I go bravely even though all my cards are played, my house has fallen, my love is broken, and I stand here naked as a babe in the snow. I am blue with the cold of my vulnerability, yet I stand head held high before my demons daring them to come and take me. Is this bravery, this slow suicide we women face because we dared to say no, take a stand, and then find ourselves alone in the elements with no place to turn? If so I’ll choose this death over the suffocation of your fine cage. You were master, punisher, with holder of love, but no more. I have freed myself and in going free I have taken flight into the chasm of the vast unknown, knowing only that my heart still beats and tomorrow will come wether I have the strength to join it or not. Though my parachute will catch no air and my wings have lost their feathering I will take this fall believing it is better to break and be reborn then to remain whole and unchanged. I go bravely into this world without the insurance of a good life, but with a life, my life, held, captured, grasped tightly in my own two hands.
Today I was able to tape the second part of Eating Your Emotions with the brilliant Joanne Del Core. Recording these radio shows has been an invigorating and emotional process for me. Thank you for all your support and for taking the time to listen to the shows.
Blessings and Unconditional Love,
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to discuss eating disorders on the radio. This is just one of the disorders that arise when we suppress our emotions, our potential and our authenticity. Please take a moment to listen to this show and forward it to anyone who may need to hear it’s message. Blessings and best wishes,
I didn’t want to get married. The idea that I could make and hold a promise to God and a husband until my death seemed too immense for a girl of twenty three. I didn’t like the paper work, I didn’t want the ceremony. I was uncomfortable with the limitations I knew would arise from the everyday compromise of two people making a life together. I loved Dan and in loving him I felt I had already committed my soul to him knowing I was fallible, human and that someday God might want more from me. We discussed me dread of taking an oath to be bound to him forever before God. I’d seen how oath’s bound the people around me, keeping them from expanding their perceptions and consciousness of the world by keeping them in one mode of living, isolated and ignorant, their lives limited and removed from a vaster knowledge of the world. I didn’t want to share my freedom, compromise my passions and become someone else’s labeled and conquered being sworn before God to always be and due as I’d promised to be and due when still, in all reality, a child. People who are boxed in and unhappy look for escape and the emotional fall out of a broken promise is devastating and painful.
The perception of what it is to exist as viewed through an innocent Orange:
An orange sits on a counter top, it is the everyday type of orange, young and shiny in its freshness. In shape and color and lingering scent it vividly proclaims itself an orange. If in ego it were to swear before God to always be the orange would it remain unaltered, whole and perfect, believing in the strength of its identity? Though the orange believes one reality, one destiny, its fate is very different. Taking the orange up we peel away it’s skin. It is now a naked altered orange but still an orange. Does it feel shame for not remaining as it though it would, true to its youthful innocent nature, the nature it swore to maintain before God? Is it more of an orange or less of an orange now that it stands without the skin that once proclaimed its identity? Lifted, moved and dropped, it is transformed yet again into juice. It is now the essence of orange, its fibrous walls removed until it is free flowing orange, no longer contained by structure. With each alteration, the orange has changed, evolved and become more and less than it was to begin with. Yet if this orange really had proclaimed itself before God to always be an orange is it now in an energetic violation of oath? Has it become the Oath breaker, the liar and pathless turncoat who stands for nothing? Will it suffer mentally and emotionally because of this violation of oath? Will it ever see itself as whole and complete again? Or is it lost now forever?
It is, in reality, a simple orange and we can hope it takes its alteration with the spirit and courage of all citrus fruit. Humans are not oranges. We do not rest in the nature of our alteration, accepting each phase with quiet resignation.
The fallible, sentient human may make a million promises in its lifetime. How many will we keep and how many will we alter, bend and break in order to move with the world? Sadly, when a promise or oath is made and broken, the danger does not lie in the loss of God’s love, but in our leaving the presence of his loving light through our own guilt, our inability to accept change and our fear that we are no longer as good, as pure and as loveable as we were. In these moments we punish ourselves far more viciously than any living creature deserves.
God’s light and love never leave us. His joyful acceptance of our stumbles and falls are like those of a parent watching a beloved baby take its first step. In breaking the oath we become liars to ourselves and our faith and to this God who lovingly only wants the best for us. Thus we fall from grace through an internal struggle that has nothing to do with God and everything to do with self-disillusionment, self-hatred and the failure to meet the expectations of our earthly, manmade social paradigms.
