Paradox Worlds

Life is so polar right now.  Things are going so well with my daughter.  The riding lessons I promised her for her birthday have begun and her first lesson in over three years was fantastic!  She was over the moon happy to be back in the barn and in the saddle.  I was over the moon too, to be out there cheering her on and being her biggest fan.  I snapped some photos, took a video of her trotting and posting….like she never missed a lesson.  She has so much natural talent.  She has a beautiful leg and heel, and what she feared she had forgotten, her muscles recalled.  I snapped a nice candid photo of her after dismounting, caring for her mount that I can safely share here.  It’s all I’ve thought about since.  I have longed to watch her immerse herself in her passion.  It was her first ride on a horse, she had previously ridden only ponies.  In true Fearless Emily fashion, she rode a draft!

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She had another lesson this last Saturday.  There is construction going on at the barn and the wind was up so she had her lesson on Mocha in the indoor.  All was well until an unsecured piece of metal flapped behind Mocha.  Mocha lunged forward.  Emily didn’t fall.  She clung on tight with her legs and wrapped her arms around that huge neck for safety.  She handled herself very well.  She stopped, and took a minute to compose herself and listen to my words of encouragement and off she went, trotting poles and finished up her lesson.  It could possibly be my favorite thing in my life right now to watch her ride.  Life with Em outside of riding is going well too.  Visit before last we had a family reunion to attend.  I was quite hesitant to go.  I have the twins to chase after and I can’t ask Emily to help, they aren’t her responsibility.  She asked if we were going and I told her why I was hesitant, without missing a beat she says “I’ll help you with the boys, then can we go?” And help she did.  She was amazing.  I truly couldn’t have gone without her help.  My blood sugar dropped and that created a whole fiasco in itself, she helped handle that too.  My girl rocks!  She has been slowly but surely opening up and I’m seeing more and more of the girl I know and love.  Things seem to finally be moving in the right direction.

So while everything seems to be progressing nicely with her, life with Lewis isn’t.  After helping me every single week financially without fail since our splint in June, last week he decided to stiff us.  Us being the twins and I.  He said he didn’t have money to help and this was only after my inquiring on Monday.  He had all weekend to tell me so that I could have prepared and saved money.  When I confronted him about it he told me he didn’t have an agreement to help.  Um…okay….I’ll fix that.  I have an appointment to file for custody and support on Friday.  The boys deserve consistency and that’s what my objective is.  I am trying to get the point across as nicely as I can but I won’t allow him to stand up his kids like that.  He didn’t want anything to go to court, he refuses to give me the address of where he is staying.  He lied to me about where he is staying and can’t see why that will negatively impact our ability to co-parent effectively.  I’m at a loss.  No matter how I try to communicate with him, it is like talking to a repetitive brick wall.  To that end, I am so grateful that I ended that “relationship” when I did.  It really hurts to know how little I actually mean to him but it would hurt much more to live that lie any longer.  I see glimpses of the man I fell for, but they are fleeting.  I guess it was all a show.  I’ll take my life lessons from it and move along.  I’d rather spend the rest of my days alone than to live that way even for one more day.  I am worth more than that.  He may not see my worth but I do and the right man will too if he’s out there.

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Grateful

Bethany K, this is for you.  I read it and I saved it so that I could share it with you.  I am so grateful that you decided it was more important to have your voice heard by writing than giving in to the assholes who made you feel like giving up.  You are a beautiful, worthy WARRIOR!  ❤

 

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On the Topic of Triggers

One of the things my therapist has asked me to do (which I have neglected until this exact moment in time), is to compile a list of “triggers”.  Triggers are things (can be tastes, touch, smell, sounds, sights, and as I recently discovered, foods), that “trigger” as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) response.  A PTSD response for me rather depends on the stimulus.  Generally speaking though it can be described as much akin to a panic attack.  Heart rate increases, the feeling of doom and panic flood my brain.  I sweat.  I look for an escape.  Sometimes I freeze, completely unable to move, or speak.  Sometimes I feel like a small child and I see things through her eyes.  There’s an overwhelming urge to flee, and at the same time, I am unable to make my muscles listen to that impulse.  The fear is unreal….literally, I may know in my rational mind that I will be fine, but my PTSD brain does not.  I may cry.  I may sob uncontrollably.  I may just ball up in a fetal position.  PTSD is like a landmine.  Only, sometimes even I don’t know where the next bomb might be or what may set it off.

So what follows are observations of things that have already triggered a response from me and is by no means an exhaustive list of triggers or potential triggers.

  • Men. Just men in general.  If you have a penis, you have the potential to be threatening to me and chances are, you’re up to something.
  • Being physically restrained.
  • Being awoken by someone touching me in my sleep.
  • Being followed too closely be other vehicles when driving.
  • Loud, unexpected noises
  • Screaming
  • Strangers (see #1 on the list)
  • Arguing (which will likely cause me to dissociate)
  • Oral sex
  • Vaginal sex
  • Feeling sufficated
  • Being tickled
  • Violence on television shows or movies
  • Being startled
  • Gynecological examinations/procedures
  • Any situation in which I perceive I am loosing control

I have had abnormal pap smears for years.  Precancerous cells are present.  My doctor wants me to have paps every three to six months.  I can’t.  I will not put myself through that.  It’s traumatizing to me.  Yes, I realize I may one day have cervical cancer, I’ll deal with that if and when the time comes.  I know I wouldn’t want “conventional” treatment anyway so while some may think I should be more concerned, I’m not.  Not now anyway.

Once the twins’ father tried holding one boy’s head kind of around his neck, holding his chin…. he wasn’t holding hard, or hurting Liam but something about it just made me crazy inside and I flipped.  So I don’t know what to call that really but it sure triggered something in my brain.

Another day, quite recently actually, the twins’ father and I were together and we had stopped for a water at 7-11.  I stayed in the car.  He got out and I noticed a rather scruffy looking man with a guitar case standing by the ice coolers.  He stopped Lewis (the twins’ father) and spoke to him as he exited the store.  Lewis poked his head in the door and said “Hey, we’re gonna give this guy a ride down to the Pier,” a local restaurant a few blocks away.   Instantly I froze.  I couldn’t say no, I couldn’t say anything.  This stranger gets into my car, behind me where I cannot see him.  It was all I could do to hold myself together for that ride.  I was shaking.  I was infuriated.  How could he do this?  Put a fucking strange man in my car….behind me where I can’t even see him!  He defended himself by saying “I was there! I wouldn’t have let him hurt you!” Later he blamed me by saying I “should have said something.”  How do you explain to someone that you couldn’t.  Literally could not.  That left me feeling so alone and sad.  It later led to an argument in which he told me he “couldn’t even fart without it triggering my PTSD.”  Wow.  So much for compassion I guess.  I get none.

I have recently discovered that I can be triggered by world events being covered by media, social or otherwise.  The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville is a great example.  I live with a devout Christian (my mom), who doesn’t see things the same way I do.  I understand why the civil war statues are offensive, and I agree, they are offensive.  They belong in a museum somewhere, not in front of our government centers, judicial centers and parks.  Enslaving another human being is unjustifiable, PERIOD.  To me, you’re either a good person or a bad person.  You cannot be a “great military mind” and be honored for that while at the same time, you were fighting to keep the “right” to own another human being.  Along those same lines, Thomas Jefferson, it’s no secret he raped his slaves and they bore his children resulting from those rapes…..founding father or not, if you’re a rapist, you are NOT a good human being.  You just can’t be both.  She doesn’t see things that way and continues to find ways to justify those sickening behaviors…….just like when my brother Andy molested me as a child.  It was overlooked. Now I feel like I’m constantly defending what’s right, the things that we shouldn’t overlook because someone was a “good guy.”

