P.T.S.D.

by Jeremy Ann Brown

P.T.S.D. Letters that meant nothing to me before 1994. Now I speak these letters almost daily to explain unusual behaviors I can’t control and tears I cannot stop. P.T.S.D. Flashbacks clear and terrifying. Memories of moments I can never erase. Fantasy is a pretty word but not when it describes a stranger instructing you to, “Shut up, shut up, shut up.”

I am 74 years old now. At the time I was 55. I am still struggling to “get on with my life, get back to normal” as the well-meaning folks suggest to me. P.T.S.D. The diagnosis tells me yes, I can get on with my life but normal is only a facade or image I project to others. As my very first therapist announced to me as a cold, hard fact – the chemistry in my brain will never ever be the same again.

Taking a shower this morning I re-lived that visual memory of a killer waiting outside the bathroom door. “Why am I washing my hair? I’m going to be dead soon.” The blood and mucus caked all over my head make it seem like a useless task anyway. I look down and see my blood pooling at the drain. I wonder what is bleeding and when I touch my face, it feels like one big open wound.

I now carry the evil inflicted upon me as though it were a black pool of slime. It lurks at the bottom of my soul. Now and then it sends forth a wave of horrible fear and always makes certain I understand how vulnerable I am.

In 1994 I was attacked by a serial killer in the yard of my home in South Nyack, N.Y. I was tortured, robbed, raped, beaten unconscious and kidnapped in my own car. I was held hostage for five hours on a balmy September night. Within the 92 days of his freedom from prison, this animal murdered three other people but when he attacked me, I somehow survived. When I remind myself of this, I can be grateful. I survived. For years I wanted to visit this man in prison to ask him why he hadn’t killed me too. But in a constant search for answers I found the liberating thought that he didn’t spare my life at all. I SURVIVED. I saved my own life!

And so I am here. P.T.S.D. The evil he inflicted upon me will never go away. I realize now that as I moved forward over the years, learning more and more about criminal behavior, sexual assault, incest, etc., I probably believed I would come to a place of acceptance and peace. I worked faithfully with therapists and became an active volunteer who offered support and education to other survivors. I gave speeches at trainings for those who serve to support victims and prosecute their attackers. It all felt good for the most part, but then I reached retirement and thought I could “put it all away.”

I made a move to be near the ocean and close to my daughter in a beautiful and very different place. I decided not to volunteer to counsel victims, addicts, alcoholics or rape survivors. I guess what I am trying to say is, in a way, I thought I could “put away” that horrific event forever, but when I climbed the stairs at night in my beautiful new home filled with all my beautiful treasures, I was convinced there was someone in the house with me. A man was waiting for me in the bathroom. A man was waiting outside my room in the hall.

As strong as I have been, I had to face the fact that I could not live alone in my own home ever again. Living with flashbacks is one thing, but hearing footsteps and seeing shadows move was something I knew would truly test my sanity. Someone I love very much lives with me now and because of his presence, the sounds and shadows of ghosts are gone.

I am getting on with my life, but there is no “normal” to get back to. P.T.S.D. reminds me every day that I was attacked by a serial killer/rapist and my life will never ever be the same. When I was a little girl my mother used to say I was so happy I had bubbles in my heart. Not anymore. I know I will always see my blood pooling in the drain.

****

I write in honor and memory of Sonia Rosenbaum, Robert Silk, Margaret Kierer, and Dana De Marco. We were all victims of Reginald McFadden.

Only I survived; the others are dead.

Jeremy Ann Brown

February 12, 2014

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Posted in Inner Strength, Living with P.T.S.D., Surviving and healing from rape, Surviving kidnapping and sexual assault

Princess for a Day

by Amy

I was princess for a day, just like it is supposed to be.  The day I had dreamt about since I was a little girl was perfect.  My dress was amazing, my hair and makeup were beautiful, my jewelry was just right.  The candlelight ceremony was in an historic mansion.  The flowers, the food, the champagne, the party.  It was all there.  I was surrounded by my closest friends and family.  As I looked out into the room at my loved ones and held my new husband’s hand, I heard the words, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”  I had done it; I had finally gotten married.  The last of my friends to do so.  My husband was tall, handsome, nice, and successful, and he came from a stable, normal family.  I hoped with all my heart that I would be happy.  I had reached the goal, hadn’t I?  I had a husband now, my life was complete.  And best of all, I could stop looking!

I was born in 1963 and raised in a 1950’s-esque family.  Dinner was on the table at 5:30 every night and we all ate together.  My parents were living the American Dream.  They were married, they had four healthy children, they owned a home, and we took family vacations to the National Parks every summer in our station wagon, the kind with wood on the sides.  My mom was pretty, she had blonde hair and wore it in a bouffant hair style.  She always had on an apron, the uniform of a housewife in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.  She was raised in a family without much money, but she had married a successful military aviator.  She had succeeded in reaching the goal for most women in that era.  My mother’s career was being a wife and mother.  I don’t want to say my parents raised me to reach the same goal; it was simply part of what I came to expect for myself.  Perhaps it is as simple as the stereotyping of girls and boys that still occurs today.  I really don’t know where I came up with the idea that I wouldn’t be complete unless I had a romantic relationship but as I grew up, it had become part of how I thought my life would be.

