Sunday, December 30, 2012

This week in Awesomeness

Hi folks, and welcome to my now-weekly Awesomeness wrap-up.

As many of you know, this week has been a difficult one for me, so I'm kind of forcing myself into this right now.  Of course, I forced myself out of the house yesterday, and was promptly "rewarded" by having my (new) car rammed into by an idiot in the parking lot, so... BE GENTLE!  Check your mirrors and look where you're going.

Little Pollyanna me would like to mention it's awesome that said idiot only hit my car, and not a child (because if you can't see a big red station wagon with horn-a-honking, you probably need to get your eyes and ears and brain checked).  So... car body destroyed instead of life taken = awesome.

Don't worry, it gets better than simply not killing people...  :-)

A term I have heard for the first time this week, and have fallen in love with: Pocket Riders.  Pocket Riders are truly awesome.  No, this is not some cool new gizmo for geeks.  This is a form of virtual support that I have discovered on Pandora's Aquarium (previously mentioned twice in awesomeness, so I am resisting the urge to include it again).  If someone is about to face something they aren't sure they can handle -- such as a difficult therapy session, having to face their abuser, disclosing to someone, or just having to deal with a pain-in-the-ass mother-in-law, they will ask for Pocket Riders -- or others will spontaneously offer to jump in their pocket and travel with them.  No, nobody is actually jumping in people's pockets -- that would make it hard to walk!  But it's symbolic, that they're there with you, giving you invisible support, thinking of you as you go through whatever difficult thing you have to face, and waiting to hear how it went.  I have no idea how the concept ever came about, but it's just such a sweet and supportive thing, it makes me very happy.  Think pocket travelling might make it into a song someday...  In the meantime, there are some very dear new friends currently inhabiting my pyjama pockets and helping me make it through the day -- and I am enjoying the scenery from the pockets of a few others (one of whom is on a coast down south, so I hope she buys me a drink with a pretty umbrella in it!)  Yay to Pocket Riders!

A friend of a friend posted this link on his FaceBook wall: Ten Wicked Morsels for Living a Sexy Life, which I really enjoyed.  Bits of the writers favourite quotes compiled with her?/his? own life experience, each followed by a question to "give us cause to embark on grand and glorious adventures into the boundless realms."  I'm feeling sexier already.  :-)

And yes, I know I make jokes about this song and beginner guitar students in every guitar store playing it gawd-awfully and making me want to stab my eyes out with tweezers.  BUT... This is a kick-ass rendition of that song we all love to hate beginner-guitar-students-playing-ad-nauseam.  It's from a Kennedy Center Honors ceremony earlier this month, in which Led Zeppelin was one of the honourees.  Performed by Heart and a cast of dozens, it made Robert Plant cry, and in a Good Way.  I have to say, when the choir gets going and Ann Wilson really starts to wail -- GOOSEBUMPS.  Man, that gal has pipes!!!

Almost makes you want to forgive the endless hours of lousy players in guitar stores, doesn't it?

And, finally, I gave a "P.S." mention to this last week, but I have to give mention to Chief Theresa Spence, the Idle No More movement, and the people AROUND THE WORLD who are supporting them.  Idle No More calls on all people to join in a (peaceful) revolution which honours and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water.  It was initiated by four women: Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon and Sheelah McLean in reaction to current and upcoming Canadian legislation that affects not just First Nations people, but the rest of Canada's citizens, lands and waters.  In the last month, this grassroots movement has gathered so much momentum and so many supporters, it's just thrilling to watch!  If I weren't in such a ridiculous hermit-mode right now, I'd have gone to one of their events, but have had to support them in the cyber-world instead.  TwitterTwits, the hashtag is #idlenomore -- tweet away and support this incredible movement!

Happy New Year to one and all.  2012 has, indeed, been pretty awesome.  A toast to the past and a look to the future.  I'll see you in 2013.

Monday, December 24, 2012

P.S. to Awesomeness

Oh man, I *MUST* have been depressed yesterday. I forgot one of last week's most awesome things:  Idle No More!!!

This movement, started by three First Nations women, has blossomed into (peaceful) protests throughout the country, including flash mob round dances and drum circles in shopping malls and on government steps. It's quickly building momentum, and has even been getting international support from protesters as far away as the Ukraine!

Hope met by passion and action. That's as awesome as it gets!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The not-so-awesome week in Awesome

This one is kind of like pulling teeth, as my depression has been dark and icky this week.  But that seems like exactly the kind of week where I need to remember something awesome.


Awesome discovery, introduced to me by friend B: Pandora's Aquarium.  It's an online support group and resource site for survivors of rape and sexual abuse.  I mentioned it last week, it's true, but I didn't actually join up until a few days ago.  Within minutes of my membership approval, I was warmly greeted by members from all over the world.  It's a fabulous community, with many sub-communities based on the type of abuse, what stage you're at in your healing, etc.  I've been really enjoying the J.O.Y. (for older survivors) Group -- oy, get me my walking cane! -- and it's been really great to be able to talk with folks going through the same things, and being able to offer support for other folks.

