Persevererence & Change2Mind video

I did do my practice yesterday, and got a little farther into exercising my voice. I seem to do it best when my wife is around. She came home from an evening shift at work, and started practicing guitar, which gave me space to practice voice. I could hear her strumming in the other room and it felt safe to focus on what I was doing. Then she left to walk the dog and I noticed it was harder to concentrate. I’m learning a lot about this.

I just watched a video about overcoming bias against people with mental health problems. I started bawling when I saw a pair of people wearing shirts. One was a guy with a shirt that said “post traumatic stress disorder”. The woman next to him had a shirt that said “battle buddy” . What a great thing to do – makes me want to have some kind of walk where everyone is wearing a shirt saying “incest survivor” “childhood sexual assault survivor” “better half” “battle buddy” “support spouse” etc…  Here’s the video: http://www.bringchange2mind.org/

My grade 6 teacher was at a presentation I gave last week. I recognized a woman in the audience, but didn’t know who she was till I saw the sign-in sheet. I emailed her and she emailed me back, with a lovely description of what I’d been like as a 12 year old girl. She said she was glad I’d weathered the adolescence and early adulthood well, and I replied back that I’d had more to weather than most. I said she may have heard, since a few of my teachers were interviewed by the police, that I’d been rather seriously abused by my father. I said “I’m telling you this not to make a big deal of it, but I make a point of being open, as I think it helps prevent the silence in which child predators hide, and if that helps some kids, it’s worth any awkwardness.” and then I gave a few more chatty details about my life and ended thanking her for some things she’d said.

I hope that was okay. No real impact on my life if it makes her feel awkward, she’ll just not reply. I’m seeing my younger brother for dinner tonight. He’s the one I have the least gunk with, so it should be nice.

[Trigger warning to my ritual abuse survivor allies: If mentions of mainstream, benign Pagan/Wiccan spiritual practice are triggers for you, please go read something else now. ]

I went to a public Hallows ceremony a few days ago, organized by some folks I  don’t see any more, as one or two are unpleasant to say the least. An ex-roommate we had to kick out for raging at me was there, but I managed to avoid her successfully. I did see several nice people I actually missed though, and connected with some gals that might want to have a women’s circle, so that was good. It was nice to have my wife there.

Oh, the main thing about all that was, Hallows is a time when Wiccans think about our ancestors and make a ceremony of visiting them on the isle of the dead in trance to speak with them. We also  remember and recognize both loved ones who have died in the previous year and bless the babies born in the past year. It’s our new year. Blessing children at hallows/Samhain is where the practice of giving candy to children came from. It’s a way of blessing the new year through blessing the young ones. There was quite a long trance my grandmother was there when I got to the island. She led me to my other grandparents. I spent some time crying, telling them off, and then made them all promise they’d keep my father completely away from me after he dies, since they owe me for that. And then I asked for their blessings, which they each gave me.  They got why I was mad and didn’t take offence. Dead people are much more sensible about these things.

Perseverence Practice – Day 4

I was able to practice voice for longer last time, and it felt good. It’s amazing how alive I feel when I’m singing well. I still haven’t done the full routine, but I’m getting there. I had a long day today, and feel edgy and distracted. The last thing I want to do is put focussed energy into anything, or is it to be fully present? Anyhow, I haven’t done my voice practice yet today, but I will.

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3 1/2 hours later

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I just finished doing my voice workout. I didn’t do all the warmup stretches and really felt the increased tension in my neck and shoulders impacting my voice. I was sitting with my back to the door, and the door open and felt (still feel) a creepy sense that something low and black is slinking up behind me to grab my neck. Lovely being a trauma survivor isn’t it? 35 years later, when I try to focus completely on something I love, I get distracted by phantom abusers sneaking up on me. I hope that rat bastard’s cancer is really hurting him today.

I have my period, which is always a trigger time for me, perhaps because of the blood and cramping, so that probably explains the ‘monstery’ – afraid and wary and haunted by phantoms – feeling I have. I’ve been curled up with my dog and the tv all evening, wanting some time to myself to curl up. I’m proud I did the practising despite feeling like a wounded bear, avoiding everything and everyone and eating a lot of something — fruit?  I still feel monstery, which usually means I’m angry. Ya think? I’ve been working on getting my sexuality back, which seems to be working, but bleeding this month is suddenly having a whole new resonance – reminding me viscerally of how I bled when I got those scars. I think that’s where the trigger is coming from.

