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Archive for May, 2012

These are a few of my favourite things

Growing up, we must have watched “The Sound of Music” at least a million times. My sister L. when she was 2 years old absolutely loved this movie and would have her quiet time watching it in her playpen. Tonight as I struggle with overwhelming pain and frustration, depression and desperation, I decided that I would share some of my photos of just some of my favourite things.

I’ve had a super wonderful time in the past couple of years seeing U2, Don Ross, and Steve Bell concerts. Each time I feel so blessed and happy. Now if only I can find my way to a Bruce Cockburn concert and my concert life will be complete!

I love playing the piano and I love encouraging others to discover the joy of music. I love leading the kids in a joyful song with actions at church on Sunday. I love playing and singing in the River band. I love leading Taize prayers in our little chapel in our current house.

These dice are from a super awesome game called killer bunnies. It is the most random game I’ve ever come across with just amazing fun. I have taught many people how to play this game and have yet to find someone who isn’t instantly converted! I love other games too and hosting games nights. Laughing over funny ice breaker games or playing with deep thought.

I love love love love cooking. I love cooking for my friends and family and love being able to share my joy of food making with everyone. I cook foods from all around the world and have touched almost all continents and rarely try out the same recipe twice. I can find myself lost in cooking books (of which I have over 20! and if my budget allowed me, I would easily succumb to purchasing more)

I love orchids. They are such amazing flowers. I find it fascinating that the flowers last for so long and this is probably the longest plant I’ve been able to keep alive (I am a plant mass murderer at best). I love how each plant is so very different and all the vibrant colours.

Last but not least, these are probably two of my favourite things: my beloved cat Shalom and coffee. Shalom makes me smile, he snuggles with me when I am sad, he makes me laugh with his antics and annoys the crap out of me when he escapes the house on an exploration adventure! Coffee is my drug of choice and a staple part of my diet.

courage

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Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day that says: “I’ll try again tomorrow.”

I’m often told how courageous I am. I have lived through years of abuse. I broke the silence. I survived the traumatic events of leaving home. I stood up to my Dad in criminal court. I am facing the brokenness in my life.

I don’t feel courageous though. Yes, I am surviving all of this. But thriving? to me thriving takes courage. I know my thoughts, I know my struggles, I know my temptations. I know the amount of strength I have left in me and how much I feel has been zapped out of me, particularly the past couple of weeks. It is taking me everything within me to get through each day.

But maybe courage isn’t necessarily tied to strength. Maybe some days courage will look like a roar, but others, it will look like a quiet whisper.

Maybe courage says “Tomorrow I will try again” when the day ends with “this sucks”

a mother’s worst nightmare

I’ve sat in many groups, both in this program and in other groups, and one of women who have been abused’s biggest concern is that something will happen to their child. Some women have gone their whole life longing for a child, but too afraid to bring one into the world. This is a fear of mine, and while I am building a growing trust with many good men and there is healing in my life, I can’t help but wonder – can you ever trust your husband completely after you know what can happen behind closed doors?

I remember as we were all grappling with this topic, one of the facilitators pointed out that it is practically impossible to completely protect your child from being abused. You can’t be with her/him every moment of the day – and even if you were, your child could be scarred because of your smothering. There are just too many people out in the world who could have access with your child. Being smart about who your child spends time with is essential, but worrying incessantly isn’t going to help anyone. She then gave some really helpful advice. She said, “you can’t prevent abuse completely. But you can work on yourself so that if heaven forbid your child discloses to you, you are in a place to respond lovingly and believe the child and get them help right away.” Studies have shown that the mother’s response is absolutely vital to how healing goes. Moreover, if a child is believed, loved, and protected, their healing journey will be less rocky.

I’ve been connecting with survivors all around the world these days. I found this blog post from a mother’s perspective to be helpful just generally but also in giving me hope that there are mothers out there who are strong enough to choose their daughter and believe her even if it means a rocky relationship with ¬†her beloved husband at best.

