Blues

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

Compost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review and Divine Intervention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She has been replaced.

[About SwordDanceWarrior]

Maiden

photo credit: Holl_and on Flickr
photo credit: Holl_and on Flickr

I’ve been following a blog called “Smelling God” – she’s a survivor who also seems to be taking a mystical approach to healing. It’s nice to see. Her god is probably not a regular dinner partner of any of mine, but that’s fine, with me anyhow.

Today I bought a small pot of mini daffodils on the way back home from an acupuncture appointment today. They are bright and the green of their leaves seems freshly minted.

The acupuncture is something I’ve meant to try for years. My wife was being very successfully treated for some nerve damage in her foot and I noticed that the clinic also does acupuncture for weight loss. The traditional Chinese medicine doctor looked at my tongue and took my pulses and told me I had excess ‘damp’, which apparently means I’m blocked up in the systems that process fluid and energetically. Since I started the treatment a little over a week ago, I’ve lost 15 pounds, which the doctor says is not unusual. More importantly, I feel less anxious and more energetic, and even my wife noticed I seem less stressed. My prayers for a reduction in anxiety seem to have been answered, and I’m experiencing a kind of springtime myself.

Photo credit: House n Baby on Flickr
Photo credit: House n Baby on Flickr

I had a dream last night where I was at a new job and trying to figure out what my duties were to be, and what the purpose of my new workplace was. In my dream I was taken to a supervisor who was arranging pots of spring flowers. She showed me the bulbs that were sprouting blooms, and pointed out how some were healthy and some were exposed as sickly when you sprayed them with a sharp burst of water from her spray bottle. Her task appeared to be to select the healthy ones and arrange them into potted arrangements.

I don’t know what the dream means exactly, but I’m willing to take a hint. Pay attention to Spring, Life and new growth. Embrace the hope of spring flowers and the Maiden goddess they represent.

A few weeks ago at that storytelling retreat, I made a sculpture on the theme of the Maiden, which turned out to be a welcome to Her that I hung outside my front door in welcome to Her. It seems She has arrived.

In more ancient times, I’m told the term ‘virgin’ meant a woman who had not yet given birth. I’m therefore a virgin, and will likely always be one. One of my favourite virgin goddesses, Artemis, is sometimes seen as a protectress of  children. I like to think She’s one of my allies in this journey.

Photo credit: Lush.i.ous
Photo credit: Lush.i.ous
Photo credit: CharlesFred on Flickr
Photo credit: CharlesFred on Flickr

What I might have been

I’m forty now. I haven’t had any children and I’ve decided not to try.  It’s a good thing, really, that my spouse doesn’t want kids iether, since I’ve been thinking a lot about kids since I turned forty and if I didn’t have such an awesome birth control method, I might ambivalently allow myself to get pregnant. A lot of births happen that way, I think.

Would I have had kids if I wasn’t an incest survivor? Maybe. When I was younger, I thought the pain of childbirth might trigger too much the pain of being raped as a child.  I didn’t think I could handle it, and knew I didn’t have the support in my life if it turned out I couldn’t.  There is really almost no systemic or societal support for incest survivors. If I had cancer or diabetes or a head injury, I could go to a support group in a hospital for free, talk about my life-challenging injury or illness freely, and even get my friends to walk in walkathons or shave their head or register to donate bone marrow in support.

But I’m an incest survivor. When I was very young I faced the threat of death, injury and loss of control over my own body on a daily basis. For a decade. Continually. While being forced on implicit threat of more violence to stay quiet about it and hide any effects on my person or behaviour.  With no resources, money, status or external support of my own.  With not even the knowledge that sustained people interred in concentration camps that the abusers were morally wrong and that others were going through the same thing. With only the hope of growing up and getting out to sustain me.

I hoped as a child that I would grow up and get married and get away. This was the reason to live. I looked forward to having sex, since everyone said it was such a good thing. Doing it made you an adult. Like many girls I made up names for my future children, and figured out whether I was going to be a teacher or a nurse when I grew up, those being the only choices presented.

