The Truly Bad 4-Letter F-word

FEAR! This word to me is far worse than saying, reading or hearing the word fuck. I mean, seriously. Fear can stop you in your tracks. It can alter the course of your path for a minute, a day or a lifetime. Fear can stop you from taking chances which could propel you forward in life. Fear of the unknown can you keep in a stalemate. Fear of a spider? Can make you stop your car in traffic and jump out yelling like a crazy person. (Yes, I do know people who have done this.) Fear of the dark? You refuse to go into a dark basement until every light is on and even then you wonder what’s lurking in the shadows. Why do we do these things ourselves? Humans have a need to feel safe.

When we walk in safety, we are comfortable with life. We may not be happy, but we are comfortable because it’s what we know. We have a routine which we become accustomed to and we know what to expect. The flip side to this is, we also stunt ourselves emotionally within the confines of safety by not allowing ourselves to grow.

I thought I had a fear of writing about my life and the experiences I’ve had. I’ve met so many other women who’ve had similar experiences and when we share stories, I’ve shared with them I’ve always wanted to write about it so others like us would know they were not alone. They’ve all said to me “You should write about it. I’m too afraid to do it.” It’s always easier to be on the sidelines than on the field in your gear ready to take a hit. And to be honest, it wasn’t really the fear of writing we were worried about at all, but the fear of how our biological families would react to WHAT we were going write about. Yes most of the family members already knew the stories, but confronting them with it in black and white is a different story. How well was that going to go over? Not very well. I knew that going in. I am tired of standing on the sidelines. I’m geared up and ready.

I’m making a different choice now to confront my fear and with that choice comes a consequence. I am losing relationships with biological family members. I have exposed the things which we do not speak of. Did I expect this? Yes.  Is it a surprise? Nope, not in the least. Here’s the biggest question: Have these people loved and supported me no matter what my decisions have been my entire life? The biggest answer: No, they loved me as long as I did what they wanted me to do.

This is a huge epiphany for me. So huge it didn’t even occur to me until I was writing this and figured it out. I’ve said and done things my entire life that I didn’t agree with to make others happy so I would feel loved. This is an admission of guilt. I’ve said horrible things about people I truly loved because it made a biological family member happy. That was MY choice. No one forced me to do this. I allowed others opinions to become my own. I was the weak one. I now choose to stand in my truth and it takes strength, but it can also be physically very lonely. However, as I walk down this road I know I am not emotionally alone. I have spirit guides, guardian angels and family I’ve chosen who do love me for exactly who I am. I am no longer responsible for carrying someone else’s shitty pickles. I am standing with my head held high knowing that I made a different choice. I chose peace and happiness. I chose to claim in my responsibility and forgive myself so I can move forward and grow.

Here is my truth. I have been married four times to four different men. I have 4 children with 3 different men. One of those 3 men I wasn’t even married to. How’s that for airing some dirty laundry? I was very embarrassed about this for years. I’m not any longer. I have remorse for the trail of pain I left behind.

First marriage: 4 months beginning to end. I knew I shouldn’t have gotten married. I apologize to you husband #1. I knew it wasn’t right when we got married and I did it anyway. I accept my responsibility for not putting any effort whatsoever into the relationship and for being willing to walk away so easily.

Father of child #1 – I am sorry I lead you on after she was first born and allowed you to believe there would be a relationship because there was a child involved. I really and truly wanted her to be raised with biological father because I hadn’t been raised with mine. I know I hurt you and I apologize.

Second marriage: 8 months living together, 2+ years total on paper in marriage. There will never be enough words in the English language to tell you how deeply sorry I am for hurting you. I loved you the only way I knew how at the age of 20 & 21. It was far less than you deserved.

Third marriage and father of child #2 and #3 – I am sorry for the part my behavior played in our divorce. I could have been a much better wife and that wasn’t fair to you. I gave all of my love and attention to our children instead. I could have made more time to nurture our relationship.

Fourth marriage and father of child #4 – You’re my favorite asshat in the world. I’ve apologized to you for many things over the years. Marrying you, I will never be sorry for that. We have worked extremely hard at keeping our marriage together including living in two different states for 3 years and stage 4 throat cancer. I will be damned if I’m going to allow my human ego or my pride to wreck this one. I love you with a depth in which mere words could never express it appropriately.

