1995: Self-Mutilation

So amazing to read this. I started cutting myself in California when a boyfriend left me for someone else. I did it for a number of years in my 20’s, and stopped, interestingly, when my brother said “Buddha says ‘life is suffering’.” When I read that self-mutilation could be a consequence of sexual abuse, I thought it explained why I couldn’t have sex with my husband. This is the story I told on stage in Journey Into Courage. It wasn’t until years later, after our divorce, I discovered that I had been traumatized and that self-mutilation can easily be described as a result of trauma.  Jacqueline Winspear says of soldiers traumatized during World War I that “they would injure themselves as if to make visible the wounds to their souls.” This makes much more sense. I definitely felt that no one could see that I was in pain, though it was especially my parents who totally missed it.

From my journal for September 29, 1995

This is where I began the session with Karen, saying that I needed to let go of my hope/expectation that I could somehow make up for all the years of not being creative by producing full blast in the time that is left to me, that I needed to mourn the works never completed (like the quilt) and that I had to let go of the illusion that my creativity could “just” come alive again and everything would be fine.  Bringing my creativity back to life is turning out to be an unexpectedly, indescribably painful process, like trying to recover a limb after frostbite.  And I don’t know whether it will really resurrect into full functioning, or if I will be a limping cripple all my days.  Better to be a limping cripple than a frozen corpse, I think, but I hope the pain will end, or release, or at least come and go.  At the moment I have pain alternating with numbness.  I don’t understand why it is so painful, perhaps I will see it some day with hindsight, I only know that it is enormously painful, that what I feel in my body is a sort of prickly discomfort, with sharp melting pains, as though I were trying to get into a new skin that was lined with many small sharp blades, or as though I was lined with many small sharp blades, or as though I was trying to push the ability to feel from my core to my skin through a barrage of tangled brambles.  That’s the best I can do, and I understand better now the feelings behind the impulse to cut my skin with razor blades and write with the blood.

This work to understand about my creativity will have a surprising result on the very day this was posted.

Posted in Depression, Journal, Trauma | Comments Off on 1995: Self-Mutilation

1995: Difficulty with Creativity

This is a description of a therapy session with Karen Collins who I saw in Montpelier for many years. I was amazed at what it reveals about my difficulty with my creativity. I had understood at one point that when Mother said “Don’t think you’re so great” it was because she was both threatened by and jealous of my intelligence, creativity, and enthusiasm. This journal piece certainly reflects that. But my recognition was long after this piece of work.

September 29, 1995

Work with Karen.  We talked about the creative cycle.  I said I was bummed out by the number of projects I had begun and never been able to finish.  I used the seasonal quilt as an example.  I had painted the design, bought the fabric, cut out pieces for one or two squares — I can’t remember if I ever started sewing.  It’s all in a box labeled “quilt” that hasn’t been opened in years.  I said to Karen that I hadn’t enjoyed it because I hadn’t been able to finish it, and that I saw that I’ve been able to change my attitude because the dollhouse has been different: I enjoyed every bit of time I spent working on it this year, and I still have the enjoyment, even if I never get any farther.  Later, I saw that I had, in fact, enjoyed painting the design, though I couldn’t hold on to that enjoyment when I actually began to make the quilt.  And I see now, writing about it, that what killed the quilt project was expectations, haste, and stinginess.  I didn’t buy enough of the background blue color to just appliqué mountain and meadow pieces on to it, which would have made the job of keeping the squares flat much easier for an inexperienced quilter.  I expected myself to baste it and then sew it on the machine, I have enough experience now to know that the enjoyment comes from the meditative sewing.  It’s possible that I could resurrect this project, though at the moment I have no expectations.  Certainly I couldn’t do it without the deep quiet of winter and perhaps some moral support in the form of a visiting friend.

I looked for, but could not find, the original painting. I saw the pictures as a particular landscape going through the seasons, the mountain, meadow and maybe a tree, I can’t remember what else was in the picture. Twelve square pieces, 3X4, to make the quilt.

I talk about “winter quiet” because this was the period when I was having such a hard time with the noise of planes.

