Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Walking Away, Moving Forward

I am emotionally done in.
Not a spoon to be found.
I am humbled
by this past week.
Risks taken
Healing unfolding.
Secrets spoken.
Many tears.

Yesterday I lay on
the ground
amidst the prairie sage
saying goodbye
to myself as that
little girl.
At first she was curled in a fetal position
then she healed enough to get up,
run and play amongst the brush.
Growing even bigger she stopped her playing
looked at me and said,
"Thank you for doing the hard work
of healing, for becoming the beautiful
woman you are."
And with that she skipped off
to play.
I lay there until the tears
subsided, then
got up and walked
away from the land.

Friday, April 18, 2008


This is my last post until the first of May. Next Tuesday I'll be flying home to spend a week with my parents and finish up the radio documentary. After that I'll fly to the city where dearest one will be at a conference and we'll spend a night there and then head home. Some of you have said you will keep me in your prayers for the duration that I am gone. Thank you. Prayer changes me. For the better. Even on days when it feels like a complete waste of time and nothing seems to penetrate the invisible shield of my being, prayer is doing it's work in me. Yesterday I returned to contemplative prayer after an absence. Tears and peace were a part of that process yesterday. To open myself up to God and rest in His presence, knowing that God does God's work in me as I show up and remain willing is a mind boggling Mystery.

Here is the letter I sent to the radio producer tonight. The process has been painful, yet worth it. I think anything we go through in life has that potential. I am grateful and humbled to be given a glimpse of that in my own journey.

Dear Radio Producer,

The taping is going well. For a few days I thought it all was garbage but I'm over that for now. :) I'm working on making notes of what is on what track on the discs. I've used up most of one disc and part of another. I think at the most, with the recording I'll do with my family, I will use 3 discs in total.

I met with my therapist today and had her record what she thinks selling the land will do for my healing journey.
Later on I had a pretty big 'aha' moment in my session.
I've kept going back to the thought about owning my story and what does that mean and how badly do I want to do that. I figured out today that doing this piece is forcing me to look that in the face. One of my friends told me not too long ago that parenting is a make work project. In the process of parenting we give our kids enough baggage to last them a lifetime. Owning my story is about taking responsibility for what I'm going to make of the baggage. Am I going to carry it forever? Am I going to use it as a shield to keep others out? Truly owning my story means absolving my parents of the responsibility to make it better. It is what it is. Owning my story means letting go of being a victim. It means taking responsibility for my choices today. It means an end of pointing fingers. Of saying, 'it's all your fault." My life is what I make of it. I've spent way too many years giving my power away to others and not taking responsibility for my own life. In one of my taping sessions I talked about selling the land being a catalyst for me to face forward....to stop living in the "perhaps one day" and accept that life can only be lived this day.

I'll get those thoughts recorded unless you'd like to cover them in the interview.

Another interesting bit that I haven't talked about with you and that I only thought of mentioning today is that 8 years ago I had a nervous breakdown and the straw that broke the camel's back for that was my dad's refusal to let me sell the land. Shortly after that I went into a tailspin. That breakdown was a pivotal point in my healing journey. It was the first time I really felt the pain of my past and it started the process for me to individuate from my parents. Eventually I had to confront my mom about a situation and at the same time tell my dad the truth about that situation. During that phone conversation I held a little piece of paper in front of me at all times that said, "I am an adult." In part of that phone conversation I told my dad that he was the one with the power as the land was in his name even if us kids each had a piece named in his will. I don't think I'd ever been that blunt with him before. And in the healing that took place, as I was willing to feel the emotional pain and not run from it, I finally stopped letting the voices of my parents be the dominate voice in my head. I had just turned 38. I had a lot of shame connected to the breakdown. So much so I didn't tell my family about it and I never even mentioned it to my family doctor. I had a brief time when I just about checked myself into the psych ward but started to function a bit better and chose not to. I cried for about 6 months straight. It was the most pain filled time of my life and while I hope to never experience it again, it forced me to grow up. Anyway I share all that with you because I think it fits the thought that this really is a journey.