And, just when I was hitting the bottom of the barrel, depression-wise, feeling sorry for myself that I was (yet again) alienated from my family in the season that's supposed to be spent with family, I got this letter from my niece in Friday's mail (she'd even addressed the envelope all by herself!):

(I love how she's made an arrow, so I know to open up the card...)

(I'm still trying to figure out why the sun is a cyclops, but... maybe some things aren't to be understood?)

That's all the awesome I've been able to conjure in this frame of mind, folks.  Will try to pick my ass off the floor in time for a truly awesome round of awesomeness next week!

In the meantime, have a fabulous holiday, and hug the ones you love.  I'm going to go collect one of those hugs from my awesome-hugger husband.  Which makes three awesome things reported on today.  :-)

Monday, December 17, 2012

The (belated) week in Awesomeness

Hi everyone,

Geez, I made a vow last weekend to give a weekly recap of good news, and I miss it my very first chance!  Sorry folks, Friday kind of threw me.  But I'm thinking it threw pretty much everyone with a soul, which means we're ALL in need of a little bit of Awesomeness, even if it's a day late.

Up until Friday, my week had been pretty darned awesome.  Theo Fleury tweeted last week's "Awesomeness" post, which resulted in more people visiting the blog within an hour than usually show up in a week -- thus introducing me to a whole bunch of really amazing people, some fun brainstorming, and a whole new web of collaborators.  The Katie Project has some new supporters, and the inaugural CD has a couple of new song contributors.  Which is pretty flippin' awesome, if you ask me!  (The high-school orchestra-geek in me is a little freaked out that hockey players are talking to me, but I keep reminding myself that I'm in my forties now, and the world isn't so neatly divided anymore...)

Speaking of hockey players, I'd like to point you all to Theo's Victor Walk "Ambassadors" page: , where you can sign the petition to be presented to the Canadian government demanding change in the laws around childhood sexual abuse.  You can also download a "Victor Impact Statement" and learn how to organize your own walk if you can't make it to Ottawa in May.

Another great webpage I found this week is Susannah Conway's "Unravelling the year ahead".  She offers a (beautiful) downloadable workbook to help say goodbye to 2012 and dream your dreams about 2013.  There's also a downloadable monthly planner for 2013, to keep you on course to realizing those dreams you come up with.

For all you fellow survivors, my friend B pointed out a new website (to me) that might be helpful to you as well.  Pandora's Project is a huge selection of resources and support for survivors of any type of sexual abuse, as well as their friends and family.  It's for men and women at any stage in their healing, LGBTQ-positive, with a message board and chat room, lending library, articles and tons of other resources.

This quote from Mr. Rogers has been circulating everywhere since Friday.  I'm sorry if you're sick of it already, but it's just such a beautiful sentiment, and important thing to remember when the world seems bleak:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world. - Fred Rogers

In a similar vein, Jenny Lawson blogged this great Dr. Who quote:

"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things...  The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things, and make them unimportant."

Yes, there are some horrible things that happen in the world, but there's always wonderful things happening to counter them.  You can lose yourself to despair, or you can see the love and beauty shining through.

I choose to see the love and beauty.

If you'll excuse one more "me" thing, I received a beautiful compliment from an old friend, after he read Saturday's blog post about the shooting.  It made me bawl my eyes out, which was rather embarrassing, since I read it waiting for a concert, but... at least they were happy tears.

He said:

You are a ray of sunshine in a dark and scary world.

You'd bawl your eyes out in the audience too, wouldn't you?  :-)

That's certainly what I try to be.  Living proof that you don't have to let the bad shit get you down.  There is always something good to cling to, even if you have difficulty finding it at first.  We can't escape the dark and scary stuff, we can just use it to learn and make ourselves better, and then be a light for others whenever we can.

And if that doesn't make you smile, BuzzFeed has compiled a list of "26 Moments that Restored our Faith in Humanity This Year".  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

But what about the kids who lived?

Like many, I have spent the last day and a half alternating between tears, confusion and anger over Friday morning's mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

28 people shot to death, including 20 children.  And while theories may be cobbled together by whatever bits of evidence remain, we will really never know why, or what was going on in the gunman's head, or what -- if anything -- could have been done to prevent this.

More restrictive gun laws would be the first thing that spring to mind, of course.  Not to mention better access and less stigma attached to mental health services.  I understand that various people are going to have difficulty with each of those statements.  I'll stand by them anyhow.

If the murderer had gone into a school with a lead pipe as his weapon, less people would be dead.  Period.

Yes, at least part of his intention seems to have been to cause harm, and he probably would have found a way to do so with or without more restrictive gun laws, but it would have been far more difficult for him to do so, perhaps even giving him some time to come to his senses, or for someone else along the chain to notice something wasn't quite kosher.  And the argument that he could have illegally obtained a firearm just doesn't hold much importance, since it appears the firearms he used were all properly obtained and registered.

I got a bit of a raised eyebrow from someone (who didn't know me or my own story) when I tweeted yesterday "What a different day this would be if mental health services were more readily available than personal firearms."  He was -- and rightly so -- concerned with a perceived mapping of mental health onto mass killings.  I have read others' concerns about that issue, and understand where they're coming from.

