FALL INTO FALL

Amends were made to the three brothers pressing me to join in explaining why it’s not possible for me do so. Now they are placed beyond daily thoughts so much because the ones who really are interested in me and my life are my real family, Samuel, sons, grand-children, a sister-in-law, and friends.

These brothers act as if they are caring, but aren’t interested enough to answer emails or interact in a way other than what serves their own needs. OK. My situation has been put forth plainly without their decades of gagging me. That took enormous effort. Maybe once again going forward can occur without so much angst.

The ups and downs of being drawn to the fire of origin family… all it’s memories, the secrets forced on me to keep, the ravages of expecting me to be someone I’m not (pleasing doormat), getting burned, cooling off, then doing it all over again, over and over… well, maybe sufficient mental beatings have occurred to stop doing that. It is challenging enough to keep my sanity.

My mood dropped like a rock, forgetting how severely the change of season affects me. The warmer mornings called me onto the porch to watch the sun rise, rather than hunkering down under the full spectrum lights to improve mood. So that has begun again.

The usual meditation routine went by the wayside for months after years of hardly missing it, but that too is needed and room must be made for it once again. And the pot oil, no wonder sleep wouldn’t come.

When sleep issues arose the dose kept going up and up, doubling over time. No wonder my head felt manic with thoughts. Too much causes problems instead of curing them. Backing down to a modest does has helped a great deal.

And the simple work of being with me begins again. How hard it is to be in my body and be OK. To not run. To breathe, and be OK.

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.

LOST and FOUND

In trying to be

What others want

I

Lose

Me

Pieces scatter like a bucket of wash water thrown out with a splash. Saying no to Stevie caused weeks of worry, sleepless nights, and guilt tinged with grief. All these feelings to sort out; guilt for saying no to my younger brother, grief that our relationship is so poor along with reminders of an origin family where insurmountable pain existed which wreaked lives shortening them.

Trust the wisdom that caused me to say no, though it has been hard to like myself ever since. The wonder of exciting days awaiting dissolved, my ability to stay on track nutritionally went too. All the feelings about myself went sour, positive feelings that took persistent, long-term work to develop.

Why can’t you help your little brother? (the critic ever-present) Though it wasn’t my help, it was Samuel’s he desired. Just bate my sister as if really wanting to see me, a TV in my room, put there just for me…NOT. Repeated video chats, once calling back SEVEN times when I wasn’t up to answering him, then the rarity of actually answering an email, also telling me how much fun it will be on the lake, etc., but what he really wanted was collusion in his chaos.

The man could have another house that did not need so much work. But he wanted to do the work. (I don’t) He is 65. Really, buy a house that has 30 outdoor stone steps required each time to just get inside it? No indoors stairs to the basement. You carry groceries and all else up those steps?

Flat surfaces for us. Also, with my limited abilities, focus is finally being honed onto the closest and most important relationships- my husband, then children, their children, and friends who feel much safer than brothers and more enjoyable to be with. Not so with Stevie.

He can be very demanding, even telling me what I can say and what I can’t. Like hating Trump. Maybe that is a sweetness within him, not wanting others to say they hate someone, yet in less than a year he was saying the same thing.

I surely don’t want to be around his energy, the chaos within him of both retiring and being in a new home, huge life changes that seem to be bringing out a excessive restlessness in him. That is an energy hard to around since my own insides are often in turmoil. What I crave is the ability to be still and be OK with that. To feel it to my core and have this newly found peace spread throughout me.

Long, long ago, when we were both living at Mom’s in our twenties. My rooms were in the basement. Mom was beginning Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. Stevie had begun a job as a bartender. He excitedly talked me into turning my little living room in the basement into a bar. Uh, OK. It doesn’t matter that’s where I live, or that Mom is drying out. Will you then love me?

The aftereffects of saying no have been grim. Yet in its wake there is an enormous leap of growth into self-preservation, respect of self, and yes, a continued path towards love of self.

it is the things

you say no to

that really show

your commitment

to your growth

yung pueblo

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.