Grieving and staying present

"The Wedding Couple, After Abott" Photocredit: Mike Licht NotionsCapital.com
“The Wedding Couple, After Abott” Photocredit: Mike Licht NotionsCapital.com

Last night my wife held me while I cried for a long time. She curled around me, spoon-style, and held me solidly. I cried for the loss of her holding me in just this way, when I wake with a nightmare or flashback, or just need to grieve.

We talked this morning again, easier in the pitch darkness of our bed (my room isn’t ready yet, so we slept together last night). I told her I still have her back and I understand why she needs to live separately, and we talked a bit about opening the marriage so that I can have romantic and sexual relationships with others.  One of our biggest issues is that her sex drive disappeared completely with menopause a few years ago. She’s tried various things, including natural hormones, to fix it, with little success. We are now facing the fact that it’s probably not coming back and that I can’t be expected to give up sex for the rest of my life.

It’s our 5th wedding anniversary today, and I’m feeling sad. This morning I thought of all the people who attended our wedding, which was structured as a relationship and family blessing and was very beautiful. I know there is a tradition that the people who attend your wedding agree to be there to support your marriage. This morning, I pictured myself asking them to hold us in their prayers, not to stay together or apart in a certain way, but to continue to bless us in behaving with love and honour to one another, and for everything to work out in the best possible way. We’re lesbians, we’re already different, we don’t have to do it like anyone else does. We can be loyal to one another and hopefully keep many of the things that are good (our connection to her family, our support to one another) while letting go of what has died.

If you are inclined to, I hope you will send us both some blessing that this transformation works out in the best possible way.

Blessed be,
SwordDanceWarrior

No Letter

My wife nailed it. She said “there isn’t going to be a letter, she didn’t get what she wanted.”

According to my aunt, my mom has allegedly written a letter in response to the one I wrote her a few years ago. That letter I wrote 3 years ago is of course out of date, since it was written before I knew about the scars on my vulva which prove not only that I was raped as a small child, but that my mother had to have known about it at the time and didn’t get me medical or police attention for my wounds.

Surely if I’d been brought to a doctor they would have sewn me up, as they would a woman who had given birth and torn in the way I did. I clearly wasn’t sewn up, as I have flesh tags and two long ragged scars. Apparently, vulva wounds on children often heal without scars, so the fact that I do speaks to the severity and perhaps repeated nature of the injury. And if I had been brought to a doctor, my father would have been arrested for raping me. I suppose it’s remotely possible, people being the denying assholes they often are in the face of child abuse, that even with hard evidence in front of them the police or doctor would not have helped me, but somehow I doubt it, and I further doubt that my mom would have hidden it from me all this time if she’d actually tried to get me help. So therefore, she knew and did nothing, and as a result is dead to me.

My mom only told my aunt she’d written a letter to get herself off the hook with my aunt I think, and probably also as a bid to see me. My aunt told me she’d be leaning on my mom to get her to respond to me with the info I requested, so this is the counter move. My response was clear, no direct contact, only via letter. I told my aunt about the scars and that my mom didn’t know about them. It’s possible she passed that information along (which would be fine with me).

Anyhow, I’m going on vacation in a couple of weeks that is a spiritual pilgrimage for me so I was hoping I wouldn’t get a reply before that, so that I could avoid having to process it during my vacation. Status quo has been restored, no contact with my mother, who is dead to me anyhow. There’s nothing she could do now, short of disclosing a phenomenal amount of coercion she’s never mentioned before, to restore her to a living presence in my life now.

One of the temples I’ll be visiting on my trip is called the Hypogeum, it’s a womb-temple to the Goddess. It’s underground, painted in red ochre to resemble a womb and when discovered, contained seeds of grain and a beautiful statue of ‘the sleeping lady’ Goddess. Apparently the acoustics inside are amazing, and we’re going to sing in there. The Goddess is the mother I have now, far more enduring and reliable than my birth mother. It feels like I have shed her like a snakeskin, and only the flakes remain.

What I learned about faith and child sexual abuse

Photocredit: Denis Collette

My adult spirituality developed in first or second year university. I was taking a philosophy of religion course, up to my neck in flashbacks and attending 12 step meetings of Adult Children of Alcoholics. The Courage to Heal and ‘You can heal your life’ were my lifelines.  In the 12 step meetings I went to, the word God was used, but often the phrase ‘higher power’ was substituted. My 12 step colleagues felt that any higher power was better than no higher power, and a person had a right to choose what felt right for them.

By this point in my life I had had quite enough father-rule. I decided that if I needed a higher power, I was going to invent one that I could trust completely. Instead She found me.

But this isn’t what I wanted to write about. I’ve written this before.

The part of faith that transcend all specific religions and are empowering for survivors are these.

Somebody knows all about the abuse and how dirty and ashamed you feel inside sometimes, and loves you. She/He/It/They both see you and love you. This is the magic bullet for shame – to be both seen deeply and loved.

You don’t have to connect with the same God(s) you were introduced to as a child, or if you do, to interpret and relate to Him or Her in the same way you did then. You can choose to believe in whatever and whomever feels right and safe for you. In my case, I didn’t feel good about opening up and feeling vulnerable to a male God. My God had to be a feminist. Your mileage will vary and that’s okay, in my opinion. I don’t know if there is one God with many aspects or many Gods or something altogether different, and that’s okay with me.

It is okay to be mad at God. She can take it and He gets it. Once I yelled at Her at a 12 step retreat. I can’t remember now what I yelled exactly, but it freaked everyone out and then I cried myself into exhaustion. I told Her She might have a reason for not intervening to stop me being abused, but I didn’t have to like it. This was the beginning of an honest relationship with deity that has deepened and strengthened me immeasurably over the years. Sucking up or bargaining with God(s) isn’t nearly as helpful.  There is no point pretending you aren’t mad that a powerful being didn’t intervene and stop an innocent child, you, from being abused and that the abuser got away with it if they did.

In philosophy of religion, this is called ‘the problem of evil’, a core subject that basically comes down to: if God(s) is omnipotent and good how can God(s) allow evil to happen?

The standard answers are: “It all makes sense somehow, we just don’t get it.” and “God wants people to have free will so they can choose to be good rather than have it forced upon them.” A variation on answer number two is the existence of an adversary or anti-God and the two of them fight it out. All of these answers have a lot of logical problems that philosophers of religion haggle about endlessly.

The main thing I learned from philosophy of religion is that all fundamentalists are alike and all mystics are alike, no matter their religion. A Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Wiccan mystic will have more in common with one another in their core values than they will with a fundamentalist of their own tradition.  This essentially means you get two basic types of religion – one where being devout is about obedience to holiness rules and religious authority, where the will of the Divine is interpreted through priests, and a second type where the Divine speaks directly to the person, whose own conscience is informed by that intimacy with God(s).