One other thing I wanted to mention to you is what I am and am not willing to talk about on tape regarding the abuse. If there is a way to allude to the abuse without naming names that is my preference. I have never gone back to my brothers and talked about it with them and do not want that to begin with public radio. Also I'm not willing to talk specifics on tape about what the abuse actually was. I am willing to talk about the fallout of it, about the emotional pain, about my side of the journey at whatever depth is necessary. Also the physical, emotional, verbal abuse from my mom - if there is a way to approach that without getting specific that would be my goal there, too. I want to be as grace filled as possible about it without skirting the topic. I have no idea what your plans are for that taped conversation between us but I just wanted to give you a head's up on my thoughts so I don't have to say at that moment that I'm not willing to talk about that.

You know if nothing ever came of the piece, if you decided to scrap it, it has already done it's work in me. This process with you has been another pivotal point in my healing and for that I am incredibly grateful and humbled. The story is bigger than any of us. And it's not over yet. I read not too long ago that courage is moving forward in the face of fear. Next week, the conversations with my parents, will take incredible courage. Without the opportunity of doing this piece I would shrink from it instead of embracing it. Often, since coming home from treatment, I've ended my journal entry for the day with - "I can do this." Then I put down my pen and do the next right thing in front of me and keep moving forward. I think every night as I'm with my family, I'll be writing in capital letters I CAN DO THIS.

Thanks for being a part of my journey.

Talk to you soon - in person.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Looking Back

From the comments:
I think I know a lot about how you are now, and how you think now.. but not a lot about you growing up, or as a young adult. Unless it relates to something in your life today, we don't really hear much about you in that sense. Would love to hear more!
That comes from my soon to be daughter-in-law.(Waving hi to you today!)

and this from my dear friend Mich:
"How did you come to live in all the different places? Were you a writer as a kid? Do you know any stories about your ancestors?
I'm going to answer both in bullet form as anything more cohesive is still beyond me.

* I broke my arm in grade one. A green stick fracture they called it. My cousin and I were walking along the top of a fence and she started to fall and I tried to stop the momentum and we both fell. The lawn on the other side of the fence had a bit of a dip in it and that's where we landed. She was unhurt.

* I had the same teacher for grade one that my mom had had in grade nine. She was still as miserable a teacher for me as she had been for my mom. Once I stole a cough drop (Sucrets) off her desk. It tasted wretched.

* In grade two I got a severe case of Poison Ivy. I still remember the little yellow pills I had to take to keep the itching under control. It was in grade two that I wrote my first essay. It was titled "When The World Began And How." My mom kept that essay (written on fullscap) tucked in one of the kitchen cupboards until I left home. Unfortunately I lost it in a move early in my marriage. I do remember it though and it was well written and I've kept the same writing style I had back then.

* My grade three teacher was strict and a lover of words. She was also the school librarian. One day I read a book under the top of my desk between first bell and first recess. When I returned it during recess her eyebrow went up as if to ask me when I'd found time to read it when I was supposed to be doing school work. I don't remember getting in trouble for it. When I met her again the summer I graduated from high school, she sighed in the most beautiful way when I told her of my plans to go study journalism. "English, my favourite," was her reply.

* In the summer between grade four and five I went to a Bible Camp. My first and last time. It was my first experience of being in an enviroment where I knew adults loved and cared for me. I did not want to go home. I had an experience there of seeing an angel in the rafters of the cabin. The adults I told didn't believe me but I never forgot what I saw. I had an experience of an angel watching over me a few years ago, too.

* My grade five teacher didn't believe in homework. She was also a very compassionate teacher and I felt safe in her classroom. This was the year my mom got breast cancer the first time and then became an alcholic. That's a story in itself.

* My grade six teacher read us Jean Val Jean. He had previously been a teacher in a federal prison and was a passionate teacher. Grade six was a rough year for me and he went to bat for me several times. I've tried to find him over the years to express my gratitude for his presence in my life but haven't been able to track him down. I'm not the only one in my class that knew the basics of Les Miserables because of his influence.

