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Here We Go!

Delicate Little Thang and Buffalo Gal

You don’t know me. I don’t know you, either. For me that’s just about perfect. I’m kind of a scardy-cat when it comes to actually talking to some one…especially if I know them. Well, not really scared to talk to them as much as scared to REALLY talk to them, to let them inside and to be all vulnerable and stuff. For some odd reason I think that’s exactly what I’m needing right now. I’ve thought about this for weeks, maybe even for a month or two, and I think I really, really need to talk, even if it’s just to myself. I think there’s a very real possibility that this might be just the  thing.

By way of introduction you should know I am not always speaking from the same perspective. Sometimes I am one and then I’m the other, but both Delicate Little Thang and Buffalo Gal share the ‘me’ space. I am sometimes safer as one than the other and sometimes I simply need the words of one over the other. I’m really not much different than you when it comes to that kind of thing. We all have different aspects of our personality that reign dominant from time to time. For my purposes here I have chosen two parts of my personality… those I think can serve me on this quest.

I’ll introduce you to them both in a while, but for now I need to breath. This takes courage, gang!

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Coming Undone

Chapter 12

Oh boy, this one’s not going to be easy to write. Already Buffalo Gal is at my shoulder, huffing a little and warning me to be careful… be so, so careful. I know there is danger here, I can smell it in D. Little T.’s hair, as if an evil orange wind has blown through the tangled mess of her stick straight dark mop. If there is going to be a crisis during the course of this memoir, this might well be it. It’s got to be done, though. I have the words if I can find the will to write them out. I feel as if I’m unraveling, winding myself away from the strangle hold of my own skin. I’m hanging on to the fact that a butterfly’s wings can only fully unfurl themselves once its cocoon has come undone.

This week I got word through the family grapevine that a cousin of mine had died. He was older than me by quite a few years and I didn’t know him well. He isn’t part of my every- day growing up memories, showing up only on special occasions and mostly in my teen years. He was the youngest son of my Aunt Vera and Uncle Rob, and now he’s lost, the last of that original family, to Congenital Heart Failure.

William, called Bill, held a certain mystic for me and my young cousins. He and a few friends had started up a boy band and found limited fame around the Western United States. They wrote and sang folk songs and were really very good at what they did. I heard him in concert several times and was always star-struck and kind of conceited about the family ties that bound me to him. I was proud of our connection, but I never became brave enough to actually speak to him, even though I had the opportunity a number of times. Long after those early days, I was with him at family events where Bill would entertain us around a campfire, no back-up buddies needed. Even as an adult I continued to shy away from him, although I was drawn in by his charisma and larger-than-life persona. I can’t imagine now what I ever would have said to him.

One afternoon, several months into my first year of discovery and therapy, I was with my mom in the basement of her home. We were having one of our Sip and Sew Sessions, the two of us settled in for an afternoon of quilting in the quiet coolness of the big downstairs family room, comfortable with a supersized Diet Coke at our elbows. I loved these times with my mother. I lived closer to her than my other siblings did (just 5 miles or so north of she and dad) and so had more opportunities to share one-on-one time with her. We laughed and talked and shared bits of family information. I was never closer to my mom than when we spent those sweet hours together.

On this particular day, she mentioned that Bill had been hospitalized again. He had gone through several serious bouts with depression in the last few years and was nearly unrecognizable to us now, looking and acting nothing like his consummate self of years past. He had been divorced from his wife and his children were grown and gone and he was ultimately alone. Mom told me Bill had been discovered sick at home and rushed to the hospital by one of his adult kids. He had locked himself in his bathroom, surrounded himself with Twinkies and bottles of orange soda, climbed into a full bathtub of water and there he had stayed, incoherent and binge eating, maybe waiting for the strength to drown himself. He had been there for who knows how long? Several days, at least.

I couldn’t speak to respond to her. My throat felt tight and my stomach churned and threatened to spill out the Diet Coke I had downed during the course of the afternoon. Tiny blue lights seemed to blink and swim just off the side of my peripheral vision. I stood, stumbling like I was drunk, and hurried to the bathroom, barely making it before my stomach turned inside out, churning brown liquid out so fast it spilled over the side of the toilet and onto the tiled floor. I was shocked at my reaction, not certain it was a reaction. Maybe I was sick, maybe it had been coming on all day. I convinced myself I had felt a little off since morning. I made excuses to my mom, and left. She seemed a little perplexed and I wasn’t much comfort to her, not knowing what to say…not understanding what it was I was feeling. A hideous image of bottled orange sodas being opened and poured into bathwater kept playing through my brain in a furious string. Bottle after bottle opened themselves and dumped their flame-colored contents into churning water, turning into overly-bright, crimson blood as the stickiness splashed into the troubled depths of the tub.

Eventually the images faded and I slept. For days and days all I wanted to do was sleep. I would curl myself onto the couch and Davy would snuggle into the nest my legs made, with his back against the couch and his arms folded on my knees as if they were his desk. He’d watch TV and play with toys for hours this way. I’d rouse myself once in a while to find him food; a sandwich or crackers and a cheese stick, and then we’d resume our assigned positions. I missed a session with Sheryl and was hardly aware of it. Days passed in a haze, my head heavy and hard to manage when I was awake.

