Grief and Fierce Self-Love

So, things are still rough with my wife. I was at a practice for the choir I sing with and during the vocal warm up for freaking sake I started crying and had to leave the room to calm down. Then I came back and during the first song we practiced (which was a sad one about the loss of a loved one…) I started crying and couldn’t stop, literally couldn’t stop. I’m pretty good, as I expect most survivors are, at squashing down feelings and going numb, but literally could not stop crying. I had to run out of the room and sob in the bathroom. My friend followed me and gave me a hug and held me as I cried. It took several long minutes to calm down enough to go back in.

Interestingly, I was out of the woods a few minutes later when that same friend asked me to dance with her during one of the other songs. She and I will likely do some choreography during this specific song so we were practicing it. Moving my body in this way got me out of whatever groove my brain had gotten into. I’m all in favour of grieving when you need to, but normally am able to postpone grief until I’m in an acceptable place to cry.

The grief I’m feeling about my marriage is really deep and as is frustratingly usual, I don’t actually understand fully what I’m crying about. Generally I don’t get this information until after I’ve really let the feelings out, which can be hard to surrender to, but seems to be the way I work. It’s another part of my feelings being dissociated from the information about it I guess. I’ve been crying on average once a day since then, which was about a week ago.

What I can put together is this: My wife has been my person, for the last 10 years, who will physically be there for me in the night, and physically hold me when I have a nightmare or need to cry. She’s gotten to be adequate at this over time, although my waterworks isn’t something she gets intuitively, unfortunately. Now that we’re sleeping apart about half the time, I don’t have this body comfort any more. I have a lot less touch in my life, something I really need a lot of. Her not wanting to have sex with me any more is something I really grieve, I crave that kind of intense physical intimacy with someone who loves me. This is not something that is easily replaced. I don’t even really have that with her anymore on the rare occasions we have sex now.

There is something that is so deeply accepting and shame reducing about an intensely intimate physical connection with someone who I love and who loves me. It’s something I really crave. Casual sex isn’t going to do it, and it will be a long time before I’m even ready to find someone else that I can have this with.

There is this central theme in the Harry Potter books, of which I am a fan, that Harry is spared a lot of damage from the abuse by his aunt, uncle and cousin by the spell his mother invoked, of loving him so much she gave her life to protect him. I was thinking about this today, and though I have no-one else’s love to immunize me from pain and psychological harm, I do have my own self-love. It seems to be my duty to learn to love myself as fiercely and loyally as I can.

My wife is out of town for a few days and I’m happy she’s gone. It gives me some psychological space to grieve fully. I’m finding myself hibernating from everyone.

Today, it is probably no accident that I forgot about my piano lesson. I am kind of relived I did, as I don’t think I could have played the piano without crying either. Perhaps that’s what I’ll do over the holidays, concentrate on loving myself and making music to clear out all this pain and grief. Surely there must be an end to it if I let it flow, that seems to be how it works.

To all of you in grief this December, I send my solidarity. May you love yourself fiercely.

SDW

‘Mother’s day’ song for mother complicit in child abuse

I did end up writing a song,. about the hypocrisy of my mother expecting me to celebrate mother’s day, to give her her motherly due, when she was an accessory after the fact to me being raped and seriously wounded as a child by my father and then lied to me about it. The recording was intended to have a cool bossa feel, where an emotional song is sung with a cool bell-like delivery. It was done on my phone, with the soundcloud  app, so it isn’t perfect but you get the feel.

Maravilhosa Ipanema - Gold Istant
"Maravilhosa Ipanema - Gold Istant" Creative Commons licence, click on image for source
Here are the lyrics:

Mothers day
Mother stay
Mother, hey won’t you help me
Father’s night

There’s no way
to escape
blood ‘relations’
without a fight

Somethings are too much
to explain
like the pain
tearing your body apart
or the eyes that don’t see
look at me, mother
bleeding
first right, of kings.**

Mother’s day
now you say
‘didn’t see it’
in the night
hitting hard
ripping open a child
giving scars from one side to the other
the eyes that don’t see
look at me, mother
bleeding
first rite

Mother’s day
what you say is a lie
there’s no way
I will play
this game on
Mother’s day.

[**this is a reference to the feudal practice where the king had the right to rape any bride in his territory on her wedding night, who was presumed to be a virgin prior to that.]

