More flowers for your birthday. Ephermeral cherry blossoms.
When I tell people about the day you were born I say it was the most empowering day of my life. Your birth was magical. You were born in the house where we lived, surrounded by people who loved us, as the sun was setting. And at the moment of your birth there was a gentle breeze that flowed in from the front window and with it the scent of delicate rock roses. And as I breathed in that sweetness, I knew your Granpa G. was there with us. Unlike many people, your birth name has meaning. I love you with all my heart.
Today my second child and my youngest is turning 23 years old. My first child was born in a hospital. My second was born at home with a midwife. As a woman and a mother I felt strength during her pregnancy and birth. My mantra was, “I have confidence in my body to do what it was created to do naturally.” Her birth was a back labor and lasted 23 hours. Having her at home was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my whole life. It truly was empowering.
I remember digging up those rock roses from the front yard of the home my husband grew up in. He lived in the same house his entire childhood. When we got married, no one lived there, as his parents had retired further south, so we moved in. Those roses were originally in front of the room his sister grew up in and the room that eventually was our first daughter’s nursery. My father in-law, Tom, was a horticulturalist by hobby. These were his roses. My father in-law was a second father to me. I lost my own when I was nine years old. I am not sure I could have loved Grandpa G. more for all the kindness, affection, and love he gave me. He died before my littlest was born. The irony, both my father and father in-law were taken from me by cancer. Roses do not survive well when but these were his roses, for his little girl. I was not surprised when they survived. I think I willed them to live.
My daughters each have a family name. Hers is Serene, after Tom’s mother. I remember sitting at his bed side and him saying he wished he could live to see more grandchildren. I didn’t know it, but I was pregnant. Eight months later Serene was born. The breeze winding in the room and the scent of those roses. I knew Tom saw his granddaughter. I felt it in my heart.
Airial wrote that, “The lotus flowers live in ponds. At night the flowers close and sink into the muddy waters, only to emerge perfect and pure when the sun rises.”
She challenged me to write about a moment in life when things got dark and to reflect on when the light returned. There have been a few times in my life when life was dark, but like the lotus flower, so far I have always emerged from the darkness and resurfaced into the beauty of light.
Some of my darkest times are related to loss of loved ones. I am not good at forming shallow connections. I gravitate toward deep bonds. I do not love half heartedly, I offer the best parts of myself to my loved ones, and wear my heart on my sleeve. My open heartedness and vulnerability are at the core of my inner beauty. Being and loving this way comes with risks. Its who I am and I don’t want to be any other way. I am risk taker.
Some love dies a natural death while other loves die or whither of neglect, lies, and betrayals. One time the harm was so great I nearly drowned from the pain. Nearly, did not resurface like the lotus. How I get through dark times has been with love, care, and nurturing from the kindest of friends. I’ve learned over and over that I cannot be an island. As an introvert it is all too easy to allow oneself to become and island. Me & my books & movies! This last time though, the lesson stuck. When I look back on it now I think of Dickens and remembering that suffering is never a waste if we learn from it. I learned a lot that I wish I hadn’t needed to learn, but learn I did and although I was bent and broken – I hope – into a better shape.
“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. ” Charles Dickens
This was a writing assignment to earn a Lotus Pin for NYC Littles Scouts, Troop 212
I knew 16 days ago we began National Domestic Violence Awareness month. I have experienced physical and emotional abuse in my past. I read some things today that compelled me to speak out on the topic. There were some folks using the term gaslighting incorrectly and others were throwing shadow on claims of gaslighting as possibly being a matter of, “…I got confused, and emotional, and now I feel bad.”
I came across this journal entry in FetLife about 1 ½ years ago. I had never heard of the term “gaslighting” before I read that journal entry. The term is best known from a 1944 classic movie starring Ingrid Bergman, titled Gaslight. This past September it was being shown at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) Cinema and I went to go see it.
What is gaslighting? A psychological definition of gaslighting is “an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to, the victim – having the gradual effect of making them anxious, confused, and less able to trust their own memory and perception.”
So yes, we are dealing with perceptions.
I was in a very destructive relationship in my past were I was physically and emotionally abused. The physical was easy for me to forgive, the emotional has been far from easy. Fairly early on, after I left my abuser, I realized I could not get past this problem. I had to work through it and that I needed professional help to do that. Some of the emotional abuse definitely fell under the term gaslighting. It can still be traumatic for me to relive those experiences. I was subjected to behavior that resulted in psychological trauma, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s an invisible scar I wear.
I want people to pause before they speak and automatically disregard someone, who speaks up about emotional abuse, because that is what gaslighting is, emotional abuse. I want to ask you to pause and listen to people who have the courage to ask for help. Please don’t turn your back and write them off as people who want to avoid being responsible for their own actions. Please I beg you to resist the urge to tell yourself, it’s discontent/sour grapes, because their relationship ended. I implore you to consider that it might have taken that person the last bit of strength they had to hold that hand out and ask for help. I beg you to realize that if you don’t error on the side of caution when that person reaches their hand out and grab that hand, you may lose that person forever. Emotional abuse can be that destructive. Grab that hand, pull them up, keep them safe, and find them help. Question later.
It took me a long time to find the courage to speak to one person I thought I could trust to talk to. Even then I made her swear to not say anything to anyone and amazingly she didn’t; she held all my dark secrets. She is a much better friend that I am. Even after I talked to that one person it took me another 6 months before I finally left. I’m a rare statistic, once I left I never went back to my abuser. Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind to try to ask to come back. It did. I want to say I was lucky, but it’s not that at all. It’s that I did the work and continue to do the work to heal with a professional(s).
Do some people misuse this term? Yes. Do you really want to take the risk of turning your back on the many that don’t? No one deserves to be abused. I didn’t deserve what happened to me and I did not want it. Do I have accountability? Yes. I stayed. No one forced me to stay. I have to live with that. The abuse I suffered nearly killed me. I don’t say that lightly. There is a lot of shame in admitting that out loud, but choose to let go of pride and instead say my truth out loud, because… If you are suffering abuse I want you to know I have known the shame & fear you live under. There are women and men all over who understand the shoes you walk in.
And look at me today…
I am not broken.
I am not a victim.
I am not a survivor.
I am a beautiful strong leather woman.
I am here in the today, the now, and embracing life.
I’m at Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida and winding down from my first vacation in over three years. Over the weekend I have had time to relax and to reflect on the path I found myself traveling this past year. I’m goal oriented and over the years I have often looked at my life and made immediate, short term, and long term goals. You can write these things down or just think on them, but sometimes you can find yourself in places you never imagined and that goes for good and bad. The one thing you can count on as a constant is change. A year and a day ago I was someone fragile and struggling to find my way through darkness. I moved onto my own apartment in Brooklyn. It was a very hard time for me, but looking back and seeing my growth I am very proud of myself. Continue reading
I am still at the “not yet” phase, but each day I feel more healed from the harm that was done. I feel more of the incredible woman I was before someone I loved gave me this box full of darkness. Each day I am closer to feeling that this too was a gift…
Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
In July of 2012 I was packing up my house to put it on the market. I’d filed for divorce. My soon to be ex-husband had quit his job, and I’d been a stay at home mom for nearly 13 years. There was simply no way for us to stay in what I had once considered to be our dream home- the house I’d truly believed we would live in forever. Where we would have family reunions, where the kids would get married in the backyard, where we would grow old together. The day we moved in I saw all of those things stretched out in front of us.
Cut to less than two years later. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t have cared less about leaving that house…
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