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 brightsroots.blogspot.ca 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!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The on-time week in Awesome!

Alrighty, I will briefly begin with what is making me dance the happy dance:

We had the second Steering Committee meeting of the Katie Project!  Yes, it's gone back to being called the Katie Project, rather than foundation -- yes, the website will reflect that soon.  We got our official mission statement together, created an official mission statement, and are on our way to strategic planning in meeting #3.  I love my committee, and I'm so very excited to finally be making this dream come true!!!

My hubby has finally started his trip home after four long weeks of being out west.  Yes, I did the happy dance to have the house to myself, but I'll be doing an even better happy dance when he finally gets back.  I'm complicated that way.  :)

Speaking of which, I had a fun night with my friend Ali, and we took our Attachment Styles quiz -- I am, apparently, "fearful".  Yeah, it wasn't a big surprise.  Although the big surprise was that I was *NOT* all the way in the far right bottom quadrant, I've actually worked my way closer to centre.  So things are looking up.  And Don can take of his helmet... most of the time.  ;)

And now, things that have nothing to do with me.

My friend Paul has started a wonderful thread on FaceBook about childhood bullying.  There were a couple of judgemental twits who told him he should "just get over it" -- but you know how well I react to that kind of statement... The years before five last the rest of their lives... and the years before adult... still suck, regardless of the rhyme.  Just sayin'.  I'm not sure if he's made the posts public, but you'll find out by visiting https://www.facebook.com/paul.bickell.1

And Shane Koyzcan has done an Incredibly Beautiful TED talk on that very subject.  Invest in a box of tissues and some Wonder Woman (or SuperMan) paraphernalia before watching.

I've been in love with this man's art and passion for several years, but this talk pretty much does me in.  :)

Have an awesome week, everyone!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Awesome 'R' Us

Actually, I "R" a bit of a crankypants, as my service provider (won't name any names, but it rhymes with GoPro Hosting) just arbitrarily wiped my mail account and is offering neither an explanation, nor a return of a day's worth of gig- and tour-related correspondence, so I'M ABOUT READY FOR SOME AWESOME, how 'bout you?

This week's Awesome is small but mighty.  And yes, it's not external awesomeness but something I was involved in but am kind of proud of.  :)

It's my sister's 40th birthday this week, and her hubby threw her a surprise karaoke party on Saturday to celebrate.  Don's in BC right now and I... well I just couldn't handle facing the GateKeeper on my own, nor did I wish upon my sister the inevitable scene if said GateKeeper saw my face there, so I stayed home with a glass (or three) of wine and thought of her (my sister, not GK) fondly.

In lieu of our presence, Don and I enlisted the help of our friend Tyler Knight to create a video to send for the party.  We kind of broke the karaoke rules and made up our own lyrics, but we're sure you'll agree they were appropriate for the occasion!

Please note that when we added the birthday greeting, our software messed up the resolution and put a few glitches into the recording, so if you'd prefer to see the "clean" original video (a much better example of Tyler's magic), he's got a copy up on his YouTube site here: Sad But True Babe.

But the birthday greeting adds just that extra little bit o' cheese, so here is the lower-quality but higher(?)-comedy version that my sis got to see at the party:

Have an awesome week, everyone -- I'll hopefully be less of a crankypants next week!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Awesomeness Revisited (We are beautiful, beautiful creatures...)

Not only is the Awesome Report on time this week, but Lisa's hubby Paul got the One Billion Rising photos and video to me just in time to be included in -- nay, the focal point of -- this week's report.  I am  re-energized by watching the community rally, and so proud to have been a part of this event, pathetic dancing skills aside...

(For those of you catching up on this dancing journey, I first mentioned OBR here: Last Week in Awesome, reported on my progress here: Dance Like Nobody is Watching, and apologized for the lack of footage here: Awesomeness Postponed.)

And here is the official recap of my V-Day One Billion Rising experience!:

As previously noted, I had cornered my friend Lisa at girls' night after several glasses of wine and she'd agreed to join me in dancing, so I wouldn't chicken out.  She recruited her hubby Paul to chauffeur us and take photos and video, so that
  1. we wouldn't chicken out
  2. there would be evidence of us not chickening out
  3. we could drink enough wine so as to not chicken out
  4. all of the above
And so, we met at their house mid-afternoon, to do some more practising and all-important wine lubricating.

Preparing to Dance

Maggie, the Chocolate Lab, tried to rescue us a few times as we practised, or maybe she was joining in -- she wasn't much worse than we were, really.  And then it was time to head down to Five Points!
Maggie wishes us luck
As we were pulling in, there were already a few people gathering -- by the time we'd found a parking spot and walked back to the park, it was really teeming!

Here we go!

The people are starting to gather
The original plan was to look nonchalant and then spontaneously break into dance (yes, there just happened to be a big-ass sound system in the middle of the park in February...).  But there were so many people gathered, it was impossible to pretend nothing was happening.  One report I saw said there were 200-250, another said over 500 -- I'm guessing the 500 probably included spectators.  Arif, a city counsellor who was dancing with us, said we'd have to shut down the whole intersection next year, since we won't be able to fit in the park if anyone else shows up!

Arif and Lisa finally meet in person

Photographing the photographers!  (Tina and Paul)

Paul keeps his distance (still not sure whether to admit knowing us)
There were women, men, boys and girls dancing, folks in wheelchairs or with walkers, people who actually know how to dance and people who just bopped up and down a little.  Drivers honked, the media took photos and interviews, it. was. happening!

