WHOLESOMENESS

There is an ever present belief of ‘not as good as,’ lying deep in my core as if part of my personality like bedrock. Sometimes it lies dormant, only a whisper, and this only after years of internal strife, anxiety, and tearing myself apart with struggles over any interaction with another.

Whatever I did, said, or looked like was wrong, a mistake. That is what sexual abuse within a family does. When a child is forced to stay silent to protect the family’s shame, trauma swims within her like sharks eating her flesh from the insides out. Shame rots all that would blossom.  

I believed I was ‘bad.’ That grew as I grew. Every person who looks at me must be thinking something bad about me. That was a surety in my belief system making any attempt at just about anything supremely difficult and almost impossible.

Those feelings paralyze stunting growth. The body grows, the rest stagnates causing a quagmire of pain rolling like a tumble weed as years passed. As days grow shorter old ghosts rise consuming all rationality threatening to pull me under.

You are as good as others. How absurd to believe otherwise? A voice, soft and gentle is heard. A voice once gagged for the sake of the family. Even now freedom is squelched out of habit, but beliefs and feelings are opening to the stars and the heavens.

You have a right to be here. I suffered despite the so called ‘family’ acting as if I didn’t. The call to them has diminished. The need for it about gone. That need only makes the pain go deeper, but like a moth to flame I kept coming back.

A change has evolved, a quietness, and acceptance of how things are, where I stand, and how to provide for my needs for the very first time, untainted by another looking out for their own interests.

It is freeing. The internal quiet and acceptance so longed for, fought for, and coming into all parts of my being after the weapons are put down. The moments of now are savored instead of avoided.

It comes when least expected, this surprise of wholesomeness.

 

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Say NO

“Thought I’d come for tea. Would you like a visit?” Chris asked.

“Oh sure,” I replied, then remembering our outing planned for the gorge the next day I added, “Oh, I forgot, we are going to the Falls tomorrow.”

“Maybe we can come. Jerry might have to work, but I’ll ask him,” she said excitedly, while my mind was immediately yelling what my mouth would not— I didn’t ask you!

Caught off guard without defenses to ease myself out of the situation, the day to come already felt ruined. Enjoying the freedom to do what I want, when I want, was stolen.

Then the reproach begins, adding to the disappointment of having others go to my special place that weren’t asked to come: At your age, you can’t speak up? That thread bangs down heavily making the dissatisfaction of a friend’s overstepping her boundaries particularly jarringly, also making me aware of how easily others take advantage of me. 

I’m a mouse. But another voice breaks in, you were put in a tough position without time to think of way to say no gracefully. How about, FUCK NO! Instead it was a meek, mild, fake enthusiastic OK.

“I’ll ask Jerry, and get back to you,” she says.

“OK,” I respond, my being somewhat fractured, perhaps dissociating. Part of me with her on the phone, another part elsewhere in the magical world where I had a voice.

The usual self-hate crept in for not speaking up, for allowing it, then feeling victimized. For her yet again taking something from me. We’ve had serious friction before. My dignity stolen with the constant swipes, like daggers to my belly being hurled whenever she needed a cleansing.

After years of not speaking up, I finally did. The crack in the friendship since then remained deep. She did not like me calling her out about the snotty remarks.

She phones after more than a year of not calling. We still meet monthly with our little group that travels to each other’s homes for cards, snacks, laughter, and fun. But we stopped doing too much together like we once used too. And we definitely stopped doing things as a foursome.

It was OK. We got through the day without major catastrophes, but I would have rather been on my own. There were specifications about what time they had to be back. A quick peek at another falls on the way home was scraped. On our own we would have.

Going along with something unwanted disturbed my peace. Waking at 4 AM, I was very awake. That has not occurred in over a month, and it’s probably not coincidental. Only this morning have words bubbled up that could have been said; no, we planned this outing just for the two of us. Simple, direct, and oh so easy.   

When my inner life is disturbed it causes this upset in sleep. A voice stolen such as mine was, doesn’t come back, not really. A life where my own needs were ignored while attacks to my body occurred over and over, takes the voice and a life.

I live with punches, whirling around like a dervish just to please others. Giving up what little I have, then nothing’s left. That is not OK. It wasn’t OK to say OK. Rationally it is such a little thing, but looms large because it feels like a repeat of the past. 

The solitude I crave and flourish within has much to do with this flaw in my character. I cannot speak up about my own preferences and needs. Resentment, even hate follows, for myself, and the offenders.

