Sunday, November 9, 2014

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

New blog address

Hi folks!

I've now got all my blogs set up under my own domain at feed:// -- url is

Still trying to decide whether to keep this one as well, or just send everyone to my main site.  Any thoughts, one way or the other?

Happy trails!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year… Please???

New Year's Day.

Hmm…  I have been putting this blog off.  Very well, to give myself some credit.

Since my birthday, really.  You know, when I do the birthday recap, what have I learned this year, and what do I hope to learn next year thing…  Which I had every intent of doing, but then Frau GateKeeper decided, once again, to use my birthday (and, one month later, Christmas) as an opportunity to remind me just how worthless I am, and seems to have successfully recruited some other close relations into my "shunning", which -- as was obviously the intent -- hurt like hell.  So I wasn't really in the head space to recap the year, or think of anything positive about it, and the only thing I wanted to learn was how to do some very naughty things that would probably land me in prison.

So I figured I could be forgiven for postponing the annual wrap-up to New Year's.  Which… well, I guess it's still New Year's Day, but I've been studiously avoiding this all week, not to mention the numerous naps, and games of Angry Birds and casket solitaire that have happened today.

And even Pollyanna-Me is having difficulty finding the silver lining I always want to include, lest I convince someone (or myself) that life just sucks and you might as well give up now.  Reading some other bloggers I follow, I see I'm not alone in that this year.  Strangely, that gives me comfort.

I know a few who have refused to choose a word for the coming year, because 2013 was just so devastatingly disappointing.  I'm tempted to join them.  But I'm also stubborn -- even if I have to work past the naps and Angry Birds and casket solitaire...

You see, last birthday, and last New Year's, things were already pretty damned sucky.  Frau GateKeeper was having a hay-day, and her attacks were at an all-time high.  (These attacks have gone in waves over the years, as somehow she keeps forgetting my initial disclosure of my father's sexually abusing me, plus forgets the numerous times she's since heard me telling the truth about it and attacked me for it each time -- and with each wave the attacks have escalated to the point where I've finally realized I'm just not emotionally safe anywhere near the woman, and never will be.)  But the thing is, at the time, I thought that was the worst it was going to get.  That I'd finally realized there was no safe way to connect with her, removed myself from her firing range -- and while it hurt, at least I was finally doing something to protect myself, and would never allow anyone else to treat me so badly again.  I was down, but digging myself out, and ever hopeful for the future.

And so, when choosing my "Word of the Year" for 2013, I chose "Daring".  I envisioned myself throwing away those chains that had held me back for so long, taking those daring leaps and soaring.  The year did, in fact, begin with me doing just that -- making some incredible connections to help make the Katie Project come into reality, dancing (!) for One Billion Rising, assisting fellow survivors through peer groups, writing again, and starting to feel like I was finally doing my life the way I was supposed to all along.

When, WHAMMO!, the universe decided to pull a 180 on me.  Apparently, "Daring" was not supposed to be my word of the year, the universe made it a tie between "Betrayal" and "Abandonment".  Those have certainly been the themes.  From the GateKeeper and her newly-recruited minions to my husband to friends I thought I had to even my damned (now ex-) therapist*, the people I thought I could count on to be there for me through thick and thin were dumping me in the ditch or tossing me under the bus or dumping me in the ditch after running over me with the bus.  It was down to me and two girlfriends (later, a third) -- and with the resurgence of my abandonment issues and C-PTSD flare-ups, I wasn't really able to count much on me, either.  Even my own brain and body were turning against me.

[* A little break for an important Public Service Announcement:  Contrary to my previous assumption, the title "Psychotherapist" is NOT regulated in Ontario -- while they are bringing in new regulations, at the moment anyone and their dog can claim to be a psychotherapist, and not have to belong to any of the regulatory bodies, let alone follow their rules and policies.  Including, you know, things like ethical behaviour or -- something I thought was a no-brainer, myself -- CONFIDENTIALITY.  Not to mention, having the skills required to work with clients in a healthy and helpful manner.  As we later found out, this woman has quite a (ridiculously bad) reputation among ACTUAL psychological health practitioners, and every time we've related anything she said to REAL therapists, they have a hard time keeping their eyebrows stable.  Initials are S.F., working in Simcoe county.  Run for your life (quite literally -- she apparently believes mockery and humiliation are proper ways to deal with suicidal thoughts, and you can't be depressed if you jump up and down) and search out someone actually registered with the OCSWSSW or OACCPP or other governing body to get the competent, professional, and confidential help you deserve.]

