Warrior 2 – It takes much bravery to stand up to our enemies but we need as much bravery to stand up to our friends

The Goddess Brigid
The Goddess Brigid

“Warriorship…does not refer to making war on others. Agression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word “warrior” is taken from the Tibetan Pawo, which literally means “one who is brave.” Warriorship—is the tradition of human bravery, or the tradition of fearlessness.” – Chogyam Trungpa

In those terms, most of the survivors I know are also warriors.

“The trained martial artist…truly acts only in response to agression. He [sic]does not seek it out. When made, his [sic] responses are nonresistant and nonviolent. He [sic] is a man of peace. – Musashi (1584-1645)

Something to strive for.

“Each Warrior wants to leave the mark of his [sic] will, his signature, on important acts he touches. This is not the voice of ego but of the human spirit, rising up and declaring that it has something to contribute to the solution of the hardest problems, no matter how vexing!” – Pat Riley

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave. (Ghandi)

“It takes much bravery to stand up to our enemies but we need as much bravery to stand up to our friends.” — J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

I quit the my position on the board of an company I co-founded this morning. I hadn’t had too much sleep. My wife and I had been up till 1 AM (unusual for us) and I’d been woken by the summer sunlight and a persistent sense of anxiety this morning at 7am. I finally got up at 7:30 and did a tarot reading. “Tell me about quitting the board” I asked. The response was pretty unanimous, it was a good business decision, and the time had come for change.

Now before you think that I make major decisions solely on the basis of a card reading, I don’t. I founded this organization years ago with a guy who became my friend I met at a meeting to discuss [censored] that was posted in a local paper. We were both annoyed by the 'all talk no action' atmosphere of the meeting and decided that we wanted to actually get something done on a cause we cared about.

So we founded [the company]. In the process we took on several more members, but it was still mostly me and that first guy who did most of the work. We've completed several projects. Over time there became a dynamic between an the guy I founded it with, where I realized both of us needed more control than we'd get sharing the company with each other. At the same time, he wanted to quit his regular job and work more for the organization and I wanted to focus more on my own business. So I let him know I'd be backing off. I still had his back, filled in for him when he went on vacation, attended board meetings and helped out when I could.

I was getting the official and tax mail for the organization at my home, and I noticed a pattern where we were getting a lot of “you haven’t filed such and such government paperwork yet” and “you owe us a remittance on this tax or that tax” letters. One was a ‘you still haven’t paid your insurance’ letter. I passed them on to my colleague, who does the books and he explained he’d gotten swamped and hadn’t dealt with them but would, or that he just had, or whatever. I believed him, and probably still do, although it is definitely not my style to let these things go undone. I didn’t want to appear critical, because I knew he was truly swamped, but made suggestions about getting a bookkeeper, and I began to get very uneasy.

One night I woke up in the middle of a dream with the sudden knowledge that I should get off the board. I considered it, but knew that I had no respect for most of the other people who were involved, and he’d be outnumbered and hung out to dry without me.

I was sick on the night of our AGM, but sent word that I was okay with standing for the board.
When it came time for me to do the paperwork to let the government know about the results of the AGM. I looked at the responsibilities and liabilities of a board  of directors. It turns out all of us are responsible, personally, financially for the debts of the organization. I called my friend to ask him to explain the financial statements from the AGM to me and to ask him how we stood. He explained he was having some problems with one of the suppliers, who had been paid for equipment that he wasn’t delivering, and that we had some accounts payable that he hadn’t gotten to invoicing.

On a whim, I opened one of the bank statements (which also were coming to the house) that I hadn’t been looking at. In it, I saw references to at least one loan. I asked my friend about it and he said he’d been lending personal money to the organization to help it through cash flow issues. I didn’t ask him how much.

At the next meeting I attended, we talked about the finances and the full story came out, that we were tens of thousands of dollars in debt, most of which was money lent interest free from his savings by my friend, but that when the invoices were paid it would all work out. With me making the argument that as a board, we have to know about and control new debt if we’re going to be responsible for it, we voted in some measures to put a cap on any future debt, and to make sure the board authorizes any further borrowing. I was also asked to write a collection/settlement letter threatening legal action to the supplier.

