Sunday, July 31, 2011

Define Healing

A few days ago, I added a new post. For me, it was an act of healing. It was a matter of: Okay. I'm not ashamed. I'm not going to hide. I am going to let it go. For me, if I don't talk about things (or if I turn down time with friends), I am crawling into myself, I am retreating..... although, because I'm not the best at articulating myself in person, sometimes writing, for me, is like talking. When I write, it allows me to process information, to acknowledge it, and to move forward. And when I wrote that post, and then published it for others to see, it was like blowing a wisher into the wind. I let it go... well, letting go is a process, but I got closer, and I felt so good and free and at peace.

A couple days later, someone expressed concern for me. She said that she sees that I am having a hard time coping. I tried to explain my viewpoint, but she only sees it through her own lens. She knows how she feels. She knows how she acts and interacts. She assumes I'm the same; she assumes that by writing it, I am clinging on.
But for me, when I don't write, the thoughts spin in my head repetitively. Writing does help me let go. But I can't convince her of this.

So she's trying to convince me that I need to get rid of everything written, that relates to my dad- his journals, documents, everything- just destroy it. And I am fine with getting rid of most of it. But a few pages of it actually acknowledges what he did- and coming from a past in which people didn't believe me, I like knowing that proof exists, so I don't want to destroy that part of it. It may be that when I put it in a box, I forget about it for 10 years, then see it again and think, "Nope, I don't need it anymore." But today, I want it- not to look at regularly, but to just have. And I do believe that letting-go can't be pushed. It comes with time; with growing- and I am growing, and am not concerned if it takes a little while. So why do I have to be pushed?

So then, I was telling a good friend about this. I actually had a point I was trying to get at- but never got there because she started telling me how she agrees with the first person. And in her argument, she completely downplayed the past- said, "well, he never actually succeeded in doing those things to you." I know that! I know it could have been 10 million times worse. But he still did hurt me.... and her comment hurt a lot, because she's my friend..... Then she wanted me to set a date for "letting go"/getting rid of certain things- well, if I knew I needed to let go of those things, I'd do it today. But these items seem like the side-act to moving on; they aren't the issue.... And some would say I should also take all the photos of my dad out of the albums. To me, it is a fact that he's a part of my past. I can't take him out of my past, so taking him out of the albums just leaves a void- which is just as obvious, and more evasive.

For me, the question is, what's going on within me, when I acknowledge the past? Can I say, yes, my dad abused me, but I am free now? I think that's the truer form of moving on in life. Yes, I think back to the past. I think of family vacations, of girl scout activities, of camp, of the time I flew off my bike, of the time dad tried this or that, and so-on. I remember them, and depending on the situation, I may mention them.... and if people around me are making it a current issue, I may mention the past more, because it relates to the present- but that doesn't mean I'm stuck in a rut. I also talk about the future- of career, and marriage, and possibly children- and tomorrow and next month- much more than I talk about him.... unless someone else starts the conversation (and yes, when he makes some new jerky comment, or if people bring him up- or anything meaningful, good or bad- my thoughts tend to be partly on it for hours.... so when Mom says she received another jerky letter, and tells me about it, I think about his being a jerk through the next day, and may mention something about him to my closest friends. But usually, it's a comment-in-passing when I do).

Thing is, I'm not claiming to be "healed." I am "healing." I am growing and feeling good and alive and new.... and I don't want the people I care about to be blind to that. But these two people are telling me they're certain that I'm holding on- and somehow, that makes me feel trapped. So now I'm trapped, disagreeing, and not allowed to dwell on fun things because every day, someone is bringing up their concerns for me.... and now I feel like I can't talk it out with friends without the risk of being accused of not letting go, but I can't let go, without talking it out enough to know what I'm letting go of.

Some days are so extremely frustrating.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


As I wait on my boss, I guess I have time to write something.

 Several weeks ago, I left California on a roadtrip to Illinois, to visit Grandma (I'll talk about the drive later). She has always had this thing about making sure I knew she wouldn't be around forever.

I remember when I was 7, or there-about. I was telling her how much I loved her. I wanted to live with her. She told me I'd miss my mom and dad. I insisted I wouldn't. It wasn't that I didn't want to be with them; I just adored Grandma- and probably the 1-1 attention I received. And I knew Grandma adored me- even though she couldn't say my name right. She even had a doll named after me- also mispronounced.