But, as you'll hopefully remember from your own elementary school math classes, saying all A = B does NOT mean that all B = A.

As someone who has 30+ years as a "customer" of mental health services, I can safely assure everyone that I have never been a mass murderer.  (I can't even bring myself to set up a mousetrap, fer cryin' out loud!)  I'm pretty certain that 99.999999999% of my fellow mental-health-care consumers are in the same boat.


But I think it's pretty safe to say that someone who murders his mother, opens fire on elementary school classrooms and then shoots himself in the head PROBABLY has some pretty major issues, and could have used some help in the mental health department.  Which, "mental health" cutting a pretty broad swathe, does not mean he necessarily had a mental illness or personality disorder -- it could have been addictions issues, a traumatic event that made him "snap", PTSD trigger, emotional breakdown, seriously messed-up perceptions of the world, or simply never having been given all the necessary emotional tools for his toolbox.  A "diagnosis" at this point is neither possible nor helpful.  But it's pretty damned obvious this guy needed help in the emotional and decision-making spheres, and did not receive it.  Why not?  Again, we'll never know for certain.

To the people who are afraid of mass murders being associated with mental health issues, I'd argue that the danger of stigma arises because the only time we seem to talk about such things is when disaster strikes.  We don't talk about mental health issues unless we're forced to.  Which is kind of freaking ridiculous, because with the previously-mentioned wide swathe that "mental health" covers, ALMOST EVERYONE has mental health issues at one or more points in their lives.  Almost none of them become mass murderers.

We need to start a dialogue, to share our stories, to show everyone that mental health is as important to ourselves and our society as physical health.  To show that going to a counsellor or psychiatrist or support group when you need an emotional "tune up" is no more embarrassing than going to the dentist when you have a toothache.  Even the most well-adjusted, lovingly-raised, tragedy-free people out there (I'm sure there are some, right?) have things happen to them in their lives that they need help with -- the loss of a loved one, workplace stress, dealing with teenaged kids... whatever.  We aren't all born with 100% of the self-knowledge and emotional intelligence we need to handle every single situation we come across in life, and we shouldn't expect ourselves or each other to have it all together.

You don't need to be a gun-toting murderer to need mental health services.  Getting help with your mental health does not make you a gun-toting murderer.

And yes, I stand by my statement that if mental health services were more accessible than firearms, yesterday would have been a very different day.

Twenty children died yesterday (mercifully quickly, according to the coroner's report).  Six school staff.  The gunman and his mother, leaving behind the brother initially accused and now probably dealing with more emotions than he can name.  Twenty-seven families who had been looking forward to the upcoming holiday break, but will spend it in grief and mourning instead.

These are the people mentioned in the media reports.  These are the lives mourned.  And rightfully so.

But what about the other lives ruined yesterday?  There are reportedly 626 children enrolled in Sandy Hook Elementary, in kindergarten through grade four.  By my calculations, that means the majority of witnesses to this violence were between the ages of 4 and 9, and the kids reported killed were ages 6 and 7, meaning that a bunch of their 6- and 7-year old classmates directly witnessed their murder, and probably narrowly escaped their own.

Which means that 600-or-so children have just had a lifetime of PTSD dumped on them.  (And don't even get me started on the poor kids who had reporters' microphones stuffed in their faces mere moments after their escape.)

Which kind of gets me back to the wish that mental health services were as easily accessible as firearms.

We can only hope that these kids and their families are all getting access to trauma counselling right now.  Yet, considering the ages of those kids, the effects probably won't surface until the funding for that emergency counselling runs out.  Which, in the United States, means that only the lucky kids whose parents have an amazing health plan (not to mention the knowledge of when and how to access care) will get adequate treatment for their trauma.  And when they become adults and (hopefully) get health insurance of their own, even if mental health is miraculously covered by their plan, their PTSD will be a pre-existing condition, and therefore not likely covered.

God Bless America.

And thanks to everyone who helped create this fate that I was born in the land of OHIP (that's our provincial health care plan, for those outside of Ontario).

I can NOT imagine where I would be today if I'd ever had to consider the price of my own psychiatric and other mental health treatments.  Actually, I can.  I'd be depressed, dissociative, and with zero tools in my toolbox to handle my other PTSD symptoms, not to mention handling life-in-general.  I would, to use a technical term, be totally f*cked.

From what I can gather in unravelling and re-associating my past, I was these kids' age when I first started to dissociate.  And with no psych degree or statistics to back this up, I think kids that age can be REALLY AWESOME at dissociation.  I sure was -- a freaking overachiever, as always.  ;-)

Have yet to develop the emotional tools to deal with the trauma you're experiencing?  No problem -- just pretend it didn't happen.  Or it happened to your imaginary friend.  It's awesome.  I'm not being sarcastic, it REALLY IS AWESOME.  I am fascinated by the human brain's ability to save its own life.  To keep it safe from things it doesn't know how to deal with, and keep those things neatly packaged away until it's got the knowledge and tools and support it needs to be able to deal with it.  While I thought I was stark-raving mad during some of the middle bits, my brain was actually keeping me sane and safe.  I am in awe of my brain.  :-)

But my brain was only doing what these kids' brains are about to do -- it's just that most kids don't (fortunately!) need to access this particular brain function.

