PRESENCE

The body heals, but why must the mind stay broken? Broken in that it wields the power to destroy with thoughts that are negative, and lately going backwards to what one therapist used to label as ‘catastrophic thinking;’ a highly honed talent that needs to be extracted from my tool box, yet seems here to stay no matter how much work is pitted against it.

Summer, usually the most joyful because more daylight fights off winter depression which drops like a cloud in fall pressing down till spring, has brought up issues in both body and mind. But perhaps all summers have had their challenges and when we remember we forget the hardships and think of the best times?

As my body heals from the harsh divertriculitis attack, other mental challenges present themselves, but perhaps those are needed on the path to healing too. The healing of my spirit does not heal as efficiently as my body.

But isn’t that how it is for everybody? Growth is ongoing, ever-changing, and if you are aware continues till one’s last breath. That doesn’t have to be a life-sentence, but instead a life opportunity. It is just that lately the struggles seem to about sink me.

Yet up again for air. Go slow. Stay in the moment, and most of all pick up the meditation practice slipped from daily must do’s after over 20 years of diligent habit. That brings comfort but one must do it!

It brings my being to my core. Settling into it like a warm caress placing all the pieces where they belong… Pain doesn’t go away, but room is made for it. Acceptance with patience, attributes not possessed in abundance – expand- helping me to be and stay present.

Isn’t that what life is about? To be in each moment, to treasure them, live them, painful or not?

Fill Up on the Simple Things

Back to basics, remembering what is so easily forgotten, the very simple plan of working on self-care and self-love. My job, as what occurred in the developing of my personality was just the opposite; self-hate, self-destruction, and the loud critic a constantly nagging companion.

It is not easy to change the trajectory of one’s upbringing. And had death taken me already, which at 68 is quite possible, the peace created now wouldn’t have materialized. It has taken decades. It has taken a strength of fortitude that only now can be appreciated.

Some people might like a do-over, but not me. No way could going through the depressions, and robot-like living be done again. The magic of meadow walks, solitude, and each moment of life treasured… a new miracle some have had the good pleasure to have never lost. It has taken a great deal of work to have arrived here, where living feels good more than ever before.

My center, my core, any basic trust in others was lost at age eight. Shattered, only now able to pick up a few fragments, but never knowing really what life would have been like growing up under the roof of a loving, functional family.

My sons are together for a week at Cape Cod. My usual feelings before now would include a searing loneliness wanting to be with them even though knowing it would be impossible. The drive, the traffic, and having to take something to sleep every night over the course of 7 nights— too much! The loneliness for it crept in anyway. But not now. Now? Gratitude.

Now I feel only joy that they can be together, and I can be at peace doing what I do. The sun, the birds, the critters, Samuel, a few friends, snaps and photos from Shane and Cory daily (enjoying their trip vicariously without the hassle), and summer. My days are full and happy.

SCATTERED

Yesterday after the rains finally cleared…

A willful, spoiled, tyrant of a four year old stripped me of centeredness, confidence, or any belief in myself.

“Should I order chicken?” I asked Samuel, one of a barrage of questions about what to do about very simple mundane things that he wouldn’t know the answer to anyway.

Feeling scattered, I dump a puzzle out but don’t have the where with all to really sit and do it. Puzzles help to center me, forgetting that this feeling of scatteredness has been a way of life and even still can visit daily. There are ways to get back in there… to my core where wise answers come.

Losing weight makes it scary. How to keep losing it, feeling bones that had been hidden, feeling good, all ripped away by the rejection of a toddler making a war out of his way vs my way. Perhaps going along and letting him be king of my house like it seems he is at his own, is the best way to be happy?

Dr. Phil’s quote, ‘Do you want to be happy, or be right?’

I want to be happy, but something in me won’t allow disrespect from a child at any age. It is untenable to me, but my belief is that it is also harmful to a child. A child fights to have his or her way, but really does not want that kind of power. They need to know that the adult is in charge no matter what kind of fit is dramatized.