The first type of faith is about holding to the rules and structure even when they don’t make sense, and being rewarded with a sense of solidity, certainty and connection with community and tradition.

The second type is about ecstatic connection with the Sacred. Faith in the Divine is unnecessary if you experience the Divine directly. Faith is expressed by trusting that the connection is real and opening to it. It can make you feel whole, but it can be very vulnerable.

I personally think the mystic’s path of direct connection works best for survivors. Here is why.

Firstly, the direct and intimate relationship with a loving higher power of our personal and direct understanding is shame reducing.

Secondly most of the hierarchical religions have a vulnerability in that they are easily exploited by predators. Even if survivors escape further abuse, survivors can be re-traumatized by structures and philosophies that enable or condone abuse, and which might not be as painful for others. When people give their moral compass to someone else blindly, they will likely as not have it returned with it’s pointer bent, and this is intolerable for those of us who have been betrayed by authority figures before.

It is my opinion that only God/Goddess is big enough to hold the need, the pain and the sorrow of a survivor’s inner child. Bargaining with that fact by trying to find a lover, therapist or parent surrogate who can do it only postpones the inevitable. We need to learn to love ourselves, and God/Goddess is big enough to hold the enormity of our pain and need. There were times when I was so grieving and heartbroken, that all that would help was to give my pain to the ocean to hold. She was big enough, she could take it, and in the process of giving it to Her to hold, I learned to let the pain flow through me and out of me.

Connecting with the Divine is an ongoing relationship that evolves over time. It’s about learning what connects you to the sacred, what it feels like to turn your burdens over and ask for guidance from a power greater or deeper than yourself, and how that process works for you. It is about healing the relationship and in my case, forgiving Her for not saving me from being abused.

You don’t actually have to believe all the time. Faith is like abuse memories. Sometimes you’re sure they’re accurate, and others the doubt creeps in or you’re cut off from your source  of certainty. God(s) don’t mind if you doubt, She/He knows you and gets why and loves you anyhow.  Connecting with the Divine is like reaching your roots down into fertile soil that steadies and nourishes you, or challenges and heals you. You already know how to do it, you may just not know you do.

I think I have written better pieces about faith and survivors than this one, pieces that actually come from that connection more than I am feeling it today. I invite you to read them here:

Wedding Canopy

This picture is of someone’s real wedding canopy, it’s called Magical White Wedding by Ronsho, from Flickr.

Our wedding was magical. It was a blessing of us and of our families. It would be so hard to separate out again, to lose touch with her family, who have become my family in a way mine haven’t been. I can’t help but feel that the Goddess wanted us to be together for a reason. It might be that it was a time limited thing and we’ll be separate now.

I”ve been thinking about how it would work to stay in our house in separate suites, to kind of stay roommates and life-allies if we break up. It’s probably naive, although I have lived with exes after breakups before and it didn’t turn out so bad, actually. One ex girlfriend got together with another woman and we all lived together for years. It didn’t bother me a bit (well, I spent more time than usual out of the house for the first couple of weeks but not too bad) and I was glad to see her happy. The other woman was my friend too, so that helped. I don’t know if my wife could pull that off.  It’s probably just the ‘bargaining’ stage of grief – we can hold on to the things that are still good in our relationship, and be free too.

I love her. She’s my family. She’s my grounding, the source of a lot of my feeling of safety in the world. I would survive if we split up and perhaps grow in ways that I need to, but it would be sad. Perhaps I need to learn to feel safe on my own now, perhaps I am ready. Perhaps I need to do things I can’t do in this partnership. I don’t know. I don’t want to lose my home, iether by needing to sell it or by buying her out and having to have roommates to pay the mortgage. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to lose what intimacy I have with her.

May the Goddess guide me. May everything work out in the best possible way.

Blessed be.

Checking in

Seen Scene - Photocredit: Via Moi (flickr)

I haven’t been writing because I’ve got a lot going on but most of it is not particularly survivory, and is private in that it involves more than just me.

I’m still doing the music, still struggling with continuing to rehearse, but I’m taking weekly voice lessons. I got the number of a piano teacher who I’ll follow up with when I can handle the extra.

I’m starting a pagan choir in my town, and have 5 people signed up, which is good to start with. It’s going to be more of a chorus than a choir.

My current drama is mostly about my relationship which will either end in the next few months or it won’t. We’ve been together for a decade, are legally married and have things like joint property and such that would get complicated if we split, but we’ve both accepted that the way it is can’t continue. Right now it’s in the air whether we’ll sort it out and come out better than before, or we’ll end it, or we’ll have an open relationship. Whichever way it works out the plan is to keep living together, which sounds crazy I know, but if you know the specifics of us and our living situation, could actually work. My wife is my family, my home, my security, my ally and I’m not keen to lose that, even if we’re not working in other ways.

Wish me luck!

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.

Feminist Vitamins

I’ve been telling my friends that coming back from my week at camp I feel like I’ve had a megadose of ultra-strength feminist Mother Earth vitamins. It’s not like I”m any different, just more of myself, and I feel stronger and more resilient.

How important it is to be in a space where I can drink deep of the healing power of swimming in a lake, breathing in the moist scent of pine, cedar and soil, having a whole day, a whole week even with nothing to do but enjoy and visit with nice women. How critical it is as a survivor to be able to be frank.

There was a woman there who had just finished hearing about the sentencing of a man who had almost killed her.  I told her I appreciated how frank she was being about it, and we compared horrific life experience stories and betrayal byour mothers and families in a laughing and cynical way that was very refreshing.

I had a huge cry on the first day of the camp about the scars and the deeper level of reality of the rape of  me as a child. It was so good to let my sorrow go into the Earth, and to know that I was safe. For the rest of the camp I felt joyful and strong, which I often do when I’ve been able to let deep feelings flow. Intimacy with myself, in ceremony, lovemaking or sometimes solitude, often produces this type of crying release, but if I stop the flow to spare the sensibilities of others or feel I’ll be judged, it cuts me off from myself, and from my wife. I noticed a few other women crying, and made a point of connecting with each of them. All had something legitimately horrible they were grieving, but by releasing the feelings in safe space, like me, they all seemed to feel better. I invited them to be real with me, and was able to be real in turn, which meant I had women who knew and accepted where I was at sprinkled throughout the camp. I made a point of being a cheerleader for crying “go cryers, go cryers!”  in a playful way to point out that I’m a cryer too and it’s good to cry when you need to. People laughed. Crying when you needed to became a normal and good thing. Blessings.

