A Healing, In Three Parts, Accompanied By James Taylor.

In March, I wrote about how the Chieftains touched my soul with their music. A few weeks ago, I was able to get a powerful reminder that they are not the only ones able to lift my soul.

Music is woven into the fabric of my journey. It has been escape, rescue, resting place, an expression of anger, and has provided strength and fortitude.

In college, I had the joy of meeting two amazing people who loved the music of James Taylor. Katie and Liz, mother and daughter, are two of the most amazing and strong women I know. I live far away from them now and I seriously miss them. They are strong and fun and kind. And as I said, they love James Taylor. Katie had the two CD set of his music and she would let me borrow it. I knew the music, but having the CDs to listen to over and over (and over) again, let me know the words.

The first song that helped me heal is “Shower the people.”

“You can play the game,
And you can act the part,
Though you know it wasn’t written for you.
Tell me how can you stand there,
With your broken heart,
Ashamed to playin’ the fool?”

I was doing a lot of acting at that time in my life. I was trying to play a part, the one everyone wants to see, but I felt inauthentic and broken. I was ashamed and I didn’t know how to fix it.

I needed to feel what I felt, not how I was supposed to feel. I felt sad, angry, broken, alone. No one really wanted to see that act. But it was the only one I could really play with any gusto, and I am grateful to the people who allowed me to be in that place and didn’t look away.

If we are able to shower the people we love with love, including ourselves, we can begin to heal and survive what we thought was unsurviveable. I truly believe that, and from that love, the world changes, if even  just a little bit.

“You’ve got a Friend” is an amazing work that brings me to tears almost every time I hear it. It was hard for me to learn that people cared about me. It was hard to know that people thought of me as a friend and were a friend to me in return. The relationships in my life that should have helped me learn this lesson were skewed. Once I got that lesson, that I really did matter to people, it is one I cherish and try to uphold with great care. Friendship isn’t something I treat lightly.

The third song that I always liked, but now see in a new perspective is “How Sweet It is.”

I have finally found my love. He understands me and gets me in a way I never imagined possible. I was in other relationships before this, but it was never anything close to the love and acceptance I feel now. <3

Healing, like song writing, is a process. Some things come quickly and amaze me how completely and wholly they come together. Other things take a long time to come together. It feels as if I will never get there, but piece by piece, it all comes together and in the end, it is a beautiful thing.

I’ve focused more on the music here than the feelings and great expressions of love I have been shown. Those are harder to describe.

I rejoice for songs, for healing, for friends and for love. It is an amazing journey, but mostly, I’m enjoying the ride.

What songs and people have helped you heal?

 

 

Why Your Story Matters

Story-Telling

“Stories are the way we make sense out of the events of our lives.  Individually and collectively we tell stories in order to understand what has happened to us and to create meaning from those experiences.  We all have our individual stories, the narratives of our personal life experiences, through which we deepen our self-knowledge and develop a greater understanding of ourselves and our relationships with others.”  These words jumped out at me while reading Daniel Siegel’s, Parenting from the Inside Out.

Dave and I were reading this book in order to look for better ways to parent our children.  We weren’t approaching it from any perspective other than as parents, and I don’t think the author meant it to speak specifically to survivors of childhood sexual abuse, but reading it as a survivor, it suddenly made sense to me why telling our stories matters so much.  Stories are the way we make sense out of the events of our lives.  If you are a survivor, the abuse you lived through is/are event(s) of your life, just as much as any other.  We tell our stories in order to understand what has happened to us and create meaning from those experiences.  When your story remains hidden, or secret, you are not allowed to explore and deepen your self-knowledge.  We all have our individual stories, the narratives of our personal life experiences through which we understand ourselves.   What is your story?

According to Daniel Siegel, there may be experiences from your own childhood that you couldn’t make sense of at the time, because no caring adult was available to help you understand your experience.  Memory is the way the brain responds to experience and creates new brain connections.  The two major ways connections are made are the two forms of memory: implicit and explicit…Implicit memory is a form of early, nonverbal memory.  Explicit memory is factual and autobiographical.

As infants, we lack the ability to create autobiographical narratives out of experiences, but we still react to events and create implicit memories.  As we grow, we develop the capacity to create an autobiographical narrative from these experiences.