My marriage ended ten years after my perfect wedding day.  Against all of my best efforts, I could not force myself to stay in a relationship that felt like a sham.  My husband was wonderful and he loved me very much.  He treated me well and we had a fantastic life together.  The only problem was that I didn’t feel the same about him.  I had hoped it would grow and change but it didn’t.  I could no longer live with myself and I could no longer pretend.  It wasn’t fair to him or to me.

I married him because he had all the “right” qualities and I didn’t think I could find a better guy.  After all, time was ticking.  I had been in ten weddings, watching all of my friends find their husbands.  It was my turn!  When I confided with people about my not being sure about him, they were always quick to point out that he was nice, he had a job, he loved me, and then they said, “you can make it work.”  I also convinced myself that everything would work out once I got married.

After my divorce, I had a boyfriend for several years and we lived together.  It was a committed relationship, and I was very much in love with him but he was a raging alcoholic.  Once I figured out that my love was not going to save him from himself, I ended the relationship.  It had deteriorated so much by then, I was happy to be free.  Since then, I’ve dated a lot.  I’ve been fixed up, I’ve done the online thing.  I’ve been in relationships.  If I am honest with myself, in each and every relationship, there was a moment in which I compromised what I new to be “right,” what I knew to be true for myself.  Of course, compromise is part of every relationship, but there was always a moment when I would say to myself, “Be careful what you wish for”.  I hope he likes me, I hope this one works, I hope he’s nice, I hope his friends are fun, I hope, I hope, I wish, I wish.  I have spent my life desperately grasping for relationships, trying to make things work, and imagining that things were better than they really were.

My last dating relationship ended in complete and utter heartache.  I was despondent.  I cried hysterically at the drop of a hat.  I could not move.  I could not get out of bed.  I wouldn’t answer the phone.  I was in the deepest and darkest place in my life.  My heart was filled with despair.  I wanted to die.  I was frightened at my reaction.  I almost drove myself to the hospital because I knew they would keep me safe, but I lay in bed and hid under the covers.  My dogs were waiting to be walked and I couldn’t get my head off the pillow.  Suddenly, my door opened.  It was a friend who has a key to my place.  She dragged me out of bed, put leashes on the dogs and put me in her car.  We went on a hike.  It was a beautiful autumn day and I watched as the dogs ran around with full joy, feeling envious of their bliss.  My friend told me that she had been through a painful break up once and I truly believed that she knew the depth of my pain.  She told me I had to keep going, I couldn’t give up.  She recommended a therapist and I eventually started to go.

I had been in therapy before, but this was different.  I couldn’t speak a sentence that first day.  All I wanted to know was, “Why did this happen to me”?  She had no answer, but she had tools.  As the weeks went on, I realized that I had been living my life, creating my life and all of its relationships out of the fear of being alone.  We dug deep and I did the work using guided journaling, mediation, reading books, whatever it took.  After a particularly powerful session, I turned a corner.  I can’t put my finger on exactly what happened, perhaps it was everything finally coming together but that session was a turning point.  My life became clear and I truly and deeply am no longer afraid of being alone.

After 51 years of looking for a relationship, I have chosen to no longer base the value of my life on whether or not I am in a romantic relationship.  Society has placed such strong expectations on being in a partnership that those of us who aren’t are treated with sympathy on some level.  Poor so and so, they never did get married.  Poor so and so, she divorced the best guy she would ever meet.  Poor so and so, she just can’t find the right guy.  I also hear about women who are single “because they are working on their career.”  I am a dental hygienist, my career does not need to be “worked on.”  I don’t need sympathy or help.  I don’t need an excuse for not being in a relationship.  For the first time in my life, I know in my heart and deep in my soul that I don’t have to follow a path of seeking another relationship.

I am a whole person.  I lack nothing.  I am living my life to its fullest.  The other day I went to lunch with a friend; we go regularly and it is always a great time to catch up.  As I sat there, I realized that it may have been the first time in my adult life that I was doing something, not because I was killing time until I could see my “man,” but because I was in the moment, truly living.  I have lived my life searching for the person who will go through life with me and I have discovered that that person is me!  A friend of mine once said to me, “It’s a great day when you figure out that you are your own best company.”  I didn’t understand it at the time, but now I do.   Every day I can look myself in the mirror and know that I am living my life, and the journey as it is supposed to be.  I make decisions for myself and my life without answering to anyone.  It is sheer and absolute freedom!  I have never been so free.  I have never been so happy.  And it is because I am alone, not in spite of it.

Posted in Breaking Free of Societal Expectations, Finding inner peace, Self Acceptance, Speaking the truth, Women's Stories of Truth

My Son, My Sun

by Hope

I have been an artist my whole life. I have had periods of manic creation, often staying awake until all hours of the night in order to finish my vision on canvas. I have had long and painful periods of non-productivity, lack of desire to create, sometimes a strong desire to create but no energy to do so. In periods of creative drought, I have sought to glean inspiration from other sources and in other ways. But three and a half years ago I was given the greatest gift of inspiration and creation that I could ever receive. That was when my greatest masterpiece came to fruition, my son, Jack Christopher-Chi. The light of my life, the beat of my heart, the sun in my sky.

