In order to succeed,
You have to be willing
In order to succeed,
You have to be willing
Why has it taken so long to love life, being alive, and to feel freedom possibly for the first time in 68 years? Wounds that don’t air fester. They develop pus, gangrene, and worsen, sometimes a body part needs hacking off, or death occurs.
Pretend you care, but you insist, ‘don’t tell.’ One cannot heal from trauma when the trauma is vaulted in tightly. When air, light and the hope of healing is withheld. Wound after wound, does it matter after a while, or does each wound compound upon the other?
And that’s what families do, pretend… victimizing the victim. So much healing yet to do. To go deep to find the black rot still there, evident in the way others still are allowed to take advantage of me. Because feeling poorly about one self does that.
And though some light of self-love is beginning to grow in my core, there are more doors to open and windows to rise. Corners well-hidden where parts still hide, cowering in fear of what others would think if they knew… more importantly what my thoughts are of myself.
The forgiving of self for past perceived crimes, even if only a child, still fester. Because what’s done in childhood came along like a fungus affecting all relationships negatively, like pus oozing out.
The only thing that would bring me back to the hell my life was, would be to become a better mother. To have my sons forgive my mistakes which were many and sorrowful. When asking forgiveness for my transgressions they say they have none to forgive.
They do even if they don’t know it. And isn’t that true of most childhoods, that we must heal some of the damage well meaning parents inflict? But most importantly it is powerful and relevant to be better now, and for me to forgive me. Bring light to the dark pockets still existing. Dig deep, see the truth with acceptance, tolerance, kindness and love. Let the newly found love for self grow.
Like a duck out of water, early trauma made me feel different from everyone, a searing differentness that was real. Trauma unprocessed is broken glass. No amount of glue makes it like it once was.
When others ate out of hunger, my hunger was of the soul, searching for love never finding any… especially inside myself. Eating blotted out unspeakable pain. By replacing anguish with food, numbness and self-hate increased.
Every bite since the age of 8 came with a dose of guilt. Blaming myself for using it as a survival tool wasn’t the answer, though it took till just recently to realize just that. Even by adolescence diet groups became part of my life. Being overweight was never the problem. It was a symptom of unhealed wounds covered up by enforced silence. The only outlet provided was eating. It was what my mother wanted, that is until she didn’t.
When others gained weight, like during basic training after joining the Army, my jeans began to droop down my hips after weeks of meager meals in the mess hall. Other girls filled their trays with gravy topped potatoes, meat, breads, and cake with ice cream. Mine had plain meat and vegetables with lots of hot crappy coffee to wash it down and fill me up.
Then scurrying out early, leaving the laughing young women behind. Back in the paint peeling barracks no snacks were available to ease the voracious soul hunger. The necessary discipline needed was only at brief intervals three times a day. Weight melted away.
It is not dropping off quickly now, but it is dropping after meticulous talks with myself about who I really am, what I have desperately wanted since childhood, and what I truly deserve to be happy inside myself where it counts. When even in the worst of times, a place internally welcomes with kind, loving, acceptance.
The Covid 15 talked about, similar to the freshman 15 for those first semesters at college, are the opposite for me once again. 15 pounds are gone! This time the way forward is much different that the millions of other attempts at weight loss. Success comes not by white knuckling it, but by loving myself even with failures, which are many. Loving myself back onto the path by judging that all of me is OK even in the midst of failure.
When thin, because there were times at a healthy weight, feeling shitty prevailed. The gastric stapling butchering my stomach and intestines years ago after my mother’s urging to have it done did not cure the emptiness in my soul, or heal the ragged wounds. In hopes of becoming normal, because in my mind slim=normal, feelings of not being normal kept wearily on.
Decades later, dangerous, and extremely painful internal bleeding occurred over the course of many months. Finally an ambulance was called because I couldn’t stand up. Hospitalization was required for several days.
Reasons why were not known till after discharge when a surgeon specializing in gastric stapling identified the cause of the bleed. The surgeon of long ago is responsible. The on-going risk of bleeding at the surgical site is managed with a daily dose of a high potent antacid taken permanently.