These kids are going to survive and forget and let themselves remember when they're able.  They will appear to be "normal", they will appear to have bounced back long before the adults, they will play and joke and play on the monkey bars and be kids again.

Until something triggers them, or until their brains start to let the memories seep back in.

And whether it's the former or latter scenario, this will be the time when THEY think they're stark-raving mad.  This will be the time when they need a strong support system.  This will be the time they need some kick-ass mental health services.  This will be the time when the people around them need to remind them that this is the brain reacting to trauma, that it's OK to ask for help, that it's normal to NEED help in dealing with this.

Trauma isn't a rainy day when you wish it were sunny.  TRAUMA IS F*CKING TRAUMA.

Having seen how "well" (yes, that IS sarcasm) their country has dealt with the PTSD of their own First Responders and Veterans, I don't have much faith that they're going to look after these kids any better.  After an initial flurry, they'll leave it to the parents -- forgetting, of course, that the parents have now likely been dealt with PTSD symptoms of their very own, and may not be fully capable of dealing with their children's issues adequately, even if they could afford to do so.

Do I seem angry?  Yup, I'm angry.

Yes, I'm angry that there isn't stricter gun control.  Yes, I'm angry that the gunman got to the point where shooting random children seemed like a good idea.  Yes, I'm angry that the Godless Westboro Baptist Church is actually planning to picket the children's funerals.  Yes, I'm angry that those insensitive reporters thought the story was more important than the children's well-being.  Those are the obvious angers.  There are many people angry about all those things.

What I don't hear is any anger over what's happened -- and is going to happen -- to and for the survivors.  Right now, they seem to be considered the lucky ones.  They are soooo not the lucky ones.

Suffer little children to come unto me...

Right alongside the 28 dead souls, there are going to be 600+ lost souls.  That's what's really making me angry.

I hope it makes some others angry too.  I hope some of those angry people are in a place where they can do something to help those kids who are still alive, but who died a little inside yesterday.  I hope that, once all the hooplah is over, amidst all the anger and calls for prevention of future occurrences (all of which are good calls, don't get me wrong), that someone bothers to help the surviving victims of Friday's massacre.

I challenge the U.S. and Connecticut governments to provide free mental health care to these children in perpetuity.

Because even an angry girl can dream.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The week in Awesomeness

Happy Sunday, everyone!

I feel like I've been a bit of a Debbie Downer recently, so have decided to do a weekly "good news" report.  And there is much good in the world, so I shouldn't be at a loss any time soon.  :-)

First is the much-anticipated announcement of Theo Fleury's Victor Walk!  A team of advocates will gather May 14 at the Child Abuse Monument in Toronto, and will walk to Ottawa, arriving on the steps of Parliament Hill on May 23 to demand:
  1. Much tougher legal penalties on pedophiles
  2. Prison time for those who did not immediately report the abuse to the police
  3. A national registry so Canadian parents can be warned when a pedophile moves into their community
  4. Significant government funding for the cure  [I am assuming this is referring to healing for the victims, as research indicates there is no cure for pedophilia.]
He is also inviting survivors to submit or bring their Victim (Victor) Impact Statement, to tell their stories and unburden themselves from secrecy.

Video link: (Victor Walk)

Guess where I plan to be in May?  :-)  If you can't do the walk or be in Ottawa, they've put together a kit to start a Victor Walk in your own community.  There's also ways to donate, purchase "Victor Movement" swag, and download a copy of the anthem "Walk with Thousands" (Fleury is also a singer-songwriter, Mister Multi-Talented Guy).

There's a video of the song on YouTube -- I wish the other musicians were named, but it's got banjo, so I'm happy.  :-)

Video link: (Walk With Thousands)

Up next, I'd like to share an amazing quote and graphic which my friend Tina shared on FaceBook a few days ago:

If the print is too small or grainy, here's what the quote says:
"You own everything that happened to you.  Tell your stories.  If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better."  Anne Lamott
To which I say, "Amen, Sister!"

Way up in the top right corner, you'll see a credit to -- being the curious type (and wanting permission to post this amazing graphic!), I went to check it out.  It turns out, Tracie is a fellow survivor, blogger and advocate -- please do visit and check out what she has to say!

From Tracie Button

Through her site, I also found a number of others, all of which equally fit the awesomeness criteria:

Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse     

 I'm a survivor.

These are all about people telling their stories, and being part of each other's healing process.  Which, as you might have noticed, is kind of my thing.  :-)

Finally, on a more personal level, I have finished reading "The Ultimate Betrayal: The Enabling Mother, Incest and Sexual Abuse" (book report soon!) and made it through Part One (describing the many types of abuse) of "Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life".  Both are incredible books, and I would heartily encourage fellow survivors to check them out.

It has been a tough slog going through these books and seeing my life in print -- although I am very much looking forward to Part Two: Reclaiming Your Life, which promises to help put some more useful tools into my toolbox.

