Anger is Healthy

I’ve been reading Chapter 3 of the ASCA Survivor to Thriver manual, and it is rather discouraging, frustrating, depressing, but more so, it stirs up my anger, and anger is healthy, healthier than the feelings that leave me stuck.  Chapter 3 is painful because it reminds me of all my wounds and weaknesses.  I suffer from much of what other ASCA’s do.  However, I’m to the point in my life (recovery? healing?) where I no longer put myself down, feeling that I am the problem or defective or any negative thing.  It’s true I often feel this world wasn’t built for me, but I no-longer feel unbelonging; I just see the rest of the world as screwed up!

In Christian terms, do I recognize that I am a sinner?  Yes. But I am forgiven and made whole in Christ.  And the really cool and radical thing about Life in Christ is that all my wounds and weaknesses are redeemed — sanctified — made to be part of The Blessing of my life!  I bring up the Christian perspective because I want to make clear to my fellow Christians that I do not consider any of my wounds or weaknesses sins.  Sin is doing what you know is wrong.  Sin is the willful turning away from what I know to be God’s Will.  All the crap that happened to me and in me while I was being abused was the sin of the abuser.  And much of the crap that I continue to contend with because I am still wounded is to some extent the fault of the abuser.  However, I am glad and grateful that God has given me enough resilience and resources to heal anyway.  Anyway, the point here is: don’t confuse wounds inflicted by an abuser with any potential sinning of the abused.

I’m glad I feel anger today.  I’m glad I can recognize that what the abuser did to me was abuse, and I should be angry about that.  A huge impediment to my feeling whole-heartedly angry is all the nonsense I was taught about forgiving unconditionally right away.  Sometimes adults are idiots.  When why how did Christians begin to think that those who do wrong should bear no consequences?  So often, Christians quote Jesus as saying “turn the other cheek.”  However, Jesus was talking to adults.  Jesus was talking to adults who were in a position to choose following Him.  Children, youth, are not adults.  Children and youth should be protected by adults.  And when someone hurts a child/youth in any way, they should be punished and make some form of restitution.  The adult can choose (or not) to forgive the culprit in terms of not bearing any harm towards them beyond the resolution of the wrong, but the adult (parent/ guardian/ etc) should do everything possible to stop the harm and get justice for the child/youth.

I’m still angry that the bastard who abused me was never prosecuted.  My father got a restraining order, but that was it.  And by the time I was old enough to consider what I could do for myself, the statute of limitations had run out.  I don’t think there should be a statute of limitations on sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse causes so much harm, especially if you were in your developing years when it occurred.

There are times when I think the man who abused me should have been castrated.  He certainly should never have been allowed to have anything further to do with any children/youth.  But that’s not what happened in my community.  He lost his job in the local school, but he continued to teach privately and sometimes subbed in other schools, as well as led music ensembles that included youth.  From my vantage point the whole community is sick.

Even my own denomination took him in.  My own pastor led the man and his wife in a renewal of their vows.  But does she realize he continued to contact me everywhere I lived after I left here?  He’s a pervert.  Each time he found me, I told him to leave me alone, but he didn’t stop until I threatened to call his wife.  Even after that, he tried to contact me at a work place when I was living again with my parents.  What scum.

So do I forgive him?  No.  The best I can do is to leave him to God’s judgement.  And to work on my own healing.  My pastor (at the time of the abuse) directed me to and through forgiving him.  What idiocy.  There were so many layers of spiritual abuse heaped on top of the sexual abuse, it took me a long time to get down to the original wounds to even begin to heal.

I am glad however that I have been able to forgive my parents.  And they me.  That relationship was worth redeeming, making whole again, and even better than before.  Thank You Jesus for that.

One mystery in all of this is that I conceived.  That out of all this harm, something good could come; that’s the mystery.  I named her Sarah Maria.  I miscarried at 8 weeks, but I caught her as I miscarried.  I saw her, her head, her spine, her little phalanges that would become hands.  I cleaned her up, placed her in a bed of dried rose petals in a corsage box and buried her in the nearby Civil War cemetery.  I buried her at the foot of tree since I couldn’t give her a marker.  That tree is no longer there.  It was cut down around 15 years after I buried her.  Sarah Maria would turn 40 next year.  I believe she is in Heaven with Jesus.  I thank God for Sarah Maria.  She is pure innocence.  She is praying for my wholeness.  Thank You Lord.  Thank You for Sarah Maria.

