Off to the Adirondacks for a week. Leaving Saturday in our little camper. We gave the family camper to the kids who are also coming. The grand-kids can run down the path to NaNa’s and Poppy’s, but not until the coffee is perking. No electric, WiFi, TV or phones. Just loons, canoes, the lake, woods and campfires…
Grand-daughters renew, refresh and enliven. Oh what two year old’s can do! I think of my mother who couldn’t stand taking care of my children at this age. She’d had enough of kids, ‘all eight of us.’ And though I tend to look like her and am like her in many ways, not this way. I adore being there for my son and caring for his children, especially two year olds. Such fantasy play.
Pretending to open cupboards that are not there, putting away the groceries she bought while out riding her tiny, pink sparkled bicycle to the pretend store. I sit in one chair out in the warm, sunny morning, and Poppy in the other. I do believe he is enjoying retirement. She gets out the bubbles. I never tire of blowing them, especially since the battery powered one lets me blow endlessly without getting dizzy. Then the chalk. Down to the blacktop we all go, drawing rainbows, clouds, flowers and the sun.
We both had already brought our ‘babies’ out, her in the little pink stroller, mine in the one used for her when she was a baby. They sit side by side watching out antics. Next activity? The pool. On goes the pink ruffled swimsuit. Poppy opens the umbrella so we are all shaded. Ker-plunk, down she goes with a splash, over and over.
“Watch me!” she says, but of course, all eyes are already on her.
I bring out her usual lunch of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She sits ‘poolside’ (a four foot plastic pool) and daintily eats the entire thing. Then plop, back in on her bottom with aplomb. Finally it’s time to get dressed and wait for mommy who arrives shortly.
What better life? The parents seem so grateful, and profusely thank us at year’s end when our daughter-in-law is done with her teaching job for the summer. But Samuel and I both know who the real winners are…
I spend more time disconnected from my body than connected, and am only beginning to learn to connect. That it’s OK, safe, and that what seems like boredom is peace. Peace in my soul, body and mind. Peace not boredom.
Sitting on the patio with morning java; a deer, golden brown in the meadow munching grass, three bluebird siblings only feet away on the tripod dropping into the grass and back up to perch, bright yellow finch even closer on the shepherd’s’ hook, and only inches from my face as they buzz in for a drink, hummingbirds.
It’s easy to get lost in the needs of others, whether friends, grand-children or husband. I work at paying attention to my own needs, and reinforce that it’s OK and necessary. I incorporate more exercise, walking, biking along the canal path, and movement in general, bending, twisting, arching; my body, the beauty of movement, how good it feels.
I allowed grief and arthritis to stop me still. And after too long realized, it’s not OK to give in to those things. Life is to be had. I’m not old enough to sit and rock and wither. So I’m moving more and feeling better. I have limits. I try to connect with those limits and enjoy both movement and rest. And for it to be OK.
After some thought, I decided to continue sharing my book with new survivors along the way, of which unfortunately, there are many. If only there had been more literature when I started my journey. But at least I found a tiny woman’s bookstore in the city where I purchased a few books detailing the horrors of childhood sexual abuse. I was not alone. (Voices in the Night)
So I share on that note. You are not alone. This is the last chapter and coincidentally also posted on my 12th month since beginning to blog. It’s been an experience of going deeper which is odd because the people I connect with I have never met, yet feel more intimate with than just about anyone else. And that is because only when one is hurt on such levels would they truly understand the depth of pain and injury one has to fight, claw and climb out of in order to survive.
I can say I don’t wish to be somebody else as I once did, wishing so hard I am surprised I did not morph into the person I was wishing to be. I do wish still to be more lighthearted, less serious, more carefree, so I’m still wistful when around others like that, my friends for instance. But I embrace me, wrapping my arms around who I am, some that changed irrevocably because of what was done and what I survived, then worked to rise above. I am still learning to appreciate what that took, and the beauties, talents and gifts that lie within.
I am thankful for my blogging friends, whose courage and stamina propel them forward in life with hope, instilling hope in my days too. Thank you!
CHAPTER 24: GHOSTS
It’s hard to get close. Keeping quiet, pretending nothing happened, fractured me. The deal: keep a family, stay silent. Shame silenced the roaring rage. I spent much of my lifetime smiling at those who used me for pleasure and as a dumpster for their anger. Silence erased me.
