Swirling seas : more reflections on trauma

Maybe there are oceans inside of us. Perhaps everything is not as solid as it seems.  I have experienced so powerfully since my 5 weeks of radiation for breast cancer last year how fluid the energy in my body is. When I was reading parts of Peter Levine’s book on trauma earlier this week he explained that part of his work involves getting us back in touch with this sense of the body as vibration and to feel our way into how it sings or pulls or tears or hurts or vibrates as a living energy that is not fixed and can oscillate and change.  Also to notice how pain is often a contraction and if we do not resist that contraction and stay with it mindfully in time contraction can change to expansion and release/letting go.

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It is coming up both to my Dad’ birthday anniversary as well as the anniversary of my accident when I was only 17 in about 12 days.  I am aware of how my body still carries this shock trauma energy of expansion and contraction deep inside.  I had a repeat of the accident when I was 41 after a session of cranio sacral where I went back ‘in’  I watched things from outside of my body and saw the grief my parents went through. Dad only got to the hospital after I was taken by the ambulance but Mum came to the scene of it.  When they wheeled me past Dad he didn’t recognise me, I was so lacerated and cut up.  I was also screaming ‘let me die’ which was a pretty extreme reaction. He was so upset and I grieved in that session not only for what I went through but what my parents went through. The dramatic way I cried out also showed two things 1) I was resisting what was happening to me and 2) at that stage I felt very alone and didn’t really want to be alive (a lot was going down for me prior to the crash!).

Anyway the whole thing repeated in 2005 with me over the other side of the world. In many ways I wish I didn’t have the session then.  An astrologer who specialises in near death and trauma said to me that often its difficult to work with these old events in certain ways as they can be retriggered, sometimes, she said, we are best to leave the wound alone and mindfully send it love.  I am older and wiser now, however in 2005 the whole thing just opened up for me again and I got badly hurt.  In many ways I am still coming back from the trauma of that time that still lives in my body, as well as the grief I have that such a choice led to more damage and pain.

Peter Levine’s work with helping the traumatised to unpack it involves inner work to try to tolerate the strong sensations trauma leaves in the body without dissociating (which is what we usually do in trauma!)   It involves putting the focus on those sensations for a time which hurt or repel or are painful and then swinging or what he calls ‘pendulating’ awareness onto something positive and warm and life affirming.  This is to counterbalance the extreme fixing, pinning or magnetising affect trauma can have on our body/mind and psyche.

Lately I am aware of how much I have dwelt in and on my trauma over the past 20 years.  I have literally allowed it to ‘pin’ me and breaking out of that repetitive feedback loop of focus on body symptoms and negative thoughts or thoughts of doom that can recycle is taking me time.  Lately I am fed up with the way trauma has limited my life.  I am seeing things about the way I have dealt with it which have not always helped me.  I am also seeing how I spend a lot of time ‘running’ on an energy level instead of settling.  This the amped up sense I carry inside that death and danger is close and its urgent that I keep things rolling.  In fact I was listening to the lyrics of an old song by Foreigner last week that goes “urgent, urgent, urgent, emergency” several times in the chorus and thinking how often that speaks to how I can run my energy.

At the same time I am aware that movement towards positive behaviours, such as forcing my body out into the sunshine or wooded fields for a walk with Jasper, or making effort to pick up the phone and call that caring friend instead of ruminating in fear about how it would be better to keep up a distance and stay safe is essential for me.

One of the most damaging things about trauma is that it can lead us to freeze and get immobilised.  Peter Levine addresses this issue at depth in his first book Waking the Tiger.   Animals can play dead but then they get a burst of energy to get up and escape from the predator that wants to eat them.  If our trauma comes from abuse we need to be able to take action to move rather than become passive, or develop what Peter Walker calls ‘a fawn defence’.  Staying powerless and passive will not help us much and may lead to chronic illnesses.

Anyway it takes time to realise all of these things about trauma.  It takes time to be able to consciously shift our focus in such a way, not to deny the impact of painful effects but to release the powerful hold they can have over our thinking, energy and perception.  It takes time to begin to find the goodness again, to discover the things that we can focus on that don’t amp up our pain, but rather soothe it, that don’t keep it running over and over again on a repetitive feedback loop.  It also takes time to find those who understand just what a huge impact trauma has, for if we are lucky enough to find someone willing to be with our traumatised body in full presence we are more likely to be able to unravel from the painful effects of trauma and soothe them, than if we are treated callously or with a lack of empathy.

Peter Levine himself had a serious accident when he was young.  He sites the fact that he didn’t develop full blown PTSD to the fact that a woman was there by the side of the road when he had the accident and she sat with him, held his hand and helped to soothe his distress.  The last thing anyone with trauma needs to be told is that it doesn’t hurt, or that we should be over it.  But that is just what happens to us when confronted with our trauma others freak out or feel too confronted or threatened  It can take us some time to realise in this situation that this is a failure on the behalf of others, as trauma survivors we are more than likely to be hard on ourselves and blame ourselves which only makes living as a trauma survivor 1,000 times worse.

In my own case I think the reason I have struggled to heal over 12 years from that second accident in 2005 is that over that time I was rejected for trauma symptoms or misunderstood.    That made healing myself extra hard.  I was emotionally abused in the last relationship I had for my trauma symptoms and I can still side with my abuser in seeing how difficult it was for him.  It was a failure of empathy on one level, but I can still understand how challenging it is for other to see trauma survivors fixed to dark places when the impact of trauma or abuse still possesses us so completely at times.