It’s not about weight and never was. It is about liking, then loving myself, a daily struggle, and my most important work. The messages of being different, bad, unlovable, incapable, and not normal, like dark swirls cemented in a piece of granite, are here to stay. Chipping away at these harsh voices is not always easy or successful. But chip away I do, with small, wondrous achievements along the way.
Happiness, or failure, all lies within. No matter what happened way back when, it is in my grasp to decide what messages to give myself. Easier when rested, about impossible when not. But over time, when the source of my being is tapped, comforted, and accepted, great things happen. Maybe not ‘great’ in that I’m saving the world, but in saving myself.
Contemplating the odd mix of feelings erupting inside me after our virtual Christmas with Shane, Cory and their families yesterday, the meadow path welcomed with its familiarity. The fresh air imbibing and after each lap some groundedness that was lacking in the vacuum left after the on-line party.
Nostalgia for not having sons little enough to wake up to Santa’s overflow of gifts beneath the tree? Nostalgia for my own origin family not really being a source of comfort but wishing for it anyway? Or for not wrapping my arms around my sons, especially the one living so far away.
Relaxing my guard somewhat I have hugged Shane at his outdoor campfire gatherings with both of us masked up. But Cory, so far away, missing him so. Shane had planned on heading there tomorrow for a week, but with the virus spreading so rapidly that trip was cancelled. My relief is tempered by my telling Cory not to do it leaving me with a bit a regret.
Perhaps they could have done it and got away with it like they did for a week at Cape Cod in the summer? The thought of Cory not seeing us, or his brother…. Is he sad about it? Is he OK? And of course he is as her family is large, close, like on the same road close including brothers and cousins. They are careful not to celebrate indoors by planning a large garage party today. Shane is gathering with in-laws later today despite my warnings not to.
The dichotomy of celebration alongside pain, suffering, and death is a hard one to digest. Snippets of ICU’s on the news showing patients unconscious on breathing tubes hit hard making it real. Sifting through feelings; acceptance, defeat, powerlessness, nostalgia, empty nest, wistfulness for a past never wanting to live again, a mix to feel as each one moves through leaving at its core a woman at peace. Prayers for all…
Remember who you are, what you’ve been through, how you came this far. Going along with the shuffle it’s easy to lose sense of my being, its interior, the workings of my body, my feelings, my own thoughts, opinions, and where to work on what.
You are not Samuel, nor anyone else. Comparing myself to what others do, say, think, or believe, may be helpful sometimes when the spinning gets too fast, but once some ground is found, the best advice comes from within.
Know thyself. Isn’t that a lifetime’s work?
photos by Patricia
And so the windows and doors are shut to protect from fall’s first frost. Heat wafts up from the registers gently warming the rooms and my body like a cozy blanket. The unwelcome shuttered feeling needs counteracting.
Samuel brings in the purple grapes giving my hands an afternoon of slipping off skins, cooking the insides then sieving the seeds out, joining the hot mixture back with the skins and other ingredients to make pie filling.
Miniature sunflowers make a spectacular autumnal bouquet, and walks add pleasure to my day. With the crisp air and vibrant sun the pull is to walk more then a long repose by the creek. A baby blue-bird kept me company along with many other varieties, surprising me with activity and songs. So many have already left for the season to warmer climates so it’s usually quiet as a tomb!
The sister-in-law Ginny, and brother Don came for the morning staying vigilant about social distancing on the patio then a walk to the creek with more relaxation.
They didn’t mind drinking freshly perked coffee from the tray perched on a pretty cotton tablecloth, and enjoying homemade apple hand pies. There used to be a taboo about food sharing at the beginning of the pandemic, but they heard it’s no longer cause for concern.
The visit was OK, but left me wanting more that probably won’t come. The closeness craved needs loyalty. It felt like being kept at arm’s length, but perhaps that is coming from me. My truth expects loyalty, but you are not loyal (or safe) if you interact with friendliness towards anyone who abused me so horribly.