He almost wasn’t here at all, sadly to admit. His father nearly convinced me to abort the pregnancy and I would have, had my ultimate Mentor, the Master Creator, not intervened. It was a time in my life when I felt the most pervasive sense of fear to date and yet once I reached that place of total and stark apprehension and aloneness and went to God and admitted complete surrender, was I able to receive the warmest and most completely encompassing sense of peace that I ever known. The night before I was to allow the life inside of me to be destroyed, I had an awakening that shook me to my very core. They say God doesn’t move from us, it is we that move away. I found my way back, thankfully.

Before I tell you what happened, some background needs to be established for the purpose of understanding the trepidation I felt and how I came to allow God to help me. For a few years before becoming pregnant, I had begun to wonder where my life was going to lead me. I had my addictions from drugs and alcohol in arrest for several years and regularly attended AA meetings. I was actively involved in my community, often volunteering for a bereavement center that worked with children experiencing loss. I had lost my favorite person in the world, my uncle Jack, when I was 11. He died very suddenly from a burst aneurism in his brain, right in front of me while I was reading the book A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle. My world fell apart that night, in that bloody spot where he collapsed to the ground in the living room. After that night, everything changed. My mom left six months later and I began my love affair with the medicine cabinet, until I found alcohol and someone to get it for me at age 14. I got cleaned up at age 19, had a brief interlude once more at the age of 23, and have been sober ever since (I am 37 now). The process of sobriety has been gradual, slow, and often painful. My faith, from the time my uncle died, became extremely strained. I was in battle with God and myself until a few years ago.

I had been building my life back up, putting a career together as a therapist in a psychiatric hospital. I worked with art and children in a therapeutic setting and was OK with my life, except that something was always missing. I never felt loved. Earlier in my life, I had searched for that love in bottles, bags, and music but then I got sober and started looking for that love and acceptance in relationships; painful, destructive relationships. Sometimes I was the one who got hurt and sometimes it was the other person whom I hurt but all of it just left me feeling empty at the end.

I had reconnected with someone from my past, which made me realize that there was a reason why people from back then didn’t make it to my present and I should have left it that way. Being the impulsive person I was, I ignored all the red flags that immediately went up about this old friend and I rolled right over my own boundary lines. When a year into our relationship, he told me that he got someone else pregnant, I was so stunned and felt paralyzed. Instead of nursing my heart, I nursed resentment and went out and found someone new to take my mind off things. Hani was by no means “Mr. Right” but he was “Mr. Right Now” and he offered me distraction.

Two months into this new relationship, I went on a spiritual retreat with my AA sponsor to Graymoor. That cool September air and a mandatory two- day silence started to clear my head. I could feel the relationship that I had been repairing with God becoming a vast presence in my life. I wandered into the bookstore on the last afternoon of the retreat and I was drawn to a St. Anthony medallion. I can’t explain why, but I held the little package in my hands, reading the prayer for a miracle on the back, and I just had to buy it. Something compelled me. I said that prayer every day, sometimes a couple of times. The miracle I prayed for was for God to bring me the love of my life. And boy did He ever. I just didn’t envision it as a child.

The night before I took a pregnancy test, I had a dream that I was sitting in my old house in Brooklyn, in the bloody spot where my uncle died, and kittens were crawling all over me. When I woke up from that dream, I felt my uncle Jack’s spirit around me, just as I had so many times since his death, and I sensed that something was about to change. The little blue plus sign on the pregnancy test held me in suspended animation. I had been so irresponsible before in my life and never gotten pregnant. Hani and I used protection every single time and I here I was, pregnant. A second test confirmed a positive result and I felt removed from reality. There are no words to explain how I felt.

At first Hani was excited, making plans to work more because he wanted me to stay home. He said we should get married, first in American style and then in a Mosque. He told me that the baby would have to be raised Muslim and that’s when I began to feel worried. I am a Jew and I didn’t mind sharing faiths, although it was killing my father, but I didn’t like being told that I was going to HAVE to do anything. I did not agree to the marriage and then everything fell apart.

After a day of disappearance, Hani decided that he did not want the baby anymore and insisted that Allah told him to abort the baby. He said he would get some kind of pill from someone in Patterson, NJ and that all I had to do was take it and the baby would be gone. I began to panic. He became obsessed with this idea and seemed like he was out of sorts. He began getting drunk and talked about killing himself. It was like he was possessed. For several days, he pressured me and I agreed. However at seven weeks, we had our first sonogram. As the doctor spread the cool jelly all over my stomach, I tried to believe that maybe the baby would just be gone by itself. Surely God would not give me a pregnancy and then put me in a position to destroy it, would He? I couldn’t reconcile how God could have allowed me to have a taste of true happiness only to ask me to give it back.

The sonogram showed a little black peanut, which the doctor said was the fetus. Then I heard a sound that I will never forget. It was the most beautiful music I ‘d ever heard. It was the sound of my child’s heartbeat. I tried to fight back hot, stinging tears and looked at Hani to see if his eyes showed a change of heart, but his eyes showed nothing. He asked to leave the room and the doctor and I talked. I had explained that we were in conflict about the pregnancy and the doctor told me that if I were his daughter, he’d advise me to abort. I left that day feeling betrayed by everything, by life, by God in a way. I made the appointment for the abortion. And now I was about to betray myself.

