New Year Resolution

Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr
Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr

So last Saturday I saw my ex girlfriend (Kitten) and her new girlfriend at the bar. It was no big deal. For those who don’t know the back story, she was my partner for 5 months and we broke up mid September. She reminded me a lot of my father / abuser, thankfully not in the sociopath rapist ways. She’s the first person I’ve dated who had so many profound superficial and deep similarities with him that I saw and recognized it as a gift, since it could not possibly be coincidence.

Okay, I’m going to get all Wiccan and spiritual on you here. If that’s not your thing, I won’t be offended. Continue reading New Year Resolution

New Year – Releasing, Banishing and Blessing


Yesterday I did a ritual of blessing and letting go with one of my friends. We both practice the same religion but hadn’t done any ceremony together before. It was her idea to burn things we wanted to let go of before we go into the new year, and to eat a dinner of black eyed peas and greens ( a southern US prosperity blessing practice).

I burnt three things. The first was a shield I’d made of paper, early into my healing journey. At the time, I was living alone and having night fears and flashbacks almost nightly. At the time I called them monsters. Come evening time, it was like I was haunted by anxiety and the sense that something was stalking me over my shoulder. I would be afraid to look around or to focus much attention on it, for fear the ‘monster’ would come closer.  Because most of my abuse happened at night in my bedroom, going to bed was particularly hard for me, and, although I didn’t know it, I was having memory fragments of the fear I experienced as a child and teen, waiting to see if my abuser would come down the hall to my bedroom and enter to abuse me or if he would pass my room by and go to bed. Since before he would abuse me he would usually use the bathroom across the hall from my room, I had come to associate bathrooms with bad things happening as well. However, I hadn’t had enough time and support to put all this together yet at that point, so all I knew was the fear.

I had created the shield with all of the sacred elements pictured on it, and posted it on my door as a warding to keep the monsters out. That, combined with some other ritual I did at the time, like writing down my fears in bed before sleeping, keeping a jar by my bed in case I was too scared to get up and go into the bathroom at night, and bringing a candle with me to bed so I didn’t have to walk across a dark bedroom, helped keep the monsters manageable until I could process more of the memory fragments. When I moved, that shield came down and didn’t go back up again in my new place, but I’ve kept if for the 20 some years since.

I burned it yesterday because there are no longer monsters waiting for me outside my bedroom door, and if fear fragments from my past emerge, I can name them and deal with them directly. I thanked the shield for protecting me and let that energy go.

The second thing I  burned was a journal from 2003. At that time, I was living with a roommate who bullied me. She had been asked to leave the house, but in the two weeks before she would actually leave, I stayed with a friend because I no longer felt safe at home. This woman, I’ve realized recently, was very similar to both my father and my recent other partner, so it felt fitting to burn my account of freeing myself of her at the same time I am freeing my self of my ex. I do not have to be connected with people who enjoy hurting others.

Also in the journal at the time my father/abuser was in the hospital after a serious car accident, and while there he had been diagnosed with cancer, which they were treating. My family rallied around to nurse him back to help, which felt like such a betrayal, and lessened my ability to deal with the abusive roommate. I now have no contact with my family and have many more people in my life who know my story.

Flipping through the pages, I came across a description I wrote after waking at 5 am to cry over the fact that my girlfriend (now wife), who I had been with three years at this point, was losing her sex driving in menopause, something she thought was only temporary and I should be patient with. Ten years later, we’ve resolved this issue, although in a completely unexpected way, by me having additional partners, something that has completely transformed and blessed our relationship.

I wrote at the time about feeling politically alienated from the queer community, because as a survivor of misogynist violence, my needs are different, and the most  important (only) gender issue for me is expanding power and equality for women for the purpose of protecting ourselves and children from misogynous sociopaths like my father.  When people wish to do away with the concept of ‘woman’ completely, it feels like they are trying not to create equality, but to make women and our struggles invisible.  This issue had come up for me that day in a queer poly group I have been dipping my toe into, that I was concerned would have a rigidly lockstep political stance on these issues.  Instead of being silenced, I spoke out, and got reassurance that my perspective would not be shut down from one of the moderators. Afterward, I re-read yesterday on my blog  a post where I had a wonderful comment exchange with Michelliana ( a woman of trans experience) about the conflict of trans needs and survivor needs. I realized how healing this simple, thoughtful, vulnerable exchange had been for me. All of these things have been ongoing issues in my life, and in the past ten years, all have transformed. It’s good to let that energy burn off and be released.

The last thing I have some mixed feelings about. I burned a bunch of nitrile gloves. As a Pagan, doing something so polluting was a dumb idea in sacred space (or anywhere) and I thought afterward that I could have just cut them to bits with scissors and put them in the garbage. The gloves had been purchased as safe sex supplies by an ex-girlfriend, and barely used. I had requested that she wear gloves, which provide a smoother surface and prevent fingernails and rough hands from irritating my skin, and so make it less likely that I’ll have a flare-up of the inflammatory skin condition I have around my vulva resulting from the assaults. She didn’t like the gloves that I preferred for this purpose and had bought her own, in a rough material and size so large it was wrinkly, causing more discomfort than the ungloved hand would have. They represented that selfishness and lack of empathy and caring that I don’t want to see again in a partner. This was the only thing I burned that was a true banishing, a releasing of something that disgusted me to see and which  I was glad to see the back of. The smoke clung to me afterward, and today I find myself with a headache. I would like to find a way to think about that toxic smoke amid my relief to have them truly gone, to have her truly gone from inside me as well. Perhaps it is reminding me that getting rid of something toxic leaves a residue, and it’s best to avoid those things completely in future, and not rely on my strength to withstand and clean up the damage later. When we are very hungry, it is tempting to take the food that is offered, despite the toxins in contains. It is important to ensure I never get that hungry again.

I think today, I will focus on blessing myself, my life and the people I love, on nourishing myself. Going forward, I will pay attention to my hunger, and figure out a strategy for meeting my needs without accepting toxic people into my life or at least removing them immediately.

May your 2014 be blessed. As my friend Kate says, “Good and Healing Thoughts to You.”

Herne’s blessings – vulva healing and sexuality

Surprize! Getting the inflammation in my vulva down to a dull roar did not instantly fix my sex life.