Reading through the case studies and descriptions of these types of behaviours and what they do to a young mind, I have to say I'm kind of amazed with (and proud of -- yes, that was my outside voice!) myself for staying alive this long and not becoming a crack whore...

Because being alive and not a crack whore is pretty damned awesome!  :-)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The (belated) birthday breakdown -- double entendre intended

After declaring last year that I would treat my birthdays a la Merrill Markoe's "It's My F---ing Birthday" heroine (see here if you missed it and are bothered by said missing), it seems I totally blew it on the first chance I got... oy!

Well, better late than never, right?

So... Part I is the birthday recap, Part II will be what have I learned this year and what do I hope to learn in the coming year.


Birthday Recap

The birthday week started out quite well, with Therapy Monday (yay therapy day!) being followed up with our FINALLY having a fully-functional kitchen for the first time in almost a full year.  (Yes, I said it with my outside voice, so you just know the gas stove is about to explode... send hunky firefighters!)

My BEST GIFT EVER wasn't even a birthday gift, as far as I know.  On Tuesday, our friendly neighbourhood postal worker (no, she really IS friendly) knocked on the front door with a large-ish package for me.  I will admit, I was more than a little apprehensive, after the last very-large package delivered to the door (see here if you don't get the reference), but... I didn't recognize the handwriting as anything familial, so started to breathe again.  And then I noticed the "Official Gate-Keeper Survival Kit" printed in red along the bottom of the envelope...  Mwahaahaaaaa!  Friend and fellow survivor DVS, in her forever-creative way, had sent me a care package.  Inside was a card with a chocolate bar taped to it and the instructions "Step One: EAT CHOCOLATE" on the envelope.  I pulled out the remaining package contents and read the card, which explained it all:

Gate Keeper Survival Kit

Just add Alcohol
(preferably in a sippy cup so pudding doesn't get in it)
  1. Chocolate -- eat first to set the mood
  2. Pudding, chocolate of course and apparently fat-free so eat as much as you like!
  3. Shower Cap -- so you don't get said pudding in your hair... that might be nasty.
  4. Nourishing mud face mask -- looks like chocolate pudding and deeply cleanses
  5. Softening body scrub for when you want to sit back & relax
  6. Scandal survival handbook... how the rich & famous handle it!  AKA National Enquirer
(If you don't understand the pudding references, visit the bottom of this post.)

This was totally unexpected, and had me hooting and laughing for hours.  Then Don came home, and I hooted and laughed some more.  I seriously needed some hooting and laughing this month...

Later that day, once of my cello students also gave me an awesome birthday gift, without realizing it.  She bashfully came into her lesson, admitting she hadn't really practised in the past week, because she was too busy trying to figure out how to play two of her favourite songs.  I asked if she'd had any luck, and she produced HER OWN HAND-WRITTEN MANUSCRIPT of the two songs.  I asked her how she'd figured it out, and she said she'd listened to the songs a few times and tested things out on her cello to make sure she'd written them down correctly.  I withstood the urge to burst into happy tears and hug her on the spot, but did tell her what an amazing thing she had just been able to accomplish, especially when she's only been playing cello for two years.  And then I did my best to not grin and blubber like a crazy fiend throughout the rest of her lesson, as she played her arrangements and tried to figure out how to make them better.  ONE PROUD MAMA, let me tell you.  :-)

Wednesday was another musical gift, although one that did remind me of how much I've been missing since leaving the musical metropolis.  I'd been asked to sub in on a chamber music concert, and had half-heartedly said yes, because I didn't really know anything about the organizers and, sorry to say, this is an area where volunteer community orchestra members are considered "pros", so my expectations are not terribly high.  Well, those expectations were blown out of the water, as I found myself playing with people who ACTUALLY WERE pros.  First music high I've had since playing with Victor freakin' Wooten in Feb.'11 (see here for that reference) -- and that was just the rehearsal (the concert was Friday).  Granted, the majority of the players had been imported from further south, but it was so refreshing and revitalizing to be able to play a concert with only one rehearsal together and have it not suck, to work with players who spent the rehearsal discussing phrasing and dynamics, instead of just trying to get the right notes, who actually gave a crap about the music.  I was finally excited about my chosen profession again.  Halle-freaking-lujah!

Perhaps it was this newly-reawakened longing to live closer to potential musical collaborators, perhaps it was the cumulative effects of this past month, perhaps a bit of both, but on Thursday -- the actual birthday day -- I was fighting one nasty bitch of a depression.  To the extent that I caught myself staring at the paper-slicer / guillotine in my office and fantasizing about what might happen if I used it to slice my fingers down to the first knuckle.  Fortunately, the majority of me thought that this was a bad idea, but the bit of me that came up with the idea did take quite a bit of talking down.  Which freaked me out a little (!), because I haven't had any self-harm ideas since my high school years -- in which I would flatten myself against the back wall of the subway platform (and preferably at the front of the train), just in case a part of me decided to jump, as I hoped that would give the other parts of me time to talk that bit out of it before the train came.  I imagine this finger-slicing bit of me was at least closely related to that bit.  I suppose this self-destructive fragment could have been triggered by this month's goings-on, although it seems rather strange that she would re-appear just when I'm more determined than ever to stay alive, be fully functional, and shout my story to the rooftops.  Maybe she's still terrified of that concept.  Or maybe, as with all the other dissociated bits that have taken their own sweet time to make an appearance, she now knows it's safe to show herself, to become integrated with all the other shards, where she'll be loved and protected, at last.  I will go with the latter for now, barring any future finger-mutilation urges.