Trying to look nonchalant, like nothing is happening
Yup, nothing happening here!
Lisa, trying to forgive me
There were some of the folks from the Women & Children's Shelter of Barrie taking part, as well as some of the gals from last year's Vagina Monologues (which we're repeating this April 23 & 24 -- stay tuned!).  The pianist from the Amity Trio and I bumped into each other and were equally surprised to see the other.
Risers to the right

Risers to the left
Risers in front
The police were there to keep everyone safe, just in case, but they weren't needed -- everyone was happy and supportive, and we had nothing but positive feedback from everyone.

Happy, laughing risers
Slighty dazed and what-am-I-about-to-do risers
A few words from our fearless leader, Shannon the Dynamo, and we were off!  (As in, to the races... not like bad milk...)
Shannon (the organizer) speaks with the media

We get our final instructions
Are we ready?

I think we're starting soon
Too late to turn back now
And Dance!!!

Alrighty, here is the video evidence of me... DANCING IN PUBLIC!!!

This was Lisa's son's camera which Paul had never used before, so he didn't realize that taking some stills would disrupt the video and there are a few glitches.  Also, he was standing right next to the speaker that stopped working for much of the dance, so you'll hear quite a dip in the sound mid-way (it comes back!).  Paul apologizes profusely.

I think I only said the f-word once (not audible on the video), and only knocked one person in the shins.  A rather successful dance, I'd say!!!

We are beautiful, beautiful creatures!

Afterwards, Shannon gave a thank-you and speech, and then Andrea surprised her with a thank you from all of us!

Shannon's final speech

Andrea thanks Shannon for all her hard work
And there was much smiling and cheering and joyfulness had by all.
For One Billion Rising
Holy crap, we did it!
No caption, I just love this photo!
Mission accomplished, we bundled back into the car to return to Maggie, who danced an encore for us as we came in the door.

Lisa had chilled a bottle of champagne, which we enjoyed with grilled cheese sandwiches -- and ketchup, because she doesn't want me to neglect my vegetables!  :)

Celebratory champagne and grilled cheese!
The perfect way to celebrate Valentine's Day when your hubby is on the other side of the country -- good friends, stepping (dancing) outside the box, daring, dog, comfort food, bubbly.  Awesome!

Sister won't you help me, sister won't you rise
Sister won't you help me, sister won't you rise

This is my body, my body's holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

Have an awesome week, everyone!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Awesomeness Postponed

I had REALLY been hoping to give a Re-Cap of my One Billion Rising experience, but... the battery charger for the video camera that captured it all has gone missing and, of course, the battery has died.  So... will try REALLY REALLY HARD to get that all figured out asap so you can see me in all my dancing glory (?!?) -- OK, my dancing was not awesome, but the event was.  And the fact that I didn't chicken out is also awesome.  Yes that is me, patting myself on the back in a round-about manner.

So there is LOTS OF AWESOME to come... soon... any minute now.

In the meantime, I don't want you to feel cheated, though.  So here's an awesome photo courtesy of War Resisters International -- from Mozambique, an AK-47 turned into a saxophone!  (Sent via friend B, regular source of awesomeness.)

And, as if Matt Damon wasn't awesome enough just as an actor, producer, director, etc., he's inviting us all to "Strike With Me" to celebrate International Water Day, taking a stand on the water crisis.  The video of his "press release" is just hilarious.  Intelligent, witty, talented, passionate, and... not too hard on the eyes, just sayin'...

OK, that's it until I can get my own intelligent, witty, talented, passionate, and... not too hard on the eyes V-Day report put together.

Happy Monday - have an awesome week!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dance like nobody is watching

Well, I'm pretty sure nobody's watching, or the neighbours might have called the paramedics by now...

I have spent the day rehearsing the dance steps for Thursday's "One Billion Rising" flashmob at Barrie's Five Points (between 5:00 & 5:30 -- please join us if you can!).  This is what the dance is supposed to look like:

I'm afraid that when my husband caught me rehearsing last week, he thought I was having a seizure or something, and ran up the stairs to rescue me.  I am hoping someone warns the paramedics that I'm not dying, just dancing -- and sends them to help those people dying of laughter.

What I lack in talent, I shall make up for in enthusiasm!

At girls' night on Saturday, I recruited my friend Lisa to join me in dancing -- fortunately, she was already quite drunk by that point in the evening!  ;-)  Our friend Betty, who actually DOES know how to dance, tried to give us a lesson, and was very helpful, though you probably won't be able to tell (trust me, you should have seen the "before" pictures!).

I can do this, I can do this, I can do this...

Participants were invited to share a video of "Why I'm Rising".  I took a big breath and contributed the following:

My "moves" have improved, slightly, from that brief demonstration.  Hopefully I'll be able to get some photos and/or videos at the event that make it look like I've actually spent the day practising.

Because I don't dance.  Let alone in public.  I believe the last time I did so was as a nine-year-old, playing a Russian Rose in a ballet recital.  My one and only ballet recital.  There's a reason for that.

But a funny thing started to happen today, as I spent the day practising my "step right, and party, step left, and party, now pivot, pivot, and party, party" and "step-ball-change, step-ball-change, swag, swag" (for the record, it took me until about 8pm to realize it wasn't break-ball-change, break-ball-change, which would have fit the step, honestly... at least the way I was doing it!).  No, I'm not just talking about how my 40-something knees started to give up with all the jumping around (although that happened too!).  I actually started to... you know... move my body with the music.  You might almost call it... er... dancing?

