Kindness to Self

After trying to help a friend who struggles with very similar self-esteem issues rising from the sexual attacks by beloved family members in childhood, after emailing the supportive letter, I wondered at my own words later. Each and every day I must fight the phantoms of my own beginnings, and the cruelness of psychological patterns that are incurred due to the traumas suffered. 

Expressing anger? Nope. A natural defense coming out of a nurturing childhood. Not mine.  Blaming oneself for any and every negative occurrence, even those that have nothing to do with me? Yes, yes, yes. Raymond, a psychiatrist once seen regularly, called it ‘personalization.’  At least there’s a name for it. 

These conditioning’s were learned early. A child must blame themselves. If we didn’t where we would be? With no family, and a child needs their family no matter who there are or what they’ve done. As once stated in a book read early in my confrontation of the true facts of my family and childhood, “It’s the only game in town.” 

So as a child, she takes it in as if the sexual attacks were her fault because there’s no other way. The insanity of it has shortened lives, either by one’s own hand, or by so many other medical issues that plague a body due to all that trauma trapped inside.

When anger isn’t expressed in the moment, this wonderful thing others are capable of with such immediacy, tears come. Pent up feelings need to unload somehow. Yes hurt is present, but more so, feelings that are unexpressed. 

I was taught to be silent, even about the theft of my body. Healing afterwards, as crucial as a setting a broken arm, surgery, or stitches, did not occur, causing all the implosion of rage and hatred for what was being done to turn inward. Attacking oneself has become a way of life. 

Why fault that little girl who had to keep it all in? She is in there, getting hurt all over again.

I wish my adult self had the tools to protect my little one. But how could I learn those? I chastise myself for that, and for not shouting back anger in the moment now as deserved.Of course I couldn’t as a child, but it is still a difficult struggle even now. Criticizing myself for these losses isn’t kindness. Yet it’s my first reaction after another’s cruelty, stupidity, insensitivity, and that list goes on and on.

There’s as many ways to be hurtful as there are people. And each time it is all about the other person. There are some who pick up on who would be a good victim for their ‘oh so subtle’, and not so subtle attacks. Learning never to express anger makes a person vulnerable to those who lack character, are weak, and take advantage of others.

Like Tom, my sibling. Like another close family member who repeats what Tom did, though he has moved away and is also losing his memory. There are many ways to take advantage of a person who never had a say in her own life.

One, like me, who wants to treat others fairly, with kindness, not vindictiveness even if hurt badly can be easily mistreated on an on-going basis. When another wants his or her own way and can get it, they manipulatively keep taking.

Removing myself from such toxicity has been successful, but not always possible. Taking the hit keeps me up nights, but improvements are being made there too. Kindness. Forgiveness of self, which can then extend to others for their quirks, hurtful ways, and selfishness. 

It is enough to break a person, which is why kindness to self is something to nurture like a baby plant or helpless kitten. The job each day is working on kindness to self.

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RELAX

photo by Patricia

Upon waking the first feeling is a flash of fear. How to mold the day with discipline, another one to face in a way to feel good about at day’s end. The sun sunk behind the horizon will shine, and the dark thoughts will be chased away by its beams.

That is it, how to live each day so that the brilliance within shines. So that the best comes out, and the rest is worked with patiently, and with loving acceptance.

Beyond the years accumulated where the childhood beliefs ruled, there is a being who partook in life with the wild abandon of joy. Moments of it erupted while doing things dearly loved; running the horse through the fields on a summer’s day, digging in dirt to plant, the soil tying me to mother earth as one while bird melodies make sweet music to work by.

Just sitting, paying attention to the body, allowing each muscle to relax, the cool cement of the patio on my feet while the sun warms the rest of my body. Relaxed enough to feel the sun, hear the birds, and ingest the intoxicating aromas around me.

It is news to me that the many milkweeds Samuel so carefully harvested in the meadow for the monarch’s to multiply on, emit a fragrance so luscious it made me wonder where it was coming from. The wild roses had come and gone while we were away, but the blissful hint of another blossom made me walk over to a milkweed that had flowered. There was the answer to the mystery as I breathed in deeply.

Directing myself to just be takes deliberate intent, but worth the effort as all the senses come alive if relaxed enough to let them in.

