Freedom to…

Today the children asked many questions about Buddha. We are not Buddhist, in case you were wondering. I put on ¨Little Buddha¨ and answered whatever questions the film inspired.
I had used Buddha as a teaching tool when we first left.
My boys were so violent in those early days, I had to point to a figure that practiced a radical form of nonviolent living as an example worth following, just so there was another point of view. We spent early mornings, before anyone had a chance at misbehaviour in that chaotic and oppressive shelter, removing snails from drainholes in the lawn, so they would not ¨fall¨ or ¨drown¨ or ¨be crushed¨ by anyone stepping on the grate. While I talked about Buddha and why we should care if the littlest thing is harmed.
I have lately read the ¨One Minute Mother” which is short, but gives positive parenting from a very simple view. It was a nice little refresher.
My goal with my therapist was changed, from integration into Western culture to self acceptance, which has prompted the following recollections.
I had horrible insomnia as a child. I would count how many times I could go around the perimeter of the playground before the bell rang, because most days no one would play with me. I became a bully, beating up on boys larger than myself who looked to be ¨bothering΅ girls. I realize now, it was probably play for them, both genders. I tried to kill myself at age eleven. I really hated myself, and I always had this sense that who I was and what I wanted to do with myself was not acceptable to anyone. I am very careful to embrace my children’s interests as part of them, and not dismiss their passions, because of this experience. I had two pairs of pants, four shirts, and two sweaters one year, and my far wealthier classmates noticed-and made sure I knew they had noticed. I did not learn how to wash my hair properly until I was much older, and I remember my father forcing me in the tub to try to teach me at age eight, and I was so mortified that I remember only the shame and the terror of it, not anything learned.
The flip side was that I was responsible for myself completely at age six. I cooked, cleaned, and etc. My mother claims that I raised myself, to this day. I had no respect for either of my parents as a child, though I was afraid of my father’s displeasure. At age thirteen they kidnapped me and had me committed, because though I obeyed all local laws, such as curfew and doing nothing illegal, I did not obey my mother’s house rules. I left home shortly after I was released from that facility, which was the month it took to eat up my insurance coverage, because returning home and discovering my room had become a storage locker for the lover that my mother had moved into the house in my absence was just too much for me. A session on the streets of the city and a lecture from a juvenile court judge got me home again, though I continued to help homeless youth for years after. I tried to live with my father, made it for a few months, but they sent me back to my mother when they found my cigarettes, which I suppose was illegal, but common where we lived. That summer they sent me to survival camp, and my father informed me that he would never speak to me again if I did not pass with flying colors. I did, and he stopped speaking to me for four years, anyway. I called him shortly before I lost my home at age eighteen, when my mother planned on me being out. I maintained a relationship with him but never took his offers to move in and follow his rules, even when homeless, for fear I would lose my father again through my own mistakes.
For fear of causing them pain, I never talk to them about these things, unless they bring it up. My mother once commented that she was horrified by children fighting, and I asked her why she just walked away when my brother was beating on me as a child-every day. She said she wouldn’t do that now, and the little girl in me just about died from the futility of that statement.
My parents never spoke much about when they were children or even young adults. They did not talk much to me about myself as a child, either. I tell my children many things about themselves, and I tell them about how I grew up, too. I want them to have a sense of place, of continuity, of being wanted, cherished, celebrated, noticed.
I woke up ill today. I still feel awful and I should be asleep. I had reserved a spot for my daughter at a local kid’s play place, for her birthday party, and we went, despite how I felt. It went well. I hope she remembers that she got what she wanted. Someday they will ask me for something that I cannot give them, I am sure.
I was not allowed to take my kids to parties, or outside much at all. I was not allowed to talk about myself. I was not allowed to introduce peaceful concepts to the children. I was not allowed a therapist he had not met and approved of and interrogated me over mercilessly after each session. Not until we left.

