Phantom Pain

I’m 17 when I meet my first husband. He’s three years older with a job, a car and a means to run away. Our first overnight together is wrought with confusion and pain.

He picks me up and drives me to a motel in another town. We arrive and he runs into the office, returning with a key to our room. We leave again and go out to dinner. My legs start the old phantom throb. I’m not going to be able to stop them from progressing deeper.

My mind races in shame and confusion.

We stop at a local convenience store and he buys a bottle of champagne and some bubble bath. By the time he returns to the car, the pain in my legs has become crippling.

I am paralyzed.

When we reach the motel, I can’t stand up. This is the first time I’ve been back to a motel room since the murder and without my father. The threat of discovery jolts my body into panic.

I look at my suitor and say, “I can’t move. You’ll have to carry me.” And, he does.

This phantom pain I have now learned to honor. In my 20s, I didn’t stop to find its meaning. I just wanted to fucking live, so I drank the champagne and had him draw a bath as hot as the water would run. I did not want to bring my parents’ disgusting choices with me.

Leaving my parents’ house, did nothing to stop my pain. They just couldn’t hurt me anymore – well, kind of. The shackles remained. I had become a prisoner by crimes I didn’t commit.

Night Disturbances

For as long as I can remember, my nights have been plagued with pain. As I child, I had only one recurring nightmare.

The dream is in black and white. We’re in an office setting and my father has a women pinned against a desk. The dream ends with him pushing her head down on the desk and pulling up her skirt.

I couldn’t decipher that nightmare as a child, but throughout my life, it never changed.

What did keep my nights spinning was incredible pain that flashed throughout my body. My legs would ache so tremendously that I would be forced out of bed. Comfort lived nowhere in my home, so my mind raced to find a solution. I was about 8 or so when I discovered that a scalding hot bath would take the pain away. Of course, I was terrified that my parents would get mad at me for being up, but no one ever came to see what my problem was.

I remember waking up one morning and my brother asking me why I was outside walking around during late at night. I questioned him, “What are you talking about? I wasn’t outside.” And he replied, “Yes, you were. You walked right by my window.” That scared the shit out of me.

Nights have always been so reckless that my days were spent trying to ease the subsequent discomfort and pain. Any consideration of my future didn’t exist in those days. I had no time for dreaming. I was in such a state of survival, it was the only focus I could manage.

Today is different. Today is fresh each morning. Today my nights are more peaceful than they once were. I still have an occasional nightmare, that is something I have no control over. But, I have tools now to recover and get back on my journey.

All the days of my life on this planet will be spent trying to heal the wounds that were inflicted upon me. I have to accept that. But, I have peace. Both can be true.

Fantasy Island – Do You Pretend?

Why is that my mind wanders away from reality so quickly? They call it dissociation but if I could live in an altered state, none of my story would be true. And, if it were true, I’d minimize it. Change the destruction of its path. I would temper it to the point where it had no meaning.

That’s just fantasy though.

The day I was five and watched my mother drive away, leaving me all alone, once again abandoned, in that house on their mountain – I’d change that. She would have lifted me up and told me she was sorry. She didn’t mean to leave me that day, she’d just forgotten I wasn’t in the car. That’s all. She hadn’t intentionally left me on the hill with the dead lady. She wouldn’t do that.

My father and brother just loved me so much they had to sleep with me. They couldn’t help themselves because our bond was so strong. We loved each other. We needed the depth of relationship to change through sexual intercourse. That’s it. It wasn’t rape.

Lolita had nothing over me.

Wait! What?

I listen to people do this all the time. The brutality too cruel, they change the story. I tried to do it for years. I needed my mother’s love, so I pretended. My father was a funny guy that liked to tell stories and me and my brother were great pals.

The great pretender.

It didn’t get me very far down the road of recovery. But, I liked it while it lasted.

The Power of Confession

When I kept my story hidden the weight was too enormous to bear.

The older I got, the heavier that weight became.

So, I told my story.

As a little girl my deepest longing was to belong and to be loved. It was very simple. If I had told on my parents and exposed their deceit, I would have lost any hope of finding that.

Of course, the fear of telling is yet another layer of dread.

As I became a woman and had children of my own, I was confronted with a choice: stay in the denial I was taught, drag them along and pass down a generational deceit; Or tell the Truth. I decided I would tell the truth because my love for them was deeper than any longing I had for myself. So, I began to tell my story in my early 20s.

Katy bar the door! [Katy bar the door is an exclamation that means watch out, trouble is on its way. This is an American phrase, usually heard in the southern United States.]

