Healing happens in a place of safety.

“Did you hear what you just said?”

I didn’t. I had been rambling about my boys. I leaned back into the chair in my therapist’s office to think. The tree branches behind me snatched at my curls.

Yes. My therapist has a tree in her office that is constantly getting stuck in my hair.

I love it.

“That your boys are physical….”

She paused like a teacher giving the pupil a moment to catch up.

“Yes?” I said with my brow furrowed.

And…you love it.” she said slowly.

My hands shot up to my face. I peered at her between two hands pressed against my cheeks. I repeated the answer.

“And I love it.”

I whispered those words in disbelief and then the tears came. I bowed deeply in my chair and beneath that listening tree with relief. Tears of joy spilled forward and then I wiped my face and said,

“I almost made it through an entire session without crying.” Laughing I continued, “You fucking ruined it.”

She laughed but her eyes were harboring quickly escaping tears too.

You may not remember but there was a time where touch felt like the enemy. Connection and intimacy felt like a cheese grater on my soul. My healing required an end to passive consent. My soul needed some time to seek out it’s true loves. My body needed to learn what is safe, safe, safe…I am safe here.

I am safe here.

The little girl I was, the little girl in need of a constant barrier between her heart and connection is leaning into connection and intimacy. She is letting go of her shield. She is slowly backing away from the tools used to fortify walls. She is coming out to play, love, gaze, connect.

I love this girl. I love how she gazes into the eyes of her children. I love how she understands that criticism doesn’t mean that she is bad, dirty or broken. I love that she listens and can lie under a pile of freshly bathed and pajama dressed boys with wild abandon.

I love that she doesn’t seem to feel trapped anymore or not as much.

I have learned that healing happens in a place of safety.

-You deserve to live in wide open fields

I feared that my trauma was stealing joy from me and my children. Honestly, it did steal joy for a time until something shifted.

The story I told my therapist:

I held one of my sons in my arms. I gazed into his eyes and I simply paused. I didn’t move. I let him bathe in my love for him. It was like a freeze ray. He couldn’t remove himself from my adoration. I felt like I might be staring at him like a creep.

“Children don’t stare. They gaze.”

My therapist interjected that tidbit. Science has proven that when you are making eye contact with an infant and you stop, there is an immediate change in their brain chemistry. That chemical reaction identifies our basic need for attachment.

I held him and gazed at him until he was ready to go. All filled up with love.

My oldest son feels no shame about kissing his mother goodbye. My middle son starts his days by leaning into me with his face tilted upwards for a kiss.

“Good morning, momma.”

My boys are physically affectionate and I love it. It has taken 3 years but I am the mother I always wanted to be.

Fearlessly affectionate, hilariously embarrassing and stingy with the ice cream.12015233_10153641036623588_5375878501296692331_o

But mostly that first one.

Healing up,

Tashmica's signature

PS – Let’s talk about this more. Join me here.

I am a dream.

Today I told my therapist something I’ve never shared with anyone.

I didn’t even tell her that I’d never told anyone. I just left the information there. I stepped over it like a crack in the sidewalk. I hugged my therapist and she kissed me on the cheek. Before I could let her go, she turned her head and whispered into my ear, “I am so sorry.”

The pain sunk in. It sat in my stomach, crept into my body and filled me with exhaustion. I thanked her wholeheartedly, paid my bill and left. Climbing into my car, I paused and then I didn’t move. I just sat there buckled into the seat and breathing. I looked at my phone and tried to think who I should call.

This was not a panic attack. I wasn’t crying. There was no emergency. I was just in pain.

Just. 

Right.

Just a little pain. 

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been taking notice of my memories of my father’s funeral. I’ve been trying to nail down the timeline and remember who was there. Part of this process is like time travel. Or maybe it’s more like a possession.

I sit down and I ask my 8 year old self what it was like.

What was it like to stand over your father’s body? What did it feel like?

I sink my mind into my little self and I open my eyes. I look around. I sniff the air and feel the weight of my feet on that thick, funeral home carpet. I remember the kiss on my father’s cold cheek and the delicate white rose I was given for my grandmother. I remember the things that were stolen.

Today, I admitted something. That’s what it felt like; an admission. I felt guilty. I felt ashamed and the secret made me want to curl into a ball and disappear. I came home nauseous and nearly lost my dinner.

I rarely vomit. I’m not exaggerating. I have a very strong stomach. This tidbit is to explain to you that I don’t do this. I don’t get sick from memories. This one, this horror I lived came back swinging knives.

It was the kind of moment that made me want to get into a bathtub with a large cheese pizza and a six pack of beer.

I decided who to call. Somehow, it was decided for me. I looked down at my phone and my keypad came up with a name. The right name. The person who would ask me a simple question: “If you were the friend of that little girl and she told you the same story, what would you do for her.”

