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|My story of gaining self esteem by PB
Dr. Ochberg, Gift From Within's Founder says it is good to share our self-esteem stories.
My parents were grossly unavailable and cold during their time of battling over their own problems. My dad's attempted suicide caused me to become his caretaker. We were both ignored, and caught in the midst of their battle. I grew up both blaming myself for their problems and feeling ugly and unloved due to their coldness and lack of care and nurturing. Unknowingly I sought out an abusive husband who continued to tear me down.
What I really wanted to share, though, is that it is so possible to overcome it. I am finding myself, due to a wonderful therapist and GFW, outgrowing both an abusive husband and the influence of my parents on my self-esteem. Last week I received a letter from my 88 year old father putting down my mother and asking me to do the same. I realized I could no longer handle his using me in that way. I felt very victimized and angry. So I sat down and diplomatically and as kindly as possible wrote him an 8 page letter letting him know how their behavior harmed me and that I would not be caught between them anymore. I felt so free.
Whatever your reasons for having a negative self-image, I know that all of you can learn to feel better about yourselves if you find the support you need to work through these issues.
You are all beautiful, strong, intelligent, warm and wonderful people. I have not obtained my goals yet, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel...for all of us.
Thanks Dr. Ochberg!
|The Dark Side of Happy Anniversary By Louise Nayer
Happy Anniversary! Those two words are usually words of celebration - a joyous marking of time - usually of a couple staying together. The words can also signify other happy events - but the key word is "happy."
However, "anniversary reactions" as they're known in the therapeutic world signify something much different - a haunting, a trigger from the past that sometimes takes over someone's body, literally. That's what happened to me.
When I was four years old, my parents were severely burned in the basement of a rental house in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. My father, a physician, and my mother, a nurse/educator, took their first month-long vacation with my sister and me and our babysitter. We left the concrete heat of Manhattan to enjoy the spectacular beaches of Wellfleet. We were a lucky family.
On the night of July 22nd ,1954 my parents went off to a play in Provincetown - Della, our babysitter was to let in the "gas man" who was to deliver two new tanks of propane. The pilot light on the stove was out. The tanks were delivered (the man let in by Della), and the pilot light on the stove now worked. My sister, Anne, and I had our beloved macaroni and cheese and Della read us "The Merbaby," our favorite story and put us to bed. Late that night my parents came home after going to dinner, a play and then to a friend's house. My mother wanted to wash her face with warm water but the faucet ran only cold water. Determined to wash her face, she decided to go down to the "pit" where the hot water heater was housed. My father held the flashlight. My mother, match in hand, found the valve. There was no smell - so she lit the match. A flash fire horribly burned both of them, particularly my mother's face and hands. They ran up the ladder, rolled out the flames and a neighbor and Della heard their screams. They were then taken to the hospital in Hyannis Port. My sister and I went to live on a farm in upstate New York with our Aunt, Uncle and cousins and I didn't see my parents again for nine months. They were terribly disfigured and my father, especially, was "changed" in the way that people are changed when they come back from war.
Flash forward thirty-eight years - 1996. My parents have survived wonderfully. Both went back to work and had sterling careers. They have retired and moved from New York City to Oakland, California, across the Bay from where I live in San Francisco. I am the same age as my mother was when she was burned. And through a synchronicity only fate could design, my daughters are four and six, even born in the same months as Anne and me.
During that time, I suffered terribly from an "anniversary reaction" as I now know it is called. I had severe panic attacks - heart racing, hands sweating, a feeling of disconnection to my own body and to the world. I would pass by mirrors and not quite see myself in them; I saw walls of fire as I drove to my teaching job at College of San Mateo. Sometimes I woke up feeling like I had to throw up. I felt possessed. I had two young children. I didn't know what was going on. "It's an anniversary reaction," the therapist said. Then I understood - I was reliving the terror - and believed it would get me, too - that I would be burned and be separated from my own children, just like what my mother had been through.
Now it is 2009. Through self-hypnosis, exercise, tremendous love from family and friends and years of therapy I have few if any panic attacks. Sometimes the old terror rears its head in elevators - but I drive easily across bridges that used to set off my worst fears. Though I had been in therapy for many years before the panic attacks, had I known the relentless nature of an "anniversary reaction" I might have been able to prevent, or at least be more prepared to deal with the severity of the attacks. My panic attacks have now faded like the footprints on the sand in Wellfleet. Yet I know how important it is for everyone to understand how a childhood trauma can haunt any of us - and that we all need to understand the strength of the "anniversary reaction."
Louise Nayer, Author of Burned: A Memoir
|For a free bookmark send an SASE to Joyce c/o Gift From Within, 16 Cobb Hill Road, Camden ME 04843.|
|Spiritual Direction in Healing
My healing from early sexual abuse began on the physical level when I received treatment for cancer in 2000. After that successful treatment, I found a psychologist with whom I worked weekly at first, then twice a month and finally once a month. She encouraged me also to join a weekly support group for Adults Molested as Children.
Five years of this one-on-one counseling and support group attendance helped me feel strong enough to begin to deal with the spiritual aspects of abuse because I suspected that my strict religious upbringing was not supportive of continued healing. I googled spiritual direction on the internet and found this web site: www.shalomplace.com which is operated by the Catholic church. This seemed a safe place because I had learned from a friend that the Catholic church has used the practice of spiritual direction for centuries in monasteries and convents. In recent years the church expanded its use among lay people and other religious and spiritual disciplines have begun using it as a means to support spiritual growth
On the web site I found an explanation of spiritual direction and a list of available directors with pictures and brief biographies. I chose one who had had experience in dealing with victims of abuse and filled out the paperwork. The spiritual director contacted me via the internet, explained the process, and encouraged me to look at her web site. www.sacredlistening.com Her writings resonated with what I felt I wanted and needed and so I began contacting her once a month via e-mail. I send in a monthly reflection of thoughts, feelings and life experiences that are touching me at a deep level, she responds, I write back, and she closes the communication for the month with another response. In addition she encourages me to contact her if needed during the rest of the month (Another format is to include a written portion followed by an hour long phone conversation or an hour long conversation with the spiritual director in person). I like the written format so that I can use my director's responses for further study and meditation during the month.
