1996: Voices from the Dead

From workshop with Deena Metzger at Rowe, February 1996

“When we think of the voices within us we must include the dead.”
What dead are alive in you now?
What are stories about your relationship with the dead?   … your relationship to the ancestors?
Who is the person who is informed by the dead?

The names that come to mind are Chief Joseph, Anne Frank, Etty Hillesum.  Anaïs Nin, May Sarton.  My father, my friend Ron.

The Diary of Anne Frank was what started me writing a journal. I was also influenced by the journals of Anaïs Nin and May Sarton. My friend Ron was a gay man who lived with me in my house in Brunswick for a while. My parents failed to teach me prejudice against homosexuals, so I was easily able to accept them. Ron moved to San Francisco and died of AIDS. One person I failed to mention was my great-grandmother, Jenny Murdoch, who came over from Scotland on a boat. The boat was caught in a terrible storm, and she fought her way up on deck crying out “If I mus’ dee, let me not dee in darkness.”

Why Chief Joseph?  The refusal to fight, the heartbreaking journey and attempt to save the people of the tribe.  I too retreated from oppression in a heart-breaking journey.  I too refused to fight, tried to rescue the wounded, watched them die in the snow.

Anne Frank.  She wrote to try to find her way through a horrific situation.  In adolescence, when life should be expanding, hers was contracted.  She wrote to tell us on the outside how it was.  I too write to try to tell those on the outside how it was, and hope that if the fascists wipe me out, something will still be published.  “Those of us who grew up in alcoholic and abusive families have lived with a level of stress that is equivalent to that of prisoner of war…”

Etty Hillesum.  She who could enjoy the fresh roses in her vase while simultaneously knowing that the people who passed her desk were on their way to the death camps.  Her valuing of Rilke’s poetry as a help in desperate times.  Her claiming of the whole thing, the good and the bad.  I know and admire her as one on a far peak that I want to reach but doubt that I will ever get to.

My father.  Reduced to essence?  I see a pedantic nerd who desperately wanted to be liked — the petty tyrant of my childhood — but there’s something there, some sense of honor narrowly defined, but still a guide.  He might have made more of it if he had stopped fighting the effects of drinking and fought the drink itself.  But I have some sense of honor that looks behind the surface to the cause, that insists on getting to the roots of things.

Ron — what stays with me from my friend?  — I think the moment when he told he that I was the most important person in his life.

Who is the person who is informed by the dead?  Mostly the journal writer, who writes to let the ones on the outside know what it’s like in here, who writes to make her own experience real (Anaïs Nin), who writes to process her inner life.  I don’t have much sense of ancestors, of a heritage from the past, of a connection with blood relationship.  I suppose if I did have ancestors they would be writers, especially those who write about inner experience.

It’s odd that I’ve arrived at the age of fifty with so few losses by death of people who were really important to me, living presences in my life.  Certainly May Sarton’s death means more than my father’s.  He was dead before he died.

Forgot the awakening of my Celtic roots through the dance.

“That these honored dead shall not have died in vain…”  The soldiers who died in Vietnam are my dead, the ones I feel most connected with.  Claire asks why.  I say because they were sent to fight a dirty war, without support or guidance, the leaders who should have been making wise decisions abandoned them to the swamps and the jungle.  Sometimes they couldn’t tell who the enemy was.  This resonates with my childhood in an alcoholic family.

Claire was someone I met at Woman’s Way. I talk about the soldiers in Vietnam in my script for Journey Into Courage.

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1996: Two Versions of Father’s Death

This is an exercise from the Workshop with Deena at Rowe in February 1996.  After identifying different selves Deena asks us to identify one story that two of your selves share:  I choose my father’s death, shared by the one who didn’t come to this workshop and the one who asks “How can I express all that is in me?” The story about my father’s death is actually the story of the last weekend I spent with him. That story is part of this blog, it’s a page called July 4th monologue.

