An anchor in the storm

Listening to music often sparks thoughts or memories or associations, this song is one I first heard a few months back, I believe it was featured in a movie. When I listen to it and the desire the singer expresses to have a guide in the storm it makes sense, for if we are left at the mercy of big inner storms, floods of feeling or shock trauma re-actions from PTSD it can be harder on our own..

I remember after my second accident which occurred late in June in 2005 how the hospital connected me with a lovely woman around my own age named Marlene, by a weird case of synchronicity Marlene was Dutch and even from my Dad’s home town. After coming to see me in the hospital after the crash I remember the day she supported me to do my grocery shopping.. Just this simple task was so overwhelming for me, I was in Cambridge lodging with a family, I had no car and I would get flooded all of the time, experiencing nausea, and profound dissociation/dislocation feelings, even getting out of bed was a major achievement.. Those days are behind me but I still get the morning post eating head rushes and I just had one after walking Jasper to the oval and kicking the ball around.. It wasn’t long after lunch but my entire system and chakras were flooded, maybe some of the cold and fresh air played a part.

Marlene and I ended up becoming good friends I still found it hard to draw as close to her as I would have liked, when I went to Glastonbury shortly after the accident due to the family finding my trauma ‘too distressing a reminder’ I think she hoped I would eventually return to Cambridge and we may live together but she did not tell me this until I had booked a return fare home that Christmas, one of the last things we did was attend a beautiful church service with classical music.. Marlene really represented a strong part of my European soul I wish I could have lived then but the pull of family was strong. due to my older sister still being in a need of a lot of support and my Mum as well.

It is easier for me to tolerate being on my own now and I can hold all of these memories close as I am mindful to remember things evolved as they needed to at the time for my soul journey.. I had to come home and go through worse things in order to grow.

To be honest over the past few years in my home town I have managed to build some genuine connections with people related to my family, some relationships have changed and since my sister has been struggling in some way this has brought me closer to some of her friends that her depression often tries to cut her off from… I actually had two calls from people yesterday wanting to know how best to handle the way she is treating them.. I know for myself depression can sometimes lie, it tells us people are not safe who may be (especially if we have anxious attachment) and if we have the huge fear of vulnerability and of feeling unmasked (which my sister seems to have even more of than me) it gets doubly hard.

Sometimes too friends do not know how to be present with someone in the depths and silence of freeze, profound introversion or withdrawal.. The person may actually be comforted by you being there even if they cannot express it if you do not invade them and can simply show them via touch or acceptance a sense of allowing them to be where they are. This is something my family could not give to me when I hit the wall in 2004 and sadly something my sister seemed to get a bit better at after Mum died, for me, if not for herself.

Places of holding and anchoring are important.. Its an interesting thing I was saying in therapy to Kat yesterday that when I visited my sister in that small room close to the nurses station close to dusk on Sunday sitting quietly with her for some time it seemed to me like a womb. She didn’t have the light on at first and she was sitting fully dressed on the bed.. the words that came to me then were ‘unborn; as if she was existing in some kind of womb. I also got the impression when she turned the small upturned light on and looked at the fixtures of the bedside table that we were in some kind of ship cabin..

The night sea journey is a profound symbolic metaphor for a journey of transformation or dissolution and reforming such as my sister seems to be going through at present.. This experience appeared in one of my pre sobriety dreams and has always seemed very significant to me in terms of the journey my soul was set to embark upon then

As I write this I can call to mind the dream I had a long while back of both my sister and I walking the length of Mollymook Beach close to the house my father built shortly before he died and coming upon a beached whale, in the dream my sister looked at me with those pleading eyes of infinite sadness and longing she sometimes turns on me lately and said the words “the whales are such sad creatures.” Jonah travelled in the belly of the whale on his transformative journey, I also think a beached whale may associate to buried feelings of the ancestral history emerging from a deeply submerged collective oceanic state..

These associations and symbols ring true to my soul, they give a sense of meaning to what seems to be transpiring in my sister’s life right now and in my own over the past 19 years of my mid life journey. I need to remember too that sometimes a lot is going on inside the depths of a person when they undergo reversions or deep repressions of feeling (depression). Jung believed we can and do experience many of this kinds of dives inwards, in order to move forward and incorporate hidden parts of our self or shadow.. He underwent many himself.

Much depends on how much meaning we can give to them and if we permit ourselves to ‘mine’ then and open us up, co-operating with egoic dissolution, rather than have them medicated or numbed by the medical model.. who knows what processes the soul is undergoing in its mysterious inner landscape over such long periods.. Depression could be a huge part of the dying out of old forms of the false self in order that a process of individuation and soul reclaiming or re-anchoring or more complete embodiment of split off parts of us can take place within the ego. In other words it often represents our Self with a capital S knocking on the door and throwing a lot up in the air that we thought we were or knew before.

I must bear this

I must bear this

I know I must

I know I can

Even if there is a God

And her plan is to let you drop

So very far

There must surely be a force of love working

Even as it reveals its absence

Inside the emptiness of your eyes

And there is a longing too

I just do not really know

What to do with it

So I must just bear witness

For as long as I can

And then not prevent myself

From standing

What help will it give me

If I remain here paralysed with you?