Suffice it to say, my fingers are still fully intact.  Hence the typing.  :-)

And I managed to get my public face back on again in time for my sweetie to take me around the corner to Era 67 for dinner.  There, we were greeted by my birthday twin, Cory, who made sure we were treated right.  :-)  That's me and my birthday twin below (he's the one with the Movember 'stache, in case you were wondering).

Regular readers of our Brights blog are probably clamouring for the food and beverage report.  I'd hate to disappoint!  We'd brought a bottle of our favourite Amarone, but wanted to give it a chance to breathe (nice excuse, huh?), so Cory decanted the wine while I had a Cosmopolitan and Don a rye & water (Cosmo is so much prettier!).  We usually split an appetizer, but Cory said the shrimp appetizer only had 4 shrimp, so we figured we'd each have an order.  He failed to mention that they were MUTANT shrimp, however.  Yes, that piece of battered yumminess that resembles a turkey leg below is actually a shrimp!  Note to self: go back to sharing an appetizer.

A (slightly inebriated) woman at the table next to us and her husband were enjoying an anniversary dinner together, and we got chatting away -- they made fun of Don for taking pictures of food, but they obviously don't understand that sometimes the most interesting things we have to say are food-related.  ;-)  (Seriously, I've actually had readers of our Brights blog COMPLAIN when I forget to include the food and beverage report in our tour reports...)

My main course was maple cranberry salmon over a bed of wild rice.  Maple cranberry salmon is almost as good as wine.  Almost.  Sadly, I was so full from those Pterodactyl legs shrimp that I could only make it partway through.  Don also had to take home a doggie bag (very rare occurrence!) for his breaded pork chop on a bed of garlicky mashed potatoes.

Just when we thought we could eat no more, Cory presented us with a special birthday treat: a warm butter tart on creme anglaise, garnished with fresh fruit -- we ordered some Dalwhinnie to wash it all down.

We waddled home, painfully.  Where we decided to have some more birthday single malt and stay up talking until the wee hours as we digested.  This might have been a mistake, as I had a 10:00 cello student the next morning!  (I did manage to wake up, and be vaguely coherent for said student, although promptly went back to sleep and didn't wake up until it was time to get ready for the chamber gig!)

Fortunately, our stomachs and livers had recovered adequately for the Birthday Dinner Party / Sleepover (kind of like when we were kids, only this included wine and boys).  Seven friends and one Chocolate Lab (the canine, not edible variety) joining us for another night of too much food and beverage.  It started with champagne and a toast to moi that had me already teary (and I hadn't even drunk the champagne yet), with some antipasto appetizers that Lisa & Paul brought.  Then Don headed to the barbecue, Lisa and I headed to the wine, and everyone bustled around to get the rest of the food ready.  First, Ray custom-mixed salads for each of us, then we had Ali's creamy roasted red pepper soup, then steak for the carnivores and maple-teriaki salmon for the pescavores (if that's not a real word, it should be).  For each course, Ray played sommelier, pouring (lots of) wine to match each dish.  Once again, we were rather stuffed.  But wait, there's more!  Roy and Sue had brought not one, but TWO birthday cakes -- see the dessert picture from Thursday.  Much chatting and laughter into the night.  Lisa was the first to change into pyjamas, followed closely by Ali.  I went to change into mine, and my body said "jammies!  bed!  they won't notice..." so I never returned downstairs.  Apparently they sent a scout to make sure I was OK, but I was already fast asleep.  Most of the others filed off to their respective beds shortly thereafter, other than my beloved hubby and Ray, who were reportedly up until 5:45 drinking scotch and talking.  So, for once in my life, I was actually the first person to wake up the next morning!  (Other than Ali, who had to head to the farm to play with horses.)  Don made us all breakfast, and everyone was on their way home before he realized just how hungover he truly was...  Other than the hubby's hangover, it had been the perfect Birthday Weekend, surrounded by people who love me and support me, and who have stuck by us both in some pretty trying times these past couple of years.

I spent the afternoon in joy-filled, feeling-the-love bliss.

To quote myself:  Do you see where this is going?  Because I did not see where this was going...

Yes, friends, there was one birthday present left to be delivered: a brand-new cannonball-to-the-gut, courtesy of the Gate-Keeper-of-the-Month.  Perfectly timed, perfectly aimed.  As one friend (and cannonball recipient) commented: "of course, she KNOWS it's your birthday weekend, so... why not piss on the parade?"

