We Can Only Tell Our Stories

We all know stories; stories passed down through our families, fables of our cultures, gossip about the neighbor.  How do we know when we can share a story; have a teaching moment, use someone as an example either negative or positive?  This is the deal, unless it’s our story, we have to be very careful.  I like the “Do unto others as you would want them to do to you.”  I am pretty open with you about my story, but I don’t tell all.  Maybe I will someday, but that will be my choice…it’s my story.

A friend called me a couple of weeks ago and said, “I want to tell you a story,”. She began to share some family history and after about thirty minutes of discussion, she said “I think I know someone who may have been abused.  How do I get them to tell me?”  Well that’s the crux, you can’t get anyone to tell you anything. They need to be in the right place to trust and to share, and you might not be the person they tell their story too for any number of reasons.

Many people have the ability to bury their abuse and the pain of pulling it out might be too much for them.  We have to respect that.  Survivors are doing just that, surviving and their process is not ours to judge.  I’ve noticed that surviving is like an addiction in a way.  If you stay away from the subject, you’re good, even though it might be lurking in the background, but I can imagine that for some, dipping your toe in the past might cause you to jump in, unable to swim, only gulping water.  Many victims, who haven’t achieved survivor mode, feel guilty and ashamed, because they’ve been told that they are guilty and shameful.  Some have told their story and weren’t believed, or worse yet shunned for their openness.  Many have buried themselves in addiction of drugs, alcohol, food, or abusive behaviors leveled at themselves or even become abusers themselves.  So many stories buried behind covers, that for some reason or another can’t be opened.  It’s so sad.

“What can I do?” was her next question.  What a wonderful person, to ask “what can I do?”  You can set an example of not telling other’s stories.  Be a safe place, listen and be trustworthy.  It’s not enough to say your trustworthy, BE trustworthy.  Have you ever heard that saying that if someone has to tell you they are something, they probably aren’t?  We set the examples; we screw up, but we have to try hard to set the example.  I have had many people tell me their stories, after I have shared mine, or said I was writing this blog.  They feel that if I can trust them, they can trust me back.  I don’t forget their stories and only share them generically.

We we all need to tell our stories when we are ready, and for some people that may be never, but be ready……the person they choose to share it with, could be you.  It’s an honor to be that person.

Peace..

Let’s Be Honest

This is my 24th blog, almost 1/2 of a year’s worth, and while you might not like and/or agree with what I write; It’s from the heart and it’s honest.  I plan to continue that for the rest of the year. 🙂  After the CANDISC, my back and shoulders needed some work.  Acting like a spring, or a shock absorber for the training and actual ride, left my “slightly” middle aged body needing a visit to the shop.  My oldest son and his wife, in their wisdom, purchased a gift card for a massage, to someone who was reputed to “work you over really well”.  Hey! Something to look forward to! 😉

I went for my first visit and was treated to a back and shoulder massage that left me more sore than when I had gone in, but it was a good sore; the muscles have lost their knots sore.  Hopefully you know what I’m talking about.  I went back two weeks later to have my upper arms and shoulders worked on; same great results.  She was a bike rider too and we had a great rapport.  During the course of the conversation, she intimated that she was gay.  I followed that up asking about a partner and our conversation continued.

I shared with her that I had read the book “The Courage to Heal,” and while it didn’t suggest all Lesbians had been sexually assaulted, there were many testimonies, in the back of the book, from Lesbians who had been assaulted.  I asked her what she thought about that and she told me she had the firm mind set that 50% of Lesbians loved woman, maybe genetics, while 50% of them hated men.  I shared with her the story of a woman I knew who had been assaulted and said she just couldn’t trust men.  We are sexual beings, so if you don’t trust men because of abuse, you are still a human being with the urges and needs of a human.

Now some of you may have already quit reading, but please let me continue.  I’m not an authority on Gays, Lesbians, Bi’s etc.  I only know what I’ve read or have been told, and I am chastised pretty thoroughly, although less than one might think, by people who disagree with me.  I defend my gay friends and family and this is why.  Men and women who assault other men, woman, and children in this country are allowed to marry in churches and allowed to have children, and to serve in the armed forces.  Why do we think the victims (survivors) should bear the brunt of the burden, when the victimizers often go on about their lives with no consequences.

