Forgive! Are you Crazy?

When we forgive, we set a prisoner free and discover

that the prisoner we set free is us.”

Lewis Smedes

The prompting for this post was a discussion of sorts on my friend’s blog. http://www.morningpageswriter.wordpress.com  Monsters of Our Childhood … last evening.  I can’t remember all the comments but it was about finding forgiveness for those that have abused us in horrible ways as children or adults.

I never even thought about forgiving the people who had abused me, raped me, given me away, caused me pain…the list is endless.  I was so filled with pain and disbelief in human nature that when someone said to me, “Someday, you will need to forgive them and move on,” I wanted to shoving their words down their throat.  How could I possible forgive.  I was handed over at birth with no name, no thought, no love.  Handed over to live in a nursery probably not even held for who knows how long and then fostered by a middle-aged couple for two years as they waited for a boy, which was what they wanted.  If a boy became available I would be “sent back”.  They finally settled.  She, not wanting children at all and he, wanting a boy to fish and hunt with.

They settled and I paid the price.

Forgive!  Are you crazy?  I’m given away only to be abused by strangers who didn’t want me in the first place.

Raped and nearly beaten to death, not once, but several times and you want me to forgive?

I could go on and on with the specifics which, now are just that…specifics.  It doesn’t matter how much has been done to me, with me, around me anymore.  I set out on a journey to heal and to heal I knew I would have to forgive and let go of the past.  I know the exact moment it began.

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The word is where we all get stuck, especially if you were indoctrinated as many of us were in religions where everything was our fault since we were born sinners anyway and meant to spend the rest of our lives atoning for our sins.  We were taught/brainwashed to believe that we deserved everything we got or at least I was.

If I fell and scraped my knee, I deserved it.  If I spent a night licking my wounds from words and hand mirrors, it was because i deserved it.

 Of course, then when I was first raped at 16, in my head I could hear her words, “Well, look what you were wearing, you are a child of Satan.  What do you expect.”

 When I was critically ill in the hospital at 17, I could smell her breath as she leaned over droplets of spit landing on my face and said, “Go ahead and die.  You weren’t meant to be born anyway.  You don’t deserve to be here.  You are dead to us.”

Forgive?  You want ME to FORGIVE?

I wish someone had said to me years ago, “You don’t have to forgive.  Forgiveness is for them.  Letting go is for you.  When you’ve expressed enough anger, enough sadness, enough fear, then you’ll be ready to think about letting go.”

If you remember nothing else, remember that.

The truth is that yes, forgiveness sets you free and yes, I did forgive and have compassion for her now.

Forgiveness is a form of realism.  It doesn’t deny, minimize or justify what others have done to us nor the pain we have suffered because of it.  What it does is encourage us to look squarely at those old wounds and see them for what they are.  It allows us to see just how much energy we have wasted and how we have damaged ourselves by not forgiving.

Forgiveness is an internal process.  There is no forcing it and it sure doesn’t come easy no matter what you call it.  What it does do, is bring a great feeling of wellness and freedom.

Forgiveness/letting go means we no longer identify ourselves by our past injuries and injustices.  We are no longer Victims.  We can claim that right to stop hurting when we say we are tired of the pain and want to heal.  At that moment, forgiveness/letting go becomes a possibility.  We no longer want to punish those who hurt us, the pain from the past will no longer dictate how we live in the present, nor will it dictate our future.

Part of the healing is finding our own voices, speaking our truth, being vulnerable and courageous and writing blogs and books, speaking out loud our long-held secrets.  Dig through this layer and you will rescue your heart.

 This will be one of the most difficult parts of our journey only because our Ego doesn’t want to let go of the power that comes from being wronged.

Read that one again and again…

As long as we feel hurt and damaged we give ourselves the right to blame and judge.  We are the Victims.  Ego can point the finger and feel a certain power.  The Ego has to be put on the shelf for this one.  Forgiveness is an act of compassion but it doesn’t mean we forget.  It just means that there’s no longer an emotional charge from remembering.  It’s a gift to yourself.

You are worth having such a gift

Living with Mast Cell Disease….Coming out of the Closet

ImageI’m coming out of the closet.  Yes you heard me right.  Not only am I coming out of the closet but because I’m doing that inconceivable “thing” , I won’t be “invisible” any longer.

As I was just writing my adoption blog about letting go of who you thought you were, I realized I have an added dimension to the grief and loss and letting go.  Invisible, chronic, Mast Cell Disease.

I have had to let go of the life I had planned.  The life I had worked so hard to get to.

 You know the one.  Where you push yourself beyond the edge doing for others, providing for your kids, saving for retirement so you can travel and enjoy life.  Yes, that one.

 The one that will never come to fruition.

