The Epilogue

The service is done

The tears shed

Ashes stowed

His final bed

Pride in my family

Not the least of which, Mom

Who honored my father

With dignified Calm

Standing Room Only

His life well represented

Laughter the keystone

Not a life lamented

Notes to be written

Soups to be made

We dreaded the after

But we’re no longer afraid

Of the space that is empty

His body departed

‘Cause his spirit is present

We are each lighter hearted

Remember my laughter

Remember my smile…

Remember my loving

Remember my style

I’ll forever be with you

To navigate the way

As you journey forward

I will help lead the way

You’ll never be alone

Nor should you feel sorrow

I’m forever in today

As I’ll always be tomorrow

Okay Dad…we’ll remember

Part II – Opening a Window

today she wakes
and looks in the mirror
again
she notices first
that she is not alone
there, in the reflected layers of her life
a reunion of all who have walked with her
loved with her
laughed and cried with her
survived with her
leaving pieces of their own hearts, like beacons
along the path she now travels
softly focused, each smile touches her soul
some, instantly recognizable
familiar and loved faces of those who have made a difference in her life
how could she have forgotten?
others are strangers, unknown and unmet
but she hears them whisper…
you have made a difference in ours
how could she have known?
so many
she never realized
the power of one
but she feels its truth in the swelling of her heart

she feels him there
she doesn’t have to seek him out
in every layer, his is the brightest light
drawing her back through each layer
back and back and back to their beginning
he shows her and whispers to her heart…
“this is how you’ll always be to me; this is how I’ll always be to you”
he takes her hand and moves forward
she sees the evolution of their lives
the birth of their greatest joy
great gains and greater losses
buds of youth giving way to blossoms of senescence
destined to fall from the tree of life
as all things must
closer and closer and closer
to this moment of here and now
he shows her and whispers to her heart…
“I am and always will be”
“You are and have always been”
“Nothing else matters”
“Nothing will ever change that”

she turns, eyes bright with unshed tears
she sees
lines deep beside her smiling mouth
she knows
love’s power surging through her veins
she feels
whole

then…
she opens the window

it’s not easy

IT’S NOT EASY IS IT?

trying to find a title for a discussion of this magnitude is not easy.

trying to find a way to speak openly and frankly about this subject is not easy.

trying to come to grips with teen and young adult suicide is not easy.

trying to understand the minds of those that bully, in real space or cyber space, is not easy.

trying to find a solution is not easy.

seeing signs or hearing that your child may be a bully is not easy.

taking responsibility is not easy.

OR IS IT?

justifying their actions is easy.

saying that’s just how kids are is easy.

victim blaming is easy.

changing the channel or turning the page is easy.

giving a silent prayer of thanks that it’s not your child so not your problem is easy.

judging others is easy.

but…

facing facts is not.

easy.

WHERE ARE WE GOING WRONG?

Mattie Yates:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2607248/Im-doing-world-favor-Heartbreaking-farewell-video-girl-16-posted-YouTube-committing-suicide.html

Amanda Todd:

Ryan Halligan:

http://www.ryanpatrickhalligan.org/index.htm

Megan Meier:

http://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/megans-story.html

Phoebe Prince:

http://www.truecrimereport.com/2010/01/phoebe_prince_15_commits_suici.php

Jessica Logan:

Tyler Clementi:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/30/tyler-clementi-gay-student-suicide

Shannon Gallagher: (this one is especially hard to fathom…the teen sister of a cyber bullied suicide victim)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/13/shannon-gallagher-sister-cyberbullying-suicide-erin-gallagher_n_2296488.html

Rehtaeh Parsons:

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/rehtaeh-parsons-girl-dies-suicide-rape-canada_n_3045033.html

Audrey Pott:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/reports-3-teens-admit-assaulting-norcal-girl-who-later-killed-herself/

this list is far from complete, but I find I can look at no more.

those families left behind have not been idle.

they’ve formed foundations, initiated awareness campaigns, and again, the list goes on and on.

as do the suicides.

additionally, we now have, literally at our fingertips, the following, just to name a few of the resources available, as a direct result of this problem:

  • no bullying websites – one example

NoBullying.com features many pages dedicated to parents, teens, teachers, health professionals as well as posts related to cyber safety and the latest news about law making concerning curbing bullying worldwide as well as inspirational bullying poems and famous bullying quotes

  • suicide prevention blogs – one example

http://www.activeminds.org/our-programming/awareness-campaigns/suicide-prevention-month/suicide-prevention-month-blog

  • national suicide hotlines – one example

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

  • cyber bullying studies and statistics one example

http://cyberbullying.ua.edu/index.php/casestudies/

wherein they recite:

The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center estimates that nearly 30 percent of American youth are either a bully or a target of bullying

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people with approximately 4,400 deaths every year

(and those stats are just here, but this is not an American problem.  this is a world problem.)

