss of myself, and feel guilty that my 18 yr old son has to see it. I want to badly to just violently pull myself out of this despair… but yet, do nothing. I go to work. make dinner. chat with my son or a few friends. then go to bed. This is a depressing comment. The pathmarks you share here Joy, with your journeys through… they are helping me to listen more faithfully to my heart whispers. so, thanks to yours and other stories here, I am finding a clearing. Thank you Joy!

    • Thank you, Kathleen, for sharing so openly. I know Source meets you in these words and feelings and I hope you feel a bit more grace and peace after having shared this piece of your heart. I am touched beyond words.

      I can understand why you might have a hard shell. I can understand what it might have felt like to be hurt daily. I am so sorry (in a genuine, kind way) that was your experience of life.

      Grieving the loss of yourself is a process many ‘abuse survivors’ don’t do and that is why they stay stuck. With some inner work, this grief can inspire you to open to newness. I don’t think one can or ‘should’ violently do anything, especially if one has been abused. I think/feel what is required is lots of self-love, self-compassion, self-forgiveness, self-appreciation (all of which are naturally heart healing and bring more peace and joy into this current moment, even if your heart still hurts).

      I don’t feel this is a depressing comment. I feel this is one of the most beautiful comments ever because it’s what you feel is real for you and sharing that heart energy is a gift.

      You say you don’t do much, but you are here, connecting, and you’ve raised your son and gone to work and gotten your body and being this far – all of that is doing a whole heck of a lot. Maybe you mean you don’t do much that is joy-filled – if that is so, that is understandable, because you are grieving. You know, you can integrate little bits of joy into your day in easy ways – with the clothing you wear, food you eat, things you choose to read and look at and all of those little bits ‘matter’ in big ways.

      So much gratitude to you. When I posted this specific article, I was thinking “I want a conversation” and here we are in one – you’ve answered my heart whispers (as has everyone else who has commented). Thank you!

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