Flashbacks of Abuse

I know I was sexually abused when I was very young. I have two images, one like a still photo and another like a snippet of film, of the abuse.

I also have physical scars with no memory or context around them.

I went to therapy briefly about 18 years ago because I thought the abuse should be dealt with. But I stopped going bc I had so few memories and it seemed like it really wasn’t relevant to the present. Plus, therapy hurt. It seemed easier to just move on.

And then this weekend happened. I was standing on my back apartment patio with a friend. A mover was pulling things out of the outside closet. The containers were filthy, with dirt, leaves, cobwebs. Suddenly, fear hit me like a truck. It knocked the wind out of me. I couldn’t breathe. I ran inside the almost empty apartment and tried to calm myself but I couldnt.

The logical me first thought I was having a panic attack. I’d read about those and with my uncontrollable heartbeat, it seemed like this was probably what was happening.

But there was more. I was terrified. I couldn’t breathe and I suddenly started crying. I began pacing, in circles, like a caged animal.

I felt crazed. I knew there was no rational reason for the sheer terror I felt but I couldn’t stop feeling it. I felt like one of those dogs you see running in traffic, just running and running, running past people trying to help them even, because fear overrode all of their senses.

I went into a bedroom. And I completely disassociated. I felt like I was up in the corner of the room watching myself lose it. I felt crazy. I couldn’t stop the fear. The overwhelming fear and wanting to escape but knowing I couldn’t. And I just wept and wept because I was so scared.

I kept trying to calm myself. My friend was trying to get me to focus on the here and now. Intellectually, I knew I was safe and I needed to be back in body but I couldn’t control anything I was feeling.

Eventually, I calmed down. It took about 30 to 40 minutes. It took about an hour to feel like I was fully back in my body.

I knew immediately afterwards that I was at risk for this happening again.

I feel like this is the first crack in the wall between my conscious mind and my memories.

I feel like there are memories, like monsters in a lake that has frozen over, pushing up against the ice from below, determined to break through. This emotional flashback is the first crack in the surface. And I’m terrified.

I’m going to research therapy options now because it is clear that I can’t outrun the things I thought I’d forgotten.

Writing Fiction is like Long Distance Running

Once again, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50k words in 30 days. The idea is that in order to write that much, you have to silence our inner critic.

Your inner critic destroys your confidence and prevents you from ever writing that first draft. But the first step to writing a great novel is giving yourself permission to write a terrible first draft. Hence, NaNoWriMo.

As I wrote 2300 words at work during lunch today, I realized that writing fiction reminds me of running.

1. If you really want to run, you make time for it. I saw a meme that read: “someone busier than you is running right now.” That is as true for writing as it is for running.

A lot of us want to write, or think we do, but frequently we use the excuse that we don’t have the time. The reality, however, is this: someone busier than you is writing right now.

2. For me, the first mile of a jog is always the hardest. Once I get past that first mile, I feel like I could run forever.

When I write fiction, the hardest part is the first 500 to 1,000 words. If I can make it past 500, it gets easier. And past 1,000 words, I feel like I could write forever.

Just like running, the hardest part is starting.

3. The more you run, the more you want to run. Similarly, the more you write, the more you want to write.

Writing novels is an endurance sport. Success, I suspect, is dependent on training and persistence.

P.S. Please forgive typos as I’m writing these posts on my phone.

Living With Yourself

Living with yourself is hard.

Living with unruly thoughts, unwanted worries, unforeseen heartbreaks–all of which feed upon aborted or abandoned dreams, discarded or misguided hopes–is hard.

Living with the evidence of your life is hard.

Living with your choices is hard.

It’s why we anesthetize ourselves with food, alcohol, drugs, smoking, exercise, work, sex… because the hardest thing in the world is living with yourself without being distracted or sedated.

Addictions come in all forms and they are hard to break because they serve a valuable purpose: keeping us from living with ourselves.