I will outlive him and dance on his grave.

Perseverence Practice – Voice Day 3

Well, I’ve managed to practice voice for two days now. Mostly I just did the physical stretches and some warm up vocalizations, not the actual practice, but I’m figuring out when in my day to do it, and I’ve remembered fairly late at night when I was tired. However, I did it anyway, which is good.

Today I’m trying to do it before I start my workday, which might work better. It’s funny that I find it hard to do something I remember enjoying. When I talked it over with my therapist, I was saying that I’m afraid if I get unblocked, whether vocally, creatively or sexually, bad stuff like flashbacks and memories might come out.It’s like I’m trying to break some self-imposed (and partially culturally imposed, to be fair) glass ceiling.

I guess we’ll see.

unfinished business

Photocredit: Lawrence Op
Photocredit: Lawrence Op

(Trigger warning to my ritual abuse survivor allies – the following has description of positive pagan ceremony. )

Last night I got together with a friend of mine who shares my religious beliefs. We got to talking about how neither of us are completing our creative projects to our satisfaction. As we talked, we both realized that it’s at least partly about being seen in our authentic selves. Me, to be seen in my gritty survivor art that I am drawn to now, and her in her art at all. We decided to do a symbolic action in sacred space to magically invoke the ability to be seen. The Goddess we chose to bless us was Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the only Goddess I know of who has no myths about having been raped. She is often depicted naked and makes independent sexual choices about her lovers and seems to have no negative consequences for that independence. I think that a person who is able to be safely naked/vulnerable/visible without need for armour and violence is much more powerful than someone who cannot. So that was the aspect or spirit we wanted to bring in, the courage and strength to be visible in our true selves.

We decided we would cast a circle, call the sacred elements and Aphrodite to be present and then for 40 minutes my friend would write a story, and I would try and complete an arrangement of a choral piece that has been unfinished for over a year.

Something magical happened.

My music notation software malfunctioned and I couldn’t edit my work. Every time I clicked on the score to edit it, it would play my piece for me, in its full imperfection and incompletion. For 40 minutes I read the manual and struggled with it, and got absolutely nowhere. Parts of it were perfect already, playing similarly to how I hear the three part piece in my head, and parts of it were incomplete and didn’t sound right, and I could do nothing to change it. By the end I was ready to cry and wracking my brains for what it all meant.

My belief system is that anything that happens in sacred space is meaningful, and is likely a message from the Gods/Goddess. My friend didn’t seem to get it, and gave me a ‘better luck next time’ kind of encouragement, but what I really wanted to know was why this freak computer bug had emerged in sacred space when I’d invoked assistance on my creative work.

When my wife came home, she understood immediately. Bless her! (things are going a lot better with her, by the way.) In talking it over with her I figured out why the Goddess was playing to me my same old song, unchanged, over and over. It was a song I’d written almost 20 years ago, one I’ve gotten a lot of recognition over, and could easily find a choir to sing for me if I had sheet music to give them. I’ve only heard it sung properly once by three voices and it made me cry. The topic is about finding strength from a relationship with a tree and the earth, but isn’t overtly about the abuse.

It’s an old song. It’s not me as I am, naked. It’s me as I was 20 years ago. No wonder the Goddess of healthy empowered nakedness rejected my work on it as an offering in sacred space.

I have decided to make another offering.

I am promising to myself and Aphrodite that I will practice voice daily. Each day. Every day. Using a CD I have with some vocal exercises, the ones that fill me with a feeling of joy and mastery in my voice. For a year. Voice practice needs to be done frequently and for short duration, as the muscles involved are small and damage easily. By practising a tiny amount daily, I will do more good than practicing once a week for hours. By practising regularly I will build a much stronger voice, that I can depend on.

I need to prove to myself that I can persevere with something I’m passionate about. So mote it be. (That’s a think pagans say at the end of a spell or intention, which means roughly, ‘it is so/it must be so’.

