Reflecting Takes Time (CANDISC)

I completed this bike ride of mine, the CANDISC (cycling across North Dakota in Sakakawea country).  There were many gratifying parts of the adventure; one of them was doing my live feeds, before and after, one feel had over 650 views!  I felt fueled by the interest and the support of many of the viewers, who took the time to comment.

I came home to a normal life, mail that needed to be sorted, a fridge that needed to be cleaned and errands that needed to be run.  I came home to normal.

On the 416 miles of the ride a weird thing happens; at first your brain runs like usual.  For me, that means hundreds of thoughts float through, as I pick which ones to dwell on and which ones to let go.  Eventually, I hashed over everything and my focus became paying attention to my surroundings; are there cars or riders behind me, is the shoulder wide enough to ride on, is that a rumble strip?  I can hear the other riders come up behind me, many of them riding in groups, visiting about whatever topic they are on that day. (Politics are rare, we are keeping our minds focused on fresher things, the sound of the wind, the smell of the roadkill.)  The sound of a semi-truck becomes distinct, deep, rumbling and menacing.  Will I hear the sound of the rumble strip as he-she moves over, to straddle the center line, or is there a steady sound, because I notice a car coming in the oncoming traffic lane, so I again survey the shoulder, the white line, the ditch……. I crest the top of a hill, to see another hill coming, and another…I didn’t know central ND had so many hills….how fast do I dare go down this hill, in order to gain enough speed to help me go up the next.  This was my ride, the steady drum of the wind, like white noise out of a machine, if I am riding against it; the fabulous quiet, when I am riding with the wind.

Many people asked me if I were riding alone, when I answered yes, there was surprise, “Really, will you be ok?, will you get lonely?”  Many people who know me would think that I have to have someone around all the time, and while it’s true, I love people, conversation, and most of what that entails, my alone time is important too.  Imagine a week of only speaking when you choose too, seeking out company when you want it, and avoiding people when you don’t.  I rode alone most of the 416 miles, I relished the time. If someone pulled up to join me, we would visit for a while, but if they lingered too long, I found myself giving a reason to stop, to slow down, or to speed up, to enjoy my solitude, but also to be able to focus on what was around me.   I would ride, stop and check mileage, give my bottom, hands, shoulders etc. a rest and then move on, at my own pace, on my own time.  I set up my chair in Ft. Totten, opened a book and read it.  I wandered off to do my live feeds, but joined in and enjoyed conversation at the rest stops and meals.  When you are riding alone, you have the chance to meet others in bits and fits of conversations, giving you more time to reflect on them and the conversations.  I always had my cell phone with me, fully charged, so I could update my family on my safety and where-abouts.  Their sporadic responses reminded me they were only a phone call away.

I always felt safe in the campgrounds.  My bike was always right next to my tent; my gear was always stowed safely inside the tent next to me.  I was self-contained in my little tent.  The soft snoring, that came from some of the tents around me, helped me to sleep; It sounded like my husband was always close by.  When you are in your tent, you have an invisibility; life goes on around outside, conversations, body sounds, trains, rustling in the grass.. it’s a peek into the world.

I am so glad I rode in the CANDISC; I have proven to myself that I have the determination and dedication to still achieve.  Stepping outside the box is so important for all of us; stretch out of our routines; let us see ourselves a little differently; allow others to see us differently.

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

There were good times too!

When we are counting blessings and/or looking back at our pasts, the good times are so important to remember.  Those times ground us and allow us to smile.  Growing up south of New Town, North Dakota, left me with many good memories.

Four years old, pretending an old gas tank, on five foot legs, was a horse; what could go wrong??  I apparently climbed up, was riding my pretend pony and slipped off onto the scoria rock below.  I have a scar on my forehead that is slowly disappearing; the pucker thinning because of my aging, or the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on face creams.

My  other scar, on my face, was from running from the house, to the grain bins with my eyes closed. ( Why would I do that? To see if I could, and I was taking toilet paper to my sister, who was waiting for me out behind the grain bins. (we were farm girls and sometimes it was just to far to run to the house to poop)).  Boom!  I ran into the disk (used to break up the soil in the fields).  I turned and ran back to the house, blood running down my face, screaming bloody murder, for my Mom…and yes my sister was still waiting for the toilet paper…  🙂  I have a scar under my eye that the face creams haven’t quite done their job on. Not one broken arm or leg because of all those shenanigans.. just my face….being hard headed does come in handy…

Horses were not my friends.  I loved them, but they bucked me off, laid down and rolled when I was riding them, took me under clothes lines….. Thank God the clothes lines were plastic, or my head laying in someone’s yard would have been an unpleasant surprise!  Our Shetland pony ran full bore towards a fence, and as he lowered his head, I rolled off..  Do you understand my relationship with them?  In retrospect I’ve had husbands with similar personalities!  Lol!