On my last day at the lake I was swimming with a woman who I’d become friends with. I told her how healing it had been to swim naked, to allow the sacred lake to bless my body in a way that wouldn’t have felt the same in a swimsuit. I told her about the scars I’d recently discovered and she looked at me and said “isn’t it interesting how all sharing here seems to reach an understanding audience”. I won’t tell you what she disclosed to me then, but although she who was not to my knowledge a survivor, she also bore the scars of a betrayal by someone she loved and trusted.

Today on the phone I was talking with a good Pagan friend who knows I’m a survivor. I told her I’d recently had an exam that showed me some scar tissue I didn’t know about from when I was raped as a child. She said “scars where?” and I said “where do you think?”  A silence followed as she allowed that to sink in. We talked together about our murder fantasies of killing the men who had done the intolerable to us – her ex husband who is damaging her son’s spirit, and my father who had done the unthinkable to me. I said to her “you don’t have to pretend it’s not as bad as it is, I’m one of the few people who actually understands a good revenge and murder fantasy”.

Feminist vitamins. Sharing reality, building solidarity, becoming less alone. One capsule at a time.

The Bear

Photocredit: Buzz Hoffman
Photocredit: Buzz Hoffman

So I figure I’ve got grieving nailed down now. At the retreat this week I had several gut-shaking cries that were very cleansing. In a wierd way, I like grieving, it’s when the pain leaves my system and I feel peace.

So now I’m on to anger and rage. Like when I first started grieving, it tends to give me a hangover for a few days and leave me feeling vulnerable. It’s tied up in my ability to exercise hard, something I have problems doing because they bring up feelings that seem to intense for public spaces. Such a relief to be at the retreat where I could just duck off into a nice forest or drum when I had feelings to express!

Yesterday in therapy, my therapist asked me if there was a spirit or energy that went with my anger and I realized there is. The bear. A big brown mother bear with all my mass and bulk, strong forearms and claws. The bear can eviscerate my father with a few strokes of clawed arms, with all the weight of her large fur-covered body behind each stroke. In anger as/with the bear, I can express anger safely.

I’ve joined one of those exercise ‘boot camps’ with some friends. Normally I get triggered while exercising hard, but with my emotional backlog cleared at the camp I was able to just exercise without tears or getting bitchy or overwhelmed. I’m hoping that exercising with/as the bear will help me learn to be in my physicality again. Physically I am kind of a bear (without the fur) so it makes sense on that level as well as spiritually.

I also tried invoking the Goddess Artemis, Bear Goddess and Guardian of Virgins, but becamed overwhelmed with the energy and conflicting emotions connected to her. I should have realized that she and I would have some talking to do after seeing for myself the scope of the damage to my virgin self. I haven’t dipped into those feelings yet, but I suspect they are about the Goddess’ rage and my own at the magnitude of violence against girls, as well as hurt confusion at not being protected by Her. It is in a way lucky for me that Artemis and all the other Goddesses were not the Goddesses of my childhood. I think God/dess/es generally don’t protect us so much as empower us to support/heal and protect ourselves, which often seems woefully inadequate.

As a girl I believed somewhat in the standard vaguely Christian male God of my Anglican and United Church parents. This particular God has often been on the side of oppressors (sorry, but it’s true), so I now choose other deity forms that fit my values and experiences better. Do I want to support the God that has been used (perhaps against His will, perhaps not) to prop up abusers and the patriarchy for centuries? This God does not seem very interested in or effective at inspiring His supporters to love their neighbours as themselves and quite good at supporting men at being mysogynist power-trippers.  However, perhaps I am being unfair. Perhaps this God has just taken on the toughest cases: the bigots, the patriarchs, the mysogynists, the warmongers, the paedophiles and the racists, and is just taking awhile to influence and heal them. May it be so.

For my part, I see my own wounding and recovery as an unfortunately necessary passage, like childbirth, in order to create a woman’s voice and warrior that the Earth and humanity needs. It’s my job to do what I am guided to do to make the world a better place, and I know that my background and what I’ve learned helps me do that. Perhaps when I’m dead I’ll understand more about why this was necessary, but it will do as an explanation for now.

Warrior – the Real Wyrd Sisters

The Real Wyrd Sisters – Shame on Warner Brothers

I have two items on the subject of being a warrior that I want to share – here is the first:

The lyrics to “Warrior” by the Wyrd Sisters. When looking for a recording or video of this song, I found out that this Canadian band from Winnipeg, who has been one of my favourites for years, is being sued by Warner Brothers, who want to steal their name. WB is legally in the wrong, but has way more money and wants to market a band of their own with all kinds of spin off products (based on the one in Harry Potter with a different name) with the same name. The Wyrd Sisters named their band for a Celtic trinity of Goddesses, and have have written some beautiful songs on important issues including child abuse. Shame on Warner Brothers!

WB is probably going to bankrupt these nice socially progressive folk musicians, who have done so much to support the spirits of those of us concerned with social justice. I’m so mad I could just spit!

I love the Harry Potter books, and respect JK Rowling, but honestly the movies are just a weak knockoff of the kind, good and inspiring features of the books. The band in the book (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) was named the “Weird Sisters”, probably a pun/nod to the same Celtic Goddesses.

WB should ask themselves WWDD (“What Would Dumbledore Do?”) and negotiate something fair with the Wyrd Sisters instead of crushing them. They could name their movie band “The Wierd Sisters” like in the book instead of the Wyrd Sisters their marketing folks like better, compensate the real Wyrd Sisters for using their name, and mention in the credits that the real Wyrd Sisters are in Winnipeg Canada and have generously allowed the similar name to be used. This lawsuit shows that WB have no respect for the values the Harry Potter books illustrate. I encourage people to Boycott / Girlcott  / Pagancott / Survivorcott Warner Brothers Harry Potter paraphenalia unless they do the right thing. If you want to see the movie, wait till your local library gets the DVD.

Here’s their myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/thewyrds and you can hear “Warrior” there. The lyrics are below.

I was a shy and lonely girl
with the heavens in my eyes
and as I walked along the lane
I heard the echoes of her cries

I cannot fight
I cannot a warrior be
it’s not my nature nor my teaching
it is the womanhood in me

I was a lost and angry youth
there were no tears in my eyes
I saw no justice in my world
only the echoes of her cries

I cannot fight
I cannot a warrior be
it’s not my nature nor my teaching
it is the womanhood in me

I am an older woman now
and I will heed my own cries
and I will a fierce warrior be
’til not another woman dies

I can and will fight
I can and will a warrior be
it is my nature and my duty
it is the womanhood in me

I can and will fight
I can and will a warrior be
it is my nature and my duty
it is the sisterhood in me

 

Apparently, the back story for the song is that the Wyrd Sisters member who wrote it worked in her youth in a mental hospital, and saw first hand how at least one girl who had disclosed child sexual assault was treated  in the hospital. The abuse was severe and documented but the administration treated her like she was dirty, a liar and the source of shame to her family rather than her father/abuser, and the songwriter felt helpless to help her at the time.