No one ever see’s me sick.  Well, except for my dear friend Susan, who witnessed my Delhi Belly from hell and was such a good nurse.  Other than that..oh yes, and the time I took my daughter to a Buddhist Retreat in Thailand in the middle of the jungle. Climbing a mountain in sweltering heat and humidity wasn’t such a good idea.

I swelled up like a puffer fish.  I thought I was going to explode my skin was so tight with pain that brings tears to my eyes even now.

 I didn’t pee for three days and my lungs were so congested I knew I was as close to dying as I could get in the middle of the jungle. I was prepared to just roll off the floating meditation floor into the lake where the 75kg Thai catfish lay waiting.  What better place to go than on a Buddhist Retreat?

Who knew?  Mast cell disease did that.

 As it’s done with many things in my life.  Surgery to remove the endometrial nightmare in my belly caused me a three months stay in hospital with pelvic abcess, peritonitis, bowel obstruction and DVT’s.

 Who knew? Mast Cell degranulation of course.  Oh, and the time I was admitted to ICU with cardiac issues and eyes like the ones above.  Throw in a standard diagnosis of pericarditis and a stay of 2 weeks.  Kounis Syndrome.  Who knew?  Mast Cell Disease yet again.

 I could go on and on.  I can identify each and every event that relates back to Mast Cell disease.  Only then, I didn’t know.  How unfortunate for me because every “flare” caused just a bit more damage to organs that had already taken a beating from my “FINDING HEART HORSE” life.

This week has been a tough one.  The eyes that I can’t bear to touch and struggle to see the words on the computer.  The unrelenting pain of a total upper body spasm that woke me up last sunday night.  it was as if an elephant was sitting on my chest and I couldn’t move to do anything about it. The accumulation of fluid outside of my cells called  3rd spacing that is so painful.  A whole week spent in agony.  Who knew?  No one.  Not one single person except my “masto angels”.  That’s invisible…

I shouldn’t be like this.  There are thousands and thousands of us out there.  Not just mast cell patients but many such as Lupus, Fibro, CFIDs.  If it was the big “C” or a broken leg people would see. People would be bringing tuna casseroles and apple pies because thats what you do when someone is terribly ill and can’t manage.  Isn’t it?  It’s what I do when I know someone’s ill.

 I haven’t had a tuna casserole since I was seven.

We have to change the way people think about us, the invisible ones.

 That’s why I’m coming out of the closet.  To educate.  To give visuals.  To answer questions.

 To say..hey wait a minute..I’m in pain here.  Just because I don’t look sick  (well, except for the eyes this week) doesn’t mean I don’t exist.

 That we don’t need a help now and again.

 That the medical system doesn’t need to provide the diagnostic tools our doctors need.

 That the medications we need should be available, the emergency rooms aware of what we need done when we arrive in anaphylaxis.  So many more needs I could list.

And then, of course, just how does one live with an illness like this.  One that no one knows exists.  One where alot of the time you don’t look ill on the outside but your internal body is wracked with pain and your mast cells spewing out chemicals causing havoc with your systems.  Your liver, your kidneys, your spleen.  Every part of you, brain included has mast cells that can degranulate and cause problems.

It’s not an easy place to live..this mast cell hell.

 Priorities change.  Friends stop asking you to go places.  You can’t eat out. Your energy is gone before you have your morning coffee.

Your goal is to keep your mast cells stabilized and the slightest change may bring about chaos.

Attitude is so important.  As I was saying in the adoptee blog post…You have to let go of many aspects of who you thought you were.  

Expectations of others has to be released or you will only find disappointment.  It may take the rest of your life but letting go will ease the frustrations.  None of us are perfect.  

Weed out your friendships.  Surround yourself with supportive, caring people who you know you can depend on.  Illness gives ground for prioritizing friendships.  Our energy only goes so far and we need to spend it wisely.

Don’t become your diagnosis.  Believe it or not, inside this illness lies blessings.  Perhaps you haven’t found them yet.  Don’t stop looking.  Find the things you used to love and perhaps you can change things to enable you to do things, just in a different way when your energy allows.

You still have talents and skills even if you’ve had to stop working.  Inside those skills lie things you were never able to bring out before…find them.  I thought I was never going to be able to hang up my Nursing Cap.  I loved my job.  Now, I write books.  I hope to be able, energy willing to do some talks with youth when the books are ready to be signed.  I would have never been able to do this before.  I’m not saying I don’t have days, sometimes more than one where I can’t get off the couch but I hold the possibility of tomorrow being better close.

One of the most valuable talents you will find you have is simply relating to others who are in the same place, with the same illness or even another.  No one understands what we go through except someone else who is going through it too.  Its the same with adoptees.  We can be great support for many, for each other.  Don’t ever discount the importance of that.  

