Reclaiming Mindfulness

Post marital disruption, I would go to the river every day, say a prayer for guidance, power walk off the stress, and then sit in quiet contemplation facing the water. My son referred to it as “Mom finding inner peace.”

Power walking is a thing of the past, and every day is no longer doable, but the river is still there, and I am still able to pray, and most recently, I’ve decided to reclaim my mindful practice.

Today, the sky is clear and calm, the water a mirror. It is easy to let go of cares when Nature reflects such beauty.

The trail offers a canopy of green, and all around life is abounding. The gloom that I have brought with me seems so out of place.

Small, yellow birds flit about and sing from the treetops, their songs of joy contagious.

I remember a vow I made to myself, years ago, before my then marriage fell apart. Life had been hard, and full of conflict and trauma, and I knew I needed to make choices to end the pattern of victimhood. I could not undo the past, but I could make changes going forward.

Illness has threatened to make me a victim again. These past months even more so. I need to reign myself in.

“If you want to stop being a victim, stay out of the emotional vacuum.” The words fall on me in a moment of receptivity. “Emotions are markers – acknowledge them as such, and move on.”

It’s the lesson I needed this day. Life throws challenges. I feel, I ponder, then I rise to the occasion. Mindful.

(My challenge this week is “reclaim“.)

If I Knew; I’d Change It

I’m struggling with myself. It isn’t the first time, and I’m certain it won’t be the last.

There is no definable reason, and yet my emotional self tries to find blame: it’s Ric’s behaviour; it’s because I’m homesick; it’s my illness.

Rationally, I recognize that my life is full of blessings right now, and this is how depression works. It is a back and forth tug-of-rope between the logical and illogical.

I try to counter every negative thought with a positive one. When my dark self complains that I am trapped and have lost my independence, the lighter side reminds me that I have choices. When the shadows plant seeds of resentment; I fight them with affirmations of gratitude.

Today, I just wanted to stay in bed – let sleep numb the angst, but then Ric suggested a drive and I pulled myself out of it.

When I’m feeling this way, it’s one moment at a time. I distract, remind myself to keep breathing, try to eat healthy.

I feel like I’m biding my time – just waiting for this funk to lift.

Why does this happen? I read once that are hundreds of reasons for depression. Almost all of them applied at the time. Can’t remember any of them right now. Does it even matter?

This too shall pass, I am sure. For now, it’s just one of those unanswerable aspects of life.

(My weekly challenge is unanswerable. When I set the challenge, I had no idea where it would lead. I guess it’s inviting me look at my shadow.)

Birthing The Soul

I stuff down the cookies as if the faster I eat the more I can distance myself from the misery that has bubbled to the surface.

“Write about it,” my psychologist suggests as she ushers me out of the door, our session having run past the allotted time.

I told her about the weekend I went missing.  Forty-five years later, and much of it still traumatic.  It’s the first time I’ve disclosed anything but vague references to her.  I knew it was time.  Ever since Christine Blasey Ford’s trial by patriarchy, it has been rising up in me, threatening my equilibrium. And then I crashed – physically, energetically, and emotionally – the day before my appointment.

“Anything coming up for you?” she asked cautiously, after having remarked on my apparent fatigue.  I’d previously been having some dreams that alluded to abuse.

“Yes!”  And the details rose, like a ribbon of acid, crossing an arid, unrelenting desert. She got me a glass of water and then made notes.

“So, he was a very organized psychopath,” she concluded.

“Well, I wasn’t the first according to the police.”

I couldn’t remember all the details, knew there were holes in my story, but the memories that remained were vivid.

“That’s typical of memory,” she said kindly.  “Actually, you remembered quite a bit.  Normally, it’s the moments in which the victim thought their life was in peril that stand out the most.”

“There were many of those,” I try to laugh, make light of it, but it gets caught in my throat and comes out as a sob.

“For eight to ten hours, you were held by this man, powerless to save yourself, in threat of death.  It was a traumatic experience.”

She puts it in such simple, clear-cut terms that calm the emotional vortex.

“So the police knew about this man, but didn’t do anything about it?”

“No.  They said I could press charges but I wouldn’t win.  I’d been drinking underage, and I was wearing a halter top and tight jeans.”

“That has nothing to do with it!  If he’d stabbed you none of that would have been a consideration.”

I know what she means.  I’d been over this before in my own mind many times.

“It bothers me that I didn’t press charges,” I tell her.  “I didn’t stop him.  He would have done it again.”

“Survivor’s guilt,” she offers softly.  “I can tell you as someone who has been involved in many of these cases over the years, that the police were negligent in their investigation, and you could not have made a difference.  Sadly, it’s not much different today.”