Pagan Conference

This weekend I attended a Pagan conference and met some interesting and helpful people.

Photocredit: Sinjy, 2006
"Wicca Apples" Photocredit: Sinjy, 2006

Have you ever had a period in your life where you appear to be in Grace? Where challenges emerge and are defeated easily? Where it seems simple to be calm and powerful? The voices of the divine and your own truth seem strong and clear? I seem to be in one. My music is going fabulously, I’m attracting all kinds of resources I’ve needed, and most importantly, other people’s gunk seems to be sliding off my back like I’m coated in Teflon(R).

Pagan gatherings are a quite a bit in feel like science fiction conventions – a variety of flavours of modern neo-paganism are represented. One thing I realized, that unlike the women-specific spiritual events I’ve attended, which are generally attended and organized by smart, highly competent, healthy and empowered women, the mixed Pagan ones attract a nerdier, more fringe crowd. This is not to say that most of the people I met weren’t remarkable and nice, but that I noticed a distinct difference in general social functioning, on the whole, with several people who didn’t seem to be doing well at all. Seeing how it was a Canada wide conference, I attended to see what was going on and do a bit of networking.

Amazon warrior that I am, I got into several heated intellectual discussions (which I enjoy, for the most part) and at least one controversy.

There’s a split in modern Paganism, or perhaps only in the sub-category of Wicca or Witchcraft, between the folks that are into a fertility based practice and those whose practice is ecstatic. Fertility practice of Wicca (also known as traditional or Gardnerian Wicca) is essentially a religion that gives relatively equal prominence to both Goddesses and Gods (with Goddesses being slightly more central), celebrates heterosexuality as a manifestation of the creative power of the Gods, and is based in the tradition started 50 or so years ago by Gerald Gardiner. The most central imagery, rituals and practices are often concerned with celebrating heterosexual sexual expression. This is NOT to say they’re having orgies all over the place, it’s just that the erotic attraction between men and women occupies a similar symbolic place in traditional paganism that for example the imagery of torture and murder via crucifiction occupies in Christianity. Christianity isn’t all about or even mainly about torture and death, but the imagery of crucifiction, which was a historical method of torture/execution,  is a big part of their imagery and festivals such as Easter. What’s interesting to me is that unlike the traditions I practice, the women-oriented facets of fertility, particularly virginity, pregnancy and birthing, don’t get nearly the amount of emphasis in these ‘fertility’ traditions as the sexuality itself.  Gods are seen primarily as lovers or fathers and the Goddess as lover or mother. Sister and brother Gods or virgin Goddesses do not carry much importance and do not appear to be emphasized. In some of the traditions I have experience with the Gods as brothers and sisters are just as important and provide important models of respect and cooperation between the sexes.

By contrast my own practice is in the ecstatic and social justice traditions (some examples are Reclaiming, Dianic, Goddess Sprituality and Feri traditions) which are not nearly as focussed on heterosexualily and more on relationship with the Gods and taking positive action in the world. Understandably as a gay woman, heterosexual sex, while as sacred as any other,  is not of interest to me, so my expression is more about individual growth, recovering and celebrating my own body, intuition, honouring the Earth in action (environmentalism) as well as observance, and creating and discovering rituals and connections with the Divine Feminine that reinforce me and other women in being powerful, effective and strong.  It is based in both Feminism, Goddess Sprituality and Wicca, with a social justice component from a tradition called Reclaiming.

The controversy began when a non-pagan film-maker presented her film about witches and invited discussion and feedback afterward. The only voices represented in the film were from fertility traditions, some of whom represented that in contrast to male centred religions, Wicca was about the balance between God and Goddess.  Since the film maker was looking for feedback, I pointed out that my style, which is primarily about the Goddess, had not been represented. At this point, some reps of the other style – all older males, told me in paternal tones that while I was certainly Pagan, I was not a Wiccan because I didn’t give equal importance to male Gods worshipped via the imagery of straight sex as they do. I was, of course, offended, but couldn’t help but remember a conversation years ago with someone from an Evangelical Protestant sect who told me straight faced that Catholics weren’t Christians. Seeing how Catholics invented Christianity (or are at least the earliest surviving version I know of) this is patently ridiculous, so I had the perspective that all religions seem to do this infighting thing over stupid differences in practice. Similarly, I’m pretty certain that if they start up the bonfires to begin burning witches again, assertive female activist feminist witches will be the first they want to throw on the pyre. Our enemies know we’re all witches, so these boys need to just get over it.

I defended my point pretty well I thought, and even though I could have felt ganged up on (those in the room who I later found shared my beliefs kept their mouths shut), I didn’t really. I mostly just saw their rigidity and dogmatism as coming from their own insecurities, as older men holding onto what privilege they’d scrounged together in a religion that is, at least officially, led by women (The high priestess is technically the leader of each worship group, although a high priest may also serve). Most religions do this kind of infighting. It’s too bad, but really nothing personal.

Standing up to the patriarchy and heterosexism, and being a misunderstood minority in a room full of peers,  really ought to have worn me out, but didn’t particularly, do my great surprise. I’m truly grateful. Perhaps this preparing to dance at or on my fathers grave is changing how I see sexism and oppressive men. It’s like exercising over a period of time for awhile, and then suddenly realizing you can run up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath. Mostly, thoughout the weekend I felt confidence, happiness, acceptance and warmth for and from the people there.

On the helpful people end of things, I made contact with a pagan social activist from my home town, who I asked for information on who I could connect with up there about my sword dance ritual. He said he and his wife (who is also pagan) would help, and gave me the name of a woman’s shelter contact who he thought I should make contact with as well.  It feels like a Goddess-given connection.

It’s very interesting to me that men seem to be among my important allies in this sword dance ritual – from my friends who helped me search for a sword, to this man. Brother allies are a good thing. It looks like the person I’ll be taking sword dance classes from will be a man too – the women teachers I approached weren’t interested in teaching adult women. 

I’m finding more allies than I expected.

Why a sinus infection is a gift from the Goddess

Okay, now you probably think I’m nuts, but it is.

