Degrees of Reality

Growing up, my father was abusive and my mother neglectful. Both suffer from mental illness, which has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of my siblings. My father had two loves in his life: himself and his money. He was extremely prideful, and a skilled actor when it came to maintaining appearances. We never knew what would send him into a fit of rage, and he was always sure to make it known that each of us were worthless nothings that he had to waste his money feeding and providing shelter. My mother was suicidal, and often in and out of mental health institutions. My father had this warped view of himself, that he was Job from the bible. That was his reality. The story goes that Job was so faithful, that God allowed Satan to test his faith by taking away every blessing from his life: his family, his home, etc. and still Job praised God. The difference is that my father serves only himself, and the chaos that surrounds him is in big part a result of his own evil actions.

Through all of the trauma we faced regularly, I had found hope through faith. Hope of having a better life one day, hope of experiencing love, and hope of future happiness.   My brothers did not have hope.

Sneaky T, 19, (refer to previous “Crazy” post) is a high school dropout, fresh out of prison, and has two children. Although he continues to struggle with pill-popping, he’s working full-time at a fast food joint. So I would say that he’s doing fairly well, considering. Sneaky C, 16, is fresh out of jail on drug charges and a soon-to-be high school dropout. He struggles with severe depression and occasional suicide attempts, but receives no treatment because of course, that would cost my father money. And Bro 1, 23, is facing life in prison on multiple armed robberies, assault, drug trafficking, etc. Bro 1 also has a beautiful young daughter who is now without a mother or father, as her mother committed suicide at 18. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teen, but manipulated by my father to believe it was a mistake and never received the needed treatment that could have changed his life.

My heart breaks every day for my three knuckle-head brothers and their families. Close friends ask me why I think my life took such a different path than my brothers. And for me, the answer is simple – hope. I had my faith to get me though, not that it wasn’t incredibly difficult. My brothers had nothing to give them hope. I tried and failed to give them some idea that they could have a better life.

And now, I work with homeless children who experience trauma similar to what my family experienced, but even more severe and compounded by the fact that they don’t know where they’ll sleep at night or if they’ll have dinner. The whole point of what we do for them each day is providing hope. Because hope makes all the difference.

Despite all of this, I am around people who complain about the fact that their spouse makes less money than they do and is too lazy to fix the garage door opener, or that mom bought little sister a boob job for a graduation present and all they got from mom was a nice camera. These people will complain about these things because that is their reality. A group of homeless children will pass by the door, and they’ll pause, smile and wave, and return to their self-proclaimed “first-world problems.”

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61 responses to “Degrees of Reality

  1. Thank you for the good works you do. Thank God you have hope and have made better choices with your life.

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  2. Thank you for following my blog. I normally don’t quickly follow back but your blogname caught my eye only because my nickname was Lulu for sometime and I used it in a virtual reality game for four years. So naturally you peaked my interest. Thank you for writing short blogposts. I don’t usually follow wordy bloggers only because my interest lies in photography mostly. I’ll be lurking around. You have a good blog.

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  3. So glad you stumbled upon my blog! I am struck by our similar pasts and our choices to change our futures. I think we will have lots to share and teach each other in these blog spaces! Nice to “meet” you 🙂 Best~ Julie

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    • Nice to meet you too! Your writing style is beautiful. I can’t wait to explore your blog in more depth. It’s wonderful that we can build our own virtual community of support. I totally agree – lots to share and teach each other! I can’t wait.

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  4. whenlifeisgood

    Thank you for following my blog. I appreciate the fact that you took time to read and comment. 🙂

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  5. its great that you have found a path forward and are paying it forward as well.

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  6. burnedat12

    Amazing ! 💞

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  7. Brilliant and inspiring post!!! What an incredible warrior you are!!! Thanks for stopping by & for following us! We look forward to coming by your blog and visiting! 😉

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  8. The life experiences like the one you have gone through always help me to be motivated despite the challenges faced in day to day life! Yes, we are part of a grand scheme where we have to suffer our share of grief and still be someone who may attempt to alleviate the deeper grievances of others; only this is how we can justify our existence. You are an inspiration, indeed! Please keep up the good work…

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  9. This is damned depressing. And uplifting, all at the same time. You might have been my neighbors. A similar family might be my neighbors now. It is a terrible thing to be on constant emotional red alert; it damages a young psyche irreparably and, from what I can tell based on personal experiences, causes permanent physical damage in a developing brain.

    We have no idea what kind of burdens other people are carrying; even those “first world families” could all by Richard Cories for all we know. In the end, all of us struggle with various demons. I’m glad you found faith and hope, and that you are sharing those gifts with those who need them.

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    • You’re absolutely correct. It’s been shown that chronic stress, which can result from continual traumas or living in poverty, can have insidious effects on a child’s brain development. But characteristics of resilience can be taught to mitigate the effects. The problem is that these characteristics are often not taught in schools, and instead, affected children are reprimanded for acting out or falling asleep in class due to exhaustion.