So many things cross your mind when you are about to do something that will forever alter you. There was a line that I was about to cross and I knew that after doing so, somewhere in my head I was going to give myself permission to destroy myself again. There’s no doubt in my mind that I would have gotten drunk and high again after that. I got home that night and asked Hani to leave me alone. I called two of my close girlfriends, two women who have been through abortions and they both told me the same thing. They had never forgiven themselves even though they had both gone on to have children later. They told me they loved me and would support me in any way necessary.

I cried myself to sleep but not before begging God for the first time in my life, to save me. I literally asked God to wake me up, to speak to me in a voice I would hear, beyond any shadow of doubt, and then I drowned myself to sleep through tears and exhaustion. Somewhere around 2 or 3 a.m., I woke up to the screams of a man and a woman. The room was filled with their cries! It was as if they were standing directly over me and on both sides of my bed screaming at me, but not with words. I nearly jumped out of my bed, covered in sweat. I knew that God had sent messengers to wake me and I was. I was AWAKE. In my soul, I was awake. And I was going to have a baby.

I called Hani the next day and he agreed to come over to hear what I had to say. Wordlessly and without eye contact, he listened and then he left. That was the last I saw of him. For months I would lie in bed at night and freeze every time I saw my motion detector light flick on outside. I’ve watched too many crime scene shows in my life and I kept thinking I was going to end up like an episode of CSI, so I moved. The decision to have the baby filled me with peace and happiness. For the first time in my life, feeling that child growing within me, I felt love like never before. I felt acceptance like never before. I talked to God everyday about all of my hopes and fears.

The baby was born in June, healthy and perfect, in a short and natural childbirth. The moment he was placed into my arms, I knew I had met the true love of my life, the very thing I had prayed to receive. It was as if only we two existed in the delivery room, or on the planet, for that manner.

Some of my fears came true, as far as financial and emotional. I lost my job when Jack was six months old and I felt the weight of insecurity. Then my mom and I lost our apartment and had to move a couple of times. I fell in love with a man who broke my and Jack’s hearts last year. I lost my house again and then had to relocate completely down to Florida, with my brother. I’m just now, after six months, starting to piece it all back together and I am stronger than ever. Jack and I share a passion for art and we paint every day. Our work has been shown concurrently in a gallery down here in Florida and I was recently hired to teach Art in his Montessori school, which led to a full time position last month.

Recently, Jack has begun to ask me where his daddy is and that has been difficult. I have taught Jack to pray for Hani, just as I have taught myself to, because carrying resentment is no way to live. It’s a recipe for disaster. Just as I believe that God is love, and so he sent this child to me as proof, Jack will be raised completely engulfed in love and that’s all I want him to know. I have no eyes for the future, as far as a formed vision, I only hope that I can support us. I pray for God’s will everyday and have begun to write children’s stories in hopes that God will bless that path for me. Four years ago, I turned down my dream job because I was afraid that the money would not be enough. When I interviewed for that position, which was with a rescue site for animals and displaced children, a majestic Sica deer came right up to me and rested her chin on my outstretched hand. The interviewer told me she had never seen the deer do that before and offered me the job on the spot. I was pregnant at the time and was afraid to take a pay cut. I turned it down because I still was afraid to trust God to meet my needs. I have since learned to trust. There will always be provisions as long as I am willing to ask for help. I am willing today.

For resources about becoming a mother, visit www.birthright.org and www.birthingwisdom.com.  For more information on spiritual retreats: www.atonementfriars.org, and if you believe you have a problem with alcoholism visit: AA.org.

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Posted in Child Birth, Faith, Motherhood, Overcoming the odds, Recovery from alcoholism and addiction, Single motherhood

The Butter Thief

by Madalasa Mobili

The gopis complained to Mother Yasoda: “If we keep our stock of yogurt, butter, and milk in a solitary dark place, your Krisna and Balarama find it in the darkness by the glaring effulgence of the ornaments and jewels on Their bodies. If by chance They cannot find the hidden butter and yogurt, They go to our little babies and pinch their bodies so that they cry, and then They go away. If we keep our stock of butter and yogurt high on the ceiling, in a pot hanging on a swing, although it is beyond Their reach They try to reach it by piling all kinds of wooden planks on top of a grinding machine. And if They still cannot reach the mouth of the pot, They poke a hole in the bottom. So we think that you’d better take all the jeweled ornaments from the bodies of your children.”

On hearing this Yasoda would say, “All right, I will take all the jewels from Krisna so that He cannot see the butter hidden in the darkness.”

Then the gopis would say, “No, no, don’t do this.  What good will it do to take away the jewels? We do not know what kind of boys these are, but even without ornaments They spread some kind of effulgence so that even in the dark They can see everything.”

Krisna Art

When Noah was a little boy he loved butter.  So often that I stopped counting, I would find the butter that had been left on the breakfast table with teeth marks on it from him having stolen a big bite off the end of the stick. When I would ask him if he had bitten the butter, he would look at me with his big brown eyes and say nothing but his face would be glistening and that would be all l needed for my answer. As I would scoop him up in my arms, the lovely fragrance of sweet butter would permeate everything and it was all I could do to not take a big bite out of him. Any grievance I had was instantly forgiven and forgotten. For years this went on – I would find sticks of butter with big bites taken out of them with only his teeth marks embedded into the yellow goodness as evidence of his misdeed. Until he became a teenager Noah smelled of sweet butter. He has always been my “butter boy.”

