Friday, February 22, 2013

Denial is a river in Egypt

As I put my memories to written word, I realize I cannot ignore the weightier things in my life.  It has come to my attention that it is important to address not only to myself, but to my friends and family why I choose to expose these things publicly. I wrote a brief blog wherein I mention sexual abuse, only in passing as it contributed to that particular experience. I send all of my work to my mother before publishing for proofreading, (we come from a long line of writers and support each other in this way) and also read it to my husband, whom I love and trust has my best interest at heart.
The reflection of both these important people was the same. Why? Why expose that publicly? I know this is out of concern for me and my well-being, and so I reflected as to why. Trust me, there was a lot of hemming and hawing, it has not gone without very careful consideration. This is what I came up with.
Sexual abuse, just the words are like a stinging slap to the face, but one you walk away from because it’s ugly and uncomfortable and it isn't a fight you want to pick. It is something no one wants to face or acknowledge. But I am not going to deny it, in all of its ugliness it is still a part of what formed who I am today, and I love me.
Anyone who knows me well, knows I survived, and am surviving. I am a happy well adjusted Wife, Mother, Sister, Daughter, and Friend. Yes I have had my share of very dark and painful times, but with the support of friends and family I have been able to heal much of my pain.
I feel it is important for me to share this even if it only reaches one victim, one person who may feel alone and victimized, so that they may see that it can be lived with, you can be happy, you can take your life back.  It is not necessary to live as a victim, we are not alone, sadly there are many of us, and if I can lend support, or put a positive outlook on an otherwise dark subject, I will.
We are NOT damaged goods! Many of us are perfectly (and imperfectly) functioning members of society I do not ask, nor do I desire sympathy or pity, I don’t need it, I am not broken. I am a survivor, I am strong, I am sympathetic, and I am loving.
But I will not deny or push under the rug any longer this painful experience, enabling it to live in the shadows. It happened; it happens, and continues to happen if vigilance, education, and awareness are not exercised. I will not be one of the many who turn a blind eye, I will listen, I will believe, I will lend a hand. I am done with shame and I am done with anger, if I can help one single solitary victim feel  the tiniest bit less alone, I have done the right thing.   
Here is the Original Blog:

Truth hurts
Facing the truth is often a painful experience, and I know pain. I write this in regards to an epiphany I had; I believe I was very young to be making such realizations (I think I was about 16 or 17). I was walking home, to the glorified tent that was my abode at the time, most of us hippie kids lived pretty rustically compared to the outside world, no power or flush toilets, residing in yurts perched atop what were basically shacks. I was feeling sorry for myself for all that had been thrust upon me, thinking there was no hope and I was destined for nothing but failure.
The sun was out that day, the northwest air was fresh, and birds were singing, but I was sad, lost, and alone. But as I walked the winding trail, my mind wallowing in my misery, something clicked. It was only the briefest moment, when I asked myself, does the world really owe you something? The answer was and is no. The world never owes anybody anything. Yes you can be dealt a lousy hand, but they are still your cards to play, you can throw it all in and blame everyone else, or you can make the best of what you are dealt.
Broken home, sexual abuse, poverty, and an unconventional upraising in a hippie commune, all of these things were out of my hands, what was in my control was my mindset. Was I going to live as a victim and blame the world? Or was I going to demand something else, and who was I going to demand that from? Well I guess I was the only person I could demand anything from, and so I did.
It was in that moment I took responsibility for my life, I knew the only thing I had power over was my own outlook and no one else could possibly make my life for me. I could give my power away, and wallow in misery, or, take it back, get on my feet and point myself where I wanted to go. Where was that? It’s quite simple, happiness. And happiness is not being a victim of circumstance; happiness is taking what life gives you and making it work.  That is my only power.
Is it easy? I think not, it is a daily struggle of self reflection, resigning yourself to what you can’t change, and changing what you can. There are dark times for sure, and that’s ok, that’s life, as long as you don’t stay there long. I think this has worked for me, to this day I understand the pull to be a victim, and I feel it, but I also have made a choice, my choice is happiness. It is my life; I choose to claim it, make all that I can of it; my life belongs to me and no one else.
Fall down, cry, be angry, and move on, life is full of pit falls none of us is exempt. I adore human frailty; I respect our resilience in the face of failure and harm, and our ability to persevere. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I Am A Lucky Girl

