Sadness

photo by Patricia

A deep sadness has invaded along with the usual chronic tiredness. A sadness of how I am and why. The deepening sadness makes movement cumbersome. Present issues mimic the manipulations of abusers, and the rest of the family. During and after the sexual attacks 60 years ago they all stood in solidarity against me to shun me into submission and silence.  

Wanting their cleanliness meant washing off what was done to me as if it hadn’t been done… manufacturing a little girl mute. A shell of girl whose body grew, but all other components were left behind.

A child born lighthearted, speaking outright about injustice, made voiceless. No rights. Nothing. A body separated from my mind, from emotions, and most life threatening, my very own spirit or soul. It is a tenuous workload just hanging on.

I no longer existed. I am trying so hard to put the pieces together, but nothing fits, each part sliding away from the other as if sliced in half, more so shattered.

A life spent picking up the pieces…

 

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Freedom and Joy

A favorite photo, though the wings are tattered, it still flies. 

Something once stolen gently coming back. A life. My life. So often the director in my head that drives so diligently can take me places not meant to be at. That voice took over where ‘they’ left off, the family of origin that hushed me because silencing me was more important than my having a life. For them.

Even now, almost 60 years later, those chains hold me hostage. Sifting through the brainwashed thoughts and feelings to find my authentic ones takes love, care and attention. Each day uncover the person, still a child, held down suffocating.  You don’t unwrap the claws of brothers by harassing her, directing her onward in a fugue unconnected to her and all other bodily systems.

You guide her out of the black abyss by gently pulling her up from the mire.

Samuel is hacking and coughing. More sick than I’ve seen him. And my throat is scratchy accompanied by a slight cough and drippyness. Do you drive yourself to do the usual? Or allow rest with extra vitamin C to hopefully ward off what he has.

Once accomplishing the goal of quieting that harsh, mean, and unconnected voice that always hovers demanding super human goals, a feeling of freedom washes up from the deep crevasses of my soul. The freedom of prying those hands off me, and the subsequent family requirement of holding it all in for their own selfish needs. A freedom of uncovering the authentic me coming to the present with all senses noticing the full feeling of being.

You have suffered. You as much as anyone deserve happiness and peace. When awake in the middle having to take the despised medicine to help relieve the ever present anxiety that exists in my life, though often groggy the next day, something else occurs.

This calm given by medication slows everything down. A realization occurs that this must be what it feels like for most others. A calm that doesn’t exist for me. My mind and body live beyond the moment racing ahead. It takes a gentler, caring voice to remind myself to slow down and be in the moment. Feel the dish in your hand as you rinse the soap off the silky smooth coolness of the silver metal. Why race ahead, where are you going?

Right now is what matters. As more daylight returns hope like a soft breeze wafting up from my heart, brings a feeling of freedom along with an ability to be in the moment and feel joy.

Personal Rifts

There is no explanation for so many consecutive nights of full sleep then up at 3 AM wide awake. Maybe it’s my daughter-in-law bringing the baby today, now two years old. We had an agreement I’d watch him regularly at three months while she returned to work, just as I did with the other two.

But she failed to train the baby to accept a bottle, even bringing a can of formula that day opening it for the first time. So I’m left with a crying infant for 7 hours that is so very hungry.

Handing her the baby with tears in my eyes she said, “Oh, he missed me,” immediately pulling him to her breast as he suckled furiously.  

“He can’t come back until he takes a bottle,” I told her gruffly as she was leaving.

Looking surprised she repeated in a huff, “Well, I know he missed me!”

He never did come back. She quit the job and stayed home. My punishment was to never see him since, nor did she make any effort to acclimate him to me. When we were all together, and I tried to play with him or pick him up, she made nasty noises giving me a sideways look while taking him from me.

It was made clear to stay away. The story became about my incompetence, and it must have been the story used for friends, family, and the job she left.

But he is coming today. Whatever was in her that made her keep him so closely to her has changed. This odd behavior is one of many I have struggled with her over. With no family to back me, much has occurred that should not have because she fully understands I have no one on my side. 

Knowing today I eat crow and smile past the anger must be what kept me up. It takes every ounce of strength I have to move past such preposterous unfairness. Blowing up at her would be disastrous. Even my one sentence caused two years of retaliation.

A letter she read to me after they first married, with my son at her side and my husband sitting quietly next to me thanking her when they left, and on the same day my mother went into the hospital for the last time before dying, was a very long letter annihilating my character which included this statement, “Seeing grand-children is a privilege not a right.”

I believe the opposite, and that she has done this child a disservice. But the dam of her resistance has broken. I mean to take full advantage of this opportunity to finally get to know this adorable grand-child looking so much like my own sons at this age. 

Dream Yearnings

Waking from dreams where time is spent with brothers who I don’t spend time with, causes questions while sipping morning coffee. Will I go to my grave with regrets of not reconciling, not forgiving, for having boundaries? Regrets that gnaw at tender flesh from inwards outwards? The kind of regrets that eat away one’s very soul?

A quiet counter voice tries to soothe, that voice arising many times each day to challenge the harsh voice; you came from such dysfunction, cruelty, and havoc. You cannot expect deep relationships with anyone, even those that didn’t attack. Because even the ‘innocents’ who stood by, are part of the group that pretends. Do not blame you.

Yet I do. If I did this, or that, or all the times the eldest followed me around in hospitals during adulthood when our mother was sick; the only times he tried to get close, like a creeping shadow, just like when he crept in the night to attack me.

