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This area is reserved for the tidbits I know hope will be of interest to my readers. Check back often for regular updates. 

 

Check out this article about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomena, including a list of organizations which strongly oppose this sick trend, and have implemented various means of helping women who have been sexually victimized.

 

Were you raised by a narcissist? Chances are you were if you suffered any form of childhood abuse. The Little Red Survivor website is filled with excellent articles examining the many faces of narcissism.

 

It's been a long time coming---7 years to be exact---but finally email notifications for new BD posts is available. Sign up today and never again miss another post. You know you want to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Kate Is Rising has an excellent Survivors Resources page which directs you to numerous websites dealing with issues of abuse, healing and recovery. Please bear in mind that the information on these pages may be triggering.

 

 

There's lots of good stuff at the Dissociation Blog Showcase, including a list of 180 blogs dealing with some aspect of this disorder. 

 

 

On the Overcoming Sexual Abuse site there's an article entitled, "It's Not About You Mom" which I could have written myself. I bet many of my readers could say the same!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Entries in growth (18)

Thursday
Apr162015

Beauty in What Remains

Somewhere I ran across the phrase "beauty in what remains," and it got me thinking. How often I've rued the fact that the biggest portion of my life is spent in dealing with my traumatic childhood. You know, as much as I see the need for continued growth and healing, I don't want everything to be about what happened to me on Brightwood Street.

Is there any beauty in what remains? Or did I emerge from the season of childhood stripped of everything human and good and salvageable?

It's easy to slip into the habit of seeing evidences of my brokenness in just about everything; after all, every aspect, every nook and cranny of my being were affected by the ravages inflicted on me by my stepdad. But is that all I'm left with? Is this to be the way it goes for the rest of my life, these constant reminders of those childhood rapings?

The other day, sitting in my car at my granddaughters' school, the person parked next to me blasted their radio. A song from the year I left home, at the age of 15, pounded into my head. I rolled up my windows, but I could still hear and feel the music pulsing all around me.

That was a particularly difficult year for me. I reunited with the father whose absence from the last 8 years of my life had turned him into a stranger I wasn't sure I could trust. I knew the heart of the father whose love had enfolded me during the earlier years of childhood, but what about this man? Was his father heart still to be trusted, or had he changed over the years? I now lived with my father and two older brothers; for all I knew my new home was full of danger at every turn. I hadn't known during those earlier years as the apple of my father's eye that men were to be feared. Now, I knew it all too well.

Listening--involuntarily--to a song from that year kick-started a ripple effect of depression throughout my entire system. This is why I've cut myself off from most music, this is why. I was back in the year 1968, living with the family I'd longed for during the 8 years of my stepfather's reign of terror, but I didn't know them and I hardly trusted them. I had no life skills, nor did I have any clue that the stepfather wasn't the only predator I'd encounter.

That year I hid from my father a vicious rape from the friend of a friend, burying it as deep as I could so no one would guess the shame of that violation. When a man twice my age tried to rape me later that year, I also kept it to myself. Would telling my father have set something into motion? Something that might vindicate me? I couldn't risk the possibility that, like my mother, he might remain passive, unmoved by my sufferings. Better to keep my mouth shut, then.

All this came back to me as the golden oldie came to an end. I sat perfectly still as the song faded, a new thought filling me with cautious excitement. What if instead of allowing triggers to pulverize me, I go one step further? What if I give myself permission to consider how far I've come in the decades since those horrible events?

Yes, I thought, that was an especially horrible year for me. It should have been anything but. That should have been the best year of my life, for not only had I escaped my mother's home but I'd also been reunited with those I loved best. But look: I'm not anything at all like that scared, frozen teenager who couldn't even give herself permission to feel outrage at what had been done to her.

Look how far you've come, I told myself, with growing wonder. You've survived the worst pain, shame and violations imaginable...and you're still here!

I don't ever have to go through that year, or any year, again. Not even one solitary moment or event has to be repeated. It might be repeated in memory, but I will never again physically experience the weight of my stepfather's gut slapping against my pelvic bone, or the terror of the older man attacking me in the dead of night. The memories are painful, but they are only memories. I don't live there anymore, I am here now: here in the present I've  arrived at through sheer stubbornness, and a faith that lit my way, one step at a time.

The memories will come, for as I've said I'm surrounded by triggers everywhere I go. It can't be helped. Even if I never left home there would be triggers: glancing at the bathroom counter and remembering my stepdad plopping me down on the cold counter, naked and riven with shame. Lying in bed at night, half asleep, and suddenly not being able to remember where I am. Is it my old childhood bedroom? I lie in the fetal position, listening for footsteps approaching my door, all my senses on high alert . . .

