Vacationing After Abuse

Today I spent much of the day outside, just sitting and soaking in goodness and beauty.   However – it did not happen without a fight.

Vacationing was always a dreaded occurrence.  In childhood and in marriage.  As a kid, “the pressure” of moving faster, never savoring or enjoying a moment, left one feeling anxious rather than relaxed,  while the bickering parents, heard from the backseat twisted my stomach in knots.  I learned very early to dissociate from reality with music and headphones on my old cd Walkman (remember those?).  I would literally leave my reality as I turned up the volume.

In marriage it was worse.  The snide remarks, the arguments when we arrived at the destination.  The expectation of having sex as soon as we stepped into the hotel room.  And when I wouldn’t “put out” (because I felt unheard, beat down and emotionally annihilated) I would be punished verbally with silent treatments, disrespect and bullying.  The worst scenario ending with me being choked on a bed covered in rose petals.   Pretty ironic huh?  Nothing says I love you, like being choked on rose petals, does it?

It was like traveling with a bear – if you made a request or wanted to do any form of ‘sightseeing’, he would take his metaphorical paw and shred your flesh across your face. 

Vacations for me meant anxiety, loneliness, punishment, cruelty, and sexual abuse.  These so called “vacations” were isolating and emotionally dangerous.  They heightened the abuse.  The weeks leading up to my Christmas and Summer Vacations were filled with worry and anxiety.  My body knew what was coming.  While my fellow teachers were so excited to have a break from school – I was dreading the extra time at home.  Work for me, was a place of safety.

This was my life for 11 years in marriage – 22 years in family of origin.

My body knew to expect a fight and it is very hard to enjoy a vacation when your limbic system is on full alert, in a state of hypervigilance.

Fast forward to 2020. My first solo vacation!  Purpose:  to get away and enjoy nature.

No work, technology or studying. 

I booked a cabin in Chetek, WI in the middle of nowhere and I am all alone.  I packed my little suitcase and a cooler in my Prius and hit the road.  I rode in silence and enjoyed the countryside scenery.

Hold up.  What was my body feeling?  What was my body expecting?  I feel nothing.  Numb – not excited, no elation nor happiness as I drive away from the city.   I feel dread.  In fact, I haven’t felt anything about my vacation for the past week!

Is my body preparing for a fight -for everything to go wrong?  For the resort to forget my reservation?  No- they remembered, and my cabin is a dream come true.  Well, what then?

I wrestle with the warring thoughts in my brain – my body is tense, and I feel it in my jaw.  I’m not really present in the moment – in this beautiful lakeside cabin.  I’m back home, worrying about all the things I need to do.  I’m back in 2016 when I sat in the woods while my dad deer hunted.  His rifle on his lap.  I tried so hard to do things that he liked – JUST so he would see me and spend time with me. I am not a hunter – I love animals.

  Why did he never invite me to do things I liked to do?   He never knew my likes and interests.

As I color on this beautiful patio overlooking the lake, I wrestle with my thoughts and think:  Why didn’t my dad say, “hey sweetie, I would love to color with you!  I noticed your book the other day, can I join you?”

Memories and judgement pour out because I’m not “doing enough” on this vacation.   I judge myself for not being “productive”.   I leave the dishes in the sink and I hear “you can’t do that – wash those before you go to bed!”   (I leave them in the sink overnight)

Does my body even know it is in 2020?   I am alone and I am safe.  My body is resisting this calm and rest.  My mind continues to vacillate between guilt, condemnation, and pressures at work and home.  “You’re not doing life right – you’re not recovering fast enough.”

The nature around me tries to pull me back to this place and time.  It is 2 years of freedom and my body is STILL prepared for a fight.   She does not know this is rest and it is good.  She does not know she can be completely vulnerable with herself.  

Who can remind her of this?   Who can show her the way?  I can.   I can, be the mother to her fear and calm her flight.

Rochelle, sometimes we don’t have to work, we don’t have to try hard, we don’t have to read or study.  Sometimes we can take a break from processing all that pain.  The work will be there when you get back.  No one is going to leave you or abandon you to do this work alone.  They love you and God has established THEM as a ring of fire around you. 

Rochelle, it’s okay to be afraid of me, this new life and the silence.  What will it cost you to embrace this?  I will be brave for you and we will face it together.

 Here, take my hand, I am NOT going to leave you.  I will listen to you and hear what you need to be safe.  We will embrace the silence together and it will become our strength.

Rochelle, I am so proud of you.  You work so hard.  Your heart is still open and soft despite decades of indifference, I am so proud of who you are.  Take my hand, let us walk among the trees – for there will be no harm done here.

*******************************************************

The sun.  I feel it hot on my face.  No more dissociating on my trip.  I am here.  I am present.  I am inside my body and I feel, see, and hear everything.  I ground myself to the Earth. 

The sun hits my face from forehead to chin.  Warm, hot, focused heat – it is comforting.  My hair gently moves to the side, pushed by a breeze. I feel the hard Adirondack chair under my body.  I hear the wind as it rushes past my ears.  In the distance, geese let out their last cry as they leave this place for another.  

I feel the wind’s cool touch on my face.  It is kind, yet powerful as it nudges the trees to twirl and creak.  The leaves, I see them, on their final days.  Some hold on for dear life, while others, pirouette to the ground.  The water – serene, cleansing, and thick.  It is thick – as the wind pushes its ripples from side to side. 

I am here and this is now.  My body being bathed in sunlight, love notes from my Heavenly Father echoing in my mind.  He is here.  He is near.  He is mine and I am His from now until my last breath.  He doesn’t leave.

Now, my body remembers. She comes from Her Creator – I rest because I reflect His stillness, peace and calm kindness.  I am kind to her because He is kind to me.  My Creator is in me changing and redeeming each old experience and bringing me into a brand-new world.   She is becoming new.

I awake to the trees swaying – like a mother holding and rocking her baby.    The first thought in my head, became a song on my lips:

“Oh, Lord my God

When I in Awesome Wonder

Consider all

The works Thy hands have made

I see the stars,

I hear the rolling thunder

Thy power thru out

The Universe displayed.

Then sings my SOUL

My SAVIOR GOD to me

How GREAT You are

How GREAT You are

Then sings my soul

My Savior –LOVE to me

How Great You are

How Great You are”

I took a liberty with the lyrics as I re-sang this old hymn, which now had a very spiritual experience attached to it, deep in the woods of Chetek, WI.

God has redeemed yet another old memory from my past life.

My Dear Sister,

Life after abuse is possible.  My first solo vacation was difficult as my body played out its conditioned responses.  Yet, I am learning to be kind to her.  She has been thru so much.  My vacation was a success because I gave her what she needed.  The permission to just BE.  My prayer for myself and for you is that we will become rooted by streams of living water, drinking up the goodness of fresh love and kindness.  The winds will not harm us, nor the heat from the sun.  May we rest in harmony with these elements – knowing we are the Beloved.

You are not alone.

Love,

Rochelle Sadie 

4 comments

  1. Ambiguity is something, i as a survivor of abuse, STRUGGLE with. You expressed your struggle with it so beautifully here. The fact that you had to ” fight” to rest is both sad and validating. Thank you for the sharing this example of how we can struggle with our bodily trauma responses and our difficulty feeling present with and in our current bodies, yet still fight to find new paths to joy❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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