I had no plans to have a third child. After Miles grew out of his crib and high chair and his infant clothes, I gave everything away that had anything to do with little babies. Content to be a mother of two boys, I started a management consulting business. I worked a couple of days a week, going into the city to visit with the various clients and in the evenings, I would go to the ashram for dinner and attend an evening program. I took on a volunteer position with the ashram being a lead chanter for the evening programs and settled into a comfortable routine: working a couple of days a week, volunteering at the ashram and taking care of my family. This went on for two years until I discovered I was pregnant again. The discovery wasn’t unpleasant so much as surprising – I truly had no intention of having any more children.

One evening as I listened to Gurumayi give one of her talks, she mentioned that there was a group of souls around Nityananda, the great Indian saint of the twentieth century. This group that had gathered around Nityananda were children and they were being sent into the world at this time to further Nityananda’s work for bringing the light of the Self to the planet. When I heard Gurumayi talk of these children that were arriving, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and the fetus in my womb began to kick vigorously. I was sure, right then and there, that whoever was inside of me was one of Nityananda’s children. From that moment on, my pregnancy took on a special significance and my attention to the surprising turn my life had taken became supremely focused.

Throughout the pregnancy I intensified my chanting practice, made plans to have a home birth, and created rituals supporting the process of the pregnancy with my moon sisters. In the final month of the pregnancy, my sisters and I had a full-blown celebration of myself as the Divine Mother carrying the Divine Child.  A day before the birth I took a walk by the Hudson River and it just so happened that my walk coincided with the hatching of millions of Monarch butterflies. I was literally walking in a river of fluttering newborn butterflies. I took this phenomenon as an auspicious sign of the oncoming birth of this baby.

Everything about the birth was idyllic. My water broke around eleven in the morning, the midwife arrived not long after that, and the baby – to my astonishment a boy – was born in less than twenty minutes as I sat on the toilet which caught all of the waste and blood so there wasn’t even much cleaning up to do after it was all over.

Back in bed with only the mantra Om Namah Shivaya playing quietly in the background, the whole family basked in the miracle of Noah. For six weeks this child did not see an electric light, hear anything but the sound of the mantra and the comings and goings of his family. No visitors were invited into the home, no one but the immediate family even touched Noah – the world that he had lived in for nine months had become much bigger after his birth and I insisted that his transition be slow and protected. After having given birth two times before, I knew that there wasn’t any hurry about getting back into the fast paced world that I had withdrawn from. I knew that the world with all of its vast and fascinating diversions would be waiting just as I had left it when I came back to it in the future.

One night as Noah slept in the cradle underneath the effulgent light of the full moon, I was called to get out of bed to look at him. When I arrived I discovered a little angel lying in the cradle – white feathery wings and all. I was dumbstruck. I immediately woke my husband, Juan, to come and look at Noah’s wings. It has become something of a running joke in our family ever since that evening that I discovered Noah’s angel wings. I am sure Juan figured my sighting was caused more by postpartum hormonal fluctuations than any real angel wings, but I know what I saw and nothing can convince me otherwise.

Not long after the angel wing sighting, the butter started to disappear.

I have often contemplated the tale of Lord Krisna and his brother Balarama and their mischief in stealing the butter from the pots hanging in the kitchen. I have a book with the story about their shenanigans and a painting of the two boys, covered in golden butter, as their mother Yasoda has just caught them.  The look on Yasoda’s face is so full of love and affection and the two boys are utterly content in the knowledge of her love. They know, without a doubt, that in spite of their naughtiness Yasoda will always love them no matter what.

Yet the story teaches of even more than the love of a mother for her children.  It tells of the mysterious light, even in the darkness that emanates from these beloved children. It tells of the other mothers, impatient with the thievery of their precious butter yet not wanting to inflict any punishment on the boys for fear that the magnificent light will be taken away. Even as they complain to Yasoda, they beg her, “No, no, don’t do this.  What good will it do to take away the jewels? We do not know what kind of boys these are, but even without ornaments They spread some kind of effulgence so that even in the dark They can see everything.” The story tells of Lord Krisna emitting a light and grace that could not be explained yet also could not be denied.

Butter, that yummy food that makes everything taste so much better when it is added. Butter, that golden fat that comes from the rich milk of the sacred cow. Butter only becomes butter after the long and careful churning of the milk. Butter, the rich and golden butter that Lord Krisna would go to any length to steal was the delicacy that Noah loved so much as a little boy. And, just like Lord Krisna and his brother Balarama, nothing could keep Noah from biting off the end of a stick of unguarded butter.

Was it Noah’s perfect birth? Was it that he is one of Nityananda’s messengers? Was it all the chanting I did when I was pregnant? Was it just Noah’s hankering for good old-fashioned butter? Who’s to say? Yet to this day, there is nothing Noah loves more than a potato slathered in golden sweet butter or a simple piece of bread and butter and there is nothing that warms my heart more than watching him enjoy it so.

Hare Krisna!

