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?

My Mother’s Dowry

If I saw myself as my mother sees me, my looking glass would be forever broken.

By her own admission, her heart had discarded me before I came out of her womb. I was her gift to my father. He wanted more children, she did not. So was written my curse.

All the days of my life under her rules and her house, I would reap the reward of that curse. I went to school as a young child with my hair so gnarled and tangled the other children made fun of me. They called out from behind me, “look at that rat’s nest.” I came home from school that day, took a pair of scissors and cut a gaping hole in the back of my hair to remove the ugliness of being unkept.

She is the part of my story I would remove, if I could.

I remember the day my counselor said to me, “Your mother hated you, Jodie.” I walked out of his office and didn’t return for another year. The statement alone was enough to shut me down. Recalling who she had been to me was a burden I wasn’t willing to bear for a very long time.

I own that part of my story now, but it was the last of my memories I retraced. Her betrayal and hatred made my life almost unbearable. She was my last hope as a little girl, so when she entered the room of incest with my father, it was death to the last fragment of strength I had.

My counselor and I chatted about why her memories were so hard. You see, the murder was something that happened to another person, away from me. Differently, my mother’s violent molestation accosted me. It was a step that I almost missed in my healing. My denial had grown a wall so thick around her memories it once felt impenetrable.

The whole story is what sets us truly free. Not just the pieces we think are presentable enough to tell. It is our whole truth that will walk us out of our prisons.

This was stitched for me by a lovely women who went to a survivor group with me many years ago. Relationship therapy in groups is such a strong wave of healing. That’s why I’m here sharing my story.

I remain forever hopeful.

I am a Warrior

Several of the women recalled lying awake, motionless, waiting for the inevitable – a brother or father coming in to molest them.

The Body Keeps the Score, van der Kolk, Chapter 2, Trauma Before Dawn

These were my nights. Many of them. And, I survived. How I survived is the thing to be questioned.

As a budding teenager, I found food was everywhere. Readily at my disposal and I had full access. What better way to spend your day but in pleasure. I would eat to the point of exhaustion. After a good rest, I was back at it again. Sometimes I didn’t stop until my belly threw out all that had been stuffed into its container. Addiction many would scream.

It saved me. It saved me from a complete life of despair – in those days. I would have endlessly suffered through the day contemplating ways to self-destruct. By that, I mean suicide. There was no other way out of my circumstances. I hadn’t gained the autonomy of adulthood and I was stuck. Utterly hopeless. Anything that made my flesh feel better, I honor now. It was a breath of fresh air to me. Anything but the misery of the bleak existence I found myself in.

I get all the rhetoric with stuffing ourselves with addictions to ease our pain. I call horseshit on it all. I needed something in a tangible way to sooth me. I was made to gorge on my parents’ destruction, and now I had a choice. I know. I know. Don’t hurt yourself. I wasn’t.

I am alive. I made it out. That was what mattered. Oh, sure, I made it out to another abusive relationship, and then another. And, I am standing. Still.

What matters is that each day we choose to move forward. That’s what really matters. I have found greater ways to love myself but I still will honor those days when I found what I could to bring comfort into an abyss where there was no comfort. Anything that paused the pain was a friend to me. I understand that now.

Today I am solid. I don’t care what other people think of me. I have strived. I have fought. I stand.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

Ephesians 6:14-15

The Death of My Inner Child

There has been a lot recovery work around finding and healing your inner child. If you give it a quick Google search you get about 22,500,000 returns.

I was probably five or six when my dad decided that we had too many cats in the world and he needed to rid us from the burden of these precious baby kittens. One of our country cats had just given birth to these beautiful furry babies. My brother and I adored the kittens and were outside playing with them when dad walked up to execute his plan.

He staged the scene using a large stump for his chopping block and carried a hulking wooden-handled axe. Without a word, dad reached down, picked up one of the kittens and placed its head on the rough top of that chopping block. He raised his arm up high and smashed the first little guy in the head using the blunt end of the axe. It slammed so hard into his little spongy head that blood immediately gushed from his mouth; his tongue flopped out and his little eyes bulged. I couldn’t look away. I was paralyzed.

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen my father murder.

I don’t know if I watched the rest of those kitties be killed, but I certainly remember the first. When we were grown, I asked my brother if he recalled the incident. He said he did. I asked him if he was sure it really happened. My brother was short with me and said, “Of course it happened, why?” I replied, “because there’s just so much bad in my mind I want to be sure it really happened.”

This is how I healed my inner child.

I went back time and time again. Retracing the shadows of my mind. I listened intently to the echoes that came. I hunted to find my way through my innermost tragedies. I had children that deserved a mother to be present. I had a life I wanted to live fulfilled away from the ugly territory of my beginnings. I wanted to breathe without fear continually pursuing me.

I had a dream last night that was beautiful. Jesus was holding my inner child. It was lifeless. That sounds like an awful thing to say, but I knew what it meant. My inner child isn’t dead, it grew up. It became a beautiful, successful women.

I’m pleased with my progress.

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