I answered:
Tell her I love her.
Give her a big hug.
Buy her an ice cream cone.
Make sure she has everything she needs to heal.
Give her a nap.

I later added a bubble bath and a glass of wine because I’m an adult and the boss of myself. #amiright

I am still in pain. As I write this, my body is still in turmoil. Trauma is a formidable, haunting beast. This has been a rough night but I’ve spent it huddled up with my beloveds. I looked at them and celebrated that if my father was a nightmare (and he was), I am a dream.

Every day my planner prompts me to finish the statement ‘I am grateful for…’.

Today I am grateful for the fact that monsters can give life to Firecrackers.

Ever defiant,

Change. Rise. Crash.

I have only been surfing once.

It did not go well.

A skill set like that requires a bit more time and training than a first time visit to the beach can allow.

I rented a surf board. I carried it out to the water. I paddled out like I’d seen in the movies.

I perched myself up on my board and waited.

I watched the sparkly, foaming of the ocean ready to rise. With waves falling all around me, I chose when to start moving with the current and when to sit out.

I feel like I am in that exact position in my life right now.

Perched and waiting. Swimming to meet the current or sitting out.

Changing. Undulating. Moving.

When I chose to attempt to meet the ocean’s currents and jumped on my board, the results were different everytime.

I mostly ended up with a nose full of salt water.

Except.

Except for the times when I managed to get two feet on the board and stand.

Nothing fancy. Just simple steps.

Push my chest up. Pull two feet on to the board. Rise.

And for less then 30 seconds, I felt like an amazing surfer.

Until I crashed into the waves again.

I have just recently chosen a current leading into an unknown direction.

Yes, this is the ultimate in vagueblogging.

I promise to share fully when I can. I always do.

Unlike my first trip to the ocean, I have been preparing for these changes for some time.

That does not mean that this new current will be all rise and no crash.

How boring would that be?

I love a challenge.

You are invited to hear all about it on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at Stargazing: Honoring Your Own Bravery.

But you can call it #Stargazing2013.

This will be the first time I have ever shared my story with you in person.

The event is FREE. I just ask that you RSVP here so that I know to save you a seat.

You should have seen the bruise I came out of the ocean with.

Yikes.

Let’s just hope this experience is kinder. :)

Yours truly,

Tashmica

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Suban, Me & Sommer

 

 

The Joys of Remembering: The Knowing of Mrs. Pease

It has been 3 months and 10 days since I announced that I was desperately seeking Quick Draw McPease.

During that time, I have requested my father’s military records. my school records, interviewed family members, rambled memories off for my husband to record in one of my many journals, had crazy dreams, drank a lot of wine and sought a lot of professional help.

I sent an email to my elementary school and waited. I had plenty to fill my time until they responded.

Until they didn’t.

So, I emailed again and again.

I was kind of avoiding calling because – well – I didn’t want to tell random secretary lady why I wanted my records and information about a past teacher.

I felt kind of like bathroom-stall-over-sharing-girl.

If you have ever been in a women’s restroom then you know that girl. The one that shares details of her life with you as if you are best friends and you’ve only just allowed her to use the soap dispenser ahead of you. You didn’t realize that politeness was cause for a speech about her current relationship or worse yet, her intestinal issues.

I didn’t want to be random-over-sharing-girl.

I wanted them to simply send me the information without any trouble.

I never received a response.

So crap.

Earlier this week a friend decided to go Magnum PI on google and prompted me to look into some things I hadn’t. We found some options but I had to call.

Of course, I sent another set of emails just in case.

Today I got a reply in my inbox with the last known address and phone number for Mrs. Pease.

I sent a quick note of gratitude and then dialed.

The suspense was a killer – especially when I had to leave a message in a generic voicemail box.

“Hi, my name is Tashmica. My phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. I think you were my fourth grade teacher. *nervous laugh* Would you please call me either way. Thanks!”

I had been making random phone calls with no reply for about two weeks now. I did not expect an instant reply.

At about 3 o’clock today, the Mrs. Pease called me back.

I am still processing our conversation because it exceeded my every expectation.

She didn’t remember me right away. I was 9-years-old the last time we saw each other.

One thing is important here.

When I told her that I was looking for her because she was the first person I ever told that I was sexually abused and I wanted to thank her, she said,

“So many of my students told me that.”

I never imagined that. I never thought about her role as an advocate for others. It speaks volumes that she was the trusted confidant of abused children for decades. Also, it makes me so deeply sad that there were so many abused children coming forward, she needed more details to pin down which one I was.

We chatted. I gave her some details about my family in 1989. I told her my maiden name and how my father had been dead for a year by the time I told her my story. She asked me to remind her of how I told her.

I told her the story and her memories started to pour out.

She said,

“I hope this doesn’t offend you but are you black?”

I laughed hard and told her yes. I had forgotten to mention that one, tiny identifying factor.