This is all I can write right now.  I’ve been not writing because it is so hard to let myself write what it is I really have to say.  But I have to let my voice speak, even if it is raw.  I have to quit censoring myself.  It’s up to me now to put my healing first.  And this is part of it.  So here it is.  Like it or not, here it is.

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#MeToo and Why It Matters

#MeToo is a hash-tag “movement” that started on social-media several years ago, but is recently more in use.  More people are telling their stories of sexual abuse/ harassment.  More people are talking about sexual-abuse issues.

Some people feel the hash-tag for victims to speak up is not very helpful; those who voice their objection or concern usually go on to say it’s the abusers we should be naming.  I’ve heard a few celebrities express that view, but of the people I know personally, that argument has come more from young women (in their 20’s) than any other demographic.

I’d like to reflect on my current views regarding the pros and cons of telling our stories, (with or without naming offenders), versus keeping silence.  While all the components of sexual abuse and all the issues surrounding the subject are multi-faceted, and this is not a scholarly article on the topic, I plan to simply reflect on what stands out as most important for me right now.

  1. Anytime anyone tells their story of their experience of sexual abuse, they should be believed and affirmed for their courage to speak up.  Speaking up is one of the hardest things for a victim to do; it takes immeasurable courage.  While it’s true that some might tell a story that is untrue or only partially true (research tells us 2% of those who tell a story of abuse tell a false story); however, we also know there are many victims who never tell their stories to police or counselors or researchers or anyone who tabulates these statistics.  Odds are, if someone tells you they experienced abuse, they did.  And because it takes so much courage for true victims to speak up, listeners should always believe and affirm their courage.  Too much damage can be done when victims are not heard; that’s why so many don’t bother to speak out.
  2. It’s the victim’s choice to name or not name their abuser.  The most important thing for the victim is safety.  The next thing is healing, do whatever is best for their own healing and well-being.  All the things a victim does to heal and to grow towards wholeness and thriving are good and valuable because they are for their well-being.  The things we do to heal are not so we can help others or so we can help bring about justice or improve society, or any number of other goods that could later come of out of our healing.  The reason to heal is because you exist, you deserve to exist, and you deserve to become whole.  Because I believe in God, I would add: God created you Good and created you out of Love; your being is sacred because your Creator is Holy.  Any hurt or damage done to you by others does not undo the fact that you ARE Good, Loved-by-God, intended, and deserving well-being, healing, wholeness.

There have been many large impediments to my healing process because well-meaning people have urged me to “forgive and forget” thinking I need to forgive in order to heal.  That’s a myth too many Christians preach and never really examine.  It’s often the case that a victim of abuse must find sufficient safety before they can even begin to express their pain and anger.  Think of a rough, deep wound filled with dirt and gravel.  Would you simply cover it up or stitch it up without cleaning the wound?  Cleaning the wound might be analogous to daring to express one’s anger.  If you don’t properly and adequately clean a wound, even if the body can partially heal, closing or scabbing over the debris-filled wound, it will likely suffer from infection and other debilitating consequences which likely would have been avoided had you cleaned the wound.

I had a biking accident that instructs me a bit about such matters.  I was on a day trip with Out-Spoken.  We were cruising along in 10th gear with the wind at our backs.  Although the road had a slight downward slope, and we could have coasted, we were pedaling fast for the sheer joy of speed with little labor.  Off to my right there was a large school being constructed and one of my cluster-mates pointed at it.  I glanced to see what interested them and I remember seeing construction workers walking along beams up on top of the structure.  I was amazed at their balance and I looked a little too long.  I had turned my front wheel ever so slightly and slipped off the road.  It had an extra deep berm and I made the mistake of trying to turn back onto the pavement.  Before I knew it, I had wiped out and the biker behind me had ridden over my back!  I scraped and bruised all my limbs, but especially my right elbow was ground open and embedded with gravel.  I remember the Out-Spoken leaders called my mom and took me to a local ER.  My mother had to drive quite a distance (I don’t remember what we did while we waited for her), but she met us at the hospital.  The ER doctor numbed my right fore-arm, took dirt and gravel out of my flesh, and I remember hearing the scrubbing of my tissue!  The numbing agent worked so well I didn’t feel any pain, but I could feel the pressure they were using, and I could hear how hard they were scrubbing!  It nearly nauseated me, but I was grateful they were so diligent.  Even so, they weren’t able to remove every particle of debris and to this day (some 40 years later) I still have scars near my right elbow and you can even see bits of something black under the skin.  Thankfully it’s only a visual blemish and I experience no debilitation in that limb.

