Saturday, May 1, 2010

Home Again

It is a few minutes past my bad day. I promised myself I would not dwell on it today. I did not take the day off of work and force myself to celebrate something -- anything -- as long as it does not land me back there in my head.

I went to work, hoping that things would be dynamic enough to demand attention and focus on some pressing task at hand. And for most of the day, fortune smiled on me -- I was so engaged in so many tasks, some with a genuine sense of immediacy, that April 30, 1976 did not haunt me all day.

Sure, it whispered a lot. And taunted me from time to time. My Pandora radio selected Carole King's Home Again. And damnit if I did not walk right into it.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna make it home again, the tune begins. I know for many music is evocative. Today it was for me, I confess. That tune -- it was the first I heard in the car on my bad day. It was an 8-track of Tapestry so it looped through a couple of times.

Sometimes I wonder if it was planned -- those first few words cementing the fear that I would never see my parents again and the fellow who abducted me would be the last person I would ever see. The song sent me to wondering about him again and what was planned, what was spontaneous and why. Always there is why. I got lost for a time in why.

But fortune was smiling on me and there was another genuinely immediate demand on my time. And that gave me the opening I needed to focus on a task that was more than a distraction.

Focus and concentration helped. And when I got home, I jumped on the motorcycle. OK, I cautiously settled on it and worked at trying to relearn how to ride. In the yard...right turns only. Just getting it in gear was a challenge. But it was just what the day demanded -- intense concentration and oh, so many failures. At least the worst thing that could happen if I dumped was falling in dog shit I missed when I scanned the yard this week.

So now it is not my bad day anymore. It is May 1 -- May Day. It is not 1976 anymore. It is 2010.

It is 12:22 AM and I am here with the dogs and being dogged by Carole King singing sometimes she wonders if she's ever gonna make it home again.

34 years. And though I walk, breathe and live I have not yet made it home again.

I am still marking time by my bad day. April 30 is still my measure. It is 34 years since the day I got hurt. My world is still divided into before and after.

I am holding out hope that this year will be the healing year, the year my experiences fit together seamlessly and I can be whole again.

Maybe this is the year that the tune's final words are the ones that move me instead of the opening. Maybe Carole King's taunt of Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna make it home again will transform into the comfort of I wanna be home again and feeling right.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Filter

I had the experience of seeing how my thoughts work. I view so much through the filter of my bad day...through the filter of having been hurt. It is eye opening. And disturbing. Distressing really.

I have been watching lectures of interest on the web. One of the lectures was Phillip Zimbardo, speaking about cruelty, evil and Abu Graib. When I see the photos I weep. Without fail.

A very small part of the lecture referenced an experiment Zimbardo conducted at Stanford in 1971. I do not know if his intent was to evaluate the correlative/causal relationship between power and cruelty or evil. But the conclusion was evident.

His experiment created a prison situation. College students were the subjects. One group was tagged as prisoners; a second group as guards. They had been peers...undergraduate, middle class college students. The experiment was slated to last two weeks.

The behavior of the students got so out of hand, the experiment had to be stopped after six days. The students who had become the guards demonstrated cruel, abusive behavior toward the students who were the prisoners. The experiment cycled so far out of control that the students who were prisoners were psychologically harmed.

Zimbardo referenced another often cited experiment done by Stanley Milgram at Yale. In Milgram's experiment, the subjects were told they were there to help the person they thought was really the subject to learn. They were instructed to provide a jolt of electricity when the subject did not correctly identify something that was to be memorized. Each time an error was made, the jolt would increase. On the panel was a warning that if the shock went beyond, serious harm could occur.

The 'learner' in another room whimpered and even yelled as the intensity of the shock increased.

The subjects of the experiment were really the 'teachers' and not the learners. The study was really about whether they would do what they were instructed by an authority figure (white coated experiment director) no matter the cost to another.

Astonishingly, most were willing to administer shocks beyond the 'safe' zone and many were willing to administer the maximum jolt.

Both experiments demonstrate that good people are capable of doing bad, very bad, even evil things.

As it happens Zimbardo and Milgram were high school classmates in the Bronx, part of the New York City public school system. They graduated together in 1950.

Quite a coincidence -- two high school classmates independently doing some of the most often cited experiments in cruelty and evil.

Now here is where my filter slides in:

The lecture was interesting. The experiments were interesting. And I was learning something I did not know.

And then I heard the name of the high school. And everything stopped. I could not hold anything I heard after that. The fellow who hurt me attended the same high school several years later.

Also a coincidence, yes. But my flawed, faulty, filtered thinking took over. I began to look for messages in it...lessons I was supposed to learn. Then my thoughts spun out of control and I began to wonder if the universe was speaking to me...admonishing me not to let thoughts about him get too far.

