The Tomb And The Phoenix

The Tomb and The Phoenix

4.5.2015

“You have seen my decent. Now watch my rising.”

—Rumi

As cliché as this analogy might seem on Easter Sunday, it also holds big meaning for me in my own recovery from trauma.  I have made it very clear that I’m not a big ‘religious’ person per se. However, I do have a belief system.  I’m just not one that wears my spiritual beliefs on my sleeves any more than I flaunt my education.  Everyone has a spiritual belief system even if one says they don’t have one, which in itself is a belief.  Anyway, moving on….

One thing I’ve always understood is that psychology and religion more often than not, DO NOT agree on much.  Throw in a little Greek mythology and you’ve got a ‘hot mess’ for discussion for those with a closed mind.  I encourage you to have an open mind as I attempt to make a comparison/analogy from the standpoint of someone recovering from trauma.  I am in no way trying to offend anyone, as I respect that everyone has their own beliefs.  This blog always has been and always will be about ME and MY family’s journey.  If you find yourself starting to get somewhat annoyed, please refer back to paragraph #2.

open tomb

artist: Shannon Renshaw

As I think about Easter Sunday and what it has meant and still means for many, I want to attempt to describe to you where exactly I am and how I believe this morning as I continue to face my trauma.  As a child, I remember having Easter baskets left by the Easter bunny the night before in our living room for us to find first thing Sunday morning.  Ironically, I always seemed to get the same kind of candy and knick-knacks year after year.  I think the Easter bunny must’ve had some kind of secret ‘happiness meter’ that was used every year.  So…..”Easter bunny mom” remembered that gold brick eggs, Reese’s peanut butter eggs and Easter colored M&M’s became the norm in my basket. The night before, as a family, we would usually be dyeing eggs and watching the movie Jesus of Nazareth.  This is still one of my favorite classics old as it may be.  So this morning, I wait for our little 3 foot tall cuteness to awake and see what the Easter bunny brought him last night.

As an adult, the foundations of beliefs are the same but have a slightly different twist in a way that makes complete sense to me.  The question is….”Do I believe in the Holy Trinity and the Resurrection?”  My answer is undeniably yes.  There’s not a traumatic event in my lifetime that can come close to destroying that belief for me.  I was taught this at a very young age and is something that I still hold on to.  I don’t flaunt this because I feel that this is very personal for each person.  I also do not try and change anyone else’s beliefs.  Once again, I’m spiritual not religious so, my beliefs are somewhat different and are not exactly popular back in the ‘Bible Belt’ of the Deep South.  Oh, don’t get it bent, I have ‘beef’ with God for things that have happened to me as I’m sure most people who believe in God have also had at some point in their own lives.

After 2014 and the beginning of 2015, I have really had to do some ‘soul searching’ on several different levels.  Having lost numerous friends and family this past year in a variety of ways can lead to, somewhat, deep thinking at times.  Losing Sarah while subsequently leaving a void in my heart has really brought back a lot of memories of things she use to tell me.  One thing that has always stood out that she told me was, “Dana, you can’t give what you don’t have.”  This, my friends and family, is why I continue to stay on this very difficult and very frightening journey.

The Phoenix, in Greek mythology, was a bird that arose from the ashes of darkness.  Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. The phoenix was later adopted as a symbol in early Christianity. While the phoenix typically dies by fire in most versions of the legend, there are less popular versions of the myth in which the mythical bird dies and simply decomposes before being born again.

Phoenix

On Easter Sunday the representation of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the grave is celebrated.  While this is important to me, so is the representation of the phoenix.  I personally feel that I will, in time, also begin my own rise from the depths of trauma and despair.  While in the midst of traumatic flashbacks, memories, migraines and all the other symptoms that come along with a lifetime of abuse, it’s very difficult to keep this in perspective.  Some days, all I want to do is just lie down and die.  I often wonder why I keep trying when my efforts seem futile sometimes.