And yet my heart and mind is restless

Even judging that

Who knows what will happen now?

My love I do not have a clue

Surrender must surely be the only possible way of things

As your body and soul

Lie frozen stiff in the eternal snow

Of self abnegation

And so I remain here

Loyal to the silence

Lifting my heart in prayer

For I dare not even say

Which way the tide will flow

Perhaps only the Universe

Truly knows

Your eyes as black as coals

I enter the room because the door is closed, you are lying on your side with the covers around you, your face is wan and gray, there is a terrible deep emptiness inside your eyes within which I sense a pleading energy that cannot say its name.. Everything in me seizes but I know I must bear this darkness once again.. It is so familiar to me, the inertia, the paralysis, the dead feelings fallen into a deep ocean, falling falling falling into the most complete void of resounding emptiness… I ask you if this living death is what you wish for the rest of your life, but then later I think of these words from Al Anon, we become irritable and unreasonable by TRYING TO FORCE SOLUTIONS.. as I remember the first step.. powerless over the effects of alcoholism and over the lives and choices of others..

I leave the bunch of blood red lillies close to your bed while we talk but the power of the darkness in your eyes is so frightening to me, magnetising in its power and I know to preserve my own self I cannot look you in the eyes, right now, later there will be a time for this.

We talk of Mum, I share the photo I posted earlier of her taken on (what I seem to remember) may have been her 91st birthday.. This brings you alive a little bit.. All I can do is ask a lot of questions and try my best to summon some response from you, but the darkness of that big pool of ‘muck’ swirling is so familiar to me and it seems to have you paralysed while you focus all of its intensity on me.. There will be times I cry but then I get combative.. You agree with me the drugs are not working.. .I talk of fighting and of the sword we need to use to cut ourselves free from what is not part of our truth, not good for us. But you remind me, this sword is something you cannot access. So should I be fighting for you? I am so confused. Am I letting you down? But when I get all charged up you tell me I am just being me but this lively me is the one that you did not like, that you wanted to be different, that you rejected, that you led me to believe is a ‘nuisance’, ‘too much’, ‘bad’ not good and compliant like you But this lively me is me and its hungry for life, for love for so much more than this.. It Is sick of living in death and decay..

I bear with the tension and banked up intensity for as long as I can.. I manage to get the nurses to locate a vase and I prepare the lillies, shedding the lower leaves and cutting the stems then carrying them into the room, one sign of life.. But now I sense it is time for me to go. One and a half hours with the reptile that lives inside your eyes is becoming so much.. its a pool of dark inertia..and I am famished. This is not an alive life IT IS NOT WHERE I WANT TO LIVE. AND YOU TOLD ME TODAY YOU CHOSE THIS RATHER THAN LIFE. SO I HAVE TO ACCEPT IT.. I HAVE TO ‘HAND IT OVER’ AND ACCEPT IT.

The intrinsic connection between grief and love

It seems to me our deepest impulse in terms of the need to be loved underlies so much of our grief.. not only over loving and losing but over never finding that love in the form we needed it when young… We all long to be seen and known, when this doesn’t happen there is a grief that sits under the surface of consciousness and may not be ‘known’ by us for some time.. This ‘hole in the soul’ runs deep and since we first seek that in our family of origin its here where the wounds happen and they need to be addressed in later life if we want to eventually come fully to life in order to live and love as our true selves.

I was thinking a moment ago of the four solutions we resort to that Mark Wolynn talks of when we seek to connect with a parent or source of love in childhood.. one is that we find that source in them and do connect, the second is the parent fails to provide and so we cut off that longing and flow and subvert it.. in another we seek it from a sibling.. this is what I did with my Mum and Dad being unavailable.. it was my older sister who saw me, but she left and then got sick and so that was a double grief for me. Over time I learned to turn within or to substances and in time I lost access to my true feelings over it, it has been these feelings I have had to work with in active sobriety.

I just went and sat down by the lake and finished off a wonderful novel I have been reading but at the end of it my thoughts turned to my sister.. Earlier I read Oscar Cainers daily horoscope for Aquarius that said in an uncertain world its hard to know what to believe or where to turn but that there are five qualities that can sustain us.. : Kindness, Friendship, Generosity, Compassion and Love.. I thought of the nasty inaccurate things my living sister said to me in the year after Jonathan left and how her brutality coming out of emotional ignorance drove me over to the UK where the unprocessed anger and hurt over it lead to a massive head injury.. maybe something about this time that is now erased for her due to all the meds and shock treatment is perculating down inside.. She tried to erase me from the coast house earlier in the year by packing up all of my books and boxes and storing them in the shed.. To her it was probably done out of a desire to help me as I said it was hard to go down there alone to the place I ended up forsaken and abandoned after my husband left. I was so hurt by that back in February but I sucked it up on our trip there.. I just called the removalists and they came to pack it all up. I didn’t have an angry outburst I just cried and cried and cried. I seem to do a lot of crying around my sister when I don’t have anxiety spin outs around her.

