Struggle to Understand

Little bits of the past come up, and it’s so painful.  I was remembering when Daddy dislocated his shoulder riding, and Granpappy’s palomino Rey del Oro and how I would call him “Ray Dell” in teenage fashion — or so it seems to me now — I look at that lost girl, trying to… what? be like the popular girls? claim something for my own?  I look back and I see her trying so hard, and my heart just goes out to her.  I want to put my arms around her and hold her and say “there there.”  She was wanting romance and passion and color.  She never really found it, she found sadness and pain instead.  I sit here, lost and sad, at the end of a wasted life.  Part of me knows that’s not true, but that’s an objective observer, not my experience.

Painful painful session with Erica.  I cried a lot.  I told her I was lost.  She asked if she could get closer, I said yes.  She put her feet outside mine and her hands on my knees.  I grabbed her wrist and held on.  She asked if I felt connected.  Not really.  I told her I saw my life stretching away in greyness, like being in the desert, no excitement, no color, no friendship.  It felt a lot like that twilight feeling.   I read her the pages about life “designed by god.”   I asked her why the good times come and then fade and are completely forgotten.  She said something about “shelf life.”  I said I don’t have the receptors for good things because they didn’t get built when I was very young.  How can I build them in now?  There was something about it wasn’t OK to feel good about what I do well, because that would be “thinking I was so great.”  She asked me if I could tell that I had done better with my life than my parents had with theirs.  Not really.  My life right now looks like a wasted life.  Erica wondered if I felt disloyal to have a bigger life than they did.  I don’t know if it’s loyalty or fear — I think it’s fear that keeps me small.  Erica asked again if I felt connected to her.  I struggled, searching, and found “not allowed.”  It’s like Mama Greene, I’m afraid of mother’s jealousy.  I was afraid to build a relationship with the woman who came to take care of us when I was three.  I told Erica about telling R “I just want to go home and be taken care of,” and her saying “Everybody wants that,” and how it diminished my actual experience.  Mother did that all the time.  But everybody doesn’t feel the same terrible lostness and loneliness I’m in.  I think maybe R’s remark was one of the big triggers of this baby state I seem to be stuck in.  I guess claiming that my experience is more painful and deep than most people’s is also “thinking I’m so great.”  No, you are not allowed to be any bigger or feel more deeply than your mother.  I feel like my whole emotional life has collapsed to a flat line.  Francis Weller talks about this, he described our culture as being a “flatline” culture because we aren’t allowed to feel great joy or deep sorrow.

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Who am I Really?

Lots of people who know me through circle dance see me as enthusiastic, creative, competent, etc.  When I tell them how awful I feel about myself, they have trouble believing it.  This is painful for me, because it means that my pain is invisible, and I often get invalidated by people who can’t believe I’m as vulnerable as I am.  They don’t understand that the person they see when I’m “on” — that’s what I call it to myself, and I know I’m being enthusiastic, creative, etc. — even though I can experience myself when I’m “on” it’s like she disappears when I stop being “on.”  The truth is, though I’m aware of being her, there’s a dissociative barrier to my being able to integrate those qualities into the self that I experience.  This is not about “self-image” which is how I see myself, and always changing, this is about how I experience myself.

The dissociative barrier is not as complete as it is when a person has “multiple personalities” and when she’s in one, she doesn’t know about the others.  “Dissociative barriers” can be big or small, complete or non-existent.  We all have “sub-personalities,” who appear when circumstances call on them, and there’s not really any dissociative barrier.  For example when I teach astronomy, no matter how depressed I may feel going toward the classroom, as soon as I’m there and start speaking, I’m able to be competent, knowledgeable, and able to engage my students.  I know I’m a good astronomy teacher, it’s a skill that I have.  But as for knowing I’m creative, or kind, or generous — words that people have used to describe me — I feel “who are they talking about?”  Which leaves me wondering if that other person can possibly be connected with me.

