Turning Points

“There are two kinds of daily life: the life in time, and the life in values: something which is not measured by minutes or hours, but by intensity, so that when we look at our past it does not stretch back evenly but piles up into a few notable pinnacles, and when we look at the future it seems sometimes a wall, sometimes a cloud, and sometimes a sun, but never a chronological chart.”

–E.M. Forster

Draw a timeline of your life highlighting the major turning points as well as the times you were lifted out of the mundane into something more powerful or elemental. Sometimes these two will coincide; other times they won’t. Each of these moments holds a story that can reveal something essential about your life and who you are. One at a time, tell these stories.

Comments

  1. Wendy says

    This feels a bit daunting. My first response was, “I can’t do it! It’s too much!” Then I thought, “Maybe I don’t understand.”

    So I’m just going to go with what I think is right. Yikes. Although it first felt like a mountain, now it feels like I’m closing my eyes, holding my nose, and jumping into very cold water.

    1979: I am in college. I realize that I very much want to be a freeform d.j. I have written about this before. It was very important to me although I don’t remember my last shift at all.

    1983: I moved to California. They had $99 specials at that time to go anywhere in the continental United States, and I chose Northern California. As a teenager, I had lived in Southern California. One of my high school friends was now in the PhD program at Berkeley. Although I had a double degree and had graduated magna cum laude, I felt that I had no skills to do anything. However, I knew that I was a West Coast person, and that would be my start.

    1983: I started therapy with the person who I thought was my savior. I did uncover important memories. I was able to recover from my eating disorders. I was able to heal in a lot of ways.

    1994: I start playing music. I rediscovered the piano. I wrote songs. I sang.

    1994: I fell in love with baseball.

    2003: I began dating my fiancé.

    2004: I started my own business.

    2010: I moved to Ben Lomond with my fiancé and our three cats.

    2011: I started doing Pilates and learning about the aches and pains that resided in my body.

    2012: I started studying editing.

    2013: I broke up with my therapist.

    These seem to be the milestones of my life. I think the common themes would be that I have always loved music and words. I have often thought that something was wrong with me, and I wanted to find out what it was. I spent a good part of my life thinking that I needed a substitute parent and that someone else had my answers. It’s hard for me to imagine right now why I spent so much time watching baseball although at the time I genuinely loved it. People who known me for a long time often ask me about “my team,” and it feels like a conversation from another planet.

    I would like to be kind with myself about my milestones. I would like to honor them and let them go or hold them in a tribute that feels appropriate while moving on. I’m trying to be okay with things that I haven’t pursued. I sold my clavinova when I moved to Ben Lomond. Last year I bought a keyboard for fifty dollars at a flea market. I haven’t played it much yet, but when I do, I feel happy. I wish I had been a steady writer.

    If I could define my life right now, I would say it was rebuilding and reimagining. This community has been very important to me to start having a writing practice again. I am trying to imagine how music will come back to me.

    • Kate Samuels says

      I. Love. This. Piece. I love that you were able to extract a few themes and loves in your life that ebbed and flowed amidst the turning points.
      This piece makes me want to know more! You “thought [s/he] was your saviour”… then you “broke up” in 2013. I also loved that you don’t remember your last dj shift at all- I could relate to that on so many things that I have both loved and hated. Then I don’t even remember the ending.
      I love that you notice that things circle through your life at various times and that you are kind with yourself about that. In this culture we are so bound to the idea that we must hold onto one or a few things and consistently and laboriously practice them at all times or else they don’t define us.
      Thank you for your poignant thoughts!

    • says

      Wendy, you did a great job considering the fact that you felt intimidated by the prompt. To be honest, when I read it over again this morning, I thought it was pretty intimidating too–more of a multi-step process than a momentary writing prompt. I think this is one worth taking more time with–and if less people post this week, so be it. This is the kind of process you may want to chew on for quite a while.

      I, too, loved the threads of music and words were wonderful. Sometimes it’s only when we look in the rear view mirror that we can see the continuities in our lives. I, too, hope you find your way back to music again.

      • Wendy says

        Thank you, Laura. The other day, I was picking up work from a client, and she picked a few pears off her garden trees to give to me. She said they were the only pears of this variety in this area. It made me so happy that I burst into song, just a few notes. I didn’t even know I was going to do it. It turns she was a singer in a former life. She said, “I thought I was the only one who did things like that.” It surprised me in a happy way.

    • Ilana says

      Wendy- What a beautiful piece. I love how you shared your experiences in kind of bullet points and then gave us a little of your feelings about them. Thank you for sharing a bit of your life with us. Also, I think you did a great job of honoring each experience regardless of how things ended. That is something I am working hard on too. Nice job. Ilana

    • Karla says

      Wendy,

      I enjoyed the method you had in this piece, from first describing your thoughts about the prompt to the construction of this very intriguing timeline, to wrapping it up by defining the common themes across your lifespan and your goals for the future. It was a very engaging journey and like the others, it left me wanting more. I always learn so much from you on every prompt, from your approach to the topic to the choices you make in your writing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hazel says

      I really liked your lines, “I would like to be kind with myself about my milestones. I would like to honor them and let them go or hold them in a tribute that feels appropriate while moving on.”

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Judy says

      Wendy, I love this piece. It is direct and holds interest from start to finish. This line is a favorite, “I would like to be kind with myself about my milestones.” Wisdom for us all. That you found the keyboard and are playing is so uplifting. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Kate Samuels says

    At twelve years old I was asked to write about the three things that had shaped my life up until that point. At twelve I was dumbfounded, clueless, and my page was blank. And at twelve I was already in love with writing; a compulsion likely continued from a preadolescent obsession with diary keeping. But, at twelve, there had been no life lived and no defining moments of which I was yet aware. That moment was, in itself, a turning point. I uncomfortably understood then that life would not always be as it was sitting in a desk chair, and instead would be punctuated with dramas and epiphanies.

    At fifteen my life began when I realized that everything may be more intense for me than it is for others, simply because of how I am ‘wired’. Now, in my mid thirties, I stand on a pile of rich experience, turning points, and powerful moments. From this vantage point I can see that I could not eloquently and accurately tell all of these stories here. Instead I will extract and verbally document only a few sporadic events that come to mind:

    Attending natural births with a passion and then birthing three children by unwanted surgeries. The wisdom that came with those years is that we don’t always choose what we want and that everyone is correct when they say motherhood indeed changes us. And that in child rearing, a challenging child can bring us to places we didn’t know existed and expand our empathy for almost everything. All of these things bring equally heartache and joy, and compassion for the women’s experience.

    September eleven, 2001 occurring the day after I moved to the west village in Manhattan with my American Muslim husband. I remember hearing a bystander emerge from the dumbfounded, traumatized crowds to scream, amidst white billowing smoke, “It was Hussain Bin Laden!”. All of these things bring equally despair and togetherness, working through ignorance, and educating about the truths from the lies.

