I haven’t posted in a while, obviously. I fell. I was in the hospital for a bit. I was strongly advised to stay longer, but i know from experience that the care and support i receive at home is far better medicine. I may expand on what happened at some point, but not today. Today i want to write about yesterday. Literally.*
She lifts her skirt up to her knees
Walks through the garden rows with her bare feet,
And i never learned to count my blessings
I choose instead to dwell in my disasters
~Ray LaMontagne, Empty
I’m having to reset and redefine some boundaries at my Little Crooked House. It isn’t easy, although it’s easier than it once was. There’s no need for details, suffice to say that parenting adult children is different, and requires patience and time to make the appropriate adjustments. Fortunately, i’m adept at tweaking my life to get more of what i want out of it, and less of what i don’t. Yesterday i “laid down the law” as we used to say, and then left with my husband to help him with a job. I figured it would give all of us time to cool off and private space to process.
Hubby is considered an “essential worker” during this pandemic, and his work cannot be done from home. In fact, it involves working in other people’s homes, directly. I haven’t been anywhere since this all began. I’ve stated it before, but i’m happy to repeat the fact that i am an introvert, and perfectly content to hermit away on our farm. I say it often – in fact i’m sure some are tired of hearing it. I won’t be stopping any time soon however, because for me it’s nothing short of a revelation. As i slowly stripped away all the artifice and chipped away at my facade, no one was more shocked than i to find a private homebody lurking underneath. So much of the outgoingness, the ebullience, gregariousness, and ohsomuch charm, was a construct of either my abusers to hide their acts, or of mine to protect myself from any further harm.
So, take my preferred insular life, add in my current level of anxiety, which is burgeoning towards full blown panic, and know that this adds up to no small level of trepidation to leave my home and head into the big city. He leaves me in the relative safety of his work van, to talk to his boss in the office and find out where he’ll be sent and what he’ll be doing. I sit and fret, as i do… Will there be people there, will they be the type who want to hover and watch us work? Even worse, what if they wanna yack? I don’t want to do that most of all, but not for the reason you may imagine. I hate it because it comes so easily to me. I’m a multiple, and i can, and WILL, shift swiftly into Little Miss Conversation. My current therapy involves trying NOT to switch. I’m trying to stay in the face (the one in control of my system) and feel my emotions and physical sensations in the moment, present and mindful. I’m learning not to dissociate. Engaging with people i don’t know is one of the times when i’m the most dissociative, and as this is extremely difficult for me not to do, i like to take it slowly, one teeny tiny baby step at a time.
He gets sent to a small community that i once lived in when i was 18, in an area of my province where i lived for a number of years in a number of different places. There are tiny and sprawling acreages, plus farms and ranches of all sizes. There are mansions and cottages, trailers, and barnsbarnsbarns. There are rolling hills, lush expanses of the greenest grasses, and the most beautiful copses and vast forests of dozens of varieties of trees. And everywhere you look there is wildlife: so many kinds of birds, horses of all colourings and persuasions, and my favourite – cows. I can tell just by looking what breed they are, and in this area of my province you see dozens. I open the window and i can smell the wildflowers, the greenery, and yes, the cow shit.
We pull into a small acreage that has clearly been there a long time. The house is a modest bungalow, and has a lot of years on it. It’s no Martha Stewart model of genteel upper class living. There are wild grasses and flowers in patches of varying sizes, everywhere i look. There are neatly stacked cords of wood and i can smell them. There’s a garden with small, well-built-but-not-fancy greenhouses, covered in an almost opaque poly, but i can tell there are tomatoes and peppers in there. There are handmade birdfeeders, more than 20, maybe more than 30; some are hanging in trees, some are sitting on top of handpainted logs. They are different heights and all the feeders are different sizes, made obviously to appeal to various birds. When i step onto the porch, i hear a sound like a bee on steroids – it’s a hummingbird. There are a number of feeders and i see at least a half dozen come for a sweet sip of sugar water while i’m there. They’re incredible to me, entrancing.
The inside of the house is just as i’d hoped. A retired couple lives there, and it’s not fancy. It’s cozy and homey and has an old grouchy cat and an old, shy dog. There are well-tended houseplants and crocheted throws and embroidery in antique frames. The carpeting needs replacing and the window frames are in need of repair/replacement. Most of the windows have bird stickers on them, the kind my grandma used to keep the birdies from flying into them and hurting themselves. Every room is handpainted and decorated, and the bed in the master bedroom might be as big as queen-size, but perhaps not. I can see the shapes of the heads that lay there on the 2 pillows. The plumbing in both bathrooms has seen better days.