No, triggers are everywhere, for it's the memories I hold that jump-starts them. That can't be helped. I'm not going to guilt trip myself for experiencing them when they surface. I'm not wallowing in them though, that's the main thing. They may surface, but I can choose to not drag out the memories from the need to wallow in self-pity.

Beauty in what remains? Imagine a child's mind as a beautiful stained glass window, made up of gorgeous colors, reflecting the sun and illuminating all around her. If someone comes along and smashes that beautiful window, the remaining shards and slivers of color would retain their original beauty, but there would no longer be a substantial whole through which the child views the world, and interacts with it.

My mind has been shattered; from time to time I discover remaining shards shining their mute beauty, and I'm infused with hope. Even if that hope lessens, it gets me through the next patch of rough spots until I can once more catch my breath, take it easy, and revel in the knowledge that I have, once again, moved forward. Yes, I must look backwards in order to work through my past, but I can begin to teach myself to use my triggers as a measuring stick of my growth, rather than as sticks with which to beat myself up for having been such a stupid, shameful victim.

I like the idea of beauty in what remains. I like the idea that there is even something of the original me remaining!

 

 

 

Wednesday
Dec102014

I'm Getting There

A brisk wind is blowing; soon I'll have to go out in it to pick up my granddaughters from school. How delicious to play this role in their lives, yes even when it wears me out. I'm for some reason noticing many things to be grateful for, all around me.

I have to laugh at the last line of my previous post: Please, may I never have to sew again! I laugh because I spent 5 hours yesterday making my youngest granddaughter a rag quilt. Funny how you can vow to never do something again, but when it's for someone you love that vow goes right out the window. And so I'm grateful for the gift I know this flannel quilt will be to her.

Here's something else worthy of my gratitude. Right in the middle of working on 2 big Christmas projects, I realized there is no way I could finish both, or even one of them, by Christmas. Normally this would throw me into a tailspin that would have me obsessing and stressed for days. Am I simply getting too old to allow such things to affect me? Or maybe I'm finally, finally learning that there really is no sense in stressing over what I can't control. Whatever the reason, I'm beyond thankful to recognize the need to give myself permission to change plans, and to be able to actually give myself that permission. I contacted both individuals who knew what I was making them (a necessity, since I had to consult them about colors, etc.) and neither of them care if they have to wait a few more weeks. One of them even expressed relief because what she's making me isn't even half done!

It's the little things like this (if one can accurately refer to them as 'little') that gives me a sense of hope. Hope that I'm heading in the right direction. And even if I dawdle along the way, or take shortcuts that turn out to be dead-ends, I'm getting somewhere nonetheless. I'm not cracking a whip over my head as I've done all my life, but neither am I frozen in place, afraid to make the least decision lest it turn out to be the wrong one.

I've done both for far too long: drove myself furiously, or refused to move forward. When I see that I'm progressing even in a small area of life, it warms me. It makes me grateful. All is not gloom and doom, though there will always be plenty of that in this old world. This isn't a denial of the very real tribulations we all must face in life, this is an acknowledgement that --despite the tribulations-- there are also good things to experience.

I persevered in making the quilt because I wanted my granddaughter to have one like her sisters'. Not out of a sense of "I have to" but out of a sense of desire. I knew it would challenge me, as all sewing does, but I chose to forge ahead.

Life has been steadily teaching me, though I've been a slow and dull learner, that the sky really won't fall if I can't finish a project on time, or if this, that or the other happens. Not everything is a catastrophe; when something truly is, I bet I'll manage to get through it because of all the experience I've had getting through so many of them.

I didn't mean to write this as a gratitude post, but see what I mean? What I intended to do got lost in what I really needed to express, and it turned out just fine.

I am looking forward to the day I no longer have to walk through life with not just my fists, but my entire body clenched. I'm getting there, I swear.

 

 

 

Sunday
Jul272014

A Bit of Grace

Sometimes I want a time out so I can take a break from life, and then a do-over once I figure out what it is I need to change.

I feel like I grew up with no female role model. There was my mother, of course, or was there? She was there but not there, not in any substantial way. Sometimes I can't quite work through what it is that's missing or twisted inside of me. Maybe it's my perspective that's twisted; well, of course it's my perspective. But why? I mean is it all askew because of abuse, or because my mother never really connected with me and therefore everything I learned from her had such a ephemeral quality about it?

Did the pounding my body took time and again form me into a new self with no history, no roots, no memories, a mere wraith hovering with no form or weight?

I do feel weightless, not physically but pretty much in every other way. My words don't carry much weight. I mean them to but they don't.

