Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Week 23 of My Recovery Marathon

I haven't written lately because I have felt too unfinished.  Like 'Don't open my oven door while my soufflé is rising' unfinished.  Today, though, I got the signal.  It's time to share.

Today I read an editorial in the New York Times by David Brooks, entitled "The Building Blocks of Learning".  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/opinion/the-building-blocks-of-learning.html?ref=opinion

In it:  "Education is one of those spheres where the heart is inseparable from the head.  If students are going to succeed, they probably need to come from a home where they feel safe and secure, so they aren't paralyzed by anxiety and fear....They probably need to have been bathed in love so they have some sense of identity, some confidence about their own worth and some sense of agency about their own future." 

Geesh.  Are there really that many battered kids in school?  That many not getting at least the minimum emotional support at home?

"I feel like I bear the hallmarks of a battered woman"  I told my counselor two weeks ago.  (You know, that loss of confidence, self-worth and power.)

"No" my counselor replied gently "[You bear the hallmarks of a woman] battered in utero." 

There have been a lot of breakthroughs these last three weeks.  Some so infantile (why do I call 'raw and vulnerable' infantile?)  that I've felt too ashamed to write that I actually need such remedial care.  I've done a lot of wailing, basically.  Good old fashioned grieving.   (I feel some need to reassure you all that I will eventually get to the doings of my life.  But I hope you are content hearing about the 'being' part of me for now.) 

Week 23.  That's me up there, my prickly porcupine defenses at last confined to my noggin.  I remember the day I started morphing into a porcupine.  I was 11, maybe 12.  My eldest sister, the sanest and nicest one, had already left for college several states away.  That left me alone with the b***h circus.  I must have gotten a doozy of a cutting remark that day.  In tears, I ran over to the elementary schoolyard, wishing with all my might that I could flee that two story yellow clapboard house.   Looking back at our house through the schoolyard's chainlink fence, I clenched my fist and resolved:

"I will not feel". 

My first porcupine quill sprouted that day.  It protected me so well I sprouted more, until my whole self was covered with them.  Most people recognized them and steered clear of me.  Only a few saw the sweet kid inside. 

Know any prickly teenagers?  Know any off-putting adults you have to walk on eggshells around?

Their tender self is in there somewhere. 

"Can I...can I... hold your hand?" I asked in her office yesterday.  My counselor drew close. 'Baby me'  reached for [Momma's] hand.  And cried.  I didn't know it at the time, but history got rewritten at that moment.  For 'Momma' was emotionally supportive.

I awoke before dawn this morning.  Aware of the simplest fact:  I am 'other'.  Separated.  No leaky boundaries.  I am intact.  'You' can't hurt me.  I am inviolate.  Equal.  Safe.  I feel calm (just the usual amount of vulnerability posting this).   I feel safe knowing that though 'you' may assault my body, or target me with words, you can NEVER EVER reach my separate, core, self.  THAT is held in the hands of God.

So, when someone judges me and assaults me?  I will take action.  'You' will hear me.  'You' will not find me laying down.  I may just walk out of your life.

Because I love me.

That's what's changed.

I love me.

I can now say "If you don't give me at least the respect I deserve, you can go where the sun don't shine."  (Hah! How's one of my porcupine prickles taste now?)

My dear readers, do you have any porcupine quills of your own you'd like to give someone a taste of?  Do share!


  1. Being able to say, "I love me" is a powerful thing. I'm glad you got to that place.

    If I have any porcupine quills of my own they would be directed to a few people in the public eye and running for public office.

  2. Yep, saying AND meaning "I love me" is a powerful thing. 3 weeks to go and I already feel like I've reached the finish line!

