Category Archives: fear

March 1st, Making it Through

Mom and Me

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March 1st is special. Making it here means that I have–one again–made it through the hardest part of the year, winter. Since Mamaw passed away in 1989, I’ve dreaded Christmas and, since living in Alaska, I’ve struggled with winter. November through February is a tough time. “Just hang in there till March 1st,” I tell myself every year. Well, I made it! Again! March 1st! Here we are!

As good as I am at connecting things, it only struck me just today that my special day for making it through the dark period is also my Mom’s birthday. Since she passed away in 2003, I haven’t done much to acknowledge her birthday. March 1st has meant that spring with all the sunshine, warmth, and goodness is upon me. It’s my day of celebration for making it through the tough time.

Today, as I was looking for an old photo to go with a story I’m working on, I came across a birthday card from Mom. The card was from 1989, a front runner for Hardest Year of My Life. Mamaw (Mom’s mom) had suddenly passed away earlier that year and things at home were precarious, at best. I was in shock after Mamaw passed and there was no solace to be found anywhere especially at home. Seeing 1989 on the card brought up all the feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, and heart-being-ripped-out pain that I was feeling. 1989 was a bad, bad year.

Before finding this card today, I was waiting for a story to come to me, something to help me convey how thankful I am to have not only survived all the difficult things I’ve gone through, but how I am a better person for having experienced all those things. We don’t grow without struggle. This is something I didn’t understand until these past few years as I’ve chosen to go outside my comfort zone to get to the extraordinary things I knew were waiting for me. Growing up, I didn’t have a choice, but I do now. I could have played it safe and stayed put in an easy place, but that wouldn’t have been my life. It would have been me living someone else’s life. My life has afforded me opportunities to forgive big stuff and to learn what happens when I pray for my eyes to be taken from worthless things. It’s so good to be here. I’m me, the real me! I’m not someone who wants the white picket fence or happily ever after. I want realness, risks, and raw truth telling. I want the courage to say, “God bless you, but kindly get the f*** out of my way” to anyone trying to tell me I can’t live my dreams. Even though I still have work to do, I am living my dreams, basking in the warmth, and never dimming my light. I’m finally loving myself and I have such amazing love in my life.

I read mom’s message again as it fully reaches me for the first time today. She tells me that my struggles will make me into the person I have become. Here’s what she said:

7/30/89

Dear Dana,
I’m sitting here thinking how our lives have been changed during this past year. I’m sorry that your home life has not been the security and strength that is so necessary for a good foundation in life, but I know with your determination and intelligence that this will not be a stumbling block for you but a step forward in your endeavor for your goals.
Always reach for your goals, don’t look back, go forward and when you reach that mountain top be proud of your accomplishments. I know you will make it. Always remember that no matter what happens in any ares of our lives that I love you very, very much. You have been a blessing to me and I am so proud of you. Keep up the good work. Always keep God first in your life, remember He is always there for you and He will and can carry you thru all phases of your life if you will just let Him. Happy Birthday, my sweet Dana. I hope this is a wonderful year for you. With all of my love, Mom

Happy Birthday, Mom! I made it through! And this is going to be my best year yet!

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If you are struggling, it sucks! I’m not gonna sugar coat it. It is painful. I’m so sorry you’re going through all of this. Please also keep in mind that something good is on the other side. You will make it through. Peace and love to you, Dana

My Story, My Truth, My Art

Me in 1st Grade

Me in 1st Grade

TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with one person’s story of child abuse and may trigger some people.

I’m finally ready to share something really important with you. I was an abused child. In some ways, I’m still that scared little girl, still hiding in the corner of the closet, terrified of people in power. Still afraid to speak, make the abuse worse, disgrace myself, or disgrace those who abused me. But, today, I’m feeling stronger and I’m ready to share my story.

When I was a little girl, my mom hit me with those big thick leather belts with huge metal buckles. She would use both the belt and, intentionally or not, the buckle, leaving welts on my legs, back, butt, and arms. If I got away from her and ran, she’d throw the belt after me. It felt like a war zone. I never knew what would set her off or when it was safe. It never felt safe.

I wasn’t safe at church, either. The preacher’s hellfire and brimstone reached us, through speakers, in the nursery and toddler rooms. I remember hearing that if I didn’t get saved, I might die in a car wreck on the way home and burn in hell for eternity. Even as the preacher called, with “Softly and Tenderly” playing in the background, I never did hear Jesus calling me. Instead, I feared Jesus, the devil, and the preacher. Sure, I did get “saved” when I was six, soon after another young girl, my peer, accepted Jesus Christ in front of the entire congregation. I had to keep up appearances. I hoped it would keep me safe from the preacher and maybe my mom. But not Jesus and not the devil. That was hoping too much. Jesus and the devil knew my thoughts, so I could never feel safe from them.