    Being a bystander in a in a psychiatric institution in Manhattan when a patient screamed from his hallucinations, “Stop they are all over me! Make it stop!”, and nurses rushed to annihilate his anguish with injections of Lithium. Then growing into my own, much more muted, experience of fighting amidst depression to convince the mental health professionals that this is all an existential “crisis”; wanting to yell “Stop they are all over me!” about those who wanted to fix me with pills. All of these things bring equally sadness and confusion and knowledge that I am strong and capable enough to save myself.

    The first time someone called me an artist. The first person who told me the truth about myself. He said it so casually as if he really knew, as if I knew; as if it had so obviously already been the truth. She is an artist… This brings hope and joy and a calm entrance through which I begin my authentic life.

    A recent midnight bath at Esalen with an unexpected laconic and healing discussion that turned almost mystical. All of this brings the elements of the body and bath, chilly air and crashing waves together with the notion of acceptance of the past, of the present, and of the future turning points that await me.

    • says

      Kate, you made me want to hear more about all of these turning points in your life. Each could be the powerful seed of a story. I especially wanted to hear more about the discrimination and challenges you and your husband must have faced in New York, right after 9-11. ”

      I also love how you have taken on the title, “artist.” I’m sure it’s well-deserved.

    • Ilana says

      Kate- Beautifully put together. I really enjoyed the rhythm, the way each paragraph started out with a description of the event and ended with your feelings about it. Thanks for posting. Ilana

    • Karla says

      Kate, I have such an appreciation of awe for how you express these turning points in your life.

      A couple of lines made me pretty much moan with pleasure (in a non-creepy way), for the lovely language as well as what it pinged in me:

      “Now, in my mid thirties, I stand on a pile of rich experience, turning points, and powerful moments.”

      “And that in child rearing, a challenging child can bring us to places we didn’t know existed and expand our empathy for almost everything. “

    • Hazel says

      Very interesting. Thank you for sharing this well written, interesting turning points of your life. I liked “Now, in my mid thirties, I stand on a pile of rich experience, turning points, and powerful moments.” it made me smile as I know how very many more things there will be on that pile when you are nearly 80.

  3. Wendy says

    Kate, this is so evocative and brave. It felt very cinematic to me. I, too, wanted to learn more about each of the moments. Bravo!

  4. Kate Samuels says

    Wendy, no problem! Thank you for your reply. “It felt very cinematic” was a very strong comment for me to read. I am a photographer and visual person, and when I write I think “cinematically”, but rarely do I feel that comes across. Thank you for your input!

  5. Sangeeta S. says

    I was about 6 or 7 years old and just starting the first grade. We had moved from a working-class neighorhood to a middle-class, suburban all white neighborhood. Go figure- I didn’t fit in. The other girls were smart, pretty and blonde. I was brown, ugly (not really, but felt like it) and had very dark hair. I didn’t realize I didn’t fit it on a conscious level, but that was when I started to create a world of my own.

    I was being sexually abused by my brother in the walk-in closet. I didn’t know what he was doing and it was dark. I lay there still and afraid, not knowing what to do. I retreated even further into myself.

    I was sitting at the kitchen counter and my other brother started making fun of my slight stomach. I was the cutest girl you could ever see but he made me feel self-conscious and ugly. I know now that this was just his latest attempt to bring me down since I was so beautiful.

    I was 16 years old and winning trophies left and right. I showed them.

    I was 20 and started binge drinking.
    ahh, well, maybe even then I was taking care of myself.

    I was 25 and had just graduated with another degree. I thought about running off to the Czech Republic or somewhere in Eastern Europe and perhaps working there. Didn’t; but now I’m remembering how lost I felt back then.

    It was 1998 and my molester brother was visiting me up here. I caught him peeping on me in the shower and masturbating. I acted like nothing happened.

    A year later I got into therapy and a year-and-a-half after that I started talking about the sexual abuse. The rest is history.

    I’m ok now (and getting better by the minute); Sorry sucka’s, you still haven’t gotten me, and now I know you can’t.

    • says

      Sangeeta, thanks for this post–and for the accounting of turning points. I bet there are a lot more–turning points where you have become more and more who you were meant to be.

    • Ilana says

      Awesome last line!!! I enjoyed this whole piece but this one line really resonated with me. “I was the cutest girl you could ever see but he made me feel self-conscious and ugly.” I pulled out some old photos to work on this piece and stared into the eyes of a very pretty 16 year old girl. It makes me sad to remember how much she hated herself and how ugly she believed she was. Your piece gave me that wonderful “I’m not alone. Someone gets it.” feeling. I also appreciated your sharing that your abuser was your older brother. Mine was as well and this made me feel less alone too. Thanks for sharing with us. Ilana

    • Polly says

      Sangeeta, I always enjoy reading your work on here. This piece truly resonated with me. It’s inspiring to see the ways in which you now recognize your beauty, strength, and resilience. What I got from this is that you have learned to honour yourself, and that indeed shows a great measure of strength. You’re right: your brother will not get the better of you. Thanks for posting.

    • Judy says

      Sangeeta, I like the pace of your post and its honesty. It left me wanting to hear more of your story. Please write about wanting to go to the Chez Republic. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Karla says

    Turning Point:
    How I Became a Psychological Expert for Battered Women’s Self Defense Cases

    I am a psychologist-lawyer, and I have been working as an expert who testifies in cases where battered women kill their abusive spouses or partners for twenty years. I was not particularly intentional about choosing this as a career, as I never answered a want ad in a newspaper for “expert”, so there is not a moment in time I can pinpoint as a turning point. It was more that battered women’s defense chose me as its worker (or warrior, or servant, depending on your spin) and that set me on this trajectory that I am grateful to have found.

    If battered women’s self defense was a recipe, it would have three ingredients: one part social justice, one part Tikkun Olam (Hebrew for healing the world), and one part finding meaning and soul in work. These are mixed up in the unglamorous worlds of county jails and state prisons, with the people call the Nicest Murderers in America. It isn’t just me who likes these women. I can’t begin to count up the number of times correctional officers have whispered that they hope she wins her case or mention her positive qualities to wind down or counsel other inmates. Their defense lawyers are usually invested in their cases in ways that they tend not to be for other clients. As cases resolve, negative outcomes can send me reeling towards cynicism and despair, while positive outcomes create an annoying sentimental optimism that change is possible.

    There isn’t any dramatic beginning to how I got started in domestic violence—I am not a survivor of domestic violence, nor did I grow up watching my father beat my mother. Over the years, numerous strangers and acquaintances and colleagues and friends have disclosed the violence in their own families, but no one in my extended family ever has. I haven’t even experienced a bad divorce, as I’ve been married to the same man for almost as long as I’ve been an expert. Occasionally, people wonder about how he’s doing in a marriage with a wife who makes a living helping women who kill their husbands. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t developed any greater sense of implied threat than any other man. At some level, maybe the collective message from the last twenty years is that they should all be scared, but that would be a contradiction to the statistics in domestic homicide. The domestic homicide rate has declined by over one-third, if you only count the number of men killed by women. If you look at the number of women killed by men—a rate almost five times greater than the number of men killed—the domestic homicide rate has remained unchanged over the last two decades.