About ten years ago, I was accepted to the music program at a community college.  The director of the program told us on our first day, that the reason we’d been accepted was because we had a shot to make it as a professional musician. I was accepted as a vocalist into the jazz program. I’d recently got into jazz and lucked into finding an accompanist who knew the type of material they wanted. I was 30, surrounded by what looked like teenagers straight out of high school.  Straight teenagers.

There were 7 of us vocalists, who were second class citizens in the program. The instrumentalists were assigned groups to play in, but those groups didn’t include a vocalist. We were supposed to somehow find people willing to let us practice being a vocalist with, practice with with no sound equipment, with no mic or monitor to hear ourself in against a 6 piece band playing full  volume. It was some kind of hell where they gave me the means to access the dream I’d had since I was 8 years old, and then tore that dream apart, piece by piece, while I struggled to hold it together. I got an A+ on all my vocalist work, and much lower marks in some of the other courses, because they, being geared for kinesthetic instrumentalists, were all about learning by doing, with explanations, demonstrations or questions not permitted. I now understand how frustrating the normal visual oriented schools I excelled in were for kinesthetes, but it didn’t make it any less painful. I had one teacher (now the head of the vocal program, though she’s not primarily a vocalist) tell me she had no time to answer questions when I came to see her during office hours, nor would she permit them in class.

I lasted a year and a half, while working full time at my regular job at the same time. It took me at least 5 years to heal enough to perform again.

How does this relate to my sinus infection?

I think I had one then.

I had trouble hearing the differences in notes that I had to identify and transcribe. My processing speed was too slow to write them down when they were played at tempo. My ears hurt. I thought I had allergies.

Earlier this week I was singing with my new musical collaborator, and my dormant sore throat went into full raw glory within about an hour. Next morning it was so bad that I cancelled my work meetings and stayed home.

I figured it out a couple of days later, once I discovered that you can’t have a cold for a month. They resolve within two weeks. However they can set you up for a sinus infection, and according to my extensive internet research I have all the symptoms. Not only do I have an acute infection now, looks like I’ve had a chronic infection for years, chronic cough, perpetual sore throat.

So, self-sufficient and doctor visit disliking person that I am (I can’t stand to be condescended to), I researched home solutions. I found a somewhat gross but seemingly effective home treatment (you don’t want to know) that uses salt water to loosen and flush out the infected gunk in the sinuses. But now that the treatment is starting to work and I can see how differently I breathe, I’m thinking that maybe this infection is a gift from the Goddess.

I’m ready now, to sing and write about what really means something to me. I’m strong enough to make art that reflects MY experience, that doesn’t force me to pretend I didn’t live getting raped or living in fear of getting raped daily for ten years of my life, when I was a young, resourceless, defenseless girl. I am willing to make art that reflects the bitter, hard, lonely and profoundly spritual lessons I learned when I was fighting for my life and when I was fighting to transform those experiences and integrate them into the proud, strong, warrior priestess I’ve become.  I shouldn’t have to earn the right to just be honestly who I am, but I have and I will and if people find that uncomfortable, it’s good for them and they need to deal with it.

So it’s good now that I start doing that, singing authentically rather than stupid stagnant cover tunes of dead men and love songs written for straight people, that the Goddess hands me the resources I need to be ready, to regain my voice as well.  This is another sword dance.

Compost

Photocredit: Ollie-G "A Leaf in Spring"
Photocredit: Ollie-G "A Leaf in Spring"

The last few days I’ve been lonely. Being sick with a sore throat and earache, and kind of tired, I’ve not been working much and have had lots of time to myself. I find myself logging in to my blog and looking at the posts of other survivors, looking eagerly for comments on my own blog.

I’m tired. Nothing’s wrong, but I’m sick and tired, I’ve got my period and I’ve got no mother. I never had a mother, but now I really don’t. It could be I never hear from her again.  I told her the truth, and she’s not a big fan of facing facts, at least not on a time scale less than glacial. I don’t regret sending her the letter, but I am a bit sad.

I’m thankful this weekend is Easter weekend. I don’t celebrate Easter, except in those areas that overlap with Eostre, the holiday Pagan’s celebrate on Spring Equinox, which are mostly the good bits about new life and bunnies and eggs and blessing children (and therefore, metaphorically, Spring Herself) with gifts of sweets.  This is good because I have the time off, without the commitments.

I’ve been hungry for time to myself, but time for myself feeling sick and tired isn’t really it. One thing I’ve noticed is that although I haven’t been working as much, my business hasn’t fallen apart. Perhaps I can have a soul-life and a work life at the same time.

I’ve been able to work in the garden a bit this week, weather permitting, which has been a blessing. We’ve put in a huge rasberry patch in the back yard, and some new grass for the dogs to pee on. They set to work right away, eating the new lawn, rolling on it, and other dogly stuff. Our big dog is getting a bit frustrated with having two mommies sick, and no-one to give him the abundant affection he so clearly deserves…

I’m taking a break from the acupuncture too, till I’m well again.

Part of being Pagan is having respect for the cycles of life, the waning moon as well as the waxing, fall as well as spring, winter as well as summer, compost as well as planting, menstruation as well as ovulation.

There is a tarot card, the Hermit, which to me is about big, barely visible things happening when nothing important seems to be happening.

So as a good religious Pagan, I need to cover myself metaphorically in leaf mould (or a nice soft blanket) even when the weather and my fear of losing momentum says grow, grow, grow, and allow a little fallow stage before I move on.

And maybe that’s okay. Like spring, where things grow in fits and starts, weather and frost permitting, I’m allowed to expand and unhide and then contract a little too.

Book Review and Divine Intervention

The other day I was picking up a book I’d requested at the library and absent mindedly browsing the books nearby, which happened to be about religion. I picked up about 8 books in all, including one called “Leaving the Saints: How I  Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith” by Martha Beck.

Here’s the divine intervention part. I really think the Goddess sent me this book.

Martha is the daughter of a Mormon scholar and apologist, and an incest survivor. She describes what began as a spiritual search for union with God and progresses toward experiencing repressed memories and leaving the church. At the time of writing she was a straight mother of three (actually according to her site about the book she’s now in a relationship with a woman) with a doctorate in sociology from Harvard, and she was raised within a patriarchal religious community  but other than that her experience reflected mine so much that it took my breath away. It also made me laugh or snort out loud several times, as she’s got a wicked and irreverent sense of humour.

She was raised with the regular Mormonism, not the trafficking-children-in-‘marriage’ -for statutory-rape-by-old-geezers polygamist type  that spring to mind when discussing Mormon child sexual abuse, so her cultural references are relatively familiar. She had a supportive husband who didn’t care that she doesn’t cook, similarly to my spouse.