One who didn’t come:

My father is dying of cancer.  My mother is too drunk to take care of him any longer.  I go home to help so he can have a last weekend at home before he goes back to the hospital for radiation.  I have trouble getting home, I can’t find enough to eat on the plane, I get shaky running from one plane to the other in Pittsburgh.  I have brought my medicine and vitamin B6 and acidophilus with me.  Mother is not very sympathetic.  I know I can’t take care of Dad, he has a colostomy bag and a complex series of medications.  I call for help and get nurses to come round-the-clock.  Mother is angry about it.  I try not to let it bother me but focus on seeing that Daddy is comfortable.  I can’t sleep at night.  I hear the chiming clock ring the hours until 2AM and then am shocked awake at 6AM.  I take a message from the doctor and then forget to deliver it.  I have to cook meals for myself because I can’t eat processed food.  I wash the frying pan and put it on the burner and turn on the burner to dry it.  Minutes or hours later I walk into the kitchen and find the burner bright red.  I am confused, who turned it on?  It had to be me, there’s no one else, but I can’t remember.  I’m terrified by the failure of my short-term memory, what important thing have I forgotten.  I feel like I’m going through this in a fog.  I call my aunt for help, when I hear the voice of a sympathetic responsible adult I burst into tears.  She is very supportive.  I talk to my brother, tell him I’m really having trouble with my health — he says “get outta there, sis.”  As my father is taken to the hospital, he looks straight in my eyes and says “Thank you.”

One who wants to express:

My father is dying of cancer.  My mother is too drunk to take care of him any longer.  I go home to help so he can have a last weekend before he goes back to the hospital for radiation.  I don’t believe the way they are behaving.  My father drinks the whole time, he’s continually sipping a little glass of vodka, though he can’t get food past the obstruction in his throat.  I refuse to deal with the colostomy bag, so I get free lance nurses to help out.  Mother keeps complaining about the nurses, no matter what I suggest she makes me wrong, she makes constant cruel remarks.  I write it all down, it’s the only way I can stay sane.  I feel like I’m in Long Day’s Journey into Night and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf rolled into one.  I’m writing as fast as I can, as though taking dictation from a master dramatist.  In my wildest dreams I couldn’t come up with dialogue like this.  Mom & Dad fight about the nurses, about paying the bills, about what to watch on TV.  My last evening with Dad, he spends most of it worrying about what happened to one of the plastic flasks that he wants to fill with vodka and take to the hospital with him.  When he’s out of earshot, Mother says “I don’t understand why he has to go for more radiation.”  The nurse says “It might ease the pain.”  Mother says “But why do that?”  I want to smack her.  She says “If he just stopped being fed…”  I almost ask if she’s going to take responsibility for stopping his food but stop myself.  But I feel like an avenging fury.  I want to grab her and shake her till her teeth rattle and yell that she’s talking about murder.  Feeling the need for help, I call Aunt Betty.  I’m sick of carefully editing my conversation.  I tell her they’re behaving like infants.  I say I had to get the nurses in the house because neither Dad nor Mom would take responsibility.  She is shocked.  She tells me to go home and let them fight it out.  As my father is being taken away to the hospital, he looks directly in my eyes and says “Thank you.”

Is there some understanding I missed from the first character?  Only what a daze she was in, how hard it was to take care of herself in this chaotic environment, how shut down she had to be.  Desperately trying to do the dutiful daughter.     ??    But does she see this?  I don’t think so.

And from the second person?  O I am so angry at those two jerks.  Their precious precious lives, wasted in an alcoholic stupor.  Their marriage degenerated into a battle for control.  This is no way to finish a life, to finish a marriage.       Deena says “That’s because you know a better way to do it.”

Well, there’s my anger.  I really am angry at my mother and I didn’t know it til I wrote this piece.

I am interested now, reading this, to see that I wrote it, just like the original, in the first person, in the present tense, do not use the word “and.”  I notice that I occasionally call my father “Daddy,” but I never call my mother “Mommy.” One thing I don’t say, in either version, was that when Daddy said “Thank you,” his last words to me, he had an expression in his eyes I’d never seen before. The only words I could find were “His whole soul came into his eyes.”