If you are interested in choices in birthing/midwifery visit these sites:  www.choicesinchildbirth.orgwww.childbirthconnection.orgwww.cfmidwifery.org www.sacredvesselcare.com.
For more information about  Siddha Yoga meditation:  http://www.siddhayoga.org.
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Posted in Child Birth, Motherhood, Spirituality in childbirth

The Wake-Up Call

by Barbara Martin

I am the mother of a child who is adopted.

I am the mother of a child with Borderline Personality Disorder.

I am the mother of a child who abuses drugs, food, nicotine.

I am the mother of a child who has a history of destructive relationships with men.

I am the mother of a child whose father died when she was eleven years old.

I am the mother of a child who loves all animals, especially horses.

I am the mother of a child who is a gifted artist.

I am the mother of a child who is an avid reader.

I am the mother of a child who loves me more than anything.

I am the mother of a child who has been stealing from me regularly since she was quite young.

I am the mother of a child who talks like a gangsta from the ghetto.

I am the mother of a child who speaks like a suburban girl who respects others.

I am the mother of a child who cajoles and jokes and laughs like a kid asking for a new Beanie Baby.

I am the mother of a child who looks me in the eye and lies on a regular basis.

*****

If I could just exhale, really exhale, until all of this venom, all of the dead cells, all the hate and anger dressed up as disappointment could flow and blow out of me.  Maybe then I could feel like myself and be in my life.  But I carry this around.  I carry it like something I’ve swallowed that isn’t meant to be digested.  It twists and rolls in my gut.  Not sharp pain, but not dead weight either.  More like the persistent spasm that becomes an ache and then a tumor that settles in so completely you barely remember when it wasn’t there.  And her?  She doesn’t even know it.  She doesn’t understand it.  Perhaps I shall sit her down for the umpteenth time in her life and explain what she does and how I feel about it.  But doing that never works.  I never feel the click, the rush, the satisfaction of someone is really “getting” what I’m saying.  She nods, she stares past me, she agrees to anything.  I’m not sure if she’s in there.  It makes me say things like, After everything we’ve tried… You could do anything, be anything…, Have you ever considered…(fill in the blank)?  You’re so smart and creative… And she says yes, yes, yes to it all without hearing a word.

*****

There came a day when saying those things felt not only pointless but completely idiotic.  It was early November 2011, the first time that I sat across from her in the visiting room at the Rose M. Singer Center, the women’s correctional facility on Riker’s Island.  She was facing two felony charges for bank robbery.  A Citibank in Manhattan and a Chase bank in Queens.  There was no question that she had committed both crimes.

And now I sat across from this almost-stranger in an NYC DOC jumpsuit separated by a dingy green plastic table bolted to the floor.  I was afraid to breathe after the three-hour ordeal of getting in to see her.  We remained still, planted in molded plastic chairs also bolted to the ground.  Of course they were bolted down, I thought later, this is fucking Riker’s, not a school cafeteria.

Several months before this day I’d felt myself chugging along the track on a slow rollercoaster ascent.  That point on the ride where your internal organs feel like they could exit your body from one direction or the other at any moment. On this ride I was in the dark. My eyes glued shut by my inability to predict or control the future.  Despite the torturous fear, I had hope.  My daughter was at a long-term residential rehab with a part time job at Staples.  And so I chugged up this hill with some semblance of faith that at the end of the climb the track would be on a plateau.

Instead on the third week in October her old boyfriend showed up on her doorstep and she took off with him.  The stories of good intentions and misguided attempts to get him into rehab for heroin addiction would follow months later.  But first I would receive the call from her counselor telling me she’d disappeared with Johnny.  Then the calls.  The begging for money.  The grim, sickening reminder that once more I had to say no.  No wiring money.  No listening while she explained that her answer, her bright future was with a psychopath who had already taken so much from her.  Then the menacing calls.  She was high, smoking crack, mostly snorting but sometimes shooting heroin, threatening to prostitute herself if I didn’t send money.  And for me, more no.

I put my head down and walked numbly through the coming weeks as she disappeared from my life.  She was gone.  Gone.  Until the day Johnny’s mom called – poor, sad, hopeless, sick woman.  She called and told me to Google “Queens Bank Robbery”. There on my iPhone I saw a freakish shadow of someone who had aged twenty years in three weeks.  Someone I barely recognized.  My daughter caught on a security camera at a teller’s window.

Many times I’ve heard friends and family say maybe this will be her wake-up call – or do you think this will be her wake-up call? – or surely now this will be a wake-up call.  Much has happened in the past two years since I sat in that visitation room.  And most of it would seem to indicate that some waking up has happened for her, and for me.  For her because she is building a clean life of her choosing.  And for me because I know without a doubt that for all of the horrors of these recent years, I wouldn’t change a thing even if I could.

The end, for now.

 

If you suspect you may have a loved one with

Borderline Personality Disorder

information and support are available at

http://www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com/family-connections.

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Posted in Finding inner peace, Living with a loved one's illness, Speaking the truth

And You Miss-Goody-Two-Shoes

by DJ Cracovia

Most people never forget the first time they were abused as a child. This is my story.  It’s as vivid to me today as it was the day it happened.   I can never forget it, or the subsequent abuse that followed, but understanding and accepting it now as a part of my life and a part of what made me the person I am today, has freed me to break the cycle.