I have struggled with this issue, trying to understand how to change it.  One concept that has helped is the distinction between “implicit” memory and “explicit” memory.  Implicit memory is like learning to drive a car.  You may not remember exactly when you learned, but now it’s so natural that you can drive a car while thinking about something entirely different.  It’s a built-in part of you.  Explicit memory is remembering the time when you went to the beach and it was so hot you ran into the water with your clothes on.  That’s something you recall, it’s like going to a library and picking one of the books off the shelf.  A lot of what we learn in our first three years is implicit memory.  We learn how to function as a human being, how to negotiate our way through our environment.  A lot of what we learn about ourselves is from “mirroring” — the mother “mirrors” the infant by responding.  If she smiles a lot, the infant learns that she is lovable, if mother frowns a lot, or leaves the baby alone a lot, the infant learns that she is not worth attention.

I have struggled with this a lot more since Neskaya was built, and people see me as this amazing person who built this very special place, and infuses it with a spirit of joy, of acceptance, of connection with the sacred.  I wonder who she is.  I’ve been in therapy my whole life, first trying to fix myself, then trying to unlearn what I learned from alcoholic parents, then trying to heal from PTSD.  Recently I’ve been working with a therapist who specializes in attachment and trauma.  “Attachment” means the primal relationship with the mother or caregiver.  Erica works very differently from my previous therapists.  She is constantly mirroring me, giving me feedback about my actions, my tone of voice, the look on my face, what I’m doing with my hands.  I’ve never had this kind of feedback before.  At first it seemed to fill some empty place inside me, but now it’s getting harder to take in.  It’s as though some part of me is resisting this new information about myself.  That’s where I am right now in this process.

There is an earlier post with this same title.

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Words to Help me Keep on Keeping On

“If he could get to the end without having thrown in his hand he would have kept his integrity.”  Paul, thinking of Charles, The Scent of Water, p273

From Mother Teresa:
“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.”

“We may not live to see the slaves go free.  Neither did Moses reach the promised land.  Still none can be more blest than we who are an instrument in God’s hand.”  from Magpie song “Mary Brown, Abolitionist.”

Walter Benjamin: “Every line we succeed in publishing today — no matter how uncertain the future to which we entrust it — is a victory wrenched from the powers of darkness.”

“Did I win or lose?  All I know is I am full of wounds and still on my feet.”  Nikos Kazantzakis.

“There’s nothing as dark as night
But nothing so strong as light,
And here is the choice —
To let it burn out — or bright.”         Christine Kane

“Hope …  is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizon.  Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”     Vaclav Havel

“Resistance is first of all a matter of principle and a way to live, to make yourself one small republic of unconquered spirit.”      Rebecca Solnit.

“Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”         Martin Luther King JR.

“In the face of all the challenges we face today, is my optimism about the future of humanity idealistic? Perhaps it is. Is it unrealistic? Certainly not. To remain indifferent to the challenges we face is indefensible. If the goal is noble, whether or not it is realized within our lifetime is largely irrelevant. What we must do therefore is to strive and persevere and never give up.”          —Dalai Lama

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Hope in the Dark

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

I don’t know what turned me on to her.  I refused to order the book from Amazon, just a small protest.  They forced our wonderful local bookstore to close.  I ordered from Green Arcade in San Francisco.  I think I must have found it on her website.

She is enormously inspiring.  She points out recent history where things have happened that were totally unexpected.  The Berlin Wall goes up, the Berlin Wall comes down.  The Soviet Union falls apart.  Grassroots movements unseat dictators in South America.  And yet the US gets bogged down in Iraq.  Bad things happen too.  But it’s not a linear process.  Tremendous movements: the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, the civil rights struggle — have all taken longer than we hoped, yet looking at the sweep of history, they happened very fast, almost out of nowhere.

She also talks about the behavior of people in disaster — it’s not what’s expected, the story that people are fragile— can’t take care of themselves — or that they are violent and selfish — neither story holds true.  The reality is that people help each other.  That disaster can create a community of people who feel bonded by helping each other.  She talks about all the people in little boats who rescued people caught on rooftops during Katrina.  Meanwhile, government created a shambles.  Partly, I suppose, because of Bush’s lack of caring for poor and people of color.  But also because bureaucracy is cumbersome.  I heard that the Coast Guard ignored the rules about how long a pilot could fly, they just went in and did what they could.  It makes me think of the rescue of the British Army from the beach at Dunkirk, in WWII, by thousands of people with little boats crossing the channel.  It made me think of the book about Katrina, Heart like Water, written by someone who stayed in his apartment.  He too records many acts of sharing and help for each other.  He talks about the reports of killings and lootings, but they never saw anything in their district.  I think he talks about a grocery store whose owner gave away food to all who came.  There is also a lot of evidence coming up from science that co-operation is at least as important as competition in evolving healthy ecosystems, healthy communities.