That night I was restless and motivated by anxiety about the meeting, did all the things I’d volunteered to do, including sending out the draft letter for review by the other members, staying up till midnight to do so. One of the other board members, who is a friend of the recalcitrant supplier, took exception to the legal tone of the letter and my speed in producing it. He accused me of vindictiveness against his supplier friend, he thought, who he figures I’ve had something against all along. He always smelled fishy to me, so maybe I did. In a transparently veiled way, he laid his anger on me in an email ccd to everyone.–>

A man can be called ruthless if he bombs a country to oblivion. A woman can be called ruthless if she puts you on hold.
– Gloria Steinem (b. 1934)

I’d had enough. This guy does no work at all, and rarely follows through with anything he commits to do. I told him in no uncertain terms, ccing all the others, as he had,  that I’d only done as I’d been asked and that when he started doing as much work as I did and as promptly I’d be more willing to take his criticism.  My friend also clarified in another email I wish I’d read before responding, that he also saw the need to take legal action against the supplier and that I had been only doing as they’d all agreed in the meeting.

Again, I get an angry response from the other board member, attacking me personally for my manner, things I’d said, and blaming me for a painful experience I’d told him about in another situation, accusing me of having poor personal skills. Essentially the message was “bad not submissive woman, assertive dyke, you have no right to stand up to me, a man, about this and be mean to my poor helpless friend (who owes us $6000 and a pissed of client for the delays)”.

I replied and told him he was clearly taking the matter personally, and that the letter was a business decision, and that his personal attacks were inappropriate and I wanted them to stop. I apologized to the others for including them in my emails to this guy and said that I would not be discussing the topic further.

Here’s when the last straw happened.

My friend replies to my email and told both of us the email exchange was the most unprofessional he’d seen and that he wanted us to stop (I already had) and direct any future emails to him. I agreed the other guy was very unprofessional, but although I probably could have accepted the other guy’s first barb and taken the high road (and resented it), after that I’d been carefully worded my responses.

I was exhausted with pain and shame. Nobody likes a whistle-blower. If it hadn’t been for me, the financial problem would have limped on forever and we’d have been thousands more in debt or something worse – like the insurance bill not getting paid and us getting sued for liability on one of our jobs with no insurance to cover us. If it hadn’t been for me, no-one would have supported my friend’s need to take a harder line with this supplier.

So this morning, I decided to quit the board. A progressive company should be directed by those who actually do most of the work, which (now) isn’t me and it isn’t my ‘just in it for his resume’ board colleague, who has barely done  a lick of work in years.  I crafted and sent an email, at the same time reading yet another poison pen email from the other board member. Knowing I was quitting, it didn’t sink in at all.

My wife is all for it. Once I told her we were potentially on the hook for this debt, she wanted me out. She’s also heard me complain for the last year or two about being frustrated and ambivalent. It’s time to let go.

Tomorrow I have to see my friend to finish a task I promised to do. He’s let me know he wants to talk about ‘it’ and I’ve agreed. I don’t know if he’ll tell me off or try and talk me into staying. I do know it will probably be difficult.

I’m prepared to tread the high road here, but I’m not going back.

Dumbledore was right, it is harder to stand up to your friends than your enemies.

Warrior – the Real Wyrd Sisters

The Real Wyrd Sisters – Shame on Warner Brothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Learning to be here

I met a woman at the Pagan conference who presented on a topic I happened to have a book on that I’d read but didn’t really understand. However, I knew that she would find the book of interest so I brought it and gave it to her. She’d heard me sing, and in return gave me a book she’d written about the journey of the Bard in Celtic shamanism.  In the introduction of the book it suggests you might want to read one chapter at a time with a couple of weeks break in between to let it filter through and become part of  your dreams and work. I’ve decided to do that.

Photocredit: L. Brumm
Photocredit: L. Brumm

The first chapter was about that state of being connected to the sacred through the present moment. It’s like when you look up at a tree (as I often have) and feel it fill your visual field, your heart and your mind at once. In moments like that I feel like I am as grounded as the tree, like I am at peace. Or standing by the ocean and allowing it to fill me up, exchanging my grief with the flow of the water, thinking of nothing but the ocean. Her thesis is that these moments are the door through which we connect to the divine. I think she’s right.

