Friday, April 24, 2020


I didn't know where the tears were coming from. They'd started at lunch time when Dearest One was sharing thoughts about his own counselling session earlier in the morning. Tears welled up and I couldn't stop them from spilling over. I have felt tender emotionally since the other day. Joy has not left completely. It's there under the surface when I think of the younger versions of myself being welcomed into my healing instead of trying to shut them out.  These tears felt like ones of gratitude and I welcomed them.

But then the tears did not stop when we finished up our lunch. I went up to my office and listened to a podcast (her latest one) while I finished up some work tasks. The interview hit close to home and I found myself with tears spilling over several times. At the end she talked about truth tellers. That hit a chord with me because that is my nickname in a group of women whom I meet with weekly to pray with and share in our journey as Christians. When I joined in with them I was told to pick a name for myself. A descriptor. The only thing that came to me was the name Truth Teller. So that is who I've been ever since.

Next I was browsing on social media and came across this video (you have to be logged into that big social media black hole to watch it) and cried some more.

And every time my mind circled back to my conversation with Dearest One, I cried.

Crying and I are not the best of friends. Of all the feelings I swallow with regularity, tears are at the top of the list. Sometimes during a therapy session my therapist will ask me if I just swallowed some feelings. She usually asks me that after I've swallowed hard with effort.

I decided that I was done with so much feeling. I plugged my phone in to charge, logged out of my work email and closed my office door.

I went down the stairs in search of Dearest One. As I reached the bottom step I thought to myself, "We should just get drunk." Well, hell. I haven't had a drink in over 32 years. This was noooot good.

When I found Dearest One I blurted out my thoughts. I told him I couldn't stop crying, that I didn't need him to fix anything, I just needed him to listen. His eyes got big when I told him I had had the thought that we should just get drunk. I told him my emotions must be overwhelming for me to think a drink would fix them. I still couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my face as I talked. Sometimes when you want to comfort and be there for someone there just are no right words that will help. I recognized that he wanted to and I also recognized that he couldn't give me what I needed in that moment.

So I called and left a message for my therapist. Late on a Friday afternoon. The only other time I have talked to her on the phone was when we had our initial intake phone call nearly three years ago, to see if she would accept me as a client. Since then our in between appointment communication has been via text messaging.

She called back and then spent an hour, after her last scheduled appointment of the day, putting a figurative arm around my shoulder and walking me off the edge of the cliff called overwhelm. Thank God. In the midst of it all I told her about this day and that. By the time our call ended I was much calmer and where there had been feelings of anxiety in my body, there was now some space. She helped me come up with a plan until I see her next week. The tears no longer overwhelmed me. A drink no longer a solution.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Welcoming The Little's

The day after our drive I woke early and lay in bed watching my thoughts. I wondered if this was my life now. At 57 I was taking care of and re-parenting my 4 year old self. Is this what I would do for the rest of my life? Care take the smaller versions of myself? The word pathetic rose to the surface. It was all I could do to stop it in its tracks. It's a word I've used to describe myself to my therapist more than once. Used it for feeling ashamed of being this many years old with so many smaller versions trapped inside and feeling like they run the show most of the time.

One of the big deals that came up recently in therapy has been about examining just how deeply could I receive the love and care that Dearest One extends to me. I can complain all I want about not being cared for, and about, but perhaps there is love and care being extended to me that I am not actively receiving. Well damn. Can't that be his fault?

I don't like owning my shit. I want Dearest One to not only own my hurt feelings but all the shit I say as a result, as well. But after that session I took some time and experimented taking my thumb and forefinger as if I was describing to someone how thick something was. How deep could I receive the love that was being offered to me, anyway? When my thumb and forefinger had come together until there was half an inch of space I thought, yep, that works. As I started to type my findings to my therapist I stopped. I tried measuring that space again. I lowered it until there was one quarter of an inch of space left. I kept it steady. My body settled. As I found my truth, tears started to well. Who knew something could feel so authentic. I erased my text and started over. One quarter of an inch, I typed. We talked about working on opening up and seeing how it felt to let it go a smidgen deeper.

This morning as I was trying not to stay stuck in thinking of myself as being pathetic, into my head came a picture of my four year old self. I was standing turned sideways to her when she came up to me, with all the smaller selves of mine trailing behind her. She tugged on my dress and asked " Do I matter?" There is no other phrase that could get my immediate attention than that one. It has been the cry of my heart for as long as I can remember.