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 – 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.

My Older Brother

Photocredit: H KoppDelaney
Photocredit: H KoppDelaney

A few weeks back I called my older brother, and left a phone message. I want to talk to him about some stuff to do with my father dying and also to ask him for information about the first house we lived in. However, we’re somewhat estranged, which started happening around the time I started being in relationships with women. I’ve seen him once since my wedding two years ago, which was the first time he’d met my wife, who I’d already been with for several years prior to that. He claims he’s not homophobic, which in Canada is considered almost as bad as being racist and would get him a lot of flack in my family. Nice to have their support in that, anyways.

So yesterday I was having a good day in general, in part due to my new meditation practice. I’m finding my skills at ignoring intrusive thoughts and images on the survivor front stand me in good stead at staying focussed on my breath in meditation. It’s nice these skills are good for something else! I got an email from my brother saying that he didn’t seem to have my correct phone number and had deleted my phone message, so could I send him my number. I replied with all my phone numbers. On the way to my therapist  a couple of hours later, I realized I was nauseated. I put on a ‘sea band’ I happened to have around and continued on to my appointment. I was a bit early and sat outside on a bench enjoying the day, I realized I was weepy and could not for the life of me figure out why. Not my time of the month, nothing else going on.

Well of course it turned out to be a reaction to my brother’s email – grief at missing him, being touched he was intending to call me back. How starved for family regard am I, that an email from my brother and the suggestion he might want to speak with me makes me weep with comfort and recognition of loss.  Funny how the body knows before the mind does.

We talked over what I would say to him, and came up with some strategies when we speak on the phone. My fall back is to ask him about his kids, which is a nice safe topic, and then talk about my work and renovating the house. If I get an opening, I’ll ask him how he’s doing with our father being so ill. Later on, probably only if we meet in person, I’ll talk to his wife, and explain to her that I’d like some time alone with him to talk about some family history stuff and ask for her support. Now that I write that, I’m sure that she won’t give us time alone together (she tends to include herself in these things and then do all the talking, which means I don’t hear from my brother), but maybe that’s okay. I could at least point out that I’d really like to hear his perspective, which might keep her from butting in.  

I’m also making up index cards with things I want to accomplish in my life that I feel like I procrastinate on and putting on each card what’s ‘juicy’ or passionate for me about each thing. The idea of that part is to try and do whatever will get me in contact with the juicy part of the activity as soon as possible. Then I’m going to order them according to what I feel like doing that day, or what is most important to me. So far, it seems to be moving something. I did vocal exercises, practiced the piano and meditated so far this morning. I seem to be a bit unstuck. Yay!

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.

Back in the saddle

Photocredit: "the magic of horses" by Big Grey Mare
Photocredit: "the magic of horses" by Big Grey Mare

I’ve been getting weekly massages and had one today. It’s amazing how nice and unusual being more relaxed than usual is.

Last night I made some good progress on writing a song to go with Oniongirl’s words (with her permission) and I’m really happy with it. I’ve got to get the guitar part a bit more nailed down, and I’d like to have multiple voices on it, but the bones are there. Yay.

I’m going to be rehearsing with my friend the guitarist tonight. My voice isn’t quite recovered from the cold, but I should be able to manage. I was worried I was losing creative momentum but it seems to have bounced back.

Yesterday night my wife did a really nice thing. She got out her guitar (we took beginners guitar lessons together last year) and together we played an easy song or two. Then she faded into the kitchen to cook something and left me at it. Once I had my guitar out and tuned, it was so much easier to keep going and I ended up having a good time working on my song, organizing repertoire and rehearsing and not watching tv for once.

She’s the kind of person that when she’s sick I can’t say “you should take some vitamin c, or an aspirin or whatever”, she won’t do it, but if I put it in her hand and hand her a glass of water she’ll swallow it down. That’s kind of what she did for me last night. I guess living together for 8 years teaches a person something about how another person works.

We’re getting along better, still sniping from time to time, but more affection and kindness too. Last night we cooked dinner together, chopping veggies and stirring and singing along to nice folk music. Last night she stroked my hair while she read a book in bed, which has come to be a kind of nice bedtime routine.

All in all, things are good. The sun is shining, I bought tomato and squash plants for my garden, and all is well with the world.

