Courage, Persistence, Fortitude

At eight years old, already victim to my eldest brother creeping up in the night sticking his tongue into my vagina while sleeping, Tom continued his onslaught via diabolically sly methods even while everyone was around.

No one noticed, cared or defended me, or if they did must have considered it normal. His attitude, sneering remarks, and ostracizing efforts persisted throughout the years. Praise was lauded on him due his accolades of becoming a lawyer like our father, then becoming partner in a law firm.

I tripped along barely making it, failing three classes in 10th grade needing summer school to keep up with classmates. The relentless barrage of innuendos cut deeper than all the other sexual attacks by three other brothers during childhood, and caused the most damage to already flagging self-esteem issues. 

His quest for vengeance tore into my psyche like shredding paper. You could blow through me as if I were tattered cloth. The ongoing subtle destruction affected all facets of my being with the added vileness of his enjoyment while doing it.

In college I finally dropped out at the end of the second year, one paper short in one class, unable to earn an Associate’s degree. It wasn’t until 20 years later, with Raymond’s help and belief in me that I was able to return and succeed. The 40’s in high-school chemistry were now A’s, and the striving to finally finish that degree was achieved. 

Believing in someone is how they succeed. The intelligence possessed went unused because it couldn’t be accessed over the pain. Even the right to live was questioned due to feeling less than others. 

As a child no one helped to process the traumas occurring. When that happens a person deals with the ramifications for life. Trauma is internalized and does permanent damage; PTSD symptoms, depression, eating dysfunction, trust issues, and so much more.

It has taken a lifetime to get those dirty hands off me, to feel free of it, and to live in peace. It took persistence, energy, money, and a great amount of fortitude to overcome what could be worked through.  The rest is faced daily with as much aplomb as possible. 

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I Can Tell-I Can Heal

Acceptance of symptoms from the traumas in childhood that remain have to be re-accepted over and over again; a body on hyper-vigilance which includes an exaggerated startle response, sleep disturbances, habitual negative thinking causing low level depression, disordered eating patterns stemming from age 8 as a survival mechanism, dissociation from the body- another survival tool, panic in small windowless places which includes elevators and airplanes, fear of people- knowing too well what they are capable of, and on it goes.

Patience and acceptance are not inherent qualities, they take effort and persistence. Persistence is part of my make-up. But no amount of it will take away the daily challenges. The work is ongoing. .

Out of the trauma grew a women whose voice is heard only if you listen carefully. A voice silenced in childhood, hushed by a mother embarrassed, and a family embarrassed, the voice goes mute. It is only in writing that my voice is heard, and more importantly expressed even if no one is listening.

Writing my book has separated me permanently from the few from the origin family that felt safe to interact with.  Their embarrassment on the subject of my childhood trauma translates into my being an embarrassment, which means exclusion no matter how hard each one paints it other colors. To go back I would do it all over again because it erupted from a soul clawing for life. In the telling true healing began. As each horror rose up my being lightened.  

It came out of me dissipating into the universe. The filth, the scummy things done that had been carried like boulders and grew as I grew. With it grew shame. The silence imposed on a child stifles every aspect of her being. The time came to release the monsters, serpents and vipers locked inside. 

Yet our society does not want to hear of it. No unpleasant details because it is too sordid to acknowledge. That means I am too. 

My book was not written to force others to listen. It was written to take out the tarry hands that held me. And it would help that one woman who wanted to confront her own past yet couldn’t because she felt so alone.

That is how it began for me. I needed to confront my past in order to live fully for the first time, but felt so alone and frightened. In the brave words of women who wrote about every detail, the courage surfaced to face the things done to me; to look at it, hurt over it, and grieve the many losses. 

The healing journey began in a tiny women’s bookstore in the city. Two books purchased had collections of poems and stories by those sexually abused as children daring to speak out with raw honesty. And why not? An accident victim gets to, and so should a child, or a child grown into a woman. I was not alone. 

My book is not about sales or fame. It is for my release, freedom, and healing— healing that is more than a word. It is for women like me who need a place to start. A place where they can feel comradery, and that they are not alone. I can do this. I can break the taboo that imprisons. I can tell. I can begin to stand up and have a life.

 

 

Learning to Love

The world is all black or sunny bright. What about that which is in-between, which is much like life, riding the waves to find balance. Fretting about my solitary life, yet knowing how sustaining it is, brings worries of not growing, and becoming a weirdo who can’t inter-relate with others.

Yet during yesterday’s women friends group, I felt the growth that has occurred in solitude—my walks, in my studio, and while meditating. In opening doors inside myself, and beginning to appreciate and like what’s there, the possibility of feeling the same to others opens equally.

With the ability to appreciate my own strengths and talents, my appreciation expands to others and is felt internally instead of just a thought in my mind. That is another component of growth, allowing feelings for another. In my world that is usually too much of a risk except with my cat. When so much was taken the spark that is left needs a great amount of protection.

My continual pattern is to limp along pretending my challenges are not there. Falling short compounds feelings of failure. This desire to be like others who forge ahead like Energizer Bunnies trips me up. But finally a time and place has come where my needs are honored and respected. It is a constant effort to remind myself that slowing down, resting, and doing things at my pace is OK. You’re OK, it’s OK,  my mantra.    

