While i have not perfected the art of letting go, the results so far have been liberating. I highly recommend it.
Tunnel Vision. This is one of the key components of depression. It is the disease’s way of not only keeping you in its grips but strengthens its hold on you. The problem (and to the depressed mind that it often oneself) and its misery are the only things that exist.
Often it feels like an impossible struggle to simply lift your head. Do it anyway. It’s worth it.
Easter is the celebration of the sacrifice. We are reminded that Jesus died for our sins. As a mother, i think i get that. If i could, i would take any punishment to spare my baby girl from suffering. But that is not always a good idea. I think that we need to be willing to face our own sins a little more often and accept their consequences. After all, being human it is a given that we are sinners. Being repentant celebrates humanity. Is there a more noble way to honor the life we have been given than to accept our frailties and find strength in one another for it?
Be kind. Remember, we are all in this life together.
For decades I buried you so deep, even I forgot about you…but you kept hoping one day someone would save you.
I emotionally abused you with my disgust, loathing and poor choices…but you found a way to survive.
I covered you in layers of fat…but your heart still beat strong.
Hang on a little while longer, kid. I’ve got my shovel, the f*ckin elliptical…and most of all…love.
Today and all the days that follow…I’m on my way to save you.
I’VE BEEN HACKED…AGAIN!!! It happened to my friend Joe Meyer last week, this week it’s my turn. Ugh. If you get weird messages, friend requests for a second Judy Cangemi facebook page that looks just like my existing one, emails, texts, etc. from me, DISREGARD AND DELETE!!! Happy Sunday everyone…except the sh*thead that hacked me.
Facebook is an incredible thing. Since I opened my account, I’ve reconnected with people I thought I’d lost forever. I disconnected with people I should have a long time before. And I’ve made many wonderful connections I would never have been able to had it not been for Facebook. One of these connections is with Bill Murray III. Not the Ghostbuster and SNL alum…although he does have a great sense of humor and his mission is to help people exorcise demons; the demons that haunt the victims and survivors of child abuse through the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (http://www.naasca.org/).
Bill and I haven’t ever met outside the virtual world. We have a friend in common who posted a personal achievement. There was something about Bill’s comment that intrigued me. I clicked on his name, saw a little bit more about him and requested his friendship. When he graciously accepted, I sent him a message thanking him and for doing the important work he does at NAASCA. I told him that I am a survivor of a variety of forms of childhood abuse. He told me that he is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse as well. And a kinship was formed.
From there, we got to chatting about our paths toward recovery. It’s rarely a straight line and it certainly hasn’t been in my case. But it’s worth it. So much has happened in the past few years, even more in the last few months to impact my recovery process. I could have viewed these events as crippling…and at first they were. instead, I chose to turn them into catalysts in my metamorphosis from victim to survivor. Life is still hard and bad things are inevitable but now more than ever, I believe that life is worth living. Despite my past, I am worthy of happiness in the present and future. It’s there for me, too. Bill asked me to be the special guest speaker on NAASCA’s internet radio show called BlogTalkRadio Stop Child Abuse now (SCAN). Because I’ve found catharsis in shedding the shame attached to the abuse I endured and in my disclosure, other survivors found the courage to share their stories and get the help they’ve needed for so long, I said “yes.” Without hesitation. Without even thinking about it…that’s right, Judy the Over-Thinker said “yes” without giving it any thought.
So that’s how I spent 90 minutes of my Friday night last night; talking about my experience, strength and hope to help myself and other adult survivors of child abuse. The link below will bring you to the entire 90 minute show. Listen if you like. Understandable if you don’t. I didn’t get very graphic but anytime anyone recounts incidents of child abuse, it can be disturbing. Plus…you might not want to know THAT much about me. But you’re welcome to.
If you or anyone you know is an adult survivor of child abuse and want an empathetic person to talk to about it, any of the residual effects or to find out where to get help, please contact me. We’re in this life together.
Thank you Facebook for making the world a little smaller and life a lot better.
I don’t listen to pop music. At least not by choice. I’m not making judgments. It’s just not my thing. But every once in a while I am in a place where it’s being played. More often than not, it’s in my car while I’m driving Catalina somewhere and she puts on “her station.” Anyway, today I heard a song by Kelly Clarkson that struck an incredibly deep chord with me. It’s probably been out for ages but to me it is brand new. It’s called “Because of You” and it is the story of my relationship with my grandmother, the woman who raised me. I am pretty sure that Ms. Clarkson had no idea about this when she wrote it. I guess that’s another reason why her lyrics penetrated me so deeply. When you are the center of your own universe, passing time in your own life, feeling your own emotions, it is nearly impossible to fathom that someone else might be having a similar experience to yours in their universe, especially when our experience is that of extreme pain (or love). When you hear someone express that emotion eloquently and with the same intensity you feel, you are overcome by this connection. At least that is the way it is with me. That’s how I felt when I heard this song.
