Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bridges for Surviving


For the past five weeks, I’ve been posting stories of my childhood that carried with them subconscious messages that affected much of my life. Fortunately, as an adult, I’ve sought professional counseling.
         This has provided me with the opportunity to recall these events in my life, come to grips with them, forgive all of us who were involved, recognize the patterns of thought that evolved from these events, and decide which of these patterns I wanted to embrace and which I wanted to abandon. This work continues as I discover new ways these thoughts impact my aging life.


         In an earlier posting I said that today I’d begin sharing some humorous stories with you. However, I’ve decided that I need a bridge between those life-changing incidents already shared and the amusing tales that this blog will highlight throughout March and possibly early April. After that, I hope to return to convent postings.
         In your comments, some of you praised me as a survivor. So the bridge to connect the February postings with the March ones is about what helped me survive: Arthur, my mother, a reoccurring daydream in which I took refuge, and blue.
         Arthur is my imaginary friend from kindergarten. He remained visible to me for many years and I still, at times, feel his presence. Click here for the posting in which I introduced him to you.
         During my grade school years, after I got off the bus each afternoon, greeted mom, and had a snack, I often hiked down to the creek. It was about fifteen feet wide, and its water ran swiftly, emptying into the Missouri River. I’d sit on a large slab of rock with a boulder behind me.


         Arthur would sit next to me and often I’d rest my head against his tawny sides. He is a gentle lion whose eyes are deep wells of compassion and understanding. While I was never able to tell any adult about the molestation happening in my life, I could share everything with Arthur. Again and again he assured me that I was a good little girl.


         During those years, I shared my school day with Mom. She’d help put into perspective the childish spats between my playmates and me on the playground. We’d discuss what I was learning. She’d send me to the World Books to find out more and would get excited with me as I learned new things. She’d tell me about books she was reading. Always, she made me feel important. Cherished.
         The third bridge to sanity was a daydream. Whenever Dad came home drunk and he and Mom quarreled, I’d go into my bedroom and lie on the bed. There was no door into my bedroom, just a curtain hanging within the doorframe, so I could still hear the arguing, but I didn’t have to watch my father swaying or my mother’s face redden.
         During that time, I’d retreat into my own mind and lie, not on a bed, but on a hillside that sloped down into a deep, green valley through which a stream flowed, meandering to the light-danced sea beyond the hillside.
         I’d lie on my back against the fragrant grass and the welcoming loam and look up through the spreading branches of a blossoming apple tree. Cloud wisps accented the blue sky; birds perched on the branches; butterflies landed on my fingers.


         The sounds of that hillside—birds, their heads cocked, singing about the wheat; the far sea splashing on the shore; the soughing wind wending its way through the valley—comforted me. I was a long way from the troubles of home. Safe. Secure.
         Always I could escape to that hillside. To that green valley. To that turquoise sea.
         Those three—Arthur, Mom, and Daydream—helped me survive. I had survived asthma as I child and so I knew about breathing and distracting myself. I also had a fourth bridge to peace—blue. Click here for how that color helped me survive.
         Next week—laughter!

Photo of apple blossoms by Dan from freedigitalphotos.net; photo of lone tree by Archipoch from freedigitalphotos.net; other photos from Wikipedia.

61 comments:

  1. Hi, Dee!
    As I read this, I wondered why you chose a lion to be Arthur? Now you have me wondering about 'blue'!

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    1. Dear Susan, I didn't choose a lion. The lion chose me and simply appeared one day. I didn't know anyone named Arthur. That name simply came to me also. Peace.

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  2. I'm very drawn in. I am nurturing grandchildren who have no idea how adults live; how they will grow up; how to make choices. You made a choice to take "blue" with you, for example. The children are in counseling, but he more I learn the more I understand.

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    1. Dear Joanne, it's so true that the more we learn of the experiences of others and the more we examine our own experiences the more we understand and the more empathetic we can be. Or so I think. Peace.

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  3. Our brains are endlessly creative, which all of this proves...I'm also curious about Arthur and why was he a lion?

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    1. Dear Molly, Arthur just presented himself to me one day while I was walking to kindergarten back in 1942. He was a lion. The link within the posting will explain that in more detail. Peace.

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  4. You chose sound coping methods. You could just have easily have chosen an alternate personality to help you deal with problems no child should have to face. I have been known to use daydreams for unpleasant medical procedures. It does work.
    I wonder if having Arthur as a comforting friend has led you to the company of cats as an adult?
    I too am interested in blue.

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    1. Dear Arkansas Patti, the truth is that many years later I began to hallucinate three aspects of "Dee." I've posted about that back in 2011. Those three--Dodo, Anna, and Dolores--stayed with me for about ten years. It was only when I began to take Stellazine that the hallucinations ended. Peace.