I’m very grateful that the ER doctor and nurses worked so hard to free me from as much debris as possible.  I’m also grateful for the use of a numbing agent in the procedure!  Even with the protection against severe pain, there was discomfort in the process of cleaning my wound, and I am grateful for the entire procedure/ process because it allowed me to heal more completely.

I have been blessed by God to have been able to receive and engage in stages of healing per my readiness.  Like I said, there have been some notable set-backs, but I have been able to see that most of my life has been directed by God in such a way that I have been protected from scenarios that would have been debilitating to me, and given opportunities where-in I could process the healing for which I was ready.  I credit God for this because no-one else could do all this for me.  I also credit myself for being able to see all this and make use of help.  I think my ability to heal (anyone’s ability to heal) is a testimony to the Goodness with which God created us.  However, even if you don’t believe in God or believe the way I do, I hope you can see and profoundly affirm whatever Goodness you find within yourself.  Find the Good and celebrate it!  (By “celebrate” I mean live it fully.)

This post has alluded to several other matters on which I hope to write, however I had intended to keep these posts to less than 1,000 words, so… more on these matters in following posts!

A special word for my blog followers and readers: THANK YOU!  Thank you for reading my words.  Thank you for listening with your head AND heart!  I find I need to write these words first for myself, and I need to make them available to the public because I refuse to harbor shame, but it is also tremendous GIFT that there are some who actually read my posts!  THANK YOU!

 

Melancholic

Today I’m struggling with melancholy more than usual.  Melancholy is different from depression or sadness or grief or any other feeling in that category of unhappy/painful emotions.  It’s visceral and lively.  It takes over my mind and my heart.  My heart aches.  I ache excruciatingly, but it’s not for a particular person or thing.  It’s more in response to the fullness of life and beauty and sweet things, sweet beautiful meaningful things.  All that is good and beautiful and true flooding me can make me feel profoundly melancholic.  Why?  What is it physically that happens to me when I feel this?  Are my thoughts and feelings responses to something initiated biologically?  Or is it the other way around?  Feeling and thinking and listening make it more pronounced.  I have to do something.  Something that takes me “out” of myself.  Usually I do something mundane like wash the dishes or organize something or read a book.  Today I’m letting myself write while I feel this because I want to communicate to others what this is like.  I’m sure there are others who feel this.  It’s probably more closely related to anxiety than any other diagnosable thing.  I think the ancients considered it a type, or sometimes a sickness, or a type who tends toward this sickness.  I think today the scientific community simply wouldn’t use the word “melancholia.”  They would dissect it for possible biological conditions, most likely finding some kind of deficiencies.  Am I simply hungry?

The strange thing (although not at all strange to me) is that I find this such “native territory.”  I can remember having this feeling to some degree from the time of my earliest memories.  I know sometimes even at age three I would sit on the kitchen floor while Mom was working, and the cats were licking my pajamas, and although I liked being there with Mom, and I liked the cats’ attention, I also was aware of sunbeams falling on the floor and somehow they made me sad; I felt such a strange crux of realities; I felt present and elsewhere; I felt happy and sad; I felt belonging and otherly; I felt tangible understandings and mystery.  Of course I didn’t think all those words.  I think feeling melancholy comes from hyper-awareness, maybe too much observing while not balancing that with engaging.

So why am I writing this in this particular blog?  Does feeling melancholy having anything to do with having experienced abuse?  I don’t think it does necessarily or directly since I can remember feeling it even when my circumstances were fairly idyllic.  But I think being someone who is prone to melancholy is probably more vulnerable — more vulnerable to anything, including abuse.  I think that’s the essential requisite for experiencing melancholy: no borders or shields between sense of self and sense of context.

Sometimes I feel so full of feeling, I feel like I need to vomit.  Except that it’s not like when you’re sick and might actually need to vomit.  It’s more like when you drink a really sweet and thick milkshake too fast and your throat feels so full that you almost gag.  So often I find myself describing my extreme emotions in terms of digestive issues!  Hmm.

