The Things We Learn

And so it goes, recovery. Shane forgives, why can’t I? We spent time together watching his son play in his basketball tournament winning by a landslide. But more sweetly was time with Shane after my regretful expression of long standing anger which had built up over time. 

Shane’s voice sounded dry and some ground needs making up. The call this morning started with the same coolness, but ended with ‘love you,’ something he had left out of the last few calls. We will resume our monthly lunch dates, though his office is on the other side of the city.

There hasn’t been lunch dates the last few years because after three hospital stays in one year, fear had grown in my belly. Even shopping at the grocery store brought uneasiness, anxiety, and ungroundedness.

As health restored, and internal bleeding became better controlled by the daily high potent antacid, my bravery at doing more increases. That long ago stomach stapling caused severe complications due to the newness of the procedure putting my life at risk over the loss of so much blood.

Though one ER doctor pressed for blood transfusions, another suggested recovery was possible without it, Over the 4 day stay a few years back, I managed to improve without the transfusions. But at home full recovery took many months to heal the internal opening made by the surgeon in ’85.

Eating often caused debilitating pain for hours afterwards. Now that things are more stable, lunch dates might be a very good way to again spend some time with my busy son. He sounded happy to hear of resuming our lunches. So mending occurs on all levels. 

So often my own sufferings are kept to a minimum when it comes to relaying them to my sons. Why burden them? Yet being factual is also necessary, which means being upfront about challenges. 

Things we learn along the way…

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GROWTH & RESPECT

All three grand-kids were supposed to come Wednesday, but because my return email to Shane was still sending a message of pain, he stayed home till his wife returned then went to work. And that was OK with me. Samuel seemed mad at me, but Samuel has been part of the problem.

A man that would skirt confrontation at any cost, transgressions by Shane’s wife against me were supported by him rather than challenged. Which gave her more license to take advantage, and mistreat me. She had power and control, I had none, even about being treated with respect. Treat me however you want, I have no say, and no one to back me.

Instead of asking Samuel what was wrong Wednesday, I went about my day unperturbed. Showing respect for myself asks that others respect me too. His use of rejecting me as a passive way to get me on board with continuing to sell myself for peace at any cost won’t sway me this time. I have had enough.

But it was hard. It is still hard because wanting to contact Shane continues. I think he needs to respond. It is his turn.

Change is hard, growing pains hurt. Shifts in behavior are more tiring than over-doing it physically. The glands on both sides of my neck pop out under stress, and there they are. Do the things that restore, a hot bath, the elliptical trainer, meditation, and my favorite movies. Signs of well-being slowly return. Maybe when sleep returns to adequate amounts I’ll be able to work in my studio, but not yet. 

I have felt stifled since the day ten years ago when Shane brought his new wife into my home to read a letter listing all my faults and infractions. The length was such she never did get to the end of it,

It was the same day my mother went into the hospital for the last time before dying. I was already an anxious wreak, not sleeping, up most nights stuffing slabs of thickly buttered white bread into my mouth. White bread is a no no any other time.  

Yes, she was a new wife. Yes, I’m a hard nut to crack, because you hurt me I clam up. And she had hurt me. And she does not handle things outright, instead concocting medical issues that express her pain, and her need for attention, and control.

Most of what was said that day is forgotten. But one thing bore into me, ‘Seeing grand-children is a privilege, not a right.’

Samuel thanked her for coming.

That has been the dysfunction ever since. I don’t see it clearing up anytime soon, or ever on her part. But I don’t need to be disrespected out of guilt from being a bad parent.

Until recently, if you asked, I could tell you every bad, awful mistake I ever made with Shane. Lately I have begun thinking of the sacrifices, hard work, and love. Whatever my foibles, I deserve respect, rather than being used like a puppet by a girl who can’t find her way, shredding me like tattered paper in the process with her willfulness.  

The hold on me these past ten years has mirrored Tom’s hold on me in years prior, from childhood to middle age.

To finally break free from the grip of put-downs by another, leading me to believe the put-downs, is a giant leap of growth to be celebrated, cherished, and proud of. It will take work and mindfulness not to get sucked under, and to remain upright.

It is interesting that no matter how isolated or protected you make your life, there is nowhere to run. 

 

My Passion

It is exhausting erecting boundaries where there has been none. My body feels limp, tired,, and as if run over by a train. The back and forth with my son, knowing that one of his responses was written at three in the morning, has also kept me up in the middle of each night with worry about him.

Worry about him, juggled with the need to take a stand for myself and say, NO! No I will not be talked into taking all the blame so that everybody else can feel good. I need to live and be able to care for myself too.

And somewhere along the line, he needs to find the voice to speak up to his own wife who takes, and takes, and takes. I am tired of her laziness trampling all over me. She is a very spoiled girl in her thirties. 

Exhausting. Until the day of my death, speaking up will come hard. It feels foreign and wrong. When a voice is stolen, it does not come back, not without a superhuman amount of effort coupled with exhaustion, and many, many tears.

Like a muscle unused it remains limp and weak. All the years of my life, I’ve watched others express anger in the moment. The longing for that consumed me with jealousy. Others hear anger from another naturally, as if unfazed and expected. When you’re hurt you say ouch. When I’m hurt, I stuff it.

To do otherwise will continue to be hard. To know when enough is enough, and take a stand is hard. Especially with those I love so much, but with anyone. It has always been that way since the day I was silenced at eight years old.

Telling Seth Danny fucked me as a little girl of eight? No one came to help. No one came to stop it. No one helped me heal Talking about it even now 60 years later with brothers who didn’t abuse me is not allowed. I have no family other than my sons, grand-children, and Samuel.

Writing my feelings is my air. Writing is how I keep alive as a whole human being.

 

Owning My Life

What can nourish you today? Hot packs on a sore shoulder. Walking in the mall in place of trouncing through the snow in the meadow which caused so much aching afterwards yesterday. Eating nutritiously yet enjoyably. Meditate as it grounds, and brings back the feeling of being ‘home.’

These are the tasks today. Take care of you. Though aloneness can sometimes be painful, mostly it is a joy to have each day be mine. A grand-daughter spends the night over the week-end. She is such a sweet pleasure to be with. We play with dolls, combing their hair, changing outfits. The little girl me smiles.

We make Valentine hearts, and cards, adding sparkle. It’s popcorn night with a princess movie. For breakfast we make donut pancakes with blue frosting and butterfly sprinkles. She is involved in the entire process. At only six, her pancake flipping.skills exceed her age.

When it’s time for her to go some loss is felt, but also relief that the daily care of children is done. My life is now my own, and I like it.

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.

 

A New Year

photo by Patricia

Do better, be better. And, or, allow for my humanness which provides softening in one’s soul, a soothing that all is OK even when it’s not. Because it never is all alright. There is a pull of tension then the relief of satisfying peace. This ebb and flow is a part of life. Acceptance rather than fighting offers the peace you seek.

Why does one relationship drill me to the bone causing pain that keeps me awake in the night, even nightmares that ring in my brain days later? Is it the other person, or is it my reaction to them? It is only my reaction under my control, yet the same old reactions occur year after year causing the inevitable feeling of failure that I am not in control of at least myself.

If it’s me and only me that I control, then why can’t I do better? Why can’t I go with the flow and let the silliness of what’s going on fall off me like shedding water?  This dilemma doesn’t seem to soften or improve. Or if there are improvements, I’m not noticing them. Maybe this tension filled relationship is just here to stay. Lighten up. You’re not alone. We all have those who we learn the most about ourselves from.

It is not easy. It is often painful. But the work needing to be done is the same work everyone works on, to grow oneself. To expand, dig deep, and do better.

 

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.