    I found domestic violence work by accident, when I was a graduate student and a law student in the late 1980’s. The law school, in particular, was an academic island that seemed quite removed from the world of the people whose interesting cases we read and debated in our classes. After hours, the Women Law Students group held meetings about how we could reach out to the surrounding community. Surely, with more than a year of law school completed, we ought to have at least a couple of useful skills that could benefit others. One of our members called our local domestic violence shelter and was told that a new law had just been passed in Illinois, granting victims the right to seek orders of protection. The shelter needed help in figuring out the process to assist victims. The basic idea was that the self-help forms needed to be completed and then victims needed to be taken to the courthouse and presented to a judge who would sign the order. The Women Law Students developed a schedule that would have at least one law student available to assist victims every day of the week, and I began volunteering with that group.

    In the beginning, the brutality of what happened to women in abusive relationships was almost more than I could bear. Sitting with victims who were recently bandaged, bruised, raped, and with limbs in casts and slings while simultaneously walking them through paperwork that shoehorned the violence that they experienced into boxes to check and asked them to timestamp specific incidences in the matter of fact manner a federal tax form—it was a strange juxtaposition. We had all read articles about how orders of protection were just a “piece of paper” and we worried about the safety of everyone who came in, some of whom predicted that it was just a matter of time before they were killed. Twice, in the five years that I did this work, our clients were murdered. There is not enough rage or enough tears to explain what it was like during these times.

    I began to notice things about the women other than the vividness of the horror that they had survived. First I observed that over the two or three hour period that it took to complete the paperwork and go to court, they steadily came alive in their emotional expressions and their socialness. I invited them to talk more freely and ask questions that weren’t limited to the legal questions on the forms, and I started learning about the insidiousness and the unseen pain that underpins physical violence—the insults and put downs, the control, the isolation, and the fear of retaliation for leaving. Many women emphasized how irreparably damaged they felt because of the emotional abuse, expressing that bruises fade away from the body, but not from the heart. At the end of the day when they had the court order in their hands, they seemed visibly lightened, a little bit more at peace. It seemed to me that the law held tangible power to help victims move on with their lives.

    On some days, there were multiple women seeking orders of protection, and we worked with them in groups. They filled out their forms in unison and commented when they saw similarities. “Oh, my husband likes to say that too, “ one might say and the response was a chorus of knowing laughs. Someone would burst into tears and another would pat her hand, or link their arms together. While we waited at the courthouse, they chatted about their children and their homes. They found connection. They found support. They even started to find themselves in ways that weren’t defined by what they had been told they were or what had been done to them.

    Because I was volunteering on the same days of the week, I was often able to work with victims twice—once for what is called an “emergency” order in many states and that is effective for two weeks, and once for what is called a “plenary”, or permanent order. Victims have to come back to court two weeks after they obtain their emergency orders for the plenary hearing. I remember waiting for them to show up a few minutes before their scheduled hearing. When they did, I often didn’t recognize them. It wasn’t that I was experiencing early memory problems or because their bruises or injuries had healed, although there was probably a little of the later. My failure to recognize my clients was mostly about how people’s faces can soften and brighten when they are no longer under chronic stress and fear; they literally look like different people. In the two weeks since their orders of protection had been entered, the victims that I had worked with had lived with peace and space in their homes, for the first time in a very long while. They not only looked changed, but they also spoke differently. Their conversations after a period of safety became more about their goals for the future—how they would go back to school, move closer to their families, apply for jobs, find better housing for themselves and their kids. There was hope where there used to be fear.

    I was hooked by being able to witness this transformation, and I’ve never let go. I was inspired by the courage of victims to take large steps towards freedom, in spite of numerous obstacles to change their lives. There’s a version of this in working with battered women defendants, who have their own challenges, mostly misplaced loyalty, to breaking the silence of the victimization that led to their incarceration. Battered women defendants have the challenge of finding a way to live with what has happened, regardless of what the legal outcome is in their case. I find comfort in witnessing this process, especially when good cases go bad.

    I imagine that battered women’s self defense work, aside from the lousy working conditions in most jails, is satisfying for the one reason that people often point to. If you like the people you work with, you like the work. While I obviously have much more to say about what I understand about domestic violence after twenty years of doing this work, I know at least one thing for sure. Victims are so much more than a vessel for hurt and pain and violation. They are all living proof that the power of breaking silence, of sharing the truth, of telling stories, is so much greater than the power of abuse. Those of us along for the ride are lifted up and held in this goodness, cocooned against the meanness of the world.

    • Wendy says

      Karla, I love this piece. I think those last words, “cocooned against the meanness of the world” will stick with me for a long time. It was really fascinating for me to hear your account of your work. Thank you.

      • Karla says

        Wendy, thank you for your kind words. It was very helpful to me to know that it was interesting to read the “how I got into this”, because I wasn’t sure about it. I always appreciate what you have to say. Thank you.

    • says

      Karla, this was fascinating. I’m so glad you shared it here with us. I know you do this work, of course, from having you come to Commonweal with me for two summers–but having this background and how you came to it filled in a lot of gaps in what I knew. And is incredibly inspiring besides. Thanks for taking the time to give us such a long, thoughtful well-constructed post.

    • Judy says

      Karla, the power of your writing, the glimpse into your world and the worlds of the women you help leaves me wanting to hear more. Please tell us that you have a publisher or that these experiences will be told in a documentary soon. You are to be commended for the work and service you provide. It is an honor to read you piece and say thank you.

      • Karla says

        Judy, you are such a consistently encouraging voice for other writers here, plus sharing your own creative voice here. I am so appreciative of your generous feedback, I hardly know what to reply. I am working on a book about battered women’s self defense, I have two chapters drafted and am working on 3 & 4. I am very serious about finishing sometime in the not too distant future. Haven’t thought about a publisher yet, although I am hopeful that someone might want to publish it.

    • Diana says

      Karla,
      This was a fascinating glimpse into your specialized and unique work. I would love to hear more. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Ilana says

      Karla- My first thought was “Thank God there are people like her out there.” I’ve worked with battered women too. When I did my honor’s thesis in college I read a book of testimony from women who were in jail for having killed their abusive husbands. It was heart breaking. It’s wonderful to know that there are people like you helping them. Thank you for this well written in-depth view of your experiences and how your clients made you feel. Ilana

    • Polly says

      Karla, thank you for doing such important, crucial work, and for sharing some of your experiences here with us.

      As an aside, because of some things a close friend of mine is currently experiencing, this piece specifically hit home for me.

      It is comforting to know that there are women like you in the world who help women to empower themselves and even grow despite the direst of experiences. You could have taken your law degree and used it for far less noble things. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • Karla says

      Thank you so very much Diana, Ilana, and Polly. I appreciate your encouragement and it means so much to me. Thank you for the time you put into this virtual writing community.

