A New Day

photo by Patricia

Winter yawns before me, even though the leaves have only begun to fall. The cat hunches on the screened porch in the cold darkness, too cold for me to join her which was the usual all summer long. Dark, cold and quiet, too quiet, disturbingly quiet.

No morning birds to greet me, no tree frogs, no nothing. Crickets still hum when the sun appears, but the sun is long in coming because my usual waking is about 5:30 AM…. Grateful for another full night of sleep.

But how to conquer this new time of year, when darkness creeps into the light of day, and the corners of my mind. The tendency to do down in mood, inevitable, yet something feels different. An internal current prevails which gently rushes the shores of my being, not tidal waves of panic, anxiety and fear.

A time of peace unfounded. A life of terror quelled. Anxiety petted until purring with contentment. It is new territory, unused to, but take it. It is OK to take, live it, and savor what never was but now is.

The years of pretending-over. The truth told against all that wished me to stay mum. Most of the monsters from the house of my child-hood, dead. Though the memory of their terror remains, my synapses hard-wired with it, anticipating the quiet to suddenly explode. That edginess smoothed out but close-by at all times. 

Walking the path as the sun warms my body and hickory nuts crunch underfoot, my words try to comfort the scared child within. It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK. Even now, or especially now, she needs comforting. They are dead, they are dead, they are dead. Only one remains. And he is far away.

Monsters are real. I lived with them. And the memory lies inside me ready to wake. But now the calm goes on day after day, and I dare breath, take in the day, take in the now, and feel peace.  

 

A HAPPY DWELLING

Waking, the first feeling is edginess, and with it attempts at quelling anxiety. Soon my breathing becomes regular, and my body feels soothed as encouraging thoughts are put into place. Good sleep patterns occur once again. Why long periods of restful sleep are suddenly interrupted by a difficult night remains a mystery.

The workings of my mind baffle me. Not being able to fall asleep must have  come from me, perhaps a belief that sleep was undeserved because I’d let important self-care tasks go out of whack.

Punishment. Until cleaning up my act, punishment. And that feels true. As the sky turns rosy and another day erupts, thoughts go to, ‘What can I do to nurture myself today?’

Self-care comes first. I am no good to others unless gentle care is provided at home within myself. It feels selfish and wrong, yet is the very exact right thing to do. Make my inner dwelling caring and whole, only then can it be truly shared with others.  

HOME

Days string together brilliant, azure blue, and sunny, warming my body with memories of what’s to come. The stove will be fired up just as my bones begin to ache. The pleasure of just ‘being’ during this lull of peace needs more careful absorption… as with all things, it is temporary.

Wisps of jet plumes, pink and yellow from the rising sun, crisscross the sky as a lone cardinal chips from the hedge-row nearby. The mornings are still interrupted only by a distant train whistle, or a car going by.

The day opening is greeted with anticipation. When younger more excitement is looked for, though it is hard to discern whether it was excitement or anxiety. Now my belly turns with excitement over a trip to the glen, or a butterfly nearby during a walk through the meadow.

I do not have to leave home to be happy. All that is needed is right here on the land, but more completely right inside my own self; a place once scattered, broken, and chaotic now home

 

GROWING (into who I already am)

It is very hard for others, even, or most especially those close to me, to respond to the person I’m becoming; or the person at my core who I’ve always been. My true spirit has been covered with anger, self-doubt, mistrust (of self), and all the vast smears left by childhood trauma.

Not a social animal, not involved with much in the community, or with others, there are connections— a few friends, sons, and Samuel. Samuel seems the most confounded by the changes. Unconscious efforts erupt to pull me back to what was because that is familiar.

Familiar can feel satisfying, the ruts of pain status quo. For two people wanting depth in their lives, growing pains must continue even as skin ages, wrinkles, and sags. Boxing in behaviors to keep things the same is not freedom, it is jail.

Refusing to allow another to take my worth, and doing so with grace not rage, puts the mirror in front of him. The possibility for growth is seeded for us both. The pay-off of growing older is growing wiser. One person must take the leap so the other dares come too.  