I am at peace with how things are, proceeding with baby steps, and that’s OK. Being cordial and open is my choice. Surface interaction will have to do on the rare times we meet. My life goes on bringing joy unfounded, joyful for the first time in over 60 years.
That joy comes from being at peace with my past, and the present. And by being in the present, not something a person used to disassociation could do automatically. What has been automatic was spending most of my time in Neverland; a safe place made for me in another dimension still visited sometimes…zoning out.
When meditation became a daily practice over 15 years ago, the process of learning that one can be present and be safe began. That was not something learnt as a child, leaving my body… and taking a life-time to reclaim it.
Peace has been found, a peace that as a survivor has been an ongoing struggle. It can last for days until a bout of sleeplessness makes for the need of a sleep aid. That injects a tumultuous barrel of self-pity filling the day after with sluggishness. But luckily that too occurs less and less mostly during the change in seasons.
After spending time with so called ‘family’ it becomes harder to close the door and go on as usual because the pull for clan is timeless. Real closeness remains most safe with Samuel, sons, and friends, the chosen family.
photos by Patricia
The day burns bright as the sun’s red rosy glow turns golden. The warmth on the patio is soaked up with the knowledge that it won’t last much longer as the days grow shorter and cooler. The meadow yawns invitingly and all I want to do is walk it, and walk I do, lap after lap throughout the day.
Deer stare, then leap away. Bunnies so little in springtime, now bigger, freeze in the path only a few feet away before hopping into the golden rod filled meadow. A rustle in the tall grasses signals other critters are also disturbed by my footfalls.
The yellow flowers in the wild gardens grow tall in their splendor, waving in the breeze as they light up in the sunshine. The stillness permeates my being, settling my heart rate while resting creek-side, quieting me with peace right to my very core.
After fighting summer’s departure, fall is finally welcomed with all its magical nuances, the moments that take my breath away with their beauty; the sparkle as the sun hits a glittering string of gems, the dew just as sparkly as if crowned with diamonds, birds noisily gathering like a blanket in the yard suddenly swirling away in a cloud. The joys of the season unfold…
What was known all along still is interesting to me, that others who have never been met in person are closer to me than my own family. It is my sense that those called ‘family’ not only commit to silence about the traumas I suffered, collude in the silence and protection of those that chose to commit crimes on their little sister, but also find ways to keep distance from me even if chatting in person face to face.
And even those that are close, like friends, Samuel, and sons, don’t know, really know, how wounding the silence is. But on-line with those who have suffered the same silence, collusion, and conspiracy… respite, understanding, and acceptance is found.
Not just acceptance from others, but learning to accept myself. Growing up with the traumas suppressed as is typical in families where sexual abuse occurs by one of their own to one of their own, compassion for myself was and still is too often non-existent.
Non-existent too when around family who brings up a name of an abuser, whether accidentally, or thoughtlessly, or as a way to say to me that you will say whatever you want even if it hurts me. It rams like a punch to the gut causing instant dissociation needing force to choose between leaving now to that place of another dimension or stay in the present.
It has taken over a week to find my way back to my core where compassion, self-understanding and confidence flows. That is the favored place, not zoned out to that ether place of safety used to shield myself from unwelcome hands as a little girl, then becoming a habit well into later life.
Sons are not supposed to be one’s personal therapist, but my sons have been, especially Cory. Each grew centered, connections complete without fracture. Wanting that desperately, it drew me close as if they were the adults and I the child. Perhaps their wholeness would drift into me.
It isn’t supposed to be that way. Yet they both grew whole, something I sought but instead was lost in a life of fog, confusion, and anxiety. Cory has forgiven my needy ways, assuring me it helped make him a more compassionate adult. But he was put in the adult role too often in my need for assistance to stay afloat.
Gratefulness has begun to flow back melting the numbness of a careless remark. Sons so special despite growing up with a fractured mother. On-line friends, and blogging are magical; getting feelings out, sorting through them, which greatly helps to understand myself and the world around me. A way to finally speak what never could be spoken.
