The Cocktail hour

The daylight is softly shifting from brilliance to soft hues of orange and pink to blue. The day is closing. Growing up that meant the cocktail hour was about to begin. Every night my parents went to their sacred area and began consuming quantities of alcohol. It was what you did back in the 40’s and 50‘s. By the time I became part of the family, this tradition was ingrained in the dynamics of the family. I used to think that it was what everyone did. What ensued after cocktail consumption marked me for life and left me traumatized covertly to the point that the shift in light in my present life can evoke the fear and panic learned from the time I was less than 6.
I am the baby of five children. We all have gone our separate ways. I am sure everyone has their own scars. Mine are a little deeper as I never learned to not equate my parent’s behaviors with who I was. My family would sit around the formal dining table and as if a button was pressed, the ugliness would rear its ugly head. Projectiles would be hurled at heads, criticism flowed like the booze my parents had consumed leaving the dining experience to be feared. My older siblings dispersed and eventual moved out of the family domicile leaving me the victim of my father’s rants and physical punishments when I was 13. This is not to say things did not happen before to me, only now I was left with no support or co-victims. I do not think they even knew what went on. It was my secret. It was also my tomb.
Alcohol played a huge part in my adult life. I watched as a child as my parents bonded in their drunken conversations which often ran late into the night. I thought that was the way couples bonded. I did what most children do and I modeled the behavior as an adult. It did not work and my consumption was a contributing factor to the demise of my first marriage. My brother closest to my age also struggled with this demon. Gratefully, I gave up drinking completely eleven years ago. I have only recently begun to enjoy a rare glass of wine for the pleasure of the wine and not to get drunk. I won that fight very successfully.
But the bigger scar was from the physical, sexual and mental abuse I suffered as a young girl because of the tradition of the cocktail hour. Many a night, my father would turn as if a switch was flipped and would become extremely violent. I would come home at night from my friends quiet homes to find my room, my only private space, destroyed. My father finally stopped hitting me when I called him out when I was 16. It was one of my rare brave moments. I know his anger stemmed from frustration and the depression he suffered from self-medicating with alcohol. I have forgiven, but I have not forgotten.
I should say my body and mind did not forget. The light would appear at random times through the year and the fear would get triggered. There are many triggers that cause my body to prepare for fight, flight or freeze. So many that I lived (please note: past tense) in total fear all the time. My conscious brain was not aware of any actual predator, but environmental cues were sending signals of impending war to me all the time. The result was chronic pain, psoriatic arthritis and other immune comorbidities. My armor and shield is my weight.
The past months have been a journey of discovery and healing. I am by no means to my destination. I also have not won this war, but I know who and what is the enemy. I will say I have not always enjoyed the journey either. It took a lot of balls for me to write this. But as I learn to stand steadily on my feet and not shield, I realize that I am not alone. If this writing helps to connect someone else, it is only a secondary blessing to what has already been bestowed on me.

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W.A.T.E.R

As a young girl, one of the first books I ever read was about Helen Keller. She was my first hero. I loved the part where Anne Sullivan spells w.a.t.e.r. in her hand over and over until one morning it clicked. She understood w.a.t.e.r. was the cool substance running between her fingers. She understood language. For the first time she was connected. She ran from thing to thing touching and demanding that she learn the words. In the story, she finally reaches out to Anne and touches her face. Anne spells t.e.a.c.h.e.r. I cried every time I read it and every time I saw in a movie depiction. Connection and communication: so very powerful. I think I knew at an early age that I would be a teacher…..and I am.
In my last post I wrote about not understanding self-love. Those of us who are victims of sexual and mental abuse, it is a concept we never fully understand. I did not connect to the words self-love, self-acceptance and self-worth. I especially did not understand self-worth. And the more I sought it, the more elusive it became. I felt defeated and rejected which certainly did not help my cause.
Speaking for myself as a victim of over fifty years of abuse, trying to find my way in the world required me to grow very thick skin; literally and physically and metaphorically. I also developed a skill to present myself as whatever character is required on stage at the time. This “gift” is great for a school teacher. But for someone who wants to learn to be authentic and real, it is not so good. It is a hiding mechanism.
My guide is also my teacher on this journey. His guidance often includes small encouraging to correcting pieces of communication which often take time for me to assimilate. One such message came in regards to a reaction I was having to my therapy. This process of Associative Awareness Technique connects the body and mind and is a long but wonderful process that has many, many bumps, hills and valleys. I was face down. Splat! Something I have done many times in my journey.
I reacted to the anger I felt towards the situation in a manner I resort to often. I write. I have written pages and pages of reactions to the hurt and pain, frustration and also some joy of assessing and processing the memories of my life. Again, for me communication, even if it is to myself or just to my guide, is the way I need to connect, to be brave and heal.
The abject fear I had faced was only for a mere second. But it conjured up a memory so powerful that it brought me back to the real threat. And when I am threatened, even if it is my own threat, I pull up my armor and shield, I detach and I write. I was detached and like Sybil, one never knows who is going to be the author.
With the patience of a good parent, my guide simply responded with understanding and compassion that he understood; that he accepted who ever I was in the moment, but he preferred the me I protect.
P.r.o.t.e.c.t. was the word he used and it clicked. How can someone protect someone if they feel there is no worth in them? AND protect them with vengeance for years. And why would you protect someone if you did not truly accept them, dare say love them? P.r.o.t.e.c.t washed over me like the water coming out of the pump as it spelled in my hand. It is new connection and I am still getting used to it. I realize that I have been the best parent to a child who was abandoned and injured. Like a mother bear, I have protected my inner child, who is always with me. She still knows how to laugh and play. How is that possible?
It is wondrous.