And at night, we would share the big bed, and I would talk forever. "Grandma." "Yes honey?" "What are we doing tomorrow?" "Oh, I don't know. We'll see in the morning." "Grandma." "Yes?" "Can we go feed the ducks tomorrow?" "If we have enough heels. We'll see." "Grandma." "Hmmm?" "You know what my teacher said?" "Hmmm.".... "Grandma?.... "Grandma?" "hhggah ssshhh (Zzzz)".... ya know, she doesn't snore like that now that I'm grown up, and not keeping her awake.

All to say, I really loved Grandma. So I probably said I wanted to live close to her "when I grow up." (I lived in Illinois at the time, but was a couple hours away). She told me that she wouldn't be around to see me get married, and maybe not even to see me graduate high school. I reiterated how much I loved her, and she told me that she was old, and that she wouldn't have the energy when I was in high school, to do the things I wanted to do- that when I was in high school, I'd choose to stay home and spend the weekend with my girlfriends rather than to have to go with the family to visit her. I was adamantly certain that this would not be the case.

Well, she's still around. I'm not married yet, but that's circumstance; not time. She did come to my high school graduation- although she couldn't fly to my college graduation. And every year now, when I've visited, she has said goodbye, dreading that it was probably the last time. I've tried to convince her that she's not necessarily correct, and she has argued that she doesn't want to live to the point of being a burden.

So most years, I go out there for a week or two, but her fear of dying without spending enough time with me was getting to me, so I decided to go out there for 5 weeks.... that was hard- she has energy for 1 or 2 errands per day, tv, and a multitude of card games. I have energy for hiking and exploring. But while I was there, something amazing happened:

I was in the middle of cooking, when she said, "So when you're 44, I'll be 100, huh?" For a couple seconds, I was horrified. I don't want to think about being 44 yet. It's not old, but I have so many plans between now and then. So why was she thinking that far ahead. Then it struck me. She's planning for 100! Wow! Grandma's planning for 100!

Now, I fully understand that she could die anytime- in an accident, of an illness- possibly just from old age, although I don't think she's there yet. And of course, she's still aware of this fact. But she isn't expecting it. She's planning for it, but she's also planning for a longer life. This really makes me smile.... but no more 5-week visits; maybe 2 short visits: spring and fall.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Humbling Quest

I guess it's time to acknowledge it. I'm a slacker. That hasn't always been true, but I can't seem to get into a groove. Facebook is my current vice... I'm wondering if I'm going to have to give it up completely. But I love that it has kept me in touch with so many people. I don't like phones- unless we are very good friends, I'm not likely to keep in touch that way.
So every day, I try again. I need to get a, b, c... done. I need to at least spend x hrs doing this stuff. And day after day, I end with, "It's okay. I'll try again tomorrow." Why? I keep wondering what is wrong with me; why I can't seem to stay on-track. It's frustrating. And humbling.
I try to reason with myself.
* If I get this done, I can really relax- not just stress while I'm wasting time.
* Once my internship and thesis are done, I can look for a real job (something in the camp industry).
* I want my life to be meaningful. This stuff isn't meaningful.
But "just a few more minutes" is like a marshmallow placed perfectly on the edge of a bonfire. It expands... vastly.
 So I have my list of things to finish today. I got some of them done- at least the most important ones. I met with my supervisor, and he's happy with what I gave him. But I know I can help better if I finish sooner. My product is the key to they're expansion. I still have a few more things to do tonight.... And then tomorrow's a new day.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What I Don't Say Because I Don't Want to Make You Uncomfortable

If knowing someone's story makes you uncomfortable, please don't read this; I don't want you to be uncomfortable. But my life is good, I've learned from my past, it wasn't my fault, and I am okay, so I have no shame in telling it. I will say, to reduce any fears, I was not raped- and obviously not killed, so that takes the worst out of the picture. Also, if you, the reader, are my friend, please let me know if you do read this- via blogger, facebook, in-person, or whatever. It is my personal story, and I would like to know who knows. That's all I ask.

I was looking at old journals and blogs today, and remembering the past. There are many many good and fun memories. Some were very hard- but I had a positive perspective at the time, and that made the memory good, overall.... others were riddled with fear and sadness.

One of the things on my long-term to-do list, is to write a book about my life- my struggles with childhood epilepsy, bullying, and abuse- and how God has helped me through.

