BOUNDARIES

An idyllic day ruffled by selfish requests from two people once considered friends.

“Oh hi Rosalie!” I exclaim, not hearing from her in a while.

“Hi. Could Samuel come over to help Rob with some electric work?” she asks unceremoniously.

“We are being very careful, it will have to be over the phone,” I answer agitated at her lack of concern for our health, for our very lives, all for a dimmer switch. My body became hyper at the knowledge that this person is once again taking advantage me.

“We are wearing masks,” she responds plaintively.

“No, the phone will have to do,” I reply sternly.

While listening to Rob interact with Samuel, I became more and more upset as he pressured Samuel to come do the work for him, not once but at least three times in the next two hours over the phone. Knowing Samuel, fear ratcheted up that he’d cave to the pressure, throwing all our carefulness away for a switch she could easily do without. 

“Wear three masks,” Rob whines like a child.

By that time Samuel had hung up to search the web for the precise dimmer that had Rob stumped. That allowed me to vent my anger at their lack of concern for us. To even ask! Back and forth we went leading to my withdrawal from Samuel for the rest of the day, needing space and time to cool off.

It wasn’t until evening that I could talk to him again, or decided to, because it was a decision. Upon waking this morning my actions left a bad aftertaste. We talked about it on the patio this morning. Being less stressed, and less emotional made the discussion fruitful, and a relief for both of us. We have progressed!

“If you told him right away you wouldn’t go there to work inside her kitchen with them because it made you feel unsafe, he would have stopped pressuring you,” I said.

But Samuel isn’t one for directly relaying feelings, or much of anything like that, not directly. It is indirectly, saying repeatedly that he wouldn’t be much help as the device wasn’t one he was familiar with.

“Well, what if it was one you were familiar with?” I ask him exasperated.

“I still wouldn’t have gone,” he said.

“You should have just said that, then he wouldn’t keep at you for two hours,” I replied.

But Samuel found the device on-line and gave him the information. Though Rob could have done that too, and should have. Don’t take on a job you can’t do then ask my husband to risk for our lives to help with a non-emergent job.

Both Rosalie and Rob are on my shit list. Friends? No, friends do not ask that you risk your life for nothing, or for anything. The asking shot through boundaries. Rosalie always had me pegged for an easy mark. It wasn’t the first time she took what she knew she should not. It was the first time I said NO.

If you have a repair person in your house, you are supposed to be in another room to keep yourself safe. She blithely asked Samuel to come spend an hour or two with her and Rob in her kitchen. Even with masks it would be risky.  

If Samuel had just been clear from the beginning and be done with it. They created a dysfunction wanting another fool to join in. Thankfully he did not.

Freedom and Safety

Waking in the night a breeze of fear passes through me. All the people called ‘family’ were put in the block sender list yesterday to feel safe. But what of the love felt for each of them? The love is from an immature girl, remaining a girl all through my 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, only beginning to mature in the last decade… a slow and painful process. 

And with maturity comes the realization that lies are not OK. Interacting with each of them, always on their terms, is not OK. Pretending is not OK. Being buddies with an abuser, aligning with him against me, is not OK. Pretending he didn’t slink up in the night to abuse me… is not OK.

By not talking about the crimes committed against me make the crimes loom larger. Lying awake in the night remembering. The confused mixture of pleasure and confusion as a little girl, still sleepy laying there at the end of couch with my little brother asleep at the other end.

Tommy’s head between my legs— waking to the soft pleasure but not understanding. The next morning, and all the years after, the brother I loved so much with admiration and trust, turned his hate upon me. I was a reminder of his crime. His fear of exposure compounding the punishment that would defeat me for decades. That leaves me fighting for a life even now. 

On little shoulders that would take even more trauma, some so violent that remembering isn’t safe to this day. My psyche protects me from it still.

I am blocking emails that never come unless someone dies or wants something. No one dares to get close, reality might set in. But what of my reality?

Attachments cause deep pain. My preference is to attach to the land and mother nature who soothes, bringing smiles of joy as the chipmunks play, or a flower blooms .

Attach to my children, and their children. To Samuel, who I’m learning to trust for the very first time in over 40 years of marriage. Trust for a friend whom I’ve finally learned to erect boundaries with, a miraculous feat… trust that will reach out only so far because she will slam me down if I let her. 

That is enough to be challenged with. The origin family carries baggage with heavy requirements I have no energy to meet. (Yet agree to anyway when pressured.) So take away the temptation. 