    • Hazel says

      Karla,
      As a woman who was in the situation of “kill or be killed, or leave just before it happened” I was able to get away. In 1972 these was no one like you to help me. I tried everywhere there was any hope of assistance then chose to leave my family and everything I knew to flee to Eastern Canada. I can only say that I thank you on behalf of every woman you have helped over your twenty years of service as I am sure they have also thanked you. If you have never been in that situation, you have never known the terror that one human being can cause to happen to another.
      Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  7. MaryL says

    Surely the obscenities in childhood shaped me, but I don’t want to write about them today. And yes, “Mommy knew.”

    As a good Catholic young woman, I entered the convent and stayed five years, left, returned to school, then got married. I birthed three wonderful babies.

    1989 Divorce Final – battle to re-establish joint custody, which ended in my decision to not put the kids through the stress of being dragged to court every few weeks to recite the Gospel of their father.

    I still had hope that: the children would come around and come back to me AND I could properly think of myself as their loving, true mother.

    1994 Yale Divinity School: Exciting days of seminary; hard, hard work; incredible satisfaction; feeling meaning in my solitary life; meeting lots of people – all kinds – considering my sexuality.

    October 1996 –Ordained U.C.C. minister in New Haven: Worked as Asst Admin. Peppermint Ridge until I reported abuse by staff persons, told to resign.

    Interim Pastor at a dying/killing church in California. … 10 people bent on the destruction of anyone who came as pastor …most of the 10 have died by now. Not telling me the sewer split every summer until it happened .. late June … such a mess … tore up the street …. Etc.

    Vacation in CT. My daughter returned to live with me. Many challenges, but it felt like a miracle!

    Following year – we moved to ND, where I was Senior Pastor in a small town. Highlights; lowlights: 500 year floods, 15 blizzards the first winter. First woman pastor in town – some never accepted that. Expected to be both pastor and pastor’s spouse …. Too much work. New and wonderful compassionate acquaintances. Daughter off to college … back for breaks … very independent … never asked permission … did what she chose … nothing extreme, but a strange relationship.

    Found a niche in connecting with parishioners – when they were well, when they were sick, in the hospital, when they were dying. Someone said that after I came, people thought it was ok to die, that they would be treated nicely(!) Preaching every Sunday involved much work and discernment, and exhaustion!

    Personality – this is where I met and came to know what “passive-aggressive personality” means. The church was filled with them. …. The shadow church … secrets. I thought all was going pretty well until my depression acted up, leading me to get counseling, which did not remain secret, but became the seed to “get rid of me”….

    September 1998 – Meeting with two people who considered themselves leaders. Before they arrived, I received a call from my Conference Minister who knew about the meeting because the Methodist Bishop had called him to say that those people were going to demand my resignation.

    Lots of anger from Conference Minister with the parish for the underhanded way they had dealt with me. Stayed in the parsonage for the rest of the month. Prevented from having a farewell service, reception, blessing.
    Stayed for a few days with another UCC pastor in Dickinson. Restful, but I knew I had to move on.

    Drove back to CT as snow was starting to show up. Stopped on the way to see my daughter at school. I told her I planned never to help anyone again, ever. (Months later, I amended that to “maybe a few people, once in a while.”)

    Shift to teaching … this was a process which took several years. Now I teach full-time online. I moved out here to live near my daughter and her husband. I do not like this part of the country, miss the ocean, the hills, the salty sea air of the places where I lived as a child.

    I have pared down the causes to which I am committed: now, I focus on ending family violence; reading and writing; Amnesty, ACLU, Feminism for mature women.

    My daughter is getting ready to welcome another baby, and I am trying to stay calm, avoid adding to her stress, keeping my opinions about parenting to myself. I do cherish the afternoons when the boys (four and six-and-a- half) are dropped off with me. It’s delightful!!!!! I have several wonderful friends with whom I keep in touch by phone. I have old and new friends (gold and silver as the girl scouts say).

    I feel like I am full of ideas. I have projects I want to complete. I have wishes for an intimate relationship. I want to visit Italy again. I do not fit in with the church, any church, though I have a wonderful anam cara,(Gaelic for “soul friend”) with whom I journey. My birthday comes up on October 10th.

    • Ilana says

      MaryL- It’s good to be back, reading your words. I liked the rhythm of this piece. You showed us into your world and took us on the journey with you. Nice job. Ilana

    • Karla says

      MaryL, I really like the way that I learn what is important to you by the choices you describe yourself making across your life– beginning with your time in the convent and then the choices you made in your divorce. I also noticed that some of the word and truncated sentence structure choices you made gave both a breezy and somewhat surreal quality to your experience that was very effective– for example, “Found a niche in connecting with parishoners” and “Personality – this is where I met and came to know what “passive-aggressive personality” means.” This last one also gave me fits of laughter. It seems like it has always been more important to you to support other people than to “be right”, which I think is such a valuable and loving and unfortunately rare quality in a religious leader. You have accomplished so much in your life and yet speak about it in a way that speaks loudly of a sense of humility and compassion. The entire piece was really lovely, and amazing.

    • Hazel says

      Mary L,
      Thank you for sharing these insights into your life as a pastor. I can’t imagine the grace and diplomacy you have to have to remain in that position, especially as a woman in that position. I liked where you talked about, ” where I met and came to know what “passive-aggressive personality” means. The church was filled with them. …. The shadow church … secrets. I thought all was going pretty well until my depression acted up, leading me to get counseling, which did not remain secret, but became the seed to “get rid of me”….” Your description seems so accurate when compared with my own experience of the church. It doesn’t really seem to matter what church it is, maybe it is just “church mentality.”

      Yes, thank you for sharing. Once again validation.

    • says

      MaryL, I, too, learned so much reading about the underbelly of being a female pastor. Every profession has its challenging, dark side–and you illuminated that for us here. This piece reflects the complexity of your life, your growth, and your wisdom. Thanks for sharing.

      • MaryL says

        Laura and others, thank you … I brooded today about whether to recall my submission … I felt a little guilty about “bleeding on the readers.” Then I decided that if you all have the courage to go into those dark places and share, and with the support of the rest of us, find some light, I should and could too. I feel cleansed … is that odd? MaryL

        • Ilana says

          MaryL- You have great courage to share they way you do. This community has always been very accepting and supportive for me and I do not worry about “bleeding on the readers.” It is a safe place to share and find support. Feeling cleansed is a wonderful outcome of having this community to share with. Nothing odd about it. Keep on Keeping on, Ilana

    • Judy says

      MaryL, I really love this piece. It is filled with great details, nice pace and compelling story. When I was a youngster, I told our church secretary that I wanted to be a minister. She explained I could be the wife of….. but the minister, oh no. You nailed this prompt and we have the great pleasure of being part of your journey through well chosen words and images. Thank you so much. And, Happy Birthday.