Third cup of tea!  Really, I’m very bad this morning.  But I need help to go on writing about the session.  OK we talked about the creative cycle.  I described it by moving my hands up in front of my body, out and down in a circle.  I described my failure with a motion that went up, but then fell back before it could reach the top of the cycle and move outward.  I saw that I was angry at myself for my continual failures to push on through.  Karen asked if I could separate out that one who was angry, or perhaps the one who she was angry at, the wimp who just couldn’t push through.  I can’t remember now, it was confused, I think they both appeared together, a whiny drip complaining that I just can’t do it and someone accusing her of not caring enough.  I put that one, or both of them, in the chair and then found myself shouting “That’s a lie, I do care, I do want to do those projects.”  O yes, I had come up with a voice that says “you must not really want to do that” and recognized it as an introject of mother’s voice and that’s what I put in the chair.  Once I got angry I wanted to throw things at her, Karen supplied me with cushions and I threw them, and finally turned the chair completely around and threw all the Kleenexes from my crying in there too.

Then as we began to explore the creative cycle again, Karen pointed out how the anxiety rises with the creativity.  As I watched her repeat my gesture, I saw how, when I got to the part of the cycle where I should begin moving my hands outward toward the world, that what met me was a blast of hostility, that instead of a wimp who gives up, I was a person struggling against a very powerful current, so powerful that I am often swept backward, no matter how much I care about the inspiration or the project, no matter how much I want to share what’s in me with the world.  That current of hostility is mostly introjected from mother (though it’s partly there in the world as well) and triggered by any sign of disinterest or difficulty on the part of the audience.  When I saw what I was up against, when I saw the pressure and power of that hostility — of a mother who makes her four-year-old daughter wrong for singing and dancing, a father who loses his temper when she makes a mess — I saw that I was not a wimp who gives up but a child overpowered by her parents.  I said “But I never did give up, I went on being creative — ” and Karen, in a swift beautiful move, went down on the floor in front of me and said “Yes!  You went on being creative.”  And I see that each time, as I met the force of the hostility preventing me from pushing my creative expression over the threshold to share it with the world, I would retreat back into safety and find some quieter, less threatening way to express myself — I wrote in my journal instead of writing letters or articles — but I never stopped writing.  No matter how small and insignificant the outlet I never stopped finding ways to let my creativity out, like grass pushing up under asphalt.

I saw the power of mother’s hostility, what I failed to see was that it was much more powerful than my urge to be creative. It’s a wonder I produced as much as I did. I see that help from outside was what made it possible. Support from the Center for Archaic Studies helped me get The Feminine of History is Mystery into print, Journey Into Courage was created by a group, I had Dana’s support to build Neskaya.

Posted in Journal, Vocation, Writing | Comments Off on 1995: Difficulty with Creativity

1995: Interviews and Feedback about my Performance in Journey into Courage

This material is some of the first I typed up from the handwritten journals after September 15 when I stopped typing them. I’m not typing everything, just pieces I think would make good blog posts.

After the Video of Journey Into Courage was made, Bess arranged for a premiere of the Video in Burlington. A couple of reporters called to interview me.

September 25, 1995

Susan Kelly called from the Burlington Free Press and we talked for half an hour.  I could hear her typing madly while I talked.  She sounded very excited about the things I said, so I hope a lot of it shows up in the final article.  It was interesting that the talk with Deb McIlwaine, wanting information for the local paper, warmed me up so certain verbalizations were ready to hand: “I had all the advantages, but my parents’ alcoholism sabotaged my ability to make use of them.”  I had the same sense as after the videotaped interview, of having been heard, of someone really being interested in what I had to say and paying close attention, and finding that in that accepting and supportive atmosphere I’m able to speak powerfully and passionately and intelligently.  That feels so satisfying, to speak my truth and speak it well, and have it be heard.

That “accepting and supportive atmosphere” is exactly what I didn’t have at home. My parents were not at all interested in hearing me speak my truth, they invalidated me and turned away. At the time of Journey, I thought my inability to have sex was because I had been sexually abused, and didn’t know it was due to being traumatized. See script for Journey.

Jacqueline Winspear says of soldiers traumatized during World War I that they would injure themselves as if to make visible the wounds to their souls. Understanding that I was traumatized let me know that I cut myself because I felt that no one could see my pain, or listen to my pain and therefore it was invisible.

September 27, 1995

Lynelle watched the Journey Video with Daria and had some interesting (and heartening) feedback.  She said she thought it was very good.  She had a hard time with Tonya’s description of a flashback of oral abuse, and Brenda’s tale of the “Elderberry Huts” which is really creepy.  She said she thought I was the person she would most like to talk to, that I seemed to have more vitality, my voice was very vibrant.  She said that I and Tonya, and possibly Ann, seemed to be connected to something deeper, that the others weren’t.  The reporter said I was the one she most wanted to talk to as well, which makes me feel much more comfortable about being present while others see the video — I have been feeling very embarrassed about how ugly I am and imagining that people would be put off.  I will try to watch myself with more objectivity and see if I can see what Lynelle is talking about.