Songs to dance on an abusers grave to

The concept of dancing on your abusers’ grave seems to have some resonance for survivors I’ve talked to. Not all of us are of Scottish heritage, or even interested in learning the sword dance or Ghillie Callum used for this purpose.

For those of you lucky enough to have dead abusers with graves ripe for dancing, I thought I’d provide a list of suggested songs. Perhaps between this and the comments we can come up with a nice long list.

  • Flinty Kind of Woman – Dar Williams – this upbeat country song tells the story of a bunch of upscale New England matrons garrotting an attempted child molester in a bog.
    “Going east of Mississippi got a flinty kind of woman And you don’t act smart and you don’t touch my children If the young man wants to see the sun go down” Here’s another sample (the words are great)
    “And by the “Welcome to New England” sign
    Got him with the fishing line
    In the dark smell of brine
    Betty said “This one is mine.”
    She is ruthless ”
    Here’s a link to the lyrics: http://darwilliams.net/music/tabs/flinty.html
  • Independence Day – Martina McBride – story from a grown child’s perspective of her mom burning down the house to kill herself and her batterer.
    The Chorus:
    “Let freedom ring,
    let the white dove sing
    let the whole world know that
    Today is a day of reckoning
    let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
    roll the stone away, let the guilty pay, its independence day.”
    Click here to watch the video
  • Concrete Angel – Another Martina McBride Song – more a grieving song about an abused child who died.
    “Through the wind and the rain,
    She stands hard as a stone in a world that she can’t rise above;
    But her dreams give her wings and she flies to a place where she’s loved.
    Click here for full lyrics
    View video here
  • Goodbye Earl – Dixie Chicks – the story of two best friends who kill the battering spouse of one of the women after he disregards a restraint order and get away with it.
    Well she finally go the nerve to file for divorce, she let the law take it from there.  But Earl walked right through that restraining order, and put her in intensive care. Right away Mary Anne flew in from Atalnta, on a red eye midnight flight. She held Wanda’s hand as they worked out a plan and it didn’t take long to decide that Earl had to die.”
    Click here to watch the video – worth it to watch the gleeful dancing when he dies Celebrative and upbeat. Good for a grave-dancing.
  • Testimony by Ferron – not super overt, but about strength among women after sexual assault, very pretty.
    ” But by my life be I spirit
    And by my heart be I woman
    And by my eyes be I open
    And by my hands be I whole”
    Click here for full lyrics

I don’ t have any good incest survivor pride songs yet, but maybe you have one.

One’s own nature

Photocredit: Ricmcarthur
Photocredit: Ricmcarthur - "Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures."~Henry Ward Beeche

I made music last night with a guitarist I’m now working with. We worked on some covers and one original song from each of us.

I brought my most successful song, a song with no survivor content, about euphemisms for the word vagina/vulva. I’ve performed it many times, and gotten a lot of approval for it, so it’s ‘safe’.

I don’t really have any others that I like that aren’t about being a survivor. One of the hardest things for me about being an artist/songwriter/writer (not by any stretch my whole identity or even my job), is that that topics that have my passion are the ones that are at least coloured by my experiences as a survivor.

I believe it’s important work, to say the things that need to be said about being a survivor, in ways that are passionate or beautiful enough to overcome people’s discomfort with the topic and help them understand. However, it’s not easy work, and it exposes me when I share it.

It’s a bit like being a vocalist.

When I was in music school (A college program, I dropped out after first year) I found every one of the other vocalists in the bathroom crying at least once. It’s because using the voice as an instrument is so personal. Playing another instrument can be emotional, but the voice is one’s body, and there’s no separation between the self and the music if you’re doing it right.

My throat is still sore and I’ve got a wicked ear ache, but I was able to sing a bit.

This guy I’m collaborating with is great. He’s a good guitarist and seems passionate about it.  I like the songs he writes. He’s married, and I met him and his wife through some lesbian friends, one of whom is his ex. Since he’s still on good terms with her and has met my wife, I’m pretty confident that he’s fine about the lesbian thing, which is nice to have nailed down.

However, it’s a bit of a reach to sing the vagina song with him, let alone songs about being an incest survivor. Perhaps the ‘anyway‘ song that doesn’t mention it overtly. I really am going to have to learn to play the guitar.