“And you, miss goody-two-shoes.”  Smack! The sting was incredible.  Jilting in fact. I stared at her, not understanding the reason for her to attack me.

“What do you have to say for yourself?” She shrieked.

I sat there rubbing my reddening cheek trying to fathom what I had done to upset her, and too in shock to cry.

For the five minutes leading up to her assault, I had tried to avoid the eruption of violence that surrounded me.  My stepmother was chasing my two half-sisters through the small railroad flat apartment.  Knocking into furniture, she was grabbing at my siblings. When caught, they squirmed their way free to seek refuge in another room. I wanted nothing to do with them, or the fight that echoed throughout, not just the apartment itself, but the entire building. That evening, my second night living with them, my half-sisters were doing a great job of evading her. Dodging here and there, locking doors behind them. Divide and conquer, or in this case, divide and survive. I hovered in a dinning room chair at the end of the table. I must have become an easy target in the monster’s eyes.  She noticed me, and my face had the welt mark to prove it.

Forced to live with an abusive stepmother and two less than loving half-sisters, when my real mother fell ill with a mental illness (which she never fully recovered from, but that is an entirely different story), my mother begged my father to take care me.  I think she felt herself slipping, losing control over her life, but as all good mothers, she wanted what was best for her one and only daughter-me. What she didn’t know, at the time, was my father planned on dumping me off at his legal wife’s, already crowded city apartment.

“I’m not taking sides.” I said, still holding my face, the reality of the situation dawning.

“Leave me alone…I didn’t start anything.”  I felt the first of many tears start to fill my eyes. I turned away from her with nowhere to look but down.  She hovered over me.  I froze with fear not wanting to give her another reason to strike me again.

“You live here now girl, you eat my food, you live under my roof…you share equally in the blame.” She yelled at me.  I saw her hand rise, and wrapped my arms over my face for protection.

Lucky for me, at that every moment I thought she would strike me again, my older sister poked her head out of the bathroom door, long enough to distract the crazed monster. She ran towards the bathroom door in pursuit of her daughter.  I heard the click of a lock. Taking my cue, I ran into the kitchen, out of sight and hopefully out of mind.  I hid there for what felt like days, until the fighting had calmed down.

This was the beginning of abuse that would last for several years. I felt alone.  I didn’t know where to turn.  I was eleven, wishing I had a champion to protect me. In the end, I was my own salvation by fighting back and getting the help I needed.

It is only many years after the fact, that I can look back and understand the why behind my step-monster’s abuse.  Calling her step-monster makes me feel better and lessens the negative outlook on that part of my life.

The why she abused us wasn’t about anything we had done or not done. The reason she treated us the way she did was her reaction to how she saw us, as a burden.  I later learned that she was abused as a child by her own mother.  Most abused children grow up to abuse others.  That is unless the abused child breaks the pattern.  I choose to break the pattern.

Part of my recovery has been understanding it was her issues and upbringing that lead her and taught her to be the way she was, not anything I did as a young child.  I also needed to work on myself, believe in myself and trust myself. If you are going through a similar situation, I hope you will choose to become your own champion today.

 

If you are being abused or know someone who is, please use the links below.

Childhelp© National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-a-child (1-800-422-4453) http://www.childhelp.org/pages/hotline-home

To report an abused child in NY visit http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/cps/faqs.asp

For a listing of child welfare agencies by states visit

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/reslist/rl_dsp.cfm?rs_id=5&rate_chno=11-11172

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Posted in Healing from child abuse, Speaking the truth, Surviving and healing from domestic violence, Uncategorized

Change

by Ginny Lewis

“You won’t learn anything there.  You’ll never graduate.  Just like your sisters, you’ll drop out.   Dayton High School is a joke.  I could get all A s without even attending a single class.”

The year was 1969.  This tirade directed at me was coming from my older brother, Mike, who because of his superior Catholic education,  thought he could tell my future.  I was a girl, who would someday be a woman, a person of lesser value. My education was not as important as his or Tommy’s (my only other brother).   After all, wasn’t I just going to get married and have babies, lots of Catholic babies?  So why should my father, who worked hard at the factory and did the best he could to feed and clothe his eleven children, waste money sending his nine daughters to a Catholic High School to get an education that they would never use.

“You don’t know that,” I yelled back  on that long ago evening in our cluttered kitchen. He was taking up the whole table with his plethora of text books and papers, working on a report for one of his college classes.   “I’ll prove you wrong.  I’m going to graduate.  I’ll show you.” My voice rose as I talked. I so much wanted to be right.  “I’ll bet you right now.  I’ll bet you a hundred dollars that I finish high school.”  He took me up on the bet and as we locked pinkies, I added “And when I graduate, you got ‘a pay up. One hundred smack-a-roos right here in my hand.” I held out my empty palm for emphasis.  “I’ll prove you wrong.”

But I did not prove my brother wrong. One year later I was pregnant, I, dropped out of school, married my boyfriend, and moved 200 miles away to begin the life that was expected of me.  Wife and mother.   I had four children by the time I was 28.   I was mostly a stay at home mom, taking minimum wage jobs along the way to help out with our finances.  But I would always end up quitting when child care became an issue.