We can choose how we deal with this illness.  We are also allowed to have our couch days.  We have to learn to be as gentle and supportive of ourselves as we are with others.  Throw the guilt away.  It uses up too much needed energy and gets you nowhere.  We are in this together.

Come on…get out of the closet and stop being so invisible.

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Who am I now?

All things found in the world and beyond

Are illusions created by one’s own concepts.

Grasping at them but further distorts perception.

Give up grasping and see things as they are.

  H.H. Dalai Lama

My two memoirs are written.  My story is finally going to be “out there” and yet,  last night as I lay in bed, I thought about the person I used to be.  I thought about the previous lives I’ve lived within this lifetime and there have been many.  

From the time I was adopted I was forced to play many roles within that family.   I was a maid, housekeeper, performer, model, pianist, choir girl, girl guide.  I could go on and on.  We all know, as adoptee’s, how we twist and turn trying to fit into the place given to us after we are given away.  We never fit no matter how hard we play the roles and how we try to mould into a space that was never meant for us in the first place.

Over a lifetime of trying to fit in to the many subcultures of the 60’s and 70’s still didn’t work..  You know, deep down that you don’t fit and yet from experience and desire to belong we still try.

I go over these lives, the people that were part of the journey.  I wonder where they are and what they are doing, knowing in my heart most of them are dead.  Yet here I am, alive and telling my story.

This morning when I got up I reached for my stethoscope  that hangs on the hall stand as a reminder of one of those lives.  I was going to listen to my little Jangos chest, just as I did for many years with patients.  Image

Where did she go?  The very well respected, confident R.N. who thrived on stress and yet always remained so cool and calm.  I remember how she felt each day she went to work excited for the challenge and unpredictability of the ward.  I wonder where those I cared for are, how they are doing knowing, some are not with us, yet I think about them.

As real as those years were and the memories still are, it’s like a dream today.  It reminds me of Buddha’s own words. “See this floating world as like a dream, like a mirage, like a fantasy.”  I also remember, I think it was Yeats saying we are all actors in a play, on the stage of life and we can do, be anything we want.

I remember falling in love for the first time. I remember the overwhelming sadness when it didn’t last.  I remember thinking I would never live anywhere but Toronto and that if I lived beyond 30 it would be a miracle.  I remember people I loved dying and leaving me alone in the jungle of city streets soothing my pain with my drug of choice.

Several times I came home to an empty house, all of my belongs gone.  Mostly I worried about my writing, my songs and my guitar.  I still look when I see someone playing on the streets.  It was the most beautiful Gibson 12 string and that pretty much was the total of my belongings, yet to start over so many times was just part of life back then.

Why is it so hard to let go?  Let go of who we used to be.  Let go of the reminders of what once was.  I got rid of a box of pictures years ago because I was afraid when I died, my daughter would see who I really was and here I am writing it out for the world to see.

I remember, when I got off of the “streets” and my first living space was a purple and black hall closet.  How safe and cozy I felt, confined in that tiny place because it was mine.  I remember the body that was a speed swimmer and the feeling of gliding thru the sparkling water muscles working in unison and without pain.

I have an old shirt I wore when i was in India.  Since then I’ve gained a huge amount of weight from illness and medications.  I remember where I wore it and the smells and sounds I experienced and if I hold it to my face, i can still smell the Indian spices and Buddhist monastery incense.  If I get rid of it, will I loose touch with those memories?  Will I throw out and important part of who I am?  Who will I be if I rid myself of everything?

As an adoptee that has been fragmented by reunion I know what it’s like to not know who you are, either before or after reunion. We have walked around for years in the roles we thought were such a big part of us.   We adoptee’s know the emotional collapse of our psyche that occurs at some point in reunion.  Other’s of course, have no idea.  Why would they when they were standing on their own roots, grounded in the knowing of who they are.

We are all connected to people, places, things, traditions, beliefs, habits, ideas.  Are we defined by these connections?  I believe so, perhaps that is why adoptees struggle so much with identity.  Without roots you have no ground to stand on, no stability in who you are, just the roles you play.

In Buddhism we are constantly reminded that these “things” represent our attachments, thus attaching us to the world.  As in the previous post I wrote that our attachments are what cause us suffering.  Because we are so focused on our attachments we don’t pay attention to the truth of our present moment, we fail to follow our deeper values.

Attachment is all about wanting and not wanting.  Its about desire and dislike.  What do you want most in life?  What do you want least?  I write about this because as a “post fragmented “adoptee who has spent the last years putting myself back together in a different order I can now reflect and see where my attachments were and how much suffering I set myself up for by clinging to things.  It took me 3 yrs to stop paying my nursing licence even tho’ I knew I was too ill to ever go back and had also moved across the country.  If I took that away at the time of physical and emotional crash during reunion what would happen.  Who would I be?  