It was harder than usual to find a picture to go with this post. What I found was incomplete somehow. I think that’s because I don’t understand what’s going on well enough to have a metaphor for it yet. Perhaps I’ll add another picture later when I do.

Unhiding continued

So I didn’t go and make music this week. The sore throat won. However I did compile a bunch of lyrics and listen to a lot of songs that my musical colleague wants to do, and prepared a chart of an original song we’re going to work on together. I kept going. I also practiced my guitar, enough that the calluses on my fingers are starting to come back.

Photocredit: Martin LaBar on Flickr
(See the ant? I think of this picture as 'baby steps amid passion') Photocredit: Martin LaBar on Flickr

So, not leaping wildly out of the hiding space, but still moving. Baby steps.

I’m not long on persistence when it comes to things for me, particularly things I want desperately. I have no patience with suffering for long periods, holding on and hoping for things to get better, for people to change. All that has failed me spectacularly. It takes enormous faith, now to keep going when progress is slow or things get frustrating. The anxiety of waiting is a lot to bear.

So continuing with the baby steps in the face of obstacles is a good thing.

I still haven’t heard anything from my mother. Which is a good thing, I guess. I’m thinking, slowly, about what I’m called to do with my life, trying things on in my head like a new sweater, putting it on and checking it out in the mirror.

My wife is the best clothes shopping ally. She tells me when something makes my butt look good, or is too tight and doesn’t flatter me, even if I’ve fallen in love with the colour or fabric. She says if it doesn’t delight me, there’s no point buying it, even if it’s on sale. I almost always find something I feel, if not beautiful, at least respectable in when I go shopping with her. Without her, I almost never find anything for my atypically sized body.

I need a little support, a way to reinforce the small voice that knows the truth inside me. Sometimes writing will do it, rarely a friend will be able to get inside my strange and beautiful brain to hold a mirror to my ideas. Sometimes my wife will do it – she’s particularly good with business problems and telling me my work is valuable and worth every penny.

Encouragement is so important, being understood is so important and a little goes a long way. That’s one thing we miss out on as survivors when we ‘pass’ for non-survivors, the sense that someone knows and understands, that our reations and feelings are normal given the circumstances. It is only in community with one another that I understand this in my bones. I’m very grateful.

Small Steps
Small Steps

In a cold and northern town

[A song in progress – celtic/folk story ballad feel. Key of D major]

In a cold and northern town, the days are short and the nights are long
A little girl grew up alone, surrounded by her family

When she was five years old she didn’t know that daddy’s weren’t allowed
She thought a monster’d come to kill her, (I) guess that’s what it was

A father owns his daughter, while not exactly true
was true enough to keep her enslaved and him free to abuse.

And now she dances a sword, atop his grave so fresh
And she dances victory, to drive away his cruel ghost

[Bridge]

She cried at school until they teased her, bad crybaby, should grow up
She never heard she had a right to tell, or even
what to call it
when the monster called

And when in hospital he lay, they tried to save his life,
they got him into treatment, he got nursing from his wife.

And now she dances a sword dance, atop the monsters grave
And she dances victory and she is proud and she is brave

Her grandpa died when she was 12, her mother told her later
if he had known he’d have slayed that monster, he would have saved her

Her grandmamar, the monster’s mother, bravely faced the truth
She listened to her grown grand-daughter
and gave her back her family

Her Scots ancestors danced over
crossed swords  before battle to prove their hearts

Danced over their slain foes, to celebrate,
to keep vengeful spirits in their grave.

So now she dances a sword, atop his grave so fresh
and she dances victory, to seal his cruel ghost

So now she calls her fierce ancestors, to take his soul away
that never may he trouble her, in night or in the day, oh.

And now she dances a sword, atop his grave in victory
And she dances binding
to seal his cruel ghost.

And now she calls her fierce ancestors, to take the monster’s soul away
that he may trouble her no more, in night  or in the day

And may they trouble us no more
the men who try to rape/take our souls
and may we outlive them all!
and dance upon their graves!

[Note about men as abusers – The following are all true: most sexual abusers are men, women abuse children sexually too, boys get abused too, I have many men I love and who are my allies. I refer to abusers as men in my writing because that is my reality. Your mileage may vary, and that’s fine. If you’re against child sexual abuse, that’s all we need to be allies.]