I would not take away the epilepsy if I could- though I'm so glad it went away. Every seizure terrified me; every time, I was certain that I was like Lorenzo, and it would never stop, and I might die- and it hurt, and it was exhausting, because I was alert though I couldn't talk, and I never knew when it was going to start. But it gave me my perspective on accepting all people. Compassion and empathy are my strength, and I don't think I'd be able to say that otherwise.

The abuse, on the other-hand, I would take away in a heart-beat. It's not like dad terrorized us daily as I was growing up. To a large extent, he worked nights, I was at school during the day, Mom was home in the afternoon and evenings, and dad couldn't do much harm. He could ridicule us. He did. He could humiliate us by breaking public rules- such as bringing a dog into the store, or by coming out of his room without clothes on- when our friends were over (and say he didn't know)... but at the time, we didn't know he got something out of it. My siblings and I considered him, "dumb." That was it.

Thank goodness for two things. One, I learned in school early-on, that if ANYONE, even family, tries to touch you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, you tell them to stop, and you tell someone you trust. Two, my dad was afraid of being caught.

His method was to try coersion, justification, etc. As I became a teen, he tried to convince me he needed to make sure I was growing healthily since he was "a doctor" (he worked in a hospital). I finally conceded part-way by letting him look, but when he started to overstep those boundaries, I screamed bloody-murder (gosh, the whole neighborhood probably knew), Mom came running, he downplayed it and made excuses, and she gave him the warning of a life-time. Mom regrets not doing more, but I know first-hand, that when you love someone, it is nearly impossible to assume their intentions were bad- his behavior, yes, but his reasoning, no. I don't blame her.

He continued at times, to try and rationalize and coerce, but he never pushed those limits again. Still, he made me uncomfortable, and I didn't really feel safe.

Being on medication for epilepsy, I would walk into things, I'd get hit by balls in PE because my timing was off, I talked slowly and had a bit of a slur. Some kids thought I was mentally disabled. Kids threw rocks at me, or more-often, avoided me. The popular girls gave me advice so I could be "popular like us." They told me what to wear, & told me to steal Mom's make-up. That was the deal-breaker. There were a couple girls that seemed to want to talk to me in junior high- I didn't see them every day, but I felt accepted by them. There was also the group that I hung-out with most days- standing off to the side. I felt inferior because they were in the smart classes, and would talk about models of the 4th dimension, and so-on. I almost never found a way into the conversations. We never hung out outside of school; it was just a lunch-time deal. A couple of them, I'd say, really did consider me to be a friend. The others, I think just allowed me to be there.

The older of my brothers must have been asked what was wrong with me, and I doubt he really knew how to explain. He began telling his friends to stay away from me, and that I had AIDS. When I'd get home, he would convince my little brother to help him hit me- my sister would help taunt, but I don't think she actually did any hitting. But the boys would come up out of no-where and sock me in the stomach, knocking the breath out of me- that was the worst. Or they'd just start punching me in the back, head, neck, or whatever they could get to. I was the oldest, but my response-time and coordination, due to the medication, were horrible. If I hit back, it seemed somehow, I'd always be caught and punished. I knew the rule was to tell- not retaliate, but telling Mom seemed to be met by, "Well, what did you do? It takes two to fight." Well, normally, that's true, but not in the case of bullying.

I avoided them as best as I could. It was the hallway, which was around the corner and out of Mom's sight, where the hitting would occur. The rest of the apartment was normally safe. They had no excuse for being in my room, and if caught torturing me there, the excuse that I started it would go out the window. So I'd walk those few steps quickly.

When only dad was home with us, I had to be more careful. Dad had lost his temper once on one of my brothers, and Mom had lectured him. So dad got his revenge on Mom by playing helpless. My brothers would hit me, I'd ask him to make them stop, and he'd claim he couldn't. One time, I continued to beg, and he said to the older one, "Please stop." My brother laughed, knowing he wasn't serious, and my dad said, "See, I can't make him stop." My brothers then took the opportunity to run up and hit me several times until I hid in my room. After that, I always hid in my room. I'd walk in the door, go straight through the apartment to my room, close the door- blocking it with heavy items on the occasion that I still felt threatened, and stay there until Mom got home. Usually, being in my room was enough- they'd forget about me and go do their own thing. I didn't have to tell Mom what I was doing because I had figured out how to keep myself safe.