And I realized... not only do I not dance, I don't really walk.  At least, not in a fluid, happy-with-my-body kind of way.  I tend to walk so nobody will notice me.  I tend to walk as if my entire lower body was involved in a Kegel hold.  You know, if those muscles stretched all the way through my gluteus maximus and into my lower back.

Swaying hips?  Nope, not me.  Ass is firmly clenched, so as to eliminate any chance of a sway as my legs do the least they have to do to get me from here to there.  Dancing, should it happen, is in tiny little arm movements (as witnessed above), feet barely leaving the floor, knees maybe bending a tiny bit... maybe.

But as I got more comfortable with remembering the steps (other than the bridge, which I totally fail at every time!), and watched the dance students in the instructional video, and absorb the rhythms... my hips... started... SWAYING!  They swayed to the left, they swayed to the right, they did some weird gyrating thing I didn't think they were capable of... My hips were dancing!  Not only that, but my feet left the floor.  My arms wound around, my spine undulated... MY WHOLE BODY WAS DANCING!!!

For the first time in my 40-something years, I was actually comfortable in my body.  Comfortable letting it do its thing without worrying about whether someone would think I was an idiot or, more scarily for me, that I was trying to show off or be seductive or something (why I ever thought MY dancing might be seen as seductive, I'll never know... I may be dancing now, but let's be realistic!).

Letting my body express the music instead of hiding behind my cello.  Which, let's face it, covers a substantial part of my torso, hiding any swaying potential.

But today, I am dancing like nobody is watching.

I have no idea if I'll be able to recreate this phenomenon when someone actually IS watching, but... I'll give it my best shot.  Because:

This is my body, my body's holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I have no idea if I'll be able to get through the dance without laughing, and I KNOW I won't be able to hear that last line without bawling -- it has happened EVERY TIME today, and the song has been on CONSTANT rotation since 9am (you'd think I'd be used to it by now?!?).

My word for the year was "Daring".  I think I should get bonus points for February.  :)

Even without the points, though, I know I'm helping.  Not through my fabulous dance moves (!), but through standing in solidarity and protest.  And in the hope and faith that we can change the world -- one tiny heart (or vagina) at a time.

Until tomorrow, my friends -- Dance, Rise.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Breaking the record for late Awesomeness

Ah well, c'est la vie!  Yet again, a brilliant excuse -- Saturday night was girls' night, followed by Sunday morning's inaugural Founding Board meeting of the Katie Foundation (I could just wrap up the Week in Awesome on that alone...), followed by a quick nap, followed by some top-secret creative activities which shall be revealed some time next month, followed by... Monday.

But here I am, basking in the glow of the Awesome first meeting, realizing that the world needs a bit of awesome.

Most of the awesome comes, once again, from friend B -- an endless supply of this stuff!  :)  The original link she'd sent expired, but I searched it out and found another version on YouTube.  The creativity of the Pilobolus dance troupe is just brilliant and... yes, Awesome:

And this beautiful documentary film, "Scared is Scared", in which filmmaker Bianca Giaever re-creates the story by six-year-old Asa Baker-Rouse, all about being scared and how to overcome it.  May we all have such wisdom:

And, the last B contribution of the week, SoulPancake's lovely experiment of putting a ball pit in a public space, and encouraging strangers to sit in it and talk about life's big questions.

And finally, I forgot to put this lovely graphic in last week -- not sure of the original creator, but it was posted on my FB wall via http://www.facebook.com/recipesforgals/:

A good reminder, n'est-ce pas?

Have a truly awesome week, everyone -- and happy day of love, or day of binge-eating, whichever side you're on.  ;)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

On-time Awesomeness!

There we go, after vowing to allow myself to be late, I'm doing this on time.  How awesome is that?  ;)

The week has been busy, leading up to my hubby Don Bray's concert last night at the Double Door -- which was tons of fun.

So... most of the awesomeness comes from others this week!

First off, my friend Ali's CompassionFile -- I've already shared it with many, because it deals with that nasty little topic of: Boundaries.  Boundaries are awesome.  If you have them.  Baby steps...  Her post includes a great exercise for working through yours -- an exercise which I promise to get to soon.  :)  Where Is My Bottom Line?

Next, a somewhat disturbing but powerful video sent to me by friend B, who has become a great source of all things awesome.  Residential Redemption:

Next up, also from friend B, some words of wisdom from a young boy about learning to ride a bike -- and pretty much everything else in life, I think.  It'll make you feel happy of yourself, I guarantee!

And finally, a beautiful story from the Toronto Star, in reference to this truly awesome photo:

That's all folks -- have an awesome first week of February!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Last Week in Awesome

OK, I'm not even going to bother with an excuse.  Perhaps Monday should be the OFFICIAL "Week in Awesome" publishing day, because life seems to just make it happen on a Monday, anyhow.

If I *were* to make an excuse, mind you, it would be that I had an awesome girls' night with my friend Ali -- while escaping Don's boys' night at our house.  This particular episode of boys' night included ouzo, so it is doubly awesome that I got to escape -- if it had been single malt, I might have stuck around.

Ali is also one of the "Inaugural" Board Members of the new foundation, so we were able to get lots of work done, too.  Yessireee, lots of awesome work.  Pages and pages of work.  OK... maybe not pages and pages, but some really good discussions, tucked in amongst the snacks, martinis, way-too-much-dinner, wine, midnight snacks, more wine, way-too-much-brunch-the-next-day.  And her dad (at brunch, NOT at girls' night!) helped give an idea of some of the required legal stuff (and cost estimates), too.  And he's got some refurbished minute books he can donate to the cause!