Why can’t abusers sit down, write a letter, and mean it? Why does it have to be their way? To do it, if at all, in a cowardly way. To do it in a way that I don’t want because bodily closeness feels terribly threatening to me.

How do I forgive someone who never voiced true remorse? Only excuses and reasons. How do I forgive someone who continued a pattern of exclusion due to their wanting to be let off the hook without doing the work? 

Exclusion accompanied by sneering put-downs slickly delivered, and the others quiet tolerance of it set up a life pattern that damaged more that the attacks. That slow, ever present malevolence eroded my self-image more than all the rest of which there was much.

Maybe I will go to my death wishing for what never was after that first wrong touch, a loving, trustworthy family. My work is to die with peace that I gave it all I could.

I must learn to know that even after, I continued to try to love. But others must meet at least half-way. In spite of my rage, you must tell me you are sorry. No one ever did. Not one of 7. Not the abusers. Not the ones who stood by continuing brotherly friendships with the abusers.

You have made a family of friends, sons, and grandchildren. It is enough. It has to be, in spite of the yearnings in my dreams…

Mosaics in Progress for the Gardens

 

Little Girl Grieves

photo by Patricia

Feeding the empty heart with food causes havoc and pounds, making loving oneself even harder, impossible really. Eating quells panic. It always has, but a different pain takes its place, not a sufficient pay-off.

Thoughts trick me into believing it is OK to ingest food when if really connected to my body there would be more reserve. Yet the hungry girl looking for love still grieves.

Once again coming to reality, it is time to count what goes in. When beginning a new exercise regime at the community center, food intake goes awry. When food intact is closely monitored, exercise isn’t. One or the other, but what about both?

It is as if an instinct clicks in that this won’t do. You are fatty Patty. You don’t deserve better, a message since childhood with the cruel name crooned my way heaping more pain upon pain.

That is who I became, fatty Patty. The cookies at Grandma’s sneaked from the plastic Tupperware soothed what happened in the night, even at Grandma’s where I should feel safe. Chet made sure to stay when I stayed.

Feed your soul with love not food… a seemingly impossible task, but glimmers of hope sparkle. The spirit of resolve hovers. Keep reaching, working, and trying.

The Price of Abuse

photo by Patricia

Price tag? One life.

Thinking back on my life, and looking at it now,  the wonder is how this place was achieved with so much trauma and anxiety ruling each day.  The power of one individual makes me take stock, but with a sense of sadness at what was stolen.

My life is worth admiration. Yet I’m not in it enough to appreciate that fact. There it is beside me as if I’m living that life apart from the real body and being. Retreating to my safe place is where I still go.

Though work occurs now to be present in the moment, it is work. At least now there is awareness that I go elsewhere.

A therapist once said, “Just show up.”

What did that mean? Years later, after the book, and delving into the community of women survivors of childhood sexual abuse blogging on-line, I learned there was a real clinical word to describe being apart from the body during trauma, and for some, long after. What I refer to as ‘zoning out’ is called dissociation.

It happened without my conscious knowledge. No therapist ever told me, or mentioned the word. This unconscious survival tool buffered me from any more taken from me because precious little was left; an ember burning for life, one spec of fire buried under rubble, a kernel of hope almost extinguished by the hands of brothers.

They didn’t mean it. They were messed up. I was an easy target. It was never about me. It was all about me. Rage and dissociation took my life. Yet the work was diligent to have a life, forging on to fight for one, pushing through no matter what. That takes lives too, draining the already over-taxed adrenals so much it could kill you.

At the least it has gobbled up energy stores, unlike most others around me who go, go, go. The body takes many hits for psychological pain, pointedly traumatic pain where the family requires silence. Unprocessed traumatic pain inflames all body systems damaging them permanently, alone with the psyche, and spirit. Emotional growth becomes stalled requiring much work and many years to catch up.

There are many outlets to this unconscionable  pain running deep in the bones of little girls growing to womanhood…  those take lives too.

You did not mean to take my life. Yet you did. And the guilt ate you dead. Though I envisioned ways to chop you up, I did not really wish you dead. I wanted to love you. I wanted you to love me. I wanted a loving family, with loving brothers. I wanted warmth. Connection. A body to be in. You took that. You didn’t mean to, but you did.

 

GROWTH

Living a reclusive life doesn’t mean no opportunity for growth. No matter how I hide it comes knocking, and knocking me down. Those closest offer the greatest opportunity at overcoming long standing behaviors that keep me from my best self.

Instead of pouting, turning off and away with coldness from loved ones who hurt me, the pain and tears come. And come some more. Old wounds not healed, (can they ever be?) are easily made to open causing today’s hurt to compound into pain that doubles me over.

So this is healing. Tears, pain, then more of both. The damage done was that much.

And after the tears, though more leak out over time, there is a lightness and forgiveness for those whose insensitivities caused so much pain. Pain that did not match the circumstances. Pain that went much deeper.

Why does this affect me so? Going there, opening the wounds, allowing the tears even if I don’t at first understand them, frees pain to surface. Bitterness and vengefulness dissipate as each tear falls. 

The path is excruciating. There is a girl still hurting… a girl abandoned, a part of me locked up reacting today to anything similar.  It is only in going back to take her hand that all of me is present today, deepening the rooms where I dwell, offering a place within that feels good to be in.