Monthly Archives: March 2011

surviving is my life’s work…

march 7, 2011

surviving is my life’s work.  thriving is my life’s goal.

it is what i do, my day, my life is spent in every way possible to rid my body and my psyche of the wounds of of violence, betrayal and daily torture. imminent death was always around the corner, three times that i recollect right now. i didn’t know that kids didn’t grow up like i did until i was older and actually had contact with the outside world.  i’m thinking probably high school at some random athletic event where our dump of a town would meet up with another small town to match our team against theirs.  i’m comparing notes the entire time, assessing and noting the behaviors of their best and brightest so i can compare against myself and my peers.  once i had concluded the fact that my growing up wasn’t the healthiest way around and that my environment sucked,  it became my mission to change that.  it gave me a goal, a drive, something to work toward instead of stagnating in that cesspool of a town.

i was born in ignorance, poverty, rampant incest.  after spent a good part of my adolescence and beyond being pissed for even being put there which i did, i spent a lot of time medicating my anger with alcohol, pot and white cross cursing the universe and god and the goddess and whoever else was responsible for putting me in this hellhole.  obstacles were everywhere, relief was nowhere…my beautiful, insightful thoughts could be interrupted in a flash by me walking outside for some sun to find my 300 pound brother, flipping out his partial plate of dentures for inspection and swatting flies.  oh yeah, he had a cigarette in the ashtray on the picnic table where he parked his fat ass with a cup of coffee that my mother made him.  oh yeah, he’s almost forty years old.  what the hell is he doing here?  why isn’t he working or living somewhere else, that is a whole nother chapter.

i craved intelligent life forms, people who read, who thought, who did the right thing, those who made a life around taking care of their bodies and health and families, i willed them to come to me, relying on the sheer desperate hope that life had to be better and there was something out there that could show me what better looked like.  i searched everywhere for the new life forms and while it took me a while to find them, i finally did.

i spent every minute like a hypervigiliant animal protecting its nest, with my eyes catching every behavior, every response, down the littlest detail so that i could review it later and file it away in its proper category.  i was margaret mead, i was jane goodall, i studied the apes and their idiosyncracies but it just so happens that they were my parents and siblings, not monkeys. i knew that i was tense and unhappy but so was everyone.  i modeled and lived my life like i  watched the elders live theirs, in a state of blank, empty dudgery.  they walked in their sleep through chores that had to be done, animals that had to be fed, social obligations that needed a covered dish.  we would all attend, stay our allotted time, eat, clean up and start packing up.  it was almost customary in my family to know when you were leaving an event before you even got there.  it was like a rote, mindless church service, the minister opens the doors, pray, sermon, sing, pray, leave.  quick, no frills, no room for creativity, just done, check it off the list and trudge to the next thing. the rare exception to the blankness was the occasional and poorly disguised sexual innuendo, reference to getting drunk or having been drunk, or a piece of gossip that encompassed both.  it was then that i saw some flicker of personality, albeit freaky and unhealthy, but it it blipped off the radar when it happened and certainly got my attention.

unfortunately because i wasn’t a seasoned researcher, my data was accurate but my conclusions erroneous.  i came to believe that engaging in drinking, carousing, sexual activity, getting high was the answer, the outlet, my salvation.  for it provided an opposite and polar action to the numb, blankness of the holy and meek.  acting out became my religion, and rightfully so, it provided an outlet, i could be noisy and rowdy,  spewing all the angst that i felt from years of torture and assault on my soul.  now i know it wasn’t healing but it was at least movement.

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singing

It wasn’t until I was in my 50’s that I realized the devastating and insidious effects that my family’s incest and sexual abuse had on me.  I know that sounds obvious but it isn’t always. When the trauma is there from the beginning, one can’t differentiate.  Perhaps an adult with perspective and knowledge can but a child can’t.  I do, however remember always having an innate connection to myself, a survival mechanism of sorts, a way to cope. Going inside myself so deep was the safest place that I had.  I spent hours talking to myself and my imaginary friends, making up stories and acting them out.

Sometimes I sang.  Singing wasn’t at all my first choice of coping because it drew attention and my goal was to be invisible, to stay in the safety of my self.  Even at 5 years old, I knew this.

In the evening, our black and white television flickered images of  the homeless people of our generation called hobos.  In my mind, they were sad, unattached folks who hopped trains and ate out of cans beside campfires. I found  their trademark stick tied with cloth as well as their lives, fascinating. Secretly I would practice the hobo knots, planning my escape, devising what belongings I would fit into my stick suitcase to look like the ones the hobos carried on TV.