  8. Hazel says

    My life does not have a time line; it is more like an out of control spiral and as such there are just too many things to try to flatten them out into a straight line. I am still spiraling through the creative/artistic cycle which has lasted longer than most and that is because it is a spiral, an ever changing thing where one artistic endeavor rolls into the next.

    It all started after I was in a horrific accident when I could no longer work in my profession as an O. T. and started making stained glass. I was very good at it and had my own business in Phoenix, AZ for a while. But, as has happened so many times before with me, I moved. This time I took up oil painting and again was very good at it, did many Fine Arts shows up and down the West Coast.

    In Las Cruces, several years later, I started writing, at first just a few stories mostly fiction and then I discovered poetry. I was obsessed with it. I wrote it every day; I became involved with the Oregon State Poetry Association, soon becoming a board member. But, then I took a class in calligraphy and it began to consume my time and interest; I became involved with a guild, Capital Calligraphers, in Salem, Oregon. What a great group! I became a board member and served a couple of years there and finished many calligraphy projects.

    When I moved here to New Mexico I became involved with helping a friend set up woman’s collective to further the sales of “women’s art.” But then I got shingles and could not work in the gallery and soon pulled out all of my work and became once again involved with writing. Writing now consumes much of my life and I tell people, should they ask, that I am a writer. A Writer’s Journey Roadmap writer while working on my book. Wherever I go next I will still always write.

    • says

      I love witnessing the creative flow that has flowed continuously through your life. I love the myriad ways you’ve honored it, too. Glad writing has you hooked and that we get the benefit of your words here on this blog!

    • MaryL says

      Hazel, I have a dear friend who occasionally is down with shingles, and how she suffers!!??!! Then there’s the recovery and changing plans and finally fitting back into the daily routine … tiring! Then, she just forgets – not about the event – but about how to get through it more nobly next time. Even when she says she feels like Raggedy Ann, she’s a great woman! I appreciate hearing about your own willingness to ride the tides of change! Courage! Mary L

      • Hazel says

        MaryL,
        There is no getting through shingles in any way close to noble any time. The pain simple consumes you; you grit your teeth till your jaw aches; you snap at people through your clenched teeth and cry because you did it. All your muscles are tense as you try to hold yourself in some position that hurts less. Shingles destroyed my life! What I have left is sitting her naked on the top hoping a hair doesn’t fall down my back and touch my skin where the nerve is so completely damaged. It is more than 3 1/2 years now and the pain is as bad now as it ever was in the beginning. You do not get used to it; you can’t escape it even for one minute; you can’t ignore it. You do the best you can if it lets up just a smidgen one day you might be able to do a bit of housework. It is just awful! It is more like riding the tides of pain. There is no nobility here!

        • MaryL says

          Hazel, you may not feel noble, but seeing a friend go about her daily tasks (gently) in spite of the pain, dealing with death of parents, husband, loss of physical and emotional strength, two bouts of cancer – what I cannot get over is that my friend – beneath it all … is a rascal! Remember the old films about Catholic school girls (“angels”) … she is just like that … peppering her creative mind (and sharing) funny, gritty, real-life earthiness. I think you may be a little like my friend S. Perhaps you have the bright eyes of someone who is still growing and enjoying learning and sharing…. Take care!!!! and thanks! Mary L

    • Karla says

      Hazel, I really liked the opening of this piece with the image and explanation of the spiral, a wilder, 3D version of the timeline. It was very evocative of how you see your life, and it provided a context in which to understand the events that you describe. I especially enjoyed the theme of the importance of art and creativity in your life.

    • Judy says

      Hooked immediately with this first graph, Hazel. Such vivid images, “out of control spiral and as such there are just too many things to try to flatten them out into a straight line.” I could hear the spiral. Yes, you are a writer, an artist, with a loving spirit that shines through on each piece you create. And, like many others here, I’m so glad you share openly and creatively. Know that you enhance our healing and journey. Thank you for being such a valued part of this writing community.

    • Ilana says

      Hazel- What a great visual, of the spiral. I loved how you gave us that and then the piece seemed to follow down that path. You are clearly very resourceful. When one thing was taken away you moved on to the next. Your strength and courage is an inspiration. Thank you for posting here. Ilana

    • Hazel says

      Thank you all for your encouraging comments. I love writing here on the Writer’s Journey Roadmap. Thank you Laura for hosting such a place to post our writing and share in the lives and thoughts of each other.

  9. Ilana says

    Her Story, My Story

    New Baby Ilana, April 20, 1974
    She is a sweet baby girl, wrapped in a blue blanket and staring at the nurse holding the camera with wide black eyes. They are so dark you cannot tell the pupil from the iris. Her pink lips are held in an unconscious pout, like a cherub. Unlike most newborns, her face is chubby. There is a look of peace and enthusiasm in her eyes. Tiny hands lay on either side of her head, the delicate fingers relaxed as the owner is as yet unaware of their existence.

    Preschool Ilana 1976-1979
    She is so excited to play with the other children. Sand boxes, tuna can stilts, dress up clothes and plastic clip on earrings, now that she’s finally in school, the world is her playground. But sometime during these years she begins to suspect there is something different about her, something wrong. When another child is scolded for misbehaving she assumes the guilt herself. Her mother has to call the teacher to find that her daughter was not the trouble maker.

    Kindergarten Ilana 1980
    She has learned to separate from the pain when she is having fun. Compartmentalization is the first self defense mechanism she has developed and it serves her well. Sometimes the cloud of sadness is not completely hidden. She lets it enter her soul but does not understand the sensation. With no way to explain it to herself she simply accepts it as a part of her life.

    Jewish Day School Ilana 1980-1986
    She discovers the reason for the cloud of sadness. The truth is she is truly ugly, stupid and worthless. The teachers and students explain it to her through their actions and treatment of her. Meaner teachers label her stupid and the others don’t seem to notice how the kids torture her. No one notices when they play that awful game “The touch.” One child touches her then with a look of disgust wipes his hand on another kid. It’s like tag, each child wiping “the touch” off on the first one they catch. Diligently, the students and teachers of this Jewish day school teach her the truth of her ugliness.

    Summer Camp Ilana 1983-1988
    She plays “Ga Ga!!”, “Give” and “British Hagana”. She dances and sings. One of her favorite memories happens when she is nine years old, that first year. It is Shabbat so they have free time. Just one other girl; the two of them run through a field collecting cotton weed that is swirling through the air. They jump to catch the “wishes” as they call them. Each one is a triumph to giggle over. This is a safe place, free of the dangers of her home and school. It is a place where people accept her and no one knows how ugly and useless she truly is. Sometimes she is even able to forget about it herself. She treasures these moments, using the memories to comfort herself when things are truly awful.

    Middle School Ilana 1986-1988
    She starts public school in September of 1986. In the beginning she is hopeful. Everything is going to be different from the Jewish school. She still isn’t aware that the true horribleness is coming from her home so she thinks she can leave it all behind. She is wrong. Pretty soon everyone figures out how ugly she truly is. The bullying starts by the end of that year and gets more vicious with each passing day. By graduation she is eating lunch in silence, alone with her one remaining friend. Rika has ceased speaking altogether, as a result of the bullying they both endured. There are prank phone calls, jeers and a vicious song they sing about her.