The Punisher

Life became an all-out war against myself. I made it that way when turning each day into a pass or fail day depending on the scale, just as my family had done. Lose weight, you are normal. The punisher took over, always ready to take on the job with glee; chastising, criticizing, stealing the joy out of life.

Take back the moment, which means dwelling on now, not the size of my body, and what a failure I am. Days became dark. The usual depression combated by working at positive self-talk deepened without knowing why.

Eating patterns developed in childhood to survive came on stronger manifesting into all that mattered. Life is so much more than about that.

None of the usual summertime pleasures were enjoyable, but robotically completed instead. All of my psyche turned on me, like it had much of my life. The only way these past few years that life became joyful was remembering that it is not the size of my body that matters, but the being inside it.

Yes, the body matters, but so does treating myself lovingly, which includes understanding why my food habits are such, not hating myself for them. Softness simply destroyed, gone, lost, and out the window.

I want the life back that says I am good inside my soul, no matter the outside trappings. To feel good about who I am, what I do, and what I say. Confront the beast that tells me otherwise, because that loud echoing from my past— the family I came from who taught me to be silent, meant eating to stuff it.  

How quickly I became lost. Interactions lately with each of them has poked the ‘beast.’ She arrived frothing with self-hatred stealing my joy.

I don’t know the answers, only that it is my life to love and I will.

 

E-mail to Non-Abusive Brother

photo by Patricia

The fact that I have to describe a sibling as abusive or non-abusive is what causes perpetual sadness and low grade depression in my life as a continual way of being. This brother, Don, was once like a father, as ours died when at age 8. We have become estranged since my mother’s passing ten years ago, but I have done my best to overcome the distance without much success.

Those in the family origin do not talk about important issues, so this email will be a shocker. Yet for me, it is imperative to be real.  

Dear Don,

As much as it would be nice to visit for coffee, the drive is difficult. So often you welcome me, yet you are the one who drove around the country for fun, and drives as a part-time job. Driving doesn’t affect you like it does me especially when it includes city traffic. I often wonder why you don’t make the drive here just to have a cup of coffee, or walk to the water to sit awhile. Though you came once with the boys, and another to take me to lunch in Williamsburg, and a few picnics including Samuel’s retirement party, just stopping by to chat is not a time I ever remember happening.

I have lost count of the times I’ve been up your way just for that reason. I have missed some picnics where Tom was also included. I reached a point where that became untenable. I also prefer getting together with others one to one rather than groups, but it isn’t reciprocated.

The road goes two ways. I’m sorry you can’t find your way here. I would love that but it seems it just won’t be. Shane has been too busy to have us for lunch which would be close to you, so I thought I’d just come anyway. Yet it is a challenge, and not easy for me though I can do it if necessary. I just wonder why you can’t or won’t.

I think of you often. I took the fall basket that I didn’t get around to delivering, and repackaged it into a birthday gift which probably won’t find its way to you house either. Day to day life is a challenge. Sleep is a challenge. Adding other challenges is hard. Even appointments are hard upsetting the routine of day to day, and the comfort and safety of home.

The traumas in childhood left lasting damage. I know you don’t want me to talk about it. A long while back you were upset with me relaying how much Penny went through, so why don’t I just get over it. So I won’t say more. And I won’t complain for that very reason either. I don’t need you to solve my problems like I once did.

I stopped after you  said that just once you’d like me to call without it being a problem. I get it. You have your own stuff, and going to you was inappropriate. I just wish you would have said so, not dismissed my challenges by comparing them to Penny’s and how well she does despite them. What is worse than repressed memories of rape?  I remember everything else done by three other siblings which is bad enough, including your buddy Tom. But what Danny did still remains repressed, though I know it was violent, and was rape. That is what causes so much terror in my life even now.

The other daily challenge is the intense feelings of badness that grew in me from age 8 becoming part of my personality. I work on self-esteem issues daily because I grew up feeling bad, that I don’t have a right to even be here or have a life.

This was meant to simply be a note to let you know I’d love to visit with you, but come here on occasion too?

