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….

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…..

Would the dolphins be my friends?

“I looked down, at the blue green of the water, the dolphins sleek backs popping out of the water, so quickly disappearing in the wake of the boat.  The sun is shining, but I don’t feel it; I feel cold and lost.  If I slipped off the back of the boat, would the dolphins be my friends? and what would that mean?  Would they bounce me back to the top, or stay by my side as I drifted to the bottom.”

The second time, and hopefully last time, darkness was all encompassing…  oh Luanna, why would you write about this?  Because I’m similar to you..you survivors of loss, of abuse, of all encompassing disease.  Our survival is different, our situations may be different, but we are surviving non-the-less.  We are members of the same club.  🙂  If you haven’t dealt with depression, haven’t had it pop up on you and try to steal your soul, then you truly are blessed; embrace your blessing!

My mom had died, I was put in the position of taking care of my abuser, we had some issues on our property, my only nephew was killed and there were additional family issues…you know, nothing that couldn’t be handled one at a time, two at a time…but all of them together just became too much..  I felt like I needed to be the glue but just couldn’t hold it together anymore.  How did I find the courage… I told my children, I told my husband, I insinuated it to a few friends, and then I flipped the switch.. Flipping the switch is my tongue in cheek way of saying I made a decision…  I don’t take that for granted..  I know decision is different for everyone and I won’t judge people who can’t or don’t.

What is my purpose?  I wasn’t a perfect parent, but my children turned out wonderful, they are everything I wanted them to be, caring, hard working, good friends and independent thinkers.  While I love them beyond belief, they alone cannot be my sole purpose; it wouldn’t be fair to them, they need to have their own lives and find their own purpose.  I can guide but they cannot be my sole purpose.  The grandchildren would be next in line and I have to tell you that they are even more perfect than their parents!  They are part of my purpose, but I can’t and won’t try to take any of their parent’s authority away…. My husband, whom I adore 99.9% of the time, is part of my purpose, but can’t be all… Friends, society, etc..  Where am I going with all of this?  I have discovered that I have many purposes, when one fails, there are others to focus on; we add them, change them, and discard them when needed.  This is survival…

I’m sure the dolphins would have taken the woman in my story, into an embrace, and carried her to the top.  They would have known she was a survivor.

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

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