Going back and reading this is so strange. I realized that I got all this good feedback, but simply wasn’t able to integrate it. Now, when Erica or Elizabeth says they hear a special energy in my voice, I notice the comment and realize that I’m unaware of what they are talking about. It seems like the person other people see and the person I experience myself to be are completely different.

Posted in Activism, Journal, Story | Comments Off on 1995: Interviews and Feedback about my Performance in Journey into Courage

1995: Vision for a World Where I Can Live

From my journal for August 1995.  I had gone to Dance Camp, but I was limited in what I could eat because I had systemic yeast.  No bread, no wheat, no sugar, etc.  The cook at camp was not sympathetic or cooperative. So I came home.

Back from circle dance camp, disappointed, the food was not abundant, tasty, nourishing enough to sustain me through a day of dancing.  Even this morning, after a good breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes, I began to feel a little shaky in the late morning.  I took some rescue and ate a snack of granola & yogurt.  What I really wanted was shortbread, and I had even turned on the stove, but the ghee was cold and my hands weren’t strong enough to open it.

So here I am in the hut, with candle lit and tape of Tibetan monks.  I wanted to write down a vision of a world in which I could live, one in which things like Circle Dance Camp would be commonplace and easy to get to, in which organic food is grown locally and easy to get, in which machinery is quiet and powered by sunlight, in which travelers can go by train, or car, or bicycle, or horse, or gypsy cart, or air vehicle, in which people are joined in “clans” or “families” by interest and temperament rather than by blood — so that I could travel across the country stopping for the night at Dance Camp or Bird Lodge, knowing that I would be welcomed and fed.  There would be a system of community bicycles, so you could get off the trail and find a bike to take you wherever you wanted to go, and there would be no “tragedy of the commons” because each of us would think of the bikes as “mine that I share with my friends and to be cared for” rather than “theirs, to be abused and exploited.”  There would be a clan of “Bike People” whose job would be to see that there were plenty of bikes in good repair at places where they were needed.  People would exercise their bodies more, and visit with friends more, and not be so stressed-out with sedentary and oppressive work.  There would be bonfires and dancing and ceilidh’s and discos, and jazz jams and rock jams, and local entertainment every night.  There would be seasonal pageants.  There would be high-tech building materials available so it would be easy to build a sturdy warm free form house, with a little help from friends. When you wanted a couch, you would go to the local furniture maker and commission something to your specifications, or trade at the monthly exchange Fair, or build it yourself.  Our houses would be works of art and culture, filled with beautiful, rich, objects made by hand that were the expression of what each of us wanted to live with.  There would be Men’s and Women’s Lodges, similar to old style monasteries, where people could live or retreat when they needed/wanted that life style. There would be whole territories given over to people who liked noisy internal combustion engines, and other territories where planes would not even fly over because there would be an understanding of the importance of silence.  Cities would be smaller, with smaller buildings, parking for cars on the lowest level, and gardens on the roofs, so they would not be industrial deserts.  And there would be room for lots of other things, that I don’t even know about, that I maybe don’t like myself, but could certainly live with as long as they weren’t forced on me.

O yes, and there would be an understanding that children are the future, and each new birth would be greeted by the adults with delight, and they would then watch, with joyful patience, to see who this new being was going to turn out to be.  Parents who were having a hard time would have an extended family to turn to for help, and the possibility of exchanging a child who wasn’t a good match for one that was, with the understanding that nobody is wrong here, and that each of us will eventually find our “tribe”, united by spirit, not by blood.  Blood relationships would no longer have the possessive and limiting characteristics that they have today.

Other parts of this vision are already written in the F of H, and in the Woman’s Way vision for any woman pregnant with an unwanted child.  I’d like to get this into some sort of form so I could share it at circle dance camp, and so that other people could add to it, naming clans they’d like to see, and activities they’d want to have be available.  I don’t want to see anything ruled out, even noisy planes, as long as it’s understood that when one activity impinges on another as noise impinges on silence, then they have to be given separate territories or silence disappears.  And I want there to be room in my world for silence, for monasteries, for gypsies camped by the side of the road, for tents with banners flying and shrines that are to be approached only on foot.

I hold this world in my heart, and in some ways I live there already though my body is not there yet, just as I’m still at Circle Dance Camp even though I couldn’t stay.

