Can an RA Survivor Take a Vacation?

I’m talking about me, of course.

Yes. No. Maybe. Depends.

Yes. There is no reason I can’t take a vacation just because I was horrendously mistreated as a kid. No. I am too scared and timid to go because I was horrendously mistreated as a kid. Maybe, if I do a good job of talking myself into being brave and fearless.  Depends on how well I plan the details and how thoroughly I prepare myself.

Can I take a vacation without feeling guilty? Are you kidding me??? I can’t do anything without feeling guilty! I’m going to make my cats unhappy. I’m going to use scarce resources and contribute to global warming. Don’t say everybody does it — that doesn’t make it right. Even if my carbon footprint were zero I would feel guilty that I wasn’t planting trees and making speeches 24/7. Guilt is just a given.

Nevertheless, I have made up my mind and I am going to do it. I’m sick of being confined to my apartment, sick of these four walls. And I need a break from my beloved computer, too. My writing seems stale to me and I haven’t filed anything in weeks, if not months. I want to once again be brimming with ideas and projects and energy and enthusiasm.

My best friend and I are going to Australia, my favorite country in the whole wide world, for two weeks. We are going to see lots and lots of desert because that’s my favorite part of Australia. About five years ago I was in Australia for two weeks with my daughter and grandkids and we spent three twelve-hour driving days going through the outback in a bus, mostly on unpaved roads. One night we stayed at a cattle ranch under millions of stars, and they had an illegal pet kangaroo named Mary. (Don’t ask me why they are illegal, they just are.) They fed her tea with milk and a slice of bread for breakfast and gave her a beer at dinner time. She held the cup in her little racoon-like hands. We won’t see Mary this time, but we will see lots of other things.

First stop is Coober Pedy, which is the opal capital of Australia, if not the world. They noticed that it was cool in the mines, so they dug holes and made houses inside them, and hotels and bars, too. Lots of bars; guess there isn’t a whole lot to do in Coober Pedy. The outback around Coober Pedy looks fantastic.

There will be no 36-hour bus trip this time, but there will be a 12-hour train ride from Adelaide to Melbourne through five hundred miles of beautiful nothing.  I just love trains.

Then, for contrast, there will be a week in Tasmania, which is very rainy. The outback — also called bush — there is lush and green and full of all sorts of birds and marsupials. If it is a clear night, you can see just as many stars as in Coober Pedy. The night sky will look totally different because it’s the Southern hemisphere and the constellations are all unfamiliar to me. I’m hoping to have a Tasmanian specialty for dinner one night: mudbugs. They are extremely large crawfish, quite edible. I’m also hoping to see a wombat, which is a short fat marsupial rodent the size of a small German Shepherd.

As you might have guessed, I’m pretty excited. This trip will be all the more precious because my back tells me this may be my last big adventure. I hope I’m wrong, but it looks like my spine is going to continue getting worse. The pain as well as the lack of mobility clips my wings considerably.

We won’t have access to the Internet, because what’s the point in going halfway around the world just to use a computer? So there will be a gap in this blog. I’ll miss the 10/30 entry, and I’m quite sure I will miss Halloween festivities, too (Hooray!) I plan on an 11/10 entry but it will be late.

Oh, and I promise to come back.

I’m Taking Back the Summer

It’s hard to believe that, by my reckoning, summer is half over. I reckon summer ought to last exactly as long as my summer vacations did almost seventy years ago — from the last Monday of May until the Monday after Labor Day. And here it is July 20.

I usually really like summer, but this year I have been very critical. Too triggery, too hot, too cold, too foggy, too sunny, blah blah blah. I’ve been feeling more fragile than usual and been taking it out on the weather, which doesn’t seem to mind. Or if it does mind, it’s not showing it.

It is not productive to hide indoors just because I was abused outdoors as a child. That makes no sense, considering I was also abused indoors. Giving in to agoraphobia robs me of all sort of experiences that I enjoy once I manage to unglue myself from the computer. I know that I always feel better after finally getting outside, and yet it can be so difficult to stand up, put on shoes, sunscreen, and sunglasses, and go out the door.

I can’t do a whole lot because of arthritis. I can swim, but I can’t walk from the parking lot to the lake. I can pull weeds, but I have to sit down to do any sort of gardening. No more Frisbee, no more hikes in the woods. However, my psychological condition limits my mobility far more than my physical condition. This annoys me no end because there is nothing I can do about arthritis — at least nothing more than I am already doing — but there are plenty of ways I can work on my hang-ups.

I’ll be damned if I spend the last half of this summer indoors. What I need to do is stop complaining and get good and mad. How dare they ruin my enjoyment of nature? What kind of jerks were they to try and spoil the best days of the year? Am I going to let them get away with it????

NO WAY!!! I’m going out, and if a memory gets triggered, so be it. Far better to learn a little more about my past than to sit cowering in a stuffy apartment. Most of the time, though, memories don’t come when I am outdoors. I am aware of the temperature, breezes, the soft green smells all around me. No matter what I do, it is meditative. When I go back indoors because I am tired or it is getting dark, I feel calmer, more myself, more human.

If getting mad works like I think it will, watch out fall, winter, spring — here I come!

Reclaiming Nature

It’s almost full summer now, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. Leaves are out, spring bulbs have passed, lakes and ponds are starting to warm up, campgrounds are open. It’s time to play outdoors.
Or is it? Many of us feel very uncomfortable playing. How many survivors have bodies that are stiff and uncoordinated and constantly are walking into something or tripping and looking foolish? How many cringe at sports, remembering bad grade school experiences? How many were taught to stay perfectly still while being abused and are afraid to move freely?
And how many of us were abused outdoors, in the soft velvet night? How many are afraid of insects — for good reason? And of other little critters that make their homes outside; snakes, toads and frogs, rodents?
It is infuriating that our abuse can separate us from nature. It’s totally unfair that the beauty of a full moon in a clear sky should send us into panic. A walk in the woods should never bring up memories of being hunted as a child and warm summer nights should not bring memories of circles and bonfires. This is not how it is supposed to be.
There is so much beauty outdoors, and we have the right to reclaim it and enjoy it, just like anybody else. We also have the right to complain loudly that reclamation is necessary. We have a right to grieve how we were misused and how nature was tainted with our abuse. We are allowed to be very, very angry.
Some survivors, fueled by anger, seize their right to enjoy nature. They hike, go camping, climb mountains, play softball, do anything and everything they can think of. Defiantly, deliberately, disobediently, they enjoy themselves.
Others dip their toes gingerly into the water, wiggling them to make sure they are still there. They go slowly, they test and test again. Tentatively, they allow themselves to feel the sun on their shoulders, the wind in their hair. They nibble at bodily pleasure as if it were an expensive chocolate. Timidly, deliberately, disobediently, they enjoy themselves.
It doesn’t matter ‘how’ we do something. We all have our own individual styles, our own pace in life. It doesn’t matter ‘how well’ we do it or ‘how much’ we do, either. It only matters that we try. For if we try often enough, we will find that we are learning all those things that we should have been able to learn as children. Bodily pleasure, animal pleasure, a connection with all living things.
From Survivorship Notes, Vol 2, No. 6