PLUS:

  • child protection software
  • web filtering software
  • social media safety programs
  • free teen safety e-books

so…what are we missing?

what are we doing wrong?

or maybe the better question is…

what are we NOT doing right?

I am no judge

I am no jury

I am no winner of any super parent of the year award

however…I am a survivor.

and living proof that

‘it’s a phase’

belongs at the top of “The Worst Things A Parent Can Assume” list

STOP!  DON’T ASSUME!  ASK!  LISTEN!  PAY ATTENTION!

no one knows your child better than you do. and no one does or will ever, care more.

and then there is “The Worst Things A Parent Can Say” list
(and I’m as guilty as the next guy for saying most of these things because I heard those things):

“that’s just how kids are”
“you’ll grow out of it”
“you’ll get over it, you’ll see”
“go find something to do”
“it’s not that important”
“ignore it, they’ll get bored”
“you don’t want to be like everyone else do you?”
“you’re too young to understand”
“sticks and stones…”

i am not being a Monday morning quarterback, at least, I hope you don’t see it that way.

i am not blaming all parents for all things as I certainly couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I took the blame for everything my children did growing up.

what I am trying to do, is shed some light on a few of THE most common, albeit loving, words of advice and/or wisdom we impart to our kids in an attempt to make them ‘feel better’ about themselves.

it doesn’t work.  I know, that’s harsh.

but it doesn’t work.

our children know we love them. they know we’ll say anything to make it better (in our own minds).

but we need to stop putting acne cream or liquid foundation on what WE PERCIEVE to be our kids’ source of their low self-image, and I say that because, if they saw themselves as WE do, this would not be the fucking horrific problem it is.

they don’t see themselves through OUR eyes.

they see themselves through the eyes of their peers.

just as the majority of all of us did.

no…this is not a new war.

it’s an old war on a different battleground.

an anonymous one.

one that affords bullies (who otherwise might not ever have dreamed of pulling the trigger) a haven of relative safety with which to thrust their swords of misguided judgment and fire those malice filled bullets.

all in an attempt to…what?

you know the answer.

to hide their own insecurities, to assuage their own feelings of inadequacy, to belie the perception that they are lacking, to feel big, and most importantly…to mask their own pain.  to make themselves feel better than…by making someone else feel worse than.

this is not a new concept.

and it’s certainly not only employed by teenage bullies.

knowing this…is it a stretch to think that the corporate bullies, the ball field bullies, the ‘my kid is better than your kid’ bullies, were bullied as youths?

nope.

OR

on the flip side…

if not bullied…were bullies as children, left to their own devices because ‘that’s just kids being kids”?

sadly, there is no easy solution.

it’s not easy, after all.

but…there are things we can do, as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, friends…

stop making assumptions
stop making excuses
stop enabling our kids by ‘trying to be friends’

be a parent now and a friend later.
if you feel the no…say the no.
if ‘but johnny has one’ or ‘suzie gets to’ arguments sway you…get to know johnny and suzie a little better so you can perhaps point out to your kids the things they have that johnny and suzie do not.
allow your children to suffer the consequence of their choices but always offer an alternative to better ones. don’t take away the responsibility of their actions because you feel sorry for them.
if they say they hate you now…they’ll love you later, especially when they have their own kids.

no amount of money you spend ‘keeping up with…’ will ever make them feel pretty or popular on the outside if they don’t feel it on the inside. give them reasons to feel it on the inside. teach them compassion and empathy by living it. teach them to see beyond by doing it.

temper the time spent praising their feats by counting their blessings, whatever they might be.

teach them that each of us are blessed in our own way, some on the outside, some on the inside, but it’s all worthy of love and respect.

help them celebrate our differences by being well-rounded, informed, engaged, and interested parents who take the time to get to know their school, their teachers, their friends, and their friends parents.

yes, this is a different age. parents today have very little free time.
but…that was our choice yes?
say what you will…but every generation’s evolution is a direct result of that generation’s choices.
we cannot use ‘I have no time’ as an excuse to not raise our own kids.
we cannot blame society or teachers for ‘not giving’ our children the values we should be giving them at home.

our children need us.
they will never admit to this, but they do.
not just the first 10 years or the next…
it is a lifetime job.
and the job of a lifetime.

let’s help give our kids that lifetime, that looooong lifetime.

please

i dedicate this post to the fire starter, you know who you are, and you know what you mean to me…and i thank you for knowing i had something to say, no matter how small

The year that broke the dam

Today’s post is the anniversary post I had planned for yesterday. As is often the case, life intervened. And in retrospect, I’m glad it did. Terrified, but glad.

