YOU’RE OK

PHOTO by Patricia

Temps drop 20 degrees, wind howls so furiously the chairs on the porch walk across the floor. Knowing exercise is needed, the cold keeps me in not even wanting to go down to the cold basement for indoor movement on the elliptical.

Nestled back on the recliner with the afghan pulled up snuggly, thoughts of it being OK to take time off from the exercise regime require focus and repetition. You’re OK, you’re OK, you’re OK. A few days off doesn’t make you bad.

It doesn’t take much to disrupt the newly found self-esteem. Too often the harsh critical voice is running the show out of habit without even being aware of the cold, oppressive input. A little bit of warmth is constantly sought because the life-long habit of self- contempt takes precedence without a constant beam of clarity on what’s being told to myself.

Once breaking through the ice of habit, warm waters are found, so rich and luxurious. To swim in these waters for  the first time in my life, even if just moments at a time, brings calm with a new sense of being where joy warms my soul with aliveness. The essence of life, being there for each moment fully.  

COVID 15

Like a duck out of water, early trauma made me feel different from everyone, a searing differentness that was real. Trauma unprocessed is broken glass. No amount of glue makes it like it once was.

When others ate out of hunger, my hunger was of the soul, searching for love never finding any… especially inside myself. Eating blotted out unspeakable pain. By replacing anguish with food, numbness and self-hate increased.

Every bite since the age of 8 came with a dose of guilt. Blaming myself for using it as a survival tool wasn’t the answer, though it took till just recently to realize just that. Even by adolescence diet groups became part of my life. Being overweight was never the problem. It was a symptom of unhealed wounds covered up by enforced silence. The only outlet provided was eating. It was what my mother wanted, that is until she didn’t.

When others gained weight, like during basic training after joining the Army, my jeans began to droop down my hips after weeks of meager meals in the mess hall. Other girls filled their trays with gravy topped potatoes, meat, breads, and cake with ice cream. Mine had plain meat and vegetables with lots of hot crappy coffee to wash it down and fill me up.

Then scurrying out early, leaving the laughing young women behind. Back in the paint peeling barracks no snacks were available to ease the voracious soul hunger. The necessary discipline needed was only at brief intervals three times a day. Weight melted away.

It is not dropping off quickly now, but it is dropping after meticulous talks with myself about who I really am, what I have desperately wanted since childhood, and what I truly deserve to be happy inside myself where it counts. When even in the worst of times, a place internally welcomes with kind, loving, acceptance.  

The Covid 15 talked about, similar to the freshman 15 for those first semesters at college, are the opposite for me once again. 15 pounds are gone! This time the way forward is much different that the millions of other attempts at weight loss. Success comes not by white knuckling it, but by loving myself even with failures, which are many. Loving myself back onto the path by judging that all of me is OK even in the midst of failure.

When thin, because there were times at a healthy weight, feeling shitty prevailed. The gastric stapling butchering my stomach and intestines years ago after my mother’s urging to have it done did not cure the emptiness in my soul, or heal the ragged wounds. In hopes of becoming normal, because in my mind slim=normal, feelings of not being normal kept wearily on.

Decades later, dangerous, and extremely painful internal bleeding occurred over the course of many months. Finally an ambulance was called because I couldn’t stand up. Hospitalization was required for several days.

Reasons why were not known till after discharge when a surgeon specializing in gastric stapling identified the cause of the bleed. The surgeon of long ago is responsible. The on-going risk of bleeding at the surgical site is managed with a daily dose of a high potent antacid taken permanently.

It’s not about weight and never was. It is about liking, then loving myself, a daily struggle, and my most important work. The messages of being different, bad, unlovable, incapable, and not normal, like dark swirls cemented in a piece of granite, are here to stay. Chipping away at these harsh voices is not always easy or successful. But chip away I do, with small, wondrous achievements along the way.

Happiness, or failure, all lies within. No matter what happened way back when, it is in my grasp to decide what messages to give myself. Easier when rested, about impossible when not. But over time, when the source of my being is tapped, comforted, and accepted, great things happen. Maybe not ‘great’ in that I’m saving the world, but in saving myself.

1976

Caring for Self

PHOTO BY PATRICIA

When the coffers are empty, what do you have to give? Learning to care for self is not only necessary, it is generous because helping oneself, caring for oneself, taking time to be tolerant of one’s shortcomings while also working on them.. these are all steps to abundance and giving.

You cannot give from an empty well. Only in searching deep is the gold found. Only then can it be shared with others, after first finding it. And that has taken decades.

You’re a good person, echoed through the years by those really knowing me and the struggles of self-worth tearing me down. Words needed to keep going, but not felt.

It is OK to feel good about oneself. It is not a badge of honor to walk around feeling bad so that others in the family can feel good. It seemed my destiny to carry the burdens of others. Why else then be born into a family where so much pathetic waste of human life be bred?

Because if a child is not nurtured, loved, and cherished, the child can become corrupt- do things that can’t be undone, then have to life with it, as well as the sister that they chose to abuse. A death sentence for both.

Because if you don’t die physically, you die in other ways, and some are permanent. I cannot get back brothers who chose to sexually attack ever again. Once you chose to attack me you no longer are a brother.

And no one else is ever fully trusted again. Makes for a lonely life. Except that in the work of re-building a life from the ashes up comes great beauty in the form of sons, a gentle loyal husband, and grand-children who love fully without evil intent or maleficence.

A life rattled and broken becomes my life owned by me. Fragile, easily stolen by outside forces, yet able to come home again to find peace within. That takes work and attention. It is not selfish to care for oneself. It is the highest form of generosity.