To anyone reading this post if you made it this far:

When you feel alone in this world, please know you are not. With each blog post I write, I lose another friend or family member, but I also gain 2 friends who choose to become family. Family is everything to me. I will hold on tight and love you all til my dying breath.

Peace be with you as it is with me.

What now?

I’ve started writing a few different posts and then never finish them. I don’t feel like any of them have been the correct thing to write about. I’m really not sure where to go from here. So many things have happened in my life to lead me right to where I am. I keep feeling like I have to go in order, but then I wonder if that’s just a remnant of the OCD kicking in. MUST GO 1, 2, 3…

Here is something I know I need to talk about, my son Abram.

In 1987, I found out I was pregnant for the very first time. I was a senior in high school and no clue what I was going to do. I had broken up with the baby’s father, Devon, a month prior. I had been cruel in the way I handled the break-up and I was afraid that if I told him I was pregnant he was going to think I had made it up to get back together with him. 30 years later I look at back at the situation and am so sad at how it played out.  I have had to forgive myself because asking Devon for forgiveness at this point in life would not be ok. Old wounds, you know. I lost the baby about 14-16 weeks into the pregnancy. I don’t know for sure because I never went to the doctor to get checked for an official pregnancy until it was at the end. The loss was horrendous both physically and emotionally. All I ever wanted in my life was to be a mother. I wanted one person in this life to love me unconditionally for exactly who I was. I wanted the opportunity to be different to my child than my parents were to me.

In writing this down, it makes it even more real. I’ve carried this story in my heart for 30 years. Abram would have been 30 this fall. In 1999 the only other person who I told about the loss of Abram came to visit me. She was my best friend in high school and her name is Delilah. Delilah and I got matching tattoos which represented all of my children as of that point in life. My children are my sunshine by day and my stars by night and when I am lost, they lead the way. The tattoo is of a sun and 4 stars. Each child has their own color and meaning behind the tattoo. Abram is my yellow star. I chose yellow because he shines bright up in the heavens. Losing that pregnancy hurt me so deeply. I thought it was my penance for the way I had treated the males I came across in my path.

In 1989, I found out I was pregnant again. I was shocked. I had been on the pill and didn’t even know I was pregnant until about 8 weeks in. I had kept taking the birth control pills and I was doing drugs. I was addicted to cocaine. It was the only thing I could do to control the shit flowing through my brain. When I couldn’t sleep at night, I’d smoke pot to calm my nerves. I didn’t really like doing illegal drugs because I do not like to break the rules (OCD again). However, the constant noise in my head was more than I could handle. I was having conversations with myself and the memories were awful. Memories of the sexual abuse, memories of losing a baby, memories of a childhood gone awry. I just wanted it all to stop. When I did cocaine, my brain was set straight. I could actually function and perform. The voices were gone and I felt more normal. Back in 1989, those pregnancy tests were supposed to take 15 minutes to turn blue. I went and stood in the living room while my girlfriend stayed in the kitchen with the glass of pee and the stick with three little balls on it. I remember hearing her laughing about 3 minutes and saying really loud “BITCH YOU ARE REALLY, REALLY PREGNANT. LOOK AT THIS!” Um what? It was too soon for it to turn! I thought she was joking so I went running in and telling her to stop with the joking, it wasn’t funny. My gut dropped. Apparently not…  All I could think about was what I had been doing with my body. I immediately went cold turkey on everything. Not enjoyable, but it was what had to be done.

To this day, I tell my daughter and I mean it with every fiber of my being that getting pregnant with her truly saved my life. I was going down a path that was not safe for me and certainly not safe for a baby. God had given me the one thing I truly wanted which was one tiny human to love me no matter how screwed up I was. I was going to do this right. When I decided to keep the pregnancy, I made a solemn vow to God that if he let my child be physically and mentally normal, I would never, ever touch an illegal drug ever again.

I am proud to say, I have been clean for 27 years and 4 months. It has NOT always been easy. However, for me, wanting my child to live a decent life was more powerful to me than the pull to the drug.

I guess I finally figured out what to write.

Peace be with you.