I love what she has to say, and find it very encouraging.  Looking at history as complex and chaotic instead of linear.  At any moment, anything could happen.  There are hidden forces, changing perceptions and beliefs, that result in totally unexpected happenings.  She describes two pitfalls.  One is despair, so you lie on your couch and do nothing.  The other is thinking victory has to being total change, we have won, we can stop now, instead of seeing that it’s one success on the way to a larger goal.  Or giving up because the “victory” wasn’t complete, was imperfect, etc.  We need to acknowledge and celebrate it and use that as energy for keeping on.

That’s what happens to me.  I think I’ve won: “I’m OK now” as though I’ve “gotten there,” and then being crushed when the old stuff comes back.  At least I did something different this time.  I was excited when I found I had resources that could dissolve the terror, painfully discouraged when they didn’t work for a new round, then saw a larger context.  Now I continue to remind myself that I had 24 hours free of fear, and I savored that wonderful feeling of relaxation.  I’m not hugely upset that I lost it, or trying to get back to it, or thinking I’ll never get back to it; I’m keeping it in mind as a success in the process of working toward seeing that I’m OK just as I am.

Another example of people giving hope to each other: Circle of Hope

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Comfortable with Uncertainty

In summary:  Terror faded on Monday as I talked to Dr. Dean about the physiology of trauma.  Tuesday morning began terrified but I was able to shake and could feel it releasing.  Wednesday morning began terrified, but then I brought compassion to it and it faded.  Writing was great.  Thursday morning was when I felt so totally relaxed and then got triggered again while making breakfast.  Eased by talking to Elizabeth and Karen.

Both Elizabeth and Karen suggested that I couldn’t make fear go away, I could only do my practices and be grateful when grace comes.  Maybe it’s something about being open to grace.  Being comfortable with uncertainty.  When I first read about that idea it scared me.  I don’t want uncertainty, I want to feel safe.  What I really want is to feel that I am OK just as I am.  No amount of physical security can produce that.  Only being within a community that tells the truth and is willing to listen to the truth.

I realize that I am already comfortable with uncertainty in the realm of science.  I don’t care what is the “real story” of the creation of the universe, I only know that it is more complex, more beautiful, more interconnected than human brains can understand.  I know that the complex processes that represent the workings of nature are such that they can be modeled, but can’t be predicted.  This is known as the “butterfly effect,” or sensitive dependence on initial conditions, which basically means that we can’t control the process, can’t even make predictions, because some small thing that we hadn’t noticed can make the whole process shift in another direction.

As I write this paragraph, I realize that my life, and my healing, are also complex processes, nonlinear — which means that I don’t just gradually get better — and I am powerless over my life and my healing.  I can set a direction, make choices in line with that direction, practice doing things that manifest my values, and keep on keeping on.

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Week of Terror

I’ve just been through a week of terror.  Lots of possible triggers.  I haven’t had this bad a bout of terror for many years.

Tuesday, June 28

I’m feeling terrified.  I was reading Deborah Crombie and felt scared while I was reading.  Kim left a message.  She sounded a little drunk on the phone which was unnerving.  I have to leave for St.J. to see Bess about Writing for Recovery in 45 minutes.  I set it up because Erica is out of town today.

The Crombie series is one I read over because I know it is safe.  This is the last book.  Not having something safe to read immediately can be a trigger.

Wednesday, June 29

The meeting with Bess was good.  I was scared all the way over and for a little while after she’d come, and then as we talked I started to feel better.  The work sounds fascinating.  Bess is currently teaching the workshop at the Recovery Center in St. J.  It’s Wednesday night, and she has just started, so I’m going to go tonight.

What am I afraid of?  Asking the question makes my heart feel cold.  A lot of my skills for coping seem to have vanished with the meaning.  I’m thinking it’s a mistake to try to lower the Ativan right now.  I’m so scared I’m frozen.