Posted in Journal, Story | Comments Off on 1995: Vision for a World Where I Can Live

1976: “Feel Good About Myself”

It’s both interesting and painful to read this. At that time I failed to connect my fear about sharing my enthusiasm with Mother’s frequent remark “Don’t think you’re so great.” But that’s what did it. I suppose feeling good about myself is also “thinking I’m so great.”

Women’s Workshop April 14, 1976

the core of the weekend for me was Saturday night.  we had split into two groups, I was in Phyllis’ group.  She had worked with Nan, with Sandy, with Brooke, with Shiela, and asked for our feelings as a way to close.  I had felt that I wanted to say something, but could not think what, but now my stomach began to feel very anxious, so finally I said that.  Phyllis asked if I wanted a body massage like the ones the group had given Shiela and Brooke.  I was not sure, but said yes — and was very aggressive about asking for what I wanted.  But afterward my stomach still felt tight, though i felt very relaxed.  Phyllis asked me how I felt and I started into a routine about whether or not my anxiety was important enough to deal with.  She put her hand on my mouth and said ‘I don’t want to listen to your head.’  Immediately i felt utterly safe.  I could say whatever came to me, and trust Phyllis to decide if it was important.  So I just lay there quietly and the word ‘woman’ came swimming up.  So I said ‘It must have to do with being a woman because thats why I’m here.’  a long pause.  ‘I don’t feel that I am nurturing and compassionate, and I would like to be.’  a pause.  Phyllis ‘why would you like to be nurturing?’  I thought or said ‘It would make me feel good about myself’ and then started into a routine about how one should be nurturing for the sake of others not to feel good about oneself.  She stopped me again and suddenly I realized that ‘It makes me feel good about myself ‘ was a perfectly good reason for wanting to be nurturing, I started to voice it but just saying ‘feel good about myself’ brought up all sorts of emotion and tears and I knew we had hit the core.  Phyllis made me sit up and face her, and I said ‘you mean its all right to feel good about myself?’ and she said yes, and I asked the group and they said yes, and then I asked them if it had been OK with them the first night when I had gotten all enthusiastic about journal keeping and they said things like ‘it inspired me’ and ‘im glad you wanted to share it with us’ and I burst into tears and said ‘you mean it wasn’t bragging?’  Phyllis said ‘how do you feel now?’ and i said ‘like a little bird that has just broken its shell and is looking around.’  In some ways a very childish scene on a very childish level, but the very strength of my emotions convinced me of the damning reality of my belief that it was wrong to feel good about myself.  Now I see the source of my difficulties in trying to feel good about myself, even though I’ve been struggling to do so for the last year and a half, believing that this was the only way to begin to be loving and outgoing to other people.

There are a couple of places where I use lower case “i” instead of “I.” Don’t remember when I started doing that and when I stopped. I am struggling to understand my need to call what happened “childish.” Of course it’s true in the sense that a younger part of me was scared about “bragging.” But I think there was also an adult who wanted to disparage what I had learned.

I note now what I didn’t record then, that the contract I made (to “stop putting myself down”) led to this understanding.  Of course I would put myself down, especially when I had been enthusiastic, “showy”, if I thought that it was morally wrong to feel good about myself.   March 89

“The contract” was an exercise at the beginning of the workshop. Often comments that are added later happen when I’m typing up the journal.

Posted in Healing, Journal | Comments Off on 1976: “Feel Good About Myself”

“Attainment too is Emptiness”

Writing group didn’t happen this week. I’ve been feeling very odd, and finally decided I would try to write about it. Not what I expected!

Written on Friday, August 11

3rd cup. coffee.     I want to do a writing like I do in writers group.   keep the pen moving.   o gosh — I’ve been feeling really empty.  Sometimes it feels good, like when I say “May my presence be a blessing” and then feel the blessing energy flowing through me.  But mostly it’s too close to meaninglessness.  I try to keep my mind quiet, hoping that a deeper voice will speak, or maybe just give a feeling, like the one I had after Daddy died.  Not so much hearing him speak as just getting a feeling of the truth: that even though he didn’t begin to understand me, he still felt kindly toward me.     . . .  odd meaningless syllables. . .    So. being empty.  I read somewhere recently that the word translated as “emptiness” in the Buddhist scriptures should really be translated s “spaciousness.”  Not emptiness as meaninglessness, but spaciousness as room for the new and the unknown.  Again this morning I had a song in my head, an earworm, about Mister Snow.  What possible meaning could that song have for me?  I never wanted a conventional marriage, and certainly the one I had was not conventional.  There goes the A/C again.  I heard others around me going off in the night.  Very aware that humans are damaging the earth’s life-support system.