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1996: How Can I Express the Totality of What’s in Me?

This was written in a workshop with Deena Metzger in February 1996.  One of the exercises was to find the right form of the question “I am the woman who asks…”  Quite a bit of work to find the right one, but so powerful when we did find it.

Going around the room, everybody saying “I am the one who asks…”   What wonderful diversity.  Some were still working to clarify.  Wonderful shifts as they got it right —— From “I design my life” to “I remember who I really am.”  Deena says imagine if everyone in the country were able to make that shift.

I am the woman who asks how can I express the totality of what is in me?

I cut myself and wrote with the blood.  Before that I tried to find safety in relationships with men.  Before that I read I Never Promised You a Rose Garden and took Deborah as my role model.  Before that, I felt enormous passion for truth, for beauty, but could find no outlet.  Before that I studied science into a dead end, I broke out into cutting little bits of colored paper and [writing/crossed out] pasting them down.  I danced, but I did not dance my full joy or my full pain.  I lit the stage for others but did not appear myself.  I started a journal but wrote in the style of a pedantic schoolgirl.  Before that my aunt gave me a book which at first I filled out dutifully, but then found too limiting and filled with teenage scorn.  Yes, there were massive outpourings of misery, and cold grey adolescent poems.  But everything was molded in reaction or rebellion, nothing came that felt like the sweet outpouring of a spring, or the quiet opening of a flower.

When I began to write with blood, the artist in me was so stifled and starved she did not know that she existed.  Every effort I made, to write, to paint  —— o but there was the painting of Thanatos, the dark angel, still with me, still powerful —  but so much else felt hopelessly inadequate, felt like it did not begin to give release to all that was stirring in my heart.  And at the same time, or perhaps for that reason, my efforts at writing and painting were restricted by the fear of others judgements or by the desperate effort to find some way to express myself that someone would finally listen to and understand.

Was the writing in blood my first authentic expression?  (There’s blood in Thanatos.)  Perhaps it was.  I no longer cared about reading anyone else, I was just desperate to get what was inside me out, and this was the most direct route.

Writing continued, writing grew stronger and deeper, writing became a spiritual practice, a river in flood.  Writing saved me.  No longer a few words in blood — quoted from someone else — WHO IF I CRIED OUT WOULD HEAR ME — but different pens, endless notebooks, dialogues with Tarot cards, writing my dreams.

Science, the right-hand way, which I had studied and then found too limiting, became the means by which I could create a format where there was room for all the many voices to speak.  Not only a book but a slide show, a multi-media presentation.

Dance had its own thread, equally convoluted, winding through folk dance and yoga to authentic movement and the discovery that poetry is dance.  Then I added painting, and dialogue with images, the discovery that drumming is dance, the performance in which I sewed carefully, meditatively, like one of the fates.

How can I express all that is in me?  The planetarium was part of it, theater pieces choreographed for sun moon and planets, explanations as carefully written as poems so that they would be both technically correct and intelligible to school children.

Now I work with voice, to speak my story in the present tense, to wail and lament the pain of my lost childhood.  I sing in the car, old songs, celtic laments, singing out the pain in my heart, singing my love of trees and rocks to the landscape.

And I’m back to writing, with ballpoint pen, in yet another notebook, so like the spiral notebook I started writing in so many years ago.

So amazing to find this piece of writing.  The only thing that’s missing is Neskaya.  I also fail to mention the importance of science in my search for truth.

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The Traumatized Baby

This is a repost of something first posted in July 2010.  So amazing.  Here I am working with parts before I had any idea about the Internal Family Systems work. It’s also how I’ve been feeling this week: “I feel so bleak and despairing and empty. …  I feel so bereft.  My life stretches out in front of me like a bleak grey wasteland.” I have to tell myself again and again “This is not current reality. This is the past. You are not stuck here. Your job is to reach out to the frozen traumatized one with compassion.”

