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. 

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?

 

LOST

photo by Patricia (lilac)

Sit, stay. The mourning dove coos at 6 AM, a gentle breeze softly skimming over me, leaves newly erupted soothing with a ruffled whisper. Lost, feelings of losing my way for the last several months.

Could it be the challenge from a sister-in-law hardly ever heard from though she lives in the city less than an hour away?

“We are all getting older,” she said in an email, using the heavy power of guilt to persuade me to come to the Christmas party with the other two brothers and wives.

My relationship with Don, once father-like, changed over the years after he expressed the burden of playing that role. The rift became pronounced during my mother’s decline when bickering under the duress of debilitating emotions, explosive and labile. 

Her words swayed me, going to the gathering with a chip on my shoulder, not hugging, not entering easily into conversation unless wanting to. A person different than the malleable people pleaser they grew up with.

And with it came a very fast weight gain still hanging on making me so unhappy. The different person is not so different, pleasing by going to something I did not want to go to. My going meant losing respect for myself, and my ability to look out for little girl me. ‘She’ is scared of them, and I didn’t protect ‘her.’

But if my brother wanted it so badly that he enlisted his wife to work for it, I went, not wanting to live with regrets. But in going something inside myself was denied. If the question is whether to hurt someone or myself, it is almost always myself, even, or especially, when unconsciously… a knee-jerk reaction taught and beveled into my core when very young. You don’t matter. Never put yourself first, you’re invisible and unworthy anyway. 

And with going so did my safety. Weight is about safety. The more weight, the safer.

That group of people always felt safe. Those three were the three out of seven who didn’t sexually attack me. So safe, right? But aren’t those that know and do nothing just as culpable? Maybe more so.

There are still no words of comfort or support. Each continues a relationship with the last surviving attacker now living out west.

His presence, though distant, casts darkness on the sunniest of days. He haunts the brightness in the form of Trump, or other people lacking integrity. Those that love to manipulate while acting like victims as they manipulate and greedily take without remorse or shame. The only shame lies in me for ever being born. 

The craving for family will continue, the need for safety remains.

TRAUMATIC

photo by Patricia

There will come a time when looking back, what is happening now will be less traumatic. Living through it is traumatic. My escape is eating, eating so much nothing else can be thought of except that. Eating fear works but with a toll, self-loathing. 

It eats me up with no room for escape making everything worse and harder, even sleep. Waking, or not falling asleep, with an urgency close at hand, the emergency is internal adding to the external chaos.

What I do matters. If actions are used that are self-destructive such as over-eating, dread increases, even if unconsciously. My body knows it isn’t able to remain stable if fed incorrectly or too much. No wonder sleep evaded me. The threat to life was me.

Living through this is traumatic. While walking the meadow on a sunny morning, spring renewing herself with green adornments growing daily, my thoughts uncovered a truth. Even without the virus’s taunts of death and sickness looming every moment, my life has been much like that anyway.

Threats to life were everywhere, in every person, around every corner, my hyper-vigilance since the eight only compounding as each year passed. This additional threat topples me over the edge even while trying to act nonchalant about it.

Whether alcohol, shopping, food, or drugs, SOMETHING needs to take me away from the truth of so much suffering. Yet that isn’t the answer. Taking a stand does. Stand up in the middle of it. Do what can be done to be healthy.

A friend calls, the first in the last many weeks, and we spend time together on the phone as if we were together. My friendships are precarious due my issues of trust, or lack of it, compounded with the inability to speak up for myself causing great anger when taken advantage of.

Yet some friendships have endured and are so needed right now. They are fresh air compared to any interaction with the origin family whose own baggage interferes with any chance of closeness.

A failed zoom meeting will be tried again with our little group of five who have met consistently each month for many years. We are all less capable with these digital things than our grown children who are adept at computers and their workings.

Time was again spent in my studio after being absent from it for many months. Rolling out clay to be baked in the kiln, music playing gently in the background while the cat hunched on the shelf curiously looking down at me as incense burned… my hands worked with satisfaction.

