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. 

TRAUMATIC

photo by Patricia

There will come a time when looking back, what is happening now will be less traumatic. Living through it is traumatic. My escape is eating, eating so much nothing else can be thought of except that. Eating fear works but with a toll, self-loathing. 

It eats me up with no room for escape making everything worse and harder, even sleep. Waking, or not falling asleep, with an urgency close at hand, the emergency is internal adding to the external chaos.

What I do matters. If actions are used that are self-destructive such as over-eating, dread increases, even if unconsciously. My body knows it isn’t able to remain stable if fed incorrectly or too much. No wonder sleep evaded me. The threat to life was me.

Living through this is traumatic. While walking the meadow on a sunny morning, spring renewing herself with green adornments growing daily, my thoughts uncovered a truth. Even without the virus’s taunts of death and sickness looming every moment, my life has been much like that anyway.

Threats to life were everywhere, in every person, around every corner, my hyper-vigilance since the eight only compounding as each year passed. This additional threat topples me over the edge even while trying to act nonchalant about it.

Whether alcohol, shopping, food, or drugs, SOMETHING needs to take me away from the truth of so much suffering. Yet that isn’t the answer. Taking a stand does. Stand up in the middle of it. Do what can be done to be healthy.

A friend calls, the first in the last many weeks, and we spend time together on the phone as if we were together. My friendships are precarious due my issues of trust, or lack of it, compounded with the inability to speak up for myself causing great anger when taken advantage of.

Yet some friendships have endured and are so needed right now. They are fresh air compared to any interaction with the origin family whose own baggage interferes with any chance of closeness.

A failed zoom meeting will be tried again with our little group of five who have met consistently each month for many years. We are all less capable with these digital things than our grown children who are adept at computers and their workings.

Time was again spent in my studio after being absent from it for many months. Rolling out clay to be baked in the kiln, music playing gently in the background while the cat hunched on the shelf curiously looking down at me as incense burned… my hands worked with satisfaction.

All things nurturing are so precious right now…

DUMP TRUMP

The time change, the ever expanding Corona-virus, spring, enough to catapult my interior into the stratosphere, yet peculiarly there is a calmness inside I attribute to the full plant pot oil added to the CBD oil legal and available in New York State. 

But it is the last vial with no ability to refill until a visit to a state where it’s sold legally. Oddly, all these years living in a hyper state of panic, cured by a little oil derived from a plant.

Sleep improved drastically, and also a calmness throughout the day that no amount of therapy, meditation, exercise or work on positive thinking could provide. One half dropper at night before bed.

Added to the work daily to achieve health which includes work on thoughts, a main culprit at bringing me down, along with the other activities listed, peacefulness inside my being seems to match others not afflicted with severe life-long PTSD. That’s miraculous.

Still my insides feel squirrely due to the Virus that half the administration says we will contract, not if but when. The scientific half that has not been gagged by Trump who possess brains, stamina, character and integrity.

The other half, Trumpie and his cohorts—LIE. When he or his liars come on the air I look away. Faces of liars during this crisis make me feel sick, not hopeful.

So there is a low humming concern vibrating inside me, yet for now our area has not been hit. That might have more to do with no testing, rather than no virus. It is not the time to lie, be ignorant, nor every time say how great you are and how everything you do is so great.

It is the time for hard work, honesty, and compassion for others, all lacking in the person leading who does not lead, but instead continues to look out for his own money and interests. My wishes for honest leadership in this crisis go unresolved… again, over and over, again and again. No comfort there. 

 

Compassion and Self-Respect

“You did the best you could,” Samuel says in response to my tears over mistakes made at mothering.

“That’s what I heard all my life from my mother!” I retort angrily, “She didn’t do her best, she did nothing,” referring to her leaving me alone with her sons and not protecting me.

I did do the best that I could, and no way do I ever want to go back to those dark years somehow making a home for my boys who have grown up much more capable and stable than I’ll ever be.

But the guilt of mistakes wears me down when it comes to saying no to Shane, not wanting to hurt him, only to help. As years pass the toll of childhood abuse shows up in ways that must be attended to, needing more and more self-care, not less.

My younger body could take the slams of PTSD, hypervigilance, and anxiety buzzing through me like constant electric shocks. But the immune system and nervous system busted like frayed ended cords tangled in a blob. Care is needed to gently roll them out to make a life that works in peace.

No sense is made of having my grand-daughter overnight without problems sleeping, then a few nights later all three with a wicked sleep problem after they leave.

My heart fell at the door when Shane said, “It might be 8:30 or later when we return,” knowing that was too late for a toddler who just turned three.

And too late for my own needs which call for quiet in the evening so that my wild psyche and all bodily systems can calm down from the day’s efforts. It is uncommon to need this, yet a sad reality

But my mouth was silent. I want them to go out, double-date, and have fun. Shane works so hard, and going out together without the kids is a rare thing for them, and so important for a couple.