So today I made sure to take a few instances of being fully in the moment, in nature. It was a beautiful day and for a few breaths I was connected. Less so than I would have thought, I felt a bit guilty about taking a break from activity, or more likely a little reluctant to settle into waters that might take me deeper than I felt I had time for.

Late in the day, I found out that a friend, a woman I’ve known for about 8 years, who follows the same tradition as I do, has died suddenly of cancer. In finding out and processing my shock and grief, I was able to be present and aware. Every moment is a sacred moment. Now, I feel at peace. She would, I think have certainly wanted to live a longer life, and had lots more to do. She leaves a wife who is no doubt devastated, and who we will need to find ways to support. However, I think she was a woman who enjoys new experiences, so wherever she is, I’m honestly sure she’s having a good time.

Photocredit: Denis Collette
Photocredit: Denis Collette

There is a song from my spiritual tradition that I sing when someone I care about dies.

“Weaver, weaver weave her thread, whole and strong into Your web.
Healer, Healer, heal this pain. In love may she return again.

We are dark, and we are bright. We are formed of Earth and light.
On the wheel of Life we spin, from birth to death and back again.

Weaver, Weaver, weave her thread, whole and strong into your web.
Healer, Healer, heal this pain. In love may she return again. ” – Starhawk

Blessed be, my friend.


Photocredit: Miracle Moods
Photocredit: Miracle Moods

Yesterday, I was in my therapy appointment telling my therapist how happy I was about how confident and strong I’d felt at the conference over the weekend.

But really, I’m not paying her to listen to me be happy. So I ended up talking about my older brother, how we’ve been sort of estranged for about ten years, and how I’d like to talk to him about our dad dying and find out what he remembers about the first house we lived in.

My older brother was once the only good relative I had. All those 14 years of being apart from my family, he and his wife were my family. We spent Christmas together, I was one of only two guests at their wedding. He met my wife for the first time on our wedding day, after we’d been together 6 years. He didn’t meet the woman I was with before that, and I was with her for almost 3 years. But in between, when I was single, he was willing to see me. I flat out accused him of being homophobic, and he denies it, and I suspect its something more complicated anyhow.

I feel grief that he doesn’t seem to value me or want to see me anymore. Me healing and being a survivor freaked him out at first, but he got over it, me being gay didn’t seem to freak him out as long as I was single. Then I came out as pagan. It’s like the combination of coming out as survivor and lesbian and pagan did him in and he just doesn’t trust me. I tell myself that he’s afraid of his own feelings and injuries that I put him in touch with, but really my hero older brother is gone. He’s cold and critical and distant now that I’m no longer a helpless mess of a younger sister. It’s like he’s afraid of me. And so I became sad. Was it right to go into those feelings at a time I felt good?

There’s this Buddhist thing about just being where you are and how you are. I expect that’s the way to go. There’s always a choice, though. Do I practice guitar and code sheet music for the choral piece I want to get ready, or do I watch TV all night? Do I force myself to keep working hard on days I don’t feel like it, or realize I’m still probably a bit wiped from the weekend and take it easy?

Be where you are, but I can often choose where to be. Sitting here wondering where to focus my attention, I solve my own problem. Just be where you are. Grounded. Feel the rain on your skin.

Pagan Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m finding more allies than I expected.


Photocredit: Kwerfeldein
Photocredit: Kwerfeldein

So today I feel really crappy. Sad, depressed. About half is probably my provincial election results (which happened yesterday) and the other half is feeling sad and a bit afraid about what I remembered yesterday.

My poor six year old self. She’d begun being raped at five, and now had something horrible happen to her in the basement she tried to escape from (brave little amazon!).

She would have had no-one to go to for help. In those days,  a father could do anything – hit a child in public, publicly berate her, even had someone walked in on him catching me scrabbling up the stairs, in the abscence of some pretty suspicious blood or evidence,  they would have scolded me for not being a good girl and doing whatever it was my father wanted. Who am I kidding, it’s still like that now.

