SUNRISE

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I have tried to train myself to different hours, going to bed later to wake later but it doesn’t work. I’m asleep by 10 pm awake at 5 am. That’s OK since much beauty awakens in the early morning and I thrive on it. It allows for much needed alone time since Samuel has retired. Even the best of mates need space… 

I await the grand-children and my son and daughter-in-law for egg dyeing and quiche later this morning… 

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The Courage to Live

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FEAR

I have lived a life-time of fear since age 8 invading every moment in one way or another. Forced to grow up within a male population called brothers who attacked in the night, or even during the broad light of day, made fear a constant companion. Even though Chet, Dan, and Pete are dead, and the most evil, Tom, still lives spreading his poison, I live in fear at the easiest upset. 

It is hard not to resent what they did. Living with low esteem added to continual fear of people, and the inability to speak up for myself, eroded my natural abilities and has been debilitating.

Yet I persevere. I can get over what they did to my body. But what they did to my trust, shattered beyond repair, what they took from ever feeling safe with touch and loving sex with my husband, the betrayals of each attack, and this list goes on… these I can heal from or after time have learned to live and accept as the damage done.

But fear? Anxiety? Jumping at every loud sound, or medical people working on my body in any way sending me in panic for days, even months after? These are just some of the life-long effects I resent living with that were caused by these tormentors.

These challenges erode my courage, weakening me, and in the wee hours of the morning tend to make me wonder how I can continue to cope; especially since an aging body needs many more medical interventions to keep functioning.

It pisses me off. I’d like to put my real name on my blog and use real names for who did what when. Not to get even, but to stand up and say NO. No this is not alright. NO, it is not alright to silence me out of your own shame and fear of how it will make you look.

Yet the anonymity of the freedom to talk openly without hurting anyone offers a resource I cherish, as if this outlet is a replacement for therapy. Expression of honest feelings, which aren’t right or wrong but just there, is a freeing experience. Dumping it all and feeling heard and acknowledged is a human need as crucial as air.

I do not want to give that up. So even though I could put my name on my blog, I chose not to. Not out of fear, (I don’t think so) but out of my own need to talk freely when and how I like; and for the first time ever in my life.

Taught to be pleasing, to live with and love the criminals who attacked me masked as ‘brothers,’ makes it a challenge to discover who I really am even now. I continue to search for ‘her’ going below the surface of the ‘nice’ girl my mother manipulated and trained me to be.

Mom’s need reined, that of ensuring the fallacy of an upstanding family was on show, but at the expense of her daughter. I acquiesced because I craved her love to the very end unable to provide a moments warmth for myself and needing what little she had to give.

The book erupted out of me after her death 8 years ago. It was finally safe to speak of her sons. All that had been suppressed arose; the joys, the traumas, the black tarry secrets of others, and the wonders that sustained me. 

Yet I am left with challenges I resent. It makes me turn resentment into fortitude, grasping courage like an old tree rooting it deeper, transforming the bitter truths into beauty. This I will do, or try to day after day. 

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OH SAMUEL!

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Feeling down and scared over a GYN problem plus symptoms of the cold or flu coming on, Samuel walks through the door with a dozen roses for Valentine’s Day! This quiet man with few words always manages to bring tears to my eyes when reading the cards he picks out. I hugged and kissed him before he even took off his coat. When kindnesses come when your feeling down it means everything! And of course, I love flowers, especially in cold, wintry February. 

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PERSONALITY

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Cory’s photos…

I can change many things, one thing I cannot change is being me. I grew up terrorized. My personality formed believing I was bad, dirty and unfit to live. I felt ashamed to be in public with the very same brothers who attacked me sexually fearing they would not want to be seen with a fat sister. The fatness came at age 8 after the first attack eating to appease my mother’s guilt and my terror.

I do not feel dirty anymore. I feel whole with access to my interior which runs deep, wise and compassionate. But the feeling part of me, the personality that formed holds a belief I cannot change; I am not worthy of love nor is anyone trustworthy enough to receive mine. I can change many things but I cannot change this. Maybe I have chipped away it more than I realize as I work on it daily, but the basis of my personality was formed believing it so it will continue to challenge me and need work. The more I work on it the less starved I feel. 

I’ve found moments of breaking through the worn cloth of my formed personality to feel a glow, the warmth of human love, necessities for all of us…but the moments are fleeting and the castle’s draw bridge snaps shut fast not daring exposure as too much betrayal will surely bring annihilation. How much can one risk?

I did not receive protection or touch that holds the purity of a brother’s love. That belief was founded, but unfortunately blocked out such sweetness from any further relationships. Guards permanently stand erect, the moat full, drawbridge locked, and the castle rock solid. Any touch frightens me at the same time I crave touch.

Good thing for cats. I have had cats and kittens throughout childhood and adulthood along with dogs, gerbils, white mice, rabbits, chickens, goats and horses. There are safe ways to fill a need if one is persistent in her efforts.