Shelley

The Fork in the Road

You know how you’re just tooling along on the road for the trip you planned and it’s all good. You get lost in the music and you’re just driving. Then you realize you may have missed your exit and now you have to figure out what to do. Before the days of the GPS you had three options:

  1. Get out a map and see where you were.
  2. Go to a gas station and ask for help.
  3. Be brave and use your sense of direction to figure it out on your own.

All of these options end with you making a decision. A decision you hadn’t intended on making when you got in the car, but alas here it is in front of you. Freaking out doesn’t help anything. It just makes you anxious and then decisions aren’t clear-headed.

I am at a fork in the road, one I didn’t think would happen. I’ve been tooling along knowing I had to write this blog bringing awareness about incest and helping to validate other survivors in knowing they are not alone. It’s real. We can survive. We can become healthy and move forward in life. While we will never forget what’s happened to us, we can forgive and go on to be truly happy. I thought it was going to be important to tell the stories of my childhood in chronological order, then discuss the evolution of my path. It’s becoming more clear to me that the stories will come out as I start to explain my path and how I got to where I am today.

Where am I today?

Today I am at peace. True inner peace. This is something I never thought I would find. I just thought I would forever be in turmoil in my heart and I just thought everyone lived that way. I had no idea it wasn’t normal to obsess over routines, the pattern of the hair on my arms, keeping my arms and legs from hanging off the side of the bed, being afraid of what exists under the bed as an adult, being afraid of the dark and a myriad of other things. The older I became, the more I began to realize I wasn’t a typical person. I refrain from using the word normal because seriously… what is normal? Normal is average and I am far from average. I am fucking amazing.

So after today… I will start writing about my journey to change. It’s been long and really hard. I’ve survived it all and the universe has been amazing in the gifts I have been given.

Please join me as I change my path once again.

Peace be with you.

Shelley

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction

Before I started writing this blog post, I looked up the name of this post to make sure I didn’t write something incorrectly. As a side effect of having been in the publishing industry for many years, it can cause me to  have an eye twitch if something isn’t written properly. Mind you, I am not a professional writer, nor am I a professional editor. However, I’ve seen enough pages go to print so I do ok with correcting people on their writing skills sometimes.

I’m sure at some point in my public education career I learned about Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion, but didn’t retain a damn thing about them. As I am now 48 years old and becoming increasingly more into the metaphysical world I see that science is actually quite important. If you were one of my science teachers in high school and you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I memorized for tests and then promptly forgot everything you taught me. I think the one science class I can honestly say I learned the most from was Mr. Chris Canning who taught my Marine Biology class. I didn’t change his name because he was an amazing teacher who actually gave a crap about what he taught. Truly it was his passion… well that and the manatees, but then I’m really digressing here.

I am talking about the 3rd law for this blog post which states for every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction. My childhood wasn’t completely horrible and I do have some great memories from it. I can honestly tell you that my mother did the best she could with what she had and the knowledge she was given growing up. We were always fed as children, never did we go hungry. We may have had very simple dinners, but some of those dinners are still my very favorite (macaroni, tomato sauce and polish sausage with garlic seasoning aka goulash). I think back now to how tired my mother must have been after working hard all day long as a single mother of 3 children in the 70’s and then had to come home and cook dinner. I know how hard it was for me in the 90’s as a single mom making a good salary and I did a lot of drive-thru’s which my ex-husband used regularly as a way of pointing out my shitty parenting.

My mother was often very good with making do with what we had. Her parents Damon, father, and Carmon, mother had a farm growing vegetables and raising animals which we could eat. We often worked on Grandpa Damon’s farm to help gather food so we could can it. By helping to work on the farm, Grandma Carmen would always send mom home with canned vegetables and frozen meat from whatever animal had been slaughtered for food. It wasn’t unusual to eat an animal you had fed the day before.

When I was about 7, I’d had a particularly rough week. I was struggling with my parent’s relationship and my mother had promised me she’d take me out to the park and we could have a picnic just the two of us. I was so excited to just spend time alone with her. When Saturday came and it was pouring rain, I just cried. I was absolutely broken-hearted. My mother sent the boys out to have fun with their friends. She then put out the red and white checked tablecloth on the floor in front of the television and put our picnic on the floor. She said since we couldn’t barbeque, we’d just eat cereal. We had Boo-Berry cereal in the living room. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was allowed to eat cereal in the living room and I got to spend a few very precious hours with my mother.