After trying repeatedly to develop relationships individually with no takers, it became apparent that groups were only what was wanted— herd immunity. My need for safety equates to detaching. Craving freedom that was lost when feeling forced by pressured guilt to do something I did not want to do paralleling my formative years. Freedom and safety come home. 

The Destroyer

Giving up control so easily, has that become a way of life? Well, yes. Giving into a sister-in-law’s guilty pressuring to come to a party, or a myriad of other cave-ins, it happens regularly. Not respecting and paying attention to my own soul whispering’s, neglecting my needs for another, is a way of life since age 8.

Always please or be alone in the dark in the middle of the night. Be kicked out of an abusive family, or stay with it. As a child this doesn’t come in words but in the gut to survive. The family is all a child has, though someone should have come to remove me, or them.

It takes every atom to stand my ground, simple things like saying no, and it is exhausting. The terror of rejection and taunting too keen, because in childhood that’s what Tom did after his night-time attack.

I am the victim, victimized and ganged up ever after. But the subtleness of his emotional attacks after the physical attack were what annihilated me. Any chance of wholeness pick-axed till nothing was left but a shell in a whiff of smoke.

Every time he smirked, a part of me died that could have flourished.

Bestow Love not Hate

photo by Patricia

An unease invades the morning reverie. Perhaps it is the lack of sunshine hiding behind thick clouds on a balmy morning still warm from yesterday’s heat. Perhaps it is a change in me. Day after day of an upset stomach the realization surfaces that my body is telling me something. But what, so disconnected from it that I really don’t know. 

Connect. That doesn’t come naturally, though it must have in my first 8 years before the attacks began. A skinny kid with long blonde hair, happy on a beach before my father died, Then all went tragic and crazy.

Boom, like lightening, weight came on and stayed on for the next fifty years keeping me safe, hiding me, making me someone other than who I was meant to be.

Trust is the most grievous loss, gone forever. What kinds of relationships sustain without trust? None. The daily feat is picking up pieces of shattered me trying to trust enough to get close… husband, son, or friend. 

The timidity to speak up about likes, dislikes, to put forth anything looking like a boundary, gone. Boundaries obliterated when even my body was not my own. When unmarked boundaries are crossed and my mouth stays mute, then grudges, resentments, and hate howl. 

Oh that anger, not allowed either. It takes a lot of food to suppress anger. Over the years anger began to  erupt naturally on rare occasions expressed in the moment, naturally, freeing and normal. Taught to stay quiet this was miraculous even in its rarity. 

And with a quiet muted mouth, my body grew large screaming unhappiness, terror and pain. Nobody listened. It was one more thing to hate about myself.

But what if I listened to its cues? What if love was bestowed not hate? With no map, no direction, no permission, could I do it? Over and over I try, and fail. But what if?

 

BREAKING THE PEACE

Creek side

“What, you took my trees and shoved them in the hedgerow?” storming out, I slammed the door. 

A friend dropped off three tulip trees by the shed where they sat till Samuel could plant them. As usual there was divisiveness about where to put them. He went out to do the chore never asking me where I wanted them. 

In the house doing dishes making dinner, the thought occurred repeatedly that I should go out to stand my ground knowing he would choose awful places. 

“You put them in the hedgerow with no room to grow?” I asked, the unwanted anger bubbling up.

“I can cut back the bushes,” he said.

Then I really exploded, not wanting to, the usual camaraderie a more pleasant choice. Yet my body and some other part took hold. This was from my past. All that was taken from me… not yours to take, the rage burning internally for most of my life.

“I’m changing them,” I retort.

“You can,” he said, unperturbed.

Clearing after the morning rains, it was a sunny crisp afternoon. My upheaval in mood was not the Buddha-like behavior I’d hoped to achieve. But realizing where it came from brought forth compassion, rather than self-loathing for breaking the peace.

Pondering my blow-up which had been unplanned, one thing was different. There was no rage as in decades past. Rage that curdled my insides with hate and vengeance believing the slights and hurt were done intentionally. Being my partner, Samuel has survived many bouts of volcanic blow-up that weren’t really about him.

He is just bull-headed with his own stuff. Yes, he should have asked. Plant them for me if you like, but ask where I want them.

I dug them out and put them in a place where they will stand proud, growing with air, light, and space. Much like what I have needed.

No we didn’t talk the rest of the night. But I wasn’t enraged, just offended. There’s a spark of life left in me after all. Yes, I could have handled it much more gracefully, but I understand why I didn’t –allowing space for my flaws.

Freedom to Become

Sitting in the living room rather than by the fire, looking out to the snow-capped land because the dining room is in disarray due to Samuel’s painting of the walls and ceiling, leaves me a little discombobulated.  