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Meth

I was reading the news one day, and I said out loud ¨Whatever you do, don’t try this meth stuff. No one gets off of it, it must be the worst substance out there.¨
I don’t know why I said it to you.
You were crossing the room and you stopped right there and looked at me, with this little smile and said, ¨Why are you telling me this?¨
I told you because no one can get off it. It makes you crazy.
You asked me how I knew. I told you everyone knew that, it is all over the news, all the time.
I was a bit suspicious, then, from the look you had on your face. You looked proud. A bit incongruous for the topic.
I was a bit surprised when you started leaving brownish stains on the pillowcases. You said it was from nicotine in your hair, from standing in the casino all night in the smoking section.
I was surprised when you stopped eating breakfast, changing the schedule in our house, or asking for food and then letting it sit for hours. When you used to scarf it down like you were starving, for years.
I did not understand why you were losing weight when the rest of us were still gaining.
I was perplexed when you started using herbal lotions and oils on your skin. On your face!
I did not understand why your bad tooth began to look so much worse, so fast, that you had to get caps put on.
I did not even pay attention to the pipe in the new apartment on the kitchen counter. I had never seen one before, I thought it was a kitchen utensil your mother had put there, something from her country. I thought pipes were round on the end, not flat like a wheel.
I got suspicious, though, when you changed your morning routine and started locking the bathroom door. Going in once to wash, and then again with the lock, before getting dressed.
I was used to you taking all our money, but I thought it was strange you would no longer let us use it for diapers or food.
I don’t know why you stole my check, or lied about our tax returns for years. I never signed those returns, you know.
I still do not understand why you obsessively remembered past incidents wrongly, berating me for hours in the middle of the night about things that never happened, so I would remind you of what really happened, in a Herculean effort to reassure you that your feared outcomes never occurred.
I blamed the beatings on your sick mind. I thought you hated me because your new girlfriend did not know about me. I kept asking you to tell her about your kids, so you wouldn’t take out the frustration of your double life on my body.
I believed you when you said you didn’t want the new jobs you got because you heard some rumor or another about the boss or the working conditions, always a week after the drug tests. I really believed you.
When I put it all like that, in a list, you look like a typical meth addict.
A recovered addict explained it to me, a month later, like it was a fact.

When Vegetarians Go Bad

So I got my test result back from the doctor, who sent me in for a fasting blood test specifically for my cholesterol.
My cholesterol is too high. The bad sort, yes.
So I am going to say goodbye to pizza and donuts at work and cake and keep walking the children to daycare. I should try to add in more exercise, I bet if I ask the kids to help me, they will. We do play some epic games of tag, and winter is no longer an excuse.
I am going to eat more cereal. Any excuse to eat more cereal, right? Yes, oatmeal is included.
I think this is from Lent.
You heard me.
Arby’s fish sandwich is a heart attack. But it is SO GOOD and it is NOT EXPENSIVE and it is FISH. I eat fish and eggs, they are the only kind of meat I eat. The kids love those sandwiches. I think we had them every Lenten week. Not that I am religious about Lent. I only know when Lent is because those sandwiches are available. I am a bargain hunter. I am busy.
Fish stew instead of fish sandwiches.
Baked salmon instead of fish cakes.
Cereal instead of dessert. No loss for me, there. Honey Nut Cheerios are to die for.
I am going to be spending a bit of money on this, I suspect.
I better get moving.

Disclaimer: I know it’s not true vegetarianism. I have known that since I started. Pescetarian. I know. Be kind.

The Progression

I was having a very rough time early in our relationship. I was not happy, I did not know what to do with the violence, the crazy making, the insistence that I was nuts and I didn’t know what was real.
I went to a therapist at his insistence, the same his previous girlfriend went to, and she put me on medication.
SSRIs make you apathetic to abuse. It happens to you, but you don’t care for very long. It made it easier to stay with him, far easier, and so I did.
I had less will with SSRIs. I felt as if I were easier to manipulate. I could not stand up for myself under his relentless pressure while I was on them. I just gave in, over and over, until I was in too deep. The coping skills I had to deal with negative thoughts were annihilated by the SSRIs, because I didn’t need coping skills. I didn’t care enough to cope. By the time I was out of that therapist’s care and off the meds, I was completely isolated and totally dependent.
Religion did not help. SSRIs did not help. My own convictions were blown away by his harassment. It was like being asleep. Part of me was awake, and sewed pillowcases for the baby, which I hid when he sneered at them. Part of me was awake, insisting I be allowed to talk to the only friend I had left. Mostly it was an animal existence. Cook, clean, make sure the children are clean and fed. Try to anticipate outbursts, try to soothe the beast, so the children are not upset or harmed by him.
When I realized he was convinced of his own delusions, was when I entertained the thought that perhaps he was the crazy one. That was when I started calling the DV advocates in secret. Never dreaming that I would meet them months and weeks later. I am lucky that I made it out. It seems miraculous.
I have PTSD now, and I will not take any psychiatric medication for it. Just hypertension meds. My children are on permutations of those, too.
My son is so afraid, so anxious, I don’t know what to do. All I can think of is that damn service dog. I don’t want to put him on medication for anxiety. Today I got a tour of the acupuncturist’s office. She treats children.
I was afraid, all the time, for years. I never noticed. It was normal for me. I don’t want constant fear to be normal for my son.
I wish I had his pillowcase, the one that I made. He would have loved it. He loves corduroy, and expressions of affection. The different textures on it would have pleased him immensely. I used ribbon and silk cord for the embroidery and put a pocket in the middle. It was sloppy, anything I do is always sloppy, as I am not a precise person, but it was sweet.

Triggered For No Good Reason

I am not good at identifying triggers. I have problems with memory, and also I do not pay much attention to myself, so they seem to come out of nowhere. My beta blocker medication gives me time to pull my punches (I mean delay my reactions), but it is unpleasant to feel like I am triggered and I have no idea why.