 

a mother’s worst nightmare: the incest of her child.

Southland of the Heart

When the wild eyed dogs of day to day come snapping at your heels

When there’s so much coming at you that you don’t know how to feel

When they’ve taken all your money and come back your clothes

When your hands are full of thorns but you can’t stop groping for the rose.

In the southland of the heart

where night blooms perfume the breeze

Lie down, Take your rest with Me.

When thoughts you’ve tried to leave behind

Keep sniping from the dark

When the fire burns inside you but

You jump from every spark

When your heart’s beset by memories

You wish you’d never made

When the sun comes up an enemy

And nothing gives you shade.

In the southland of the heart

Where the saints go lazily

Lie down, take your rest with Me.

When the preacher lays his insight down

And claims to lead the blind

When those you trust just get you hooked

and trifle with your mind

When the nightmare’s creeping closer

and your wheels are in the mud

when everything’s ambiguous

except the taste of blood.

In the southland of the heart

There’s no question of degree

Lie down, take your rest with me.

– Bruce Cockburn

Opening my cans of worms

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So I have this paper to write as I’ve mentioned on here before and many of my readers know. Monday I set aside to write my paper. But ended up sleeping away a good percentage of the day. And so my paper did not get done. This is not like me. I mean, I’m good at procrastinating. But I am also good at writing papers and generally enjoy writing. The topic is somewhat interesting to me though admittedly I am not head over heals about it.

So what’s going on? Why can’t I write this darn paper and finish? wouldn’t it feel so good to accomplish this?

In a previous post, I talked about my aha moment in the group where I began to see another way of looking at my university experience and my unpredictable marks.

I am dealing with some pretty intense memories at the moment. Memories that I haven’t spoken a lot of. Memories of the abuse while in university. But worse – memories of the abuse while studying, while trying to write papers.

Each time I sit to write this paper, the memories become almost real. And sitting with these memories and feelings is so incredibly painful.

so i want to push them away. and anything that triggers them. So this paper, which has been weighing heavily on me, is also currently the source of me feeling dragged down in the past. Now amount of self talk or logic making is working at the moment.

This program has been opening all my cans of worms. And, like many other survivors, I have many. And I have closed them and put them in a shelf in the basement hoping to never touch them again. But here I am, with the help of skilled professionals and fellow survivors, opening them one by one.

And it is messy. I am messy.

the broken pieces of my life lay before me. I have done the hard work of opening the cans of worms. Now there is hard work ahead of piecing together my life after examining the brokenness.

So back to my paper. I’ve been told I can’t write it right now, that I have too much going on between the program, the upcoming appeal, anniversaries coming up of traumatic events, seeing two of my closest friends move away for a year or more, preparing to move myself.

I am stubborn and want to write this paper.

But the hard work that I am doing in my therapy program is preventing me from being able to be stubborn. And this is important work I need to do right now.

So the paper will have to wait. I am going to stop trying to write this paper for now. I have on my computer screen a picture of Yoda and the words “Do or do not. There is no try.” I have been ‘trying’ to write my paper for the five weeks I’ve been in this program which has amounted to only failure.

So I admit my brokenness and inability to write at this time due to working on healing. I admit my messiness and all the pieces of my life that feel like they are falling a part.

May is Sexual Assault Awareness Month


In the hospital where I am doing this trauma therapy program, there is a big information area for current issues pertaining to women. May is sexual assault awareness month and they are promoting awareness, encouraging survivors to speak up and working ultimately towards preventing such awful acts of indecency.

Having been a victim of sexual assault, I want to share some of the impact on my own life as well as impact that I have observed in friends who are dear to me.

