#ME TOO

 

 

 

 

I never thought I’d write about my dirty little secret forty years later but the culture that is forming around abuse against women compels me to speak my truth.
 
It was a warm summer day in suburban New York, the kind of day for halter and shorts and a cooler full of water and juice boxes that accompanied my boys and me to a local park. Suddenly I heard a scream which was undoubtedly my youngest, who had just fallen off the jungle gym, blood gushing from the side of his head. I scraped him up, heart beating, and rushed off to our pediatrician, a mere 4 blocks away. We were ushered into an examining room with the doctor following closely behind. One quick look and it was ascertained that butterfly bandages would do the job. My shoulders relaxed and I stood near the table hugging my baby just as I felt a hand slide under my halter and onto my bare breast. When I pulled myself away the good doctor planted a kiss on my mouth, tongue and all, as I recoiled, taking my baby into my arms. He said something to the effect that it was no big deal and besides he was only honoring how attractive I was. I left in a hurry, not even bothering to stop at the desk where his wife was in charge of accounts.
 
In retrospect the question became why didn’t I make an issue of it? First of all, I am a woman with compassion and I did not want to hurt his wife who was just outside the folding wooden door. Secondly, my little three year old was on the table of a man who he needed to trust and I didn’t want him to see my anger or fear around the doctor’s perverse behavior.Thirdly, relatively new in town, I didn’t know how to get or even find a new pediatrician that would come as recommended as this one. So I kept my mouth shut and returned time and again, cowering mostly in the corner of the examining room so as to avoid being fondled one way or another.
 
Embarrassed and actually ashamed (perhaps I had come on to him I wondered) it wasn’t until a year later, while at a cocktail party that the subject of sexual abuse came up and various benign tales were shared. “I can top that one,” I said and blurted out my story. With a horrified husband sitting nearby, suffice it to say it took him not a day or two to have our son’s records changed and off we went to a more professional practice.
 
Why tell now? So many of the recent “me too” stories have involved women in the workplace being made to succumb in order to keep their jobs. My story is about compassion…a woman’s innate compassion to not hurt another woman (the doctor’s wife in this case) and my desire not to frighten my child by making a scene. Simply put it was easier for me to get over it and bury the truth than make a big deal of it.
 
But there were deeper issues. Not respecting my body (or myself for that matter) started a long time ago. There was an abuse scene I recall when I was 3, some approaches made by uncles, and gradually a sense that my body was somehow shameful and of little worth. Whether these feelings came from the original abuse or not, the injury has caused me a lifetime of body loathing, hypochondria, and finally therapy to learn respect for the vessel in which I live.

The Calm Before the Storm

It is a sunny crisp morning–a stark contrast from the past few days of rain, heavy winds, and awful humidity. I sip my coffee and gaze at the six unopened gallons of water sitting on the counter next to several packages of flashlight batteries and two boxes of candles—hurricane supplies that the radio and television commentators insisted we have on hand as the Category 4 Earl was hurling directly toward Cape Cod.

Never being one to fret over the weather and in fact being quite the opposite—relishing a good storm for the drama of it– I protested when my husband went to the store to stock up. As a person mildly suspicious of the media, I had long since believed that on air weathermen churned up their stories just to get the viewing audience to stay tuned. After all, the more viewers the larger the advertising revenue.

So I awaited the storm going about my daily routine while those around me literally spent days battening down the hatches—boarding up windows, testing generators, filling their grocery carts to the brim as they worried, watched and waited for the onslaught that never came. No doubt we live in a fear based culture buying into what “big brother” is selling at the moment. Although no one truly knew the magnitude of Earl’s wrath, the hype became so massive that it paralyzed most.  Few were taking the time to remember the ocean always has the final say—as does the wind and soaring temperatures.

Someone once told me that the definition of FEAR boils down to FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL. How much time is wasted dreading what might happen rather than living with what is actually happening?

It occurred to me that the real storms of life offer no time to prepare– they just come and we are made to embrace them– such storms as illness, death, loss of relationship, to name a few. We live through the ordeal using past trauma’s as our guide and are simply made to be IN the hardship, pain and grief until it runs it’s course. Unexpected is the way of life. We have few options but to heed Robert Frost’s advice when he said: “The way out is through.”

Take precautions, yes, but then meet the challenge. If we pay attention where Mother Nature is concerned we will be gifted with small secrets and large lessons. Accept the mystery as a catalyst for change. The unexpected makes everything new and fresh so that there is a calm not only before but after the storm.

Becoming Your Own Guru

This blogging experience is proving to be more stimulating than I ever expected. Receiving so many varying opinions from women all over the country and the world is such a great way to connect. For as well-known therapist, Jean Shinoda Bolen said in her little book, The Millioneth Circle, “when there are a million circles of women worldwide,  the culture will shift from the patriarchy to the matriarchy.” Perhaps the circles we are developing on line is making this happen?