She remembered my hair – how my mother twisted my pig tails instead of braiding them. She remembered my constant smile and told me that the world wasn’t right if I wasn’t wearing it.

She asked me to tell her everything. I tried.

I told her how old I am, where I live, that I have been married for nearly 9 years and am raising three boys.

She laughed and kept interjecting,

“I am so proud of you. I am so proud of you. Good for you! I am so proud of you.”

I told her the most important thing.

“You were a link in the fence that saved my life. Statistically speaking, I am not supposed to be doing so well. You believed me, supported me and advocated for me.

My life would have been very different without you. Thank you.”

She said she was so grateful for my call and that we should stay in touch. (As if that were ever a question.)

Lisa, that’s the name grown-ups use for her, had a lot of wise things to say. She quoted statistics about child abuse. She knew that healing has its own time and she cursed – which of course made me giggle.

More than twenty years later and in one conversation I am convinced that she was placed in that classroom for me. And now I know she was placed there for so many others too.

It has not been an easy time for me. Looking into my past and asking questions has been quite terrible actually. The memories are dark, scary and full of problems I cannot solve now. I only look to understand bits and pieces of a mismatched puzzle. None of it makes sense.

The fact that I was sexually abused will never make sense. No matter what I find in my research, my father made a horrible choice and there’s no explaining that away. It is a hard thing to remember.

It is painful, therapeutic and important but it is not awesome.

This story is different.

I don’t want to drown myself in wine and fall asleep. I don’t want to go to counseling to work through something caught in my throat. I don’t need to decide if I am angry, hurt or ask “Why me?” for the millionth time. I don’t want to run away.

Today, there is joy in remembering.

Mrs. Pease said one more thing that I will never forget.

She said that after all of these years,

“We never stopped knowing each other, did we?”

It’s true. She was a part of my story and I am a part of hers.

I am so grateful for the ability to celebrate a memory.

It is good to remember that although I was treated despicably, I was tremendously loved and that is what made the difference.

Love is what always makes the difference.Tashmica at Skatie Hawkins

I am still kind of overwhelmed and exhilarated. At first, I didn’t even know how to celebrate but then I figured it out.

I celebrated a joyful remembering with song and dance.

I truly am blessed and highly favored.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

PS – Thank you to all who shared the original link or tried to help my search in any way. I appreciate you.

Quick Draw McPease

I remember a lot of things about Mrs. Pease.

I remember that she laughed hard and often. She had short curly hair that she parted to one side. When a fly had the gall to sneak into our classroom, she would adopt the persona of Quick Draw McPease and hunt it down with a fly swatter. We all giggled watching her stalk the tiny buzzing intruders.

In the fall, when we all had the sniffles, she would conduct an orchestra and point to us when we were supposed to sniff, cough or sneeze on cue with the music. I’m going to bet that the halls of North East Christian Academy never sounded so ill. ;)

One day, we had a special presentation about abuse. The presenter talked about neglect, physical and verbal abuse. It was the first time I recognized what had been happening as something universally frowned upon. The sexual abuse had felt wrong but I was confused and disillusioned by years of lies and manipulation.

At the end of the presentation, the presenter asked us all to put our heads down on our desk, close our eyes and raise our hands if we wanted to talk about any abuse we had experienced.

Listen.

My momma didn’t raise no fool.

There’s always some jerk watching during an altar call. I didn’t know this person and I was for sure not sharing even the smallest morsel of my secret with this stranger, if that was his real name.

After he left, our day went on. I felt like I should say something but to whom? I sat in my desk thinking through the possible scenarios. I thought through all of the threats and realized that because my father was a year dead and in the ground many would likely not be possible. I watched Mrs. Pease and wondered if she would believe me.

I raised my hand as my classmates worked through their assignments.

“Can I talk to you alone?”

She said yes and walked me out into the hallway.

I don’t remember crying exactly. I don’t even remember what I said. I just know that she was there and she told me that we needed to tell my mother. I was terrified. The cat was now out of the bag.

The rest of the day was suspense on meth. Mrs. Pease called my mother in for a meeting. I thought my chest was going to close up and cut off my air supply. I waited to die.

When my mother arrived I sat down in a chair next to her and Mrs. Pease. I remember looking down at my feet. I felt so small. I was so small.

Mrs. Pease probably tried to prepare my mother. I don’t remember that part. I just remember her asking me, “Do you want to tell your mom or would you like me too?”

I asked her to and then, just as my mother heard those hard words, I begged her not to hate my daddy.

I was still so worried for him.

I remember a lot about Mrs. Pease.

I remember one thing the most.

She stood by me. Even in the midst of delivering some of the worst news my mother will ever hear, she stayed with me.

She also listened, believed and advocated.

Somehow, her physical presence and support is what I remember the most.