I wept. No…I bawled. That’s kind of unusual for me. Five years ago when my grandmother died, this woman who by every definition but biology was my mother died, I did not shed a tear. Not when I was telling the rabbi who was to deliver her eulogy about her, the hardship she endured and all the sacrifices she made not only for me but for everyone…but especially for me. Not as the rest of my family cried at her grave. Not once when I’ve reflected on this loss over the last five years. That was her legacy to me. Be the rock.
I am thankful for that trait she taught me, for the most part. But I always felt like I was missing out on a lot. There were not a lot of hugs and kisses exchanged between my grandmother and me. Add that to the abandonment issues I felt with my mother (she lived with us, but she was very rarely around both in the literal and emotional sense) and you’re not left with an emotionally open person. I guess that’s another reason why I write. It’s the one place where I can really wear it on my sleeve yet still be detached.
My grandmother was overprotective to a great extent but was so blind to so many harmful things that were going on with me. I never learned to ride a bicycle because it was instilled in me to be deathly afraid of falling down. Fear, more than love, is what I remember most about my childhood. That is another legacy she left me.
This trait I am not thankful for. While some fear is healthy, it’s what keeps us from running out into traffic, when it keeps you from experiencing life’s gifts or effects your decision-making process it is crippling. So many decisions throughout my life were motivated by fear of falling. Fear of failing. My grandmother in her strange brand of logic thought it would be motivating to me if she only pointed out where my shortcomings were, compare me to others when I fell short. She didn’t want me to get a swell head or become complacent. What she achieved with that approach was instilling the idea deep inside me that I am not good enough. That I never will be good enough. That I will be judged by my failures instead of remembered for my successes. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying I deserve absolution for all the mistakes I’ve made because I have “Mommy and Grand-Mommy Issues.” They’re my decisions. I own their consequences. There was nothing I could do as a child to stop these seeds from being planted in me. But as an adult, it has become my life’s work to pull the weeds that have grown from them. I’ve become quite the gardener of my mind, trying to plant flowering seeds…I am good enough…I have already achieved successes in my life…I am not defined by my mistakes. A lot of them take. But if I am not diligent with my weeding every single day, those weeds grow like wildfire and strangle the roots of those flowers. This is the life I was dealt. For many years I was angry about it. That didn’t give me anything but more misery. The more I let go of the anger and just accept what I was dealt and enjoy my life anyway, the better able I am to see these wonderful gifts I have been given and enjoy the successes I earn.
Hearing that song today helped me to understand a little why I never cried for my grandmother’s passing. I am forever grateful to her for giving me everything she could. If I say that is not enough, it would make me the perpetrator of these poisonous thoughts that have inflicted so much harm on me. That’s not who I am. Despite the horrors of her childhood, she was a better mother to me than her mother was to her. I will chose to carry on that legacy and be a better mother to Catalina than the mothering I received.
The last time I saw her alive, my grandmother had a tube in her throat to aid her breathing (she killed herself slowly with cigarettes). She couldn’t speak. She wrote me a note that I still carry with me “I’m going to say good-bye because I don’t know if I’ll be here tomorrow.” Her eyes were watery and I saw a softness and vulnerability in them that I had never seen before. My eyes were dry and crystal clear as I took her note, put it in my purse and told her that we should finish watching “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I am, after all, the Rock. She grabbed my hand and held it as tightly as she used to when we crossed the street together when I was a child. She always had such a firm touch and a heavy hand. She pulled me closer to her face and mouthed the words “I’m sorry” over and over again. Her soft, vulnerable eyes were now crying and I could see a desperation in them, something else I’d never seen before in her. I told her she was a good Mama and that it was okay. When I came home that night to Salvatore, I told him that I knew that this would be the last time I’d see her alive (with the COPD we had a lot of false alarms) and told him what she said. He asked me what she was sorry for. I told him that I didn’t ask. “Isn’t that going to drive you crazy not knowing?” he asked me. I told him that it didn’t matter. She was sorry and I forgave her. In the end that’s all that mattered.
Thank you, Kelly Clarkson, for making me feel a little less weird and alone today. Childhood wounds run deep. Knowing that there was someone else out there whose universe was just like mine and who made it out on top is both comforting and inspiring. Now it’s about time that I get back to tending to that garden of mine.
Catalina called me today from the nurse’s office to tell me that one of the brackets fell off her braces again. My daughter must have the slickest teeth in the world because this happens fairly often no matter how strong the cement is that they use. The orthodontist managed to squeeze her in at 3:15. This bummed me out a little bit because I planned on going to Costco between leaving the office and picking up Catalina after basketball practice. While I love having Catalina as my sidekick when shopping, I was really hoping to just get in and out, grabbing the essentials and using my fresh batch of coupons. Oh well.