Last week my therapist said something interesting to me.  It was this. “It is important that you know both how to be in the underworld but also how to get out of it.”  That made a lot of sense to me.  Those of us who have undergone dark things can get so overpowered by those dark experiences as well as the feelings of powerlessness they can leave that we can almost be consumed by our own personal hell and underworld at times.  When we are down in the dark and lightless, loveless place it is hard to believe there still is a sun shining above ground and a meadow full of flowers we can skip through.  What brings the faith back in that goodness must surely involve someone who can empathise with us and hold our hands in the dark but also not buy in too strongly to our thoughts of doom.  That person themselves needs to have a goodness and active energy around them that can embrace both polarities of dark and light.   For really they are just two sides of life and those of us who have known the dark may have had to visit it in order to know just how valuable and essential light, empathy and love are   Hopefully our own lessons in the dark mean we can be there for others to hold a light up when despair seems to become so overpowering.   I certainly hope so.

Coming to peace : reflections on the past week

I woke to streaming sunlight this morning.  I was aware of what a huge wave had been building to carry me through another ancestral swell over the past week.  Before the visit of my nephew and my family I was waking up around 4.30 or 5.30 and unable to get back to sleep.  While they were here I was conscious of how many different levels my being and body was operating on.  Any visit by one of my four nephews who were disconnected both from my sister and I after her abandonment is a huge thing for me.  After all these four boys were close to age to me than my own siblings.  We laughed and played together and is funny as I just thought I re-experienced that on the weekend when I played with my nephew’s two youngest boys.  The older son is around the age my older nephew was when his mother had the cerebral bleed that tore us all apart.

I struggled so much on Saturday with the abandonment feelings not only of my own but through reflection on how they have played out over 5 generations.  In my own case my sobriety and work on my own addiction and recovery has given me deeper insight into dynamics and I also have the added burden or awareness of knowing the ancestral history.  I struggle to be known to this particular nephew as he keeps in touch more with my mother and what she says to him about me I am not sure.  I struggled on the weekend to know how much connection to have and I felt the conflict of that as on the Saturday I held my self back as I had offered to take my nephew to the cemetery and I knew that was going to be a big deal for both of us so I felt I needed my time out with my dog.  But deeper inside I was so aware of the inner child in me who longed for so much love and connection of a deeper kind.  We came close to that at the cemetery when we both had an arm around each other as we stood and wept.  Its hard though because I am the emotional one and I didn’t want my pain to eclipse the pain of others,

Anyway we did connect a little and I managed to share with my nephew’s wife a little about my recovery from addiction as the subject of booze and drugs came up as we were discussing the painful impact.  For those of you who don’t know my sister abused alcohol but this came more out of survival drive and a degree of emotional neglect, my parents were very poor when they returned to live in Australia after the end of the Second World War and had to work very hard,  too hard in the end, ambition destroyed both my sister and my father (well more the painful aftermath that hit my sister in my Dad’s case when she had the cerebral bleed and was weeks in a coma he was the one sitting by the bedside holding her hand and talking to her even though the doctors told him she could not hear – not true!)  She did come back but what happened to her at the hands of my brother in law almost destroyed her life and in the end it broke her emotionally.

As I write that though I am not daring to blame my brother in law.  He did the best he could but he was a runner, he didn’t face up or talk about what help he needed he just took them all off to the land of our ancestors and in the end the boys had to leave home and fend for themselves.  There is a karmic repeat theme in even this though.  And he may have even been having an affair around the time my sister had the stroke.  He had the woman shacked up to fly over too and he knew that when he took my sister from her home and away from us in 1981.  We will never know as he never spoke about those years even to his sons.  As he lay dying a few years ago he would only say, “I didn’t do very well by your mother.”

I have to be aware of the terrible burden all of those boys carry in different ways.  At times I get so caught up in the feelings around my sister and her life that I forget about them.  But even as I write this I am aware too of how much I need to bring the focus back on my own life.  So much of it has been dominated by this family trauma to the extent that two major relationships went to the wall.  I had the option to live my life in the UK 13 years back but I could not, at that point leave my Mum and sister alone.

I was reading back on some journals too, last night about the time things were breaking apart with my husband.  I put him in a difficult situation by asking that we come back to Oz then changing my mind and not being able to be close to my Mum in terms of living in the same town.  It is very hard to have emotions around my mother who puts them aside all of the time with practicalities.  It all ended up with me alone in a collapse nearly buried under the weight of it all.  I am only now really beginning to get any insight into what occurred in 2004 with the break up and the aftermath in which I had two major accidents.  It might sound strange or out there to some readers but I feel on some level the ancestors were always calling me back here to Australia and even called me over to the UK before in order that I could honour their hidden emotional history.  Why did my sister end up marrying a New Zealander when that was where our ancestors migrated to in 1874?  Why was she taken back there and away from us when she first married in 1965 when I was only 3?  Why was that the place she ended up in an asylum put there by her husband to get her out of the way when my Great Great Grandfather also ended up in some kind of institution in New Zealand?  Many years ago a lady who did spiritual ancestral healing work told me “your sister isn’t bi polar she is living out a generational wound/split”.  I firmly believe that to be true.

Anyway family history is such a gigantic Gordian knot of a thing.  The fates in mythology weave it onwards and we in later years may be the one’s bequeathed the task of the unravelling or at least the ones of us in the family with a strong Saturnian (or ancestral) link.  And yet even as I write that part of me asks “are you really meant to unravel this mystery or are you meant to put the knotted ball of fate/karma down?”

