Getting Better All the Time

Check “Ritual Calendar 2016” for upcoming holidays.

I woke up with the music of a Beatles’ song in my head. It took me a few hours to get some words, too. When I had snatches of the song, I looked up the lyrics.

Apparently the song is autobiographical. It tells of a guy who had a chip on his shoulder as a kid and was mean to his woman but fell in love with a new one and changed, thanks to her. His behavior got better all the time. Not something I can relate to; a damsel on a white horse came and saved him. Lucky guy!

So I just edited out the details and saw the song in terms of dealing with ritual abuse.

Anyway, Paul wrote,
“I’ve got to admit it’s getting better (Better)
A little better all the time”
And John added,
“It can’t get more worse)”

In the beginning, I thought remembering RA just couldn’t get more worse. It  really felt like it would, though. I actually believed I would die from the stress of remembering. Not by suicide, just that my body couldn’t take it and would stop; I would keel over from a heart attack or a massive stroke. Nobody knew about “feeling” flashbacks – past repressed feelings surfacing in the present – and so nobody could tell me what was going on. It would have helped a lot.

In the beginning, I couldn’t see changes because I wasn’t used to the process. They were small changes and came slowly. My therapist pointed out that I was taking baby steps, but I would get steadier with time, and my tiny steps would all add up. Guess what? He was right!

I slogged away year after year, and when I stopped to look back, I could see how far I had come. It was pretty amazing. Of course I would cycle back and feel really rotten again, over and over. It wasn’t that I was losing ground, it was that I was dealing with something at a deeper level. It took me a while to figure out that my healing process was spiral, not linear. Once I did, I no longer panicked when I entered that space. I wasn’t exactly joyful, but I knew what was going on, and trusted that there would be benefits.

Now something new and weird is happening. It’s a part of my process I have never seen before and I am very grateful for it.

I first noticed that I wasn’t a wreck before the spring equinox this year. Then I found that I was calm during Easter week and Beltane, which had been the worst day of the whole year for me. I wasn’t forgetting the holidays, I wasn’t forgetting or denying what happened to me. I wasn’t even minimizing. I was just reacting differently.

Recently I started noticing that this attitude was spreading to other difficult parts of my life. I had hated my birthday for years and told people close to me not to give me presents or cards. I didn’t tell anybody the date unless I absolutely had to, like at the pharmacy.

This year I acted more normally. I let my best friend take me out to dinner. I asked another friend to come celebrate with me (her birthday is a couple of weeks later than mine) by going indoor skydiving. And I messed up on Facebook and let my birthday be public. Aack! But I was really touched by good wishes from people in the survivor community that I knew well and people I hardly knew at all. I think that is the first time in my life that I have enjoyed my birthday, not just gritted my teeth and gotten through it.

Finally, I have always been camera phobic and did my best to avoid having my picture taken. Photos brought back such awful disgusting memories and I wasn’t willing to try desensitizing myself by having people take hundreds and hundred of pictures of me. I didn’t want to go through that much suffering, and, besides, I thought it was barbaric and wouldn’t work.

Recently I tried to relax a little, because I realized my kids had so few pictures of me. I had to admit it was getting better. And today I was on a conference call for an hour and a half and allowed the video to be on. Not only could they see me, I could see myself. Guess what? It was fine!! I can hardly believe it.

I did no conscious work on these issues. It just happened. It was like some switch inside allowed this calm and acceptance to spread out over many of my tender areas.

It reminds me of a light wind on water. You can see where the wind is blowing by the tiny ripples and you can see where it has left, or not yet arrived, by the calm, smooth surface. If the wind is stronger, you can tell where it is blowing harder by larger waves, often with white caps. It’s really wonderful to watch.

Take a look at the boat and the water at the top of the page. The water is my feelings, and the boat is me. Except that I would be under water, like a fish or mermaid.

Healing from Ritual Abuse: Phase One

I found an old notebook and read it through in one sitting. My best friend told me not to do that, but I am not one to take good advice, even advice I routinely give others.

The notebook covers nine months, from early October 1988 to late June 1989. It includes, in late March, my discovery of my ritual abuse background. Ellen Bass
calls this the crisis phase. I had had so many other momentous things happen in the preceding couple of years that crisis no longer felt like crisis — it felt like more of the same. So I call it phase one of dealing with ritual abuse.