Today it could be from pulling kites out of trees three times when I was trying to cook dinner.

It could be from the food I cooked, a first time for them on an American party food, and they did not like it. No one likes to see their cooking in the trash.

It could be because my father is visiting tomorrow. The father that told me my children should not play in the living room and although I have to ¨do something¨ about my children, they certainly should not be taken to doctors, therapists, or psychologists. The father that said every child must be autistic if my oldest is, because although he has told me since that child was walking that something ¨must be done¨ about him, he certainly could not be special needs. From this I gather that in his opinion, my parenting has caused my children to have behavioural issues, not their physiology.

It could be that I spent time with new people today. It could be that I need some time to myself.

Maybe I am triggered by all the screaming and whining from my children acting out Minecraft in the living room. Who would have thought that those block people would scream and whine so often, or be so dramatic when they look so bland.

Maybe it is from finding the refrigerator nearly empty.

I am guessing it is from having my father visit. I haven’t got time tonight to clean up the house the way I want to. Perhaps tomorrow before the soccer game, I can get it done the way I like it. I need to stop worrying. I am not in some House Beautiful magazine.

I called the children into the kitchen as soon as I figured out that I was triggered and took my evening hypertension meds. I asked the boys to stop screaming in their play, and they did, mostly. That helped, a lot. I made them some strawberry shortcake, the kind with real shortcake and real strawberries that I crushed with a potato masher, instead of some sweet sort of cake. Then I knew they had got enough food in them for the night.
I went to help them get a movie on, and my son was excitedly screaming in my face while talking to his brother. Which was really difficult. But he stopped.

I have to get him his medicine now. My oldest son’s anxiety is far, far worse. He wants me with him at all times. If I think I feel bad, it must be nightmarish for him.

Doing RIght vs Being Good- Right is Better

My neighbor has some personal things to take care of, things that take up much of her time and that she cannot do with her children present. I won’t mention what it is, as it is not my business, but my neighbor’s, and it is her place to say rather than mine. It is a positive and necessary thing for her.
So her kids come over to my house for just an hour and a half on Thursdays. I won’t take pay. I am a single mother, so is she. How can I accept payment from someone below the poverty line?
Her kids play with my kids weekly, and my kids learn about being social, and her kids have fun (I hope).
I haven’t got any family around, no cousins to play with, so for me it is a nice way for them to get some after school play.
She feels awful about it. She thinks she is taking advantage of me.
I want to explain to her, that this is all I do. I give food to people, people I know, to be kind and friendly, and I watch her children to help her.
I used to do far more than that. Before I had children I had a good job and I worked long hours. I paid for college fees, rent, legal fees, whatever help I could give, I gave. I did hours and hours of advocacy work. Freelance. Which was silly. Of course an organization would get more done. I know who they are now, but then I did not know there was any help available.
I cannot do that now. I have to take care of my children first and I cannot give away whatever I have and live on potatoes and bread. It is not fair to them.
It probably was not fair to me, either. This is a way I can keep myself in check, feel like I am doing something for the greater good, and keep it at that.
Because most volunteering requires that I pay a sitter, or commit more than an hour and a half. I cannot do either on a weekly basis. I can do this. This much to help.
I want to explain all this to her, so she does not feel so conflicted, but really I do not know how. I don’t want to claim sainthood, or brag about charity, or even mention that this weekly playdate might be a charitable act. It is a way to commit to good, to give back. A safe way. I get the added bonus of socialization for my kids, who were isolated in their first years and are not accustomed to having people over.
I have to get over my anxiety about talking about myself. How will anyone get to know me?
I always wished someone would help me when my kids were little, by watching them just for a little bit. I get to be that person, now.

Reading In The Waiting Room – cue Fugazi

So today I was in the waiting room. You can start the song now. And I was innocently reading a Food Network magazine, and I was actually liking it. It wasn’t all gourmet, there was some really practical stuff in it.
Then I turn a page and I come across an ad depicting a lady like I have seen before. Dressed the same way that women are dressed after a certain age from Italy to the Middle East to Russia. I have seen hundreds, in refugee communities in my own country and on my travels.
So they have this ad.
It says she is making food, then arranging a marriage, then food, then calling the priest because her daughter is resisting the marriage, then food, then having an exorcism performed on her daughter.
You get the inference. She was having her daughter exorcised because the daughter did not want to marry or did not want to marry who her family chose for her. Aka, forcing the daughter to marry.
This is not funny.
Legal rape is not funny. Selling children is not funny. Women are not possessions to be given away or traded.
Fuck Athenos. I will never buy any goddamned thing they make, ever again.
For all my friends working at Tahirah Justic Center or on the Forced Marriage Project in Toronto, I will not.
Sick and twisted spoiled Western sense of humor. I bet their daughters and sisters are safe, or they would never.
I am livid.