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  5. I love that you had some part of you that remained sure of your core of goodness and the meditation (daydream) you slipped in to sounds positively Divine! I am so pleased that your mother was also able to remain a source of love for you as you grew up. Thank you for sharing your stories.

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    1. Dear Kari, all these blessings protected me and helped me grow and since I reached adulthood I've had additional help through spiritual directors and psychiatrists and counselors. It's taken a lot of help from other to get me to where I am today: a woman who likes herself! Peace.

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  6. I am so glad you found Arthur & blue!! You write so beautifully, it's a wonder to me that publishers aren't chasing you down to sign a contract!!!!!

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    1. Dear Fishducky, I, too, am so glad. Arthur found me and Blue settled around me. The Universe took care of me all those years ago. And still.

      Oh, Fishducky, you make me feel so good when you praise my writing. It's taken me years upon years upon more years to accept that I can write. In fact, it's only blogging and have many of you who read my two blogs tell me that I write well that have finally forced me to believe that indeed I can write. Peace.

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  7. Arthur reminds me of Aslan. Oh, how I love Aslan. I want so badly to visit Narnia, but I'm not going there; nor will I receive the letter telling me I'm going to school at Hogwarts. But I can still dream.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Funny, I was just thinking the same thing. :)

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    2. Dear Janie, Juli, and Broad, many years after Arthur introduced himself to me in kindergarten, I read the Narnia series and was pole-axed to discover that Arthur and Aslan were so alike. I think there must be some universal deep down need in us for someone like Aslan. Many call that someone God. I know only that Arthur saved me.

      As to Hogwarts, Janie, I, too, would love to receive my letter. But alas, I'm way past eleven years old and so must be content with the stories that "Harry" tells me! Peace.

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  8. I believe my mama used the daydreaming to escape some bad memories in her life and it carried over to her adulthood and was put to good use during medical tests.

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    1. Dear Nancy, like your mama, I daydream during medical tests. Often I use Tai Chi Chih to lower my pulse rate and my blood pressure when someone is taking them. Peace.

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  9. Thank you for the picture of yourself, Dee. It's nice to see what you look like as I read your words. I never felt the need to retreat into daydreams, but I know that the mind is a powerful thing that helps all of us make sense of the world. I love your coping mechanisms so much! Thank you for sharing all this. :-)

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    1. Dear DJan, you're welcome for the picture. it was taken in May 2009 when I met with a friend for lunch right before moving down here to Missouri.

      LIke you, I think the mind is powerful and can help us respond in a healthy way to the vicissitudes of life. Peace.

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  10. I used to day dream all the time as a kid. I still do. :)

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    1. Dear Juli, I, too, taking a dream train to somewhere in our mind can help me get through almost anything! Peace.

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  11. Your childhood, or lack of childhood, is so disturbing. How you made it through and came out the other side with a loving, kind nature is a miracle.

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    1. Dear Arleen, you know that in the scale of human misery, mine was so little compared to so many other children whose life is uninterrupted terror. I'm not denying that things were hard for me as a child. But I know that there were periods of peace also. And although I always feared that I'd be abandoned again, I knew that my mom and dad did love me. They just might need to leave me again because I was such a "bad little girl." My thought then was how could anyone--even someone as wonderful as my mom or as strong as my dad--love me? Peace.

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    2. Oh my, Dee; why don't you know what a relevant person you are. You must give yourself that gift. Great harm has been done to you, but you have lived an extraordinary life of giving. Your life has mattered. Come home, dear heart, to the amazing person you are.

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    3. Dear Arleen, your kind words bring tears to my eyes. Thank you. And peace to you ever and always.

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  12. All of your coping mechanisms strike me as wonderful. Arthur, your mama and daydreaming - and blue too. I suspect that many of us have used, and continue to use at least some of them to get through our days as well.
    And yes, I am as always, filled with admiration for what you have made of your life. Thank you for being you.

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    1. Dear EC, I do think that all of us have a thirst for survival and so we all come up with coping mechanisms that will help us survive. But sometimes that coping mechanism doesn't work quickly or even well because the forces against us are so terrifying or strong. It is for children whose lives are simple misery that I grieve. Peace.

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  13. I agree with Janie in that Arthur reminds me of Aslan. I'm so very happy you had these things with you to help you cope with the horrific things you were going through. I am looking forward to reading your next postings (as I always am!).

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    1. Dear Shelly, I'm looking forward to writing those next postings!!!! Peace.

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  14. The complexity of your inner being is so many things -- intriguing, mysterious, beautiful, and always amazing. The mind is a wonderful thing and your ability to access the maze of your own survival to that place of universal oneness -- is a testament to the wonder of human life.