She was also first raped by her father at the age of five. Her father was also a highly intelligent, high status guy who was highly dissociative, liked to speak in codes (my father once  inserted himself into a college phone conversation with my mother and told me quite seriously not to let any man make me his teddy bear, a comment I still don’t understand), and believed he’d been cured of serious illnesses (in my father’s case, complete blindness) by God. However, given my fathers near miraculous survival from multiple health hazards and accidents, he may have something there.

Unlike me, her extended family were mostly unsupportive, because her dad is so famous in the Mormon world and also because the Mormon’s are all about propping up male authority no matter what. Some of the press in particular has made the usual accusations of false memories, something Beck refutes in a particularly clear statement online.

At this point I’d like to pause for a nice clarifying rant.  Here’s the backup references for what I’m about to say: [click here] So called ‘false memory syndrome’ is NOT recognized as a syndrome by any reputable scientific source, like the DSM or the American Psychological Association. The folks who made this completely false syndrome up and promote it are themselves accused child molesters or their spouses. One of their ‘expert witnesses’ was quoted endorsing sex with children in a paedophilia magazine.  People don’t want to believe bad stuff happens to children because it freaks them out. I get it. But lying and hurting people who’ve already been through so much is unethical, and supporting the propaganda interests of pedophiles and their apologists is heinous. Journalists, stop being manipulated by child abusers!  End of  rant.

Beck says some very useful things about abusers and their behaviour and what causes them, and has also learned the same passionate devotion to truth and hatred of lies, silence and complicity that I have.  She also has had mystical experiences of the divine (although hers seem more striking to me, somehow) and has found them an important part of her healing.  Her mother also initially said she believed her, in a conversation chillingly similar to the one I had with my mother where she said “yes, that’s something he’d do” but also wanted her to forgive and support her father anyway, like it didn’t matter what he’d done at all.

She also has something I’m a bit embarassed to envy – scar tissue inside her vagina  that proves she was raped as a child. I don’t know if I have scar tissue, and I’m kind of scared to find out. I told a doctor I was a child sexual abuse survivor (just in case I had a flashback with my legs in the stirrups, not (gasp!) to get all emotional or needy on her. She was horrified. She told me everything looked normal, like in those words she could erase ten years of experience. What would I gain in making that up? gees!  I’d really like to know if there is scar tissue,  but doctors are generally robots – how could I find one that would seriously investigate for physical evidence rather than trying to invalidate me from their own discomfort? I have some ‘female issues’  that could be related like vaginal infections so constant that a doctor once tested me for both AIDS and diabetes (I have neither) to try and figure out what might be causing it, but honestly, although I enjoy the TV program House MD, and like my Gray’s Anatomy, I don’t have any faith in medical doctors’ ability to figure out more subtle stuff like mine and have simply managed symptoms on my own and do all the recommended things to avoid infections.

Martha (Dr. Beck, actually, but really she feels more Martha to me) has a definition  of forgiveness,  taken from another source, that I can endorse. “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a different past”. If that’s the case, I’ve definitely forgiven my father, years ago,  and probably also my mother. I’ve always just called it ‘Acceptance’ the last stage of grieving, where things actually begin to feel better, even though the tragedy hasn’t changed at all.  I’ve long embraced grief, knowing that when it’s time to cry, it is a profound gift. Grief is my friend, as it it the only thing that actually heals tragedy.

In short, I may need to buy a copy of this book to have around for validation, since the library will only let me have it for two weeks.

On the hiding front, I’ve come down with a sore throat, a few days after my music jamming with my friend and future performing partner. My body has come to the defense of my psychic camoflage, and is trying to shut this scary passion business down. This is good, it’s like learning not to dissociate: I’ve begun to recognize when I”m doing it. I still want to sing, and I’m going to sing sore throat or no sore throat. My fingertips are tender from practicing my guitar and I’m not stopping.

I’m so grateful for this blog and the support I’ve gotten from survivors posting comments. For the first time in a long while, I have a place to be, to tell the truth to the Goddess and people who understand.

The last few weeks, I’ve been gradually eating a small supply of chocolate Eostre/Easter eggs. In my faith tradition, spring equinox eggs are sacred to the Goddess Eostre and represent rebirth, as do the red balls on the evergreen tree at Yule. I’ve decided that every time I eat an egg I’m going to dedicate it using a prayer for rebirth. Rebirth of hope. Rebirth of presence in my body and today, with this book, rebirth of Validation.

Going on living

Photocredit: mtsofan on flickr
Photocredit: mtsofan on flickr

As part of my ongoing quest to stop I’m starting gradually to getting back into both doing things I’m passionate about and letting others witness me doing them. Tonight, I’ll be meeting to jam for the first time with a friend of a friend who plays the guitar. We’ve been discussing material and will be putting together some jazz and folk numbers, perhaps to perform. This is probably a good thing to do this week, continue to unfurl the sprout and reach for the sun rather than focus on worrying about how my mother will react.

I realized why I have the fear my mother will kill herself ‘accidentally’ in a car accident driving while sleep deprived (she works two full time jobs)  in reaction to my letter. It’s happened before.

A few years ago I decided to send altered father’s day cards to my abuser, reminding him of how his actions had affected me. I’d read this thing that talked about how under partriarchy the consequences of actions all flow downhill – boss yells at worker, worker yells at wife, wife yells at older kid, older kid hits younger kid, younger kid teases dog. I decided to make the ball roll up hill. I bought and doctored up a couple of these fathers day cards and sent them off in intervals. I forget if I sent one or more than one, I know I intended to send them every few months. I have a few left somewhere. It helped me deal with all the mushy  mushy we love our dads stuff around father’s day, by formally acknowledging my remembrance of daddy is quite different.

Anyhow, later that year, on my birthday no less, I get a call telling me that dear old dad had drunk himself into a .4 blood alcohol reading (in the range that causes death) and driven his car into the wall.  The two family dogs were with him and one died. The other was found unharmed. My abuser was in intensive care with a flail lung. (50% mortality rate) Coincidence he did this on my birthday a few months after his wife left him and I started sending him regular reminders? I think not. He almost died before some idiot doctor dropped by, spotted the flail lung and put him in intensive care, saving his life. In ICU, he was diagnosed with liver cancer  and contracted a flesh eating disease  (that almost killed him as well. Then he had to quit drinking, a virtual impossibility, and find a liver donor (also hard for an old drunk) to get a transplant. All of this news was spread out over the next several months. I was a wreck, getting news every couple of weeks or so that he was on his deathbed. My wife wouldn’t let me go visit him – she thought I might be tempted to kill him. I wouldn’t have done it, although I might have yelled at  him a bit hoping it gave him a heart attack or something.  I went to the cancer centre for these relaxation groups for family members. Blessedly, they didn’t make you say anything so I didn’t have to say I wasn’t actually hoping he’d survive. Then my mother, who had left the bastard a few months prior, moves back in with him to nurse him through his transplant and I was afraid she was going back permanently. She didn’t and recruited my abusers’ sisters to take second shift. She noted that they went as a pair, so neither would be alone with him. The family really pulled together to save his life, which felt like a slap in the face.

