FORGIVENESS

photos by patricia

Guilt? Who needs it? I suffer from it a lot, but am learning to forgive myself, even if I’ve done nothing more than not know how to be ‘my own best friend’. I’m hard on myself. I learned this only because others pointed it out over the years repeatedly. After hearing it enough, I began to believe there was something to it.

I had to forgive myself for the abusive sexual attacks against me by 4 siblings when only a child of 8 and the next few years after. A tremendous amount of guilt and shame invaded my entire being which only intensified as I grew and my thoughts about myself worsened.

In my 20’s, 30’s, up to my 50’s, rage ruled. Behind every interaction rage had to be contained, rage at myself and rage at the world and all the people in it. I was a pressure cooker with the tightest lid around. I appeared nice, sweet and passive but inside it boiled. I do not like looking back at my life and how all feelings had to be contained. 

Writing chapters of who, how and why allowed the pain behind the rage to come up and the tears of healing flowed. As I let the rage and hate go for what they’d done, I needed to forgive me too, for whatever I thought I’d done…even if it was only  that I’d been so cruel to myself, yet kind towards others.

Hate and rage began to loosen its grip during my daily half hour meditation. When I began to find myself and feel my center, nothing else mattered. Being present instead of zoning out began to feel safe and happened more often.

Have I forgiven them? I believe some things are unforgivable. Being sexually attacked as a child is one of them. The best I can say is I let the rage go and let myself off the hook too- and maybe I have forgiven. That doesn’t mean I want to be around people I’m still afraid of.

The most valuable forgiveness was and continues to be… towards myself

ACCEPTANCE

photo by patricia

I fought it, raged against it, but there it was, I was abused. No amount of wishing changing it. Look at her, I want to be her, happy, trusting, loved. The pain, the cruel pain of not wanting to be me followed me everywhere, every minute.

I fanaticized what being ‘her’ was like. And ‘her’ was any girl, adolescent, or woman who looked free of burden. Why me? And the burden became heavier every time I asked.

How could I slow down enough to settle into what is if I couldn’t talk about IT? Familial sexual abuse isn’t light-hearted banter. You can say, “I was mugged on the street and my purse was taken!” And receive comfort and sympathy in return. But you can’t say, “I was raped in my bedroom by my brother!” (or father, uncle, family friend, etc.)

I wrote my book and each word, each chapter, lifted the burden out of a space so deep it was hard to find. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it. I told my story, I spoke my truth. I am not hiding. And during that process I accepted what is. I was born to a family who hurt me so completely it changed me. I no longer run from that or wish for something else.

At times I’m still wistful when I watch a young woman full of trust and many friends and wonder what that’s like. But it’s not all consuming or constant like it once was. Having many friends does not mean they are close friends. And you only need one. And the one friend I’m learning to check in the most with… is me.

The Silence That Kills

The silence demanded from a child after she is sexually attacked by someone within the family system is where the most harm comes, not from the sexual attacks. A child can recuperate from those with love, help and protection from any further attacks.

It is the silence most children are forced to bear to keep the family safe from shame which kills, figuratively and literally. The family’s shame is too great, greater than the survival of the child. This mistaken belief, that all must be kept quiet to keep the family’s name and unit together needs to radically change to save our children.

Society would not approve, and that must reverse. We as a society must face that this crime occurs and occurs at an alarming rate within families; one of every four girls and one in every six boys.

Forced into silence at an early age, containing horrors that traumatize, a child grows into adulthood mute only knowing how to please others. She is sensitized to the feelings of others not knowing her own or even if she has a right to have them.

It is a constant effort to go down deep and access what is really there because it is still very much a mystery to me. I remind myself daily that I have the freedom and the right to have my own thoughts, views and feelings.

I could have healed and moved on from the sexual attacks when a child. My belief is that an entire family can heal and move on. But only if the attacks are brought to light along with one(s) committing them.

The child should never be alone with the attacker again. All in the family have the freedom to talk about it and to show anger toward the attacker but compassion for the child. Family and individual therapy must be provided.

Compassion for the child must supersede all else. Others are taught to love her even more and protect her from further damage. Then they are taught to work to forgive the attacker(s) but to never forget and always remain vigilant. 

It was the silence demanded that took away everything I had. My body was taken, and from that I could recuperate, it was the silence that took everything else.

Note: I name all childhood sexual abuse as attacks even though the crimes are usually committed manipulatively and quietly. Each one is a heinous, serious assault on a child’s mind, body and spirit.

A New Day…

A rosy glow descended buffered by excess food. The peace sustained possessed holes, that of disliking oneself. When my head hits the pillow or my eyes open in the morning, the first feelings of self-despising thoughts are habitually comforting in their discomfort. 

Reining in the part inside that craves filling the easy way, numbing by food, remains a constant job that takes daily effort. How easily that is forgotten. Does any addict stop working at it? Day by day, sometimes minute by minute, one has to talk down the anxieties, worries and fears that life may bring.