I have therapy today, perhaps this will be the topic we talk about.  My therapy has been kinda hijacked lately.  All that’s been happening with my daughter has kind of put my issues on the back burner.  Time to keep plugging along though, I’m in it to win it…whatever that means for me.  And because this blog is about the Grateful Dead’s influence on my healing, I’ll end this with a favorite of mine (there are so many), that always makes me smile.  Box of Rain.

Look out of any window
Any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
Birds are winging or
Rain is falling from a heavy sky,
What do you want me to do,
To do for you to see you through?
For this is all a dream we dreamed 
One afternoon long ago 
Walk out of any doorway
Feel your way, feel your way
Like the day before
Maybe you’ll find direction
Around some corner
Where it’s been waiting to meet you,
What do you want me to do,
To watch for you while you’re sleeping?
Well please don’t be surprised
When you find me dreaming too

Look into any eyes
You find by you, you can see 
Clear through to another day
Maybe been seen before 
Through other eyes on other days 
While going home,
What do you want me to do,
To do for you to see you through?
It’s all a dream we dreamed 
One afternoon long ago

Walk into splintered sunlight
Inch your way through dead dreams
To another land
Maybe you’re tired and broken
Your tongue is twisted
With words half spoken 
And thoughts unclear
What do you want me to do
To do for you to see you through
A box of rain will ease the pain 
And love will see you through

Just a box of rain,
Wind and water,
Believe it if you need it,
If you don’t just pass it on
Sun and shower,
Wind and rain,
In and out the window
Like a moth before a flame

And it’s just a box of rain
I don’t know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
Or leave it if you dare
And it’s just a box of rain
Or a ribbon for your hair
Such a long long time to be gone 
And a short time to be there

 

Tuna Casserole

I have free time at work (that almost never happens), I was poised to write as I had over an hour to kill but I’ve spent the last 37 minutes contemplating what it is I’m trying to say and how best to say it.  I recently had an “ah-ha” moment…a break through I guess you could say.  It comes to me after I discovered I have a PTSD trigger food.  Who would have thought that a food could trigger a PTSD response?  Certainly not I.  Tuna casserole.   Fucking tuna casserole.  Out of no where I had a craving for it.  I made it and the whole time I was making it I thought about the last time I had made it.  It’s been several years.  The last time I had made tuna casserole I was still with my ex-husband living in an apartment with our four kids.  Space was cramped, money was non-existent, my step-son was working at a local grocery store to help ends meet.  I remember when I went to drain the boiling water from the egg noodles I inadvertently burned a large area on my abdomen.  It was very painful and it needed to be dressed to protect it from infection.  I didn’t have any money to buy any supplies so I had to borrow money from my step-son.  Fortunately, this go round I didn’t burn myself and there was no need to worry about wound dressings.  What struck me odd was how much I thought about life with that asshole while making a tuna casserole.

Increased time with my daughter recently has also brought up some unresolved things for me.  My son Alex has refused to speak to me since 2014.  There was an incident in March of 2014 in which I have a foggy (at best), recollection of words exchanged between he and I.  He says I “kicked him out” and I maintain to this very day that was never my intentions and I realize now, over three years later I was in a constant state of hyper-arousal.  I literally was like some sort of post traumatic stress disorder poster child for months after kicking my then husband out after he assaulted me.  I didn’t sleep.  I didn’t eat.  I could not relax.  Always on edge.  His assault against me literally sent me into a tailspin.  I didn’t know up from down.  I don’t even recognize that woman.  Much of that time is a blur to me.  I had a prescription for Klonopin to help with the overwhelming dread and anxiety that plagued me constantly, but even taking a low dose caused amnesia for me at times.  Those people close to me at the time would tell me things I said or did and I had no recollection of them at all.  That feeling of not being in control is what convinced me to not renew the prescription.  I was crawling out of my own skin.  I had stayed with friends at night afraid to stay in my own home, I had kicked him out but I knew he still had a key.  Even now I struggle to find words that accurately describe this living hell I was in.  At times I was suicidal.  At times the depression was too much and I didn’t leave bed at all.  Literally, this was probably the lowest point in my life.  I had been married to that asshole since I was 18.  I had children I had to look after and I couldn’t afford to be a “single mom” on hospital lab wages.

Looking back it doesn’t even seem real sometimes.  I lost my son when I was assaulted.  The marriage I was over anyway, the assault was just the proverbial straw that broke this camel’s back… but my son.  My flesh and blood was gone and he blamed me 110% for all that had transpired.  He blamed me for my auto pilot response to a trauma.  He continues to blame me for his father’s actions and my subsequent reactions.  He says I abandoned him.  He says his father is a wonderful, caring man and that time his father broke his arm……he questioned why I had listened to his account of what happened.  He was only a little boy and perhaps didn’t tell the truth….never mind the hand written letter I found on the kitchen counter the morning after Alex’s arm was fractured in two places.  It was from his father claiming responsibility and begging for forgiveness. I kept that letter and found it while I was moving from the house we last shared together when the assault happened.  It was admitted into evidence and this kid still refuses to believe I am anything other than scum who gave birth to him.  I don’t blame him for the way he feels.  I love him anyway and as hurt as my heart is, my door will always be open to him to mend our relationship.

Maybe the point of this post is supposed to be that regardless of the raw, nasty shit that gets hurled my way I manage to love anyway.  Life truly is only 10% of what you’re given, the other 90% (arguably the best parts), is what you make of it.  There is much to be said for the person who is dealt a crappy hand and still wins the round.  It’s a matter of how you play that shitty hand.  I discovered mindfulness a few months ago along with meditation.  Best. Thing. EVER.  I feel much more balanced and whole when I meditate and practice being mindful.

 

“…Ain’t No Time For Hate”

I’m not sure how many of you are aware, I live in Central Virginia, Charlottesville is about a 45 minute drive on route 29 Southbound.  I grew up in the area, this is home.  When I discovered the Dead, I discovered the first hippie friendly stores on Charlottesville’s Down Town Mall.  I purchased the first of many Grateful Dead shirts there.  I’ve always loved the energy of that town, tolerate, loving, supportive.  This past weekend, that town of love and tolerance and support was transformed into something horrible.  Hate filled, torch wielding, angry white men stormed the Rotunda at the University of Virginia Friday night.  I watched a counter-protester’s Facebook live feed of the event as it unfolded.  Police were nowhere to be found.  This raid of the Rotunda was something the police weren’t prepared for.  The following day, this hate group “rallied” in Emancipation Park, where the statue of Robert E. Lee is located.  This statue is slated to be removed.  I think that’s an admirable move on the part of Charlottesville.  The organizer of Saturday’s hate rally doesn’t agree.  These “protesters” were fully armed, some with lead pipes, others with bats, batons, guns, shields, riot gear, and who knows what else.  Charlottesville had attempted to move the rally to a larger facility, that was denied by a Federal Judge.  The events that unfolded Saturday were hard to stomach.  It makes me ashamed of my race.  Nazis and white supremacist chanted “Blood and soil,” “Jews will not replace us,” “Burn them in the ovens!” – ALL of which is absolutely disgusting.  I support free speech….but this escalated to more than free speech and peaceful demonstrating.    The actual rally was shut down (thank goodness), before it ever even really got started; mayhem ensued shortly after.  A car was used as a deadly weapon when it purposefully drove into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters killing one and injuring at least 19 others.  In at one area parking garage white supremacists maimed and seriously injured African Americans with pipes, and makeshift weapons.  The year 2017 and NAZI’s terrorized our streets and our “president” can’t seem to outright condemn this behavior.  The white supremacists noticed that too and they like it an awful lot.  They have an ally in Donald Trump.  Trump then derailed his own press conference and blamed both sides.  Now, hold on a minute……BOTH sides?  What the hell?  The violence, the mayhem, the murder, the injuries, the beatings, those were all committed by  the “Alt-right.” Yesterday Trump said “I think there is blame on both sides” and “…So this week, it is Robert E. Lee.  I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down.   I wonder, is it George Washington next week?  And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?  You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

The only thing I agree with in that shit statement is the question “where does it stop?” Allow me to point out the seemingly invisible issue with the “it was both sides” flawed argument.