During trauma, Siegel says, it may be that excessive stress directly impairs the functioning of the parts of the brain necessary for autobiographical memories to be stored.  He adds that when it {implicit memory} is retrieved it lacks an internal sensation that something is being ‘recalled’

When memories don’t make it to explicit memory, they don’t become part of our narrative.  They remain just the way we react to things.  Have you ever walked into a room, or smelled a cologne, or felt the temperature change, and been immediately flooded with a sense of vague remembering?  Telling your story can help move your memories of the abuse from implicit to explicit memory, allowing you to begin to understand and process.  Telling your story actually creates new neural pathways in your brain, allowing you the opportunity to have less flooding of emotions and more choices on how you respond to the memory.

If you’re not quite ready to share your story with us, here’s a helpful way to open the door and share your story with yourself.  Use a blank sheet of paper to create your life’s timeline.  Draw a horizontal line across the page.  On the left end, make a mark, and label it “I was born.”   Choose major events in your life and mark them along the timeline.  You choose what they are, marriage, divorce, birth of children, jobs, graduations.  It’s your timeline.  Then, start making marks and labeling the abuse events.  Again, you choose the points.  You choose the labels.  When you’re finished, sit back and look at the timeline.  Put it away for a few days, then get it out again.  See if more needs to be added, or things need to be moved or removed.  This exercise was really powerful for me on many levels.  I hope it is for you too.

“The way we tell our life stories reveals the way we have come to understand the events of our lives.” Daniel Siegel.

Self-Parenting?

Do you have kids? Nieces? Nephews? Neighborhood children? Have you ever felt like you had to parent someone? Most people, in some form or another, have had to act like a parent to someone. Or perhaps we felt like someone should be in a parenting roll for a child or another adult.

If the concept of being a parent doesn’t ring true for you, did you have a parent or parental figure in your life?

Many people, for many reasons, have felt like they didn’t have a parent, or needed a stronger one. I hope you found someone, a friend or older adult, who helped you and acted in a parental manner toward you.

Sometimes, however, we can’t find a suitable person to be our parenting figure, or we need more care than the person we found is able to give. What if we were each able to learn to parent ourselves in those kind of situations.

That may sound like just some lame therapeutic tool, but it can be really valuable and practical. Imagine in a situation where you are struggling that you can say to yourself, “Jackie, what do you need to feel better at this moment? What do you need to make it through, even though it seems like you are all alone and everything seems overwhelming and beyond what you can do?” “Do you need to take a few minutes outside of the situation to calm down? Do you need to take a nap? Do you need to stand up for yourself and say something? What is it you need to do to get through this or take care of yourself in this situation?

I have had these moments in my life. I have had a lot of them actually. It seems strange to many of us, and we think that someone else knows the exact solution or knows what we need. Sometimes someone else does know what we need, but that is usually because we know ourselves well enough to have expressed to that other person what we need.

We have to do the hard work of learning to parent ourselves. For so many reasons, our parents weren’t there for us, or aren’t there for us anymore. There isn’t anyone else that can fix it for us. We have to do it.

And the work is hard. It is hard to realize we need to learn how to do it. It is hard to mourn the loss of the people who were supposed to do it. It is hard to have the self confidence to do it. It is hard to keep doing it.

Many of us, did not have very good examples of parenting in the first place. Then to take skills which are not engrained in our minds and use them on ourselves can be pretty scary. So many of us know, just feel it in our bones, that the way we were raised and treated just isn’t right. We would never treat anyone else like we were treated. We have to take that knowledge and use it on ourselves.

We would never say things to others to hurt them. We know what it was like to be hurt and even though we slip and make mistakes, we must learn that we, too, are people who do not deserve to be hurt and told bad things.

Parenting is hard. It doesn’t matter if you are parenting yourself or others, it’s hard work. Some of us have skills naturally to do it. Others of us have to learn as we go.

Regardless of the models you had, everyone makes mistakes. As you learn to parent yourself and treat yourself well and in a way you would like to be treated, be kind and know that even if you make a mistake, you have the opportunity to make a better choice and treat yourself better the next time.

We would love to know who your parenting role model was and how you have learned, or are learning, to parent yourself.