But I cannot change being me. I cannot go back and be someone else, a little girl loved and protected by her brothers. Things done irrevocably changed me and took much. Sex never became safe or satisfying. Trust, no. But I can trust my cat. That doesn’t mean she won’t take a swipe at me, but that I trust we can still be OK. And that give and take has been risked with human relationships too which also have their ups and downs. I am leaning into taking risks again. My time will come…

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and my own photo of the little model…

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ARGUEMENT

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Samuel disappears with his cell phone after it rang. He returns to the kitchen and says, “Gotta. Thursday and Friday.”

“What, you’re working?” I asked, surprised, then rolled over as I usually do acquiescing to another’s wants and needs while discounting my own. “Well, I will have to change the garage sale to Friday/Saturday, losing a full day of selling.”

And as that sat a moment, I began banging the cupboard just a bit too much and the more it settled the louder and more vocal I became. The ‘F’ bomb was used nicely a few times rolling out of my mouth with a satisfying bang.

“How could you? We have worked all week clearing out the basement, and you know I can’t pick up Cindy Thursday without you here.” I spoke loud and clear, making my needs known, feeling they need more respect that his boss’s.

He quietly grabbed the phone and disappeared again. Returning to the kitchen he says, “Just Friday.”

I thought, can I handle it? Having my needs respected? And decided I could very much. Tears fell, because beneath the anger is pain. That fight didn’t last for days, the same old clash for years. Anger begets anger. Neither learn what lay beneath it. Both of us are talking…and still learning about each other.

Many have trouble expressing their feelings, as Samuel does. But for me, it is a problem highly compounded by the childhood trauma of sexual abuse. It is excruciatingly difficult to notice my needs, respect them and speak up because I was shamed into silence even as atrocities were being committed against me and my body.

The voice lost dares speak as the need for respect grows larger than the fear of abandonment.

Lavender Therapy

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Yesterday I formatted a plan for my day, structuring it with what I was going to accomplish. I began picking berries early with sweat dripping down my back. I persisted and the basket was heavier when finished then the first three days of picking. Then into the pool, all before 10 am. I dove from the top step, then again, enjoying the feel of the pools bottom skimming my palms.

The sun made the water sparkle beneath its surface and I somersaulted causing tiny sparkle bubbles as a laugh erupted reminiscent with childhood abandon. I jumped up and out splashing the water into the air, kicking with exuberance. Throughout the day the feeling of being within my body occurred and I thought, no felt, this is living. 

Then I hopped in Samuel’s truck where my old ratty bike lay ready in the covered truck bed. After the short ride to the canal, it pulls out easily onto the path. Riding along the sparkling canal the heat beats down but the trees provide a canopy of protection and the hour passes quickly. More sweating, more swimming. I’m not usually in the pool until day’s end when the sun’s rays are less dangerous, but this morning the cooling water invigorates and the exposure isn’t long.

I wanted to also eat right as I’ve been so lax. That was easily accomplished as Samuel’s gardening far surpasses mine. Since his retirement he has again taken on the task.So many choices to make into a salad, cukes, peppers, large juicy tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes off the vine sweet like candy.

The afternoon was spent with the baskets of lavender strewn around the house drying in various decorous fashion; hanging baskets, little water can baskets, ribbon adorned bouquets, tons of lavender perfectly dried. My daughter in law had given me herb scissors at our lake visit, a sharp little tool with five blades. This gave me an opportunity to use them, and I eagerly opened the package.

Sitting contentedly for several hours nipping stems, the entire house filled with the earthy deep aroma of lavender. The container filled with lavender buds that will make precious sachets. A few have previously been made, and depending on humidity levels, they emit a scent that makes one stop, breathe deep and relax.

I lay awake last night wondering why Adele hadn’t called. I left a message the day before that I’d like to make an appointment next week. It occurred to me that I still have options. I have found someone when the need arises and that may be all that I need right now. I can’t picture going again. 

I could ask for an appointment in two weeks due to the camping trip next week. Both in one week is too much. That leaves the door open. The thought of not going brings a bereft feeling, yet going during a busy week feels like too much pressure.

The simple choices seem so elusive. I am not sure what will come out of my mouth when she calls, but I’m not liking that it takes two days for her to get back to me.  

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PEACE

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Peace, in-between the strange things my body goes through, spinning me around with pain, fear and confusion, blessed peace. I sit on the patio watching Mama Dove come back to her nest after her babies flew off.

“I know how you feel,” I tell her, remembering the years of loss after my children did exactly what I raised them to do…leave the nest.

But she’s back on the nest and at first I wonder at her mourning. I understand. You get used to tending to others needs and it becomes your need. That’s why I tend plants.

Samuel had a worker here recently washing the gutters. He moved my 6 foot cherry tomato plant on the patio. The poor thing had gently rested its tall branches, beginning to bear fruit, against the house wall. It collapsed when he pulled it out of its delicate position. When he put it back it was all bent oddly and twisted.

We fought. I cried real tears, wiping them off my cheek surprised at my emotion over a tomato plant! I loved that plant with care, sitting on the deck steps next to it tenderly watching the lacy intricate blossoms become tiny green balls, anticipating the taste of a little warm tomato on my tongue.  