I turned to her and imagined kissing her all over her face. I knew though that she would shrink from that so I knelt down, kissed her on the forehead and gathered her in my arms, reassuring her as I did so, that she did indeed matter. That I would do everything in my power to keep her safe and release her from the trauma that she'd held onto for so long. I promised that I would continue to show up for her and all the little's behind her.

As I released her and stood up she reached for my hand and I watched as the little's joined hands and took their place on the other side of me, the next biggest one reaching up for my hand on that side. We turned and walked down the road for a while before I stopped and gathered them all close in my arms. I promised them that I would show up and do the work no matter how hard it felt or how much I was tempted to quit when the going got tough. They deserved their freedom. And so did I.

I felt like their mother. Protective. Determined. Loving. Fierce in all the right ways.

These pictures were still fresh in my mind when joy came bubbling up to the surface.

Joy.  I was so surprised.

Me and the Little's welcome it to our journey.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Encountering Potholes

I know by how fast he is driving that he hasn't seen the pothole we're about to hit and I grip the door
handle to soften the impact.

"Son of a bitch!" escapes his lips as his truck, an extension of himself, bounces up and then slams back down on the asphalt. He touches his brakes and glances in his rear view mirror to see if someone is following close behind him. If Dearest One could stop and scold the pothole for being there, he would. Then, he'd put a hand on the hood of his truck, and apologize for not seeing the it.

As the echo of expletives fades in the cab of the truck, I realize my hand is glued to the door handle. Anxiety, in the form of a thumping heart beat and a tightness that snakes its way up my chest and into my throat, gets my attention.

"Breathe,"  I tell myself, "You are safe." I am not four years old. No one is chasing me. I don't need to hide, flinch, or cover my face. I catch myself just before I start to purse lip breathe Instead I open my mouth wide and take a long, slow gasp in and then breathe out an audible aaaaaahhhh, through my mouth. I do this several times while Dearest One, minus his hearing aids today, drives on unaware.

How many times has this reaction played out in my body and mind while I was unable to notice it happening? It occurs to me to tell Dearest One what is going on. It will help me to reorient myself to the here and now. I take one last deep breath in and out and feel my now stiff fingers unfurl themselves from the door handle. I flex them slowly, like I'm counting by fives, to ease the pain.

"My anxiety went through the roof when you swore. I'm working hard at reassuring my four year old self that she is safe. That no harm will come to her. That she doesn't need to grip the door handle in fear. That you aren't dangerous."

He's caught off guard by my admission. Concern washes over his face. Regret does, too. I tell him I have always tensed up when he swears but this is the first time I am aware enough to feel it in my body; to let it rise to the surface, acknowledge it and let it flow on through.

I can tell he has not only heard me, but has absorbed what I've said, because he sits up straighter and pays more attention to the road in front of us. I doubt he will ever swear at hitting a pothole again.

People say "that was then, this is now" without the awareness that our bodies carry our trauma on a cellular level and no amount of pithy sayings will move it from the past to the present and on its way through to integration.  I used to believe I could think my way to emotional health. Turns out I need to feel my way there. Sometimes in the middle of doing just that I murmur "I hate this. "This sucks." "I want to curl up in a ball."  

The first time my therapist ever sat close to me, I gave a subtle flinch every time she moved her hands. She had to sit on them to stop waving them around as she talked. The first time she demonstrated how we would work together on somatic therapies we both felt my entire inner being back the fuck up when she moved her foot a mere 8 inches towards me.

That was nearly three years ago. Some days now I ask for a hug before I leave; a sign of the work we've done to build a trust relationship. Even so I've come to see that one of the effects of having developmental trauma is that I navigate the world with an undercurrent of  hyper vigilance in any encounter I have. My therapist has helped me see this is through no fault of my own. It just is. It won't always be this way.

These days we have our sessions via Zoom. Surprisingly, (or not) the extra distance that a screen provides has helped me relax even further and the sessions have delved deep into childhood trauma. It requires much trust to go there. During our recent work I felt paralyzed and momentarily couldn't move parts of my body.  I was back living in the trauma and moving would mean to risk being hurt. My breathing became as shallow as possible. My therapist watched as I shook my head ever so slightly in response to her request to try and bring my paralyzed hand up to comfort the spot on my face where I was having phantom pain from being hit as a child. "Impossible,"  I whispered.

Grief welled up in me for my younger self. In my mind I knelt down beside four year old me and cupped her face in my hands. I planted a kiss on her forehead, looked her in the eyes and told her she mattered. I let her know how sorry I was that there was no one to see her and acknowledge her pain. I promised to keep showing up for her, reminding her that she was no longer alone. Grief washed over my body and tears welled up. I whispered, "I feel sad for her." My therapist whispered back, "I do, too."