[possible trigger here, nothing graphic]

I’m afraid there’s more to come. Two big pieces. The second I haven’t mentioned so far, involves my father forcing me to kneel with my head down with his foot on my back while he forced me to agree with something he was saying, some rationalization about the abuse.

[end of trigger part]

I remember watching US politics, the way George Bush jr stole the election that one time and then it was close the second time, and all the truly evil things they were/are getting away with doing – patriot act human rights violations, torture at Abu Graib and Guantanamo bay, invading a country without a real reason other than oil (no WMD, remember). It took so long, and so much blatant evil to get that bastard kicked out, because he was rich and entrenched.  The Dixie Chicks almost had their career ruined for saying something most of the rest of the world already knew to be true – George Bush was a bad guy and someone to be ashamed of. Four years later, people are ready to kick him out, and they pick someone who seems mostly good, and whose election fights racism in a really powerful way,  to replace him. But really, why does it have to get that bad? People died (and die) to get unions for something as morally right and sensible as fair pay and safe working conditions. Women were beaten and killed over getting women the vote in some countries. Why does it have to be so hard to do good?

Well our current provincial leader and his buddies are not invading or torturing anyone, but they have lots of documented corruption, and their policy decisions are hurting people and the environment in severe and irrevocable ways, and they’re now entering their third term in office.  How can people be so stupid?! Is it denial? Perhaps it’s something like this: “It can’t be as bad as this, we voted for the guy. If things are this bad we’re in serious trouble. Best to believe the guy that tells you it ain’t so.”

We had a referendum and were going to reform the way we did voting, to make it fairer, a system chosen by a democratic grassroots assembly of citizens, the most hopeful and positive thing I’ve ever seen in politics in my lifetime, and I campaigned for it hard. The other side had no volunteers, no popular support, but spent a load of money on attack ads to make it seem scary and confusing to uninformed (and in some cases, stupid) voters and the thing didn’t pass.

Photocredit: Pandiyan
Photocredit: Pandiyan

I prayed for it to pass, I planted hopeful seeds and plants and burned candles on my altar with fervent if, I now realize, unfocussed prayers. When I found out it didn’t pass, something hopeful and Earth positive and good that surely was in the Gods’ plan and influence, I felt deeply abandoned. The message I get back, is that this will take time. Perhaps a setback is part of the eventual solution.

People are always slower than I am at spotting abusers, and implementing solutions. They eventually figure out I’m right, but it takes sooo long. This is part of being a survivor, I think. We know what an abuser looks like, in politics or in life and are often not believed at first. Even if not enough people are ready to believe yet, they will be. I hope it will not be too late.

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Mahatma Gandhi

….all human wisdom is summed up in these two words,–‘Wait and hope’.
Alexandre Dumas

Hunting down the fragments

After my success last week with the intrusive imagery, I decided this week to hunt down other pain in the ass residues of being a survivor that are persistent.

I have a fear of walking up stairs from basements. I manage to do it on a regular basis, in fact my bedroom is in the basement and my bathroom is on the main floor, so I go up the stairs at night frequently. However, pretty much every time I have to bat away a monster, a flashback fear that something is going to grab me and haul me back.

This week in therapy I went hunting to figure out what this is and eradicate it.

(Following may be triggering, but is not graphic)

So I’m in session doing stuff like talking about the fear, the feeling that someone is hovering right behind me, and trying to trace it back to the earliest I remember having this fear (I’m about 12) and where I think it came from. I don’t remember the basement of the first house we lived in, which is a red flag to me, since I remember the kitchen, front yard, side yard, front carport and living room. I also have no memory of the inside of my bedroom  there. Sound suspicious to you too?