Despite all of this I feel for my sister.. lying in bed with the blankets pulled up all around her unable to communicate with visitors… I don’t know what it is going to take to bring her back from the dark side this time.. and despite this I do feel love… but its a confused kind of love.

In the movie 28 Days Sandra Bullock makes friends with her sister who appears to be the more high functioning sibling in the traumatised family.. she recognises that her sister was once a child too in the family system and sought her own role which involved looking down on the ’embarrasing’ active addict who is expressing so much of the family pain…In a similar way my mother always forgave her mother for hitting her as she knew that as an abandoned war widow with no government assistance left to support a young daughter all alone so far from family that her Mum was frustrated.. it was something her best friend’s daughter and I discussed the other day… that generation had to suck it up… and they had to bury so much… trauma and stress just get carried or passed on as epigenetic research by Bruce Lipton and Dr Yehuda demonstrates..

I am a bit off the track writing this right now. It is a processing post… I just thought on the way home of how much, as a young child I longed for my sister’s love but how our family was so geared around externals it was hard to find that… in the end it is something I have had to find for myself as an adult with the help of therapy and my higher power. That said I still grieve for those who left me and could not love me where I was at and this included my ex husband.. He gave me a great gift when he emailed me back in May when he said “I really understand your need for therapy now.” He actively tried to block it along with my Mum but in the end I trusted my path into the dark…

Through it along the way I found the love for myself and even for my wounded family.. how could they give me something they never had, or a sense that I am perfect as I am even with all of my idiosyncrasies? I now see I can only gain that in any authentic way from within and even after years of being almost crippled by a virulent inner critic who was almost demonic at times.. Slowly over time and through much agony I am coming to a deeper understanding of the inner forces that drove me towards addiction and self hatred…I also understand more deeply and have more compassion for the forces that drove that poor inner child of my Mum who had to struggle so hard to be seen and find her own path..

At 14 years of age Mum actively defied a mother who wanted her only to be a domestic servant and found a profession.. She fought to be seen in the fashion industry by top designers.. she was bloody trojan, she just had to be.. I am glad in so many ways for the gifts of strength she bequeathed me as well as the deep deep insecurity… in the end it was for me to make sense of it all and carve my own self out of that inheritance.. today I feel myself becoming stronger while at times more profoundly aware of inner vulnerabilities, fears, weak spots and insecurities…

I am also learning how intimately and intricately longing, grief and love are interconnected along with rage… in the end each of us must work to understand the emotions that drive us as we grapple to find which emotions to express and which are in need of alchemy, each of us has to find ways to contain our wounds and find the healing solution in bearing witness to them for long enough that self love and insight as well as self compassion can arise. Armed with these tools we are less likely to judge others and we become more able to define boundaries as well as see where the impulses to merge or belong create complex challenges for us.

Realisations

I posted this, then took it down.  I then went off line and meditated.  I thought about my Mum and her suffering and how her past multigenerational trauma affected all of us.  I started to cry.  I realised true wisdom essentially comes with forgiveness as it allows us to see deeper than just ego centred thinking mind.  We are part of something far far bigger playing out than so many of us realise.  My own awareness continually morphs into larger dimensions.  I go back forward, in out, higher lower, above beneath, looking upon things from inside out and then outside in, I see my perspective and then consider yours and perhaps consciousness is essentially so fluid in this way.  That said I then post this and may later want to take it down again!

I awoke with so much travelling around my mind this morning.   My brother’s visit stirred up so much about the past, he is only ever here for a really short time, we have to slot into his small windows of opportunity between business meetings as a family to have some time with him and then during his visit yesterday he dropped a clanger on Mum, telling her how hard she was on Dad over many years.  It’s probably true, Mum carried multigenerational survivor trauma of being the adult great grandchild of a pretty heavy alcoholic and she used to be quite anxious and stressed, with the hardwired conditioning to make things more perfect than perfect and control any messy chaos inner or outer that may have served as a too painful reminder of hidden emotional difficulties, traumas and influences unspoken.

Even though she never met her  great grandfather as his grand daughter left New Zealand with my grandmother (Mum’s mum) some time in the 1910s the impact of the struggle to survive against difficulties and separation continued on and has had complex emotional ripple affects right down to today.  All three of us, myself, and my two sisters have been divorced, every single one of us left by our partners.   Two of my sisters have had bi polar diagnoses and I have struggled with alcoholism and other adult child issues.

Last night at dinner my Mum was sharing her grief over all of this trauma as well as her grief over what my brother had said off the cuff about her and Dad.  Mum is on fairly heavy pain meds at the moment after a fractured pelvis and while I know there is truth in what my brother said, he doesn’t know the entire story and nor did he think of or mention the pressure I know he put my father through in the final years of his life after my older sister underwent her stroke, breakdown and abandonment trauma all of which contributed to his stomach cancer along with too much rich food and alcohol.

The other thing that came up last night was that Mum owned the pressure she and my brother put on my father to move from a little house we all lived in as an extended family when I was young.  Dad didn’t want to move, he wasn’t sure we could afford it.  This was the ‘cosy jumper’ house and I cried and cried and cried as a youngster when we moved from it.  What came up this morning was a realisation of the dilemma to move to something better saga of past months that has all played out with Venus retrograde.