It is easier to navigate life on my own where freedom is sometimes found, luscious freedom oh so sweet. Even in solitude I am captive to my own negativity, but am finding my way out of the bondage. 

It becomes much harder around others, especially those that are so needy and controlling. 

 

HOME

Days string together brilliant, azure blue, and sunny, warming my body with memories of what’s to come. The stove will be fired up just as my bones begin to ache. The pleasure of just ‘being’ during this lull of peace needs more careful absorption… as with all things, it is temporary.

Wisps of jet plumes, pink and yellow from the rising sun, crisscross the sky as a lone cardinal chips from the hedge-row nearby. The mornings are still interrupted only by a distant train whistle, or a car going by.

The day opening is greeted with anticipation. When younger more excitement is looked for, though it is hard to discern whether it was excitement or anxiety. Now my belly turns with excitement over a trip to the glen, or a butterfly nearby during a walk through the meadow.

I do not have to leave home to be happy. All that is needed is right here on the land, but more completely right inside my own self; a place once scattered, broken, and chaotic now home

 

BRAVERY

Bravery. It took bravery to decline my son’s offer to visit, and to explain why. It is more usual to put my husband’s, and son’s needs or wants before my own. It is unusual to pay respect to my own. It brings me great pleasure and satisfaction for my family to be happy.

Cory really wanted me to come see his new home, which is why I said yes, while my insides were screaming NO! And to decline only a week prior seems very discourteous. He has been aware of my extreme ambivalence.

Last week I gave another firm yes. But I also mentioned at the tail end of my ‘yes’ about tomorrow’s appointment meeting the new eye surgeon, and the trepidation that involves.  

There are limits to what I can do. Facing the upcoming eye surgeries is taking a great deal of courage, even if the actual procedures are a month or more away. Every day a thrumming undercurrent of terror vibrates in my belly. Someone cutting on my eye? Strangers at my body? 

To drive 6 hours on busy freeways to visit Cory, then stay away from home for several nights, would cause a huge disturbance in my well-being. No matter that it is with loved ones. Being away, dealing with traffic, and an unfamiliar environment, will cause dire stress inside me. Yes, I can do it, but at what cost? Too much right now.

That decision plunges me into the abyss of sadness for having these limitations. But no, I choose not to go there either. I am so lucky to have all I have. To have a loving husband, and two amazing sons who are happy in their lives, and are thriving. This lovely home, and the meadow which brings so much peace. No, I won’t go into sadness. Why should I?

But, just as everything else in my life seems as if in opposition, if a day brings tears mourning once again for what was lost during childhood, that is OK too. Feeling what I feel is a better road than denial. Acceptance is necessary for the feelings to flow through. Much was lost, or taken. Grieving isn’t over in a day, and may take years to mourn. Making a decision not to feel something might not work.

Yet gratitude fills me, and that is my focus. Much of my life has been scorched with anxiety buzzing through my veins like acid. That has changed dramatically over the last ten years… after my mother died, when the freedom for authenticity blossomed. When there was no longer a need to pretend for her happiness that we were a ‘happy family.’

The hate for myself is evolving into self-love and respect. The shame once making me wanting to die daily, dissolved when writing the book; black-tarry snakes wired inside my gut slithering up and out each week, scraping the tender internal issue on its way out. Every nasty evil thing my little child body endured was released with the telling.

Also popping up and out like carbonated, sparkling bubbles were joyful times. Those too had been imprisoned inside with the traumas. Suppression took it all. Healing began to be more than just a word.

The shame is not mine.

I admire the woman I’ve become, the endurance, strength, persistence, and courage it has taken to get here. I look at my husband and begin to feel sorry for him, that he has a wife who keeps him from doing what he wants, who won’t fly, take big trips, blah, blah, blah. Really? What about all the positives? Fortitude, compassion, creativity, devotion to family, ;;; 

I will continue to work at honoring the things about myself others have seen but I’ve been blind to, and to honor my real needs.

I will love who I am, and all I have…

 

Alone not Lonely

It is a rare family that discloses sexual abuse upon one of their own by one of their own. Instead the child is silenced due to the family’s shame. And she is left to hold the trauma’s within her and bear the load on tiny shoulders.

So much stolen. Family stolen. Family that grounds us, terrifies. Family that grounds, betrays. Family that grounds a person through life, gone.

Because a child grows, and she learns that it was not her fault, and she opens the wounds to heal. But family betrays her again. To remain she must be silent.