I can say that the love that Sarah and other people have had and continue to have for me in this time when I’m unable to love myself, somehow, has become a motivation tactic.  That’s not to say that I don’t get tired and life doesn’t continue to beat us up.  Coach Nick Kolinsky always taught me to NEVER give up until the game is over.  And well…..the game is nowhere near being over.  I know how to survive only one way, when I get knocked down, I get back up.  That’s how I made it through my abuse and that’s how I’ll recover from my abuse.

Sarah would often times remind me, “Dana, you didn’t become maladaptive over night.  You’ve had years of perfecting this.  Likewise, you won’t recover overnight. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.”  Yes, there were some 12-Step influences in her thoughts.  That was exactly who she was.  She would always help keep things in perspective for me.  She was also one of the few that I actually would listen to.  Oh, how I love and miss the special ways that she managed to get through the tough outer covering of my thick skull.

As my painful and gut wrenching recovery continues, I have the warmth of her words to guide and comfort me.  That’s not to say that I wouldn’t give everything I have to be able to consult her one more time.  My tears for her loss continue to flow even now. Sometimes, I have to imagine what she would say to me if we did have that one last conversation.  And this is what I believe she would say…”Dana, my child, pick yourself up and continue to move forward in every way possible.  There are people that are in your life both physically and spiritually to guide you through this process. You are going through changes which are part of recovery.  This process has never been easy for anyone and you’re not the exception.  I will always be with you as I have always been. Do the work and rise to be the great therapist that I know you can be.”

And with that….off to work I continue to go.

#Thispuzzledlife

Road To Heal (Poetry)

Road To Heal
I cry and tears fall;
Wondering how I got myself in this place at all.
My stomach churns not feeling good enough to eat;
My life looks like it’s been put on repeat.
Again I end up in a place of chaos;
Knowing that she took over again and I lost.
When will this torment end?
I will do it once and never again.
Hell, I live and Hell I received.
But this time is different because there’s no reprieve.
Dear God, get me out of this horrible deal.
So, I can get back on the road to heal.
#thispuzzledlife

I’m Sorry (Poetry)

I’m Sorry
How sorry can one person be?
That one person just happens to be me
The way that I self-destruct and scare people
It’s not intentional to hurt them and feel their tears
Some I’ve felt for days, months and years
All I’m screaming is that I hurt so bad
No one hears me not my mom and not my dad.
My screams are silent, and no one hears
Restrict blood and air and brought to tears
Eyes and facial features all swollen
Just wanting someone to hold me and let the tears fall
My trauma hurts like a searing pain
It’s a very high cost with little to gain
I’m sorry that I’m this way
I’m sorry that I hurt so bad
I’m sorry that you know me
I’m sorry that I appear to love life
I’m sorry that I joke around when I’m so miserable
I’m sorry that you love me
I sorry that you believe in me
I’m sorry that I’m broken and still me.
#thispuzzledlife

Wounded Healers

Wounded Healers

“Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.”
—Rick Warren

Psychologist Carl Jung created the term Wounded Healer. The idea says that a person is compelled to treat patients because he himself is wounded. The essence of the idea is said that going through our wound that we can allow ourselves to be recreated by the wound. Our wound is one that is continually unfolding through a process that reveals itself to us and thereby teaching us about ourselves. Going through our wound and realizing that we will never be the same again once we reach the other side, we then come out the other side where empowerment is born. This process is completely different than going around our wound. And this process requires actively engaging ourselves. This process also is potentially creating a new transformation. This transformation essentially has us changing from the “old” self into the “new” self (awakeninthedream.com)

The wounded healer only becomes able to help others, while continuing to do work on ourselves again and again, when instead of feeling victimized we can see that wound as an event and as a part of a more spiritual moment. And then we can see how our own suffering within ourselves, is reflected to the outer world in a way that helps alleviate suffering in both worlds (awakeninthedream.com).

