Monday, January 27, 2020

The Magical Marriage Day

*Trigger Warning: PTSD, Sexual Assault Recovery*


Time flew, Two years found me graduated with a partial degree. He was living in another town finishing his undergrad. I moved to the town and our engagement plan was in full swing. That is until I was laid off from my job and he needed an extra semester.

So we moved up the date for the wedding. I didn’t realize the Math of it all was 9 months until much later. I was caught up in the Serendipity and Romance of the moment. The venue and dates aligned. Some family was supportive. Others objected.

We moved forward lost in the effervescence of Hopes and Dreams.

I truly believed I was whole. That everything would be ok. Yes, I had some quirks to work through, but we had grown so much together. Love conquers all! I had found the love of my life. Not the best that I could get, but better than I deserved. We were both dedicated to a better life.

Yes, there were flaws, but we all have flaws. I’m not one to judge. I have massive flaws I am growing through. I want the Jesus who challenges “those without sin to cast the first stone.”

I had put down all my stones.

I bought the White Dress. Yes, it still made my skin crawl. Yes, I still felt like I was lying. However, I worked hard to earn it thus far. He said I deserved it.

The weeks leading up to the wedding were challenging. Something was off with the Parentals, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. We had lots of disagreements which would end in silence.

He would patiently listen to my frustration and remind me that We were making a new family.
Soon I would be safe in a quiet, home of our own making. We would continue to grow together and it would be an adventure.

The day came.

I did my best to set all the nerves aside. To ignore all the Parental confusing words. To just focus on this day.

The day THEY said would be the best day of my life. I would be the most beautiful of my whole life. I would be so beautiful I would take his breath away. The day would be magical and special and glittery and fairy dust would shimmer everywhere. I believed everything They said. I desperately, in my insecurity and wounds needed it to be true. As much as I tried to remind myself that I was more than my Vaginal Purity…

I still to my core didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel like my body was mine to give to anyone. It felt like a black hole filled with everything rotten and ugly.

I placed all my hopes, and redemption in this ceremony. The White Dress, the Song, the Sermon, the Communion, the Unity Candle. The Traditions. The People around me.

All of these Things would somehow make right the years of wrong that saturated every cell of my body.

30 years ago today, I stood at the end of an isle. Dressed in Glorious White and filled with dread because I was a fraud. I faced that church clothed in the color of purity. I was not pure.

At the end of that Isle I saw the man I loved. We held dreams to build a life of love and health. I reminded myself that to him I was pure. We were unknown to each other. That’s what the color meant to us.

He beamed a smile at me, then leaned over to his Best Man. The Best Man laughed. A crackle of courage rippled up my spine. Maybe he thought I was breathtakingly beautiful. Maybe he said he was the luckiest man in the world. I suddenly had the strength in my legs to walk down that isle to the man who saw the best in me.

I walked toward him and away from The Parentals. Their control over me. Maybe he would unconditionally love me as I am. Maybe he would give me the freedom to be me. Maybe he believed in me.

I walked that isle and chose him above all others. Unconditionally.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Respectable Fresh Start

*Trigger Warning: PTSD, Sexual Abuse*


Friday, September 18, 1987, I met him. 

We walked to my car after class. Phone numbers exchanged. I did not know his name; didn't matter anyway. No respectable guy would ever want me. Why not just try the meaningless sex with a stranger. Who knows? I might walk away with a piece of myself?  Maybe the Parentals and the crackly radio preachers were wrong. I had tried it their way. It was time for something different.

The phone rang. I answered and all he said in reply was, "Hello." 

I slightly panicked; he didn’t identify himself. I realized The Parentals would never let me go out with Nameless.

I awkwardly asked, “I’m sorry to ask, what’s your name?”


He laughed, “I think I’ll tell you when the date is over.”

I attempted the flirtatious whine, “Oh, come on, don't torture me like that…”

A chuckle answered my question, He told me his name.

He picked me up on time. We went to dinner with his friend who was rude. If this guy was anything like his friend, the night was progressing nicely. 

In the car, he apologized for his friend’s behavior. I wasn’t impressed. Birds of a feather flock together. He was just trying to get the date back on track and I let him.

A song came on the radio and we began singing. Our voices blended  I felt alive for a minute. Almost happy. What did that mean? 

