Part 39 What Am I?

This felt so real and familiar.

Gia's Universe

Tree sun clouds

A major shift occurred in Gia’s mind and heart. She no longer looked at the house or Drew in the same way.  Whereas before there was a promise of tomorrow’s happy life that made all the struggling worth it, now Gia started to see things exactly as they were – a stark reality. She started panicking inside, like a lost soul trapped and imprisoned in the old house. Gia no longer looked at the cracks in the wall lovingly, neither did she looked affectionately at the peeling paint, and everything else that needed fixing now loomed horribly, casting ugly shadows.

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Hiding between the Shelves

I’ve always looked for answers between words, between the pages, between the slowly dwindling book shelves in today’s bookstores. As I walk through Barnes and Nobles this evening, I’m hit by the smell of new books and the underlying smell of coffee. I’m in my element as I stalk the shelves in search of books on blogging, writing, creating.

I’m on a mission for a specific book, yet as I’ve done since childhood the titles of books suck me in until I’m wandering aimlessly throughout the store. Newly released fiction and non-fiction. Self-help. Running my hand across the smooth, cool covers, I feel safe.

Rounding the corner of the religion section, I slow down and glance at a teenager standing in front of the addiction and recovery section. He is dressed in Perry Meridian’s school colors-gold and purple. I imagine him having left basketball practice. His neatly dressed suburban parents are shopping, eating dinner in one of the adjoining outdoor stores and restaurants.

Underneath the shiny surface, someone in his family struggles with addiction. Does he struggle? Or-more than likey- does one of his suburbanite parents struggle with a hidden addiction that only he sees at home?

I’ve stalked the self-help, recovery section for many years. It began when I too was a teenager. In early adulthood it became an obsession. I yearned for the wisdom between the pages. I yearned to understand the dysfunction in my family, but mostly the dysfunction within.

He doesn’t notice me staring at him as he intently glances at the titles. My propensity to stare, however rude, is one of my many traits. It is as though if I stare at someone or something long enough then I can figure out their story, perhaps find a common bond.

I force myself to stop staring and turn the corner walking toward the other side of the store. The fiction section is on my left. Awkward teenagers and book loving adults stand in front of bookshelves, lost in thought. I breathe in the smell of crisp pages, smooth covers, fresh ink.

Throughout my life, bookstores have served as a refuge for me. My mom and grandma loved to shop to the point of what I would label addiction. I spent more time inside of malls then I did truly getting to know my parents. Everything was surface with little underneath.

As I turned ten and eleven, mom allowed me to shop in the bookstore alone while she and grandma shopped. Grandma often came looking for me. I recall her watching me for a moment. I could tell she was watching me out of the corner of my eye, so I continued to stare at the book I really wanted.

I knew if I stared at the book long enough, grandma would ask, “You want it?” I’d say yes. I loved the feel of the small plastic bag containing the soft paperback book. I’d often leave the book in the bag to protect it when I was reading it. I kept my books in immaculate condition, having read them so fast that the pages were barely creased.

As we’d drive away in my mom’s mini-van, I sat in the backseat drowning out their arguing and gossiping. I’d escape.

Later I discovered this was a form of disassociation.

It is what I consider to be one of the healthier ways I’ve disassociated during my thirty-six years.

I See Childhood

Bathwater

Bathwater

In this post, I talk about a popular theme developing each week as I sit on my therapist’s couch. Bathing. In Intrusive Thoughts; Mom’s Voice I say “I see childhood.” In this post I’m briefly able to describe the flashback…

I look at the pink bath towel as I wipe my hairy adult legs. I study crooked six-month old teal nail polish and the green veins on top of my feet. As I stand up, the bubble-gum pink towel freezes me. Flash. It’s bath time.

Just outside the bathroom door, mom turns, rests her hand against the wall. “I’ll be watchin YOU. So, better dry right.”

