Fall Reverie

PHOTO BY PATRICIA

Shadows appear longer, with mornings dark, cool and wet with dew. The usual fall into fall with a lower mood seems less severe probably circumvented by the incorporation of exercise and a long path to healing which has taken decades– yet continues. The meadow dances with yellow mustard dotted at the edges with sunflowers opening happy faces as if nodding when walking by.

Pumpkins gathered in Samuel’s patch decorate the house and some are fun to paint. Others await painting by grand-children at the next birthday party in October when my son reaches the ripe old age of 40.

How did that happen, as the memory of him in a little powder blue sun-suit carrying his sand pail out to the sandbox is still so vivid? Memories of over 50 years ago are also in sharp focus, my first apartment in college, cooking hamburger helper in the evening, but also the feelings of loneliness that never quite left since childhood.

And that slowly melts once getting to know and make friends with myself. The loneliness of childhood sexual abuse is unlike any other, sharper, emptier, so painful one runs from it until learning to stop, be still, and let it up with all the gunk that my origin family would not hear and barely acknowledged.

Healing is a life’s work…

TREASURED MOMENTS

Sweat a cold, starve a fever? Not sure how it goes, but walking brings on a good sweat, more than usual especially on this cooler day…but it feels good. We all caught the little one’s cold, Samuel, Cory, and me. Minor, yet not.

Each day brings me closer to full health, along with feelings of peaceful joy. Meeting the challenges of traveling paid off greatly. Being with my son and family instills warm, loving memories that fill me up.

The summer was spent with too much focus on food and exercise— getting NO WHERE. At one point feeling so encouraged and proud of myself, but then at that exact point it all just stopped. My weight stayed the same, forgetting all about the part where weight is not to be the focus. My body could be super slim yet feelings of self-hate could easily take precedence.

This is about learning to love and offer kindness to myself, not easy for me. When the focus is off food, and instead put on working towards self-kindness, miracles happen. Staying in my body, also not easy for me, helps with awareness of fullness and physical hunger… much like it’s supposed to be.

The normal feelings hunger and fullness, along with my skinny kid body frame, changed at the age of eight. Eating, or over-eating, kept me alive and going along like others, numbing the horror of what lay beneath. It takes a good deal of food to stuff down excruciating trauma buried beneath. No one helped or offered loving support. Food became support, and love from the end of mother’s spoon who loved to cook and pushed food like a drug dealer. Food numbed it all, but also continued the cycle of self-hate that child sexual abuse brings into a child’s psyche. A child feels to blame.

This journey is on-going, the path taking me to places of wonder, joy, and contentment amidst all other painful aspects of living which are many and most suffer day to day. It is easier digested if there’s also joy. And joy has returned with warm memories of our visit opening my heart. The knowledge of grand-children growing up even if we are not here to see it helps me accept the cycle of my own life. Life goes on… and each moment counts.

HOME

And so we are home from the 5 hour journey to Cory’s in the neighboring state. My eyes mist wishing to live closer, but Cory always had his own path and it seemed to take him away from home starting with his college years. He really never came back.

But oh, how satisfying to see him fathering his two little ones. (With one more to come in December) Oh how my two sons make such devoted fathers! They are better parents than me, also better people.

But it’s good to be home, home where kitty nestles in my lap, the wild look in her eyes from being alone slowly dissolving as the afternoon wore on. Though someone comes daily to feed and play with her, she really misses us, and I miss her too.

There is something so satisfying to have a cat curl up happy with my touch and closeness. At least one live being is allowed closeness with me. But also, the touch on my son’s shoulder, the warm embrace upon arriving, and again while leaving which made me weep… it will be months before that happens again.

We live a strange life in this go, go, go world. Where once families spread out on the same road for their entire lives, it is rare for children to stay in their growing up town once reaching adulthood. Jobs, college, etc.- these things make moving necessary.

Now home with warm memories and a congratulatory pat on my own back for taking on the challenge of traveling. And at Cory’s it feels like home away from home, so I’m able to sleep and advocate for my needs.

And my needs are particular. If sleep came through the night, than in the mornings my energy is at its best. By the afternoon I tend to retreat to our apartment for silence and rest. I wish it didn’t have to be so, but I’m learning to respect what a lifetime of adrenaline bursts daily and repeatedly have done to my body, so tired out from the feelings of crisis at any moment.