I have been working on this spiritual level for almost two years now and have found spiritual direction to be the final link in my healing process. My spiritual director has lovingly and gently deepened my emotional and physical healing. She has done this not by converting me to a particular religious belief but by guiding and supporting me as I entered my inner landscape where the Spirit of Life has moved and continues to move in mysterious ways through my life experiences. I have learned to listen to my own body's wisdom in what can be likened to a spiritual birth, deepening my connection to God as Creator and Restorer of all Life. I have received suggestions for enriching my personal spiritual practice and a wealth of information from many spiritual perspectives and religious traditions. I have gained deeper empathy for all parts of myself, especially those which I had labeled bad because of the abuse and let go of a lot of resentment against those who abused me and who were nonproductive and non supportive.
This inner work has given me more energy to make and keep supportive relationships and to nurture my gift from within to serve others.
by Cindy Lou
My dad was my everything, I idolized him. There was no one that could be higher on the pedestal than he. Time and again, he'd pitch a ball to me and then retrieve it when I managed to hit it. I helped him wash his car nearly every weekend. I was his shadow and he the image, that as I looked up, blocked everything else out. Nothing bad could happen when my daddy was around.
My dad owned a store in our basement. He didn't mind when I ran downstairs and bothered him when he had customers. Actually, he never hesitated to put me to work bagging up their purchases. When the day was done, I would sit on his lap and count the money earned that day. I loved helping him.
My dad also had a problem. He was an alcoholic. Before I was five, I never knew that it affected our family. I didn't hear my parents fighting. I never saw him stagger around. When he was gone throughout the night, I never realized where he might have gone. I know I didn't understand much of what my parents and older sisters were facing. I was the untouched child thus far.
My sisters were eight and nine years older than I was. I had no idea that their play time with me was really them protecting me from the one that I looked up to. I was just excited that for once that day they were paying attention to me instead of pushing me away. I was five. Who at that age would have guessed what that play time was hiding?
One day while watching cartoons, with my chin in my hands I was randomly kicking my feet through the air. Everything seemed to disappear when Daffy Duck was on the television. Every few moments or so, I would twist my hair in my fingers, then go back to holding up my chin . I heard the back door open and slam closed. My senses heightened when I realized it was the middle of the day. No one but my sisters should be home when Daffy was on. In came my dad. He was falling, catching himself on the walls and mumbling quite loudly. I was scared because this wasn't like my Daddy. I ran to him yelling "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." At the same time as I was reaching him, my sisters came bounding down the stairs intercepting me with their arms. Why were they holding me back from my dad?
"Let me go to my Daddy, he needs me!" I yelled. By this time, tears were pooling in my eyes as I struggled to get free. I also noticed that my dad was saying some horrible expletives.
"No Cindy, he'll hurt you. You need to stay back," Amy, the older, self-acclaimed wiser sister cautioned me. She was always trying to be bossy. I wasn't going to let her get away with it this time.
Inching closer to my parents' bedroom to where my dad had escaped, I peered in while saying to her, "You let me go! He's my Daddy and he won't hurt me!" I then noticed that my dad had a suitcase out on the bed and was haphazardly throwing items into it.
I didn't understand what was happening, but as my mind tried to grasp it all my sisters pulled me back into the living room. That's when I began to cry openly. I continued yelling "Daddy, my Daddy." Yet, he never came out to talk to me. It wasn't long before my voice starting going hoarse and both my sisters had me fully wrapped in their arms. We were entangled together, heaped on the floor. I was crying out, even as Amy was continuing to tell me that she didn't want him to hurt me. My other sister, just kept agreeing with her.
Huddled together expecting the worst, my dad came out carrying as much as he could. Without looking back, he walked out the door. Instead of screaming, "Daddy!" I now was crying. "He didn't even say good-bye, my daddy didn't tell me good-bye," I sobbed. This horrible sense of loneliness came over me as I watched my hero stumble and trip past us carrying what he could and not caring what he left behind.
I am my dad's only child. My sisters belong to my mom, but I am the only one that belongs to my dad. I've heard it said that alcohol can play a lot of games with one's mind. What I couldn't understand was how it could cause someone to walk out on their loved ones.
That was the only time I recall seeing my dad incapacitated and it was the first time I saw my hero fall. He came back a few weeks later, sober. He's not had a drink since.
He's not perfect and he's slid off that pedestal a few times since then, but I still look up to him. He raised my sisters as his own and now, into his 60's, he's raising Amy's youngest child, also as his own. I believe all things come full circle, since his own grandparents raised him.
Years after his last binge, when I had enough courage to ask my mom about it, I learned that he took all the money and the only car with him when he left. My mom was ingenious enough to "steal" back the car and make do while he was gone. Then she told me something I'll never forget.
"I found the hotel he was staying at, Cindy. I told him that he could have his drink, but not his daughter. Or he could have his daughter and not his drink." He chose me.
|I'm Still Learning
While MJ napped I was off to the art studio and from there I could watch her sleep. Always before painting I repeat the words silently to myself: "Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. Just try." I figure what's the worst thing that can happen to me if I try? Then my fears subside. From MJ's shared experience with me I was about to try oil paint on a new surface: Clay. It was called "Clay Board" and it looked like a canvas, yet it was clay. My oil's had never touched clay before and after talking down my fears, I was actually excited as I began to brush the oils onto the clay. Oh my God! I was in heaven. How different the oils moved across the clay board. I don't know if I'll ever go back to canvas after this. Man was I ever flipping out with sheer delight.
When MJ awoke I fixed her something to eat and we began to watch the evening news. On TV a woman is interviewed about why she is so driven to keep the memory of her brother alive? Her brother died of AIDS and she only found out the cause of death when she saw his death certificate. The woman stressed how her brother had kept it a secret that he had AIDS due to his fear of people's reaction. Now his sister openly shared his story in hopes of dispelling this same fear in others.
It prompted me to ask MJ if she thought that it was a good idea to publicize about ones death after the person went to such great lengths to keep it a secret.
"Of course keep it a secret that you're dying! Why look what I have gone through? God! People's reaction is crazy." MJ sat up higher in bed so that she could see me better. She was supposed to not talk for long periods of time, but I could tell she was getting wound up after a long silence. "Someone dying can help others, but it does nothing for the person dying. A person should die with peace. Afterwards, if their death should help others, by all means publicize it."