White men traveled to Africa and brought back people, people just like you and I for the purpose of enslaving them.  We sold them at auction to the highest bidder like livestock, only livestock realistically were treated better.  We raped their women and forced them to bare children resulting from those rapes.  We “bred” them for certain desirable traits, again, like livestock.  We took these people from their homeland.  We destroyed their entire worlds for our gain.  Because we felt entitled to do so.  Because we felt superior to these people because we had less melanin thereby making us lighter skinned.  And that is WRONG.  It is fundamentally wrong to enslave another human being to do our bidding.  If you use a bible to justify such behavior, then you need a new religion period.  I cannot and will not sugar coat this.  Emancipation happened, segregation ended, and Civil Rights marches took place yet, not much has changed for my friends of color.  They are still subjected to things that I am not subjected to on a daily basis because of the color of their skin.  Racism has not ended, it has flourished quietly.  Here’s the thing though, if we think of these Nazis, Alt-right, Nationalist, white supremacists as the primary hate group(s), then by theory if we denounce them with each and every thing they try to do to promote their sickening agenda, then these “other groups” who are supposed to share the blame kinda fizzle out.  They are secondary, which is to say, these groups were formed in response to the Nazi, Alt-right, white supremacy groups.  Still following me here? Black Lives Matter is a movement that white people just love to throw into the mix and call a violent group.  They say the BLM movement is responsible for deaths of police officers. Here again, if we attack the problem where it exists, there’d be no reason for counter-groups.  Antifa – same deal.  If we stand up against the fascism loving assholes first and foremost, there’s no need for Antifa.  So YES, we MUST stand up and speak out and if we fail to, we are part of the problem and not part of a solution.  I understand why African Americans take issue to these statues, imagine it was YOUR family who had been treated inhumanly, enslaved, raped, beat, made to feel inferior…. why would anyone want to glorify and remember that?  Along those same lines, Trump mentioned Thomas Jefferson. In his lifetime, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, approximately 600 of them.  He raped his slaves and had biracial children with them.  As a survivor of sexual assault, I can say that to idolize this man is repugnant.  You can not be a great American/human being AND enslave people, force your will upon them, beat them, kill them…..it’s an either/or situation for me.  Either you’re a rapist, murderer, slaver owner OR you’re a great American forefather.  You don’t get to be both.  Same for all these statues, why do we continue to glorify the Confederacy?  They lost, with GREAT reason!  One would never expect to travel to Germany and find statues of Hitler or his top generals would they?  Surely not.  Because it’s an insensitive asshole thing to do to glorify those who inflicted so much pain and suffering on an entire race of people.  Likewise, we never hear anyone telling the Jewish people they should “get over it,”  but we say this to our African American brothers and sisters all the time.  I’ve been told “the civil war was about so much more than slavery,” really?  Like what?  What reason could you possibly give that would be more important than ending the slavery of another human being? Land?  Ridiculous taxation? Seriously, what?  What’s more important than life?

If you’ve ever wondered what you would have done during the Civil Rights movements in the 60’s or Nazi Germany…..now’s your chance.  The time is now.  We cannot allow this to continue.  I applaud the City of Charlottesville for wanting to remove the statue.  It is one of the ugliest aspects of our history, yes, it should be preserved in that we should never forget and allow history to repeat itself.  But don’t glorify people who don’t deserve it with parks and statues named in their honor.  Honor the people who gave their lives to make the world we inhabit a better, loving, tolerate, forgiving place.  Choose to honor human beings who encompass hope, perseverance, the ones who have made advances in civil rights, the ones who did the right thing.  Not this.  I for one, will make it quite clear where I stand.  All people deserve the same treatment and rights…ALL.  It makes me afraid for my friends and family who look different, love different, think different….will someone hurt them because they view them as a threat or as an inferior being?  What kind of world are my children going to live in?

The song for this blog is off of the Built To Last album produced in 1989.  It’s a song called “We Can Run” and the lyrics are just what I needed this morning in light of all the hatred.

“We don’t own this place though we act as if we did
It belongs to the children of our children’s kids
The actual owners haven’t even been born yet

But we never tend the garden and we rarely pay the rent
Most of it is broken and the rest of it is bent
Put it all on plastic and I wonder where we’ll be when the bills hit

We can run but we can’t hide from it
Of all possible worlds we only got one, we gotta ride on it
Whatever we’ve done we’ll never get far from what we leave behind
Baby we can run, run, run but we can’t hide

Well I’m dumping my trash in your back yard
Making certain you don’t notice really isn’t so hard
You’re so busy with your guns and all of your excuses to use them

Well it’s oil for the rich and babies for the poor
We’ve got everyone believing that more is more
If a reckoning comes maybe we’ll know what to do then

All these complications seem to leave no choice
I heard the tongues of billions speak with just one voice
Saying just leave all the rest to me, I need it worse than you, you see
Then I heard the sound of one child crying

Today I went out walking in the amber wind
There’s a hole in the sky where the light pours in
I remember the days when I wasn’t afraid of the sunshine

But now it beats down on the asphalt land
Like hammering blow from God’s left hand
What little still grows
Cringes in the shade till the night-time”

 

“If I Had The World To Give”

This is a song off of the album Shakedown Street, released in 1978 (same year I was born!), and it’s a song that I personally overlooked. In fact, I had all but forgotten this gem.  I downloaded the album, I once had it on cassette but who knows what became of that.   I’ve recently “rediscovered” If I Had The World To Give and I love it. A song about love and wanting to give the world to the one you love.  I see myself in this song, it instantly brings to mind a love that I have for my children.

“If I had the world to give
I’d give it to you – long as you live
Would you let it fall
or hold it all in your arms?

If I had a song to sing
I’d sing it to you – as long as you live
Lullabye – or maybe a plain serenade
wouldn’t you laugh, dance, and cry 
or be afraid at the trade you made?

I may not have the world to give to you
but maybe I have a tune or two
Only if you let me be your world
could I ever give this world to you,
could I ever give this world to you

But I will give what love I have to give
I will give what love I have to give
I will give what love I have to give
long as I live

If I had a star to give
I’d give it to you – long as you live
Would you have the time
to watch it shine – watch it shine
or ask for the moon and heaven too?
I’d give it to you.