Sexual assault is not simply an act of crime of perpetrator against victim. Yes, the violence and trauma is most significant to the victim. But the impact of the perpetrator’s crime extends far beyond the victim. In my case, there are many people who have been effected by my dad’s actions and still many more that I anticipate. First, there is my mom – a non-offending parent who had to choose between her daughter and her husband… not because I gave her an ultimatum, but because choosing who to believe demands a response. If my mom were to believe me, she could not live life as if it never happened. I have many siblings who are impacted by family dynamics, and Grandparents whom I’ve lost relationships with. The sin and brokenness extend to my extended family where there are divisions and pain that those divisions cost.

But there is more than just family. I think of the friends that have come into my life at various times and supported me in intense ways – from daily text messages, to hanging out, to letting me live with them, to seeing me in my darkest moments when I lost all hope.

And as I consider my life and my future and hope for a husband and family of my own, there are significant costs to my future husband – for he will have to learn to love someone who has been broken in relationship, suffered sexual violence and whose heart aches with depression at times. And while I hope that the work that I am doing in healing now will change the patterns that have been passed down generations, I am aware that my children will also be effected – if not from my own suffering and ways of dealing with my traumatic background, from simply the loss of not having connection with my mom or my siblings.

And then there are costs, significant costs, to the victim herself.

I learned in the program this week that when safety is a concern for a child/teen, then their ability to take in school and learning is compromised. A lightbulb moment happened as the model they were presenting helped to make sense of my schooling experience and my struggles. My university transcripts have grades ranging from 53-90…. with marks bouncing all over the place. The way that I made sense of these grades was to believe that I was really stupid and that the high marks were not really deserved, but more people feeling sorry for me. Even in my graduate studies where I’ve been able to maintain excellent grades, i have felt that it is because I am in a program where marking is rather lenient.

When that lightbulb moment happened in the therapy program, i realized that there was another way to make sense of my university transcript… during my first three years of university, whenever I studied at home, my dad ¬†would fondle me. And I would freeze, as I always did, and try to tell myself what was happening to me was not real. I tried to focus on my school reading, but wasn’t able to take anything in. Then after he would leave i’d be so shaken up that I couldn’t concentrate. My nights were filled with graphic nightmares making sleep complicated and my days would be filled with memories and fears, and dreading going home. I remember paying to stay at my college and then staying at a friend’s house during exam time so I could get away and get stuff done. What sadness that came with this realization that the abuse was connected to my inability to do consistently well at school. I remember saying in sadness and anger that my dad set me up to fail by abusing me. I know I carry a transcript with me with a wide range of marks and a semi-ok GPA. I struggle to know that future school endeavours are limited because often a transcript is all admissions officers are interested in… and they lack the story that accompanies the grade and often there isn’t a chance to address that. One of my best friends got admitted into medical school and I am so excited for her as that has been her life dream. But I also found myself jealous and sad because this was something I once wanted, and it is something that is not open to me any longer. It was weird to feel these feelings especially since I have come to believe that my calling is elsewhere. Still, knowing that my options are limited because my dad chose his own desires over my welfare is a hard one to swallow.

School is just one thing.

Sexual assault impacts every aspect of life.

body image. view of own’s self. self esteem. eating habits. taking care of oneself. disturbed sleep. coping strategies that are unhealthy (excessive drinking, substance abuse, cutting, burning, promiscuity, etc). fear of men. fear of people in authority. wounded sexuality. self confidence. relationships. friendships. view of God – anger at God allowing this to happen, anger at God for not answering prayers about it stopping, or distorted view of God because perpetrator claims to have faith or to be acting out of love. fear of conflict. trouble speaking up for oneself, trouble speaking up for what one wants or needs. Difficulty expressing emotion. depression. suicidal thinking. Difficulty keeping a job. feeling like they are two different persons – the one who from the outside looks like they have it all together while really in the inside crumbling apart. financial difficulties.

just to name a few things.

many women who have been abusive situations find themselves in abusive relationships, further adding to the trauma in their life.