My challenges are real, and are faced each new day. When accepting things as they are, so too do I accept and love myself. Or least begin to learn to love, a warm feeling like a cozy bath. Something searched for but until now, not forthcoming. It was all there inside just waiting.

My belief is that the harsh critic became a part of my personality and will always be there, often unconsciously. So the work continues to help offset it.

FREEDOM

photo by Patricia

The air is cool, fall is coming and with it shorter days. The cat sits close while sipping coffee as each bird wakes singing its distinctive trill. Shaking off the reverie, the computer needs my attention. Blocked senders are removed. My huff at exemption has passed.

My life moves on as before with fullness, wholeness, and an interest in making each day joyful. The studio beckons as my soul awakens flowing up onto this new piece. The brilliance of its wings filled with jewels is set free, just as I am.

Take Back My Power

It is a questionable move but for someone trained by her mother to be ‘nice,’ the action is bold adding a level of safety so necessary. Waking up, sipping coffee and opening emails, the feeling of safety registered throughout me. There will be no more emails from those that are part of the conspiracy of silence.

This was tried once before several years back, yet the tendency was to look in junk mail for what was missed, then finally un-blocking the senders…all ‘family.’ It couldn’t be done. The need was too great.

But now? Now peace is needed. Reminders of exclusion only bring pain. The grief of loss is palpable. Four remaining siblings are blocked and two wives. And a little button in the junk options permanently deletes it. There will be no going back in to peek at what was missed. Safety. 

Peace and safety disappeared with just a phone call or a flip of the screen. Taken. The joy of the present moment, simple pleasures like rubbing my bare feet on the cement while basking in the morning sun, stolen— in its place? A void.  And anger at myself for being a dullard who needs what she can’t have, and may never have.

Yet it had been found within myself. Home. And new feelings of self-love only just burgeoning… softly, gently and shyly. Taken by those who gang together as if against me. I can be in this group if I go back to being who I was; submissive, pliable, meek, ‘nice’, phony, invisible, voiceless, unassertive, idolizing, less than…

So now not one of them can email me stealing my peace. No one emails or calls anyway, only rarely or when someone dies. But the vulnerability of feeling like a victim to it is replaced with feelings of choice and power. 

“If anyone who is so called ‘family’ calls, and you answer it, you are on your own. I don’t care if someone died. They can leave a message,” I said to Samuel abruptly.

He looks up curiously and says nothing. It is all I have said about what has been brewing. It is not comforting to tell many things to Samuel. He is not a talker, nor likes to share with depth, and tends to take an opposing view as if by habit.

Yet the feeling of peace is restored along with a surge of power, being back into the present moment and in my body, and sleep, blessed sleep. 

 

The Tribe

The fallacy is saying there’s no pain in feeling excluded. The reality of being cast from one’s tribe hurts so deep the door to that room stays closed. To peek in hoping light shines from the crack, finding only darkness, the door must be gently closed again.

It is not locked as the hope remains someone might grow to the depth of holding me. The longing ignites more often than wanted. It disrupts the whole soul, interfering with all aspects of a peaceful life; the wanting, craving, and needing.

One does not want to feel cast out of their own tribe. It is an eternal yearning since the dawn of humankind.  

SOULWORK

3:30 AM? Fuck, turning over knowing sleep would not return after my trip to the bathroom. Negative thoughts take me hostage. Try. Meditate. Nope.

It is early morning news and a groggy day ahead.

After my chat with my younger sibling, whose guilt drove him to invite me two weeks prior to Labor Day Weekend after my inquiry about renting a place, an email from another sibling arrives. Coincidence? Or more guilt that the three were gathering without me.

These thoughts take over. When sleep won’t come in the middle of the night, often something needs attending to. Something needs to be done different than how it’s been done for most of my life. Something needs to be done that aligns with healthy growth for my soul, not pleasing others… not to tend to other’s feelings or my perception of other’s feelings.

Never wanting others to feel how I feel.

But where do my needs come in?

The second sibling’s email is put away because it’s curious and out of place. That night sleep comes for 9 hours. Then the email is answered in a friendly newsy way, which includes a sister-in-law and the third sibling who were copied in. And no sleep will return when waking. 

You could have just let the email sit in the trash where you put it. It is OK. But cordiality drove me. The hope and chance to finally feel included, knowing full well that may never happen. It doesn’t stop me from trying.

Pathetic and sad are the hopes for something that may never come. What is it that drives me inside with a craving unfulfilled? What is it that’s wanted from any one of them not yet forthcoming?

Something sits in the cracks of cordiality stifling any real contact, and my fear is it always will. Call it my stubbornness, call it pride, or a calling from the soul to survive.

That is how families operate after sexual abuse occurs by one of their own, whether two minutes after or fifty years later. They never talk about it. Nothing worth talking about is ever talked about. No one really knows another, not how they feel or what they think; not directly, only innuendos and odd behaviors, with no keys to unlock the mysteries. 

Outcast then at the age of eight, a dinghy cut loose from the mother ship, alone. Though it seems others were there all along called ‘family,’ really, my journey has been all on my own.