I LOVE CHRISTMAS

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I have loved Christmas always. By Thanksgiving the gifts are bought and wrapped. Now I can think about stuffing the turkey and other fun things. I saw a candy cane wreath on-line in red & white when looking for a new Christmas backdrop for my desktop. Just had to buy two boxes of candy canes almost immediately. 

So easy! 20 canes, a glue gun and piece of ribbon. Dab both ends of one cane, add another to make a heart. Make 5, then glue the 5 hearts together. A plastic snowflake is glued to the middle, but anything can used. Other decorations can be added, whatever your imagination comes up with. 

If you’re invited to Thanksgiving dinner somewhere, what a lovely hostess gift it would make to kick off the season! Or make one for yourself…

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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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“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” (Dumbledore)

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Families and society need to hear specifics, things they do not want to hear about childhood sexual abuse. By evading specifics do we rise above some unseen platitude or do we help this kind of depravity to continue?

Words need to be changed for younger audiences. It is necessary to teach children that if you feel uncomfortable about anyone touching you say, “NO!” And back them. If anyone touches your private parts tell an adult and keep telling until you are heard… And explain that private parts are the parts a bathing suit covers.

If my mother had taught me that, I would know what to tell her. If my mother had taught me that, I would trust that I could tell her. I did not know what Tom was doing to me. I had no words.

And later when I did tell I was chastised, then expected to keep the crimes done to me within myself. If I’d been abducted off the street and had been subjected to the same depravity that Tom inflicted, my so called ‘family’ would never expect me to be around him again, nor hug him, or suffer his hugs. Yet that is what was expected and is still expected. That it is something to let go off so that they can keep pretending. 

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.  

CLEAN-OUT

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Sitting on a chair in the basement, sifting through a box of mementos wondering what I want to save, I’m thinking about Shane and Cory going through my stuff after I’m gone. A lot went into the garbage, including one or two leftover journals that had not been burned. A life of rage done.

After moving here several years ago I had a spiritual fire in the meadow burning an entire life and box of journals. One by one I flipped through the pages of confusion, pain, and vast searing loneliness… tearing off handfuls, feeding the anguish to the fire, in the end only ash, feeling cleansed, whole and at peace. I had moved beneath the rage to the pain and it had taken a life-time.

As I began the book after the journals were gone Cory said, “I remember you always writing. Those journals will come in handy for the book.”

I did not tell him they were gone. I thought about them gone and decided it was OK. The book wouldn’t be coming from my head, it would erupt from another place unexplored and held captive all these years. A place yearning to be free, grow and to express.

Leaving the basement I felt sadness for a life lived in rage, loss and feeling lost. There are still remnants left on the shelf of the new life when the past was faced head-on in opposition of Mother’s tutelage, out from under her thumb. These things did happen Mother. No, I will not continue living as if they didn’t. And that was hard because she bought my silence, or tried to.

And when that new life began, the real one, it was confronted with force and persistence. I unearthed a letter from 60 Minutes declining my story about how the new mandates for teaching Sexual Abuse Prevention in our elementary schools were not being implemented. No, they would not be pursuing my story, but “Thank you for contacting us.”

I persisted. If 60 Minutes wouldn’t help I’d do it myself.

I met with both principals, the Superintendent and the school nurse. I explained the need by sharing my own story, and I made them aware of the new mandates which they seemed to have either not been aware of or ignored.

Everyone agreed to proceed and an invitation was extended to help develop the new curriculum. I had already compiled a great deal of teaching material including an age appropriate video. The nurse who would be doing the yearly teaching was completely receptive and the staff was also grateful for my help and input. I initiated a fund raiser to help cover the cost of materials.

What is left in the basement are reminders of a spirit that won’t be hushed, scraps of paper which show my refusal to live mute and invisible. I threw out the remaining angry journals where in every interaction I felt betrayed, lied to, cheated, or manipulated. Attacked with lust by those I loved and trusted lent to an existence where all people cause fear and mistrust.  

