Telling the Truth..

This is a story I wrote for a workshop a few years ago.  It’s a memory that makes me smile, for many reasons.  I raised my children and will still say to the grandchildren, “If you tell the truth, the punishment will be less than if I catch you lying.”  Sometimes it works, sometimes I still get a lie…with a smile…  My parents got it right many times…

I walked into the house, and Mom said, “Are you up to something?”

I looked at her as innocence brushed over my face; “What do you mean?”

“Charlene called me today and said that Brian had taken some paint out of the store and when she confronted him, he wouldn’t say anything. She thinks you’re going to paint on the water tower, “Is that true?”

My mind moved quickly; do I lie; do I tell the truth; how much trouble will I be in? “Yes,” I said defiantly.

“Dad is down summer fallowing on the Blatherwick quarter; you need to go talk to him.”

“Oh my God,” I thought.

“Ok,” and I turned out walked out through the garage, where my yellow Volvo was parked outside. My car, my freedom, was going to take me to talk to Dad, who would imprison me. It was a hot and dusty drive down the gravel road, the three miles south, where Dad was going around in circles, on his big tractor, tilling the earth, with nothing much to think about.. yet.

I turned left off of the road and onto the approach, driving across the freshly tilled field to a place where I could intercept Dad. He saw me and all of my dust coming towards him; stopped the tractor, came down the ladder and stood waiting for me, with his hands on his hips and an expectant look on his face.

“Hi Dad!” I said, with all of the “I just drove down here to say hi friendliness I could muster.”

“What’s up?” he said.

“Umm, Mom just thought I should come down and talk to you about something.”

He waited…

“ Well, four of us decided to go up and paint the water tower tonight and Mom found out, and thought I should come and tell you.”

Painting the year of your high school graduation was a time-honored tradition in my home town. It had been done for years and Marci, Colin, Brian and I had decided it would be us this year.

 I waited; he was thinking and you didn’t want to interrupt him on the wrong side of his thinking. He was going back and forth in his head about what he was going to say, weighing all the possibilities, and how we all would react to his decision. You didn’t want to stop him at the end of the “maybe I should ground her for the rest of the summer” pause in his thoughts (I had learned that one from experience). I was hoping for the “hey, I was a kid once too” place in his thinking.

Finally he said to me, “If I say no, you’re probably just going to do it another night?”

“Yea, probably,” I said honestly.

We were raised to tell the truth. Mom and Dad always told me, if I told the truth the punishment would be less than if I were caught in a lie. It wasn’t the first time, or the last, that I was counting on that being their truth.

He shook his head and thought again, for a while.   “What if we do this; you call me before you go up, and you call me when you come down, so I know you’re safe.” “Can you do that?”

“Yep.” “Thanks Dad.”

“Just be careful up there.”

“We will.”

I picked up Marci and we drove to meet the boys. All of us had last names that ended in H, so we thought it was a great idea for the four of us to take this project upon ourselves. We hadn’t asked anyone else’s opinion on that, but it was going to be our night. We were well prepared. We had silver paint to repaint a huge portion of the water tower to make sure the black H and the 77 would be easily read from the ground below.

I recounted my “visit” with Dad to the rest of them, as we drove up to the water tower. (I had already called the folks from Colin’s house.) The water tower was a typical small town water tower; sitting on four long legs, it was painted silver. There was a cage on the bottom of the ladder, with a lock and chain on it. The boys scouted the tower out ahead of time and had brought along the proper tools to “disengage” the chain from the cage and ladder.

Fortified with a couple of beers to steel our nerves, we one by one, propping, pushing, and pulling, climbed up the ladder to reach the top. There was a small widow’s walk and railing around the perimeter of the storage tank that held the water. We started off by tackling the silver paint first. We deftly covered up the 76 from the year before, about the time we noticed a lot of traffic showing up and driving by. The silver swath widened to cover an area as high up as we could reach and wide enough to give us room for the real artistic work.

We were starting into the black paint, when there were a couple of honks, and hollers from the cars below. The class of 76 hadn’t left for college yet and apparently felt we were usurping their class.

“Fuck them.” One of said and all of us felt.

Word was apparently passing quickly, we hurriedly painted on the 77 and then the H appeared a foot or so away. We looked at it, felt a lot of pride that we were pulling this off, and brazenly decided to paint on our first initials, so a L, M, C, or B appeared in each corner of the H. We stood there and it was decided we needed to celebrate before we went down.

