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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I feel great! I have disgorged any feelings of wrongdoing in my lack of a relationship with Don, Stevie and especially Seth. Or at least have decided it takes two and is certainly not all on me.

I’ve expunged feelings of self-blame by writing them out and thinking them through. I tend to blame myself for negativity in the lives of those around me and my own. That is a constant challenge.

So I sleep great. Add to that a total healing inside. I have been bleeding for many years but didn’t know it. The internal bleeding has finally stopped, though it took too long to learn why I felt so tired and why my stomach hurt so badly. I finally have a idea of what’s going on.

I wish I didn’t have to permanently take a medication which blocks acid production. It affects my head making it feel full when I bend then stand. It is known to lead to dementia for some after using it for long periods, but it is a fact of my life now.

Having my body heal lifted both mood and energy. Reining in my eating helped too. Laying my head on the pillow at night knowing I’ve taken good care of mind, body and soul leads to well-being and deep sleep. Exercise has slipped due to cold and rain but is easily remedied. 

Yesterday before going to a matinee, (Jack Reacher 2) I retrieved my Mother’s sewing basket from the stuff from the garage sale awaiting pick-up. I spent a fun morning filling it with sewing goodies Cindy can use. She is fascinated when I use mine. Now she has her own! I did add a little bling…

We are off for a drive through the hills to see the exploding color then lunch in an eclectic coffee shop where home-made soup is served. We always visit the the local pottery maker’s shop buried deep in the valley to see what he’s been up to.

Donning gloves, hat and scarf, we will then explore their woodsy nature trail laden with colorful leaves. The cold air will bring out a frisky child who scoops up leaves breathing in the scent of the earth’s decomposition. 

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ENEMIES and LOVERS

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The mind takes me to places I don’t have to go. When all is well I create pain and chaos…but I don’t have to. It’s OK to at peace. It’s OK to be happy because peace to me is happiness. Then I create pain. Because I am used to it.

FOOD. Something for all others to have and enjoy, but since age 8, not me. So much is associated it. Love, hate, fatty Patty. My brothers friends whispering in the kitchen and I’m sure it was about me, never about the attacker, me. And that is how my personality was made, out of fear, shame, being bad, and being the beast, not the attackers.

Every time I ate I felt wrong, fat and bad. People in the environment reinforced the bad feelings because how one looks can be dealt with, how one feels goes underground. No one helps. No one listens. But if another can ‘help’ by telling you how fat you are they think they are doing a good thing. My aunt, the school nurse did that. Making me feel an outcast. A place I’ve always been, outcast.

In high-school when my breasts were beginning to grow, though I didn’t think much about it, I was bridesmaid for Danny and Donny, both marrying about the same time. During the reception Tom and I danced and an innocent moment made me feel dirty, bad and horrid.

He lured at me saying, “What are those things poking into me?”

I froze and stayed numb moving away in a trance, my body once again not mine and under lustful scrutiny by a brother I once dearly loved and trusted, never to make peace with him, never to feel safe with him ever again. I tried over and over but he could not forgive my being alive.

My very existence reminded him of what he had done and that was enough for him to hate me. Not outright. His plan to erode any scrap of esteem I achieved was slow, insidious, and very much made him out the victim…not me. Others backed him

My body and food? Enemies and lovers.

During all the formative years I felt an embarrassment due to my weight. No feelings against my attackers, it wasn’t allowed or expected. I wondered how any of them managed to be in public with me due to my weight.

That is what a little girl does when she is attacked by loved ones and everyone ignores, denies and does not come to her defense and protects her. She takes it in as hers. For me it took all my mother’s love at the end of a spoon to keep existing. She could not and did not love. But she cooked and I ate looking for the love that never came. I’m still eating and looking.

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FINDING MY VOICE

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Since May and my dealings with Seth and the periodontist, I lost my way, my voice and me. The inability to speak up to the periodontist, going through with a surgery I didn’t feel was right nor had been explained properly had a lot to do with the confusion and loss over Seth and his wrath that I wrote a book. He rejected me for months after I sent a link to my book by never responding to my emails until I confronted him about it.

