Embodied Heart

To Name the Loneliness

I wrote the reflection below during a time of feeling particularly in touch with aspects of isolation. I do not always experience myself in this way, which complicates the presentation. At the same time, I think giving voice to this side of who I am is valuable during times when the themes of family and celebration are ever-present, and so I decided to share it as an #EmbodiedHeart post today.

There’s an ache in my bones when I’m lonely. The fibers of my being seem to be stretched thin and taunt, pulling me along without offering full support to my frame. It’s physically painful, mirroring the emotional pain I feel inside. And, always, the snide little voice in my head reminding me that I “chose” this path by separating myself from my abusive family of origin.

Chronic loneliness and social isolation affect many trauma survivors. For those of us who have experienced incest, feelings of isolation can come in waves. The estrangement from family members who refuse to acknowledge the truth. The holidays endured, rather than celebrated, without a place to truly call home. The pervasive sense of being “different.” The awkward social interactions, stumbling to learn the rules of human communication without a guide-map from childhood. Romantic relationships which crash and burn the moment any semblance of betrayal surfaces.

I marvel that those who are able to wade through the deep waters of dark family secrets and make it to shelter and communion. Their hearts and hands seem mended. Tender moments and genuine healing seem to be the foundation on which they rebuild their lives.

I have brief instances where I surface and see the shoreline, but each mad dash towards it only seems to pull me further from land; more isolated, more guarded, more convinced I’m incapable of loving others. I tug myself onto a patch of sand, surrounded by water, and build castles of schemes and projects. I’ve retreated from seeking sails of potential connection on the horizon.

It is not without irony that I consider my greatest fear for my future. It is not dying alone, that I think I can brave as I’ve braved birthdays and graduations and other major life events bereft of acknowledgement and company. Instead, it is losing my independence. I envision myself one of those crotchety old-timers beating off the nursing home attendants with a cane. As much as my isolation can harm and does harm me, I wouldn’t trade it for subservience, compliance or enmeshment for a moment. Some things taste bitterer than the salty tears I shed on the seashores of my isolation.

Embodied Heart

#MeToo As an Incest Survivor

For today’s #EmbodiedHeart post, I want to share a personal reflection on recent events related to bombshell after bombshell of accusations of sexual impropriety. I rarely comment on things in the news but I’ve been hit hard by both the hope of a tidal wave of change in this arena as well as the lingering doubts about whether anything will change for those of us who suffer abuse at the hands of family members rather than famous people.

As I’ve read numerous stories of women standing in their truth and being taken seriously, as well as some of the accused realizing the gig is up and admitting to their behaviors, I find myself simultaneously triggered and grounded. Triggered in bearing witness to accounts of the myriad of men who chose to exploit their power, often at the expense of those who were vulnerable and young. Grounded in a growing chorus of righteously angry people who are no longer willing to demand we apply the stringent expectations of a court of law in proclaiming that the person is “innocent until proven guilty” but instead allows a well-corroborated story to stand on its own and recognizes the courage it takes for women to find their voice.

I am an incest survivor, one who experienced sexual abuse at the hands of biological relatives. Yet, decades on with so much suffering and difficulty in everyday life, I doubt my story constantly. My recollection of what transpired in my childhood was implicit until I reached adulthood. A series of events unfolded, including my estrangement from my family, after which all the horrific details began to make themselves known to me. My family denied everything.

I doubt myself not because I doubt myself, but because I have no confession. If my family members admitted to their actions, I would have a sense of closure. Without that, I feel perpetually in a “as if” state, knowing what I know but unable to move on. I feel accused rather than being the accuser. That’s it, I feel as though my family members, those who destroyed so much in my life, get to stand in judgment of me for being a “bad daughter.” As I’ve shared previously, my mother could look at me after crying for days and tell me she was always happy. How does one define reality with a person like that? Someone who cannot see despite having perfect vision. All this time and distance, and I still can’t fully shake their grip on what is absolute and what is right. A tiny part of me wants to pursue a court case simply for the verdict. If it went in my favor, perhaps I could hold on to that as truth.

The larger controversy about delayed memory also weighs heavily on me. I was once on an interview only to have the individuals conducting it mock people like me because of this issue. My paranoia said one of my references had tipped them off as to my struggles while my spiritual being was washing with waves of gratitude for being granted the foreknowledge that allowed me to dodge the bullet of working with such heartless people. Needless to say, I declined the job offer.

I find it highly ironic that people with limited connection to their abusers are finding acceptance and are being believed, while those of us who have been betrayed in the most intimate of relationships are still by and large questioned on every front. My hope is that this is truly a tsunami, not a tidal wave. That what has started with the famous and the infamous, the wealthy and privileged, can grow to such heights and carry such intensity that all the walls of denial and basements of buried secrets are flooded and thrown asunder. That the resulting disorder and disarray can serve as a catalyst to finally hear and see the truth of the terror that strikes not only the choir boy and the swim team member and the actress, but also child after child in the privacy of their own homes.