    No one knew how accurate the song really is. “Oooh ah oooh, do you wanna know a secret? Oooh ah ooh, it’s Ilana’s anoriexic.” She knew she was horribly skinny so her parents never look into the possibility. They only make jokes about her inability to eat. “I go to the fish counter and tell the man ‘I want enough for four to eat and one to look at.’” Her mother says. It remains a family joke for two decades. In school she wears her ugliness on the outside. There is no point in trying to hide it. Everyone sees it. Everyone knows and reminds her all the time. The only secret is what her family was doing to her behind closed doors.

    High School Ilana 1989-1993
    She is timid and easily pushed down. High School is better than middle school, though. She has a few friends and the bullying is somewhat less. Her older brother graduates and goes on to college so the physical and sexual abuse is no longer a daily issue. He doesn’t have access to her except every fourth weekend when he is home from school. However, the bullying and abuse she has already endured has taught her to live at the mercy of those around her. When she is fondled by a teacher she knows there is no recourse. He is popular and when she confides in a friend the response she gets is, “I would have been honored.” Why the hell didn’t he put his hands on her breasts then and left flat chested little Ilana alone? She cries herself to sleep every night and no one knows about it.

    College Ilana 1993-1997
    She is primed, groomed and all set to take her place as the abused girlfriend. This girl is so frightened. The dangers of home are physically far away but really so very close. They made her who she is and that person virtually begs to be abused; by room mates, class mates, team mates and boyfriends. The self hatred is so deeply instilled in her that it continues to eat at her soul and crush her spirit.
    The first summer she does an internship working with a survivor of incest. This prompts her own flashbacks but she never calls it “incest.” She has trouble holding onto the truth, that she didn’t deserve the maltreatment. Of course she deserved it. Otherwise her parents would have put a stop to it. Therefore it was not incest. Therefore it was not abuse. Therefore it was not sexual assault.

    Beginning Graduate School Ilana 1998-2001
    She is shy and nervous. Easy to hurt but she’s doing a better job of hiding it than before. There are good times and friends. No one knows who she really is. The dark, ugly, secret remains a secret. She meets a boy who is kind and caring. Unable to understand him she does her damndest to push him away. He won’t go. He waits for her to stop pushing. They fall in love and get married but her fears and insecurities come along with them. She can’t understand how he manages to put up with her but he stays.

    Aneurysm and Second Graduating Ilana 2001-2002
    She gets sick. It hurts so much that she wants to die. She is scared and does as she is told. Her family works in the same way it always has; protecting her older brother and calling it for her benefit. “He wants to come out here but then we’d be taking care of him instead of you.” Um yeah. That’s what you’ve always done. “So we told him that he was essential. We needed him to stay at the law firm so dad could stay with you. They can’t be without both of their senior partners.”

    It is a difficult recovery. She feels scared and alone. She feels so weak because she can’t use her brain the way she used to. It leaves her suicidal for a long time but slowly she recovers and goes back to school. Her classmates have long since graduated and she doesn’t know anyone. She feels defective and displaced.

    Healing Ilana 2011- Present
    She is taking care of her children and her family. Getting through, surviving. So many things scare her, so many things she will not do and her husband has to do them for her. Then in April her brother calls her with some exciting news. His new bride is expecting. So her abuser is going to be a father. What kind of God would allow this to happen? Her world collapses. Nightmares, flashbacks, depression, anxiety and self mutilation follow. Finally she decides to get help. She joins a support group and then a therapy group. She learns to call her abuse what it was; incest, rape and torture.

    In those few years she begins writing, growing and conquering her fears. Now she travels by herself. She cooks. No longer cowering in fear of other people’s anger, she thinks her decisions through considering what is best for HER. It’s a beginning. She is far from finished but light years ahead of where she used to be.

    Where did it all come from?
    My parents raised me. They fed me, gave me an education and taught me how to live my life as a victim. Now I am going to live as a survivor. With the help of my husband, my children (without them knowing what has happened) my therapist and my sister survivors I am teaching myself how to live. The famous psychiatrist Erik Erikson changed his name because he felt that his parents did not raise him. He did it all on his own. Therefore he saw himself as Erik, Erik’s son. I am learning to see myself as Ilana, Ilana’s daughter.

    She is no longer ugly, stupid, worthless and disgusting. She is learning to feel beautiful, smart and important. This is her story. This is my story. And I will decide how it is going to end.

    • Karla says

      Ilana, I think that your choice to write most of this piece in the third person was especially effective, and the contrast with first person at the end was moving and powerful. Using the different developmental periods of your life was also a great strategy, and a creative implementation of the idea of turning points. I also really, really liked (although I loved the whole piece) how you connected Erik Erikson’s story (didn’t know that) with how you see yourself as “Ilana’s daughter.” Thank you so much for sharing how your healing has transformed your life and I am so glad that writing has been an integral part of that healing.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Karla- I used the third person because it is easier for me to empathize with the little girl when I separate her from the self that I have always so hated. Then I connect it to myself by going into the first person. The title is also my way of taking myself by the shoulders and saying, “Ilana, this IS you.” Thank you for your feedback and understanding. Ilana

    • Laura Davis says

      Ilana, I hope it feels good to have recorded this litany, this history. I was struck by home the coping mechanism and the self-hate grew from a little kernel until they obscured your life. I’m so glad things are now moving in the other direction!

      • Ilana says

        Thank you, Laura. Yes, it does feel good to have it all out like that. I’ve left out a lot of details but this was a good narration as I remember the story. It also feels really good to be back. I hope that I can continue to write. Thanks for your support and for this supportive community. Ilana

        • Judy says

          We can only hope you will continue to write, Ilana. You have a glorious voice. My feelings are these: once we process personal experiences (as David Carr said in a recent newsletter), writing fiction, poetry or memoir, becomes ….easier? more authentic?…..Both?……Let us hope. Just keep going, Sister Writer.

    • Judy says

      Ilana, this is an amazing piece of self discovery. I love the structure and the use of third person until the conclusion. Well crafted. I feel it reflects your spirit and determination. It reminded me a performance piece seen years ago titled: I Am a Woman Giving Birth to Myself. Thank you for this sharing.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you, Judy. I really got a lot out of writing this piece. I appreciate your comments. It sounds like you read it the same way I did. ;) Ilana

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Ilana~
      Your voice just gets stronger and stronger and I am so enjoying sharing your process. I loved these lines among many others. “He wants to come out here but then we’d be taking care of him instead of you.” Um yeah. That’s what you’ve always done.
      By the way, I am so glad you were not able to push Zander away. I really like him! :-)
      Adrienne

  10. Fran Stekoll says

    I entered this world in New York, October 1934 to a school teacher/psychologist who didn’t want children and a liquor salesman. I grew up realizing that if my Mother couldn’t help folks, my Father could!