When I was with my brother yesterday he wanted me to do something with the box of donuts we'd bought on the way home, and I misunderstood. As I began to do put the box where I thought he wanted it he said, "Stop it. I hate when you do that." I asked what he meant and he said, "I hate when you act stupid."

Later, it hit me what he'd said. I know I have problems with short term memory. Menopause doesn't help much. Aside from that I'm sure just being with him after so many years, in such close proximity to someone so like my father, had to have been triggering. I imagine I did bumble here and there during our time together. What someone else might consider endearing he found annoying.

I wasn't acting. I wasn't pretending.

But I'm not really saying what I mean. This has nothing to do with my brother. At least I don't think it does. But don't I have the right to be who I am, even when who I am bumbles or forgets? Is a female only important for a certain period of time, like until she begins to age and lose her looks, and then what? Does she then become unimportant and a source of annoyance? Why can't I fumble sometimes? My brother practically stuttered a couple of times but it didn't bother me, nor did I assume he was acting dumb. Is it just females who get accused of that? By men? I'm not a feminist per se, so it's not about all that.

I grew up without any--what do I call it? Female boundaries? That's not exactly what I mean. Female guidelines then?

My mother never said things like, "It's okay to speak your mind, even if you disagree with a boy. Girls are allowed to have their own opinions." Well now, how could she considering how she effaced herself and waited on my step dad like he was royalty in saggy undies?

She never said, "Here is the kind of woman I've decided to become, but you can choose differently."

Well, of course she didn't. I'm not sure my mother had anything figured out. Maybe she winged it every day of her life. Or maybe not. Maybe she knew exactly what she was doing, even right down to keeping me at arm's length. Must daughters always be potential rivals? I remember her telling me, with no inflection in her voice, that when she would invite a boy over her mother would have charmed him, and begun dancing with him in their living room before my mother could even come downstairs to greet him.

My mother was so clumsy growing up that her family jokingly called her Grace. I can picture this; I can picture her coming downstairs, perhaps stumbling over her own feet in their heavy saddle shoes, and seeing her mother dancing her boyfriend around the living room: my grandmother who never lacked words, and certainly was full of her own opinions. My grandmother who quite possibly never taught my mother anything about being female except that you can't trust even your own mother with your man.

Did my mother just assume I'd be her rival, I wonder?

I do wonder what is means, truly, to be female, but probably beyond that what I'm really trying to get to is that I've no idea how to be human. I don't know why I'm here, I don't know what my life means, what its purpose could possibly be. I assumed many things for many decades, and now I flat out don't know.

There is one certainty that has solidified within me during the many years of my blogging, the certainty that I don't have to understand everything. And more than that, I don't have to figure anything out right this minute. It's okay to carry uncertainties within me for however long it takes to begin comprehending the elusive. Or to never comprehend some things. No one figures everything out, not even those blessed souls who grew up without abuse.

I love when I remind myself of these things, for then I can take a step back, rein in my hasty, strident self, and gift myself with a bit of grace.

I don't know everything I need to know, but I know enough for this day.

Probably tomorrow I won't know much more, but I bet I'll go through some changes and a growth spurt over the next several years--and for now I can live with that.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday
Jul202013

The Challenge of Ordinary Days

 

Growing up with abuse, I learned how to survive the unthinkable. My life became a never-ending battle of endurance: I was David with his sling and pebbles living among the boasting, swaggering Goliaths and, though my heart often quailed with fear, I stood up to the challenges presented by living among savage giants.

These days my life is lived much less intensely and frantically. Problems pop up from time to time, and I’m never free of the aftermath of my frantic childhood. But most of my days are quite ordinary in the sense that I don’t have much drama to contend with; when something unpleasant does arise, I’m more equipped to deal with my little tribulations than I was as a child. I’m discovering that living through the ordinary days which now make up the lion’s share of my life is a challenge in and of itself. Used to the constant fear of what new ordeal awaits me around each corner, and of having to defend myself as best I can, these low-key days are in some ways harder to bear.

Who am I when not contending with inexpressible abuse and sorrows? Is it really okay for me to simply be? I suspect my life lacks purpose because it is no longer lived in constant fear. As my days float by I experience a sense of unreality, as if I’m not really engaged in living at all, but merely watching my life from a distance as a curious spectator. I want to emerge from the trance of childhood and get my hands dirty and my feet wet and muddy from  living in a place of wild abandonment and joy, but I pull back, fearful. Fearful of being punished for my audacity in enjoying anything. Fearful that if I relax and let myself simply be I will dishonor that younger self who didn’t have such luxuries.