* I started writing in grade seven and was published in a farm newspaper for the next five years in their youth pages. I wrote everything from poems to plays throughout high school. I spent a year as the editor of the school newspaper and a year being advertising manager of the yearbook. I was given quite a bit of leeway as newspaper editor although there were a few times when I was reprimanded for risque content. When I was a young mom I did freelance writing for the farm newspaper for a year. My last interview took place when I was 9 months pregnant. I wrote human interest stories and they are still my favourite kind of newpaper article to write or read.

* Those junior high years were the worst of them all. I was either bullied or being the bully. I was not a happy camper. It got better by grade 10.

* I left home right after grade 12 and moved across the country to get as far away from my mom as I could. I went to study journalism and spent that time doing more interesting things than studying. It was almost as if school was an imposition. I've often wished I had applied myself to my studies. I had a great journalism instructor who pushed me to reach my potential. He was the first editor across Canada to publish a story about Thalidomide Babies after a mother came to him looking for answers.

* I got pregnant within the first few months of being at college and the father was from a foreign country. We were not in agreement about what to do. I wanted to give the baby up for adoption and he wanted to raise it. I miscarried before the first trimester was over. I buried the pain of that loss until I had an ultrasound when I was pregnant with youngest son at the same gestation as my miscarriage. When the technician pointed out his beating heart I realized I had truly lost a baby all those years ago. While in treatment last summer I did a grief and loss collage. I had three pictures of babies on my poster for the three babies I lost through miscarriage.

* Our many moves were a combination of youth and geographical cures. Well, not that moving cures anything, but it took us 18 tries through two provinces to realize that. I'd be happy not to make another move. I find them traumatic. As a child moving and being the 'new kid' was one of my greatest fears although my parents still live in the house I grew up in.

* I've spent the last few days reading through 35 years of my grandma's diaries in preparation for my radio piece. On the other side of the family the claim to fame is that my great grandma was born a Pacelli in Italy and was related to Pope Pius XII. Which is a good or bad thing depending on how you interpret what you read about him. My great grandma on the other side of the family came across Canada with the Barr Colonists.

* One of my motivations for writing a blog and keeping a journal is so that I leave a sense of who I am for those who come after me. I write that knowing relationship is of more importance than anything.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


This Saturday I have an appointment with the local writer in residence to discuss my writing goals and where to focus my writing energy. I'll bring along two novels that I've made less than half hearted attempts at writing and maybe a blog post or two. Ideas are easy to come by. Actually writing isn't. That about sums up my life in so many areas. It's much easier thinking about doing all kinds of things than actually doing them. There was a point when I realized I enjoyed reading books about writing every bit as much, if not more some days, than writing.

I'm feeling distracted by life at the moment and focusing any writing on blog posts seems out there in the distance somewhere. So if any of you have any burning questions you'd like me to answer or throw out a topic for me to write about I'd be open to that challenge. Give me an idea and I can write about it. Trying to think it up myself at this point seems futile.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Night

It feels like bedtime.
It's 8 pm.
Today I went for a walk.
The first one since last Tuesday.
It was good to have the energy to do that.
Thank you for your prayers.
This radio documentary is kicking my butt.
I need courage and strength.
Or rather I think I do.
I don't know what I need.
I can worry something to death.
Or to life.
Which robs me of
living in this day only.
Today I can handle.
I hope to really know that
one day.

Friday, April 11, 2008

In Short Supply

Spoonless in Canada.
Prayers appreciated.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tagging Along

I got tagged this morning by bobbie. I have about 5 minutes before I need to go get ready for the rest of the day so here goes:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1)What was I doing 10 yrs ago?