I realised mid way through that Dad had the Venus Chiron Pluto T-square which speaks of pressure from bigger outside wills on your own value system and the wounding of that and the exact degrees of this were triggered over that time.   I was thinking this morning of how subconscious things from the past can affect us in ways we don’t even realise at the time.   And sadly I am still in many ways a prisoner of my own lonely childhood at the age of 54, I haven’t got that far from my family, two major relationships have broken up for me in sobriety and now I am alone again.   Its not a complete tragedy the last thing I want to come across as, is a victim, but at times it gets lonely and sad.

What I realised today was how for so many years I have just sat around in a passive state for a lot of the time with all this loneliness kicking around in side but even that is judgemental as my trust was in many ways broken by trauma.  The deeper truth is that it is a long journey of self discovery taken over a very harsh rocky landscape to realise and surrender old defences.  Only after you have gained true awareness can you actually do something about wounds to self.   In truth there was so much affecting me I just did not realise was affecting me so deeply really until now.  My strong connection to my family and the trauma of the years 1979 – 1986 has plagued me in some way well into my sobriety journey which began in 1996, but why wouldn’t it, since that is the nature of trauma?

I realised yesterday that I am not born to be entirely alone.  While there are those on the so called spiritual path that say your emptiness cannot be filled from outside, I am not so sure that that is entirely true.  We actually do need positive, loving connections with us to sustain us.  We do need recognition for what we have suffered, most importantly from ourselves.  No man or woman is truly an island, we don’t get sick in isolation,  most of our wounding and descent into addiction is a result of early trauma or attachment trauma, we are wired to connect to something or someone and if there is no some one we look for something.  The trick is to fill our needs in a healthy rather than an unhealthy way.

In my own life I know I was not helped by those in recovery who had not really healed their own deep attachment trauma who told me I needed to find God alone and could only ever totally rely on a higher power. I know to truly recover we do need a positive loving relationships with a source of deeper substance call it higher self or higher power but we also do need other loving relationships, we just have to be careful we don’t burden earthly human relationships with a huge fund of unmet emotional and spiritual needs that we carry due to our past that may be too much for one human person to really carry or heal for us.

This morning I found myself getting a bit frustrated with my therapist when I was trying to discuss what happened over the past day with her.  She wasn’t saying much and there was a huge empty void space of silence through out most of the time I wasn’t talking.   I felt then how it was to be so small and young and lost in my family with no one much there to see me or hear me or notice me or contain my feelings, nor give me guidance,  I was always it seems foundering alone.  That is why I became a good student and an avid reader I was always looking for wisdom somewhere.  And when the pain of my sister’s trauma struck at home alone on the nights Mum and Dad went to sit by her bedside while she hovered in a liminal state of coma trauma I turned to the cask of red wine on top of the fridge.

Now even after many years in sobriety I need to notice when I turn to things that cannot really give me the comfort I crave.  I can use coffee or other sweet food in this way at times, most especially at times of the day or life that are triggers of past loneliness, memory or pain for me.  Blogging is a positive thing I can do, sitting and tuning into myself and my inner child and deeper feelings about what may be being triggered for me is also important.

I guess over time I am learning more and more.  I am noticing more and more.  I then get to see where I may be making mistakes or missing the mark and get to make adjustments to try and bring myself on a healthier track emotionally and physically.

Today its bleak cold and overcast, and so I will need to move towards connection and warmth.  I think I will also start going back to some group meetings as I need to be connecting more with people in recovery who operate and look at things on a deeper level, and while blogging does help its not as good at times as actually being able to connect to warm bodies face to face.

The trauma history in my family is not going away.  It doesn’t really even matter who was ‘to blame’ anymore, as I feel the real important thing is that we learn to live peacefully today and work together to connect and give understanding for mistakes that may have happened in the past due to other’s wounds and ignorance.  That said the power of apology and the deeper recognition of where wounds have played out helps us better than defences or denial to ground into emotional truth.  We often face defences and denial when we try to confront a painful family of origin and its issues.  When we do, we can only show compassion and work to keep close to our truth and set our boundaries where they are needed in order to nourish our deeper emotional and spiritual life.  This is what I feel I am have been trying to do, sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.  Sometimes I float around in confusion, and at other times a spark of understanding will appear from behind clouds obscure, that I guess is at heart the ongoing nature of growth in awareness in life and recovery.

Lessons in Empathy : Reflections on Neptune and Saturn

Whale

Another post from a few years back.  I use a lot of astrology in this one as a way of grappling with certain experiences around empathy.  My sister is now in a stronger space,  her struggle with mental illness and emotional pain mirrored my own and at this time we were both in deep water which is how I would see a strong Neptune influence around us both : deep feelings gone unconscious:

Maybe one of the gifts of having suffered loss and depression is that you come to know the territory very well.  There is more to be learned through the actual suffering of and living through certain states of being because its only then that you can know how it feels for you to be in a place where you feel you have been pressed down by a huge weight or are drowning under a wall of water that rolls you round and round in a deep swell, then tosses you over and over and over in such a way that you no longer have control.

