Please to Survive

Life hones down to myself and Samuel. Yet even just one person pushes my ‘please you’ buttons. My tendency is to move around his needs neglecting my own at great consequence. He  seems unaware of me, and exists as if we are in two houses. At other times he hovers so closely, and is so in my stuff I can’t breathe. How can the gap be so great?

Rushing to go visit my son and grand-kids down the road for coffee because Samuel said he was ready, meant forgoing lunch. And that means returning very hungry finding it hard to feel satiated because care hadn’t been extended to my needs. It is up to me to do that, no one else.

This pleasing aspect so seemingly permanently embedded? It arose from pure survival. Stuffing tragedy after tragedy with the food Mother pushed my way pleased her, but not me. There was no me. Me didn’t exist except when and if it pleased others.

Becoming mindful of my body and its needs takes great and constant focus. The natural instinct of hunger and satiety along with all other body related functions was driven out at age eight when survival became desperate. Survival meant please others always. And eat. Eat to drown out the pain of non-existence, and the terrifying agony of living.

To take a stand for my needs feels so foreign, selfish, and even aggressive. As if I am doing something so very wrong and must stop. Yet in doing so, being demure, submissive, and pleasing, my body takes the hit.

Eating last night too close to bedtime hurt my stomach causing it to be sore this morning. Skipping lunch ignited the eating hunger machine. What was eaten was only a bowl of high fiber cereal, larger than usual, and after the 3 to 4 pm shut off time. But eating past then, except for cheese or an apple, causes digestive problems when lying down. It wasn’t eaten out of hunger, but out of the ongoing ever-present need to feel loved.

My mind believes that Samuel loves me but doesn’t see me, though that sounds contradicting. Maybe it’s because I don’t take a stand and stay stood. I give in to very little pressure. When he said, “I’ll go drop off the present,” my reply?

I wanted to go too? Didn’t you just hear me talking to Shane about us going over for coffee?

“I heard coffee and thought that you asked if he’d give me a cup,” Samuel replied.

My head shook in disbelief. Samuel was sitting not five feet away, his nose in the newspaper during my conversation with Shane on the phone. And yet when Samuel said he thought he’d go over now to deliver our grand-daughter’s get well gift my response was ‘I’m ready?’

My hair was soaking wet from the bath and I hadn’t eaten, but if Samuel was ready I had better be too. That pressure comes from within, not him, though it would be a great comfort to feel heard, seen, and known.

How does one lose sight of her own needs so quickly, and why? Fear of abandonment or rejection? What of abandoning oneself?.

 

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Come Home

You get to have your feelings, space, body and mind. You get to inhabit all of that, still a reminder because for too much of the time my mind is squirreling away in its trenches of self-doubt and self-recriminations. Or buzzing off in some way due to anxiety that ebbs and flows, but is always there below baseline no matter how hard the work has been to soothe it.

You own it, it’s yours. Yet it has never seemed that way. My body was used, taken by those I loved and trusted most. Then when I fought or said ‘No,’ more force was used, either physically or psychologically. I was shut off and shut down. The box of my body was intolerable, and I escaped leaving my body and all else behind.

I have never come back and been able to stay. Moments stretch into minutes, and sometimes hours; when focused on my work in the studio, riding my horse of long ago, or hosing the foamy sweat off her after a summer ride, the stillness by the creek when parts dare to come in- join hands, and become one. There are periods of time feeling whole and content.

Waking in the morning is not one of them. Fears press down; being alone without Samuel, relationships that need improvement because of all my faults, and, and, and… then the voice of calm, reason and compassion, “It’s OK, you’re OK. You get to be in your body because you are OK, and as equal to others as anyone else. You get to have your space with boundaries.”

The soothing voice relaxes the ever present take off flight that signals leaving… going somewhere else to escape the pain of being me, and all that was learned in childhood that said I was bad. Come home. Come home again and again. You are OK, at home, and safe.

Light the Fire

Pulled down into the pit everything hurts, body, mind and soul. To climb out takes great effort without hope of success. Digging deep, finding scraps of life, a new day starts, and with it revived effort to attack it as best as one can.

First, self-control, not easy. Move. When it feels the hardest, it is the most beneficial. While walking laps around the browned meadow so drab, each lap invigorates as blood flows quicker. The sting of fall bites my face, and wakes my senses. I sat a long while by the creek, the reward after lap five.

Beavers have dammed up the area keeping the water high. It is too quiet. Birds leaving in their wake a trace of sorrow. Chick-a-dee, dee, dee, dee, in the branch not far away. Some friends have stayed.  

Leaves rustle as dry grasses sway like hula dancers. The cool wind caresses driving away warmth collected from walking, warning me of what’s to come. My spirit both settles and lifts remembering nature’s joys when she brings her winter wonderland. Things are OK, I am OK.

 Darkness descends bringing negative thoughts compounding at day’s end when resolve is weakest. That is the time that the most fortitude is needed. Resist. Remember how feeding the emptiness only makes it worse, interfering with sleep and self-esteem?

The reversal, picking ‘oneself up by the bootstraps,’ opens my interior to gratefulness. The sorrows and challenges of others flow in. Outgoing warmth is extended when the internal fires are once again lit.

 

WARMTH

Cold bore down into my bones causing aches that permeated muscle, tissue and tendon.

“Light the fire,” I lamented to Samuel.

“No! I’m not burning it 6 months out of the year,” he answered.

After a week of this as the temps refused to rise above 40 I tried again. The ache is real and more painful than past years.

“No,” he repeated.

During meditation a tear or two fell. He would spend an entire day at a friend’s daughter’s house, who he did not know, and work on her electrical problems, but not take 10 minutes to light a fire?