Love of Self

“Spend,” she said. Imagine having a financial adviser after our careful life of spending, and one who says SPEND!

“You have too much cash on hand.” she added, “Statistics say one of you will live to ninety.”

“I’m not connecting the dots.” I said, “If we live that long then we need all the money we can save.”

Legally she is not supposed to let on what we already know. Existing cash can be siphoned into a nursing home if one of us had to go there. So she and our attorney suggested spending some of it, doing things, or giving some to our sons.

Don’t wait and let the state take it, was the inference raised. This goes totally against our life-time of being exceedingly careful about expenditures. I doubt their advice will change our ways.

How did this happen? Spend? Please, I feel guilty adding to my DVD collection, or buying specialty coffee. I reuse plastic baggies until they don’t hold water, and some of them last years.

When Shane was a baby, cloth diapers were hung around the wood stove to dry. Our house had no walls, no real floor, no good water, septic, electric, or a sound roof which needed a complete tear-down. And none of that mattered. I was just glad to out of my mother’s basement, and extraordinarily excited to own our first home, even if it was more like a shell of one.

Most items, from kitchen supplies, to clothes, to toys, were bought at garage sales, even Christmas presents when Shane and Cory were too young to know the difference. And that’s OK. We were, and are, happy.

Our sons know the value of a dollar and how to spend wisely, and do not allow manufacturer’s to take advantage of them. They speak up about poor quality, asking for the manager when necessary.

What is needed, and craved for, can’t be bought— living in the moment without fear. Not fearing death, the future, or now. What I want doesn’t grow on trees like money does, so the old adage says. It isn’t found in stores. It exists in the fields of nature, the mountains of the Adirondacks, in the glens nearby where we camp, in our back yard, and mostly inside myself.

Calm, peace, acceptance, and triumphing over the battle always lost in decades prior, that of loving myself. The childhood attacks inflicted upon me meant a life of self-loathing. But that is changing, if ever so slowly it is.

There lies inside a generous, loving soul with great courage, fortitude and strength. I am learning to love what is found beneath the filth of my brother’s hands, coming up out of 60 years of shame that is not mine and never was.

 

TRUTH

It’s three in the morning and my fear is that with fall on its way, so is waking in the middle of night without being able to go back to sleep. Summer gave relief from that, though falling asleep was sometimes a problem. My body seems to thrive on more daylight. 

Or maybe it’s just recovery from a tough day. Meeting the eye doctor went well. On the way there, and beforehand, stress tears fell. But then a crack deep inside opened with light. You’re a good person.

The whip of being me was lain down, then strength. Letting go of the insults; being weak, not traveling to Cory’s, being so scared about a simple appointment, all the differentness felt over a life-time that were about to break me became friendly and softened. 

The adult needs to advocate for the terrified child. Dissolving into a teary mess will not get my needs met. That was the internal speech as Samuel drove us to the city. While the assistant tested my vision that’s exactly what happened. When asked to read the very large letters with my left eye I fell apart.

I couldn’t, then turned into a soppy mess. I’ve been holding it in over the last few years as my eyes, especially that one, became more and more blurry often causing unbalance and nausea from not seeing well. 

But then I would remind myself of impoverished countries where older people became blind due to cataracts. They accepted their fate as if it were natural. Volunteer doctors came into their town doing cataract removals, and suddenly the miracle of sight.

The assistant stopped and very gently asked what was wrong. What was it about my history?

Wiping the tears I told her about a traumatic childhood and that someone coming at my body, or changes in my body that I can’t control, terrify me. Handing me a tissue, she also offered water. Kindnesses such as this ease the experience exponentially. 

Once gathering myself, facing the fact of the eye being so bad, we continued the exam. She left as the eye dilated from the drops. The doctor arrived after Samuel and I watched a video about the procedure which was very helpful.

He impressed me, along with the office, super clean, friendly, and conscientious to details. He shook my hand firmly, always a good sign. When discussing my needs he asked for more information.