Surprize! Struggling while trying to restore my vulva to the state the Goddess intended for it brings up unexpected daddy issues.

Surprize! The God makes a reappearance.

Surprize!  People can be exceptionally kind sometimes when you let them see you. Continue reading Herne’s blessings – vulva healing and sexuality

Unveiling

Fly me to the Mooooon...
One of the things that is complicated about the polyamory community is our strange inability to talk about our love lives, since everyone we know that is poly is likely to be webbed up in some way with whomever we want to talk about.

For example: I’ve been on three dates recently. All women are really nice, but there are some caveats and I seem to be hesitating with all of them. I don’t want to be caught in not acting, but am inclined to take time to digest things when I’m uncertain.

Anyhow, two of these woman are quite connected in the poly community so I can’t talk about my dates with the two others by name or in detail with my poly women friends (who would get it) because they know these women, and if the haven’t dated them themselves at least might be dating a man who is. Nobody wants to gossip, which is good, but makes it hard to hash things out with your girlfriends. I can’t talk to my wife about it either, for good reasons as well.

One of the women is about 15 years younger than I and seems not to have a lot of time. Another is really nice and smart, has some shared values, and is attractive, but has a live in partner who smokes so their place reeks and makes me cough. He’s also quite a dominant guy, and I was sensing him doing some alpha pecking order stuff with me, which as you can imagine, aint gonna fly. I don’t accept male authority outside of work relationships, where who I defer to is based on knowledge or formal rank, and has a rational purpose. This guy is her primary partner, and I respect that. I’m willing to be polite, friendly and fair, but not deferential.

The third is a woman I like and respect that I’ve known peripherally (mostly through women’s workshops) for several years. Let’s call her Jane. She’s a very interesting and soulful woman, and I would have dated her long ago (or tried to) if I hadn’t been in a monogamous relationship at the time. She’s perhaps interested, but we haven’t formally broached the topic, although we’ve been spending time together. She has some of the qualities that drive me nuts in my wife, introverted, kinesthetic, reluctant to talk about feelings, discomfort with her own nudity. She also seems to have trouble setting boundaries with people who are imposing on her, again like my wife. Do I need two of these? On the other hand, she is a lot better at creating community and art than I am and I could really learn from her there. She is also pagan.

Here’s the important thing. Jane told me recently she’d had a dream about me after I’d told her that I was dedicated to Aphrodite (which I am). In her dream I embodied Aphrodite.

Okay, this is a really, really big deal. Dreams about Goddesses are not random things, and Aphrodite is quite a hands on Matron deity. The last woman I was with (independently of me telling her anything) felt a huge energetic connection with me that felt Goddess driven, and I think it was. It’s like some women are drawn to me as a priestess to learn something about love. My connection with that women (Let’s call her Amy) was really intense, and, it felt to me, Goddess driven. If Jane had an Aphrodite dream about me, it Means Something.

My take on life is that the Goddess(es) and Gods guide me – not by bossing me around, but by providing me resources to learn and do things I said I wanted to learn and do, like a mentor.

I have a fantasy where Jane and I become co-primaries and I spend part of my week with her and part with my wife. This woman has a very rich life in a nearby community, so I’d have to travel a short way to be with her, but it wouldn’t be onerous. I can see us having a lot to learn from one another, but I can also see places where she might drive me nuts.

Looking at the other women I’ve been on dates with, I think all of them could drive me nuts a little. Heck, my wife drives me nuts a little, although less so now that we’re poly.

What I hunger for is someone who can meet me. A woman who isn’t afraid to be naked and to dare, emotionally, physically, spiritually. I’m like Hermoine’s purse in the book the Deathly Hallows, a little clutch that was a warehouse inside. There are so few places to unfold.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Challion series has some spiritual concepts in it that I relate to strongly. I love her description of the relationships between her characters and various matron or patron Gods in it. It’s similar to how I experience my own relationship with Aphrodite and with the God as Stag. In her book she talks about how the Gods can only enter and act directly in the world through people who have developed the ability to open to them, usually through pain and loss. One of the characters describes how perhaps a hundred people had been set on a path toward a particular quest by the gods, and only he arrived. She talks about how the Gods most love the great-souled, but that becoming great-souled is the result of a lifetime of learning, opening and making choices.

Dragonfly in a tree; "Stained Glass Dragonfly"Since I’m relatively anonymous here, I’m going to risk looking arrogant or foolish or full of hubris here. I think I’ve earned a relatively large and open soul in my lifetime. What I most want is to feel it unfolded in ways that seem to be rare and few so far. It has opened through surrender to music, through the Aphrodisian albeit brief intimate connection with women like Amy, opened sometimes through writing, through mystical meditation and rare moments of connection with the Gods, or simply doing the right thing at the right time despite opposition.

Generally, I can’t open like that with someone who hasn’t experienced their own losses and grown from them. But people don’t wear that information on their sleeve, so it sometimes takes time to know. And some get overwhelmed with such large energies, in themselves or someone else, and close themselves up, like Amy did, at the moment things are most powerful and beautiful.

I’ve sworn I won’t obsess, but instead will envision the future and create it. In my future – I am unfolding my soul in places that have space to embrace it. I am finding more and more of those spaces. I am trusting my heart and my intuition, as well as my intelligence and experience. I am unfolding the wings I have kept closed to my side and learning to fly.

~ Tricks For Treats ~

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

Visit with older brother – is the abuser dead yet?

My older brother called me on the weekend and we got together to watch his kid play in a sporting event.

All in all it went well. He made an effort to connect, I brought my wife, and we were on his home turf in a way (watching his kid play) so he felt comfortable and we had an activity to distract us.

At the end we were chatting and he casually asked if our father had died yet, in the same ‘I don’t care about the evil bastard’ way I might have. It must have cost him something to ask. I liked that he asked in the way he did. I told him I’d thought he’d be the one to tell me, but that no-one had told me so he probably was alive. My aunt, at least would let me know.  I filled him in a bit on what I knew about what the other family were doing, which I know he appreciates.

It was very human, if you know what I mean, we had a reasonable connection.

