I Stopped Fighting Because I Can’t Win

All my life I’ve had to fight.” Sophia, The Color Purple

One year after leaving an abusive cult where we have spent our childhood merely surviving, my sister and I curl up on a second-hand couch in a mobile home sitting on a Tennessee, small-town trailer park, and we weep together as we watch “The Color Purple.”

It will be the below scene that will stick in our minds forever. When we become adults, we will smile together, softly making fun of ourselves, recalling how real the separation anxiety and fear of abandonment was for us.

This movie scene will make my brother’s face come into my view, time and time again, a nine-year-old little boy clinging to my father’s legs as our mother pulls him away. The sheer helplessness in my father’s eyes will never leave my peripheral vision. I will hear my brother’s screams echoing inside of Sophia’s words. I will see the white blonde of his sweaty hair pasted to his forehead, the redness in his cheeks and the shuddering of his heaving shoulders from so many sobs.

This movie scene will remind me of Prins Samuel, a man from India, who came to the cult in the early 80’s and took a liking to my teenage, older sister. Terrified that she would be taken back to India, I write in my memoir, “Cult Child”, about the afternoon Prins and his travel companion come knocking at our cabin door.

“I pick up my book to read for a while when there is suddenly a loud banging on the door. It’s louder than usual, but I ignore it for Leis to answer. The banging continues so I go to the top of the ladder. Leis is at the door with her back pressed up against it. She signals to me with her finger to her lips.

“Ssssshhh…”

“Who is it?” I say in a loud whisper.

“These two guys from India who are here visiting. Prins and Max. Shhhh! I’ll tell you in a minute.” She whispers back.

We stay silent as the men continue to knock, and I lay flat against the floor of the loft peeking down as one of them cups their eyes with their hands to look inside our cabin through the bay window.”

Cult Child” excerpt

Body memories come in waves, signaled by rapid heart beats and sweaty palms. I recall ducking down the cult compound pathways with my sister and avoiding the men from India at every turn. The days they were visiting seemed endless. We worried. We hid. We were terrified of being separated.

So many moments in an abused child’s life are filled with the anxiety of abandonment and separation. As a child, my sister was my only lifeline. If she was taken away, my last strand of feeling any severance of “protection” would have been erased. In abusive situations, when the children are removed from the abuse environment, keeping children together is crucial, unless one of the children is harming the others, of course. Abused children can create a deep bond with one another; a bond which helps them survive. Separating them becomes an additional wound.

In my song, Capable, I write:

See ever since I arrived I’ve been fighting to keep all the pieces alive; from drowning.”

To live a life of fighting is exhausting for a child. I was already exhausted physically, psychologically and emotionally by the time I was a teenager. This is part of why abuse victims struggle so much when they become adults.

Imagine you begin working at three years old. You rise before dawn to do field work. You work all day until you go to bed at night. Your sleep is often interrupted and limited to 4/5 hours a night. Riddled inside of these grueling work days you are also subjected to physical and emotional abuse, neglect, sexual molestation and extreme mind controlling beliefs. Additionally, you witness this same abuse happening to other children.

Imagine spending your whole childhood fighting to process every moment of your day. In later years, I can tell you, that you will want to sleep for hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes years. You will want to somehow rest your mind, but by the time you get to a place in your life where you can rest, your mind won’t be able to sleep anymore due to its inability to expel the insomnia that years of trauma memories create.

If the first eighteen years of your life are filled with fighting to survive, by the time you enter society after high school, when you should be excited about starting your independent life, you are already very tired. When you reach fifty-years-old, the cusp of your life, you feel as if you are seventy-years-old in spirit. That’s the weariness which sets over the mind, body and soul of an abused human being.

No child should ever begin their life fighting through environmental combat battles day in and day out. They fight to protect their mind until adults break it and fill it with their own ideals. Children fight to have just a voice, a choice, an opinion or any respect in their little lives. They are often brushed off by adults and the system and not even considered an actual “person” until they become eighteen.

Yet, they are people. Children are individual little beings, who have entered this planetary dimension with their own unique DNA.

Everything my siblings and I did was a “representation” of our mother, according to her. When I fucked up and became incarcerated at the age of eighteen, she wept embarrassingly in the visiting room…. EVERY TIME SHE CAME!

Where did I go wrong? How can you do this to me?” My mother lamented.

Ah, the sweet scent of martyrdom, almost confessing before blaming me. In my lowest moments, she somehow succeeded in always making them about her own failures, failures she never really ever identified, though. If she walked the edge of accountability, it was only in private and always to her own advantage, vauge and hollow.

To hear my mother tell it, I was the “wild child“; the “black sheep” of the family. I had always been the difficult one, the loud one. You know, the youngest ones usually are, she’d say. Enter her fake lipsticked smile and an invisible hand to the forehead in angst.