The song ended as we parked.  He chose a movie and killed a bit of time in a yogurt shop talking. I asked Him questions. He had big answers. He wove a future of endless possibilities. Visions of a great adventure. I wanted to be there with Him. To see if He could do those things. He was starting to sound like a Nice Guy. I resigned myself to my Perception; I could never deserve him.

The movie was a less than stellar. The theater began to clear, he touched my forearm. I turned as he glided in for a kiss. It was quick, sweet and unexpected. Quietly we walked to his car. He opened the door for me. We drove and mindlessly chitchatted.

Suddenly we were in front of my house. I looked at him. He looked at me and leaned in. I took a deep breath. It was a good kiss.  He pulled back a little. Looked deep into my eyes and softly said, "Good Night."

With head spinning I got out of the car and walked into the house. By the time the door closed, I was fuming! He treated me like Sandra Dee. Like I was a Good Girl. Like I was Respectable.

I wasn’t.

I wasn’t ready for any of this. He would call. He would want to see me.  This was a nightmare!  Not NOW!  I didn't need a new person in my life.  I was a mess. I would only disappoint him. I would only hurt Him.

Yet, with Him, in those moments, I really wanted to be those things. I wanted to be good and pure. He seemed to be someone who thirsted for life the way I did.  

Over the course of the next few months, we dated.  Our friendship grew. We fought, compromised and began to fall in love.  I had boundaries. He understood my past. He seemed to respect me despite it. When He looked at Me, He saw a Radiant, Beautiful, Virtuous, Respectable Good Girl.  He seemed to hold similar value about sex and marriage.

We would be new to each other. We could wait for each other. For this reason alone I should wear White. I would be pure to him.

Was it possible The Parentals were wrong?  I learned to accept what he saw. I began to heal. I saw myself as more than my vagina. I learned to see myself as a person. 

This young man with big dreams. Wanted similar things as I. A life filled with love and adventure. Support each other’s dreams. Have kids. He liked the idea that I would stay at home and raise them. We would both work diligently at being the parents they needed.  

We would build a Good Life. 


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Redefining the White Dress

*Trigger Warning: PTSD, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Purity*

School supplies were the least of my worries as I prepared for the second year of college. At some point, I would see the love of my life on campus. Insides would heave. That tragedy of errors which was thelast six months of our relationship left irreparable damage. I had no idea how to move forward.

Before Purity Culture existed, were my Parentals.

Birds and the Bees covered the usual. Along with in depth lectures about my worth as a woman depended upon my purity. Oh, sure, there were the clichés,

 “A guy won’t buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.”

The one I heard the most was:

“No respectable man will ever marry a woman who isn’t a virgin.”
“No respectable man wants what another man has thrown away.”

Now add in a splash of spirituality.

All growing up, the crackling radio preachers in the morning talked about Sexual Sin. Soul Ties, how if even through passionate kissing, one was bonding a piece of their soul to another person. Never to get it back. Only through Prayer, Tongues, Fasting, Intercession, Anointing, and communing with the Like Minded in Faith, could one MAYBE receive healing.

My child brain absorbed from their teaching that the sanctity of my vagina was equal to the sanctity of my spiritual life.

So here I was. 19 and no longer a virgin. No boyfriend. Thrown in the mix was a childhood sexual assault.

What did it mean for the whole Soul Ties, No Respectable Man would want… thing. If a child is “spoiled” before they even… well. Where does that fit in the Parental Logic?  

With no idea how to go forward. They said all the answers would be in the Bible. So I searched the Bible.

The holy and perfect checklist of how to be a Godly Woman was laid out in Proverbs 31.
Beauty was vain- so don’t spend too much time on my looks.
Flattery is deceptive- so don’t believe compliments

Other verses filled in the gaps.
.
The Heart is wicked- so don’t trust your inner voice.
Honor your parents- they’re the ones who really love you.
The World is Lost- Faith and the Bible is every answer I’ll ever need.
Fear is the beginning of Wisdom- Don’t trust in my intellect or logic.
Eve was deceived- always trust Men, they always know best.


According to what I understood, all that was available to me was an unrespectable man. One who would accept a used cast off. The most confusing, in the scriptures, when a girl was a victim of sexual assault. It didn’t matter the age, she was ruined.