He’s still apparently a perfectionist, and demanding on his sons for achievement, which he comes by honestly, since my mom put an enormous amount of pressure on him. If I ever get close enough to him to point it out, I’ll make the comparison, as I know that that pressure was something he told me was harmful when he was younger. Or I’ll leave well enough alone. He’s not without insight into his own stuff and must already know.

He’s a doctor, and he told me that he thinks someone must have been making some of the medical info about our father up, that he couldn’t have survived all the things we’d heard he’d had (.4 blood alcohol, flail lung, flesh eating disease, liver cancer, plus a recurrence of cancer) in combination.  This makes sense to me, but I can’t imagine why they would make it up? Maybe to make us feel sorry and visit him on his deathbed?  I said it seemed unbelievable to me too, especially after I’d looked up the average survival rates for each of these and calculated he should statistically been dead several times over.  I said if it’s true, then I’m going to live to 150, so that’s all right. He said he thought at some point he’d get a funeral invitation and find out that way.

I told him I think that since mom’s still married to our father, the cops would notify her since she’s next of kin. He said he hoped she wouldn’t inherit his debts, and I said I thought they had a legal separation, so maybe not. My brother  said that our other brother would probably inherit everything then, which was only fair since he was the one still in contact with the old bastard and I agreed. My younger brother would give it all to mom anyhow.

It was good to have a conversation like this with no pretense. I also got to be kind, to support him in rooting for his son, and to speak briefly with my nephew.

I should find out what the rules are for death notification. If my mom is legally separated, do the RCMP notify her or one of his other relatives when he dies? If someone knows, I hope you’ll leave a comment here.

The spiritual thing about this was that on Saturday, after I visited with him, I ran into a friend and got talking for some reason about my mom, she asked if I was back in touch, and I said no, she was dead to me. She already knew about the scars, so she got it.

Then on the Sunday I went swimming in the ocean with some friends. It was kind of impromptu, so we didn’t have bathing suits with us. In Canada it is legal for women to go topless anywhere that men can, so we swam topless to keep most of our clothes dry. It felt like a purification, to be swimming in salt water against my bare skin, not feeling at all ashamed of my less than slender, less than young body on a public beach.

Then the next day I get the call from my aunt about my mom. Interesting how it all came together. It’s kind of like when you finally let go of an ex girlfriend and flirt with someone new, and they sense it and call you up. People sense when the connections are severed, I think, energetically. If so, that’s good, because the connection with my mom does feel severed – when I said she is dead to me, I meant it. I wonder how this will affect how I read her letter.

semi-multiple identity moments

kids and 50mm 1.2
kids and 50mm 1.2 by limaoscarjuliet, on Flickr

Today I took the day off work (my hours are flexible) to have a ‘creativity day’. I had intended to practice my singing repertoire for my voice lesson tomorrow. I by early afternoon I hadn’t got to it yet, and couldn’t seem to. Finally I resorted to my journal.

It turns out my inner child got triggered by a funeral I went to this weekend for a coworker. His family were sincerely grieving and he was a genuinely good man. I cried a little too at the funeral and before, and supported one of my work-friends who was a lot closer to him and is in serious grief.

I thought emotionally, that was it for me that day, until today, when for some reason I just couldn’t make myself do what I’d planned to do with my day today, rehearse for my singing lesson tomorrow. Could not make myself do it. I was really resistant, like a tired toddler in a mall.

So I went through the usual suspects. Was I feeling shame? It was sort of like that but not exactly. An inner child thing? Bingo. I tried writing to her where I use my dominant hand and have her reply with my non-dominant hand, a technique for getting at unconscious stuff. From her responses, it turns out my inner kid was freaked out that I’d been talking trash about her daddy/abuser and was worried he’d come and attack her. I spent some time reassuring her that we were all right, that he didn’t care enough to come get us, and besides he already knows we told the police a long time ago and hasn’t done anything about it in all that time.

At this point my use of ‘we’ is freaking me out a little. Yes, my inner kid feels kind of like a different person, in that I only know how she is feeling by listening to my body and dialoguing with her. And yes, I am often surprised by what she says. So is she a separate personality? Perhaps, perhaps not. As far as I know, I don’t lose time to her, and my wife hasn’t noticed anything like that either. She’s ‘come out’ in therapy sessions, and I carefully think of her and describe her as my child self when that happens. I think I remember fully what gets said and done, but how would I know if I didn’t? I’ve never had a therapist label her as anything but my inner child.  It’s not out of the question, but I haven’t had any compelling evidence so far. I’m kind of agnostic about the whole thing. I respond to her as a separate child because it works at getting through these emotional roadblocks, and often I get information and access to feelings I wouldn’t have otherwise. So dissociative yes, dissociative identity disorder probably no.  She’s a part of me, stuck in that time, who holds information and feelings that for one reason or another aren’t yet integrated into conscious memory and awareness.

Back to my inner little girl. I decided that singing was not on for today and that she needed to feel safe, and mothered by me. I created sacred space (a Pagan thing, saying prayers that create a circular prayer area) and curled up with a blanket, which feels nurturing and safe, on the floor in my living room on a particularly nice carpet. I asked the Goddess and the God to protect me, and listened to what my inner kid had to say.

She was crying about my coworker and how he was good and dead and my dad/abuser is bad and not dead. I told her that our daddy is old and will die eventually, he must be over 70 now, and the most he could last is another 20 years, which of course  is far too much. I told her that daddy is a heavy smoker and drinker, and that’s got to knock some life off of him, so surely it won’t be that long.  She was worried he’d die and come get her spiritually, that he knows things that she thinks and would punish her, which is something I was afraid of as a child. She is mad and sad about my mother, who lied to us. I explained that even if he could come and haunt us, he wouldn’t because we just aren’t that important to him. He’s broken in the head and can’t love or care about anyone. I explained that she has me now to mother her, and I’ll always be with her, and that she also has the Goddess and God to love her.

The wording she uses is young, I’m not sure what age, but I just go with it and respond as if she is an external girl needing comfort and mothering. This connects me to the feelings, and they flow. I cry so hard and long that my dog comes and licks my face and offers me her belly to rub, then stands over me, looking solemn. Knowing she is there to guard me and watch for danger is comforting as well.