Maybe I’ve got no star to spare
or anything fine or even rare
Only if you let me be your world
would I ever give this world to you
could I ever give this world to you”

I love all five of my children equally, they each have a very special place in my heart.  I’m choosing to focus this entry on my daughter Emily.  I really wish I could share a picture of her beautiful face….but it’s actually in our court order that pictures may only be shared online to family/friends.  As such, I’m sharing a picture that shows her doing something she loves but her face won’t be recognizable so as to stay safe within the guidelines of the court order.

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Emily and share a love for horses.  She also shows amazing natural talent riding.  I remember once at a lesson with her first instructor Monique, she threatened (jokingly), to make Em trot Banjo with no stirrups.  Now most children would loathe such a thing, it takes incredible leg strength and balance to do.  Not my girl.  She giggled at the idea, dropped her stirrups herself and commenced to asking that pony to trot and did a sitting trot without stirrups till her legs finally got tired.  She’s amazing.  I wish that I could afford to continue riding lessons for her, these pictures are several years old.  She was scared of dogs when she was smaller yet she would willingly walk into a paddock with a Belgian mare who was 19 hands and hug whatever part of her she could reach.  Of course, the mare was a gentle as they come and would welcome her visit because it typically meant a treat would follow.

Our relationship has suffered tremendously since I left her father.  Due to the reasons I left her father, it has been a very difficult time for me and I haven’t been able to focus solely on her.  I had the addition of the twins and a metric shit ton of PTSD “stuff” going on.  The sexual assault my ex-husband committed against me sent me into a tailspin.  Things and feelings I thought I had worked through from previous assaults came back full force.  I made decisions that I would change if I could.  I said things I can’t ever take back and I couldn’t be there for my girl 24/7 the way she needed.  It was never because I didn’t want to or because I didn’t care or love her.  I was overwhelmed.  In fact, overwhelmed is quite an understatement.  Before it was over, I would be homeless, shuffling from place to place, I lost my job at the hospital.  I just couldn’t be what she needed.  I will forever be sorry for that but I did what I had to do to save my life.  Yes, it was that dire that I get away from that toxic man.  Ultimately, he was given physical custody during the school year, despite being abusive.  Emily is the only one of four children between us that he has not physically abused.  Emotionally though, she’s been touched; Emily is a victim of his too.  She has been led to believe the worst about me.  She thinks I’ve stood her up for visitation and I have never done such a thing.  She’s been told I’ve missed numerous visits for god knows why.  I have missed visits, due to unavoidable things – my health (my diagnosis of an autoimmune thyroid disorder), the twins being sick/contagious, the death of my mother’s husband, no transportation…..things beyond my control.  I asked for make up visitation each and every time and I was denied make up visitation each and every time by her father.  It took me filing show causes with the court and a judge ordering him to allow me make up visits to change this.  We had begun counseling with Emily’s therapist and mine, the four of us met a total of four times.  I have always had difficulty communicating with Em’s counselor, I have never felt heard by that woman and it doesn’t seem to matter what angle I approach her, I’m wrong.  I asked my therapist to join because I wanted to know if what I felt was real or just me being hypersensitive and defensive.  This counselor of hers had submitted rather unfavorable reports to the courts about me and never even had the common courtesy to send me a copy as well.  It seems as though it was not my imagination going wild with me, my therapist confirmed what I sensed.  This woman (we’ll call her MG), MG completely ignores and overlooks anything I contribute.  She has her mind set that I’m a terrible mom.  It’s caused me a great deal of inner turmoil.  This woman penned after four meetings that “…my assessment is that Cindy often times has difficulty seeing her daughter’s perspective and has trouble placing her child’s needs above her own”.

Wow.  Just wow.  I wonder if she would say the same if she had actually lived what I have?  I wonder if she knows how I stood in front of a judge and her father in court and testified that I was unable to care for my daughter during visits because I literally didn’t have the money to buy extra food to feed her.  At that time, the twins’ father and I didn’t eat most days.  We spent what little income we had to provide for them.  I cloth diapered to save money.  I ate lunch at work most days, drug reps bring us catered lunches four days a week.  I usually didn’t eat dinner because there wasn’t enough.  I stood before that judge and told her my situation.  I have never felt so low….but it wasn’t about me or my feelings, it was about what was best for Emily.  I couldn’t feed her and I couldn’t keep her overnight for the very same reason.  I didn’t have her room ready for her either.  I lost pretty much all my furniture in a storage unit that I couldn’t pay for.  Starting all over wasn’t easy or fast.  I put her needs first.  I knew I couldn’t provide for her and I was honest with the world about that fact.  I wondered if MG knew about how my children have always been cared for before I have cared for myself.  I was called “an insensitive caregiver” and “hurtful”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have nurtured all five of my children.  It has always been a favorite thing to read to them, hold them, cuddle them; there is literally nothing else on earth that fill my heart with more love and joy.  I’ve done the very best I could with the hand I was dealt.  Emily and I used to be so incredibly close.  I miss that so much.  My heart aches for us to reconnect and grow.  As of recent (the 21st of July), she has allegedly threatened to “punch me in the face” to get out of visitation.  Granted, this was reported by my ex-husband who claims he heard her say it, truth is, I don’t really know.  I didn’t ask her.  I didn’t fear she would act out because she is not the child MG describes or her father describes when she is with me.  She is completely polar opposite.  That visit went very well, she was a joy to be with.  We tried kayaking for the first time and then we hiked our favorite trail at White Oak Canyon.

This past Saturday I had another visit with her.  This time it wasn’t as activity packed.  We had quiet time at home with grandma and her twin brothers.  I noticed from the moment I picked her up (literally, we didn’t get out of the driveway), her negativity.  Not that she was negative about the visit or me or even herself….she just gushed out negative thing after negative thing about her dad and her paternal grandma.  From the way grandma complained about the parking situation at her apartment and dad’s to grandma’s car and all the problems it has and all the complaining my child has overheard.  We talked about the upcoming school year, she’ll be in 7th grade.  She told me she was hoping to get drama and chorus this year as her electives.  She liked playing bass, but she wasn’t the biggest fan of the band teacher so she decided to opt out of orchestra this year.  We talked about school shopping and how book bags were not allowed in school; students are given a “book sling” to carry in between classes and book bags must stay in lockers at all times.  I explained that it’s likely a safety measure (sad state when book bags are not permitted in schools because they may be used to carry weapons and/or drugs), to try to prevent school violence.  She mentioned that she wanted to cut her hair but that her grandma wouldn’t agree to it.  She said that grandma had told her it would ruin her beautiful hair if she cut it, layered it or dyed the bottom 2 inches or so of her hair blue.  She has been trying to grow out her bangs for a couple of years now.  She has said consistently that she never wanted bangs cut in the first place but that grandma told aunt Liz (who cuts her hair), to cut bangs and bangs happened.  She was really upset about grandma telling her what she could and couldn’t do with her hair.  I listened and agreed with her, she is nearly 12.  She is perfectly capable of deciding what hairstyle she’d like to have.  I told her she’d be the same beautiful girl with layered hair, blue hair, or bald.  Hair doesn’t make her who she is, hair grows back and hair has never made the world go ’round.  We arrived home, we hung out with the babies for a while; Liam LOVES his sissy.  He grabs on to her and doesn’t want to let go.  Cash was happy to see her too.  As luck would have it, Liam had just completely blown out his diaper at the breakfast table and was in serious need of a bath.  I excused myself, gathered up my poop covered little one and took him to the tub.  When I finished bathing him, Emily opened the bathroom door and took Liam from my arms.  He was still wet, wrapped in a towel.  My mom asked me a question about Cash and when I returned to get Liam, I found that Emily had taken Liam into my bedroom dried him off and had begun to get him dressed.  I didn’t ask her to, she did this on her own accord.  It made my heart smile.  There was a glimpse of the sweet girl I know and love so very dearly.

