Circle Back, Give Yourself the Chance to Circle Back Again

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After posting the piece about the first time I spoke trauma’s name, (see: The Telling) many quietly told me about stories of fear, sadness and even anger towards my mother. You wondered if the world of our relationship had fallen a part.

For most of my life, I felt fairly certain I would not be able to embrace my truth until I had outlived most of my family. I have come to realize I would have cheated myself the opportunity to lean in and continue to grow, even if it did not turn out well……
This past fall, my mother lost her best friend and it led her to circle back to ask the question just one more time as to why our relationship struggled. I tried the typical bull shit, pat-pat answer.

Now that I have become clearer about my values, authenticity beckoned me to not armor up with petty lies and silly magic to distract from the truth. Even then, I did not give her the full answer, in part, because I had become so dishonest with myself I had forgotten the real reason for my lack of trust and distance.

Then as I remembered, I felt free for the first time to tell you about my story, one I had written many years ago. I also began a brand new conversation with her, one that did not attempt to distract or pretend. What continues to astonish me (and you should really wonder why it does) is that I believe I’ve seen around many dark, emotional corners….then, when I breathe, lean in and show up- I mean really show up-  light makes its way through my blurry, stumbly darkness.
Rather than a bitter end, my posting the story was a new beginning. One that continues to unfold in meaningful ways. Today, I give gratitude to my mother for reading my letter, telling me she understood and sharing in my sorrow and allowing us to both heal a cancer that I thought would never end.  It unfolds every day and I grow towards joy.
Here is what I wrote:

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Dear Mom,

Recently, the loss of your best friend sparked you to ask me a very hard question. One that I honestly was not prepared for. You told me about the underlying feelings of distance and pushing away that you experience in most of our conversations. Although there are many reasons and some are not about me, I stopped and for the first time in our adult lives, answered you.

Our relationship is complicated and it has been since I was a little girl. When you silenced yourself about the sexual abuse I endured, you silenced us both. The shame I experienced was at times insurmountable and I can recall several occasions where I either attempted or wished to take my life. I believe the pain and shame grew rapidly until I left for college and finally got help. A close friend at home had taken his life and my closest friend in college temporarily left after attempting to take his own. He told me then, “Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying.”

In truth, until we had this conversation, there was still a part of me dying. I still wanted to blame you and got some satisfaction out of keeping you the villain in my life. I wanted to discredit all of the beautiful things you do for me, my family and people around you that you love. I have wanted to make you hurt the way you made me hurt when my abuse was buried.

Today, although I will never agree with your past decisions, I understand and I forgive you.

As a therapist, I have witnessed many mothers experience intense grief when they learn of their children’s sexual abuse. The pain seems too excruciating to bear and given their lack of skill in coping with daily life issues, it is no wonder that this type of pain is avoided. Many swim in such denial they are not even able to see how their behavior is impacting their child trying to work through the abuse.

I wish you were there for me then, Mom. I wish I allowed you to be there for me. The abuse has taken away so much of our relationship and I am ready for it to stop now. I am ready to talk with you in a more honest way and let you know how what you say is impacting me, whether negative or positive.

You have the kindest heart and go out of your way to be gentle and kind to people that so many have forgotten. I know sometimes you give of yourself in the hopes of being liked yourself. We have even argued over you giving too much stuff, possibly in the hopes of making me believe that you do love me.

In other words, the unspoken big FAT pink Elephant in the room has been the sexual abuse. I believe there are things that have not been said, by both of us. For me, I am ready to talk about it openly with you in the hopes that it can stop ruining the relationship that we could have with one another. I realize now there are other things in our relationship that I dislike, but I have not clearly told you that I want it to change because I kept the barrier of the abuse between us.

You were not the person who sexually abused me so I imagine, at times, it is confusing that I have worked through the abuse and let go of being angry with my step-brother, but not you. I needed you to be the person that protected me. I still need that now, just in different ways. I need to know that if the shit hits the fan, you will not hide or pretend there’s nothing wrong. I know it is excruciating to remain present when we feel raw and vulnerable. But together- we can do hard things. We just have no idea what life will bring us and I need to be able to share the joy as well as the sorrow.

Mom- I am scared. I am afraid that if I open myself up and it gets scarey for you- you will hide again. I am afraid of being hurt like I was the day I told you about the abuse. Even so, I will tell myself the same thing I have since my early twenties- ‘The worst thing that could ever happen, has already happened.’ Then, I am going to breathe, lean in and be present with you. Sometimes you may not like what I have to say. You may not appreciate me telling you to stop something, but I commit to you that I want the same kind of relationship you want. Right now, in this moment, I am not going to allow the sexual abuse I went through to take anymore time away from our relationship.

In truth, I have blamed many other things on why our relationship has been difficult. Perhaps you do not want to emphasize the abuse either. But, there was the truth- sitting on my tongue the day you asked me about why I am so distant. Even then, all I could tell you that it was “complicated”. The sexual abuse has created a lens in which I view life and I thought I had stopped using it to hurt myself, but I have continued with you and I am ready for that to end now.