I am a Christian, but I am not God.  I can speculate on what God thinks, judges and on what judgement he/she will pass on to others, but I don’t know what that will be or look like.  I see all sinners, including myself and can only hope that there is mercy.  I hope there is mercy for your sins as well.  Some might say my argument is pretentious, based on experiences I know nothing about, but I would say, that in the social and political climate we are in right now…a climate that lacks the will to try and understand(from every perspective), that my trying to understand should be supported.  We all know someone who is gay, or who is different from us, in some way.  If you don’t see them, please look harder.

Peace….

 

 

You Would Know Four Things About Mom..

I taught a Freshman Seminar class at a community college a few years back.  One of the ways I had the students introduce themselves, was to tear toilet paper off of a roll, that I passed around the class.  They were to tear off the amount of paper they used, when they went to the bathroom.  They then had to share as many things about themselves, as there were squares of the tissue.  There would be embarrassed laughs and inevitably someone, thinking they were cute would tear off just one, while someone else would tear off 10.  It was a way to break the ice and it worked.  If my mother was in the class, she would have told us four things.

September 10th, 2017 was the third anniversary of Mom’s death.  I always say “my mom”, as if she had only me,  but there were four of us kids.  She had three daughters in a row, while making it perfectly clear, that her goal was a son, as my dad desperately wanted a son to farm with.  We were a conservative farm family, on the brink of poor, raised to love country and the Catholic Church.  Mom wasn’t raised Catholic, but joined when she married Dad.  That is the first thing you should know about her she loved the Catholic Church.

You would think after three years the unexpected jars on my heart would stop.  Days will go by and boom…. some unexpected trigger sends a feeling of loss over me, and I cry.  I cry because I miss what we could have been, friends.  Mom and I shared little until her death, we talked, but nothing from our souls.  We became closest the months before her death because the second thing you should know about her is she was very private.

Mom overcame much in her life by putting things in little compartments, only taking them out when she needed to and could handle them.  Some things never came out, but ate at her anyway.  If Mom ever loved you, she never stopped.  The third thing you should know is she was loyal to everyone she loved, except herself.

Mom’s last days were spent on Hospice.  They gave us books that told us the signs of her impending death and “helpful” hints; darkening of skin, talking to people that weren’t there and that we should make sure and tell her it was ok to go.  All of us did our best, to help her, support her, tell her we loved her, sing to her and recite the rosary.  Even those of us who had abandoned the Catholic Church, or felt like it had abandoned us, could still say the Rosary… She clung on to life, like I can’t imagine.  Everyone had told her it was ok, to go and be with Grandma and Aunty Anne, be she didn’t seem to hear.

I thought about it one night, her last night,  and realized something.  I went in and put my head by hers, told her how much I loved her, and that I would try my best to do what I could, what was expected of me for the family and then I told her, “Mom, you leave when you’re damn good and ready, and not a minute before.  We will be here as long as you need us to be.”    The fourth thing you should know is that Mom was stubborn.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we missed.. She loved me and trusted me, putting her faith in me, when it was her darkest time.  Maybe it doesn’t matter that we weren’t baring our souls, in an earlier time, maybe it just had to be, when she was damn good and ready.  Rest in Peace Mom.

Peace…..

 

If Not Us, If Not You, Then Who?

Ayn Rand has long been a favorite author of mine.  Today, when I was trying to calm myself enough, to not have every word that I write, be a word of anger.  I need to tell you what I am thinking, calmly and her quote helps me to be successful with that objective.  When I read in the paper, see on the news, the stories of more and more people being charged/convicted of sexual assault, It’s hard not to be frustrated.  Please read what I’m thinking today; it’s so important to someone, maybe even someone you love.

When our sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, sisters and brothers find the courage to come forward, they must be believed.  If they come to you, to me, to their teacher, grandmother, mother, father….they must be believed.  I talked to a friend the other day, who had just found out about someone that was being convicted of a sexual crime.  He said to me, “I just am struggling to believe it.”  We all struggle to believe, that’s how they get away with it.  Children go to adults and confide in them and adults can’t believe..  How do you take what you know and love about anyone and balance it with a deprivation that shakes your soul?  How do you come to terms?  How do you pick sides?  You pick the children…. If not us, not you, then who?

