Musical Monologues

The Doe’s Plight

Oh sweet, steadfast Hart
Turns tossed in silent night
Verging on skittish, flittish throws
Of mindless, mercuric flight
Accursed shadows of ancient woe
Obscure her crystalline sight
Moonsongs and merciful stars
Shine hope–however slight–
Around these her course enfolds
Till moored in morning’s light

Manderley Swain, January 8, 2020

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Madness, Musical Monologues

Are You Afraid?

Are you ever afraid…
Of your own voice?
Your own words?
Your own thoughts?
Your anger?

I’ve been taught
To be afraid…
Of my anger
Of my thoughts
Of my words
Of my voice

Are you afraid…
To go outside
To see the stars
To hear the crickets
To feast on the moonlight?

I’ve been taught to fear….
The cool night
And the moon
And the stars
And wind in my hair

I’ve been taught
To close my ears
To the call
Of my dreams

Instead, I stay inside
In the dark
In the quiet
In the humid heat
Hiding
Under cover

Trying
To be small
Invisible
Unseen

Do you dream…
Of the words
And the voice
And your angry screams
On the wind
And the call of moonlight?

Written October 15, 2018

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Madness, Memoir

Mask Drop

(originally written April 23, 2019) **note the pre-covid date** I am an avid mask wearer in terms of covid. Please read the post to get the title’s context. Be safe, get vaccinated and wash your hands my loves!

Doing some thinking lately about who I am. Where I stand. What matters most to me. I’m turning 49 this week. The ‘9’s have always been my years for growing pains and self reflection. This one, the midpoint ‘9’ is even more so.

I’ve always been clear, internally, about exactly who I am and what matters. Being an introvert and a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, I tend to keep much of myself to myself. I tend to avoid conflict as much as possible–it’s too stressful and exhausting. Since I’m using so much of my energy just trying to get through the day, I don’t have energy left over to fight big fights. I don’t have energy left over to hear why someone hates what I’m feeling, thinking, or not saying.

As it turns out, I’m hearing and fighting those battles anyway, internally. And that takes just as much energy as hearing and fighting out loud. I’m exhausted AND I’m not standing up and saying who I am or how I feel. That’s much worse. I’m also not leading by example, which is important to me. How will those who need my support and my compassion even know I’m here if I don’t tell them, if I don’t keep light on for them and for myself, too?

I’ve spent too many years trying to be the girl everyone else wanted me to be. I didn’t start out this way. In high school I was known for being fully true to myself. I loved myself unconditionally. I refused to compromise my personal vision or conform to the herd mentality. But before I could begin to truly explore the adult I was becoming, a boy swooped in. He started tearing me down by degrees in incremental bits. By the time I realized the destruction , I was so broken and pliable that anyone could waltz in and begin sculpting me into yet another form, another vision.

It has taken 30 years or more for me to fully realize how pliable I’ve been, how many masks I’ve worn to suit the people around me. I’ve been a chameleon, changing to match whatever or whomever happened to be surrounding me in the moment. All because I somehow believed it was necessary for simple survival. I’ve fought too hard to reclaim my life, repair my broken parts to allow that to continue.

My dreams and my capacity to love have always been much bigger than simple survival. Even recently I’ve caught myself hiding who I am in order to protect things that no longer need protecting. Friendships, other people’s feelings about me, my sewing business. I’m a costumer with mad skills and a pretty good following. I’m an artist. I am a magical being. An eclectic pagan girl following a multifaceted spiritual path. It really shouldn’t be a shocker for me to live as though there is no box whatsoever to try to cram myself into.

My husband has never asked me to hide anything about myself. He’s just there, loving me unconditionally. So, too, my lover, Zen–Yes, I am polyamorous. I am pansexual–no big surprise there either. Most people knew that one before I did. My kids love and support me as I love and support them. I breastfed them and practiced attachment parenting. I don’t bully them into being good people–they simply are. They are probably my biggest fans as well as my loudest cheerleaders. My friends? No one who is really my friend would ask me to be less than I am either. Why is it that I am the last person to become aware of these facts on a deeper level?

