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.   

TRUTH

Woe is me. Never before have sleep issues been so astoundingly bad, chronic yes, but so much sleep being deprived over a short period makes for despair. If only the answer to why, then there could be a solution.

But it has taken days into weeks. Perhaps this batch of medical marijuana oil isn’t as potent, or had nothing in it at all? Yet that stuff is highly regulated so goes through rigorous testing even if this prescription is lighter in color than the last.

Then what? Well, my consumption of news. Of course. So a moratorium on news is in order for the next few months. A lover of movies where I can be close to people without the burn will be my replacement.

No more listening to reports of the thousands of deaths to come in the next two months because no one will be at the helm of the country to lead us out of this until January 20th.

No more tears rolling down my face watching health care workers desperately ask that we all wear masks because they are drained from caring for the sick. Or tears when the news hones in on particular family members describing their loss of a loved one— making those tens of thousands dead real not just numbers. No more dread in the pit of my belly while falling into a vortex, a void with no end.

I must regain my equilibrium because going on like this will truly make me crazy. It does not help when two brothers call on Thanksgiving Day, first Don, then Stevie, my one younger brother. Seeing who the first call was from on the answering machine made me hesitate, but not for longer than a moment.

Trying to be cheerful and upbeat, prattling on happily wanting to believe they do care. But later in bed restlessness makes sleep impossible.

They go on as usual emailing the group omitting me because I have asked not to be included if Tom is. How hard is it to email a little note just for me? Too hard I guess. It is easier to pretend I don’t exist, but give a pity call on a holiday to make themselves feel better.

That hurts deeply… craving family just as anybody does. But after any interchange it takes days to reclaim equilibrium. Don, a once beloved brother, is the most recent culprit sending a group email including both me and Tom.

How could you be so disconnected from the truth, my truth, and yours too? Your brother, who you interact with, even standing with against me, abused me in a horrible way, then spent the rest of my life punishing me for it.

So Tom responds to the group which means there sits an email with Tom’s name on it in my mail. That brought him and all the memories right home inside me where they swirled curdling and souring the peaceful life I’ve built…stealing it.

On Thanksgiving Day for the first time in my life I spoke up to Don, but even over the phone it brought bubbles of fear foaming up from my stomach.

“I’d rather not be included in emails like that. What he did was horrible and I’d rather not be reminded of it,” I said, hands shaking.

“No problem,” Don said blithely, the goes on, “I didn’t think of it.

He continues on, no apology, no nothing. But a while after the call was done my hands were still shaking. I held them to me noticing the upset which caused vibrations throughout my body. I broke the taboo. It only took 60 years. To be clamped down this way for most of my life has stolen so much.

To not be free. To not live fully, honestly, openly? Like wrapped tight in a rug unable to breathe, the only parts escaping are fake, here to please you, but not me, the real me.

I still search for her. She is truly special. I am special. Courageous. And worthy.

They don’t know. They never will because each is too afraid to ask, too afraid of the truth. And it doesn’t matter. I know. And when I forget, I have friends here to remind me of just who I am. This safe place has saved me.

sent to me by a very dear friend…

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.