Within the last year, I had someone tell me, that my abuser had told their mother what had happened to me.  This person wondered if it was really that bad…  The thought sickens me that 48 years later, the child in me is still not believed.  I never told anyone, aside from a classmate when I was little,  until I was 18, when I told my children’s father.  I told no one for another 12 years.  I thought about it; I looked around my small world and wondered who I could trust?  Who?  I had people that loved me, but to believe something so bazaar, so unnatural, so sick….  I told no one, not the pastor that I admired, not my mother, not my favorite teacher and not even my grandmother..  I never had the courage to tell, so never had to sit in a courtroom, talk to a judge, or an opposing attorney… I can’t imagine that much courage in a child..  that much courage in the parents of that child.

Abuse of children is not racist, is not sexist, doesn’t adhere to Christian or non-Christian lines.  Abuse of children opens it’s arms wide and accepts anyone and everyone; it is like the anti-Christ of the utopia we would like the world to be.

Believe the children; it’s our job to protect them; if not us, not you, then who?

Peace…

 

The Grandma Who Loved Me, for Me.

There are relationships that left me feeling slighted,  throughout my life, especially relationships with some of the men in my life, but one relationship that I was blessed with, that lifted me, and helped to carry me through early dark days, was the relationship with my Grandma Patten.  She was a strong Baptist woman, who raised her family the best she could, whose oldest granddaughter could be a bit of a wild child, especially according to the standards of grandma’s generation.

Grandma saw the good in me, it never occurred to her to see anything else.  I would ride over to Parshall, ND (about 17 miles away) on my motorcycle to say hello.  She would show me her flowers, feed me some cookies, and visit.

Staying with her was a treat; I would sleep in until the smells from the kitchen would wake me.  Sometimes it was coffee, sometimes it was cinnamon rolls, and often it was whatever she was prepping for dinner, maybe meatballs.  I would wake and have a leisurely breakfast, make my bed, wander around the yard, and it would be time for lunch.  Sometimes we would sew..  Grandma was a fabulous seamstress; I would watch, fascinated, as she marked out the pattern using tracing paper and her tracing wheel, sometimes making adjustments with a piece of chalk.  She, my Baptist grandma, made me my first bikini.  When I was a teenager, who rode a motorcycle, she would help me make halter tops to go with my short, cut off jeans.. very short cut off jeans.  I remember distinctly one afternoon, when we made a white halter top, with white cording for the top and bottom ties, grandma looking through her loot for an applique that would discreetly cover my nipples, to keep them from showing through the top.  She stood there in one of her “daily” dresses, moving the applique this way and that, until it covered what it was supposed to, and then very carefully pinning it in place.  It was an anchor.  She never questioned my morality, never told me I should dress differently, never criticized…she just loved me.

In the afternoons, I was allowed to read, for hours.  When I had finished a book, she would sit me down at the kitchen table and quiz me on the characters, setting and plot, to make sure I wasn’t reading so fast that I missed the important parts.  There was always cookies and a glass of milk on the table.  We had conversation.

The spring of my first year of college; I decided to break off my engagement to my fiancé, about two weeks before the wedding.  It was an outrage; our small community was aghast.  I ran for the protection of my grandma.  I told her what I had done and we talked about love.  I told her that I wasn’t sure I knew what it was supposed to be.  Grandma walked to the bookshelf, opened her Bible and read Corinthians to me.

“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”

In other words, love was my grandma.

Some of my inspiration for my writing comes from grandma; after she died there were so many times I wished I had asked her more questions: why did she marry Grandpa, did she feel like she had made sacrifices, what were her greatest joys and greatest challenges, did she ever have a crush on the milkman? (she would not have answered that one, but it would have been fun to ask her, she would have said, “Luanna!” and given me the look. The same look that she gave me when I asked her, if she was sure there wasn’t some Hidatsa in our family, because we all have the same pot bellies, that Lewis and Clark remarked on, in their journals.  The same look was given to me when I asked her if her favorite author Gladys Taber was gay.  She told me no both times, I’m willing to concede the Hidatsa blood, but am darn sure Gladys was indeed a lesbian.  I have googled it.)  I write, so that hopefully somewhere in my writing, there will be answers for my grandchildren, an interpretation of something I have said that might bring them comfort on a day that’s going bad.   Maybe I can say something that will be their anchor.

Peace….

Facing Fears

It is obvious that society runs on fear.  We rightly or wrongly elected a president, because of fear and continue to let fear define us as a population.  Afraid of new ideas, of old ideas, of each other and sadly we are afraid of ourselves.  We are a country of fear…  I can’t fix the country, you can’t either, we can only control i.e..fix ourselves, and that alone is a challenge few of us dare to try..

