Comfort and Joy

As my body recovers from the terror of the cataract removal procedure, my hands need busying. Projects on hold are finished; an old jewelry box found recently at a garage sale, painted golden like the sun to match our bedroom walls, gently gluing felt into the tiny drawers– a string of ornaments hung which will be left up all year, and mason jars with a cloth flounce top to be filled for Christmas goodies for both sons and their families.

It is almost a week later and has taken that long for my body to calm down. Waking in the night causes my body to become vigilant, arousing excessively as if on alert. Going through the procedure gave the message to my body it was in mortal danger, and that message has taken time to dissipate—to feel safe again. 

But each night with discipline, efforts are employed to stay in bed with words mentally said to myself; it’s OK, stay, you are tired, you will sleep. It is very hard to keep an agitated body down, but each night improved. It feels almost as if things are back to what they were.

Temps drop, and while sipping coffee fat, white flakes fall against the black morning. Everything is brighter, clearer, and in focus. So is dirt. While mopping, the floor showed layers of it my eyes hadn’t seen. Using a powder not recommended for floors, but worthy of removing just about any dirt, my mop whirled while a sheen of sweat dampened my shirt. .

Down the drain went bucket after bucket of brown water. The floor whitened dramatically. It took three days to come back to the living and stop laying around like a dead fish. Shane and Samuel encouraged me to venture outside before the winter storm hit.

Year-end gardening of emptying clay pots of their dirt saving the bulbs to replant next year was done robotically. Then as movement warmed the muscles, feelings came back with a joyfulness too.

After that laps in the meadow felt doable, but with the dark glasses provided from the surgery. The brightness even then was a lot. Lap after lap with a rest by the swollen, inky creek. The ability to be productive once again brings comfort and joy. .

SURGERY

The rattling that occurred in every bodily system took such a jarring that even days later after cataract removal exhaustion still overcomes me. Each day brings more strength and clearer vision. Due to the traumas of childhood my doctor agreed to remove both cataracts at once, unheard of in modern day American medical procedures.

Others have one done, then go back two weeks later for the other one. And not under general anesthesia where a breathing pipe is put down the throat. That left a sore throat for a few days, but with it a gratefulness to be fully out with no awareness of anything.

Though my heart began pounding when the mask was put on concerning the anesthesiologist because the mask brought in gas to put me out not wind me up. She underestimated the effects of long term PTSD that was not processed at the time the trauma(s) took place.

But then out, and done. Others surely recover quicker, but each day is a slow process of recovery from the anesthesia, even more so, the terror. Tears down my cheeks told the story to others, and each one provided compassion in their own way, wiping the tears, offering words of comfort.

That was good, but no words calmed the terror of the body which believed itself to be in mortal danger. It’s done. I awoke. I’m not blind, both things worried about beforehand.

There is an adjustment to the new lens and the extensive brightness which the cloudy lens had blocked out. And that will take time for the brain to adjust to. Reminder to self; this was done to improve my quality of life. That when walking the meadow the nausea of not seeing well will lift, and that things wouldn’t continue to become more and more blurry.

I know others recoup faster, with so much more zest. But others also don’t come with frightful memories still locked inside making these events so strenuous and exhausting. Allowing myself to take each day as it is at whatever pace is needed with gentleness is the way through this healing process.

 

Little Things

Waking to anxiety and fear is the norm. Go back to sleep. Everything is alright, you are alright, and the calming process needed daily begins. This is especially true during the darker months which have dug in quite deeply, with a 6 pound weight gain to prove it. Where did that come from?

Doing things like eating unconsciously to provide comfort began at age 8 to cope with upheaval when Danny took safety away forever. But that scares me even more, to eat unwisely not providing my body with kindness.

So like roping runaway wild horses, the reining in begins again. Show yourself kindness and respect. When those thoughts sink in, the compulsion to eat away uncomfortable feelings disappears. My soul still starves for the nourishment of self-love.

My mother’s hand upon my fevered forehead. The special times when her love was felt because most of the time my hatred, rage and inability to trust walled it away. It is true with Samuel, my kids, and friends. Love is there, but it is not trusted.

