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.
This picture is of someone’s real wedding canopy, it’s called Magical White Wedding by Ronsho, from Flickr.
Our wedding was magical. It was a blessing of us and of our families. It would be so hard to separate out again, to lose touch with her family, who have become my family in a way mine haven’t been. I can’t help but feel that the Goddess wanted us to be together for a reason. It might be that it was a time limited thing and we’ll be separate now.
I”ve been thinking about how it would work to stay in our house in separate suites, to kind of stay roommates and life-allies if we break up. It’s probably naive, although I have lived with exes after breakups before and it didn’t turn out so bad, actually. One ex girlfriend got together with another woman and we all lived together for years. It didn’t bother me a bit (well, I spent more time than usual out of the house for the first couple of weeks but not too bad) and I was glad to see her happy. The other woman was my friend too, so that helped. I don’t know if my wife could pull that off. It’s probably just the ‘bargaining’ stage of grief – we can hold on to the things that are still good in our relationship, and be free too.
I love her. She’s my family. She’s my grounding, the source of a lot of my feeling of safety in the world. I would survive if we split up and perhaps grow in ways that I need to, but it would be sad. Perhaps I need to learn to feel safe on my own now, perhaps I am ready. Perhaps I need to do things I can’t do in this partnership. I don’t know. I don’t want to lose my home, iether by needing to sell it or by buying her out and having to have roommates to pay the mortgage. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to lose what intimacy I have with her.
May the Goddess guide me. May everything work out in the best possible way.
I went out my front door and found the following note stuffed into my mailbox, hanging out. I recognized my mom’s handwriting at once. Here’s what it said:
“July 9, 2010
Hi [SDW] & [Wife],
A long time has passed. Maybe we could meet for “coffee” tea” soon.
and then on a separate piece of hotel notepad paper (they were small, and printed with the hotel’s address and phone…).
“Just so you know, Joetta [her dog] died yesterday. I called B—- [the dog’s former owner], she came to see her. She developed Cancer that spread. She couldn’t walk. I had her checked at the xxxxx Vet Hospital. xxoo”
Why would she travel so far (to my town, a journey of perhaps 5 hours) to have her dog put down? Perhaps because the former owner of the dog lives here, or perhaps because my brother was here to offer emotional support. That seems more likely.
I’m relatively calm, but I had a sudden impulse just now to burn her notes. I spaced out a little, because when I went to find the notes to transcribe them here, I was surprised to discover I’d put them back in the mailbox. I instantly came in and wrote her a reply.
I’ve sealed the envelope now, but it reads roughly.
I’m sorry Joetta died.
I’ve been waiting for a written reply from you to my letter. I would welcome a written response with some of the information I requested.
PS: [my wife’s name] and I are doing well”
She’s having an emotional crisis and needs her mommy – me. Generally the safest way for me to be with her is ‘big sister/therapist’ since it meets her needs enough that she stays relatively calm. In fact I think she’d like me to be like this forever. She thought given the situation, the death of her dog, that I’d feel socially obligated to be nice to her and let bygones be bygones. I’ve let two Christmases and birthdays pass without contact, so she’s getting desperate perhaps. She was hoping I’d call her at her hotel and all would be forgiven. It creeps me out a little that she was here and I didn’t know, although my dog was barking quite a bit earlier today. Perhaps it was when I was out for breakfast, since I didn’t go by the mailbox on the way back. Yick.
I think my response sets the boundary I want to set: I’m not speaking to you unless it’s on my terms. Whether she abused me directly or not, she overlooked my father raping me so brutally that I had large tears on my vulva. When I remember that, I hold firm. I expect I’ll have feelings later, and I’m going to leave my house in case she comes by again. Ick.
I’m planning to rent a bus to drive up to my father’s grave with all the survivor friends I can muster. So far I have about six, including my Aunt. (He’s not dead yet, but a girl can hope.)