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    1. Dear Broad, thank you for your kind words. I've come to a belief in Oneness after searching for many years for what and who would explain the experiences I and others have had. As I've begun to understand what being human means, the only thing that makes sense to me is that I am a part of the Holy Oneness of All Creation. As are you. Peace.

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  15. This is a beautiful post, Dee. It shows again, how strong and amazing you are.

    This sentence is especially poetic:

    The sounds of that hillside—birds, their heads cocked, singing about the wheat; the far sea splashing on the shore; the soughing wind wending its way through the valley—comforted me.

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    1. Dear Elisa, thank you. That daydream still rests in my mind. It is as fresh today as it was nearly seventy years ago when it came to me. Peace.

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  16. What a gorgeous image of Arthur you paint here. Brilliant little girl you were.

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    1. Dear Michelle, thank you. Arthur kept me alive I think. Peace.

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  17. Wow---what a wonderful imagination you have. It's no wonder that you are a writer now... That's just SO creative. Love thinking about Arthur --and that relationship... Interesting.. AND then you talked about BLUE... I always think of BLUE when I think of PEACE. You were searching in every way possible for the inner peace. Love it...

    Great post... I'm proud of you for your coping mechanisms and your ability to rise about all of the problems. AWESOME.

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. Dear Betsy, I bet you developed and have used some fine coping mechanisms also. They've enabled you to find--finally--a wonderful and fulfilling life. Peace.

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  18. I keep a postcard sitting on my desk of Aslan. It is a painting by Robert Cording that hangs in the Marion E. Wade Center at nearby Wheaton College. The center has a magnificent collection of not only most of C.S. Lewis' papers, notes, lectures, but the desk he wrote on, the wardrobe in which we all entered Narnia through, but the desk of Tolkien and so much more. The postcard is a small memento that oddly gives me courage. Your Arthur and the thread of comments have me looking at Aslan right now.

    I'm glad that Arthur was with you, as well as your imagination, and, of course, your dear mother, Dee, as I'm grateful for your sharing your memories. Thank you.

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    1. Dear Penny, I've never thought to look for a painting of Aslan. I suppose that's because I found a sculpture that so reminded me of Arthur. Way back in about 1967 I was visiting Antioch College in Ohio and went to the gift shop.

      There I picked up a painted clay statue of a lion. His rump fits into my left palm and his dear face fits into my right. So often I've head him and felt the fear and the tension and stress that sometimes in the past entered my life flow into him. And I've always known that Arthur could handle this. He was . . . he is . . . my dear friend and my best self. Peace.

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  19. I am just in amazement that Arthur was so similar to Aslan, yet you hadn't yet experienced the Chronicles of Narnia! What a big surprise! I've never read what influenced C.S. Lewis to choose that amazing image of the Lion for such an important and central role, but it makes me wonder of his own experiences and perhaps this image is important to other children needing this very special reassurance in such a friend. I am deeply touched at the way you share the importance that Arthur played in bringing you through such painful childhood years.

    Debra http://www.breathelighter.wordpress.com
    I am glad you shared this bridge between the stories of abuse to whatever humor you will share. You have such a healthy outlook on life today, there had to be many bridges! You are so gifted in being able to share such delicate and hurtful memories, but still infuse the with courage and hope. I really think you have something to offer others, and that's also a very precious gift, Dee.

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    1. Dear Debra, I, too, find myself wondering about why a lion, whose name was Arthur, appeared to me in that vacant lot across from Our Lady of Good Counsel Grade School. Why not a little girl or boy? And the truth is I think that I needed the power of a lion to protect me and to let me know that I was loved.

      There's a great story about Caryll Houselander, an English mystic who died in the 1950s. When she was small, she'd come home from school and want to describe to her family something that scared her that day. They had an almost daily salon to which other London intellectuals were drawn and so paid little, if any, attention to a little girl's fears.

      One day Caryll sat in a corner and listened to the talk swirling around her. She heard someone mention lions and being fearful of them and so not ever going on a safari.

      Well, the next day, Caryll was scared by a dog barking at her and so she rushed into the house and shouted, "Mommy! Mommy! A lion's chasing me!" She was sure that the word "lion" would get attention but "dog" wouldn't!

      That's what I call creative coping with a problem!!!! Peace.

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  20. Thank goodness you had Arthur, Blue and Daydreams! It's so fascinating what all of us, as children in terrible circumstances, chose as coping methods. While I coped by bonding warmly with Aunt Molly, several nuns, my mother, family friends and my brother, I also survived, at least in part, with daydreams. I would imagine myself being 24, a famous writer in New York with plenty of money and bright prospects. That helped a lot -- until I was 24, a sort-of well-known writer in L,A, in a small niche with not a lot of money -- but still had big dreams.