Know that I love you and I believe we can change. I hope you will be willing to change with me. I hope you will be patient and remain present. Being vulnerable is our strength.

With Love, Your Daughter.

Love is Not Smothering…with a Pillow

I believe LoVe really is much like this……

The Green Study

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????People like to write a lot about love and romance. Not I. One of my goals as a writer over the next year is to write outside my comfort zone, no matter how awkward or sappy or…no, just awkward.

No one has ever accused me of being overly romantic or sentimental. And frankly, you just don’t know, when push comes to shove, if you will make it through the endless night of the man cold without rolling over and gently, but firmly pressing your memory foam pillow to his face, until the tuberculosis-like hacking and wheezing of snot becomes a blanket of comforting warm silence. You just never know.

I’ve spent most of my life getting this love thing wrong. I’m an impatient person, so I rarely waited to be asked out on a date. As soon as I spotted the most unlikely suspect for a love match, I was…

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Not Any Good At The Good-Byes: Remembering My Beloved while Meeting Brené Brown and My Brother

ImageLet’s face it- I suck at the Good Bye.

Now, in my defense, my house hold has not had a “normal” week since January 5th when I returned from sweet-sweet paradise. Between the freeze, the flood, (see my piece about my attempt at Marilyn Monroe), a pouty-sick child and really- yes- the cat with a bit butt….I was kinda having a difficult time remembering that I had just finished packing my bag to leave after work. My husband leans in to kiss me good bye and says with those puddly brown eyes, “I will miss you.” I realized in that moment, I had successfully avoided with chaos and nerva-citement. I….was going to meet Brené Brown and my baby brother for the first time.

I wrapped all my loose moments in how fabulous I needed to look and what I was going to say. I toggled in my mind between thoughts of realizing how much I consider Brené my Guru in this season of life and worried about making small talk with my brother whom I know so little about. For me, I would really like to know both of these people and have a genuine relationship with them. But the fact remains that neither may ever happen. What is even more strange, I know more about, Brené, this person who in many ways is as elusive to me as the inner workings of the television I watch her on.

So day ONE of the Daring Way™ training begins and we all meet HER. She is as impressive and emotionally beautiful as I envision her in my mind. I am in awe (and a little embarrassed) when she asks us to be her safe place to fall. I want to swoon like a little girl and beg for her autograph Damn It!! But, in the end, I tell myself we are ALL human and seek out ways to balance out my vision of her with our common humanity.

Then like the crashing-smashing SHAME WAVE of Catherine, I get an email from my sweet puddle of a husband:

Thinking of you. Love.

With this video attachment (watch it now):

Holy CRAP! I start sniffling as I try to listen to the music next to one of my group members during a break. In that moment, I was called back to what really matters in my life. Brene who? Brother- what?

Brené told the story of the lantern, a signature piece of visual material for The Daring Way™ process. While we work endlessly at keeping the flame in our own lives lit, it is those that have truly earned the right to know our story that will cup their own hands around our light to ensure it continues to shine.

Of course, what I wanted to do was fly upstairs, pack my bag and run- literally- all the way home from San Antonio to his arms. I wanted to tell him I hoped he would forgive me for making other people and cats with bit butts more important than him. Sometimes, when my light feels dim, and even in a time of the high flame of nerva-citement, there he is- cupping his hands around my light. Consistently. Endlessly.

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I might want either of the people I came here to meet to be in the circles of my life, but there will always be just a select few that sustain the flame.

So, to all my lamplighters- you know who you are- you are way awesomer than any celebrity or any person who does not know my story. And the one person who gets to see me, every day, as the tender-hearted little girl that I am….is ~MY D.

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The Telling: The First Moment the Universe Heard the Story of my Sexual Abuse

Saturday, April 12, 2014 @ 6:00 pm we host our 2nd Annual Phoenix Rising 5K. Come and stand in solidarity with victims and survivors of Sexual Assault. See my Reflections Psychotherapy FB Page for registration and sponsorship information. I look forward to your presence and participation in squashing the silence of trauma.

Transformative Trauma

It is honestly difficult to remember the first time I spoke the words, “He hurt me” with out the memory being encapsulated in a snow globe. I watch it play itself out; nothing exists except for my house on Mosswood Drive, me, my mother and a Strawberry Shortcake suitcase. It is not uncommon for a trauma victim to have memories that can only be remembered as if you are a third party, a ghost, entering into the memory watching your physical self play it out while you loom overhead. Your emotional Self hangs out above, floating and separate from you. For what ever reason, this particular memory is even more distant, yet at the same time, in a snow globe’s tomb, immortalized in my mind.
I was eleven or twelve years old. We had moved from a condo in my home town to a rental house, now renting with my…

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