I apparently tested at the top of the charts in the intelligence tests all kids were administered in elementary school, 98 percentile, meaning only 2 percent of all children my age tested higher. I read at a grade 12 level when I was in grade six. I was told, along with the other three girls who tested as high and were sent off to ‘enrichment’ class, that we were the hope of the future, Canada’s future leaders and we would solve the big world issues of nuclear proliferation, world peace and the environment. Even at the time I thought this was unfair. Why should the adults wait till I grew up to solve these problems? They created them, didn’t they? They were so much more powerful than I, so how could I fix things if they couldn’t?

A three dollar lock for my bedroom door would have made all the difference, had I known I had a right to one. I’m told by women who were social workers in those days that no-one was on the lookout for child sexual abuse, that telling might not have done much good.  Perhaps I can let go of hating the teachers that didn’t identify that I needed help. Surely things are different now.  I don’t think I can let go of hating the systemic sexism that made it possible. I know things aren’t different now.

I live in a neighbourhood where women who sell sexual services to survive work nearby. Many of them show signs of being meth users – the awkward floppy legged walk from nerve damage, visible wounds and bruises at times. All are bone-rack skinny and wear clothing insufficient to the elements. I know many feminists argue that prostitution is a legitimate profession, and I’ll allow it could be, in settings where the working conditions weren’t so appalling. I called an ambulance for a woman with so much skin ripped away from her chest that I could see raw meat underneath. Her ‘boyfriend’ really didn’t want her to go to a hospital, and tried to talk me out of calling, then dissapeared by the time the ambulance arrived. The fact that women in these straights still exist mean to me that men like my father still exist.

I was laying awake this morning thinking about what I could do today to make me feel better. I’d love to go for a walk in the large semi-natural city park we have, if I wasn’t sure I’d be afraid all the time, walking through the beautiful, sacred forest, praying and connecting energetically with the earth as is my right as a religious Pagan, that some asshole would steal my body and perhaps my life away from me again.  Christians don’t have to worry about being raped during church services and I envy them. I have periodic fantasies of buying some land out in the country somewhere, where I can be in nature and feel safe at the same time. Sometimes it’s hard not to hate men for all the freedoms they enjoy. They might be afraid of being mugged in an isolated place, but not usually raped. On the tv shows where the police officer trying to get the suspect to confess or take a deal threatens them with the likelihood that they’ll be raped in jail, pretty boy that they are, I can tell this thought horrifies men. It’s like it’s this horrific, rare, exceptional thing to be in regular danger of being raped. For women it’s this horrific, common, usual thing to be in regular danger of being raped.

To point this sort of thing out is to be labelled a man hater. Bullshit! Facts are facts, and not facing them doesn’t make them not true. Men rape women more than women rape men. A lot more. Men kill women more than women kill men. A lot more. Does this mean men are bad? No. It means that we encourage men (and boys) to behave violently toward women (and girls), and mostly let them get away with it when they do.  According to Raine Eisler, the military necessity of being able force a lower status man to objectify and kill a total stranger or be killed depends on this training, and it seems so does a lot of economic conquest and battle. I know lots of honourable men, but even they are uncomfortable with these facts. It’s like being a white person trying not to cooperate with racism in apparteid-era South Africa. If you’re not a full time activist, there are lots of daily ways to be complicit in thought or deed with the injustice the society around you is hell bent on perpetuating.

So what would genius-level IQ, creative, musically talented me have been if I hadn’t been a woman in a household with a rapist in a culture that lets fathers rape their children? Is is too late to be a portion of what I might have been? I don’t even know how to find out.

Collecting the Soul Fragments

There is this bit in the last book of the Harry Potter series, about how Lord Voldemort can’t die because a piece of his soul has been kept safe, all the time, inside Harry.

