Holding my Own Key to Happiness

Forever at the root of my core resided the belief of being bad, wrong, and always the one at fault. That is the feeling turned fact at age eight, growing every year becoming rock solid.

And that belief did solidify. How could it not with no one to tell me differently? No one to hold me, rock me, tell me that what they did was wrong, that they would be punished, that it wouldn’t happen again.

Because it did keep happening, and happening, and happening.

This is a time of peace, a time when that belief has been chipped at, questioned, and challenged. A crack has evolved where warmth seeps in, or oozes outward. Ever so slowly, bits of comfort float up where once only animosity to self had been. It is a change that could have occurred fifty years ago.

If only someone had the courage to hold my hand and take a stand. No one did. But I do now… tentatively, fearfully as if I’m doing something wrong in liking myself, for showing acceptance towards my own being, like the axe will fall for doing so.

No axe falls. Taking that step towards kindness and self-love after so long is freeing. The origin family collectively used subtle tactics to sustain low esteem to keep me silent. But my true nature includes persistence.

Baby- steps, tiny fissures are pried open wider using words of encouragement and uplift rather than harsh criticism. Treasures are found never enjoyed before: peace, openness, self-acceptance, joy.

Freedom is savored, the freedom to choose to (learn) to love myself. And each day a reminder to embrace gratefulness for making it through the hazards and treachery of all the years past. Where self-hate ruled in a mixing bowl of adrenaline pumped anxiety, confusion, self-doubt, and a total inability to connect with my own soul. 

To come to a place others never lost, is now found for me. A delectable experience not to be contaminated by bitterness towards what was. My choice is to enjoy the miraculous now.   

 

WORRY or SLEEP?

 

It is so easy to follow my mind into the pit of worry, but no, whatever might be a problem, it is not my problem to solve unless it is about me. Caring is one thing, injecting my input into another is not. It happens with kids and grand-kids, especially when my head hits the pillow.

Detach. It is their time to deal with their problems if they exist, because my mind can go places where nothing really is happening. Yet my gut also is aware of things that others are oblivious to. So don’t throw out concerns that may be valid, just don’t lose sleep over them.

If they are there, they are not mine to solve. Sleep did come, deep and long.

FREEDOM

Staring at the fire, mistakes made with my first son when he was growing up begin to weigh on me. No, a gentle voice whispered. We are all flawed, you can’t go back, but what you can do now is be better.

The fire’s flames sway like bright red hula dancers behind the glass, shoulders relax, the critic melts away. It is the critic who keeps me awake at night, or butts in as the day begins.

Is that freedom? Freedom is allowing the wonder of life into every moment. It isn’t forever, this life, though it is often lived as if that were so.

When things are settled, enjoy it, don’t ruin it with negativity, something I’m very good at. Become good at something else, like gentleness, and acceptance, with a sprinkling of kindness. Try that…that is freedom.

TRUE NATURE

Planning Christmas kept my sanity in the darkest month, now the wait for spring as each day becomes longer.

“Look,” Samuel says, “It is 5 and still light out!”

Looking outside I reply excitedly, “Wow, you’re right!”

My drudge through the dark months is proceeding with better management and brighter outcomes, though it takes work; disciplined habits including full spectrum lights, meditation, better diet, and daily exercise.

The uplift from exercise is curative, even moderate exercise such as walking or gentle movements on the elliptical. But it takes a push to go do it.

The food thing is harder as food is used to medicate PTSD issues that resulted from childhood sexual attacks by loved ones. Alone, stuck with it, and no one to burst the bubble of excruciating pain, it grew as I grew.

That beast stayed. The beast of self-hate, but compassion is slowly moving in as part of me steps back and notices that my use of food is not born out of laziness, lack of character, or that I don’t love, care, or respect myself.

It is self-care that turned to me food at age eight, bent over the toilet in the middle of the night vomiting up the food my mother pushed towards me in place of what I really needed.

Food was her love. My little body couldn’t take it, but it was all there was to numb the horror of what my brothers did and kept doing… the ones I loved so much and trusted.

Food is still used to medicate. To eat out of hunger is not usual. To eat to numb is. Hating myself for failing to be thin is a societal rule. Yet it also is a survival tool that sustains my life in the only way I know how. 

Turning to food saved me. It saves me now. It squelches PTSD symptoms by focusing my attention to how full it feels to the point of pain. Liking the pain because I’m so used to it. The other hurts too much to feel. 

The hurt of a family turning their backs, going on as if nothing happened. What about that pain? It is easier to go along with them. Sure I love you too. You did so much for me.

Donny did allow me to move in with his family because my mother’s drinking had adverse effects. I got a job, joined the Army, met Samuel. My life began. Don saved me at a time when I really needed saving. 

But what about when I was 8? You came into the bathroom at the sound of my screams while I was in the tub.

I said, “It hurts down there.”

What did you do then? Nothing. No one did anything. Not Seth either who I said to directly at the time, “Danny fucked me.” Just looks of horror in his eyes which to an eight year old meant I was the horror.

