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