My husband, Andy, didn’t know how to help. I told him I didn’t feel good and he let it go at that, day after day. He was incredibly good with the boys during this time of schism and confusion. He seemed to understand I couldn’t help it or change what was happening with me. He knew I was seeing a therapist, but he didn’t have the details any more than I did. I couldn’t share with him what I didn’t have myself. We went our different ways about 12 years ago, divorcing when David was almost 8 years old and Jason 13, but I will always love him for his support during my struggle. Andy’s genuinely a good guy and deserved so much better than what he got when he bargained for me.

It was ultimately my sisters who recognized my need and helped me over the crest of the crisis. For my April birthday Leesha and Lark planned a sister time, an overnight that we could share together as if we were 10 years old again. I hadn’t told them yet about my therapy and I thought maybe, if things felt right, I’d tell them while we were together.

It’s the strangest thing when it comes to unraveling…once it starts it seems to take on a life of its own. I didn’t bring up the therapy…Leesha did, not even knowing she was doing it. We got talking, as sisters do, and found ourselves talking about Bill’s sad situation.I came close to telling them about my reaction to it all, but fear kept forcing me backward. Tears were building behind my eyelids, fighting to boil out and over. I had lost track of what my sisters were saying, but then I became acutely aware that Leesha was talking about something mom had confided in her. I sat listening, not able to move a muscle, even to release the tears from their hold.

She told Lark and me how Uncle Rob had caused family drama resulting in actual physical violence when it became known he had sexually assaulted both of my aunts, my mother’s sister’s, when they were little girls. Rob had married their oldest sister, Vera, who often brought her younger sisters into her home and mothered them as best she could. Grandma Sally had died when my mom was two years old, leaving a young family of three little girls, their two older brothers, and the first born, their sister, Vera, now a young woman. Vera had married Rob just before grandma died, and so it seemed natural for her to step in and help her siblings through the worst of times.

Both of my mother’s sisters were grown and married with children before this putrid bit of family history came to light. One of my uncles confronted Rob after learning about it for the first time, and nearly killed him. The family was divided from that time on, with parties and picnics lopsided with missing family members. Aunt Vera continued to have a relationship with her sisters, although I imagine it was stilted and formal for a while. My mom adored her oldest sister. She told Leesha she couldn’t hold a grudge against Uncle Rob because he had never laid a finger on her. I was floored.  I’m not sure mom ever really believed it had been as bad as her sisters later divulged. I was silently angry at her for a long time about this, but after a while I came to realize my mother simply had no way to make it work and so she didn’t. I never spoke to her about her dark secrets. Later I came to understand that she couldn’t tell me, her fear for me real and living in her belly, made it impossible for her to say something that might create a distance between us. I think she knew, instinctively, that something had happened to me while I was in Aunt Vera’s care and could not make herself look at it. It was too big, too fearsome and too threatening.

I remember sitting on Leesha’s couch with my knees pulled into myself, rocking slightly with my hands over my face. My thoughts were quick and jagged, my heart racing. Over and over I thought of my mom, how close we had grown in the last few years, how I felt as if I knew her better now than I ever had…she hadn’t told me what Leesha was now telling me. Lark said mom had told her the same story and I felt as if a fist had slammed into the side of my head; I was devastated. My mother hadn’t said anything to me…not word one in all the time we had spent together. She had remained closed off and quiet rather than sharing this extraordinarily important, comprehensively relevant and  annihilating family skeleton with me. This precise moment is when I came completely undone.

I was inconsolable, my sisters startled and at a loss as to what was happening with me. After a while I was able to put a few thoughts into cohesive words. Once I started talking I couldn’t stop and soon the story stood there in front of us, stark and razor sharp in its truth and terrible ugliness. A few of the skeletal bones raining down on us belonged to Lark and she acknowledged it. She told me she believed, whatever her part in all of this had been,  that she had managed to work through it years ago.  As we talked into the night I had to agree with her. Our shared dream as young girls suddenly made sense. The ties that bound us bind us still, even beyond the grave, and were forged in hurt and horror; they were loosed by the extraordinary love we held and hold for each other. Our relationship became less a relationship and more a union, our spirits one in triumph and hope unbroken.

That long ago weekend was the beginning of placing  puzzle pieces where they belonged. I had a name now, Rob, and a terrible face began to emerge from behind the blue lights. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to claim all of the pieces of the picture and maybe now it doesn’t matter. I don’t know how Bill plays into the puzzle and maybe he isn’t in mine at all, but rather holds pieces of his own puzzle at the hands of the same monster. He will never know how our stories have merged and collided down the years, how his suffering and illness brought the beginning of healing to me. What a terrible and lovely thing unraveling can be.

And so I am undone. I have escaped the confines of the cocoon, but my wings are far from robust. I am a delicate little thing, but I’ve made it this far, and by Heaven or Hell I am going to put myself back together in a way that allows me to fly above the pain and fear of my past.

 

Today’s word, fitting beyond coincidence, is crisis:

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/crisis/”>Crisis</a>

 

 

 

Elusive Grains of Truth; Sowing a Strange Harvest

Chapter 11

90768597If you pluck a handful of ambiguous seeds from a bucket and plant them, will they still grow, even if you have no idea what the harvest will produce? Yes, they will. Believe me when I tell you it requires very little tending for tiny seeds of elusive origin to grow into a ferocious, wild harvest.