You see, I was prepared to reflect on this last year alone. Lord knows it’s been a year like no other for me. But over the course of the last couple of days, I’ve realized that’s not enough. Not even close. It must go beyond that.  It must be shared how a photograph of an eagle…

Morning at the lake 003

To have missed this would have changed it all.
To have been witness to this, did change it all.
Change is life.

a beam of light

2011-12-26 001 013

Light through the dark.
All you need do is look.
And believe…it’s for you.

…a kind word of encouragement from a friend, and a blog can change the world.  My world. And I hope, in some way, someone else’s.

I must talk of how my past blew a hole in my present and almost destroyed my future, yet didn’t. And I hope, somewhere in here, before I’m done, I will show too, just how much I’ve gained this last year; in love, friendship, self-esteem, self-reliance, …hell, let’s just say self.  That’s the biggie.

The mirror I’m looking in today is one that goes beyond my image.  Beyond the face that shows subtle signs of age in the soft wrinkles in the corners of my eyes and mouth, and the 50 shades of gray. This mirror mirror on the wall…tells the secrets, tells them all.

Yes, and it’s been a long time coming. And I’m not alone in my many dimensional mirror. I see image, beyond image, beyond image times a thousand, of half woman/half girl, half man/half boy faces that all have the same haunted eyes, looking back at me, silently screaming.

The screams have been heard.  The faces have been seen and are known.  The old, the young, the gone, the living…mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews, friends and strangers; all once children, young adults, adults, of abuse.  They are with me, in front, behind, and beside me.  They are me. They are you. But since I’m the one on this side of the mirror, I’ll speak; for them; for me.

IMG_8042

All things in their time
The time is now
Open the flood gates

Why a dam? It’s built to withstand years of stress and pressure. To give that which is needed when it’s needed, and not before. It’s there to hold back that which is as deadly as it is life-giving. It has a built-in relief system…its flood gates.

We are very like this dam, we human beings.  Our bodies and our minds are built to withstand years of stress and pressure. We can take a life as quickly as we can give it. We cater to those with needs, giving what is needed, when it’s needed, and not before. And we too have built-in relief systems. Plural. For we have many. Not all good, not all healthy, and certainly not all lasting. But we each do what we have to do to survive. It’s in our nature. To survive. Or try to. Some do. Sadly, a great many don’t. Some do their best to just survive. Some go beyond, make a difference, help others with faulty or stuck relief systems.

This last year of blogging; specifically, the meeting of a surprising number of kindred souls in this community, has shown me that whatever forces are at work, led me here for a reason. This is no accident.  Not even a happy one. It is just as it has to be.

Things happen for a reason? All things in their own time? I’m no expert on the human condition, nor am I a philosopher.  But yes, these things I believe. At least, I believe them now. There was a time not so long ago, my belief system was quite different. Why? Because there is no reason in this world or any other I could ever imagine a right reason or right time for abuse. Of any kind. Of any one. Most especially though, child abuse, and God forbid, sexual abuse.

It is of that I speak. Here. Today. Openly and for the first time, terrifyingly public; beyond the false walls I built around myself at a very young age. In this last year, the walls have begun to crumble, and I’ve found that the hands I reached out to others in empathy and compassion, have been taken and touched in kind, and placed safely into a human chain of compassion and support I’d not known until now. Not because it wasn’t there; because I’d never reached before. I was busy keeping my fortress secure. To say blogging helped change my life would be an understatement…it, an eagle, and a beam of light, saved it.

This is the sledgehammer that’s going to take down what’s left. Not just to set myself free, but to reach the one, or the ten, or the hundred, who need to know they are not alone and they are not broken.  Bruised, battered, scarred, hurting beyond hurt, and isolated, yes.  But not broken, and not alone, and not AT FAULT.

I used to think remembering and reminding myself of the details were important. It’s not.  It’s toxic. The devil’s in the details? You’re damn right he is. I kept each detail locked in my fortress, either framed and hanging on the wall like a treasured photograph, hanging on a hook in my closet ready to be taken out and worn like a cloak, or hiding under the bed enmeshed in those evil wind dancing, webs that have been catching and holding years and years worth of dirt; years of details wrapped in a cocoon and saved for later…

Img_0025

Oh the tangled webs we weave
In our minds
Just to survive

…Enough!  Walls down. Light in. Broom in hand.

Time.

Now.

There’s no more room.

I have always wondered, and I know other survivors do also, who I would have been had things been different. Who I was supposed to be. I shall answer the first here…the second, at the end.