Despondency, the tarry pit of dark thoughts overtakes me. Sleep evades me as my thoughts spin about badness, a theme more familiar than love, kindness, or gentleness. That is the stuff of autumn with its shorter days and the even shorter ones to come.
That each movement, action or word is WRONG. That I am wrong just for being.
Even in the best of times, which oddly has been this summer, thoughts need wrangling in due to the scourge of brothers who sexually attacked me as a little girl. That blackens every encounter even to this day.
That sullies relationships as my thoughts are ALWAYS negative. Like granite they are chiseled at day after day with some success over time. Then fall hits and so do my thoughts, bashing my head in along with whatever self-esteem that was casted into the mold by hard work.
So take the feelings and feel them. That is the only way. Turning the truth of my feelings into a pink cloud by force or pretension is not my way. My way has always taken me through the darkness into the light. Back down again so many times, but somehow, always somehow, back into the light.
Having to pretend since age 8 that the horrors suffered weren’t real, it became customary for me to stuff them away. That took a lot of food, food that mother loved to cook then see others eat. Weight gain, up and down since age 8.
Even mangling my inner organs to be normal. That pleased my mother who told me about the magical operation.
She left out the part that meant intense pain for hours, and countless episodes on the bathroom floor hoping to upchuck the extra teaspoon of food swallowed. What was left of my stomach was a tiny pouch with only enough room for a tablespoon or so of food.
That is a problem for a person accustomed to using food as an escape from the body, and had since age 8 when my mother’s cure for the first terrifying attack was to stuff with me food. And if my mother’s love was at the end of a spoon it was better than nothing.
To be in my body now is a revelation. Not realizing that my entire life has been an escape, the exploration into this brings up empathy unfounded in my own inner workings. Because usually there is harshness, blame, and self-castigation. Compassion has begun to blossom.
To go through all that all alone. To suffer like that all alone, except for a mother on the side-lines always making it worse because she didn’t want a fat daughter. So she put me in fashion shows, and beauty contests, and then as an adult excitedly telling me about this operation which years later put me in the hospital due to internal bleeding where the inexperienced surgeon make his cuts to rearrange my internal organs.
It was never about weight, but about pain suppressed. About a little girl alone whose only resource was eating because you readily pushed food, loved to cook, and loved even more to see it eaten.
Mom, normal is to feel. Normal is to go to your daughter’s aid and keep any son from attacking me again. It doesn’t matter if you’re left a widow with 8 kids, you’re story over and over again whenever trying to tell you how angry I was at you and why.
You could have 20 kids, just stop and do the right thing. No more attacks, and don’t tell your little daughter who is crying hot tears down her cheeks, that if it ever happens again to tell you. Of course I wouldn’t, too ashamed to do so. As if I had the power to stop it by telling you. YOU STOP IT.
So food became an escape from the body as other sons took what they wanted. And I became more and more invisible as my body got larger. And that was 60 years ago but the same methods of not feeling are still being used.
Yet beauty occurs, that of feeling deep down inside with peace not tsunamis. I can go there and be OK, better than OK. Still tentatively trying it out, but more and more comfortable being there. It is a beautiful thing, one others live daily without question. But for a trauma survivor it is a new place to be that brings wholeness, peace, and love for self.
Instead of self-repugnance for a too big body since childhood, there is the beginnings of understanding and compassion. Food is used to numb, to not be in the body. I have not understood just how terrifying my childhood was. That leaving the body became the norm when my body was attacked, not the other way around which is really the norm when living childhood without trauma.
Without intervention or release of the agony inside me, I ate for the next sixty years. Even when the stomach was butchered into a tiny pouch- I ate. I had to, even though it meant long periods wrapped about the toilet on the cold tile floor. There was still interaction with ‘family’ acting like I loved them because that’s what was required. Of course I ate.
It is a new beginning where food is eaten out of hunger, not all the other hungers, but true physical hunger. And that only begins to happen when love and compassion are heard inside of me filling the ragged holes that food once filled. That is not the head or brain… that is the soul hungry for love.