Later that day, after cooking him a nice dinner, I went to the garage bringing back what was needed to make a fire. After it was all complete before lighting, I noticed a rusty trap door that fell off when touched. The fire would have to wait for a replacement part.

As the leaves turn, swirl and blow, and the cold air invades dousing any evidence of summer, the simple pleasure of warmth is desperately needed to make the days bright. A warm fire heats body and soul.

Harshness VS Gentleness

Thoughts come in the night, all negative. With each toss or turn another one comes on top of the last one. By morning my edges are ragged, my life looks like a loser’s, lost, anti-social and alone.

“You’re being harsh,” a soft voice in my mind chastises, “Look at all you’ve done and accomplished.”

Waking to grind coffee beans, my eyes peruse the surroundings, comforting, decorative and homey. Being out in the flow of things, around too many people, will arouse my senses too much, and cause all sorts of even more negative worries. My reclusive life is one of choice, but in the dark of night it seems like a failure.

As the coffee is sipped, the acridness of its beans brings a satisfying calm as the cat purrs around my feet vibrating with warmth. Lighting the candle emits the scent of sweet pea, and the background device emits the sounds of crickets to drown out the ringing in my ears that worsens as I age and my hearing lessons.

Another day to tackle, and to tackle better than the one before. This is my challenge. Walk, meditate, do something constructive, and be gentle.

Dungeons and Dragons

photo by Patricia

The human body amazes. Mine has taken severe abuse, not by others, though that is true, but by me.

“Punishment,” I said to Samuel.

There was no other explanation. The eating machine had taken control. Things went down my poor stomach that weren’t wanted, and didn’t taste good. My head says that Sunday’s inability to sleep after a happy afternoon with friends, then calls from both sons, was part of the PTSD package due to what happened so long ago.

My personality says it is something different, that I’m different, an oddity, a belief ingrained along with the permanent damage from the sexual attacks endured from age 8-11, ongoing attacks on all facets of my being. 

Living with the effects of PTSD from the childhood attacks of sexual abuse will not go away. The craving continues to forget those facts. Going along day after day, quietly and happily, these realities intrude with little warning or fanfare. Turning to food, stuffing it down automatically, kicks in. More damage is done. 

I don’t want to be weird, a misfit, different. Perhaps a bugle ought to play alerting me to the whys of not sleeping then I could be better prepared to handle it healthfully instead of the knee jerk reaction of food stuffing. 

The next day the bad eating continued even more severely, making me sick then unable to sleep… just like when I was eight and went to my mother tapping her lightly on the shoulder while she slept.

“I’m going to be sick,” I said.

She murmured back, “What do you want me to do, spit straw?” I went to the bathroom and threw up. The eating continued. She fed me, overfed me really in her zest to do something. But she didn’t stop the terrible nightly attacks. Nor did she do anything to relieve the belief that it was all my fault. That would be contrary to her need for a happy family to be on show.

That was her unconscious way of keeping me silent. That self-blame will keep the family secret in, and the shame. Her daughter’s weight bloomed along with the shame hidden in the thick folds of  my skin.

She also wanted me to love myself, giving me the book, “How to Be Your Own Best Friend.” Mother, you split me, broke me in two. I have failed at that too. 

You’d think I hate my mother. I love her. I also needed her desperately all the way into my fifties when she died at 91…desperately searching for the love that felt just out of reach.   

Sometimes I take up where my mother left off, casting myself away like so much garbage. My poor heart pounded with the extra effort of trying to digest the food, while also trying to sleep. Giving up, moving to the couch, it slowed and sleep eventually came.

A great appreciation comes for my body and its tenacity for life even after so damage has occurred to it; some by my hands, some by others. My psyche also has taken a disturbing hit that is also permanent. My unwillingness to accept that has to be readjusted over and over.

Accepting what occurred and how that destroyed many aspects of my body and mind is a fact faced repeatedly because the urge is be like everyone else. Accepting these realities time and again is an ongoing job needing focused diligence. Acceptance, like patience, does not come easily.   

The aspect of feeling abnormal and bad will always be there, ingrained into my psyche just as my wiring has been damaged by the feeling of constant danger lurking behind every corner.

Fighting the dragons and demons, and coming out of the dungeon to the light, is my work, and a daily challenge. So is learning to be kind and gentle to myself. As winter approaches the dungeon grows deeper, and darker, and the work becomes harder. It needs to be recognized, appreciated, and accepted.

No amount of denial helps. Acceptance and self-love does. 

 

Rage-Sadness-Peace

After rage fizzled out a great sadness filled in, what was, and what could have been. Grief permeated every muscle, fiber and bone of my being, the authenticity of it flowed from every pore even as I went about other more pleasurable past-times.

“You seem sad,” a fellow writer commented at one our gatherings.

A small group of us met weekly after the writing class came to a close. We gathered at a coffee shop to share our work and hear critiques over cups of fresh brew. My book continued to erupt chapter by chapter, week after week. With the writing classes, the writing group, and finally an editor, the quality of the book’s contents grew into a finished product.

The sadness remained afterwards these past seven years, sadness that had been a searing rage. Then it lifted. A peace flows where sadness was. The bite from the apple of self-liking led to wanting more.

When the voices come each day that say ‘you’re bad, worthless, nothing,’ there is a pause then a soft voice interjecting the truth. You are worthy, a person to be proud of, a whole human being of worth and substance who has weathered a great storm with grace, dignity and kindness. Be proud of who you are and what you’ve overcome. 

The rage hid all these things from myself, yet there was no other way. This was my path. To go back no other path would be found to try again. Those boys did not mean to hurt me. They lusted after their needs and in those very human drives hurt me in ways life-long.

My path had to take this long, perilous, agonizing, and terrifying, it had to be so.