      I appreciate your support. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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  10. jagritjain

    Hi lulufille
    I just love your blog. I’ve read all the posts you’ve written and looking forward for new ones diligently. It is very good to know that you spend time with homeless children and care for them. Surely, you seem to be a very optimistic and above all a good human. I would really like to know you and have a conversation with you. Is there any means by which we can communicate? Hope you are doing fine!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for the positive feedback. I hope that you continue to read! I don’t currently have an email set up yet for blog communication, but will let you know once I do! It’s so great to have an online community of support to encourage one another as we go.

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  11. Hope is a powerful thing.

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  12. Pingback: Tragic Hero | lulufille

  13. Thank you for following my blog. I like what you wrote about hope. There is a familiar saying, “When you have your health, you have everything.” It should be, “when you have hope, you have everything.”
    I’m glad you made it through. You are a shining example of how to make a difference 🙂
    I am following you and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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  14. Lulu, you like so many of us had a rough upbringing. It inspires me that you rose above it to become something better. I had a lot of anger when I was younger because of the way I was raised. I finally let it go and forgave my parents. I tried to instill love and christian morals in my children. Unfortunately my sons seem to be on paths to destruction. Their mothers were unfit yet the courts gave them custody. Now the result of their influence is coming to light. It brakes my heart. I should not have settled for second best when it came to women, I just didn’t have the self esteem to believe I was worthy of anything better. Again thanks to my parents. Now though I feel differently. I hold out hope that one day I will find my true love as corny as that sounds. I don’t care how big or small what color skin or his much she has. The only thing that is important is that she would love me as deeply as I would love her. Don’t give up on finding a soulmate. I believe it will happen for you too.

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    • I’m so sorry to hear your children are following destructive paths. I can only imagine the pain you must be going through, watching them suffer. My brothers break my heart every day. I wish you the best of luck in this, and hope that they find better paths one day soon. I also wish you luck in finding your soulmate. I have found mine, and believe that he is the best thing to have happened to me on this earth. I hope you find that too.

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  15. Reblogged this on Notes From The Margins and commented:
    Blog of interest to those struggling with both mental illness and homelessness

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  16. Remember Pandora’s Box? Hope was the only thing left trapped in the box because it is the worst of vices. I’ve had my hopes dashed more than a thousand times over the past half-century and still can’t stop hoping even now that I’m near the end of my life and there’s nothing to hope for any more. Hope is the single worst way I abuse myself. If only I could firmly embrace despair and conquer it, I’d have peace, which is the only thing remaining to an old man. But I guess those homeless teenagers you deal with are entitled to live their upcoming decades of repeatedly dashed hopes, just as every generation has for the past 200,000 on the hamster wheel of human life. Make no mistake, it is the God of your faith that is the true evil and ultimately responsible for all human suffering. The devil is just a flunky who does God’s bidding, and the buck stops with the Boss.

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    • I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me. I respectfully disagree with you on a couple of things. Hope, to me, is not abusive. Despite having my hopes dashed time and time again, and instead of things with my family improving, they’ve only gotten worse – despite all of that, it was hope and my faith in God that saved my life. And if I had taken my life as I had planned to do many years ago, I would have saved myself much suffering, yes. But I also would have missed out on much joy – including the (imperfect) love I share with my husband. I believe that it is not God that is evil and responsible for all human suffering, but it is our human nature that is utterly selfish that causes this. Humans have free will, and many times choose to hurt one another. I’m not sure why God allows these horrible things to happen. All I know is that it is the love of God that gets me through these trials and pushes me to love on others. I am sorry for your suffering and your dashed hopes. And I pray that you find the peace and love that you’ve been looking for. Best wishes, khelwriter.

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      • I’m very familiar with the servility of religious people toward their Abuser, and shan’t try to change your mind about that, because there would be no point. Thanks for permitting my somewhat against-the-grain comments to appear on your blog and for being courteous in your response. The world is plenty big enough for both of us. Cheers.

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  17. LaVancia Phoenix

    I am so happy to see that you were able to sustain hope through your difficult childhood. In mine, I suffered from a raging father as well and I think there are many things I have learned from it; however, I won’t go into detail about it here. But I do want to add that not only did hope help me survive, but so did a strong sense of determination NOT to be like my father that gave me the will to seek out a different personality instead of repeating the cycle of abuse.

    I also am glad you are teaching our young lost children the power of hope and acceptance. I’ll keep reading!

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  18. Blessings on the work you do. It isn’t easy to break the cycle. You are making a difference one child at a time.

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  19. Hello, Lulufille. Thank you for your discernment work — figuring out what made the difference for you in your upbringing. The literature on resiliency (I’m not up to date, but the research from 20 years ago) would say that there are three major things that make a child more likely to thrive after a traumatic childhood: caring and support, opportunities for participation, and high expectations. And these things can happen in the realm of home, school, and/or community (which would include religious organizations). Does this ring true for you? It warms my heart to hear how you’re providing all of those things for the kids you’re working with.

