Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘adult’

A Series of Events

51ABoAle4SLHope & Possibility Through Trauma by Don Shetterly. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This is an insightful collection of essays, combined with a workbook and discussion guide, of how to live with hope and possibility after experiencing trauma. The trauma that Mr. Shetterly experienced was sexual, physical, and verbal abuse from his father and brother as a child. This trauma is spoken of briefly at the beginning of the book, but is not the focus of this work. It is primarily, and gratefully so, concerned with how we can heal, understand, and care for ourselves after having experienced such events.

“It is not a book with scientific facts and research,” states the author. “This book is about life and the struggles we face. It is also about the healing, hope, and possibilities that exist within us.” Some of the chapters included in this recipe for insight, and growth, are: “Self Acceptance”, “Rewiring the Brain”, “Personal Growth”, “Our body Connections”, “In the Moment’, and “Listening”. There are clear explanations of different issues that arise when we decide to stop running, or numbing, the pain of abuse, and a clear path on how to make it out of the valley of darkness and despair.

“Life is a series of events, choices, reactions, and growth. While one event can impact our future, it does not mean that it will control our future.” To take the step of acknowledging what has happened, can be terrifying, and the reality of not acknowledging what has happened, can fill one’s life with constant fear, anxiety, anger, and confusion. The author also speaks about healing the body, emotions and mind, by including body work, music, and affirmations. Some of the sections I found especially helpful were those that involved a guided relaxation exercise (body scan), how to calm one’s self, be mindful, and focus on the breath.

There is a lot of personal resonance with this book, and the author’s words. I have nine foster sisters that were all sexually abused in their biological families. Our adopted daughter experienced a variety of traumatic events with her birth family. I have written extensively about grief, loss, and trauma, and worked as a bereavement and trauma counselor with hospice, in hospitals, mental health facilities, prisons, and overseas with survivor’s of multiple traumas. Hope & Possibility Through Trauma, by Don Shetterly, is a welcome addition to the resources now available for those most in need of such sustenance, insight, and inspiration. Do not hesitate to get a copy for yourself or another.

Is it the scent?

images-1Some folks search for love all their lives and never find it. Some run into it in their teens and others when they’re seventy. Some strike it rich with their first love and others on their second marriage expedition. For me, it was the third time around that was the lucky charm.

The younger my age, the more certain I had been about the mystery of relationships. I thought I was wise to love’s ways. I believed, “when we fell in love we just knew it. If it didn’t work out, then it wasn’t meant to be.” Such was the awe-inspiring depths of my young perceptions about relationships.

As I’ve aged and traveled the many roads of partnership with the opposite sex, my previous certainties and simplifications have been blown away by the winds of experience. When I was a teenager, I used to think I knew everything about love and what love means. Now I know that I know very little, if anything, at all.

Why do some relationships and people, work together like two good actors on a stage, while others forget their lines, make the wrong entrance or are overwhelmed by the other actor or actresses personality or performance? Why do some folks stay together a lifetime and others less than a year, a month or a week?

There are some obvious considerations. If people are attracted to each other physically, able to communicate clearly and respect one another as complete, changing human beings, I would bet their relationship has a lot better chance of succeeding than those who lack these mutual attributes. But then again, I’ve met people who never listened to one another and have little understanding of their partner, yet continue to live together for many years with genuine contentment and joy. There are some human needs and agreements, spoken or unspoken, that the other person must fulfill in these arrangements. On the other ring finger, I’ve met people who had all the qualities I’d expect in a good marriage yet called it quits after a couple of years.

When I was eighteen years from birth I met Cindy, who was sixteen. I thought I had found true love and gone to heaven. The day we met we decided to move in together and two weeks later, with the permission of her mother, we did. Our love, lust and attention were all consuming. I would do anything to “make her happy”, thus denying my own desires and dreams and leaving her with all the decisions about how we would live and what we would do. Our plans for the future were very different, but I was blind to such realities and let my body rule my heart.

When Cindy turned eighteen and I was twenty, we married. Neither of us took it seriously (well maybe I did at the time) and thought it was a great excuse for a big party! A year after our marriage we divorced. She had done everything possible to get me angry, to make me stand up for myself, but I was lost in the poppy field of love and couldn’t get back home to my true self.

After a number of years and a couple of other interesting relationships, I met Pat. This time the roles were reversed and I found she would do everything I wanted to do, at least in the beginning. We were both involved in similar volunteer work, wanted children (and always had) and seemed to have similar goals and aspirations. Once again I thought our agreements and her acquiescence were love.

Pat and I were married and had two beautiful children. Then the truths and realities I had ignored and given lip service too, began to reveal themselves. We started arguing about everything and anything. A lot of what she had said or done in the past hadn’t been out of her desire, but because she knew it was what I had wanted to hear. Food, work, adoption, school; everything was in conflict. After eight years I came to my senses and we divorced. It was painful and difficult, but necessary. In addition to learning a lot about living with someone or how not to live with someone, our relationship had blessed us with the children we had both longed for.