Trying to lower the problematic tranquilizer (it can cause memory problems in seniors) may be the problem.  Going back to the higher dose didn’t help however.

Thursday, June 30

Went out to walk the dog while the prunes cooked.  Went around the loop but came back breathless, still feeling scared.  Sigh.  There were mornings when I was glad the dog got me out.

Terrified.  It started after I came back with the dog.  This afternoon I get to see Karen, thank god.

Being outside, especially in the bright sun is often, but not always, a trigger.  I have no idea why.

Friday, July 1

Awful waking.  I was able to lie & count my breaths.  Finally made myself get up.  Bright sun.  I’m feeling totally overwhelmed.  I realized driving back from Montpelier, that all the different shades and textures of green were too much, that my efforts to “take in” everything were overwhelming me.  So I closed down which helped a little.

I stayed terrified until I saw Karen.  Being with her helped quite a bit.  The session was painful.  I said I was scared I would never get better.  I told Karen about the image of lying helpless in the street with a steam roller coming toward me.  She asked if I was being too hard on myself.  I puzzled over it for a little, and then said that I wasn’t, that I knew I was up against a lot and that I was doing the best that I can.  I see that part of my discouragement was seeing that the best I can do is not enough.  That’s when you see that only something bigger than yourself can help.  “Came to believe…”  I guess I’m stuck right there at Step 2.

The first four steps of AA’s twelve:
(1) accepted that I am powerless, my life is unmanageable
(2) came to believe that a Greater Power could help
(3) became willing to turn my life and my will over to Greater Power
(4) offered my life and will to the Greater Power.

I’m interested that the two steps in between suggest that there’s a process that may take a while.  You don’t just move from (1) to (4).  When I’m frozen with terror, I find it very hard to believe in a process.

The image of being alone and helpless is a pretty good rendering of how an infant feels when they are left alone too long.  They have no language, no concept of death.

I just watched the video on Writers for Recovery.  5min.  I found it supportive especially after being with the group on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 2

Nothing to say.  Empty, unmeaning, bleak, scared. Lonely.

O yes, I talked to Erica in the morning.  It’s a little scary that I can forget it so fast, and forget whatever connection and hope there was between us.  She thinks the fear is coming from taking big risks — planning to stay at Riverglen and starting the writers’ group.  There’s also the Francis Weller workshop.  The travel arrangements are scary, the workshop itself sounds like a refuge.

Blank again.  It’s so painful and confusing.  I get a lift from something and then lose it right away.

The Riverglen is independent and assisted living for seniors.  I have signed up for four days of “respite.”  Usually a respite stay is for a caregiver who needs a break, or for the one who needs assistance so the caretaker can go on vacation, visit family, etc.  I realized that I am the caretaker of terrified Jenny, and I’ve hit the end of my resources.

Terrified while shopping.  Lynelle is going — has gone— back to her parents.  I thought she was going to stay a week.  So my level of fear escalated.  I was able to shop at the Co-op, and Rite Aid, despite being terrified.

Sunday, July 3

I got out a puzzle but I haven’t opened the box.  I haven’t done much typing either.  I read or play Solitaire.  I guess that’s a measure of my degree of terror.

At one point I thought “Suppose I were going to die tomorrow.”  Sometimes that thought makes me notice good things.  Sometimes I feel guilty that I haven’t “experienced” the beauty and depth that is there.  Yesterday I felt huge relief and sorry that I was too terrified to appreciate the day, but that’s how it was.

Judith Herman says traumatized terror is qualitatively different from ordinary fear.

Monday, July 4

May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I live in peace.  My mantra for this morning.  I’m OK right now.

But when I walked the dog, I got terrified being outdoors.  Heart feels shocked and vibrating.  Body feels full of electric energy.  Sight frozen.

Erica suggested that the odd thing that happens with my sight is like a deer in the headlights.  Exactly right.  It helped to have that image.

Tuesday, July 5

Woke up feeling the heat, the hot-cold thing.  I feel a bit dazed.  I notice that if I get lost in thoughts I’m OK, when I return to paying attention to myself I can feel the first little vibration inside that will become fear.

Bright sun.  I know the light and the heat have been part of the problem.