I scream until I think I’ll go mad. I hate it. Hate having to tell her I’m done so she can watch me dry off. Sometimes I scream so hard, my face flushes fire-engine red and all I hear is the sharp buzz in my ears.

Thump! Thump!

I stop and listen to the sound.

It is my heart beating in my ears. I feel the red gooey heart frantically pumping blood. I see it. I’m in a rage. I cry so often that my throat is sometimes sore and a sense of exhaustion tugs at my whole being. Even my legs feel heavy.

Erin’s Law Could Prevent Abuse

Mandy wrote about Erin’s law in a recent post. I agree one-hundred percent this law must be passed. We need many voices to advocate for change.

Erin’s law is vital if we want to protect our children.

There are a disturbing amount of sexual predators blending into the masses. Unfortunately, even “safe” places such as church and school are not sacred. In my late teens, I had a cross-country coach groom me. Raised catholic, sex was a shameful subject. Off limits. There was no “the talk” much less education on my parent’s part regarding sexual predators. In their defense, there was little dialogue in the 90s about sexual predators. It was a subject people seemed unaware of or found uncomfortable-inappropriate even-to talk about. If Erin’s law existed perhaps I would have better understood the signs of grooming and would have listened to the little place in the pit of my stomach screaming something is not right here the first time he lured me to his apartment.
Please spread the word about Erin’s law.

Maya Angelou, A Beautiful Survivor Turned Thriver

Life even after dropping from the stem.

Life even after dropping from the stem.

I was having technical difficulties when I posted the previous reblog from Creative Talents Unleashed- Writing Tip:  Tips for Writers from Maya Angelou.  I wanted to explain my reasoning behind the reblog.  My tablet froze.  I grew frustrated and hit reblog.  I felt compelled to reblog it.  Maya’s ability to overcome diversity and emerge as a profound, insightful author shows the power of words.

I wanted to mention how inspiring I find Maya as both a writer and a survivor.  She turned her abuse into words of wisdom and strength.  In middle school, I attended a Y Teen conference in Gary, Indiana.  Maya was the speaker.  She read Phenomenal Woman. I was excited to hear a “real” writer speak.  As I listened to her strong voice, I thought I want to be like her.  I want to be a phenomenal woman one day.

At the time, I don’t recall if I knew she was an abuse survivor. An awkward fourteen year old girl, I had yet to fully understand my abuse.  In many ways, I was convinced that my mother’s behavior was normal.  I was bad so of course she hit me I reasoned for many years, even into adulthood.

Freshman year of college, Maya’s book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was on the reading syllabus.  Out of all the books I was required to read Maya’s is forever lodged in my mind and my heart.  I understood then that she was abused.  It was as if I’d found a kindred spirit, fellow survivor within the pages.

I don’t think it was an accident that I encountered Maya as a teenager and young adult.  I don’t believe there are any accidents.  She inspired me.  She didn’t allow the abuse to destroy her, but instead used her experience to reach others.

I was sad when she passed away, yet her words will always be there, like a good friend you can turn to when you feel like giving up, allowing trauma to overtake your mind and soul.  So, with this said I will continue to fight even though I have to admit the last month has been difficult.

I found this post before I went to bed last night.  As I blankly starred at the baby blue walls and the white ceiling, I questioned if I could continue to live with all of this pain and grief.  It was a feeling mind you, not a plan.  But when thoughts turn to leaving this world, it’s an indication that I’m slipping.  As I was reading blogs, I stumbled across this post.

Once again Maya made an appearance.

I will continue writing.  Continue looking forward.  Continue to follow Maya’s strength and words of wisdom.  If I give up then I admit defeat and once again give my power away.  Freezing rain continues to sprinkle the ground beyond my window.  It is gloomy out.  Survivors I have met on WordPress who are becoming thrivers encourage me to look beyond the gloom and ice both inside and out.  Mandy is one such example.  She is telling her story and not allowing voices from the past silence or destroy her.  Write on…