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!

COMFORT and BEAUTY

Each lap brought more comfort, the honeysuckle bushes in their full splendor, the scent filling me up at each passing. The lilacs also owning their space, emitting a bouquet of loveliness almost intoxicating. The earth so dry the clay cracks, the warmth of each day increasing as summer approaches.

My flip-flops becoming moist in the early morning before the dew dries. Rest at the creek continues to bring surprises; the heron gracefully floating by to find another fishing spot, an oriole singing its specific melody, her bright orange mingling with the coral pink quince blossoms as it jumps from the flower to the feeder.

The meadow erupts with buttercups, soon daisies will gather with them. The beauty of spring overwhelming in its bounty of colors, songs, and scents, giving way to summer with all her secrets exposed. Traumas early on cracked my soul from body, spirit from flesh. The decades passed living split has opened up to wholeness where the core integrated with all other parts…

PHOTOS by PATRICIA

SAY NO!

On my mind all week after speaking up to a ‘friend.’ Friend in quotes because we’ve not been able to really make a friendship although she’s in our little group that meets monthly.

“Is it OK if you pick me up at 10 of?” she emails after asking if she’d like a ride to our first get together in 14 months. We have done monthly gatherings on-line but this is the first in person gathering for me.

She has gone down to the coffee shop every morning for a long while, so quite the social animal. But has no problem making me late so that she can stay after church to chat with her friends. 10 minutes earlier and I wouldn’t be late to Chris’s, and her seemingly innocent question really aggravated me. Then the critic steps in, it is only ten minutes, she’s a widow, blah, blah, blah, my head battered and weary from the critic.

No way could my response be yes. For the first time, not only do my needs matter, but I must and do advocate for them. And it finally registered that in all the past years she has made me late every time so that she could stay longer with her other group of friends. She has been very wily about keeping that to herself, but Samuel goes down for coffee and has seen her there every time.

Saying no is so hard. What will the others think? What will I say when they ask where Rosalie is? But, but, but, what about me? What about wanting to see my friends, hug them, spend a lovely afternoon chatting, playing cards, and wiling away the time pleasurably? Plus the simple fact that I hate being late anywhere and avoid it whenever possible.

That is how hard it is to say no. But in doing it, more self-respect grows. In saying no to the inappropriateness of others I begin to become visible. That is a first. Being invisible is my motes operando.

Hiding because the real me is so detestable. No more.

GUILT?

Guilt seeps in just by erecting a tiny boundary. A note to my younger brother via the video chat mechanism we talk on, “Do me a favor and call in the morning or afternoon. Even happy calls in the evening hype me up so much I can’t get to sleep.”

No answer as usual. He doesn’t bother to answer unless he wants something. And he wants Samuel to do a new electric panel on the house they just moved to. This from a brother who hardly bothered to interact with me over the past several years.

He was busy seeing his other brothers in one way or another. But now the reason for this repeated contact where it feels like I’m fucking being stalked settles in after much thought, and it shouldn’t have take that much thought. Because even over the winter when he first started pressuring me to come, he quickly added to the invite, “It’s a work visit though.”  

And I feel guilty?

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.  

SUNBEAMS

The meadow at dawn

What to do when everything is alright with the world? OK, not the universal world suffering the blight of the pandemic, but my own internal world which is found on this little plot of land I call heaven. No more being a renegade living as a rebel outcast because even the three brothers who never touched me seemed to cling together against me.

What if there is real caring and some of my resentments need the gift of tolerance just as they do in any human interaction? And what of the trust issues? Well they are there on a permanent basis. When the inner voice cries out ‘beware’…listen to it.

But the soul’s yearning for family never requited has been filled by an impromptu outdoor socially distant gathering. Picking up my pot oil supply in the city, a quick stop at Seth’s was made only a block away. He called the other brother also living in the city. Soon he and his wife popped in with their cups of coffee.

The ten minute visit turned into three hours, and the thirst for ‘family’ was quenched. It was fun, felt safe, and for the first time was OK. Because I am OK. Traveling miles in the meadow, footfall after happy footfall among the bobbing heads of buttercups and drifting butterflies, my strength blossomed with the love growing internally.

Strong enough to love me, or learn about how that feels as it blooms, the doors to family that had closed but left unlocked cracked open, widening enough to enjoy their company and feel safe. The safe part is paramount occurring only after my ability to say what I need to say when I need to say it crystalized. 

Not by force, but by walks in the meadow where I’ve learned that the opinion of myself that matters most is my own.

                                                   Photos by Patricia     

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.

SWEETNESS

Our new bird house up for only a week before being occupied.

There is beauty all around me, some of my own making, much from Mother, the same Mother who takes my breath away with her beauty and casts scourges upon us in the form of a virus.

But inside me there still lives darkness, gloom, and disaster, a surety of blackness that believes I don’t deserve life.

It lands on me like vulture claws in the quiet loneliness of night when sleep won’t come. This time due to simply sending an email to a brother, a non-abusive brother, but one who buddied up with an abusive brother for life choosing his company over mine. That makes him a co-conspirator of the worst kind, and very dangerous for me.

Yet, like a moth to flame… but who doesn’t want family? Picnics, holidays, to be part of a group? My groups call for safety. And those ‘people’ are not safe. To initiate contact ALWAYS means no sleep that night.