    Surrounded by children in a Nursery School held in our home. I was the one winding the victrola, helping dress with winter clothes and playing outdoors
    on all the equipment which my Father made.

    Moved to California at age 8. Got Mom for a teacher and asked to be re-located. Belonged to an inter-racial group which gave me insight into other
    cultures. Lived through tough times when parents faced bankruptcy.

    Moved six times over the next ten years. Learned the value of how to make new friends. Went to three high schools. Met my first love at age 16 at a music camp where I lost my virginity.

    After high school graduation in 1954, went to college two years, then married my first love who was a musician . Had three children. Had a death experience with one during childbirth which taught me the value of life.

    Returned to school at age 43 and achieved my degree in Social Services and Gerontology. Lost the job of my dreams and found God to lean on. Started my own company in 1979 with six branch offices in the bay area.

    Also had a drum corps with my husband (150 kids from 8 to 18) for 10 years.

    Learned the value of time and energy. I would go at a heavy pace and then just collapse. Learned the value of pacing myself. After 46 years of marriage,
    divorced my cheating husband and met the love of my life.

    Retired and moved to Santa Cruz. Traveled extensively and enjoyed the value of being appreciated.

    After 14 years learned how to live as a widow, Alone for the first time in my life. Didn’t like it. Went on line and met a widower who has much in common with me. Daughter and husband moved in with me a year ago, learning the value of love, sharing and caring.

    Many physical challenges are threatening this 79 year old body. Learning the value of maintaining through patience and faith. Proud of my 3 children, 10 grandchildren and soon to have first great grand daughter. Learning the value of what’s really important in life= health, love, peace, meditation. singing, writing, sharing, compassion.

    Realizing it takes time to understand the value of why we are here. Each day is a gift and it’s a challenge to make the most of it.

    • Hazel says

      Fran,
      I liked the way you so succinctly summed up your parents in the first paragraph. I think you could expand this list of turning points into a nice short story. Your closing statement: “Each day is a gift and it’s a challenge to make the most of it.” is so true. I feel like most of us who have reached the 75 year mark you are now facing different challenges than you have ever had to master before and you are learning to accept them, just like the rest of us, which hopefully we do with grace, humor and love.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Laura Davis says

      Fran,

      I really enjoyed this capsule of the turning points in your life–especially where you ended up now–knowing what truly matters. Why does it take us so long to get there?

    • Ilana says

      Fran- I like the style you use in this piece. It has a nice cadence. Your life is so full and you have so much to share. Thank you for posting this piece, Ilana

    • Judy says

      Fran, this piece has delightful rhythm. This line resonated deeply with me, ‘Learning the value of what’s really important in life= health, love, peace, meditation. singing, writing, sharing, compassion.’ And, yes, each day is a gift. Be well and thank you for sharing.

  11. Judy says

    Turning Points

    He looked me directly in the eye and said, “Get out of this marriage, NOW, before you kill him, he kills you or you kill yourself.”

    Those words hung in the air aching like so many arrows to be absorbed. Dr. Brown’s directness caught me so by surprise that I felt momentarily frozen. I just stared back at him. I had been in psychotherapy nearly ten years earlier but had never been told something so directly.

    My slowness in answering matched the chilling drizzle inching down the window over the doctor’s shoulder. I finally said, ‘Y e s, that’s what I must do.”

    Then panic set in as these thoughts bounced off the walls of my mind: I’m 34 years old. I’ve been married before and given birth to two wonderful sons. Divorced after nearly eight years and remarried a within two years. We are a highly dysfunctional family falling apart at the seams. I have a part time secretarial job. I’m in college and want my B. A. in Sociology. I am miserable. And, I am six weeks pregnant.

    Two weeks later I terminated the pregnancy—a decision not entered lightly. It took two years for the divorce and it wasn’t pretty. It was a turning point in my life.

    I’ve written here of the three auto accidents during the two years leading up to the divorce. I’ve not written of the other truly challenging events: like my son running away from home for nearly three weeks. It was without a doubt the worst time of my life—a freaking nightmare. The anxiety, uncertainly and tension in the household was unbearable. My son finally returned safely after holing up in a vacant car not far from our suburban home. The soon-to-be ex-husband told me he wasn’t leaving and that he would get the house during the settlement.

    I was hospitalized with kidney failure for the second time. (In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kidney is the organ that holds fear).

    My university degree (the supposedly sure ticket to a better paying job) retreated further and further to the background of my life as I moved from one ‘working-poor’ secretarial job to another. Each job change was a step up in pay and I finally landed at a fortune 500 that offered college tuition as a benefit. I took a few classes but I was exhausted, overwhelmed, with a nagging depression and only barely keeping it together.

    Those years, nearly 30 ago, were as living under a cloud—a ping pong ball color that lingered, changed shapes, changed emotions and began to reveal flashbacks of childhood abuse (some of which I’ve written in earlier posts). But now, when I look in that rear view of life, I see fully just how much healing headway I’ve made. I also know there are more challenges ahead. But this time I have a stronger tool box and a better skills set to make decisions.

    It is said that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That may be so in mathematics or engineering; but the human condition is filled with a multitude of variables and can’t be viewed as linear—whether watching others’ lives or living our own. There is no one path to healing.

    Mr. Forster speaks of intensity and a few notable pinnacles of the past.

    My life has been intense–of that there is no doubt. I’ve been a lifelong crusader for political, economic and spiritual equality. In my first marriage, we were active in the civil rights movement, especially in efforts to end housing discrimination. Our sons were in strollers during open housing marches on many a Mother’s Day. I was active in our church’s efforts to resist the Vietnam War.

    In the mid-70’s, during my second marriage (in which the guys stated support didn’t match his actions) I helped start NOW chapters, initiated a coalition between PTA, NOW and AAUW around non-discriminatory education. I served on the education subcommittee of the Illinois Commission on the Status of Women and became an outspoken advocate of Title IX (sports equality). I was invited to be the ‘poster woman’ at my college’s recruiting days and told parts of my story to high school girls. The message was, get your education and be prepared.

    In the mid-80’s, my life changed considerably: intensity decreased. My sons were taking classes and working. They had reconnected with their father. I met a kind, gentle, loving man with two kids of his own. The tiny apartment he and I shared was filled many weekends with our four young adults. And, we sighed with relief that they bonded. I moved from events manager of an international financial magazine to convention stage manager for an international service organization and have written of some of those adventures here. (Prince on My Stage & The Soviets)

    Looking back on these things, I often shake my head and say, ‘I did that?’

    I like my life. Sometimes I love my life. I like this healing path I’m on. It is filled with enormous joy of dear family, a loving husband of twenty-five years (three is a charm). We are a blended family with four adult children and several grandchildren. There are few regrets. While I see a thin wall ahead I chip away one task at a time knowing there is sunshine peeking through already.
    While I like the Forster quote, I’m equally drawn to John Lennon’s words, “Life is what happens when you’re making plans” or to Sheryl Crow when she sings, “Everyday is a Winding Road.”