I want to ask these questions, but never will, though some was in an email to Seth causing more separation than closeness.  

Each day starts out, listen to my body. It will tell you what you need. By the end of the day the impulse to eat when not hungry for food, but ravenous for love, wins out. It blots out all other needs, and helps me hate myself.

A quiet voice whispers, perhaps it is self-caring, what you have done since the age of 8. A rumbling vibrates deep down in a space that is not bone, blood or tissue… a place that is ethereal, one where my true nature resides. The work is connecting, and staying connected.   

Prepare the Soil

Turning, wondering where to go, feeling confused as to my purpose… this room, that chore, back to the first one. With Cory’s presence my meditation practice stopped, and most of my exercise regime. Keeping present, and preparing food for each party exhausted me enough with little energy left for anything else.

Getting back to my usual routines feels odd. The out of sync, disjointed fracture left in his wake fades with each day. Work was done to tame the beast of anxiety while they were here and beforehand, but no attention was focused on how to handle his leaving.

So the ragged hole of emptiness visited, less intense than the days after his departure for college, then the move to another state, then marriage. With his marriage came more settled feelings of satisfaction in place of need.

The feeling of loss coupled with anxiety re-visits from time to time, the nostalgia of boys at home to care for, of family life. But times were hard then too, scorched with PTSD issues, entwinements with the family of origin, and my mother not allowing the truth be told which blocked true healing from what her sons had done.

Family now is Samuel and me. My close friend who chatted with me via email, phone, and by visiting on a frequent and regular basis died several years ago; a friendship later in life that was the closest ever experienced.

Other friends are not inclined to call or email perhaps because we don’t share a history of childhood trauma as Sue and I did. Though we didn’t talk much about it, we felt it, and how it touched our lives in the present. This bonded us in ways lacking with others. Ours was a once in a lifetime friendship, a friend so close, words were not needed.

Cory is close like that. Maybe that isn’t healthy between mother and son, but it is so. Samuel is a kind and sweet man, and the thought of living without him is terrifying. He is also lonely to be with at times. When Cory leaves it is hard to return to my quiet life. Acceptance is not my forte. I am a cat on a hot tin roof landing with the burn of anxiousness.

The separation separates me from myself. Feeling lost. Gather the parts. Bring them home. Paste them on, yet away they flutter to be harnessed again, stuck back on; waiting for wholeness, to be heard, understood, to feel close to one other human.

Meditation grounds me to my center with relief. Walks in the meadow on a sunny day almost 50 degrees helps blood flow. A fresh approach to the studio where work has gone stale is in process wondering what’s to come as its cleaned down to the bones to begin again new.

 

FEELINGS

 

And so they left.

Trying not to feel that achy, scratchy, scrape of need inside, a long walk in the wet meadow with an overflowing creek helped center the internal chaos. Once returning inside to an all quiet house the hollow hole opened again, but not consuming me like it once did eating me alive… a feeling trying desperately to run from.

“Do you feel it,” I ask Samuel once again, hardly believing it is only me.

“No,” he said, adding, “You think about it too much.”

“It’s not a thought,” I said, perturbed, “It is a feeling…it hurts.”

Calling a friend, more tears come, bringing needed relief, more relief than trying to talk to a wall like Samuel. My friend reminds me I am a good person, artistic, a sensitive soul, and that helps me feel less odd, more human. Why this ache every time Cory visits then leaves? And Samuel escapes without it?

By evening acceptance rolls in like gentle waves, the ache lessons. A skype call from Cory helps, letting me know he, his wife, and tiny blondie daughter arrived safely after a long day of traveling to the near-by state where they live. It is quiet here without the little patter of running footsteps, her giggles, and happy songs.

But Cory looks tired. He has a life, family, and job, what mother wouldn’t be happy, yet there is that ache. If only he lived closer, but this is the way it is.

Forgive, Forgive, Forgive

 

Yesterday was quiet but enjoyable, the warm weather pulling me outside to walk the meadow then meeting Samuel creek-side for a gentle canoe ride, even sighting the beaver a few times. Oh, a sigh of relief while Mother soothed me with her loving arms, the warm sun and centering stillness. 

Our Christmas is yet to come. We gather together Saturday, a once in a year tradition when both sons and families are with us. Cory, wife, and little daughter arrive tonight from a near-by state.

“Promise not to get over-excited,” Cory says on a phone call, and my gut knows the directive is coming from his spouse.

“I promise,” my response comes with a bitter feeling towards her.  

My young daughters-in-law are without the blemish of childhood trauma, so how could they understand? It’s true, my anxiety makes it hard to be around, though sons are very used to me. Anxiety overwhelms even when erupting from pleasurable activities like family gatherings.

Any heightened experience makes my nervous system go haywire. But my intention is keep my promise, and not let resentments towards young women who have never been splintered by trauma to tarnish a special event.

Forgive, forgive, forgive, let love up.