1998. I was homeschooling all three kids. They were 14, 11 and 10. It was the year I started writing again after a 10 year absence. The last time I'd written anything I'd been doing some freelance work for a farm weekly and did my last interview for that paper when I was 9 months pregnant. The guy I interviewed was an AA member and I was 3 months from getting sober. Wait, that's all 20 years ago.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

I used to be the queen of to-do lists. My day was ruled by them in a way that put the list ahead of relationships. I rarely make them anymore. But because I could forget what I really need to do today here is my own reminder:

1. Counseling appointment at sexual abuse center
2. AA meeting following that
3. Grocery shopping
4. Try on the next size smaller of jeans cause dearest one and I are going clothes shopping next week.
5. Prepare for tonight's phone interview with radio producer

3) Snacks I enjoy:

Ah, too bad this isn't a list of snacks I used to indulge in when I used food as my escape route instead of facing those ever loving feelings. These days when I'm hungry between meals I either grab a piece of fruit or some olive oil and cracked pepper triscuits topped with cheese. Occasionally a yogourt granola bar.

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

Give most of it away. Hoarding is one of my character defects.
Create several charities
Create scholarship funds for needy students
Build a retreat center for my out-in-the-booney part of the planet

5) Three of my bad habits:

Just three? Aw.
1. Interrupting people
2. Getting distracted by visuals when someone is talking to me
3. Tiptoeing across the floor in my muddy footwear (shhh, don't tell)

6) 5 places I have lived: (i'm anonymous, so i'm going to be vague, just because i'd like to stay that way...)

1. Alberta
2. Saskatchewan
3. Ontario
4. More Alberta
5. More Saskatchewan

7) 5 jobs I have had:

1. Telephone solicitor
2. Cashier
3. Receptionist
4. Telephone Answering Service Operator
5. Welcome Wagon Lady

8) 5 peeps I wanna know more about:

I'm running out of time so whoever would like to play, play along. Play nice. Play. Play is good. Which reminds me. I need to buy something today that has to do with playing. Like a skipping rope or a giant bubble wand. Or sidewalk chalk.

The Small Voice

The Way We Are to Go

By Elizabeth O'Connor

"In our wishes, small urgings, dreams and fantasies, we are given intimations of the way we are to go. It is our way alone and cannot be learned by reading books or listening to scholars or following others. We can learn our way only by taking seriously the sign that we see and the small voice that we hear. These we must treasure up in our hearts and ponder over. The code we are to decipher is written into our genes and sent out to us, as it were, from the core of our beings."

Source: The Eighth Day of Creation

via inward outward

So appropriate for where I am today.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Of Stewardship and Legacy Part Two

You can read part one here.

I had purposely not reread the script before we went to see the play. Maybe because of that or maybe it was just the head space I was in that made the watching of the play so painful. I worked out beforehand with my therapist what I needed to do to feel safe. I chose a seat in the theatre where dearest one was on one side of me and a railing on the other. (No, it wasn't so I could jump if I needed to.) I just didn't want a stranger to sit beside me while I watched. I needed to feel in control of something and where I sat was about the only option.

If you're a parent you know you say the same stuff over and over again to your kids. Some of it might even sound cute or evoke a laugh, a groan, a rolling of the eyes. Some of it might not. The mother in the play held her body in such a rigid way. It matched her words perfectly. Two minutes into the play I heard my words coming out of an actor's mouth. Dysfunctional, control freak lines, 98% of which, had come straight from my mouth at one time or other. (Oy, fucking, vey.)

What hadn't was my daughter's responses. Lines full of anger. Seething anger. I got to hear what would have been healthy and necessary responses on her part had she been given the chance as a kid. As I sat there shaking in my seat a thought flashed through my mind, "At least she's found a way to give voice to her story in a way I haven't been able to do with my mom." That single moment of clarity would later inspire me but at the time I just wanted to put my hands over my ears. And my heart.

At one point in the play the mother relives being raped. My daughter knows none of those details of my own but the scene was so vivid it was as if I was being raped all over again. Damn. I sat there and sobbed as quietly as I could. My body just wouldn't stop shaking. There's nothing worse than being glued to your seat while your brain is screaming, "Run, you fool, run!"

But you know what? I survived.
Not only the initial rape but the triggering of it, too.

