GIRLFRIEND TIME

Trying not to feel? Or trying to turn feelings around instead of feeling the scratchy rawness of loss or memories.

As leaves begin to drift down there is both magnificence in their colors and the vibrant sunsets along with a feeling of wanting to go back and recapture a life now over as the next phase moves forward.

A rare gift of a friend stopping by while we gaily drank tea and chatted, then walked the meadow in the sunshine after a week of rain. What relationships built up, not dozens, just a few, drifted away during and after the pandemic.

Those close to me fell away, no phone calls, no visits, and missing girlfriend time became sharp with need. So, with my invite she came, and we made a shopping date also with lunch.

As fall sets in closing around me, breaking free is necessary and doing so with fun times that bring me out to do things. So, what else can be arranged? There are willing partners, but my willingness is also needed. Time to step out a bit.

CANDYBAR DAY

Sometimes a girl just needs chocolate. If the candy is made with fat free condensed milk, graham crust with just a little margarine, and unsweetened organic coconut, is that considered healthy? Magic bars magically feel good, the molten chocolate swirling my brain chemicals with happy vibes.

After the orgy, just sitting, all day sitting, my body hardly moving, I began to feel better. But it’s so off the mark of should dos, and the critic had to be shut up- yammering away at ‘should and should nots.’

Sometimes it’s not laps around the meadow that cures, but stillness. As summer collapses around me, kissing the pool good-by after Samuel covers it for the season, and all the windows are shut to the cold shutting out the sounds of crickets, birds, and other wildlife, the silence plummets me down to depths I’d forgotten.

Just hardly months ago my being was used to dullness and the down mood of winter. And a friend reminded me of its coziness. It is good to have friends. But it is in me that the will must be found to face every day, because some days it isn’t there as if, not another?

Weak, vulnerable, fallen off the precipice of sunlight and joy into darkness so suddenly, the will of finding that light in other ways almost completely escapes me.

Stillness, not moving, enjoying the rapture of chocolate, all things social norms encourage one NOT to do, as busyness, productiveness, and ‘eating your greens,’ are the goals… quietness ensconcing my most inner being brings me back in to myself- back home.

FRIEND?

For the first time going to our monthly get-togethers with 4 other women friends felt like an inconvenience.

“I don’t want to be bothered,” I said to Samuel on the way out of the door to my car.

And though pleasantly OK, it still was a stretch to pay attention for four hours to their stories and input while playing cards. That night the shades were pulled even earlier than usual and bear-like sleep came.

And the ripples from one friends’ remark stuck like a feather in my throat, or more succinctly, a knife in the gut. She does tend to say stupid things. Once after reading my book, Shattered, she gave a critique. At that time, she was confronted.

“I laid out so many feelings and you give me a book report?”, I exclaimed.

She came back with a bit better response, “I heard your grief,” she replied sounding as if sorry.

This time after mentioning the 40-pound weight loss, while giving a hug bye, she said, “Lose more weight!”

Now I know she meant well, which is why no message has been emailed to her, like; my body seems content where it is, and I’m OK with that. She heard my explanation of the loss of weight but feeling stuck. So, that was her way of encouraging me. Yet the way it was put forward… well, it could use some refinement.

The others have more gracious abilities, only saying briefly how great I looked, and only after sharing my success. They were sensitive to my feelings. And in her own dysfunctional way, she is too, but it felt like nails across a chalkboard.

Through the years this one has used me as her own personal pin cushion. I knew no better than to take it. Until I didn’t- and began speaking up. Saying something nasty in a soft singsong voice, which is her way, doesn’t remove its bite.

With her I learned that picking friends sometimes parallels the tactics of my negative critical mother.

Three days later her remark still stings.  

MENTAL ILLNESS

Mental illness? Who wants that? No one. It still has a bad rap, yet mine needs tending to. Not with chains, cells, straight- jackets, or hypodermics, but with care, love, and attention.

Anxiety, depression, and PTSD are in the medical textbook of psychiatric diagnoses. Sounds shitty. It is shitty. Worse though is feeling ashamed of being different, one more nail in the coffin from childhood after sexually abused, but feeling to blame because no one intervened to tell me otherwise.

The feelings that grew and solidified out of that are a challenge every day. My head may know all the words; not to blame, be your own best friend, blah, blah, blah. Feelings of badness, dirtiness, abnormality, (that list is extensive) grew cementing in my core as each year passed.

Reversing core beliefs, silencing the haranguing critic, learning to show myself kindness or beginning to even like myself? Challenging. Being burdened even more by feeling ashamed for what wasn’t my doing which has created needs different from many around me calls for special care and attention… not self scorn or denial of the facts. Or even glossing over them for another’s comfort. Learning how to love myself transforms each day into a more joyful one, but only with will, empathy, patience, acceptance, and perseverance.