I’m thinking of having a road trip CD. When we got married, I spent months crafting four cds of music I wanted played at the wedding. It was great to have.
On the road trip I want women warrior music. Here’s what I’ve got so far. It’s kind of amazing this music exists.
Dixie Chicks – Goodbye Earl – the story of a domestic abuse survivor and her good friend who poison the survivors husband because he is trying to kill her despite her having left him and having a restraining order.
Dar Williams – Flinty Kind of Woman – The story of a group of New England matrons who mobilize immediately to garotte a child molester in a marsh.
Martina McBride – Concrete Angel – Tells the story of how an abused girl appears to teachers who see bruises but don’t intervene and how she is beaten to death by her mother.
Martina McBride – Independence Day – Story of how a battered mother, when her community looks the other way and will not help her, burns down her house while her child is away, killing herself and her abuser.
Goddess protection song – “I invoke the protection of the Divine Mothers embrace. I invoke the protection of the Divine Mother’s grace.”
George Straight – She let herself go – Story of a woman whose husband leaves her, thinking she’ll fall apart without him, and she starts to have fun and adventures.
KD Lang – Big Boned Gal – Story of a joyously dancing curvaceous woman in small town Alberta.
Terry Clark – She didn’t have time – Story of a woman left by her husband with a small baby and how she puts aside grief and hopelessness to go on living.
Pat Humphries – Bound for Freedom – “Here I go bound for freedom, and my truth takes the lead” ” I will organize for justice, I will raise my voice in song, and our children will be free to lead the world to carry on.”
The Wyrd Sisters – Warrior – “I will a brave warrior be, till not another woman dies.”
Tery Clark – Emotional Girl – “I’ve got a passionate heart, and that’s just the way things are.”
Martina McBride – When God Fearin’ Women Get the Blues – “When God-fearin’ women get the blues, There ain’t no slap down or tellin’ what they’re gonna do, Run around yellin’, I’ve got a Mustang, it’ll do 80, You don’t have to be my baby, I stirred my last batch of gravy, You don’t have to be my, be my, be my baby”
Pat Humphries – I will be with you – “You must be who you are, you will find your way through”
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.
I attended my friend’s celebration of life this week. It seems she was a remarkable woman. I also found out at this ceremony that she was probably a survivor as well. There were about a hundred people at the ceremony, all of whom had been profoundly affected by her support and positive encouragement. The attendees included the mayor of the town she lived in, along with someone high up in the RCMP who attended in full dress uniform in honour of her. I did not know her in this way, or really well at all. I think she saw me as a powerful priestess rather than someone she needed to support and encourage, which I guess is a compliment.
She and I attended a fairly intense week-long spiritual retreat almost ten years ago, the retreat where she also met the woman, M–, who was to become her wife. M– is also my friend and we’ve stayed in touch. I attended their wedding a few years ago. I went to the funeral primarily for my friend her wife and was able to offer her something I don’t think anyone else could, some spritual witchy support. In a room full of friends of her wife, she was not necessarily among people who knew and cared for her. At least I am someone who knows M– in her own right. The problem with having an intensely social, popular wife is that when she is gone there is no-one. I’m going to try and stay connected with M–.
I’m still trying to calm my mind and get my life in order. I’d like to feel more centred, have more energy (I’m fatigued a lot of the time) and get the things I’m passionate about done. I’m still meditating once a day, which seems to be helping.
I was telling Butterfly today that many of the people I’ve told about my sword dance ceremony have offered to fly up there with me to attend. This is an incredible thing. Aside from my ACoA days, I’ve never had this kind of support from nonsurvivors, people seem to actually get it.