You see, after her previous cannonball -- in which she attempted to turn my husband, best friend, and various other friends, family and supporters against me by saying I was lying about my childhood sexual abuse, but if it had occurred she hadn't known about it, gaslight, lie, deny, denydeny, denysomemore...  I had, in a weak moment of believing she might still have some semblance of sense and reality about her, sent her a "cease and desist" letter, including some samples of evidence I had on hand (from the oft-mentioned two filing cabinets, ancient hard drives and basement full of boxes) to disprove just one of the lies she had consistently been including in her e-mails to my friends and family -- said lie being that she had never known of the abuse, and we had never spoken of it before.  Thinking, of course, that being able to back myself up with hard evidence -- including her own damned handwriting -- might appeal to some hidden logical side within, or at least scare her self-preserving side out of being caught in more bold-faced lies in the future.

She did not reply to me, of course -- I'm still non-existant for her.  She completely avoided me, and once again turned to my friends and family, to once again try to convince them I'm a lying piece of shit.  Completely ignoring the documentation dealing with my 1983 disclosure and her own actions (though mostly inactions) upon said disclosure, later (witnessed) discussions with her about my past abuse, and even later written correspondence to and from her.  Attempting, in fact, to use one of those pieces of her own correspondence as proof of her original point that we had never discussed the matter before.  Which makes about as much friggin' sense as... well, I can't even think of a good simile for such a bizarre thought pattern, so my fellow writers are going to have to chime in here.

And I will admit, I should have known better, but there was still a little part of me that had been hoping that seeing but a smidgen of the (two filing cabinets, etc.) evidence I have of my story would have shocked her into an "aha! I should stop abusing her over her abuse story" moment.  Yes, foolish in hindsight, but I won't be holding out that candle again, never fear.

In fact, I had had very little hope she would "cease and desist" for my sake -- because, seriously, what kind of person reads the diary of a little girl who wishes her father would stop raping her, and then sporadically and unpredictably goes on the warpath against that girl for the next 30+ years over it? -- but thought she'd at least go into self-preservation mode once she knew that I could back up my story quite easily, and it was really her own credibility she was destroying.  But... sigh... I guess even saving face and keeping things quiet takes a back seat to roiling around in the same old patterns she's been employing since... well, probably before I was even born.

Which (finally) brings me around to Part II:

What Have I Learned This Year?

A. Lot.

First of all, there's the purely practical.  In beginning to research for this book-I-promised-my-nightmares-I'd-write (read here and here for that explanation), I have learned far more about childhood sexual abuse, incest, codependence, enabling, toxic people, domestic abuse and family dysfunction than I really ever wanted to know (but everyone really should know).

In that research, and in diving in deeper to my own story and opening up more about it, I have met some wonderful people, and joined forces with some amazing dragon-slayers.

I have learned, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am not alone.  That none of us are.  That, while each of our stories is unique, there are common threads running through them.  Common patterns that we all thought were ours alone.  Ridiculously, depressingly common patterns that I so wish had been explained to me and my brother and sister survivors, victors and thrivers when we were kids.  "Survival Ed 101".

What a different childhood (and resulting adulthood) we could have all had if, instead of teaching us "don't take candy from strangers", we had been taught "no adult should tell you to keep a secret", "nobody else can tell you what your feelings are", "trust your gut",  "nobody, even the people you love, is perfect", "if you're afraid of something, there's probably a good reason for it", "you have the right to say no to anything that makes you uncomfortable", or "you deserve to feel safe and secure and loved, no matter what."

In reading these case studies, and my brothers' and sisters' stories, these messages were all lacking.  Yes, there are a few lucky ones whose caregivers learned of the abuse and stood up to fight FOR them, and did whatever they could to get them out of harm's way, and provide them with the necessary tools and resources for healing.  These seem to be the minority, unfortunately.  (Or, at least, they didn't end up so messed up as adults that they needed enough therapy to turn themselves into a case study!)  The majority of folks -- at least those who needed therapy and trauma counselling in later years -- are the ones who had nowhere to turn, either because of family dysfunction or organizational dysfunction, or perhaps even a bit of both.  These are the kids who weren't taught it was ok to say no, they were taught they didn't have the right.  That they shouldn't ever say bad things about Uncle Fred or their baseball coach or their pastor.  That they should never question anyone in authority (i.e., a grown-up).

I have learned that we all have internalized and externalized these messages in very similar ways.  That these messages have continued to be reinforced in very similar ways.

And yes, the similarities are more than a little bit on the depressing side, but it's also really great to be able to sit back and say "oh yes, you're currently re-enacting case study L -- this really isn't about me, is it?"  I've FINALLY learned to not take the Gate-Keeper-of-the-Month's -- or any of the Gate-Keepers' -- antics personally.

I have finally learned that there is absolutely nothing I can or ever will be able to do to stop those antics.  I have learned to save my energy.  I have learned to hug and squeeze and love that little girl inside and give her the things she was never able to receive, to remind her that she won't ever be able to get those things from the people she was supposed to get it from, but that there are literally hundreds of people in her life now who are ready, willing and eager to give them to her, and she doesn't have to tap-dance up a storm to get them, they're just hers.