With stick in hand, I would take my blanket to the front yard to sit and wait for a family, any family, to come and get me.  I have made the decision that I  am willing to leave my own for something better and  quickly dismiss the sharp pang of separation I feel for my mother. I will sit here for hours if necessary, my dog sits with me while we wait.  She too, hopes that I am successful.

The words echo in my head of the men telling me how pretty I am.  If this is true, then the new family that drives by and rescues me will see this instead of the despicable creature that I feel I am.  I will use my prettiness to make myself desirable enough for someone to take me away.  I am packed and prepared to leave.

I am ready to call attention to myself and be noticed. I clear my throat, swallow my fear and start singing.


divorced from my family

Just like any living breathing  organism, our relationship has suffered the ill effects of neglect and deep wounds.  There is so much history that no one wants to really look at it, it is a disease process so entrenched and progressed that my family would rather resign to its death than to fight for eventual health.

It is so sad for me to look at this, it tears at my heart.  Most members have given up completely, trudging through their days looking desperately for someone to fill them or give them a moments joy.  This is how I have lived most of my life until I stepped out of the dance.  Until finally I am free of the cult.  That thinking doesn’t rule me anymore. It wants to though, it taunts me daily until I almost am admitted as a psychiatric patient.

But so far, I have won.  My soul that has persisted this long still glows in there somewhere, sometimes faint, sometimes singing and strong.  Today is better than yesterday.  Do I miss my family?  You bet.  I have missed them for years, crying distantly for them, wishing they cared enough to call during my 7 year illness.  The only calls come as updates to their daily affairs.  New baby’s here. Coming to the wedding?  Saw an old friend at the market and they said hi.  Someone I am supposed to have remembered from the old, dying town has died.  These are the things to which our relationship is based.  It is shallow, empty, superficial and hollow.  Its hollowness echoes deep and resounding within me, absolutely unnerving me.  Am I the only one who hears it?  I guess I am.  Sometimes I think that they hear, it flashed across their face as a sign of life and hope and then its gone.  I am family but not the kind of  daily reminder that they want around.  Too strong. Too intense. Too knowing.

I will leave them in their denial, it is a good place for them and a bad place for me.  I will stop going to the proverbial dried up well for water.  I will stop hoping for change. But these are my people, our blood is the same, they were my first memories, they are imprinted on my psyche so deep. They inhabit my dreams of the past but I will not let them inhabit my recovery and future.  How I wish one of them would join me, learn my language, ease my pain of being without a family, let me see what it is like to have a loved one choose life.  But I have resigned myself otherwise, found the beginnings of a sense of peace. Just like the woman who finally realizes that her wayward husband doesn’t look at her directly anymore, doesn’t smile when she enters the room, who is distracted when she speaks.  Just like that woman, I know when done is done.


therapy

Phyllis and her therapy are my mind expansion drug.  It is an induced state of existence that I have come to crave.  It is a drug that I haven’t gotten often, a rare delicacy. When I am out somewhere and stumble upon someone who truly makes me think, I am delighted.  Often it is animals or children.  Usually I am the one who is bored with the people crowd, the mundane conversation which goes in the the same direction, money, blah, blah, blah…me, myself and more about me…..  when something catches my interest be it human,  animal or plant, a warm feeling pulls me toward it.  I love the energy of this moment.  It is there if you pay attention, in fact, it is everywhere.  The conversation fades as you have the sense of needing to cross the room to experience that which holds great interest.  I love being led through therapy.  The places we go are the innermost creases of my conscious which borders my subconscious.  It is a separation that is slight, very thin.  Its texture is that which is intended to give, bowing gently to one side then another, like a curtain over an open window, following whichever way the breeze carries it.  This division blurs often for me not in visual terms but mostly in feelings.  Within a span of a day, I can experience emotions from many different stages of my life.  This ability is increasing thanks to my therapist.  She leads while I slip down that path, the warm timeless space where I retrieve lost and buried thoughts an emotions.  sometimes the division is huge and made of stone.  very definite barriers constructed purposefully so as not to feel.  after all it wasn’t safe to feel.  the priority was for the child warrior to be on the lookout.  the attackers were many and took many different forms.  some were so subtle that it took years of therapy and growing up just to recognize them.