All things nurturing are so precious right now…

Ye of Little Faith

photo by Patricia

Faith, like trust, is lacking. I have faith in mother nature and her wild ways. But not faith in people, nor trust, trusting only my cat, and very young children. Kicking at the ground during laps around the meadow, head down, thoughts about the post just written swam in my head.  It does matter that Samuel forgot, yet chastising myself for such shallowness during a time of crisis and upheaval on our earth. 

Samuel has gotten somewhat forgetful of late, but that wasn’t enough of an excuse. Despite my vows not to pout, his forgetfulness caused one of those silent days towards him warming only when other events unfolded.  

Happy Birthday, running through my mind. Is it something to celebrate? Had a choice been given at the moment of conception, knowing what’s to come, my choice might have been NO. But dying now is not wanted because peace is found after a fretful, buzzing, anxious life apart from myself.

Walking up towards the house on the last lap, a van very much like my son’s pulled halfway down the driveway. Getting my coat off, going to the front window, there was his family, three grand-children atop the van, two lively parents beside them, and a huge hand-crafted metal sculpture of a soaring butterfly stuck in the ground with bows.

Going to the porch they sang Happy Birthday. The grandchildren hopped down to run around the front yard doing cartwheels. Chagrined at my earlier feelings of ‘poor me,’ smiles and laughter took its place.

A card from a friend, a call from another, others do remember and care. Then the florist arrives setting a huge arrangement on the porch…. from my other son and wife. After spraying it down with disinfectant, careful not to put my nose down to the roses for a whiff, I dared bring it in. Also the balloon bouquet left by Shane’s family and their beautiful cards, scrupulously washing my hands afterwards, then spraying everything again.

Washing my hands didn’t seem enough as the cards and balloons had touched my clothing. So off went everything into the wash with hot water, and into the shower for my body and hair.

My faith does not lie in people unfortunately, nor does my trust. Yet the day restored both.

EACH MOMENT

It couldn’t be true that fear lay in my belly. Cocooned in our little home, my belief is I’m above becoming terrified of an arriving virus. Yet why suddenly had eating without hunger become all consuming? There is usually a reason, especially after all was going so well.

The robotic state of constant numbness from overeating returns instantly when fear seeps in. You’re making excuses, the harsh voice whips. Am I? Could it be terror? Yes, terror. Never far away especially when feelings of victim-hood, helplessness, or powerlessness visit.

Eating it away doesn’t make it go away, only boxes it in wrapped with self-hate. I can do without the hate. Only with compassion can the terror be unearthed, real terror that feels shameful as if it is something to hide.

But on the news the influx of others seeking therapeutic assistance has increased greatly, even if virtually on-line for safety reasons. Those with anxiety or depression issues are hit especially hard. Duh.

It is with compassion that acceptance of real feelings and my whole self occurs. That’s missing when the eating machine emerges. Food was, and is, the bank vault locking in terror tightly so that daytime life can go on. Not good sustenance at all, just a habit since age 8, a survival tool that hinders my health and well-being.

As a child that was what mother insisted. Go on as if nothing happened Love your brothers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, monsters who look human. Nighttime terror locked in daily with food, the one thing she gave freely.

Identifying the terror is the first step. Then do all that you can to protect yourself, especially while out in public which is very little except picking up groceries and other items. Even that is being curbed as much as possible. My friends continue church services, and attendance in chorale and other groups. Which is why I am not going to attend our upcoming monthly gathering, or the next month’s.

As one not involved in group things, seeing them exposes me to their perspective groups of people. Each of their families, kids, and grand-kids, and all the separate churches because each belongs to a different church. So our little gathering of 5 exposes me to a much greater population.

At the risk of anyone saying I’m overdoing it, feeling safe needs focus and respect. I’m worthy of listening to my own rationale as an intelligent person, not going along with others because they know best, or because getting together doesn’t worry them.

It worries me. They don’t know what’s best for me, only I do. The hammerings of  negatives in my head are not coming from others, only me. Just say no, and know you are doing the right thing. 