Hunting something I’ve been batting away for years is a bit hard. It’s like trying to get inside a sweater made of clouds, you’re never really sure if the images or sensations are real. My therapist says, trust the body memory (the part of the memory that is sensation, that I do have, the sensation of being afraid, being on a stairs, and someone being behind me and dragging me back by the ankles. Also behind me is dark and in front of me is a lit doorway. I’m on the lower of two flights of stairs, near the landing. This is pretty much all I’m super sure of. Then the feelings come. I’m trying to get away, I’m running up the stairs to the landing where the door to the outside is. The door is partially open and I can see the light outside. As I’m sitting in the therapists office, my left toe and foot curl under like they’re retreating away from something – I moved my legs to avoid his hands and get free. I almost escaped, another sensation snaps into sharper focus, I can see the edge of the stair tread, I’m holding on with my hands to the top stair tread to resist being pulled back.

I’m less than 7 years old at this point, since that’s when we moved from this house.

Tonight, when I go up the stairs to the bathroom, instead of swatting the monster feeling away, I’m going to tell myself. “This is a physical memory of something that happened. You know what happened now. Thank you for holding this for me, body. Thank you for telling me. He had no right to hurt you. You’re safe now. ”

I’ll let you know how that works.

I put in a call to my older brother and got his machine. I’m going to ask him what the floor plan of the basement is. It will be awkward, since we don’t talk very often, but I’m going to try. He’s five years older than I so hopefully will remember something.

~Sword Dance Warrior


Now, probably some folks will think that with name like SwordDanceWarrior and a project like planning to dance on my fathers grave, I have no issues with expressing my anger. Quite the contrary.

I finally got in to see my therapist today and figured out the intrusive images of being abused by a woman. We stayed in the ‘I don’t know’ place with them and did some EMDR with the images. If you’ve never had EMDR before (I hadn’t), its a technique where you basically get distracted by a visual or kinesthetic stimulus while you’re paying attention to the intrusive image, flashback or whatever. The idea is that it makes your brain integrate it better and reduces the level of anxiety/emotion/gunk attached to it. It’s a bit like when you’re in therapy re-living some crappy thing that happened to you, but you have part of yourself watching and comforting or analysing or just being aware that you’re an adult and okay at the same time.

I’ve always thought that it was not fair to turn down the volume emotionally on a memory or flashback until I’d made meaning of it, but today I didn’t really care.

So my therapist sits in front of me and to the side and waves her fingers back and forth in front of me while I’m supposed to call up the intrusive images. She stopped and grounded me whenever I couldn’t focus on both at once. It worked a bit better when we tried the tapping method, where you cross your arms and tap one side and then the other. I couldn’t do the staying open to the image and at the same time look at her finger thing, but the tapping I could do.

Anyway, my point, rage.

I’m enraged at my mother. I’m angry at her for allying herself with my father yet again by not replying to my letter. It’s been a couple of months.  But instead of feeling my rage at her (I’m thinking I needed to maintain connection with her as a child, and she had a thing about anger – I was not to express even annoyance in her presence), I create an image of her hurting me instead.  Helpful, huh?

I’ve done this to myself before.

When I was about 20 my best friend got assaulted and narrowly escaped being abducted by a truly evil man who was a serial abductor/rapist. She escaped, thank Goddess, and thank herself for being a fierce and resourceful amazon, before many of the truly evil things happened to her that happened to the other women. This guy got caught and tried and it was a big media circus. He was also rightly sentenced as a dangerous offender, which I understand means they’re never letting him out.  It was all over tv and radio, announcers describing what had happened to my friend and what had almost happened to my friend.

I was angry, but I didn’t feel it. I was extremely stressed out, but my best friend was in hiding from the stinking media so I couldn’t talk to her, and besides she was in worse shape than me. I also couldn’t talk to other people about my connection with the situation to preserve her privacy. Instead I sort of hallucinated (I say sort-of, because I knew it wasn’t there, but it was still pretty damn real seeming) a guy hanging from a rope in my bathroom who talked to me saying he was going to kill me.  I’ve never experienced anything like that in real life, so it wasn’t a flashback. It was me projecting my rage, like a movie, in my bathroom, but having the man I wanted to kill threatening to kill me instead. It was terrifying. Crappy, eh?