There had been no rape kit done, no trip to the hospital.  They just put a very traumatized kid back on the bus to her parents.  Told my parents I’d spent the night with a man, as if I’d gone voluntarily.

My mother didn’t talk to me for some time afterwards, and my father called me a “whore” then slammed the car door.  It wasn’t spoken of again as long as lived under their roof.

“The other thing that’s bothering me,” I start to tell her but it gets caught.  She waits.

“I had a good friend at the time; someone I was very close to.  After this happened, he asked me out, and I….I couldn’t let myself…I said no…”

“It was the shame.  Your father sealed that for you.  You felt like damaged goods.”

“Always.  I’ve always felt like damaged goods.  It’s coloured all the choices I’ve made in my life.  I dream about the friend often… feel bad that I hurt him…have regrets….It’s like I couldn’t allow myself to be happy….”

Our time is up and I leave the office still teary-eyed and raw.  Ric doesn’t ask how the session went; he can tell it was painful.

“You just want to go home?” he asks kindly.

I do.  I am exhausted on every level.  I feel battered, as if I’ve been through it all again.

At home, I sit with a tub of chocolate ice cream and read blog posts hoping for a distraction to take the edge off, and that’s when I come across these words:

readiness preludes
self-discovery; embrace
new understanding

 – Hélène Vaillant

And Hélène’s words reach through the ethers and take me by the hand, and I am so grateful for this world that brings us into each other’s lives, despite the distances.  The words wrap around me and remind me that this revelation, this time of disclosure, and the ensuing discomfort are just labour pains.  I am ready to “embrace new understanding.”

(Hélène’s original poem is here. Every week, I challenge my readers and myself to focus on some aspect of life that contributes (potentially) to our understanding and growth.  This week’s challenge is distance.)

Re-Focusing Attention

The past week has been very draining on many levels.  I know others have felt it, as well.  The surge of emotional and psychological upset has taken its toll on my physical well-being.  I spent the morning in bed, and part of the afternoon, and then, since the rain was holding off, I asked Ric to drive me to the falls.

“Leave me here for a bit.”

As soon as I pull out my camera, slip the strap over my neck and loosen the lens cap, I feel myself slip into a different zone – attention aimed at the beauty around me.

Mallard reachingThis day, I am greeted by movement in the long grasses that line the river just below where Ric has dropped me.  A pair of mallards are happily foraging, the white of the male’s feathers in stark contrast to the green of the grasses.  His mate is visible only in pieces – a glimpse of an eye, the spots of her earthen colouring.  I park the walker on the bridge that spans this part of the river and concentrate my lens on the couple.  They are totally absorbed in their task, oblivious to the traffic rolling above, or to a dog’s bark, or even the cries of the gulls in the distance.

I take a deep breath, lean over the rail, and feel my stress melting away.

At the falls, the usual collection of waterfowl has gathered.  Different from my last visit, the foliage has begun to take on autumn’s hues.  A heron stands mid falls – tall and erect – and just as I’m about to shoot him a horde of young girls come running and giggling along the path stopping abruptly in front of me.  The heron takes flight.

“Oh, sorry,” one of the girls offers, gesturing for her friends to move out of the way.

“No worries,” I say.   I can always come back.

A gang of boys arrive and soon I can no longer see the falls for gangly bodies, so I turn and make my way up a ramp towards the street.  From here I am able to get a panoramic shot.  This is the beauty of our new hometown.   I feel very blessed.

fallside perfectionThe crowds seem to diminish as I head back down the ramp towards the car where I spy Ric waiting.   I stop and turn my lens back towards the water.  Canada geese mingle with gulls, and a lone mallard.  I snap one last shot.OurO

There is perfection in nature.  And harmony.  And a rhythm that is reassuring.  Even when it storms.

Raindrops hit the ground as I slide my walker into the back of our vehicle.

Our timing has been impeccable.  I feel better.

Our focus this week has been attention.  The contributions have been inspiring, and informative. Please give them a visit:

Proscenium

one letter up

Willow Poetry

Sgoeil

Heaven’s Sunshine

The Bee Writes

Stuff and What if…

Poetry for Healing

See you tomorrow for a new challenge.

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Set a time limit on negativity.

“Joy needs room to breathe.” Dr Andra is my hero today. Her words are on point.

Thriving Under Pressure

Time is in such short supply. The sooner we appreciate its value, the better life becomes.

When I was a kid my mom set the egg timer for almost everything we did; whether it was how long we spent doing our homework, weeding the garden, watching television, or complaining about life’s challenges.