Big wave washed over us in the last week following the eclipse on the 22nd.  It was about my Uranus in the first house and Uranus is the force that both severs and enlightens.  It may be the force that asks us to see where the splits of leaving in terms of pursuing freedom may even have led to a deeper unconscious bondage and those words just came to me so I will have to reflect on them.

I was listening to part of a scientific programme on the nature of time yesterday and what the scientist was saying is that past and present are both realities.  We are told all the time that we need to let the past go or leave it alone but the truth is the past is here with us at every moment.  Our challenging task, as I see it now, is to be able to live in the present with full awareness of the impact of the past but not drowned by it.  Losses challenge us because they take from us in the present something we love and then seem to relegate that loved one or object to the past but really what has happened is just that the nature of the relationship has changed form.  In my own case I speak to my ancestors who have passed on all the time.  Often I feel them around me in meditation or I call on their help and remember their emotional lines when I am going through my own challenges.  Often in deep despair I feel the imprints of their own deeper suffering bleeding through into my own.  I know this as a fact I am made of DNA that came from their DNA encoded by their own sufferings, trials, loves, losses, adventures and experiences.  Knowing the past helps me to understand and grow in awareness, so how does “putting it all behind me” help?  To be honest I think what I have needed is to make my peace with it.  Even this morning as I lay in bed crying over things from the past I centred in my heart and held myself tenderly in the midst of the pain and comforted myself with these words “you did the best you could at the time, you struggled with such enormous things, know this darling its all okay, you are safe, you are loved and you are growing even if your inner critic doesn’t want you to know it” and golly how well my body responded to those words and that is when I realised that how we speak to ourselves and what we say affects every single cell in our body, so why not give love, why not find peace, why not just be the witness to it all as it unfurls before us, this mysterious tangle of experiences and suffering that we call life?

Dark Night : reflections on a dream, a fated meeting, and the leaving that sent me home

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Dark night you came down on my soul.  I was taken to a place beyond words, a living experience of experiences past all jumbled up into an inner soup of mixed up hurting and longing, no longer knowing where to turn but within, only feeling deep pain and at times not even that : just a bloody field of wreckage in which dead carcasses of cows littering ancestral fields haunted the landscape of my soul.

When I reflect on that, which was a pure dream image summoned from my inner depths at the time just days before we both embarked for the land of our ancestors and as I look back now on the experiences we had there with your own family pain I see a deep message from the collective unconscious.  Cow = Taurus = Self worth, inner feminine, mother and feeling values, nature and contentment all shattered on a collective battle field of suffering our ancestors grew out of.

I think of your father suffering through a life in which he could not live his true dream living with a woman who seemed so bitter and angry until the cancer laid claim to his insides.  Exactly what miracle of destiny was it that led me on a cold winter night on the way home with an inner message to go back to a certain hotel?  It was there that I met you and not many hours later after that first meeting we would discover that we both lost our fathers to cancer within a year.   You were one year younger and your partner abandoned you then also and you too went travelling, feeling so bereft and alone.  We were both only 23 and that was 8 years before our meeting.  My heart aches.  We were only meant to travel so far down the road, together.  I am sorry. It wasn’t our fault!

Slaughtered cows lying on ancestral field, bleeding spent life blood, love and self value onto green fields, a metaphor for so many things : for how it felt for you to be dragged back to the place where you struggled to birth your own sense of power and potency out of the wreckage of a wounded father and mother, a country trying to tell you that as a humble gardener you were not worth much.  And it occurs to me too in the editing that your father’s brother was the golden child, your Dad only got the scraps.

Here in Australia you were valued, but something inside the partner you chose was pulling you back to face something deeply unresolved.   There in England my grief broke open after 7 years of sobriety.  Your family didn’t like it, you wanted back ‘the happy girl you married’ but I had such a long journey to take back to her.   In the end we were torn apart.  Dark night, how you descended with his leaving, deep soul ache of remembering how many leavings and deaths there were in relationship with men for me but the first leaving was my sister who carried so much of the light in our dark, duty bound family where so little joy could live.

I remember today the blue tin box you gave me at the airport as you bid me goodbye, with enough money for a horse ride on the beach I never took.   I know you loved me so much you had to let me go, how our souls were aching.  I am so sorry, but it had to be, it really did and I miss you but we were a dream and I had to find my deeper reality that led over  a long road littered with boulders and stones shown in another dream just days before you told me you were leaving and no longer loved this sad me.

The ways of the soul are so mysterious, fate plays out and you don’t know where it is taking you.  You make your choices without all the information and the cards fall where they will.  You play your hand as best you can and sometimes you have to give up the game, throwing in your hand and turning up your palms to heaven waiting for something new to birth deep within what feels like a deeply barren place.

When all seems most lost then perhaps you stand with one foot poised on the edge of a most massive discovery. Its truth may be hard to swallow but nevertheless you drink it down over years, it scalds your insides.  But one day it has passed through, your scarred insides have healed and a bright day dawns on which your remember it all with awe in a state of surrender seeing so much more clearly how and why it all turned out as it did, knowing there was such innocent young hope of love beating in both hearts then, but knowing also how much a true deep love really costs and how much that price can only be paid by a consciousness that has been strong and patient enough to endure the fire and weather the storm to birth realisations that could have never come without the necessary losses and the necessary suffering that the reaching for love and understanding of love’s tangled ways birth over years of long journeying and heartbreak/soul ache.

