photos by patricia
Guilt? Who needs it? I suffer from it a lot, but am learning to forgive myself, even if I’ve done nothing more than not know how to be ‘my own best friend’. I’m hard on myself. I learned this only because others pointed it out over the years repeatedly. After hearing it enough, I began to believe there was something to it.
I had to forgive myself for the abusive sexual attacks against me by 4 siblings when only a child of 8 and the next few years after. A tremendous amount of guilt and shame invaded my entire being which only intensified as I grew and my thoughts about myself worsened.
In my 20’s, 30’s, up to my 50’s, rage ruled. Behind every interaction rage had to be contained, rage at myself and rage at the world and all the people in it. I was a pressure cooker with the tightest lid around. I appeared nice, sweet and passive but inside it boiled. I do not like looking back at my life and how all feelings had to be contained.
Writing chapters of who, how and why allowed the pain behind the rage to come up and the tears of healing flowed. As I let the rage and hate go for what they’d done, I needed to forgive me too, for whatever I thought I’d done…even if it was only that I’d been so cruel to myself, yet kind towards others.
Hate and rage began to loosen its grip during my daily half hour meditation. When I began to find myself and feel my center, nothing else mattered. Being present instead of zoning out began to feel safe and happened more often.
Have I forgiven them? I believe some things are unforgivable. Being sexually attacked as a child is one of them. The best I can say is I let the rage go and let myself off the hook too- and maybe I have forgiven. That doesn’t mean I want to be around people I’m still afraid of.
The most valuable forgiveness was and continues to be… towards myself…
photo by patricia
I fought it, raged against it, but there it was, I was abused. No amount of wishing changing it. Look at her, I want to be her, happy, trusting, loved. The pain, the cruel pain of not wanting to be me followed me everywhere, every minute.
I fanaticized what being ‘her’ was like. And ‘her’ was any girl, adolescent, or woman who looked free of burden. Why me? And the burden became heavier every time I asked.
How could I slow down enough to settle into what is if I couldn’t talk about IT? Familial sexual abuse isn’t light-hearted banter. You can say, “I was mugged on the street and my purse was taken!” And receive comfort and sympathy in return. But you can’t say, “I was raped in my bedroom by my brother!” (or father, uncle, family friend, etc.)
I wrote my book and each word, each chapter, lifted the burden out of a space so deep it was hard to find. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it. I told my story, I spoke my truth. I am not hiding. And during that process I accepted what is. I was born to a family who hurt me so completely it changed me. I no longer run from that or wish for something else.
At times I’m still wistful when I watch a young woman full of trust and many friends and wonder what that’s like. But it’s not all consuming or constant like it once was. Having many friends does not mean they are close friends. And you only need one. And the one friend I’m learning to check in the most with… is me.
I might not even know why. But if I settle into myself, sometimes tears fall. I let them. Better out than in. Tears wash. Saline solution is used to cleanse wounds. I used to hold them in, without knowing I did or why. Maybe I spun too fast to cry, away from myself.
But sometimes now when I feel the most settled, tears come. That’s ok. Maybe it’s because of what I gave up to move on. Or maybe it’s because life continues to offer new challenges.
A fellow writer told me once there was a sadness about me. That’s ok too. It’s ok to be however I am. Joy and love cause me to cry. The beauty is slowing the whirl to settle into me; the center, the soul, the spirit.
And whatever I find, I am just glad to be there, in me, the pieces together, even if the edges are rough, and where the pieces healed, bumpy.
Yes, I’m sad to have given up the pretense of ‘family’, those people born from the same mother as me. But I had to. I survived. And in the process, found me…
I’ve looked for a very long time-
Note: post from first month of blogging- August 2014
A rosy glow descended buffered by excess food. The peace sustained possessed holes, that of disliking oneself. When my head hits the pillow or my eyes open in the morning, the first feelings of self-despising thoughts are habitually comforting in their discomfort.
Reining in the part inside that craves filling the easy way, numbing by food, remains a constant job that takes daily effort. How easily that is forgotten. Does any addict stop working at it? Day by day, sometimes minute by minute, one has to talk down the anxieties, worries and fears that life may bring.
Numbing it out means numbing out feelings. Well yes, that’s the point. Yet a robot life isn’t much of one. Harshness towards self causes harshness towards others. Open, and allow what is there to shimmer and be shared…
Try not to be afraid of this changing thing called life, never knowing what happens second to second. The what if’s won’t stop. Relax into the moment.