Thinking of the Gaia Hypothesis, that the earth is a living creature that self-regulates, reminds me of how easily I was able to extend that to the Universe.  Brian Swimme said Tuesday night that the rate of expansion of the universe is such that life can be created and flourish.  If it was any faster, material would separate too fast to form enough stars to continue the process.  If it was any slower, material would collapse into a black hole.  I was thinking that this proved the Big Bang, but I realize now that the speed the galaxies are moving would correlate just fine with the steady state hypothesis, which only requires one hydrogen atom per cubic yard to be created every million years.  I think this still doesn’t fit with the observation that galaxies are found in flat sheets or huge clumps with a lot of space in between.  So we have a way to go with our theories of cosmology.  Swimme also said that the universe was not static but evolving.  But I think people have seen that for a long time.  It was only the church that said science was wrong, the Bible was literally right.

That’s it.  I’m done.

The song about Mister Snow is in Carousel. Often when there’s a song in my head I can take it as a message, but this one is clearly not.

When I got my degree in Astronomy at Wellesley College in the 60’s, there were two theories of the origin of the universe, the “Big Bang” and the “Steady State.” Though people talk about it as though the Big Bang is proven, it is just a hypothesis that has so far been supported by the evidence. One problem with cosmological theories is that they assume that the “laws” of physics, as we have determined them in our laboratories here on the planet Earth, a typical planet going around an ordinary star in an average galaxy, that these “laws” hold true for all time and space. But we know from Einstein’s theory of relativity, that how “time” functions is related to how fast something is moving. And space can be distorted by gravity. So I think we are a long way from knowing the truth about the universe.

Another theory of the origin of the Universe is the one proposed in a book published in 1991, The Big Bang Never Happened, which is based on the alternative views of Hannes Alfven.

Tuesday nights I have been watching a course promoted by The Shift. It’s on Science and Spirituality and the teachers are Matthew Fox and Brian Swimme.

I could not think of a title for this post, so I’m using a line from the Prajna Paramita Chant that I learned at the Rochester Zen Center.

Posted in Astronomy, Interesting link, Present Day, Writing | Comments Off on “Attainment too is Emptiness”

The Importance of Meaning in One’s Life

I’ve been reading Viktor Frankl‘s book about his experience of concentration camps, and then his conclusions about what helped him survive. Dr. Frankl was a psychiatrist. He said that Freud thought that what motivated human beings was pleasure, Adler thought it was power, but he himself said it was meaning. The book is called “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

Writing group on Monday, July 31

Viktor Frankl says that what is most important in people’s lives is not pleasure, not power, but meaning.  That explains why so many people’s lives in our modern culture are empty and ultimately unsatisfying.

I want to look at my life and see where I find meaning.  One thing for sure is my blog.  It always feels good when I publish a piece.  I tell my truth as best I can, and then I put it out there.  I don’t really care if people read it, what’s important to me is to make it available.  Though I was glad to find out that there are people reading it.  Especially since I haven’t posted a reminder on facebook in a long time.

Mocha is important in my life.  The times when I feel like I want to die I realize I wouldn’t feel good leaving her alone.  Taking care of her, taking her for walks, is an important part of my life.  I like getting her outdoors, I like watching her explore the world.  Sometimes she doesn’t want to go where I want to go and we fight about it.  I’ve been working on finding ways to have a conversation about it.  Sometimes I let her do what she wants to, sometimes I lower my voice and say “Come!” and she obeys.  I also like being in Nature.  When I’m outside I do my best to be present to what is there, to the plants, to the weather, to the people and the buildings, to how my body feels.  So my relationships with Mocha and with Nature are full of meaning for me.

The moon is important.  I try to see it every day.  Very frustrating with all the cloudy weather.  The hardest time to see the moon is the waning cycle.  I have to look in the morning, as early as possible.  The hardest season to see the waning moon is summer because the waning moon is in the winter section of the ecliptic, the Zodiacal signs of Sagittarius and Capricorn, so it’s low in the sky and hard to find.  This month I managed to see several crescents, the first quarter through thin clouds after the sun had set so it was bright enough to see, then a waxing gibbous once, and then one just short of the full moon.  I hope to see the full moon tonight.  The weather was better the last couple of weeks.  Whole months have gone by when I haven’t seen the moon at all.  That’s very frustrating.  I really feel lost when I don’t see the moon.  It’s like it lets me know that I’m home in the solar system which in some ways feels more home to me than the USA.

