About the time I started doing Journey Into Courage in 1990, I began to make a book out of excerpts from my journal. I was inspired by reading in The Courage to Heal that people often cut themselves as a result of sexual abuse. I was working in therapy to try to uncover such an incident. I do have one memory of my father molesting me when I was 12, but that seemed a bit too mild. I was also looking for the reason I wasn’t able to have sex with my husband, but never found any past event that seemed to explain it. I called the book “Written in Blood” because when I cut myself I often wrote and painted with the blood. I planned to end it with Journey Into Courage. As I was going through old journals looking for entries for Written in Blood, I also found pieces of writing that spoke of the Shamanic part of me and the Artist part of me. I called the artist “Nika,” and I wrote a lot of imaginary stories about her life while I was in a workshop with Deena Metzger. I also started one on the passage through menopause, called “Dialogues with the Moon.” I already had a long project called “Ritual Year,” which involved finding a passage for each day of the year. I thought of going back to that one recently, knowing that I have a lot more positive writings that I could substitute for the painful ones. But I haven’t enough cognitive energy for such a project, the deep therapy I’m doing takes most of my mental/emotional energy.
I had a great idea, which was impossible for me to work out, it would have meant writing a lot of fictional journal entries since there were far more entries about “Blood” than about Nika or Shaman. My great idea was that I would write/compile three separate books, with dated entries, such that it would be possible to collate them and have one book, a journal of a person who suffered from child abuse, but who was also an artist and a shaman. It was a great idea, and I might have carried it out if I hadn’t been dragged down by the woundings of the past. At that time I wasn’t on medication, nor did I have any idea that I was suffering from PTSD.
It was in 1995, after we finished the movie of Journey, that I fell into what I now know was a severe depression. I think I was hoping that a new project would keep me going. I was walking with my husband one day, talking about “Written in Blood” and he asked me “If you wrote a book and it got published, what would you have?” This sentence came out of my mouth without thinking “That would prove that I deserve to live, even though my parents were disappointed in me.” When I understood that that was the point of this whole big project, it was like a whole block of my life fell into the sea. If proving something to Mom & Dad, or if not to them, to a wider and more inclusive “them,” was the motivation behind all this work, I did not want to keep doing it. I stopped typing up my journals. I thought I might even stop writing, but it was too important a part of my life. I kept the notebooks, but I didn’t start typing again until 2003 and then I only typed what I considered to be important.
Recently I decided that it was time to let go of that project. So every time I make a fire, I use about 10 pages to help it get started. Recently I saw some quotes that might be used in a blog entry. Here they are:
[I was very sick with systemic yeast and severe depression. My friend Miriam was concerned about me and came to our house and did a lot of work to get me going again.]
Saturday morning we did voice work in the formal gestalt manner with a different chair position for each voice. The first voice is the one who is trying to kill me. She resembles the fat, ugly, crazy person from the earlier life. She says “I want to die, what’s the point in going on, nothing’s any good, the world is all poisoned and dying, there’s nothing I can do, etc.” How old are you? “Four.” What’s happening? “I’m shut in the closet.” Why? “I was showing off.” Who did it? “Mother.” I was singing and dancing and she made me stop, she said I wasn’t any good at it. I shout at her: What’s wrong with showing off? Why shouldn’t I sing and dance? So what if I’m not any good — how am I going to learn? Mother turns away. Miriam says “Not much use asking her questions, is it?” Then she said that there were other parts of me that might be able to help (Depressed one felt some relief at that idea) and asked for permission to talk to them.
The second voice is the inner child. I got out the doll to help me because it’s so hard to get in touch with that voice. “I’m very intelligent.” “I’m very affectionate.” How old are you? “I’m very old.” She’s interested in nature, she likes flowers and the ocean and mountain streams (here she began to cry because she hadn’t been let out to see these things). She said she was interested in earth energies and geology and astronomy and making connections. We had to check in with depressed voice who was in mourning about the poisoning of the planet. Miriam said to depressed voice “You do care, you do really care about the planet. You just don’t know what to do about it.” The she turned to child and said “If you could do anything you wanted with the planet… ” and child knew — a great surge of visionary energy and the planet blossomed with trees and flowers and people using healthy bodies in healthy ways.
While in Connecticut, my sister and I had lunch with Mom and Dad. What a sad, thin meeting. We talked about nothing significant: not Jo’s job, or my book or my health, or Jack and Milda’s separation, or Dad’s health. He looked much worse, I think he’s disintegrating on all levels. Though they knew I had come to New York to see a doctor, the entire exchange went like this:
Mom: How are you doing?
Mom: new subject
Dad: Well, did your doctor say you were getting better — I have this cough, my throat is really full of stuff, etc.
He did not give me room to give an answer. He didn’t really want to know, just asking the dutiful question. And what an odd way to put it, as though the doctor was the one to know whether I was better. I felt no connection with Dad at all, we made our usual ineffective attempts to make conversation.
October 1985 Image from therapy:
I’m sitting on the dirt. In front of me is the body of my infant daughter. She is bleeding from her vagina. Her clothes are blackened and torn. She is frozen, or perhaps burned. I wail and rage. It was done by members of my tribe, adolescent boys. This tribe performs clitoridectomy on young girls. I said I wouldn’t allow it to happen to my baby, so they took her and raped her and she died. Someone brought her body back. At first I can’t bear to touch it, finally I pick her up and hold her on my lap, crying and groaning with the pain of rage and loss. No one is with me, no one comes to share my grief or stand up for me. Outside the tent I can hear shouts and fighting. Some disaster has befallen the tribe. I think of the pain my daughter suffered and I can’t bear it — I’m almost a child myself. Unable to stand it, I back out of my body leaving it crouched over the baby. My mother comes in and takes us both into her arms, begins to mourn, she has lost both daughter and grand-daughter. The women all come in, weeping and wailing. I am some sort of a princess, my death is a disaster for the tribe. I back off further, seeing the whole tribe, the men and women, the tents, the flocks. Their impulsiveness, ruled by the emotions and the unconscious, the close emotional ties. The awful things they do are because of tradition, they don’t know why, they don’t question. The whole tribe are buried in sand, dried out, packed together in a dry grave. They’ve been buried now for four hundred years.
I’m walking in a rocky desert place. It’s very dark, dark clouds overhead, a bit of light near the horizon. I’m carrying a baby wrapped in a shawl, I don’t know if it’s alive or dead. I’m barefoot, wearing a ragged dress. My whole village has been destroyed behind me, I’m looking for help, or water, or something. I just keep walking; I’m afraid to stop for fear I won’t be able to go on. At one point a group of horsemen gallop around a cliff. They seem to run me down, but go right through me instead.
I see a big rock up ahead and finally sit down to rest. My baby is dead. There’s no point in going on. After a while I see some people, beings of light, wandering toward me. They invite me to join them and I do. We walk among the plants, caressing them and helping them grow. We come to a stream and I touch tiny plants which then flower. But everything is dusty, there is no green anywhere. I ask if we can’t make rain, but they reply that it’s inconsistent with the larger pattern. I don’t really understand, but keep moving with them. We climb up the rocky creek to a grassy plateau. Silvery grass and a few trees and herds of wild animals. We follow the herds like shepherds.
My father’s health is worse. The throat cancer has recurred and there isn’t anything they can do about it this time. He will probably die by choking on his own blood. What a horrible way to go. I cried when I heard about it, thinking about that poor man facing such a death with no resources at all, no self-discipline, no spiritual faith, no courage and dignity strengthened by practice. He’s spent his whole life avoiding discomfort, now he has to face this. Unless the habit of denial allows him to avoid the knowledge of his death even at this point.