People who haven’t been through it just don’t seem to get it, you can use words to try describe the experience but they are always going to fall short.  Images or sounds, including music or dance would be more evocative mediums, I guess.  Still my form of expression is, for the time writing so I will struggle on with this.

We cannot explain or make sense of the inexplicable, but never the less we try.  A great wall can separate us from others when we are suffering in this way and their agenda may come out of the difficulty they are having in being powerless in a situation watching someone they love suffering and knowing much as they love them, there is so little they can do to change what is going on.

I’m finding myself in this situation with my sister at the moment after undergoing a similar theme with my older sister for over 20 years.   Neptune is natally positioned in my third house of siblings and transiting Neptune is, at present, transiting over my Chiron and in opposition to natal Pluto at the moment.  At the same time it is hitting my sister’s Sun and Venus square to Mars.

In short, my Chiron is smack bang on her natal Sun Venus and squared by her Mars.  I feel a sadness and pain, knowing she is in pain, then also a kind of powerlessness and wordlessness surrounding how to be with her and in it.  I can recognise it but when I try to make any kind of contact I am hitting a brick wall and then the words run short and there is nothing I can do but hang up the phone or leave and then the avalanche of grief breaks open.

The way I am dealing with this at the moment is in reaching out to my recovering friends.  For me these are just the one’s who will allow my feelings to flow and recognise the place I am in without trying to change it.   They don’t give me any advice but allow me to feel my way through it and process until it has shifted   For me that is what is needed for it to pass.

I am deep in Neptune territory at the moment and there are three planetary stations at the moment which means there is a psychic shift.   Saturn is one of the astrological heavy weights which will be driving home its essential message over the next 4 and a half months,  as it back tracks over the zone 23-16 degrees Scorpio it will square my seventh house Aquarian stellium and oppose the North Node in Leo while moving back into a wide conjunction with natal Neptune in the third.

Saturn speaks to me of boundaries, limits and discipline, it also is associated to gravitas, depression, a falling back to the earth of reality and a pruning or limiting of ego ideals and plans to deal with the oceanic theme of that 3rd house Neptune which must in some way relate back to my Mum’s sadness and longing around having no other siblings and a father who died when she was very young.

Synchronistically, I recently re read a dream I had many years ago  My sister and I were walking by the ocean and as we did we came across a whale that had beached itself.  My sister looked me in the eyes and said “the whales are such sad creatures”.  I felt the deepest most unescapable karmic sadness in the dream.

Metaphorical associations :  to me whales inhabit the ancestral deep, that they are beached means that some deep ancestral issue has emerged and become stranded and the deep pain around it is recognised by my sister and by myself.  There is a profound element around Piscean placements to me and it relates to our ancestral connection we both have been abandoned by our partners and our maternal great, great, grandfather too, was left and ended his days in an asylum.

Maybe our planets give us this innate sensitivity in a soul to the totality of collective suffering and experience, most especially on an emotional level.  This degree of psychic sensitivity gives a load of empathy but also a difficulty with differentiating boundaries.  Chaos is one’s nature state, rationality and logic are experienced as straight jackets, there is a longing too for dissolution that will melt the walls of division which keep us separate but the problem may be that the sought dissolution ends up destroying the essence of the sensitive.

Too much Neptune, not enough Saturn we become a psychic sponge absorbing pain of others that we relate to but is not ours.  We need a secure space where we can retreat in order to return to us, if we are too strongly drawn in by others who have powerful psychic defences we can become a garbage dump for their projected and rejected psychic “stuff”.

A year on re-editing this post and reflecting on the image of the beached whale more deeply and seeing the journey my only living sister has undergone I see the emergence of this Piscean part of herself, how it has affected me.  Together on the beach we recognise the whale and it cant be spoken of : the suffering we both know is a soul level experience.

Sometimes it appears to me a conundrum to have both strong Saturnian and Neptunian emphasis in my psyche but I am beginning to see that both are essential states of being.   The deep solitude of my Saturn Moon helps me when I get into Venus square Sun/Venus/Mercury/Jupiter/South Node overload.  It returns me home often with a sharp slap.

Solitude gives me an alembic,  a soul container for the tears both of myself and of others, of the collective culture.  It gives me nurture for in the solitude of Saturn I find the understanding of my strong Neptune which is often subjected to misinterpretation by more pragmatic, less mystical folk.

Its taken me many years to understand this.  My empathetic Neptunian self feels others pain but Saturn teaches me I have to respect their journey and right to choose different ways of dealing with and understanding it.  My Chiron in the Seventh which is ruled by Neptune (placed as it is in the sign of Pisces) can be a dumping ground for the projections of others and needs the backbone of Saturnian recognition to deal with it and sort out what is projected and what I own.

Today I read an excellent blog about Empathetic muscle.  It described the difficulty empaths have with absorbing and becoming a psychic sponge for others.  Ideally empathy should give us the ability to feel others pain and yet not get lost in it.  It seems to me that this has been the deep Saturnian work of the past few years for me.  This blog was written last year and it has taken this time to complete.  Its being released as Saturn trines the Sun prior to its forward movement soon.