This is and is not a coming out thing. Those closest to me already know everything about me. Those who would judge me will fall away, if they haven’t already. Those who need the light of my glowing, glittery, firework self will see it whether I speak out or not, I imagine. They always have. It was only myself who existed in darkness and denial.

So here I am –loving, sharing, shining. If you want to judge or criticize who I am, please do so privately. If you want to ask real questions and have thoughtful conversation around the answers, I’m an open book. Let’s have tea together. I prefer unsweet iced tea and dark, bittersweet chocolate. Blessed be.

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Madness, Memoir, Menagerie, Uncategorized

RPGs and PTSD or How Gaming Turned into Therapy

(originally written April, 2020)

I have a long and complex personal history with RPG’s (role playing games). I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school with a boyfriend. During the time I was dating him, he used elements of gaming as one of several methods of manipulation and psychological abuse. Further in, the abuse turned physical. I came out of that time with very few memories of actual game play. I remembered the characters I created and minimal mechanics of how to play. I also came out of the experience with understandably mixed feelings about gaming, role playing of any kind along with so much other baggage that mixed together in a crazy anxiety stew.


I’ve always loved all of the elements that led to the creation of Dungeons & Dragons and other RPG’s. I’ve been a Tolkien fan practically since birth. Fairy tales, Fantasy and Science Fiction have been my go to reading since before I could read at all. I was ever the child who believed in fairies. As an adult I still do. My childhood was filled with all of the games of pretend and imagination. Role play was already second nature long before I knew D&D existed in its own right. I love character creation, storybuilding, fantasy art–I was built hard-wired for RPG’s. But that was corrupted in the blink of an eye for me.
Many of my friends have always been gamers. They’re my tribe. So in my 20’s, when I still could not feel safe participating in game play, I sat in on sessions with my friends–watching, listening to the stories grow through the games they played, and sketching. I enjoyed the atmosphere even though it felt too scary to join in. The visions they conjured as they played fed my imagination and my art. I felt certain I would never play again, though I’ve held onto my original set of dice to this day. They’re colorful, sparkly and they still felt good to hold and to look at the light shining through them. And I guess some part of me refused to fully admit defeat. I had a tiny spark of hope that I might someday use them again.


A few years ago, I saw light shining into my self inflicted darkness. ( here I should point out that I am fully aware that the trauma was never my fault, but continuing to hide from something I knew I’d probably enjoy was entirely a self made prison.) The timing might finally be right, after more than 25 years since I left the boyfriend and his abuse behind.


I’d known from before we started dating that Zen and his husband were gamers. I tuned out his stories of gaming because I couldn’t face this thing I wanted to do but felt I couldn’t do. My husband also enjoyed gaming when we first married. I sat in on their games too, but life had taken us away from that experience so he had not done any gaming himself for maybe 10 years or more.


I felt scared and intimidated by trying to learn a new thing while fighting off panic and anxiety that I had always felt around gaming and adding up the numbers quickly and under perceived pressure. When I feel anxious or triggered my brain can’t do any of the things that should come easily. That kind of compounds any other fears or anxieties already present.


One day Zen told me how much his husband, Paul, loved sharing his love of gaming with newbie. He loves teaching new people how to play. He has infinite patience with the often clumsy newbie. I tentatively reached out and asked if we could try it to see if I could do this.


Paul chose a game system that only uses d10’s (10 sided dice). That simplified everything. That reduced the pressure and anxiety by half at least for me. The game was Vampire: the Masquerade.


At first, it was just the four of us with Paul as the storyteller, or game master. (GM). Keeping the group very small gave me a sense of safety as I learned. Once I began to feel more secure in my role and in my skills, we added a few more friends to our group. Then we started exploring other systems using d20’s and all the other dice too. I still get anxious and stressed at the beginning of a gaming session, but I can feel even that easing up little by little with every new session.