Where else do I find meaning? with my good friends, like the ones I’m doing this writing with.  In fact this writing group is full of meaning for me.  It’s a chance to explore deeper topics in my life, or just to do a free writing and see what comes up.  Most of what I write in this group is meaningful and gets posted on my blog.

Frankl says that “meaning” is specific to the person. “What matters … is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” (p101)

This is a great topic to be exploring. There are things I did in the past that have a lot of meaning: The Feminine of History is Mystery, Journey into Courage, Sacred Sites, Neskaya. They give me a reason to know that I have done good things with my life, not huge things, but things that at least have brought meaning to some people.

I did see the full moon last night!

Posted in Healing, Present Day, Spirit, Writing | Comments Off on The Importance of Meaning in One’s Life

1995: “The Whole Thing”

SUNDAY, JULY 30, 1995    Sometime in the early ’90s I followed the program described in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. “Morning pages” is one of the exercises in Julia Cameron’s program. Nika is the Artist part of me, I don’t remember now where her name came from. I started doing the program in May of 1995 as Nika. This post is from “Nika’s Morning Pages.”

Candle, dandelion tea, aap sahaee hoaa on the tape deck.  Glorious day, snarling planes, enormous sadness.  I’m seeing that in the struggle with the noise there are many “parts of myself”:

I am the one that screams intolerably loud, trying to get someone to pay attention to my pain.

I am the one that tries to avoid hearing the noise, that makes the noisemaker wrong.

I am the one that cries out and causes other people to feel the pain of their unhealed wounds.

I am the one who, attempting to enjoy my life, thoughtlessly causes pain to others.

I am the one who is damaged, before birth and all my life, by the toxic wastes of our unhealthy culture, and I am the one who perpetuates that pollution by the choices I make in how I live.

The hardest one to own is “thoughtlessly causes pain” since I have spent so much of my life’s energy holding myself back, holding back my power, my creativity, my intelligence, my joy, in the effort not to “hurt” people.  But much of that fear was an illusion.  And the truth is that I have, more than once, thoughtlessly caused pain by an unconsidered remark.

Walking back to the house to get a mug, I could see the beauty of the glorious day – sparkling blue and green, fresh breeze, white clouds — and the pain of my grief like a dagger in the heart and one did not shut out the other, they were both there, both parts of me, both pain and glory and they were somehow one, somehow some new thing that contains both pain and joy, that’s much bigger than either, that reaches out into enormous spaces. This is the whole thing.    This is like the moment of the corpse and the blossoming apple tree, but more complete.  Words are poor substitutes for experience — that’s the best I can do.  I wish I could express it as poetry, there’s some sort of intensification that happens when the pain is there with the beauty, but doesn’t cut me off from the beauty.  This is like the way the beauty of the world was intensified in the aftermath of Fiona’s death, but then the pain was greater than the beauty, and now the beauty is greater than the pain, includes the pain, is completed by the pain.  I repeat to myself with wonder and tears: “This is the whole thing.  I have it all.”

“This beauty opens a great heart, wide, wide a world’s refuge.”

The white clouds fly.  The little green leaves quiver in the sunlight.  A purple finch sits at the feeder.  The sunlight falls on the pottery shells.  Signs from Journey into Courage stand against the wall.  Maria & Susie are elegant, the dollhouse is unfinished, the crone fabric hangs in the background.  The white clouds fly behind the ugly transformer with its ugly wires that brings the electricity into the house to run the tape deck so I can be listening to aap sahaee hoaa, and the sound of a plane contributes a base note.  A butterfly and a bee come to the window.  “I am the sacrifice unto the One, day or night, with every breath, remember Him.”    Not perfection, but completeness.  Yes, Lord, I happily and with gratitude, give up “perfection” and accept completeness.    “The Lord Himself has become my refuge.”    What an astonishing, rich, complex, enormous place to live.  And I have no name for it, can only feebly call it “the Whole Thing.”    Perhaps this is god?  Certainly there is a sense of a Divine Being who contains all these contradictory things, and has room for more, space in which utterly new things can appear.  What’s Howard’s phrase for it?  “Human freedom open to the new”, and God’s creativity breaking into history — “Behold, I make all things new.”    And I say Yes! I want it all, the pain as well as the joy, the endless risk of being “open to the new.”

