V-Day

PHOTO BY PATRICIA

There’s not enough pot oil in the world to stop my mind from racing with the coming of spring and more light. Just grin and bear it. Breathe. Be strong. And be kind, the biggest hurdle, only feeling kindness is deserved if all the daily boxes are checked; did you meditate, walk, keep the house nice, do something productive, or lots of productive things?

What if rest is needed? Kindness is needed most when things are so hard these other activities aren’t completed. That is the when a soft place to fall inside myself is so yearned for. Often looked to from others, but it is internally where that sweetness must be cultivated.

Brutal is the word that most describes the habitual self-talk. Noticing the harsh language is step one, half the battle. And often it is so habitual it is not noticed, or at least feels satisfying. Satisfying to beat myself up?

Like, someone has to do it. Someone must pay for the crimes sustained at age 8— abused, terrorized, and alone. No one came to rescue, help, offer love, or protect. The message of not being worthy grew each year, and is the hardest to overcome.

On this day may we all remember that love is where the softness is, especially and firstly, love for oneself, even if the chores were not done. Even if eating that piece of cake, even if sitting all day licking wounds that have yet not healed. V-Day, victory over obtrusive, negative, and harmful thoughts….

FOREVER BETRAYED

Tears couldn’t be stopped. All over a ten dollar purchase on Amazon. That’s all it takes sometimes, a manipulation, a break in trust, doing something different than what’s promised, and it all falls down. Suddenly before you is an 8 year old child.

Head in hands weeping, “It feels like when Chet threw the gum down the hall,” I said to Samuel, adding, “I don’t trust anyone, no one. Everything was taken.”

And the wound bleeds every time someone picks at the scab by lying even if it was an honest mistake. If you don’t do what you say, if you take my money for one thing then do something else with it leaving me without what was promised… whether it’s ten dollars or ten thousand, the feeling is the same.

Betrayed. Betrayal shattering me into a million pieces as a child and throughout life as each incidence of dishonesty forces the original trauma to the forefront.

Samuel says, “Of course. I can see how it reminds you of the past. No one likes being scammed.”

And he may finally understand. When my rage at him ended, which really was almost always rage at the abusers, a new beginning began. A relationship more peaceful, tolerant, and knowledgeable of each other’s pain. It has taken a life-time to get here.

Instead of the journey being somber as it always has been in order to survive, it can be joyful and more peaceful. The tsunami of betrayal hits without warning disturbing sleep causing the need for a sleep aid. The day after feels wasted and unproductive because recovery requires stillness. A wasted day? Illness needs care, quiet, and rest.

Chronic PTSD remains because at the time of the original traumas no help was provided for processing it. Accepting that these days happen and allowing for recovery by supplying the love and care I would devote to another isn’t a waste of time, it is courage. Roaring waves roll in uninvited engulfing me by surprise every time. Wanting control but having none. Waves threatening to drown, yet there lies hope.

In the hurting lay the bastion once protective but now interfering with healing, the inability to trust. The most important person to trust is myself, from there it will flow. A new day, a new start, a jockeying of parts settling back to where they belong.  

PRECIOUS MOMENTS

The upside to enormous pain and struggle is the appreciation of what others call norm and are used to. Being whole, feeling whole, moving as one person, not a shattered mess of a being buzzing with anxiety.

That is the miracle, a feeling of wholeness standing at the counter, in my body, complete. The moments are fleeting, after all it’s been 60 years of fracture, so the glue hasn’t set yet.

But with work, years of therapy, energy to heal, then energy when there wasn’t any energy and pressing on anyway, some success has yielded.

FAMILY

Almost 7 PM, and the tablet dung once, no loud beeping because the volume is down later in the day while playing games. Checking to see what the ding was finding it to be another attempt at a group video chat set up by Stevie with Don and Seth.

Closing the tablet quickly immediately relieved not to have heard the usual chirping which normally signals a happy video chat with our grand-daughter. No way could joining work. Stevie’s first attempt a few days ago jinxed sleep that night requiring a sleep aid. It set off internal alarm bells that no amount of self-talk calmed…danger, danger, danger.