The past is the past : building bridges

Bridge

I don’t like being told not to look into my past for I do believe the past is the soil we grew out of and some of us didn’t get a lot of good fertiliser.  At the same time I do need to remember that the past is now past.  It did have a massive influence on me (and still does), but just because certain things or relationships were some way in the past that does not necessarily mean that they are that way now.  And often if I assume they are I can miss out on new gifts and possibilities in the present.

I had lunch with my sister today.  Our relationship hasn’t been as close as the relationship I had with my older sister who died a few years ago.  Also my sister has had a lot of her own challenges and losses too and at one point she was really struggling with these at a time I was in another desperately lonely, abandoned place.  My marriage ended first and she didn’t show much empathy at the time.  We also had a history where for the later years of my adolescence she was my boss and so it wasn’t possible to have a cosy friendship as I was constantly being forced to perform to standards that did not really suit me.  I am not really a very business minded person though coming from a business family that has been forced on me.  It doesn’t really sit well with my true nature.  And as I have shared in other blogs and poems I was forced away from my more romantic, artistic, poetic side when I was maturing and it was a big wound for me that is still healing and a cleave too.

My sister had over 5 separate hospitalisations for depression following her marriage ending in a very painful way about 8 years ago.  She went through so much, including Electro Convulsive Therapy which is something I would not want my worst enemy to have to go through. I blatantly believe it doesn’t help heal the older traumas and in the end it re-traumatises the person.  Often, too, it is undertaken from a very desperate place when they feel nothing much else is working.  Seeing how she was stunned into silence and near catatonia over 4 years ago was so painful to witness even though we were never super close.

So to see my sister doing so well now and really making such an effort to live her life alone I am very humbled I must say.  I feel so proud of her while also feeling sad that her true feelings good and difficult haven’t been validated well either by family.  Today at lunch she was sharing some things that made me realise how we have both carried similar wounds, similar but different and how often I have related to my sister from that wounded place when she hasn’t validated my feelings much.  In short I felt a kind of cosy healing with us today.  I saw how much I longed for from my sister that she wasn’t equipped to give but also how she has done the best she really knew how considering the circumstances of her younger life were a bit easier than mine I don’t feel she had it as hard but maybe it was hard in different way.  The family was more connected when she was growing up, than when I was.  I used to feel so sad and angry about this but now I see despite how hard it was it was just the way our life was, I carried the wounds and scars from it and so does my sister but in different areas.   Nowadays we can have a closer relationship freer from the burden of unrealistic expectations of each other, I hope.

Growing to emotional adulthood for me means being my own best parent.  Seeing and feeling and making sense of the wounds of my past that led me to here,  knowing that the past did have an effect but is now past leaving me with liabilities but also the promise of healing or at least becoming aware of more productive healing ways to go about things. Being supported in my decision to not go forward into the new house by both my mother and sister has meant a lot to me.  It feels as though I am finally being seen and my wishes and needs respected.  I am very grateful for that.

As I was just outside sweeping up some autumn leaves I was thinking of the image of building a bridge over a huge chasm.  I was thinking how its never too late for disconnection to be healed.  We just have to be willing to reach out, to make a tentative step forward, often on trust that has not yet been proven to be warranted. Sometimes we will fail to connect again, sometimes we may get hurt again, but sometimes we won’t and as we make difficult progress we come to know ourselves better.  We will then have more tools to cope with whatever outcome we meet on the bridge that we are working to build over the chasm of our past.

 

 

The gift of pain

Grief

I am sure that some people will be challenged at the idea of pain as a gift.  When I thought of this title and subject for a blog it was a result of having learned at the park that a lady I had met and grown close to was dying, she had been so kind to me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She gave me a card and in it she wrote:

You will be surprised at how strong you can be.

I wasn’t sure of what to make of it at the time but her words have proved to be true.  I am feeling stronger since this diagnosis and facing up to the treatment, but I am also feeling the profoundness of life’s journey, I am reconsidering many things I have gone through and what I have made of them, I am also very much contemplating my own mortality and most especially that of my mother.

When I heard the news about my friend I felt so much for her daughter who is prepared to let her mother go and sad that I probably won’t get to say goodbye and tell her how true her words proved to be.

After her daughter walked away, I thought of my own Mum and the pain she has endured in her own life.  I was motivated to call my Mum and she isn’t feeling at all well, has been struggling with her health for such a long time.   I cant help but feel so much of the loss and pain she has been through, much of the grief has had to be born by a person who is almost unable to contain it and it has taken a toll on her body.

I was out at a local café when we spoke.  When I arrived home, a well of grief burst open in me.  I experienced flashes of our mutual experiences of loss, the breakdown and abandonment of my sister, my fathers’ cancer diagnosis and rapid death, my two sister’s struggle with emotions and mental illness, and of the impact all of this has had on my Mum.

When my only now living sister tried to take her life it was my mother who found her on the floor in the bathroom and had to call the ambulance.  Because she “didn’t want to worry” me, I only found out the next day.  My mother endured that entire ordeal alone.  She was trying to spare me more pain as she knew I, too was struggling with my own depression at that time.