Feed your soul with a food that fills all the cracks; stopping to inhale the sweet scent of the blossoms, tidying the kitchen and preparing a wholesome meal from the garden grilled to perfection over charcoal, or soaking in the sun as it rises over the trees.
Find ways to fill one’s soul in ways that bring meaning to each day, memories to fall asleep to, and adventures to look forward to when waking…
photo by patricia
Stevie, my one younger brother, emails rarely and does so in group form adding my name to the list with the other three remaining siblings including Tom. It has always bothered me as Tom is the worst offender due to the psychological abuse suffered after his crime which has never stopped even throughout adulthood. Family members seem used to his covert comments about me.
An email came yesterday, innocent enough. Though I love to hear from Stevie, being in a list with Tom causes my inner core to fracture. It takes the rest of the day to feel restored. In the night after waking in the dark, sleep would not return. It is time to let Stevie know that including me in his group email causes pain and why.
I have been inclined to keep my thoughts to myself because I don’t want to add pain to Stevie’s life after the loss of his daughter four years ago. Becoming visible is very hard— crossing the taboo line that sexual abuse draws. I dare to cross it, over, and over again. I must. If I don’t stand up for myself, who will? And Stevie is an adult who can handle hearing my preference and why.
I’d like to be left off emails that include Tom. It brings up a lot of bad memories that interfere with sleeping. He is the worst offender of all four due to the way I was treated all the years after he sexually abused me. I was only 9 when he crept up in the night and committed the crime. He was home from college. You were on the other end of the couch as we had been allowed to fall asleep watching the Christmas tree.
The way he treated me since that shattering moment harmed me more than all I have endured and suffered. He caused great damage that could not resolve because he never apologized or took responsibility. Even in middle age sitting at my table right here, he made remarks to you about how dumb I was when buying this house.
I sat as if invisible while he made the usual sly, cutting remarks and no one thought anything about it. It seemed OK to belittle me. And that is what he has done, albeit slyly, since I was a child… snickered cruel remarks that made me look bad.
He is not safe for me. He has never shown sorrow for his crime or actions. To be in a group email that includes him causes deep pain as if I still don’t exist because all I went through is not being acknowledged.
Thank you Stevie,
photos by patricia
The mornings feel like fall, cool, damp and with a wet echo-like sound from cars in the distance. Contentment found easily dissolves even from little things. A disruptive thought repeatedly bangs in my head as it rests on the pillow awaiting sleep.
Hopping out of bed to rant at Samuel over not enough to do so over seemed the only remedy. Expelling the vomit did help though left us both feeling bruised. Going to bed a bit later, sleep, blessed sleep came. He hadn’t gotten so upset that his sleep was interrupted and that soothed me.
Part of keeping a contented equilibrium is choice yet the PTSD brain can go haywire without my permission. Little things can set it off. Control what can be controlled, let go of the rest…
“Don’t say anything negative,” I quip to Samuel laying down several green tomatoes from the garden. “I’m frying them the healthy way.”
He is quiet with a quizzical expression then walks away. Later he fills up his plate three times munching happily while watching his show.
Contentment enfolds me with warmth and coziness. There are no emergencies, and with my quirky brain an emergency is ever present. There are no relationships that need dire attention though there is always work to do on them. Everything is alright.
That’s not boredom, it is pure contentment. With the camera hanging from my neck the hammock by the butterfly bush beckons. It is so close to the blossoms there ought to be a few good shots. Today’s visitor is yellow.
Contentment is not something familiar after a life of adrenaline pumps several times daily. Cherishing it while also questioning it, the evenness needs reaffirming. It is OK. This is OK, accepting that it is also ever fleeting. Take it for now and basque in it.
You don’t need great ups then downs. Like the cat lying in the triangle of sun sprawled out like a long furry rope, then moving with the sun to the doorway to soak up the sunshiny luxury again, you too can follow the sun and move with it.
Watching the sun rise, then late in the day go down while sipping iced tea with fresh picked mint, the rocker on the porch creaks and I’m settled. Where once there was restless, deep cavernous loneliness, there is now centeredness and contentment.
Something very important inside has connected. When the hide tide with waves takes me to hurricane seas there is a sure way back home, an internal place of peace, contentment and joy. Now to master it even during the storms…