This blog is part of my recovery, and I would like it to remain a safe place for me to share parts of myself and my life that people close to me may or may not know. As a result, while I'm not going crazy with privacy settings, I do ask that if you find this on your own and suspect you may know me, please respect my privacy by checking with us before reading any further. This obviously doesn't apply if one of us has given you the link!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

From a Once-Ghost to a Now-Ghost

My support worker suggested that I might find it helpful to write a letter to my 12 year old self whose mother sent her to live with her (abusive) father after a fight.

Everything in the letter below is true and accurate as my perception of the events (and I'm fairly sure, true and accurate as to the facts as well), although I did take slight creative licence on the ages as I won't actually be 30 for another two weeks. My niece, though, really is 12, and does shout the same thing I told my mother.

This is, at this stage, still a first draft. I promised my support worker I wouldn't edit the original minus small rearrangements until after she had read it, and I find that after such an emotional outpour, I'm reluctant to reread and edit just yet. I wanted to share it, anyway, though.

You are twelve years old, a ghost and a memory, but that doesn't stop you being here with me. You view me as a wisp, an ethereal image hazy with what might be but I can see that you are a stamp of yesterday as indelible as octopus ink. You are in my eyes, and under them, in the depths of who I am. You will be changed, soon, by a moment that falls heavy around your shoulders even as it darts away.

When it happens, you will know that nothing will ever be the same, but you won't know how much this moment will become part of you. You won't know that for another 15 years, when you will revisit this moment in the hospital, undressing yourself and folding the adult part of you on the chair for later. Nakedly you will tell the nurse how it feels to be vulnerable and left to his mercy.

You will remember what you shouted, and you will remember slamming the door. You will remember the first time you ever heard her swear was that day, and she was calling you a bitch. You will remember the terror you felt when you realised she was calling your father, and you will remember begging her not to send you away. You will remember that you heard your little brother plead your case, and though you won't remember her reply, you will remember the tight way she speaks, and the sinking of that balloon of hope in your chest as she gets on the phone and tells him to come and get his daughter.

Unaccountably, you will remember the day when you were small and one of your brothers had placed a sandwich into the VCR. You will remember another phone call, to the Police (or so you still believe), and the certainty with which she tells you all that they are coming to fingerprint and take away the guilty party. You remember knowing it wasn't you, deducing it was one of your brothers and not knowing which. You remember you begged them each separately to confess, that you would not be torn through the middle; two magnetic poles no longer touching. Years later, when you remember that other moment, you will remember this one, and you will also remember that picture in your mind, of a small face peering out the back of a terrifyingly large vehicle. In your dreams, that face will be yours.

You won't remember whether it all happened slowly, as if you are stuck in time; or if the inevitability of it all sped you through to its conclusion. You won't remember what this fight was even about, but you'll remember that you didn't mean what you shouted and you both knew it.

You will remember her giving you a bag and telling you to pack your things, and you'll remember only that you sat stiffly in the car, cradling your stereo, and that you cried the whole way to your father's.

Years from now, you will remember, also, some of the aftermath as well, like the day your mother tells you she has antidepressants now. By the time you are 14, you will know this is your fault, and she will confirm it.

By then, you won't remember whether you gave any thought to the friends you left behind, but you will discover that when you return, most of them will remember you. Some of them will reclaim you, but Kylie, with whom you shared a birth month and with whom you were close, will never forgive you for leaving her behind. You won't mind because you aren't the same girl anymore, but you will regret the bullying that follows as she gradually steps up the levels of violence.

Still, you will survive and you will believe you are mainly unscathed. You will believe for many years that your mother is the good one. You will believe that all of this will disappear, fade into the background of who you are. You will believe that it is all your fault.

You will believe it, but it won't be true.

You are twelve years old. Twelve. You don't know it now, but when you are 30, you will have a 12 year old niece, and you will see in her the same streak of independence you had at her age. You will hear her shout those same words to her father, to her mother, to her grandmother... to you. You will see past them and know that they are words that come from a place of anger, but mostly from a place of hurt and confusion.

You will know that if anyone tries to send her away, it will not be her fault, and it will not be a reflection on the value of that 12 year old girl trying to make her way in a world that is often confusing and scary. You will know beyond any doubt that she is beautiful and amazing and wonderful, and that even when she makes mistakes, she is still all of those things.

You will know that no matter what the world throws at her, she will always have value. At 30, you will begin making connections between that 12 year old and the you that was 12. You will write yourself this letter, and in the writing, you will begin to let go of the shadow that has followed you for 18 years, because you will begin to see that at 12, you are still a child. At 12, you are a child who cannot be responsible for the actions of an adult. You are not the cause of your mother's illness, and though you may have exacerbated it without knowing or intending that, it is still not your fault.