No redemption was available to her. No hope was offered to her.

She was alone.


These were the answers the Bible offered.

What was I going to do? I wanted to throw the whole perception out because I no longer fit within it. I wanted to sit in some safe quiet and figure out who I was supposed to be now.

I wanted to find the Jesus who comforted the Women at the Well.



Why wasn’t that Jesus in my church and family growing up? He was in the Bible they told me to read. Was he even real?

I wanted to know that Jesus.

I explained my conclusions to the Parentals. I told them about the times that were my choice. I couldn’t wear white at my wedding. I would be lying. I would be lying to those people in front of God. I wasn’t pure. I was ruined.

The Parentals countered, I wasn’t ruined. I was being Dramatic. I didn’t have a “choice” in the former relationship, or with the family member when I was small. It didn’t really count. My soul was intact. I was still virtuous.

“You didn’t have sex” was the statement, “You were raped. That’s different. You deserve to wear White.” I deserved to stand in a church and proudly wear that White Dress.

I defended my logic. I wasn’t pure. I made choices too.

I was dismissed. They explained, I was deceived. It was my Low Self Esteem talking. I needed to forgive myself and let God Redeem me. All I needed to do was truly Repent and it would all magically go away.
  
I did the best I could with what I had at the moment. I repented for my part. I decided to work diligently at healing. Working to discover a God I read about in the Bible and someday spiritually  awaken in the arms of that Loving Higher Power.


Friday, January 24, 2020

The Rabbit Hole

Trigger warning: Sexual Abuse, PTSD, Flashbacks



PTSD Flashbacks are ugly little beasties. They grab the softest part of your memories and hop down the nastiest Rabbit Hole. We've taken many such journeys over the years and we've come to peace with one other. I respect their need to process. If I'm patient, when they are done, I am a little more whole. My memories fall into a peaceful order. The fresh terrors find their place in the proper old memory storage and finally find a place to rest. After 35 years in this process I have learned to be grateful.

My first Flashback was December 1, 1985. It began a spiral that ended sometime in September 1987.

December 1985, a friend from grade school committed suicide. Two months later, February 1986, a friend from church committed suicide.  In May, a classmate accidentally drowned while helping a family with their boat. Another friend from church crashed a motorcycle into a parked van in June. He was in critical condition for weeks. The final straw arrived in November 1986, a mentor and brilliant musician from church committed suicide.

Fall of 1986 found me in the first year of college. Struggling through sociology class, I chose to write a paper about suicide for extra credit. As I delved into the whys and wherefores of the choices my friends made, a tragic chain of events loomed.  I met a boy as I researched. The acquaintance turned into harassment that bordered on stalking. I in my own oblivion, did not recognize the danger.

One night under a beautiful December sky, my boyfriend at the time wanted to defend me. I would not allow it. He demanded, “When are you going to stop letting people walk all over you?”

A switch flipped in my head and I crumbled into his lap. A childhood memory flooded my consciousness with overwhelming sensations. An uncle crossed the line of innocence. My body no longer belonged to me. I lived in it, but my uncle owned it. As I relived that moment, my reality was challenged. I did not have the tools to navigate any of it. Home life had its own reality and often my inner self was not my own. Within this Wonderland reality and truth did not always coexist.  Sanity held together by thin threads frayed to reveal a gaping black hole.

To say that I was a mess was an understatement. At 19, attempting to be an adult is challenging enough; introduce life altering incidents with a dash of questionable reality. This perfect recipe of disaster turned me into a mental Chernobyl.

The next thing I remember is February 1987. My boyfriend and I had a fun date planned. We stopped by for a quick lunch and the usual make out session before our adventure.

I remember eating lunch.

The next thing I remember we were in his room and to use baseball metaphor, Home plate was in sight. I froze. I couldn't move. I could barely breath. I whispered, "No."

The Home Run was made.

I experienced my Second Flashback. This time I was younger and the innocence exposed was different and more painful. Like the one my 18 year old body was experiencing. I felt the fabric of my mind shatter into a million pieces. I tried to move. No matter how much I willed it in my mind neither body in the flashback or in the real could move. When he was finished, we dressed and went on with our day.