Bright day, you stream your love though my window filtered through golden rose leaves of pom pom tree reminding me of how gorgeous nature is, how my love of it was what drew me to you and to England in the first place.  Wrapped in a cosy blanket I shed such deep tears for all that was lost while a wiser part of me sees through all the illusion involved in the feeling that something true was really lost.  For what is most true can never be lost.  And it is often in the depths of our very real suffering that real truth and wisdom is born.  Our individuated self is created through forming a body of substance which over years has the capacity to bear with, contain and bear witness to painful truths that reveal at depth a far more profound reality than innocent young souls could ever know.

And love goes on, is what in the end has the capacity to endure and to say an unconditional “yes” to it all, to this at times mixed up complicated experience that is life.  And it occurs to me that love is the witness, it is the writer, it is the one who has the capacity to observe it from a distance bearing witness to what the soul and consciousness shapes out of life giving it form, shaping it into a vessel of expression.

 

The hardest time of day

I am becoming more aware lately of how this time of day, 5pm to 7pm is often the hardest time of day for me.  I was born at 7:10 pm and I am not entirely sure how that is related only to say I can get a tightness in my chest and start to feel deep, deep loneliness and sadness at this time of day.  Leading up to this over the past four or so months I became aware that at this time of day I tend to stuff my face with some kind of snack.  Lately I have been trying to make it a healthy snack but eating in a compulsive way, even if what you are eating is good for you is not the best idea.  Today after a tough day where I finally got out to the park around 3 pm and didn’t eat much more than an apple to clear my system out I went to the fruit and veg markets.  I needed some Brazil Nuts and I slowly and very mindfully at 3 of them remembering to breathe.  I then got home and swept up some of the autumn leaves but a lot was going on inwardly within, memories of how the trees shed in this way in the days leading up to my sister’s funeral in 2014.  Deeper memories are there of how my life also began to fall apart in 1990 towards the tail end of my days of active addiction when I woke with stomach pains in the middle of the night and being unable to rouse my them partner drove myself to emergency,  I had an ectopic pregnancy which had to be aborted and the trauma tore my relationship apart.  Within a few weeks I was out of the group house I shared and back with my godparents and then later in a new unit and my relationship briefly resumed only to hit the wall and then I gave up my job and the darkest years of my addiction followed.

I am very aware that I am not there now.  But I will always have a life that has been marked by trauma.  I had at that time already been through three terminations of pregnancy.  In the early years of recovery and sobriety when I undertook my first therapy I wrote a letter to each child that never got to live and named them.  I asked their forgiveness for not being able to bring them into the world and explained why.  I grieved them over years and have acceptance now over my choices. But as autumn draws in darker memories are near and this afternoon I am making the conscious choice to keep my ‘eating’ to a minimum and wait for an early dinner.  I am also choosing to blog about it more for myself, for I am sure it will be boring to some readers or they may even judge, nevertheless I make the intention in this blog to be as honest as I really can about what I am going through.

I am in the cosy living room now.  Jasper has just had a bone and its time to get us both dinner.  I haven’t had a panic attack yet and I usually get them religiously between 5 and 7.  Today I also chose to politely end the conversation with my Mum when she told me I was being ‘ridiculous’ for being traumatised by the events of the past my brother brought up yesterday, she also would not give me further information about something that would have helped me put more pieces in place and I am learning that everyone in the family has their own take on things and Mum is invested in not really owning up to all of her shortcomings.  That is her business, not mine.  I just need to detach otherwise it really hurts too much.

I have written a fair few posts today.  I have needed to.  Mars planet of action moved into Gemini planet of siblings and communication a day or so ago.  Its hitting my Chiron and it explains how what my brother bought up yesterday triggered essential placements of Mars planets in my Mum and sister and dead father’s charts.  I don’t know how astrology works only that when something get triggers I see it in the charts and Mars being in Gemini would suggest its good to communicate about it and get it out in the open which is not something my Mum or sister really want to do.  That much I realised last night when I got no support from my sister to understand things and anyway I was defending Mum at the time which was not right.

I have to keep reminding myself it is okay to reach for understanding of my family, the past and family dynamics.  I was very young when so much went down and had not a lot of way to make sense of it.  I can shame and judge myself for my struggle to make sense and there are some things I will never know.  But in expressing I get to contain my feelings to a degree and make sense of them, which helps me be not as unconsciously overwhelmed as I can be at times. I feel less sad now simply for writing this post at this time of day.  If I can bring my patterns to better consciousness and not over eat at this time my panic attacks may just stop, so this process is, in the end, essentially for me.

An agent of destruction

My godmother died yesterday.  Her death has provoked so many memories.  In the later years of her life we were estranged after years in which she and my godfather tried to support me at times when my emotionally unavailable parents failed to.  It was with her I lived for a short time after returning to Australia to live a few years after my father died.  As I look back to that time I see the deep, deep pain my young adult self was in and the wreckage she had already begun to live at that state at the age of 25 in the early stages of my alcoholism.  I was hungry and empty and longing for love and a present family and parents and my god parents gave me some of this.  However, emotionally it was my godfather, Piet who really saw into the depths of me and validated why I needed to turn to alcohol in the family I grew up in, he gave me the missing love and understanding I never got from my father.