In my teen years I found myself with a few odd grains of bewildering truth deep in my pockets of thought. I pulled them out and began to wonder what they were, where they had come from and why I owned them. I turned the perplexing seeds of memory this way and that and could not for the life of me decipher their meaning. I began to refer to them as ‘the strangeness’. I shared them with a few of my friends, but my disjointed seeds of memory  often caused looks of disbelief, sometimes derision,  and occasionally distress. It didn’t take me long to learn these particular seeds needed to stay tucked away.

That would have been great had I been wise enough to understand that hidden seeds still contain life. All they need to grow is a little light, which I had unwittingly provided  by pulling them out to study them. I gave them reprieve from years of dark dormancy and these enigmatic seeds were now unsheathed. Once they came to light their only other imperative was a need for moisture; tears work just fine for this required element.

At family events, and over the course of maybe 20 or so years, my elusive grains of memory took on their deceptively masked shapes, growing into  campfire tales of ghosts and alien encounters. Often I would tell my young nieces and nephews my story about how my nosebleeds were possibly caused by an alien implant or how the scar on the inside of my right leg was the same scar other’s who had experienced close encounters of the third kind wore on their bodies. We talked at length about dreams and ESP and sometimes marveled that Lark had dreamed about the death of Uncle Rob just a few hours before we got the phone call telling us he had passed away. Our shared dream of the red car inevitably came up during these conversations, and Lark and I would look at each other, reaching yet a little further inward for understanding.

I seldom shared anything about the blue lights, the blood oranges, or the goblins, although I did confide in my sisters when we were adults. These particular memories never grew less frightening with the sharing. In fact, the closer they came to a full harvest the more desperate I was to disavow them, to cut them down.  I could never bring myself to tell my mom, although much later, near the end of the therapy years, I found the courage to tell my father. I needed him to know because he held a very important part of my healing, but my mom…the terrible harvest would have poisoned her. She would have tried to save me by ingesting blame like a food. She couldn’t have saved me from the past and it most certainly would have destroyed her.

My beautiful, kind mother knew how to wield guilt like a Samurai Sword. She was a master at meting out sharp pangs of conscientiousness and spared no one, especially herself. Her wounds could hit all the way to the heart and her own was often bloody and bruised by her rigid, determined hand. I knew instinctively that I could never let her know I had been a tiny victim of sexual abuse at the hand of her sister’s husband, especially when I had been placed in their home during a time one of mom’s bouts with depression landed her in the hospital. She would not only reap that harvest with awful wrath, but she would make a pie of its spoiled fruit and devour it herself, thinking she was saving me from it’s crumbs.

How could I own such destructive seeds of strangeness? How could I let them sprout to full fruition?  I did everything within my power to cut them to the quick, but I wasn’t alone in the garden and could not claim control of the monsters flowering there any more than I could with their rooting.

 

Today’s word is elusive:

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/elusive/”>Elusive</a>

Hiding Inside My Head

Chapter 10

I’m here. Buffalo Gal is good to let me write again, with a few stipulations: That I am careful with my secrets concerning my sisters; that I’m as honest as I can make myself be; that when she thunders at me to stop, by Heaven or Hell I stop. I can’t argue with those rules. Why would I, since I’m the stipulator and the stipulatee? Anyway, I’m back for a bit and I intend to push through a few more walls right now, straight from the heart of my sanctuary and into the light of forgiveness and growth. Hiding inside my head has become too hard, even for Buffalo Gal, the space too small for our growing reality. I want to be free of me, to lay my little girl self to rest and let Delicate Little Thang grow stronger. I can do this.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m a cute little girl

With a cute little figure,

But stay away boys

‘Til I get a little bigger!

It was a lie, but it made them laugh, so they asked me to recite it for them over and over again. My relatives thought I was precocious and cute in a bouncy ringletted, fat-wristed kind of a way, with my flair for the dramatic evident even then. I couldn’t have been much older than 4 when I became the temporary rolly-polly star of family gatherings. The grown-ups would all clap and cheer for my chubby little self to step up, shake my booty provocatively and wag my finger at them as I quoted the stupid little poem. I hated it, but I loved them, so I complied every time. I recall the feeling of my burning cheeks, tears just behind my eyelids. I learned to play the part of the fool early, and from then on it was easy to climb into the sanctuary of my mind and hide. The skill was already established when I needed to hurry into my head away from blue lights, red cars, goblins, and Blood Oranges. What I didn’t understand then…what I still struggle with dozens of years later… are issues with rules about leaving the secured and well fortified sanctuary of my brain to find a world of real truth and beauty beyond self-confinement. The multiple safety locks are much harder to open from the inside.

Okay, it’s getting weird in here now, so let’s move on.

Let me briefly return to the time I discovered that the sanctuary in my head even had a door that opened. I traveled a very difficult road  to get myself into Sheryl’s office for help…almost an accident, really, but once I was there I was hooked as if I had wandered into an opium den. It didn’t take long for me to realize I could lay many of my burdens safely at her feet, that she would willingly help me sort through the darkness and pain that had become my whole identity.  She was an amazing woman and therapist, kind and patient with my stumblings and childishness.