Is this helping me to describe this feeling?  I don’t know.  I hope that if anyone reads this who has felt this might take a little comfort in knowing you’re not isolated.  Any type of feeling of being overwhelmed can make us feel helpless and isolated.  But this too shall pass.  I won’t say “this is just a feeling” because it is also bodily discomfort and it engages a type of perspective.  But I can say with certainty this feeling of Melancholy is not your Author or Lord or sum-total of your Being or your Destiny; it’s just one of the arrows in your emotional/psychological quiver.

Another thing I find that helps me when I feel overwhelmed with Melancholy is to breathe more deeply.  I too often find myself holding my breath.  And I can hold my breath for “too long” — that’s an artifact from having been an oboist.  I remember doing exercises with my oboe teacher and achieving the capacity to exhale for over four minutes.  Exhale!

What prayer helps me when I feel this?  Lord-God have mercy on me for I am but dust.  Jesu juva; soli Deo gloria.  Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.  Jesus, hold me!

Imagining the Spirit holding me in something like a spiritual Dew-Drop helps me greatly.  Like my spirit is in the amniotic sac of my Creator-Who-Births-Me.

Abba!  Papa-Mama-Lord!  Save me!

I think some might say I’m having “liminal” experiences.  They might be correct.  But while I’m experiencing this, what does it matter what it’s called or how it’s analysed?  The whole essence of this is complete immersion in sensing, feeling, communing.

That’s a helpful point for me.  When I’m celebrating/ receiving the Eucharist, I feel this intensity of openness and vulnerability yet without pain.  Hmm.  What does this teach me?  I need Jesus to transport me through these “waters.”

Well, dear Reader, do you experience Melancholy?  Care to share any of your experience with me?  Did any of my ramblings give you insights or comfort?

 

Anatomy of Ambivalence: Story of Self-Sacrifice

One particularly powerful example of my dad’s courage occurred when I was around 7 years old.  The whole family was sitting at the dinner table when there was a loud knock at the door.  We had a lovely door-bell, but as I recall, the unexpected visitor banged on the door rather than press the bell.  I remember being instantly alarmed.  My dad went to the door while the rest of us remained at the table.  I could hear his voice and another man’s.  Normally my dad would immediately invite people in, but this time I heard him go out.  The other man’s voice sounded angry and my dad’s sounded urgent.

I ran upstairs and watched out a bedroom window.  I could see the man and my dad.  Dad had taken the conversation to the front curb near the man’s car.  The other man had a gun!  It was a big gun; I think it was a shot-gun or rifle.  Learning later who it was, I imagine it was a gun the man would have used for hunting.  The angry man was yelling at my dad and initially pointing the gun at him!

I knew instinctively that my dad’s body posture was oriented to calming and consoling the man.  It looked like my dad had spread his arms out as if to show he had nothing with him.  After a while, the man lowered his gun, and dad reached out to him, maybe to take his hand.  I couldn’t hear or understand what they were talking about, but I could tell that my dad was showing the man great understanding.  Eventually the man put his gun down completely and my dad hugged him.  The man was crying.  I learned later that the man’s wife had been a patient of my dad’s.  The wife had died and the man blamed my dad.  She had some sort of cancer, and in those days there weren’t the cures or treatments we have today.

As I watched from the window, I saw the man drive away.  My dad watched him drive away.  Then I heard my dad come back inside and I ran downstairs.  My dad looked very alert yet completely worn out.  He came back to the table and we all finished our dinner.  I don’t remember how much my dad explained to all of us then and how much I learned at a later time, but I know I didn’t tell anyone at the time what I had witnessed through the window upstairs.  In fact, I don’t think I talked with my dad about that until decades later.  I do know though that at the time I believed my dad had saved his family from the angry man with a gun by taking all the risk on himself.  I can’t over-state the enduring power for me of my dad’s example of heroic courage that day.

Anatomy of Ambivalence: Basic Background

Today I want to tell you a little bit about my ambivalence towards my pacifist upbringing.  From my vantage point, I would think that anyone who understands the experience of sexual abuse on the part of the victim at all, would likely understand the goodness and necessity of boundaries.  And if you value boundaries, then you have to address the issue of self-defense or self-protection.  And if you acknowledge the correctness or healthful-ness of self-defense, then you have to contend with what it means to “turn the other cheek” and all the other teachings of Christ on which the Anabaptist stance of Pacifism was formed.