So the annual wrap-up is: from March through December, I got very little done.  None of the dreams or goals I'd laid out for myself were attained or completed.  Zero to report.  Nada.  Niente.  The Katie Project is on the back burner until I have the mental and emotional energy to give it the attention it deserves.  I've barely booked any gigs because I don't know when I'll get the energy back.  I haven't written anything.  This entire year has been one gigantic unpaid sick leave, and if one more person asks me what cool projects I'm involved in, they might find themselves wiping snot from my nose as I wail from the corner in a foetal position.  I have no cool projects.  Trying to stay grounded and present and snot-free has been my overwhelming project this year.  I'm not sure if I've even succeeded at that.  No, I know I haven't.

What did I learn this year?  Everything I'd worked so hard to un-learn in the decades before (I'm unworthy of love, loyalty, compassion, having my basic human needs being met, etc.).

But then, girlfriend #1 (bless you, Ali!) introduced me to the Trauma Centre.  And I've been learning a lot.  Of the good stuff.  Seems I hadn't quite finished in the cognitive therapy department -- I've been hanging on to a lot of really bad assumptions, and using them as excuses for others to treat me really badly, or to ignore my own senses, or deny my own feelings.  Yes, even after decades of therapy, I've still got a few more mountains to cross…  Both Don and I have been lacing up our hiking boots, jabbing in the pitons, and helping each other across the terrain (when we aren't threatening to jab the pitons into each other's legs, of course…).  It hasn't been fun.  It hasn't been easy.

And, after a "Couple's Intensive" workshop weekend we went on in the fall, and the first bit of advice given to me from Terrence Real, I'm learning not to smile.  Which is harder than it seems.  When you've spent over 40 years denying your feelings, it's difficult to even acknowledge them, let alone show them.  A cheery smile and laugh has always been my best defence -- I embarrassingly remember being fired from a job for the first time (retail clothing sales, I was awful at it!) and laughing hysterically, hearing in high school that a good friend had lost his leg in a horrific accident and giggling like a fool, or my first husband and I deciding to divorce while I skipped merrily on the sidewalk as he watched, dumbfounded.  Feeling or showing anything but cheery has always been a dangerous thing for me, from keeping up appearances in my birth family and keeping secrets about my father, to present time when the GateKeepers et al feel the need to punish me every time I admit to having been hurt, for hurting now, or for taking the necessary steps to avoid being hurt again.

It's all very clear when you're looking at it from the outside.  When your trauma brain hasn't gone on walkabout or into a wingy fit.

I deny my own feelings in order to avoid being attacked for them.  When I do get attacked for them, instead of thinking "what an asshole for trying to make me feel what they'd rather I feel", I go into "I shouldn't feel that, what's wrong with me?" and the cycle continues.  I've got my work cut out for me… or rather, my trauma therapist has her work cut out for her!  OK, it's me doing the work, but her showing me how.  This may be long and expensive.  :)

This, of course, is probably just the tip of the iceberg.  She does have to work slowly with me, so my brain doesn't go on walkabout or into a wingy fit.  I'm seriously considering getting a PTSD dog.  Don thinks it's just one of my ploys to get him to let me have a puppy.  He could be right, but the way my brain and body have been rebelling this year, I truly feel that it would be practical as well as adorable.  :)  If you agree, you can offer to write me a letter of recommendation to include with the service dog application that Don may or may not know about ahead of time…  ;)

It's amazing what stays in the body.  And in the brain.  I've learned how to live on less sleep again, because the nightmares and hyper-vigilance have done a number on my usual 8-hour necessities.  Of course, considering how unproductive I've been this year, you might argue that I haven't really learned how to live on less sleep…

I'm learning how to get back into my body.  Which I can't say I like very much.  There are some really good reasons why I abandoned it years ago and retreated into my head -- it hurts too much.  Going back in really and truly is painful.  There's a lot of shit stored down there that I was hoping to forget in the next move (never works, but I keep hoping…).  I'm kind of surprised it hasn't already killed me in my sleep -- but maybe that's why I'm not sleeping much.