I got Catalina from practice and she was excited to go shopping, mostly for the tasty samples they give out at Costco. Catalina told me how happy her coach was that she was able to make it to practice despite her orthodontal emergency. The rain started coming down harder as we drove past 7-11. I drove slowly through the giant puddle in front of the parking lot. Up ahead I saw three girls who looked like they could have been Catalina and her friends. They were splashing along down the street, laughing and one of them was spinning a fuschia umbrella. Catalina and I were trying to decide what to have for dinner. The light turned green. We started to inch forward. The three girls started to cross Union Boulevard, which is a pretty big street in our little town. The girl with the spinning fuschia umbrella darted ahead of the other two girls. She didn’t see the red car turning. The drive didn’t see her and her spinning umbrella darting. Even though I was looking right at them when it happened, I can’t tell you what happened when they collided. The next thing I saw was the girl laying montionless on the pavement, her fuschia umbrella upside down in the gutter, and the two other girls standing over her in hysterics.
At first I thought they were goofing around. That the girl slid on the wet pavement and her friends were playfully teasing her. As we pulled up beside them, it was clear that this was not a joke. Catalina recognized the girls as students from her school. They’re eighth graders so Catalina only knew them by sight but it’s a small school in a small town so they were easy to recognize. I got out of the car and went to the girl on the ground. I told the two friends no to tr and mover her. By then another woman had already stopped and parked her car in such a way that it blocked oncoming traffic. A man also stopped and was already on the phone to 911. We both looked down at the girl and asked her if she was okay. She did not respond. Her brown eyes were half open and rolling around in their sockets. Her jaw was slack. “What’s your name, honey?” I asked her. No response. “What’s your name?” One of her friends answered, “Giselle,” as she trembled and cried. The other girl was on the phone to Giselle’s mother. “Giselle, can you hear me?” Her lips quivered but no sound came out. Her eyes were rolling further back in her head. An oil delivery man ran out with a moving blanket and covered Giselle with it. An older gentleman came and held his umbrella over her head. And the driver of the red car was standing beside it, watching us from a distance.
Catalina stood near Giselle’s friends. She kept looking back and forth between the driver and Gisellle. “I’m gonna make sure he doesn’t try to get away before the cops get here,” she said to me, pointing at the driver. I know she meant it. I know that if she saw that man attempt to get into his car and flee the scene, Catalina would run after him and stop him in any way she could. You have no idea how much I was hoping he would stay put.
The police arrived first. Giselle was still unresponsive. The police had some sort of small kit to use on her so we all stepped away so they could do what they needed to do…but none of us left. I joined Catalina near Giselle’s friends. They were still distraught but seemed comforted by the police’s arrival. I asked if they got in touch with Giselle’s mother. They said they had and that she was on her way. She lives right nearby. The girls cried and hugged each other and blamed themselves for what happened to their friend.
When the ambulance arrived, Catalina and I got back into our car to get out of the rain. I was trying to hold back tears and decided to take out my Blackberry and ask for prayers for Giselle from my Facebook community. Catalina told me how scared she was by the whole thing and told her Facebook community about it as well. She thought the same thing I had at first; that the girls were goofing around. “It happened so fast.” Yes it did.
It was a little while until the paramedics loaded Giselle into the ambulance. Just as they shut the doors, a woman who must have been Giselle’s mother arrived. She was running as fast as she could on the wet pavement. She had a look of restrained panic in her demeanor. I could see her face contorted and tears streaming from her eyes. She slipped slightly as she reached the rear of the ambulance and she beat on the door with a clenched fist until it slung slowly open. She jumped inside and the door shut quickly behind her.
The police had moved on to talk to the driver. They were speaking casually. The officer held the sideview mirror that came off in the accident in his hand as he spoke. And that’s what it appears it was. An accident.
Catalina and I went to Costco as planned. We shopped and ate the free samples. We laughed together as we normally do. But from time to time, we mentioned Giselle and everything that happened. Catalina said that everytime she shut her eyes, she saw Giselle laying there in the street. She had never seen an accident and its consequences unfold before her eyes. It was truly frightening.
As I sit here writing the account of what happened today, it all seems so surreal. If I did not feel this lump in my throat, I would think that this was all just a bad dream. But it isn’t. It’s real. Giselle and her friends could so easily have been Catalina and her friends. That mother at her baby’s beside could have so easily been me. It could be any of us or our children. Next time I get a call from the nurse’s office, I will try not to get bummed that my plans have to change. I will take it as a gift that I get to spend some time that I didn’t expect to with my baby. I will hug her a little tighter now and be even more nervous when she is out with friends.
And I will pray for Giselle, that she pulls through without any permanent injury. And I will pray for Giselle’s family, that they see their little return to her normal self quickly. And I will pray for her friends, that they don’t feel guilty for something that was beyond their control.