wounded healers

What an incredible way to explain the healing process with reciprocal healing. I tried to make this a little bit easier to understand. I think that anyone who chooses to work in a helping profession, is on some level, looking to heal their own self maybe even subconsciously. The helping professions that I worked in were the medical and counseling professions. Maybe I, too, was subconsciously looking to help heal my own self. My dear Sarah used to tell me, “Dana, you can’t give what you don’t have.” What she was saying was that until I have my own trauma dealt with that, I couldn’t help others with theirs. And this has proven to be true. I want to help others so bad because I went through those professions. But my own trauma, after ignoring it for so many years, came along and broke my back. Maybe writing is how I’ll be able to help others. Maybe through speaking I’ll be able to help others. I don’t really know what path my life will take. But which ever way it happens is also one that I’ll embrace to the fullest.

I have worked with the homeless and addiction communities enough to know that that is where I belong. I have been blessed with the ability to see people for who they are and allow them to be individuals no matter what that may look like. I have seen and worked in some areas of lives and the country that would make some people shiver in fear. I never look down my nose at anyone because I understand where I’ve also been and the struggles within my own life. I have been, at times, unable to care for myself and smelling like last week’s garbage because I wasn’t able to muster the energy to get out of bed and take a shower. I have also been so caught up in addiction that my arm, legs and ankles were at the other end of a needle.

Most people see me as a fun-loving comedian that’s easy to be around. What they don’t see are the constant struggles of holding onto life just to make it another day. I’m so incredibly grateful to have had Sarah in my life for 15 years. The wisdom she shared with me and lessons she taught me are sometimes the only thing that seem to get me through the day.

Coach stepped in at a time when the term “struggle” was putting it mildly. She has also seen me fighting and struggling for the next minute. I now learn from her. The universe has made it possible and directed me, almost 4 years ago, in her direction. I am now her student and one day I hope to be seen as a “Wounded Healer.”
#thispuzzledlife

No One Heard Me (Poetry)

No One Heard Me (Poetry)

As a child no one heard me
As a teen no one heard me
As an adult no one heard me
I was loud with my voice
And no one heard me

I had wounds and scars
And no one heard me
I felt the heat of a bullet
And no one heard me

Their big hands hurt me
And no one heard me
My silent screams
And no one heard me

Holes in the doors and walls
And no one heard me
Who will cry for the little girl?
And no one heard me

#thispuzzledlife

Peace (Poetry)

Peace (Poetry)
Peace is something sacred that many don’t find;
You can get pushed to find it and leave the pain behind.
The monsters destroyed us and that is a fact;
Peace is among the living when it gets too difficult to carry
the weight of the world on your back.

When life becomes to difficult and the pain is too real;
You must come to acceptance of the pain that you feel.
Life seems too hard and the pain I can’t describe;
And no matter where you go there’s no place to hide.

So you have to accept that this pain is here to stay;
Peace is what you find even if you’re no ok.
God won’t have me and the devil just laughs;
Where do I end up on this god forsaken path?

Nothing is given neither life nor death;
I’ll just have to see when and where I take my last breath.
Peace is what I feel with like walking in glue?

Tears fall and my chin begins to shake;
How much more am I suppose to take?
Peace takes over when nothing else will;
And I will take my last breaths when
I’m too tired to continue climbing this hill.

Or maybe peace I will find on the journey to find me;
Peace takes over when your will is through.
I find it when I wake up knowing
there’s nothing more I can do.
The weight of the world just seems to disappear;
Then peace envelopes you when your time is near.
#thispuzzledlife

Adjusting To Home

Adjusting to Home

“Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Today is the two-week mark of me having moved back home to Mississippi. The timing of the move was to ensure that I was home for the holidays and that’s exactly what I did. I came home and was soon greeted by my little boys making the first week filled with love and happiness. Anytime you move from one place to another there is an adjustment period usually filled with frustrations and my time back has had those times as well.
For me there has been a mixture of emotions that I was somewhat prepared for but have also been surprised by. With my dark past in this small town and trying to get settled the stress of it all has brought tears to my eyes. The stress of being back in a town where there are some difficult memories to face mixed with the stress of getting new doctors, reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances, developing new routines and the death of a family member has left me emotional and a bit edgy. All-in-all I would consider the experience thus far normal.