I'm learning how to trust my gut -- which, as many friends will remember, was a mantra taped onto the fridge in my previous house.  I obviously should have posted a new one here.  I'd get a tattoo if I weren't so freaked out by needles.  I'm slowly learning that it's not my job to make people feel better.  "No Rescuing", "Not My Responsibility" and "Trust Your Gut" were the three mantras staring from my old refrigerator.  I'd forgotten them in the last six and a half years since the move, obviously.  Time to re-learn.

OK, how's this -- I've learned that I'm capable of more learning.  And probably still require a lot of it.  But I've now got experts working with me, and I'm learning.  And I've learned that I've got two amazing girlfriends who I love beyond belief, and while I don't wish anything bad to happen to them, I hope I can be there for them in the same way they've been here for me this year.

What do I hope to learn in 2014?  Everything I've missed so far.

There, that's not too much pressure on myself, is it?

I have hopes, I have dreams, I have goals.  Of course.  Most are the leftovers from 2013.  So stating them for a second year reminds me of disappointment and fills me with dread.  I really don't want to pressure myself.  I can't afford to pressure myself.

So the overarching theme, my "Word of the Year" for 2014 isn't about goals or achievements or who or what I think I ought to be.  It's about what I need to do for myself.  For the people around me.  For those who love me and know what that word really means.  Who understand that "Love" isn't a word, or even a feeling, but an action.  A series of actions, a series of decisions, not something you merely write at the bottom of a Christmas card or say as you're pummelling the target of your "love" into a ditch under a bus.  A word to show myself and those around me what I *AM* worthy of.

Initially, I though my word was going to be "Healing", but that seems to imply an outcome, a goal -- something I'm capable (more than capable!) of falling flat with again.  Too much pressure.

This next year's word isn't about pressure, it's about giving myself what I need.  Giving myself what I've always needed, but was never given, so I always assumed I didn't deserve it, or was too demanding for wanting it in the first place.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes so beautifully, it is time for me to start "Warming the Stone Child".

My word for 2014: "Nurture"

Happy New Year, everyone.  That's a wish from the bottom of my heart, for all of us, but especially for those who I know were struggling with 2013 as well, and who are having difficulty staring into the face of yet another year.  We can do this.  We deserve to do it well.

As The Universe told me this morning, "[we are all] infinite, powerful, fun-loving gladiators of the universe, with eternity before [us] and the power of [our] thoughts to help shape it."

I'm putting on my tiara and hiking shoes, packing a nice bottle of Rioja, some good brie, and my new toolbox, and sliding in to a nice, hot bath.  How about you?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gratitude -- yes, really

There's nothing like an annual holiday to bookmark life events, or life quagmires.

Thanksgiving last year, I was in a state of wide-eyed anticipation, eager to get started and continue on a number of projects dear to my heart, looking forward to family visits and other usually-joyful occasions.

The year in between, however, has been characterized by betrayal, abandonment, and loss.  Each of my closest primary relationships -- other than the girlfriends, god bless the girlfriends! -- in fact, has dealt me a blow of abandonment and/or betrayal this year.  In spectacular fashion.  And may I defy the censors and emphasize, in spec-fucking-tacular fashion.  This is a year which has left me crumpled in a heap on the floor, from which I am still attempting to gather up my pieces, and hoping some of the prettier ones will be krazy-glue-able back together.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this year has truly sucked.  In spec-sucking-tacular suckitude (bite me, spellcheck!).

The year that was supposed to hold such joy and promise and kick-assedness and taking-on-the-world and making-my-dreams-come-true and shiny happy rainbow coloured puppies and ponies has instead been one of despair and desolation and getting my ass kicked into the deep, dark ground.