Emily and I tackled the task of shredding two humongous zucchinis I had been given at work.  I cut the squash up into manageable pieces and she put them through the food processor.  We sang and listened to music as we worked.  My mom kept an eye on the twins for us so we could have some time together.  By the time we finished it was time to figure out what to do for lunch.  I asked her what she wanted for lunch.  She rooted around, first in the fridge, then the freezer.  She brought me a frozen pizza.  I asked her if that’s really what she wanted.  I told her I had some money and I’d happily take her out to eat if she wanted.  She asked what her options were.  I started naming off different places to eat around town.  I asked if she really wanted pizza, that we could easily order it and have it delivered, Pizza Hut is right down the street and they deliver.  She was silent.  She just looked at me with a blank stare.  Then it hit me.  She is so accustomed to not being allowed to disagree.  I know that feeling.  I lived with her father for 17 years…..believe me, I KNOW that “I’m walking on eggshells” feeling all too well.  I worked quickly to defuse the anxiety I knew she was feeling.  I told her lunch made no difference to me at all, it was totally her call.  I told her it was okay to not like or want Pizza Hut, it’s okay to tell me that, I wasn’t at all angry with her for voicing her opinion.  I watched the tension melt off her face when she realized she was free to choose whatever she wanted.  She decided on a place with a salad bar so that I could feed the boys something immediately and they wouldn’t be screaming until their food arrived.  During lunch I got a call from the twins’ dad asking for my bank card because his wasn’t working.  He was calling from a cell and his reception was not the greatest.  I asked him where he was, he didn’t hear me.  I repeated “where are you”, this time louder but by no means yelling.  I saw from the corner of my eye when my voice changed her looking up alarmed.  She’s hypervigilent, I took note.  The sound of me raising my voice caught her attention and again, I saw the anxiety.  We finished lunch, took the boys home for a nap and Emily and retreated to the kitchen to bake.  Once again, my sweet girl and I were in the kitchen together, creating.  She decided to take on stirring.  One batch of bread can get tough, we had doubled the batch so that I could send a loaf home with her for my son Alex.  She handed over the spoon when I got to cup number 5 of flour, “It’s all you now momma,” she said as she laughed.  It had gotten super hard to stir and keep the contents of the bowl inside the bowl.  Once all six loaves of bread were in the oven to bake, she and I painted rocks.  In the background my mom had on a PBS station.  According to the TV guide, a bluegrass band she liked would be playing on the channel.  The guide was wrong; in the background was talk of meditation and mindfulness.  Emily wasn’t really watching what was on, but she was obviously listening.  She said “I sure wish I could get my brain to be quiet for a minute or two every day!”  Haha!  Momma has been meditating on the regular now and practicing mindfulness each day.  Here’s my chance to teach her how to quiet her mind.  I told her she totally could quiet her mind, she just needed to learn how to harness that power.  So maybe next visit, we’ll learn a little about meditation.

I took the loaves out of the oven, and out of the pans to cool.  As I stood in the kitchen with my back turned, I felt her arms wrap tightly around my waist as she hugged me from behind.  I sent her home with a big loaf of bread for her, and I wrapped on in foil for Alex.  Alex is away this week with his older brother Austyn.  So I asked Emily to make sure she helped dad remember to put Alex’s bread in the freezer for him so that it would be fresh for him when he returned.  It was important for her to see me acting out of love for Alex, as he hasn’t spoken to me for several years.  I love him….I miss him terribly and when the time is right, I know he’ll come around again.  When he does, I’ll be there waiting.  Her grandma picked her up at the conclusion of the visit.  She hugged and kissed everyone goodbye and was on her way.

I was utterly exhausted from my visit with her.  I wasn’t exhausted because it was a physically challenging day like our kayaking and hiking trip.  I was exhausted because I am an empath.  I absorb other’s energy….good, and bad.  It takes a lot out of me to be around someone who is vibrating at a lower frequency than they should.  I felt her anxiety.  I felt her helplessness at the situation with grandma and her hair.  I felt the toll of the constant negativity and toxicity she is surrounded by daily.  I had to take pretty much all day Sunday to recharge my batteries from the time I spent with her.  Upon reflecting on it further, I think my place now is to heal me so that I can be all that she needs me to be for her.  I can provide a place of love, peace, acceptance, happiness and joy for her by focusing on my own energy and thought patterns.  I look forward to helping her learn that she can be at peace in spite of all that goes on around her.  I want her to know she is a warrior.  Everything she needs to conquer life’s challenges, she already possesses.  She is strong, she is incredibly resilient and she is loved more than she will ever realize.  I know my girl has been through hell.  I wish I could change that and take every ounce of pain away but I can’t.  Her journey is hers.  It is my job to walk along beside her every single step of the way and let her know she is never alone.  I haven’t given up fighting for her yet and I never will.  For my love is real, not fade away. ❤

 

 

Some Thoughts on Self-Worth

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Shenandoah National Park, 08/06/2017 

My dear friend Sony and I escaped yesterday for a much needed mountain drive.  We went to Shenandoah National Park and drove North towards Front Royal.  This tree was at one of the overlook pull offs.  I parked and just observed a bit.  Several people had stopped to take photos of this tree which piqued my interest as well.  I continued to watch as cars pulled up, took pictures of this tree and continued on their way.  What is it about this tree?  It certainly isn’t branches of leaves, full and vibrant with color.  In fact, this tree doesn’t even appear to be “alive”.  Why would anyone want pictures of it?  What is it’s worth?  I mean, she just stands there, unashamed and naked.  She endures whatever Mother Nature hurls her way, never giving in.  She’s definitely not what we’d consider “conventional beauty,” she’s so much better.  Perhaps it’s the way her branches look like graceful ballerina’s limbs dancing.  I think it’s her strength.  She’s over 2,000 foot above sea level.  She stands all alone, there’s no forest to support her.  Her roots clearly run deep to withstand the elements year after year, season after season.  She never wavers. She stands there never questioning why she was put in that very spot to grow and live her life.  Others see her worth, her contribution to this world, but does she?

Then I realized what this tree was trying to help me understand.  That tree and I have a lot in common.  I have always struggled with seeing my own worth.  Ever since I can remember I have felt “not good enough.”  I often wonder why those feelings started and I’ve tried to trace them back to a particular memory but I’ve failed.  I’ve never felt worthy of love, support, understanding, compassion….none of the things that believe all human beings are deserving of.  I don’t take compliments well and I hate being celebrated.  It feels weird.  I remember once in fourth grade making the honor roll and I’d won several art contests as a kid and even then, it felt very awkward to be honored in an assembly.  I didn’t want everyone’s eyes on me, I just wanted to remain under the radar.  As an adult, I decided to return to school.  I wanted to fulfill a dream of being a nurse.  I went classes while working a full time position at Stafford Hospital at night as a phlebotomist, caring for a family of four children and did so on very little sleep.  I worked hard and I studied harder.  To my surprise, I was on the Dean’s List every single semester.  My  grades did drop slightly during the time period that I was homeless but I still maintained a 3.5 GPA and was on the President’s List.  I was inducted into two different honor societies, one specifically for Psychology students and the other was the honor society for the community college I was attending.  I was invited to participate in a psychology presentation by my professor and I won 2nd place.  One honor society had a big induction ceremony which I couldn’t bring myself to attend.  I didn’t feel like I had done anything that was deserving of recognition.  I woke the morning of the ceremony, called my mom and told her I wasn’t going and never explained why.  I didn’t deserve it.  I think back of all the competitions I did riding horses, I wasn’t comfortable winning then either, although I did…..a lot.  It seems as though the “inner voices” we all experience have always had it out for me.  They are never nice.  They are cruel and hurtful and they are something I’ve never mentioned to another living being until this very moment.  They constantly tell me what a loser I am.  They say I somehow have brought upon myself the things I have endured.  It’s my fault.  I hear that I’m a terrible mother and just a rotten person all the way around.  So as one might imagine, when I hear these same thoughts echoed from the mouths of those who say they love me, it just solidifies those things as truth for me.