In the best of circumstances, the stress would be a noticeable factor. But coming back to the place where all my trauma occurred with still very vivid memories has made the transition a little more difficult. The difficulties where they are uncomfortable are not impossible to overcome. My initial thoughts about moving back where that I would face a lot of judgment and harsh criticisms as I had in my younger years. What I have found is that I instead have faced people who still are supportive and who love me even knowing my past. And those who send their judgmental stares and comments my way have been drowned out by hugs and words of support and compassion. Me and old friends have sat while we all laughed and cried together with stories of difficult days from the past and the near future. And my aching heart is always soothed by the words of my children saying, “Momma D, we’re glad you moved back because we missed you.”

IMG_2272

My spiritual life which has held a lot of contentment for many years has been met by people who just want to love and support me while I find my way here in small town living of the Deep South. And thanks to coach before leaving Texas I was already learning how to let people love me again. Likewise, I continue to be supported by my friends from Texas who only want to see me succeed as they saw me in the days of barely putting one foot in front of the other to keep surviving. The best advice I was ever given as a child and an athlete that’s kept me going was, “Never ever give up.” And the words I always tell coach is, “Don’t ever give up on me.”

IMG_7406 (1)

Two of my hardest but most rewarding years of my life were spent healing in Texas. And it’s where I feel like I got my second wind in life. I love being able to smile a genuine smile today. I love feeling like I now have the capability to be a mother to my children. I love knowing going forward that my relationships with people will be ones that are genuine instead of superficial. And that they can be relationships that are healthy. I love knowing that my hard work has bought me something more rewarding than a degree could ever give to me……LIFE. And I love knowing that no matter how many times I wanted to nor how far down I got physically and mentally…. I NEVER GAVE UP. The miracle happened and I’m alive today to enjoy it.
#thispuzzledlife

Happy Birthday To Me

Happy Birthday To Me

“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why. “
—-William Barclay

Today is my birthday and a day that I haven’t really celebrated since I was young. My birthday has always been representative to me of the day that I was put up for adoption and given away because I was unwanted. And after meeting my birth mom several years ago the fear of being unwanted at birth became a reality. That was exactly what she told me. I didn’t receive the explanation from her that she was young and couldn’t take care of me. She very coldly told me, “You were an inconvenience in my life and you still are.” I don’t know how cold the chill was that went over me the day she spoke those words. But it was cold enough to chill my soul.
I’m not afraid to admit that this has been a very painful part of my life for a very long time. And in many ways, I have allowed her reality to control my thoughts and actions about myself for many years. And then I met Coach who through unwavering compassion has taught me differently. She saw the open wounds of those awful words and graciously began helping to promote healing.
What coach has taught me is that I wasn’t an inconvenience to anyone but her. The beauty of living in a free nation is that not all our realities have to match, nor do we all have to agree. She also taught me that my self-worth should never be determined by a woman who didn’t have the capability to love me anyway. I have two wonderful parents who love me and have done nothing but support me my entire life.

celebrate life

 

Today, I’m happy to say that December 4th is a day that should be celebrated. I am a good person who loves people and loves to be love by both family and friends. Life has not been easy, but the trauma doesn’t control me any longer. My birthday means that God was gracious enough to breathe life into me for me to make my mark on this earth the best way that I can. I have a family and two beautiful little boys that call me mom that love me. And I also have friends spread across the country that love me and want nothing but the best for me. And I have a “system” that does their best to help keep me functioning in new ways that we’ve learned the last two years. They are a special group that I depend on to help keep me going and loving me enough to keep me safe in every single way.

