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.

 

AUTUMN

photos by Patricia

And so the windows and doors are shut to protect from fall’s first frost. Heat wafts up from the registers gently warming the rooms and my body like a cozy blanket. The unwelcome shuttered feeling needs counteracting.

Samuel brings in the purple grapes giving my hands an afternoon of slipping off skins, cooking the insides then sieving the seeds out, joining the hot mixture back with the skins and other ingredients to make pie filling.

Miniature sunflowers make a spectacular autumnal bouquet, and walks add pleasure to my day. With the crisp air and vibrant sun the pull is to walk more then a long repose by the creek. A baby blue-bird kept me company along with many other varieties, surprising me with activity and songs. So many have already left for the season to warmer climates so it’s usually quiet as a tomb! 

The sister-in-law Ginny, and brother Don came for the morning staying vigilant about social distancing on the patio then a walk to the creek with more relaxation.

They didn’t mind drinking freshly perked coffee from the tray perched on a pretty cotton tablecloth, and enjoying homemade apple hand pies. There used to be a taboo about food sharing at the beginning of the pandemic, but they heard it’s no longer cause for concern. 

The visit was OK, but left me wanting more that probably won’t come. The closeness craved needs loyalty. It felt like being kept at arm’s length, but perhaps that is coming from me. My truth expects loyalty, but you are not loyal (or safe) if you interact with friendliness towards anyone who abused me so horribly.

I am at peace with how things are, proceeding with baby steps, and that’s OK. Being cordial and open is my choice. Surface interaction will have to do on the rare times we meet. My life goes on bringing joy unfounded, joyful for the first time in over 60 years.

That joy comes from being at peace with my past, and the present. And by being in the present, not something a person used to disassociation could do automatically. What has been automatic was spending most of my time in Neverland; a safe place made for me in another dimension still visited sometimes…zoning out.

When meditation became a daily practice over 15 years ago, the process of learning that one can be present and be safe began. That was not something learnt as a child, leaving my body… and taking a life-time to reclaim it. 

Peace has been found, a peace that as a survivor has been an ongoing struggle. It can last for days until a bout of sleeplessness makes for the need of a sleep aid. That injects a tumultuous barrel of self-pity filling the day after with sluggishness. But luckily that too occurs less and less mostly during the change in seasons.

After spending time with so called ‘family’ it becomes harder to close the door and go on as usual because the pull for clan is timeless. Real closeness remains most safe with Samuel, sons, and friends, the chosen family.

PTSD

A day like others, yet when it was time to sleep, sleep won’t come. Maybe it just happens every week or so for no reason other than the zillions of parts of me flying around are more flustered than usual. The usual make up of my parts are more cemented than past years, but still damaged by a life of PTSD.

Could it be that a friend called for a video chat? Why, no, that happens with some regularity without upset. Maybe the efforts launched to stay productive when it has become so much harder with the drop of mood. Could pushing myself that way cause a break between body, mind, and spirit?

Not writing as frequently? Or does it happen just because my body goes off without me sometimes even when using marijuana oil with great success. Instead of getting up to let my prescription do its work, staying in bed until sleep overtakes me worked best.

But that medication makes the next day unproductive. Despite the sunny weather, only one lap was taken. It feels like the worst thing to do is get my heart rate up because it replicates the adrenaline response which has been so easily activated since the age of 8 when the attacks began.

A day of quiet without doing called for repeated messages to self that it is OK to do just that. Much of my days are usually judged by how much was accomplished, but is that really fair? No, sometimes staying quiet and working on kind messages to one’s self are the best medicine despite my yearnings to get moving and get doing.

Sometimes quiet helps recovery. Though there are improvements in my sleep and quality of life including taming wild, negative thoughts, due to the addition of the pot oil, there is still a disease to manage that knocks on my head with an unwelcome ‘hello.’