It was awkward to talk with Sheryl in the beginning. I felt like a fraud. I didn’t trust myself to find a truth I could share that wouldn’t make her recoil, so half-truths came spewing out of me, filling the room like a fog rolling in. My clumsy attempts at letting her in were just awful, filled with lies and hair twisting and way to much animation and loudness. I could tell, when I grew brave enough to make brief eye contact with her, that she wasn’t buying any of it. Genuinely wanting to be real with her, I told her about throwing the vacuum over my head and the panic it had created in me, but I blamed it on unhappiness and boredom and not feeling well and my husband and my kids and everything except for what it really was. I truly didn’t know what IT was exactly at that point. All I had was a handful of disjointed images in my memory that refused to come together. It was nearly impossible for me to talk about them with any kind of cohesiveness or clarity. I didn’t have the tools I needed to make the picture come together.

I couldn’t see it, but she most definitely did. Sheryl allowed me several sessions of ramblings and trying to come to myself and then things changed, brought to a head by another unexpected event. The day before one of our scheduled sessions I happened upon a PBS documentary about false memory syndrome. I had never heard of such a thing. Suddenly all kinds of alarm bells were going off in my head. Everything the program addressed seemed to be exactly applicable to me. I had experienced oddities as a child, such as goblins, nose bleeds, and throwing up strange items. One night I became violently sick and vomited up a dangly black and white earring. I was just as surprised to see it as my mom was! She took me to the Dr. the next morning to see if the other one was there. It wasn’t. I still have no explanation for that little bit of strangeness, but the feeling of shock at seeing it come from my body still has a haunting effect on me.

I suffered with nose bleed after nose bleed as a child, and visited the Dr. several times for them. I hated those visits because they often ended with a burning, invasive cauterization. I have an early memory of being with my family at a special event, watching Native Americans dance on a huge stage in some kind of a big room, not a theater, but more like a gymnasium. Folding chairs were set up in row upon row and when the lights went down it didn’t dim all the way to dark. Thinking back to it now, it might have been an afternoon or an early evening event. Sometime during the flurry of color and thunder of drums coming from the stage, I found myself alone at the back of the audience, blood running freely down my face and onto the front of me. I wiped furiously at it, but had no tissue and so made the matter far worse. I must have looked like a violent nightmare.

I felt hands on my shoulders, and found I was being led away from the noise and into a restroom. A beautiful, olive-skinned older woman, dressed in full Indian regalia, took control of the situation. She washed the blood away with a dozen damp paper towels while squeezing the bridge of my nose. She had me lay on the cold tiles of the restroom, and then she unwound her beautiful, deep-blue velvet sash from around her waist, soaked it in cold water, folded it,  and placed it under the back of my neck. She clucked soothing sounds at me and told me to lay still. I did as she asked, frightened, but also relieved and thankful for her. She seemed to know exactly what to do, even though her methods were unfamiliar to me. My memory from here is fuzzy at best; the bleeding stopped and I somehow found my way back to my family. I don’t remember if they scolded me or if they thanked the woman, but the clarity of her countenance above me, her gentle, yet insistent hands in complete control, still comforts me and brings me peace in times of stress.

The documentary seemed to be a check-off list for what my life had been. I felt unsure and anxious, but I determined then and there that no matter what, I’d force myself to tell Sheryl about it the next day, and I did. She immediately acknowledged  my description of what False Memory Syndrome was and validated my belief that I was inveigled in that very thing; later, when I began to doubt myself, she told me she had already suspected this might be something to look at with me. We talked at length. I was more open with her than I had been, and toward the end of our time that day she told me she believed I had been a victim of sexual abuse as a child.  She was confident and knowledgeable, and I felt the  heaviness slipping away from me; the sanctuary-turned-prison of my own thoughts began to crumble around me and healing could finally begin. It took three long years to work all of the puzzle pieces together, but eventually the picture started to form itself. The closer I came to seeing its ugly, evil face the quicker it came into focus. The picture beyond frightening in the beginning, but it pointed to a place of lightness and peace just beyond the precipice.

I am filled with gratitude for Sheryl and her support along the way. It wasn’t always straightforward and easy going during the discovery process, but we got there. I found strength in myself I had no idea existed within my skin, and it would have remained hidden in my head had she not been willing to come looking for me, seeing the ‘real’ me through bones and cobwebs of a darkness that had sanctified me and kept me well away from myself.

 

Today’s word is sanctuary:

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/sanctuary/”>Sanctuary</a>

 

 

Journey of a Thousand Fears

Chapter 9

A thousand fears, give or take a few. After a while most of them just lumped themselves  together into one big ball of anxiety, with a few jittery fears falling off here and there, mucking up a perfectly ordinary life. It was nearly impossible to keep them all trained into a single, manageable arm-full. I couldn’t do it. My fears struggled and strained until I had no choice but to lay a few rowdy ones down and try and leave them behind. That would have been  fine, even welcome, if they would just have stayed put, but they sprang after me, biting at my ankles until I was forced to lift them back onto the top of the unraveling, unwieldy heap of fears I carried with me everywhere I went.

And so my journey continued for years, without map or destination. There came a time when I grew weary of the road and wanted to find my way home. I began to see the landscape when I looked for it, rather than allowing the landmarks to go unnoticed again and again while I traveled in circles. Little things began to jump out at me, such as my mom mentioning a cousin of mine going through a terrible emotional break-down. He was much older than me and I didn’t really know him other than his name and family relationship to me. He was Uncle Rob’s son. I began to think about how secrets were kept in my family and I wondered what was in those closets that might actually belong to me.I knew about some odd proclivities my sister, Lark, kept hidden in the closet. She was two years younger than me and we took ‘sister’ to the next level; we were best friends as well. She shared her secrets with me and I did the same as mine came to light.