Interactions with others has not greatly improved, but my rage has abated and along the way fizzled out. Interacting with others still causes stress, doubt and anxiety, except for those few who I have learned to love and trust. Others wear me out. Limited energy is saved for the activities and people I love and enjoy.

There on the shelf lies my one box and in it a pair of gold lined silver wedding goblets, my dried up wedding bouquet made by my Mother, my nurse’s cap from graduation, the year book from high-school, and many cards and photos.

There are photos from the Army and a certificate for completing the course in handling sub-human primates; rhesus monkeys, yes, monkey’s and that’s no small feat. They had to be pressed up to the front cage wall while the other student piped a feeding tube down their throats to the stomach pouring in liquid. Not everybody achieved this dubious award, but there is proof that I did. 

I cannot throw out cards, even the cards from a friend who won’t talk to me anymore because I ended the friendship badly. I learn from each one. The basement is emptier but open again, kind of like me. Emptied of a life of rage, I am opening to love for both self and others, not thinking it but really feeling it.    

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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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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. 

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.

FREEDOM

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I walk the meadow head down, feeling the battle of winter against spring as brain chemicals begin their spin to more daylight. Breathe. Oh, that is luscious, earthy and clean, not like the dull browns and greys as my boots suck at the mud mixed with pale bland grass.

I look up, noticing the robin following me from branch to branch, stuck in my thoughts just as thoroughly as my boots stuck in the mud; a moment of joy realizing that robin is protecting a nest near-by, a spark of what’s to come once the grass greens, the feeling of wholeness that takes a back seat during the winter months; a feeling of presence, of aliveness.

Freedom is on my mind, or lack of it. I feel victim to my days not master of them. Even now, fifty years later, I am ensconced within my own world and feel defined by the invisible chains of childhood.

Never has there been a time when I said publicly, “My brothers raped me.I hate my brothers. I wish them dead.”

I use the word rape loosely. The time real rape occurred was so vicious it is blocked from my consciousness niggling on the periphery of memory, but all other memories are rapes too in that my body was taken, used and abused without my consent.

Honest expression of the horrors I suffered needed to occur when I was eight years old. And if the attacks had happened by a stranger on the street, it could have. Who wouldn’t feel that way? Feelings are not facts. Wishing someone dead doesn’t make them dead. But it does a lot to relieve the horror and pain done by the evil acts of others. A mother of character would have allowed such expression not quelled it, would have seen to it—would have protected me in the first place, not blamed me into silence and a life of shame. That is family?

The chains of childhood bind me. Chains of conspiracy. Chains of silence. Chains of keeping silent to protect the name of the ‘family.’ The word family disgusts me. I wasn’t in a family. I was in a group of people that acted out, and acted out on me.

Three out of four are dead. The eldest, who hurt me the most,  may outlive me and I don’t care. He’s done very well for himself, better than the rest at least financially. Not only does he own a place in Mexico by the sea, but is emotionally capable of getting there. I cannot fly unless drugged into oblivion. So I don’t. 

There is a part of me that feels safer with three dead. My mother would say, “You should be ashamed of yourself.” And, “That’s not nice.”

These are the drones of sentences she used early on to control me, to make me meek, to quell her daughter’s natural instinct to speak out against wrongs. They bind me still. So much so, I more often do not know how I really feel. It’s out on my walks or during meditation that I go beyond and below the early chastising to find and feel what is really there.

And yes, there is a part of me that  feels safer with them dead. I didn’t kill them. I stopped raging and hating. I hate what they did because I still suffer the effects and always will. They suffered too. 

As much as I hate what they did, I feel compassion. To act out as each did on their little sister meant they felt unloved attacking the only girl child who may have seemed loved. That’s my take on it. It wasn’t personal. Yet it was all personal for me. 

Freedom. I don’t usually know what it is because the chains of silence still bind me even long after my mother’s death, seven years now. She did her job well, silencing her daughter. I want to stand at the podium and say this happened to me. And maybe I will someday. Maybe that is my destiny if destiny is going to my center and leads me there. I feel compelled to move forward in whatever way feels right. Speaking out about the truth feels like where freedom lay dormant waiting. 

 

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