TREASURED MOMENTS

Sweat a cold, starve a fever? Not sure how it goes, but walking brings on a good sweat, more than usual especially on this cooler day…but it feels good. We all caught the little one’s cold, Samuel, Cory, and me. Minor, yet not.

Each day brings me closer to full health, along with feelings of peaceful joy. Meeting the challenges of traveling paid off greatly. Being with my son and family instills warm, loving memories that fill me up.

The summer was spent with too much focus on food and exercise— getting NO WHERE. At one point feeling so encouraged and proud of myself, but then at that exact point it all just stopped. My weight stayed the same, forgetting all about the part where weight is not to be the focus. My body could be super slim yet feelings of self-hate could easily take precedence.

This is about learning to love and offer kindness to myself, not easy for me. When the focus is off food, and instead put on working towards self-kindness, miracles happen. Staying in my body, also not easy for me, helps with awareness of fullness and physical hunger… much like it’s supposed to be.

The normal feelings hunger and fullness, along with my skinny kid body frame, changed at the age of eight. Eating, or over-eating, kept me alive and going along like others, numbing the horror of what lay beneath. It takes a good deal of food to stuff down excruciating trauma buried beneath. No one helped or offered loving support. Food became support, and love from the end of mother’s spoon who loved to cook and pushed food like a drug dealer. Food numbed it all, but also continued the cycle of self-hate that child sexual abuse brings into a child’s psyche. A child feels to blame.

This journey is on-going, the path taking me to places of wonder, joy, and contentment amidst all other painful aspects of living which are many and most suffer day to day. It is easier digested if there’s also joy. And joy has returned with warm memories of our visit opening my heart. The knowledge of grand-children growing up even if we are not here to see it helps me accept the cycle of my own life. Life goes on… and each moment counts.

Learn to LOVE Thy Self

Even a solitary life such as mine brings pain. The world comes in, how could it not with the amount of news we watch? But other things, such as saying no to a younger brother who over the years learned to expect things from me that are out of bounds. Yet with my poor self-esteem, and feelings of duty to care for my younger brother, I hop at his requests, just like I tend to hop at Samuel’s requests.

Stevie was trained early on by Tom to treat me cruelly with no consequences. That I deserved it. Because Tom had a secret- what he did to me, so with it came making me look bad and unworthy. That helped create a scenario with all 6 other brothers. Since the outlook towards me is that I’m more worthless than others, it’s OK to treat me with scorn, and as if I’m invisible. I easily went along with it so you will just love me.

This summer the angst of saying no to little brother Stevie has caused a great deal of pain. Saying yes to my needs overriding his took great strength. It has been a long time coming. At eight years old after Dad died, Mom and I sang Silent Night each night to Stevie, along with the ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’ prayer.

 Stevie would ask me, “Is Daddy gone?”

Even at my young age taking care of Stevie came naturally. Mom became absorbed in going out into the work force despite her grief, and also started drinking more.

“He’s not gone, he’s up in heaven looking over us,” I said.

As we grew the older boys were out of the house a lot. It was Stevie and me wandering the neighborhood on our bikes while Mom was at work. Keeping an eye on him became my job.

But also through the years his tendency to treat me differently than others, less than, not worthy of respect, went unnoticed by him, but hurt me sharply. It has only been recently that in my own quiet way I say NO.

Not without angst. Finally having a talk with him yesterday, I did relay that after saying no about visiting so Samuel could do electrical work for him he completely stopped emailing, calling, or videoing.

I repeated it because he didn’t seem to hear me.

“After I said no, I didn’t hear from you,” I said, adding, “I thought you must have been really hurt. It’s not that I don’t want to see you, I cannot sleep elsewhere and must take something every night. It’s a huge challenge. After going to Cory’s, then camping with Shane, I felt I met my two biggest challenges and goals. Adding one more was just too much, plus I’ve been sick for a month with diverticulitis.”

“Oh, well, you think too much, you overthink it,” he said, obviously wanting to move on, unconnected to his own inner workings.

Later while walking the meadow my thoughts bent on what he said that in the past might have hurt me. It was a criticism saying I think too much. Talking aloud to myself I said to him, “You don’t think enough!” Not something I could do in person, not just yet. He is way to sensitive to criticism himself of any kind.

My tears began while trying to explain to him about how hard it is to travel, especially after his slight show of compassion about it.

“Sorry you have such a hard time traveling, but it’s OK,” he said. More tears.

“No, it’s not. I can’t do what I want to do. My body is just tired out after a stress filled life,” I said, not going into childhood issues which I’ve always kept from him, protecting him. Don has recently told both of them the broad issues of my being a survivor, as that’s what dysfunctional families do, tell personal things about someone who is not there.

Not going up to help my little brother bothered me that much, enough to cause tears. My needs came first, and though taking that step was incredibly hard it also came with more understanding, love, and care for myself… and more self-respect.

That is growth, healing and growth, which can often be painful.