I told my therapist about this today and she’s going to help me stay on track, despite my resistance. I’m also telling you, and I’m going to report in on my blog when I’ve done it each day.

I’ve lost 28 pounds since January. I’m proud of that. I’m eating more healthily, taking my vitamins and getting regular light exercise, just brisk walking but it’s good and my wife walks with me so we’re working on it together.

Inaction

Photocredit: Swamibu
Photocredit: Swamibu

Why is it I can get so much done at work on a computer and the rest of my time I don’t live my life as exuberantly and richly as  I want to?

 

It is almost a year since I found out my dad had been in the hospital with a cancer recurrence for three months. He’s still not dead.

I’m in limbo.

If there was an ethically, spiritually and legally palatable way of killing him, to get it over with, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

I’m tired of not living my life.

My friend Kate said something that struck me (I’m paraphrasing here) – that her life could not be extraordinary enough to compensate for the horror of her childhood. I feel like I’ll never catch up. I’ll never be successful enough, famous enough, creative enough, happy enough. I’ll never have a good enough marriage, and active enough social life, do as much good in the world as I want to do, as I deserve to be part of.  That rings true.

I know I wasn’t ritually abused, I only have one, maybe two perpetrators, and I’ve never been raped as an adult, except in that grey way so many women experience, where I gave in to sex I didn’t want to keep the peace with a boyfriend or two. As far as I know my identity is one intact piece. Things could be a lot worse, and I don’t have the denial most people have to prevent them from knowing that. Yes, I was raped as a small child, so violently that my perineum tore and so repeatedly over a decade that I can’t separate the instances. I know others have survived worse, but that was bad enough.

If I can’t win, I give up. I’m in  some kind of weird holding pattern, only half living my life.

 

Photocredit: Zachstern
Photocredit: Zachstern

Like surviving being torture-tickled by my dad, the only way to survive is to give up, to go limp and let him win.

 

I have learned to fight, but  I like a sure thing. I hate suspense, I hate waiting, I am not patient. Waiting never resulted in good things in the past. I was never rescued, the abuse never didn’t happen because I waited silently or was a good girl and it won’t now. I see no value in patience.

So if I can’t have it now, I don’t want it. I don’t have the patience to persevere with anything I really want or which makes me nervous. I am enormously productive, because I want it done yesterday, but I have a hell of a time practising an instrument or a physical skill or anything where I’m not assured of success.

 

Photocredit: Jim Moran
Photocredit: Jim Moran

What does this all mean? I’m not special. 3 out of 5 women are sexually abused in childhood. I was perhaps abused a bit more intensely than some, but I’m actually within the range of normal. Horrifying that being raped by your father is relatively typical. More horrifying that more people don’t see it and fight it. I may be smart, I may be strong, but I’m not extraordinary. I’m starting to tell myself that I don’t have to be. I can live a life where I get nothing outstanding done and no-one remembers me when I’m gone and it won’t be any more unjust than it already that I was abused. I can’t redeem what happened to me. I need to stop trying. I need to see what my life is when I live it for me, not to make meaning of horror.

It is so fucking wrong that so many men feel they can rape children and that so many of them get away with it. I want to scream and spit and rip things apart with the injustice of it. If there’s one thing being a survivor has given me is how important it is to speak truth to power and to take action to stop abusers. Failure to act destroys lives. Because they won’t stop unless we stop them.

May we outlive them all, to dance upon their graves!

Being present

I was early for my therapy appointment today, and was sitting in the waiting room browsing magazines. I opened up a Buddhist one, Shambala Sun. The first article was about Buddhist jargon stuff that I never get and frankly find annoying. I studied philosophy so I’m quite comfortable with arguments that for example try to prove that a tree doesn’t exist, but this was not making any sense to me at all. This is why I am not a Buddhist. I agree that everything is interconnected, but I have no need or desire to get off the wheel of life. I’m happy to be connected in the here and now.

End of Buddhism rant. Sorry to any Buddhists out there. I’m clearly not getting it, I know, but if I was meant to get it it would make intuitive sense to me, and it just doesn’t. I don’t get Christianity either, so it’s fine.