My Golden Haired Knight in Shining Armor 1994

I graduated high school in 1993, still feeling very much the outside commune kid with an uncertain future looming ahead. I had an on again off again unhealthy relationship with a boy who had a problem with substance abuse and was verbally abusive. It’s no wonder I was drawn to such a situation, having not had much of a positive male role model in my life. So I guess you could say, while I knew I was responsible for the direction of my own life, it could have easily gone the wrong way . I could have been a welfare mom on food stamps, with of half a dozen children and living in a mobile home park. (No offense to anyone who lives in this situation, it’s just not something one chooses intentionally).

But that was not to be. I remember the very moment I met my husband. We were at the same party, the kind all the high school kids went to in our rural area, out in deserted barns, remote wooded lots, and any place we might avoid discovery from our parents and/or the law. This particular party was on the river under a bridge. (How cliché )

There I was, keg cup in one hand cigarette in the other when around the corner comes my commune brother (meaning we were not related, he just lived in the commune with me) telling me he wanted me to meet someone. I look up; and there he was, a beautiful boy with long curly blond hair, blue eyes, bright smile and a tye dye T-shirt. Oh god, not a hippie wanna be! I wanted the captain of the football team type, as you can imagine I had just about enough of hippies. But this boy, he made me take notice and there was just something about him I couldn't ignore.

But I tried! He was on his exploratory young man’s journey and thought the commune was just the place for him. So there he was, firmly ensconced in my everyday life and almost immediately professed his undying love for me. No way, I am not interested in hippie boys thank you very much! But no amount of rejection could shake this boy. He flat out told me he was different, and I was the one for him. And so I wondered…

His sweet demeanor and persistence eventually wore me down and I thought I had just better give this guy a chance. The first time we decided we were officially dating was Valentine’s Day 1994. He brought me a single rose to the shabby little shack where I still lived with my mother, (whom he had also woo-ed with his charm and determination, she could hardly stand to think I might reject his advances). With this one small gesture, we stepped out onto our path together and we have never looked back. 

So this Valentine’s day, I remember you my love! 19 years later and I am every bit as in love with you now as I was then, thank you for not ever giving up on me, and being my “home” every day. Thank you for supporting me, and having faith in me, and picking me up when I fall. There is no one in the world who knows me like you do and I am eternally grateful to be able to walk through life by your side. I love you.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Story Lady

Performance at Gasworks Park Seattle WA

The Story Lady
As children in the commune, for a multitude of reasons, some good some bad, we lacked access to the media of the outside world. No TV, Radio or comic books. The books we did have, I now know went through a screening process, and only the ones deemed “Godly” made it into our hands. Mind you I am not saying this is all bad, Lord knows how tuned in kids are today to their i Pods  iPhones TV’s and lap tops meanwhile their brains are rotting inside their little heads, and ours right along with them I’m afraid. But I digress…

We were very lucky little children to be blessed with a Story Lady beyond compare. This woman dedicated her every waking hour to the children, feeding them, clothing them, giving them the extra love they needed. She had a gift of knowing which children needed her most at any given time. I was one of the fortunate’s to get a great deal of her time, she was like the ever present auntie making sure I didn't fall through the cracks at bustling mealtimes, and gave me the extra attention and love I craved. I was a very shy confused child due to complicated custody battles and a lot of moving around. She was a stable loving parental figure to me that always seemed to show up at the right times and make my childhood magic. I think any child who received her attention thought they were the center of her world, I certainly did.

But these gifts were beside her very shining gift of storytelling. When it was time for one of her magical tales, we would all gather around her in a Semi circle, looking on in rapt attention waiting to find out what would happen next. I will tell you what happened next, a cast of rich characters, each with their own voice, the heroes and heroines were pulled from her audience, we were the stars of her tales! We would wind our way through adventure after adventure and they always concluded with a very important moral lesson. If you were incredibly misbehaved, this would come out in her story and everyone would have a good laugh at your expense, so that you might not behave badly again in the future. This was done with such grace and humor as to not actually humiliate the child, just to make him or her think about their behavior.
Story time in the back of the bus

On our biggest occasions there would be an entire theater production put on. There was a fabulous homemade portable stage in the form of a castle, and beautiful puppets all handmade by commune members. These productions were put on by the Story Lady, a few of her talented cohorts from the community and a handful of brave children. She even convinced me the world’s biggest wall flower, to perform in a play at the mall once. (I had one line)These occasions were usually a big deal and they went all out, pie in the face of an audience member, laughter, pranks, musical numbers, and as always a moral lesson.