In fact I’m wondering if some of this isn’t a flashback to the Summer from Hell after I had that horrible experience on Paxil.

O gosh I’m starting to feel blind.  Can I hold myself with kindness?  The best I can do is think the word.  I do feel a little softening.

Just now I put my head on my hand and closed my eyes and felt very sleepy.  The thought came to me to start shaking.  So I did and then let it become involuntary.  I can feel the terror draining out.  I will just keep doing this.

Yesterday I saw the chiropractor.  I told him I was terrified and he was sympathetic.  When I was on the table I started telling him about the physiology of trauma, how your system gets activated into fight-flight-freeze, the energy built up to run or fight had to be discharged somehow.  I told him about the video of the possum, it’s not actually “playing possum” its instinct has frozen it.  The coyote noses it and then walks off.  The possum gets up and shakes itself, and walks away.  Dr. Dean was really interested.  I wonder if talking about this is why I thought of shaking today.

I’m also starting to feel clearer and calmer from the shaking.  And also feeling better because I have something I can do.

Wednesday, July 6

Some waves of fear before I even got up.  I’m working on feeling compassion for myself.   Take a big step back.  This woman is terrified, and trying to bring compassion to herself.  Now I’m wondering if she deserves compassion.  There’s nothing wrong in her life right now, she has no excuse to be terrified.  Well I know that’s not true.  She was traumatized in infancy.

I think about a tiny baby experiencing that degree of fear, and my heart just goes out.  I feel much more relaxed and softer.  I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to awaken my compassion.

Looking at the DNR.  So grateful to have such a thing.  My life is so painful and difficult right now that death would be a relief.

[Do Not Resuscitate order: so if you’re in an accident and your heart stops, they won’t resuscitate you.]

O it’s such a relief to sit here and be relaxed.  I have “Writers for Recovery” tonight!

Thursday, July 7

I’m OK this morning.  So grateful.  The bliss of not being terrified.  It was having compassion for myself that did it.  And being with the writers.

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Journal Work

I found this draft when I went to the dashboard to work on another post.  I suspect I didn’t post it because I ended up still feeling bad.  Reading it over again, I realized that the first time, in 2014, I actually told the story to people.  The second time, a couple of months ago, I just wrote it out.  I see that relationship is important for healing.  I also see how I think I’ve arrived when I feel better, instead of seeing it as one stage in a long complex process.

Journal entry for January 19 2014

Talk with Barbara about single-mindedness.  I was thinking that my vocation was not found by knowing what I wanted and going for it single-mindedly.  Looking back I see I was clearly guided.  At least I recognized the pieces when I met them.  I told Barbara about the trip with Bettie and my epiphany at Knocknarae.  Then perhaps about Brunswick & dream class & starting to write the book, and Charles bringing me to Franconia.  The connection with folk dance and then sacred circle dance.  She was really interested, so it was fun telling her.  I told her about California and smashing David’s windows, and going to the Health Center.  She thought my life was really interesting which is kind of fun for me.

After I got home I called Eve and told her the same story — looking at my life as though god had designed it.   — and to my utter surprise, I woke up this morning feeling great.   Will it last?

This journal entry was the basis for a blog post.

This is my journal entry for May 16, 2016

I came across some loose papers that have been lying around for a while.  There was a page called “vocation” where I describe seeing my life as though God had designed it.  This was back in January 2014.  I describe this to Barbara and to Eve, and then when I told Karen, she told me that my feeling so good was different.  That instead of rushing out to do something I was willing to be patient and wait for the right thing to come along.  Reading this now, I feel grief and frustration.  That was 2 1/2 years ago.  It faded and I’ve been struggling ever since except for a few days here and there.