We’ve been playing for about three years together now, and I look forward to gaming no matter what system we’re playing. I know that if I begin to fall, my group will catch me and show me the way back to where I need to be, with patience and love and lots of fun. Gaming has provided a creative outlet, therapeutic benefits, new ways to apply my own creativity, new friends, new ways to interact with friends and strangers alike and more opportunities for growth with every session.


And an ongoing obsession with shiny, sparkly, colorful dice! I still use my original dice too. Only now I have several other sets, despite some guy at a local gaming store questioning my choices in dice purchasing. Sad customer service aside, I’m certain one can never have too many dice sets…


And now, with social distancing in place, I’ve been battling my difficulties with technology. We’re using Discord for gaming. I find technology challenging, daunting and stressful. But I’m not letting that stop me. Tomorrow, I’ll participate in a third gaming session using Discord chat and digital dice apps. Soon, even that won’t phase me much.


It may not seem like such a big thing to most people. Gaming is even regarded as ridiculous and frivolous to some. But to have reclaimed that piece of myself in this way has been profoundly empowering. To have friends and lovers who cared enough to help me reach this point makes me feel wealthy beyond measure. My gratitude for this gift is limitless.

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Madness, Uncategorized

Aftermath

Originally written July 19, 2018

The day after– or the hours after– a panic attack can be almost as bad as the attack itself.

During the attack, adrenaline rushes through me just as if I were still in actual, physical danger.

remaining on high alert until someone or something calms me down,

convinces me the threat has passed.

My body doesn’t know the difference, and tenses, literally preparing me for fight or flight,

In case anyone missed it–a panic attack or flashback often means reliving the traumatic event mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s virtual reality in every way, except there are no fun and games involved. Only fear and anger.

After a prolonged panic or anxiety attack I feel like I’ve been running some kind of deranged marathon. My head hurts, muscles ache, nausea, complete exhaustion and dehydration, chills and a host of other random symptoms and ailments seemingly coming from nowhere. I become emotional, sensitive and withdrawn.

I like to call it an anxiety hangover.

It’s draining and sometimes debilitating. My impulse, afterward, is to hide and sleep. This is usually not convenient or acceptable in my day to day life as mom, business owner, wife, friend, volunteer, etc. I am not functional, but it is necessary for me to function regardless.

I wrote this poem during one such moment.

Aftermath

Tired, so tired
Stuck, lost
Muddy mind mIred
Cold fog frost
Riot all around me
Don’t touch
Let me be. It’s all
Too loud, too bright, too much

Raw, Sore, frayed
A step behind
Reactions delayed
Unable to hide
Run away
From demons inside
Sounds threatening
Silence, sleep beckoning

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Madness, Memoir, Uncategorized

This is Me

Last night in the mirror I saw her again.

The other, stronger, edgier me. The one who is comfortable in her skin. The one who loves herself unconditionally.

She is the one who loves ME unconditionally. She loved me enough to leave dangerous relationships. She helps me love myself unconditionally. She is me. When she is in the driver’s seat I love myself. I am strong. Her smile, my smile, when she shines out of it, is so strong, so confident and so beautiful. I do not know why I don’t see that beauty when she is buried deep inside me, sleeping.

Though I can always feel her crying out, beating down the doors, trying to get out again.

The first time I saw her I was afraid of her,  afraid of becoming her. I was afraid of her fire, of her power, her storm. I had been broken for so long that I could not comprehend or envision what a whole, strong, powerful me might be. In a way, I was afraid to put myself back together. I was afraid of who I could be if I were whole.

When I was younger, a teenager, I was so completely myself. I was an individual, not like anyone else at all. People had no idea what to do with me. I refused to be boxed neatly–there was no box that could hold me. As the years went by, through the rape and abuse I suffered at the hands of my first boyfriend and later with my ex-husband, I was broken and boxed and shelved.

It has been a difficult journey back to myself. To wholeness. Breaking out of that box again has been a slow process. Sometimes now I find it challenging to live without allowing myself to be boxed and shelved all over again. It can feel simpler to take the easy way and be who others think I should be.