Neither of us actually sure of what the other experienced. I know we have opposing memories of the day.

In the months that followed my sanity continued to slip away. I remember nothing of my second semester of college or most of that summer.

A confrontation transpired with The Parentals in Wonderland about my boyfriend. They spoke their judgment. I knew how I felt, what I thought was true. Their point of view and mine didn't exactly match, but I knew something was very wrong. The more I fought, the more my grip on reality slipped. I had to survive. I had to live. I would figure out what the truth might be at another time.

I was at the bottom of this rabbit hole. I found a truth I could admit.. I would never be the person he needed. I didn't even know if I would survive. We both wanted to make healthier relationship choices than our parents. In my attempt to recover and heal, I was destroying him. I was destroying myself. An amicable or gracious exit was impossible.   

I had to let him go. I allowed Insanity to reason out the break up. I said some  horrible things about him. My private meltdown became public and there were many casualties.   

Over the years, my thoughts wander to that boy left behind. I wish him all the happiness our loving Creator has for him. I will hang onto this truth: In order for he and I to become the people we wanted to become, we needed to walk different paths.

Travel well my friend, wherever you are.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

My Old Friend

One Sunday when I was five, dressed in my best, I waited for the grown-ups to be ready. The usual hustle and bustle to leave for church on time was in full swing. I sat on the floor in the kitchen playing with the dogs. A Parental came in, swooped me up. He laid me over his knee and began spanking my bum.

Of course I began to make noise.

A GrandParental came in and scolded the Parental. The Parental put me down, straightened my dress and they went on with their hustle and bustle. Dazed and sore, I sat down with the dogs and solemnly waited.

That night the Parentals and I arrived at our home. I went to my room and readied myself for bed. The Parental came in and gently began to explain how my punishment was interrupted. Authority had been usurped and we had unfinished business. I had been on the floor in my Sunday Best with the dogs and that was unacceptable.

So They said, “Let us resume.”

I was picked up and placed back on that knee. The “spanking” commenced. However, it was different. It hurt. I began to wriggle, say NO and try to get away. I began to kick and squirm. The spanking turned to hitting. I heard a metal watch snap. My body stopped fighting because the pain was too great, and I just sobbed.

Parental gently and compassionately lifted me from the lap, looked me deep in the eyes and said, “Now, honey. I’m sorry I lost control. I’m so sorry I hurt you. BUT you broke my watch and that really hurt me. You need to learn how to accept consequences when you are wrong. When I get that angry I just can’t control myself, you can’t let me get that angry. I’m simply not responsible for what I do.”

My Five Year Old logic heard, “I cannot ever say No. I cannot ever fight back. If I fight back it will always be worse. That worse will always be my fault because I asked for it. If something unpleasant happens, I need to accept it and never fight it. My body doesn’t belong to me”

A little over a year later the Parentals and I went on a Christmas trip to meet family. I stayed the night with a part of the family I had never met and something mysterious happened. When I came home, sleeping was never again the same.

The terrors first tickled my feet in the middle of the night when I was around 6. They would reach up from under my bed, grab my ankles and drag me down to a dark, hot flaming place filled with screaming and pain. I could hear a laughter that made my skin peal from my muscles. I would get out of bed and run to my parents. They would pat me on the head and arm me with verses like:

“Jesus came to conquer death and heal, so we have nothing to fear.”

“God is greater than he who is in the world.”

They would instruct me to go back to bed and fight these spirits myself because Jesus gave me the power to conquer all of this myself. I was fine. I was silly to be afraid.

My little girl logic heard, I had little faith. Jesus shamed the disciples for having Little Faith. Jesus didn’t have any power to do things if I had Little Faith. So, I had to have Big Faith all the time.

So I prayed, and cried and worked my Big Faith until I fell asleep. Perfectly in the middle of that bed, wrapped in the sheets and blankets. That way I was maybe protected from anything that might try and reach up from underneath.

We first became friends when I was very small. He was known by a different name at that time. I was told stories about the place he lived. How it was a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace. There were no tears or torment. No fear. He prepared a place for me. God was there. Jesus was there.

The Bible said the Days were Evil. We were to Watch for the Signs. Jesus was coming and would catch us all up in The Rapture. Jesus was going to rescue us from all of this pain and torment. Jesus was going to wipe away our tears forever.