Once, years ago, perhaps 20 or so now, I was at an ACoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) conference. 12 step groups were good for me, especially the ones with no cross talk, where I could share about what I was struggling with with the abuse without having to deal with people’s reactions, which seemed to be mostly a kind of horrified pity. I was sitting in a chair in an auditorium, listening to a speaker, and I guess feeling a then-rare moment of safety I seemed to feel only in 12 step groups at the time. I had a very strong feeling of being touched by a huge, benevolent hand that loved me, a tactile vision of God, which is what I called my higher power at the time. Later in the conference, I was speaking in front of a large group of two or three hundred people and I asked for something I wanted. I wanted, if they felt it, to hear people say they believed me about the abuse. All of them rose and said in unision, “We Believe You [my first name]”. I believe they meant it. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking of it.
Being visible as a survivor can bring a lot of awkwardness and stupid comments from people, but at times it can bring great gifts.
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.
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.
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
As part of my ongoing quest to stop Hiding I’m starting gradually to getting back into both doing things I’m passionate about and letting others witness me doing them. Tonight, I’ll be meeting to jam for the first time with a friend of a friend who plays the guitar. We’ve been discussing material and will be putting together some jazz and folk numbers, perhaps to perform. This is probably a good thing to do this week, continue to unfurl the sprout and reach for the sun rather than focus on worrying about how my mother will react.
I realized why I have the fear my mother will kill herself ‘accidentally’ in a car accident driving while sleep deprived (she works two full time jobs) in reaction to my letter. It’s happened before.
A few years ago I decided to send altered father’s day cards to my abuser, reminding him of how his actions had affected me. I’d read this thing that talked about how under partriarchy the consequences of actions all flow downhill – boss yells at worker, worker yells at wife, wife yells at older kid, older kid hits younger kid, younger kid teases dog. I decided to make the ball roll up hill. I bought and doctored up a couple of these fathers day cards and sent them off in intervals. I forget if I sent one or more than one, I know I intended to send them every few months. I have a few left somewhere. It helped me deal with all the mushy mushy we love our dads stuff around father’s day, by formally acknowledging my remembrance of daddy is quite different.
Anyhow, later that year, on my birthday no less, I get a call telling me that dear old dad had drunk himself into a .4 blood alcohol reading (in the range that causes death) and driven his car into the wall. The two family dogs were with him and one died. The other was found unharmed. My abuser was in intensive care with a flail lung. (50% mortality rate) Coincidence he did this on my birthday a few months after his wife left him and I started sending him regular reminders? I think not. He almost died before some idiot doctor dropped by, spotted the flail lung and put him in intensive care, saving his life. In ICU, he was diagnosed with liver cancer and contracted a flesh eating disease (that almost killed him as well. Then he had to quit drinking, a virtual impossibility, and find a liver donor (also hard for an old drunk) to get a transplant. All of this news was spread out over the next several months. I was a wreck, getting news every couple of weeks or so that he was on his deathbed. My wife wouldn’t let me go visit him – she thought I might be tempted to kill him. I wouldn’t have done it, although I might have yelled at him a bit hoping it gave him a heart attack or something. I went to the cancer centre for these relaxation groups for family members. Blessedly, they didn’t make you say anything so I didn’t have to say I wasn’t actually hoping he’d survive. Then my mother, who had left the bastard a few months prior, moves back in with him to nurse him through his transplant and I was afraid she was going back permanently. She didn’t and recruited my abusers’ sisters to take second shift. She noted that they went as a pair, so neither would be alone with him. The family really pulled together to save his life, which felt like a slap in the face.
What seems like divine intervention to me (Goddess only knows why) is the following:
Death rate from .4 blood alcohol – unknown but high
Death from serious car accident – unknown but high
Death from flail lung = 50% mortality
Death rate for Liver cancer over 5 years =94% mortality rate
Why are the Gods keeping this guy alive these past 5 or so years against all these odds? To give him more time to suffer (I approve) , give him more time to get to remorse (he’ll live forever…) or to give me time to prepare? I’ve been banking on at least the last one.
You can see now why I’m expecting him to die any time now. Particularly as he’s had a recurrence last summer and still smokes and drinks.