It might be helpful to give you historical background on the Anabaptist formulation of Pacifism.  But I’m not going to do that.  It’s a huge topic.  You can research that for yourself if you’re really interested.  You might also wonder what Mennonites and other Anabaptists believe and teach on that topic today.  I don’t pretend to know that; I’m no longer Mennonite; I’m not a spokesperson for those groups.  What is pertinent here is what I was taught by word and by example, mostly by my parents, and by the local Mennonite community of my childhood.

To be fair, I can’t even really say what others intended to teach me; I can only tell you what I learned, what I absorbed.  The point of this is not to assign blame (or credit).  My purpose is to articulate what it is I observed, learned, absorbed, and what is now an “issue” for me.  To begin, I will say that most of what I observed of my parents, I framed in my mind as positive, to be emulated.  Their behavior tended to exemplify what they taught.  Given the apparent agreement between their words and deeds, their teaching was potent.  My memory of my impression of the teaching/ example of other Mennonites in my childhood community (as individuals and as a group) is that others were mostly conformed to the official teaching of the Mennonite Church, but weren’t quite as powerful an example to me of how to live it.  I viewed my parents as mostly heroic in their discipleship.

I saw my parents give not only out of their bounty, but also sacrificially.  I saw them give their time, talent, and treasure to others in need, out of their love for and obedience to Christ.  I’m not saying they were perfect people.  Yet, although I know I idealized them as a young child, their actual characters and behaviors were genuinely and consistently Christ-like enough that even when I began to see them as real people (in all their wondrously flawed complexity), I continued to respect and admire their choices.  They were living their beliefs as well or better than anyone else I’ve ever known.

So, naturally, I have long admired the pacifist ideal and wanted to be a pacifist.  Sometimes I’ve even said “I AM a Pacifist; I’m just not very good at it!”  But the crux of the matter is: what do I really believe about self-defense?

***

Let me back up a bit.  My parents did indeed teach me to “turn the other cheek,” and I understood that to mean: 1) If some-one strikes you, don’t attempt to stop them with any sort of violent force, and 2) Don’t retaliate.  They also taught me that “living in peace with others so far as it is up to you” meant 1) Look out for others’ needs, and if you can contribute to their well-being it’s a good thing to do so; 2) Intervene for the under-dog; try to help others resolve conflict if you’re in a position to do so; 3) Be just with everyone and if the balance of cost has to fall one way or another, let it fall on you; 4) Root your sense of security in Christ; 5) Value living fully in God and relationships and experiences, not so much things and acquisition.

Whether my parents intended it or not, I also absorbed a distrust of military, police, and government in general.  I got the idea that what gives those institutions power is force, and often violent force, sometimes even lethal; and the fact that those entities considered lethal force a legitimate option made them for me “wordly” which meant not godly, not of Christ’s Kingdom.  All “worldliness” was to be avoided; I was not to “yoke” myself with people who had made “worldly” allegiances.

I remember having many discussions in our family about hypothetical scenarios where one would have to choose between using force to stop an attacker or accepting their actions.  The message I always got was three-fold: 1) It’s okay to explore ways to avoid harm (run, hide, stop the attacker with less-than-lethal actions); 2) But never ever kill another human-being, no matter what; 3) Pray the Lord keep us safe from such situations.  I don’t remember ever being counseled to call the police.

As a young child, this teaching of how one should face danger contributed to my sense of being a minority (I saw Mennonites as a minority even though my town was a mini Menno-mecca because I knew that our teachings were not popular in the general public.)  It also greatly enlarged my sense of vulnerability.  I knew I didn’t have the normal protections which I thought most of the world had available to them.  To some extent this made me even more vulnerable to victimization in any situation or relationship.

However, I was also taught courage.  Not only did I hear my parents tell stories of past experiences when they were spared harm (either by divine intervention or by their creative maneuverings), but I also witnessed their peace-making in real-time.

Read in my next post of a time my dad consoled an angry, armed man.