LOVING MY IMPERFECT SELF

Things go along well, then they don’t, and some of why is my own doing. That makes the difficulties harder to deal with because self-blame is like a hammer at my already fragile self. Because life is fragile, my life is fragile, the day to day calm worked for so easily tripped up by outside forces, but also by my own mistakes or lack of self-discipline.

So again, (and again) give yourself room for mistakes because they will always be there. Try to learn from them, try to do better, but also keep trying to accept all of me with gentle, tender kindness even though imperfect.

CLARITY

Mondays are start again days. Lost in a haze over the week, it’s back to essentials. Taming the critic, increasing self-care, hence self-love. And though that sounds easy, it is one of the hardest things for a child who learned she was bad.

A child turned adolescent, teen, early adulthood, now later life. The badness cemented into my being, rooted, gangly, fibrously destructive sending negative messages loudly from my core. To eradicate a root takes much work.

So the work continue, the basics of gentle reminders about self. Not delusions of grandeur, but the truth. Not in the eyes of family who when young encouraged messages that kept me quiet.

My upbringing was formed by false puppet strings of looks, put-downs, and actions that gagged me from speaking the terrible truths of the so called family, stunting my growth and (almost) forever stopping any ability for me to love myself.

They have never looked at what their siblings had done, not then, not now, never. They wanted brotherly love and lived it, disregarding me, which left me on my own.

Like Republicans who stand by while our democracy is shattered, so too I shattered. By the evil doers, yes, but even more by those who know and do nothing, or eviler, buddying up with the criminal… they are more criminal than the attacker.

Messages to myself need constant work and surveillance. Remember what you have been through, how you managed all on your own, and what you survived… while still finding beauty in those precious moments of clarity.  

LIGHT

Railing at the changing seasons equates to less joy. Adjustments are required as the days grow shorter wondering- is it imagined? There was hope to avoid it for once, but that’s not happening. It is real, waking in the night more often with dark thoughts about the past, or trying to fall asleep with warning bells going off fearing my entire soul is fraught with maliciousness.

Stop. Breathe, you’re OK. It is just the onset of autumn, and you know what that does to your thinking. Self talk is crucial for my thoughts as dark as the shorter days.Time to double up on the usual work as my mind is as heavy as my leaden feet in the path, dragging them step by step, each lap a struggle through the heaviness. 

Welcome fall. Out come pumpkin, cinnamon, and apple scented candles for the warmer, along with creams and essential oils to enjoy which also embrace fall. Apples in the hallway Samuel picked off the tree a week ago are finally dragged into the kitchen to make applesauce.

The bubbly pink sauce is sprinkled with cinnamon, but my blunted senses hardly notice. It is difficult to stay in my body and go deep afraid of the negativity welling up. But go there, then stay, that’s the answer. Do what brings pleasure, just look at the meadow once dancing with buttercups and daisies now yellow with mustard. The changing hues swap color as the seasons change. 

Birds chatter en masse in the hickory trees, then a swell suddenly forms in a cloud flying in group formation, dipping like an out of control roller coaster, then gone leaving silence behind. Just be… absorb what’s there, find the light. Pick a bouquet of sunflowers and zinnias. There is beauty, let it in. Breathe deep, relax.

 

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.

A Walk Among Butterflies

photos by Patricia

The fall in fall is inevitable as dark thoughts begin invading. There’s ways to combat this yearly drop in mood by increasing reassurances to myself. Yet there it is. Pretending it’s not only makes the usual problems worsen.

Escaping the moment by over-doing activity, or busyness doesn’t help. Slow down- be in the body, spirit, and soul, even if being there can be difficult. There are joys amidst the challenges.

Thinking of our governor and the daily challenges he faces with such great success causes me to wonder at my inadequacies. But more helpful talk floats in. For many, including myself, the best work is self-care.

Focusing energy on taking care of oneself is success. If I don’t, who will? Finding ways for pleasure, excitement, and joy are important too, making the more painful parts of daily life tolerable.

Joy is found as the butterfly lights on the bushes, when hummingbirds come to the feeder, or the nodding of Queen’s Ann’s Lace in the meadow breeze. Hopefully these will chase away the feelings of danger and impending doom instilled into me during the childhood tragedies which deepen as winter’s echo calls closer.

 

The Cure

Eerily quiet and unusually dark at my accustomed waking time, the silence is unnerving. Where have the birds gone? My guess is many have left for warmer climates already. They surely arrive here earlier in the spring than most people realize, as early as February’s end.

The feelings of loneliness this usually brings is not as deep or as painful. There is an energy occurring that wasn’t present during all the years of restless sleep when waking at all kinds of hours, staying awake watching TV.

Good sleep means more energy. It also means a brighter outlook on things with a happier mood, happy which equates to more peaceful. The magic cure seems to lie in the pot oil begun after visiting Cory last fall in a state where the oil is legal.

After choking on  smoking the pot also purchased, then hallucinating afterwards freaking out, needing my grown son to talk me down, it was the oil that was more fitting for me. The pot these days is nothing like my college days because it is way more powerful.

The oil seems to have cured much of what ails me. Not a total cure, but toning it all down and still there to manage. What a blessing, and all in this innocuous little plant. It probably wouldn’t have done all it can do earlier in my life because there was just too much to overcome. 

But after years of therapy and living through the worst, it was the little bit needed to send me over to the side of peace. Still the work goes on. It does not offer immediate self-esteem. Nor does it remove anxiety, an issue worked on daily.

But it does help with sleep a great deal along with the tendency for repetitive negative thinking. But discipline is needed to keep countering those voices which sometimes thrash me down unequivocally.

All the tools that help are needed, and this is one of many. But this addition after all these years is an amazing balm to my overworked systems. Though it works for me, it is not a recipe for everyone. We each find our own ways through our own hell’s.