We have endured so much it seems, so much more than many other families, but certainly not all.  And it seems a difficult ask to see the gift in this pain which makes me consistently aware of the profound fragility and vulnerability of life and people and yet, at this stage in my life, this is how I am now beginning to see it.

What is the point of arguing with reality?  Isn’t there a time when we have to open to the random nature of life, when we have a choice to accept that things often work out far differently from what we may have hoped?  And also that there is no escape from the grief?

It seems to me that grief is not the final word when we embrace things in this way, hard as it is and as much pain and torment as we go through to get through this dark night of the soul, there is a burnished gold which is made of the blackness when we have done the necessary work.

Our view is deepened.  We see things from a different perspective and we value all the more the precious gift of life we are given, choosing to open to the pain as well as the beauty all around us.

Anne Frank wrote these words in 1944.

I don’t think of all the misery,

but of the beauty that still remains.

There is a profound poignancy that results from this pain I currently feel around my Mum.  There is a growing sense of forgiveness and gratitude for the ways in which she tried to love.  I see how she had to carry on in very extreme and lonely circumstances as a child.  My heart aches for her and for the consequences of this extreme self reliance and yet I see the wisdom in it too.  We can be with others, we can share our pain, but at the deepest level it is our gift or our  burden and we must find ways to live with that, to celebrate and give voice to it, so we know that all of our suffering has not been in vain.

Between two worlds

Is everyone here on earth as conscious as I am that I live between two worlds?  I was once told by a therapist that I “lived very close to the collective unconscious”.  In any case we are always all of us living between two worlds, some of us have most of ourselves firmly planted in this present moment, this waking reality.  Others of us, most especially those of us who have suffered the impact of traumas which have impaired or fractured our development on some level, live at times pulled on or pulled back to the past and most curiously pulled upon by sensations, intimations, feelings which have occurred in the past, which were difficult to fully process and integrate.  The power of the unconscious is very real and strong for us and since the unconscious is often buried in our bodies, which is the container for it, we can suffer from curious symptoms and experiences which are beyond conscious control and difficult to understand

Those of us who suffer in this way or carry this burden are not going to be easily understood by others who have never endured the weight of this heavy burden which can drag us down.  It is our burden to understand it and work as much as we can not to be fully drowned by it.

In my own life, some days I lived in the very dark world of the past, which contains so many memories.   As I age these memories or intimations of past events and experiences will rise up in me from out of no where.  Each morning as I wake I am aware of how I am suspended between this primal soup of many memories and bodily impacts and the present moment of waking reality which calls to me to live this day and move forward.  It has taken me ten long years of work to even understand this for myself.  So I now know what that therapist was trying to tell me all those years ago, as it often seems when I am having a bad day or feeling a heavy burden something heavy or difficult is going on for those to who I am connected on a cellular level, too, as well as my own past pain I am sensing collective pain.  This may sound “far out” to some of you, but I know it to be true.

In astrological parlance this world of the murky and soup like past on both personal and collective levels is indicated by the planet Neptune.  In my case Neptune is placed in the third house of mind, communication, daily movement and siblings and it squares all of my personal planets Mars, Moon, Sun, Venus and Mercury as well as what are called the bridging planets between personal and collective, Jupiter and Saturn.

From all I have read, heard and understood this Neptunian influence has shown that from a young age I absorbed a lot of different things, feelings, effects and impressions that have affected me, of which I have not been fully conscious.  I was asked at an astrological seminar by the Astrologer Liz Greene many years ago what sadness or early loss I suffered as a baby.  It was the loss of my mother’s much loved Step Father, Poppa Lester, who was also much loved by my far older siblings and family.  Poppa brought love and connection into the difficult life of my Mum and Nana after 7 years of struggling following my father’s death when she was only 7, I do not remember him consciously but apparently when he was dying in the hospital I was placed in my basinet on his bed.  I can feel the weeping and grief that went on when we lost him.  When the masculine again was gone from us, a pattern that was to repeat so often in my own life, the unconscious past, perhaps being played out by me unconsciously?

Add to this astrological influence that of my Saturn Moon which shows a child who carried a heavy weight of seriousness and burden around her, was raised in a family short on emotional expression and high on duty, politeness, working hard and “doing the right thing”, and I am aware too of the blocking influences which have dogged me at times and kept me trapped in a world of self doubt, suffering feelings of being lacking on some level having to work hard to be loved, accepted noticed.  And yet this placement too gives me gifts.  It helps me to see beneath the superficial, to know that there are depths of which others do not always speak but which can be sensed when I listen to my intuition.  It gives me the strength to find resources hidden even in stony ground.

Since I have been undergoing my body work with a Body Harmony practitioner over the past 5 months I have become more and more aware of the two worlds that I can inhabit.  That the world of the past and most especially the world of the damaged family which I entered can surround me at times and sometimes becomes like a heavy story (sic that was a typo I meant to write stormy) sea which can threaten to drown me.

Last week I went to pick up my mother who is now in her 90s to go with her to collect my sister from the hospital.  She was coming home following her surgery for breast cancer.  I sat on the toilet before leaving my mothers unit and I was conscious of a vortex above me that was swirling.  In it, above my head, I saw an ocean that contained my ancestors all swimming, some drowning, some in a panic swimming like mad to reach the shore. Some grasping at flotsam and jetsum that could act as a raft to keep them afloat.  I felt the swirling nausea that is inside me at times that I have often associate with what Peter Levine calls the Trauma Vortex.