It didn’t go well for me.

I had underestimated the battle that would ensue when I refused to drag their sin along with me on the cords of deceit. I know people hate the word sin, but what else do you call such debauchery? Incest is something not many want to talk about. And when you do, its not at all welcomed.

Oh, you can sit in a dark corner and share with someone else in a quiet secret. But, to announce to everyone this atrocity? Not so much!

I found myself in a battle not just against my parents, but a battle of light and darkness. I needed tools that were outside of my strength to get through. Tools from a kingdom not of this world.

I found those tools. I told my story. I’m still standing. Find your story and tell it with all the strength you have. Pray for the other strength you will need to endure.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

Dad, You Should’ve Just Told the Truth

My story could have played out differently. It could have been immediately filled with grace for him. At once, forgiveness could have sat with us at a holiday table. Instead, he lied.

I became despised and abhorred by his family. They are no longer my family.

As a survivor of his crimes, I struggled to find my worth in this world. His invalidation of me kept me hidden in dark places for years and years. The flesh wounds he inflicted upon me by his denial were constant afflictions.

If he had loved any of us, he would have told the truth.

I have learned to rely not on a human-made love with its bullshit traditions wrapped in silence. Don’t speak, don’t talk, don’t tell. I now rely on a love that comes down from above.

I struggled for years desiring the love of my parents. Trying to believe they were something different than they are. That is, until I found out what love was supposed to look like. Love is supposed to protect. They did not. Love is supposed to trust. They offered no trust. Love is not supposed to injure. They injured me consistently.

I could still be waiting for an apology. I’m not. I could still be waiting for them to love to me. I’m not.

Trajectory thru Tragedy

I work in a busy corporate law firm in the Downtown area of my city. When everyone around me is stressed out and struggling, I’ve found my place by being able to step in, calm the situation down and quickly find solutions. As a result, I am now a director and run a few departments in the firm.

Looking out My Office Window

A good counselor that believes in you can rewire your brain, and help change your destiny. I have one of those counselors. He once told me people who come from similar pasts do not often overcome their traumas.

There are things that I use from my past that help me greatly in my career. As an example, when things are on a crash course at work and everyone has their stress hats on, I can walk in and keep my peace.

You know why?

No one is being raped or murdered.

When I first met my counselor, he told me I lived on red alert. He said he will have felt he’d done his job well if I could learn to live more in the amber alert zone.

I’ve used living on high alert to my strength, not detriment. Sure, there is a cost to stress but many things in life just don’t stress me out like it would another person.

No one is being raped or murdered.

Use what you can to your benefit. Fear is different than stress. Stress is different than anxiety and so on.

Choose the trajectory of your path. Don’t let it choose you.

Me and My Husband

Abandoned, But Not Forgotten

If I didn’t honor myself by returning to my past, and bringing vindication where I could, I would have been left abandoned. I would have abandoned myself.

I had to force myself to remember me.

Everything around me told me to stop seeking, stop turning over rocks. “Learn to live,” they would tell me. Didn’t they see that’s exactly what I was doing?

I understand now that my goals to uncover my past made them more uncomfortable than it made me. No one liked hearing my story. Not really. I’m not taking about just my family, I’m talking about friends, acquaintances and all the rest that happened along during the years.

Forget me not!

We are not being self-centered nor are we indulging in self pity when we uncover our past. It’s a way out of the forest of abandonment. Trees of denial and thickets of shame keep us hidden in darkness.

House on Delaware Lane – July 1967

This is the house I grew up in until I turned four. That’s me in the background, three years old, peering out from behind the corner. I was raped on the couch this family is sitting on. The brick fireplace in the picture was my focal point during those brutal attacks.

In 11 months, I will witness a vicious rape and a senseless murder.

Don’t be alarmed for me. It’s over. I have honored my past by returning to it. I stayed as long as I needed to. To grieve. To witness. To heal.

Don’t let anyone stop you on your journey. There is an end point to the rainbow and a pot of gold is waiting.

Hurt People Hurt People

Today is my brother’s birthday. I haven’t talked to my brother in so many years I’ve lost count. I sent him a letter years ago telling him I forgave him for raping me. I wrote that I understood coming from a household of incest, shit happens. I never heard back from him.

I believe conscious people say they’re sorry.

I’ve been through a lot in my life but that does not absolve me of my own accountability. I have two beautiful daughters and, for sure, we’ve had our struggles. We also have a love that will last through eternity.