In Rise Of Sila, the totality of my mother’s psychosis emerges, manifesting sad remnants of a cult that starved her and snatched her mind the moment she stepped foot onto their first compound is emerging even more. It’s not easy to examine. Some days I can dig in. Other days, I must rest.

All her life my mother fought. All her life my grandmother fought. Into my Moravian ancestry, women fought to survive, working themselves into death, sick in body and shattered in soul. This is why I decided to stop fighting. I had to break the generational trauma of lives filled with suffering. Why I stopped fighting is a multifaceted thing.

I stopped fighting because I cannot win. I stopped fighting because I don’t want to win.

Who was I fighting? Everyone, including myself.

Why was I fighting? Fear. Fear of abandonment, loss and hurt.

Most humans fight out of sheer fear.

I’m a major Game Of Thrones addict. Arya Stark is one of my favorite characters. The child in me relates to everything about her journey in this series. She was born having to fight. She lived having to fight.

SPOILER ALERT

In one season, Arya finds herself inside of the arena of the faceless man. He teaches her to become no one. She becomes blind so that she can see everything. She spends days, hours, minutes, fighting off her inner demons and rage, and when she is finished, she emerges as a mighty warrior, able to wield her slender sword with exact precisions. She develops the ability to become the very person she must eliminate. She becomes a woman wearing her emotions like a badge of honor, yet still, she understands that being no one is the true way of the warrior.

I am nobody. Nobody is perfect. Therefore I am perfect.

All of my childhood and a large part of my adulthood, I felt like a “nobody”, the kind of nobody who was lower than the swamp. My mind battered my own existence in deep ways. My thoughts told me I was destined to be an overweight food addict all of my life. I believed I was a “Jezebel” just like the cult pedophiles had described us young girls. To myself I was not worthy of anything good. I would never “have” anything good. I would never “be” anything good.

Then one day, I just stopped in my tracks. I had no more energy left to keep fighting. I had to make a choice. I turned to myself. I looked at the “nobody” that I am.

I explored her and I learned so much. What was I trying to win at? Being me? Who was I? I had to go faceless. I was fighting no one. I re-defined my understanding of what it truly meant to be “nobody.”

I dove into myself blindly.

Straight into the bottom of my own nothingness I sank. Do you know what is inside of the dark matter of yourself? Let me tell you, loves. There is infinite possibility. You will fight the darkness fiercely at first. That’s what you’re used to. Fighting. Your whole life you’ve done it. You’ve been separated from yourself, trying to win a war with no one.

The truth is, we are actually ever morphing, infite streams of something. I stopped fighting because without me fighting, I had no one to fight with. Everything I projected outward was really about my innards. Faceless, I roamed my own hallways. I left slain apparitions in the dark corners, lighting them on fire as I passed.

It takes two or more to tango, and so I merged every one of my inner enemies into my nothingness. They evaporated inside of me and became one with my existence. Without me fighting, they don’t have to hide. Together we stand in the Light of truth.

When I accepted that I was no one, I realized I am all of me.

I am everything I observe and absorb. Now, I dance with all of it; the fear, the danger, the anger and the evil. I dance it into my own joy and worth. More can be eliminated in synced-together movements, than in the brutality of battles and war. If this isn’t clear to you yet, stop fighting. Stop trying to win. Be still for a while. Observe yourself.

Stand within your nothingness so you can be all of who you are. Inside the nothingness there is no need for validation. Worry dissipates. Fear gets sucked into your self love. Anger expresses its pain, processing itself inside the brilliance of your confidence.

I ceased fighting, and now, standing in the silence of the nothing, I hear everything.

The Moment I Went Invisible Is The Moment I Became Invincible

Traveling within our own beings we find the universe that we were born to be.
You have universes inside of you.

How to Know When You Are Truly Outgrowing Your Past

Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” Danielle LaPorte

Many people talk the talk, but do they walk the walk?  Many times in my adult life I was a downright hypocrite.   I still have my moments, although now, I root myself in awareness of my behaviors so that my actions align with my words.  I try my best to do what I believe to be right.   Tonight, I was pondering on how a person knows when they are truly outgrowing their past.

I came up with one simple word.

Behavior

Our behaviors, the decisions we make, how we view the world, how we treat others and how we treat ourselves are all indicators of our past conditioning.   I am not a licensed therapist.  I’m a trauma survivor who has attended therapy and spent years reading a whole lot of information trying to figure myself out and understand what had been done to me as a child.