Do what can be done to protect myself. Accept that terror is there which helps lessen it. Come back into myself, into each moment, feeling the new thick carpet under my bare feet in the bedroom. The sparkle from hanging gems sending prisms dancing on the wall as the sun sets, an orange orb that dazzles my eyes with brilliance

Come back to this precious moment. Each one comes never to come again. Be here now.  

Come On Spring!

It is hard to describe, this vaporous hole inside searching for a mooring, finding none, so it whirls ungrounded craving connection without landing.

It spins in the night, waking me.

Thoughts keep the comet sparking sending me to the cabinet for antacids, then TV, then bed again till 5 AM rolls around. How to hold all that goes on outside of myself inside, and still remain balanced.

In winter it is struggle. So when the blues of Cory’s leaving passes, there is still the depression less daylight brings. As days grow longer by seconds, then minutes, the wait for spring begins.

GIFTS

How do you learn to live with others, love them, even like them, when hurts are sure to come, along with disappointments, failure to meet expectations, foibles of character, misunderstandings, just human flaws in general?

Ripped apart in childhood, this task is almost insurmountable, but with enough work, attachments can be made that see one through life, albeit at times just barely.

Trust does not swim back in along with warm feelings full of love, security, and affection for others. No, just about never. The cat is where my love flows. Without the cat there would be none. I ‘think’ others love me, but it is too risky to feel it. 

But some interactions are needed, even if acting is needed to simulate what it should be like. Get by with the act to survive. Maybe the real thing will come, feeling love. What is left of all that was stolen lies buried where it is kept safe. This is not intentional, it happened automatically to survive. 

Complete annihilation of embers left burning that are able to love would remove any reason to live, because love is life. Learning to forgive others for their thoughtless slights and insensitivity happens more readily as the ability to forgive my own shortcomings blossoms.

Give the gift of gentleness to self. Wrap it in kindness.  

 

Christmas Crafts

As the wind blows at sub-zero temps, it is cozy inside. The collection of gifts all wrapped. The food fairly figured out for ten people, including breakfast, snacks and dinner, and my hands need to be occupied until the day of that special party when both sons and their families are all together (a once a year occurrence)

Our monthly women’s gathering was spent doing a craft along with card playing. But one friend was kind enough to prepare cloth strips for each of us to make an ornament. Once home my hands ached to keep making them but the material store is a bit of a drive.

An alternative? Gold wrapping paper. So a Scandinavian Star was made of paper and attached to a poinsettia for the very same friend who taught me to make it. She called to visit tomorrow and will be surprised.

The grand-kids are also enjoying crafts with me. They spent time in my studio last weekend working on projects I had prepared for them, even the little one who is just about three years old. So I am creating more projects for them, one a popsicle snowflake they can paint, glitter, or fill with sequins. I couldn’t resist trying one.  

The cold in my body is almost done with me, and the cold outside is about to  rise. Soon walks in the meadow will resume relieving aches both physical and emotional. Mother nature has a way of doing that… 

The Crack

The flu-like cold making me miserable with thoughts of having no right to misery. The newscast aired stories of those with no arms making a living with their art showing how they paint with the brush in their mouth. I have no right for complaint.

So I close up like a clam with no feelings because the feelings there shouldn’t be. Yet there they are. Depression, anxiety, stress. Stress? How could you be stressed? You’re not working.

So don’t feel what’s there, and that adds more stress. And no tears. I’m a crier. If I’m not crying in a somewhat regular fashion, something’s not right.

Going to our monthly get-together’s with four other friends, one takes me to her shoulder and the tears come. The very same friend whose husband is handling a cancer scare right now. How dare I? Yet she is comforting me.

“Don’t cry,” she says gently.

Once the tears come, so does the laughter and smiles, real smiles, not the fake ones I’ve been plastering my face with knowing something should be making me smile but not feeling it.

You cannot suppress one feeling without suppressing the other. Chipping away at my heart to keep opening it makes me whole, also opening me up to what matters, what’s real, and what is most important— how you are with yourself and others.