Not long after our divorce I met Audrey. We’ve now been together twenty-three years and married for twenty. We were pulled together like magnets and could not deny the attraction and love that existed between us. We seem to have all the ingredients for a magical partnership – love, respect, honesty, communication, desire, admiration and support, but all the right ingredients don’t always make a good dish. We’ve been through some painful, difficult times and moments, but haven’t flinched or had doubts about our marriage. And, to tell you the truth, I don’t know why. Why are we going to happily live together until one of us dies? Why do we feel the way we do about one another? Why do we feel so comfortable and at ease with the others presence? Why am I still so in love with her after all these years?

Maybe it’s all about pheromones, the unique scents and smells we excrete to attract mates (like most animals). Yeah, that’s the ticket! That explains everything, pheromones and circumstance. The next time someone asks me how we know when we are definitely in love, I’ll tell them it all comes down to the nose: the nose, the stars, the planets, knowing your self and a truck load of luck.

I’m Supposed To Die First

“Stop the train! I want to get off!” Jean shouted. 

An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

imagesJean’s son of forty-three years had died in a restaurant. He choked to death. He had survived a life of infinite struggle as he lived with Down’s Syndrome and the isolation, stigma and cultural alienation he and his family had experienced daily.

“He was such a good soul,” Jean continued, as tears streamed down her cheeks. “Of all the things to happen, why did it have to happen to him?”

Her son Daniel had become increasingly independent as he aged and was living in a group home in the Bay Area. He was working as a street cleaner during the day and enjoying a variety of social events with his living companions on his off-hours. Jean had visited him two days prior to his death, as she has done twice a week for the last fifteen years. She said she felt blessed, burdened and bonded with Daniel in a way only mothers of developmentally delayed children can know.

“Daniel was so in the moment,” she said. “His smile was infectious.” She looked down at her hands. “I know this may sound crazy, because people think folks like him aren’t as aware of others, as they are of themselves, but Daniel,” she grinned, “was always thinking about others. He could tell when someone was down. He’d give them a big bear hug and say, ‘There, there.’”

She cried bittersweet tears. “He always said, ‘I love love.’ and would wait for you to say it. He wouldn’t do anything else until you would say, ‘I love love too.’ back to him. He would just stand there waiting, no matter how long it took.”

Jean had taken care of Daniel single handedly for most of his life. Not long after Daniel was born, his father moved away saying he couldn’t live with an “abnormal” kid. In his home country, people made fun of kids like Daniel and would say they were cursed and had the evil eye. He blamed Jean and her background for the child’s difference, telling her that her family must have done something very bad in the past.

So Jean, at age twenty-four, took on the already difficult and exhausting life of single-parenthood, combined with the complication of a child that would stay a child for much of his life.

No matter how much she loved him, the reality was that caring for Daniel was overwhelming and all-consuming. She seldom had any time to herself and finding support and child-care as he aged became increasingly difficult. Yet, she loved him like a mother loves an only child. Her identity, reason for living and self-image of who she was became increasingly ingrained with her son’s life.

When she realized that his independence and happiness would be greatly enhanced if he learned to live on his own and separate from her, she was heartbroken.

Having him move to a group home for independent living, which was a forty-five minute drive away, felt like having your ten-year-old go away for a weekend sleep-over and never coming home. She was petrified, anxious and relieved when he actually moved. She said she grieved a thousand deaths day after day and rarely allowed herself to enjoy the “freedom” of her drastically changed less-encumbered life.

“It took me years to grieve the loss of him as a boy, acknowledge him as a man, and let go of my primary identify in the world as ‘Daniel’s Mom,’” Jean said, shifting her legs in the chair. “The last four years were wonderful. I had let go of so much, was doing things I’d always wanted to try, and trusting that he was safe and happy. Then,” she closed her eyes, as her held fell back, “then I get this call and he’s gone. Just like that . . . no warning . . . no good-byes . . . no more ‘I love love.’” She put her head in her hands and sobbed.

Later, after blowing her nose and wiping her eyes, she said, “Now I have to start all over again and I don’t want to. It isn’t supposed to be like this. I’m supposed to die first, not him.” Her eyes met mine. “I want to get off. I want to just disappear.”

She took a few moments of silence, then started telling me about her and Daniel — about all the funny, crazy, confusing, exciting, scary and unbelievable things he and they had done together. She told me about his temper, his sweetness and his frustrations with the world. She brought him to life again and again with her stories.

After another half-hour of hearing about Daniel, Jean placed her hand over her heart, closed her eyes and said, “He’s not gone. I can feel him right here. I can hear him telling me to ‘love love’.”

More support and stories at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

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