I’ll get there, I’m getting there, trying to hear that softer voice that says it’s OK to take medication that helps. It’s not only OK, but imperative to slow down earlier in the day than most need to because (like last night) cleaning the house at 8PM activates an exhausted adrenal network tired from decades of overstimulation due to reacting as if every tiny thing was life threatening. So? Wide awake at the usual bedtime.

It’s OK you had to cancel out of camping with my son and family this upcoming week due to sleep issues worsening each year, yet longing to be there instead of their friends who kindly took our site when I had to face the fact of being unable to handle it. My younger brother dearly wants us to visit his new house on the lake and stay as long as we like. The prospect of following through, though we keep saying we will, are non-existent. We won’t, I can’t.

Or maybe needing medication once again last night was over some other tiny thing, something as simple as fretting over a comment on a fellow blogger’s site fearing I upset them– or horrors— make them not like me. Struggling with liking myself, it is about unbearable when others don’t, at least those I care about. I am learning not to be hurt by those I don’t. That’s a huge accomplishment.

It doesn’t take much to set off a system tripped onto high power since the age of eight after the first attack. My body is so drained any little thing sets it off.

Kindness, love, and acceptance. I’ll work on that…

FRIENDS

 And then a friend replies, not one ever known in person, but one you might call a pen pal. Yet when two souls share from the core, do you need to meet?

How are you? She asks via email, as she really cares to know. It’s not the customary social question when you reply by fine though dying inside. So, I tell her.

I say I may be addicted to Xanax, considering how much use it’s been getting lately with sleep issues escalating this past year. Sleep issues began about the time my mother declined before her death, waking in the night eating bread gobbed with butter, never a daytime food choice. Often four or six slices, white soft bread with tons of butter.

Butter? I rarely use the butter dish watching Samuel eat his daily toast slapping on butter, or a blob on his vegetables which I rarely do. And white bread? Never. Samuel requires white, I eat high fiber wheat. My night-time sleep/eating issues began then, about ten years ago.

But this past year the use of nighttime medication has increased to a worrisome amount, each time feeling I failed somehow. That being unable to sleep is my own fault; faulty thinking, not calming myself, somehow, it’s me.

But is it? Couldn’t it have to do with becoming calmer, more peaceful, more connected to my inner core, wiser, and more self-loving? Or self-loving at all, even the tiny tidbits felt for the very first time?

Perhaps it is my doing, but not my fault. Because as my being becomes more whole, less scattered, the part repressed that keeps the memory of Danny’s rape from consciousness might now find a path up. That would make anyone anxious, and since anxiety tends to be my constant companion, anxiety rachets itself up another notch.

Energy comes in small doses, mornings are best. And the energy my body must need to repress such a trauma could be well used for happier endeavors. But that’s up to my internal workings.

I can’t just say, OK memory come up. And who would want to? Weight loss must be connected. Food was used at age 8 right after his coming into my room, and has been used ever since. My body was just as slim as other kids before, then blew up.

When often feeling alone, I am not. While sipping coffee on the screened porch before the sun rises, birds begin their cacophony of wake-up songs, one close by singing loud yet lovely, clear and true.

Wrapping the blanket closer around me, quietly walking towards the screen, there it is atop the shepherd’s hook, one little body singing such a great song!

Finally it’s time to go back inside to open emails, one from the friend I’ve never met. Her response to my lamenting the use of a night-time medication was (as usual) soft and gentle, along with this poem.

So, I am not alone, I have birds, friends… and me.

PHOTO BY PATRICIA

FRIENDS

One night of almost agony, forcing myself to stay in bed, rolling from one side to the other. Hours go by, and some sleep came though it didn’t feel like much and yesterday was low key due to tiredness.

But not that awful grogginess that happens when the sleep aid is used. Calling a friend, asking for sleep pointers after a terrible winter of sleep issues, she has great ideas that I’d heard before but didn’t think would work for me.

One, she never gets out of bed. That sounds like good behavior because a pattern was set up that made things harder. Another tip, when not getting back to sleep she turns on the radio to the news station and puts it on a timer. (so one was ordered coming soon)

She thoroughly knew what I talking about when waking to use the bathroom then thoughts invading about every little thing that has gone wrong, and whatever else a woken up busy mind might do.

A news channel might help to get my mind off things that can’t be changed onto things other than me! It is so good to hear her voice, as calling any friend has been abandoned for much of these past few years when needed the most.

And now that masks are off, plans are made to have lunch with another friend. Oh, how these things have been missed!

OWNING MY LIFE

Like most issues, to speak up about my own beliefs, opinions, or feelings is gruelingly difficult. Taught to keep mum about atrocities against me, even little issues tend to stay inside me.

A friend who is religious, Christian like the other four in our women’s group, is overly so. The Lord this, the Lord that. I respect her beliefs and do not scorn them, in fact am sometimes a bit envious of the strength it seems to provide her and others.