Patricia

JOY

People have always been fearsome. How could they not be when childhood was fraught with brothers who held me down, manipulated, lied, and broke trust so completely it never comes again? The snakes, bees, and killer bird are much more easily dealt with on this little plot of land called home.

And it is more home than ever was, because in it an internal home has also been found. Luckily the feeling of wholeness that others take for granted has occurred in me. First, writing the book, where the child in me let loose like a steam pot exploding.

Each week a chapter arose, one week joy, the next, severe pain. And most weeks included tears sliding down my cheeks sometimes in rivers. Sometimes needing a choking rain, but always healing in ways the word was meant to be.

Others in the origin family will interact with me, but only if the game of secrets is played, and only on their turf or in groups. The insanity of this brings upheavals of anguish, the mental confusion bringing only pain.

No one wants to know me as me. And I get it. We each have our own hell and cannot hear the other’s or let it in. Yet the façade of invisibility won’t wear on me anymore. It’s not that I want to talk about the past, just not be chained from it as it relates to my life now.

But you don’t want to know me, just own me, control me, and have me be a puppet. No. The craziness of this tips me over and I can’t have it. No.

People scare me, even those that call themselves family. There is a piece missing in me that has been lost forever. And these souls needy of their own take advantage of the hole. That is how it is.

So take joy in the life created, and know it is OK. You don’t have to fix what is not fixable. It is OK. You are OK, in fact beautiful.

 

To Every Season…

So much of my life has felt like being bumped from one obstacle to another, the path treacherous, scary and lonely, making me crave connection and acceptance by obliging to what others wanted.

Living by my head, and the pain that drove me, slowly dissolved as the peace on this little plot of land stilled my interior opening up the real Patricia. Words come from below, not my head, fluttering up like butterflies. Wow, where did that come from? A little known place hardly used until these past years.

It goes quiet when fear invades. Covered up like a grave. Digging down deep beneath the usual humanness is a heavenly green, a richness of being which transcends ego. Where giving is more a gift than receiving, including gifts to the self where doubt is replaced by the surety of acceptance.

Jealousy is replaced by the knowledge that each being is full just as they are… including myself. Peace comes when given a place. As the grasses dance in the breeze, the balm of mother holds me in the morning while sitting by the creek, and warms me as the sun sets at night.

A chaotic life can calm. The work done, the fight over, let the sun shine in…

 

Rebel Forces

photo by Patricia

Though summer is very slow to arrive, this spring day is crisp, sunny and just right. Peace descends into my core with the deep silence except for bird melodies. My meadow walk begins. Something made me turn around. A jet bomb blasted towards my face. Screaming, hands up, the killer bird backed off… but not much.

Past thinking was that mockingbirds were our guard birds, but they are guarding their own, not us. And this one has a nest very near our house. Too near.

Continuing to walk, but turning back to check, the torpedo zoomed in again right towards my eyeballs. True adrenaline hit my veins. My anger made me stomp towards him swinging my jacket like a wild woman.

As he sat stoically atop the snowball bush I hissed, “You want to fight? Let’s fight!” Bad move.

He stood his ground becoming more aggressive. My body shook with the rush of chemicals while backing down the path afraid of this little bird which had become a beast. It uncannily knew when my back was turned waiting for that opportunity to attack.

Keeping guard on the way to the house, he watched from the roof barreling down once more while entering through the back door. Filling both water bottles my artillery was loaded. With weapons of mass destruction the march goes on.

Each lap we faced each other, round and round. After splashing him once he kept his distance with a tidbit of respect. When my defenses dropped, the torpedo swept in. Nearing lap ten my hands became numb from holding up my armor. 

My little patio, now a war zone, needs protecting. Getting out the hose, my gun lay across lap locked and loaded. Come on mother fucker. It came, I hosed.

Flapping its wings atop the garden arch, he screeched out to his rebel cohort next to him, “She’s got water!” Both stared me down while I held steady.  Apparently water effectively hampers good aeronautics. 

Daring to fill up flower pots with my head slightly turned, a swoop to the jugular. Too late my rapid fire hose missed this birdbrain who was outsmarting me.

Samuel sticks his head out the door, “Training?” he asks.

“Yes, but they called in relatives to help,” I reply.

In 15 years living here, fighting a bird is a first. The war goes on…