A Valentine’s Quandry

What is self-love.? This at first seems to be such a simple question, yet upon true discovery, it is not. Self- love…..love thy self. Seems pretty obvious. It is also the prescribe remedy for all those who are in search of enlightenment, awakening or whatever you are searching for. It is reported that you can’t have one without the other. You cannot BE if you don’t love yourself.
Well, for those of us who come from a world where love was not modeled; where it was not a nurturing and empowering environment, how can we learn to love ourselves and accept self- love. We thought that having a lack of self-acceptance was self-love. How can you be something or even recognizing something when you have never experienced it? What is self- love?
For those of us who come from a non-nurturing environment, or to be truthful: an abusive life, love was what your parents and family were supposed to do and give you. You grow up thinking that self-love is having something wrong with you because you are always being judged, ridicule, punished, because your parents LOVED you and wanted you to be better. That was their loving gift. Love was a measuring stick that you could never reach or could reach the full measure. So in order to qualify in the self-love field, you practice what you know. Love= judgment. Love = being told how (fill in the appropriate abusive word) you are. Love= rejection. Love= abandonment. This is what you know. You do not know what love is because those who were supposed to love you did things that now you know are not love, but it is all you know. But in the absence of this knowledge of real loves lies the matter. How do you feel something you have no idea what it is? Or worse, you thought you knew what it was only to have it ripped away and so you feel it is not something you want to ever trust.
So how do you find out what love is supposed to feel like? How do you trust this as a safe place to go? Self-love. How are you supposed to love yourself when you do not have any idea what that is other than the treatment you have had all your life. Tell me!
Because right now, I am demonstrating what love is to me: Being inferior because I do not know what self-love is supposed to feel like. What a riddle. Too bad I am not laughing.

The first steps:Stubbing your toe

Not what I thought this was going to be, this enlightenment stuff. I thought there was going to be so much more. Not that I am disappointed, but it would have been cool to have at least one bright flash of light or loud choirs of angels singing. Something! But it does not work like that. And I am still not sure what is supposed to happen. So I thought I would share my thoughts and see if anyone else feels like this. I look for feedback, so please share. After all, we are all in this together.
The one thing I found getting old does to you is scare the crap out of you. All of sudden and it is sudden, you realize you better figure out whether you are going to go out in a whimper and let your body wither, or you’re going to get you proverbial stuff together and live a full life. I was not prepared at all to experience all the changes and wonders that I have gone through in the past months. I do know that I want to share the experience only because it would have helped me so much to have someone that understood how exposed and vulnerable as I was/am. There are so many questions and I still do not have the answers I need. Seems that part of being “enlightened” is to keep the answers and tell the needy travelers who pull at your sleeve that they will find the answers within. You know what; that is a cop out. Yes it is a personal journey. But you need support and guidance. The most important thing this journey needs is a safety net. You fall and rise, struggle and limp and then fall again. There are those who sit in high security of being “enlightened” and look down from their mounts at those who are clawing their way through the mire. It does not have to be that way.
I am lucky to some extent. I started this journey to heal my body from painful arthritis and because I was dying. I will explain the dying part in a later post. What I found was more than I could have imagined. I have a good guide; no, I have an amazing guide. I also am in a very special physical therapy which opened the door for me. I will talk about this therapy, Associative Awareness Techniques, a lot.
I am not “enlightened”. I am not “awakened” either. I think it is more like stumbling out of bed and stubbing your toe. I am “aware”. Oh, am I aware. I am aware of feelings that have been buried for years. I have never cried as much as I have in the past months, but I have not loved as much either. I am aware of a body that had expanded beyond my control. I am aware (and this is the hardest thing to admit) how scared I am. I started to type that I live in fear, but I don’t as much anymore. And that is the gift of being AWARE. The fear is there, but it does not suffocate me to the point where I cannot breathe, at least not as often. The therapy is training my body to not react to fear all the time. My guide leads me to learn, to read and to study many authors, scientists, therapists, and spiritualists so I am knowledgeable and have the tools to grow strong. This is what this journey has given me, the strength to keep trying.
This is a place where I will share coming to grips with a life of physical, mental and sexual abuse. I will share my history as it is only a story for me now, and not who I am. I hope to give strength to others who need to let go yet honor their lives. I will share the many voices that have helped me survive. And I will rejoice with my words the many gifts that are to be shared along the way