I’ve been wondering, all this time, why my father hasn’t died yet. He’s old, he’s a heavy smoker, he’s had organs removed from cancer, he’s a heavy drinker. If with all that he can live to almost 70, little organic eating, non-smoking, non-drinking me will live forever.  He DESERVES to die, he’s a waste of air and water and food, but yet he keeps on ticking. The last time he was ill enough to die, I toyed with going to his town and telling the health care professionals working so hard to keep him alive all the reasons why they shouldn’t bother. However, why torture innocent people with the knowledge they are duty bound to save a life that vastly doesn’t deserve it? Damn our excellent health care system!

Yesterday in my counselling session, I realized that, like Harry and Voldemort,  a part of my soul is still bound to my father, and so, perhaps, him to me.  Myself at 4 years old, innocent and trusting, open and loving her daddy, a year before he began raping me, still lives within me. She mourns for the smart, musical and creative man who did not ignore her like her mother, who carried her on his shoulders and made her feel tall.  I realize I’ve had this romantic image of the ‘good father’ that was taken away by the ‘monster’.  Several years ago, I even wrote a song about it:

My daddy played the best guitar, knew all my favourite songs.
He loved to sing with me, and I loved to sing along.
We never needed a stereo, we never ever used one.
We played our own music and we sang our own songs.

My daddy had a banjo, with broken strings, a ukelele for the little ones.
And the night his father died, he played the piano,
moonlight sonata all night long.
One night a monster swallowed him, and I believe beneath its skin,
though I can’t hear him, my daddy’s singing still.
And I wish I could sing with my daddy again….

Cause my Daddy played the best guitar, knew all my favourite songs.
He loved to sing with me and I loved to sing along.
We never needed a stereo, we never ever used one.
We played our own music and we sang our own songs.

But I’ll never sing with my Daddy again, he was taken away, a long time ago.
I never got to say goodbye, he never said he’d be leaving.
He left his guitar, and me,
Behind, and he,
was gone.

I realized that romanticizing the few morsels of positive fathering I recieved doesn’t serve me. My father is a narcisist. He never did anything that wasn’t driven by his own ego. Singing with me allowed him to show off his own talent and his talented and cute little daughter. It wasn’t about loving me.

In my session, I drew this little girl to me, feeling her energy around my heart. I drew up a dome of protection around us, sealing her and I off from him and severing the cord that held her and him, and therefore me and him, together. I drew this little soul fragment, so long lost, back to me into the silence of a rusty blood red silent dome. Giving up the illusion that I once, briefly, had a loving father in my life, is worth having her back.

In the Deathly Hallows, the final Harry Potter book (bless you Joanne Rowlings for creating this world of soul and honour! What a shame the movies discard those qualities.) Harry allows Voldemort to kill him, invoking a kind of saviour magic that protects his loved ones with his sacrifice. Voldemort actually instead ends up killing off the final bit of soul he’d inadvertently left inside Harry. Until this piece of soul inside Harry is dead, Voldemort can’t be killed iether. How true is Rowlings intuition that our abusers leave bits of their fragmented souls in us to live on. I can relate to Harry’s unwanted flashbacks of his parents murder, unwanted ties to the emotions of his nemesis, his struggles to block Voldemorts access to his thoughts.

After Voldemort ‘kills’ Harry, Harry is left in a kind of limbo, where Voldemort’s flailed, whimpering and fragmented soul lies whimpering under a bench in a train station. I think that must be what my father’s soul looks like, with so many pieces broken off and rotted by his horrific actions. Like Voldemort, I don’t think my father will invoke remorse to heal himself before he dies.

Unlike Harry, I can find where my father’s soul is still clinging to mine. My soul, like Harry’s was always whole and untouched, through abuse and ridicule from school-mates who compounded the problem by teasing me for being damaged, being different, and through betrayal by my mother, who chose to comply with evil rather than save me and herself.

Perhaps with this last passionate tie to him gone, my soul and my father’s can part ways, and he can die at last.

Buying the sword to dance on my abusers grave.