There is yearning for family coupled with the inability to feel part of it even when invited. Musings as to why this sets off internal alarms are cloudy, but the soul’s need for safety won out even if my brain can’t reason why. Some clarity came. When others stand by silently while another hurts you, they are as culpable as the villain doing the damage.

All stood silently by while Tom degraded me in any way he felt like it, whenever he wanted throughout my life. Even in my fifties while everyone gathered at my table in an attempt to let bygones be gone, eating my food and drinking my coffee, slurs against me were made. Tom, looking up from his nose stuck in the paper, castigated my ineptness at buying this house with a realtor who was cutting corners in illegal ways.

Sneering, Tom commented on my stupidity snidely to Stevie openly in front of everyone, as if I were not there. Once again degrading me, and as usual, no one said a thing to support me. Stevie had stepped in to take over the mess and coordinate another realtor with the company to handle the rest of the sale.

Tom’s continual efforts to devalue me seemed to be a fun pastime for him. He is unashamed to exhibit his contempt. Instead of feeling badly for what he did to me as a child, he choose to cut me down. He’s an expert at it. Hacking at my character through the years broke me as much or more than than anything else.

There is nothing wrong with not knowing the intricacies of buying and selling a home since we did it only once forty years ago. Feelings of badness, wrongness, and being cast out, the feelings Tom continually injected into my days since the age of 8, were coupled this time with simmering rage. This would be the last effort at reconciliation.

This wasteland has been my life since Tom sexually abused me as a child until cutting off contact. The snide remarks, the sneering, the dirtiness of him spreading malevolence everywhere, in every family member who never spoke up yet continued their loyalty to him. It parallels the maliciousness in politics today, the two characters of Tom and the Donald so similar in vileness.

It’s not OK. I don’t need the rest of you now. Being in a group setting is toxic for me. One on one, OK. And loving from afar, because there is still love for all three, and great love stems from below when I feel safe to feel it, from afar, not in person or facetime. They feel as dangerous to me as the abusers.

So yearning continues for what won’t be. Instead I gather my friends who always feel safe and support me in ways family never could. Walking the meadow some grape vines are picked up from the pile Samuel left after trimming them.

While enjoying the outdoors even though drab, muddy, and bitterly cold, light brightens my footsteps while thinking of friends, twisting the grape vines into a wreath with each lap. Going out again later, another wreath was made as if walking with each friend holding her hand. The nicely made circle was held tightly after being formed imagining my friend right next to me as we laughed, shared, and enjoyed each other’s company.

A wreath, the circle of friendship, made for all four to be delivered with their craft kits for Sunday’s video chat, our monthly tradition for over 15 years. Safe family in friendship.   

Growing Love

When adequate sleep is gifted, my tendency is to push, push, push. When not able to sleep, and having to take a sleep aid, the next day is busted and blah. Gifts lately include sleep. Pushing needs to soften as it is up to me to keep things at a pace where parts remain united; body, mind, spirit/soul.

When feeling happily energetic, walking increases from five to ten laps, then other activities are accomplished throughout the day. Sometimes it works out, other times it is too much. Pieces divide going further and further away from being in my body. That causes great restlessness at bedtime.

A day to walk once to the creek, countering the yammering in my head that says do more. Just sitting by the water listening to nothingness quiets me. Staying in the unusually warm sun at length comforted, then a slow meandering up the rise to home.

My body easily goes into the hyper zone. On days when separation begins, (not being able to smell the luscious aromas from the wax candle melts, or the pine stick on the Christmas tree and other such scents than go to my core) it is necessary to slow down. After the slow walk meant for pleasure not exercise, the scents are gratefully noted once again, the parts as one. Oh how easily my fractured self can break apart.

Walking energetically causes my heart to pound, usually a healthy thing for a heart, but when the split has begun occurring, heart pounding indicates danger to a body overactivated by the fight or flight response on a daily basis since age 8. It is time for rest.