It doesn’t for me. At a very young age that collapsed and as with most things shame about that eroded me even more. Now in my sixties the right to claim my own spirituality slowly rises. If it were to have a face it would be feminine.

Yet it is more a belief that we are all connected throughout the planet no matter what we believe. In writing back to her as she once again speaks of god as HE, my response gently outlines my views.

In this life what is there if we cannot be who we are? If it is sometimes a ball of worries and anxiety, then that is me at that time. If my beliefs encompass something different that yours, can you respect them as I do you yours?

In this life, before it’s over, the craving and wholeness comes from owning who I am. It feels risky, scary, and often impossible, but is worth the exploration and effort.

CHRISTMAS PARTY

The winds howled and trying to sleep was of no use without a sleep aid, though later the next day when asked, my friends all replied that, yes, they slept great as if the wind sounds comforted them.

No, not me. That feeling of being so different sunk in deep once again along with the knowledge that the challenges faced daily are colossally more than they can ever understand. Yes, a solid group of friends, but the one who became the closest passed away several years ago. The privilege of knowing her, the best friend of my life, lasted only 5 years.

But it gave me a gift of knowing that the rift felt between myself and most others isn’t me, it is the unusual experiences of my childhood which were extraordinarily traumatic. Sue was also raped as a child, pulled off the street by a stranger.

And she willingly shared her experience when first meeting her, something I had not yet been able to do though eventually she would learn a brief outline of the overall facts. My attacker wasn’t a stranger, it was family. The taboo of talking about what happens in a family is still not something acknowledged or talked about. It has been that way for centuries.

But her family unfortunately handled it the very same. NO TALKING ABOUT IT, as if it never happened. These are missionary’s, you know, the ones who go about saving the world. What about saving your child?

By not allowing her to express such a trauma over and over until processed, and not providing help in the form of therapy too, Sue was cursed to live the same sort of life as me.

Going about pasting a smile on, and acting as if nothing is wrong, when anxiety internally threatens to break you in half or splinter you into a thousand shattered pieces. The cortisol bursts are exhausting. Your world spinning out of control in situations where there’s people, which is just about every situation unless you are at home.

So, Sue knew me to my core, without my ever supplying details of any kind, and without us talking about it. We just knew, and love flowed between us freely like warm swirling air enveloping our souls as one.

Waking after the storm, it was as black as the night before when having to light candles. No coffee? Starting the patio grill, upon it was placed a large kettle with water and coffee grounds. Walking the meadow in the early morning light, checking it after each round, finally the brew looked ready.

After 5 laps the kettle came in to be poured through the coffee filter and, Voila! Cowboy coffee! Samuel was surprised. It almost seemed that the planned gathering of friends might have to be cancelled, because how can glue guns be heated up with no electricity? But it came back on, and our party was a great success.

I do miss my friend Sue. That very special bond we shared, and that closeness found nowhere else.

CHRISTMAS FUN

After glittering my own grapevine wreath, it seemed only fair to offer the same prep work to my women friends coming Sunday. Oh, what a project, with glittery floors tramped around leaving sparkles all over the house!

Wiping a few off my eyelids, it is with satisfactory pleasure because crafting of any kind brings peace and warmth. And each wreath is glittered with loving thoughts about the friend it is for and how much delight she will have decorating it.

And hopefully she will know just how much she means to me, the making of the wreath after collecting the vines, twirling the vines in the light rain because moisture is needed to manipulate them. Then, more pleasure than work, walking among the pines we planted to collect pinecones, the branches softly brushing my arm as if to say, ‘hello friend.’

And the extensive time and mess! Glue dripping all over the table in globs after painting it on thick so the glitter will stick, then a clear overcoat so that they won’t have glitter all over their own houses. The area around the stove where they dried still sparkling from glitter remnants.

Such fun readying for Christmas, maybe more fun than the event itself.

Friends Are Family

Preparations for an upcoming gathering of women friends includes the offering of grapevine wreaths to decorate that were made earlier when cutting down the vines so that they are trimmed for next year’s growth. Pinecones from trees we planted were gathered, dried, then sparkled as if snowy.

Unable to stop myself, mine is decorated which frees me up to help others if needed. This gathering of women friends over the years has sustained me in so many ways.

Without the taboo of talking about my real life, and without the stigma that seals my lips and makes me phony so that you will be comfortable, I can be myself. I can also accept real love and caring from those whose own self-worth isn’t caught up with the secrets of the past.

I can be who I am, and who I could ever be with their loving encouragement, daring to test my wings then fly.

They know what happened to me and don’t keep me silent about it. Which means no push to want to. It’s only when you silence me that I want and need to speak. It’s only when you deny my truth that truth needs to be told.

Family are friends, friends became family.