These are the good times?  Well, at least when you put them into perspective… 🙂  Life on the farm had many great days; we were allowed to run pretty freely.  The lake was about half of a mile away and biking, walking or riding motorcycle there was always an adventure.

I have two favorite memories of the lake:  My sister and I were at the lake when the water was coming up in the spring.  It must have been a high water year, because the water came up into the grass and the fish were visible in the water.  We decided to walk to a knoll in the water; as I walked the fish were so plentiful, that they bumped into my legs; it was creepy and exciting at the same time. Another time we were down in early spring, as the ice had blown up into mountainous piles on the shore.  We climbed around on them, pretending we were explorers, the ice piles were dirty and slippery.  I really am grateful that none of those adventures ended more seriously.

I had some wonderful friends growing up; we would have our spats, recover and move on.  Friends who would try to protect me from myself, and from others..  Memories are roaring back, as I type this afternoon…  Please sit down and think about the good things that have happened to you; let your memories roar back to you, let them soften the others that you don’t enjoy.

There were good times, and there will be more!!

Peace….

Feminism? or Survivalist…

Helen Reddy’s song was released in 1971..  I was 12 and have been singing ever since.  I didn’t always understand every nuance of what it meant, but I loved the rhythm and it felt like a powerful song for a woman even at 12.

It’s sometimes easy for me to write personal things about myself; I have few secrets, although every woman needs a couple…  What I do struggle with, is writing and including anyone else in my stories.  The responsibility to write about any one else, in a way, that totally depicts my thoughts can be overwhelming.  I have spent a couple of sleepless nights, thinking how I could tell this story..

I tend to be strong willed, there was a period of my life where I had my control taken away from me, then I over compensated by seeking more and more control (another blog 🙂   My parents would tell stories of me jumping off the barn, of arguing so much my Dad was sure I should be a lawyer, of wanting things to be black and white.  I didn’t try out for anything in high school, unless I felt like I could win, and if I thought I would lose, I wouldn’t try. My mom always encouraged me to do things, that she felt like she had missed out on, but she had little experience to share with me.  She was a woman of her generation, as I am a woman of mine, and even Mom sometimes thought I was too independent.

One dictionary definition of independent:Not relying on others for support, care, or funds; self-supporting.

Relying on others; whoa that is a scary thought, one even now I don’t entertain very seriously.  Years of training to not rely on people, because of disappointments, that I bear part of the responsibility for, have taught me to rely on myself and to encourage others to rely on themselves.  Stop blaming everyone else, take responsibility, flip the switch.   Ok, so I’m stalling..  🙂

Mom and I were standing in the kitchen, of the old farmhouse; she was doing dishes and I was standing 12 feet away.  We were talking about “what had happened to me.”  “Mom, did you know?”  She turned and looked at me and said, “No, I didn’t, but even if I would have, what could I have done?”  My heart broke in a million pieces.

It didn’t break just for me; but it broke for Mom too.  She thought she was powerless; it wasn’t that she didn’t love me, because she loved her children, was loyal and steadfast.  She was raised in a time, when few woman, stood their ground, especially in rural North Dakota.  If any woman was to divorce?  You were a hussy!  Create a scene? You were crazy! Deal with your own trauma? Unheard of!  Go to the police?  Mom was raised by strong Baptist parents, you worked hard to raise your family, buried your head and survived.  She survived, but I choose to survive in a different way.  The shame is not mine, it is not yours.  We survive.. we thrive.. “to make a difference, in the life of one child”, regardless of that child’s age.  🙂

I am teased about how can I be a Conservative Feminist;  I laugh because I am who I am, a complicated Christian, believer in the separation of Church and State, fiscal conservative, believer of individual state’s rights, feminist.  Be who you are.  Whatever brought you to this place, made you who you are and it’s a beautiful thing.

Hugs to my survivor friends and family.  I am so proud of you.  We are going to make the changes..

Peace

Happiness? Finally!

The last few weeks, I have had a weird feeling; every once in a while (it happened both times when I was driving), I have felt this sensation.  Wanting to sing, and smile, I have thought, “What the heck?”  Believe it or not, I spent time thinking about what could this feeling be.  The feeling is happiness!  There have been a challenging few years in my past; dealing with one crisis or turmoil, after the other.  I had forgotten what true, clear, bell ringing happiness felt like.

Coping becomes second hand to us; it becomes natural after a long period of time.  We don’t necessarily feel unhappy, but happy?