Piet left Holland in 1938 with my father and they both went to the Dutch East Indies and he told me in later years of my father’s relentless dream to become a millionaire, in later years he did not see my father as much as Uncle Piet was only ever a ‘lowly’ mechanic and I loved him so much for that and use the word ‘lowly’ to describe how society might view a person who was more real than real and had a heart of gold and who I admire more than any millionaire in the world.

My godfather was the soft emotional one, my godmother was harder having had a very tough childhood and having lost a brother to suicide at a young age, she had to bury her pain under a lot of stoicism and philosophy.  In later years she turned to yoga to find peace but there was always a hardness in her and she shut down in later years and had my godfather diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when really it was just the pain of his own deep childhood abandonment having lost a mother very young that came to the surface and began to manifest in anger and clinging.

Anyway the story of my connection to them both would take many pages, and in the later years we were less connected especially after Piet died in 2003 and my marriage broke up the following year.

In the later years my quest for love took me into a very dysfunctional relationship and it was to my godmother that I turned in 2011 when that relationship finally hit the wall all around the anniversary of my father’s death.  My emotional wounds and inner child’s emotional abandonment was so close to the surface and I ran to Sydney and away from my home town after a fight with my Mum when she callously mocked me for grieving.  My godmother took me in but she didn’t understand any of the emotional side of what I was going through and so, at that time and I must say in a lot of pain, I turned to internet dating thinking that if only I could find another man to love me everything would be okay. I now see the fallacy of that, my real inner work had to begin with the ending of that relationship in 2010.  My godmother turned on me one day and said I had to leave her place the next day, as her grandson was coming and that was not true as she had a spare bed and room for both of us.  I was distraught and ended up moving to a boarding house and then into a share house with an abusive alcoholic before finally returning to my home town 6 months later.  It was hard to forgive my godmother for not supporting me at the time I most needed it but I don’t resent her for it as much any more, it was what she felt she needed to do and what she did put me in a deeply painful place .  For some time I turned towards more dysfunction as a result.  Now I see that then I was on the brink of my deepest wound and emotional work in recovery, emotionally I needed to take care of myself but that would take some time and a lot more realisation to happen.

Death of someone is very final but I guess it is not the end of the relationship we had with them that lives on in our inner life and soul.  I spoke to my godmother last night in my soul and shared with her the tears and pain of how hard it was to be abandoned emotionally again by the one person I hoped to trust, but while my tears fell I saw she did the best she could from her level of consciousness.  Speaking to her daughter a moment ago and hearing how she suffered at my godmother’ s hands from her harshness and emotional shut down confirmed so much for me.  It was that generation’s way of coping and my godmother shut down on so much, so of course she had to shut me out and send me away into the wilderness, that was all part of my journey.

My godmother and my mother were best friends. I feel so deeply for my Mum today.  She has lost her best friend after 70 years of friendship and today she has responsibilities due to the debacle with the property we bought at auction to deal with on the back of her grief.  I started this post with the heading An Agent of Destruction because sharing about all this with my therapist this morning that is how I feel.  I feel bad due to what happened with my godmother, even though I was only seeking a place to protected and cared for, I feel so bad about what happened with the property even though that all happened too because I didn’t really have adequate protection and care from outside or inside.  I am not a destroyer and I am not bad, but that is how it sometimes feels.

I was reading something about blame, struggle, grief and suffering in a book by Buddhist Teacher Londro Rinzler last night in which a student had gone to a Zen teacher crying over all of their heart break and saying to the Rishi “Why, why, why”, the teacher looked at him and just said “no reason”.  That really made me realise how much we make up about the reasons why something happened, how habituated and conditioned we are to look for someone to blame at times (most often ourselves) and how often we cause so much further suffering by not just sitting still and feeling what we need to feel and letting go into and learning, but insteaed thinking, thinking, thinking and questioning in such as way as we get tied up in knots and experience even more the suffering of suffering.

Do we need to create more suffering by the way we react to our suffering?  Is there a point where we can let others off the hook?  Can we also understand that at times there are reasons but the reasons we make up are off base and don’t have to focus on projections of badness and blame?  Are there ways we can show each other more tenderness, mercy and compassion.  These I feel are such important questions to ponder and amidst them they allow me to enter my heart and be with my own and other’s suffering in a way that doesn’t end up creating more suffering through judgement.

 

 

Deep, deep day

I woke to rainy skies today.  I woke in a peaceful place before PTSD flashback started to work its way through my body psyche trying to keep me pinned. It took 2 hours to get up and shower and sort myself… all those hours to finally touch base with present time, then wow what a wall of sadness came up for me.  But its a kind of bittersweet sadness this morning as I am realising so many, many things I did not see before at a far, far deeper level than I could fully express and there is such a deep, deep gratitude in my soul that I can finally feel my heart beating and its life blood flowing from behind all the defences and protections I have amassed around it for years and years.

I shared yesterday how sad I was to walk along slowly by the church where Mum and Dad were married holding Mum’ s hand as she wobbled to keep her balance and to talk of the fact she will never be well enough or feel safe enough to visit my nephews and their families as we planned to last year.  In two weeks time its the third anniversary of my oldest sister’s death and she died on Easter Sunday so Easter Sunday and the entire easter period will be a big trigger as she was hospitalised on Good Friday in 2014 and all the family had to be called to her bedside as we made the difficult decision to take her off life support after a life of struggle in which in her final years she was finally bedridden in a care home for acquired brain injury.