That sounded wonderful to me.

When I felt insecure and I asked Parentals about that Thief in the Night. About my dreams of having a family and a future, I was told that it wasn’t to me. I shouldn’t plan for vain things like that. God was in charge of that. I was to look forward to being caught up in the clouds. To that wonderful place of no more suffering. Then the chastisement of my rebellious and sinful heart wanting selfish things like a future would inevitably follow.

My Childlike Faith honored, just like the Bible told me to do, my Parentals. I began to focus on that Wonderful Place.

That meant I would have no more nightmares. I would be able to sleep the whole night through and feel rested. I would never walk through a door and tremble wondering what was waiting for me on the other side. I could wake up every morning and not worry if I would have a house to live in at the end of the day. No longer would I worry about if there would be enough food for my sisters and I.

I would be free to tell the truth all the time. If I felt sad, I could say I felt sad and I would be comforted. If I felt afraid, I would be heard. If something was wrong, I could ask and help would be given. No longer would I have to say things were fine when they weren’t. No longer would I have to “protect” the Parentals so God’s power could work in the church. I would be free from the daily suffering of an ever-shifting reality and unpredictable abuse.

I really like the sound of that.

Then at 14, he took on a different name. He offered the same comfort. The same release. The same secrets. Only I didn’t have to wait for it to happen.

Really, what was the concept of Heaven and the Second Coming/Rapture really at it’s core?

Death.

Why did I have to wait?

I see through another day of pain. By this time, I was invisible to most people anyway. From my perspective, being unseen made everyone the happiest. My opinion didn’t matter to the Parentals at this point. They told me often I was rebellious, awful, lazy, selfish, nagging, self-absorbed, proud, etc. The only time I achieved approval was when I was silent and fulfilling duties. I focused all of my energies on doing as well as I could in school and making life as loving as possible for my sisters.
I stood in the kitchen at 14 with a serrated stake knife at my wrist. I could hear my sisters playing outside. I felt Death’s warm comforting arms wrap around me. The numbing silence absorbing the pain that filled me. Then a small shaft of logic light played out all that would happen next: who would find me. Could I be at peace with that being their las t memory of me? How could I guarantee I would be gone? No mistakes. This wasn’t an attempt. This was a guarantee.

My sisters were in enough pain. I couldn’t contribute to their burden. I put the knife back. Death warmly hugged me and said it was ok. We’d work it out some other time. The Light of Logic said it was Ok. This pain was unbearable.

So, I focused on choosing to live every day. Reminding myself of those I would disappoint if I didn’t.
Heaven and the Second Coming/Rapture however no longer held hope for me. They made my heart sick with longing. I got to the point where I had to stop listening. I made myself stop believing. It got in the way of my ability to live and grow through all the pain that came next.

In college I met someone. He wanted the same future I did. A family who laughed and love. To work together. Go on adventures together. Love fearlessly and simply. He wanted a simple life too, at the time. A family, memories, grandkids, happy holidays, gatherings, adventures, warm quiet nights, etc.
That was the only future I ever wanted. That was the life I chose to stay alive every day for. To build, work through pain. Walk away from unhealthy practices. End toxic relationships. It was a simple, quiet, stable future.

This summer, after almost 30 years, that future told me I needed to find a new future and it walk out the door.

For the last six months I have found myself back in that 14 year old’s shoes. Standing in the kitchen staring at the serrated steak knife wondering what now.

 Slowly, with lots of help, I choose to live each day. I say good morning to Death and we make a list of things to accomplish. I have a list of people who would miss me. Logic Light reminds me that they really would, they aren’t just pandering. I no longer have a conventional family. My future is a huge unknown. People try and encourage me with “do whatever you want.”

Logic Light says, I’m 51.

I had what I wanted.

The best I can do is take the pieces of what is left and be content with making it all good enough. To create a space of light and peace where I am.

All of it in hopes that when Death naturally comes and gently takes my hand,

I am not leaving anyone disappointed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

To Walk Bravely

In 2002, I began a journey. When it became apparent Mutant and I would have to move from the glorious mountaintop into this wilderness valley, we were overwhelmed. Life hadn’t worked out the way we planned; Ase 7, Zany 6, and Girly a bubbly 2 years old. After 11 years of transitions and seven moves, we were exhausted.