There is a friend of mine,  who has had a similar couple of years. I shared my happiness thoughts with her, and she said, “I’m always feeling like the other shoe is going to drop.”  “Life is good, but how long can it last?”  This is what I told her and told myself, “Whatever is going on today, if it’s good, hang on to it!  Embrace it!”  If we enjoy and embrace the good days, we will have lots of energy saved up for that one day, “when the other shoe may drop” or at least droop.

Wikipedia says happiness is: a mental or emotional state of well-being which can be defined by, among others, positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happy mental states may also reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being.

“Reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being”, that sounds like we have some control?  🙂  ahhh, so if I have some control, what are some steps to take?  My comment I make to my children sometime is, “Did anyone die?”  They usually give me that look, but really unless someone died, it can be fixed or at least overcome.  That sounds like an insensitive thing to say….but coping is sometimes insensitive.. it’s tough, and challenging, and honestly…you have to cope in order to be happy.

Google “steps for happiness”, and you can have a hundred (more) opinions on what it takes to be happy.  One that pops up a lot is giving.  I agree with that 100%, but giving all the time makes you codependent and an enabler, topics for another blog for sure!  How about taking?  Can taking make you happy?  Taking time, taking love, taking a compliment, taking credit for your good works, taking a hug, taking a hike, taking a trip, taking help?

Hopefully some things to think about; take happiness.  I wish you all “that feeling that you can’t describe”; be happy.

Peace.

Lakota, German, Muslim-our pain is the same.

You are here, reading my blog.  I hope you are able to open some conversations, because of it!  Whether you are a survivor of any kind of abuse, or someone who cares about us; welcome and thank you for being here.  Let’s make it better for our sons, daughters, neighbors children, grandchildren; let’s talk…..

I was searching for articles on forgiveness, insight I could share with you and I found this Native American Legend.  It is incredibly powerful and describes this young woman’s feelings of guilt and how she comes to forgiveness.  I found the legend on several sites, so feel comfortable sharing it with you.

We have shared stories.  Your story and my story may be very different, yet they are the same.  The emotions and even consequences to everyone are the same.  I forget that sometimes, so I have to remind myself..

I hope relating to Black Corn helps your journey as you find empathy with hers.

BLACK CORN
A Lakota Legend
There once was a woman called Black Corn. She lived in a village surrounded by incredible beauty. There was beauty in the forest, in the plains, in the sky above and the earth below. Black Corn was very tall, taller than all of the other women of her village, indeed, taller than most of the men as well. Strong of limb she was and fair to see. Yet deep within were hidden deeper waters, roiling with discontent and….. Well, no one really knew what else, not even she.

Black Corn was very unhappy, she had so much love to give, yet could not seem to find the one to give it to. All she wanted to do is love someone and have someone love her. She loved her People dearly and did all she could for them, even to the point of sacrificing her own wants to help her People.

Many Gifts she had been given by Wakan Tanka, but could not seem to find them when she needed them the most. She was taunted by many for things she could not understand, she began believing, at first resistantly, then willingly that the lies and the actions were deserved. When she would gaze upon her image in the still waters of the pond, she would think “you are too direct, too tall, too strong, too much… well, too much everything! You have too much passion, too much love, too much… well, too much everything, and no one wants what you have to give!”

Yet the love she held inside for all the People was full to bursting within her breast and all she wanted was someone who would accept her love. All she wanted was for the People to accept her love and what she could give them. Down and down she went with no one to love, no People who wanted her love, or so she thought.

Then, one day, after a particularly difficult incident, she awakened as if from a dream and thought to herself “Why is it this way? What did I do that was so awful that I should be treated in this manner?” Deep inside herself she looked for an answer to these questions. Deeply, beyond all of the hurt, all of the pain that had been put upon her, behind the men who had used her without her consent, and eventually, as her self-respect dwindled, with her consent. So many judgments had been passed on her but none so harsh as what she had passed upon herself.

The deeper she looked, the uglier it became, and the faster the anger rose until it was full-blown rage. White hot the rage burned and coursed through her body. Blindingly it raged, but this too was another illusion. Yes, the rage was a deception, a shield to protect her from what laid beneath.

Finally she could hide no longer behind the rage and the sorrow that she had desperately tried to hide over the years. It came at her like a tidal wave and she stood defenseless in its path. She no longer had the strength to fight; nothing left to stem the flood, so she stood helpless in its path, no shield to protect her any longer.

Out she ran into the forest, hearing the tiny voice inside screaming in agony, dying, dying, dying, screaming NNNNNOOOOOOOOoooooooo… and she just knew that all she had ever thought that she was slowly dying a painful death. Finally, she could help herself no more and cried out in anguish, clutching at the pain in her breast, feeling herself slipping away. She cried out, in full voice, which held all of the pain and agony, begging, at her most pitiful for Wakan Tanka to take her away from this pain.