It’s perfect. The only way you’d get me out of that house and away from that land is feet first.
The owner is there, but he and his buddy are out in the garage making sausage. He’s friendly, but not bothersome. He invites us to explore the property and make ourselves at home. During breaks where i cannot help my husband, i do. There’s a creek, because of course there is. When we leave he gives us some of his homemade sausages.
The drive home is over an hour. Unlike the drive in, i don’t have the music playing. I’m looking at all the houses, all the land, talking to my husband animatedly. I’m talking about ranches my stepfather worked on and people i knew and telling him which ones are the Herefords, the Charolais, which ones are the Red Angus and which ones are actually Salers (they look similar). I’m telling him the best place to go for beef jerky. I describe where we’d get so much snow we’d need chains, and where we got so much dust i’d sweep 3X a day and it still wasn’t enough. We’re ogling the houses with lovely architecture, and laughing at all the new McMansions.
That’s when it hits me, like a blast of sparkling rainbow joy, right in my heart. It explodes like a musical firework, and spreads through my whole body. My throat clenches up tight and the tears flow.
I’ve heard/read lots of stories about people who are genuinely in love with where they live and/or where they came from. This area is not where i live, nor is it where i came from.
I visited here many times during my growing up years, but only lived here for a while. And i was living with my parents, my siblings, and still dealing with daily abuse.
But it doesn’t matter.
I love this place.
I mean love, down deep in the marrow of my bones.
There are some places in the city that i grew up in, that are spoilt for me. Places where so much abuse, so much evil was done to me that i can’t not dissociate when i’m there. One son and his family live in an area that i cannot get to without being driven there by someone else. I don’t drive, but i can navigate around the city very well using maps and GPS and public transit. I can’t get to my grandchildren’s home on my own, and even when i’m assisted, it’s better if they come to my Little Crooked House out on the farm, because i worry what seeing me dissociated or switched might do to them, and our relationship. Even though my son and DIL assure me it’s not obvious, that i don’t appear to be different to my girls, the anxiety and stress can make the days after fraught with potential for self-destructive behaviours, and a cavalcade of other parts that try to come forward and must be managed, as they can, and often have, placed me in grave peril.
I live with my husband on land that’s been in his family for over 100yrs. It’s home and i’m so grateful to live there. We have lots of green, and a lake constantly visited by great birds like ducks, geese, pelicans, and swans. We have hawks and eagles. We have both Mule and Whitetail deer. We have coyotes that sing to us at night, and Great-Horned and Snowy owls that hoot us Hello in the morning. We have cows and horses. Our ditches are filled with wild roses and spring brings crocuses of the prettiest purples. A local beekeeper keeps everything pollinated and the air hums with happy, busy buzzing. Our property is ringed with maple trees, and in late May and early June our dozens of lilac bushes fill the air with their unparalleled fragrance. I intend to live out my days with the man of my dreams, enjoying a land and a lifestyle that i’d never even considered. I grew up amongst my country’s most impoverished, and it had never occurred to me that it would be any other way for me.
All of that, yes.
And still, these lush valleys and rolling foothills that we drive through after work as we head back to a place that i’m astounded and privileged to call home – make my blood fairly sing. Make me feel electric pink and blue. Make my skin alive with wonder. Make my heart swell with a joy that i cannot explain. It surges through me and makes me feel like i am in it as it is in me.
And that is why i share this piece with you today.
Because i realised –and it bound up and mended old wounds in a way i don’t yet fully fathom– that they couldn’t take everything from me.
She couldn’t ruin everything.
There are precious things she took that i will never have again…
But she couldn’t take everything.
They hammered and pounded and pecked at me a bite at a time.
But my heart still beats and my blood still flows and they could not consume me.
My ability to experience beauty and feel joy and be a part of the Universe remains.
Intact and vital and travelling through ALL with a fierce and beautiful power.
This therapy that i’ve been at for almost 2yrs now, is the most gruelling, the most demanding, the most constant and inescapable personal work that i have ever done…
And for this day alone i would start back at the beginning and do it all again.
So take heart, dear ones who suffer and despair, for your toiling is not in vain.
I am certain of it.
I know you give because you want to
Don’t you think it’s time you learn to let yourself receive?
~ Ray LaMontagne, Born To Love You
*Now 2 days ago, but whatever. Heh.