We talked of the bright room, the room of joy, pure blissful joy.  I stare blankly for a long time trying so hard to conceive of this notion.  I want so much to know this feeling, this room of joy. Barely into the room, the feeling comes that I want to write my story. This is something I want with all my heart and like many other projects before, I will persist and learn until I have mastered it.  I take a helper in the room with me.  It’s Shrek, big, green, fierce protector but so sweet and warm.  He blocks the doorway from intruders so I can be little.  I get to be the child while he watches lovingly.  My angel swoops in for the party. It is wonderful, I sit with my comforter around me watching with delight.  So many wonderful things to look at.

Phyllis said last night that she couldn’t wait for my book.  It was in reference to the stories I’ve been writing and the progress that I have made.  I was glowing.  It didn’t hit me until i was getting into bed tonight that a PHD at Washington University, just told me that she couldn’t wait for my book.  Oh my god, it occurs to me that there really is a story to tell.  I’m giddy and am already picturing it.  My words have worth.  Yes, I could do this.  I AM doing this.


diary entry…

March 4, 2011…..Really wanting to get up and get moving.  Is that a distraction for me? To get involved in a project as a way to move the focus somewhere else or is it a healthy thing to do to move about trying to feed one’s need for order. i feel more connected when I’m moving around, seeing people living life so i know the answer to this already.  I suppose it is about balance.  I spend time here, moving and stretching, canning, reading but always holding my child with me, stopping when she’s tired or frustrated.  The weather is crazy today so I need to be extra careful.  I feel love right now for my therapist and having Inner Bonding as a tool, as a way to connect with others on the same path. It feels great to have a resource, an anchor, a go to strategy.

My stomach is growling and I must eat and stretch.  C’mon sweetie, let’s go get some food.  Berries and cream, yum.


The day child

We will call her the day child…a child who only has conscious awareness of herself during the day, the fractioned piece of her total self. Her transition from night is slow and very unsteady. She knows the process of waking which comes to her first through sound. She hears house noises, the air conditioner running, her dog snoring beside her, very faintly the school buses heading down the hill to empty the children into the playground. Great care has been taken to soundproof this room from the outside world, there is no room for intrusion on any level. She must know everyone’s whereabouts and location at all times, if she doesn’t she will vigilantly check and scan the room for anything that looks or feels amiss.

Vigilance is hardly the word to describe her behavior, it is more like hyper vigilant, obsessive and panic driven, energy funneled completely into the one thing she seeks more than anything, which is safety. She is exceptionally bright and visually a master at observation. Nothing can or will ever go unnoticed in her environment or it might lead to danger. An impending assault, an unwelcome visitor or simply the men noticing and starting to sniff her out.

Sometimes the sound is completely muffled by the earplugs which are to her the greatest invention ever and her constant companion. They numb and muffle much better than alcohol or pot which in her experience just make you not care if someone is stalking you and that’s the last thing that’s true for her now is that she doesn’t care.

As usual, her eyes are squeezed shut as tight as they can go and she feels the familiar twinge of a headache as a result. Its the price she pays and actually has grown accustomed to the familiar process of willing her eyes open, one at a time for her first glimpse of the day. So far, so good. She hears nothing unusual and sees her bedroom, just as she remembered it from the morning before. It is at this point that she can let her body uncurl, pulling her arms and legs from the fetal position and gradually unfolding herself from her nightly protective stance. She creaks and pops as her shaky muscles aren’t as forgiving as they were in her youth. They want to snap back into the contracted position held in the last 8 hours. Its always at this point that she wonders how long her body will hold out, what is the limit of torture that one can physically take?


seeing

the disassociated, freaked out one was here for two days, we spent our episode sleeping and resting and crying and writing. at the end of day 2, the fog started to lift and i made myself take the four dogs for a snow walk down to the pond. it was beautiful and quiet. and i had the thought…once your body and soul aren’t heavy with pain, consumed with the daily and sometimes hourly struggle of coping, that it frees you up to see the beauty around you. i got to “see” the flowers in my garden as they rested and went dormant, lying under the snow, it was very spiritual and calm. they didn’t feel dead, just hibernating. i don’t often see these things for my mind is spinning in so many directions at once. it felt great. i took my clippers out and cut some seed heads to save for spring. the miracle is that mother earth makes sure that her plants can come back by providing the seedlings. this isn’t something new to most people but it is for me. always been there but i’ve been unable to see….until now.