Howard, my ex-husband’s father, a minister, wrote: “Divine Grace capable of the new, and human freedom open to the new.”

Thomas Merton’s version of Chuang Tzu poem “How Deep is Tao” contains the line “he grows great, great, opens a great heart, a world’s refuge.” I don’t remember where the other quotes come from, can’t find them on the internet.

Posted in Healing, Journal, Trauma | Comments Off on 1995: “The Whole Thing”

1995: Journey Into Courage Video and Fear about Mom

After the first showing of the movie about Journey Into Courage, I realized that my siblings’ names were listed among the contributors to making the video.  I worried about mother finding out.  At this point I still didn’t know about the trauma, I thought my father must have done more than my only memory of something I thought trivial.

The actual memory: I was about 12 years old, and my breasts were just starting to grow. My father came into my bedroom and put his hands on my breasts. I thought O no not this again. Then I groaned and turned over. He never did it again. Because I was unable to have sex with my husband, I thought I must have been abused sexually. But in fact, my difficulty with sex was due to early trauma. At one point my brother said he made sure his daughter was never alone with my father because he didn’t like how Daddy treated his other girl grandchildren. This was validation for my memory. There was also the fact that my groan and turning over stopped my father from doing it again. I think both these things helped make it not be so damaging an experience. It was not invalidated, and I was able to stop it. However, one piece of damage was I have never been able to sleep on my  back since then.

My script for Journey

From my journal for July 1995:

I’ve got an awful pain in my heart.  I think it must be that I’m afraid that mother will see the video and be “hurt.”  Although of course she won’t express it as hurt, but as anger and invalidation.  I wish I had asked Bess to keep my brothers’ names out of the credits — and then I get angry: why shouldn’t they get credit for their support of this project?  I imagine mother calling “You’ve embarrassed me in front of my friends..” and me saying “You’ve embarrassed me in front of my friends many times.”  Of course, she’ll see that Jess and Jerry and Jo all contributed to the production, that would make it a little hard for her to scapegoat me.  It’s true that I do speak of “another incest survivor” and “her father approached her too,” but don’t give any graphic details.  I do talk about the alcoholism in more than one place, especially in my identification with the soldiers fighting in Vietnam.  So what do I want in this situation?  I want mother to never see the video, never know about it, I don’t want her to be hurt.  Except for that part of me that really wants her to know how much I’ve suffered.  Then I get angry at how I’ve held myself back all these years because I was afraid of “hurting” her.  I see how I’m having the same problem with Mom that Beverly is having with Arlene and Lynelle with Sara.  How to cut off from a person who doesn’t see you as who you are, and who will protest that you are “hurting” them if you speak your own truth?

If it could be any way at all?  I want Mom to see the film, understand that she had a wonderfully creative, talented, and loving daughter, who she damaged through her drinking, I want her heart to break open, and then I want her to get help, AA or therapy, to start healing her own pain and stop drinking.  I put “see the film,” but that’s only an imagined process toward the goal.  The real goal is that she would see what kind of person I really am, and there’s no way she can do that without going through enormous pain.  And I also want her to address her pain and her alcoholism.  And I don’t believe for a moment in any of these things coming to pass.  I do think it would take some kind of shock, like seeing the video, to wake her up, and I expect her to be much too well defended to let it in.

“How could you do that to your mother?”  (How could she fucking do that to me?  My sex life is dead because she failed to protect me from my father, and possibly also left me with an inappropriate baby sitter.  I’ve lost the chance for a life in theater because she was so jealous and threatened, I lived for fifty years hiding and denying my creativity because I didn’t want to “hurt” her.  I’m done with hiding and denial, dammit!)

“I respectfully give you back your pain, Mother.  Here it is, I’m not carrying it for you any longer.”

You don’t care about me.  “I do care about you, and there’s no way I can express it that you would get.  Because I care about you, I’ve spent my life holding back the parts of me that you didn’t like, and I’m not willing to do that any more.  I’m no longer willing to sacrifice myself for you, especially since it doesn’t do you any good — you don’t appreciate it or even see it — I’m hurting myself and the only result is that you get to go on living your lie.  I will not protect you any longer.  My creative life — the life of my soul — is more important to me than not hurting you, and speaking the truth is more important to me than allowing you to remain in your comfortable denial.”


and that’s the truth.  And it’s right for my donation to the film to be “anonymous” — anonymous was a woman after all — and it’s right that my siblings should be given credit for their contributions.