When I got home, there was a message that my lovely niece had called and wanted me to call back.  She'd gone to her VERY FIRST symphony concert (at 7 years old) and declared it to be: yes, AWESOME!!!  Can you tell she's my niece?  She'd even managed to stay awake for the second set.  She also announced that she'd been allowed to stay up until 10:30 for a party on Saturday, and was very proud of herself -- I sense musicians' hours in the making here.  ;)  When I asked her if she'd been cranky over the weekend, she said yes, but only a little bit -- self-awareness in a 7-year-old?  Awesome.  :)  (Mind you, I didn't double-check with her mother what "only a little bit" meant in the adult world, so I may have just been snowed by a 7-year old...)

I got my car back from the body shop on Friday.  It turns out, while they were replacing the panel that dimtwit backed in to (in to which the dimtwit backed), they discovered she'd actually hit the car with enough force to also crack the bottom left corner of the windshield!  So... new windshield for me.  But the body shop and the insurance company both agreed that this was 100% the fault of said dimtwit, so I didn't have to pay the deductible or anything.  Just drive my newly-shiny car home.  The newly-shiny car with seat warmers.  Oh, in a week of minus-27, how I missed thee, oh seat warmers!  (Seat warmers are... oh, you know...)

The Big Awesome of the week, however, is One Billion Rising -- an international movement created by Eve Ensler (writer of The Vagina Monologues), inviting women to Strike, Dance and Rise on V-Day, February 14.

As the website says:

One in Three Women on the Planet will be Raped or Beaten in her Lifetime.

One Billion Women Violated is an Atrocity.

One Billion Women Dancing is a Revolution.

Join V-Day on February 14, 2013

Strike, Dance, Rise
in your community and
Demand an END to Violence

One of my friends from last year's Vagina Monologues, Shannon Murree, has created a Barrie and Simcoe Region dance flashmob event -- location still to be decided.  If you'd like to take part, please visit the FaceBook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/one.billion.barrie/

Yes, I will be dancing.  Pick yourselves up off the floor.  As nobody has ever seen me dance (unless you knew me in grade 7 and were one of the lucky few to survive it without dying laughing), just witnessing such a monumental event should be enough to make you want to take part!

Just so you have an idea of what it's SUPPOSED to look like here's the official video, with anthem by Tena Clark and choreography by the magnificently awesome Debbie Allen:

If I can dance, you can dance.  :)

If you're in the Simcoe region, please join us!  If you're anywhere else and want to get involved, there's a list of planned events -- growing every day -- at the One Billion Rising website (http://onebillionrising.org), as well as a toolkit to help get an event started in your own area.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've gotta go practise my moves.

Have an awesome week, everyone!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The awesomely late Week in Awesome

But the reason why this post is so awesomely late is actually... you guessed it, quite awesome!  Not only did we get to spend the weekend with some lovely (new to me) relatives, we also got started on making the Katie Foundation a real entity.  And brainstorming and fantasizing and... making me realize that I might really and truly be able to pull this off.  No longer a fantasy, but a reality.  As in real life.  You know... like... um... REAL.

Not only that, but along with the three wonderful humans, I got to spend the weekend with a Black Lab named Raven -- and you guys know I'm a total sucker for Black Labs.  Raven almost made me forget Sunday's hangover, because... yes, we did consume an awesome amount of wine on Saturday night, which made for a not-so-awesome feeling the next day.  Point taken.

But my sorta-not-quite-a-brother-in-law-but-he-can-be-my-brother-any-day Todd has sent me home with a USB stick of templates and forms and examples and questions to ponder and all the sorts of things that had my head reeling and wondering where on earth I would ever start.  Todd knows where to start.  Because Todd is... say it with me now, people -- AWESOME!!!

And speaking of awesome men, take a look at this photo:

These are protesters in India, reacting to comments that wearing skirts is the cause of rape.  They're standing in solidarity with their mothers, sisters and daughters, and I absolutely love them.

And, in case Raven wasn't animal enough for you, here is an awesomely adorable video with two of my other favourite animals.  You might notice that the title is "Awesome communication!" -- it was simply meant to be.

Happy Monday, folks -- have a great week!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The week(end) in Awesome

Yes, here I am again, with another (good) excuse of why I'm a day late with the Awesome report!

You see, this weekend was our annual DIY Music Retreat -- a weekend of musical mayhem for about 35 folks.  This was the 7th year, and often it's the only time in the year when some of us manage to see each other, although there were some newcomers this year as well.  Something to look forward to in the darker days of winter, a recharging of batteries.  Lots of jamming, a bit of learning, great food and probably a wee bit too much alcohol.  ;-)

I wasn't sure how I'd fare, given my last two months of hermitage, but -- save for one bizarre triggering -- I'm happy to report I did quite well!  (I was, somehow, triggered by the shape of one person's nose.  Still trying to figure WTF that was about, and hoping he didn't notice my reaction and think it had anything to do with him...  So... if you're reading this and noticed my little panic attack when I looked at your face, please don't take it personally, I'm just a little wacked-out right now!)

As I believe I wrote last year, the "young'uns" had again improved in leaps and bounds, which was such a joy to see (and hear!).  And I got my annual dose of love from Mary H., who seems to always know exactly what to say to make me feel so special I could cry.