Yet doubts creep in, fear, and indecisiveness, not just about Bennett but about even little decisions. This wave of ungroundedness creates more questions about what’s going on and how it provokes memories of the past which really aren’t so past. The feelings of rejection for doing no wrong, but rather being ganged up on.

The feelings of being talked about, as in way back as a child hearing Seth in the kitchen with his teenage friends thinking I heard them say something about me. Seth, though not one of the attackers, chose to be closest with Tom through the years, the eldest attacker and the only one still living.

But what was happening was I was being attacked, I was not the one who was wrong, but felt that way ever since no matter how much work is put into uncovering the real truth. This has become the bedrock of my personality, my way of responding to just about everything; being wrong, bad, or even fit to live. The courage and work it takes to counteract this is enormous and ongoing.

These issues thought to be healed from are even present, and little bratty Bennett has poked a pin in them. Tom comes to mind while meditating. As the pounds dissolve there are thoughts of letting him know exactly how badly he hurt me.

Because he never got it. His one attempt to talk via phone wasn’t about ‘I’m so sorry, can you ever forgive me,’ it was excuses.

“I was so young,” he said.

After the call my fury sent me out to the forest to bang on trees. YOUNG? You were in college, home on Christmas break! You were old enough to be prosecuted.

During meditation when thoughts are to still, my mind whirled as usual. It is only the last moments when the buzzer goes off that my mind quiets. But this time my busy brain imagined sending an email with a link to my book. Maybe send a book. But really, do you want to share so much of yourself with a creep? Perhaps just the chapter about him? Now that’s an idea.

But then, why bother? Leave them all behind to be whatever they want to be as a group, and go on as I am, plodding along, but discovering on my own path that there’s beauty and peace both around and inside me. The deep wounds will not likely go away completely but need to be lived with. Those sorrowful feelings need space with the joy.

And that is the trick, acceptance of it all, opening up all the doors internally, letting the air flow between each one. Escape is not an option on the path to health, love, joy, and peace.

Yesterday after the rains…

CARPE DIEM

Floundering, lost, getting my footing on solid ground- a wish with memories of feeling so confident not long ago. So easily the apple cart is upset, the pieces strewn haphazardly, unable to find them all as many remain hidden.

Sometimes one needs to just accept the moment and its messiness. Remember? Even when it’s going well, that internal need for self-talk must be ever present and is always needed. You’re OK, a refrain which calms me all day long because moment to moment feels so uncertain.

The sureness will come, confidence will rise, and the days will become brighter. But rain comes to us all, a day can have both sunshine and dreariness. So take it all and just keep going…

DARE TO GROW

Once again back into my core, my own mortality is grasped. Though sounding morose, it is a daily confrontation when my mind is not going in circles and peace extends herself throughout my being. It is when facing my own death each day that worries piling up dissipate because suddenly they lose importance up against the reality of the time limits of life.

My home comes back into full view, feeling the prettiness and safety. The meadow comes alive swaying in the breeze or its stillness when there isn’t any. Scents zone into my center that were always there but not noted due to fractures in my thoughts and centeredness.

My path becomes confident, the questions of how dare I do what I need to instead of what others want me to slipping away like so much waste. It is waste when putting my life in how I perceive others want me to live it.

It is my life. Choose your path and have the courage to the follow it.  Let go of Mother’s teachings: You should be ashamed of yourself. DUMMY. That’s not nice. All the requirements she had in order to feel loved or at least not abandoned.

LIVING

It’s OK, you’re OK, the message needed often and daily. During the pandemic when all were essentially shut down from socializing, my feelings of oddness went away and good feelings replaced them. Others were forced into solitude… like me.

Forced solitude out of the knowledge that others cause harm. That was learned during childhood. It does not change. Also, there is a need for seclusion because too much stimulation sets me off into the stratosphere.

Now others have taken up their social activities, singing in choir, doing band performances in parades such as the couple we know, church gatherings and dinners, get-togethers… and the list goes on.

But it is just as OK now for me to live the life chosen for me even if it differs from the majority of others. A life with quietness, peace (hopefully), and with ease. With retirement there is a drifting of purpose.