A therapist finally figured it out for me. She said “You’re having revenge fantasies. You’re in a murderous rage.” This made sense. I figured out eventually that the sure-fire way to make these images go away was to say to myself ” I’m angry, I’m really angry” and to intellectually figure out what I might be angry about and say that to myself. “I’m angry at shithead rapist abductor for hurting my friend” “I’m angry at my father” etc… and the monsters (as I called them) just dissolved. The more I could feel the anger in the correct place, the less power these projections had. I eventually stopped having them.

Needless to say I’m not real open about having had these experiences. I also want to note that a boyfriend concerned about the monster experiences I told him about got me in to see a psychiatrist, who confirmed that I was a garden variety survivor, not coming down with a nasty case of schizophrenia, which is a relief.

I haven’t had them in so long, actually  that I’d kind of forgotten what they were like. I get a bit triggered by scary movies and such and sometimes have intrusive images, but not nearly as persistent (and disturbing) as these ones recently.

Labelling them as repressed rage against my mother feels right in my bones, and is frankly a bit of a relief. I’m too fricking old to remember another abuser. I don’t want to go through all that again. 

I am angry at my mother. She’s chosen shithead over me and she is so fucking clueless about what she’s missing. I’m quality daughter material. I’m a woman to be proud of birthing and she blew it. She’s a disappointment to me, again and again, stubbornly sitting down to the occasion. I repeat – I am enraged at my mother. I hate her. She betrayed me and she’s going to keep betraying me. She doesn’t deserve me as a daughter.

And while I’m on it, why the fuck isn’t my father dead already?!!! liver cancer 5 years ago with recurrences last year, necrotizing fasceitis, .4 blood alcohol, flail lung, chronic alcoholism, chronic heavy smoker, 68 years old, living in a town with a lot of air pollution. What is his problem? Die already!! I had a nice murder fantasy going on in my therapists office, where I go into his hospital room and remove whatever tubes or masks or whatever is keeping him going and bludgeon him to death.

I’m that angry.  

And this, as my friend Butterfly would say, is why you shouldn’t fuck kids. (Or fuck them over, in the case of my mother).

Email to a survivors organization in my home town

I just sent this.

Hi there,

I’m sorry for doing this in an email, but wasn’t certain I could explain all this well over the phone. I hope you can forward this email to whomever in your organization it might concern. I’m originally from [home town] (born and raised) and am an incest survivor. My abuser, who was my father, is still living in [home town] and is likely to die within the next year from cancer. I’ve been in recovery for over 20 years and in general am very well, but since surviving and recovering has been such a big and spiritually significant part of my life, I know I will need to celebrate my abusers death in a way consistent with my culture and spirituality, as part of having closure with him.

Photocredit: "Crossed Swords" by Bott.Richard
Photocredit: "Crossed Swords" by Bott.Richard

I’m planning to dance a traditional Scottish sword dance that is performed on the death of a mortal enemy to celebrate the victory of having outlived him and banish him from my life. Since I’m fairly certain my father will be buried in [my hometown] I’m planning to do this at his gravesite there, with a bagpiper and supportive witnesses. I’m working with a counsellor here on this and will be bringing my partner and one or two friends with me, but wanted to make contact with your organisation, in case it would be possible to receive some support from you while I am up for the ceremony. I have investigated the legalities of performing this ceremony at my father’s gravesite, and it looks like there should be no barriers. Grieving rituals are not only expressly allowed under the provincial funerals act, they are protected and cannot be interrupted by law. The cemetery itself has a no disturbing the peace rule, but a graveside grieving ceremony conducted by a relative could hardly qualify. My family are supportive and will not object.

I plan to bring a friend who is a video artist to record this event in hopes that it might be meaningful to other survivors, and would like to extend an invitation to local survivors and their allies who might want to bear witness to what I believe will be a powerful and empowering ceremony.

Anyhow, if you agree it would be appropriate to talk further about this, I’d like to speak with one of your staff about this, and keep you posted on the plans that will begin once my abuser dies. If this type of support does not fall within your mandate, I understand. I would also be willing to cover the cost of the counsellors time. Knowing that there was a feminist counsellor with childhood sexual assault literacy available in [my hometown] to check in with in some way during my visit would be very helpful.

Photocredit: Zanastardust
Photocredit: Zanastardust


[My Real Name]

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.