But the BEST news from the weekend was that at the concert Saturday night (everyone performs one song, often with others joining in), Mary headed on stage making excuses why she might not do a good job -- the most important one being THE NEW RING ON HER FINGER!  Apparently, boyfriend Marcus had proposed earlier in the day, while they were out for a walk.  And, let me tell you, if there's anyone deserving of love in this world, it's Mary -- she gives out so much love and joy to everyone around her, I'm absolutely thrilled she's getting some back (by someone that everyone who met him this weekend has declared to be Mary-worthy).

Because love is Awesome and Mary is Awesome and sometimes Karma can be really and truly Awesome!!!  (And Marcus has definitely earned a spot in the Awesome category as well.)

Returning home last night, and checking my mail and FaceBook and stuff, I learned that Mary isn't the only one who makes me feel so special I could cry.  Angie has posted the following:
So, as I reminisce the weekend at DIY, I am sitting at my dining room table listening to Dark Waters by Alyssa Wright. My 8 year old very perceptive, musically gifted young daughter, Aja, says to me, "Mom, does Alyssa KNOW that she's CRAZY TALENTED?" How's that for confirmation, Lyss?
Bring on the waterworks...  People saying nice things about me out of the blue is... oh... can I say it?... (gulp) Awesome.

On the Katie Foundation front, I'm meeting with my sorta-but-not-exactly-a-brother-in-law-in-law this coming weekend to figure out how to get this puppy registered and given charitable status.  There's a full board now in place (although additions are welcome, don't want to burn anyone out!), and we're all Really.  Freaking.  Excited!!!  Making your dreams come true is: AWESOME!!!

But it's not all about me!  (Well, it's my blog, so it kind of is, but...)

Friend B. sent me this link earlier in the week:  http://imaginepeace.com/archives/19222.  Six hundred guitarists gathered in Darjeeling to play John Lennon's "Imagine" to pay tribute to the Delhi rape victim, and spread "hope, peace and promise" in a country still coming to terms with the violence.

Alrighty, it's now Monday afternoon and I have to actually get some work done in between students (when did my Mondays become such crazy days?), so that's all the awesome you get in this round.

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Last Week in Awesome

Aiyaiyai -- late again, sorry!  But I have a good excuse.  :)

With a weekend off, we'd headed SW to a housewarming party held by a couple of friends of ours (Suzie and James), who recently purchased an old church just down the road from another friend (Joe). Now, you all know how much of a hermit I've been the last couple of months, and I've been avoiding parties like the plague.  Neither Don nor I are particularly good with parties where we don't know a lot of people.  So... when we heard that Joe was sick as a dog (leaving the party hosts as the only two people we'd know there), Lyssy might have had a wee bit of a panic attack...  But, we'd said we'd go, we wanted to support our friends, and we wanted to see this beautiful space they'd been lusting after for over a year -- so, I pulled myself together, and we headed down the highway with our jammies and pillows in tow.

And we're so glad we did!  Oh sure, we didn't know anyone when we arrived, but Suzie's and James's friends are all so wonderful (to be expected, as they're wonderful people themselves), we felt right at home.  And we'd made a lot of new friends by the time we'd left -- including one beautiful canine friend who fell totally in love with Don (can't blame her, really!), and visited our bed several times overnight to give him kisses (when she wasn't trying to crawl into bed with James).

So... I shall pat myself on the back and say that a major introvert taking herself to a party where she knows no-one is pretty darned awesome, especially following two months where going to the grocery store caused panic attacks.  Yay me!

But on a more general level, pushing yourself outside your comfort level is awesome.  I do know this, I have lived it many times, but... guess the universe decided I really needed a reminder to take some chances and leave my home base more often.  Fling myself on the mercy of happenstance.  Be rewarded for my bravery.  Yes, I know people have been telling me how brave I am for years, but I tend to keep being brave in the same areas -- this was a whole different type of brave, and the fabulous weekend and new friends it brought me were... say it with me now: Awesome.


And it's a new year!  Don and I both did a 2012 wrap-up, and planned ahead for 2013, including picking each of our "official" words for the year.  Colour me crazy, but I chose the word: Daring.

Daring.  Guess I started the year right, then, daring to go to that party.

But it's not just about going to parties.  It's daring to stick my neck out, to speak up, to take initiative, to boldly go where no Lyssy has gone before.  Daring to get the Katie Foundation established -- and daring to ask for help (oy, asking for help!) in getting it started.  Yes, daring to ask for what I want and need -- who'd-a-thunk?  Daring to get this book written, and then daring to show it to people.  Daring to move to a new home that will better sustain our music careers -- daring to no longer have the excuse of location to fall back on.  Daring to say no (watch out world, I could get used to this!).  Daring to see what I want and just go for it.

Daring is Awesome.  Try it, you'll like it!


Our dryer and gas valve have both been fixed, for not too much money, which means we should no longer be going downstairs and discovering our appliances on fire.  Which may seem like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel for something good to say about this week, but it truly is awesome to have one less worry on my mind as I attempt to go to sleep at night.  So lack of spontaneous combustion in our basement counts as Awesome.  Yessirreee.


But the best has been saved for last.  Because earlier last week, we received a "thank you" card from our (awesome) friends Debbie & Mitchell for the gifts we'd brought for their baby shower last month.  Inside this card was this incredible picture of their daughter, at six weeks.

Now, Debbie's not a professional photographer, and she just took this adorable pic on her cell phone -- which kind of makes you think she should go into baby photography, no?

The surprise and love and sheer joy on this little girl's face just makes me want to giggle and play with her all day.  The photo is on our kitchen bulletin board, so I can't walk through the room without taking a peek and getting a big smile on my face.