 

Know Thyself

What was known all along still is interesting to me, that others who have never been met in person are closer to me than my own family. It is my sense that those called ‘family’ not only commit to silence about the traumas I suffered, collude in the silence and protection of those that chose to commit crimes on their little sister, but also find ways to keep distance from me even if chatting in person face to face.

And even those that are close, like friends, Samuel, and sons, don’t know, really know, how wounding the silence is. But on-line with those who have suffered the same silence, collusion, and conspiracy… respite, understanding, and acceptance is found.

Not just acceptance from others, but learning to accept myself. Growing up with the traumas suppressed as is typical in families where sexual abuse occurs by one of their own to one of their own, compassion for myself was and still is too often non-existent.

Non-existent too when around family who brings up a name of an abuser, whether accidentally, or thoughtlessly, or as a way to say to me that you will say whatever you want even if it hurts me. It rams like a punch to the gut causing instant dissociation needing force to choose between leaving now to that place of another dimension or stay in the present. 

It has taken over a week to find my way back to my core where compassion, self-understanding and confidence flows. That is the favored place, not zoned out to that ether place of safety used to shield myself from unwelcome hands as a little girl, then becoming a habit well into later life. 

Sons are not supposed to be one’s personal therapist, but my sons have been, especially Cory. Each grew centered, connections complete without fracture. Wanting that desperately, it drew me close as if they were the adults and I the child. Perhaps their wholeness would drift into me. 

It isn’t supposed to be that way. Yet they both grew whole, something I sought but instead was lost in a life of fog, confusion, and anxiety. Cory has forgiven my needy ways, assuring me it helped make him a more compassionate adult. But he was put in the adult role too often in my need for assistance to stay afloat.

Gratefulness has begun to flow back melting the numbness of a careless remark. Sons so special despite growing up with a fractured mother. On-line friends, and blogging are magical; getting feelings out, sorting through them, which greatly helps to understand myself and the world around me. A way to finally speak what never could be spoken.

 

DANGEROUS PEOPLE

After the socially distant impromptu get-together at Seth’s, the week was difficult. One sister-in-law brought up Tom’s name, and she did so after we’d had friction over her bringing him up to me over a year ago.

It isn’t asking a lot that these people called ‘family’ not discuss him. My attendance is once yearly or less. But she did as if my presence didn’t matter at all. That caused more than a week of feeling pierced in my core away from myself– numb.

Eventually tears came, then came more. Family, real family, would not bring up the name of a person who abused me so horribly then spent the rest of my life making me pay for it with disparaging remarks and put-downs around others. His damaging treatment all the years after his crime caused the greatest harm.

And no one bothers to respect that buddying up with my abuser, acting like nothing ever happened, wounds as much as the original attack.

What at first seemed like a happy gathering for the first time in a long time, caused deep pain. Forgetting how interactions of any kind in the hope for authentic acknowledgment always has painful repercussions. These people called family are dangerous… all of them.

 

HUNGER

Photos by Patricia (bluebird baby)

Having to pretend since age 8 that the horrors suffered weren’t real, it became customary for me to stuff them away. That took a lot of food, food that mother loved to cook then see others eat. Weight gain, up and down since age 8.

Even mangling my inner organs to be normal. That pleased my mother who told me about the magical operation.

She left out the part that meant intense pain for hours, and countless episodes on the bathroom floor hoping to upchuck the extra teaspoon of food swallowed. What was left of my stomach was  a tiny pouch with only enough room for a tablespoon or so of food.

That is a problem for a person accustomed to using food as an escape from the body, and had since age 8 when my mother’s cure for the first terrifying attack was to stuff with me food. And if my mother’s love was at the end of a spoon it was better than nothing.

To be in my body now is a revelation. Not realizing that my entire life has been an escape, the exploration into this brings up empathy unfounded in my own inner workings. Because usually there is harshness, blame, and self-castigation. Compassion has begun to blossom.

To go through all that all alone. To suffer like that all alone, except for a mother on the side-lines always making it worse because she didn’t want a fat daughter. So she put me in fashion shows, and beauty contests, and then as an adult excitedly telling me about this operation which years later put me in the hospital due to internal bleeding where the inexperienced surgeon make his cuts to rearrange my internal organs.