    It seems to me that when we light a candle in the very room where our deepest darkness lies, it can transform us utterly. You seem to be an example of such a miraculous transformation. Blessings to you and to those who reached out to you — physical and metaphysical.

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    • Absolutely. I think the contributing factors to the resiliency in my life were my participation (I was very active in music theatre at my school – show choir, musicals, the works), and my community (I’ve been an enthusiastic volunteer with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities for many years now, and there is no community more full of love, support, and joy than that one). And of course, my faith and relationship with God – I was taught what true love is.

      We have a big focus on resiliency with the children I serve. Everyone deserves access to those three factors you list in your comment. Those things are what give us hope!

      Thank you so much for sharing your kind and thoughtful comment. And thank you for stopping by!

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  20. Hello Lulfille,
    I agree completely that long term stress can really warp our minds and that it’s important to teach kids to take immediate action when these stressful situations begin to unfold. I work with kids and adults in India and have found that well to do families are often more stressed than their economically challenged counterparts, mainly due to a general drop in spiritual activities. One of the activities I encourage people to take up (kids and adults alike) is volunteering.. Helping someone in need, in the proper way, is a deeply healing and empowering experience. It’s a great de-stressor and the benefits last way beyond the duration of the activity. And it’s something that comes naturally to young kids! 🙂 So we have this inbuilt self healing mechanism. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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    • Wow, your observation of well-to-do families is so interesting. You wouldn’t think that it’s so, but it does make sense. I completely agree with you about volunteering 100%. The first love I felt in my life was when I begun volunteering as a teenager with adults with special needs. It’s amazing how much of a blessing that volunteering ends up being in our own lives. We do volunteer work with the children we serve and the effect it has on them is amazing. One of our children wrote that when she grows up, she wants to help other homeless children and their families. Thank you for your comment!

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  21. ‘Degrees of Reality’…it really is all about perspective isn’t it?
    Sometimes it’s simply because we don’t know any better. But too often it’s because we don’t want to know any better. We both had parents of the latter category.

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    • Exactly. It’s amazing to observe how different we can all perceive things. I can sit around and forever ponder these differences in perception and perspective, wondering what contributes to the variation. Very interesting. Thanks for reading!

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  22. Hope makes all the difference in our life because it inspires us through Love and Love is what we know so little about! Thank you for helping us open our eyes in understanding and opening our heart with hope.

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  23. History, biology matter, yet neither or both together add up to destiny. Thanks for your story.

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  24. The Girl in Long Shorts

    This is a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing and for all of the selfless work you do.

    After all…

    “Whosoever be chief among you, let him be your servant.”

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    • I love that verse. One of my favorites is Matt 25:40. I am blessed to have the opportunity to serve others in my profession. I hope to continue this forever, professionally and personally. Thanks for your encouraging words! 🙂

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  25. Reblogged this on cwcnicky and commented:
    Thanks for your sincere sharing. Life is not necessarily deterministc. It is open, although environmental and external factors always shape us. I like this Robert Schuller’s saying: “Tough times never last, but tough people do!” Your toughness is highly appreciated.

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  26. I have a brother who didn’t make it out unscathed, with a fate similar to your own brothers’. I’ll continue to hope for a better future for all of these boys! Thank you for sharing.
    xo

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  27. Hope. Your words read like my back story like so many others here. IT makes me a little bit…well, jealous that I did not respond first like back in the 1990s when I was endeavoring to become a supermodel. I would have these thoughts of telling on myself using such taboo words like schizophrenia and giving up family secrets of who my mother was and my what father’s household endured. But the shame. The shame, the bloody shame. The feelings I could not understand much less understand and all the voices of evil sayings uttered by those closest to me. No wonder I had so many aliases as an exotic dancer. Who and what are u? How and what did God pour into u that u could stand up? That is the stuff that Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks was made of. I am such a wretch and now I understand it best what the Spirit of the Lord meant when it is related in the Book of Ester that if you do not stand deliverance will arise for my people Israel from another place but you and your father’s household shall surely perish. (paraphrase)

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  28. Reblogged this on sincerelyjessicamaerichardson.wordpress.com and commented:
    The part about caring for the brothers in prison. This is not easy to carry such burdens I believe this is where a great deal of where my depression comes from. And caring for a loved one with mental illness, I appreciate this posting because I am walking through the storm with a loved one whom suffers even worst depression thann mine. She has children and is well things are in the courts but reading this blog is helping me to deal with her on a daily basis. Could this be what they call strength? Strength. That is it. I identify strength in reading this. There are different kinds of mental illnesses and with that personalities that carry it. Hers is the angry vengeful kind so I have to read the Bible as well to draw greater strength from the hidden manna in the Holy Scriptures. Sometimes I experience guile in her spirit and serpent activity and that is where I have to be strong in the power of the Lord’s might and cast the demons out of her with a loud and authoritative voice but in love.

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  29. I am deeply touched by your presentation!

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  30. Pingback: Magnetic | lulufille

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