You are twelve years old, a ghost and a memory, but that doesn't stop you being here with me. You have been changed by this moment, and you will be changed by many more that are to come, until you become the 30 year old writing this letter. You will look in the mirror one day and though your hair is greying and your skin wrinkles like unironed sheets, you will see, still, the stamp of who you were; the stamp of moments; lived, loved and regretted; all over the solidity of who you are.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dichotomous Christmas

I know I'm now too late to wish you all a Merry Christmas, but I hope everyone had a wonderful day yesterday, whether you celebrate Christmas or not.

My day... was a day of firsts, and a day of tradition. It was a day of great happiness, but it was a day edged with grief and regret. Unusually for me, it was also a day of healing and growth - though I don't expect to see concrete results of that any time soon. Finally, it was a day of learning. Most of the things I learned were small things, it's true, but small things add up and gradually become bigger things.

Although Bumface and I began dating shortly before Christmas last year, I spent most of the day with my biological family, only meeting up with him at the end of the day. Normally, we would go to my brother's for Christmas, but this year I made the decision early on that I wouldn't be doing that. Bumface isn't comfortable with my family (and given the way they've treated us both, I certainly understand why), and I didn't want us to be apart for Christmas, so we decided to have it here -- that way, too, we could invite Baby Bear to join us, as well as any other friends/chosen family with nowhere else to go. We did invite my mother and Jerry, (her best friend who has been like a father to myself and my brothers) especially as it's the first Christmas my younger brother hasn't been here for, but they declined to join us. As a result, not only was this my first real Christmas with my partner... it was my first Christmas ever without a single member of my biological family.

This year, I pulled together some of my favourite Christmas traditions from my childhood, and I made a few changes where appropriate, to create a Christmas that would work for us. I decorated, with the help of Baby Bear and her friend. I put together 3 stockings (one each for myself, Bumface and Baby Bear). I made my favourite Christmas recipes (minus the trifle which I'll be making once we've eaten some more of the food we already have left over). Baby Bear joined us and we enjoyed plenty of nibblies as we exchanged gifts. After a brief rest, we had my family's traditional salad lunch. All my favourites from my childhood were there, and a few others I've picked up through the years were added as well.

It was a good day, but there were still things I missed. Mostly, I missed my nieces and my nephew. Without them, the chatter of children was missing, and the magic (and the laughter!) that brings to Christmas was a small wound in the day. It left me aching a little for my own little girl and boy.

I didn't miss calling my father and wishing him a Merry Christmas, but I wish I could say I didn't feel guilt over it.

This year, I learned, as I learn over and again, that some wounds don't heal. I learned, as I learn over and again, that family is about so much more than who gave birth to whom. I learned, as I wish I'd realised earlier, that coleslaw dressing and caesar salad dressing are not interchangable (worst coleslaw EVER). I learned, as I think we all wish I'd learned before making the pasta salad, that regular peas should be shelled. I learned, as I learn over and again, that just as there can be sadness in the midst of beauty... there also can be beauty in the midst of sadness.

This year, I was shown that there are some truly amazing and wonderful people in my life, and I am blessed to know them. I was shown that there are some people in my life who maybe don't deserve the amount of time and love I offer them, as they are unwilling to offer much in return... but there are some who deserve everything I can give and so, so much more.

I hope I do enough that those people know who they are, that they see I understand and appreciate just how much they enrich my life and how deeply grateful I am for all they do for me. They are my chosen family, and although not all of them could join me physically for Christmas, they were all in my heart yesterday, as they are every day, and are ever welcome at my table.

Happy Holidays, my friends.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Even A Knife-Wielding Maniac Can Illustrate Growth

Yesterday, I went to an event held by Open Minds, and came home expecting everybody to be out. After I turned around and locked the door, without even having a cursory look around the room, I turned back to discover a "knife-wielding maniac" standing right in front of me.

Confronted with a similar situation a week ago, the 18yo daughter stood still and screamed. And darn near wet herself. I would have expected that to be my reaction as well. Instead I stood stock still with quite a surprised look on my face and just froze. Completely and utterly. And then my eyes adjusted, I saw who it was... and I laughed.

Since the "knife wielding maniac" was, in both instances, Bumface, I posted about the prank on Facebook as I internally processed all the positive things I had learned from it. Unfortunately, some of my friends seemed to feel that because they didn't find it amusing, I couldn't (or shouldn't?) have, either and I now have a lot to process around that.

But.. between the prank and the Facebook fall-out, I've learned and cemented a few new/emerging thoughts and truths for myself.