Happy little babies -- and the parents who adore them -- are Truly Awesome!!!


Happy 2013, everyone -- may it be a truly wonderful year for each of you!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Book Report: The Ultimate Betrayal

Actually, the full title is "The Ultimate Betrayal: The Enabling Mother, Incest and Sexual Abuse" by Audrey Ricker, PhD.

And that sub-title is my biggest "beef" with the book -- that the subtitle might alienate people from reading a book they could probably get a LOT of help from.  Because, as the author explains inside the book, it's not necessarily about the possessor of the double-x-chromosome, or even necessarily a parent she is talking about in this book, it's the abuser's enabler.  Because of the nature of Dr. Ricker's practice, she usually does see female survivors of paternal sexual abuse, but she has also seen other survivors, and these patterns have proven true of ALL enablers, not just mothers in father-daughter incest.  These same patterns have proven true when the father is the abuser of a son, when the mother is the abuser of a son or daughter, if the abuser is a sibling or a distant relative or a family friend.

The subtitle also seems to ignore the non-enabling mothers -- the ones who figured out what was going on, and got their kids the hell out of the abusive system, charged the perpetrator, and got their kids the help they needed to recover.  They are out there, I've witnessed some in action (and wished they'd been around when I was a kid).  These kids who were believed and supported, of course, are not the ones who end up in years or decades of therapy -- so while it's understandable that Dr. Ricker can only base her studies on the cases she's seen, the subtitle does play a bit into the old "blame the mother" attitude that would probably prevent people from reading the book as well.

With those two gripes in mind, I'm going to switch terminology from Dr. Ricker's choice into my own: "The Enabler".  Because, as she does explain early on in the book, these patterns are true of sexual abuse enablers across the board, regardless of their chromosomal make-up.

With that out of the way, may I once again exclaim: Oh, Thank You, Good-Timing-With-The-Book-Buying-Fairy!!!

Because this book helped me SO very much in the latest Gate-Keeper incident -- seeing the patterns for what they were, pretty much predicting events before they happened, allowing me to prepare for them, but also allowing me to centre myself, not take it on, not try to twist my brain around something that never would make sense, not try to do something to "deserve" better treatment, because the Gate-Keeper was (and is) incapable of treating me any better.  Which is, honestly, a pretty sad place to be, but also quite a relief to finally be able to stop tap-dancing and realize it was never, ever about me.

I would advise that, if you're going to read this book, make sure you've got some sort of support network, because there is going to be a lot of anger, a lot of grief, and a lot of mourning, and you're going to need to talk through a lot of stuff with someone else.  If you don't have a therapist or organized support group, you should probably consider visiting an online support group -- such as Pandora's Aquarium, which I found recently and has been a great place to talk with people who "get it".  Yes, family (OUTSIDE family, don't even THINK of talking with members of the incestuous family about this, because as well-intentioned as they might be, they've been roped into the same damned patterns and may not be able to see things as clearly as an outsider) and friends can be a good support, but you need a professional specifically trained in childhood sexual abuse, and/or a support group of people who have been through the same things you have and understand what you're going through.  I can't stress this enough.  Take good care of yourself, this is going to be one hell of a ride!

The book is a combination of assessment checklists, illustrative case studies, and exercises for self-healing.  The pangs of familiarity I felt with every single case study were truly heartbreaking, the assessment checklists eye-opening, and the self-care exercises... difficult, but helpful.  I think I'll need to keep going back to them a few more times.  Because it seems I am, once again, a ridiculous over-achiever when it comes to having symptoms of incest and CSA.  There's a lot more work to do...

In the introduction, Katherine Trimm states what should be obvious but is often ignored: there is no correlation between socio-economic status or race for CSA -- it is Family Dysfunction that puts children at risk.  Dysfunctional parenting enables the abuse perpetrator.  A quote, if I may, because the intro sums it all up so perfectly, I don't wish to paraphrase:
It is usually less traumatic for a child to be victimized by a stranger than by a family member.  Not only does the dysfunctional family increase the risk to the child, and increase the psychological damage, but the dysfunctional family also fails to provide the supportive parental relationship that helps the child to recover.
Thus, we have the triple whammy of the dysfunctional family.  First, the dysfunctional family puts the child at risk.  Second, parental involvement in the abuse aggravates the injury to the child.  Third, the lack of functional parenting impedes recovery.  This is why understanding the family dynamic in child sexual abuse is so key to protecting the child.  And, when we fail to protect the child, understanding the dysfunctional family dynamic is necessary to understanding how to help the child heal.
(underlines are mine)

She goes on to refer to the Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment, and a number of rather frightening statistics, and then another quick quote that has been underlined and asterix-ed and given several explanation points in my copy:

The family should be the first line of defense for the child. ...To stop the violence, "parents should educate their children about appropriate sexual behavior and how to feel comfortable saying no." ["Child Abuse." AHA Fact Sheet #4. Englewood, CO: American Humane Association, 1993.]
But this kind of responsible parenting is not likely to occur in a dysfunctional family.  Further, as this book makes clear, in the enabling family, not only is the child not given protective messages.  Instead, the child gets the message that he or she cannot say no, or even has the right to say no.  It is obvious how this facilitates the perpetrator. 
Later, in her own preface, Dr. Ricker outlines, quite clearly and simply, the Enabler's role in "the drama of abuse".  The Enabler's role consists of four basic tasks:
  1. Refusing to interfere with the incest
  2. Discouraging the victim from hating the perpetrator by pretending that the family is perfect
  3. Giving the victim the unspoken but clear message that (s)he is a temptress/temptor who is inherently bad
  4. Making the victim need attention from the abuse by denying him or her the love, validation and soothing every child needs.
Did I mention the word "over-achiever" yet?  ;-)


The book begins with a series of five daily "therapy sessions", for which she suggests you allot an hour each day -- honestly, I'd allot more, just so you have time to deal with the fallout.  You might also want to do them in a room without sharp objects, and with the comfort food of your choice, and a blanket or teddy bear or whatever symbol gives you comfort.  This will not be fun.  BRING KLEENEX.