I know this is not productive. Though not dangerous, it is damaging.

And right now, I am at a loss for how to get hold of it. I do not know how to make it stop.

It has been a long time since I have posted. Maybe writing again will help me get hold of it. And if I am lucky, it will help me learn from it and maybe even grow.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sad And Beautiful

Spring is here. Some crocus are opening. Iris are popping through. It is really quite beautiful. And I am so sad.

Spring challenges me. I want so much to be part of new growth, new life, new change. And inside, my sadness spreads. It is just about a month from the anniversary of my bad day.

I had wanted to find a different -- I thought better way to mark time. The kind of markers normal people use -- birthdays, new years, happy anniversaries. And I am disappointed that simply deciding it is what I want does not seem enough to make it happen.

Maybe I will always be a little sad in the spring. Maybe it will always be sad. Sad and beautiful.

Maybe I can learn not to beat myself up so much for the feelings I cannot vanquish. Maybe I can learn to at least make peace...if not friends with the sadness. Maybe I can make peace if not friends with its depth. Its texture. Its size. Its color.

Maybe I can learn to hold...if not embrace my experience.

Maybe it is ok if spring is sad.

Sad and beautiful.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I have agreed to watch myself. Watch my thoughts. I have been at it just one day...well, a day and a half. I visited with my therapist yesterday and we talked about my insistence on 'being in it' to protect myself from it. Sounds pretty crazy, huh? Crazy or not, it is complicated. I understood but did not quite get it when she spoke to me about it a few times before. I keep my mind there so I am not caught off guard or surprised if it comes up somehow. I keep my mind there so that if I get triggered, I can better manage my reaction. But the cost of a muted reaction to a potential trigger is really quite high. And I am seeing that only now for the first time.

I am watching my thoughts and self protective that I can correct it. I am trying to learn how to be fully present, even when I am off my meditation cushion. My job is to learn how to live in the here and now.

I thought I was living in the past, which is only kind of accurate. Really, I am anticipating the bad day informs the vigilance, but is really future based and the source of my unyielding anxiety.

And as it turns out, I am in it all the time. I had no idea how much time I spend in it. Sometimes, I am caught up in the sensory aspect...scent, voice, taste. I do not bid them...they come to me and I do not know what triggers them. Most times, though, it is my mind -- preparing me. Steeling myself against what might happen if... I do not even know what an if might be.

I never thought of it as hyper-vigilance before. And I am not sure that I accept it is now. It is constant, but there is no sense of immediacy to it. So I am not sure.

So I am going to try to learn how to live in the moment. And I am going to use my past/future vigilance as the vehicle.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Crushing Violets: Making My Healing About Me

Yesterday, I sent an e-mail to the fellow who hurt me. I sent an e-mail forgiving him. I am ready to let him go and make my healing about me. It's time. Here's what I wrote:

You are responsible for the darkest day I've ever known -- and the attendant hole left where my child trust, innocence and vibrancy dwelled before you stole them.

I am working hard at healing and only now beginning to understand that the strength of my character was not enough to lift your 200 lb will.

I forgive you. And I hope that carrying even one less grown-up child on your back lightens your load.

Mark Twain wrote Forgiveness is the frangrance violets shed on the heels that have crushed them. His words have inspired my effort at alchemy. I want to transform violence into violets.

I hope you carry a transformation with you as well as you make your way in the world.


Now it's time to work at healing by focusing on me.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tolerating Cowardice, Recognizing Crazy and Finding Wisdom

I visited with my therapist today. Fessed up about being so very angry at my smaller self. Told how much I want to yell at her -- scream at her, 'how could you let him'. I know there is a cruelty in that. I know it is unkind. And I would never NEVER do that to a twelve year old who had been abducted, raped and beat. Yet...I fight against doing it to 'her'. I braced for a lecture...some focus on how cognitively backward it is...knowing in my brain what is wrong with it...but knowing in my heart it is the truth...for now, anyway. I needn't have braced. There was no talk about changing my faulty thinking and beliefs. We talked more about my anger at my smaller self...exactly what I wanted to say, what I wanted to yell and why.

Why. Why. WHY?

I believe I should have been braver. I think 'she' was a coward. I do not subscribe to the belief that 'she' ought to have fought back. He was bigger than I. Much bigger. And I was trapped in his car. Door handle removed from the inside, eliminating even the hope of escape.

I do believe, though, that 'she' ought to have refused completely, whatever the cost. I believed that my compliance -- even after a period of holding out...refusing to participate...made me complicit.

I recognize that I alternate between I and 'she' and 'her'. I do not want to own her complicity, her behavior, her compliance. I do not want to own her experience.