For many, taking a life all over again is too much, and she goes it alone. She has always been alone anyway. The ones who did it, the ones who knew and did nothing. And if they didn’t know then, they know now. 

And still betray. Still abandon. Still stay silent, as silent as she was forced to be. There is no one to stand testament to her pain. Not family. But others who become more family than blood. There is trust in the world if you persist in finding it. 

E-mail to Non-Abusive Brother

photo by Patricia

The fact that I have to describe a sibling as abusive or non-abusive is what causes perpetual sadness and low grade depression in my life as a continual way of being. This brother, Don, was once like a father, as ours died when at age 8. We have become estranged since my mother’s passing ten years ago, but I have done my best to overcome the distance without much success.

Those in the family origin do not talk about important issues, so this email will be a shocker. Yet for me, it is imperative to be real.  

Dear Don,

As much as it would be nice to visit for coffee, the drive is difficult. So often you welcome me, yet you are the one who drove around the country for fun, and drives as a part-time job. Driving doesn’t affect you like it does me especially when it includes city traffic. I often wonder why you don’t make the drive here just to have a cup of coffee, or walk to the water to sit awhile. Though you came once with the boys, and another to take me to lunch in Williamsburg, and a few picnics including Samuel’s retirement party, just stopping by to chat is not a time I ever remember happening.

I have lost count of the times I’ve been up your way just for that reason. I have missed some picnics where Tom was also included. I reached a point where that became untenable. I also prefer getting together with others one to one rather than groups, but it isn’t reciprocated.

The road goes two ways. I’m sorry you can’t find your way here. I would love that but it seems it just won’t be. Shane has been too busy to have us for lunch which would be close to you, so I thought I’d just come anyway. Yet it is a challenge, and not easy for me though I can do it if necessary. I just wonder why you can’t or won’t.

I think of you often. I took the fall basket that I didn’t get around to delivering, and repackaged it into a birthday gift which probably won’t find its way to you house either. Day to day life is a challenge. Sleep is a challenge. Adding other challenges is hard. Even appointments are hard upsetting the routine of day to day, and the comfort and safety of home.

The traumas in childhood left lasting damage. I know you don’t want me to talk about it. A long while back you were upset with me relaying how much Penny went through, so why don’t I just get over it. So I won’t say more. And I won’t complain for that very reason either. I don’t need you to solve my problems like I once did.

I stopped after you  said that just once you’d like me to call without it being a problem. I get it. You have your own stuff, and going to you was inappropriate. I just wish you would have said so, not dismissed my challenges by comparing them to Penny’s and how well she does despite them. What is worse than repressed memories of rape?  I remember everything else done by three other siblings which is bad enough, including your buddy Tom. But what Danny did still remains repressed, though I know it was violent, and was rape. That is what causes so much terror in my life even now.

The other daily challenge is the intense feelings of badness that grew in me from age 8 becoming part of my personality. I work on self-esteem issues daily because I grew up feeling bad, that I don’t have a right to even be here or have a life.

This was meant to simply be a note to let you know I’d love to visit with you, but come here on occasion too?

Patricia

JOY

People have always been fearsome. How could they not be when childhood was fraught with brothers who held me down, manipulated, lied, and broke trust so completely it never comes again? The snakes, bees, and killer bird are much more easily dealt with on this little plot of land called home.

And it is more home than ever was, because in it an internal home has also been found. Luckily the feeling of wholeness that others take for granted has occurred in me. First, writing the book, where the child in me let loose like a steam pot exploding.

Each week a chapter arose, one week joy, the next, severe pain. And most weeks included tears sliding down my cheeks sometimes in rivers. Sometimes needing a choking rain, but always healing in ways the word was meant to be.

Others in the origin family will interact with me, but only if the game of secrets is played, and only on their turf or in groups. The insanity of this brings upheavals of anguish, the mental confusion bringing only pain.

No one wants to know me as me. And I get it. We each have our own hell and cannot hear the other’s or let it in. Yet the façade of invisibility won’t wear on me anymore. It’s not that I want to talk about the past, just not be chained from it as it relates to my life now.

But you don’t want to know me, just own me, control me, and have me be a puppet. No. The craziness of this tips me over and I can’t have it. No.

People scare me, even those that call themselves family. There is a piece missing in me that has been lost forever. And these souls needy of their own take advantage of the hole. That is how it is.

So take joy in the life created, and know it is OK. You don’t have to fix what is not fixable. It is OK. You are OK, in fact beautiful.