Lark was in her thirties when she married. She had needed time to work through some issues she carried with her along the course of her own journey. Neither of us recognized the terror we had faced as children, even after we shared the red car dream. Most of her memories were never recovered, simply because she had been too young to have them formulated into her reality. She found other ways to allow voice to her hurt and it wasn’t always healthy for her. She had some strange instances of stocking guys she was attracted to during her collage years. She grew past that when she began working, living on her own. I’m not going to tell her secrets here. Let this stand as a memorial of my undying love and respect for my sister. I lost her to cancer in 2004. An important fact I will share with you though; neither of us were ever able to become and/or maintain a pregnancy. That is important in understanding the irreversible damage done to the two of us in our childhood and the explanation of most of the 1,000 fears I have carried with me over the miles and into adulthood.

This isn’t exactly the chapter I intended to write out today, but D. Little T. is struggling. We face a hurdle here we didn’t exactly foresee. Talking about Lark is still hard, still filled with huge emotion not easy to put into print. I know she would want me to complete this step off into a more healthy mind, but it will have to wait. I write, then erase, then do it again with no better outcome. I am  hours in with this write and still it’s not worthy of posting. My words toward the end are stilted and filled with dull, trite language. This isn’t what I want to do here. I’ll find the right road again tomorrow and then the journey can continue.

Maybe tomorrow I can write fast enough to leave a few of those horrid, clingy fears behind…

 

Today’s word is ‘journey’, a word longer than one would think possible:

Journey of a Thousand Fears

 

Tasting Cowardice Twice

Interlude…Kind of.

Once

When I was a child, living and thinking as a child, cowardice and fear practically tasted the same on my tongue. Both of them were overly thick, prickly with spiciness and hard to chew on. Fear looked more like split-pea soup and had the same kind of force-it-down feeling with the swallowing, making me gag and groan with every mouth full. Fear was served overly hot and often hurt for a long time after the swallow.

Cowardice, even though it had the same putrid color, pretended it was something like pudding. I knew I should never have bought into the taste of it, but it was what I was offered along with fear, and when that one didn’t taste right I took the other, hoping I could eat it without being seen.  It lied to me over and over, shouting out my sin while fingers of blame pointed at me when I tried to put it back. “You took it, now you’ve gotta eat it!” cowardice would taunt. I didn’t want it, but it was too late. I didn’t have the courage I needed to undo everything, or maybe I didn’t have the skills.

Twice

Dealing with it as an adult, the word cowardice has a definite taste of its own, unpleasant and hard to forget. I no longer associate it with fear, which has a strong taste of it’s own, and stands alone. Cowardice tastes burnt and yellow, with chunks of maroon and stringy gray bits hanging from its jellied surface. It shimmies and shakes, trying to replicate itself into pure edible goodness. I cannot swallow cowardice like I can fear; it refuses to slide down from the mouth and into the stomach. It churns and gurgles and simply will not stay where it belongs. It tries to take over everything with fetid fingers reaching back up my throat and down into my heart where it has sometimes lived for a long, long time.

It slices too evenly, as if nervous it might have to settle for a lesser portion. It fancies itself food, but in reality it’s something akin to chemicals and guile, not digestible at all. It has no health benefits other than the fact that life goes on when cowardice is consumed. That’s not to say it doesn’t affect life like a poison. Oh! It does! The daily doses I consumed on a regular basis over the course of my life have changed me in dark ways I can only guess at. Everything I didn’t, or wouldn’t, or refused, or turned away from, or ignored due to cowardice has molded me into the person I am today. Cowardice makes the mirror see ugly. Even after years of saying “No, thank you” to further servings, I can taste it in the back of my throat. Its terrible color still coats my tongue.

Buffalo Gal is standing behind me, her arms folded over her ample stomach. She tells me this is all bull shit. I smile a little sadly and tell her softly that I know it is, but not letting it out means keeping it in.

I ask her if it wouldn’t be a form of cowardice to keep my stink covered?

Her response is to remind me of my manners.

I’m sorry for the smell, everyone, but here it is.

 

Today’s word is cowardice…yuck:

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/cowardice/”>Cowardice</a>

 

Fighting Off the Goblins

Chapter 8

I remember it as if it were a dream, with everything lopsided and in slow motion. I remember racing around the back of the house from our little white playhouse, my arms pumping with panic and my hair loose from its braid and flying in 20 directions. The air around me has an odd quality about it, with everything kind of hazy and gray and I can’t feel the ground under my feet. I know it will be full dark soon and I need to get to the light of the back porch and beyond the danger chasing me.

I am not fast enough. Even before I look over my shoulder I know I’m beaten, the dangerous race over, and I have lost. I am thrown from the walkway and up against the side of our old clapboard egg cellar by  hands smaller than my own, their heads nearly level with my own. Their long, treacherous fingers hold fast to both of my arms. I struggle, kicking out at the goblins, but the more desperate I am, the more resolute their hold on me becomes.  It doesn’t take me long to understand I cannot fight them off, and I collapse to the ground. Their faces are like hideous red-orange clay sculptures, lumpy and imperfectly formed. Their mouths are just slits in the wrinkled roundness of their heads. Their eyes are unblinking black holes and when they speak it is as if they share one voice. They tell me that if I won’t come with them they will take my baby brother instead. I am devastated, the fear rising hot from my stomach and into my throat.