Taking a sleep aid finally at midnight, watching TV for almost an hour, resisting food as a way to numb, back to bed and my dooming thoughts. Because this is when everything looks bad, and feels bad. Every bright thing in the daytime becomes foreboding and all my fault.

The rock hard boulders push me further into the pillow with the weight. Then a gentle voice, as if an apparition of an angel spoke above me, what if you filled yourself with loving words, kind thoughts, sweet truths…

And the turn-around began, countering the badness into reality. The outcome? A feeling, a belief, the knowledge deep inside that began to open with love… you are a good and special person. Like everyone around you that you admire, you too are admirable. And with that sweet sleep came.

Our resident toad living on the patio making a home in a potted plant burying himself in the dirt every night. He has live there for weeks!

BOUNDARIES

An idyllic day ruffled by selfish requests from two people once considered friends.

“Oh hi Rosalie!” I exclaim, not hearing from her in a while.

“Hi. Could Samuel come over to help Rob with some electric work?” she asks unceremoniously.

“We are being very careful, it will have to be over the phone,” I answer agitated at her lack of concern for our health, for our very lives, all for a dimmer switch. My body became hyper at the knowledge that this person is once again taking advantage me.

“We are wearing masks,” she responds plaintively.

“No, the phone will have to do,” I reply sternly.

While listening to Rob interact with Samuel, I became more and more upset as he pressured Samuel to come do the work for him, not once but at least three times in the next two hours over the phone. Knowing Samuel, fear ratcheted up that he’d cave to the pressure, throwing all our carefulness away for a switch she could easily do without. 

“Wear three masks,” Rob whines like a child.

By that time Samuel had hung up to search the web for the precise dimmer that had Rob stumped. That allowed me to vent my anger at their lack of concern for us. To even ask! Back and forth we went leading to my withdrawal from Samuel for the rest of the day, needing space and time to cool off.

It wasn’t until evening that I could talk to him again, or decided to, because it was a decision. Upon waking this morning my actions left a bad aftertaste. We talked about it on the patio this morning. Being less stressed, and less emotional made the discussion fruitful, and a relief for both of us. We have progressed!

“If you told him right away you wouldn’t go there to work inside her kitchen with them because it made you feel unsafe, he would have stopped pressuring you,” I said.

But Samuel isn’t one for directly relaying feelings, or much of anything like that, not directly. It is indirectly, saying repeatedly that he wouldn’t be much help as the device wasn’t one he was familiar with.

“Well, what if it was one you were familiar with?” I ask him exasperated.

“I still wouldn’t have gone,” he said.

“You should have just said that, then he wouldn’t keep at you for two hours,” I replied.

But Samuel found the device on-line and gave him the information. Though Rob could have done that too, and should have. Don’t take on a job you can’t do then ask my husband to risk for our lives to help with a non-emergent job.

Both Rosalie and Rob are on my shit list. Friends? No, friends do not ask that you risk your life for nothing, or for anything. The asking shot through boundaries. Rosalie always had me pegged for an easy mark. It wasn’t the first time she took what she knew she should not. It was the first time I said NO.

If you have a repair person in your house, you are supposed to be in another room to keep yourself safe. She blithely asked Samuel to come spend an hour or two with her and Rob in her kitchen. Even with masks it would be risky.  

If Samuel had just been clear from the beginning and be done with it. They created a dysfunction wanting another fool to join in. Thankfully he did not.

Freedom and Safety

Waking in the night a breeze of fear passes through me. All the people called ‘family’ were put in the block sender list yesterday to feel safe. But what of the love felt for each of them? The love is from an immature girl, remaining a girl all through my 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, only beginning to mature in the last decade… a slow and painful process. 

And with maturity comes the realization that lies are not OK. Interacting with each of them, always on their terms, is not OK. Pretending is not OK. Being buddies with an abuser, aligning with him against me, is not OK. Pretending he didn’t slink up in the night to abuse me… is not OK.

By not talking about the crimes committed against me make the crimes loom larger. Lying awake in the night remembering. The confused mixture of pleasure and confusion as a little girl, still sleepy laying there at the end of couch with my little brother asleep at the other end.

Tommy’s head between my legs— waking to the soft pleasure but not understanding. The next morning, and all the years after, the brother I loved so much with admiration and trust, turned his hate upon me. I was a reminder of his crime. His fear of exposure compounding the punishment that would defeat me for decades. That leaves me fighting for a life even now. 

On little shoulders that would take even more trauma, some so violent that remembering isn’t safe to this day. My psyche protects me from it still.

I am blocking emails that never come unless someone dies or wants something. No one dares to get close, reality might set in. But what of my reality?

Attachments cause deep pain. My preference is to attach to the land and mother nature who soothes, bringing smiles of joy as the chipmunks play, or a flower blooms .

Attach to my children, and their children. To Samuel, who I’m learning to trust for the very first time in over 40 years of marriage. Trust for a friend whom I’ve finally learned to erect boundaries with, a miraculous feat… trust that will reach out only so far because she will slam me down if I let her. 

That is enough to be challenged with. The origin family carries baggage with heavy requirements I have no energy to meet. (Yet agree to anyway when pressured.) So take away the temptation. 

After trying repeatedly to develop relationships individually with no takers, it became apparent that groups were only what was wanted— herd immunity. My need for safety equates to detaching. Craving freedom that was lost when feeling forced by pressured guilt to do something I did not want to do paralleling my formative years. Freedom and safety come home.