Thinking about my life as designed by Divine Process, I look at how things went after Journey.  My severe depression after we made the movie and the performances were over.  Reading the newspaper arts magazine about Journey and finding “National Depression Screening Day.”  Went to Norwich, told I’m in severe depression.  Laugh — if this is severe depression, I’ve been severely depressed my whole life.  Go to Dr. Brunette (who actually said “Trauma before the age of 3”) but she prescribed Paxil and I went through a horrific experience.  That led to the “Summer from Hell” and the turkeys, tranquilizer and return to depression.  Lynelle recommended Dr. Rankin, a mood specialist, who said when she first saw me “I want you on Anti-depressant medication right away.”  She found Char.  I was so scared of trying a new medication, that when my local doctor prescribed zoloft and one other SSRI, I couldn’t take it more than a few days, I was too scared.  I remember thinking that I needed someone who would talk to me every day for the first three weeks.  Char actually did this.  When I told her about continuing to take the paxil even though I was terrified out of my wits (I started hallucinating in the grocery store on the 5th day, and finally stopped) she said “And you wanted to be un-depressed so badly that you stuck with it that long.”  I almost cried.  All my friends had said “Why did you keep taking it?” like I was stupid.  Char got me on imipramine.  I found out what normal brain chemistry was like.

Meanwhile, the visit to Lydia in 1992, long before medication, and coming back saying “let’s build it” leads to Neskaya.

Normal brain chemistry leads to divorce which results in depression, but also learning about how our relationship was co-dependent, how Dana wasn’t the person I thought he was.  Then a long time of struggle and pain.  Dancing the Sacred Calendar and Caron Institute.  Clare and NVC.  A psychiatrist who prescribed a very expensive medication that it turned out was making me nauseous, and then took a leave of absence without giving me any backup.  Stock market crash in 2008, breakdown, Karen found Dr. Seigel.  Lynelle connects me with Somatic Experiencing, and I finally get to Caryn.  Bella dies, abandonment triggered, Caryn says she is not trained to deal with attachment issues, recommends Erica.  Opens up all the pain from infancy.  At first I thought healing was in sight, but now I’m not so hopeful.

I had hoped writing this would cheer me up but it hasn’t.  I feel very tired and apathetic.

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Writers for Recovery

I went to the second night of a ten-week workshop, called Writers for Recovery.  It had been put together by Bess O’Brien, who produced Journey Into Courage, and grew out of the documentary on addiction, The Hungry Heart, that she was working on at the time.  She was helped by a writer, Gary Miller, and they have offered it at Recovery Centers around Vermont.  I went because I have taught writing workshops and thought I might be able to do this one, once I saw what exercises they used.  I was very moved by what the participants wrote.  I’m always heartened when people tell the truth about their lives.

Writers for Recovery

Bess O’Brien


Since I am not in recovery from addiction, but I can say that I’m in recovery from PTSD, I changed the assignments a little.  The topic of the first writing was “Waking up in the middle of my addiction.”  I wrote what it felt like waking up that very day, because my life right now is totally disabled by PTSD.

Waking up in the morning, I feel so heavy, I feel totally bereft, I have no reason to get up.  I recite to myself “Blessed Lord Jesus, have mercy on me,” even though I don’t believe in Jesus, and the words don’t mean anything to me.  I figure they have been spoken by so many people down through the centuries, and they are positive and keep my mind from going anywhere else.  It’s quiet here.  Green trees outside my window.  Sun isn’t up yet.  My dog’s on the bed next to me, I can feel her warmth.  I tell myself “You’ll feel better when you’ve had a cup of tea.”  I sit up and hug my dog.  I feel very wobbly as I get up on my feet.  I go into the kitchen and start the kettle.  Then I collapse on the couch that faces the glass patio doors.  Outside I see the trees, many colors of green.  It’s too much for me right now.  I listen for the kettle, finally go pour hot water in the mug with the tea bag.  I set the timer for 2m30sec and go back to the couch.  I take my journal and write the date.  Then I write: “hard to get up as usual.  I haven’t got any reason to get up but it’s too uncomfortable to stay in bed.”  The timer rings and I get my tea and pour soy milk into it.  Kukicha tea and soy milk have represented safety to me since I was diagnosed with systemic yeast in 1984 and told to stop drinking coffee, black tea, or herbal teas, and to avoid dairy.  I go back to the couch and start writing about yesterday.  There is no one else in the house except the dog.

For the assignment to write about “getting up in the morning now that you’re clean and sober” I write what I imagine it would be like to be healed of PTSD.  I had this experience at a 5-day event at Rowe Camp and Conference Center.  It was called “Kindred Spirits,” and had started as “Recovery Camp” 30 years ago, for people recovering from addiction.  More recently they opened it up to anyone who wanted to be authentic, to tell the truth, to grow spiritually and psychologically from sharing with others.