“No!” I hear myself scream, “No, no, no! I’ll come, I’ll come with you. Leave my brother alone!” I am crying out of control, my words jumbled and running together. I have to go with them; what choice do I have?

That’s the full course of the memory…nothing before and nothing after. I still feel a creeping dread filling me up to overflowing when I think about it. It creates a feeling of absolute defeat and hopelessness, something a child should never have to know.  The goblins of my early childhood soon morphed in my memory and became aliens. They took their place along side the blue light and the blood orange, and my story grew in history and context.

Soon after this I remember kneeling by my mother, my fear tumbling out, the story falling at her feet. She hugged me and assured me it was just a nightmare. She told me it would evaporate when morning came and everything would feel better in the sunlight. I wanted to believe her, but the dream claimed me and stayed, even when the sun climbed over the mountain and into the sky.

As a grown woman I can call it what it really was. It wasn’t a dream, but it was a nightmare; the kind that comes when your mind falls into a night it cannot shake off. It’s called False Memory Syndrome. I rode this blackest of black nightmares way too far and long, unable to pull the reigns in with my own strength. My headlong race to destruction came to a screeching halt when I walked into Sheryl’s office. I was terrified to tell her anything about me, afraid she would say I was genuinely crazy and the nightmare must continue, but that’s not how it played out. It took several sessions for me to get brave enough to tell her about my strange, fragmented alien encounter memories, but when I eventually did she helped me open my eyes and daylight finally came. That was the beginning of the end of my nightmare.

And here’s a memory I love. I left Sheryl’s office on the day I learned that False Memory Syndrome was what I was dealing with, and walked the 4 or 5 blocks to work, the day shimmering around me. The world was swimming in colors so bright they made me blink. I felt as light and unfettered as dandelion fluff and was acutely aware of smells and sounds and the feel of the breeze on my skin. I had never experienced such a blindingly brilliant and beautiful morning!

 

Today’s word was false, which seemed to fit perfectly:

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/false/”>False</a>

Flying on Forbidden Wings

Chapter 7

It comes to mind that you might need to know me a little better to make sense of this disjointed story. I know it’s being presented to you in odd little bits and mismatched puzzle pieces and I apologize for that. I’m trying to capture all of the memories and force them into a single story and it’s not working out very well. It occurs to me that you are experiencing all of this kind of like I did in the living of it, with very little understanding of the big picture and struggling to frame everything in such a way as to make the images come clear. If you are of a mind to travel through the crazy with me I think I can make it come in to focus for you. It did for me…eventually.

I am one of nine children. I was the fourth of six girls born in a row, each birth several years apart, and then came my three brothers at the tail end. We hardly knew what the color blue looked like in our house for over a dozen years. My oldest sister, Lindsy, was in high school when our first brother came screaming his way into our girl world, and oh boy, how things changed! We fawned over Breck like the little prince he was. Our feminine reign was over. A few years later Lindsy had graduated, gone from home, married and was expecting a child of her own when my last baby brother was born. After Breck had come Alden, and then Ryan. Ryan was the ninth and last, although mom had several miscarriages after him. The last two live births had been difficult for her, and finally mom had to decide nine was enough; she sadly resigned her dream of ten.

Our home was busy, loud, often chaotic, but always loving. Mom was almost always busy with babies, so, much of the mothering of me and my two younger sisters fell to Lindsy, Leesha and Claire, my older sisters. I hadn’t a doubt that my mother loved me, but she often took a backseat when it came to teaching me and my siblings the ins and outs of life. I learned most of what I knew about being a girl from my sisters. Usually they got it right, but they were young, too, and couldn’t give me everything I needed. I don’t blame them any more than I blame my mom’s depression and frequent hospital visits for what happened to me. We were all simply trying to get by. I sometimes wonder that they don’t all blame me for making life harder inside our family. I was a handful, to say the least, and still they loved me.

We were a religious family. Everything we did revolved around our Christian  upbringing. My extended family, well into the past, was steeped in the pages of our scriptures. I was taught that my life’s opportunities and stumbling blocks came about because I either prayed well or sinned badly. Always there were Saturday night baths so we’d be squeaky clean, with shiny hair curled for Sunday morning. Sunday School and Church worship with my family was not an option and if I was sick, I had darn well really be sick! Our beliefs were the core of who we were and set the tone for my world. We prayed on our knees as a family and again by ourselves at bedtime. When mom baked bread (a bi-weekly chore, producing 8 loaves at a time) there was always a loaf for a neighbor in need.  I learned early to serve, especially as a girl. My roll was to support and obey the adults in my life, doing as I was told without question, especially my Father and other grown men. They held the priesthood in our Church and were considered the last say in everything. Their word was law, with the power to bind us to Heaven or Hell.