Happy Freakin' Thanksgiving.  Gobble gobble gobble PITY PARTY!  (Great head space for a Thanksgiving post on gratitude, eh what?)

Listening to everyone giving thanks for their shiny happy rainbows, reading Twitter and FaceBook posts about their thankfulness for smiling puppies and ponies and people who stick by them no matter what and love them the way they deserve... I knew I was supposed to come up with something...  Dear lord, I spent four months blogging about "The Week in Awesome" towards the beginning of this anno horribilus, surely I could come up with SOMETHING other than "I'm thankful I haven't stabbed anyone in the eye with a fork, so have yet to be incarcerated as a dangerous offender."

(Although, considering the year it's been, I should probably be quite proud about that awesome fact...)

And I thus was spending the first half of Thanksgiving weekend fully entrenched in "waah, waaah, waaaahhhh!" mode.

But then I came across this quote in a friend's FB post:
It is relatively easy to feel grateful when good things are happening, and life is going the way we want it to.  A much greater challenge is to be grateful when things are not going so well, and are not going the way we think they should...
The religious traditions encourage us to do more than react with passivity and resignation to loss and crisis; they advise us to change our perspective, so that our suffering is transformed into an opportunity for growth.  Not only does the experience of tragedy give us an exceptional opportunity for growth, but some sort of suffering is also necessary for a person to achieve maximal psychological growth.
In his study of self-actualizers, the paragons of mental wellness, the famed humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow noted that "the most important learning lessons... were tragedies, deaths, and trauma... which forced change in the life-outlook of the person and consequently in everything that he did."
[Robert Emmons, from "Thanks!" ]
...and was floored, humbled and challenged.

Opportunities for growth abound right now.  Heck, by the time I deal with them all, I'll be eight feet tall with a brain the size of Texas!  ;)

But yes, this conglomeration of tragedies and traumas forced me to (finally) take my dear friend Ali's advice (did I mention my awesome girlfriends?) and "enrol" myself at the Trauma Centre, to deal with the next stage (how many friggin' stages are there, fer cryin' out loud?!?!?) of my recovery from that childhood rife with opportunities for growth.  And just a couple of months in, I can feel myself drop-kicked off the old plateau and zooming to new heights.

To a place where I know that, no matter who I am or what I do, I don't deserve to be treated as anything less than human.  That speaking my truth is not punishable by violence (physical or emotional).  That I have every right to expect honesty, loyalty and integrity from the people who demand it of me.  And that those who claim to love me had better put their actions and behaviours behind their words, and not just at those moments when they want me to do something for them.

Yes, I realize this all seems like kind of a no-brainer to most people, but... you might need to read some previous blog posts to get a wee hint at how very foreign these concepts are to someone who was groomed from an early age to be paedophile-fodder / caregiver / rescuer / doormat / outlet-for-your-rage, sire / secret-keeper.  (Plus, holy crap... I must say that I'm discovering more and more layers of that grooming via my ongoing therapeutic work -- there's probably a LOT of people right now praying the secret-keeper brainwashing is gonna stick, because the forget-everything-or-at-least-believe-you're-only-remembering-because-you're-the-crazy-one brainwashing is rapidly being chiselled away as I come to fully realize the depth and breadth of my abuse...)

As it turns out, while I obviously haven't allowed any more physical or sexual abuse back in my life, I had sunk back into the caregiver / rescuer / doormat / secret-keeper mode quite easily, while also harbouring dysfunctional thoughts such as "I don't deserve", "I am less than" and "I am unworthy", and training others to use, abuse and ignore me, because that was surely my place in the world.

Egads.  The things we do to ourselves...

And, using that whole frog-in-a-gradually-brought-to-a-boil-pot-of-water analogy, I guess it really did take the "perfect storm" of betrayals and abandonments before I could snap out of complacency and acceptance-of-shitty-treatment and say "Hey, cut that out!  I deserve better!"  To do a total re-wire (work in progress, of course...) and reprogramming of what I would and would not accept and expect in my life.  To try to salvage and rebuild the broken relationships with those who are willing to join in the new programming and also do the work this process requires.  To stop tap-dancing my ass off to somehow single-handedly build a healthy relationship with someone whose only goal is to tear me down and who wouldn't know "healthy" if it bit them in the ass.  To put the reluctant ones on hold until I can get a better handle on things.  To make my own needs and safety on equal footing with, or even (gasp!) more important than other's desires.  To treat myself as sacred.  (Yes, I threw up in my mouth a little just typing that one -- I did warn you, it's a work-in-progress...)