I didn't know if I agreed or not. It was something that I needed to think about so silence was my response to MJ. She waited for my response but I get quiet when I am not ready to budge on something. Somehow "privacy" kept turning over in my brain. I would want to die quietly = that much we agreed on. But the: how I died; why I died; whatever I was doing when I died" I don't know that all just sounded "private" to me. I sure wouldn't want any of my brothers or sister making a big whoop about what I died of after I had made it my end goal to keep it a secret. Listening to MJ's view about death was okay with me. I respect how others want it to be for them.
"Oh God knows? um, he knows that I have lived a full,, good life. I am not afraid to die." She looked upward waving her arms in a circular motion when she mentioned "full". Then she suddenly looked over at me, sat up and threw her legs over the edge of the bed so that she was facing me directly. Her eyes focused intently on me, yet they were gentle with some mischievousness. I stared back at her in wonderment of what she would say next? Then she smiled at me with her teeth out and even though she was gentle, she shook her finger in my face. "You know, you should really do something about your hearing." I didn't even have to think about my reaction to her. She got "the face" from me.
"Really, now... N-o! Now, look at me sweetie... I know that you don't like to talk about this. You don't like this, but you can n-o-t hear. You don't complain. You never mention how hard it is for you. You're used to it?. But you are misssing so much out of life. Get something done so that you can hear. There are so many sounds to hear. They are wonderful. Get the richness, fullness out of life." Getting up, MJ announced: "I gotta pee." Yeah she knew that I wasn't about to step into that one. I have to watch her because she can catch me off guard by changing subjects so fast. Just when I think that I am comfortable she'll belt me with something out of the blue. Ouch, that was a punch.
"I am still learning - you know, learning things: I just don't know" MJ returned from the bathroom just a yakking away. After I helped her settle in I moved further away to the other couch. She continued talking, her voice changing from a bold Irish brisk tone to a softer cooing sound. "I just get so excited to learn something. It excites me. Do you get that way?"
"Yep. I do." I shook my head yes when I answered and I stared at her in amazement. I had a good portion of the day learning something new, my clay board. It was absolutely wonderful and exciting.
"I love to learn. I want to go on and on learning new things." MJ could be so descriptive and I loved to watch her face when she described the beauty of something. She would have made a very good mime. "Learning is like hunger. It is a driven desire you don't even have to think about it; just like you don't think about hunger. You recognize that you are hungry just like you recognize that you are learning. It is a constant, steady forward push. Yet many are apathetic. Learning seems to be dormant in them. The desire to learn is idle in them."
"My grandpa told me once that when people stop learning then they stop living." What MJ said had made me think in the past. It seemed true to me what she said. Many people surrounding me seem as though they care very little; their focus is on pleasure and their self; why learn anything? Everything is automatic. We talked for quite awhile; looked at art and books and then MJ began to settle in for the night. Finally when it was bed time, a time that becomes so hard on me because I am in a strange bed; I worry MJ might die if I fall asleep; everything seems to pile upon me at night. As I lay there, I remembered MJ's words that were almost like a confession that we all make, so I said to myself:
"I'm still learning?"
Putting her hand in front of her face, the little girl of 5 looked at her shiny new bracelet given to her by her Mama. Reaching up and touching it gently at first, then looping her finger from her other hand, through it, pulled, twisted, and stretched it, checking to make sure it was strong enough. Yep, it was, she thought.
Peeking over her right shoulder at the big hospital bed next to her was another little girl of about the same age. She watched her glancing shyly over at her new bracelet.
Their eyes met.
"That's pretty" whispered the girl, pointing to the bracelet. She has the biggest brown eyes and pretty brown skin thought the little girl with the bracelet, "thank you, my mama gave it to me to remember her while I am here" she whispered back, as she held her arm up proudly to show her new friend, being quiet so as not to wake any of the others on the ward.
The girl had noticed all of the other kids and babies when she arrived earlier in the day, walking through the isles of beds and cribs that lined the pea green cinder block walls, clinging to her mothers hand tightly. She asked her Mama why all the other children and babies were there, as they were walking the girl to what was going to be her bed for a lot longer than either of them knew. Kneeling next to her, to explain once again "honey, you and all of these children are very sick, and all of you need to live here with the Doctors and Nurses for awhile, until you are better. Mama will come on Saturdays to visit you, and you can wave to your brother and sisters from that window there." She pointed to a big window with a Jolly Santa on it. "Look. Right there by Santa!" The little girl didn't want to look at the Santa window, she started to cry again "Mama, please don't make me stay here, pleeeese" sobbed the child, her eyes puffy and sore from crying. "Honey, we have talked about this a hundred times." Now, when you get sad or lonely, what are you supposed to do?" Wiping her nose with her sleeve followed by a big sniffle "touch my new bracelet, you got for me" she mumbled into her arm. "That's right" replied her mother. Standing, to lead her tiny daughter to her new bed, located at the Children's Hospital, on the floor for those quarantined with Tuberculosis. Holding back a well of emotions herself that were getting ready to spill at any minute, "get into bed sweetie, its naptime and the other children are all sleeping," giving her a last tuck, "I have to leave you now." With a kiss and a long hug, she whispered in her daughters ear, "I love you baby." Swiftly turned and left.
Returning her attention back to the girl next to her "ya wanna hold it?" She asked referring to the bracelet. "UH-HUH" said the girl with the big brown eyes, nodding. Reaching through the bed slats, both girls had to stretch as far as their arms could reach, shoulders and heads jammed against the wooden slats of railings on their beds, two small hands meeting in the middle for the pass off.
Lighting up her new friends face the minute her fingers touched the bracelet. Carefully, bringing the prize back to her bed, through the slats, being ever so careful not to drop it, holding it to her face inspecting each and every sparkly diamond on it, the girl then rubbed it against her cheek, before handing it back to it's owner she hugged the bracelet close to her chest, closed her eyes and sighed. "I wish I had a Mama" she whispered.
|Look for the blessings because they are ALWAYS there
I just hung up the phone from my son's school where the principal wanted to tell me his behavior today was a little 'off key'. I had to pause and think to myself where we were at 2 years ago. He had just finished a 30 day in patient stay at a drug and alcohol re-hab facility. His grades were so bad we did not know if he'd pass to the next grade. He wanted to paint his room black (we settled on the darkest blue he could find).