After the crying settles down she let me know that she wanted to go outside and get an ice cream. I decided to go with it, and went out and bought a nice big cone, and listened to an audiobook on my headphones while taking a walk to my favourite park. I framed it in my mind as nurturing her, being a good mommy to a child that had been scared and sad. The ice cream was delicious and the story felt like being read to as a child, something I loved. I spent time looking at the beautiful trees and walked home feeling a lot better.

Afterward, I feel more whole and could probably work on my music. When I was first healing I’d have a day like this where I was iether resisting, bargaining with or, eventually, comforting my inner kid a few times a week. Now it’s just once in a while, when something happens to trigger it. It’s a  familiar process, and it works. So much of my resistance used to be her digging in her heels and forcing me to stop working and look after myself. I wonder how much of it still is?

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:

What I’ve learned about happiness

I am a student of happiness right now. It started when I realized that I wasn’t actually happy. Nothing bad going on particularly, but not happy. That has changed.

Then I came across this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4Qm9cGRub0 and something in it clicked for me, about how I need to let people see me, people in my regular life ( you folks already usually get the straight deal).  She has this great quote: http://www.brenebrown.com/badge/ about being authentic. She says people are happier and experience less shame when they can be authentic. Makes sense. I know as survivors sometimes being authentic freaks people out, so it’s not easy, but I still think it’s worth doing to the extent that feels safe.

Then I got this audiobook from audible called the Happiness Project http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/the-happiness-project-book.html The author, Gretchen Rubin, an organized type-A ex-lawyer New Yorker and mom of two, researches what makes people happy and sets out trying out and evaluating various strategies. It appealed very much to my left brain way of organizing my life, but is also quite soulful.

So I’m trying some of her stuff. Being a pretty devout Pagan, I’ve used the concept of the five directions to organize the strategies into groups by element.

The first direction is Earth – which I associate with the body. I’m tracking in a chart on my computer whether I take my vitamins. I’ve read that Omega 3s are good for the brain and eyes. I follow a recommendation from ‘Dr. Oz and Deepak Chopra’ and take two multivitamins, one vitamin D3 and one low dose aspirin daily along with six fish oil capsules. I know from the past that taking vitamins helps keep me from getting depressed, particularly B’s.  I also track keeping my hands and feet warm and doing something for exercise every day. I took Gretchen’s advice and am paying attention to getting a good night’s sleep and made my bedroom very dark to help with that. I also have a resolution I’m tracking to go to bed as soon as I’m tired rather than staying up. I’m making a point of eating slowly and enjoying my food, and of eating whatever I want when I’m hungry and stopping when I start to be full. I do this about 60% of the time, perhaps a little more, which is an improvement and I’m eating healthier than I was because of it.

The results from my ‘Earth’ strategies are very positive. The warm hands and feet thing keeps me in my body more than I’d be otherwise, which thankfully isn’t bringing up any gunk, and is improving my sex life and enjoyment of food. I’m sleeping better and waking more rested, with less midnight anxiety. I’ve been walking for exercise, which doesn’t trigger me like other exercise does, and it seems to be making me calmer. I sometimes walk on a treadmill, watching tv on my laptop at the same time which keeps me interested, and sometimes I just walk to wherever I’m going. I walked to a stressful early morning meeting that usually flattens me, and I realized midway through the meeting that I wasn’t the least bit anxious, which has never happened before.

All this is to say that, as survivors we often have a crappy relationship with our body. What I’ve learned about happiness is that doing small baby-step sensible practical things to improve my relationship to my body and to take better care of it, actually improve my well being. This may seem obvious, but it was not for me. Tracking it in a chart also seems to help me do it consistently.

Other things that seem to help me be happier are:

Air (communication, boundaries): Not nagging my wife and negotiating with her not to nag me. We have created a ‘nag board’ where we write down things we might otherwise ‘remind’ each other about or nag each other to do. The nagger writes down the date, what they want the other to do, what room they want them to do it in and their initials. When the ‘nagee’ does the item, she erases it from the board. This has eliminated almost all of our mutual nagging! As survivor space cadet girl, most ‘reminders’ to do something or not do something are almost instantly forgotten, and then my wife thinks I don’t care about her when in fact I’m just spacey. Writing it down and crossing it off seems to work for me. As the nagger, I also feel like my request is recorded and I don’t have to remind my wife or remember to remind her. She is more likely to do whatever it is if we don’t get in a big power struggle about it. Now that I’m happier, we seem to have more ease in our relationship as well and things are going a lot better. It’s not perfect, but I can feel hope. An Air resolution I haven’t gotten under my feet yet is practicing singing and writing three pages daily, although I’m making progress.

I’ll write more about Fire, Water and Center when I get to them. I figure once I have the Earth and Air resolutions nailed down, I’ll move on to Fire (passion) and Water (emotion and connection) and then figure out what Centre is for me.

I’ll keep you posted.

What I learned about night fears and sexual abuse survivors

In this post, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about night fears resulting from sexual assaults as a child and how to reduce them.

I started out with night fears which were more of the usual type. I had a real sociopathic perpetrator, in my house, with real access to me, and I was afraid. Straight up, regular, warranted fear. My mother was no help. This was a lot of real, justified fear and I lived in real risk of being raped at any time for at least a decade. So you might say I was conditioned to associate laying in my own bed at night with, if not being raped, at least with the persistent fear of being raped.

Over time, I developed what I called ‘monsters’, which I still don’t fully understand. They were compilations of my fear and rage that seemed to haunt me, give me a target for the fear in my body, other than the one I couldn’t admit into awareness, that it was my father who was the source of the danger and injury. When I’d be in bed, it would feel like a ‘monster’ was there just outside of my awareness (or in it) that was waiting to harm me if I dropped my guard. I had these from early childhood onward through my 20’s.

When I left home I still had the monsters of course, and it took me a couple of years to even begin to figure them out. I’d started attending an adult children of alcoholics (ACoA) meeting that was for women only, and it was there I started to have some support and validation. It was also the first place in my own memory that I’d felt safe.

One afternoon or evening, I was sitting on a couch in the common area of the student housing where I lived with a friend who was a survivor, and she was asking about the monsters, about what would happen if I let one of them come close. I trusted her, and I tried to do this. Once the monster came close enough, I suddenly knew it was my father, that it was my father who had hurt me.