The first session seems benign enough -- a series of 26 questions regarding your Enabler, and how (s)he acted towards you as a child, to each of which you are supposed to write down Yes, Sort Of, Sometimes or No.  (For those checking up on my overachiever status, I answered No to 4, Sometimes to 2, Sort Of to 2, and Yes to 18, unless you count the number of "Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes"-s I wrote down, in which case, my Yes count is 25.)

In the second session, she tells you what the answers to the previous day's questions mean.  I won't spoil it for you, because if you're going to do this yourself, you need to answer honestly.  But, without giving you the punchline, I can say that a total of 10 Yes, Sometimes and/or Sort Of answers means HOLY CRAP!  (For those of you counting, even without my double, triple and quadruple Yes answers, I still totalled 24 -- over-freaking-achiever.)  The rest of the session is dedicated to feeling all your feelings about those answers, and what they mean.  Schedule this one for a day in which you don't need to face the public!

The following three sessions are used to process, grieve, sort through, and see the light at the end of the tunnel regarding these answers.  Let me stress: Schedule these five sessions for a week in which you have no outside commitments.  Make sure you have a support system in place!!!


The book then moves into the most common / ever-present characteristics of the Enabler, with a chapter dedicated to each, including assessment checklists and case studies:

1. The Enabler's Matriarchal / Patriarchal Status

  • acting as a central figure around whom all family member's lives revolve (e.g., consulted on all decisions, often provides indispensable services such as babysitting or making loans or taking on trips)
  • main capital is approval
  • often a "spouse-worshipper", putting Perpetrator above children in attention and/or affection
  • no-one is ever willing to (openly) defy him or her

2. The Enabler's Control of the Survivor's Feelings

  • need to control others' feelings
  • not allowing the victim's own feelings about the abuse to count
  • deciding what the victim will feel -- especially about him or her, the Enabler

3. The Survivor's Loyalty to the Enabler

  • loyalty at any price -- loyalty to the Enabler more important than loyalty to self or reality
  • all children remain loyal -- even Victims/Survivors remain loyal until therapy makes it impossible
  • demands the Victim/Survivor continue to keep family secrets quiet (!), thereby hobbling healing
  • often "inspires" loyalty among all siblings not by being strong, but by being weak -- power lies in the ability to inspire worry and protectiveness from the children (complete parenting reversal)
  • Enabler often believes himself or herself to be the most victimized family member of all

4. The Enabler's Destruction of the Survivor's Self-Esteem

  • Victims/Survivors learn that their only worth to others is sexual -- makes them more vulnerable to the Enabler's attacks on their self-esteem
  • for the Victim/Survivor to believe that the Enabler is wrong about anything is to risk making the Enabler furious enough to destroy him or her (Gate-Keeper incident, anyone?)
  • Victim/Survivor becomes the bad one for saying bad things about the family
  • Victim/Survivor accused of being too needy (for expecting basic compassion, etc.)
  • Enabler's feelings and well-being is more important than the Victim's/Survivor's -- anything else is met with declarations of selfishness and guilt
  • Enabler's blame-the-victim mentality is internalized in the Victim/Survivor
  • Victim/Survivor becomes addicted to the parent(s) -- can't give up hope that the Perpetrator and Enabler will one day tell her (s)he's fine and will give him or her the approval (s)he has craved since childhood

5. The Enabler's Emotional Alienation of the Survivor

  • engineer the situations and family dynamics by which the Victims are excluded
  • Victims/Survivors must behave in certain ways or they become emotional outcasts
  • insists the abuse never happened (!)
  • all but excommunicates the Victim/Survivor for speaking up, and lavishes gifts and attention on the other family members
  • the sacrificing of the Victim for the other children becomes a way of life for the whole family

6. The Enabler's Scapegoating of the Survivor
  • Victim/Survivor is blamed for the abuse
  • Victim/Survivor becomes the bad person for his/her accusations ruining the lives of the Perpetrator and/or Enabler
  • Victim/Survivor is held responsible for lack of protection, not Enabler or other (adult!) parental figures

7. The Resilience of the Enabler
(this one I found really interesting, as I hadn't ever thought of this before...)

  • despite their child's sexual abuse at the hands of their partner, the Enablers are able to go on with their own lives, to pursue successful careers, and to have positive relationships with other children and new partners -- meanwhile, the Survivors find their lives at a standstill, emotionally devastated, in need of psychiatric medication, unable to develop or tolerate healthy relationships, or even in some extreme cases, to live independently
  • the abused child remains alive, still inside the Survivor's brain and body, able to watch the Survivor move on in life, while being unable to move along with him or her -- holding him or her back, or erupting as PTSD and/or DID when triggered
  • many of the Survivor's Enablers spend energy and time on their own success, while ignoring the needs of their Survivor children