Why am I publishing such personal information on the web? My therapist thinks that my process might be of value to others, and I’m proud of defying the silence that supported my abuser and unfortunately still supports the abusers that are raping children today. If incest and rape is taboo to talk about, it reinforces the shame that survivors don’t deserve and helps no-one but the perpetrators.

I’ve spent about 20 years actively healing from being abused by my father, and now he’s dying. I don’t know how fast he’s dying. He’s got cancer, and this is his second bout of it, and he’s old. All of that says to me that he’s dying.

He’s a lifelong smoker and heavy drinker. It’s surprising to me that he hasn’t died yet. I’ve often wondered why the Gods would keep him alive. Surely he deserves to be dead. Now I think it’s because I hadn’t yet prepared for his death. When your mortal enemy dies, it is a rite of passage. When a pagan person’s ancestor dies, they normally become part of their community of dead, to be venerated and remembered yearly at Samhain. My father needs to have this right formally revoked. I have disowned him in life, and this ceremony will disown him in death. I am asking my grandmothers and maternal grandfather, who are all dead, to assist me in making this happen.

This past weekend I bought a sword to dance over. The sword will represent my strength. It will represent the watery emotional and psychic battle I have waged with him (the sword is a tai chi sword and feels watery, somehow). As a sword, in my Wiccan faith tradition it represents boundaries and intellect, another way I have fought with my father. The iron represents my inner iron, the crisp and sharp strength I have exercised throughout my life.

The sword dance was traditionally performed on the death of an enemy, on the battlefield. The warrior’s sword and that of the enemy are crossed, and a dance that faces the four directions is danced over the crossed swords. I think it was originally a dance of celebration, but also a dance of banishing an enemy spirit from following the warrior off the battlefield. Cancer can kill my father for me, but I will celebrate his death and bind and banish his ghost with this ceremony.

I will cross my sword with a wand representing my father’s strength that was used against me. The stick will be freshly cut, and a thickness slightly larger than my father’s thumb.

The common phrase “rule of thumb” refers to the regulation in British Common Law that controlled the diameter of the stick a man was allowed to beat his wife, his human property, with. If the diameter was larger than his thumb, beating his human chattel was illegal. It refers to what allowed and supported my father in raping me – our culture’s tacit granting of ownership of women’s bodies to the men they designate as their masters.

By this dance I renounce the custom of formal or informal ownership of women and children by men.

Now, people will say, that may have been true a century ago, but no man owns a child or woman. I say, you have not seen what I’ve seen. If a man can rape you and no-one steps in to help, because he has a specific legal relationship to you, because he’s your father or husband, then how is that different from ownership?

Then of course there are all the jokes equating one’s ‘big stick’ with the weapon my father used to torture me. It is an appropriate fit to represent his power.

After the dance, I will break his stick.

May we outlive them all, and dance upon their graves

The first time my father raped me I was about 5 years old. The last time, I’m not sure, maybe 13. He strangled me till I lost consciousness, possibly to stop me from screaming. I was so young that, not knowing what passing out from lack of air was,  I deduced from the pain and the unconsciousness that I’d actually died. My mother appeared to take no notice of what must have been the obvious signs of distress in her little girl. When we finally had a conversation about it, after I’d grown up and left the house forever, she said she believed me, but continued to live with my father for another 14 years. You would think raping your daughter, or any woman for that matter, is worth leaving your husband over. Apparently not.

My father is dying of cancer, hopefully quickly and painfully.

The Goddess Brigid
The Goddess Brigid

I’m planning to dance a sword dance on his grave.

I’ve started this blog to write about this, but now I find myself unable to write.

I found this picture of the Goddess Brigit with a sword that appeals to me. We women need to fight back, we survivors need to fight back against the silence and prejudice that keeps the abusers free and the survivors invisible.

The picture appeals to me because it represents the strength that is divine and female and cannot be silenced. The strength that is the iron core, the sword inside that we survivors use to fight for our lives and our happiness.