Waking up at Kindred Spirits Camp.  I’m in the lower bunk.  Two other women share the room, and they are still asleep.  I take my supplements out of the box and put them in a small container.  I take my bag with my journal and tea bags to the dining room where there’s hot water and soy milk in the fridge.  I make my first cup of tea and sit down to write in my journal.  People occasionally walk through.  Breakfast will be served in the big building up the hill.  There’s a young woman doing yoga in the middle of the floor.  Michael, who’s in my family group, comes in and sorts out his supplements.  We smile at each other.
Then it’s time to go up the hill to the Rec Hall.  A lot of steps to climb, colorful graffiti on the walls of the staircase.  I hear people calling “Circle up!  Circle up!”  I walk through the dining room with its tables and go out on the deck where all the Kindred Spirits are gathering in a big circle.  Someone starts us singing “It’s in every one of us to be wise…”  I used to hate that song, a therapist used to make us sing it in her group and I thought it was sickening and sentimental.  I like the way they’re singing it here.
For the first time that I can remember, I feel safe.  I feel like I’m OK just as I am.  I don’t have to entertain or take care of anyone.  I don’t have to prove that I deserve to live.


Posted in Journal, Present Day, Trauma, Writing | Comments Off on Writers for Recovery

Vigil for the Dead

Last night I went a church in Littleton to a vigil for the killings in Orlando.  All the names of those who died were read, 49 candles were lit, the bell tolled 49 times.  The minister of the Church was gay, which I hadn’t realized before.  The Church was full.  I cried when we sang “We Shall Overcome.”  It felt really reassuring to be with a lot of people who cared.  A woman I know, who plays the Native American flute, played two songs.  The second she described as a “Sioux chant for courage.”  I recognized the tune as one they had used in the movie Dakota 38.

So this morning I went to the trailer of Dakota 38

Then I looked up the interview with Silas Hagerty that made me want to see the film.  He talks about ceremony, and all the amazing synchronicities that happened as they were making the movie, and how sometimes you just had to wait.

The film is a give-away, none of the people who worked on it got paid, and the DVD is available for free, or you can watch it on YouTube, or you can download it from the website.

Posted in Activism, Healing, Spirit | Comments Off on Vigil for the Dead

Peace on Earth

Today in church our minister talked about the idea of having many different ways to say something.  He told us that the “creeds” that we recite were written to uphold some particular version of God against another version.  (This is within the Christian Church, not the Christians trying to prove that some other faith is wrong.)  Our minister suggested that when we sing a hymn, or recite the doxology we might want to use words that expressed our individual understanding.  I often say in the last line, instead of “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” “Praise Mother, Child, and Sophia.”

I reminded me of an experience I had at Findhorn for the Festival of Sacred Music, Song, and Dance.  We were gathered in the great hall, about 200 of us.  In the center were 6 singers, each with a big poster saying words in different languages.  We all stood in six wedges, and each wedge learned one set of words.  These words were:


After we had each learned the tune that went with the words, we began to sing.  It was like a round with six parts.  After we had done it for a while, they suggested that we should wander around the outside and listen to, or even join another group.  Finally they suggested we pick the one that felt most appropriate and sing that one, and wander around the  individually.  I felt closest to Buddhism, so I sang “Om Mane Padme Hum,” and as I walked around I heard “Shanti, shanti,” “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” and then another “Om Mane…”  O there’s one of my clan.  We are all walking about, singing the name of god in our own language, and we are making beautiful harmony together.  I had a very strong sensation that we were the planet.  I’ve never forgotten that experience.

Recently we did a circle dance to a new piece of music called “Dreams of Harmony.”  It affected me the same way.  It’s also a round, and they sing “Good night,” in nine different languages.  It’s a perfect example of what we do when we dance dances from around the world, even the dances of our “enemies,” we are celebrating our differences, not fighting about them.

As the current world situation seems to get scarier everyday, I listen to this.  It’s a beautiful antidote.

Posted in Circle Dance, Healing, Spirit | Comments Off on Peace on Earth