Home, Bones & Unexpected Boons

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,
laughing
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.
Hang on.

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.

Stories, Not Poems

Maybe with more love i could write a song
but all i have are these clunky words and choppy phrases
qualifiers that try to rate my pain for your assent
Pump up my happiness so you can
Bob your head along

A tender homage to the city i’m from
How it’s tough and steel and glass but
we’re just one big family, really
Cowboys in suits who love Jesus
Oil and chocolate bunnies

Maybe with more time i could change the world
but i can’t shake the small town off me
Everyone who thinks they know me
Arms bent at the elbows
Clucking and scratching the dirt

A reedy tune about the romance
of being left alone, running through short oats
and corn gathered too soon
The cows don’t care that they eat and die
But i do

Purgatory

Agonies are one of my changes of garments,
I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become
the wounded person,
My heart turns livid upon me as i lean on a cane and observe.
~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

I’ve wasted time and energy being angry at the wrong things. It wasn’t safe to be angry at the right things, and once it was, i no longer remembered why i was so angry.

I’d colour a picture, and if i made even the tiniest titch outside of that thick, black line, i’d rip out the page, crumple it into a ball and throw it out. If i was almost finished when i did it, i could get so mad that i’d scribble all over it first – grinding the coloured wax into the paper and ripping through to the pages underneath, pressing so hard my fingers were dimpled and hot, stained with the crayon that would inevitably break in two.

when it was born in me — that first what the fuck is this?
i was triplets
My heart, My guts, chubby hands holding My face
orbiting My brain like little Plutos

i hid it away and kept it safe; clever girl
little bits of me chipped off or
chiseled, floating away
My eyes filled with crocodile tears
My burning vulva
My precious 4yr old, looking in the mirror with her bottle of poison
caught and gathered in to my gravitational field
chunks and gobbets, slivers and strands, frozen
flesh and rocky bone
orbiting My mass and My might.

Last night i tried to sleep, but one dose of Cipro couldn’t buy it. I left my disco waterbed and wandered into the living room, wishing for a fire in the hearth, but settling for dogs and cat and blanket.
The fibro is fire enough for my Pomeranian companion to abandon my legs for the chair beside me – i’m a furnace of pain. The cat leaves due to bad vibes (i’m sure), and the Pit Bull sniffs concernedly at my arms and shoulders. I reach down and wrap my arms around her neck, smelling her skin as she nuzzles me. Who knew the nose-juice of a dog could be a balm?
My girl parts are numb, curled around my traitorous waterworks that feel like ice. The heavy throb underneath the mons, urging me to urinate, but i can’t. I know there’s nothing there, or at least not enough. Its slicing exit is such a trigger i talk to myself while i pee -babble, really- anything to keep me present. As much as it hurts and as easy as it would be to let someone else deal with this pain, i know that it is positively VITAL that i do not.

The gift of this pain is its/it’s preparing me for what’s to come. It is a proving ground.
Can i handle what’s coming? They watch and judge. We all want to know.
Can i bear the pain that’s in store?
Can i gather them to me and keep them?
Can they stop drifting around my periphery and finally come home?

This is why i’m so angry.

Sometimes — i don’t care what anyone says — sometimes, anger is my primary emotion. But most of the time it is as they say, a secondary one. My response to pain or the threat of pain is anger. I still do the fight, flight, or freeze thing, but i’m usually pissed about it.

I live in the land of the dead. My thoughts are not connected to my feelings or my sensations on some kind of level that i can’t yet explain. I’ve been climbing up and out on old bones, and i have the land of the living in my sights, but i’ve gotta go through Purgatory to get there. I’ve got to pick through the sea of hot flesh and refuse, find my bits and my pieces, and slap them back on my cold, naked skeleton. I’ll sew ’em, weld ’em, glue ’em, nail ’em – whatever is required.

It’s gonna hurt like a motherfucker. It’s gonna hurt in a way i’ve never been hurt before.

And none of this is my doing. None of this is my fault. But it is all -allofit- my responsibility. My duty to my system and myself.

