Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Gifts That We Give

My dear friends (I consider anyone who reads my blog regularly to be a dear friend),

This last week, because of Christmas and something that came up in therapy, I have been thinking a lot about you and the tremendous gift you have given me this past year.  You may not have even been aware that you were giving me a gift, but you were (and are).  I will explain, but you know by now that brevity is not my strong suit, so please bare with me.

The other night I was watching Man of La Mancha, one of my favorite movies and I was reminded why I love it so (besides the music).  One of the themes of the movie is very similar to a theme in one of my favorite books, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Yes, A Little Princess, is a children's book.  To explain the similarity and what I adore about them, I would like to begin with A Little Princess.

This book is about a young girl named Sara Crewe.  As the story begins her father takes her to a boarding school, which apparently was common for the time period.  She is a very rich, pampered little girl, but still very sweet.  During her time at the boarding school word arrives that her father has died leaving her an orphan (her mother had died sometime previous) and penniless.  The boarding school, afraid of what the public might think if they put her out on the street, agrees to keep her on as a maid.  All her beautiful clothes and belongings are taken away and she is left with one black dress that does not fit well.  She continues to be a sweet, well-mannered child which is one of the things I love...her character. After some time has passed, she is dirty, her clothes are torn.  One day as she is on the street running an errand for the boarding school a young boy sees her and decides that he wants to give some money to "the beggar girl".  Afterwards the boy's sister chastizes him saying, "That girl may be poor, but she is not a beggar."  Somehow in the interaction between Sara and the young boy, this other girl could see something in Sara.  Was it the way she behaved, the way she held herself, something in her eyes?  The book does not say, but the point is the girl could see beyond Sara's outward appearance, to the beautiful person within.

In Man of La Mancha, we have Don Quixote, who is delusional, but in the most adorable way.  He embarks on a quest, and while on his journey encounters Aldonza.  Aldonza is, how do I put this?  Basically she is a bar maid/waitress and reluctant prostitute.  I say reluctant, because I don't think she has much choice in the matter, she can take the money or not, but the rest is out of her control.  Don Quixote sees her and immediately falls in love.  He refuses to call her Aldonza, because it is a common name, apparently fitting of her current position in life.  Instead he choses to rename her, Dulcinea, which he feels in a much more fitting name for a lady such as she.  The world sees a prostitute, but Don Quixote sees something more, something beautiful inside of her.

Both stories portray characters (Sara and Aldonza) who going through tremendous difficulty, and the people who are able to see beyond that to the beauty within.  THAT is what I feel you, my readers and friends, do for me.  In this blog, I share some of my deep pain and difficulties, and yet you don't shy away from it.  You are still here reading and supporting me through this journey.  I like to think that like these stories that I love, you can see something in me besides this tremendous burden that I currently carry.  And because I believe you can see it, it helps me to try and find it in myself.

I am reminded of another favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life.  When difficult circumstances brought George Bailey to the lowest point of his life, he was given the gift to see what the world would have been like without him.  He was able to see all the lives that he had touched, many without even realizing it.  And the other lives that were touched because of the people that he helped.   The ripples of his life and kindness to others were huge.  Can you see the George Bailey in yourself?  I imagine that you did not know that reading my blog would mean so much to me (but it really does), how many other lives have you touched without realizing it?

You continue to read my blog because beyond the pain you see something in me, that is your gift to me.  I, in turn, see the "George Bailey" in you, and that is my gift to you.  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stealing Guilt

It wasn't my fault!
It wasn't my fault!

One more time...

It wasn't my fault!

Oh, my friends, it feels so good to be able to write that and believe it.  It has taken me almost a year.  Remember this poem?

Some Day

"Tell me again,"
I say and they do,
"It's not your fault."

I picture them in my mind,
my husband,
my Bishop,
my therapist,
my friends

I see the words on their lips,
I hear their words with my ears.
"It's not your fault"

But my heart
. . .does not hear
The little child in me
. . .does not see. . .

Somewhere deep inside,
...I know
It was my fault,
and I need
to be Punished.

"Tell me again," I say. And they do...
Some day I will believe them.
Some day,
. . .but not today.

Someday has finally arrived and I know, the little child in me knows, "it wasn't my fault!"  What a weight lifted off of me!  What a release! 

So what happened?  Well, two nights ago, I had an appointment with one of my spiritual heroes.  It was something I had wanted to do for a long time, but I had put it off for a couple reasons (both were as untrue as the abuse being my fault...but I couldn't see that at the time.)  Finally, during a particularly low point, I called him and made an appointment to see him.  Tuesday was the night.

We sat down together and he said, "Let's start with a prayer.  Will you say it?"  I was very sorry to say, "No," but the guilt I was carrying did not allow me to pray with other people.  I said my personal prayers, though not as frequently as before, but I could not pray with others.  He graciously offered to say the prayer.  After the prayer, I explained to him as briefly as possible what is going on with me and why I didn't feel comfortable saying the prayer. 

Then he began to teach me.  We spoke for an hour, and I won't share all of it here...it would be too long and some of it is too personal.  I want to share what he said that helped me release the guilt...at last.

He said, "Leslie, when you take something that does not belong to you it is thievery.  The guilt that you feel does not belong to you.  It belongs to the person who abused you.  Give it back and stop stealing."

I almost laughed out loud...I thought that was such a funny and ridiculous way to say it.  Guilt is not something that can be "stolen"...it is not concrete, not 3D, and not even anything anyone really wants.  Then it hit me, it is also ridiculous for me to blame myself for the abuse that was clearly not my fault.  Ok, Abuser, you can have your guilt back.  I don't want it any more. 

I don't know if it was actually those words about "stealing guilt", or because he is one of my spiritual heroes telling me that it was not my fault, or because I was ready...perhaps all of those things...but suddenly I was able to let it go.  The next day I was thinking about his words and I started to cry...wonderful cleansing tears! 

It wasn't my fault! 
It wasn't my fault!
It wasn't my fault!

Each time I say it, I feel a little more healed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Unusual Christmas List

One day I was tiding up and saw this paper lying on the table.  It was signed my daughter.

Christmas is coming up and you know what I want. . .

Cheese from the moon
Cotton candy pillows
Pears from Mars
A Martian friend
The pot of gold from the end of a rainbow - just the pot made of gold, no gold!
An umbrella for a petite doll
1 pne needle from the tallest pine tree
A bucket of rain-water
A leaf from the Amazon

And you thought your shopping list was difficult...