What seems like divine intervention to me (Goddess only knows why) is the following:

  • Death rate from .4 blood alcohol – unknown but high
  • Death from serious car accident – unknown but high
  • Death from flail lung = 50% mortality
  • Death rate for Liver cancer over 5 years =94% mortality rate
  • Death rate from flesh eating bacteria = 73% mortality rate

Why are the Gods keeping this guy alive these past 5 or so years against all these odds? To give him more time to suffer (I approve) , give him more time to get to remorse (he’ll live forever…) or to give me time to prepare? I’ve been banking on at least the last one.

You can see now why I’m expecting him to die any time now. Particularly as he’s had a recurrence last summer and still smokes and drinks.

So anyways, tonight I’m going to sing. I’ve lost almost 20 lbs of camoflage so far and I’ve mailed a brave letter to my mother. One day soon I’m going to set up a sword dance lesson with the teacher I researched.

I can do this.

This is a song I wrote several years ago:

When the world is full of pain, and there’s no way you can stop it.
The truth’s a bitter shame, and the holy has been stolen.

When there’s no safe place to go and there is no-one safe to love
And you have to hide your face to survive.

Remember, there’s no reason to go on, but you must.
The world makes no damn sense but you go and live there anyway
When you remember, there’s no reason, maybe no hope and no reward, go on living, loving, hoping anyway.

I thought my courage to survive was all I’d ever need,
but the world I re-emerged to I could no longer believe.
When you’ve seen the very worst there is the greatest feat of all is to

Remember, there’s no reason to go on, but you do.
The world makes no damn sense, but you go and live there anyway.
When you remember there’s no reason, maybe no hope and no reward,
but go on living, loving, hoping anyway.

(Copyrighted material (C) 1991 All rights reserved. You can quote it but always credit the source.)

Photocredit: Ecstaticist on flickr
Photocredit: Ecstaticist on flickr

It begins

guess this is a small taste of what it will be like when I finally hear that my dad is finally dying.

It is way too early in the morning. I am holding myself back from going into flashbacks, feeling/seeing my father running up the stairs behind me, looming viscerally behind me as a I write.

Today is the day my mother will get the letter I sent. To paraphrase my friend Butterfly, who counts the reasons why you shouldn’t screw kids, this is the reason why why child rapists are abominations. I know the word ‘abomination’ gets used too lightly, to describe gay people or people who violate religious holiness rules for eating or clothing. The word as I am using it now means something like putrefaction, rotting flesh and violent death, the flayed soul of Voldemort with a side order of acrid and foul smell, and it just begins to describe the edge of the horror and sacrilege against Life Herself of men who rape their children, who rape any children.

This morning I wake up too early thinking that I don’t have enough money to continue therapy (I probably do), that my mother will commit suicide by car accident when she reads my letter (she probably won’t), that ‘oh THAT is why I ate so much chocolate yesterday and wondered if I was PMSing’ (again) and why I’ve been feeling like my marriage might be ending.

My wife has chronic pain, and chronic sleeplessness, and is understandably quite cranky and fussy, alternating with a kind of shut-off stoicism. This has bee going on for about five years.  Most of the fun things we used to do together are off the menu, and what’s worse, she wasn’t doing much to solve the problem so there was no end in sight. The acupuncture/traditional Chinese medicine is helping her, and because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels safe to experience how hopeless I’ve been feeling about my future with her. We were just married 2 years ago, and have been together for eight, and I’m stuck between two things that hurt too much to face square-on –  the idea of divorcing and the idea of spending the rest of my life like this. Perhaps this is another part of the inner me that is emerging to sunshine from winter, this awareness of a bit of pain I had frozen since I thought it had to be ignored.

How do I separate all that from the growing feeling of doom that my mother will be reading and reacting to the letter today?  I don’t. It’s all of a piece.

How do I protect myself over the next week? I’ll be screening my calls. My mother will just have to deal with her reaction to this on her own, and I’ll have to fight the urge to look after her, to retract, I tell myself firmly. I’ve got enough to deal with. I told my wife I could use a little extra TLC this week and why, and she told me the best she can do right now is stay away from me, since she’s just unable to not be cranky. I forgive her, because I believe she’s in as much pain as she says she is, but thinking of it brings tears to my eyes.  She’s not a survivor. I’m seeing a survivor friend tonight who does get it and I’ll be busy today.   That will have to be enough comfort. I’ve made do with less.

I re-read my last post about the emerging sprout and it gave me hope. The Goddess is helping me wash away what is already dead, and nourishing what is holy and intimate, soulful and good, with rich moist soil and gentle sunshine. Even in my panic, I know She is there.

Against that certainty, I have the cold, resigned stillness that is my standard way of coping, the antithesis of the sprout. I realized I have gone cold not because I could feel it, but because of the picture that I was drawn to to go with this post, a stone grave-angel. Martina McBride has a song about a concrete angel that fits the picture and feeling as well. [video] [lyrics]

Goddess, grant me Serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference. Blessed be.

Maiden Revisited

I was at a women’s spirituality conference last weekend. It was my first time in awhile attending anything to do with my religion/spirituality in several years, so is another part of me stepping out.

One of the workshops I took part in was on dreams and movement. I brought in my dream about the Goddess selecting plants and worked with it. The exercise was that we split into groups of three. One woman was the Maiden, one was Mother, one was Crone. The maiden’s job was to silently act out their dream, explore it through movement. The mother was to copy her movements, mirror them. The crone held the space. When it was my turn to be maiden I acted out the dream, first in the role of the Goddess, spritzing plants to expose what was healthy in them, planting the healthy ones in arrangements.

Then I shifted perspective on my dream and became one of the seeds. I started curled up on the floor, a seed, slowly awakening, unfolding, really being in the dream, being the seed sending out first one seed-leaf and then the other into the light of the Goddess.

Photocredit: Miracle Moods
Photocredit: Miracle Moods

You need to understand that this was a safe, sacred space I was doing this in, which had been blessed by women singing multifaith sacred songs, dancing and drumming. I felt open and safe to really let myself experience this moment.