This is the first learning about night fears. It helps to find out, even roughly, what real life person, location, experience or whatever they are about. From then on, when I had monsters, I could say, “this is from being abused by my father”, and I didn’t feel like I was going crazy.

I started to notice I’d get what I called ‘monstery’ when I was triggered by something, usually something I’d seen on tv, but sometimes contact with my family. The types of things that triggered me were depictions of women-hating violence like rape, or scary movies with a supernatural element (reinforcing my fear that the monsters were real). If I avoided triggers like that the monsters were under a bit more control. I could also do things as part of my going to bed procedure that would make me feel more safe, such as having a candle lit by my bed and blowing it out last, or by writing in my journal and clearing out all my worries by writing in bed, just before turning off the light. I wrote my journal as a letter to the Goddess, so it was the same as praying before bed.

A major breakthrough came a few years later, when a friend from ACoA said I could call her the next time I had a monster, no matter how late it was. I called her and with her prompting, described the monster in enough detail to try and figure out what event or fear it was associated with.  I still remember that phone call, and how helpful it was to have someone there with me when I was so afraid. Over time, I became good at letting the ‘monsters’, which were really flashbacks and the fears of flashbacks, come to my awareness during therapy sessions and then allowing them to come closer to me so I could feel what information they might hold about my life.

People have these misconceptions about survivors, they think it would be best if we just forgot all the bad stuff that happened to us. What they don’t get is that we may be able to forget the facts and details in our heads, but our body never forgets on it’s own. the memory isn’t all stored in the same place like a regular memory. It doesn’t fade until all or most of the pieces are brought together into a bundle, and that takes psychological detective work.  If I didn’t remember and assimilate all the traumatic events, I’d still be terrified every night going to sleep. When healing from chronic trauma or complicated PTSD, I believe the only way out is through.

Some other random things that helped:

1) Giving myself permission – I was terrified to get out of bed in the night to go to the bathroom. I got myself a chamber pot to use for awhile so I didn’t have to.

2) Pets – Pets are excellent company for keeping away night terrors. They don’t mind if you wake them up for company in the middle of the night and they are always alert for real-world dangers. If you feel like someone is in your room or hallway to attack you and the dog hasn’t noticed, it’s not a real-world attacker.

3) Feeling anger – once I’d cleared out the fear of being raped that was stored in the monster experiences, I became aware gradually and with some help from a therapist, that anger was actually the main trigger, or even rage. While it may seem odd for me to fantasize a monster hurting me rather than the other way around, that’s how it worked. Anger was so dissociated from my awareness – I never consciously felt anger – that my mind had somehow decided it was safer to have the monsters angry at me than me at them. The monsters were in fact my own rage. This convoluted theory was proven right when I started acting as if this was correct. When I had the ‘monster kind of scared’ going on, I’d assume I was angry. I looked in the mirror, into my own eyes and told myself “I’m angry, I’m angry” over and over. I found it was impossible to feel both angry and fearful at the same time. I tried to both feel the anger, and see myself in the mirror believing and hearing me. I tried to feel the anger in my body. This completely dissolved the monsters! It was like I’d found a magic wand to turn them off.

4) Being brave / exposure. I began getting up in the night to pee. When I felt a monster coming on, I would practice thought-stopping. “no, I’m not going there” I would tell myself firmly, and although the awareness of the monster feeling was still there, I’d go through with my plan to get up and pee and come back to bed. If I had to turn on all the lights, so be it, if I had to run back to bed afterward, fine. I would remind myself that monsters were just my unconscious letting me know I was triggered or angry. I would tell myself “I’m angry I’m angry I’m angry” instead. I’m not going to tell you this wasn’t hard, but over time the night fear conditioning I’d gotten as a child gave up. I almost never experience it any more. More recently, I would read about how exposure therapy, progressively desensitizing yourself to the fearful situations, gradually and under your own control, is an accepted treatment for anxiety. Before I actually got up though, I tried some easier things, like allowing myself to lay on my back (a trigger) when the lights were on or  allowing my foot to stick out of the covers (where apparently I was afraid a monster would grab it). If I couldn’t deal on a particular night, I kept the chamber pot as a backup.

I’m happy and proud to say that most of the time I don’t have a single fear to get up in the night to pee any more. Unless something incredibly triggering is happening in my life, I also never have monsters any more. If I can do it, you can too.

You know, I was realizing as I was putting the categories on this post, that this qualifies as perseverance. Perhaps I am perseverent after all, I just have had a harder time doing regular life perseverance while I have been caught up in persevering on the healing tasks that I needed to do.

Visiting Family

Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr

Well, I went back east for a week to visit my moms siblings, my dad / abuser’s sister and a bunch of cousins and second cousins. It went very well, and I got a lot of loving supportive connection and reconnection and lots of validating and useful information.

I’ve been researching sociopaths lately and am reading a good book on them by Martha Stout. I’m only partly through but it’s good. I am working on the assumption that my dad/abuser is a sociopath. I told my maternal aunts and uncle this, and they were receptive. My uncle looked up what a sociopath was on the internet and told me the next day that he agrees that my dad fits the profile. Very validating. I got to ask them all kinds of questions about my parents and they were very open to answering. I also explained about how I’d been injured in the rapes and how I now know that my mom would have had to have known.

This is now what I think happened.

I got raped and injured when I was little. Mom found out when she found the wounds. My father went into a big sob story about how it was because he’d been drinking so heavily and drinking hard liquor. (According to Stout, the ‘pity play’ is almost universally used by sociopaths, and a person who behaves badly toward you more than once or twice and tries to make you let them off the hook out of pity is likely to be a sociopath.) My mom forced herself to believe this and told him she’d leave/call the police/whatever if he ever drank the hard stuff again. He drank beer from then on. I remember this being a rule that he complied with that my mom had set, she told me she’d forbidden him to drink hard liquor. Since my dad was an incredibly sexist, arrogant, dominating patriarch, he would never have complied with a rule set by his wife for so long with a rule she set without a really compelling reason. Being a sociopath, he wouldn’t have done it out of guilt since they don’t have any. Also, it was the very same excuse he gave me in his letter he wrote me, that he didn’t remember abusing me but if he’d abused me it was because of the alcohol.