And now he ruined it. Up came the old rage, only now the rage has fizzled into something else. It is not rage, it is an old haunt of terrible loss and sadness, almost gagging me with its heaviness. A loved person took something precious that is mine from me. At first it was my body.

One of the assailants, Chet, stole off with my pony.

He laughed as he explained , “I had to give him carrots because he wouldn’t move.”

My stomach retched as I pictured poor little Tony with his crippled feet standing still as this heavier mean person kicked him in the belly and pulled on his tender mouth with the bit.

Mom let  another assailant, the most tortuous one, Tom, ride my horse when I wasn’t home.

Laughing, she said, “He reared up and then bucked him off!” And her merriment cut like a saber though my gut. 

My old, gentle, sweet horse bucked him off? A well of satisfaction arose inside me, but evoked a much greater sorrow of betrayal and worry over my poor old quiet horse. That horse had never bucked, not once. And I could not imagine him provoked enough to do that unless treated with great cruelty and ignorance. 

This morning the Dove is still sitting in the nest and she is not mourning, she is laying eggs again. Her mate comes back from the forest nearby with a twig or piece of grape-vine, landing on her back. Beak to beak he gives her the foraged building material which she carefully tucks in below her belly making the nest new again. This process is repeated all morning. 

I cannot believe my luck! To watch this wondrous cycle again? I sip coffee waking gently as the hummers go to and fro from the feeder, birds back and forth to their feeder, also close-by, the chipmunks running ‘round and ‘round the lavender bush, so funny in their antics, and I feel at peace, I am at peace. And I will lavish in it because it won’t last.

How my senses can be overwhelmed here at home? But so much life and activity. I do the things that sustain me and my body. I walk. I bike the canal, a good hour of flat, shaded biking that oils my joints, all along the canal which looks like someone threw diamonds on the water when the sun is out. But I am basically alone.

That is when it comes to girlfriends. I have one who assures me that we are friends for life, the one who shoots barbs in a sweet voice. I used to be her ‘best’ friend when I said nothing about how that hurt, like I needed armor when around her. After I spoke up about it, she never calls or emails. I have initiated our get-together’s. I am tempted to do it today.

But maybe it is better not to fill the gaps with someone like that. Why disrupt my peace? I need places within open and ready. I will meet someone who has the depth not to be petty and childish. One who can dig deep into their past to fix it, not act it out with others till the day they die.

It is a better choice to be my own best friend, which I am learning to do. And the peace is sustaining in all ways. I sleep really well. No easy feat for me, after years of waking in the nights watching late night comedy or 3 am news. I am sleeping. I look in the mirror and like who I see, appreciating my strengths and gifts.

I think of the years when I pushed myself to succeed, and damage that caused to my body and nervous system. I wanted to succeed like I saw others succeed. But others had not spent a childhood being tortured. I do not think that’s an understatement.

How else to describe being chained up while others do horrible things to your body, things which sometimes your body reacted to with pleasure because that’s how bodies are made? The chains are made from confusion and shame. That confusion would taint and prohibit any sensual pleasure for the rest of my life. The only safe touch I feel is with my massage therapist.

But once I worked with Raymond, and he suggested that I work towards a career, there was no stopping me. I bought the heavy nursing books, and did exceedingly well the first semester. I dropped out after starting the second semester, my clinical nursing instructor scaring me out. Raymond couldn’t believe it. He seemed to have as much invested in my success as I did. He too could feel his job was satisfying if I succeeded, or why else push me so much?

And that is when I had my first panic attack. I had to succeed finally at something.

I called Raymond in tears, “I dropped out. I feel like I’m going to die.”

“Let the feelings come,” he said.

We made an appointment. I felt his advice was ludicrous. 

“Can you go to another school?” he asked after I sat down.

But why? Why couldn’t I be happy with being me? And appreciate how being tortured fucks up a child. Why couldn’t I learn to be loving with the grown woman who had suffered so much? Why couldn’t he work with me to learn that, and not push me into something which would weaken my immune system permanently?

Well, because, there are things such as bills, living expenses and two sons to put through college.

Yes, I feel now I did all I could, and succeeded. It paid the way through my son’s college years, but at such an expense to my body. It wiped me out, and drained my adrenals. I don’t regret it. Once started I just had to finish. I had to finally finish something no matter the expense.

I went back year two, after taking a year to work as a home health aide, then as an aide in a hospital. At the start of year two, I dropped out again. I went to the office of the lead instructor wanting back in again, so torn. She was a much gentler nursing instructor who assured me I could do it, and that she would be my clinical instructor this time around.

Another instructor also encouraged me. They had noticed when my head bowed down during a film about sexual abuse in the the darkened classroom and surmised I’d been a victim. I hadn’t realized I had made such an impact or been noticed. They also noticed my compassion towards patients and hard work, and wanted me back in. I bought my books yet again, that makes three times, and I finished.

I don’t have to go anywhere anymore, or be anything, I can just be. And that’s OK. It is OK to be still, to be quiet, not to push— that sometimes being productive comes with quieting my mind and body. After surviving so much, I need rest. I have to keep reminding myself, it is OK… just to be, and enjoy peace when I have it.