Most of my life I have slept facing the door at night.  I don’t know why; no-one ever came into my room at night, while I slept.  There was no abuse in the dark, no surprises in the night, but for some reason I had this unreasonable fear that I had to sleep facing the door, so I would see whoever, whatever coming through the door.  It determined which side of the bed I slept in at a motel, my bedroom, and even which direction I slept on a couch.  I never told anyone; I became so used to it, that the pattern was almost subconscious, unless I was asked to sleep differently.  The anxiety would rise up in me, and I would have to consciously calm myself; self-talk my way to reason, there is no one, the door is locked…… I am doing better with it, I’m less afraid of what could happen, more rational, more mature, less afraid.

My other great fear is the loss of a child.  My youngest son ran errands for companies, (it’s called hot-shotting), he would often be out working at night, all night long, on roads with conditions, that were sometimes dangerous.  I would call him before I went to bed, and when I woke in the middle of the night, I would wonder where he was, if he was safe, should I call…..  I started to feel neurotic; my fear keeping me awake for hours; my mind imagining the worst.  He and his older brother would go snowmobiling during avalanche season in the Rockies; I would check weather sites and worry…  My fear wasn’t good for me and it wasn’t good for them.  They both stopped telling me when they were dong things, so I wouldn’t worry.  I didn’t want to be shut out, by their protection of me so I started to turn it over to God.  Now I know there are those of you who don’t believe in God, but God is real to me.  He/she is who I can turn my fears over too.. I can’t control my fears; I can’t control, but I have to believe that God can.  Where does that put people who lose family they love…I don’t know.  I can’t say God had a different purpose, or there are lessons….I just don’t know.  I do know, that for me turning it over to God, whether the belief is my prayers matter, or it’s an acknowledgment of my lack of control, works for me.

Acknowledging that we have control, only over ourselves, is an essential part of healing, of surviving.  We can only take responsibility for the decisions and actions that we make and take.  Don’t be afraid…allow yourself to be a survivor and not a victim; relinquish your fear and things you can not control, to God, to Buddha, to Mother Earth….

Peace….

My body is getting older, my mind is fighting it….

Turning 58 was a celebration, because of the bike ride I had accomplished, but more so because of the awareness of so many, who never get to be 58.  When I was working at Williston State College, in my 40’s, we had the habit of celebrating birthdays.  One of the instructors turned 50 and did not want a celebration; she wasn’t happy about getting older.  Another instructor stopped in my office to visit about our lack of a birthday lunch for the psychology instructor.  Jackie had Lupus and worked with her disease most days.  Her comment is one I have never forgotten,  “I am thrilled to gain every year, because I don’t know how many I will get.”

Do any of us know how many years we will get?  I always had a smug satisfaction, because both of my grandmothers were in the 90 range, give or take a year, that I had familial longevity on my side; the death of my mother at 75 changed that feeling.

Granted Mom was a life-long smoker, a type-A, who lived a life filled with stress, much not of her own doing. While I am not a life long smoker, maybe two cigarettes in my life and parts of a couple of joints, I have the weight issue that my mother never had.  I’m more diligent about my health care, get more exercise, and work fairly hard at being a type-b, but I have her genetics as well.  Her father died of lung issues, while no autopsy was held, pneumonia was the official cause, but many of us suspected cancer.  Mom also had a minor heart attack, that was undiagnosed for years, my paternal grandfather died of a heart attack, and my Dad has been saved from one by modern medicine a couple of times.  My husband says, when I voice my worries, “We all have to die of something.”  He is nothing if not pragmatic.  🙂

I am 58, if I’m allowed to survive for twenty more years, I will have three more than Mom.  Thirty three more years, will give me the same time as her mother, I of course am hoping that along with the other traits of my maternal grandmother, that longevity will survive in me as well!

Do I fear death; of course I do, but not for the reasons I would have imagined at twenty.  I want to see my grandchildren marry and have children of their own; I want to see my children to retirement, know they are all happy and successful in their life choices.. I want more time.  I feel my body aches, even when I’ve done little. I try to remember the words of Elizabeth Taylor.  She said she jumped out of bed every morning, ignoring the stiffness, and soreness and went on about her day.

Today I will enjoy today; hopefully next year, I will enjoy 59!  Looking forward to longevity, praying for it, and counting on it.  Live long and prosper.  🙂

Peace….