The winds blew in the cold last night, but the sun will come out turning tomorrow back into spring with temperatures in the 50’s.

That is much how it’s been in upstate New York all winter. The changeable nature accelerates shifting daily. Perhaps that is what caused the tossing and turning when the night before I slept like a zombie. But upon waking memories of the dream stayed with me throughout the day.

The sadness of the dream and what has been lived with ruminated within. That Tom got close trying to cuddle and kiss. Brothers don’t do that, though mine did. No wonder closeness even with my husband never came.

I wonder about reincarnation. Returning to life to live it better until you get it right. No thank you. Pretending to have a family that wasn’t one. The harshness of surviving. Consuming blackness that didn’t begin to be exhumed until writing about what my mother never wanted told.

Freedom unraveled internally as each one died, Tom the last to go. A feeling of safety. Learning about authenticity of self, a process growing and evolving each day, each moment. These years have brought joy, peace, and a wholeness not experienced before. Gratitude fill me.  

 

Compassion and Self-Respect

“You did the best you could,” Samuel says in response to my tears over mistakes made at mothering.

“That’s what I heard all my life from my mother!” I retort angrily, “She didn’t do her best, she did nothing,” referring to her leaving me alone with her sons and not protecting me.

I did do the best that I could, and no way do I ever want to go back to those dark years somehow making a home for my boys who have grown up much more capable and stable than I’ll ever be.

But the guilt of mistakes wears me down when it comes to saying no to Shane, not wanting to hurt him, only to help. As years pass the toll of childhood abuse shows up in ways that must be attended to, needing more and more self-care, not less.

My younger body could take the slams of PTSD, hypervigilance, and anxiety buzzing through me like constant electric shocks. But the immune system and nervous system busted like frayed ended cords tangled in a blob. Care is needed to gently roll them out to make a life that works in peace.

No sense is made of having my grand-daughter overnight without problems sleeping, then a few nights later all three with a wicked sleep problem after they leave.

My heart fell at the door when Shane said, “It might be 8:30 or later when we return,” knowing that was too late for a toddler who just turned three.

And too late for my own needs which call for quiet in the evening so that my wild psyche and all bodily systems can calm down from the day’s efforts. It is uncommon to need this, yet a sad reality

But my mouth was silent. I want them to go out, double-date, and have fun. Shane works so hard, and going out together without the kids is a rare thing for them, and so important for a couple.

“Maybe next time I should tell Shane the cut-off time has to be 7:30,” I said to Samuel. Best for me, and best for the little toddler. “Remember, we used to hire a babysitter when we went out nights. Our moms didn’t watch the kids, especially at night.”

“Oh, maybe you just had a bad night,” Samuel replied, not one who usually backs my efforts at self-assertion.

So no help there. And how would I feel knowing someone else was watching them? Not good. I want to do it. It doesn’t happen that often, and these years pass so quickly.

But not sleeping, then needing medication that makes me unproductive and sleepy all the next day was not coincidental or worth it. Linking my guilt with saying no is hard. My guilt ripped into me after my head hit the pillow spinning out of control, beyond my control. I should not have guilt, so many sacrifices were made, along with mistakes.

All my income as a nurse went to Shane’s tuition each month. The pressures and stresses of work took a substantial, and permanent toll on my health. I made sure he had things I never did, or would have been able to handle if offered anyway;  a year in Spain as a student, and returning again with his girlfriend, now wife, after graduating from college, financially supporting the trip as a graduation gift…. and so much more that matters but so easily forgotten, choosing instead to beat myself up. 

How do I care for my own needs, which include spending time with grand-children, and keep my sanity? Like the Nike slogan, JUST DO IT. Even without Samuel’s support, just do it, just say no nicely, but firmly.

Suggest a babysitter that can come to their own house so that the little one is put to bed when he should be, temper and all. But then… what if after saying no, sleep evades me for saying no? It takes very little to upset my equilibrium, sometimes never knowing why, a grievous and permanent brokenness due to the assaults from childhood. 

 

WARRIOR

Feeling sorry for myself for so easily being pulled into the past where fear, powerlessness, and hopelessness swirled like a constant tornado, and because the day called for something lovely baking in the house, cinnamon rolls were made from dough using the bread machine.

The problem with sugary treats is that it rings a bell in my brain saying, MORE. And the day is lost not counting calories, which also means losing self-respect. And that does not make me happy.

So a new day with more resolve about what really matters; renewed dreams, goals, and the excitement of living. Always it was food my mother used to help me fill the holes left ragged by rape and abuse. It is a habit taught to me, but not restraining me. I have free will. It is mine to own.