I can write that now because I've had 6 weeks of distance between the play and today. It wasn't my initial response. Initially I was on automatic pilot. In survival mode because the pain was so intense I wanted to escape my body. It took several trips of walking around the small town where only daughter lives, before I could work the shakes out of my body. I dreamed that night of the play and the rape and woke up the next morning absolutely drained.

By the grace of God
I didn't binge.
I didn't drink.
I didn't numb out in sexually addictive behaviour.
I stayed in the feelings.
It wasn't pretty.
There was no perfection
other than being
perfectly fucked up.

I came home more determined than ever to face what needs facing so that the abuse loses its punch. I may be at this the rest of my life, my therapist assures me I won't. She assures me that healing can happen to the extent that I won't always be triggered by my past.

As I face telling my story in the radio documentary I'm working on I realized last week that only daughter is the one who has paved the way for me to have the courage to do it. Here is what I wrote to her last week:
"What I really wanted to tell you is that you are the one who is paving the way for me to have the courage to do my story for the radio. That you trusted the creative process over hurting family members with your play and how that really is breaking the cycle for who knows how many generations... of not revealing family secrets or at least not talking about them in such a public way. Not that I think my sexual history is such a secret but it was a very brave piece for you to do and you found the courage to give your story a voice despite my voice echoing in your head. ..... at some level the abuse has to be alluded to in the piece and I am breaking a huge taboo in my family by doing so. And because the communication is not open about the abuse there is no way for me to prepare my parents about what the piece is really going to be about. So I feel like I'm jumping off the edge of a cliff willingly. Or possibly tying my own noose. Yet I know I will be okay no matter what the backlash could be. Anyway I just wanted you to know that I am taking courage for my story and for using my voice from the precedent you've set. And it makes me very teary to type that because watching your play was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. But there really is a bigger picture in life and now this is all unfolding in my own. It doesn't mean that I feel all that courageous yet my gut instinct tells me I have to be true to the story. That it isn't an accident that my pitch was accepted, that the producer poked and prodded in the interview to uncover the abuse and how I felt about the land and that this is the direction the piece is headed. Father Charlie is always talking about the ripple effect in our families when transformation happens. I am very grateful for the ripple effect of your transformation on me."

God help me be a good steward of my pain.

Of Stewardship and Legacy Part One

"I thought a lot about what the stewardship of pain means; the ways in which we deal with pain. Beside being a steward of it, there are alternatives. The most tempting is to forget it, to hide it, to cover it over, to pretend it never happened, because it is too hard to deal with. It is too unsettling to remember.

I think the world is always asking us to do it that way. Our families are always, in a way, part of the family system and so apt to say, "Don't talk about things that cause pain. You can't trust the world with those secrets. Those are family secrets. Keep them hidden. Keep them hidden from each other. Keep them hidden from yourself. Don't allow yourself to feel them." ~
Frederick Buechner (ht to Mich)
Twenty years ago I sat across the table from a friend and broke the silence and secrecy around the abuse I experienced as a child. Physical, emotional, verbal, sexual. In the telling I had a moment of utter clarity where I realized if I didn't change, my then 3 year old daughter was going to sit across the table from someone one day and tell nearly the same story. Utter panic. Utter despair. That's how I felt when that moment of insight flashed through me. By my daughter's tender age I had already heaped physical, emotional and verbal abuse on her and her one year old brother. The newborn in my arms was yet unscathed. It was that moment of clarity, combined with my inability to change on my own strength, that eventually led me straight to the arms of God. The few months between that clarity and my surrender were a living hell.

I can trace my motivation to change back to the day I broke the silence. I so hope to leave a legacy of healing for my children and their children. I hope to see the generational cycles of addiction, abuse and silence broken. This is what motivates me to continue to do whatever I must in order to heal and therefore make the path easier for those who come after me. I don't always like doing the work. In reality I rarely do. But I do like being able to look in the mirror and like what I see. I don't miss the cloak of guilt, shame and self hatred that I used to wear 24/7. And so, no matter how painful the journey, I continue to embrace it. Even though I sometimes whimper, wail and protest first, I've never forgotten that moment of clarity and it still motivates me to choose healing. And while I like to think I'm paving the way for my children to heal, sometimes it happens the other way around.