8. The Enabler's Self-Image as a Good Parent

  • these Enablers believe themselves to be excellent parents, and have convinced others they are exemplary as well
  • Enabler is so dissociated from reality that (s)he cannot and DOES NOT see what is going on, often literally in front of their eyes -- a part of the Enabler's brain is just not going to compute anything that detracts from the official story
  • in order to keep the "Good Parent" myth and appearances going, the Enabler was willing to sacrifice one child
  • while most Enablers could be said to be good parents in some respects -- made sure the child's physical needs were met and the child survived to adulthood -- they failed to meet the most basic emotional needs of the child, and failed to protect the child from abuse, and no good parent would sacrifice a child to ongoing sexual abuse (one might say "no shit, Sherlock", but I've bolded this for my own sanity)

9. The Survivor's Relationship to the Perpetrator's new Wives/Girlfriends
(Not applicable to me, but may be helpful to others)
  • the Perpetrator's new partners often know of the abuse, but fool themselves into thinking it's a clean slate now, and will not happen again
  • the new partner may not know, and the Survivor ends up becoming blamed for wrecking another marriage
  • the Survivor may hope the new partner will become the parent his or her birth-parent never was
  • there may be jealousy (in either direction) between the Survivor and new partner

After this run-down of the common patterns, there is a middle section that suggests these patterns can also occur in the parents of sexual assault victims, and greatly affect the Survivor's healing.  I'm not entirely comfortable with this section, but I can see that rapists choose their victims based on subtle cues, and that many people have these characteristics trained into them ahead of time, as well as their self-preservation"radar" trained out of them.  I'm just not positive that rapists are always so calculating, or that having perfect parents would necessarily ward off rapists.  She doesn't put it that simply, of course, and it's definitely worth a read -- I'm just saying "I don't know, I'm not 100% convinced".  I can certainly see how it would apply to acquaintance rape, not so sure about the scary-person-on-the-street type.

The second section gives a low-down on the various after-effects of sexual assault.  After a lifetime of "normalcy", PTSD symptoms can sneak up on you decades later.  Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Panic attacks
  • Terror of being attacked again
  • Recurring nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Irritability (piss off, I have an excuse! ;-) )
  • Insomnia

There are many more symptoms, but these are the most obvious and prevalent.  These can often be triggered by a news story, meeting a person you hadn't seen since the time of the abuse / assault, or even a song coming on the radio.

Dissociation and DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) are also common symptoms -- ranging from feeling "not quite there" or viewing life from the outside at times, to total black-outs of time, to actual fragments of personality or full-blown separate identities that emerge when needed (or when they're decidedly not wanted).

Self-harm is a very common symptom -- this can be as simple as drinking too much, but burning and cutting are very prevalent, especially for incest survivors (an outward manifestation of inside pain, control of the injury).

These symptoms and more are dealt with in this final section, along with some coping strategies for the more "minor" ones -- and the regular insistence to find professional therapy for the more destructive ones.


In case you haven't noticed yet: I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!  And I can't believe I'd already had the foresight to buy it earlier in the fall, and had promised myself to start reading it just before my Gate-Keeper's most recent attacks began.

This book helped ground me during a crisis.  But more than that, it opened my eyes to the patterns that had insinuated themselves in my life, probably even before my birth.

It showed me, plainly, that I never stood a chance.  That no amount of tap-dancing or good behaviour or perfection was ever going to have protected me, that I never would have been able to "earn" protection from the people who were supposed to be my care-givers.  That I did deserve better.  That the fact that I didn't get any better was not because of me, but because nobody was there to give it to me.

Which was a sad place to find myself, just before the holidays.  At times a very angry place.  A relieved place.  Mourning the loss of the Family Myth.  Mourning the loss of the parents and caregivers I wished I'd had, but never did.  Mourning the loss of all those years when I'd been convinced I was the wrong-doer, and needed to make amends to my poor, suffering family.  Mourning the loss of all those years when I thought I didn't deserve any better, and kept finding myself in relationship after relationship with the same god-damned patterns, neurotically hoping for a happier ending.  Grieving all the damage caused to a little girl forced to grow up too soon.  Grieving all the damage repeated over and over again to the adult trying to make sense of it all.

It doesn't make sense.  It was never designed to make sense.

I felt like the sacrificial lamb because I WAS THE FRIGGING SACRIFICIAL LAMB.  I felt like my thoughts and feelings and well-being didn't count, because making them count would have destroyed the whole system.  Because, as far as the system was concerned, my thoughts and feelings and well-being DID NOT COUNT.

But they do count now.  I count now.  I know I never will count to the Gate-Keepers, and I'm not going to try any more.  There are SO MANY PEOPLE in the world for whom my thoughts and feelings and well-being DO count, and I don't have to tap-dance a single step in order to deserve their love and compassion and caring.

Let the Gate-Keepers do what they will.  I've got the secret key to their instruction manual now.  And I've got the greatest antidote of all -- I know that my thoughts, feelings and well-being count.  I trust my gut and my perceptions.  On the days I don't, I can point to page 43 or 86 or 112 in the manual and say "oh yeah, that's you not me".  I know they will never give me what I needed as a child.  I will no longer expect them to see the error of their ways and give it to me now.  I'll give it to myself, thank you very much.  As will the people who actually DO love me, instead of just using that word to manipulate my consent.

This book was not easy.  There was wailing and gnashing of teeth.  But there WAS a happy ending.


I apologize for this "book report" taking so long -- I know I had promised it weeks and weeks ago.  The day I finally felt ready was the day of the school shooting, which changed everything.  It didn't feel right to write about the book until I was back in the right head-space.  Happy to report I finally am.  :-)

In the meantime, I've finished reading another gem, which I shall try to report on next week!