To this day, this very precious memory is one I cling to with all of my heart. It is this memory which reminds me my mother has true love in her heart. If she didn’t care, she wouldn’t have done something so kind. We are often bogged down by the stress of daily life that we forget to appreciate the precious things in our lives, including our family relationships. I’ve done it with my own children who will remind me of my poor parenting moments at any given time. They remind me “That’s what we’re here for Mom.” Yeah yeah…

All I can say to them now is this simple set of phrases which they will always hold dear:

I love you forever, I like for you always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.

Peace be with you

Shelley

Trauma Is Not Just Physical Pain

The definition of trauma is (1) a deeply distressing or disturbing experience or (2) physical injury. When I’ve talked to people about trauma I’ve experienced in my lifetime, they automatically assume it was all physical traumas. There was physical trauma, but what about the emotional trauma? Just because someone didn’t hit me physically doesn’t mean I didn’t experience a pain so deep in my soul it changed who I was forever.

The majority of my specific trauma all happened by the age of 15. After that, I was pretty much a self-serving bitch because I’d had enough of people thinking I was a pushover. I was no longer willing to allow my throat chakra to stay closed and swallow down anymore bullshit for anyone. I said what I wanted, how I wanted and outwardly I didn’t really care what anyone thought of me. When I was alone and quiet I would think about the pain I may have caused someone. It was in those moments I decided I was more like my favorite book/movie character, Katie Scarlett O’Hara, more affectionately known as Scarlett. I always thought to myself “After all, tomorrow is another day.” The translation to this is… I’m not going to think about that right now, which Scarlett said regularly. To her, the end goal was all that mattered and whomever she had to stomp on in the meantime was just going to have to deal.

As human beings walking around with a lot of baggage in our hearts, we often say and do things out of anger or when we are under the influence we would not normally say. In a normal, unaltered state we avoid saying and doing these same things. You know those moments when you’re out and you’ve had a drink and wind up telling the hot guy/girl you’ve been eyeing up all night that you’re attracted to them. There’s a reason alcohol is called liquid courage. It lowers our inhibitions and our guarded protection over our hearts. Feelings we have in an unaltered state we would never allow out start to flow freely. Sometimes we remember stating these feelings and sometimes we do not. Anger can cause much the same reaction. It’s like a switch was flipped and the electrical current is no longer being controlled and stuff just starts flying with no grounding to trigger it to stop. Then comes the electrical shock.

I remember this moment as if it was yesterday; I don’t think I was any more than 6 years old. My parents were getting a divorce and my world was upside down so I wasn’t sleeping well. My father had always rocked me to sleep and with that gone, my routine changed (insert a huge aha moment literally just now as I write this for why I had routine based OCD). My mother had been out for the night and I could tell by the smell alcohol was involved. I have a very sensitive nose, always have and I can pick up that smell very quickly. I remember being scared because I woke up in the middle of the night and went to crawl in bed with her, but she wasn’t there so I went back to my bed. When she did finally come home, I tossed back the covers and my little bare feet hit ground again. I walked towards her room holding my Mrs. Beasley doll (which I still have) and there stood my mom facing away from me. I asked her where she had been because I was scared. She turned around and looked at me and she said a few things but the only one I remember hearing was this “If you had never been born, your father and I would still be married.”

As a 48 year old woman who has been through a divorce, I understand why my mother felt that way. She was hurt, going through a lot and there was alcohol involved. I did ask her about this statement once when I was in my 30’s, but she has absolutely no recollection of ever saying it. I believe that. My own children tell me things I’ve said and I do not remember saying them. It doesn’t mean their feelings about it aren’t valid. That one sentence from my mother, something she doesn’t even remember, had affected me for most of my life. I truly believed I was responsible for their marriage falling apart. I was immediately and deeply saddened. I lost a piece of my soul that night.

