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,

Capturing Soulfires

Yesterday afternoon, I received an unexpected phone call.

It was Mrs. P’s.

“‘Hi honey. Will you have Jena call me?”

I’m sorry? What?

My 5th grade teacher just called me up to ask if one of my dearest friends would call her.

Strange.

“Do you trust me” she asked.

“Yes.” I answer.

Because seriously, I do. More now than ever before.

More now than when I unburdened myself of that dreadful secret.

More now than the day that she said, “I believe you. It happened to me too. You’re going to be okay.”

Because since then, I’ve spoken to her regularly and she’s given me the advice of someone who knows.

She’s sent me newspaper clippings and letters of her own from the days when she trail-blazed advocacy work in my hometown of El Paso, TX.

You know, just in case it would spur an idea or an inspiration for me.

She’s sent me a yearbook from the time I knew her and a card telling me how proud she is of me.

Actually, that’s the one thing she tells me the most.

“Oh honey, I’m just so proud of you.”

And now she is pouring out of my heart and into Jena’s all the way from Colorado.

Why?

Well, because Jena and I are being spirited away on an adventure.

It’s time to shoot another calendar of survivors and this year the theme is solidarity. This year we are asking survivors to invite someone who was invaluable to them as they struggled to heal.

Click here to see last year’s photos.

This year, I offer an opportunity for us all to say,

“Thank you. You saved me. I felt rescued. Blessed be.”

My path was clearly lit by the souls of many strong women willing and able to pour good things into me.

There was and still is Catrina, Jude, my mother, my grandmother and my Aunt Debbie.

I have never been alone. Not ever.

For this project, I’ve chosen to invite Mrs. P’s – or Lisa as I now call her (because I’m a grown up, ya’ll!) because she is where my healing all began.

She put me on the path that led straight to the others.

On August 4th, Jena and I will fly to Colorado to meet Lisa together.

So as of yesterday, Jena McShane and Lisa Griffin have some kind of secret. I’m not allowed to know and Jena is not telling.

Stinkers.

That’s why she’s coming along.

Sure. She is a talented photographer. Supa dupa talented doesn’t even do her justice.

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You should totally vote for her in this competition. #ShamelessPlug

Jena creates images from a place of empathy. We shared a wadded up handkerchief with another survivor. We are committed to eating burritos and going hiking if my emotions get the best of me (or us both). I’m sure their will be cocktails, hugs, selfies and truly intimate moments but Jena is special.1236309_10151927620928824_1726302796_n

She’ll get it.

Sometimes…okay, all of the time, we refer to each other as #McCracker because obviously.

She told the survivors who have already volunteered for #Soulfire2015 that as our photographer,

“Instead of capturing souls, I will capture soulfires.”

I told her that we are just beginning the Sisterhood of Traveling Soulfires.

And then we giggled. And teared up. And geeked out because that was super cheesy and I don’t even care.

I know. I know.

I can’t even stand myself right now.

I’m not even sure what this means for me. I get a little choked up just thinking about it.

All I know today is that I am following a journey of gratitude.

My good life is a testimony to the way I was loved.

Today and everyday, that love is gifted to those around me.

It expands. It surrounds. It grows.

It inspires the creation of the foundation now and into the future.

So this is the cat. I release it from the bag.

And in a few weeks, I take it on the road.

Boom. #McCrackered.

Faithfully,

Tashmica

PS – To keep up with us, follow the hashtag #Soulfire2015 or #McCracker. You know, what evs.