I can write all of this now without crying bucket loads, which shows to me I have grieved this death in the way I could not grieve the death of my father which occurred exactly 29 years before.  My addiction and lack of emotional support did not enable that grief to begin to surface until I was 6 years sober and that was 14 years after my father died in 1983.  And I see in many ways my recovery journey over the 18 years since then (1999) has been about finding a place where the grief could be recognised and not dismissed containing as it did so many other deep griefs over disconnection with the masculine and struggle to connect spanning years and years and years.  In the process of running I ended up smashing my head open on an iron foundry, taking myself so far away from anyone who knew me and loved me and may have tried to be there.  I have always resented the fact my family did not make the effort to travel overseas to be with me after that accident which in so many ways was the trigger to bring up all my trauma from the original accident I had in 1979 at the age of 17 when I nearly lost my life.

I was discussing the second accident with my therapist on Thursday and I was saying how sad it was that day that I felt the need to have more body therapy to bring up the pain which ended up in my smashing up again, as obviously the unconscious had be retriggered and the body work therapist failed to ground me sufficiently following it.  But also I put it down to lack of protection around me.  Quite simply without recognising it, I had over extended myself due to unresolved grief.   Later the astrologer Melanie Reinhardt who has suffered similar traumas explained how seeking healing for these kind of deep injuries or wounds can sometimes be problematic and retrigger all the earlier trauma, but by then of course it was all too late.  I had very bad PTSD in which I feel my mind and body split severely and I had massive dissociation.

I remember those following months after the accident as wilderness months.  I had a dispute with the family I was living with as they were worried about my PTSD but also didn’t want a person who was suffering living with them as in recent years their daughter had lost a good friend to addiction (which is ironical as at that point I was 11 years sober and would have been a good one to grieve with and talk it all through with) but anyway such is life.  I took myself off to a retreat in Glastonbury which was not a protective retreat at all.  I wont go into it but the good thing that came out of it, here I met others I could cry and share my pain with, most especially the pain that came when my ex husband visited to tell me he was in love with someone else less than one year after we separated because he was lonely.   To me that sucked but then I think he knew how to get what he felt he needed for his own comfort and soon after he had a daughter, I knew my own path lay in healing my past not seeking refuge in another relationships but a few years later I would get into a relationship in which none of my pain could be expressed.

Anyway this post seems to have morphed into a back track over so much of my past journey in the wilderness and brings me to present time in that today I feel I have made so much progress.  I can spend time with my family now and acknowledged the good.  I can also acknowledge that I did not get any of what I really needed there emotionally growing up.  Understanding this helps me most, to no longer self blame.  And having been able to feel the depth of my angry, sadness, frustration, disappointment and grief over the past 5 years and associate these feelings as very natural responses to the suffering I went through rather than the sign of any ‘illness’ as such has been so important.  I see how much we blame and label others welding to them a diagnosis that says everything about symptom and manifestation but little about cause and source and soul reason.  I am so, so lucky with the conscious decision I made in recovery never to take any psychiatric drug at all and find a therapist who isn’t into diagnosing but works in a deeply psychodynamic way.

Its natural for me to feel sad today, but there is also such beauty in being able to let myself rest in that sadness and let it flow our from my heart without any barricades of self admonishment or anger from the past turning the sadness into something else.  Its so healing to know that I am blessed to be a sensitive person who can and does feel deeply and to finally know that isn’t a sign of anything wrong.     I am lucky in that I find full validation with my therapist.  I no longer need to burden other relationships with that demand or need and I can make a conscious choice to have relationships with others who may not be as deeply aware of or accepting of their feelings but sorely benefit when that kind of awareness and acceptance is shown towards them.  And its a such a precious, sweet gift when I do find others who relate from that level and get it and get me and I get them.  Then my heart really does sing and hum with joy.

Happy in the sadness, sadness in the happiness but also a space outside happy sad that is full of life and joy and brimming with sweet possibility.  If I can just keep showing love and get a deeper handle on the way my fears of the past play out and keep me trapped I am well on the way to having the kind of life in which I can always find ways to connect, self nourish and pour that same nourishment out to a world that is so deeply hungry for it.     For as I consider it, it seems to be that all of this pain need to be put to a good purpose.  In the words of Al Anon  when anyone anywhere needs my help or can benefit from my story I hope I will always be there to show them the ways in which suffering fully felt and redeemed can lead to a deeper life of soulful connection and contentment where nothing needs to be erased but can be accepted and contained in a circle of deep compassion and love.

On Death : And Endings

Nighmare

I have stared death in the face many times.  Then reading those words it occurs to me that really I have faced it and felt it put is dark fingers around me also.  There was the accident when all the life was pushed out of me, I was flung forward, lost consciousness and then just awoke with pain struggling to breathe and part of me was asking to die.  There was the loss of my father that was never fully real as the last time I saw him he was in a kind of coma and then the call came at work one morning to say he was gone, no way to say goodbye.  This time several years ago I did not know that I had only a month or so left to visit my sister before she passed.  I was able to visit with her in the final two days of her life before we as a family had to make the decision to take her off life support and set her free.

In a movie I was watching last night one of the older characters said to a younger man, that true love is about letting people go even if that hurts you, if it is best for them.  After spending time silently with her holding her hand and saying “don’t leave me Jude” to my sister, I then said “but if it is your time to go, you must.”