    I love the way you write, Dee. You're so talented and I'm so glad you're persisting with the blogs we all enjoy so much and hope that publishers begin to discover you again, too. It's such a tough business. But don't give up!!

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    1. Dear Kathy, remember that old song, "Dream when you're feeling blue. Dream, that's the thing to do"? It's what helped you and me and so many others. I always like to read about your Aunt Molly when you include her in one of your posts.

      Thank you for the kind words about my writing. I composed a generic query letter today for "The Reluctant Spy" and used the suggestions that you and others left as comments on my Sunday blog a week or so ago. Tomorrow I'll start looking at the agents' websites to find the names of agents who have some interest in historical novels. So I'm not giving up. I'm going for it!!!!! Peace.

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  21. Interesting to read about your coping mechanisms, some with which I can identify. You write eloquently about your experiences, thoughts and feelings.

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    1. Dear Joared, we all find our own ways to cope because if we don't the ship sinks. Thank you for your kind words about my writing. Peace.

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  22. We all have survival techniques of some kind, Dee and I love the variety and imaginativeness of yours. They stood you in good stead at a very difficult time of your life.

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    1. Dear Perpetua, at the time all I thought about Arthur was that he was a friend and he'd wait for me each morning in the vacant lot and accompany me to school and each night he'd wait to accompany home and then when I went to bed at night in the neighbor's house, he'd lie on the floor and I could hear his steady and reassuring purr. Peace.

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  23. So that's how you became such a wonderful writer. A mind that can create an imaginary friend and dream about a world far from reality must be the starting point for every great writer. The words, the grammar, the length of a paragraph and so on, would come later, that would be sort of the house built on that foundation that you created in childhood. You often read about difficult childhoods of famous writers, maybe they did the same.

    I replied to your comment and a few others on my blog today and gave my own opinion on the sorry state of US healthcare. I was worried I got too much into politics, but most people agreed with my views and even if they didn't, I feel good about giving them something to think about.

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    1. Dear Inger, what a friend you are to lump me with famous writers!!!!!

      I'm glad your posting on the Time magazine article on health care in the United States garnered so many comments. You've done us all a great service by writing about it. Thank you. Peace.

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  24. I think it is wonderful that you had so many things to help you through such a rotten time in you life.......

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    1. Dear Jo-Anne, I was blessed in so many ways and continue to be so. Peace.

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  25. Hi. I just ran across your blog..think I got here through Sanny. I cannot wait to read previous posts, looks like I have alot to catch up on. I have anxiety-OCD and wonder if it was triggered by a tumultuous childhood. I hated my parents fighting, most of which was about my fathers drinking. I never saw him drunk..but he would stop at a bar after work and be late for dinner so we would eat over my mother screaming at him. Really damaging for children. I wonder if OCD somehow became a coping mechanism for me. hmm

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    1. Dear Krystal, I've never heard about OCD and so looked it up on your blog and also on Goggle. Your last sentence really bears some thoughtful recollections on your part. I was surprised at all I found from my past when I began thinking how I survived. I hope your anxiety-OCD lessens as time passes. We need to practice so much patience with ourselves. And we so need to be gracious to ourselves. Peace.

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  26. Thank you, Dee, for this bridge and glimpse into your inner self and the gifts you received during childhood. I love learning about Arthur; what a friend. The fact that he told the truth about you being a good girl implies things to me, though I can guess that people would have differing theories on where he "came from." At any rate, somehow you were given the correct messages about yourself as a help in your struggle. I'm glad you also could rest in the verdant field at times. This is a great message.

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    1. Dear Deanna, I suspect that Arthur came from the deepest part of myself where holiness and wholeness and divinity dwell. And where grace and graciousness reach out so we can embrace ourselves.

      Those verdant fields remain so vivid in my mind. Like an oil painting. Peace.

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  27. Dearest Dee, God provided you with the strength and the help of others to see you though.

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    1. Dear Pam, yes, the Universe surely has taken care of me throughout my life. I absolutely believe I have about fourteen guardian angels watching over me!!! Peace.

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  28. A child’s way of surviving;
    it’s all so real and realistic. I am still totally in awe of you.

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    1. Dear Friko, for some reason I lived much of my childhood fully aware of what I was feeling and seeing. Perhaps we all live that way. But it's because of that--I think--that I can recall all this with such detail.

      As to being totally in awe: that's the same way I feel about you and your life and how you write about it. Peace.

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  29. I understand that some folks find imaginary ways to cope. I suppose my Dad's passing made him a a spirit I would imagine watching over me and I would also work hard to gain his invisible approval. But over the many years he's faded and only my version of the spirit of an almighty over us all now sits in my head though without shape or from.

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