I Have Returned, For Real This Time. No, Really, I Mean It.

It’s funny.

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.

Finally.

Ready, willing and able to plant some seeds, and help the future grow, and hopefully prosper.

25 Comments

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  1. Much love to you, big sister. Our shadow self can be a bitch, but she’s one of our best friends. Welcome to the light, and enjoy the bounty of your garden!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iokrHW70xxI&feature=related

    Comment by Hadar — April 15, 2011 #

  2. Much love and strength to you.
    spring is a good time for rebirth. enjoy your life and garden.

    Comment by chicu — April 16, 2011 #

  3. I am glad that I read your blog this evening. It shedded some light on some of my personal struggles. I have to remember how much I was abused and how I took on the role of abuser. Keeping the vicious cycle in action. Therapy at times was a band-aid on a gunshot wound. Healing came through forgiving. Now I want to atone but I don’t know how to do it.
    Reading your blog made me realize why I wanted to contact you and Kate. I remember how we were involved in rituals. I am looking for daily rituals for atonement. I’ve found one, maybe two. I hope to read more from you. Thanks for this.

    Comment by Stefanie Burnham — April 16, 2011 #

  4. I was happy to open my GoogleReader and see a new post from you, Barbara. I’ve missed your blog and am excited to see that you’ve decided to begin again in earnest.

    I think there is a strong reason why many of those of us who have experience the trauma of violence, abuse and family dysfunction find solace in the world of cooking, food preservation, gardening, raising animals, etc. Trauma results in so many feelings of disconnection and isolation – but through working with food in such an intimate way, we can regain a sense of connection, groundedness, and faith in the power of life to heal and renew itself. At least, it’s worked that way for me.

    I can’t wait to read more about what you’re doing/thinking these days!

    Comment by Natasha — April 16, 2011 #

  5. What a beautiful post–thank you for sharing. I’m so glad to hear all this, and admire your journey, and VERY much look forward to more posts from you! Welcome back.

    Comment by Kelly @ The Startup Wife — April 16, 2011 #

  6. I’m glad you’re back. Thank you for opening up about this. As much as you needed to say it, there are people reading this that needed to hear how you made this journey – that it can be done. Remember you are loved. I’m really looking forward to seeing this blog active again!

    Comment by Kate — April 16, 2011 #

  7. Barb, Sister dear, I am so very glad that you were able to “make friends” and reconcile yourself with your darker aspect. As you discovered, She’s not there to harm you, but to help you – if you let her.

    One year, near the anniversary of my son’s death, I held a ritual to contact Hecate – and my Dark Self. I cried, moaned, screamed and generally railed against a world that could let what I experienced happen. /Once I was able to give voice to this rage-pain, I realized that I had truly started healing. It’s now one of the reasons I can actually talk about what happened. One of the things I came a way with was a saying (I probably read it somewhere, but I don’t quite remember where). It was “I have looked upon the face of Death and She is Me.” She is not my enemy, She is a source of strength and ferocity. She helps in identifying danger and helps me (and now You) to avoid it.

    I’m so glad to be able to call you friend and Sister, Barb.

    *hugs*

    Comment by Judi — April 16, 2011 #

  8. Glad to see you’re back!

    Recovering from trauma and mental illness is something that takes ongoing work. When you hadn’t posted for a while, I figured you were having another dark time, but I knew you would get better again, and I’m glad to see you return to your blog now that you have.

    Not to sound pessimistic, but… it’s quite likely there will be another time in the future when you need to take a break and confront your Shadow Self again… and another time… and another time…

    The important thing is that you always come back from those times. At least, that’s what I’ve learned from my own struggles with depression. I have come to accept that there may never be a time when I fully free of it. The important think is to keep on bouncing back from it and never let it completely consume me.

    Comment by Neohippie — April 16, 2011 #

  9. Good for you. It takes hard work to face those personal traumas, speak with them, grow, progress, and find a path away from them. They’ll always be a part of history, but having been faced they are no longer a hidden part of the present. I hope you’re enjoying sunny days.

    Comment by Adrianne — April 16, 2011 #

  10. Preach it, ma’am. We’re listening.

    Comment by Laughingrat — April 16, 2011 #

  11. It fills me with joy to hear your voice again in the world. I have thought often on you and hoped to see your words again. Welcome again to the light. Blessings be upon you.

    Comment by DanJenkins — April 17, 2011 #

  12. Congrats! You’re still in my foodie blogs feed, so look forward to seeing the results of your gardening.

    Comment by Sameer — April 17, 2011 #

  13. I’m so glad you’re reborn.

    Comment by Mary Ann — April 17, 2011 #

  14. ..ohw! how touching was your story..It’s not like you are want to get some attention from us…But yeah! you really got us. That was a horrible past but look at you now and your daughter were having a good life, There are sometimes that we are down but not always because life is like a wheel, sometimes your in down and sometimes you are up..Just leave it behind because you move on already don’t you think about it anymore…God Bless you and be happy. I’m glad to hear you’re good.

    Comment by careen — April 18, 2011 #

  15. Welcome back, I’m so happy to hear from you again. Thanks for having the courage to tell the world about your struggles, I’m sure you’ll give many of us much more strength to deal with our own difficulties. Take care.

    Comment by jenny — April 18, 2011 #

  16. Very glad that you are back. Coming into the bright days ahead for you and your craft of writing, better days for your life.

    Comment by Mary — April 18, 2011 #

  17. I knew there was a reason I kept checking backin. Welcome back! APS

    Comment by Alan P. Scott — April 19, 2011 #

  18. Welcome back again! I’m glad you’re figuring things out. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Comment by Alison — April 19, 2011 #

  19. Hooray! Welcome back. :) Winter’s a great time for that sort of work, but now spring is here, and it’s time to open up again like the flowers! Glad to see you opening up again.

    Comment by Laura B. — April 19, 2011 #

  20. Yay, you’re back! I’m starting to think that the internet is the most important invention in human history. I think everything Kurt Vonnegut wished for in his novel Slapstick can be and is realized on the internet on a daily basis (of course, the worst of humanity expresses itself online, too).

    Comment by sgt pepper — April 19, 2011 #

  21. I took some days off and on return look what has happened. You are back. Like daffadils, tulips, spring and sunshine. What a delightful surprise. Can’t wait for more stories and some of your soap boxes too:)

    Comment by Maureen — April 21, 2011 #

  22. I’m glad you’re back. I’m glad you’re in the process of healing. Thank you for everything you do, because there is such generosity in how you do it. You inspire me to be a better person.

    Comment by huda — April 23, 2011 #

  23. Good to see you back :).

    Comment by Alexis E — April 27, 2011 #

  24. I always admired you years ago, through Morganna. I came across your blog by accident, but I’m glad I found it. I haven’t heard anything out of her for years. I’m glad to hear that both you and her are doing very well! I myself am going through a healing process. I admire you even now for being able to put it into words.

    Comment by Birdy — May 27, 2011 #

  25. I bet that many people have told you that but You Are Such a Remarkable Person, you know that? After reading your blog all these years, you are an inspiration for me, not just in cooking, but also in life.

    Best wishes.

    Comment by Calla — November 20, 2011 #

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