“I was sexually attacked by 4 out of 7 brothers. I remember everything 3 of them did. The other was so violent I have blocked it out. The PTSD is why I need deeper sedation, enough to be out, not conscious at all. I cannot guarantee keeping still with someone coming at my body,” I said distinctly, without tears, or emotion.

He continued on with professionalism. In rare cases, he is willing to do both eyes at once if general anesthesia is used. The usual practice is to do one at a time. My regular eye doctor assured me two at once is not possible, but this doctor agreed to my request.

So it’s done. The date will be in October once the scheduler calls to set it up. It has taken a very long time to outright discuss my needs, and why. It has been a haltingly slow process. The early family chains to keep it all hidden reached deep.

This force to remain quiet about such deep traumas made for a life of duality; my real life inside me, the other life where all that came out of my mouth were lies. Nothing was real. Trained to be pleasing meant having no needs, no anger, no nothing. Especially no truth.

Learning to be true, to even feel my real needs, and then to express them is incredibly hard, and still new, but I have done it, and keep doing it.

 

BRAVERY

Bravery. It took bravery to decline my son’s offer to visit, and to explain why. It is more usual to put my husband’s, and son’s needs or wants before my own. It is unusual to pay respect to my own. It brings me great pleasure and satisfaction for my family to be happy.

Cory really wanted me to come see his new home, which is why I said yes, while my insides were screaming NO! And to decline only a week prior seems very discourteous. He has been aware of my extreme ambivalence.

Last week I gave another firm yes. But I also mentioned at the tail end of my ‘yes’ about tomorrow’s appointment meeting the new eye surgeon, and the trepidation that involves.  

There are limits to what I can do. Facing the upcoming eye surgeries is taking a great deal of courage, even if the actual procedures are a month or more away. Every day a thrumming undercurrent of terror vibrates in my belly. Someone cutting on my eye? Strangers at my body? 

To drive 6 hours on busy freeways to visit Cory, then stay away from home for several nights, would cause a huge disturbance in my well-being. No matter that it is with loved ones. Being away, dealing with traffic, and an unfamiliar environment, will cause dire stress inside me. Yes, I can do it, but at what cost? Too much right now.

That decision plunges me into the abyss of sadness for having these limitations. But no, I choose not to go there either. I am so lucky to have all I have. To have a loving husband, and two amazing sons who are happy in their lives, and are thriving. This lovely home, and the meadow which brings so much peace. No, I won’t go into sadness. Why should I?

But, just as everything else in my life seems as if in opposition, if a day brings tears mourning once again for what was lost during childhood, that is OK too. Feeling what I feel is a better road than denial. Acceptance is necessary for the feelings to flow through. Much was lost, or taken. Grieving isn’t over in a day, and may take years to mourn. Making a decision not to feel something might not work.

Yet gratitude fills me, and that is my focus. Much of my life has been scorched with anxiety buzzing through my veins like acid. That has changed dramatically over the last ten years… after my mother died, when the freedom for authenticity blossomed. When there was no longer a need to pretend for her happiness that we were a ‘happy family.’

The hate for myself is evolving into self-love and respect. The shame once making me wanting to die daily, dissolved when writing the book; black-tarry snakes wired inside my gut slithering up and out each week, scraping the tender internal issue on its way out. Every nasty evil thing my little child body endured was released with the telling.

Also popping up and out like carbonated, sparkling bubbles were joyful times. Those too had been imprisoned inside with the traumas. Suppression took it all. Healing began to be more than just a word.

The shame is not mine.

I admire the woman I’ve become, the endurance, strength, persistence, and courage it has taken to get here. I look at my husband and begin to feel sorry for him, that he has a wife who keeps him from doing what he wants, who won’t fly, take big trips, blah, blah, blah. Really? What about all the positives? Fortitude, compassion, creativity, devotion to family, ;;; 

I will continue to work at honoring the things about myself others have seen but I’ve been blind to, and to honor my real needs.

I will love who I am, and all I have…