Numbing it out means numbing out feelings. Well yes, that’s the point. Yet a robot life isn’t much of one. Harshness towards self causes harshness towards others. Open, and allow what is there to shimmer and be shared…

Try not to be afraid of this changing thing called life, never knowing what happens second to second. The what if’s won’t stop. Relax into the moment.

Feed your soul with a food that fills all the cracks; stopping to inhale the sweet scent of the blossoms, tidying the kitchen and preparing a wholesome meal from the garden grilled to perfection over charcoal, or soaking in the sun as it rises over the trees.

Find ways to fill one’s soul in ways that bring meaning to each day, memories to fall asleep to, and adventures to look forward to when waking…

The Deck

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While Samuel’s hard at work, first the deck, now the landing and retaining wall, I have no project and feel a bit lost. For such a small project it certainly is a lot of work and the trips to the local lumber yard are adding up surprisingly in cost. I was even invited to go to pick out the stone path. That was a hot date on a rainy morning, bumping into another couple even older than us also picking out stone for a small garden project. 

“What is our purpose?” I ask Samuel, “Do we just get up and do it again day after day?”

“Yes, maybe that is our purpose,” he answers, barely looking up from his magazine. 

I press on, “You have a purpose. I don’t. The studio bores me,” I stated. 

“Well, maybe you need to do something different,” he responded.

He is right. I need to do something different. But with all the supplies gathered over the years, kiln, clay, glaze, and all the corresponding tools, it had better have something to do with all that. New horizons await. In the meantime, maybe my purpose is caring for this body I’ve spent a life-time escaping.

Being in it scares me, every little nuance making me wonder what is going wrong next. Yet being in it is what can also bring great joy if I work at it and try. Like caring for the burn that turned crimson and scaly. Taking the time to open a vitamin E oil capsule and gently applying it helped, rather than just ignoring it like I might of done.

That’s what others do naturally, care for themselves. And when they do they do great things like become exercise fanatics, yoga experts, lean bicyclists or runners, something physical to complete the whole. 

So my purpose is learning about my body, being in it as fully as possible, which takes work, time, and overcoming the fear. I tend to flee it residing in my head or hovering anywhere else but in it. What wonders await if I allow myself to go deeply into my given gifts?

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The Lake

Our little creek has swollen with the rains…

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Decaf works best for me, yet spiking it with caffeine seems to make it taste better. Yesterday the spiking was too heavy and the day got away from me. No way to find the wholeness continually searched for. What could have been a peaceful day was fraught with separateness unable to enter the dwelling of my body and stay there. My mind buzzed…all from a small amount of added caffeine. 

Doing what I do best, beating myself up, I bow my head over my burning hand on the counter and wept. I wept for the stupidity of pulling the crock pot over to the sink still plugged in. The hot bean liquid splashed all over my hand. And finally wept for the bag of chips I ate the day before and wanted to confess about but couldn’t till then, “All 6 ounces Samuel. I ate the whole bag!” 

He cleans up the mess and says, “So what.” 

Holding my hand under cold water, I watch as he eats out of his bag of chips. “I love this salsa,” he says, grabbing more chips.

We had shopped together, an unusual occurrence due to my extreme impatience. I knew better than buying myself chips, albeit baked, but thought skeptically that I could eat just small amounts at a time. He grabbed his bag of tortilla chips.

“No!” I said, when he pointed to the peanut butter stuffed pretzels. I cannot have junk around. I eat it!

Going over to the table I pick up his bag and look at the ounces. 12. He had eaten half a bag, same as me, but he wasn’t smashing his face in the cement like I had been doing. 

All the talk of self-love, self-compassion, self-forgiveness…where does it go? Every time I make a mistake, or mistakes, it comes smashing down, and it stays. 

“There’s always tomorrow,” he says. 

“And I’ll make more mistakes tomorrow!” I retort. 

Yet this morning I feel calm as the sun rises warming my face through the window. This part of me that is so hard on myself is staying. I need others who help me come out from the mire when I’m stuck, and luckily I have them…

my birthday surprise from Samuel

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THE JOURNEY

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One can take a journey without ever leaving home. You may need the rare qualities of an explorer, the courage of a lion, and mighty, tenacious endurance to keep facing truths one does not want to see. What is there? Why do I do what I do? And I might not like the answers, they are all too human.

Jealousies, small-mindedness, failings… what may be harder to look at, notice, accept, and feel fully, are the positives. Those gems dwell deep, shine up, and drive the ship daily but are not revered. Revere them. Hold them up as high as the negatives that pound you down.

Accepting it all as a whole, going into the body, psyche and spirit and trying to dwell there wholly is not easy. Notice the hand starting to show age spots, just like my mother. That hand is yours, do you feel it as you look at it wiping the counter and rinsing the dishes? Be in your body, I tell myself moment to moment throughout the day. It’s OK.

Yet it is scary. The body is what I run from. I didn’t know I’ve done this since age 8 and still do. Be in it, it’s OK. You’re OK as a whole human being, no better or worse than others. Explore. Accept. You’re OK.

The journey is exciting, scary at times, fruitful, and not shared by others. It is yours alone, like mining gold— if you dare.

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