Raising sons gave me purpose. Then my nursing degree when the kids were older. Then the job, haranguing as it was to my psyche and emotions. Ugh. Now what?

We saved like little squirrels, so now we know we can pay our bills even though no longer working. So, now what? What is the purpose? No answers here except life. Live it. Live it the best that you can by being in each moment, squeezing the goodness out of each one, even the pain that comes with them. Yes, even that.

Live, grow, oh, try to grow. Work at growing and becoming a better person, and there is much room to grow. And enjoy the simple bounty around you.

There is Herman, the young buck in the field, coming each day, even as I walk by. His head lifts up from the tall grass and we have a moment staring at each other.

“Hi Hermie,” I say greeting him, his big ears atop the brown body unmoving, then he decides to hop away, the white fluff of tail bobbing behind him.

Just enjoy all you have, temper the willful brain that likes to take detours into unhappiness, steer it back to the moment. Not all moments are happy, often there is sadness without knowing why. Feel them, release them by feeling, and let them go.

There is happiness amidst pain. Let it all come and flow through. That is living.

Friends Are Family

My beautiful grand-daughter Cindy….

Hearing the ding of emails coming in, taking a breath, a sigh of relief calms me knowing that any emails coming from the culprits of those in the so called origin family will be diverted to junk mail.

I’ll never see them or know emails are there unless I look. And mostly there won’t be any. No one interacts much unless wanting something, which is rare. But it’s a necessary step right now to feel safe, find my freedom again, and be at peace.

The emails come from friends, those few that are real family, trusted and supportive in a honest way, not in ways that serve only them. And in they come, reliable, loving, and filling the ragged holes that the origin family ravaged with their fake interest and hollow words.

Friends, the family made after years of work, commenting on the video and photos of my 8 year old grand-daughter in a huge dance competition where she recently took first place among all the area dance studio’s participants.

Oh to see her whole, loving, and complete, the age when I was first attacked. An age where the longing for ballet classes was not to be because food used to survive the traumas put too many pounds on to my little kid frame.

She’s a winner to us regardless of any wins, her grace and beauty overflowing. Tears fill my eyes while watching, and joy sent sparklers of shivers down my legs to my toes….

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BURDEN

To be sexually attacked as a child by loved ones is a killing burden. Not only suffering such attacks which attacks one’s very core of love, trust, faith, and the belief in humanity, but then the imposed silence.

No one comes running to rescue, comfort, or listen. No medical or psychological intervention which can save a soul. The wounding compounded by the family’s silence and loyalties to the abuser(s). That is the life sentence…the silence.

Learning that the shame is mine. That speaking out about such atrocities is not OK makes speaking up for anything throughout life about impossible, or taking extraordinary will and energy. The burden kills, or can, and too often does.

Living long enough, working hard enough, a well opens where all the past has been screamed out, and all the present lies ahead with feelings of hope, joy, and freedom. Freedom is the hard one, the one needing reminders that I’m not locked down by the origin families rules. I make the rules.

Know Thyself

What was known all along still is interesting to me, that others who have never been met in person are closer to me than my own family. It is my sense that those called ‘family’ not only commit to silence about the traumas I suffered, collude in the silence and protection of those that chose to commit crimes on their little sister, but also find ways to keep distance from me even if chatting in person face to face.

And even those that are close, like friends, Samuel, and sons, don’t know, really know, how wounding the silence is. But on-line with those who have suffered the same silence, collusion, and conspiracy… respite, understanding, and acceptance is found.

Not just acceptance from others, but learning to accept myself. Growing up with the traumas suppressed as is typical in families where sexual abuse occurs by one of their own to one of their own, compassion for myself was and still is too often non-existent.

Non-existent too when around family who brings up a name of an abuser, whether accidentally, or thoughtlessly, or as a way to say to me that you will say whatever you want even if it hurts me. It rams like a punch to the gut causing instant dissociation needing force to choose between leaving now to that place of another dimension or stay in the present. 

It has taken over a week to find my way back to my core where compassion, self-understanding and confidence flows. That is the favored place, not zoned out to that ether place of safety used to shield myself from unwelcome hands as a little girl, then becoming a habit well into later life. 