He knows me better than anybody, and is loyal, loving, and kind. No Mom could ask for more. Though he’d like a more energetic Mom to help with the kids, and would prefer I didn’t have such struggles, he is glad Samuel is there to tag along holding the one-year old while he does tasks he cannot do with that duty. And Samuel likes it too!

TERROR

Samuel comes in quietly as usual around 11:30 PM with me asleep but that little sound woke me. After using the bathroom the routine is going back to sleep, sometimes easily, sometimes not. This time memories began to cave in like bolts of terror, each one worse than the one before.

Memories of brothers, what they did to me as a child, and after. Once taken down and repeatedly used for their lust, especially Chet’s, my tendency to be easily manipulated increased one-hundred fold.

And he took advantage of that in many ways after the sexual attacks ended. They all did. And many more out in society. Learning that my own body was not mine, going out in the world was so very dangerous. And that certainty won’t change. It was experienced by those trusted, loved, and looked up too.

The knowledge learned as a child of what humans are capable of, coupled with a lack of boundaries, makes living around people frightening. Encountering others who take advantage of people, manipulate, lie, cheat, and do evil, makes me vulnerable. It is home on our land where safety is felt most.

But lately? While walking the meadow there is a feeling of ever present danger, as if Chet will suddenly jump out of the bushes from his grave to terrify me. On edge, this feeling has developed all summer, making it a summer of ups and downs interfering with my sleep. Is it due to weight loss?

On nights when sleep is interrupted, the deal is that food is allowed to quell that anxiety. Food, food, and more food, the eating orgy along with medication making a stupor that allows for sleep. The next day grogginess and guilt. This is no way to live.

My intensity and focus on diet and exercise… gone in the middle of the night. Is it due to moving so close to my core that the memory of Dan’s attack is about to rise? The one attack repressed only remembering the before and after. Is the loss of weight bringing me closer to my psyche allowing for that memory? Has the excess weight been there to keep me safe from it?

Because as weight comes off, horrifying fear creeps in.

SUFFER

As tiny an event as the cat escaping under the bed instead of being able to close the door with her out, kept me from falling asleep. Lying there thinking about this noise, that noise, or that Samuel found her coming out and shutting the door (which he didn’t but that little sound made me look up from my pillow) kept me awake way past the ‘fall asleep’ time.

Then? Up past midnight, the next day groggy feeling so sorry for myself because of what must be effects of long-term PTSD. But today is a new day, and isn’t life like that? Pain with pleasure, yet it is not something easy to accept fighting the bad days with bitterness, sadness, and hopeful illusions of growing up in a safe family.

The wishes don’t all go away. On hard days they crop up like bubbles popping once hitting my consciousness. This is your reality and it’s unlikely to completely change. The addition of marijuana oil has certainly helped greatly but the hard nights, and other difficulties are here to stay.

Though not my fault, not my doing, suffer it I must.

The INNOCENT or PERPETRAOR?

A child victimized sexually by a family member often becomes both the innocent and the criminal. No wonder it is hard to silence my critic’s hammering, brow-beating voice, bending my back over daily as if being hit repeatedly with a stick.

It is commonplace to do harm on myself even now over 60 years later. Coming out of such dysfunction the learning is that it’s not OK to feel good, happy, or at peace. Not allowed. Someone must take the hit for the family shame, especially to keep her quiet so no one else has to feel bad or ashamed.  

“Please do not add me to emails where Tom is included. What he did to me as a child was horrible,” I said at age 68, finally speaking up.

“What?” Don asked, not sure he heard me, or maybe incredulous that for once a truth had been spoken.

The innocent and criminal. Because speaking the truth about crimes in the family about a family member is betrayal. And though now fully grown, that gag order still exists. That shame still causes me to hurt myself.

A girl, now woman, expressing the horrors of my childhood casts me out once again unless abiding by their rules. They may be as subtle with their tactics as they were then, but there are in place even now, and honed to perfection.  

My mother was especially good at it, extinguishing the fire in my natural personality as if throwing a bucket of water on my soul darkening my spirit as if never having one… and it’s still elusive, I am still searching for my true nature. And the others followed, a gang against a small girl just trying to grow.

And they ganged up again over the last few years. A rare visit to one or the other meant a phone call behind my back in the other room calling the other one who shows up quickly. Is that because you’re so eager to see me, or is it the same old story? Two against one means that two can keep things as they have always been. Me silent and/or pleasing. Keep me down, the little puppet we can control.

