The Battle of the Wills:  Can I Have a Do-over?

The Battle of the Wills: Can I Have a Do-over?

I am a willful person.  I have always been willful.  I was born that way.  Some look at willfulness as a bad thing.  Willful people have been described as “type A”, control freaks and hard to be around.  Some very willful people have done serious damage to the world in our history.  I am sure Adolf Hitler was willful.  And in his case, it would be justified to call him a control freak (and many other things). But there is another side to willfulness.  Will may have almost destroyed the world, but it has also been responsible for saving the world.  Will does not have to manifest as violent and controlling.  Will can also mean willingness.  It can manifest as a desire to do something important no matter what gets in the way.  I am sure that Martin Luther King was willful … thank goodness. As with everything, this good and bad side of willfulness has smacked me in the face as a parent.  I have been blessed with a willful son.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that every child has a willful side.  My daughter has it.  She can be very clear about what she wants.  But I believe it is on a continuum, and my son, like me, shows a particularly strong propensity for it.  Two people in one house with strong wills can create a nuclear war if one (let’s say the adult) doesn’t figure out how to let go on occasion. When my son was very young, I was at the beginning stages of my trauma recovery.  To me, my ability to control my...
Finding Joy, Finding Freedom

Finding Joy, Finding Freedom

As I sit here in this beachfront condo and watch the sunrise on the ocean, I can’t help but know that my life is good.  So many people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  So many people cannot pay their rent.  So many people are trapped in minimum wage jobs which require them to work 70 hours per week just to make ends meet.  That is not my situation.  I work hard for what I have, but I know plenty of people who work hard and still can’t make ends meet.  I know that I could lose it all tomorrow, and it may or may not have anything to do with my efforts.  I am lucky to be financially secure.  I know that. I also have two beautiful children.  Other than soft teeth and one uncooperative eye, they are healthy.  They are full of life.  They love each day to the fullest and they love me.  They are super fun (my son added this point).  Most importantly, they are safe.  So many people cannot have children.  So many people have children with mental, emotional and physical challenges.  So many people have lived longer than their children.  So many people are unable to keep their children safe because of extreme poverty, homelessness or war.  I have not experienced these challenges.  I am so lucky to have them.  I know that. I have had the opportunity to get a graduate degree, so that I can pursue my passion as a career.  I want to make a difference in the lives of other trauma survivors, and although the final...
Have Trauma, Will Hover (Chapter 3)

Have Trauma, Will Hover (Chapter 3)

‘Vacation’ is a funny word for a single mother of young children.  Before having children, the term ‘vacation’ would invoke a feeling of relaxation, but it doesn’t mean what it used to mean.  Now it means I will move my exhausted self and young children to a different place, so I can do the same activities with the same unrealistic schedule.  Nonetheless, we go to the beach every year. I pick the beach because it is the least painful of the options.  I live within a few hours of numerous beaches so there are no long trips or plane tickets.  I don’t have to drag them (and more importantly their stuff) all over a city while trying to keep their attention at tourist attractions that may or may not be appropriate for their age.  And to be fair, they love the beach.  They start to jump up and down the minute they see the ocean and the sand. I know this will sound un-American, but I don’t like the beach.  I am far too OCD for sand, and kids get sand in places that would seem impossible to the average nonparent.  I have never seen so much sand.  I always stay where there is a pool.  If we cannot find all the sand at the beach shower (we never do), I can just tell them to go swim in the pool for fifteen minutes.  That is my saving grace. Of course, their love and my dislike for the beach is not my point.  The challenge with a beach setting (and many other places) for a single mother is children...
Walking Away

Walking Away

I have spent the majority of my life in various states of anger.  For the first thirty years, this anger was mainly turned inward.  I didn’t have permission to express anger in my home.  The retaliation might have killed me.  In addition, society had taught me that it was inappropriate for girls to outwardly express anger.  Instead, I just let my anger eat away at me from the inside.  This anger manifested in physical diseases.  I was sick most of my childhood and early adulthood.  But it also caused me to hate myself.  I had a deep self-hatred which triggered chronic anxiety.  There was no way for me to relax and enjoy myself, or even better, create a life of joy and meaning.  There was always an inner voice telling me I wasn’t good enough. Once I started my recovery, the anger started flowing out in waves.  It was so intense that it would be better described as rage.  I was scared of it at first.  I had seen rage in my childhood and it was usually directed at me.  Plus, I had come to the conclusion that anger was bad … all the time.  This is what I had been taught.  But through my therapy, I learned to accept my anger, and even come to enjoy it a little too much.  It seemed powerful to me at the time because I had been powerless for so long.  I plotted my parents’ deaths.  I visualized a killing spree of every abuser in my life.  I fantasized about putting them in prison.  I thought of all the statements I would...
Three Little Words

Three Little Words

I have always been a talker.  I am an extrovert by nature.  In my family, that made me a problem child.  They couldn’t get me to shut up.  I was threatened with my life and physically assaulted many times because I was exposing the family secret.  But there was good news for them.  Nobody believed me.  So as a child, I learned that nobody ever would. My experience with unsupportive responses started with the women in my family.  The most common response from my mother and grandmother was, “Don’t make things up because that’s not nice.”  During one conversation with my grandmother, she explained that, “Men have urges and it is our job as women to meet those urges.”  There are so many things wrong with that statement, but there is one point that stands out for me.  I was not a woman.  I was a child. I also tried to stand up to my grandfather and my father.  My grandfather was more passive.  He would say that he had no choice but to abuse me.  He would also threaten not to love me anymore.  But my father would beat the living daylights out of me.  He broke my finger and hit me in the head countless times.  I remember going to the hospital with a concussion on more than one occasion.  I am not sure how he talked his way out of trouble at the hospital, but I am sure he made up a good story.  He was good at getting out of messes.  While child rape may be somewhat invisible, physical assault is not.  And he did...