I am very, very conscious today of these deaths and endings as the final throws of summer retreat and we feel the autumnal change stealing in.  After a week of refreshing rain the formerly dusty dry garden has sprung up and wet leaves are littering my back deck.  I look around the place conscious that around the corner a new place beckons to me as a still available possibility.   A part of me tells me its time to put this place to death and let it go because the lunation that we are now in the final week which began with a Solar Eclipse was in contact with Pluto planet of death, impermanence, change and transformation was opposite my first house of new beginnings and conjunct Chiron in Pisces in my seventh which concerns to me all the broken attachments of my past.  Also, I recently read a post by Leah Whitehorse which showed the Autumn Equinox (Spring really if you are in the Northern Hemisphere as herein Oz everything is reversed)has a strong Pluto energy and she explained that the Equinox Chart shows the energy for the new astrological year. We wont have the New Moon in Aries though for a few days.

I just read a post about the void written by a fellow blogger and it really got me to thinking of Pluto which often rules the void, but then so can Neptune which is more a place where we dissolve all the past attachments and can be very, very frightening to face.  Here we face confusion, realise how little we can really hold onto, how impermanent life is and are perhaps reminded painfully of all the times we were so alone or stared death in the face in some form (that’s more Pluto, though). Its deeply painful territory and its hard for our mind to help us through it.  I am not surprised others are feeling that black hole a lot at present as there is apparently too a galactic point of the deep dark hole that sucks everything in and then transforms it. It would be associated to the Goddess energy of Kali in the Hindu tradition, an energy that is so often exiled from our modern consciousness so based in heroic ego ideals of achievement, success and conquest.

Many of us who struggle with depression have to make friends with this darker side of life and its energy.  We don’t get a lot of help with this.  Instead we are made to feel that we are just ‘not normal’.  But we are marked in a way not to really be able to live in ‘normal life’ so easily, most especially if as youngsters we felt ourselves to be unrecognised.

Now it seems we need to find ways and means to recognise ourselves as adults with a very wise inner child, but sometimes just at the moment we reach out or find we need some help with this process we find the help, support, affirmation or validation just isn’t there.  We find ourselves alone again in the deep dark void with no anchor and no solid ground under our feet and feel our deepest existential human dilemma that others less sensitive, less attuned, less porous are insulated from.

I can only say I don’t live in that deep ,dark, void place any more as much as I used to. But I still visit the realms of questioning and uncertainty and I struggle with what to hold onto and what to let go of.  Do I let go of the known loved thing and risk the pain of loss?  Do I convince myself it wont hurt?  Do I feel that perhaps hurt is a necessary stage of a Plutonian life full of many deaths and many endings?  Do I feel this way because its what I knew in the past and is realising this a sign that from a Plutonian level that old pattern needs to be put to death?

There are no easy answers but all I can say is (and what Pluto has taught me) that things do change form, if we can just hold on and hold through it is my experience that light does return again in the void.  But I also know that others don’t survive it and it takes them out.  I only trust and pray that if that is their decision they find the light on the other side.  For dark only seems to fully erase light for a time  and both opposites oscillate as polarities.  All of life universally is about the oscillation of opposites and polarities and this is the paradox, pain and ambiguity we are asked to embrace often on our human spiritual journey of life and death.

Loving old memories as a balm to my soul

What a turn around today.  I am loving some old memories in the pre-trauma days of the mid 70s.  I am listening to some of my favourite songs from then after watching the movie Dirty Dancing last night.  Two of my favourite ‘soft’ ballads are Make it With You by Bread  and Sailing by Christopher Cross. 

Particularly when I listen to the last one I get transported into a soft dream like open space where my heart opens and lets out what is deeply contained within it.  The song softens me, it makes me think of my father for a strange reason and of all that he could not live of what he loved a lot, to be by the water fishing. Sadly he died of cancer before he could take time to kick back and just let go of commitments and relax fully.  I think its one of the reasons he used alcohol, never to excess though, in later life but always two scotches and some wine on every day to wind down.

I must balance these softer feelings with the harshness that I felt as a child being dragged on boating outings to fish beyond the headlands which made me sick and made me long for the beach where I could ride my Zippy board in the waves to my heart’s content until I had tummy rash from the salt and sand on my board.

On these begrudged boating excursions 0ften my sisters would jump ship.  They’d convince Dad to take them back just far enough in for them to swim to shore.  As I remember it I got trapped on the boat, just as I was trapped in the car being left alone in it when they went to the Catalina Country Club for drinks in the lounge where in the later 6os and early 70s children were not allowed. I think my hatred of waiting comes from this time and it echoes with being trapped for a long time in the crushed, crumpled up car in September 1979 with engine pieces all through my legs.

Gosh where did that come from? When I consider the longing tied up in some of the lyrics by Bread it makes sense to me that many of their songs would resonate with me deeply.

I was talking to a friend in the park today.  She was telling me about two random acts of violence by people, one of whom went into the supermarket with an axe and randomly started slicing into people’s faces and hitting them on head. I thought about what frustration and pain these perpetrators must have been feeling.  I then spoke to her about missing the softness of the 70s music in a time when perhaps not as much violence was around.   But what else was simmering away inside us?

I will keep listening to these mellow songs which are a kind of balm for me at present after a week in which inner frustration, pain, grief and anger has been tearing on me and kicking away deeply inside.  I want to remain soft but not deny the pain of what I went through. I feel I need to connect to the hidden longing that at times has been covered over with rage, hurt, frustration, angst and pain and treat myself and others from this softer place.  That is the only thing that will nurture and soothe me presently.  My hurt wounded kid needs to take a bit of a back seat for a while because at times when I am deeply in that space I end up getting retraumatised and paint everything a bit too black.  These are the realisations I came to today.

