COMPASSION

photo by Patricia

Old voices wrestled me down and took over. The kernel of gentleness towards self that had begun to flicker was snuffed out by their harping, blowing their too loud harshness all over me. It felt cold inside my prickly interior.

Even a simple dinner with my son Shane and family put my body on edge. Then a lovely skype session later from my son in Boston added to the over-tired edginess. Staying present drains energy like a marathon run. Blessed sleep would not come.

To be off kilter after a simple family gathering was so upsetting. The pressure of wanting everything to be so right kept sleep at bay. Back to the couch. But my thoughts banged with negatives; you oddball, you’re different, you’re weird, why can’t you keep yourself more loose less serious, and so much went on in my head because I couldn’t sleep.

Using a sleep aid ruined the entire next day. The after-affects keep me drowsy and disinterested. I fight it,  not wanting to accept being me and the fucked up way my body behaves.

Thinking back, a long way back, when first approaching the reality of my past and why living was so bleak and hard, I read a book by a former Miss America. Her body became knotted up so badly because of past childhood sexual abuse. Her body tensed up each time trying to force her father out of her. It affected much of her life.

It has affected my body in every way, more than I realize or want to accept. Only now do I dare give it the tender attention it should always have had. But when your family is ashamed of this happening in their circle, you are forced to keep it in to protect them; not physical force but other ways more discreet. 

No help came. I suffered alone and my body suffered. But I went on as if I hadn’t and as if my body wasn’t even part of me. At 65 it is only now that I am learning to be in it and to be kind to my body in a way that should have occurred at age 8.

Sometimes it feels like a losing battle. Living as if it all didn’t happen makes the reality of the damage done hard to accept. The war within continues. Then a moment of softness opens where it feels warm settling inside. Start again, shelter the flicker of kindness and compassion. 

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SOLIDITY

photo by Patricia

A child whose childhood is lost at age eight, is on her own. The scraping loneliness begins. She scrapes for love, companionship, warmth, comradery, any scrap of affection offered. Yet it is hard to let in even when it is offered.

Dumped. There you are, trauma unprocessed swirling inside and your insides fly outward never to return… unless living long enough, working hard enough, and you power through what can’t be powered through, because you do it anyway.

You look for answers elsewhere because there is no center inside. Only the power to keep breathing. The answers are what others think you want to hear, or their answers, or something you need to hear. But that is rare. That comes from someone who really does love you, who dares tell you what you don’t want to hear. But you listen because it has worth.

And all along there has been a force inside, but you did not know it. You did not feel it. You only heard the language of bad, unworthy, unlovable, dirty, shameful, and that list is never ending. If only you knew what you’ve had all along. The answers. Your answers, lying inside all along.

CHERISH

Wisteria

As we move through stages a deep loss is felt leaving one while entering another. When grand-kids started school all day, their lives became busier, and visits occur less. The loss is felt keenly, yet when they do come my energy level lags later in the day. Time is needed for a break and rest. They are both nestled in bed as I write on this early morning. 

The serenity on our peaceful plot of land brings a quiet, profound joy. Taking each day and wrapping ourselves around it, we embrace it. Bending over the strawberries a drop of sweat drips off the end of my nose, “Oh, my god, there are so many strawberries!” A complaint that should be a prayer of thanks…

The humidity is thick until a cool wind whips through taking it with it. As the door clicks shut on the way to the patio, mommy robin flies from her nest in the blooming wisteria, then rests on the birdbath till she deems it safe to return. Soon the delight of watching baby birds will come.

Things feel different this year. The over excitement of usual joys, though still there, is tempered by a more thoughtful, rounded perception. The ups and downs meet in the middle.

Looking back at a life filled with anxiety, the parts spinning about with no home, the wonder of pulling through still seems incredulous. To have stormed through so much— obstacles, terror, darkness, dysfunction, the pull of others wanting to rip me down, so many dilemma’s and confusion, yet the spirit prevailed…to now have this peace makes each day a day to cherish.

SANITY

photo by Patricia

There are present relationships that cause darkness and zoning out because it replicates the past in some very painful way. Snapping back to now is hard but necessary in order to enjoy the brilliant day; leaves wafting in the warm breeze while walking by, buttercups surrounding daisies as if framing them for a photograph, the succulent aroma of the wild roses, and warm joy filled tears when the little chipmunks finally come out of hiding and skip past my feet on the patio.

Getting lost in thoughts takes away now.

It is not other people who need to grow. It is me. Instead of hugging someone as if congratulating their bad behavior, my craving is for honesty. A life of pleasing makes this a minefield. Keep the peace and pretend. It is still happening. Correcting the discord internally is growth awaiting.

The group of people I was born unto, what others refer to as family, causes disruption even now. An infection spread when abuse occurred tainting all views, especially of me. Those noxious beliefs are toxic. I am not who I was, so easily controlled so that you can be comfortable in your lies. Stagnant perceptions of that easily controlled girl I once was choke out the life force discovering who I really am. Keeping distant keeps me sane.

I’ve heard it said, “Put it on a shelf,” advice given to a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It seems the worst advice though it came from a reputable well-known therapist. Really? A father in a highly reported case in the news expected his daughter to do the same. It seems on the surface she has, but it also seems contrary to her needs.