The impact of sexual assault is so great and multifaceted that victims spend years in counseling and intense therapy of various sorts. Thankfully for me, this is now covered by our health care system (may I never complain when I pay taxes one day). But I have already spent thousands of dollars and this is pennies compared to what some have spent. I have lost time working and lost jobs because i was too overwhelmed to handle my work, a further strain on finances and self esteem.

Sexual assault also has a huge impact on society. I know many women including myself who, because of the overwhelmingness of the trauma and it’s effects, are on long term disability. Women who have been abused use the health care system more frequently. When assault cases are investigated and taken to trial, there is enormous cost and resources spent to make this happen – and most often the perpetrator is let off, sending someone who is known to harm people in this deep way back into a world without them confronting what they have done.

Each of us has a duty to love and care for our neighbour. I believe this duty is one of standing up for justice and challenging the injustices of our world. One of the ways we can do this is to become more aware of the effects of sexual assault and learn ways to support those who have been through trauma to support their recovery. We need to challenge the perpetrators to get the help that they so desparately need and to face their own brokenness and potentially histories of trauma so that they do not re-offend. We need to learn the signs so that, particularly with children and youth, we can be quicker to recognize, believe and find help for them. Most of all, we need to become knowledgeable about this so that when we encounter a victim of abuse or assault, we may support them by believing them – something that has proven to be huge in recovery.

Challenging Injustice

Yesterday in art therapy, one of the facilitators mentioned that in my work there is a strong social justice theme. Indeed, social justice is something that I am devoting my life to. Injustices are increasingly effecting me, conjuring up feelings of profound anger and sadness and moving me to take action where and whenever possible.

Today I was reading The New Friars: the emerging movement serving the world’s poor by Scott A. Bessenecker. I read the following and almost burst into tears in my doctor’s office:

Eighteen-year-old Mahamuda Akter was invited to tour the United States to speak on behalf of rhte Coalition for the Abolition of Sweatshops and Child Labor. As a sewing operator at a factory in Bangladesh, Mahamuda sews collars onto shirts fifteen hours a day for companies like Walmart. “There is constant pressure on us to work faster. They beat us. They slap our faces. They use vulgar words. They make me cry,” she says. The garment industry is notorious for perpetrating labour abuses – and giant retail chains often outsource to these kinds of factories. You may wonder how places like Walmart can tolerate such pitiful low wages and blatant employee abuse. But for multinational corporate executives, Mahamuda’s factory is one or two steps removed from them. When they send a bid out for one million T-shirts, they will snap up the contract offering to make shirts for one dollar each over another factory offering to make them for two dollars per shirt.

That’s part of the reason we can by clothes so cheaply at Walmart and CEO H. Lee Scott can receive $29 million in total compensation for one year’s worth of work. We can get cheap clothes and H. Lee Scott can get paid about $80,000 a day because Mahamuda and her coworkers are willing to work for so incredibly little. – page 34-35

Somewhere else, and I can’t find the quote as I type this, Scott says that people like Mahamuda earn $2 a day for their hard labour. $2????

I’m all for a good bargain and sadly, I have played my role in encouraging and fostering such injustices without knowing. But when did things get so bad that there is such a profit margin from the workers to the CEOs? Why do we have people barely able to scrape enough food for one meal a day when there are people I have known over the years who have their own cook for their household. Or, to make it more drastic, – how did we become so abundant in resources that we have houses for our cars, pay people to raise our children, pay people to drive us around? I remember knowing a client who paid for a chef for their own dog.

Why do so many people in the world live in slum houses in garbage cities when we in the west have become so sofisticated that we need electricians to install our smoke detectors?

There is much debate amongst Christians as to whether Christ meant we should sell all that we have to the poor literally or if this is a universal call, or just something that the “rich” (a.k.a. those who are richer than us) are called to. But regardless – today I am left with the question and the call to speak out, to act, and to change my life so that the poor are not plundered and systems of injustice are called into question!

We are called to love justice, to walk humbly with our Lord and to love kindness. This means that each of us needs to do what we can to prevent and challenge the many injustices of the world!