But I know, I’ve always known in my heart of hearts that it is infinitely better and more rewarding to be the butterfly storm I was always meant to be than to jam myself back into that tiny, ill-fitting cocoon.

 

I am meant to fly.

 

I am an artist.

 

I am that dark and shining, smiling woman I saw in the mirror.

 

I am beautiful.

 

I am a storm and I do not belong in a box.

Rebirth

 

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Madness, Memoir, Uncategorized

me too

Yeah. I know this is already a thing you may be tired of seeing on your social media feed. I’m tired of seeing it too. I’m tired of knowing that so many of my sisters–AND BROTHERS- out there have been assaulted, abused, harassed. I know that those are now becoming just words, sad words, but just words that you are already glancing over with numbness. I’m tired of needing to feel numb to the pain just to get through another day.

I’m tired of feeling numb! I’m also tired of the endless anxiety, fear, exhaustion, flashbacks and panic attacks that I experience anywhere from once a month to sometimes several times a day.

I’m tired of knowing that somewhere out there my abuser still walks free. Free to hurt other people. Free because, like so many people, I didn’t report him or his crime. I didn’t report it because for so long I didn’t even realize what had happened to me.

I could not even begin to comprehend it all. By the time I knew, understood and wanted justice, it felt too late, too impossible, too crazy a story anyway. Who would believe me? Who would listen and understand? and Why would they?

I’m sick of being silent about it so I won’t upset someone with my story. I don’t want to cause anyone to feel what I feel when triggered. But I do want to shake all of us out this numb state so that something can be done to help all of us, to stop the violence committed by the bigger, stronger, more powerful, more affluent on the weaker, more timid, fearful, poor, ordinary women and children in our lives.

I’m sick of walking on eggshells for the comfort of polite society. I HURT.

All my sisters -and brothers- HURT. EVERY. DAY.

I have worked hard every day for the past 30 years or so to conquer my panic, anxiety, and fear. There have been successes and failures. Good days and bad. It will always be with me, no matter how much healing takes place. It hit me in places I didn’t know I had.

Still does.

I spent several years introducing myself as a rape survivor to almost every new person I met. It was a way to cope, to try to understand myself better. Sure, I had therapy and it helped so much. Therapy, along with my super supportive husband, helped more than anything. Not everyone has that opportunity. Therapy is expensive. And sometimes you just need the validation of having one person hear you, listen and say ‘I believe you and I love you.’

I also created art to deal with my pain. This art remains in a closet because it’s raw and visceral and painful to see. I’m never sure if it’s ok to show to people.  I no longer tell my story at all, unless it seems like something a given person might want to know. I hate to bother people with it. It’s ugly and painful. I don’t want to be judged for any part of it.

I’m tired of hiding my story and my art. We need to stop hiding, stop judging victims. There are women hiding their pain, afraid to share their own ‘me too’ because they may be in danger even now or they may simply be afraid of being judged. ‘Why did you stay?’ is a question I hear over and over. Domestic violence was also a thing in my life.

Rape and domestic violence go hand in hand for many.

If we, the ones who got out, stop hiding and judging, the world becomes a safer place for women -and men- to ask for help.  No, you don’t have to absorb someone’s pain if you cannot handle it. Just be there. Standing up. Saying “me too”. This alone is powerful and will give courage to someone else.

If you are hiding your pain, your story, afraid to say ‘me too’ out loud, then say it softly. Whisper it. Tell someone you trust. Ask for help. Ask someone to just listen if that’s all you need.

Ask me.

Tell me your story. I’ll believe you and I’ll even cry with you. I’ll tell you my story if you ask. I’ll keep it to myself if it hurts you too much to hear it. But I will not keep quiet the fact that it happened. That I did not deserve it. That it’s ok to feel what I feel now. and That it’s NOT ok that someone hurt you, me or anyone else.

I’m here. living. loving. hurting and healing. and listening.  I love you.

Conditioned Soul

Conditioned Soul

 

 

 

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