(Written in June 2004)

In a session of the “Wave Work” at Kripalu: there was a confusing struggle with my body’s tendency to cramp up (esp left hand) and kick, shake, jump.  Finally I let it shrivel up into a crippled, spastic child (I could see the starving baby from my collage book) — and it felt, not exactly good, but valid, solid, like this is who I really am.  I stayed with it for a while, feeling huge compassion for that shriveled, spastic, starving baby.

Later came a sense of “wrong” — “Who’s saying it?” They are, mom & dad.  Then I got angry and started to growl & she said “Let it get big” — and it got huge, a shell of fire expanding outward.  I felt safe inside it.  The wounded child guarded by Tigress Mother Durga.  I could feel both at once and like the baby really was safe, and fiercely defended, and OK just as she was.  As I stayed with the picture, the limbs of the baby began to plump up — tho her skin was grey black.  At that point Helah said I was integrating and just to stay with the feelings of huge compassion.

Told Karen about the Wave Work, about being the baby — then about feelings of resistance and disgust to the idea of taking care of myself.  She said it was OK to have those feelings.  We explored the reality — that it’s not an infant that requires 24-hour a day care.  When I paid attention to the infant I got that what she needed was just my presence, my attention, my willingness to be with her, and to see her correctly.  OF COURSE!  She’s not a physical baby but an emotional one, she doesn’t need physical nurturing so much as  emotional nourishing — and I can do that.  I told Karen that this time being with the baby was different — I felt compassion go out to her, but not that I had to fix it or make it better.  Karen said she could tell that, that in the past I had seen the baby as a ‘chore’, a ‘burden’.  (which of course is how mother saw me).

(Written in December 2004)

Dear Guides and Guardian Spirits, I’m having a hard time.  I feel so bleak and despairing and empty.  At least I’ve been able to cook & eat breakfast, make phone calls, wash dishes.  But I feel so bereft.  My life stretches out in front of me like a bleak grey wasteland.  Please help me.
Dear Jenny, we love you a lot.  This is a difficult passage you are going through, but it is a passage.  You will get through it.  There is life on the other side, never fear.  It’s going to be OK, it really is going to be OK.  It’s OK for the moment to sit with this level of despair.  This is truly the experience of a baby who has been left alone by her mother.  She can’t take care of herself, all she can do is wait to be rescued.  The longer rescue does not come, the more everything looks utterly hopeless.  There, there, dear.  Imagine yourself holding the baby who is so frozen and scared — too frozen to be able to feel your presence.  And we are around you, holding you as you hold her.

(Written in December 2005)

The hopelessness and helplessness feel so HUGE. I say to myself “These are the feelings of a baby who’s been left alone too long.”  At the moment I’m feeling, overwhelmingly, “Nothing I do makes any difference.” I can see that’s the baby’s experience, but it doesn’t bring any change.

When I don’t have a Neskaya/Circle Dance activity, when I’m alone in my house, then I fall into the lost baby — hopeless and helpless, who will die if no one rescues her.

(Written in January 2006)

Bleak.  Cold stony wasteland bleak. This hard cold stoniness is not who I am.  It is the product of trauma and adverse brain chemistry.  This is what a baby feels when she has been left too long by her mother.  The hard cold stoniness is a defense, and it’s also how the world feels when mother is gone: no hope, no warmth, no love. My job is just to stay with her long enough for her to get it that I really am here for her.  Until she gets that, my attempts at self-soothing aren’t going to work.  So I need to just sit next to her, with kindness, reassurance and patience, understanding that her anger and rejection and mistrust are because of her pain at being left for so long.  I know and understand that pain.

Somewhere in here, I had an experience of committing myself to the traumatized baby. I didn’t write it down so I don’t know exactly when it happened.  I was imagining a war zone, wrecked buildings, burning cars, dead bodies, a few people wandering dazedly around, smoke drifting, colors all grey and black except for the fires.  I see a shriveled dark grey baby lying on a garbage can.  I think of picking her up, but I realize the orphanage has been bombed.  There’s nowhere to take her.  If I pick her up I’m stuck with her for the rest of my life.  I spend a moment wondering if I really do want to take on this task.  Then I pick her up.