    Go, Jean! I'll bet you'd hit bullseye on those people in the public eye. Isn't it interesting that a woman senator has repeatedly been the scold for one male nominee, something no men in office have dared do? Now you would be a credible scold for the rest of them LOL

  3. Just by "getting to know you" kind of, I think you were/are just the cutest dang kid ever!!!!! I have always maintained the emotional abuse is far worse than physical abuse. The pain from the beating will and does go away. The hurtful words, or the coldness directed toward us as kids, stays with us forever! It just does. Maybe if wasn't even there? But if we perceived that it was, than IT WAS! My sister and I have different perceptions of our father. He never treated her badly, like he did me. Why? I was his oldest. The wanted girl child. She was the surprise that he was so distressed about having. Yet, he treated her with attention and affection. He treated me with coldness, inattention and repeatedly told me I was stupid. I tended to look for men that treated me the same way. Well--it's okay now, because I finally figured it out. My Dad was wrong about me. Thank God, Fred taught me that. If we don't stand up for ourselves, who the heck will? Instead of Porcupine Quills, I use Hedge Hog Quills. They are softer, but it still gets the "point" across.

  4. Laughing out loud. Hedge Hog Quills. Maybe my porcupine will cross the pond and get an English accent.

    Judy, I now think I was THE CUTEST KID EVER, too! Yes, you do understand this thing about emotional abuse, totally.

    Now... I have a question for you. Do you ever wonder what it might have been like if Fred had come along sometime sooner?

    1. I did wonder about that at one time, he and I talked about it. We realized that we probably wouldn't have worked out if we had been 1st time married. He played in a band that traveled and he drank way too much for me to be comfortable with. We did better, being older, and more learned in how easy a relationship can be, if we don't sweat the small stuff.

      I HAVE wondered how differently my life would have been if I had been a true Daddy's Little Girl and grew up with my father's love and adoration--like I saw my girl cousins experiencing. Sigh

    2. How interesting. I might ponder that, too - being Momma's Little Girl. I imagine another side would have blossomed if you grew up with your father's love and adoration - you would have had a level of confidence and comfort you only attained only later in life. But look at all the hard earned wisdom!

      Isn't God wonderful, to give us new chapters to life? I get what you mean about Fred evolving and you, too.... So he came along at exactly the right time for you, and you for him.

  5. Isn't the internet wonderful that two people who had less than perfect childhoods can connect like you and Judy have.

    1. Yes, it is. Reaching out through this blog has brought such wonderful intimacy with open hearted and expressive people, including you!

    2. Don't know how to contact you, Jean. Comments I've tried to post in your blog disappear...will try again

  6. Flo, four comments came through. Maybe the 'comments will appear after approval' message got moved or didn't appear. Bloggers has been acting screwy lately.

    1. Good. Lately, because too many of my comments have disappeared down Blogger's rabbit hole, I've been preserving them, BEFORE hitting 'preview' or 'publish'. 4x I tried...Glad it wasn't in vain. LOL

  7. It brings tears to my eyes. The hurtful long lasting effects of bad parenting. I can't believe how lucky I have been. Yes. It is luck and the grace of God. I am not religious (church going) although raised Catholic ... 12 years of uniforms. And I thank my parents for THAT sacrifice. Even mediocre parenting serves little purpose. A few people "get through it" and become famous. Thinking about Homeless to Harvard or Steve Harvey's story. 99% of us just couldn't do it. Just living is a full time job. Yet if you have obstacle after obstacle thrown your way ... since INCEPTION.... I'm proud of the hard work you, and Judy, have done for yourselves. I would remain bitter.

    1. AW, who knows what you would have done? I have a theory. (Nothing new, mind you.) Inside us all, part of us, maybe the forgotten part, is our soul, and our soul has been alive in the arms of a loving God all along. The rest of us is our mortal self. It's kind of a crap shoot (maybe not) what circumstances our mortal self enters. It's kind of a crap shoot what circumstances our loves lives play out. I look at how you manage the crap shoot, and am inspired.

      Thank you for writing you are proud of the hard work Judy and I have done. This means a lot. XOXO

  8. I love the Porcupine drawing, Flo. The images represents so much. And you are so brave to bring us along with you. Thank you for speaking out and for being vulnerable with us. We have your back!

  9. Thank you, Martha! An earlier version of me was entirely covered in quills LOL

    My counselor just introduced me to the Inner Family Systems that you mentioned earlier. It's incredibly helpful and makes such SENSE. All our sub-personalities of various ages, some protecting us by exiling other parts... It's quite transformative and I've only just begun!