TRIGGERED

On the patio sipping coffee with Samuel, our usual morning pleasure as the sun rises over the meadow and flowers abounding in our gardens, my head bends over as a sob erupted.

“It brings up my entire life, the feelings of shame and blame. Thinking that Cindy or Bennett MUST have said something about mean Nana. Because he clung to her and didn’t want to be here,” I cried to Samuel, adding, “he won’t want to come here anymore.”

“So what,” Samuel said, adding, “but he will come, of course he will. But so what if he doesn’t?”

These feelings kept me awake that night after the kids left, making it necessary after a two week hiatus of not needing night meds to sleep necessary. I was pulled right back to the life lead; one filled with feelings of shame, blame, and badness. Something Tom’s treatment instilled in me after his attack. His innuendo’s about my unworthiness, being less than others, a dullard, anything but what I really was so that what he did didn’t look like any big deal.

It worked.

Samuel said, “I don’t know why you let it bother you. You know you are right in correcting Bennett.”

Incensed, I howl, “You don’t know? You know me. You know my self-esteem is in the toilet, and why. I will have to work on it till the day I die. You know how Tom treated me after he attacked me, and continued with his nasty remarks and putdowns all through life!”

The sobs came then just as abruptly left. So used to taking all the crap handed to me. In every relationship when there is any kind of friction, problems, or negativity, (which there is in every one of them) I take the hit. The booming critic insures it.

This new life, only just beginning, has created a space inside me where a softer place welcomes. But it dissipated like a mirage up in smoke when something goes on behind the scenes. When the feeling that there’s things going on behind my back that I must make conjectures about. And my conclusions always cast me in a very bad light.

After another day passes with time from the bruising of a grand-child not wanting to see me, the more truthful reality sets in. It is not me, it is Bennett. It is his parents that need to feel a bit a shame at how they are raising him. That if asked if he can come again, some ground rules need to be set. That what needs to be said is not how BAD I am, but how bad Bennett’s behavior is, and what he needs to be told before coming.

That we are the bosses of this house… not him. And when we tell him he cannot do something, he is not to put up his fists at us, or make horrible faces. He is to mind us. And when he doesn’t, he will be sitting in the hallway until he can act respectful.

That has been a theme of my entire life, feeling BAD for the bad behavior of others. And it will happen again, this triggering of my past causing sleepless nights, bringing me right back to it all; feelings of badness, unworthiness, shame, desiring death over life because of it.

The work continues, and perhaps over time it will happen less and less as my own truth is revealed internally….

The Kernel of Self-Love

You need to accept that this craving for family will always be there. That the fantasy you create in your mind is much better in all ways, certainly healthier.

In my minds creation they are the people you wish them to be, the ones you adored in childhood because you didn’t know better.

Feeling pulled down, locked in, inauthentic, pleasing, pleasing, pleasing, freedom lost. My body became sick, all organs affected, heart, colon, nervous system, a betrayal of myself and all that is believed in.  

And you know, you must know that this pull is for life, and that you’ll reach out again. Try not to. Keep the life you’ve built. Life is hard enough sorting out the moments quietly trying to feel each one.

The trip has been arduous, the oasis found only after a life-time of work. And that work continues and needn’t be hampered, even damaged by the wants of others.

The pressure has been great. But relenting to it brought illness, dis-ease, and toxicity as if drinking poison … freezing my body to the core- spirit, mind, and emotions.  

Just because another wants, doesn’t mean you have to give. The work done, untied as if it never happened. Stop giving up yourself for the needs and wants of another.

That little kernel of self-love, that warm glow you’ve begun to foster needs your full attention towards Y-O-U. It’s OK to love you… with tenderness, softness, kindness, gentleness, and lots of cuddling. Yes, you can hug yourself!

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.  

ACCEPTANCE

PHOTOS BY PATRICIA

Nights roll on one after the other sleeping like a hibernating bear. And that brings a day of gratitude, relief, and a whole lot of energy that had been lacking for years during so many bouts with sleepless nights. The pot oil has to be the cure, because no amount of meditation worked to help sleep occur.

Still, during the day in the midst of winter, my feet drag as if lifting 2,000 pounds, wondering what in the world is wrong. Nothing, nothing except no matter how hard positivity is reinforced, winters do affect my brain chemicals dramatically turning me to stone even when fighting hard for that not to happen.

Though this winter is the best ever, it is not without challenges. Accepting the why helped my shoulders come down from the crunch of wondering, accepting my fate which makes it easier to bear. So the puzzle, always calming, is worked on to completion, along with other pleasant past times not amounting to much, but do pass the time.

It is not about changing the world, but myself. It is about finding the joy in each day because it could be my last, one never knows. It is about feeding my soul with uplift and belief in my own power, goodness, and abilities. To work on faith within myself which can then extend to others…

It is about happiness and peace in the face of an unimaginable storm as the virus takes hold with more virulent and deadly strains. Please keep my loved ones safe, please…

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.  

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.

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.