Yes you can concede gentleness when needed. Yes, you have a chronic disease, PTSD. Though once rejecting labels, I try to accept the reality of it. Wishing not to be me does not work, though that path is sometimes still walked along when things get harder.

Anxiety, PTSD— labels once despised not wanting to be defined by them. But there they are heightened by the quietness of life now, not parenting, working at a job, or other things taking me away from home both literally and figuratively. Now I take in the facts of my true self. There is no place to run.

That yes, brothers chose to attack rather than to love me. That yes, that is my past and no amount of running will change it. Rather than run, a life-long survival pattern, I gather up lost parts like a loving bouquet. In the process of learning to love all my parts there is clarity of just what has been accomplished along the way. Admiration of many parts of myself occurs rather than hating them.

PTSD and anxiety issues continue to be challenging no matter how much work is done to rid myself of them. Damage from early trauma can be managed but seems here to stay no matter how much will, determination, or effort is put forth. Acceptance, kindness, gentleness, and full on love work their magic from my deepest recesses, a tender sprout blooming.

Frosty Comes Alive, Can I?

Sometimes walks in the meadow are invigorating bringing my spirit to the present noticing every bird, the sway of dried meadow grasses, and other sensations felt fully. Other times my head is down while uttering sentences aloud telling Samuel off after an argument, totally removed from the present and its gifts.

In my body, or disconnected just trying to get the activity done living in the past or future? The magic of being in my body occurs more often. That may sound odd to many, but to those accustomed to leaving their child’s body while being attacked sexually (even if gently manipulated as most of it is, it is still an attack) this becomes a way of life.

My body moves like a piece of machinery as if mowing the lawn and my body is the lawnmower. The spirit and mind are elsewhere safe from whatever the body suffers. Yet that has consequences because the ills of the body go unchecked until the problem escalates.

Something simple like flossing, or something more serious like long term blood loss have occurred in my life along with countless other disconnections. My dental hygienist said to floss better. My mind took in the information telling my hands to floss better. That equated to robotic flossing with great vigor, hard and swift, to get the job done, but not feeling it.

The next time she saw me her voice registered surprise, “There are tiny cuts in-between all your teeth!”, she exclaimed.

Realizing the damage inflicted by my energetic but improper flossing was a light bulb moment. A new path was surely needed- but how? After a life-time of disconnect is consolidation possible?

The blood loss was far more deadly, bleeding internally for months, knowing something was terribly wrong, but not connecting the dots, at least not out loud. Knowing it had to do with the gastric stapling long ago, but never voicing it to the doctors seen during the excruciating long period of stomach pain.

Why didn’t I speak of the reasons aloud? I knew why, complications from that operation 35 years ago. I knew it to my core but said nothing of it. That wisdom resided within, but the silence imposed upon me since childhood gagged any advocacy for myself entombing my spirit ever since…. even during critical times that threaten life.

It took a 4 day stay in the hospital where blood loss had become critical. Over many months my stomach bled where the surgeon had made an opening into the intestine. It eroded over time. The loss of blood had become so severe I couldn’t stand or sit up.

After discharge a surgeon specializing in gastric stapling knew exactly what had happened. The cure for my problems back in ’85 that my mother desired for me was stomach stapling, something a friend of hers had. If it made me thin I’d be normal. But the surgery was very new, untested, and not yet refined. This new specialist has seen many like me who suffer complications years later.

He could do another surgery to attempt a fix with no guarantee’s, or I could take a daily high potent antacid for the rest of my life. I take the pill each morning.

This butchering of my body has caused many stomach issues, but internal bleeding is very scary… far worse than all the rest suffered due to a very poor decision long ago. My organs were sadly cut up and rearranged in the hopes of becoming normal. (thin=normal) It didn’t work. My wounds were elsewhere, though that surgery surely created new ones.