I am happy to say, I have been lucky enough to include her in my own children’s lives, and when she does appear, my boy's eyes light up just as I am sure mine did when I was young. I am quite sure she has secretly told them stories of their mother and her childhood infractions just to see them giggle at the fact I may have miss behaved.
Puppet Show!

She passed on a fabulous tradition of oral storytelling, and a love of theater and performance arts, to many of us children, and continues to do so today.  I believe we were very lucky to have such a person in our midst spreading her joy and magic, just as if she could still see through a Child's eyes.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Endless Summer Days

Endless Summer Day
One of my favorite places in the world as a child was the orchards in China bend. (One of the communes far flung properties in the Northeast corner of Washington) There were two orchards, one on each side of a grass and dirt road, more like a glorified pathway. Much of the walk to the orchard was shaded by hazelnut bushes, pine and Aspen trees. This made the walk a cool escape from the 90 to 100 degree summer temperatures. There was also a spring of cool clear water along the way which made this destination particularly appetizing in the heat of summer. On the uphill side there was a giant gnarled mulberry tree that seemed to drip with berries when in season. The apple trees were all ancient and yielded scabby, small, but delicious fruit. Free range cows often came here to eat the ground fall and one of our childhood games was to drop apples into the cow pies, disgusting I know, but somehow very amusing and satisfying to our childish minds. The downhill orchard on the other side of road contained my favorite spot. There was what remained of what I assumed to be a pioneer cabin. Just the bottom two or three logs, that had been filled in with soil over time forming a little earthen platform. To one side was an impressively overgrown lilac bush that smelled most amazing when in bloom. As children we loved to spend an afternoon there picking fruit, and climbing trees, we often packed our lunch and made a day of it.
The bears loved the orchard as well as we did, and were sighted there on more than one occasion. One day my mother had taken us children to pick apples and have lunch. We laid out our blanket and ate our lunch. We then decided to go to the lower orchard to play before going home. When we returned to get our things, a large brown bear was checking out our picnic! It noticed us at the same time we noticed him, and lumbered off peacefully into the woods. We just stood stock still, while he walked away, and you can bet we waited a goodly amount of time before collecting our picnic.
If you continued down the steep hill through the fruit trees and down small embankment you came out in a large sunny field. Across this field lay the mighty Columbia. We had many spots along the river we played and this spot was particularly interesting to me because it was as far up the river as we ever went. It also had sparkling black sand on parts of the beach. It was as if we were at the end of the world and what lay beyond was always a mystery. We played there with the words of caution still ringing in our head to stay on the beach and not go into the thick shrubs where poison ivy grew in large patches.  I did have a nasty encounter with the poison Ivy once but that is a story for another time.
Many creeks joined the river along our little stretch and these were our favored places to play. The pleasure of digging our little trenches in the sand and redirecting the water on its way to the river was endless entertainment. Often times we worked silently, as children do when they are immersed in their play. Other times our small voices and laughter would pierce the air. I can still feel the sun warming the top of my head as I submerged my arms in the creek mud, scooping out large piles to make way for the trickling water.  The mud would dry cracking and tightening on my skin.  I don’t believe we spent very much time wearing clothes in the summer months; we lived blissfully cut off from the outside world. The air was filled with the smell of mud and river weed, smells that can still bring me back to those satisfying moments.
Playing at the river was cooling, but the summer the sun could bake you dry by the time you came home again. There was nothing like a nap on blanket under a hazelnut bush, in the heat of the day. Lying there blissfully tired, I could hear the buzzing of insects, the distant sound of someone’s voice, and my mother turning the page of a book.  I could smell the warm pine needles and faint hint of the river on my skin. That was the kind of peace that permeated the soul, and one could not help but feel peaceful here, on those seemingly endless summer days.