I felt WRONG and BAD because I dared send him a link to my book, taking it all on my shoulders, blaming myself as I’m accustomed to doing since childhood. ‘They’ still would prefer that and use every leverage so that I abide. Abandonment is number #1. Learning not to abandon myself saves me and strengthens me. 

Seth’s protestations, what he kept saying and coming back to “But you didn’t want me to have a relationship with Tom!”

I deflected, never wanting to directly be caught up in his shit or bad mouthing Tom. But I should have, and head-on…

Tom didn’t suck your vagina when you were 8 years old.

And years ago when Mom would often try to cajole me into becoming closer to Tom, telling me how special, enjoyable and funny he is, I could have simply said that. Instead of leaving her apartment abruptly with so much stuffed inside me I felt I might explode, I could have simply said the truth no one wants to hear, “Mom, he didn’t suck your vagina when you were eight years old.”

Simple. That is enough. Of course I don’t have a relationship with Tom. And why would I want to have one with anyone who cleaves to him? Including you Seth. My relationship with Seth feels over but with love, because I feel love, and Tom has cost me that.

I tried going back to a newsy note and he responded but it felt so hollow, so wrong. He needs to pretend that my real life doesn’t exist. I need to be whole and cannot pretend, though I tried. I could dwell on what feels like a fact that Tom took Seth, along with Don. Because Don cleaved to Tom during my Mother’s decline and I cannot or will not move past that either.

I wondered all summer where I went. Where was the person who fought her whole life for a life? I felt like a slowly turning merry-go-round; indecisive, overly tolerant, without a voice, or a stand. I realized this at Walmart yesterday where I stood up to the giant to insist on a refund.

Every time in the past when a confrontation took place my anger or rage came too, and each interaction spun me into the stratosphere of adrenaline soaked fury then deep sadness. No tolerance existed for being taken advantage of, and why should it?

Never again. Yet clerks were not my abusers. Nor Adele, but I needed to say a big NO to her and her antics. cleaning off the grime of unethical behavior. No one else needs to agree because not everybody will, but I know what I need and what is right for me once I clear out the clutter.

Yesterday after the elderly gruff man said, “No, you cannot return on-line items unless they are a Walmart item,” I felt very unsatisfied, not raging but irate and said so evenly in a calm yet pointed and firm voice.

I moved my cart back down the isles wondering, Is it worth getting a manager and getting all worked up, or just let it go and try to return it through the mail getting burned on the shipping and wasting all that time on the phone with more people who really won’t help?

My cart almost bumped into a pow-wow of managers and we had a little talk. I was able to be upright, powerful yet graceful…assertive not aggressive, nor full of rage. The manager took me to the desk and refunded the $34 and I thanked him. And it may seem a little thing, a refund—

I found me and the fire kindling within. I have a fire for life and no one has put it out, dampened it yes, not extinguished.  

ROUGH WATERS

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What fills me? What is my happy? I only have today, and even that isn’t a given, so fill it up with the things I love. I’m not running a marathon like Jessica in the Iron Man at Lake Placid today. GOOD LUCK JESSICA- you are already a winner and a success!  Thank you power woman for being a leader of healthy living. You inspire me to persevere with my own physical activity even when I don’t want to. It always feels good when I do!

I’m not saving the world or running for political office. My goals are simpler. My feelings of satisfaction at the end of the day include doing the things that I feel good about; meditation, exercise, eating right, accomplishing tasks around the house that keep it tidy, and adding simple pleasures to make life worthwhile.

Mom was the Commander while living. Then I began to feel what it was like running my own ship. But too often I still feel like a dinghy cut loose, riding the waves, hanging on trying not to drown.

I like the feeling of commanding my day, having some control over it and my life, not feeling victim to it. Yet interactions with the outside world set me spinning. The delicate balance achieved in body and mind is too easily disrupted causing chaos and negative thoughts.