I’m coming up on rage soon, i think. Because i’m fucking terrified.

That’s enough for today. I’m getting super-dramatic up in here, and i need to decompress and get a bit of distance. I’m hoping by tonight this cursed (pronounce this CURSE-ed for full effect) UTI will have eased enough that i can get a bit of sleep, which may soften the fibro some.

And of that second kingdom will I sing
Wherein the human spirit doth purge itself,
And to ascend to heaven becometh worthy.
~ Dante Aleghieri, Purgatorio

Y’all hang in there. I promise i will, too.

~H~

Image: NASA

Homeostasis

ho·me·o·sta·sis
/ˌhōmēəˈstāsəs/
noun
  1. the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.

This has been a good year; my most functional to date. I stopped hermitting, made a couple of friends, and reconnected with some old ones. It’s the year that i added exercise to all my lifestyle changes regarding food and eating, and all the work finally started paying off with some significant weight loss. I took up some parttime work, and i began volunteering my time in a couple of areas that matter to me.
By the time summer rolled around, i’d hit my stride and was feeling successful, and also like it was just the beginning.

Fall brought a change in the weather, dead leaves picked up and strewn about by chill winds, sucking the warmth from the ground, bringing the kind of silence that fills your ears and echoes in the stillness.
It’s analogous to what was happening in my brain; old voices whispered into an unsettling quiet, invading the hush. I shushed but they persisted, until i was so full of sound my body couldn’t contain it and it spilled out of me like Shhhhhhhh, bleeding off the pressure like a tire with too much air.

Dreams, too many, then nightmares and sleeplessness, and then the old urge to run. To get away, to go home, and for the first time in a very long time, wondering if it might be better to just stop. I didn’t know why it had gotten quiet, but i did know that it had caused fear and panic inside me. I went looking for answers in the dark corners of myself, but i only found emptiness, a yawning blackness where something once had been. The voices following after, soughing through my head like wind through trees.

No sleep, no peace, the anxious murmurs, old bones rustling like ancient scrolls. I have trouble hearing my therapist over the susurration – she repeats everything once, twice. Again please. Sorry.
She doesn’t say “integration”, she says “homeostasis”.

My switching tics return.
I stop exercising because i keep trying to “go home”.
I pull away from people, from work, from helping.
I don’t fit in my body correctly.
I break my ankle.

Maybe it seems like my year started out good, got great, and then got fucked.
Kinda accurate.
Maybe it looks like i started out walking, broke into a run, then tripped on a stone in the road and went sprawling.
I mean, that does look like road rash.

All those years spent fighting the urge my parents programmed into me to go home. I think in resisting it i found true direction. My Fortress of Solitude. My true north.
Homeostasis. HOME.

This has been a good year.

**********

I have some resolutions. I have some little goals and some bigger ones. I intend to continue on as i have been, one foot in front of the other, pushing doggedly forward, adding one kilometre onto the next, putting distance between myself and the place i was told to go, and instead heading towards the place i want to be.

My resolutions this year are less nebulous, more distinct and definitive.
They are little things like building my wardrobe to better reflect my own personal style, and having exercise be an integral part of my personal hygiene, like showering and brushing my teeth.
They are bigger things too, like blogging and keeping in touch with family and friends. Deepening my relationships; letting worthy people in a bit more.
Returning to helping and growing its scope.
Getting my house shipshape, top to bottom. Declutter. Organise. Move Kiddo downstairs and finally turn his room into my makeup/change room, with a day bed and a light-up mirror.
Keep moving our home toward healthier eating.
Read more fiction, and maybe even write some?
Blog more than last year, maybe even through the tough bits this time?

It’s 5:37am on January 1st, and i was woken by a bad dream a couple of hours ago. I got up, got a cup of tea, recorded what i remembered of the dream, and then i brought up my blog and clicked that little rounded rectangle button that says WRITE, with a plus sign, and bashed out this wee thingy.

Not a bad start to the year.
Homeostasis right now looks like bed and hubby-shnuggles.

Love and Peace To You, and Happy New Year!
~H~