I tend to think the way I view myself stems from the traumas I have experienced over my lifetime.  I think the earliest of those traumas were the worst in terms of self image.  I never felt “heard” by my family and friends.  It was as if nothing happened, it was all a bad dream that no one would acknowledge or accept.  I lived with my abuser, he was my brother.  I saw my parents give him chance after chance to get his life straight and get off of drugs.  I’ve been asked if he molested me while he was on drugs and I have no idea.  I don’t know if the drug use had begun when he molested me or if it was after and perhaps he turned to drugs to cope with his feelings of guilt.  I have no idea, I have no recollection of those details.  I do feel like living with my abuser was detrimental to my own developing sense of the world.  I learned that my feelings, my needs were not as important as his were.  My need to feel safe and loved was on the back burner.  My parents were completely co-dependent on my brother’s drug addiction.  Please don’t think I’m pointing the finger here, I don’t blame them in any way, I’m just stating fact.  I’m sure they would do many things differently as we all would given the opportunity.  I guess I always felt lost in his shadow.  I learned to fend for myself and lay low.  When I analyze how I feel about myself and what I am deserving of it is no wonder I have ended up in terrible relationships!  My rational brain observes these inner voices and tries like hell to combat them as they happen.  That works the majority of the time.  The times it doesn’t work, those are the worst.  Those are the times the darkness of depression envelopes me and I can’t function.  I know without a doubt my family, my children (especially my children), would be so much happier and better off if I weren’t around.  Suicide and I have been in a love/hate relationship since I was 13 years young.  I was first hospitalized for trying to take my own life when I was 13.  It has never gone away.  It is ALWAYS with me.  I don’t always think about it or anything, it’s just always in the back of my brain somewhere deep, tucked away as an escape method should I ever need it.

Do other survivors of sexual abuse feel the same?  I don’t know.  I’ve never had that dialogue with anyone.  I’m curious though.  I wonder if other women feel worthless and defeated after sexual abuse.  I truly do think it has and continues to affect my life every single day.  The very essence of who I was meant to become has surely been altered by what I have endured.  I look through the lens of sexual abuse every day.  Every day I see a man look at me and I can’t look him in the eye.  His gaze makes me uncomfortable.  I wonder what his ulterior motive(s) are I make a plan in case I need to escape.  That can’t be a normal reaction and I suspect it takes it’s toll on the body and mind to constantly be “prepared” for fight or flight at any given moment.  How do I fix that?  How do I convince myself (and my mind), that danger is not lurking about just waiting?  How do I fix this PTSD?  How do I look in the mirror and be proud of the woman who survived every child’s worst nightmare?  I’m like the tree, I can’t see my worth.  Is it there?

During our drive yesterday I stayed mindful and open to signs.  We saw a bear, not very large, probably a yearling.  We encountered so many cardinals and butterflies I couldn’t help but notice.  I looked each up after getting home and reflecting.  Cardinals come around when angels are near.  Bears are spirit animals symbolic of strength and courage, a powerful guide to support physical and emotional healing.  Butterflies started appearing to me after the death of my brother Bobby.  They symbolize personal transformation.  I mention these sightings because I believe yesterday’s unplanned, impromptu mountain trip was inspired by some force larger than myself.  I feel the shift, change is imminent.  I feel like this journey itself is an inspired one.  Perhaps the butterflies are to remind me that even when I feel so completely alone, I’m not.

I know this is a blog that is primarily aimed at Grateful Dead and the way their music shapes my life, but they aren’t all I listen to (despite what you may have heard! LOL), today’s song is one from Blind Melon called Change.  It’s the lyrics on this one that are really resonating with me right now.

I don’t feel the suns comin’ out today
its staying in, its gonna find another way.
As I sit here in this misery, I don’t
think I’ll ever see the sun from here.

And oh as I fade away, 
they’ll all look at me and say, and they’ll say,
Hey look at him! I’ll never live that way.
But that’s okay
they’re just afraid to change.

When you feel your life ain’t worth living 
you’ve got to stand up and
take a look around you then a look way up to the sky.
And when your deepest thoughts are broken, 
keep on dreaming boy, cause when you stop dreamin’ it’s time to die.

And as we all play parts of tomorrow,
some ways will work and other ways we’ll play.
But I know we all can’t stay here forever, 
so I want to write my words on the face of today.
and then they’ll paint it

And oh as I fade away, 
they’ll all look at me and they’ll say, 
Hey look at him and where he is these days.
When life is hard, you have to change.

 

 

Acceptance

This post is riding on the coat tails of my last post on finding your tribe.  Finding your tribe is a wonderful experience, but leaving behind those you wanted to care and hoped would love you through it is also hard…..acceptance is hard.  I used to think that one day I would wipe the sleep from my eyes and be at peace.  That’s not happening.  I’m learning that acceptance is a process and it has ebbs and flows much like everything else I suppose.  It requires grace, mindfulness, and  the ability to let go.  I’m not sure how graceful  I am.  I’m trying to be more mindful each day, and my ability to just let go and allow things to flow is questionable.  It’s probably one of the most difficult things in the world to do as a survivor of sexual violence….”letting go;” it means letting go of control.  It may even be one of the only things we can control and that’s important.  Letting go means many things.  I try being mindful as I think of letting go. What does that make me feel and why?  It makes me afraid and fearful.  It makes me very uneasy.  Worst of all, it makes me feel vulnerable; somehow if I’m letting go and suddenly something terrible happens, in my mind I’m at least partially to blame for letting anyone/anything get close enough to hurt me.  It is hardwired in my brain to always remain in control no matter what.  I think that is very much a survival mechanism and it’s one that is a constant battle to keep in check.  Instinctively, I want desperately to remain in control yet in order to grow as a human being I also know I cannot maintain control.  Trauma does that to brains you know, it literally changes the way we process the world around us and keeps us on edge, we are constantly ready for the next ball of shit life hurls at us, ready to fight, run or freeze.  It’s exhausting to say the least.  That too is hard to accept.  It feels like I’m betraying myself.  Accepting terrible things that others did to me as part of what makes me a better person is a particularly bitter pill to swallow.  I have learned compassion from my life experiences and learned how to treat others with the care and empathy that wasn’t shown to me.