I believe that is true only because I learned to say I’m sorry.

I try to find full authenticity around their pain for the generational sludge they grew up in as a result of the choices I made as an adult and the choices I did not make as a child. They didn’t choose the father I picked for them. Sure, I forgive myself for showing up with such a broken vessel that my navigational instincts around people were broken, but that does not take away their right to a mother who owns it. We are breaking this dysfunctional cycle but it takes each one of us standing in full accountability to each other.

On my father’s death bed he said he was sorry for the murder. That’s all. I will strive for the rest of my life to be stronger than that. To own how my pain hurt the people around me.

With agonizing shame, I had to learn to listen to the voices of my own children. Their stories triggered me into great despair but I learned how to stay. To keep my feet grounded on the full road of recovery. Next to them. Listening. Intent to make what I can right.

I need to ask your forgiveness this morning. Not to beat a dead horse but for deeper understanding and accomplishing stronger bonds.

Forgive me for trying to force that bond with your father. Instead of becoming stronger and seeing that I had made a mistake – I tried to rectify that by making him a better man than he was. You saw the truth – both of you did. I tried to change that. That was wrong.

Believe in your strength to see the truth. I took some of that.

Forgive me.

Text to My Daughters

This is a picture of my children taken in the early 90s. I can once again look at this picture without feeling shackled to their burdens. Now I look at the future and smile.

“Nuts” or “Sluts”

The Nuts or Sluts defense has been used for years in many women’s cases. Famously quoted by Woody Harrelson playing the attorney Bill White in North Country, he explains how this defense is often used to make a judge think that a woman is either crazy and made it up or that she’s a slut and asked for it.

There is a price to pay for opening your mouth against an abusive family. They’ll make sure of it.

When the Major Crime Unit Detective showed up to interview my mom and sister about the homicide in 1968, they produced a file to him. Through the years they had built some kind of case against me. They wanted to show I was both a nut and a slut. I’ve never seen that file, but was told about it.

I drew this picture five months after the murder. That’s my father’s handwriting (and he spells my middle name wrong): drawn by Jodie Lynn, age 4, For her dad 11/24/68. My father had saved it and gave it to me in my 30s as a representation of my indentured love to him as a child. Little did he know he had saved the truth.

The detective who was working my case took it to a few experts who confirmed that the picture clearly depicted a child who had been sexually abused. The detective told my mother that he believed that I had been abused.

I did not know that at the end of this battle there would be no one standing with me from my family of origin. I falsely believed when my body forced me into recovery, that I not only fought for myself, I fought for the other members of my family. My truth would pave the way for them to follow the light.

Not even close to how this riddle played out.

Abusers are better at lying than most victims are at telling the truth. They vehemently deny any association with wrong doing. Their pride leads their strong defense and their noble character shines on display. It’s actually quite pathetic to watch.

Only spectators may believe their performance.

The more they led a parade of false witnesses against me, the more my body, spirit and soul protected my right to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

Who Was the Murdered Woman?

A cheap Saturday night took you down. You died stupidly and harshly . . .

I failed you as a talisman – so I stand now as your witness.

My Dark Places, An L.A. Crime Memoir, James Ellroy

I cannot bring the dead woman back, but I am a witness to her last moments on earth. I fought hard for her, for her family and for me. The local police opened a case and did what they could to help me. They told me they would need a body or a confession. Period.

A confession. Ha!

A body! I know where it is but I cannot dig deep enough. I hire an excavator anyway and try to find her.

Dad’s best friend in ’68 was Craig. A man of great stature, in presence, that is. He towered over me as a child like a filthy lumberjack. His words were few. He reminded me of the character Chief Bromden in the movie, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The great big Native American whose first words in that script were “Juicy Fruit.”

The fateful day of the murder was me, my father and Craig. Oh, and the victim. She was a pretty woman slight of frame with blonde hair. She was kind. She had on a white buttoned down blouse and a skirt. She wasn’t wearing any shoes. Her smile put me at ease.

The four of us were at the Riverside Motel, off the old highway, close to the bus station she’d likely landed in town through. I learned later that my grandmother worked at this motel, but she wasn’t there with us on that day. The room showed signs that the three of them had been on a bender.

The day begins in a blue four-day car with black interior and ends as we return in a gold car with black interior. This is the ’63 Ford Galaxy we had at the time. I found this picture much later at my parents’ house. Me and the gold car.

I hear well intentioned folks telling people not to go back to childhood traumas. God would want you to leave it in the past.

Would you have left this story in the past?

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