What I did like and what brought me to tears was a piece by Thich Nhat Hahn which was on about how being present with anything you’re doing or feeling makes it holy, or puts you in a holy space. He said something that I did agree with and made intuitive sense to me, that ritual done without the priest(ess) being fully present and mindful had no meaning. Sitting there in the office taking a moment to bring mind and body together in the present moment, so hard for us survivors, brought tears to the surface. I didn’t even know the story behind the tears, but only that they were there.

I had to put my dog down last week. My wife and I were on a trip and our dog has an existing hip injury that would have been difficult and costly to repair. He’s a nervous, active, wilful dog (or was one anyhow) and was flailing around making it worse in the car. Even if we had repaired the injury and dragged our difficult doggie through a year of rehab, his other hip would probably have gone and then he’d have died of old age. So we cut the journey a bit short for him, and us. I feel less guilty now than I did. His death was not the calm one I’d envisioned – he was never a calm or easy dog. We’d had him since he was less than a week old and had never been able to train him out of his behaviour problems, which included aggression toward other dogs and sometimes kids. He whined constantly whenever he didn’t get what he wanted, which was most of the time, and which meant constant accompaniment on car trips. If we’d been able to find dog care, we wouldn’t have brought him, but couldn’t find any. He never actually bit anyone, but we had to watch him closely.  My wife and I feel guilty being relieved he’s gone. Our remaining dog is happy to have the extra attention.

I miss him most at night. In my rough neighbourhood, he’d often bark if something was going on on the street, and although he had a lot of false alarms (cat’s in the yard are not the danger to me they seem to him), I could count on him to notice if someone was lurking around the house. My wife doesn’t seem to hear these things. My other dog is pretty good as alerting me to trouble too, but I haven’t lived with her for nine years like the dog we put down. I still feel him sometimes, and can feel the hair on his chest as I reach a hand to stroke it. I think if he is confused, wherever he is after death, it is my job as his alpha to provide a safe place to go to if he needs it. He can haunt me as long as he likes. I’ve been present with my guilt, my grief and my relief, and now with just missing him. The storm is passing.

Today in therapy I talked about the possibility I might need to end my marriage. It’s a big deal. I’m the first gay person in my extended family and my wife’s to get married ever. it’s like being the first inter-racial couple in a family.  It would suck on so many levels to have it end in divorce a mere three years after people stood up for us and blessed us. My wife and I are very different on so many levels, and the glue we once had that made it work anyways has worn thin. We’ve gotten into power struggles where I try and change her and she resists, and it’s not working. The only way to win a power struggle is to give up, like letting go of the rope in tug of war, and that’s what I’m trying to do. My therapist has suggested I write down a list of what needs to change so I can look back in March and see whether anything changed once I stopped nagging. I’m also to make a list of ways I can feel safe that are independent of her.

I have a book called “Too good to leave. Too bad to stay.” that I’ve been looking at. It’s not bad. The author, Mira Kirshembaum, takes the position that deciding if a relationship is worth staying in is not a weighing scale with the good balanced against the bad, it’s a diagnosis of whether the relationship has the factors that make it possible to be satisfying or not. She asks questions, starting with the obvious “has your partner hit you more than once” (no), which signal a “sure thing, do not pass go, this relationship is never going to be worth having” to more subtle things. She says things like ” most people who answer yes to this question do not regret having left the relationship”, rather than putting a value judgement on it. I read the first chapter or so and then stopped. So far  we’ve of course passed the obvious tests, but in the more subtle stuff, there’s no clear indication this relationship is a keeper just yet.

I’m not going to talk about my marriage a lot, so as to respect my wife’s privacy, but it’s definitely something running through my thoughts and feelings right now. Everything we do seems bittersweet, and sometimes I slip into denial and wonder what I’m going on about, my marriage is fine. Perhaps all I need to do is be present with it through this all.

Not around much

Hi there,

I haven’t been posting much because I’ve got marital stuff going on that doesn’t have much to do with the theme of this blog. I’ve also been away from my computer a lot. It’s all fine, I’m sorting it out, but that’s why I haven’t posted.

I’ll post something more interesting when I’ve got something. Maybe about the struggle to get things I think are meaningful done.

Blessings to you,

SDW