Behaviorally, as an adult, I was a walking ball of confusion.  I had no danger boundaries.  I allowed abusers in my life in both friendship and romantic relationships.  I faltered at being a mother.  I was either overly protective or not setting proper boundaries and sometimes even shut down.   There was a time before I had children that I enjoyed getting into fights.  I was essentially, a mass of anger energy.   Beneath all of that anger and false bravado that I spun to the world in an attempt to appear “normal”, was a deep pain that only seemed to seep out when I wrote poetry.   The rest of the time, it manifested itself in negative behaviors.  I made life decisions that weren’t always the best ones.

In my head I quietly lived in extreme fear of the world, but I didn’t understand why.  I was having numerous panic attacks starting in my late twenties to mid-thirties.   They crippled me.  I would have to leave the store.  There were times I believed I was dying, as my breath faltered and my palms sweat.  Once, I left a whole grocery cart of groceries in the middle of an aisle and high tailed it out of the store.  I didn’t know that I was having panic attacks.   I just knew I felt like the walls were closing in on me, and I was filled with an overwhelming panic to get out and to safety, even if it was my car.

My child abuse also manifested itself in irritation and lashing out behaviors.  For example, if my sons wanted to do something that involved an immense amount of people and/or noise, I would become agitated; begin having fear at the thought of the noisy and child filled environment, even though at the time, I had no clue that was why I was irritated. Noise levels affected my hearing.  Too many humans affected my moods.  I wavered, and I am sure for my sons I just appeared to be a mean mother.   Meanwhile, I continued either spoiling them when I could, in the hope of remedying my failures, or I gave far too much freedom to both of them, which unknown to me, was a recipe for creating a disastrous parent/child relationship.  What did I know of that?  I only had a childhood on a cult and a narcissistic mother to pattern my parenting by.

As my sons grew older, it became very difficult to say no, unless I was feeling anger and/or at a snapping point.  I had no boundaries allowing me to critically think through some of my parental situations.  I loved my sons and was often over-protective of them when they were little.  I worried constantly that someone would sexually abuse them or kidnap them.   I ruminated on fear which often drove my own mind into a state of frenzy that I wasn’t equipped to handle.  That is just one example of how trauma not only affects the person who suffered it, but also their future generations.

Fast forward years later, after counseling, which I now don’t foresee myself ever giving up, just for the sheer support of it, and I realize that things which used to make me exceedingly angry or even hurt, I now have the ability to observe from an adult perspective.  This is how I know that I’m partway into outgrowing my abuse.  My behavior no longer manifests my moods.  I am not always perfect.  Trust me, I can snap and be NOT nice at all when I am pushed in that direction.  I am a work in progress.  However, my pushing pattern has immensely changed.  Where the old self used to flash very quickly, the new self simply moves with action.  Actions truly do speak loudly.

We make mistakes in life.  There are times I snapped and said fucked up things to or around my kids; things I can never take back.  The guilt which builds up in a parent can be smothering.  It can cause parents to become enabling.  It can also be manipulated, if our children get wind of it.   When that guilt no longer exists, I can stand in my place, owning my life experiences, saying, yes, my childhood damaged me.  Yes, that also affected my sons, the third generation children of a cult survivor.

There will never be accountability for me from my own mother.  I can’t sit around waiting for someone to say “I’m sorry”, or come rescue me, in order to change my life or my future.   I am ultimately responsible for me and my decisions.  I can make boundaries and firmly stand by them.  I get to decide my journey.   I get to say no to anyone who doesn’t respect me.  I get to drop people out of my life who have no empathy for those who have been through trauma.  I can do it any way I choose if it feels safe and right.  I get to outgrow my trauma.

It doesn’t mean the trauma doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t mean the past doesn’t love to keep its grimy fingers dug into our flesh.  For me, the very first step to outgrowing my trauma was to accept that it happened and then to accept I can never change the past.   The next step was to then, with vulnerability and no shame, look at my own behaviors and assess what I could change about myself.   Then I had to be willing to do the work.  Part of that work includes learning to be alright with saying no, and putting your well-being at the forefront of your life.   It’s not easy work, but like climbing a mountain, when at the top you see that beautiful view, it’s worth every step.

I feel alright with where I am right now.  I listen to people everywhere complaining about life, and I just think about how many people feel truly lucky just to be alive.  I am one of those people.  I am lucky as fuck to be alive.   It doesn’t mean I don’t cry sometimes or don’t feel the totality of the apathy that’s rampant in the world.  It just means that I am in acceptance of the reality that I can only change myself.   Only I can outgrow my abuse by eliminating behaviors which were once ruled by it.   I don’t wait for someone else to take accountability.  I don’t wait for tomorrow.  Awareness is a state of being; a way of life.  Mindfulness becomes second nature.  Self-love begins to feel good instead of selfish.   We learn what we can and cannot do, and that becomes our boundary line.  We then learn to hold that line like a warrior.