It is a battle not going away started at age 8 after Danny’s attack, and will forever be there haunting me like drooling, starving, rabid dogs. The abyss of self-love always yawning wide open for filling.

The beastly hole is daunting needing loving comfort, not hate. Filling it with food when the soft words won’t come, because soft words for myself are not my forte’, ends up causing more pain instead of the comfort sought.

Daydreams of cookies, ice cream, cake, or pie dance like sugar plums of happiness in my head. The feelings are temporary turning in on themselves like the savage dogs of need after the numbness of satisfaction wears off.

Left in its wake are the same deprecating sneers Tommy enjoyed making towards me throughout life. He knew no boundaries when it came to putting me down. I seem to have readily taken up where he left off. 

It will stay this way, but how to handle it can evolve, and is evolving. Softer words, kindness to self, opening my arms to accept myself, all going against what I was taught. All things not learned through life and are yet to achieve. Steps forward then backwards. The way to get even is to give myself the opposite of what I learned—- love, safety and acceptance.

And though challenging, ongoing, and taking persistent work, it is doable, possible, and a war worth winning— slaying the ghosts one by one, over and over again.

 

TRIGGER

It is not the first time Samuel has set off alarm bells so deep within me they are unconscious, but electrify in the night after waking to use the bathroom. No way was sleep returning as the haunts of the pasts, the attacking siblings, have re-visited. His actions replicated theirs in a way my psyche perceives a threat.

After ten years of our bedroom carpet losing its color turning streaked, and oh so ugly, we had a new one put down. Away at my women’s monthly gathering, he took off both doors to saw off some so they would close. The new carpet is that plush! A few specks of dust on the carpet after he re-placed the doors caused him to bring out the vacuum.

It angered me but it was let it go after he said there was dust from the doors. But internally it still bothered me as if something new had been ruined, just like my past when so much was torn away. My body was not mine, nor was anything precious such as my horse or pony. Two of the four attacking siblings stole my animals trying to ride them. One was bucked off, while my mother laughed telling me about it.

The rage from those thefts was palpable. The rage from taking my body had to be repressed due to my mother’s insistence that we were all a happy family. Rage could only be expressed about other things that might seem mundane.

My belief is that rage has fizzled out. Not true. Lying there at 2 AM after walking on carpet that for two days had delighted us with the soft cloud of texture, now felt flat, crushed, and hard. Samuel had ruined it, I wanted to hurt him, to wake him, to make him suffer as I suffered at 2 AM.

Vacuuming, like the dishes, cooking, and laundry are my chores except the rare times he vacuums, once vacuuming the cord on my new vacuum only learning about it when finding it wrapped with tape the next time I used it.

Why does he always have to get in on things where he doesn’t belong? Why does he have to ruin things? Why can’t he know me after all these years, and know this bothers me? While carpet shopping we learned that vacuuming is what bleaches out carpet if done too low, something I’ve done because it seemed to pick up more.

But with the new carpet, when, and it would be a long time until I did vacuum, I would put the lever on high to vacuum just the tops. Some carpet is dyed through, others are only sprayed with color on the top which allows for color loss from vacuuming and high traffic use over time. Unfortunately this new one is the later, but it is the prettiest green and plushiest for the price so we bought it.

But vacuuming? That is the culprit not only for sucking up color, but we were told it crushes the fibers so that only professional cleaning can bring back their springiness. And Samuel runs the vacuum after only two days. Why does he take away everything precious, just like they did? It is no longer new, and no longer brings pleasure, only hurt. 

Laying there in the middle of the night I wanted to hurt him. To push him out bed making his face hit the floor right into the carpet he had ruined. To turn on the lights and have a hissy fit over the carpet in the middle of the night. What insanity.

Staying there trying hard to sleep by feeding my mind with more sane truths; he did not do this purposely to hurt me. He does so many nice things. He cut the doors down to fit, blah, blah, blah… did not work. Something internal had ignited that words could not soothe or control. I got up, took a pill, turned on the TV, drank decaf, and stewed trying to chase away bitter resentments and a smoldering, ghostly rage from the past.

The next morning in tears while talking to Cory on the phone, Samuel was next to me.  I told the ludicrous story of the carpet. Even as silly as it sounded, it also correlated to siblings and all that was taken. My body, my horse, my pony, anything precious.

Talking to Samuel wouldn’t help. He would just argue, shake his head at my lunacy, and defend himself, never learning even after all these years how much his thoughtless actions wound me. (is vacuuming thoughtless or caring?)

And there it is, a wound that has not yet healed. Will it ever?