Love of Self

“Spend,” she said. Imagine having a financial adviser after our careful life of spending, and one who says SPEND!

“You have too much cash on hand.” she added, “Statistics say one of you will live to ninety.”

“I’m not connecting the dots.” I said, “If we live that long then we need all the money we can save.”

Legally she is not supposed to let on what we already know. Existing cash can be siphoned into a nursing home if one of us had to go there. So she and our attorney suggested spending some of it, doing things, or giving some to our sons.

Don’t wait and let the state take it, was the inference raised. This goes totally against our life-time of being exceedingly careful about expenditures. I doubt their advice will change our ways.

How did this happen? Spend? Please, I feel guilty adding to my DVD collection, or buying specialty coffee. I reuse plastic baggies until they don’t hold water, and some of them last years.

When Shane was a baby, cloth diapers were hung around the wood stove to dry. Our house had no walls, no real floor, no good water, septic, electric, or a sound roof which needed a complete tear-down. And none of that mattered. I was just glad to out of my mother’s basement, and extraordinarily excited to own our first home, even if it was more like a shell of one.

Most items, from kitchen supplies, to clothes, to toys, were bought at garage sales, even Christmas presents when Shane and Cory were too young to know the difference. And that’s OK. We were, and are, happy.

Our sons know the value of a dollar and how to spend wisely, and do not allow manufacturer’s to take advantage of them. They speak up about poor quality, asking for the manager when necessary.

What is needed, and craved for, can’t be bought— living in the moment without fear. Not fearing death, the future, or now. What I want doesn’t grow on trees like money does, so the old adage says. It isn’t found in stores. It exists in the fields of nature, the mountains of the Adirondacks, in the glens nearby where we camp, in our back yard, and mostly inside myself.

Calm, peace, acceptance, and triumphing over the battle always lost in decades prior, that of loving myself. The childhood attacks inflicted upon me meant a life of self-loathing. But that is changing, if ever so slowly it is.

There lies inside a generous, loving soul with great courage, fortitude and strength. I am learning to love what is found beneath the filth of my brother’s hands, coming up out of 60 years of shame that is not mine and never was.

 

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TRUTH

It’s three in the morning and my fear is that with fall on its way, so is waking in the middle of night without being able to go back to sleep. Summer gave relief from that, though falling asleep was sometimes a problem. My body seems to thrive on more daylight. 

Or maybe it’s just recovery from a tough day. Meeting the eye doctor went well. On the way there, and beforehand, stress tears fell. But then a crack deep inside opened with light. You’re a good person.

The whip of being me was lain down, then strength. Letting go of the insults; being weak, not traveling to Cory’s, being so scared about a simple appointment, all the differentness felt over a life-time that were about to break me became friendly and softened. 

The adult needs to advocate for the terrified child. Dissolving into a teary mess will not get my needs met. That was the internal speech as Samuel drove us to the city. While the assistant tested my vision that’s exactly what happened. When asked to read the very large letters with my left eye I fell apart.

I couldn’t, then turned into a soppy mess. I’ve been holding it in over the last few years as my eyes, especially that one, became more and more blurry often causing unbalance and nausea from not seeing well. 

But then I would remind myself of impoverished countries where older people became blind due to cataracts. They accepted their fate as if it were natural. Volunteer doctors came into their town doing cataract removals, and suddenly the miracle of sight.

The assistant stopped and very gently asked what was wrong. What was it about my history?

Wiping the tears I told her about a traumatic childhood and that someone coming at my body, or changes in my body that I can’t control, terrify me. Handing me a tissue, she also offered water. Kindnesses such as this ease the experience exponentially. 

Once gathering myself, facing the fact of the eye being so bad, we continued the exam. She left as the eye dilated from the drops. The doctor arrived after Samuel and I watched a video about the procedure which was very helpful.

He impressed me, along with the office, super clean, friendly, and conscientious to details. He shook my hand firmly, always a good sign. When discussing my needs he asked for more information.

“I was sexually attacked by 4 out of 7 brothers. I remember everything 3 of them did. The other was so violent I have blocked it out. The PTSD is why I need deeper sedation, enough to be out, not conscious at all. I cannot guarantee keeping still with someone coming at my body,” I said distinctly, without tears, or emotion.

He continued on with professionalism. In rare cases, he is willing to do both eyes at once if general anesthesia is used. The usual practice is to do one at a time. My regular eye doctor assured me two at once is not possible, but this doctor agreed to my request.

So it’s done. The date will be in October once the scheduler calls to set it up. It has taken a very long time to outright discuss my needs, and why. It has been a haltingly slow process. The early family chains to keep it all hidden reached deep.

This force to remain quiet about such deep traumas made for a life of duality; my real life inside me, the other life where all that came out of my mouth were lies. Nothing was real. Trained to be pleasing meant having no needs, no anger, no nothing. Especially no truth.

Learning to be true, to even feel my real needs, and then to express them is incredibly hard, and still new, but I have done it, and keep doing it.