“I won’t hold back my creative life any longer in order to not hurt you.  I’m sorry that you can’t be proud of me for my part in something that will help make the world a better place to live in.”

“How dare you say you are an incest survivor?  Nothing like that ever happened to you.”  “How would you know, Mom?  You were drunk.”

Lynelle gave me a card to take to the screening.  She said she came into the house and up to my desk and felt a lot of fear in my space — all the fear that I haven’t been letting myself feel.  The card was a black madonna, “Protectress of the Oppressed,” and she had written a message of love and support.  She also enclosed a little tale about two birds.  One had sat on a branch and watched 3,741,952 snowflakes fall on it.  “When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say — the branch broke off.”  The dove thought about the story and then said “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come into the world.

I wish I had saved that card.

Posted in Journal, Spirit, Story, Trauma | Comments Off on 1995: Journey Into Courage Video and Fear about Mom

1995: Glider Hatred

During the years from 1984 to 1997 I suffered from the noise of small planes from a nearby airport. The worst were the ones that towed the gliders because it went on so long. I wrote this in my journal at the beginning of July 1995:

Downstairs making my second cup of tea, I found myself going off on a diatribe against the gliders — sparked by the piece in the Chamber of Commerce magazine: “soaring lifts your spirits”, “enjoy a place of spectacular peace and beauty” — and I want to yell at them “Soaring may lift your spirits, but the noise makes me want to kill myself” — “the spectacular peace is ruined by your exploitation of it”    and in response to their imagined reply “NO I am not too sensitive — you are too noisy.  How would you like to sit in the dentist chair and have a sensitive tooth drilled 10 or 20 times a day periodically throughout the summer?  That’s what the noise feels like to me.”  I hate them, and I don’t like hating them, I don’t like how it feels inside me when I hate.  And I don’t know what to do about it.  This sudden spurt of anger reminds me of my anger at Susan, and I wonder if they are connected.  I also see that I am like my friend Eleanor, I want to kill myself because the planes are hurting me — it’s the exact same thing as what I get so upset with her for.  And I think comes out of the same kind of invalidation — you’re too sensitive to live in this world, you’d be better off dead.  Wanting to kill myself is a response to a sensitivity I can’t do anything about — well that’s not entirely true, all my efforts have lessened it, but they haven’t made it go away — and I think I’m wrong to be that sensitive.  The sensitivity is bad enough, but it’s the invalidation of the sensitivity that makes me want to kill myself.  At least I think so, but the two are so tangled up that it’s hard to separate them.  I hear the sound and want to die, it seems direct to me, there doesn’t appear to be any self-invalidation in between.  Well, of course, the planes themselves represent and re-stimulate the world’s invalidation.  They are like that harsh edge that comes into mother’s voice when she’s drunk and when she has said particularly nasty things to me — in fact I wonder if it’s the same frequency?  That would account for why it bothers me so much when other people seem to hardly notice it.  And the planes are also saying, or rather snarling: “What’s the matter with you?  You’re too sensitive.  You have to learn to be tougher.  We’re going to teach you a lesson.”

To which I respond: what’s the matter with me is that I am a very sensitive person who responds with great depth to the world around me.  I am not “too sensitive”, the world is much too noisy and it’s bad for everyone’s health even though they don’t know it.  I was abused as a child and the noise just re-stimulates it.  I do not have to learn to be tougher — my sensitivity is part of what makes me an artist and it is my gift to the world.  The world — by which I mean human beings — needs to learn to be gentler, or we are going to destroy ourselves with our own violence.  And that whole attitude of “teach you a lesson” is a really shitty one and part of “poisonous pedagogy.”  SO THERE!  “I’m a natural resource & endangered species just like the Bald Eagle and the Whooping Crane and the Furbish Lousewort — and I deserve to be protected — I need to be protected if you are to survive and you’d jolly well better learn how to do it.  And if you refuse to learn from me, then I hope you’re mugged or raped or assaulted or even murdered and you can see how you like “being taught a lesson” and whether it teaches you anything worthwhile.”

Phew!  I hope that helps.  I feel stronger & more solid in my middle.

It turns out that the sensitivity to noise is a symptom of PTSD. It was finally healed by a combination of medication and an astute therapist. I notice that expressing my anger helps me feel “stronger and more solid.”

It’s also true that I was a “Highly Sensitive Person,” and this made me even more sensitive to the noise.

Posted in Depression, Journal, Trauma | Comments Off on 1995: Glider Hatred