So anyways, tonight I’m going to sing. I’ve lost almost 20 lbs of camoflage so far and I’ve mailed a brave letter to my mother. One day soon I’m going to set up a sword dance lesson with the teacher I researched.
I can do this.
This is a song I wrote several years ago:
When the world is full of pain, and there’s no way you can stop it.
The truth’s a bitter shame, and the holy has been stolen.
When there’s no safe place to go and there is no-one safe to love
And you have to hide your face to survive.
Remember, there’s no reason to go on, but you must.
The world makes no damn sense but you go and live there anyway
When you remember, there’s no reason, maybe no hope and no reward, go on living, loving, hoping anyway.
I thought my courage to survive was all I’d ever need,
but the world I re-emerged to I could no longer believe.
When you’ve seen the very worst there is the greatest feat of all is to
Remember, there’s no reason to go on, but you do. The world makes no damn sense, but you go and live there anyway.
When you remember there’s no reason, maybe no hope and no reward,
but go on living, loving, hoping anyway.
(Copyrighted material (C) 1991 All rights reserved. You can quote it but always credit the source.)
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.
I was in therapy this week unraveling a chain of reactions, as we survivors often have to do. My mom is anxious, and I have PTSD, which makes you anxious, and being around her, you guessed it, makes me anxious. So I try and pad her up, fix her, so she won’t be anxious (which doesn’t work), but also so she’ll be strong and brave and stand between me and my abuser/father like she did so ineffectually back then. Never mind that I haven’t seen him in about 20 years and don’t plan to.
Now, once I realized that is why I do that, I also realized that of course, I’m quite capable of defending myself from a physical attack from my father now. He’d be nutless before he hit the floor if he ever tried anything. The important thing is to convince my inner child of that.
Suddenly I had an inspiration, a kinesthetic memory of what it actually feels like to knee a man in the groin full force. I felt myself kneeing him hard in the groin and the fear of him was defeated.
The first time I kneed a man in the groin was in my first Model Mugging class. This, is not, as it sounds, a class where we mug skinny adolescents with fake boobs, but a self defence course where we actually ‘modeled’ what it’s like to fight full force against a male assailant. The teacher is a woman, and our ‘target’ is a specially trained (and carefully padded) man, who co-instructs but mostly gets knocked around.
The male co-instructor, in his padded suit, but not wearing his helmet, came up to each of us in the first class and invited us to knee him in the groin. I did so, half heartedly. I’d never hit another person before, except one brief schoolyard tussle, and it just felt wrong. He quite correctly pointed out that I hadn’t done it hard enough, and that by bringing my knee up solidly between his legs from underneath his testicles, that it would hurt a lot more. During the course of this two week course, I got familiar with the feeling of kneeing a man properly in the groin, jabbing him in the eyes with my hands, and even stomping on his head once he was down (used if help is far away and you need to insure he’s unconscious for long enough to get away. ). We would set up a ‘model’ incident or fight simulating a real attack, starting from a standing, walking or laying down position, and practise kicking ass, with our team of classmates yelling instructions that still echo in my head. Elbow! Eyes! Groin! Stomp!
So when I remembered with my body what it felt like to knee a man in the groin and applied that to my father, it gave me more than an intellectual realization that I am no longer in any physical danger from him.
Living or dead, spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically, I can kick his ass.
So I now have the sword I’m going to use to dance on my fathers grave, when he will do me and the world the favour of finally succumbing to cancer. It’s a tai chi sword, with a kind of feminine, watery feel to it, with a wooden handle and a red cord to hang it by.
It’s meant to represent my inner iron, my strength and will and intellect, all my power that I’ve used throughout my life to fight my smart, brutal, dominant, creative father. The fact I haven’t seen him in over 20 years, doesn’t mean I don’t fight him regularly. Continue reading Sharpening the Sword to Dance on My Abusers Grave