Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Mother's Choice

Often, we hear of men who molest young girls and women and receive too little jail time or often, no penalty at all for their crimes. Tonight, on television was a story of a mother who was the co-abuser to her daughter of 7 years old. The reason for her decision, she wanted to "prove her love" to her husband. The ultimate sacrifice, in her mind would surely win over his commitment and perhaps allow some sense of normalcy to their lives. Normalcy stemmed from incest, an interesting and obviously distorted reasoning, an excuse to commitment the ultimate betrayal.

These stories are not new to me, having read hundreds of thousands of emails over the years depicting torturous and unbelievable acts of abuse. However, it always takes a moment longer for me to come to terms with mothers who turn on their own children, in order to gain the "love" of a man in their life. They themselves, abuse victims in the hell that is intimate partner violence. Part of me feels torn by the understanding that they face their own fear and pain and yet, I cannot condone the line that is crossed from victim to abuser.

There were so many levels to this particular case, but what I was struck by was an issue that screams true for so many women; needing a man in order to feel validated, worthy, loved. Often, women (and men) who are survivors of abuse will do find themselves doing things and allowing things to be done without questioning the impact of their decision. There is a laundry list of reason why such things happen, but one very important factor is conditioning.

If you are told that you are useless and unworthy each and every day of your life, parts of you, if not all of you will begin to believe it. There is truth behind the saying "thoughts are things" in that what you believe you become. If you are a vulnerable child your choice and sense of reality outside of your caregivers is drastically reduced and the name and expectations placed upon you will be your burden until you are old enough or fortunate enough to learn otherwise. For all of us, I believe this means being our own teachers.

A few years ago, I found myself in a relationship with a man who was quite older than me. I didn't realize at that time, that a large part of my connection to him was based on my relationship with my father. An odd and somewhat disconcerting realization, however one that looking back and being a survivor of incest, makes a lot of sense to me now. To make a long story short, I allowed myself to stay in this relationship and undergo behavior that I now see as abusive on many levels.

I fell in love with a man, and allowed him to control me in order to gain his affection and approval, much like I did with my father. The difference here is that I am no longer the abused child of 4 years old, but instead a grown woman making adult choices. The catch? On many levels, in the decisions that I made in that relationship (and others like it), my inner child, the one who learned what love was from her father, was still seeking love in the same way from men who could not give her what she needed. Self-worth, validation, self-respect, a true sense of self are all things that we must find in ourselves and that cannot be resolved by others.

I see myself as fortunate to have gotten out of that relationship before marriage or children. I can only imagine how much more complicated life would have been had my life changed even slightly to the left or where it is today. I see my mother and sister in my own experience, yet they were not as fortunate. My sister, passed and my mother having spent 30 years with an abusive husband. I see that choices that she made. I try not to judge her and yet, sometimes I do, still. I wish that all women and men will see their worth and never make the choices that will endanger themselves or their children. We must break the cycle now before it is too late.


Every so often we have to remind ourselves what we are living for. What gets our juices REALLY flowing. It can be so easy to just float out to sea, in the busy-ness of work, of the day-to-day, in the midst of depression. There are so many things overpowering our time and attention. We all just lose track.

So I found a tree with a nice green lawn below it. I laid down, watched busy people, at all rates of speed, walk, run, jog right by me. Then I looked straight up at the leaves and branches, with the strong rays of the Sun shining through them, making them almost transparent.

I had my IPod with me. So I fired up a song I hadn't shuffled out in quite some time. Music always helps me focus on me, my life. If I was going to focus, then I had to let go completely. Why the hell not? So I extended my arms out to my side, spread my legs, kind of like if I were to make angels in the snow.

What makes me excited? I mean, really brings a solid knot in my stomach, sends water barely peeking out of the tear ducts in preparation for the flood. I think of when I was a child, and my mother bought me my first He-Man action figure. I could remember it was a hot day like this, we were baking in the car. My mom rushed to roll down the windows, but I was oblivious. I pulled out the plastic packaging. It was He-Man, with a jagged double-edged axe, and bulging muscles all over his body. I couldn't believe the moment was here, so I took my time, ran my hand across the clear plastic, read every word on the package. Then I tore it open, grabbed the muscle bound toy with authority, and proclaimed myself the "Master of Grayskull!"

I wanted to find that again. To be that full of excitement and anticipation. I missed that about childhood. I miss that feeling terribly. We don't let ourselves feel that committed to something. Where we risk the ridicule, the judgments of others, because we are so consumed by emotion, by our clarity of purpose, by that which is best in us.

So there I sat, in the grass. I saw Monkey Face. In the plains of Eastern Oregon sits a large tower of rock, with a distinct rounded top. Just below the top sits a small cave, shaped very much like a mouth, and just above that sat the 'eye'. People climb that monolith, straight up it's side. I had been in that area almost 20 times, and had talked about climbing it for the past two years. I even had the balls to go out there with the INTENTION of getting to it's top. But it wasn't my time yet.

I could see myself working like Spiderman up it's side, climbing into the mouth, and pulling my body to it's top. Then I clutched both hands into fists, raise them above my head, and my entire body shook, like some kinetic lightning bolt fed into me.

As I saw this picture, I made it brighter, I brought it closer, so I could make out the expression on my face. In that moment I FELT like the Master of Grayskull.
But it hasn't happened...yet.

I know that there are more important things in life than climbing a piece of rock. But what can be more important than what that represents to me? That's real power.
The power to forget yourself and find yourself.


Reflection in an instant

I have a friend who lives her life in goodness. Like many of us, she is a caregiver. She spends her days helping others. She also lives her life in fear, each day looking over her shoulder and doing the best she can to stay safe. Her life, one of unbelievable turmoil and incredible strength. She fights for the rights of so many but like many of us, forgets or is sometimes unable to see how worthy she is of love, how much she is already loved or simply that she is not alone.

This road is long and tiresome sometimes. Many of us have lived experiences that are unspeakable, or at least unbelievable to utter. We compare our wounds and work incredibly hard to lift ourselves up to a place where we can recognize our strength. We are not defined by our past but it can be unclear just how much of it has contributed to our struggle to simply, "get through" the day.

So, I write this short blog in response to the pain I shared in a moment of disclosure. A moment where the world came crashing down and the realization that what was normal, can no longer be that again, but that we must redefine what normal is and rebuild foundations. I speak to all of those that have experienced pain, confusion and fear.

To those who have been granted second, third and forth chances, that we should know that even in the darkest of hours; there is light. That there is love and friendship.

That there is hope. We all need hope.