I did hold out for a time. I refused him. I would not say or do the things he demanded. And I got beat. And I cried. And he got angry. And he beat me. I cried. He beat me harder. Threatened my life if he saw another tear. He had threatened my life right away. I thought that was why he abducted me. I did not know it was going to involve sex. I knew I was going to die. That is what he said. I believed him. But with the tears, there was a condition...if he saw another tear. Somehow, I stopped crying. I did not show any more tears. Still he beat me. Taunted me. Daring me to show him my tears. But I did not cry for him. I stopped feeling his blows sharply. I felt them in a dull, distant way. And I did not cry for him. But my tears moved inside. I had a vision that my tears rolled down my face, but somehow, they were moving inside...protected from the elements...protected from him. I watched my tears drip from my face and create a puddle. I watched as the puddle grew, creating a pond. A pond of tears. Then my view got wider and the pond was more like a lake. And my tears were a steady, gentle rain. Then my view got wider and the rain got bigger and rougher and the lake that had been a pond that had been a puddle that had been tears moving inside along my face became an ocean. And my ocean of tears began to undulate. And my tears became waves. And they grew fierce...mighty...creating wild rushing waves, large and frightening. And my tears that were waves crashed a shore where they washed out sandcastles and trickled along a small girl's feet and ankles.

That was my vision. It was really quite beautiful. The water that was the ocean that came from my tears was a color I have never again seen. A green that was so blue. A blue that was so green. Confusing. And oh so beautiful.

While I had my vision, I felt his weight against mine, crashing over and over again. But it did not hurt. And I heard him taunting me. Daring me to show him my tears. But I did not cry for him. My tears moved inside.

And though it was so beautiful, it scared me to my core. I knew then that I had lost my grip and had gone crazy. That my mind was not strong enough to withstand whatever was happening. And when I understood that, nothing mattered anymore.

That is when I gave up. And that is the moment I decided to comply. That is the moment I decided to do and say whatever he asked. Because nothing mattered anymore. Somehow, that is the moment I died, even though I was breathing still. That is the moment my mind failed me. Or maybe it saved me. But that 12 year old self decided there was nothing left to hold out for. So I let him. I let him and I surrendered. I let him and I contributed. I let him and I participated. I let him and I helped. I let him and I died. This is my complicity.

I talked with my therapist about my complity. Again no lectures. But maybe, she suggested, maybe my complicity was my way of fighting back. I rejected that. I still reject it. My way of refusing? I rejected that. I still reject it.

But I will allow that maybe...just maybe I understood that if I continued to refuse him...and the beating would my escape into a vision. And maybe I knew that if I slipped farther away, I might never make it back...I might be irretrievably lost. I was already on the other side of crazy. But I was still aware. And maybe I understood how fragile my mind was in that moment and how close to going away for good I could become.

And in that, I can find some measure of wisdom on 'her' part.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Compassion. Acceptance. Meditation.

I am struggling to find compassion for myself -- for my smaller self. I am instead condemning, judging and, I recognize, cruel.

I cannot find a way to get back into her space. No matter how hard I try, I can never be twelve again. And I can never stand in the shoes of a twelve year old in 1976.

I view it from 45 year old 2008 eyes. Condemning, judgmental eyes.

I do not view myself as a cruel person. I place a high value on kindness. And were I to encounter another child who has been hurt -- or an adult who had also been hurt as a child, I know the warmth, compassion and empathy would flow through me. I would do my best to comfort.

Why can I not offer that to myself? Why do I bring contempt rather than compassion to my relationship with my smaller self? Though I long for the day when I can throw my arms around her and give her some of what she did not get at twelve, the truth is that my hatred for her is protected so deeply I have not yet gotten at it.

Intellectually, I understand that I have reversed something -- that it is the man who hurt me who deserves the hatred. It is the man who abducted, raped and beat me who deserves my hatred. It is the man who told me he would kill me and exercised so much control over me in the three hours during which he had me trapped that he became more powerful than god who deserves my hatred.

But he let me go. Every time his car slowed, I got ready to die. My eyes were closed. And I could not tell if he slowed for a red light -- a STOP sign -- or a more definitive stop. By the time it was over, I was so whacked out, I am not sure I even wanted him to let me go. But he did. And I am profoundly grateful. I do not know how to reconcile that with hatred for him. And I guess it has to go someplace.

I am working to cultivate a regular meditation practice in part to develop acceptance. During meditation, I try my best to accept whatever comes up, acknowledge it, and then go back to my breath. I have high hopes that learning to accept my thoughts during meditation without judgment or condemnation, will help me learn to accept my smaller self without judgment or condemnation. A step toward loving, honoring and praising her. A step toward healing.