When I first went back to writing this blog, I really believed I was fine. Everything was fine, I was fine, the world was fine, and all was well.
But, you know, that wasn’t really the case. Which is why I went quiet again–I wasn’t quite ready to become a public figure of sorts just yet, but I was too stubborn to recognize that fact. Therapy had brought me a long way, but post traumatic stress disorder has a way of creeping up on a person and biting her firmly in the (mental) butt, and that is what happened to me. I had ignored the fact that a VERY significant anniversary was coming up–one that played an important role in the development of my wonderful PTSD experience.
It happened back in January. That anniversary. Twenty years since I left an abusive husband, starting a chain of events that culminated in losing most of my birth family, and my beloved infant daughter.
Said daughter, named Morganna, is now twenty-one, and is exceeding every expectation she ever had for herself. Not only has she lived with me or here in town on her own for the past six years, she has done amazingly well in college, and has risen through the ranks in the kitchen at one of the couple of fine dining restaurants here, and she loves it. She has matured, grown and dealt with her own trauma, and is, I am happy to say, contented and happy.
Not only that, she’s beautiful and talented and is a daughter I cannot help but be proud of. Not just for her accomplishments–not just for what she does, but for who she is. And I love her more than words can say, just as I always did all those terrible years we lived apart.
I’m not saying all of this so readers will pity me–far from it–it’s just that in order to go back to writing about food–which I very much want to do–I kind of had to get this mess off of my chest. I kind of had to speak truth to power, as it were, in large part, because of how I had written the stories in this blog for so long.
I never lied–I just ignored a lot of truths about my past, my family, and my life. I had repressed the terrible truths so tightly that, while I knew they existed, I was certain that those facts and feelings from the past could never affect me.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
Repression doesn’t work that way. It’s a useful psychological tool to get through trauma while it’s happening, but it is no long term solution for dealing with pain, anger and fear. But, because my mental health had been called into question during the divorce and had been used to bludgeon me into giving up during the custody dispute (it was only one weapon in the arsenal that was used by my parents, my ex-husband and his family to get me to give up and let them have Morganna), I had never felt safe doing anything BUT repress my emotions and memories of these traumatic events.
It wasn’t until Morganna’s twenty-first birthday that the last of the mental walls came crashing down and I could finally do the last, hardest bits of repair to my psyche, and I could finally let my guard down and admit that yes, dammit, I did have emotions, and some of them are negative and they are there for a VERY good bunch of reasons!
So, this winter, I went down into the underworld, and confronted the shades that live there. I confronted the bare facts about my childhood, which was not always as sunny as I have generally portrayed it–in fact–there was violence and abuse. I confronted the dysfunctional family heritage that was passed down to me through generations, and once again reiterated my refusal to pass it along to my daughters. I confronted my part in choosing bad relationships in the past–and forgave myself.
But most of all, I confronted my own shadow-self.
The one that was filled with rage, fear and hatred.
And I decided to love her. Not to reject her, because the truth is this–she was angry and afraid and filled with hate for many good reasons. She had been hurt time and time again by those who were supposed to love and protect her, and her anger was justified. She had to stand by and watch her helpless daughter be hurt time and again, all the while fearing for both her own life and her child’s, as well as her beloved husband’s.
That shadow lady who lives in my psyche isn’t just a mindless fury, filled with poison and terror–she’s there to help me. Well, now that I’ve embraced her, she’s my helpmate and friend. When I repressed her, she went out of her way to get my attention by various means, up to and including using physical pain and illness.
Once I started listening to her story, our story, well, no, MY story, it all started to come together. My shadow isn’t evil. She just wants to protect me and my daughters, my husband and my family. And she’s got the wits, instincts and sense to do that.
So, I’m glad to have her around.
All winter she and I sat and talked while the entire household suffered with typical cold-weather illnesses, flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, and norovirus. And as the long, cold nights began to shorten and the light of the sun painted the frigid Ohio sky a paler shade of grey as it brightened, I began to feel stronger again.
Stronger and more purposeful.
The days lengthened, and the snow finally stopped falling. The sun began to shine. And I saw a way out of the darkness and began my ascent.
When I emerged, the first snow crocus were beginning to bloom and the canopy-like leaves of the black hellebore had begun to unfurl. The wrens were singing and the goldfinches had begun to put on their sunnier summer plumage.
I was alive again, and whole, for I had embraced my shadow-lady and brought her out of the underworld with me. And like Persephone, I was filled with joy to be in the world again.
The natural world has been a balm to my heart and soul. Tending the flower garden Kat and I have worked on for years and watching the bulbs she and I planted in the fall blossom has made me remember all that is good in this world, even as tragedy close to home and far away has reminded me that life is, indeed, suffering.
So, I’m back. And I have lots to write about. Recipes, yes, of course. And essays, yeah, those will be there, too. I can’t help but climb a soapbox every now and then and the world seems to be intent on riling my sense of justice these days. And book reviews, yes.
And, of course, stories. Everyone loves a good story, and since I am a natural born talespinner, there will be those too.
But there will be more. I’ll be chronicling the evolution of our family garden plot in the West Side Community Garden here in Athens. Zak, Morganna, Kat and I finally got off our duffs and decided to actually eat the most local food of all–food that we have grown with our own hands and hearts.
So, look for posts about what goes into a garden and what comes out. How-tos on every aspect of gardening and farming I can tell about along with interviews from other gardeners and real live farmers who can impart way more wisdom than I can.
So, here I am.
Ready, willing and able to plant some seeds, and help the future grow, and hopefully prosper.
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