It helped us to understand that nothing lasts forever – good or bad.

This was especially important when we felt helpless over things we did not have control over, including chores we  did not want to do.

Setting time limits also taught us to respect how our words and actions impact ourselves and others.

Full disclosure: My mom is a psychologist too.

Your time. Your life.

To this day I set a timer on the stove.

A simple, yet effective way to motivate myself through tedious tasks and become more mindful of time itself.

The timer principle can also…

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Trauma’s Shadow is Rage

“…he had always been popular and happy and things had always worked out.”

                                      (Holly LeCraw, The Swimming Pool)

I close the book, feeling the rage shifting just below my sternum.  It’s the second time this week that words have elicited this response.  The first was an online post and the author had written something about how gently we come into this world – a man, of course, whose lack of birthing experience allowed him to think glibly about such beginnings – and, I know otherwise.

Flesh tears from flesh.

Pain builds and peaks and in a bloodied push of exasperation life emerges.

I’m not discrediting the miraculous.  Birth is miraculous.  And in time, joy overshadows the trauma, and we conceive again.  This, too, is a miracle.

Maybe it is all this talk of he said/ she said dominating the news – women daring to call out their abusers. The ensuing backlash.

I named my assailant.   Included his address, and full details of the abduction.  Then buried the memory, and self, in a well so deep it wouldn’t emerge for fourteen years – knife-edged fragments butchering my complacency.  Memory works that way.

No charges were laid, no subsequent trial; the judgment occurred on the spot – the day that they found me, reported missing, in a state of shock.  I had asked for it – my clothes, the unfortunate choice to attend a bar underage, the willingness to get in a stranger’s car with friends.  The defilement was my fault.   How could I not bury it?

Happiness is desirable – no different for me -but I am also a realist / cynic – and life does not unfold in candy-wrapped sweetness.  It stumbles along, meets with obstacles, and demands that we look within. To say that someone has lived an unmarred existence, as suggested in the quotation above, is just laziness on the part of the author.  This is not truth, so why write it?

Life commands character.

Real life that is.

The rage subsides.  I’ve said my piece.  I turn the page.

(Article is published on One Woman’s Day: A Project of the Story Circle Network.)

 

Finishing Foundations

I turned to God when my foundation was shaking,
only to find that God was shaking my foundation.
– unknown

I’ve carried this quotation with me since my early thirties, a time when the bottom fell out of my life and I fell into a deep abyss of depression and mental breakdown (or breakthrough, as I now prefer to think of it.)

My mind snapped one day, while I was alone with my three children, trying to get them to their Saturday morning activities.  We were in the middle of an intersection turning left when suddenly I had no idea where I was.  With cars honking all around, and the children screaming in the backseat, all I could do was cry.  Fortunately, a police officer, sensing a problem stopped, and then escorted me back home.

Life, as I had been living it, no longer worked for me.   My foundation did not just shake, it split open and I descended into a black hole.  I then faced the daunting task of climbing out of that deep chasm and learning to be in the world anew.  And I did.  One step at a time.

Recognizing that I did have faith – even though it had been years since I’d set foot in a church – was a revelation.  I didn’t just have faith in a higher being, but I had faith in myself.

I would have to learn the basics again – how to make Kraft dinner, how to cross the street with a walk sign, how to shop for groceries – and in time, I came to be  stronger than I’d been before the fall.

This time, I was building a foundation that I could rely on.  A foundation upon I which I would construct a new self.

The focus on foundation has brought a multitude of diverse responses this week – from architectural structures, to crusades, and societal and political foundations, to creativity, and dreams, inner darkness, and even makeup.  Thank you all for your thoughtful responses.

I  hope you will take a moment to visit the posts of all who contributed:

We Wander…We Wonder!

Proscenium

Art Mater

Stuff and What If…

Sgoeil

Refract Reality

Willowsoul

Mistyroads

(If I missed anyone, please let me know.)

See you tomorrow for another challenge!

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Point of View In Dream Study

I’m on a field trip with several classes of middle school students. We are attending a local theatre to watch a live performance.   One boy, in particular, is concerning me.  He misbehaves regularly and needs constant monitoring.  I rotate between the balcony and the main floor keeping an eye on students and come upon the boy in question in the midst of a fist fight.  I pull him off and give him a time out and go in search of the vice-prinicipal, who is also on the trip.  None of the other adults are in sight and I find them in the lounge, enjoying their time off from normal duties.  Disgusted, I rush back to find my little problem has snuck away.  