That fear went to school with me. At the end of each day, my first grade teacher would spank all the students that had not finished their work. I felt so threatened and so completely undone, that I had to be taken out of school. I wouldn’t get off the toilet because I always felt like I had to pee. Staying at my mamaw’s house, I’d sit on a tiny white pot in front of the TV watching Mister Rogers. Mamaw was always kind, always loving — thank goodness for her! Eventually, I got over my pee pot issues and went back to school. But, even now, when I smell my first grade teacher’s perfume or elementary school cleaning products, I feel sick, afraid, and unsafe.

As I got older, my mom stopped using the belt on me, using only her hand. The last time she hit me was when I was a teenager in the car. I said something she didn’t like and she backhanded me. We were on the way to see a therapist to figure out why I was so angry at my mom. I already knew why I was angry. I just couldn’t express it.

I carry my fear with me each and every day, a backpack full of emotion. I’ve felt decades of hurt, guilt, and shame. A little over a year ago, I finally started EMDR therapy to help the traumatized little girl in me. And it really has helped, a lot. I’m getting better, gradually, gratefully.

It has been a painful and powerful journey going from trauma to love. As I recently shared with my therapist, I take care of the little girl Dana by creating my art with tiny fragile beads. It’s peaceful time with her, with little Dana, showing her that it’s ok, safe. It’s quiet, calm, and really gentle in that space, that place of art. She likes it there very much.

As I become stronger, that little girl inside of me is coming out of the darkness, leaving behind the guilt and shame of abuse. I’m shining my light for her as I share my story, my truth, my art.

I want to dedicate this post to my dear friend. It’s safe and I love you. For you, and all of those like us, there is hope, help, and happiness after all. 

We’re All in This Together

 

There goes my pretty bus.

There goes my pretty bus.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I felt really bad yesterday. But I know three things that usually help: (1) name whatever it is that I’m feeling, (2) take care and do no harm, and (3) remember that we’re all in this together. Yesterday, life gave me a wonderful opportunity to practice.

Yesterday, my heart was feeling a bit heavier. Maybe, you were feeling it, too. On top of all that, here in Boulder County, Colorado, we’ve been getting frozen precipitation, lots of frozen precipitation. Snow and ice. Just being outside was unsafe and driving was extremely dangerous. So, I pulled out my list. First item, these threatening conditions exacerbated my anxiety. Second, how I would I take care of myself and do no harm? Leave the car and take the bus, instead.

I was setting out to help at the homeless shelter last night. It was my first time taking the bus there. When it  came time to change buses, I couldn’t figure it out fast enough. A woman I recognized from the homeless shelter overheard me asking for help. She told me when and where I could catch the free bus that would get me to the shelter. But, with a transfer ticket already in hand, I walked two blocks in the blowing snow to catch my bus. I made it to the shelter, worked my shift, and got back home safely.

Today, the sun is out and everything is thawing. I’m thinking about the homeless woman going out of her way to tell me about the free bus. It’s highly unlikely that she recognized me in my multiple layers and hat. She was simply looking out for me. She overheard me ask for help. To her, I was another woman in need. I tear up thinking about her. She reminded me of the third and most important part of my list — that we’re all in this together. She showed me kindness. She knows. She gets it.

Biscuits and Buckshot (At Her Front Door)

Mamaw Mamie

Mamaw Mamie

A chain gang was at her front door and the men were hungry. Mamaw Mamie was at home alone with her young children and she couldn’t ignore the men in need. Gathering her children together, she went to the kitchen for biscuits. Mamaw Mamie, in her apron, went to the door with the children lined up behind her. She offered a plate of biscuits with one hand while holding a shotgun, behind her back, in the other.

When my aunt shared this story with me a few years back, it really stuck with me, not exactly as she told it (cornbread and courage), but as I remember it (biscuits and buckshot). I’ve come to realize that these types of biscuits and buckshot choices are with me every day. In making these decisions, I would hope to be as generous as my mamaw Mamie. My dad and aunt certainly are.  Growing up, my dad and aunt were so good at taking care of mamaw Mamie, returning kindness and generosity that she showed them and so many others. With those examples you might think it would be easy for me, but I often let fear keep me from being open to give.

What choice I would have made? I don’t have children and I’ve never experienced a chain gang asking for help, but I do see people in need each day. I fear what I see. I don’t fear the people in need, but I fear the situations I see them in. I’ve been hungry with little food. I’ve felt homeless at times. I’ve often been in need with few people I could call on. Seeing anyone going without makes me sad and it scares me. I know where I’ve been and I fear that I will someday be right where they are.

Recently, I signed up to volunteer at the local homeless shelter. I thought about it carefully. This was a mindful decision and I feel that I’m ready. Still, I am a little afraid. I don’t want to break down and cry in front of the people I’m trying to help. With a few prayers, I’ll face my fear and try to help like mamaw Mamie did. I have to.