I do not know the answer to this loss of serenity. When serenity visits I grab on and make the very best of it. 

SECRETS

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How a caretaker reacts and deals with a child who has been sexually abused has the potential to cause much more destruction than the abuse. In my case that caretaker was my mother. She quieted me by using my own shame.

From the very first touch sexually by a trusted brother that I loved wholly and looked up to, I felt intense confusion. It made me feel bad. Even that young I knew it was terribly wrong. My interpretation was that I was wrong, shameful and abhorrent. As it continued my body reacted with pleasure, as a body is meant to do. That shamed me further and solidified my badness, being wrong, dirty, even unfit to live.

My mother took advantage of my shame, shaming me further into silence so I would keep the family secret inside myself. She had a favorite taunt when my true nature came out which is one that speaks honestly, “You should be ashamed of yourself!”

I am Mom, I am. You were thorough.

I kept quiet until 7 years ago after she died. A chapter each week erupted out of me. That I held such vomit in for so long is hard to believe possible. Out it came week after week. It should have come out at the age of eight.

Mother, you should have sat in my bedroom, not to scold me, but to listen. You could have saved me Mother. You chose not to. You chose to protect your brood at the expense of your daughter. That is not love.

Keeping it in took a lot of food. Later alcohol, and food. But food remains the biggest escape. The more I come back into my body, the more I am able to feel food fullness. For most it is natural to be in one’s body. For me it is not.

I have fleeting moments of connection. Those moments are powerful. I’m learning to distinguish the physical feelings of fullness after eating from the other empty places where food is used unsuccessfully to fill. 

LOVE HER

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I turn to food after dinner and wonder. Later the feeling of missing Mom lay behind the need. I want her to love me, because what love she had for me was more than what I have for myself. I need to love myself more than the elusive love of a Mother who never could love me the way I needed; or protect me, or allow the trauma of attacks to surface.

This little girl looks lovable. Can you love her, hold her close, listen to her? Is it OK to have a little girl inside a 60+ year old woman? ‘She’ is there whether I regard her or not. And mostly I do not regard her. If you were lovable you would have been loved. Other sisters are loved and fiercely protected.  

Bring her in, hold her close, listen to her. It is her that needs healing. She needs me. It is in her that that you will find your wholeness. It is in loving her when it felt like no else did that you learn to love thyself. 

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I’M SORRY

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Thank you once again Serena.

Lately I’ve been pondering the fact that no one, not one person in my family of origin has ever said, “I’m sorry.”

Not just that but no mention of my sufferings at all, not once, not at all, never.

A sister-in-law moved here from California about five years ago. We became close including feeling comfortable enough to talk about my past.

She asked, “Has anyone ever said they were sorry?”

I looked at her quizzically, thinking, wondering, then slowly answered, “No.”

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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.

OLDER MOSAICS

These pieces were made when I first started, using the bowls that had glazed to the kiln shelf walls. They are all very heavy. New pieces are much lighter as I have control over how thick I roll out the slabs. 

My first piece. It is so heavy that if it ever fell it would kill us both!

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BLUE MOON-given to Cory for his graduation.

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THE DOVE OF PEACE

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The ‘Winter of My Discontent’, during my mother’s decline in ’09.
Almost 2′ X 3′. She loved flowers too. 

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The Tree of Life- made for my niece,

a massage therapist who lost her life from drugs when oh so very young.

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In the summer of mourning and recovery of ’09 from my mother’s death in May, I scoured the the beach in 90 degree temps. I meandered the shore amongst sea gulls gathering their soft plumes- they didn’t seem to mind. The stifling heat matched my internal grief, and in the way only nature can, gave some respite from the pain. This is another huge and heavy piece.

I learned the hard way to always use a border color that opposes the subject in hue. These colors are too close, otherwise the butterfly would pop out to the eye like it should. 

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Take any circular ring and set it on paper. The shadow makes a heart. This was done with my ring!