We all needed to slow down and heal our wounds. Mutant and I decided to school the kids at home to give them that chance.

To let them breathe.

To figure out who they were.

To let them learn the way their brains were wired.

It was a year by year decision. Some years we thought about sending them back to public school for my sanity. Other years, we were excited to keep them home. Through it all the boys had the freedom to play sports and fall in love with dance. They were able to fall in love with it and deal with the bullying and judgment that came their way.

Because they had the space to heal. The freedom to walk away permanently from people who ridiculed them. 

When Girly began to explore science and fall in love with math. As Fluffy-the dead cat- was brought home, skulls, owl pellets, Mutant’s hunting prizes and Aunt’s dead dolphin treasures and more collected on her bookshelf. She could do math to relax herself. Her love of reading developed organically, instead of forced.  Brothers taught her about discretion;  how to resist pressure of sacrificing self to fit in.

What started out as a season of healing, homeschooling became a place for discovery and finding their personal integrity. This wild adventure of non-sequiturs, faith, emotional meltdowns over assignments, testing limits and falling in love with learning was nothing we expected.

When the boys graduated 8th grade, they attended public high school. We chose the one best suited for them. To experience people from different walks of life. Learn through different methods. Greatest of all, to become who they were meant to be. They graduated in 2013 and 2014.

So here we are.

Today…

Girly begins her journey in the school of her choice. Walking in compassion with people from different places. To be academically challenged. Taking all of her discoveries and curiosities along for the adventure. Taking pieces of her brothers with her, she bravely faced the day.


And me. Saying goodbye to a 12 year career, feeling satisfied with a job well done.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Field and Seeds

The Parable of the Sower seems to be that default Bible Story.
Each time I read it or hear it my heart breaks for the Hard, Rocky or Stony Soil. That Good Soil just seems so lucky.
Good Soil, the carefree, open to anything God has field of dirt. No doubts or impediments.
Of course when the inevitable question is asked,
“Are you the Good Soil? Do you accept Jesus’ Good News? Do you know your eternal destination?”
I feel like a fraud saying yes. Of course I agree. I want the seed of Good News to grow within me. Freely and unencumbered. But… sometimes I have doubts, distractions, and discouragements.
Girly and I began working through the Gospels this year using Concordia Press. In the study of Matthew last week we covered the Infamous parable. The second question in the study asked us to first consider the “earthy picture.”
We are surrounded by farmland in the Central Valley. I imagined the labyrinth of warn paths farm workers use to get round, not to disturb the freshly tilled areas. Just off the path are areas of roughly tilled ground, places the plow broke open but not softened. Then the corners of the field where irrigation quenches and weeds grow. Spots often missed by weeding.
And it occurred to me…
What if the Parable of the Sower isn't a destination parable? Did Jesus really tell this story as a onetime opportunity? We've all known of people who “Come to Faith,” then walk away. Instead of asking why, it is chalked up to:
They must have been Rocky Soil. Their heart was too hard to accept the Good News. Poor them.
They must have been the Thorny Soil. Serving two masters got in their way of growing in Christ.
Or, my favorite:
Their heart was hard like the seed thrown on the path. You know God hardens hearts sometimes. Too bad for them.
The whole thing reminds me of Puddy and Elaine in Seinfeld.

That aside, I imagined myself walking alongside the farmer in his field. It wasn't the first time it was tilled and planted. Places which were Hard Path last year could be Good Soil this year. Places which grew well before might be littered with weeds now. Last year's Good Soil could be this year’s rock pile. The field would change parameters based upon the season. Yet each year, the farmer would throw the seed. That seed would grow for him to harvest.
Instead of feeling guilty or overwhelmed when I struggled with faith, maybe I simply need to have that part of my heart cleared. Especially when I am wrestling to understand something of the Kingdom of God.
Because, the Creator knows my heart better than I. Where I feel parched and struggling I can ask for understanding. Where am I being stubborn or willful I can for the stones to shift. When I am overwhelmed I can pray to see where the entanglements are. I can seek the grace to have the thorns removed. Being Good Soil is a process, just like the farmer and his field is a process of seasons.