In summation, I can tell you that I’ve kept my word to my husband. I’ve loved, honored and cherished him as I swore I would and I have no regrets. My path has altered far from where my dreams would have taken me and with every thought or plan I make, I must put family first while I make time for myself where I can. Marrying didn’t make our love stronger; it didn’t bind us in any permanent structure that could wipe out the possibility of separation but it has brought a tender loving trust that I would not have experienced outside of marriage. The oath hasn’t kept us safe from the terrors of loss but has made us work harder in our marriage to identify when we act out of love and when we act out of duty. In looking at our motives and perceptions we gain greater insights into each other’s souls and keep our love strong. In marriage we have matured and been stripped of our selfish ideals and self-interested perceptions. In marriage we have gained a life based on service, love and a deep mutual respect that evolves and grows richer with each passing year.
Phillis Wheatley came into my life pressed between the pages of a rather lack luster anthology. I was twenty-one when I first sat down in my American Literature class ready to be thoroughly educated. My professor was young and handsome. He wore a tweed jacket with elbow patches and I knew that we would have great discussions that would change my life. I was right. My interactions with him would change my life.
The only Wheatley poem my anthology contained was the short but controversial,
‘TWAS mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither fought now knew,
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
I read the poem with understandable concern. My white Gen-X background in no way prepared me for a woman who spoke with gratitude on having been taken from her family at the age of 7, sold into slavery at age 8 and then named after the slave ship which transported her. How she ever survived the long voyage aboard “The Phillis,” no one knows.
I sat in shock listening to my professor discuss the hardships of her life in blasé tones. He furthered the insult by saying that Wheatley’s poem was ironic. My indignation was instant. Nowhere in her words could I detect irony. I heard a fragile voice, as gentle as moonlight, singing out an ideology forced on her through hardship, a new and vengeful God coupled with the tortuous cruelty of slavery. Surely, no one with a heart could read this poem and honestly believe that Wheatley’s poem was ironic. Slowly I raised my hand, stated my case and flatly refused to back down.
My professor believed that his word was the last word on all subjects literary. My refusal to understand that Wheatley’s poem was ironic angered him so much that he began yelling “ironic” at me every time our paths crossed: In the hall, out on the green, in the parking lot. My reply to each and every one of his attacks was to simply say, “sincere.”
At the end of quarter, after turning in every paper, after aceing every quiz and test I received a D-. The girl who sat opposite me never turned in her papers, missed tests and didn’t read the assigned texts but was shocked to receive an A. I approached my professor, I stated that he’d switched the grades and he replied, “How very ironic?” Yes it was ironic that I should fail this simple class with my strong English background. Yes it was ironic that I should fight for a defenseless black poetess, and yes it was ironic that I, a woman, was forced to defend my belief before an empowered white male. I went to the Dean, I filed my complaint and nobody listened.
So this is what Phillis Wheatley taught me. She taught me that even when you’ve been bullied, brainwashed, stomped on and threatened you have to keep on speaking what your heart tells you is right. Since failing American Lit. I have become a lover of Wheatley’s poetry. In her words I find sweetness, beauty, and a refinement not of this world. Her voice is more tangible to me now than any grade. My soul is strengthened by her poem On Virtue. My love of art grows in her poem To S. M. A Young African Painter, On Seeing His Works. My favorite of her poems is simply entitled,
Imagination! who can sing thy force?
Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?
Soaring through air to find the bright abode,
Th’ empyreal palace of the thund’ring God,
We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,
And leave the rolling universe behind:
From star to star the mental optics rove,
Measure the skies, and range the realms above.
There in one view we grasp the mighty whole,
Or with new worlds amaze th’ unbounded soul.
Phillis is one of the reasons why I write about silenced women. Her history is part of why I will always take up a cause my heart recognizes as pure. Phillis could not speak out against slavery when she herself was enslaved but read again On being brought from Africa to America and notice how gently she presses the truth that we all have the right to find grace.
I’ve known several people who believed in this phrase, “We always hurt the one’s we love.” These people weren’t naturally abusive but each had a brutal past, a despair based perspective and an intangible grief. They lived in a state of bitter despair, their days clouded with careless words, biting comebacks and bursts of violence. There were constant stories of war, drunkenness and past wrongs depicted so vividly that, even though I wasn’t there, I experienced them vicariously.