I awake from this dream feeling angry and exhausted.  “Am I the only responsible one?” is the thought running through my head.

Recording my dreams, and working with their messages, has been a practice of mine for some thirty plus years.  One way to approach dream interpretation is by considering the story from another point of view.

The Boy

We’re on this stupid field trip to see a sissy play, and I get seated next to the most annoying kid, and well, he pushes my buttons, so I hit him, and before you know it, Mrs. K comes along and ushers me out of the room and tells me to sit tight.

Mrs. K’s alright but she gets all officious like this sometimes.  I am sorry to upset her, and I plan to sit like she tells me, but as soon as she’s out of sight, I spot the exit, and well – who can blame me – I’m outta there.  I got better things to do than sit through some dumb play.

There is much about this kid that I recognize in myself.  I was quick-tempered in my youth, and known to throw a few punches.  I spent considerable time in the hall for misbehaving.  I was also known to “skip out” often.  Even as an adult, I would rather go off on my own than attend boring conference sessions.

So how does this relate to my life now?  What part of me is feeling solely responsible, and what part is feeling like that-out-of control kid?

Dreams invite us to view ourselves honestly, by presenting current issues in story form.  They help us formulate questions about our current life situations.  While the messages are layered, any interpretation that inspires growth is a good place to aim.

The rewrite of the dream draws to my attention two opposing parts of self.  What is missing is a middle ground.  That might be represented by the colleagues, who have taken a more relaxed approach.  In the dream, I find my peers in the lounge and make a snap judgment, walking away in disgust instead of voicing my need and asking for help.

I can imagine that from their point of view, anyone of them, realizing what was happening, would offer a hand.

In shifting point of view, I become aware of an old familiar pattern surfacing:  “I’m the only one who is responsible; I’ll have to do it all myself.”

A little less self-righteousness and a little more asking for what I need is called for, it seems.

(V.J.’s challenge of the week is point of view.)

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Hidden Messages

“I’m not as smart as you.  I’d probably be okay if I was smarter.”

“That’s not true, June.  You are very smart.”

“Do you really think so?”

My sister and I are doing dishes after supper.  June suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

“You got 96% in your nursing program,” I remind her.  “Intelligence is not your problem.  You have a mental illness.  That is different.”

“I did, didn’t I?’  She pauses.  “I used to be a good nurse.”

“Everyone said you were.”

June would attempt to take her life at least once a year, resulting in the eventual loss of her job and much of her independence.

“Do you want me to do the washing?  You must be tired.”  She sets down her dish towel and backs away from the sink.

“I am fine; we’re almost done.”

“You are probably just tired,” she insists moving out of the kitchen and sitting down.

I have a revelation about my sister in that moment.  It is actually June that is tired, but somehow, unable to articulate her need, she is projecting the fatigue onto me.  This explains much of her behaviour.  She’ll often tells me I’m cold, or hungry, when I’m not.  She is really talking about herself.

“June is unable to speak directly to whatever is bothering her,” I explain to my mother.  “So we can’t take what she says at face value.”

“It must be part of her illness,” Mom deduces.

Except that I notice my mother does the same thing.  Not as blatant as June, but still there are hidden messages in what she says:

“How can you keep a husband and work full-time?” she might ask me, which I often viewed as criticism.  Or:  “You were out having lunch with a friend; what about your husband and children?”

Such statements would grate on my nerves, but now I can see there is more to it.

“Did you ever work outside the house, Mom?”

“Oh, I would have loved to, but your father forbid it.  A woman’s place is in the home.  When I did go to work, it was only after I threatened to leave, but; he never liked it.”

Mom’s ‘judgments’ are actually expressions of regret for the limitations she felt in her own life.  Apart from not being allowed to work outside the home, she also dissuaded from cultivating personal friendships.

“My children are all I need,” she’d say.

My family, it seems, are masters at hiding the truth.  Which gives me pause to think about my own behaviours.

Am I good at articulating what I need?  Am I truthful about what my needs are?

Clearly, I have work to do.

(Looking back over old posts, I found this one from five years ago.  It fits with this week challenge – conversation.  I have revised the post for this publishing. )

CFFC: Dilapitated

What is it about run down buildings that stirs the imagination?

This crumbling facade inspired the poem Abandoned:

CornerRomaTX

No voices linger,
not even the sound
of shattered glass
echoes, only bones

shedding flesh,
an unholy darkness
within, a mystery
shrouded in silence.

Momsschool

This is the schoolhouse where my mother-in-law had her first job as a teacher, at the age of 18.

(This post inspired by Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge:  Barns or Dilapidated Buildings)