I have (again, finally) learned to give up hope that these Gate-Keepers are capable of change.  As one friend recently said: "She's never going to be able to see your truth.  She's never going to want to see your truth.  This is how she treated you 40 years ago, this is how she treated you 30 years ago, this is how she treated you 20 years ago, this is how she treated you 10 years ago, this is how she's treating you now.  She is still denying and fighting your truth, and in doing so, she is very clearly showing you hers: this is who she is, this is who she was, this is who she always will be.  You need to believe her."

I finally do.  We went through this whole scenario ten years ago (minus her trying to drag family and friends into the cyclone I refused to step into this time) and I had to shut of all contact.  After a while, toes were dipped, cyclones remained calm, and I went back in, thinking we had graduated into a state of at least agree-to-disagree.  I was wrong.

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me for forty-plus years... well, I finally got the message.

I laughed with Don last night -- there are a number of friends for whom I lament that they keep ending up with the same kind of partner, and it keeps ending the same bad way.  But geez, at least they're falling for DIFFERENT people -- I've just been falling over and over again for the same patterns with the same damned person!  How many people have been breaking their hearts and tearing out their hair watching me do this?  (Don't answer that, the guilt might slay me!)

I have learned that it's my right -- and probably responsibility -- to protect myself from and stay away from the toxic people in my life.

I have learned that there are lots of non-toxic (and probably free-range organic) people ready to take their places.  I have learned that I don't have to tap dance to make them love me (which is good, because I was never meant to be a dancer...)

As others from the past learn of my story, I have learned that I don't remember as much as I thought I did -- there are apparently some fragments still missing.  One friend recently recalled watching in horror as my father ripped off my clothes and beat me mercilessly with a hairbrush in front of her when she came home for lunch with me in grade 3.  (I do remember being afraid of his spankings, but didn't remember the hairbrush part, nor that he did it in front of friends.)  Another who remembers feeling terribly uncomfortable around him, but didn't have the knowledge or vocabulary to put her finger on it as a kid.  Another who felt it was her duty to stay with my sister at all times, although she didn't really know why.  Another who recalls a super-inappropriate incident with him when she came to visit, that scared her into never coming back to the house (even after hearing her story, I have zero recollection of it myself, though I do remember thinking I had done something wrong and she didn't like me anymore).  There are many little pieces to keep gathering in -- my work is nowhere close to done.

But I AM in a safe place in which to do it now, so I imagine these memories will come back more and more quickly, once they see it's OK.

2-4-6-8 Think it's time to integrate.  :-)

I have, or at least started to, absorbed the lesson I wanted to learn last birthday -- that it's OK to meet my own needs, that it's OK to look after myself, that it's OK to be me.

Mission accomplished.

What do I hope to learn in the coming year?

Well, I want to learn more about these hitherto-unknown bits and pieces of fragmented-little-kid me.  What shattered them, what they have to tell me, what they have to teach me.

Although what I most want is to DO.  To do something with all this information, with all this learning, with all this barfing-up-of-my-intestines.  To dig myself out from this legacy and, in turn, help others with their shovelling -- or, EVEN BETTER, to prevent them from needing a shovel in the first place.

I want to learn my passions.  Not my reactions, but my passions.  Because I'm a bloody passionate person, let me tell you.  :-)  But I feel I've been reacting for so long, doing what has to be done and what I figure ought to be done, that now that I'm without a life-and-death situation or a particular crusade, I've been feeling a little aimless.

And yes, I realize it's kind of silly for someone who's starting up a charitable organization and writing a book and running a performance career and might-be-about-to-be-talked-into-another-solo-album to feel aimless, but... maybe I just have to get used to the fact that doing the things I'm passionate about is actually an aim... not to mention a passion...

Well, click my ruby red slippers together, we're still in week one and I just gave myself the answer to the thing I wanted to learn...

OK, I guess I need to re-learn a couple of the things about meeting my own needs and being me being enough.  Positive reinforcement and all that...  Maybe I should give myself a follow-up exam.

I would love to learn how to not let the Gate-Keepers send me into a big barfy braincloud -- although I have a feeling that the events of the last month have taught me that already.  The braincloud came in the beginning, but the more recent attacks sent me more into the "this again? give me a break!" mode.  Of course, I could see the more recent ones coming -- guess we'll have to see what happens when it comes out of the blue (because you just know it will...).

Gotta learn how to run a charitable organization!

Can't wait to learn what kind of nutbars are willing to read a darkly humorous book about child abuse!

But, seriously...

I guess what I really want to learn is how to take care of that little girl.  To make sure she has all the tools in her toolbox, yes, but to make sure she knows they were supposed to be hers all along.  And that the reason she never got them isn't because she didn't deserve them, but because there was nobody around who had them to give.

She doesn't need a hammer to change a lightbulb, and she really shouldn't stick a screwdriver in the toaster unless it's unplugged, because it's not as much fun as it looks (although her tap-dancing might improve...).  That she doesn't need to earn or find justification for being loved.  That being loved is a lot less scary than the toaster scenario.

That there is nothing wrong or shameful in being true to herself, or her story.