We sat on the walk, our butts on the grate, and our feet swinging in the air. A joint was passed around and we shared a couple of quick beers all the time teasing each other about who had spilled the beans to the others driving around below us, who’s idea was it for me to wear a white sweatshirt, and how cool were we to have pulled this off.

We quickly descended the ladder, jumped in the car and planned what we were going to do next.

“Colin,” I said. “We need to run back to your house quick; I have a call to make.”

“Dad, we are done.”

 

Peace…. 🙂

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..

Blessings of friendship…

When you get to a certain age, if your are lucky, you have had many friends and learned many things about being a friend and what you expect from friendship.  You have watched friends walk into your life and watched them walk out.  You understand that as our lives change, our needs change, and our expectations of all relationships may change, including friendships.

When I was writing about depression, I touched on friendship and it got my mind to whirling, remembering some of the stand out times.  When I went through my second divorce, I felt uneasy in my home for a while.  One friend offered me a safe haven if I ever needed it, in the middle of the night; another couple offered me their lake cabin, which I took advantage of.  None of these folks had ever needed a similar safety net, that I’m aware of, but they offered up their homes willingly to me.  I’m very grateful to both of them.  They trusted me and believed me, two incredibly powerful facets of friendship.  I have a friend in Denver, that if I showed up on her doorstep, would invite me in, offer me a room and make some of the best hot chocolate/brandy drinks that not only warm the stomach, but do something nice to the soul.  A girl friend came to my divorce proceedings so I wouldn’t have to be alone, and I have a couple more who are great listeners, but aren’t afraid to challenge me as well.

I have lost friends, who in hindsight weren’t friends, I fit a purpose for them at the time and maybe it is true that they fit my purpose as well.  I still feel a sense of loss from their leaving, whether it’s from the loss  of time spent, or sadness that we can believe so strongly, at the time, that something was so good, only to see later that it wasn’t.  Divorces are similar.

It’s hard to find any one who will love you for who you are, but first it’s important for you to know who you are..  That can take a long time, so it’s only natural that friendships change until then, but if you are lucky to pick up a few really good ones, who love you through your changes, who accept you through those changes, then hang on to them tight.  They are the angels who will lift you to your feet..

To my wonderful friends; I hope you always fly!

Peace…

 

Courage to go on..

I was at a get together recently, where I witnessed several stories of survival.  Sometimes I sit back in awe as I listen to other people: loss of family, cancer, depression.  There is no way to judge one person’s story of survival over the other.. one thing rings strong through most of the stories and that one thing is depression.  I’ve experienced two incredibly dark times and since I only share my stories, I will.

I believe strongly that most survivors struggle with many questions and victims of abuse are no exception.  Your self-esteem bounces quickly up and down, depending on the people around you and the situations you are in.  The feelings of self worth, or should I say lack of self worth can be overpowering.

I had put myself into a relationship that left me with overwhelming guilt.  I was married to a man, who had his own struggles, and had little empathy left for me.  My abuser had been outed and our family was a topic of conversation, speculation ran wild, and I was a mess.  I was driving for work most days and there was a coulee that looked especially inviting.  I thought about it many times driving by.  What made me get up the next day and try?  Why did I not turn the wheel?  I had some good friends, my children, people that mattered to me, that needed me.  I still had purpose; I could find purpose; it’s what saved me, I’m sure of it.

There was one day, I was so overwhelmed that I went to a friends house, told her I just needed a place to be.  She opened her door, and I crawled onto her couch and fell asleep.  She and her husband’s house was a safe place to be.  I thank her in my heart right now, for not peppering me with questions, for just opening her home and letting me in.  The tears are rolling down my face now, not out of sadness, but because of the profound gratefulness I have for her and others who have done similar things for me.  I eventually divorced, worked through a few issues, started college and began another  chapter,  but it was because of this friend’s kindness and compassion and the sureness that my children needed me, that I really began the process of surviving.

Surviving is not easy; that day was 28 years ago; twenty eight years of knowing I wanted better, deserved better and could work towards it.  Surviving isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon; a marathon with hills and valleys and days you want to quit.  Don’t quit; I have a couch; I promise you, I have a couch.

Peace