I could recite scripture and pray by myself by the time I was 4 years old, but anything dealing with sexuality was foreign to me throughout my childhood. I don’t think I once heard the word ‘pregnant’ until I was a teenager, even though we had an abundance of babies around us all the time. That was just how things were back then. My family wasn’t out of the norm at all, but rather one of the collective that made up our little Town of Greendale, Utah in the 1950s. I didn’t have any understanding of sexual matters…not the words, not the images, and certainly not an understanding that I had the right to defend myself against a violent sexual predator in the form of an adult man. I had no way at all to make room in my life for something so foreign and unexplainable, so I didn’t. Rather, I borrowed the wings of a story I could make fly in my mind; several times I’d seen old science fiction movies on TV while my sisters were tending me and I knew about spaceships and alien beings. I had nightmares after seeing The Day the Earth Stood Still, and couldn’t make myself go to the bathroom alone after watching The Thing. I had a real and working knowledge of the terror alien beings wrought upon people, and so, in my mind, I became the victim of an alien abduction. This was my reality right up to the time I sought out help as an adult, after my anger exploded in the colors of a Blood Orange. The abduction story housed my shame and fear in ways that made sense to my child-mind and took on a truth of its own over the years.

When I was finally able to face what had been forbidden to me for so long, my own sexual reality and what had really happened to me,the weight of the world fell away from my shoulders. I was able to leave the well-worn wings of a false history behind me. I found I could fly without them.

 

 

Today’s word was forbidden:

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/forbidden/”>Forbidden</a&gt;

 

 

Autono-ME or Autono-WE?

Chapter 6

As far as I can tell there would be no ‘me’ without ‘we’. I am only me when I am also Buffalo Gal and Delicate Little Thang, and whether you want to admit it or not, I’m betting you are much more than one, as well. We are complex personalities housed in a single body. We come and go depending on the need and/or desire of the moment, kind of like in the movie Inside Out. Mad me, sad me, bad me, glad me…me is really we.

I had not intended to wax philosophic when I sat down to write today, so let ‘we’ step away from the word of the day today and tell you about the Blood Orange, because you’re going to need that information somewhere along the line of the telling.  I have to swallow several times and shake myself a bit to gather up the nerve to address this, but it’s important.

I can’t image how I came to possess my innate ways with metaphor and symbols. Somewhere in the genetic pool I dived right into them and they stuck like skin. I didn’t realize I had them for such a long time. I thought everyone’s brains saw red and immediately smelled blood. I can’t remember when I first became aware of my odd ways, but I learned to hide it pretty quickly, realizing it was weird. I didn’t try to stop my thoughts; I rather liked the way colors took on shapes and smells and how words were more than words, with hidden messages built into them. I loved double entendres and could easily understand the double-speak messages adults in my life thought would go right over my head.

I knew exactly what my dad meant when I heard him tell someone on the phone that my mom was blue and couldn’t shake it off. I saw her with strands of dark indigo ribbon strapping her tightly, smelling of bleach and vomit. They coiled around her like a snake, covering her face and binding her arms until she couldn’t escape the squeezing hold.  I knew what I saw meant she was so sad she could not be made happy again, that she was trapped with all of us and we were too much for her. My mom was blue because she couldn’t breath. Her children were smothering her with our need of her. I was the fourth girl down with two more after me. My three brothers wouldn’t be added until some years later.We were, so to speak, the nails in her coffin, although she would never have acknowledged that fact. I have lived my life through the lens of a metaphor.

Is it any wonder then, that dozens of years later the Blood Oranges in the produce section of the grocery store would send me into a panic? I didn’t know such a thing existed except in my imagination, a metaphor for exploding pain I had experienced when I had  found one on the floor of Uncle Rob’s Model T Car. I picked it up and bit into it. Red blood seeped from it and suddenly I was doubled over in pain, holding myself between my legs where its terrible lava had spilled from the wounded peeling and into my lap.  I thought I had imagined it. I had to have imagined it. I couldn’t wrap my head around what I was seeing, but there they were in the big flat container next to the familiar Navel Oranges. A sign was secured on the front that boldly declared ‘Blood Oranges’. I stared at them, my stomach doing somersaults, the taste of bile in my mouth. My four year old Davy was in the basket of the shopping cart. He had become impatient and was whining, wanting down from his perch. I pulled myself away and quickly finished up the shopping, pacifying my son with a free day-old cookie from the bakery.

I came back the next day, and the next, just to make sure I hadn’t somehow misunderstood the sign. On the second return trip I took two of them home with me and placed them in a bowl on the kitchen counter. There they stayed until mold covered them. I threw them in the garbage along with the bowl, unable to bring myself to make contact with them again. I hadn’t peeled them or bitten into one or cut one up for my boys to share. I had simply watched them, day after day, until they became fuzzy and gray, no longer recognizable, and them I threw them away. It was just a day or two later that the vacuum crashed into the kitchen, thrown over my head by my own hands while I was in a rage, as if I were a maniac.

Blood Oranges were an actual thing and I could no longer think of them in any other way. The danger was real and I had to face the fact that this metaphor was not as it seemed. My world was about to unravel and I feared the dark ribbon I felt wrapping around me. I had shied away from any real help all these years, but I knew I had no choice now. I wasn’t in a safe place and I feared for my children’s safety as well. I made the call and my life’s story tilted into a different dimension.