Saw Deborah St. Cyr for acupuncture yesterday.  Told her about the feeling in my chest, and that if I said to myself “It’s a traumatized baby” then everything softened and it was easier to be with the fear.  When she started putting needles in, she said something about “strengthening the container.” That reminded me of Beth’s sculpture and the one I had wanted to make and how I had seen that the heart was shielded because it needed to heal, and then the heart needed to connect with the baby, not turn outward again.  Then it came to me — the baby is in the heart!  That’s why the heart is all grey like the baby was.  That was very exciting — it’s not the grey of stuckness, degeneration and death, it’s the grey of a frozen traumatized baby.  Even writing it down I can feel the shift — from being angry at myself for waking scared again to compassion for the terrified frozen baby, and willingness to stay with it as long as it takes.
And if it takes the rest of my life, I’m willing to do that.  It’s amazing that I care so much about this baby, who is me, as though the baby were the earth, or all the babies traumatized by war, and not Jenny who I’ve never thought was worth that much focus and effort.  But the baby doesn’t seem like “me”, more like the task I’ve been given and I’m willing to take it on.  My work to heal this traumatized fragment of the universe is meaningful.  And I think one thing that’s helped this shift is Sharon Salzberg quoting the Buddha as saying there’s no one more worthy of your love in the whole universe than yourself.

Note: Karen Collins is a therapist I worked with for many years and still talk to occasionally. Also, some of this post was published just 5 months ago. It seems more relevant than ever now as I struggle with being almost overwhelmed with very young, despairing, non-verbal parts.

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Talk with Youngest Part

At least I think/feel it’s the youngest. She can’t talk so I have to sense her feelings. I was reading James Hollis’s book What Matters Most, and got to the part where he talks about doing what your soul wants to do, not what your family/culture have taught you to do. So I asked: What does my soul want to do at Kendal?  At the moment the work with parts looks like the only thing.  I’ve lost dance, I can’t see myself doing astronomy, that leaves therapy and the blog. I decided to work with the one I feel is the youngest. So young, she’s non-verbal, so I have to sense her replies.

From my journal for Saturday, February 17

Thinking about working with younger parts. I feel an ache in my heart.   No, I want to learn and grow, explore something bigger.   You’ve tried that and they were too big, concepts beyond your experience or ability to understand. What’s wrong with working with parts? It’s been interesting, and brought the good feeling of connecting.

Then I think of the baby, the really young one. I think I need to try to be with that one.

I have the rock that signifies the youngest one. I’m holding it to my heart. I feel that she’s scared.“Yes, but I am here and I’ve got you. It’s OK to be scared, but what happened happened long ago, and someone came and fed you and you didn’t die. I’m here now, and what I want to do is help you to feel safe enough that you can stop being afraid and pay attention to where you are now. We are in a retirement community where we are well taken care of on the physical level.”

Jenny: I want to tell you about my life. It’s been hard. I lived with severe depression for most of it. I did manage to accomplish some worthwhile things, but it has been hard to see their worth. I still have to remind myself, and mostly I don’t feel it, though I can see it intellectually. Yes, I still have a long way to go.
How are you doing?

Baby: starting to feel warm.

Me: good.  My dog left, scared of ice falling off the roof, so I feel a little bereft, but I’m glad you’re here.
Can I tell you a story?

Baby: assents

Me: I went to a women’s retreat, and at some point I shared with some enthusiasm about writing a journal and how much I learned. Toward the end of the retreat, I started feeling uncomfortable and raised my hand to indicate I wanted to work with the facilitator. She had me lie down and relax. Asked what I wanted to work on. I said “Maybe it’s not that important…” She said “I don’t want to listen to your head.” So I relaxed again and the word “woman” came swimming up. “Maybe it’s about being a woman since that’s why I’m here.” I was quiet for a bit and started feeling uncomfortable. So I said “I’m uncomfortable.” More quiet. Then I realized it was because the day before I had talked about my journal. “Maybe that wasn’t OK.” The facilitator said “Why don’t you ask them?” So I sat up and looked at the other women and asked  “Was it OK that I talked about my journal?” They said “Yes!”  “It was very interesting.” “It was inspiring.” I started to cry. I asked “You mean it wasn’t bragging?” They said no. When I wrote about this incident in my journal I called my reaction “childish,” I think still trying to apologize for myself. It was only much later, after a lot of work in therapy, I realized that Mother had told me over and over “Don’t think you’re so great.” It was her worst criticism for someone. I was afraid I was conceited.