To treat myself as sacred.

Not the one who gets the leftover crumbs, if there are any, after everyone else's needs have been attended to.  Not the one who only gets to speak up if there's zero chance of anyone being even slightly bothered by what I have to say.  Not the one who quietly waits in the corner for someone to recognize that she's a human being as well, and is worthy, as much as, and deserving.

No-one else will recognize these basic truths if I don't recognize them for myself.  No-one else will treat me as human if I'm telling them not to worry about treating me with basic common decency.

If I want people to treat me as human, I have to treat myself as sacred.  And I have to keep reminding myself of this until it stops making me want to vomit, and I'm nine feet tall with a brain the size of Australia.  (Still 5'6", but... work-in-progress, didn't I mention?)

And I wouldn't have remembered to do this, were it not for this year turning out so very different than originally planned.

So, here I am: grateful for all the terrible things that were done to me this year.  Not grateful in a way that means I will accept this kind of treatment from anyone ever again -- yes, I'm looking at you, assholes-in-waiting, so just put it out of your mind -- but grateful for the reminder that, as a card-carrying human being, I do not deserve to be mistreated, and I am well within my rights to refuse to accept violence of any sort (without that being an invitation for more violence!).

I am grateful for the opportunity to re-draw and fortify my boundaries.

I am grateful for the opportunity to rebuild my life on more solid foundations.

I am grateful that there are people willing to rebuild with me, and some awesome girlfriends cheering me on.

I am grateful for the reminder to not be less than, to reclaim my voice, to be the best me I can be, and to know that whoever and whatever I am at any given moment is the best me I can be under the current circumstances.

Yessirree, I am grateful to the gate-keepers, the liars, the abandoners, the cheats, the betrayers, the backstabbers, the assholes and the abusers.  They have shown me who they are, and reminded me of who I am.  I am not who they want me to be.  They do not define me, but I can take these circumstances and use them to better define myself.  Be who I want to be.

I am grateful to those who are willing to learn along with me that I do deserve better, and are willing to make the effort to offer up the treatment I deserve.

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow, and reshape my life into something better.

I am and forever shall be grateful to the Trauma Centre for the incredible work they're doing -- for me and for everyone who needs their services.  Grateful to Ali for pointing me there.

I am grateful to the girlfriends, most especially Ali and Lisa, who make me laugh, and cry, and mix some mighty tasty martinis, and who have been there for me even when I've pretended I don't need anyone there for me.

I am grateful that the liver is a forgiving organ.  Because... see previous point about my girlfriends' awesome drink-mixing abilities.

I am grateful for my honorary and chosen family.  I can't change my blood, genes, nor history, but I can decide who to keep close to my heart, who to trust, who to share my life with.  I have a beautiful pool of people who fit the bill.  :)

I am, indeed, grateful that I have not stabbed anyone in the eye with a fork this year, and therefore have yet to be incarcerated as a dangerous offender.

I am grateful that those projects and dreams that had to be put on hold for a while will still be possible when I'm ready to pursue them again.

I am grateful that I have the resources available to take this next step in my healing and recovery.

I am grateful that, this time next year, I'm going to be eleven feet tall, with a brain the size of the planet.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Happy Anniversary, yes, really

(Sorry for the absence.  The weekly "awesome" just hasn't been in the cards, recently.  I will be back, things will be awesome again.  Just have needed a lot of time to deal with a lot of things recently -- the below just being the tip of the iceberg.  Thanks for giving me my much-needed space, dear readers.)

As those of you who follow The Brights' blog at already know, Don and I are enjoying a fabulous anniversary week at Sir Sam's Inn.  And today is our third anniversary.  And we love each other.