And it is not there for myself, except for glimmers now and then. As the depth of love for myself opens so does love for others, both coming in and flowing out.

Love has always been there for me, around me like soft warm winds but could not enter for fear of betrayal and abandonment. A cat could only open me. And though that remains true, even a cat gets cold rejection when rejection of self occurs during periods of stress and detachment.

Come back to each moment because this is living, not some big event later on. Now is living in this moment. Nothing earthshaking, but life-changing in its quietness.

The cat purring on my lap because I’m aware of her, loving her, the vibrating from her purring matching my own, and she knows it. Taking a garage sale find and making a treasure out of it, day by day, in my own time, and with my own style. It’s OK to enjoy the little things. That is life, all the little things.

HOME

Waking in fear that the clock will say 2 AM, not 5, relief comes to see it close to 5 AM. Unsure why 6 miraculous weeks of good sleep were bestowed upon me, fear ratchets up after a bad night that more will follow. Repeated nights of those are so hard.

I used to think something during the day needing tending to kept me awake, or woke me in the night. That doesn’t seem to be the culprit. What does seem likely is my broken nervous system that catapults into overdrive even with a thought.

And many unpleasant thoughts come visiting in the wee hours of morning, or in the middle of the night. It takes persistent counter tactics to even out those negative messages.

It occurred to me that other things about me will remain broken, especially the feelings of being bad, not good enough, dirty— name whatever a child believes when she has been sexually attacked by loved ones, and that is what I’ve taken in as my fault cementing into part of my personality.

They would have had a chance if I hadn’t been born. (brothers who attacked) They died so young in terms of how long we tend to live today; one at 28, one at 52, one at 66, the last still living is 76.

Why didn’t you just stop having them, especially me?  These are my thoughts upon waking even after a good night of sleep.

Why would you have so many? They were beautiful children, yet she seemed more interested in partying, and being belle of the ball. Seven beautiful boys who needed love and attention, not her scorn, and outright hate because of the work to care for so many. 

Those feelings about myself remain a part of who I am. And that is the work, learning to be kind to myself… making a retreat worth coming into. A soft place to fall inside me. To warm that cold interior where no one would want to be, and make it my haven, my home.

A Sinking Ship

The nurse called Friday. My brain knows she is being helpful, or trying to be, calling because the scheduler hears the terror in my voice as tears fell. But calling a few moments before she leaves for the day, telling me she will call back Tuesday, makes me feel on edge for the days in-between.

One little thing like that disrupted my sleep Monday night after 6 weeks of miraculous, blessed sleep. No coincidence, it lay heavy in my mind jangling my nerves. I woke in the night needing medication to go back to sleep, accompanied by sitting on the couch at 3 AM waiting for it to take effect.

Of course that would happen on the night before a call might come in the morning. But she did not call back until early evening, and that after I made several calls to different numbers trying to find her. Dong so empowered me. I won’t sit back and be quiet. If you say you’re going to call, call. If not I will hunt you down. 

If only I’d asked my one burning question Friday. Can I take Xanax? But not wanting to disrupt her from getting out of work at the end of her shift, the question was left hanging. My corrupt system always at the ready to plow me under kept beating at me, Why didn’t you ask? Why didn’t you ask?

Finally I know it is OK to take it the morning before the cataract surgeries. The weight of the world fell off me, like buckets of boulders rolling down.

A simple little thing such as waiting for a phone call caused me to feel powerless, victimized, and weak with worry and fear. In the interim I dissolved into tears with both sons on phone calls. (Isn’t that great?) And melting with tears when my friends came for the afternoon.

Feelings of normalcy returned, my inner world calm, and the capsized boat turned back around floating peacefully. In the chaos an idea was realized. That the terrified child has lived through it all with resiliency and a strength unfounded.

That the little girl in me is the one sometimes doing the comforting. But the adult must take the reins and use a loud voice to advocate, a voice lost that has been impossible to use except on paper or over the phone. And that may be how it is. Becoming gentler about the deficiencies is where changes can occur.

She asks, “Do you mind me asking what traumas?”

Later I said to Samuel, “She was just being nosy. But I don’t care, I will shout it to the world.”

The shame is not mine.

 

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.

 

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.