My job now, each day: accept who I am and what happened. Stop wishing to be somebody else. Since I do not possess the fiber to pretend it didn’t happen, and lack the grace to accept what occurred without extraordinary effort, the wish remains. But the beckoning voice, which once bellowed, has quieted to a whisper, pricking softly and less often. Slim girls do it—make me envy their slimness, their smiles, raised happy, loved, whole, or at least safe. Why not me? I have yet to figure out how to be slimmer and feel safe. Being taught to allow such crimes, to love the criminals, caused breakage difficult to repair, impossible to restore to what would have been. So I work with what is, or try to.
Discovering a voice, my center, takes patience and time. The voice beneath the excess pounds of flesh hides, even from me. I work to connect parts of myself foreign to me, hidden by the other voices clamoring in my head.
Every day they haunt me, the voices, sometimes at three or four in the morning, but that’s a normal occurrence for many women over fifty, so I am not alone. Sleep usually comes again after a stumble to the bathroom. The voices lay in wait till morning to begin their yammering. “You failed. You’re not good enough. You did this wrong. You should be ashamed of yourself. You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re not normal. You’re a bad mother, wife, sister, friend…you are bad, bad, bad, undeserving of life.”
The voices are relentless, insidious, almost soothing in their familiarity and brilliantly, creatively destructive. As a little girl abused, I believed all living things in human form thought me to be as dirty as I felt. The family system supported my badness to survive, even if unknowingly decimating my ability to grow and mature naturally, as if pulling a plant out by the roots. I find myself at the cusp of sixty with an eight-year old heart, still yearning to please so you will not leave me. That’s okay. Moments of peace, internal connectedness, and the late blooming birth of self-acceptance make aliveness worthwhile.
Though I know they originated outside of me, the voices of my childhood became my own. There’s plenty of blame to throw around, if I choose to be stuck burning in rage, but I choose relief, a better way, another way, to find the real me. That is the work. Confront the voices.
Some days are harder than others, and it is hard work. There are many voices, or one voice repeating the soul-breaker over and over, “It’s your fault, you said something wrong, did something wrong, felt, thought, acted, looked, saw, blinked, turned your head: wrong, wrong, wrong.”
The work comes with the comfort of knowing that I did not lie down and take it, not as an adult. After leaving home for college at eighteen, I began the long journey of coming up from a very dark hole, a crevasse immeasurably deep. And every attempt afterwards, successful or not, proved courage, persistence, and a strong will to live, because it took years to stop telling Samuel, “I wish I would die.” How do you trust again after you’ve been shattered? But I kept going, trying, working, and found many along the way who cared, helped, and were trustworthy.
Sons grew strong, despite the breakage. Friendships, like trees that live past the span of our own lives, are mine. Risk, take a leap! Unlike the squirrel jumping skillfully from branch to branch, I often fell, and fell hard. It took many failed friendships, wrong friendships, bad choices, and most of middle age, but I found them. They were right there all along, but I wasn’t ready. I chased after what I knew, and what I felt accustomed to.
It took too long, from college, where the opportunity to make friends spilled rich and ripe, to well past marriage and having babies, when isolation descended without the energy to combat it. Soap opera stars were my best and only friends. Morphing through the screen into their intimacy, I felt closeness without pain. Socialization came with the weekly trip to the grocery store and a few moments with the cashier.
I finally opened to those who would not take advantage of me. I kept taking risks, painful as the many failures were. The risks, each time like stepping off a cliff, allowed others to see what lay hidden beneath the wreckage left by the hands of brothers. Yet I did take steps, baby steps at first, often more steps backwards than forwards. But as I found myself worthy, so did others, a person worthy of life, living, and breathing. I don’t have to do anything to prove it. I am, and it’s okay.
Summer arrived before spring fully unfolded, then it cooled again. I am able to sit on the patio with sunshine and cool air, a mix of spring and summer. My body fully relaxes as if meditating. Most of the time, without realizing it, my body is tight, held in defense of what awaits. It’s only alone in nature or meditating that I feel it unwind completly, including internal organs. It’s healthy to have those days of peace. I share this perfect morning with you…