Sons are not supposed to be one’s personal therapist, but my sons have been, especially Cory. Each grew centered, connections complete without fracture. Wanting that desperately, it drew me close as if they were the adults and I the child. Perhaps their wholeness would drift into me. 

It isn’t supposed to be that way. Yet they both grew whole, something I sought but instead was lost in a life of fog, confusion, and anxiety. Cory has forgiven my needy ways, assuring me it helped make him a more compassionate adult. But he was put in the adult role too often in my need for assistance to stay afloat.

Gratefulness has begun to flow back melting the numbness of a careless remark. Sons so special despite growing up with a fractured mother. On-line friends, and blogging are magical; getting feelings out, sorting through them, which greatly helps to understand myself and the world around me. A way to finally speak what never could be spoken.

 

HUNGER

Photos by Patricia (bluebird baby)

Having to pretend since age 8 that the horrors suffered weren’t real, it became customary for me to stuff them away. That took a lot of food, food that mother loved to cook then see others eat. Weight gain, up and down since age 8.

Even mangling my inner organs to be normal. That pleased my mother who told me about the magical operation.

She left out the part that meant intense pain for hours, and countless episodes on the bathroom floor hoping to upchuck the extra teaspoon of food swallowed. What was left of my stomach was  a tiny pouch with only enough room for a tablespoon or so of food.

That is a problem for a person accustomed to using food as an escape from the body, and had since age 8 when my mother’s cure for the first terrifying attack was to stuff with me food. And if my mother’s love was at the end of a spoon it was better than nothing.

To be in my body now is a revelation. Not realizing that my entire life has been an escape, the exploration into this brings up empathy unfounded in my own inner workings. Because usually there is harshness, blame, and self-castigation. Compassion has begun to blossom.

To go through all that all alone. To suffer like that all alone, except for a mother on the side-lines always making it worse because she didn’t want a fat daughter. So she put me in fashion shows, and beauty contests, and then as an adult excitedly telling me about this operation which years later put me in the hospital due to internal bleeding where the inexperienced surgeon make his cuts to rearrange my internal organs.

It was never about weight, but about pain suppressed. About a little girl alone whose only resource was eating because you readily pushed food, loved to cook, and loved even more to see it eaten.

Mom, normal is to feel. Normal is to go to your daughter’s aid and keep any son from attacking me again. It doesn’t matter if you’re left a widow with 8 kids, you’re story over and over again whenever trying to tell you how angry I was at you and why.

You could have 20 kids, just stop and do the right thing. No more attacks, and don’t tell your little daughter who is crying hot tears down her cheeks, that if it ever happens again to tell you. Of course I wouldn’t, too ashamed to do so. As if I had the power to stop it by telling you. YOU STOP IT.

So food became an escape from the body as other sons took what they wanted. And I became more and more invisible as my body got larger. And that was 60 years ago but the same methods of not feeling are still being used.

Yet beauty occurs, that of feeling deep down inside with peace not tsunamis. I can go there and be OK, better than OK. Still tentatively trying it out, but more and more comfortable being there. It is a beautiful thing, one others live daily without question. But for a trauma survivor it is a new place to be that brings wholeness, peace, and love for self.

Instead of self-repugnance for a too big body since childhood, there is the beginnings of understanding and compassion. Food is used to numb, to not be in the body. I have not understood just how terrifying my childhood was. That leaving the body became the norm when my body was attacked, not the other way around which is really the norm when living childhood without trauma.

Without intervention or release of the agony inside me, I ate for the next sixty years. Even when the stomach was butchered into a tiny pouch- I ate. I had to, even though it meant long periods wrapped about the toilet on the cold tile floor. There was still interaction with ‘family’ acting like I loved them because that’s what was required. Of course I ate.

It is a new beginning where food is eaten out of hunger, not all the other hungers, but true physical hunger. And that only begins to happen when love and compassion are heard inside of me filling the ragged holes that food once filled. That is not the head or brain… that is the soul hungry for love.