After squelching so much trauma inside of me for so long it is ever present in each action, thought, or challenge presenting difficulties that become harder to manage as the body ages. Due to the depth of the traumas, and the depth to where the family demanded it kept hidden inside me, the need now to is open the wound and let it air.

It comes out rancid then transforms into petals floating on air. That’s what the opening of wounds does, exposes the rotted flesh so it can heal. My family has left me to the healing on my own. And I will talk the rest of my life about my real life. I will live, and live fully, wholly, and free. I will exorcise wounds they care not to hear about.

How can one ‘put it on a shelf’ and still live? I couldn’t go on that way. Nor should I…nor should anyone.

 

A Peaceful Life

photo by Patricia

Though yesterday’s work was the happy, blissful work summer usually provides, a haze interfered after the call from Don, a brother, once father-like, now distant. We can’t seem to mend the fences from the schism when Mom became ill then died. He felt I went against him and lectured me. And discussed me with my younger brother, maybe others, the words that came back, “He does everything because no one else will.”

Well, that has much truth in it, but if he thought that then tell me, don’t discredit me to others. Mom died 9 years ago. I know it’s time to forgive yet interacting with him is unappealing. Not talking it about makes it impossible to move any further at closeness. Forgiving has occurred. There is no hard knot in my heart, nor wishes of revenge. Just separateness.

I had thought that the relationships with the three siblings who did not touch me sexually as a child could be counted on. Yet interactions with any of them causes pain, and confusion taking from the peaceful life I’ve created. I cannot be the person they knew. Each seems blind to the person I am.

Open Up?

rose by Samuel, photo by Patricia

Closing off, hanging on, life becomes too serious. Something inside loosens, and warmth flows. That is love, love of self, love of life, love of the others. It is a conundrum. 

Guarding what was left after the repeated sexual attacks by brothers during childhood naturally made me protect what little spark of hope and love that still burned. A fortress erected that no one gets through. Yet living without the warmth of love makes life not worth living. The tightness stresses all realms on my being. But opening is risky without first feeling safe.  

Too often the closing down and protecting consumes me, though it is not conscious. Opening is conscious. Breathe slowly, deeply, and give the message repeatedly, “It’s OK.” When opening all of the body even my organs relax. Others feel it including the cat as she stretches out her long lanky length on my lap rattling as she purrs delighting in life.

Live like a cat, sleep, play, purr… Each day the warmth of the sun caresses my back while bending over the fresh crop of strawberries ripening from the day before. Samuel has taken off the nets and allowed access. The killing buckets are gone- I can breathe, the relief is profound. His iciness will fade too, but will mine?

Samuel’s steamrolling over my feelings feels so similar to what my brothers took. Protecting his strawberries over my gentle words about chipmunks caused stress and fear, even my heart clenched and felt pressured. That is not healthy for a person coming from a history of deaths and surgeries related to the heart.

It is not OK. My home, my sanctuary, a place to feel safe and especially in summer on the little patio where the sun warms me to the core… a place where well-being occurs for the first time in 65 years. A warmth so deep it takes me by surprise because the realization comes that others feel this daily unless going through stressful times. But for a person who lived with the stressors of PTSD since childhood, the feeling of deep well-being was unknown. And I have it. Then it is snatched away just when I begin to melt from winter’s ice, a time when depression sets in.  

A visit to my friend down the road included a yearly picking of rhubarb so generously provided. I will return the favor with a jar of jam. Summer’s pleasures will pass quickly, pick the fruit before it is gone…

 

MARRIAGE

in the meadow...

Compromises are made when choosing a partner. Mine wasn’t made consciously because confronting what my brothers had done hadn’t yet occurred when I met Samuel. He fit in with what I knew. But I didn’t realize that till many, many years later.

I interacted with his brother with the same closeness as my own, open and warmly, until the hollowness inside scraped at my gut so intensely it drove me to keep at therapy with more consistency. Therapy— someone to talk to, a survival necessity like air and water that was searched out since the age of 18 when leaving home for college.

It took several of them over the course of years before ever mentioning ‘brothers,’ and the horrific sexual abuse inflicted upon me. At about age thirty there was no hiding. The group found said it all, Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. It included group and individual therapy. It was then that being near brothers, including Samuel’s, became intolerable. He too raped his sister.

Being married to a man with a similar family, a mother raising her children on her own, though his mother divorced, mine lost her husband from a heart attack, and the eldest abusing a younger sibling… these things create a certain atmosphere, a certain way of coping, thinking and interacting.

It is not one of honesty or blunt truth. But I am both honest and blunt. This man I married does not talk about the things I care about. He barely talks at all. I crave to discuss the inner workings of other’s minds; motives, feelings and desires. He only becomes animated by electrical or mechanical issues. I pretend interest while tuning out.

Yet two years ago during a 4 day stay at the hospital, other than my son for a few hours, it was this man who sat all day, every day, by my bedside.  Loyalty has been a high priority for us both and it has seen us through the very worst times.

But becoming invisible to keep the peace, to stay cocooned to please, stresses my heart. To grow I need space, not games concocted to keep me quiet. Even in marriage there are two people…not one. I wonder what would happen, how I’d grow, if I ever felt my power and my worth.