“Please, please Wakan Tanka, Tunkasila, I can bear this life, this pain, no more, it is too much, Please, please, take me home, please let me have peace!” And when she had finished crying out these words and prayers, and all of the ugliness that was inside her had been given voice, the sound so awful to hear that not even the animals or birds made a sound out of respect for her pain, she lay herself down on the damp sweet smelling forest floor. Her soul ripped open and flayed a bloody mess before her and before the Creator, she finally saw the truth.

It began when she was 7 summers old; she would go into the forest to play. One day a strange man came upon her and began to speak with her. His words were intriguing and he spoke of grown-up things that she liked to hear about. Eventually this stranger seduced her as a child, and as a child, not knowing any better, had allowed it. Many years would pass before Black Corn realized what had been done to her, and when she did realize, she issued a judgment so severe upon herself that she began to believe that she was unworthy of love. She lost all respect for herself and, indeed, this is what she projected unknowingly to everyone she came into contact with. The voices of the others that would taunt her were really reflections of her own voice within that she could not, until now, listen to.

In that moment of her defeat, laying on the forest floor, she began to see with clarity what was that made the People treat her as they were, and with that knowing, she began to cry, great heart wrenching cries that tore at the very fabric of her soul and thus began the cleansing process from within. She found that while she had forgiven that strange man his trespass against her, she had never forgiven herself for her part in it, she had never taken responsibility for it either, preferring to live in a fantasy in her mind that she had been the victim, all the while feeling the guilt of the participant. There had been one other who had used her in this fashion, a relative, who did not know of the first stranger. But by then, the damage to her soul had been done and, while not realizing why it was so, she allowed herself to be degraded even more by this second man.

After that, there was no room for self-respect or self love, feeling as she did that she was unworthy for the things she had done.

After the sobbing had subsided, Black Corn began to feel differently, having accepted everything that was ugly inside of her, she began to heal. Finally, after all of these years. It took a long time, but finally she was able to forgive herself as well as forgive those who took her unfairly and in bad faith, took her innocence and made something ugly out of it, all the while accepting her own responsibility in it as well. Finally she was able to forgive herself. With that forgiving, there was now room for love; all of the love she wanted to give the People was the love that she had been denying herself. Once she could learn to love herself and accept herself, she could also love the People much more than she ever thought possible, and the People rejoiced!

You see, they had always loved Black Corn, but because she did not love herself, she could not see this, she would not ever have seen it if she had not asked herself “why am I being treated this way”. The answer was within her all the time…. This was Wakan Tanka’s answer to her prayers; this was his gift to her.

Peace.

Catharsis

There is a book I would like to recommend to you.  The title is “The Courage to Heal.” There is a workbook as well, but I read the book and feel like it was very beneficial.  One of the methods they suggested was writing about your abuse.  It’s a tough challenge and one you have to kind of prepare yourself for.  I don’t know if you are like me, but I tend to let things roll around in my head, tormenting me until I can be rid of them one way or another.  I use meditation and prayer to help, also talking about things helps, although it took me a long time to be willing to do that.  🙂

I remember, distinctly remember, the night I wrote in my navy blue journal, with the pink and white flowers.  The children were with their Dad, and that night was the night I had set aside.  It was about 10:00, when I finally sat down in the orange rocking chair, that I had nursed all three children in, my safe chair.  I opened the journal and begin to write.  The tears ran down my cheeks so freely, I couldn’t have stopped them as they dripped on the pages.  Words smeared as I wrote.  I tear up now remembering.  I wrote about four pages, closed the book and sighed.  I was better.  It sounds bizarre and simplistic, but I was better.  It was my beginning.

Catharsis (according to Wikipedia):  “is the purification and purgation of emotions-especially pity and fear-through art or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration.

Through out the years I have used and suggested similar exercises.  I taught a middle school writing course and one of our activities was a type of catharsis.  We wrote down things we had done wrong, or things that were done to us, and burned them in a coffee can, behind the school.  No one, not even me!, knew what was written.  We stood around the can and watched the paper turn to ash, poured water on it, and went inside and celebrated with S’mores made in the microwave.

I had a very good friend who witnessed the end result of his mother’s death.  He was plagued with the memory and pictures he couldn’t get out of his head.  I suggested catharsis to him.  He told me a couple of years later, that he had found the pictures he had drawn in the back of his closet.  He seemed to think it helped.

I have my journal; it’s in a box, in a closet.  If for some reason, I need to recount something, I could find it and read it, but if that never happens I am allowed to let it fade into something that doesn’t haunt me as much and I move forward in the renewal and restoration of my soul.  🙂

Peace