“Maybe next time I should tell Shane the cut-off time has to be 7:30,” I said to Samuel. Best for me, and best for the little toddler. “Remember, we used to hire a babysitter when we went out nights. Our moms didn’t watch the kids, especially at night.”

“Oh, maybe you just had a bad night,” Samuel replied, not one who usually backs my efforts at self-assertion.

So no help there. And how would I feel knowing someone else was watching them? Not good. I want to do it. It doesn’t happen that often, and these years pass so quickly.

But not sleeping, then needing medication that makes me unproductive and sleepy all the next day was not coincidental or worth it. Linking my guilt with saying no is hard. My guilt ripped into me after my head hit the pillow spinning out of control, beyond my control. I should not have guilt, so many sacrifices were made, along with mistakes.

All my income as a nurse went to Shane’s tuition each month. The pressures and stresses of work took a substantial, and permanent toll on my health. I made sure he had things I never did, or would have been able to handle if offered anyway;  a year in Spain as a student, and returning again with his girlfriend, now wife, after graduating from college, financially supporting the trip as a graduation gift…. and so much more that matters but so easily forgotten, choosing instead to beat myself up. 

How do I care for my own needs, which include spending time with grand-children, and keep my sanity? Like the Nike slogan, JUST DO IT. Even without Samuel’s support, just do it, just say no nicely, but firmly.

Suggest a babysitter that can come to their own house so that the little one is put to bed when he should be, temper and all. But then… what if after saying no, sleep evades me for saying no? It takes very little to upset my equilibrium, sometimes never knowing why, a grievous and permanent brokenness due to the assaults from childhood. 

 

TRUE NATURE

Planning Christmas kept my sanity in the darkest month, now the wait for spring as each day becomes longer.

“Look,” Samuel says, “It is 5 and still light out!”

Looking outside I reply excitedly, “Wow, you’re right!”

My drudge through the dark months is proceeding with better management and brighter outcomes, though it takes work; disciplined habits including full spectrum lights, meditation, better diet, and daily exercise.

The uplift from exercise is curative, even moderate exercise such as walking or gentle movements on the elliptical. But it takes a push to go do it.

The food thing is harder as food is used to medicate PTSD issues that resulted from childhood sexual attacks by loved ones. Alone, stuck with it, and no one to burst the bubble of excruciating pain, it grew as I grew.

That beast stayed. The beast of self-hate, but compassion is slowly moving in as part of me steps back and notices that my use of food is not born out of laziness, lack of character, or that I don’t love, care, or respect myself.

It is self-care that turned to me food at age eight, bent over the toilet in the middle of the night vomiting up the food my mother pushed towards me in place of what I really needed.

Food was her love. My little body couldn’t take it, but it was all there was to numb the horror of what my brothers did and kept doing… the ones I loved so much and trusted.

Food is still used to medicate. To eat out of hunger is not usual. To eat to numb is. Hating myself for failing to be thin is a societal rule. Yet it also is a survival tool that sustains my life in the only way I know how. 

Turning to food saved me. It saves me now. It squelches PTSD symptoms by focusing my attention to how full it feels to the point of pain. Liking the pain because I’m so used to it. The other hurts too much to feel. 

The hurt of a family turning their backs, going on as if nothing happened. What about that pain? It is easier to go along with them. Sure I love you too. You did so much for me.

Donny did allow me to move in with his family because my mother’s drinking had adverse effects. I got a job, joined the Army, met Samuel. My life began. Don saved me at a time when I really needed saving. 

But what about when I was 8? You came into the bathroom at the sound of my screams while I was in the tub.

I said, “It hurts down there.”

What did you do then? Nothing. No one did anything. Not Seth either who I said to directly at the time, “Danny fucked me.” Just looks of horror in his eyes which to an eight year old meant I was the horror.

I want to ask these questions, but never will, though some was in an email to Seth causing more separation than closeness.  

Each day starts out, listen to my body. It will tell you what you need. By the end of the day the impulse to eat when not hungry for food, but ravenous for love, wins out. It blots out all other needs, and helps me hate myself.

A quiet voice whispers, perhaps it is self-caring, what you have done since the age of 8. A rumbling vibrates deep down in a space that is not bone, blood or tissue… a place that is ethereal, one where my true nature resides. The work is connecting, and staying connected.   

Cast-Off

Maybe that feeling of ‘less than’ will follow me all of the days of my life; an achy wound begging to heal yet left ragged with edges that won’t come together. Always there, always present, just sometimes in the background more than others.

A person’s look can cast the hook clinging at my innards pricking fresh blood. How can a grand-mother moving towards her seventies still feel this lonely scratching yearning for self-love and acceptance?

Because even if every other person in the world adored me, it wouldn’t chase away the self-scorn lying inside that causes me to feel little, unloved, not-liked, a cast-off with little worth.  

Self-worth arises when making decisions that are respectful of my needs, yet some of my needs that will always be there are PTSD issues. Using methods to numb that out backfire. There is much work to be done in providing healthier ways of coping. 

It is a new year, with new hopes, dreams, and goals. SUCCESS lays waiting.