It was never about weight, but about pain suppressed. About a little girl alone whose only resource was eating because you readily pushed food, loved to cook, and loved even more to see it eaten.

Mom, normal is to feel. Normal is to go to your daughter’s aid and keep any son from attacking me again. It doesn’t matter if you’re left a widow with 8 kids, you’re story over and over again whenever trying to tell you how angry I was at you and why.

You could have 20 kids, just stop and do the right thing. No more attacks, and don’t tell your little daughter who is crying hot tears down her cheeks, that if it ever happens again to tell you. Of course I wouldn’t, too ashamed to do so. As if I had the power to stop it by telling you. YOU STOP IT.

So food became an escape from the body as other sons took what they wanted. And I became more and more invisible as my body got larger. And that was 60 years ago but the same methods of not feeling are still being used.

Yet beauty occurs, that of feeling deep down inside with peace not tsunamis. I can go there and be OK, better than OK. Still tentatively trying it out, but more and more comfortable being there. It is a beautiful thing, one others live daily without question. But for a trauma survivor it is a new place to be that brings wholeness, peace, and love for self.

Instead of self-repugnance for a too big body since childhood, there is the beginnings of understanding and compassion. Food is used to numb, to not be in the body. I have not understood just how terrifying my childhood was. That leaving the body became the norm when my body was attacked, not the other way around which is really the norm when living childhood without trauma.

Without intervention or release of the agony inside me, I ate for the next sixty years. Even when the stomach was butchered into a tiny pouch- I ate. I had to, even though it meant long periods wrapped about the toilet on the cold tile floor. There was still interaction with ‘family’ acting like I loved them because that’s what was required. Of course I ate.

It is a new beginning where food is eaten out of hunger, not all the other hungers, but true physical hunger. And that only begins to happen when love and compassion are heard inside of me filling the ragged holes that food once filled. That is not the head or brain… that is the soul hungry for love.

A Walk Among Butterflies

photos by Patricia

The fall in fall is inevitable as dark thoughts begin invading. There’s ways to combat this yearly drop in mood by increasing reassurances to myself. Yet there it is. Pretending it’s not only makes the usual problems worsen.

Escaping the moment by over-doing activity, or busyness doesn’t help. Slow down- be in the body, spirit, and soul, even if being there can be difficult. There are joys amidst the challenges.

Thinking of our governor and the daily challenges he faces with such great success causes me to wonder at my inadequacies. But more helpful talk floats in. For many, including myself, the best work is self-care.

Focusing energy on taking care of oneself is success. If I don’t, who will? Finding ways for pleasure, excitement, and joy are important too, making the more painful parts of daily life tolerable.

Joy is found as the butterfly lights on the bushes, when hummingbirds come to the feeder, or the nodding of Queen’s Ann’s Lace in the meadow breeze. Hopefully these will chase away the feelings of danger and impending doom instilled into me during the childhood tragedies which deepen as winter’s echo calls closer.

 

FEEDING THE SOUL

photo by Patricia

What is needed to make it a day that satisfies? Exercise, meditation, and feeding the soul nurturing messages. Not an easy feat for a person used to feeling that the joys of life do not apply to me. But over time progress is made.

Activity improved to the point where chances were taken that should not have been taken. Yet again trying to be like others, but these others aren’t living with the effects of early trauma. Going without treatment, having to keep all of it inside my little being caused lasting damage.

Learning to accept limitations is ongoing work along with sending messages that encourage instead of destroy. Habits can evolve over time, not by stopping it cold, but by replacing the old habit with a new improved one.  

Feed the soul with positive messages, messages that are true. You have value. Dive deep and look, you will see, feel, and live it.

Back to Basics

It was a terrible mistake that took days to recover from, both from the loud banging critic inside me as to why do such a thing, and a body that lived life with too many cortisol bursts over and over every day for decades.