As an adult, I can tell you having someone blame me for anything was a huge trigger for my anger to come out, especially when I knew it wasn’t my responsibility. PHEW! Boy howdy would I react violently. I’d throw cordless phones (went through 4 in one year) and I would reach into the depths of my mind to find the weakness of my accuser and I would use it against the person. If they were going to hurt me, I’d show them a thing or two. I was reacting to what was in my view, a huge injustice. In the end, I feel like what I did was worse because it was intentional. I had some serious self-forgiveness to do. I still don’t like being blamed for something which I know isn’t my fault, but I don’t get angry anymore. I’m not going to keep trying to convince someone of something I know I didn’t do. Either you believe me or you don’t. It’s that simple for me.

I step through the triggers instead of allowing them to consume me.

Peace be with you.

Shelley

Moments Which Begin to Define Us

As the child of a single mother in the 70’s, I spent a lot of time in my bedroom playing alone. During the summer months my mother couldn’t afford to pay a baby sitter, much less send us off to summer camp. My brothers were 5 and 7 years older than me so they didn’t really need a babysitter, they were the built-in babysitters. In retrospect, I am able to see that due to circumstances beyond our control they were in the position of having to care for their little sister. Teenage boys would much prefer to hang out and have fun with their friends. My brothers Constantine and Rinaldo were not any different.

Their friends who would spend a lot of time at our house while Mother was at work. Since I was the youngest and the only girl around, I was the designated sandwich maker and drink go-getter. Demanding boys! I remember how much time my brother’s had to spend with me because our Mom was working. I can’t imagine how much it bothered them to always have their little sister with them. I felt like a burden and I certainly didn’t always like getting dragged around to go visit girlfriends when we were not supposed to be leaving the house. However, Rinaldo’s theory on life was that if I did the same thing they did then I couldn’t tell Mother because I’d get in the same amount of trouble as them. I have to hand it to Rinaldo, the boy was a genius (and still is, literally. Super high IQ). I completely believed him and just went along with it.

Most of my brother’s friends were nicer to me than my brothers, but then again I wasn’t their little sister who tattled on them all of the time either. There was one boy who about a year older than Rinaldo who just scared me. Being around him was uncomfortable and I didn’t like to be left alone in a room with him. I remember him with a dark aura around him and he almost always had on a khaki military jacket. One time during the summer he was in the living room and had asked me to make him a sandwich. My brothers were not around and it was just the two of us in the living room. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. After I was done making it, I brought him the sandwich and he ran one of his hands up the back of my left leg on the bare skin. I instantly became very aware that I was a little girl and he was a male much bigger than me. I already knew what that kind of touch meant and no way did I want that happening at my own home. No 2nd grader should have to feel that uncomfortable around her brother’s friends. I ran away from him and made sure I was never in the same room with him again. Nothing else happened with him. He just stopped coming over after a while and I was very grateful. (As an aside, before I wrote this post I googled his name and discovered he’s been arrested several times for crimes against women such as battery and stalking. I was very fortunate.)

I used to have some serious issues with claustrophobia. The kind where if you got up in my face, my fight or flight instinct would take over and I’d start swinging regardless of how much I liked you. Why did I have claustrophobia you ask? Well, let me tell you! Mother was very clear “no one in, no one out.” It was a standing rule when she wasn’t home, a rule which was frequently broken by Rinaldo and Constantine. This one specific day during the summer, my brothers and their friends wanted to get high and didn’t want the pest (aka me) around to witness it. I got locked in my bedroom closet and was told I wasn’t allowed to come out until they came to get me. PS, hours later I was still in the closet. Mother came home and I heard her ask “Where is Maria?” My brother Constantine came running to my room and opened my closet door. He told me I better not say a word and pretend like everything was normal or else. So like a good little girl, I obeyed and shut up.

It’s taken me 40 years to get over being claustrophobic. It’s taken me 40 years to deal with all of the moments where I had to “be a good little girl.” Think about what you say to the younger generation. You are forming the adults they will become. I used those moments as lessons to teach me to what I didn’t want to become as an adult, but not everyone makes that decision. Many times bad behavior is repeated.

The next time you see someone with OCD or with a phobia, before you criticize them verbally or even in your own head, think twice. Ask yourself, what happened to them during their lifetime to cause the issue. It’s much better to see the issue through their eyes rather than your own.

Who are you to judge?

I am just me.