Without wine or unnecessary food, all I can do is wrestle with unpleasant emotions and invasive thoughts. I sit and simmer in a pool of pain, my own and that if the world around me. I struggle to stay afloat. I imagine we all do.

Writing helps me.

Writing this helped me.

What helps you?

Just What I Needed

I’ve been struggling a great deal since the mass shooting in the synagogue this weekend. I find myself crying quite a bit. I think I’m at a tipping point emotionally. There are so many bad things happening, I can’t process it all anymore.

Then today, around 12:40 PM, I heard Car Radio by 21 Pilots and I just wanted to run. As close as a year ago, I was running. I haven’t been running in months. And I’ve gained a great deal of weight. In high heels and without regard to how I looked, I promptly left my office and went on a brisk 30 minute walk. In the process I was rewarded with random yellow flowers and a field of donkeys.

I was also rewarded with a brief reprieve from grief.

It was just what I needed today. And probably what I’ll need every day.

Patience

Last week, I signed up for a watercolor class at Michael’s. It’s fair to say I certainly learned a lot.

With acrylics, you paint dark to light. I’ve been focusing on acrylic painting for the last few months, but I’ve always loved the look of watercolor paintings. So I signed up for two 2 hour classes.

In four excruciating hours, I’ve learned:

1. Patience is vital to watercolor.

2. Planning is just as vital. It is much harder to wing it when you can’t undo or paint over your existing work.

3. Thicker paper is better than thin.

4. I may not have the temperament for watercolors.

And, without further ado, here is my four hour progression, starting with the inspiration painting:

I want to add more to my little watercolor but I’m terrified that I’ll screw it up and be unable to fix it.

If you are a watercolor painter, God love ya. ❤

Good Men: A Letter To My Sons.

I’m a single mom to two sons. I’m also a survivor of rape and domestic violence.

I struggle to convey the importance of being a good man in a society where sexual predators are Presidents and Supreme Court Justices and where women go on national television to protect the men they know from even the threat of accountability for their actions.

In short, I worry about teaching my sons how to be good men in a society where being a man alone is what makes you good.

I used to emphasize being a good person but now I think I need to emphasize that in order to be a good man, you MUST be a good person.

So I’m penning this letter to them, tonight.

Dear Sons:

Even though you’ll always be my babies, you are also going to be men someday. And I expect you to be good men.

Good men are kind.

Good men comfort rather than bully.

Good men are respectful, gracious and patient.

Good men listen with open ears and open hearts.

Good men protect others in need–adults, children, animals.

Good men never touch a living thing in anger.

Good men don’t treat women like objects.

Good men seek consent before touching a woman (or romantic interest) and don’t resent them for having to seek it.

Good men don’t make promises they can’t keep because good men keep their promises.

Good men speak out against injustice, discrimination and abuse–even if what they say is unpopular.

Good men admit their mistakes and are unafraid to apologize.

Good men treat others as they themselves wish to be treated.

Good men try to help other men be good, just as I hope you two will always try to help each other be good.

From what I’ve taught you, and from what you’ve shown me so far, I have no doubts in your abilities to be good men. You’re already good people. Just don’t stop.

Love,

Mom

Making Time

When I was getting back into jogging, I saw a meme that really resonated in me. It read:

Someone busier than you is running right now.

That logic has stayed with me and become a source of motivation.

We make time for the things that matter. We don’t make excuses. If you’re making excuses, then the thing you’re not doing isn’t really that important.

I am using this logic to keep painting. My apt is small and not at all conducive to painting. I am a working, single mom. I’m stressed pretty much all the time. But if painting matters to me, then I’ll make time for it (even in this little apartment).

Case in point: I’m working on my largest painting yet. This is my “studio”:

I’m making it work because it’s something I want to do. (Albeit somewhat inexplicably bc who decides to be a painter at 44?)

I’m also blogging to keep up some writing. I’m using my cell phone as I type this. I’m making do because writing matters too.

What are you making time for in your life?