 

BRAVERY

Bravery. It took bravery to decline my son’s offer to visit, and to explain why. It is more usual to put my husband’s, and son’s needs or wants before my own. It is unusual to pay respect to my own. It brings me great pleasure and satisfaction for my family to be happy.

Cory really wanted me to come see his new home, which is why I said yes, while my insides were screaming NO! And to decline only a week prior seems very discourteous. He has been aware of my extreme ambivalence.

Last week I gave another firm yes. But I also mentioned at the tail end of my ‘yes’ about tomorrow’s appointment meeting the new eye surgeon, and the trepidation that involves.  

There are limits to what I can do. Facing the upcoming eye surgeries is taking a great deal of courage, even if the actual procedures are a month or more away. Every day a thrumming undercurrent of terror vibrates in my belly. Someone cutting on my eye? Strangers at my body? 

To drive 6 hours on busy freeways to visit Cory, then stay away from home for several nights, would cause a huge disturbance in my well-being. No matter that it is with loved ones. Being away, dealing with traffic, and an unfamiliar environment, will cause dire stress inside me. Yes, I can do it, but at what cost? Too much right now.

That decision plunges me into the abyss of sadness for having these limitations. But no, I choose not to go there either. I am so lucky to have all I have. To have a loving husband, and two amazing sons who are happy in their lives, and are thriving. This lovely home, and the meadow which brings so much peace. No, I won’t go into sadness. Why should I?

But, just as everything else in my life seems as if in opposition, if a day brings tears mourning once again for what was lost during childhood, that is OK too. Feeling what I feel is a better road than denial. Acceptance is necessary for the feelings to flow through. Much was lost, or taken. Grieving isn’t over in a day, and may take years to mourn. Making a decision not to feel something might not work.

Yet gratitude fills me, and that is my focus. Much of my life has been scorched with anxiety buzzing through my veins like acid. That has changed dramatically over the last ten years… after my mother died, when the freedom for authenticity blossomed. When there was no longer a need to pretend for her happiness that we were a ‘happy family.’

The hate for myself is evolving into self-love and respect. The shame once making me wanting to die daily, dissolved when writing the book; black-tarry snakes wired inside my gut slithering up and out each week, scraping the tender internal issue on its way out. Every nasty evil thing my little child body endured was released with the telling.

Also popping up and out like carbonated, sparkling bubbles were joyful times. Those too had been imprisoned inside with the traumas. Suppression took it all. Healing began to be more than just a word.

The shame is not mine.

I admire the woman I’ve become, the endurance, strength, persistence, and courage it has taken to get here. I look at my husband and begin to feel sorry for him, that he has a wife who keeps him from doing what he wants, who won’t fly, take big trips, blah, blah, blah. Really? What about all the positives? Fortitude, compassion, creativity, devotion to family, ;;; 

I will continue to work at honoring the things about myself others have seen but I’ve been blind to, and to honor my real needs.

I will love who I am, and all I have…

 

Long Term Effects of Unprocessed PTSD

10 pm, sleep should have taken me. But inside things were rolling and the knowledge that it wouldn’t come was irrevocable. By 2 AM, after a double sleep dose, my body was out till 9 AM. But with waking came tears and lots of them. Why oh why? (do I have to be me)

Samuel had to hear it all, and for once acted kindly. To a point.

“I can’t manage going to Cory’s with eye thing coming up,” I cried.

“You can do it,” he said referring to the 6 hour drive to Cory’s, adding, “I’ll go.”

“Go ahead”, I blurted, thinking that idea sounded lovely but also knowing he was full of shit.

Adding again, “No I can’t. Not with the eye surgeries ahead in the coming weeks. You don’t know how much courage it takes just to go to the appointment this week to meet him,” I retorted.

Then actually doing it. Tears began pouring out that have been held in day after day when thinking about someone cutting on my eye, and all the other strangers getting near my body.

“You can do it. Sleep in the back seat,” he said in a droning monotone.

“You’re being callous,” I said, “You don’t know me.”

“You can do it,” he repeated.

“You don’t know me,” my sadness and frustration at being me, and being with someone who will never understand my challenges, took me further into feelings of despair.

The phone rang. Relief from my fall into self-pity.

It seems to be occurring that once a week medication is required to keep my being calm. My thoughts, or just everyday living, rattles my already over-worked and over-tired systems to a point where help is needed.

Perhaps someday I will accept this without blaming myself. Exercise, eat right, meditate, all of that isn’t enough to cure a body that lived with the ravages of imprisoned trauma trapped in her being. All what I try to do is helpful, but the damage done from the early years is real, and permanent. Management not cure is the reality.

The only cure would be for it all to have never happened.

 

SAFE LOVE

Two friends of late, on separate occasions, said, “I love you.”

Stymied, the best I could offer was, “I have a hard time expressing my feelings, but I’m feeling it!”

I am loved. Why can’t I feel it? I can feel it with my animals, the present one, my cat. I can feel it with my grand-children, and my sons when they were children.