Finding your voice : Singing your song

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Last night I watched an interview on our national indigenous channel here in Australia NITV between aboriginal journalist, Stan Grant and former lead singer of the Australian band Midnight Oil, Peter Garrett.  For those of you who may not be aware of their music Midnight Oil did much to champion the land rights of aboriginal people at a critical time in Australia when aboriginal people were seeking this recognition.  Their music resonated deeply with me in the years 1980 to 1990. They had a strong voice that spoke up for many issues dear to my own heart, most particularly aboriginal land rights as well as concern over American involvement in Australia through use of the site Maralinga for nuclear testing.

One thing that Peter said during the interview spoke to me very deeply.

We are all born to dance, to tell our stories and to sing!

But what happens when our song is squashed or we learn to fear our own voice or don’t trust it?  It seems to me a large part of healing if we suffered repression or lost trust in our intrinsic selves rests in finding our own voice and singing our own song.

There is a strong pressure for conformity within our collective world.  As children we are conditioned by a number of sources.  Some of us buckle under to this conditioning, some of us go along willingly and others rebel and move outside the mainstream in an attempt to find their voice, perhaps looking to others for guidance.  Others just push on trusting themselves.

The best guidance I believe can come from those around you who encourage you to find your own voice, sing your own song, tell your own story and dance to the rhythm that moves you from deep within.

Pete Garrett is a very tall guy.  On stage he had a unique style and presence and moved about the stage energetically using jerky and some would say spasmodic movements.  He spoke about what happened for him on stage, how he learned to just let his body take over and move to the unique rhythm of the songs The Oils composed.  I found this inspiring.

As a tall person I was often shamed for being tall.  The boys used to tease me and call me names like ‘Federal’ meaning matchstick legs.  It was hard to get clothes to fit and shoes either.  It was only when I finally visited my father’s home in the Netherlands in my early 20s that I felt like I belonged being tall.

Over time and after my car accident I learned to stoop.  I went through very painful orthodontic treatment having four teeth removed, braces for just under two years and had to wear a horrible headbrace contraption to bed each night supposedly designed to pull the teeth back.  What it did was leave me with an aching jaw.  Lately I at night I get into bed and my head is screaming out in pain. It feels all twisted around the wrong way. I know this is also due to the traumatic imprint of crashing on my bike 11 years ago in the UK.  slowly, oh so slowly, I am unwinding from this trauma. I wake up with blood over the sheets and on the tissues I have to keep near.

Thinking about Pete Garrett led me to wonder what may have happened had I not been so bent out of shape by my conditioning.  It all happened to my body and the backlash was that within months of the braces coming off in 1979 I had a massive motor car crash which landed me in hospital for 101 days in skeletal traction and I lost my front teeth.

I was a young woman bent out of shape.  I need to bear this in mind because I woke up with the Inner Critic giving me a bit of a hammering today.  It was telling me I should have been a lot more independent and further along by now.  But when I look to the trauma I carried that is not really possible.   I am doing my best.  I needed so much support following that crash, support that was denied me when even more trauma hit my family.  I do wish I could have moved away sooner from the destructive influence but it has taken some time to wake up.

Blogging has given me a voice, finally.  At times it a bit of a tortured one, but that is a symptom of the traumas I have known.

I draw great encouragement from Pete Garrett’s words and also from the biography of Sting, lead singer of the Police, Broken Music that I am currently reading.

Sting speaks of how when he first began to sing lead in his earliest bands he found a source of power within him.  His own traumas from childhood stemmed more from the deception and betrayal he witnessed as a young boy when he discovered his mother in the midst of an affair in the middle of the day, an affair that went on for years and he kept pretending he did not know about.  His father was broken by it.

Music for him provided an outlet, something outside the mess of his parent’s marriage that was just for him.  He still carried his trauma but being able to have a form of music expression as well as learning about who he was, how he was formed by early experiences and how they impacted on him in his later life helped him in some way. He still suffered but he was, through his art, able to make sense of that suffering.  Reading his biography has made sense to me of many of his songs most particularly the one’s he wrote in the midst of therapy in the 1980s.

It seems so essential that we are able to in some way give a voice to who we are and what we go through.  It is the witness within us which can help us in this process. That part of us that watches and waits and gives a voice to the deeper experiences we go through.  That is a gift of supreme value.

Along the way out there are those who can inspire us.  Those who have had the courage to brave the critics and find their own voice, tell their own truth, blow the whistle on other lies, deceptions and evasions and be honest no matter what the price.  These too are gifts of great value.   We have to keep owning our power to tell our own story and be our own champion and through this process keep working to birth wisdom, insight, healing and compassion.

A butterfly trapped in the rain

I am reblogging this post as it speaks some deep truths that emerged for me as I faced breast cancer surgery earlier in the year.

Emerging From The Dark Night

The sun is shining outside, the wind is buffeting the leaves on the trees and I have been inside all day twisting around feeling like a caterpillar caught in the chrysalis that cannot get out no matter how hard it tries to form its wings, the wings are damaged or in the process  something happened which did not allow the wings to form properly and so the part caterpillar, part butterfly flaps around on the ground, turning this way and that, unable to take flight.

Last week a friend I went to see Diana Krall perform and she sang a beautiful ballad about a butterfly trapped in the rain. The image was a potent one for me.

This week in therapy I have been exploring the killing energy of my Dad on my soul.  It may seem like a little thing, but it was a huge thing, it was SUCH…

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