In any case, a recent comment regarding my play therapy blog  from Tracey Williams caught my attention.  She was surprised that I had had a disconnect from my mentor, Joan Erikson’s wisdom regarding the importance of play. “From your journeys of self development, I always think you are so wise,” she said. “I guess it’s a continual ebb and flow, being stuck and then moving again.”

No kidding, I thought. For sure, I am no different than any other seeking woman who is working hard to understand aspects of herself all the while being challenged by outside forces that threaten our footing. The Second Journey is all about that…change being thrust upon one which causes a crisis of feelings during which all of our underpinnings seem to come undone. It is only through time and going back to our core strengths as well as our intuitive consciousness that we right our selves and go on.

So Tracey (and others who think this author has all the answers) it is a continual journey…this getting to know oneself and being able to live the truth we seek. Surely we can all be gurus. I might have some innate wisdom that is peculiar to me but so do most women I know.  It is an illusion we have of authors and other authorities that they indeed have the answers.  Hopefully as we continue to share each other’s truth we will all become that which we seek.

Feather Your Own Nest

At 6 am it was much too early for a phone call. Only someone with bad news would be on the other end. I bolted upright and grabbed the receiver.

“I haven’t slept all night,” my friend Pammy whispered. “They’re tearing down the cabin any minute and I need you to help me save a bird’s nest that’s tucked in the rafters. It’s bad luck, you know, to knock something down that bears new life inside of it.”

“Huh?” I said, wondering why someone more practical than superstitious would be fussing over such a thing. Reluctantly, I hopped out of bed, pulled on my sweats, and headed over to the piece of property she and her newly retired husband bought which included a ramshackle cabin that would cost more to restore than save.

As I pulled into her driveway, so did the bull dozer. With little or no time to spare, we rushed inside the cabin, grabbed a chair to stand on, reached for the nest, and found three baby birds chirping away as their panicked mother flew the coop. Removing the nest from its perch, we placed it outside on a tree branch far from the impending chaos and then stood back, as the bulldozer lifted it’s enormous fork and plunged it into the roof. Two more stabs and the cottage crumbled.

“The builder told us that the foundation would never hold a new structure,” Pammy explained, a touch of melancholy in her voice. “Without a good foundation I suppose nothing works. Still, we managed to salvage a few things, you know, to keep the history of the place alive—like this enamel table, some stones from the fireplace, and that wonderful old sink that Ted wants installed at his outdoor cook center. Otherwise, the place has outlived its usefulness.”

The word outlived coupled with random thoughts of the bird’s nest got me thinking. In trying to save the situation, my friend and I– mothering mothers that we are—didn’t think twice before jumping in to “save a nest,” forgetting in our haste that merely touching it would keep the mother from returning forever. Our coming to the rescue was unsolicited as it has been so many times for me when I have meddled in my grown children’s lives only to make matters worse instead of better.

Once again, I’ve received another lesson about the “nature” of things. It’s best that I stick to feathering my own nest.

Play Therapy

Play Therapy                     Blog 5

In an effort to be relieved of prolonged free-floating anxiety, I began seeking holistic nourishment. Starting with classical Pilates, I added breathing exercises, visualization, guided meditation and even cranial sacral massage. Although each modality was rewarding and at times even healing, this exercise proved to be expensive, time consuming, and after awhile, not altogether satisfying.

Then the grandchildren came. Wanting to spend every waking moment with three delightful boys, I put on hold all therapies and entered their world completely.  There was nothing they weren’t interested in and as I either participated or  simply watched them cast their fishing rods, catch crabs, drive golf balls, learn to sail, I became lost in the moment, totally immersed (as were they) in each endeavor.  To top it off, the seven year old (during down times!) introduced me to the art of bird watching! He dragged a long lost bird feeder out of the shed, filled the bird bath with water and had me join him on the window seat as he explained which species were coming and going.

As one day led into another, I noticed my back loosening up, depressing thoughts vacating my head, a new kick in my step, and my restless sleep patterns all but disappear. “We spend the first half of our life learning to be an adult,” Pablo Picasso said, “and the second half learning to be a child.” Had I all but forgotten all those conversations with my mentor, Joan Erikson, a child herself at the age of 92, as she talked about the importance of play? “The point is,” she would insist, “get out of your head and into your body. Don’t you know dear that when you are being curious and playful there is little opportunity to fail?”

In the end, it wasn’t formal therapy that would necessarily be the answer to my issues. Rather it was indulging in child’s play…being in the moment…a willingness to discover something new, delighting in serendipity, saying yes to the ordinary as well as the extraordinary.

“And a child shall lead them,” it says in the Bible, and so, once again they are doing for me…these grandsons who came east only for play have left me full of new wisdom and gratitude.