Grandmommy Wise

She goes to Grandmommy Wise when she has a problem or is sad. The feelings have been swirling around her all morning, leftovers from an interrupted sleep. Mostly the dreams tend to be about torment and struggling which amazingly can take many forms. Until she found herself in the middle of this somewhat psychotic episode of her life, she didn’t know that struggling had so many faces.

Grandmommy Wise is always home and happy to see her. It has been like this always. She runs up the wooden steps almost knocking over the potted geraniums that sit on the porch. The screen door squeaks and lightly taps shut behind her as she enters the house. Grandmommy is sitting at her dinette table and she looks up slowly from her reading, letting the kindest smile spreads across her face, crinkling the corners of her glistening eyes. She can’t remember seeing a more lovely sight than the essence of her grandmommy who lights up when she sees her. It is what warms her soul from head to toe, giving her the strength to face the journey that lies in front of her.

“Come in baby girl…let me see your beautiful self.” She enters slowly wanting to feel every part of this moment because it is this that lifts her spirit, gives her a place to be and call home. She knows that Grandmommy Wise can center her, never disappointing. She offers a soft, warm hand and she kisses her cheek. Her smell is so pure, that of castile and horehound candy.

Baby girl sits down and almost immediately starts to weep. It is impossible to contain herself around her grandmother mostly because there isn’t any point. Grandmommy is a woman who sees down to your soul and idle chit-chat is sometimes seen as a fairly irritating obstacle to the true point of your visit. “Grandmommy…, I am so lonely…, I don’t know how to be who I am.” The feelings and sobs come pouring out as she recounts the recent story of trying to talk to her family. “I feel like they don’t want to know what has happened to me and the effects that it is had. It is like they want to bury all of this and just keep pretending and making coffee and casseroles and talking over me and anything that will distract them from my reality. I try to be respectful and have done that for years but keeping this secret has made me sick…physically and spiritually sick…I can’t do it anymore…I don’t want to…” Her voice trails off into silence and she looks up at her grandmother. “Am I destined to be alone with no one to understand but you? Why won’t they listen, why don’t they care and why can’t they hear me?

Grandmommy starts to speak but pauses and gets up, moving to the jars of herbs that she keeps in her pantry. It is the most fascinating wall of jars one has ever seen. Roots, berries and leaves of so many colors and textures, harvested with love from her garden, she knows the right selection of tea to make for this occasion. Her words are still hanging in the air, not forgotten, but being contemplated. Grandmommy Wise is calling the green fairies to help as she pours the boiling water over the leaves in the teapot. It is at moments like this that Grandmommy slows down, giving reverence and summoning her trusted friends to add some wisdom to this moment. Baby girl feels the moisture from the steamy pot as Grandmommy sets it down in front of her feeling certain she detects chamomile and lavender. Another time she will ask about the herbs in her tea but for now, another wave of sadness comes over her and the tears won’t stop. “I feel like such a outcast, when I try to be honest with them, they keep trying to change the subject or do something else that distracts us from the topic. I think that is why Niecie always wants her children around because they can keep this crazy chaos going and no one can really listen to one another.”

Grandmommy Wise smiles again and looks lovingly at her granddaughter. She sighs deeply and pats her on the hand. “My goodness, you are a tender hearted child aren’t you. I have always known this but I keep seeing more and more of it everyday”. Grandmommy looks directly in my eyes and says “I want to tell you something that you are finally old enough to hear and give you a perspective that I haven’t shared with you before, something that I think will help you tremendously. You see, there are several of us in this family who are “special and sensitive”. Thats what my grannie called it and it seems you have become one of us. You have the incredible ability to sense what people are feeling and to the degree that they are feeling it. The line between your physical world and the spiritual world is very thin. Being this sensitive to people’s energy is a blessing but also a burden at times. Grannie used to get peoples dander up just from giving them an honest answer to a question they hadn’t even asked yet. Got to be that folks started to avoid her and wouldn’t ask her questions anymore because they were afraid of the answer. Aaaahhh…but those who are courageous enough to ask and look, those are the folks who will be your closest friends on this earth because they cherish you just as you are. What may surprise you it that it won’t necessarily be the adults in your life that you turn to and count on but more often the children, plants and the animals that have the purest energy and the most courage for these types of journeys.”

With the simplest of words combined with the act of love, Grandmommy Wise had restored her peace and given her new insight. Baby girl sits back and feels the tension start to ease out of her. Calm settles in and these new thoughts begin to dance around in her head, trying themselves on for size. She closes her eyes realizing she has a great deal of thinking to do.