Which, if you'd asked us three years ago, would have been a given.  Heck, if you'd asked us even three seasons ago, it would have been a no-brainer.  Three months ago?  We would have said "Hah!  Not bloody well gonna happen."  But it did.  We made it.  We're here.

Life does throw us some mighty big challenges sometimes...

Or, in our case, Life says "Hey, you know what?  I just found this ginormous pile of shit you've been avoiding dealing with for several decades, but I'm trying to clear out some space, so here you go, DO SOMETHING with it."  And then you say "Hell no, there's a reason why I didn't want to deal with all that, I don't want it!"  So then you start flinging it at your wife, who then says "Hell no, that's yours not mine, deal with your own shit!" and flings it right back at you.  And then after you've both been hit squarely in the eye with a lob or two, you both look around and realize that, no matter whose shit it was to begin with, you both have a LOT of cleaning up to do.

I don't write this (solely) to see what the cursing police at Blogger will do with that whole description.  Nor simply as a Public Service Reminder to deal with your shit sometime BEFORE it ends up all over you, your home, and everyone you love (although that would be a REALLY AWESOME Public Service Announcement, just sayin'...)

I am writing this to say that you never know what Life (or love) is going to fling at you next, no matter how good things seem to be going.  But that no matter what Life (or love) does fling at you, you can survive it.  And if you (and whoever else is in the shit-party with you) are willing to put in the work, you can not only survive it, but make it better -- probably better than it was even before you knew it was awful.  Yes, really.  Better.  For Realsies.

No matter how dark (or shitty) things look, it can and will get better.

(Now, as someone for whom it has already not gotten better twice, I feel the need to make a caveat -- it can and will get better if BOTH PARTIES are willing to put in the work.  Which we both are.  Which is why we're here.)

Four months ago (to the day, now that I think about it), I thought I'd lost everything and everyone that mattered most to me (other than Ali, because she's just friggin' invincible).  Three months ago, I didn't see any way through.  Three months ago, nobody could have ever convinced me that we'd be spending our anniversary side by side, holding hands, loving each other and looking forward to the future.  (As in our future TOGETHER, not our future on opposite sides of the planet, armed with army-grade shit-flingers.)

There's still some cleaning up to do, we're still working hard.  There are many things to sort through, many wounds, old and new, that still need a whole lot of healing.  Still some lingering stink.  But we're working together.  Life is good.  We're laughing and having fun and loving each other and loving life and looking forward to many more poop-free anniversaries to come.

Life apparently still had a lesson left for me: you CAN do this.  When the going gets tough, the tough get staying.  :)

So happy anniversary to the man worth staying for.  And to the man who was willing to start working through that old, dark and stinky muck because he thought staying with me was worth it.

First anniversary is paper, third anniversary is, apparently, Lysol...

Ah well, nobody ever promised a life full of rainbows and lollypops.  That's why the traditional wedding vows are "through better or worse".  (Although I'm thinking they might want to rephrase it as "through worse or better", just to keep a light going at the end of the tunnel... just sayin'.)  But it is better.  Much better.  It will be even better.

Happy Anniversary to the Love of My Life.  Thank you for being here.  Thanks for, once again, proving "them" wrong.  I adore you.

(And thanks to our close friends, who have stuck by our side, despite the stink -- we love you all!  But you can't join us this week, no matter how much you beg.  Because... eeew.)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Week in Awesome

OK, we're back to the usual version, where I post things by OTHER people that are awesome.  My inner child feels much more comfortable with this.  ;)

First up, a fabulous video by Project Unspoken -- which seems to me to be associated with the Emory University Office of Health Promotion.  And what a great campaign they've got going!

Next, the 2012 version of "Where the Hell is Matt?" -- he always puts a smile on my face, and I hope he does the same for you.  This is what joy looks like all around the world.

And, finally, a great conference in Toronto, if you're in the area -- I'm trying my bestest to attend, and one of the speakers is a new friend of mine, Deb Maybury.  She's also about to release a new book, which includes a song of mine -- I'll share the details of her book launch as soon as I have them.

That's it for now -- have an awesome week, everyone!