It seems like every day I see validation that leaving my most recent relationship was the best thing to do.  Still, it doesn’t make it any easier and it still hurts.  I still want what I thought I had found in the relationship.  Pretending it’s there isn’t beneficial to either one of us though. I wonder if it’s even possible to regain respect once it’s been lost.  I think that was our biggest issue.  He has no respect for me anymore.  When the relationship began I was respected.  I felt safe, and oh my god did he listen.  We would literally talk at ease for hours on end about anything, everything.  It was like a dream.  He listened so well.  I began to love him so soon and it was a whirlwind, blur.  Sure, we would fight as passionately as we loved but that was a huge part of the attraction.  I found out I was pregnant and we learned it was twins.  We decided to move in together and give this thing a go.  I lost my job about a week after we signed a year long lease.  He was the only income.  I was still battling in court for my other two children and the narcissist I had left.  I was unable to work not long after finding out we were expecting twins.  It was a “high risk” pregnancy because of my having diabetes and because I was over the age of 35.  The daily stresses we were forced to endure took their toll on us I think.  He was working nights, I was alone even when he was home.  I thought things would improve.  Once while we were arguing he screamed that I was a whore just like his ex-wife.  Another time he said that I was crazy, a bad mother, I needed to be institutionalized, and that I was a crazy bitch.  I attributed it to the stress.  We were evicted by the time the twins were a few months old and found ourselves in a homeless shelter in a neighboring county.  We were unable to stay in the same room while at the shelter because we weren’t legally married.  I stayed upstairs in a “family room” with the twins, and he stayed downstairs in the “single men’s room.”  This complicated our relationship and the ability to work on the relationship.  A homeless shelter is not the most private place in the world, it’s communal living conditions that don’t really facilitate communications between two people.  Nightly our curfew was 9:00 PM and honestly, by the time that rolled around the last thing I wanted was to talk.  I wanted to sleep.  I was over tired, over stressed, experiencing a health crisis that had yet to be diagnosed so I hurt all the time, all over.  It was awful.  Sometimes sleeping was just an escape from reality.  I landed a good job after the babes were born working in a lab drawing blood again in a doctor’s office.  We found a home in Rixeyville and we were excited for our “new start”.  I’m condensing quite a lot here, we lived there for a total of 16 months.  During that time our relationship went from bad to worse.  We had screaming matches over money, lack of communication, our own neglected needs (we are always so busy pouring from our cups to provide for the twins that finding time for one another was impossible).  He’d tell me to “pack my shit and never come back” or “get the fuck out of my life”.  We began counseling sessions with a very dear friend of mine who is also an ordained minister and someone my then boyfriend said he respected very much.  We’d seem to make five steps forward progressing only to hit a bump, and slide back ten steps.  I had also began working with my PTSD doc during this time.  At one point I felt like we needed to establish boundaries and I went so far as to literally write down the things that would end our relationship.  These boundaries were discussed at great length in the presence of our counselor friend.  Included on the list were things like: no parenting blows.  We all do our very best at parenting our children.  We all also make mistakes.  This is an area that I feel like partners should build one another up instead of ever tearing one another down. No snide remarks about sexual acts. Now, it should go without saying (notice I said should), please refrain from telling me to “suck your dick” or anything of that nature.  I learned to please men before I could tie my own shoe, there is NOTHING joking or funny about that so just don’t do it.   In fact, my sexuality or lack thereof is always off limits for anyone’s amusement.   Again, this really shouldn’t have to be said, I’m always open about my past and there’s just nothing I find funny about it.  I struggle from minute to minute with my self image and self esteem, calling me degrading names was also on the boundary list. I have yet to find anyone as critical about me as I am myself.  My inner voices aren’t ever nice to me.  Here again, I feel like it shouldn’t have to be stated “I WILL NOT TOLERATE VERBAL ABUSE FROM YOU” but I literally did say that.  I made it crystal clear.  I told him what the result would be if he chose not to listen to my boundaries. Funny, I don’t even recall what we had been arguing about at the time, I know it was in May and it was right before Mother’s Day 2017.  It happened.  He was nose to nose with me.  He screamed at me that I was going to burn in hell for being an atheist.  He was on a tirade.  He then proceeded to scream to me that I was a stupid worthless cunt and a whore.

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I made this after hearing him call me these things.  I needed to remember why I left when I felt like giving up and going back.

I spent Mother’s Day alone with the twins while he went to church and then to a friend’s house to visit.  I spent my birthday much the same way. The twins and  I moved into my mom’s on June 1st.  To say I was crushed is an understatement.  We are still apart, we are not a couple but we work together as a team to make sure the boys are cared for and all of their needs are met.  I’ve been very quiet with him.  There hasn’t really been much (if any), talk of reconciliation.  I’m honestly not sure I can ever forgive or look past what he’s said to me.  Every time he praises me or says anything positive I can’t believe him.  All I hear in my head is that I’m a worthless, stupid, cunt and a whore.  I don’t think I’ll get past that and I’m not sure I really want to.  I love him and will continue to practice kindness towards him because that’s who I am.  I will continue to work with him to ensure our boys are cared for and loved every second of every day.  I’m not spiteful or bitter, just hurt and grieving what I thought I had found in another human being.  I write this about him here because I’m safe to.  Reading this blog (even though I’ve given him permission when he asked), won’t be something he’ll do because I’m just not enough of a priority to him to read it. He’s provided excuses as to why he felt entitled enough to belittle me, he says it was a “difference in how we were raised”.  I vehemently disagree and quite frankly, that was my light bulb moment.  If I have to explain to you WHY it’s fundamentally wrong for you to call the mother of your children horrible names in front of them, then we cannot be together.  Children really, truly DO learn what they live.  Little boys learn how to treat women by watching and listening to the leading men in their lives.  If that isn’t reason enough to rethink that kind of  behavior and get your shit straight, I don’t know what is.  I’m learning my worth and for the first time in my entire life, I have no interest in settling for less.  I’d rather stay single.

Attics of My Life

Attics of my life is perhaps one of my most favorite Grateful Dead songs.  At some points in our lives we hear the music play, at other points, we feel the lyrics.  This is off the studio album American Beauty which was one of the first GD albums I ever owned so perhaps there’s a bit of nostalgia there too.

“In the attics of my life
Full of cloudy dreams; unreal
Full of tastes no tongue can know
And lights no eye can see
When there was no ear to hear
You sang to me

I have spent my life
Seeking all that’s still unsung
Bent my ear to hear the tune
And closed my eyes to see
When there were no strings to play
You played to me

In the book of love’s own dreams
Where all the print is blood
Where all the pages are my days
And all my lights grow old

When I had no wings to fly
You flew to me
You flew to me

In the secret space of dreams
Where I dreaming lay amazed
When the secrets all are told
And the petals all unfold
When there was no dream of mine
You dreamed of me”

For me, this song is about the gratitude we experience when we find a tribe of our own.  People who are there when needed without ever being asked.  People who know the meaning of unconditional love and practice it fiercely.  People with empathy and compassion.  People who will walk with you every step of your journey by your side and never judge you.  Seldom are these people family in the traditional sense of the word.  These people may (or may not) be blood relation….these people may even be strangers.  These folks are golden, they can help make the worst of days and situations a little more bearable.  When I came here to WordPress I didn’t really expect to connect to “strangers” the way I have.  I read their words and they could have easily been written by me.  Our stories are so familiar.