Trauma Bonds make you the secret keeper to other people’s traumatic experiences. These bonds hold you hostage to atrocities, forcing you to turn for support to those who witnessed hell with you. Break a trauma bond by starting a better life and you will never be forgiven for leaving your fellow victims alone with their pain. Stay and you will be forever stuck at the scene of the crime, a captive victim to a hellish past.
Trauma bonds are fused by a love that goes beyond healthy. It asks that you bare your soul, set aside your values and immerse yourself in a cult like existence. The bond is so overwhelming that you forget who you are and what you ever wanted for yourself. Only the trauma exists; the perpetuated recollection of the darkest moments in life replayed again and again within the trauma bond collective.
Trauma bonds are defensive. Everyone outside the bond is viewed as a potential risk, criminal or predator. Within a trauma bond there is no room for growth, no room for happiness, success or healthy relationships with the outside world.
In my book, The Only Home I’ve Ever Known, my character Gidra is trauma bound to her mother Sophia. They survived a war, hid from enemy troops and forage for food through bombed out villages. With the wars end their trauma bond continues. It grows, warps and twists into a new kind of desperation which makes Gidra’s life impossible to endure. At the beginning of the book Sophia artfully recalls their shared past in order to maintain her control over her daughter. “You and I have been through a lifetime together and there is no one in this world who will ever love you or know you the way I do. Please remember that when Parker starts to make you promises. Please remember how hard we’ve fought to stay together when life wanted to separate us.” With these well-chosen words Sophia strives to enforce the trauma bond and destroy any hope Gidra may have of a life outside their bond.
Identifying and breaking away from a trauma bond is an important step to discovering your autonomy. If you are experiencing a relationship that leaves you feeling depleted or depressed it may be traumatically fused. Separation is usually the first step. Only through separation will you begin to gain a new perspective of the world around you. Secondly, forgive your trauma partners for the life they offered you. When you learn to let go of your past you will be ready to embrace your present. Practice self-protection. Set safety boundaries that free you to live authentically. Open your self to new experiences slowly. Too much too quickly can send you back into old habits. Practice everyday gratitude (this I really can’t stress enough). Chose to be happy and remember that you do not owe your life to anyone. You were born to live each day on your terms. Go forth and truly live.
If you find yourself feeling the need to explain your actions, you are probably confronting a role enforcer. A role enforcer is a person, or group of people, who intend to keep you stuck in their version of what is acceptable. Role enforcement has been a necessary component in human development by keeping us safely organized within a social structure. Parents are natural role enforcers. It’s the parent’s job to shape their child into their idea of healthy maturity by keeping the child safe within the bounds of a shared identity.
Friendship also acts as a role enforcing infrastructure. Friendship begins with shared interests, perspectives and behaviors which support one another’s idea of what’s OK. If you step outside of the shared state of normal then you run the chance of being teased, nagged and manipulated back into the flow of what is acceptable. Remain at odds with your friend’s relational infrastructure and you’ll soon be looking for new friends.
So what is role enforcement’s place in an intimate relationship? In truth it has no place because a healthy relationship is deep and open. There are no shared states of normal. Instead there is flexibility, compassion and understanding of the changes and shifts which slowly transform an individual throughout a lifetime. We are born seeing the world through our parent’s perspective, we are raised and shaped by the qualities of our friends but as adults we may choose to break the mold, rise up and become the person we were born to be.
In my book, “The Only Home I’ve Known,” I introduce Gidra, a World War II survivor raised in the sex trade. She lives a life born of desperation; driven by a will to survive the worst situations. When the war ends her mother Sophia (an abusive role enforcer) maintains the survival role. Gidra is objectified, sold, paraded out and bartered for jewels, clothing and money. She meets Parker, whose unconditional love shatters her perspective; freeing her from the role which crushed her. With Parker’s love she dares to seek a life of possibility and hope.
Always beware of role enforcers. Identify the people who make you feel as though you must explain your actions. Notice when your authenticity is challenged. Watch for little comments and innuendos that imply you are not acting in accordance with role expectations. Role enforcement is a natural state in herd mentality but it has no place in an open aware relationship. Desiderata by Max Ehrmann states, “As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all people.” Love the role enforcer for the well-intention gifts they tried to saddle you with but never surrender your sense of self or let anyone box you into a false identity. Take comfort in the knowledge that you are unique to this world. There never was or ever will be another you.