Grown? I know the love is there, very deep love, but. well, they are adults with lives of their own, boundaries, and the ability to deal with me on a different level, one I must find threatening at times.

So that love though there, doesn’t flow as freely as with grand-children. Even there things change as the child grows, and that must also feel more threatening.

It is only with my cat where love flows freely— always. (except when her meowing starts up without end)

A therapist once implied I was incapable of love. He wasn’t such an oaf that he came out and said it, just rearranged a saying replacing the word love with compassion.

Or maybe it was my negative over-thinking mind which decided he meant that. I should have asked him. I’ve been trying to prove him wrong ever since, but whether he implied it or not, I don’t believe love flows easily for me. .

I can love my cat. I can love on-line. I can love from afar. But even on a phone call when a friend says she loves me, I freeze and am caught off guard.

It is understandable considering a past where family members took almost all I had except one tiny kernel of hope kept alive by the army of guards around it. Adding to it is that the girl attacked, attacked herself, and grew into a woman who is still learning to love herself. That lonely ‘bad’ little girl inside needs so much love yet is abandoned over and over again. 

It is in coming ‘home’ to my core, really going deeply, accepting what is there. Not running away, but running to. It is wrapping my arms around what is there, like my child running to me enfolding her with love. It is there that love blooms and grows. 

Hello Soul

Each morning after rising a few hours before Samuel, the time is so precious, yet the tendency is to run. Falling asleep when the birds do, and if all goes well, waking with them, mornings are rich with wonder. On a glorious morning when this occurs there is still a tendency to run.

Instead of sipping the dark, rick, brew, savoring the entire cup as the rosy glow of dawn begins to appear, the urge is to go open the computer, do something, anything. 

Stay. It’s OK to be in my body and feel what is there, often a scary experience. Ignorance is bliss really doesn’t work when it comes to getting to know oneself.

Stay, feel, go to the core. Each sip brings me closer to opening like the new day, my insides relaxing feeling calm. Noises feel comforting, bird melodies as each one arises, the train whistle in the distance, then the first hummingbird at the feeder with wings buzzing like an overgrown bee.

Rock the broken places gently like a baby, my brain one of them. In the night my poor brain fixates on negatives, and all things in the night become catastrophes. That makes the morning a time to heal from the nightly disasters.

Trust is felt for maybe the very time, not for others, but for self. But it is necessary to go into my body/ to my core/ to connect with my soul. There the answers are found, and you can trust them. The soul will be my guide if I have the courage to go there.

 

Home Sweet Home

Cory’s photos

“Would you rather come home instead of meeting at the lake house?” I asked Cory.

“Oh no, we have to have a lake,” Cory said.

And that was that. My cloak was to make it sound as if it might be a better choice for him. But I fear the real ploy was because I don’t do well in traffic or staying elsewhere.

But we made the best of it, enjoying our two year grand-daughter and son for three nights, four days. Long kayak rides, long talks, and constant playtime made it all worthwhile. During the visit his wife was at home directing the movers into their new home. Oh young people. My younger years were more energetic and adventurous too.

Now? Home is where my soul rests free. Home is where the adventures take place into my own self, connected to the world yet safely ensconced where all things are familiar. 

The call of certain birds living here, not there, so comforting. An early morning walk in the meadow with dewy grape leaves sparkled with jewels at every tip. Mist rising over the creek as the sun’s warmth begins to lift them away. 

A body jarred throughout life with adrenaline rushing through the veins becomes depleted. Taking care of my needs looks different from others. My illness isn’t seen except in the tears making rivers down my face expressing the stress of living.

Yet Cory’s challenges with the move, coming home to boxes up to his ears, and their commute today, three times as long as before, outweigh my challenges ten to one. Or so it seems.

In another place my body shuts down, all of it to some degree, the five senses, even internal organs. Nothing works as it is meant to because the warning bells have clanged. When danger is sensed all energy goes into survival.

My medication should be used more not less. But I laid awake hoping for sleep. When it doesn’t (of course) then I take it, waiting another hour in the dead silent darkness till sleep comes.

When away from home, why not take it an hour before sleep like I did in the forest when camping? Because my denial system keeps hoping for something that will never come, to become a person other than myself. One that hasn’t been traumatized, then living with it unprocessed. That has fractured my being in many unseen ways

The need now is constant loving care. I’m working on that, both the care and the love. Throw acceptance in the mix too.  

When apologizing for asking about how to meet my needs when we visit his new home in a month, Cory says offhandedly, “Any illness needs care and planning, just as much as someone in a wheelchair.” 

My son possesses unusual depth. Though I’m not one to use labels, sometimes it is just easier; PTSD, Anxiety NOS, Depression. The depression isn’t debilitating at the moment. There have been bouts that needed a support person, and may need one again in the future. But for now I limp along doing OK on my own. 

Accepting what is… Many tears come from not wanting it to be so. But Cory understood. And Samuel, as much as he is capable.

Home. Home Sweet Home. In spite of the challenges, I wouldn’t trade a moment of the very special, sweet memories. One of the best parts of going away is coming home.