Today the walls in his room are white with bits of poetry taped up and scattered about. He talks with me today about his goals for the future. He has a 4.0 grade point average and did what it took to be able to move on with his class. He is looking toward going to college. This didn't happen overnight. Its been a long, rough road but so worth it to see my son, and even our relationship reap the benefits.
I'll speak with him about the phone call today and if he continues to act up, he'll receive a consequence but I'm also going to look at the progress we've made. In the past the school has had to call the police because of his outbursts...his uncontrollable emotional roller coaster ride of a life. Today, he knows how to pause. He has tools and he chooses to use them. He is still an adolescent and will test the boundaries, but today that roller coaster has smaller hills!
Sometimes life is like that...a roller coaster with big dips and crazy turns. It can get pretty hard to hang on. That's when I need to look for the blessings. I need to look for them because when I'm caught up in the struggle, that's all I can see...the anxiety, the fear and the depression. During those times, good thoughts are so far away it seems. I need to remind myself to look for the blessings because they are ALWAYS there...if I just look for them :)
|The Rhythm of Life
By Julie Johnson, 2003
Not too long ago I was standing on the bank of a stream watching the water slip over the rocks. The sound of the bubbling water held my attention, very soothing.
I decided to sit for a bit on the bank of the stream. A wiggle here...a wiggle there and I settled comfortably in the Earthen chair. Gazing at the stream, the sound of water over rocks soon enveloped me like surround sound.
My heartbeat, pulsing. Each in-breath; connected me to the rhythm of the stream. Each out-breath; detached me from anything outside the shorelines of the stream. In...out....in...the cool air fills my lungs....out...I feel the warmth of air over my tongue...the rhythmic breathing slowed my thoughts to a trickle. Water bubbling over rocks became like lyrics; go with the flow....go with the flow. My body loosened, becoming as fluid as a lazy SSSSsssss curve. "Listen...listen... the rocks in the river give the river her song." As I became One with the meditative sounds of the river song...even the concept of time spilled into the flow.
A tiny speck of something...just out of the corner of my eye...this something is falling from the sky. And in that instant of awareness the connection with the water was broken.
Squinting, still mesmerized by the stream it took a moment to focus.
High from the canopy of trees a single leaf floats down. Zig... Zag. Like a pendulum the leaf sways....right.....left.....right....left.
Turned up edges toasty brown and crisp, the cupped belly of the leaf appears soft, pliable and vibrantly golden.
Like a feather, the leaf gently glides onto the surface of the water where it's quickly scooped up by the rhythm of the stream.
Watching the leaf takes me back to summer adventures and being scooped up as I splashed into the current on Michigan's Muskegon River.
Tubing with my kiddo's or free floating on the Mighty Muskegon with my husband, he looking for fish in hidden holes; those deeper safe havens for the big-one-that-got away. Me, I was in search of hidden treasures that some ancient ancestor may have left behind.
Free-floating, for me, was always the best...just like that golden leaf, gliding over the ripples, slipping over rocks, leaning into and away from the different elevations and formations...going with the flow.
There were times when, in those uncharted waters, I got hung up on something....or bounced into an unforeseen boulder...OUCH!!! It rocked me momentarily...but usually the current and the depth of the water spit me back out into the flow again.
Now, watching that golden leaf float, dodge, hang-up, up-end and then right itself in the Mainstream reminds me of the Great Current that runs through my life.
Funny, as a kid, I loved mucking around in the slick-bottom shallows of a stream or a lake. All the neat stuff lived there; tadpoles in the spring... full-bodied frogs hidden in a flotilla of summertime pond scum, soft shelled pancake turtles dug deep in the muddy shelf bottom gave themselves away by a strand of air-bubbles surfacing to the top of the water. The shallows were always an adventure.
I almost lost that edge of curiosity by becoming comfortable. But thank goodness, some next adventure would nudge me; a new job, a business venture, "educational" pursuits that took me all over the country as well as the West Indies. Clearly, it seems, I'm to stay in the Current of the Mainstream...not attaching too long to any mirage, those "things" that appear to give the mainstream (small "m") security.
Suddenly an action in the stream takes me out of my headiness. The golden leaf gets tossed out of the current and into the shallows. It's hung-up on something. I can't see what's got the leaf in its grip...but it's being held in place. My urge is to go over and release it. But I'm "nudged" to simply watch.
The leaf is lodged on something...it's almost motionless. Perhaps it's reached its final destination. Perhaps it will become part of That-Which-Gives-Back. Long ago I was taught that the those still murky scum-waters was a place where other organisms would break down whatever collects there, transforming the "prisoner" into a new cycle...food, shelter for others living in the waters.
"There's a reason for everything," my mom always says.
Oh...suddenly there's more action...nothing stays the same in the current of this stream. A twig shoots out of the current. It's moving toward the shallows, taking the same path as the leaf...an upside down V of water makes a wake behind the twig.
Like the domino effect the twig bumps into the leaf. The golden leaf bobs back and forth in the water. On the down-bob the leaf is suddenly released from the grip of the unknown. Now the twig is hooked up on the unknown. A small piece of bark flakes off the twig and hits the leaf... pushing the leaf toward the current where it begins to swirl in a slow spinning motion. As it reaches the outer edge of the current...the leaf twirls around like a tilt-a-whirl...faster until the momentum carries it into the Mainstream where it's scooped up into the Pulsating Water.
I watched until the leaf was out of sight...up and over another boulder and then around the bend of the Stream's Plan.
Experiencing the emotions that flow, ripple and churn with this human event called cancer is very much like what I watched with the golden leaf. I'm riding the rapids of possibilities. Sometimes I sit in what appears to be stagnate waters yet, these very waters slow me down to take a breath and regroup. It is here in the shallows that I confront the illusions, the very stuff that narrows my vision and separates me from the Current of Life.
The neat thing about that leaf is that something came along and freed it from the illusive grip. And like the leaf, I'm free as soon as I let loose of the idea that anything can separate me from my Source.
In the autumn of my life...experiencing this very human event, I realize that it doesn't matter whether the experience is a lazy ribbon ripple or a white water boil; I just have to be willing to flow with the Current that's movin' through me.
|The Great Blue Heron first touched my life when my partner and I rented a house on the Royal River in Yarmouth, Maine. I had never seen a more graceful, patient, and self-confident creature. I observed her daily in her various postures fishing, eating, preening, being. She was my guide, my teacher, my healer.