I keep repeating this subject because I need to hear it over and over again.  Writing makes it real for me.  When I recall all of the attachments that have been let go I feel lighter and ready to take on the next chapter.  Having strong internal boundaries as well as external control over your own behaviours has helped focus and refine my energy.  My spiritual practice is deeper and more intense on a personal level.  The sense of inner peace is growing and the inner attachments have lessened.  Still a long way to go but the less you carry, the easier the climb.

By letting go of the inner attachments, the roles, the beliefs you open up a space in your heart.  Growing virtues such as compassion and loving kindness packed in care emerge.  Detachment doesn’t mean you become indifferent by any means.  What it does mean is you are less vested in the outcomes.  The real possibility of seeing everyone as equal and belonging to the same tribe becomes evident.  Even personal loss may be better handled when detachment and understanding is attained.

So, who am I now?  I feel lighter, more whole, more spiritual, more grateful, more grounded, less encumbered by the wanting of what could have been and never will be.  Its easier to return to that place of peace than ever before.  Always a work in progress.  I am…

I am not my story and yet it is part of me but not the total of me.  That is freedom.  I am happy to just “be”.  I am.

Telling Your Story

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THICH NHAT HNAH’S WONDERFUL CALLIGRAPHY FROM OPEN HEART, OPEN MIND RETREAT 2011

So, it’s been awhile since I blogged. Each day when I sit to write I find the day has been taken up by Finding Heart Horse and The Wall of Secrets, the two memoirs on their way.

Finding Heart Horse is now in the publishing stages with Balboa Press, a division of Hay House. I had no idea how much work was involved even before you can submit a manuscript and have spent weeks trying to get it all in place. The pictures, the formatting, the words and finally I had what I considered to be the full file. My story all typed neatly in a specific package, specific file as requested.

My story. I told my story! Inside my story is a hundred other stories each one begging for validation, for someone to hear, for someone to see, for someone to understand.

Isn’t that what we all want?

To be heard. To be acknowledged and validated especially when your story involves the pain of abuse and violence, adoption and trauma upon trauma. We want and need people to listen.

This blog came about because for me, after 7 yrs of writing these books, working through each and every story emotionally, I felt free. I was no longer my story. I had to roll in the gutters of Hell along the way. Covered in the dirt and grime of life stories I emerged feeling lighter, integrated and scared. It was on paper with all of the guts and gore and pain endured. Not easy by any means. To walk through those stories as if I were there in time was beyond excruciating . Sometimes, in disbelief I would reread and reread and wonder how I had survived at all. I was FREE.

The truth will find us out, but it will also set us free. The trick is…you have to tell the good and the bad. The blog came from a few requests by the publisher to “retell” a rape scene because I was only 16 at the time and underage. I also had to get rid of what I considered to be some of the most important pictures.

My immediate reaction was one of anger. I mean, come on! A rape is a rape is a rape no matter how graphically you describe it or blankly leave out the guts and gore. I felt unheard, unvalidated, unseen and dismissed as I was so long ago.

It appears then, that while most of my story is on the paper and out of “me” therein lies some residual triggers and why wouldn’t there be?

I lived with secrets for 5 decades. You can’t change those deeply ingrained emotional triggers overnight. After sitting with these feelings and recognizing where they came from I was able to let go and rewrite the scene with less graphics and know I am heard. I hope they know that this is only one of many other scenes to follow!

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THICH NHAT HANH
OPEN HEART, OPEN MIND
2011

So I sat in reflection of how important it is to Tell Our Story. How important it is to listen to others tell their story. To listen with Compassion.

We all long for connection. When you tell your story it resonates with others. Person to person we connect, not in our pain but in the fact that we are healing, growing together by honouring each others stories and actually “seeing” the other person. The real person, all of the person, the good and the bad and ugly, if there really is such a thing. We are the ones that put those labels on.

In the superficial world of everyday life, people prefer to show their best side and hide any flaws out of fear perhaps or societal requirements. It’s when we tell our stories with truth and honestly, its when we make mistakes, or have to apologize or speak of failures that we become truly human and we connect with others in an authentic manner.

I see now in a different way Finding Heart Horse has blessed me with many lessons and will continue to do so as I work through each part of this publishing process I still need to work on healing my heart and telling my story is a huge part of the journey, I have to dig through the layers of hardened emotions if I want to rescue my heart that has so many cracks and patches already.

We all have these scars, but until we can look at our past in the eye and not blink, it will always be telling us to be less than we can be.

We carry our own pain but also part of the cosmic pain that connects our spirits together.

We really are one family.

Because we have room for our own pain, we have room for the pain of others and we can actually help to bear their suffering. Only then can pain be transformed into joy. When one heals, so does the rest of humanity, And when humanity heals, so will the planet.

Tell your story. Tell it in whatever way you choose. I’m listening with compassion.Image