But years later, I was talking to a therapist, with some enthusiasm, about astronomy and the universe. I saw an imaginary plane fly by on my right side, pulling a banner with the words “…THINK YOU’RE SO GREAT.” I said to Mother “I don’t think I’m great, I think the Universe is great.” The therapist said she’d never heard me speak from such a strongly embodied place. I realized that Mother had always felt threatened and jealous and that’s why she said that. It helped a lot to see that. If Mother was threatened and jealous, then maybe what I was saying had some value after all.

That’s a story about how I realized that Mother was wrong. And she was wrong when she left you alone. She didn’t know that it would hurt you, she just felt the burden of being a mom was too much. It wasn’t about you at all.

I feel the baby’s surprise.

Me: “No, it really wasn’t about you, didn’t mean you were bad.” I feel the baby relax.

I was surprised to find myself saying “It wasn’t about you at all” and that it was a relief to the baby. Painful to see how early that belief about not pleasing Mom set in. On the other hand, after I finished this talk with the part, I felt really good, grounded, connected in some important way.

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Trauma Survivors have Difficulty Experiencing Love

This is from Gretchen Schmelzer’s blog:

For those of you who have been hurt or who grew up with trauma you may know the word love, but you may not understand what it means. Or maybe you understand what it means in fiction, or movies, or other people, but you don’t know what it feels like. When people say they love you—you can think about the word love, you have an idea of what they are trying to say, you know they are trying to be nice, but your body feels numb, or you feel like you are watching the whole conversation from the outside. Love is something other people understand. Love is an abstraction.

Survival mode makes it hard to experience and understand love. Where survival is an experience of tension or tightness, love is an experience of openness and expansiveness. Where survival is an experience of longing, grasping, clinging, or vigilance—love is an experience of patience, of being able to breathe and look around. There is a brittleness and stiffness with survival. There is an elasticity to love.

I found this quite extraordinary and helpful. I remember when my ex-husband threw his arms around me and said “I love you so much” and I felt like I had come into a warm room for the first time after an eternity out in the cold. Unfortunately, the feeling didn’t last, although I could remind myself of it. Finally, my difficulty with being sexual due to early trauma ended up in divorce.

Despite that experience, I continue to be uncertain of what love is, unable to feel my love for others, or to feel their love for me. I always blamed myself for being unloving. So it’s possible that I’m not unloving, and people do love me, it’s just that it’s hard for me to feel it.

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Help from Inner Teacher

Written today. Looking back, I see that I’ve only written one post about the knee pain. Reading it reminds me that my early trauma can trigger me into feeling more helpless than I am. After one week of feeling considerably better, I went back into serious pain, and it’s just gotten worse. I now have an appointment for a medical procedure that will hopefully take care of it.

Dear Inner Teacher, I am really having a very hard time.  I am exhausted and discouraged.  I just want to quit.  Please help me.

Dear Jenny, there are lots of beings who love you, even when you are so discouraged and exhausted you can’t do the things you should do.  You are once again beyond the end of your resources.  Think of all the other people here at Kendal who are similarly discouraged and exhausted, and are unable to talk to anyone about it.  You need to forgive yourself for quitting.  What you are up against is huge, and compassion for yourself is appropriate.  You are angry at yourself for not making the appointment for the procedure sooner and asking a friend to drive you.  Jeanne said she would have.  You are back to your difficulty asking for help.  You also haven’t asked your friends to walk Mocha again when it would help.  Dear Jenny, I can feel your resistance to having compassion for yourself.  You really are very angry at yourself for “quitting.”  Remember that you have quit before, and then after a day or several, found yourself picking up the task again.