Now she feels so guilty she did this that she’s either blocked it out, or is unwilling to confess her guilt to me. I don’t think my mom is a sociopath, since she wouldn’t have stayed with my father if she didn’t fall for his bullshit, and I think she’s actually shown empathy, although she is very selfish.  She’s a workaholic, probably in part to keep herself from thinking about any of it, something I know from experience works very well. You can pretend you don’t even remember, although if you stop bailing constantly, that boat sinks instantly.

So I think this was her ‘deal with the devil’ to try and keep me safe while holding on to the status of being his wife, which I also learned was incredibly important to my grandmother. My mother had been groomed to be a rich guy’s trophy wife, and they thought they’d caught one, except my dad, although he’d been from a rich family, was never rich himself. Sociopaths are motivated differently (to say the least) from other people, and avoiding debt or providing for his family would never have been a big deal. My dad was motivated by exercising power over others and torturing people, so he didn’t need to be very rich to do that. His behaviour with money didn’t make much sense until I read that some sociopaths will just take the path of least resistance and sponge off of others. He worked just enough to maintain his status. My mom was a beauty queen, which also fits the profile, as sociopaths, since they don’t love anyone, tend to pick partners that iether support them financially or are high status in some way.

It’s all starting to make a lot more sense. I don’t need to worry about confronting him, because I won’t be able to affect him, he has no sincere connections with other people. I’m released from that. He’s probably also not interested in haunting me either. I was just a toy.  My father never loved me, which is good to know since it’s consistent with his behaviour, although I did do some grieving.

I had a neat pagan thing happen.

I was heading out to visit my father’s sister and was quite nervous, since they’re snobby and besides, they know I’ve disclosed the abuse. On the way out there, a stag leapt across the road in front of me, not close enough to be dangerous, but close enough to see him clearly. Stags are the symbol or embodiment of the God, the positive, brotherly, nature god of Wiccan belief and brother or consort to the Goddess. So it was this positive image of maleness,  who represents sacrificing that others may live like the meat animals or the grain that is cut for food, and not incidentally the polar opposite of my sociopath father, who blessed me on my journey to may father’s family. In a way it was like the really wonderful love and support I’d received from my mom’s older brother on my trip, who was very supportive and loving.

I got to swim in the lake I’d swum in as a child and spoke with my favourite cousin and met her kids. I found out a little  information, like what the age difference was between my father and his older sisters. My aunt was not someone I could ask abuse info from, but I may pump my cousin for info later, now that we’ve reconnected.

I went to all my grandparents graves and had a talk and a cry with them. I went to a florist and picked out flowers I thought each of them would like to put on their graves as offerings. It was good. My maternal aunt and uncle came with me to help me find the graves and then left me alone when I asked for some time to mourn privately. Since I hadn’t been at the funerals for any of them, it was important for me to do that.

My mom’s sister said their childhood was fine, with no abuse or neglect, although she doesn’t remember any of it (yikes). I didn’t point out what you will know is the obvious explanation of that. Perhaps some other time. She struggles a lot with compulsive/addictive behaviour, particularly to do  with food,  but there’s only so much you want to intrude on someone else’s process.  She was very welcoming and loving and willing to answer any of my questions. She even offered to talk to my mother and get some info from her on my behalf. Both my maternal aunts and uncles wanted me to make up with my mother at first, but once I explained I think they got it, and understand why I’m waiting for my mom to provide the info I asked for.

Anyways, it went very well, and I don’t seem to have much of an emotional hangover from it. I was very proud of how I handled everything, and felt so healthy. I didn’t even stress-eat. I brought my mp3 player and some noise cancelling headphones and listened to comforting music and relaxation meditations, which helped a lot too. I rented a car, and would sing pagan hymns or meaningful songs  to vent feelings and give myself strength.

Massage

I just had an hour long massage at a spa. Steam room, cucumber water, soft music, the whole bit. I decided to spend the money I’d been spending on therapy on something body/soul nurturing, and this and the singing lessons are it. I even spent a little time meditating in the quiet, pleasant waiting area. So I’m feeling pretty mellow.

One of the things that I have a love-hate relationship with massages about is the fact that I often cry during massages, particularly deep tissue ones. This time, the body worker was working fairly intensely on my left shoulder-back and I started to cry. Now a certain amount of crying is easily hidden during a massage, with your face down, a lot of people get sniffly just from their nose clogging up, for example, and there’s a bit of music, and well, your face is hidden. The sobbing breathing has to be controlled if I don’t want her to know I’m crying. I walked a middle line there.

What I ended up crying about is stinking father’s day. As much as I try to avoid it (I actually put a rule in my email that deletes any message with the phrase ‘father’s day’ in it), these kinds of holidays are ubiquitous. I ended up on the table praying to ‘the Father’ a made up god from a book called “The Curse of Challion”, who is kind of the soul of positive fatherhood, and also the god of winter and death. I was asking him why he didn’t strike my father dead for desecrating fatherhood. That reminded me of my grandfather, and I asked him the same thing (he died when I was 13), why he couldn’t do something to make sure my father dies. Father’s day would be an appropriate time. Anyway, I started to feel my grief.

The woman’s hands on my waist as she massaged my lower back reminded me of being touched by my wife, and how I miss feeling intimate with her, how I miss loving, present, touch. It’s not as if she doesn’t caress me, but I still miss the way it used to be.

Luckily, she worked on my back a long time before flipping me over, and I was able to enjoy the pleasure of her massaging my feet, and scalp and arms. By the time it finished, I was ready to go to sleep.

I feel calm and peaceful, and still a bit sleepy.

Photocredit: Morning Spiral Rose by Nexus6

Transition Point

Photocredit: Zanastardust

She walks toward
swords held crossed above her head
kilt swinging
strong legs, proud back
the bagpipes drone and wail, supporting her
carying within it the voices of ancestors
the strength of traditions of a proud people
who tolerate no dishonour

Stopping at the grave site
laying the swords crossed before her
her sword of will and power earned
his of pain and power taken
She leaps in the air
flying feet in warrior rhythm
No preparatory dance this, traditional to prove one’s mettle before battle
This is the battle dance of victory for enemy defeated
the battle dance of survival and the dance of triumph
Leaping over crossed swords as her ancestors taught, she banishes
she honours them and herself
She does what they did,
pinning unquiet ghosts to earth.