Shelley

Ask for Help – It’s not as easy as it sounds

This seems to be the new theme I’m being lead toward. You know when you’ve spent most of your life doing things yourself, asking for help is really very hard. My guides are basically smacking me upside the head with “GIRL, you better get a move on and ask for help.”

If I think back to the earlier stages of my life to when I was a little girl of about 7 years old, I can identify where this independent streak started. I have some very clear, scattered memories from earlier on my in life, however, the memories from age 7 going forward have the most impact.

I distinctly remember being in 2nd grade getting myself ready for school. Alone. My mother and father were divorced leaving my mother single with 3 children to raise alone: Rinaldo age 14, Constantine age 12 and me age 7. My father lived on the other side of town and worked either 2nd or 3rd shift so we never saw him for visitation. Mother had to work to support us, put a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. Yes, she got child support, but it didn’t cover everything and her salary was not as much as she would have liked. If memory serves me correctly, she was a secretary for the maintenance department in a local hospital. In 1976 the minimum wage was just that… minimum.

Rinaldo was in 9th grade and Constantine was in 7th grade when I was in the 2nd grade. It was Constantine’s first year in the junior high and Rinaldo’s first year at the high school. They had different start times than I did for school. Constantine used to walk me to and from school every day making sure I was safe when we were in the same school. He wouldn’t hold my hand because that wasn’t cool, but he walked next to me or put me on the handlebars of his bike and let me ride so I didn’t have to walk. Constantine was truly my protector in my early years.

I remember being scared to be alone in the morning and my mom would tell me “You’re a big girl, Maria. You can do this and you don’t need help.” I would get up, make myself breakfast (two bowls of cereal because no one was there to tell me no), pack my lunch (an extra Twinkie if I found it. Who would know?), get dressed and walk to school. My mom could have made my lunch and left it out for me, but I honestly don’t remember that part. I remember being happy I could eat what I wanted without hearing about how fat I was (that’s a whole different post).

My mom did what she had to do, I understand this. I also know the words she spoke to me repeatedly “You’re a big girl, Maria. You can do this and you don’t need help.” These have played like a stuck record in my head for years (A record is this little black thing we used to listen to on a record player and if the needle got stuck the song would skip. It’s kind of like a song on repeat on your MP3 player). She also told me women have a hard time making it in the workplace and if I wanted to make something of myself, I’d have to prove I could do it without the help of a man. “Men only respect a woman who isn’t helpless.” Again, I understand she meant well and that last piece of advice has served me well in the business industry. I am not angry with her for teaching me these things. It just left me believing I could not ask for help. For anything.

This advice hasn’t worked out so well in my personal life. I’ve been married 4 times. I am not ashamed of this, although I am tremendously sorry for the pain I caused my previous husbands. (BTW, If any of you are reading this, I truly am sorry. You had no idea what you were getting into, but if you keep reading, you’ll understand it now. And there are a few select ex-boyfriends I send that apology out to as well. Contacting you directly would likely drudge up too much shit, but hey if you’re reading, I’m taking the opportunity.) Why have I been married 4 times you ask? GREAT QUESTION. Here’s the answer, I was emotionally hosed and had an attitude of “I don’t need you, I can do this without you.” How does one learn to form a good foundation of a relationship with a spouse if you don’t allow them to help? If you yourself have no idea how to communicate or how to actually love your partner in a healthy way, how do you form healthy attachments? You don’t.

Today, at the age of 48 I am finally learning to ask for help. My husband Tyler has been my rock through this entire learning process. He does more for me than I feel I deserve sometimes. However, when  I start to feel that way, I will ask him. “Why do you do so much for me now?” His answer is plain and simple. “You allow me to.” No hesitation in the answer.  The implied explanation is “If you had allowed me to do this for you years ago, I would have. However you were stubborn and insisted on doing it yourself.” He loves being able to help me and truly gets pleasure from helping others. By my not allowing him to help me which is the very basis of his nature, I stopped him from being himself and it affected him tremendously. I didn’t even realize it.

If you’re anything like me, please start to ask for help. The universe loves us enough to put the right people in our path when we need it. Reach out. Ask. If I can do it, so can you.

(I am searching for a catchy phrase as a parting before my name…I will find one eventually, but until then…)

Shelley