Me: You’re right.  I really am very angry at myself.  And I really am refusing to ask for help when it would be appropriate.

Teacher: Dear Jenny, this has been a difficulty for you all of your life.  Your parents made you wrong for asking for help.  A few good experiences will not change that.  It’s also true that because of the pain and exhaustion you have regressed, and the more adult behaviors are not available to you.

Me: Well, I am softening a little.  Not quite ready to forgive myself.

Teacher: Remember that we all forgive you, that the Great Being forgives you.  We all understand how hard it is to be human.

Me: Thank You.

After I wrote this, I went out with Mocha, my knee hurting, and met my friend Sharon. Bless her heart, she could see that I was in pain and she offered to take Mocha. Thank you, Universe, for the synchronicity.

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Victim Story

I read a piece on the CAC’s Daily Meditation.  It’s about the story of victimization.  Of course, a lot of people have had their lives made more difficult by various conditions, poverty, race, gender, etc. I see that the problem of buying into the story of victimization is using at as a sort of excuse for not doing better in your life. But the truth is, that what happened DID affect your life. The problem, according to angel Kyodo williams, is not that you acknowledge you have been wounded, but that you make it be because you are wounded you don’t deserve a better life. I find this really interesting because I once said “If I publish a book, it will prove that I deserve to live even though my parents were disappointed in me.”

Actually, I see that the issue is not to “let go of the story” meaning claim that I was never victimized, nor to say that being victimized has made my life much harder, though that is true. Despite having been victimized, I have worked hard to undo it, and have managed to do more than I might have. But it’s also true, that when I find something too difficult to do, I need to not be angry at myself for not doing well enough, but acknowledge that early trauma has made things difficult and forgive myself.

Astonishingly, I also came to the idea that in some ways being traumatized has been part of my vocation. I see that, like a reporter who goes into the battlefield to report on what is happening there, I may have chosen before this incarnation to have been traumatized, so that I could then report about it. Which is what this blog is all about.

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“I Choose to Trust…”

From my journal for September 1994 and first posted in December 2022:

And finally I came to see (again again) that this miserable wimp is herself my task, this person who is so sensitive and precariously balanced, who can’t even keep her house clean, she’s the one that I’m committed, that I commit myself, to protect and nurture.  Yes that’s the difference.  It’s when I stop resisting the unfairness of God/universe, to have stuck me with this wretched body and damaged psyche, and accept the task, actively commit myself to her welfare, that’s when something changes, and I feel strengthened, and supported by ground under my feet.  Riding in the car on the way home, I realized that the hated task that I must stick with is not forcing myself to “live with” the planes, but learning to “live with” my sensitivity, and that understanding also turns it around to something I can do.

Ah, yes, the “miserable wimp” who I’ve lately been calling “this odd, difficult, broken person.”

Had a moment of fairly extreme fear.  I think it’s the world situation: Ukraine, Israel/Gaza, more threat in the middle east, Trump as a candidate, global warming….  Maybe the thing from MoveOn about being attacked by the Republican Party.

Don’t know how to explain about MoveOn except to quote from their letter:
“Recently, Trump henchman and former Attorney General Bill Barr published a propaganda piece in the right-wing opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal, calling on the Justice Department to investigate “serious allegations” against MoveOn—allegations of an unlawful, Russian-style criminal conspiracy against American democracy!
“Barr is attacking MoveOn for organizing to expose No Labels, a billionaire-backed dark-money political slush fund, and their reckless plans that would reinstall Trump in the White House.”

Read something I wrote in September 1994: “I realized that the hated task that I must stick with is not forcing myself to “live with” the planes, but learning to “live with” my sensitivity, and that understanding also turns it around to something I can do.”