Six weeks ago we traveled south to see only daughter produce and perform a one act play she'd written. A play about breaking the silence. About telling secrets. About showing what happens when secrets stay hidden and how they can unintentionally harm others. She chose to send me a copy of the script, a way of preparing me for what was to come. That she sent it after I'd been to treatment was a godsend. I read it and thought, "Yep, that's the way it was. Not pretty, but the truth." The play dealt with the warped messages about sexuality I'd given to only daughter growing up as a result of unhealed and unspoken (to her) sexual abuse in my life.

Between that reading of the script and the play being produced I began therapy that was geared to dealing with and healing the effects of being sexually abused as a child. If you've ever tried to wash the face of a toddler who doesn't want their face washed and tries like everything to get out of your grip, that's what the therapy has felt like at times. When the truth gets revealed I want to twist and turn away from the process as much as a toddler wants to escape having a clean face.

The hardest part of the process has been the feelings. Feelings like sadness, anger, more sadness, intense anger. Fear. Insecurity. My body has shaken with memory and I've had showers of grief wash over me from head to toe. I know my feelings won't kill me but I also understand why people choose not to feel them. It's safer that way.

I went to opening night of only daughter's play knowing it could trigger a whole lot of feelings. What I couldn't predict was that in the midst of experiencing body memory and intense emotional pain I'd have a moment of clarity that would pave the way for me to tell my own story.

Life Giving Energy

Don't tell dearest one but I think I'm in love with the energizer bunny. She is one smart puppy. She knows my daily routine involves watching an hour of tv in the morning and when that tv goes off I usually go for a walk. So now when she hears the click, well, actually when she sees me point the remote control in the right direction, her ears go up and she starts getting excited. This is where I ask her if she wants to go for a walk and she starts howling her yes. Picture a wolf howling at the moon and then insert little pug face howling and you get the idea. I think it's adorable. Dearest one and youngest son think it's a crime worthy of a muzzle. So energizer bunny has learned to only howl about going for a walk when I'm the one doing the walking.

She sleeps in a kennel and not long after we got her I passed her kennel at bedtime and said, "night night." To which youngest son said, "Did you just say night night to a dog?" Yep, I did. And now when I say night night she trots down the hallway and into her kennel all on her own steam. I think that's cute.

She also recognizes my yoga clothes and knows that means she'll be in her kennel until yoga is done. At this she turns down her ears and tries to hide. Oh well, 2 out of three ain't bad.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bits and Pieces

This week has felt like a mile in length.
Tomorrow I'll start recording answers to questions from the radio producer.
He actually told me not to erase anything I record. He said he might have been able
to use that bit where dearest one chased me around the kitchen and I was laughing.
So dearest one will surprise me one day soon and chase me again and we'll see if I
have the same reaction. Laughing with dearest one is one of my favourite past times.

Yesterday dearest one and I were up shortly after 5 am and into town before 7.
I had lab work and a diagnostic test at the hospital and he was there with a group of students.
A noon AA meeting and a counseling session were lined up for the afternoon. I was in a fair amount of pain from the test at the hospital but today it's better. The dizziness from the weekend is gone but nausea continues to plague me. It feels minor all things considered.
The best part of my day was walking into a regular store and trying on all these cute tops and being thrilled/shocked that they fit. Not sure when my warped body image will be a thing of the past. Sometimes it feels like I peer into a mirror when I try on clothes and say, "Hope, is that you?"
I booked my plane ticket home so I can interview family for the radio piece. I'll be there in less than 3 weeks and will be staying a week.
I have a blog post I want to write about what's going on inside me about the whole deal but am waiting for some input from a family member first before I go ahead.
I hope you've had a good week.
The geese are back.
It's really and truly Spring!