So now, I am thinking through the right questions to ask my old school to get the answers that I want.

What I really want to know is, where is she now?

She is just one of many women who saved my life and I would like to say thank you.

If you happen to be from El Paso and know who she is, I would be over the moon to talk to her again. Spread this. Share with your friends. Ask around.

Help me thank her.

Desperately Seeking Quick Draw McPease,

Tashmica

I Blame You.

I am going to do something incredibly selfish.

I am going to tell you the whole truth.

I know that you have your expectations of me. When you see the link pop up in your feed or in your inbox, you hope for something funny, even if it is darkly so.

I am positive that I still have a few laughs still in me.

However, over the past two weeks, I have not been laughing. I have been dealing.

Well, okay. I still laughed. You know me so well.

The “dealing” was not pretty.

In the process of writing, I had this memory that I unzipped and climbed into like a jacket. I pulled it close to me and smoothed the fabric over my body. I pulled up the collar around my ears and peered down into the darkness. I saw things I couldn’t explain and I single mindedly searched for answers.

I interviewed my mother about six times in one weekend. I googled. My friend Suban googled. I cried…but only a little. I wrote a bit and then it came.

This wave of anger and indignation.  I am not even sure if anyone could see it radiating off of my body like heat waves on concrete. Under anger, there is always something else.

It was sorrow and lamentation.

The interesting part about this cycle is that when I first began this journey nearly 17 years ago, it was about forgiveness. It took me an entire year of prayer, meditation and angry fist shaking at the sky but I did it. I forgave my father.

Jokes on me. Forgiveness for something like this comes and goes like those waves of anger. You forgive and then you realize you have to deal with this other issue that was stirred into you as a little one. Then you get angry again which of course is all sorrow and lamentations. Then you forgive.

Again and again and around and around it goes.

The difference this time is that I went looking for it. I attacked my past with a machete. I poked it a little at first and then I hauled off and started whacking at it like I was trying to break open a coconut.

I realize now that I kind of was trying to break open a coconut.

Over breakfast with my derby wife, I realized something in talking to her.

Every time I remember a secret and tell it, I feel vindicated. I feel empowered. I feel like my story is mine again and not his. I feel like he doesn’t just die and get away with it.

I feel like he doesn’t get to die and destroy me. I feel like I win.

I feel like I wrap the tiny girl that I was in a blanket, hoist her up near my chest and climb out of the grave he dug for us. It is not an easy climb. The grave is huge and we are both injured but now is the time to do it.

When I was 15-years-old I could have never even attempted a journey like this. Nor could I at 22.

Someone told me recently that God allows you to remember things forgotten about trauma when you can handle them.

I blame you.

Okay. Maybe not you specifically.

I blame the people who love me.

I blame my husband for not thinking I am crazy. I blame my family for answering my questions and believing that somewhere in their answers, I will find my own. I blame my friends for checking in on me,making me laugh and hearing me out.If I were not completely drowned in their incredible love, I would not be able to go down this path. It is only through their love and confidence that I keep climbing.

I didn’t even know it but this is the perfect time to tell this story.

Finally, at the end of two weeks of anger and menacing dreams, it all turned to sorrow and I sobbed. I cried harder than I can ever remember myself crying. My husband held me and I just lost my shit. I thought I was going to have a panic attack and I didn’t. I just fell asleep and woke up with swollen eyes.

I dealt with it. I faced it. I survived.

This weekend, I will write that chapter and shut it.

Timing is everything.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

 

 

 

 

Like It’s 1987

Last night, I drove into the desert with my father. It was 1987 and my telescope traveled folded in the back. It was dark and where I hoped to see Orion hunting, I found fear instead.

When writing my story, I have to take water breaks. I stop after a harsh word or phrase is chosen and I have to look away from the page. I take a deep breath, curse, grab a glass of wine or ask God for protection again.

It’s a gauntlet. It’s a bear trap I pry open with a stick. It’s a net dropped.

You must think I am a masochist of the worst kind, to walk up to that jeep and climb in. I must be crazy to lean into my seatbelt to try and discern the new path taken and why. I promise you, I am not.

I hate my story. If I could erase three years of my childhood, I absolutely would. I would abandon all of you who read this and understand all to well how promising the idea of canceling out a few years would be. I would unwrap that golden ticket and race to claim it.

Many survivors try to in their own way. I know I have.

The truth of the matter is that although it is difficult for me to rise under this weight, I am not alone. As you read this, children all over the world are being abused. Someone is ruining a piece of their life story. Someone is choosing to tear them apart and leaving them to pick up the pieces.

So.

I will not take a golden ticket.

I will climb into every room, car or memory left. I will examine and question. I will ache and bear.

The world needs to know. We cannot allow this to continue. We cannot choose to destroy our children any longer.

It is enough. It has been enough since 1987.

Indignantly,

Tashmica

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