There must be some irony in this, in the fact that I’ve come to a place I’ve longed to be in for decades—but can’t unwind enough to fully enjoy it. What did the warriors of old do with themselves when there were no more wars to be fought, or they were simply too old for the fight and hung up their swords and shields? Did they languish in inactivity, lamenting the absence of enemies to be fought and slain? I wonder if they replayed in their imaginations, over and over again, the scenes of their most vivid, dangerous battles, relishing the courage and triumphs of a lifetime. How to replace the old with the new, how to settle for living in peace when war is all one has ever known?

A strange complaint, this, that I should now have to deal with peace! It shames me to admit to my misgivings and sense of discomfort when, for several years, I’ve done nothing much beyond complaining about life’s tribulations and my weariness in facing yet one more!

I suspect there is more to my present day life than I’ve realized. Courage comes in many forms; perhaps I’ve simply failed to recognize the courage it takes for me to face these quieter days. David slew Goliath and was greatly praised, but his greater moments were spent tending sheep in the hills and writing the Psalms which have, down through the ages, comforted and strengthened those who, like me, have needed their steadfast, honest encouragement. And, I remind myself, many of his Psalms were lamentations written when his faith and courage flagged and he felt all raggedy, felt too much the reality and pressures of being human.

Perhaps I’m beginning to discover what it means to be human. I once was a victim who didn’t know how to, or lacked the opportunity to be human. Now it seems I’ve got all the time in the world to learn what escaped me during the wilderness wanderings of my childhood:  how to simply be, and make no apology for doing so.



Monday
Jul082013

My Many Selves

During my twenties and thirties, I couldn't imagine myself as a fiftysomething woman, let alone a nana. The journey from there to here has been anything but peaceful, anything but mundane.

I thought during my younger years that it would be nice to be in my fifties and not care any more about my looks. Back then I dressed and wore my make up for men, for isn't that what we women are supposed to do? I couldn't see myself except as I was reflected in the eyes of men.

I have to laugh now at the notion that the not wearing of make up in my "elder" years would be some great triumph. I'm still wearing it, for one thing. But even if I wasn't there is more to me than my physical appearance, so much more than I could have imagined back when I was playing the dating game so avidly.

There is my warrior self, the one who protects and goes on the warpath should anyone mean to do us (or my grandchildren) harm. Earlier in life I couldn't have conceived of such a self, for I was too busy portioning out my power and strength to everyone around me. I didn't see then that I was worth protecting: my mother taught me well.

There is my funny self; she seems to have been in hiding during the years from 13-40. When I look back on how I used to be, back when I was wandering with no idea where I was heading, I wonder what happened to the one who is capable of great comedy and humor. Sometimes it seems as if I lived in a kind of deep freeze back then, as if everything inside of me: my natural tendencies, preferences, and dreams were frozen hard as a rock. It's a wonder my dreams didn't suffer from freezer burn. How did I go through decades without my sense of humor? How did I allow my dreams to lie comatose?

There is my spiritual self, but she's not anything like I pictured her to be. During my twenties and thirties I tried hard to stifle my every spiritual hunger pang or wretched thirst. How wrong it seemed to crave something so deeply. I did what I could to deny myself any kind of spiritual nourishment, settling instead for strict adherence to following legalistic rules which I felt would be sure to win me some kind of salvation. I look back with pity on my paltry efforts to be worthy of saving, knowing as I do now that there is nothing to win or earn, nothing on my part to do but accept the gift of eternal Love.

There is my creative self, who seems to have come into her own during the last ten years or so. She too didn't make much of an appearance during my earlier years, for survival is a serious business which didn't leave any room for creative expression. How stifled I must have been, dull with pent up creative frustration!

My caretaker self has been long in surfacing, dawdling and hesitant, unsure of her right to exist. Selfish, is what I would have called her decades ago, had I suspected her existence.  Anything which revolved around me and my needs must be evil and cause for massive guilt.

This journey has been long and convoluted and not one I would have chosen, had such a choice been up to me. I've traveled it with an aching heart, depleted spirit and not a little bit of cowardice, so afraid to make a wrong move and ruin everything.

There is no arrival point, I've discovered. No solid destination or estimated time of arrival. I will never look back over the route that's brought me this far and say with certainty, "I've arrived! It's all behind me now, I can relax now and simply be."

If my way has been torturous and full of calamity it has also not been without its moments of laughter, feelings of deep gratitude, and the growing ability to laugh at my human foibles. Especially have I developed the ability to laugh (not unkindly) at the misunderstandings and magical thinking of my self who once lived in a whirlwind of high heels and short dresses, waiting for my Prince Charming to come to my rescue.

I laugh with relief that I never again need follow any course in life but that which is true to me, and all of my many selves.