I sat down to read it, knowing that it was a journal about abuse, but not knowing the date or whether it included ritual abuse.’The first entry reads: “I see an image far away of the garden the lovely garden I remember someone shelling peas they are green and smell green and taste green and smell green under my fingernails.” (Something bad happened in that garden, of course.)

The last entry: “If this stuff didn’t happen and I’m making it up, something else worse happened to make me make it up.”  Quite a change in viewpoint.

It was strange to read it. I remember writing most entries and remember the events that I wrote about. Other times it’s not familiar but it comes back if I just sit quietly for a few moments. And sometimes I can’t remember for the life of me. Seems I felt strongly about people whose names I don’t even recognize. I feel guilty, like I am disloyal to them. But I remembered far more than I forgot.

Everything was so raw. My unconscious was close to the surface and spilled out over every part of my life. I can follow the patterns in my writing and I see that my unconscious is working in the same way today, but in the background. It has been   a steady companion through the years.

Today I appreciate, for the most part, the calm, the ability to enjoy ordinary things, the joy I get from contributing to my community. Other times I would like to be open and passionate like I was in the beginning of the process. I could, and probably will, read that notebook over and over just to get a taste of that intensity.

As the memories and feelings flowed through me back then, I was filled with a great sense of love for people I knew, people in general, myself, and life itself. I remember the fear and horror and I remember being paranoid and delusional. I was afraid to be with my cats, for example, because I thought they could read my mind. But I don’t remember being filled with love. I find that very strange. Love came roaring out, like a lion released from its cage. How could I have forgotten that?

I see the effects of experiencing that burst of love, though. Before I remembered the ritual abuse, I thought I was incapable of love. Or that I could love like everybody else but I was incapable of recognizing it or feeling it. When I thought of my inability, I was filled with a yearning to feel love, both given and received. Now I know who and what I love even though I often feel constricted in my ability to let it in and express my feelings. But I am secure and no longer feel like a one-legged alien.

I’d like to transcribe it all and send you every word. I think that’s a bit much, though. I will probably just make selections and offer them to you with comments.

I Need Some Help

I had an idea for a 365-page journal. Maybe 366. On each page, it would have the date, a quote relating to abuse or healing, and perhaps also a line drawing of a flower or leaf or something else simple and from nature. I would call it “Book of Days.”

It sounded so easy! And then I started working on it and it wasn’t so easy after all.

Poking around finding quotes is fun. But when I find a fantastic one, it makes all the others look sort of dull. Now I am thinking I ought to get about 1000 and choose the best ones. My work has just tripled!

And then how do I get it published?  It would be useless as an e-book, because nobody could write in it. I doubt if anybody would want to download and print a 366-page PDF. Even if they did, the pages would float around and get lost because the book wouldn’t be bound.

These days there is such a thing as “print on demand.” You send a company a digital file of your book and they keep it on file and print the number of books you order from them. I priced a few and they turned out to be about what I wished the retail price to be. In this day and age, 366 pages is one beeeeeg book.

Some of these companies leave the marketing to you, others do the marketing (except for book signings, of course.) That brings the price way up. But I do not think it would be a good use of my time to do the marketing, which would be a half-time job, at the very least, in the beginning. Especially since I have never done it before and would probably make a large number of beginners’ mistakes.

So I’m asking for help on three fronts.

One is with the quotes. Got any inspiring lines that you are willing to share? Here are a few of my favorites so far —

It is never the child’s fault. – Anon

In all the years still to come, may your body walk as fast as the love and passion that moves you. – Catalina

I learned that it is the weak who are cruel and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong. – Leo Calvin Rosten

Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break. – Shakespeare, Macbeth

The tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds. – Mexican proverb

Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. – Saint Francis of Assisi

Everyone who terrifies you is sixty-five percent water. And everyone you love is made of stardust, and I know sometimes you cannot even breathe deeply, and the night sky is no home, and you have cried yourself to sleep enough times that you are down to your last two percent; but nothing is infinite, not even loss. You are made of the sea and the stars, and one day you are going to find yourself again. – Finn Butler

When in worry
When in doubt
Run in circles
Scream and shout.
– contemporary Wiccan spell

Two is with the illustrations. Can you draw maple leaves? Daisies? Weeds?

Three is with printing advice. Have you published a book? What good choices did you make? Did you make mistakes I could learn from?

I’m open to all feedback. Even if you think this is a really dumb idea — I need to hear it.