My friend Barbarie

hold my hand

This is the reply from a dear friend Barbarie, who was one of the first people i told about being molested…i finally had the courage to tell her what had happened and how i had been writing to recover…it is upon this message that i started this blog and came out…she helped me write my very first words here….

“Grab hold of your inner courage MY Friend! Writing it and sharing is such a powerful tool in that that is how we give our experiences a VOICE that so deeply wants to be heard, acknowledged and shared. You are courageous in sharing with me.  If you want to talk about being scared I am open to sharing with you.  It is so loving to give those parts that want to hide out a voice to come from the hiding. You can do it Sweetie …. Take a deep breath in and let it out and take another deep breath and let your fingers do the talking and sharing. Your Inner Being will sure appreciate it and love you for being so COURAGEOUS in giving her a VOICE that is truly a blessing to be heard.”

This is the kind  of love that I received from Barbarie who has become my virtual friend and confidant, introduced to me by my therapist here in the midwest.  She and I live thousands of miles apart, have never met in person and yet the distance makes no difference when two women have shared so many similar experiences.  I have found that when I meet a woman who has survived assault, rape, sexual abuse in any of its forms, that small talk and other social routines aren’t as necessary.  I tend to dive right in, delighted in the fact that I’ve found someone who gets it and who understands and to this day, I haven’t met a survivor that I didn’t feel an instant connection and kinship with.  

I have that with Barbarie, she is a rare gem of a person and I will always be grateful to her undying support of me when I was struggling with words and not sure what to do with them.  Now that the blog is up and running, I’m even more grateful because together we can continue to reach out to women, victims and survivors of sexual abuse, rape, incest….Thank you, my friend Barbarie…



he cut my hair

March 2, 2011

today after spending the whole day really happy, running around with one of my high school girlfriends and her husband, going to the museum and out for dinner, i came home and was working in the kitchen.

husband was at the computer reading about the recent abduction of Alisa, a four year old girl who was kidnapped from her front yard by a registered sex offender. husband came into the kitchen to tell me some of the incidents leading to the police going after the guy after the girl was released and home safe. the little girl recognized her abductor on tv and even pointed him out saying “thats the man who cut my hair“.

when husband said those words out loud to me, the hairs on my arm stood up literally and i shivered…i even remarked back to him “that made me shiver“. within minutes i was wheezing and coughing. after a few minutes of trying to clear my throat and breathe, i used my rescue inhaler for relief, …as i regained composure, husband casually stated that he believes i reacted to the information about the sex offender…and it hit me like a ton of bricks…i was fine until i heard the words that came from a 4 yr. olds mouth, “he cut my hair“. he was right and i was learning the impact of words and how quickly they transported me back to my own childhood horrors.

this child’s story had mesmerized me during her disappearance as most kidnapping stories do for me. usually, i can’t think of most anything else for days and thank goodness in this case she was returned very quickly. i felt almost giddy when i heard she was returned…but when i replayed that scenario and pictured that little girl recognizing and verbalizing those words, i came unglued. my heart started racing, i got dizzy, my throat closed up, my lips were burning…lots of reactions…those words were so familiar, why did i keep replaying them in my head when it occurred to me that i had said those same words in regards to my father who angrily cut my hair…i went to my journal and on 9-30 was my notes about the dream that i had and i woke up with the words running over and over in my head….he cut my hair, he cut my hair, he cut my hair…and he did!  that mother fucker grabbed me in anger by my hair and chopped it off and i have the picture to prove it. long hair in kindergarten and short, chopped, seriously uneven hair in first grade. this washes over me so fast that i have to stop and sit down…

i am gasping, i’m so instantly and completely full of rage…looking at this innocent child and picturing myself the same way made me even angrier. what kind of freaking monster would assault a child sexually and then hold her down and cut her hair as punishment for fighting back and resisting. i hate you so much, you fucking monster…so now i remember and now i will tell, you are dead but i will kill you again for good measure in my mind and then i will tell some more. you can’t keep me quiet any longer and guess what, mother fucker, i’m growing my hair out…

PS–i’m grateful to my husband’s insight and willingness to point it out to me so we could clear the negative energy from that incident while i still have the awareness and presence of mind…i must remember that violence especially to children takes me to a place where i am so fearful and frozen. i must be gentle with myself and this child reassuring her that i will protect her and we are now safe. i take the rest of the evening to wrap myself in blankets and pray to feel safe again in my own skin.


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