Can I take this on now?  Not sure what I meant by “live with,” I don’t think I had gotten so far as to think of “accepting” the planes, I think by “live with” I just meant not fighting them. But I do accept that we’ve damaged our world, and I need to accept and protect my damaged and sensitive self.  And to keep letting go on the out breath, to keep handing myself over to the Great Being or Spirit or Universe or “this process,” to hope/trust that good may be being done through me tho I don’t know about it.  And to keep choosing to trust that the Universe is Alive and Intelligent and holds us all in compassion.

Posted in Depression, Journal, Trauma | Comments Off on “I Choose to Trust…”

Confusing, Difficult Time

I’ve been having a really hard confusing time. Excerpts from some relevant journal entries:

Friday, January 26   … this odd realization.  Something to do with if God is in everything, then I “am” God, if god feels my pain then god is manifesting as odd, difficult, broken Jenny, and that’s somehow all right, but also a paradox.  When I look at odd, difficult, broken Jenny from outside, I love her.     !!

Saturday, January 27    Maybe I’m stuck in a part.  I’m certainly feeling very odd.  Hard to find words.  I don’t belong anywhere.  I don’t feel connected with anyone.  I don’t feel connected with Nature.    I imagine a baby, and reach out to her, but I realize she’s frozen, she’s unconscious.  I pick her up and she starts to fight.  I keep holding her as firmly but gently as I can.  She keeps fighting.  Finally she slows down.  I keep holding her.      I apologize for forgetting about her.    I just keep holding her.
Well I feel pretty solid, just sitting here holding the baby.  Not interested in doing a puzzle.  Just able to sit here & be quiet.  Holding the baby and letting go of both of us on the out breath, me still holding her.

Sunday, January 28       Feeling like such a useless, worthless person.  Then I remember standing back from odd, difficult, broken Jenny and loving her.  Can I do that again? where was that?         — It was Friday morning, and I had been reading something in Rohr about how God is somehow all of us.  God is in us and we are in God.  Yes, I see why they have to say it both ways.  It’s a paradox, that’s how it makes sense.  I really get it, but it’s not possible to say in words.     I suppose, if odd, broken Jenny is a manifestation of God, then it doesn’t matter if people like her, or think she’s a “worthy” person.
I guess there’s really nothing to do but keep emptying myself so God can work through me.  Sometimes I feel Divine energy moving through me, sometimes I don’t.  And I have no idea what the results are, and I don’t suppose anyone knows it’s coming through me, and all that doesn’t matter a bit.  I do have to trust that something good is happening otherwise there’s not much point in going on.
…. everything seems totally unfamiliar.  Maybe I am blended with another part.  I think this is an older part, maybe teenager.  Freshman at Wellesley?  The summer Piet came to Maine?  The one who broke David’s windows?  The summer I broke my ankle?  I’m feeling like what’s the point of going on.  That first winter in Maine when I was suicidal?  Definitely strong feelings of why keep making the effort to keep going.  Well of course that happened many times in my life, it could be any of them.

So I played a MyMix that started with Fire & Rain. ended with Times We’re Living in.   “Days like flowers bloom and fade and they do not come again.”  Do I believe that’s how life is?  NO.  That’s what I grew up with, but I believe that people are supposed to have more honest and real relationships and there should be a lot more love and not so much buying and selling.  I believe loving communities are what we’re designed for, and that it’s possible for us to do it.  I believe there are a lot of people doing it, but we don’t hear about them.  I haven’t been able to find such a thing for myself.

It’s been a difficult day.  The first thing that helped was the chapter on Mary Montague in The Dean’s Watch.  For a while I was feeling really hopeless, unable to do anything worth while.  O yes I tried to get in touch with another part but couldn’t do it.      But I did manage to say I didn’t believe the cultural paradigm, and to hang on to an alternate possibility.

So what’s going on here? I see myself having odd realizations about my relationship/connection with God, attempting to connect with parts, making a statement about my worldview as against the cultural paradigm. At the time I was feeling very confused, but reading over this, I can see that I’m working on some important issues, but I haven’t come to any conclusion.

Posted in Journal, Present Day, Spirit, Trauma, Work with parts | Comments Off on Confusing, Difficult Time