 

If you are baffled by my reference to the vacuum, you might want to look at the post titled I’ve Been Out Ridin’ Fences…

 

Today’s word is autonomous:

<ahref=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/autonomy/”>Autonomy</a>

 

The Lake Isle of Innisfree and Me

Interlude

Sometimes, in the dark of a sleepless night filled with memories that won’t stay locked away, I take myself to a lovely little place imagined first in the mind of William Yeats. He must have known the same weariness that scrubs at my heart, making me ache for a place of peace and rest that exists only in imagination.

I sometimes seek solitude and comfort in the island of my mind, complete with a bee loud glade and linnet wings ushering in quiet, lavender-scented evenings. I  have gotten fairly adept at leaving the chaos of my world behind; I travel to my imaginary island where my feet know the feeling of warm sand and I am welcomed by a certain blue-green coolness of shade trees. There I can sit quietly and breath, letting the bees take my sorrows and concerns away with their buzzing.

Today I am content to let Little Thang lead me to this ‘other’ invisible home. I am finding the writing I am doing here exhausting and I’ve only just begun. I have found myself looking back, wondering if my decision to write my truth is possible without it consuming me again. During the last few week of therapy (several years ago now), my brilliant therapist, Sheryl, assured me I would know the healing was well on its way when I could speak of the events without crying. I am at that place, but I didn’t realize it would feel akin to picking off an old scab. There is no blood, but the raw scar is evident even now, years beyond the closure of therapy sessions.  I am surprised and a bit dismayed at the final pain of this unveiling. I am forever altered and that causes a curious pain all of its own. I didn’t expect that.

So, once in a while I will have to break away from the story, I’ll need to pace myself and find ways to explain to you, even as I explain to myself, exactly who I am now, on the other side of the remembering and grief for a childhood lost.

The Lake Isle of Innisfreeil_340x270.953901804_q4z8

W. B. Yeats, 18651939

 

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

 

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

 

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

 

 

Island: <a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/island/”>Island</a>

 

 

 

Burning Blue

Chapter 5

I’m feeling particularly delicate and little this morning. Buffalo Gal is standing with her hands on her over-sized hips, frowning a warning at me. I have put this off for two days, allowing myself to be buffaloed, but today’s word kind of forced the issue with me. The word is ‘burn’. When I opened my email this morning the word was there to sere me, to make me run through the flames trying to dowse the fire. I’ve learned several valuable tools through the course of therapy, but perhaps the most profound of the lessons is that you must make your way through it to come out of it at all. It’s going to hurt, but healing is on the other side.

From my previous posts you may have come to understand  my story started when I was a child and deals with sexual abuse. I was too young to make what was happening to me fit into my understanding, so I managed to find a way to make it all work. I didn’t know I was doing it, but my imagination created a world I could more easily manage by formulating false memories concerning some  particularly hellacious experiences that happened in my little girl world between the tender ages of 4 through 6. As I grew older the memories I created became less ephemeral, more concrete and real and I sought out evidence to support my memories over the course of many years. When I became a teenager I began slowly sharing my memories with a few trusted people. It didn’t take me long to realize my tale was not going to be acceptable to most people. Often after I shared some of my history I would be looked at differently by the listener. I became very selective in the telling, and only opened up at all when the burden of my story became too much for me to carry alone.

Parts of my personality came to me as a means of protection and concealment, and the battle still wages when it comes to sharing my story. Sometimes Buffalo Gal covers me with her girth and tries her best to hide me from the world. She has been my defender and my comfort when I need a soft, safe place. Sometimes I can’t get past her and even though I know she wants to protect me from further hurt, she is not always successful, and sometimes she is even the instigator of pain. I trust her, but only as far as I trust myself. Sometimes the burning blue light flames back up in my mind, the sparks flying right past buffalo horns and into my eyes again, even though I know the burn for what it is now.

One of my earliest memories is of a fearfully scary blue light. I am on my back, held down by hands I can’t see. I don’t know where I am, but it seems that just moments ago I was on my mother’s bed, tucked in and waiting for sleep. Everything is shadowy and dark around me, with movement I can’t focus in on just beyond my vision. There is a blue haze hanging around me, my eyes unable to penetrate beyond it. It covers me completely and there is an occasional flash of a deeper, brighter blue from somewhere beyond my feet. I struggle to sit up, my neck straining to lift my head, but something holds me down, as if hands are on my chest. My arms flail, but are not able to connect with anything. I feel a coldness between my legs and kick out at the blue-hot horror invading my body. Something is in me, something wirey and metallic, bending into me, pushing pain up into me. I kick and scream and try to cover myself, but it continues until I can only see a hot white-blue void, and then I am gone.

There is nothing after that for the longest time. I don’t know where the memory went for awhile, but sometime later, days maybe, or weeks…I don’t know, my mother asked me about a bruise on my bottom. I remember telling her a hanger had been stuck inside of me. Of course she didn’t understand any better than I did. I didn’t have the words then and I couldn’t explain it any better. I didn’t know how to describe the burning blue light and I saw a question mark on her face, pulling her expression into disbelief when I tried to say what it was. I stopped trying. She pulled me onto her lap and hugged me, rocking back and forth a little. I let it slid away from me and it all stayed hidden for awhile then, until the goblins came for my baby brother. I had to go with them, back to where the blue light burned.

Okay, I have to be done for today. Buffalo Gal has reclaimed her Delicate Little Thang and I need to rest.

 

Today’s word is burn:

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/burn/”>Burn</a>