1. My eyes might be getting worse and I should probably have them tested. To be perfectly honest, I didn't even *see* the knife until after I recognised Bumface. :p

2. I have grown so much, emotionally, over the last year. I knew that, but this prank really illustrated to me just HOW much, and I'm so proud of that in myself.

3. Despite this growth, in an emergency situation, my instinct is still to freeze. This is probably not the best plan in most situations, so I need to practice forms of self defense (or at least fleeing!) enough that they become second nature as much as freezing.

4. Some of my actions when I believe I'm alone put me at risk. It is a good practice to be aware of my surroundings when I enter a room, to at least make a quick check that everything is in order. I don't mean a paranoid examination of every corner of the house, but a cursory check that there isn't a crazy man less than two feet from me is probably a smart move. ;)

5. I have a great deal of deep trust for Bumface. Not many people could stand in front of me, holding a knife, and still make me feel safe once I recognise them.

6. I don't believe in "if you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all" - but I believe in something that (I feel) fits that grey a little better. "If you can't say something constructive, then you shouldn't say anything at all" because, let's face it, sometimes it's necessary to say something that isn't nice. If your best friend is dating an abusive jerk, you should probably tell her you can see that he's abusing her and you're there for her. Now, that's probably not the nicest thing to say -- but better to say it than let her think what he's doing is okay because everybody's seeing it and nobody's speaking up!

7. I don't need other peoples' approval as strongly as I used to. I am still deeply hurt by the disapproval and rejection I felt/feel about reactions I received to my post, but there is not so strong a sense of "well, maybe I did something wrong" - now it's a sense that I'm sad that people can't just be glad that I'm in a relationship that makes me happy, is good for me, and has allowed me to grow so much. Still, out of pond muck, lillies grow.

Most of all, I cemented that this relationship really HAS been very good for me over the past year. I didn't doubt it, but it is still nice to have solid confirmation of the ways in which he has helped me to grow. I only hope I've been as good for him as he has for me.

(And that I can come up with a damn good retaliation prank...)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sanguine Satur-Sun-Monday: 7 Shades of Gratitude

Sanguine Monday doesn't have anywhere near the ring of Sanguine Saturday or Sunday. I should let that be a lesson to me and make sure I post these things up on the weekends so I don't get stuck with a title devoid of such fun alliteration.

(But, let's face it, I probably won't. I'm just rubbish at remembering what day it is most of the time.)

It's been a while again, hasn't it? Luckily, I am much practiced at jumping in where I left off, no matter how long ago that was, so without further ado, here are today's 7 Shades of Gratitude.

1. Decorating with others who enjoy Christmas as well.
2. Productive quiet time.
3. Deliciously warm weather.
4. Exploring new forms of poetry.
5. Grocery totals that come to less than expected.
6. New shoes! (Even if I do need to dye them black.)
7. Exploring new/old places with people we love.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

30 Tuesday Truths: Two

While wandering the internet awhile ago, I came across a 30 Days of Truth blogging challenge/project over at As The Pendulum Swings. Instead of blogging every day, I've decided to take it on on a weekly basis, posting a new question & my answer every week.

Day 02 : Something you love about yourself

This one is harder than I thought it would be, to be perfectly honest. Don't get me wrong, I figured I'd have trouble with it -- but I thought I wouldn't be able to think of anything I even like about myself, let alone finding several I had trouble choosing between!

I could have gone with the colour of my eyes (blue-grey-changeable). I could have gone with my ability to enjoy things I'm not good at (like backyard spots, or singing, or dancing). I could have gone with how family oriented I am or how much love I have to give/share with people. There were several other ideas I entertained as well, but I am starting to feel a bit like I'm 'tooting my own horn' here, so I won't list them all. The point is, there's actually a fair bit about myself I've learned to, if not love, at least like. And some days I do even love those aspects of myself.

I could have gone with any of those things above (or the unspecified ones, of course) but instead I've chosen to go with my innocence, (child-like/childish ness) and naivety, in most of its aspects. I know a lot of people don't appreciate this in me, and others see it as a wall or mask I wear, but this is, quite frankly, one of my favourite things about myself.

I love that the small things interest and amuse me because I haven't let go of that part of myself. I love that it takes so little to make me happy (aside from my mental illnesses). I love that this part of me allows me to see beauty in things that others look right past. I love that I get excited about big events like Christmas or seeing snow for the first time, and that I also still get excited about the little events like seeing a puppy being taken for a walk or receiving a letter in the mail. I love that I haven't lost the ability to create, imagine and play.

I love that I have not allowed my past to blind me to the love, happiness and beauty that is in this world.

How about you, what is it you like or love about yourself? I challenge you to find at least one thing and either comment it or write it on your own blog (and comment your link!). :)