I lived in three more towns after leaving Yarmouth four years ago. In each town, the Great Blue Heron presented herself. Usually it was at a moment when I was engulfed by the shame, rage, sorrow, terror, or disgust of my childhood trauma. My eyes would be drawn to the sky and I would see her just above me. Recently, it was the sound of her wings flapping that caught my attention.
I draw strength from her. When I'm overwhelmed, I remember her patience. When shame is weighing on my body, I remember her posture. And, on nights when the nightmares of the past are robbing me of a peaceful sleep, I imagine her powerful wings lifting me above the danger. Her wings embrace me. Her feathers caress my face and wipe my tears. Her spirit fills me and guides me through another day.
Thank you Heidi L. Gonder for the reminder.....
Julie L. Johnson
Awakened in the wee hours of the night by a dear friend vacationing in Cape Cod, I got up to turn off the whirling fan in my window for I wanted to capture all of the excitement in his voice. Lonesome and wanting to share some time and space together, he talked about his smooth gliding kayak chasing the tide along the estuary and the salty breeze of the Cape. We talked about the Red-tail hawks soaring high in our lives right now. We talked about my studies in graduate school, about living with the changes in our personal lives, and my job as a domestic violence counselor. Just as all of our past conversations this connection was rich, deep, and fully rewarding. It lifted my soul.
As I sat at my desk, at Seton Hill, typing a gratitude note to my friend, I was aware of the stillness of the night. I could hear the traffic flowing along, seemingly, way out in the distance. A soothing natural rhythmic clickity clack along the pavement, a nice backdrop for writing from the heart.
Suddenly, a really loud car broke the cadence of the flowing distant traffic. I heard the car accelerate.....speeding fast, really fast. It was more than speeding, it was like it was on a mission. And somewhere from speeding to more than speeding there came a deadening, instant THUD as if a planet-sized boulder had hit the earth. And the air was stilled, instantly. The thud echoed in my ears. And I sat stunned....numb. My soul heavy, sunken, and silent. And, according to the clock on my computer, at exactly 1:58 a.m. there was not a sound in the night air....no traffic or speeding cars or anything. It was a chilling moment.
At 2:01 a.m. I heard screaming....then people talking in frantic tones. I couldn't make out the words. I just knew the tone was near frenzied. And I knew people were scurrying around. The panicked voices sounded tunnel-like and carried along half-muffled in the stillness of the night's air.....somewhere down the "Hill."
And then I called Greensburg police, I told them about the sounds. And then for a few moments I sat absolutely numbed. I was jolted back into the moment as I counted at least eight sirens whirling in the night....coming to a dead halt just below the Sacred grounds of Seton Hill. The sky was full of helicopters scooping up the night air. It was like M.A.S.H. in the skies. It was like an "incoming" landing zone in Vietnam....taking out the wounded. The hovering....the paddling sounds of the chopper blades and lights beaming across the field alerting those close by that something big has happened down there. Something really bad has happened down there.
I sat in silence wishing someone was here. Aching to have someone hold my hand, while I held theirs. And it was in that all alone moment, when all I could hear was my own pounding heartbeat, that I became acutely aware of how fragile life is. How is it I had forgotten?
And then I thought, with great sadness, lives were about to change and they didn't even know it yet. I called upon the Great Mystery, "First, Great Mystery, excuse the humanness in me as I ask of You, please bring comfort and peace to the chaos below."
And then in my heart I felt a deep sense of anguish for I knew, shortly, telephones would be ringing in homes and people would be awakened, and the lives of many would be changed forever, in whatever way, by whatever happened at 1:58 a.m. "Great Mystery, may all of the people, who will walk what this experience is bringing to them, feel Your presence. May they feel Your peace restored within them, if not now, soon."
And now, less than 24-hours later, holding the local newspaper I read, "Popular Jeannette Teen Had Bright Future Ahead Of Her, Accident Claims Homecoming Queen." And once again, sitting at my desk, I look out the window, down the "Hill" toward the Sister's of Charity where this story began. Again, there's a stillness in the air.
And at this time I want to pause and honor you, Heidi L. Gonder, you too are a "sister of charity." I did not know you, yet in your passing from this human/Earth walk experience you have touched my soul and re-membered me to the frailty of life. You have reconnected me to the importance of my words. I'm soberly aware that in an instant life can change and what remains, for the survivors are the last shared expressions of the victim's voice. May we always remember to be gentle. In the Native tongue of the Ojibwa's, Bisaniiwewin....peace Heidi L. Gonder and to all involved in this human tragedy.
At the time "A Tribute to Voice. Thank You Heidi L. Gonder for the Reminder...." was written, Julie L. Johnson, was a graduate student in the Art Therapy program at Seton Hill College, Greensburg, Pa.
Johnson is a practitioner of Native American Spirituality and traditions.
When completing my Master's Degree in Social Work a few years ago, one of my professors became a mentor and a source of support. If I was overwhelmed by the curriculum's content, or when PTSD reared its ugly head, her encouragement, patience, and compassion kept me going.
Once, before semester break, an old fear of abandonment surfaced. I was sure she wouldn't return, or that, if she did, she would grow tired of me. To ease my mind and to maintain our connection, she handed me a crystal to hold on to until classes resumed.
As graduation neared, I dreaded the loss of her support but tried to be levelheaded about the whole thing. To my pleasant surprise, she handed me the crystal again and told me to keep it, "I don't need it any longer," she said.
One of the women I work with is a survivor of the most horrific and evil acts I have ever heard of. At times, the memories engulf her and send her reeling into the past hell.
One day, as we left the agency to go our separate ways, I handed her the crystal and asked her to hold on to it until our next session.
When we met again, she told me that she kept it clutched in her hand all night. She apologized for not remembering to bring it back. Without hesitation, I asked her if she would promise to only return it when she didn't need it anymore. She still has the crystal.
My professor, the woman, and I know that there is no magic in the crystal. I believe with all of my heart though that the compassion, trust, and connection that was present when it was passed from hand to hand, make it magical.