I have been told by well meaning family and friends that I should “get over” what happened to me.  I should “forgive” those who abused me and stole my innocence.  I say they are well meaning because I don’t honestly think they understand the gravity of the words they say to me.  My trust was shattered.  My family was supposed to protect me and they didn’t. My family was supposed to chose me and they didn’t.  My family was supposed to support me and while I acknowledge them trying to, many times they failed.  My view of the world was forever changed.  It became a scary, dark, unpredictable place to inhabit alone.  I was hushed.  No one wanted to hear anymore about how they had hurt me, I’d hear “I said I was sorry, what more do you want?  I can’t change the things I did or said,” and the utter lack of compassion was eye opening.  I can grasp that those who don’t have PTSD struggle to understand it, I get that.  So I think to myself, “If my friend has a condition that is with them lifelong and I’m not familiar with it or the daily struggles it presents to my friend, I study it”.  I seek to understand so that I can empathize, so I can try to understand and see things as they do.  Isn’t that what someone who loves you does?  They should seek to educate themselves and familiarize themselves with my “triggers” and how to avoid them or how to calm me when I’m having an episode.  Yet that is presuming everyone thinks like I do, obviously I know that’s not going to happen either.  I’ve come to the conclusion that if people don’t take some initiative and make time to learn about PTSD, then I’ll take the initiative to remove myself from their circle of friends or family or whatever the case may be.  Of course, having said that, because I believe that we reap what we put out to The Universe,  I still try to lead with love and treat those people with the same compassion I desperately wanted/needed from them.  It’s hard though.  It really is.  I am learning to love the sound of my footsteps leaving people and situations that weren’t meant for me.  I shouldn’t be made to feel as though I’m hard to love because my soul was destroyed at someone else’s careless whim.

I have put this blog out there to the world, it is and will remain “public” because I’m not ashamed anymore.  Every time I’ve posted a new blog thus far I have announced it to my “friends” on social media.  I often wonder how many of them actually take the time out to read what I have to say.  I know family really doesn’t with the exception of a cousin or two whom I’ve been close to all my life.  It was kinda sobering to realize some folks who claim to “love” me can’t find the time to “hear” my words with their eyes and realize I can say here what I can’t find words for face to face.  I suppose if I have to question where I stand, perhaps I already know the answer.  I’m past the point of chasing anyone down to make them care.  I no longer listen to what people say, I pay attention to what they do.  Patterns don’t lie.  Go forth and find your tribe.

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The Story of Foolish Heart

I think a lot while I’m driving to work in the morning… my best ideas come from that time all alone, just my music with me.  This morning I’d been reflecting on my visitation with my daughter Emily on Saturday.  I had my spotify app on shuffle play and I said to the Universe “I’ll use the next song that comes on as the focus of today’s blog”.  And so you see it, Foolish Heart by non other than the Grateful Dead.

On Friday I received an email from the ex that she had threatened to “punch me in the face” in order to avoid coming to spend time with me.  He said he was concerned that she would act out and be arrested.  Well, that much he was correct about, if she resorts to violence to address issues, she will be held accountable.  I won’t tolerate that.  In my gut, I didn’t think she would act out.  She never has.  I believe she is behaving this way mirroring what she witnessed her older brother doing a few years ago.  The more he rebelled against me, the more he was praised by his father and paternal grandmother.  He was literally being bought.  Every time he bucked, he got to go to a concert or he was allowed to purchase another guitar…there was a payoff for each time he rejected the very idea of me.  Now it’s her turn.  I have to mention that when she’s with me, she is not angry or hateful.  She is fully engaged in whatever we’re doing.  She has complained that she wanted more one on one time with me, and I can’t argue that.  I’d like that with her too.  So this past weekend we went kayaking.  Neither of us had ever tried it.  It was a blast.  She seemed to really enjoy it.

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Emily and I kayaking for the first time, it was great.

We concluded at the lake and continued on to hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains on White Oak Canyon trail in nearby Madison County.  It was a perfect day minus the heat.  There was no tension between us.  We happily recalled memories of hiking up that very same trail when she was only five.  We laughed about how she would hike up, find a huge rock and insist that we take it home.  So someone (usually all of us, her dad, myself, and her three older brothers), would carry it down for her so she could add it to her collection.  She also had a habit of filling her pockets with playground pebbles when she was in preschool and she vividly recalls sticking one of those pebbles so far up her nose that the preschool had to call home and ask what to do.  We narrowly avoided being stung on the hiking trip.  Some people must have disturbed a yellow jackets’ nest.  We heard the screams and saw about six people who were stung.  We made our own path around the nest at the suggestion of the park rangers.  We alerted the rangers to the danger, there were tons of kids hiking and we didn’t want anyone else to get stung if possible.

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White Oak Canyon, Lower Falls.  It was crawling with people!

We reached the lower falls and hung out for a while watching kids and adults alike taking advantage of Mother Nature’s water slide and having a blast.  We climbed barefoot around on the rocks and made sure our bare feet soaked in the fresh, cold mountain water.  We hiked back to the parking lot, she slept in the seat beside me and for a brief while, things were grand.  I was once again with my girl and she was at peace with me.  I took her to dinner and she was picked up.  Our overnight visits won’t begin until August 19th.  There were no punches to the face for anyone and we had a good visit.

That night as I lie in bed my mind reeled.  What would be said next?  Is Emily going to deny she had fun? Is she going to continue behaving one way with me and polar opposite when she isn’t?

Those kinds of thoughts are from living with a narcissist.  I have come to that conclusion.  I have been scrutinized under a microscope for every move I make or don’t make, what I say as well as what I don’t say.  I can do no right through his eyes and I fear he is poisoning our daughter to look at me the exact same way as he does.  Three years ago they said (they being the ex, his attorney and the ex’s mother), Emily and I were “too close,” we were not allowed to share a room or a bed as we had been doing.  I’ve been called unsafe, uncaring, unable to put my child’s needs above my own, unfit, “too clingy,” too poor, to “crazy,” and mind you, this is only what I know has been said.  I’ve been accused of being on crack, stealing my son’s ADHD medication, and been told I’m suicidal (when I wasn’t). NOTHING shocks me anymore but it doesn’t stop this conditioned brain from wondering what comes next in this roller coaster ride.  I had photographed our day together in part to combat any accusations that would later arise.  I had emailed those photos to my attorney, Emily’s attorney, her therapist….then it hit me.  I had allowed her to remove the cumbersome life vest for a brief moment or two while we were kayaking and I had been stupid enough to send it to those people who would love to shred me to bits.  I endangered her life; that would be the claim.  Not just once on the kayak either.  After attempting to harm her on the water with no success, I took her to a dangerous mountain on a day that was really hot and I took her hiking.  The dangers were present everywhere!  She could have fallen off a rock she’d climbed, she may have drown in the water when she got in, she may have been bitten by a poisonous snake, and don’t forget the bees.  Those bees were angry and looking for a fight.  I am not possible equipped to save her despite years of emergency medical training at the paramedic level after all.  I am all of those terrible things, I’m not capable.  THIS is but one way the years with him have poisoned MY mind.  I constantly have this ongoing battle in my head about what I should or shouldn’t do or say or act or even feel.  I feel like I’m constantly searching for where the river ends or where the river begins, doing everything that’s in me that I feel to be my part.

“A foolish heart will call on you
To toss your dreams away
Then turn around and blame you
For the way you went astray
A foolish heart will cost you sleep
And often make you curse
A selfish heart is trouble
But a foolish heart is worse”

So the foolish heart here is the narcissist.  I tossed my dreams away only to get blamed for doing so.  Then it dawned on me.  My power is in how I respond.  Life can throw some pretty shitty curve balls our way.  That much is out of our control.  The way we choose to respond and take control…that’s where it’s at.  Remain in control of your responses and shape your own destiny.  That’s my daily dose of self-compassion, and I’m sticking to it.