Draining, life before the scourge was exhausting. Going out among people threatening. So why, when the threat of life or death is real, go out among others?

Thinking it would be different, that the trails would offer space. That the natural swimming area would be safe. No, that was my first mistake. Others walked by without masks. Kids came onto the little bridge only a few feet wide going right by us with no adult making them wait until we got off.

The sirens inside me took off and only now, days later, has the world felt safe again. All those people at the swimming glen area, where the beauty usually relaxes to my core, this time heightened my already taxed system into extreme alert.

The campground itself lied, that sets my body off too. Lying and manipulation causes great fear and rage even now, though the traumas of youth were 60 years ago. In trying to keep the population down, they weren’t letting campers onto sites until the end of the day. Never in 30 years has that happened. Just be honest.

But no, they lie saying no one had left the sites yet. Since Samuel didn’t want to leave, and my fear of angering him made me stay, he suggested we go look at our site. It was all cleaned and ready. We set up feeling like rebels but all the while my internal cravings were wishing for home.

Most of my retaliation has been against myself. Why can’t my life be like others who seem to breeze through this more easily? My voices need taming. While walking, energy is given to allow more compassion for myself. You didn’t know. Of course it’s hard. People on a good day threaten my safety. You didn’t realize that being so close to others would set you off. 

The next breath- that hateful voice, You should have known.

Meditation, which seemed last on my ‘to do list’ needs center-stage. That brings me back ‘home.’ All the daily work that usually is done needs to be returned to; paying attention to each moment without running from it, going slow at my own pace, just be present. Notice the minute happenings that excite. Yet they become lost in the shuffle of doing, then soaring PTSD symptoms that resist being calmed.

Home is more than a place of safety. It is also a place inside oneself that welcomes with as much safety as the exterior home accepting my being with love, compassion, and open arms… my daily work. 

 

PEACE and GRATITUDE

photos by Patricia-Hollyhocks

Boom, boom, boom, the night skies lit up all around us, though trees blocked most of the sparkling neighborhood fireworks. Giving up sleep at the usual time, I padded out to the front porch to see. Not much could be seen except bits of the exploding colors over the tree tops, but fireflies delighted close-by in the front yard. The moon rose full, golden yet crimson, another jaw dropping sight as it opened huge in full splendor.  

After a while it quieted and so did I. It was an uneventful fourth as far as doing or going, yet still a nice, but HOT day. After the sunbeam walk, sheltering in the house kept me cool. The bread-maker was used for dough to make pigs-in-a blanket for Samuel.

The last patch of lavender was cut, as sweat dripped down, and my back hurt from bending. The bees competed for the last blossoms. Maybe the heat affected my head— I began talking aloud to the bees.

“This is my garden. I planted these, they are mine, you can’t have them,” I said to them buzzing near my shears as they snipped, snipped, snipped.

I am determined even though highly allergic to bee stings. As a child it was necessary to have a series of injections over the course of months to build up resistance. A serious reaction made me swell up with hives and become quite sick after picking grapes, squeezing a wasp in my hand accidentally.

Injections didn’t help much. I still become sick wondering when the next sting might send me to the hospital. But I will have my lavender making three beautiful baskets around the house decorated with purple ribbon adorned with white polka dots. When my senses are paying attention, the scent is luscious and soothing. 

And more walks, one at a time throughout the day, the walk back up to the house causing me to huff with the slight slope and heat. But a wonderful way to enjoy the day and get out of the air conditioned house. One enjoyable lap at a time reaching ten laps by day’s end.

Flip-flops are risky but easier than putting on socks with sneakers or hiking shoes. Though the meadow path is worn down, clover still grows attracting lots of bees. I may regret the risks I take padding through it practically barefoot. Even on this little plot of land there is danger. 

Our days are quiet but pleasurable most of the time, except when PTSD kicks in reminding me of what I can and cannot do, or just to say hello. 

Peace and gratitude reign.