On Taking A Break
by Julie L. Johnson
A ripple effect of PTSD, I believe, is not understanding the concept of pacing or balance in terms of time. For many of us we live a life that is pretty much either/or, black and white...with large amounts of time either fixating/obsessing on recovery, on our core issues or how to "fix" ourselves. This can become a way of life. For me it did. If I wasn't exploring my own personal issues I was working with clients who had similar issues. I was reading books, listening to tapes, going to workshops, attending healing seminars, writing and performing one act plays around my story. My life was consumed with finding a way "out" of the pain, the fear, the thoughts AND somehow I believed there was a "cure" for what "ailed" me.
I came to realize that the more I held the energy of any experience... whether it was a thought, or a conversation or some book I was reading... the more space those thoughts and feelings took up in my life. Thus, I often felt like a mouse on an endless-going-no-where wheel and the cycle continued: the more I thought the more I felt the more I became what I thought...and so if that was true for emotional pain...could it not be true for healing... "We are what we think" ~ unknown~
While doing some John Bradshaw "inner child" work...I realized that I didn't know how to play...that I didn't know how to just "be" in the moment. Even IF I was doing something that remotely looked like entertainment I was still "thinking." Unknowingly, hyper-vigilance became both a way of self-protection and a prison. Either way...I was losing a lot of life...the simplicity of life. Out of that realization...that Satori...AH-HAAAAA moment came this writing...
On Taking A Break...
"Don't abandon yourself...you are worth your full attention!"
Hey little girl, hey little girl. I just wanted you to know that I'm tired. I'm really tired and I need a break. We've been working so hard lately. Every morning when I wake up, it's like my eyelids open and as they do...they reel up another memory. Then we work and we work and we work on all the emotions of it until finally I close the curtains on my eyes at night.
You know when I awoke this morning I looked around...not beyond. I tried really hard to focus on something I hadn't heard in a long time...the chirping of springtime birds. Oh...I know...they've always been out there...very single morning...BUT...I've been so preoccupied in my mind I couldn't hear them...I couldn't see them because I was always looking beyond or past the here and now experience.
This is my favorite of favorite seasons...I want to recapture within me the awe and wonder of you...my child. And if we need to learn how to have fun...we will do just that. It's gonna be a good balance for us...and it's my gift to you.
So...what do you think about making a dandelion necklace and a matching bracelet? Or how about letting a ladybug crawl up our arm? How about if we walk out into the tree grove and bird watch? I'll bring my brand new bird book. Hey...and maybe on the way we will find milkweeds and blow their fuzzies to the Wind! Let's look for stumps and peek underneath...just for a minute...maybe we'll find a salamander or two...watch 'em wiggle away. And if the Wind is just right...we could fly a kite??? I've got crayons and coloring books and a set of jacks...books to read...a toy box full of fun...can you just believe it...an "adult" with a toy box!! Oh my...look at this...I found this the other day at the grocery store...of all places...a purple jump rope!
Now don't worry...we'll work on our other stuff again...real soon...I promise! It's us...it's part of our life...we won't abandon our truth...but we do need to give ourselves a breath of fresh air every now and again...So...come on...I'll grab the jumprope...let's learn how to just jump into life on this day, kiddo...like they say... "One day at a time."
Copyright© 1991 Julie L. Johnson, Starting Points
Copyright© 1994 Julie L. Johnson/Menninger Foundation The Healing Journal: A guide to journaling, childhood sexual abuse, and recovery
|Angela Passidomo Trafford: Childhood naiveté's end gives birth to spiritual awakening
Sunday, September 16, 2001
By ANGELA PASSIDOMO TRAFFORD, Special to the Daily News
As I write these words, the World Trade Center has fallen to terrorists, building No. 7 of the complex has also collapsed, the Pentagon is damaged, and I - along with my fellow countrymen and indeed the rest of the world - am in a state of shock and mourning over this crime against humanity.
Whole planeloads of innocent human beings hijacked by terrorists were used as pawns of destruction in a kamikaze flight to level the two tallest buildings in the heart of New York City.
A symbol of world commerce collapsed in front of millions of horrified spectators like a house of glass, dissolving in a mushrooming tidal wave of black smoke as if doomsday had arrived. On the side of my television screen were written the words, "Attack on America."
I watched as we all did, in pain, horror and shock, as a monster of billowing white smoke roared down the streets of Manhattan, the place of my birth, carrying the bodies of brothers and sisters within its monstrous jaws. Screams of shock and terror, of human agony echoed across TV sets from coast to coast, country to country, across the globe.
My housekeeper walked through the door, her eyes wide with shock - her father had called her from his home in Brazil, weeping.
Attack on America?
Was this a nightmare from which we could all awake safe in our beds, safe in our country America, that has always been secure in its foundation of freedom?
Alas, no, this was a fact. As President Bush said it was "an attack on freedom. Today we had a national tragedy."
Stores closed, schools too. Air traffic was halted around the country for the first time in history. A way of life - of free life - stopped for the day.
For what purpose? Who is responsible for these crimes against humanity? As of this moment, the time of this ac count, the perpetrators of this monstrous tragedy are still not known.
This day, life as we know it has changed.
Things will never again be the same. It is time for change.
It is time we as human beings know who we are and what we stand for. It is time we realized that child hood's naiveté has ended and we must all open our eyes and take a look at the horrific face of human evil. It is interesting that President Bush called the perpetrator of this crime against humanity a "faceless coward," because that - to my experience - is the very nature of evil: covert, hidden, cowardly.
Hostages, subjugation, lies, a lack of concern for human life that causes people to lie down instead of standing up for what is right. Evil flourishes in darkness and cannot survive the light. I have found evil to be stupid as well, as evidenced in this ignorant act.
There has been a fashionable movement for the past few years denying the presence of evil and intellectualizing it away as nonexistent. No one wants to see the darkness that can thrive within and distort human beings to commit senseless acts of violence upon their fellow man.
We can observe this darkness on a large scale every day in our homes and communities, if we look. Now we have seen it take form as a vicious force of monumental proportions that we cannot deny.
There has been rage seething beneath the surface of our world for a long time. This rage has now taken form and destroyed the innocence of an era.
My own son voiced the feelings of many, saying that he never believed this could happen in his lifetime.
Now the unspeakable has occurred and, in a poignant way, a form of childhood has ended.