The ramifications of growing up treated this way caused badness to grow inside me like a steel skyscraper blocking the light. And as an adult this shatters me again and again. Each attempt to build a relationship with any of the three causes harm. They collude in crimes against me by their continued interaction with the fourth who ravaged my spirit the most.  The rule of silence cannot remain. The only way out is not to be in.

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SIMPLE THRILLS

Though mother-nature threw a hot sticky week in at the tail end of summer, my skinny dipping days are numbered. After becoming sweaty during meadow walks, it isn’t easy pulling up a bathing suit over my body- so why bother? Neighbors can’t see through all the foliage and trees we planted, so go for it!

And it is heaven, bobbing up and under, feeling the cool water over my skin washing off the stinky mosquito spray needed to fight off those needle nosed poison pokers as big as crocodiles. Glorious.

It is new to almost wish for the first frost weeks, or months away, just to kill those suckers off. After the rains mid-summer, they began hatching thriving more and more after every rain of which there’s been many.

But isn’t that the way of life? Taking the good with the bad, and finding common ground for both. Be steady. Find your peace. And keep your boat afloat.

PIE STORY

After two large kettles of apple sauce, why not pies? Pies? You must be mad, insane, out of your mind. But it sounded so reasonable to me. So away we go.

“Make two,” Samuel said. Two?

“Who is the other one for?” I asked, thinking of who might be the best recipient.

Peeling, slicing, then peeling and slicing some more. When the bowl was full there was way more than enough for two, so it had to be three.

Mentally asking myself, do you really want to spend the day making pies? Sure.

But then the crust.

“Samuel, I’m out of flour,” I said, dismayed that there was exactly enough flour to make just one pie.

“OK,” he said, adding, “I’ll go get more,” already salivating for the imagined apple pie as images swam in his head more desired than sugar plums.

We don’t have sweets around much because I’ll eat them. Though losing my taste for sweet desserts or candy, there is not enough will power within me to resist. And lately, since becoming a calorie counting maniac, this endeavor was madness. Why didn’t I see it?

Happily rolling out crust after crust, it is an art, and one has to be in the right frame of mind. There have been times when it was too wet, or too tough, and just terrible. But this time? Perfection for all three.

One went to friends down the street, one for the freezer, and one for Samuel. And though he had already been to the store once that day for more flour, he swung by again arriving home with ice cream cradled happily in his arm.

“What! Ice cream?” I exclaimed.

Later than evening, Samuel came into the living room with a dinner plate. Not a dessert plate, a large dinner plate with an ample slice of the most perfect pie I’ve ever made swaddled and surrounded by mounds of white cold creamy ice cream.

Happy to have brought such sweetness into Samuel’s life, I went to bed also satisfied that I did not indulge. That lasted until a bit after 8PM, then it was all over. And unfortunately it tasted so good another piece might as well go down. (with ice cream too)

Mentally counting the calories while trying to sleep on a bloated stomach the truth was bitter. Those kitchen trips were a day’s worth of calories. The truth was bitter, but that pie sure was good!

PEACEFUL GRATITUDE

A gentle, peaceful way to start the day, sipping fresh brewed rich dark coffee on the screened porch, centering in on feelings hoping to reach my core without slants, twists or turns. But often that is a no go, hyped up on something else besides calm and peace, disconnected from myself.

One day to the next can be so different. Yesterday’s realization that fall’s downward mood is already invading, but then the surprise of a subsequent ability to find solace inside, because the granite yielded to kindness. Today? Different feelings.

As the mother and white spotted baby deer nibbled grass in the early morning misted meadow, feelings come that rise above self, encompassing more than just that. An expansion. Opening to it, peace fills me, comforting my often chaotic interior, and with those gracious feelings…gratitude.

GRANITE is not a Soft Place to Fall

Falling into fall. The energetic hopeful feelings bringing pep in my step has withered into a steady plodding along. But one thing learned, exercise is the tonic to winter depression, which starts about this time every year, getting deeper as sunlight dwindles and shorter days darken my mood.

By lap three that lift in my being wakes up. It once again feels good to be alive as senses become alert looking around as if seeing it for the first time.

All the work becomes harder, especially chasing away negative thoughts, always jumping on reasons why others may not seem caring. Could it be that’s their way with everyone? That it isn’t because I’m unworthy?

There is at my core dis-ease of self-doubt. A feeling of badness or unworthiness which became part of my personality. A rock solid belief that forever needs chipping away. Like granite it is hard, but work continues.