Leaping the final complicated steps over and around swords
faster faster
spinning, then stopping, fists held high, then drawn from sky to waist.
a knot tied.
a battle completed.
She bows and walks away.
head high.

Non-Random Events

One of the things I believe as part of my religion is that communication with the Gods is not just a one way flow.  Events that feel significant in one way or another, probably are. Many people believe that their Gods answer their prayers for help or guidance in this way.

Photocredit:  Zanastardust
Photocredit: Zanastardust

I went downtown on the weekend where there was a big community festival and stumbled into a speech given by an aboriginal woman who was an Olympic gold medalist. She talked about how she had gotten severe PTSD from being near-fatally stabbed by a Canadian soldier during a historic conflict between the military  and her nation that happened when she was a child.  The conflict is a shameful event in Canadian history when the Canadian military supported developers wanting to turn her people’s burial ground into a golf course. Since her nation, like many aboriginal cultures (and my Pagan tradition), practices ancestor worship/veneration, desecrating a burial site is a sacriledge. She was speaking to a mostly aboriginal audience, and talked about how her determination to be the best in her sport saved her life by giving her meaning. It had affected her powerfully when a person from her first nation had won a gold medal in the Olympics, how it counteracted the racist prejudices and beliefs of the majority culture against aboriginal people, and she wanted to give that gift to other aboriginal children. She said to consider how your descendants would remember you. She also said that her people alive today are survivors, and by the process of survival of the fittest, were therefore the best of her people.

This had me in tears and I left the hall and went out into the street where I walked away from the crowds. A few blocks away there was a bagpiper in traditional dress just standing on the sidewalk, playing traditional songs I’d heard in my highland sword dancing days. Again I had a strong emotional reaction and thought immediately of the sword dance. I  felt a strong sense that this was important.

I continued down the street and went into a cafe and ordered a latte and some cake. I sat down and a few minutes later, in came a woman I had met at a Pagan conference about a year ago, and run into recently at another Pagan event. She came over and greeted me in a friendly way and we spoke for a couple of minutes.

Three events occuring at a time that affected me emotionally and spiritually, like there was something inside that resonated with each.

Making meaning of trauma by providing inspiration…Sword Dance…Pagan

I should have prefaced this with the fact that I’ve been seriously considering what I’m meant to do with this new evidence about the abuse, and how to make meaning of what happened.

These events helped me come to the conclusion that the best way on is forward.  It’s like I got permission from the Goddess not to go to court, that it’s okay, he doesn’t have some little girl held captive I need to rescue. The sword dance is enough. Perhaps knowing about the scar tissue will help me be more definitive when talking about what happened. I certainly feel more confident that what I remember is correct.

Photocredit: Wigwam Jones
Photocredit: Wigwam Jones

Like Cazaril, I need to trust that the talents I have been given are the ones I am to use for good. Like the speech-giver (I’m withholding her name not to deny her honour but for my own privacy), I have a duty to give hope to the survivors and children who come behind me. My Scottish heritage has given me a tool to reframe how society sees survivors, as warriors and veterans who fight for justice and virtue. My Pagan training and faith gives me a way to structure that fight that is meaningful and powerful, as well as, in my faith, a spell that actually changes reality for the better and focusses people’s will on stopping child abusers.  

I think I’m finally ready to be at peace with my father/abuser’s death (if it ever comes) and to celebrate surviving him with a sword dance.

Now would he please just die already?

Photocredit:  byronv2
Photocredit: byronv2

Getting to Core

I just reread my last two posts (and found and fixed some typos).

Getting to certainty is important. When I read Tarot, I get myself calm and centred, and then reach down to my roots and dwell there. This helps me be grounded in my intuition and my connection to the Goddess. If I don’t do this, the cards are just cards, and nothing magical happens.

But when I connect deeply, I know with certainty. I can judge my emotional and spiritual health, no matter what is going on, by how deeply connected I feel. I am a tree with deep roots. I am a bird who rides the updrafts. I am the sunlight sinking into muscles and the green generators of plants. I am the water seeping into the porous soil, filling every tiny crevice and crack.

When I am connected, magic happens. A month or so ago I read a book about the science around psychic phenomenon. I’m not going to get into all the interesting double-blind, scientific evidence that certain kinds of extra-sensory perception exists, which was amazingly credible to a gal with a university education and a sharp analytical mind. This book validated something I have believed for a long time.

When I changed my first name, the name I chose fit me so well that even my mother agreed it was better. I chose it because it was a name I’d given as a child to several of my most precious stuffed animals and dolls in succession from early childhood. Then I looked it up in one of my mythology books and liked what it meant. It fit in a way that my birth name had not. I hadn’t intended to change my first name, only my last one, as a symbolic disowning of my father, but ended up changing both when I connected with this new name so deeply.

I have spent many times in the past twenty years connecting with myself as a child, talking to her, sending her love and the assurance that things will work out well in the end, that she will survive and that I love her. I have told my younger self this during flashbacks and when her fear and pain makes me afraid at night. I have done this for years.

As a child I had no-one, really. I drew my comfort from plants and my self-centred older brother, my books and my dolls and my teachers. I had few friends, a precarious social existence with my peers and a mother who was the complete slave of my father. I had a dear younger brother, who was also my bratty younger brother.

But I did feel connected, somehow. Connected with rocks, and trees and the stuffed animals and dolls. I named the most important and comforting of these, the ones that were an extension of my self,  with this name I now wear.

I believe that I felt then the love I’ve been sending to that self.  This kind of retro-time communication is one of the effects documented in the book I read. I believe that it actually, literally reached me in my most painful and terrifying moments and that’s why I’ve done so well for myself despite being alone and abused.  The Goddess used me to reach out to myself.

Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my favourite authors, writes through a character named Umegat in the Curse of Challion that “The Gods are parsimonious”, meaning that they work through people rather than the flashy miracles most of the time. And yet the more open we are to the path we are led to, the more beautiful and right what flows through turns out to be. The lead character in the book, Cazaril finds his way to a place he’d lived as a boy after a horrible ordeal and betrayal in war, and is drawn by his own good character and at times reluctant willingness to be used by the Gods into ending a powerful curse.