  • Would I still feel the need for approval or validation for everything I do?

This is a hard one. And at this moment, all I can say is definitely/maybe not. I’m not there yet, but the more I learn of myself, the more I know that I am quite capable of deciding if what I’m doing is right, or good, and the only one I need approval from, or validation for my deeds or actions, is me. Same goes for consequences. Mine. As with the devil’s details…blaming the past or hanging onto past hurts only keeps me in the dark and they too need to see the fat end of the broom.

  • Would I still agree to do things I don’t want to do to make someone else’s life easier or happier at the expense of my own?

I’m hoping I would have been able to find a balance here. I don’t want to cause hurt or pain to others, but over the years this trait has been detrimental to my own sense of self-worth.  I do believe this trait will be going out the door with the webs, with a more healthy one in its stead.  Not born of conceit or over indulged self importance…one born of kindness and compassion yet with the awareness that I am worthy of the same consideration.  This is a big one.

  • Would I still be empathetic to the point of physical discomfort?

Yes, unequivocally, yes. This will not change. And I don’t want it to. Or it won’t change because I don’t want it to. Either way, it stays.

  •  Would I still be 100% confrontational within my own family circle, yet 100% against/afraid of confrontation outside of it?

I think I already proven to myself that this is history. (right service manager Denise?)

As for the family confrontational dynamic…well part of that is genetic (yes it is..we French love to argue).

Kidding aside, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel here.  A big part of this trait that can appear akin to someone with a chip on their shoulder; a (disguised) resentment born out of my sense of not being protected. But maybe even more, not being recognized.

For me of course, it was obvious.  I knew the taint was visible, I saw it every day.  But I know that’s not the way of it.  And I will say something about that in a moment…but I do know, without question, it was not from lack of love. Still, I did harbor that resentment and anger for a very long time. Its departure is another recent event, and frankly, one I’m glad to see out the door.

What I wanted…needed…to say about the ‘not being recognized’ is this, and I’m coming at this from both perspectives, my own perspectives; as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, date rape, and as a parent.

Parents work. Yes

Now more than ever. Yes

One, both, inside the home, outside the home…work. Yes

We have no choice if we are to provide what we need to care for, and make better lives for, our families, if we chose to have children. Yes

Children require work. Yes

Now more than ever. Yes

Day care, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, primary school, elementary school, middle school, high school…sports, jobs, cars, dating, college.  It’s never-ending. Yes

What do we need more of?  Time? Patience? Energy? Help? Yes to all the above.

What do we do if we are out of/never had any/can’t get any of the all the aboves?

we see a child crying or having a tantrum and tell her to please, please stop or go to her room – we see a shy little boy and make him go outside and play with the kids next door – we see a shy, chubby adolescent and enroll him/her into an activity or put them a diet because no one wants to have their child picked on for being fat – we are at our wits end with the surly teenager who never smiles and can’t wait for him/her to outgrow this phase – we see a young man or young woman making self-destructive life decisions and lecture them about the dangers of sex, drugs, and rock -n- roll (or rap, or heavy metal, or country…makes no difference).

These are all normal, everyday scenarios in the lives of most families.  And will continue as long as we have children.  So what’s the problem.  This…

what if hers is a cry for help without the words to express it – what if his shyness is fear of being away from home or out of your sight because he’s been molested and told he will be punished if he tells – what if the chubby little darling is substituting food for the right kind of attention and hiding their perfect little selves in fat from the wrong kind of attention – what if that surly teenager has a dark secret and thinks no one will understand but knows if you really, really looked, you’d see it without them saying a word, please don’t make me say it – and what if those self-destructive decisions are just that…an attempt at self-destruction for fear of someone knowing, the pain of someone not knowing, and the shame with having said nothing.

We need to stop looking through our children. Stop making assumptions based on our own lack of time, energy, patience, or help.  Things are not always what they seem.  Sometimes they are just what they appear to be…but the time it takes to really look at your children, talk to them, is worth more than any paycheck.

We talk a lot about bullying.  It is rampant these days.  But is it really ‘these days’?  Or have we just been too busy to notice it before.  Bullies are not born.  They are made.  It’s not a stretch to imagine an abused child becoming a bully is it?  Can one who is bullied, beaten, molested by an adult not just as likely to turn his/her anger toward someone weaker or smaller?  We don’t always turn inwards.  Some cope another way.  There is never an excuse for bullying.  But I’d be more inclined to ask my son or daughter the hard questions if I ever saw or heard of them bullying others.

And finally, to answer the second of the questions…Who was I supposed to be?

Well, that one is becoming more clear.  Me. Right here, right now. Me.  And that’s just fine.