Intro to Anatomy of my Ambivalence

Ambivalence: having both attraction and aversion for something.  Most people would think this is a bad thing.  Usually it is at least problematic.  For me, it is something I experience more often than most people I know, more than they admit to me anyway.  Ambivalence is often judged as a weakness, as if the person feeling it can’t make up their mind.  When I experience ambivalence, it’s not that I can’t make up my mind; it’s that I’ve decided to give equal consideration to two opposing views, at least for a time.  It’s actually a sign of the strength of the flexibility of my mind, and my powers of imagination.

Usually when I’m willing to harbor ambivalence, it’s because I’m seeking a “third way.”  I’ve actually made a strong decision to look for a new paradigm.  Sometimes I find (or create) that new view; other times I don’t and I accept that I have to make a choice much like others before me.  Even so, I really don’t see the world as filled with dichotomies.  I believe there are a few absolutes that form the context for our thinking, experiencing, believing, choosing.  But within that frame of What-Is-Real, there is a multitude of spectrums.  So why not explore new nuances, creative combinations of unexpectedly compatible complexities?

There you have my briefest of introductions to my view of “ambivalence.”  My particularly puzzling issue, something important to me that continues to cause me much ambivalence, something I have yet to resolve or re-frame for myself is: Pacifism.

Next post will give a bit of background on what I was taught regarding a pacifist lifestyle by my Mennonite parents and childhood community.

 

Self-Soothing Strategies

Every person needs to know how to self-soothe.  From new-born babies needing to know how to return to sleep to newly pubescent teens coping with surging hormones, to every adult whether they be survivors of any sort of abuse or not, we all need ways cope with uncomfortable feelings.

“Soothing is what good parents do when their children are upset. It often involves soothing touch that is warm and comforting. It can involve words that are reassuring, empathic and hopeful. It may involve activities that are physically, intellectually or sensorially nourishing, such as taking a walk, reading a favorite book or sharing a special meal. It can also involve daily practices that are spiritually uplifting and inspiring, such as meditation. When you can perform this type of caring for yourself whatever your chosen activities may be then you have learned to self-soothe.” (from ASCA’s “Survivor to Thriver” Manual — On-line Version)

Ways I self-soothe:

  1. Take a nap.  I can sleep almost anytime anywhere if it’s silent and dark, but an afternoon nap is especially luxurious.
  2. Pray; praying is always comforting for me.  No matter what else I’m feeling, no matter what my concern, I feel anchored when in conversation with my Abba-Creator, in communion with Jesus, abiding in the Spirit.
  3. Listen to music (usually classical or comtempo-Christian, sometimes blues).  I like to start with music that is the same mood I’m feeling and then transition to music expressing my desired feeling.
  4. Play my piano.  I enjoy playing repertoire I know, reading new scores, practicing challenging pieces I’m working on, my own compositions, and sometimes improvising.  I won’t improvise for anyone else; that’s an extremely personal activity for me, but it’s sometimes a way I pray.
  5. Journal.
  6. Light a candle.
  7. Read an engrossing book.
  8. Put on a perfume or lotion with a relaxing scent like lavender or rose; I also really like the original Jergens because it reminds me of my mother when I was a very little girl.  She often carried a small bottle of it in her purse, and when at church, sitting in the pew, she would let me put some on my hands.  I felt like such a lady!
  9. Take a steamy hot shower, or if it’s a steamy hot day a cool one.
  10. Repeat a short prayer or mantra, like:
    1. Jesu juva; soli Deo gloria; or
    2. The Glory Be (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; As it was in the beginning, is now and every shall be; world without end.  Amen.  (It’s amazing how, no matter my circumstances, praising God for Being God is uplifting to my whole being.)
  11. Sometimes when I have felt over-whelmed, experiencing no particularly bad feeling, just a little disoriented, or possibly on the verge of panic, I simply take note of What Is.  I observe my surroundings and list mentally what I see in concrete terms of What Is.  It’s remarkably effective for me.  No-one taught me to do this.  I remember the first time it occurred to me to do this.  It was when I was walking to my first class on my first day at graduate school.   I was so aware of so many new things, all at once; it was helpful to list them to myself, one at a time.
  12. Simply breathing very deeply and very slowly is extremely helpful.

My goodness!  It is quite lovely to think about how effective are these techniques/ strategies, and most of them are entirely without cost.  Thanks be to God!