The only hope for healing human evil is love. When we love, we stand up for what is right, even though we might have to pay the price for it. We stand up in our homes when necessary and bring out the truth no matter what the cost, because our love and integrity commands us to do so. We stand up in our communities to speak our truth in the hope for positive change.
And now, in this evil attack on humanity, we stand up in our country and our world to protect our freedom, express our truth and defend our right to live in safety and peace.
Now we stand together lighting the torch of courage in order to confront a "faceless coward" who, when dragged screaming into the light of truth, will be forced into accountability.
I pray that we may open our eyes to the darkness of evil and the healing light of love that brings clarity, courage and strength. May truth and justice prevail; mercy and peace find a sweet home in our hearts. May we awaken to our divine birthright and embrace our inspired destiny as children of God. And may God bless us all.
Nationally syndicated columnist Angela Passidomo Trafford, author of "The Heroic Path" and "Remembering the Language of God," is a spiritual teacher who resides in Naples. You may contact her with questions or comments at her Web site, www.self-healing.net, or write to her in care of the Naples Daily News, P.O. Box 7009, Naples, FL 34101.
It is often said that time heals. For me, time and a conscious choice to commit myself to do whatever it will take.
|What to do while you are dying
by and for, all of us...
by Seán Redmond
Talk. Keep talking. Talk about pleasant memories, talk about hard times, and talk about what you remember. Talk about what is important to you. Talk about what you especially like, respect, admire, and appreciate about the people you are leaving. Do not leave anything in your heart unsaid.
Forgive. If there are people who have hurt you, and you can speak to them, forgive them. Even if you cannot speak to them, forgive them in your heart. We are all imperfect creatures, and we are all doing the best we can. This being alive is hard, complicated work, and all of us occasionally mess up.
Ask forgiveness. For whatever you have done or left undone, for whatever hurt you have caused, apologize and be forgiven. If you cannot have the forgiveness of those you have hurt, at the very least forgive yourself. You have been doing the best you can.
Be kind. Do not let any opportunity for doing a kindness escape you. Especially as your time grows short, these moments of grace become increasingly precious.
Live in joy. Figure out what gives you joy and do as much of it as you can. This will help all the people around you, because it will make you more alive. Make art, or read, or listen to music, or make music, or write ...whatever makes you whole, whatever makes life worth living do it.
Be brave. Feel what you feel, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Be angry, be bitter, be afraid, or be stubborn. Feel whatever comes up. Let it fill you up and pass through you. What is underneath all those feelings is serenity.
Have faith. Whatever you believe, lean on it, nestle into it, and let it comfort you.
Be grateful. You are blessed with so much love, and however much time you have, it is more than is given to people who are taken without warning. You have the great gift of consciousness. Treasure it. Every day you get is a gift (this is true for everybody, of course).
May I just add that these suggestions are useful even to people whose only terminal illness is life? How to live while dying is pretty much the same question as how to live.
I wish you strength I honor your courage. I admire your dignity. I hold you in the light.
|Truth In Friendship
by Seán Redmond
A friend came to visit last night. We talked of the new life she and her husband would be living when they moved three thousand miles away from my partner and I, we discussed how well matched we were as friends. The four of us have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, an inexhaustible drive to be everything we can possibly be. We discussed how our conversations always revolve around one central idea, trying as best as any four people can to be kind, compassionate, and charitable human beings. Because it would not be long until our friendship would end and we would have to say good-bye soon, it was a time for honesty, it was a time for understanding, it was a time for talking about situations we had not talked about before.
Because I am ill and dealing with end of life issues, it took a great deal of willpower on my part to make myself presentable for our friends visit, I can no longer stand, walk or lift much of anything, and subsequently I have difficulty bathing and dressing myself. Normally, one might find me sitting in my wheelchair wearing pajamas and in front of my computer working, or reading a book in my easy chair in the living room. I do not always dress because it has become very difficult for me to put on and take off a pair of jeans. I do not always style my hair because it is long, in fact, most of the time I just wash it, braid it, and wear a baseball cap. However, I decided to get dressed and style my hair, (even though I knew it would deplete my energy level), because this was going to be the last time we saw each other. I guess I wanted to present a picture that was seemingly saying 'I am okay' when in fact I was in a great deal of pain and devoid of physical energy, but I did not care, to me our friend was worth the effort. Three hours later, out of breath, exhausted, overheated and in pain I emerge fully
dressed, and my hair looking nice for a change, but I knew I would have to do whatever I could to center myself and regain some energy by the time our friend arrived for a great night of conversation. Heck, I was just excited to have someone come to our home to visit me, someone who I could have an exchange of ideas with, someone to laugh with every now and then about something silly.
Several hours had passed and we were discussing yet again how we first met, and how we seemed to hit it off right from the outset. Our friendship took very little effort to sustain, it was easy, we were compatible, and best of all we liked each other very much.
At one point during the conversation, Arabelle said when all of us first met, her husband Arthur expressed concern about becoming a friend to someone who was dying, meaning me. He was afraid of the emotional toll it would take on both him and his wife if they got too close to me. Regardless of his reservations, we nonetheless remained friends and I hope we will continue to be friends across the miles.
I must honestly say I was shocked at first by what our dear friend Arabelle said, I felt hurt, and saddened. Then I thought about all those who I have known much longer and why they had disappeared from my life when I became ill. I had tried to understand why, I had made many excuses to others and to myself for their sudden disappearance from my life, but none of them made any sense to me at all, until Arabelle in her courageous honesty said what she said to me, for which I am grateful.
What had happened was that another piece of my own 'life puzzle' was lovingly placed into my hand by a friend who truly cared about me, it was then up to me to decide what to do with it. I asked myself, "Do I put that piece of the puzzle into place or do I discard it and lay down on a couch of despair and continue to say woe is me?" I decided to accept what information the puzzle piece held for me and lovingly put it into place. For this reason I wanted to write this in order that others will not have the same conversation about being or remaining friends with someone who is in the dying process.
When the potential for learning is exhausted, the need to remain in physical form is considered complete. Let be what is to be, do not feel compelled to try to change it, merely project love in all you do, in every waking moment of your existence. Allow yourself to operate with radiating love at every possible opportunity. Do what you can to be loving and provide what comfort you can to those who will permit you to help them and allow them to fulfill their individual destinies through the death crossing, knowing that it is the creator's will that this be so. The love of the creator is not reserved exclusively for the living; the creator provides love, without limitation, to all of his children in a way and in the measure appropriate for each.