My husband, who is also named Mike, was very hard working and driven with a dominant personality. He worked in a factory, making just enough to support his family. He never wasted money or shirked what he considered his sacred duty to care for his family, but the pressure on him was intense at times. Often he would take on too much overtime to make ends meet and his frustrations would manifest in violent burst of temper, directed at me and the children.  In 1978 he took over the operation of two Shell Gas stations in Cincinnati, from his father. This was a family business, which supported not only us, but Mike’s parents and two of his brothers and their families.

I read somewhere that we are attracted to the people we need in our lives, not necessarily the ones we want.  I believe that this was true for me.  Mike was hard to live with at times, but without his drive and ambition, I might still be a stuck in poverty and ignorance. In 1981 when I was pregnant with our fourth child, and Mike was struggling just to keep the gas stations open he began to talk about our way out.  I remember one conversation in particular.

Mike said, “You’re smart.  You should go back to school.  Enroll in college.  You could get a good job. “

“I’m going to have a baby. I can’t do that.  I’ll wait till all the kids are in school,” I replied. I wanted to stall.  There was nothing scarier than going out on my own.  I had always been taken care of.  I went directly from my father to my husband. And even though I knew we were ‘poor’ I never worried. Mike always came through for us.  I had no desire to go to school or work full time anywhere.

Mike kept pushing, “But that’s too far away.  You could start as soon as the baby’s born. Mom could watch the baby and get the girls off to school.”

I couldn’t argue that point, because Mike’s parents, Sue and Bill, lived right next door to us and Sue had cared for our children often. In fact she watched the three girls for almost two years when I worked at a plastic factory before I got laid off in 1979.

“We can’t afford it.  How could we pay for college?” Crying ‘poor mouth’ was my old go to.  Something I learned from my family of origin.

We went back and forth like this off and on for days. Mike was like a dog with a bone and he was not going to let me off the hook, so to shut him up I promised that after the baby was born, I’d check out schools.  When Glen, my last child was born, I got another reprieve because I nursed him and needed to be home.  Mike eventually had to close down the gas stations, and the rest of the family had to take care of themselves. He went back to work in a factory and I took a part time job on nights and weekends, selling magazines over the phone. Our finances were looking better.

Eventually though, I hated my job and Mike convinced me to quit and said I should check out schools instead. He had finally wore me down. One day I took a bus to the community college. At the Admissions Office, I learned that we lived below the poverty level and that I was eligible for lots of financial aid, so there went that excuse.  When asked what field I’d like to study, I told them I got a D in typing and I hated to stick people with needles, so the only two professions I thought were open for women, a secretary and nurse were out.  They gave me an aptitude test and the results showed that I would do well in the new field of Computer Programming.  I had forgotten how good I was at Algebra and math. It was my Ace in the hole.

Within a few weeks I was attending classes four days a week and loving it. I forgot how easy school was for me. I was smart and I knew it. I was at the top of all my classes.

I graduated in 1984 with a 4.0 and started my career at a large insurance company. I worked there for the next 15 years. During my time there, I grew and learned so much about myself. I became a confident self assured woman. I was good at what I did and I knew it. I moved up in salary and position.  When I left  to start my own consulting business I was making top dollar for a  woman in the for an IT field. In 1999 I worked as a consultant for that same company during the Y2K conversions and grossed over $90,000 that year.

Now I’m the proprietor and creator of an online retail business that is growing every year.    I am still married to my teenage sweetheart and because of the financial support I gave our family Mike was able to quit working for others and buy into a metal finishing factory in 1994, fulfilling one of his dreams: owning and running  his own factory.

My advice to women of all ages who need to change their life is to do it. Do not be afraid of the unknown. The best way to grow in self confidence is by being  recognized and rewarded for what we do, what we know, what we love and who we are.  To get to that place, you may need to further your education, learn a skill, a trade, expand your horizons.

Things changed in my family, all four of my   younger sisters graduated from Dayton High School and all 4 of them went on to further their education. Louise is a Maasage Therapist, Jean is a Registered Nurse, Agnes works in a clinic as a medical assistant and Marie is a Credit Manager at a well known corporation.  I like to think that we broke the cycle.   I believe  our brother Mike owes us an apology.

Below are links to websites supporting women’s education and career growth through grants.

http://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarships-by-type/college-scholarships-and-grants-for-single-mothers/

http://www.grantsforwomen.org

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Posted in Overcoming the odds, Uncategorized
About Writing Our Path
Welcome to the Writing Our Path: Stories of Truth and Empowerment blog. The stories posted here are written by women who are from many different walks of life, professions, and places. Every woman’s journey is unique, so the stories they’ve written are on a range of topics from surviving domestic violence to getting an education to recovering from alcoholism. No matter what each woman has gone through, all of these stories share the commonality of courage, hope, and empowerment. Here, at Writing Our Path, we believe writing and sharing our stories heals us, and those around us. If you are a woman going through something similar to what you have read here, we hope you find the strength and the help that you need, and know that you are not alone. At the end of each story, there are links to women’s resources related to the theme of the story. Also, if you are ready to share your story, please contact us at info@writingourpath.com. We would like to thank all our writers and readers for their courage and their commitment to the empowerment of women.
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