Dad said he was a "nudist." He wanted all of us to try it. He invited us to this amazing beach. My siblings went. I and my mom refused. He claimed Mom was making us uncomfortable. He found other opportunities to try and turn us against her. My dad and siblings would complain about meals together- after it was already ready to eat. I'd say, "I don't really like stew, but it's okay. I'll eat it." Once, dad pulled me aside and told me I was making the situation worse by choosing her side. He said that if it was all of us saying we didn't want it, she would give in and we could order something. Another time, he took me down the street to meet another girl my age. We talked while he and her mom chatted for close to an hour. I didn't understood why, but I felt like he was betraying Mom, and it made me very uncomfortable.

It wasn't until I was 18, that things really escalated. At that point, I was legal, and my dad had more leeway. He was looking up porn regularly online, and calling my brothers over to come look at it. Then he started calling me over. I'd refuse. He told me he was finding all this amazing information about men who have great relationships with their daughters, and that their daughters say they like it. He somehow convinced me to look at the screen, saying that it was just information, not anything disgusting. He lied, it was very hard-core porn. He started saying that it wouldn't be immoral if we did it. Then he asked me if I would. I vehemently refused, and from that point on, avoided him as much as possible.

My first semester at college, I would make the hour trek home after school, and go in my room to sleep. But often, I'd wake and find dad standing there in my doorway, breathing heavy and swallowing hard. I started keeping the sheets all the way up over my head so he could see nothing. I wasn't sure what he was doing, exactly, because I had no experience in that area (partly due to the medication, I was a very late bloomer), but it made me very uncomfortable.

 In the spring, I found out about a camp job that I wanted- largely, to get away from my dad. I had no other transportation to the interview, so, with plans of jumping out of the car if necessary, I allowed him to drive me, and thankfully, got the job. That job was such a blessing, but it really pointed out what I had been through. Up until then, dad was a dumb jerk who I protected myself from. Working at camp, I felt completely safe for the first time. I became terrified of going home.

Since I had no other options, I made a plan. I asked Mom to drop me off at my college at 6:30am, and to pick me up at 8 at night, because I had a lot of studying. I was exhausted in the morning, and fell asleep on the couch in the lobby of the main building. I had talked with one of the school counselors about some issues one of my siblings was going through, and he saw me sleeping there, but never said a word.

As things had become worse, DCFS got involved, one sibling was put in foster care as a precautionary measure while they investigated for three months, and dad moved out of the house by court-order, and at some point, got into drugs. He came over to the house as he was permitted, during the day. Eventually, DCFS left the picture, and he moved back in for awhile- until he proved he wasn't going to change, made threats to one of my siblings, and Mom told him to leave.

While he was home,  he had a habit of making the most offensive comments when I was around. When Kobe was accused of rape, he suggested that maybe they could sell me to him. He said that it would make him rich. Looking at dad at that moment, it was obvious that he was really mulling over this idea of his, thinking how great it would be.

For the most part, I have kept my distance as best as I could, other than the week I spent at his apartment, trying to help him detox from methadone, sleeping with a sheet over my head, and my ears alert to every sound. That kept him clean for a couple months.

Eventually, he started making death threats- saying he'd kill all of us. In a journal we found, he described the high-powered gun he planned to use. He told me he should have burned the house down with all of us in it. I started making plans to run. I talked to someone at church, about having everyone pray if I didn't show up, because that would mean I was on the run. We had a restraining order.

Now, he is on medication, and overseas, and the world feels so much safer that way. But I never intend on giving him my address, or telling him where I work, and he will never be alone with my kids if I have that opportunity. Those are the most obvious precautions I will always take.

There's so much more I could say, but I'll say it when I write that book. Through all my struggles, God has been there and helped me through; I've never doubted that. When I felt alone; like no-one knew me for who I was, I considered giving up, but I felt God there with me. I felt big, strong hands on my shoulder-blades, and I knew I wasn't alone. I had faith, and it got me through, and life is good. Never easy. But very good.

It is possible to be afraid for your safety, sad for your traumas, and happy (and on many levels, content) at the same time. This post is not long enough to portray the whole picture. I have many awesome memories too.
I love comments. It makes me feel like I'm not just talking to a wall, and rids me of the feeling that this time, I said too much, or said something the wrong way.

(I review your comments first, so if you want to say something just to me, just let me know).