As I reached my leaves up to the light I felt welcomed by a loving Mother in the world, and the contrast with how I’d actually felt as an infant and child made me cry with gratitude at the warmth and love I felt from the Goddess on my emerging little embryonic self.

The woman who was holding crone during my dream-acting, wrote the most beautiful poem about my ‘dance’. She described the tears as dew collecting on the new plant. I hadn’t told iether of the women about what my dream was and her poem made it clear she’d understood it perfectly, without any words.

It felt like a blessing from the Goddess on this re-emergence of my most sacred and authentic self, this little green sprout in the sunlight, with deep rich soil and warm weather.

Today is the day after I mailed my letter to my mother. She won’t have received it yet, I reassure myself. I don’t have to panic till Monday or Tuesday now. I found an earlier version of the letter, cleaning up today. I’m glad I didn’t send that version, but it was good to read it again, to be reassured that it really is as serious as I am treating it, what she did.

I will protect my Self, allow her to bask in the warm sunshine, allow her to grow. It’s scary to be this new, this vulnerable. It is an act of will to allow myself to be blessed.

Phtotocredit: Adam Chamnes
Phtotocredit: Adam Chamnes

The Mother

800px-mafate_marla_solar_panel_dsc00633Today I threw the switch to turn on a 9 kW photovoltaic (solar) power array. I have done something good in the world. I am a proud mother.

Yesterday night I was thinking about my own mother, and what to do about the non-contact I’ve imposed on our relationship. [Spoiler: I like the end of this post the best, so if you get bogged down in me whining about my mother, just skip it.]

My mother was likely aware that my father was sexually abusing me throughout my childhood, and when she ‘officially’ found out when I was 18 declared right away that she believed me. However, she did not leave my father over it. The shame, grief and betrayal I have felt over that fact, that a major crime against her daughter (and really all women and children) wasn’t sufficient for my mother to be willing to endure the hardship of divorce or separation, has been persistent and heavy.

My mother is now separated from my father, which she clearly states was because he was a bad husband, not because he raped me. (Although surely, raping your children makes a man a bad husband?)

My mother is anxious, dependent and scattered. She relies heavily on my younger brother for all her decision making and loves to be waited upon. She connives to be fussed over using the same tactic as some men use when feigning helplessness in the face of laundry or a diaper. She provides steady pressure on me to be a close and affectionate daughter, to visit her, fuss over her, pamper her for mothers’ day etc… She is a paradox, a feminist activist who could not leave her own rapist husband, a woman who can run for city council but could not figure out how to stand on her own.

I cannot stomach it. A mother who condones the rape of her daughter by staying is no mother at all. I will not give her her maternal due. She birthed me and taught me, diapered me and (some of the time) fed me, but this one betrayal, it seems, cancels all those other debts.

However, I used to be a therapist, and know that it is pointless to cut off one’s relatives, for the issues they present will just show up in other ways. My father is a special case, I think. Only someone deep in denial or striving for some kind of misguided sainthood would associate willingly with a man who had raped her. One needs to draw the line somewhere.

Harriet Lerner, the author and family systems therapist, says two things I like. One is that the antidote to shame is being open about what one is ashamed of. I am starting to do that by letting more and more of my friends know that I am a survivor.

Bohr Atom Model - if the electron moves into a smaller orbit, electromagnetic energy is released. Conversely if the atom absorbs a lot of energy, the electron jumps to a larger orbit.
Bohr Atom Model - if the electron moves into a smaller orbit, electromagnetic energy is released. Conversely if the atom absorbs a lot of energy, the electron jumps to a larger orbit.

The second thing is that distance stores energy. When I am separate from my mother, I feel less anxious, and if I move closer to her, that anxiety stored in the distance will be released and I will feel it. The more anxiety there is, the more energy is released by even a small change in distance, such as moving from not talking at all to writing post cards on a regular basis. This is similar to the energy stored in the electron orbits of an atom, where enormous amounts of heat is released when an electon moves into a closer orbit around the central proton core.

I have decided to write her a letter or two. Lerner says that the way to change an intrenched pattern in a relationship is to state clearly who one is, without blaming,  firmly and while staying connected. I don’t know if I can do that. My relationship with my mother confuses me so much it is hard to know where and who I am around her, which is part of what I hate so much about being in her presence.  Perhaps I will tell her a bit about how my life was during those 14 years I had no family, between the time I ‘came out’ about the abuse and began healing and when she separated from my abuser. Perhaps that will be a way to start.

The Mother I replaced my fragile, weak mother with provided me a support I could not have lived without. When I was 19 and grieving for the theft of my innocence and family by my father, She was the Ocean I stood by witnessing my howls and holding the huge pain while I let it flow. Ocean was the mother I brought my art therapy clay sculptures of parts of the abuse to, for Her to dissolve and purify. Ocean was the place I could go home to, where I could lay and listen to the sound of my Mother’s heartbeat in the waves.

My real Mother was the spruce tree in my elementary school yard with a little hollow underneath where I could sit and look at her green, fragrant branches. Just seeing Her calmed me, allowed me to cope with the teasing from other kids for being teary-eyed, ‘easily’ upset, and different.

My Mother was the grove of poplars at the end of my street I would tell my day to by standing very still and gazing up at them on my way home from high school. I grieved for them when they were cut.

DSCF0619My real Mother was the tall deciduous and ancient trees on the campus of the university I attended,  which I could look up to and calm myself, feel heard and understood without saying a word. My mother was the Air between their branches and the roots of these aunties and mothers beneath my feet.

My Mother was the heart of the flowers I looked at every day for weeks one summer after a bad heart break, when I bicycled across town to the beach. I would walk down the stone stairway to the beach from the forest and see a large bed of flowers. Always, every day, one would be gazing it’s petalled face directly at me and I would feel comforted, that there was one being in the world that was looking for me, that saw me. I would walk to the beach and lay on my towel in the sun and let the heat soothe me, till I felt warm and comforted. I would then walk into the ocean and immerse myself, letting the salt water wash my father out of me, wash the psychic and emotional grime from my body and soul. Then I would dry myself in the sun for awhile and immerse myself again, purified by sun and salt and water, fire and earth and water and air.

My Mother now is the trees that surround my house and street. She is in the Crone waiting to accept and transform the dead and dying in the large compost bin I have in my yard. She is my grandmother’s piano, the labrynth-patterned rug I was married on in my living room. My Mother is always with me.

My Mother is my own strong Self who holds me when I face the worst of what happened to me, my self-mother in my therapy sessions who reminds me I am safe, and urges me to do the right thing, to speak truth, to be loyal to myself, to face the grief and pain and let it flow through me and from me.

This woman who insists she is my mother, is no longer my Mother.

She has been replaced.

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