Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bittersweet Repose

There is a space between sleep and wakefulness, when you have slept the deep slumber of a person exhausted by the racing of their own mind. A space where your regrets and mistakes both real and imagined, your unrealized ambitions rise up to haunt you. Sometimes you see clearly what it is you should be doing with your life, or the reparations you should be making to others, or the brilliant idea, the artistic expression that will cleanse your soul.  But you are powerless to move your limbs, to speak, to take action. You have been given an answer, and your greatest desire is to use this elusive resolve.
But as you begin to come into consciousness, those haunting half dreams, the clarity of those answers begin to fade, slipping back into your subconscious. You are left to try to groggily recall what it was you were shown. With heavy lidded eyes, and slow moving limbs, you climb from your warm repose trying desperately to cling to the inspiration, or resolution you know was just there moments ago. Now it is tickling the back of your mind, half formed, like a puzzle with missing pieces, hopelessly veiled in the space between sleep and wakefulness. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Soul Sister

One day when I was about 12, my mother told me she was going to have another baby. I was angry, how could she do such a thing without my permission? I don't know if that is the usual reaction of a 12 year old, or if it was just me. I was an angry confused young lady who had had a pretty rough start in my life thus far.
I already had 2 little brothers; the eldest was a crazy haired, scrawny, introspective and opinionated 8 year old. He was not particularly outspoken, but had a firm sense of what he thought right and wrong and we fought all the time.  He is the same way today (without the fighting) and everyone loves him dearly for his thoughtfulness and levelheadedness.
The youngest was around 2 or 3 years old, cherub faced with jet black hair, rosy cheeks, and piercing blue eyes. He had a never ending curiosity and propensity for finding trouble.  And you guessed it; he is the same way today. He is extremely intelligent and can figure out just about whatever mechanical/electrical problem you put in front of him and something about him makes you want to hug him.
So at 12 years old, I thought our family had had about enough of babies and found no reason another should be added.  I fumed about this until my mom began to show, it was then I realized there was a tiny being in there that was just waiting to come and meet the world. As I grew accustomed to the idea I began to get excited, I helped to go through the hand me down baby cloths, (there were a lot, there was no prenatal doctor visits and certainly no knowledge of the sex of the baby) and began to imagine what my new baby brother or sister may be like.
As the day grew near I stayed close, having been promised to be able to see the birth, the anticipation was unbearable! But the temptation of friends and sleepovers eventually won out and it was on just such an evening my baby sister was born.
I was awoken from a dead sleep at my friends house, and told to get up quick and come home, my mother was having the baby. You can bet I shot out of bed and rushed home as fast as I could…only to find the baby girl had already arrived. But the thrill of meeting her the first time alleviated any disappointment I may have had.
There she was, all pink and squished with a shock of thick black hair on the top of her head and soft black fuzz on her back and shoulders just like a little monkey, and I loved her.
From that very moment we have been almost inseparable, I changed her diapers, fed her, and sang her to sleep. (She even slept in my room as a toddler, with her fat little feet planted squarely in my face).
Over our lifetimes we have forged a strong and loving relationship, she calls me Sister Mama, and for my part she is the daughter I never had. We can finish each other’s sentences, get each other’s often crass, very dry and witty humor, and we would do absolutely anything to keep the other from being hurt.
For many years I did my best to protect her from whatever I could, took her under my wing, and made sure she had the things she needed even after I had left home and got married. Consciously or unconsciously I took her on as my charge.
And what I got in return is priceless. Today she is a bright, compassionate, thoughtful young lady who has a heart of gold and her head on her shoulders right where it belongs. Every moment I spent playing patty cake, or tea party, shopping for her first bra, talking about boys, being the holder of secrets and dryer of tears, has paid off tenfold.
Today, she is the holder of my secrets, the dryer of my tears, laughs at my jokes and listens to my rants. She has the wisest most thoughtful advice you will ever hear, and not one judgmental bone in her body. In my darkest moments it is her voice that soothes me.
Everybody who knows her loves her for her easy laugh, sense of humor, and generous spirit.  (And her dance moves are unmatched).If she doesn't know it already I would like her to know that she is indeed my hero, and probably a hero to many others and more to come.  I could not be prouder of her, or love her more,  if I tried.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Legacy of Violence

My mother was a battered woman, in every sense of the word. She was verbally abused, threatened, manipulated and physically abused. She lived in an environment of fear and helplessness he created to control her. He needed to control her because of his own insecurity and pain. The situation was a vicious circle.
Eventually, my mother ran, literally, in the middle of the night feigning a run to the store for presto logs. She was at the time heavily pregnant with me,  and leaving two young children with him. That is the level of fear she lived in. So afraid, so helpless she left without her children. This is something I know not many people can understand; leaving your children. It was difficult and painful and done out of sheer desperation. I watched that decision torture her all of her adult life. That decision, and the fact she had been broken down physically and mentally, seeped into every aspect of her life. The raising of her children, whom she chose as partners, everything was tainted with either guilt or fear.
She did fight to get them back through the court system, but he was a smooth talking convincing man and she was unable to win against him. This in and of itself took a great deal of bravery on her part. He was supposed to share custody, but somewhere along the way, through fear and manipulation, that never happened. My mother and I were separated from my two siblings for 20 years.
Violence against women, why does it happen? Is it the message society has fed us for so many years, that women are weaker, subordinate to men? How is it that a man can lift his hand, or lash out with violent and cutting words, to someone he professes to love? Is this a subconscious urge to control? A need to assert power? Superiority?
Whatever the answers are, it's past time to educate people, and to provide rescue for women from these horrible situations.  Because, even after a woman is removed, and years have gone by, there are still wounds that won’t heal. It is a far reaching and terribly damaging experience for any human to go through. Mentally imprisoned, and sometimes even physically. Post traumatic Stress is a very real repercussion for these women and their children.
I hope that before anyone judges a woman as weak, or stupid, or asks "why doesn't she just leave?" when they go back to the abusers, you must understand the level of manipulation and fear that has been leveled against them. It takes an incredibly strong woman with a network of people assisting them to get out of abusive relationships. Something the abuser has spent years breaking down and taking away.
Often the children of these relationships come away with anxiety, stress and fear. The girls choosing abusive men because that’s what they recognize of love, and boys abusing the women in their lives. This is a cycle that must end.
In our family, for the most part, we escaped but not without damage. Some of us narrowly avoiding the cycle. My first choice for a boyfriend was verbally abusive at the least, and at the very end pushed me down and put his hands around my throat. That was a turning point for me. It was then that I decided I would not allow a man to treat me like that ever again. At that time I did not understand the psychology behind the choices I was making. 
All the members of our broken family have dealt with the repercussions of our legacy in our own way, suffering from anxiety, depression, phobias, self medicating and other issues. But for the most part we have healed the best we can.

My point is this, batterers crimes are far reaching, and don’t stop when the battering stops. Society needs to step up, and better educate the populace on this issue, we need to fund programs for women to get out and get safe. To provide for them ways to keep their children together and make available food and shelter. These women are in essence victims of war, refugees in their own country. These women should be able to leave, without fear of losing their children, their homes, and their lives. It’s time for those who batter to be held accountable, not the victims.  I will share a link to my mother’s blog where she writes briefly about her experience.