Be at peace within yourself that the life mission of a particular loved one or friend is complete and that the individual has been permitted to move on to a place where further growth is possible for them. Try not to be seduced into emotions of sadness and thoughts of your own personal failure for not being able to 'save' someone else. Try not to permit others to cast soil upon your beliefs because you may have attempted to create a 'miracle' and 'failed.' Know that individual destiny is at work and that the greater good most likely would be achieved during this time by the completion of the particular lifetime in question.
Know that you who read these words and embrace them as truth, will be soon in a position to act as pioneers in a radically new realm of existence here on earth, and be not sad for those who have not been permitted such a choice. See their 'seemingly' premature deaths, their sufferings, for what they truly are, blessings in disguise. Know that they will have been spared the agonies that may have been, for them, far more severe, and know that there is but one thing you can do, love them, simply love them.
In all that you do in life, I wish you strength, I honor your courage, I admire your dignity, and I hold all of you in the light.
Listen carefully to the calling of your heart for within it is a voice telling you at last, it is time. Time to become who you really are, time to rise above the festering masses of humanity and attain a rarefied perspective, time to relinquish the limitations fostered by fear, and embracethe truth that love conceives.
|Planned Acts of Kindness
by Mark Brennaman
If the Oklahoma City bombing and the Columbine shootings seem like they
happened just yesterday, the Ukrainian immigrant family's demise in
California and the Sioux City, Iowa slayings must seem like they happened
only a minute ago.
The sad fact is that before we can catch our breath from the insane violence
of the day there will be a new, more horrific assault on humankind.
I wonder if we all have resigned ourselves to the fact that the random acts
of violence will go on forever. There must be something we can do to stem the tide of our collective horror.
But what? I once thought that we all should celebrate a special day, say on the anniversary of the Columbine massacre or on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, where we all just stay home and be with our families. If everyone stayed home we might get a respite from the shock and sorrow of yet another act of violence.
I now believe that a collective action in pursuit of kindness will probably not occur. I've decided that it's my responsibility to pit kindness against violence. No one can spread my kindness except me. And no one can spread your kindness except you.
I must take responsibility to inject kindness into the world, and I hope millions of others take responsibility to spread kindness in their spheres of influence.
Rather than approach the spread of kindness in a random fashion, I have decided to follow a course of planned acts of kindness. One or two acts of kindness just won't make that much of a difference, but I believe that the pursuit of a kindness plan will eventually overtake the force of violence.
Of course it will take the actions of millions others before we impact the intensity and frequency of the meanness in our daily lives.
I've planned the acts of kindness to perform this week. What will you do?
|Defeating Violent Memories
by Mark Brennaman
A little more than a year ago I was a victim of a senseless, unprovoked act of violence that left several scars on my neck. I survived and the assailant is in prison, yet I will never really be the same. To shave is to see one of the scars. Until recently, to see the scar was to trigger a visual memory of the violent act - I'd "see" the assailant's rage-filled face behind me.
My first solution was to stop shaving and trust my hair was properly combed. I just didn't want to see the scar in a mirror to avoid the memory of an ugly event that nearly claimed my life.
The dilemma worsened with each passing day. Instead of feeling better with time for surviving, I began to remember the terrible event more often and more vividly. It seemed as though I experienced the attack day after day.
I finally sought help. My doctor's first question to me was, "Do you have a good relationship with your father?"
I said, "Yes. We have a great relationship."
The doctor then asked if he had taught me how to shave.
Before I could answer that question, a memory I had forgotten for many, many years popped in my head, and I immediately smiled!
"Doctor," I replied, "This is so cool. I remember standing at my Dad's side as a little boy, infatuated with the process of shaving. It got to the point that when he shaved in the mornings I was always there watching him, asking endless questions.
"My Dad bought me a little plastic "razor" and it even had a little knob on the bottom of the handle that opened the top, just like his real razor. The blade was a piece of cardboard that looked like a razor blade.
"After that, I got to smear shave cream all over my face and shave with my Dad."
My doctor then suggested that I think of this fun memory every time I shaved to displace the memory of the attack.
Everyone in my family remembers my little plastic razor after all these years. It has been so much fun reaching back to my boyhood, a time when I trusted everyone and yearned for the future. The "new" memory has replaced my violent memory.
I not only get to feel the love my Dad showed me when I shave today, I get to remember what it's like to be innocent once again.
Precious memories are made in an instant and last forever. I am so thankful my Dad had the patience back then to let me "shave" so I can shave today without visualizing an ugly event.
The memory alone has strengthened an already strong relationship. What made me very happy then is making me happier today. Bless you, Dad, and thanks forbeing a great one!
© 2001 by Mark Brennaman
|Fighting Depression with Visualization by Judy
Fighting depression for me was difficult. I have learned though that everyone has to fight depression on their own ground. I talked with many people before I was able to formulate a plan for actually attacking the problem. Even as I was working through this problem, I found that if I thought about it too much, it sent me backwards. This is what worked for me and is still working.
My first step was recognizing that I was depressed. Sometimes it took me several days just to realize that I was depressed. I used visualization to help myself. I needed to see a picture and identify a problem before I could move on. I called this visualizing the black hole. I had to actually visualize this before I could move forward. What I saw was me on a path or street, walking along, minding my own business (which at this point is very easy for me to do). I see in the path a medium sized black hole, that looks bottomless (big enough for me to fall in). At first, when I realize that I am depressed, I just find myself at the bottom of this black hole. I have no idea how I got in, but there I was. The only way out is a ladder. This ladder is always there, but it can be difficult to climb. Sometimes it took me days to climb it (slippery sucker). I just kept visualizing myself a few rungs higher until I could peek out into the daylight. Sometimes, I just peeked out and got right back in. But, eventually I did climb all the way out. Ok, that is depression to me, the bottom of a black hole.
Now, my first job is to notice that I am walking into the black hole and falling to the bottom. That is all I need to do. Just say to myself, oops, into the black hole again. Climb back out and try to see the black hole coming next time. I eventually could see the black hole coming and actually step around it. That took awhile for me to accomplish. I hope this is helpful to others out there who are depressed. It has been a good tool for me.
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