LOVE

Photo by Patricia

My digestive system upsets easily, way more easily than Samuel’s. The pie oil had to be rancid to cause so much reaction to it. Samuel’s system was bothered by it too. His bubbly tummy went away by lunchtime. I lay prone most of the day using a heating pad, eating only toast and applesauce to give it a rest.

So a new day. Though news breaks are still a good option, watching once again a switch inside was turned off so that my being was not open to everyone else’s pain. So I am aware of what is going on yet not crippled by it.

Holidays bring up a sort of nostalgia, thinking of my mother more than usual who died 11 years ago. My mother; I couldn’t have made it without her, and I made it in spite of her. Prostrate with grief over her grave, it was oddly only after her death that growth and healing came.

Growth of a wide scale, and healing that came only from expunging the wound telling all she never wanted me to in my memoir. But Mom, in your need to keep things quiet you almost killed your daughter by gagging me. The attackers didn’t have a way to say they were sorry because it was never talked about. As if nothing happened. As if I didn’t exist. As if each of them didn’t have to live with boulders of guilt upon their shoulders too.

It seemed like you were protecting them, but you protected yourself from truths you could not bear. No one protected me. Not you or other brothers who knew and did nothing except escape that house whenever they could.

Yet your love was all I had because I had not learned to love myself. And how could I when the truth of who I was had to be silenced? So with whatever life is left, I am learning what was never taught, how to love myself and be proud of who I am.

Be ME

Oddly, this past summer was perhaps the best summer of my life, even while the pandemic raged on. Maybe its coincidence, or maybe it’s knowing that most folks feel as restricted as much of my life was. That comforted in that now there was a link between me and other people.

Though unsure what the reason, it just might be that over the decades I’ve worked my ass off trying to heal and recover what’s mine. It’s not possible to gain back all that was lost. The little girl I was is no longer, and that happened early on.

But it is possible to feel happy, be at peace, and welcome joy. But it has taken a lifetime and the courage of a lion, or a pride of them. To go against family? Because that is the tension and kickback that occurs when speaking truths.

When breaking the silence in any way? Because society doesn’t want to know either. But for me it took repeated telling of a story no one wanted to hear. Over and over again the details rang out that as a child were held in. Once the dam burst no one could quiet me, no one ever should have.

Freedom to be just me.

BURDEN

To be sexually attacked as a child by loved ones is a killing burden. Not only suffering such attacks which attacks one’s very core of love, trust, faith, and the belief in humanity, but then the imposed silence.

No one comes running to rescue, comfort, or listen. No medical or psychological intervention which can save a soul. The wounding compounded by the family’s silence and loyalties to the abuser(s). That is the life sentence…the silence.

Learning that the shame is mine. That speaking out about such atrocities is not OK makes speaking up for anything throughout life about impossible, or taking extraordinary will and energy. The burden kills, or can, and too often does.

Living long enough, working hard enough, a well opens where all the past has been screamed out, and all the present lies ahead with feelings of hope, joy, and freedom. Freedom is the hard one, the one needing reminders that I’m not locked down by the origin families rules. I make the rules.

WHOLE

photos by Patricia

Rather morbid thoughts invade my brain, chased away by simple projects that bring childish excitement, even an over-sized card for my grand-daughter’s birthday. Or puzzles that sit on the table most of the summer untouched. Working on one now lowers anxiety that creeps in as the days grow darker and colder settling the ragged places that threaten tranquility.

Some who grow older wish for youth, not me. No way would living my life over be tenable. It was hard enough the first time separated from myself like super-charged electrons buzzing around my body. My soul in shattered pieces making each decision the wrong one, causing more pain not less. How could one make a decision when disconnected from oneself?

And how can one be connected when taught to act and behave in opposition to the truth of their existence? That those I loved sexually attacked me with violence and malevolence. But Mom wouldn’t have it. You are to love your family. Broken, never to be whole again… but I wouldn’t have that either and worked hard life-long to have a life.

To have the zillions of pieces come home and stay is a revelation that most others take for granted. Whole, at peace, and happy, because feeling peaceful is happiness. That is how my life finally evolved after decades of fracture before piecing back together.