Perhaps we survivors are suffering in the service of a greater goal, to end a powerful curse on the whole biosystem, a curse of domination and greed.

In the book, the curse can only be broken by someone who dies three times for his country. Cazaril turns out to die three times, once by intervening as a galley slave to save a younger slave from a likely lethal beating, which he incurs instead. The second time he performs an act of death magic to kill a villain who  is forcing a princess Cazaril has been entrusted to protect to marry him and intends to rape her. The spell itself is a prayer for justice and price of is one’s own death in addition to that of the guilty party, who must truly be guilty. When a Goddess by miracle seals the soul of the guilty man inside a tumour in Cazarils body, the death of the enemy is accomplished without Cazaril’s death but Cazaril is burdened with constant and physically painful haunting. The last death is when Cazaril is fatally stabbed by the villain’s even more evil brother, who pierces the tumour, and ends up paying the death magic price in Cazaril’s stead, freeing him of his brother’s soul as well.

The whole point of this convoluted tale is that all this was actually necessary. The Gods needed Cazaril to learn the skills of surrender that allowed them in the end to enter the world through him so they could correct what was causing the curse.  It was all a lesson in becoming empty and getting out of the way.  They really wanted to end the curse causing so much pain, but couldn’t do it without an agent in the land of form and matter.

As clumsily as I have paraphrased Bujold’s beautiful story, it inspires me. It makes me believe that the lessons of being a survivor are worth something that are worth the price paid.

When Cazaril experiences the miracle sealing his enemy’s soul inside him (with effects very reminiscent of being a trauma survivor, actually) he becomes a saint, and is recognized as such by a temple priest Umegat, also a saint, who has been holding the curse back from killing the king. Cazaril asks Umegat what the duties of a saint are.

Umegat says”

“You cannot outguess the gods. Hold to virtue—if you can identify it—and trust that the duty set before you is the duty desired of you. And that the talents given to you are the talents you should place in the gods’ service. Believe that the gods ask for nothing back that they have not first lent to you. Not even your life.”

Then Cazaril says:

“If the gods are making this path for me, then where is my free will? No, it cannot be!”

Ah.” Umegat brightened at this thorny theological point. “I have had another thought on such fates, that denies neither gods nor men. Perhaps, instead of controlling every step, the gods have started a hundred or a thousand Cazarils and Umegats down this road. And only those arrive who choose to.”

“But am I the first to arrive, or the last?”

“Well,” said Umegat dryly, “I can promise you you’re not the first.”

So, taking Bujold’s lesson to heart, what does that mean in my quest to do the Goddess’ will in making the world a better place?

Hold to virtue, if you can identify it.

Trust that the duty set before you is the duty desired of you. (hmmm… I  see a court case in my future.)

And the talents given you are the talents you should place in the gods’ service. (I see a squad of holy sword dancers outside a courthouse in northern Canada. I see speaking and writing and singing about this. )

Believe that the gods ask for nothing back that they have not first lent you. (I will have what I need.)

Perseverence Practice – Voice Day 3

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

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

I guess we’ll see.

unfinished business

Photocredit: Lawrence Op
Photocredit: Lawrence Op

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

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

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

Something magical happened.

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

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

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

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

I have decided to make another offering.

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

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

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

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

Exercise

I’m out of shape and overweight. I’ve lost over 20 pounds this year, mostly water I think, just by counting calories and exercising a little. I’ve got about 30 more to go till I’m at the top range of what the most generous charts say I should weight for my height. Lately, I’ve been exercising twice a week with some friends – we’re trying to get in shape and lose weight, with a little friendly competition built in. Normally I avoid that stuff like the plague, but it seemed right this time and so far it’s been okay.

Whenever I get into exercising, or being sexually active on a regular basis, my emotions gets stormy. I get easily frustrated, moody and bitchy, like a bad case of PMS out of cycle.  Mostly I just want to be left alone and read a book for a long time, to still my body enough for it to go away. I’ve been exercising the past few weeks, and charged up by the ‘feminist vitamins’ of my trip I was happily surprised to not be experiencing my usual storminess.

Well the holiday is over. Today I should have been working and I’ve spent almost all of it reading a novel, and being cranky with my wife (it’s her day off) to keep her away from me whenever she intrudes upon my funk.

Craig’s death might have something to do with it – really does it matter I use his name since he’s dead and really only my family would know who he is? I don’t even know where his grave-site is, but dancing upon it is not appropriate, since I’m still not certain it was him. I don’t need to take power back from him, if I ever did,  his life seems to have done it for me, and his death, dying a homeless drunk is enough of any kind of revenge I might have needed.

What comes up in me when I exercise is perhaps a body memory, a memory (oh now I start crying) of waiting around after the rapes for my body to feel better and my fear and adrenalin to pass. The frustration of being pinned down and helpless again, with no way to win, that comes up for me easily when I am doing something physically difficult and hard.

So that’s it, a body memory of being defeated by my heavy, stench-coated, sweaty opponent. The frustration of struggle and pain and defeat. There is shame in it, shame I was not stronger, that I could not get out from under him, that I could not draw anyone in to help me, anyone that would be effective.

My brother called to tell me about Craig’s death as he will one day likely tell me about my fathers’. I think I’d told him about Craig, and he knew the import of what he told me.

Now I’m crying, properly, harder. Crying in grief relief that my brother did actually get it, did get that I’d want to be told.

I don’t want to feel helpless anymore. Would learning to wrestle defeat this feeling of being vanquished? Not unless I won every time, I think, and I’m afraid of what I might do in the heat of it. I’m a big strong amazon of a woman, and not afraid to use it, but what would it feel like at last to defeat my father, knock him out with a roundhouse punch, throw him to the ground and hold him there struggling with a knife to his throat, to tie him up and strangle him as he did me? It would dirty me, I think, to use his methods to defeat him. Cancer and time will do it for me, with my victory no less welcome.

I will be the Bear when I exercise, I will walk through this and remind myself that I am powerful, that I will never be a child raped and torn again. And when he dies I will be strong enough, fit enough to dance on his grave with physical strength and power to match that of my spirit.

So mote it be.