As I became conscious of this, the dizziness within me and the sense of overwhelm abated.  We arrived at the hospital to find my sister dozing in a chair and carried her things to the car.  I was in the present moment but aware of the weight of the collective story of trauma that has been playing out of the past four years here since I returned to my home town.  The psychiatric commitments, the shock treatment, my mother’s complicated surgery for a knee replacement gone wrong, an angiogram gone wrong, four more hospitalisations for my sister for her depression, my mother’s fall down stairs earlier in the year leading to a fractured pelvis.  My older sister’s death, my own struggle to be there for them and also to take care of myself, my house, my dog, my soul.

I was aware of being a witness who stood on the edges and tried to help.  I was aware of my own hard won sobriety and journey to understand the personal and collective elements of both my personal and familial trauma history and the impact on by body which is at times spun out, pulled and pushed this way and that, struggling to understand, to love and yet not be undone by love, to retain a sense of self when that self has been negated or is under attack.

And as I write this I am aware of a book which outlines the Labours of Hercules of which there are twelve, one associated with each zodiac sign.  With seven planets in Aquarius the labour for that sign occurred to me  it is the task of cleaning out the Augean Stables, which are full of manure.  The labour is completed by the use of a flood of water which washes everything clean.  How many tears I have I cried through this process, the answer is an ocean. Neptune is the ocean I am part of that ocean and yet I am also the Sun that sets and rises, sometimes appearing to disappear and be swallowed up by that ocean but never the less arising the next day for a time before descending again.

The two worlds I inhabit are not only conscious and unconscious but day and night, dark and light, depression and hope, suicidal feelings and the burning desire to live, to love, to hope, to dream, to dance, to connect, They oscillate and I move between them. In the twisting, in the spinning in the dance between these two worlds I am weaving a new tapestry shot through with treads of the old, making sense of the past to be free of it, to understand and not be unravelled by it.

Without a doubt it is when I fully surrender to my past, to my feelings of despair, shame and vulnerability, when in despair I surrender to the belief that there is no meaning that I find the strength to live another day, to reach for more and to understand that these too, are only partial knowings, dualistic, separatist, untrue.

In the words of one of my most favourite songs by the Script

Sometimes tears say all there is to say

It’s the end where I begin

It’s the end where I begin

 

.

My wish

This a cry from the heart blog which comes from a very raw and vulnerable place.  I just spoke to my sister and when I ended the call, I was brimming with sadness and inside my heart from the ache I was feeling came the cry “I wish my sister wasn’t on medication”.

I also wish my sister had never had to go through the violence of shock treatment which she did two years ago. I felt sick today while we were talking, my sister is suffering really bad nausea and a headache because she has recently had her medication changed. I cannot tell you how many different medications she has been on over the past 10 years but after her suicide attempt two years ago I had to take home a bag of empty packets she used and there were about five different meds in it. When I googled several of them I read the following “may cause (amongst a heap of other things) anxiety”. WTF.

Sorry is it obvious I am in a recovery programme and have been for over 20 years and I HATE THE FUCKING MEDICALISAED PSYCHIATRIC SYSTEM which offers fuck all insight into childhood at times and just resorts to drugs?

While my sister was in intensive care following the suicide attempt in 2013 a doctor asked me :

“why is your sister on an anticonvulsive.”

I was so distressed that I exploded.

“You want to fucking know why, because they don’t have a clue, they play Russian roulette with her meds and take a look at the result, without any awareness we have a family history of alcoholism on my mother’s side.”

I expected them to send in the men with white coats and put me in a straight jacket, following my angry outburst.  I had really screamed in the middle of the ICU unit.  Instead I was stunned to see them treat me with tenderness and a new found respect. The nurses took me to another room and sat me down while I began to cry and tell them about our history. They had put my sister on yet more medication which they then decided to stop. They showed real compassion and care for me and for my sister.

Possibly my sister needs to be on meds as it is clear she cannot manage her moods alone and without this, but never the less it makes me feel so very sad to see what she has to go through and the lack of emotional nurture and insight that at times surrounds her. My heart breaks for her. I wish she had a therapist, that she could explore the impact of her childhood, and our family with, as I have done as I believe it may help her more, but in the end it’s not my decision and its out of my power and control.

At the moment I am just aware that my sister is suffering deeply and I can’t do anything but call her, show my support, concern and love and then let go to focus on my own recovery.

I can also share about these feelings in a blog for at the moment there is no recovery meeting to go to pour it out.  Just being able to voice it in this space will help me to process and come to terms with my feelings and the burden I feel in seeing another sister suffer in this awful way with so many memories of how my other sister ended up at the end of her life bloated from all the drugs they gave her that never took away the deeper pain she suffered until it all got to much and death came for her last year.

Having written this I am aware both sisters could have tried to find a healthier way, but could not.  This gives me the incentive to keep working hard to heal myself and make healthy choices and find a way to deal with the feelings in a positive way.