    • Hazel says

      Judy,
      Your opening paragraph is definitely a grabber!

      I do so agree with your statement: “the human condition is filled with a multitude of variables and can’t be viewed as linear.” You took us on this non-linear path through the turning points of your life so easily from twists through turns and accomplishments and yes, you really did all this! Sometimes looking back is good in that we have a better prospective on our accomplishments. Your ending paragraph is filled with hope and that is a good thing.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Karla says

      Judy, I think the sweetness of your current life comes through in the way you wrote this piece, from the intensity of the opening to the musical lyrics implied in your last sentence. There is a sense of peacefulness and contentedness that was hard won, and well-deserved, and it feels to me that you are looking back at your life (and the people and organizations in it) with humility and compassion, which, in my limited experience, takes some significant work to get to. Bravo.

      • Judy says

        Oh, Karla thank you. Your comment takes my breath away and are always meaningful. Thank you for the validation and support. I feel your compassion is boundless. Blessed be.

    • Laura Davis says

      Judy, this piece reflects so much self-acceptance, growth and wisdom about life. Thanks for the inspiration your life path (crooked though it may be) has for all of us.

      I loved these lines:

      “…when I look in that rear view of life, I see fully just how much healing headway I’ve made. I also know there are more challenges ahead. But this time I have a stronger tool box and a better skills set to make decisions.”

      I think that’s the best we can hope for–resilience and the tools to meet life.

      • Judy says

        Thank you Laura. Like MaryL I considered asking you to withdrawn it. I was absolutely exhausted after posting it rested my eyes and came back and said, ‘oh what the bleep.’

    • Ilana says

      Judy- You drew me in with that first line and held me the whole time. This piece is not only well written but also full of lessons. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Ilana

      • Judy says

        Ilana, thank you for your supportive comments on this piece. Happy to see this week’s is more on the sunnyside. Be well & hugs, J

  12. Adrienne Drake says

    It was just another Father’s Day spent walking at Laguna Beach, kicking sand, trying to soak up the warm summer sun, while watching families gather by the ocean to honor Dad. Depression sucked the life out of my chest as I viewed these precious moments, carefully crafted by moms to make this day so very special. These were the lucky ones; those whose young families I imagined were still unspoiled by divorce or marked forever by tragedy. My parents divorced when I was seven. My father died when I was thirty. Now, fifteen years later, my Father’s Day depression had not lessened.

    That evening I pulled out my family scrapbook. Sitting on the floor by my bed I started looking at the few pictures I had of my father. My family was not the picture-taking kind, and there existed only one black and white photo of me and my dad together. It must be winter for he is wearing a long tailored woolen coat. He is pushing me in my metal stroller down a narrow alley. He smiles in a very self-conscious way. My face makes a scowl as we pass by garbage cans waiting for pick up outside back doors. Nothing. I felt nothing looking at these pictures.

    My father was actually snatched away from me before I was born. The extent of my mother’s jealousy for anyone who might love me was so strong that I imagine it even crossed the placental barrier, and I took it in on a cellular level along with the nutrients essential for my survival. My father and I learned to keep our love a secret from my mother. Our well-being depended upon it. We perfected this game so well that over time, we even hid our love from each other. It became an unbreakable habit that marked all our days.

    I don’t know how long I cried, sitting on the bedroom floor, staring blankly at a book filled with empty hopes. Other people had family albums. Did that work for them? Creating a photo family on paper pages brought less comfort to me than a family made of paper dolls. At least with dolls you knew that the family you created was make-believe. When I went to bed that night I felt defeated. Try as I might, another year had passed and I had failed to banish the Father’s Day Curse. All the sadness that marked my relationship with my dad settled once again around my shoulders like the lead shield they place on you before an x-ray. But rather than protect me, this shield blocked out life. I crawled into bed, exhausted, and waited for the sweet anesthesia that would come with sleep.

    A blow between my shoulder blades awakened me with a start. Although my eyes were closed, I could see the spirit of my father suspended above the rug exactly over the spot where the scrapbook had been. He looked like thick white fog. A feeling of peace settled over me like I had never known in my life, and which I have never felt again.

    “You have to move on with your life,” my father said. “You have to let me go.”

    I knew I could never do that. Having betrayed him by hiding my love for him in life, I would never let him go in death. This thought was followed by a stronger whack between my shoulders.

    “All is well with me,” he said. “You must let me go now.”

    Again I resisted this healing invitation. I had carried his grief for so long, how could I put it down now? Instantly I received a third sharp hit to my back, this one almost tossing me out of my bed. The apparition was starting to disperse becoming wispy like white smoke. Without another thought my soul left my body and floated over to my father, and then, kept right on moving until it passed through the wall and disappeared.

    “Let go,” my father repeated one last time, and then he too was gone.

    I fell back into a deep sleep. In the morning I awoke with the profound sense that my father had actually paid me a visit in the night. I knew I had not dreamed it. It took me awhile longer to fully re-enter the physical world and remember that my father had died years ago.

    My father’s life force incarnating as spirit was a turning point in my life. What energy his visit must have taken. In those moments in the middle of the night my father came and lifted off the mantle of sadness that had weighted me down for years. The lightness I felt from his visit has never left me.
    Now, I look forward to Father’s Day. There is no more Father’s Day Curse. I look at the families celebrating together and my heart is filled with gratitude. My joy in their innocence transcends the world I grew up in and I have hope.

    We do not know where our healing paths will lead. As our wounding was spiritual, our healing is grace. Miracles happen, I know this for sure.

    • Ilana says

      Wow. That was powerful. I really appreciated this piece, Adrienne. The final act of love from your father really touched me. thank you for sharing it. Ilana

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Thanks, Ilana. I am glad you see his visitation as a final act of love. To this day, it boggles my mind! Not only was it a great leap of healing for me, it also opened up a whole new way of thinking for my very scientifically trained brain!
        Adrienne

    • says

      This piece grabbed me from the first line and never let me go. This was so sad, “My father was actually snatched away from me before I was born. The extent of my mother’s jealousy for anyone who might love me was so strong that I imagine it even crossed the placental barrier, and I took it in on a cellular level along with the nutrients essential for my survival. My father and I learned to keep our love a secret from my mother. Our well-being depended upon it. We perfected this game so well that over time, we even hid our love from each other. It became an unbreakable habit that marked all our days.” But by the end, I was riveted by his visit and your transformation. Thanks for sharing this healing story.

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Dear Laura~
        I was truely blessed by my dad’s visit, and I hope this story will help others as they navigate the often murkey and confusing waters of their own healing. Thank you for your validation that this might be so.
        Adrienne

    • Judy says

      Adrienne, may I echo what others have said about this amazing piece of writing. Deeply touching. This line especially captured me, “We perfected this game so well that over time, we even hid our love from each other. It became an unbreakable habit that marked all our days.” And, the last line…well it’s awesome. Thank you.

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