Now December the 4th isn’t a day where people are prevented but rather embraced for wishing me a happy birthday. Today I smile instead of frowning and staying locked behind doors. There’s nothing like getting to share birthday time with my oldest son Marshall. And, today is a day where God is thanked for the breath of life that made me. And for my birth mom, she is silently thanked for being the vehicle by which I enter the world. These days of being grateful have changed my view on many things. I am grateful to God, the universe, friends, family and others I’ve not yet met for being a part of my journey. Because the day that someone is born is a day when life changes for anyone, they meet in ways we may never know. I say with all the happiness in my heart…” Happy Birthday to ME!!!!!”
#thispuzzledlife

My Parts And Change

My Parts And Change

“DID is about survival! As more people begin to appreciate this concept, individuals with DID will start to feel less as though they have to hide in shame. DID develops as a response to extreme trauma that occurs at an early age and usually over an extended period of time.”
― Deborah Bray Haddock, The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook

I don’t know why I’ve decided to write another blog so soon. Maybe it’s because I’m so eager to get back home that the loneliness of this room has taken its toll. But maybe it’s also because my parts are talking so loudly about the upcoming change that it’s hard to do anything else. I still hold true to my beliefs about the benefits of my two years of hard work and the spirituality that I hold near and dear. But to ignore what my parts are saying would go against everything I’ve learned. So, I’ve decided to give this some attention.
My child parts are like typical children. They’re excited to know that they will be able to play with Marshall and Copeland soon. They look forward to being around them again and to once again. And a certain little 5-year-old looks forward to being able to play with her chap sticks that have carefully been sent back home at an earlier date. They also long for a parent’s love to help ease the scariness of this new change.
My teenagers have a menagerie of emotions like most teens. Some are ready to go NOW and are having a hard time with patience. They all look forward to this scary but new life and experiences. My once loud and aggressive protector is the one who is surprisingly calm during this time of stress. She has always been the one no one could get close to. But through healing she has become one that knows her place and realizes that everything isn’t about a fight. The kid that she is longs for someone to simply hold and support her while this change happens. She’s not afraid to admit that she’s scared. But she also knows that she’s still one of the backbones of strength and courage in my system. Instead of being a part of aggression she has found and made peace with her trauma and now works with us all instead of causing chaos. She has become one of the hardest working parts in relation to recovery. And she holds tightly the words of our dear Sarah close to her heart.

you survived

She was hands down the loudest but most damaged alter I have. Her loyalty to our coach and our system is comes from a place that’s admirable and loveable. And I must admit that having her working with us for several months now is something that makes my heart leap for joy. Her heart is open and healed and has become one of my parts that I couldn’t live without. She one that has brought about the most change and has remained open to love, peace and happiness. My part that is her direct opposite and wise beyond her years is still strong with positivity. Very simply put she brings light to the darkness. The desires of her heart I won’t share but peace from within is what she exudes.
My athlete and student are parts that keep us all going. Having the respect for our dear coach they both repeat the phrase, “Stay the course and trust coach. She hasn’t led us astray yet and we need her right now. We trust her because she’s proven trustworthy. Listen and follow her guidance because she will help lead us home safely.” And I must admit that writing keeps “the student” occupied.
A few of my adult parts looks forward to helping Mel raise the boys. They also bring about nurturing and grace on a daily basis. They look forward to being role models for my children that will help me to be the mother I need to be. I have other desires of my heart but none more important than the ones that foster my being able to take care of myself instead of having to be taken care of. I look forward to being able to take care of myself instead of being trapped within myself and frozen with fear.
All these parts make up me, Dana Landrum-Arnold. I’m proud of who I am now and what I can become as a person in the future. My heart longs for many different things. And I’ll admit that I’m very nervous. But when I look back on the days of Texas, I can say that it has been the most rewarding and difficult time of my life. I have worked harder for this resolution of my trauma then anything else. The scars of my story are evident on my arms and my heart. But the peace I’ve fought so hard for is written all over my face and heart as well. I now see myself as one who has discipline, courage, strength and love to share with anyone who will accept it. I am a good person who a set of individuals tried to destroy a little at a time. What I was blessed with was several parts of myself who fought my battles and took care of me for many years regardless of how maladaptive the behaviors were. And now I’ve grown to the point that it’s time that I take care of them and my responsibilities as Dana. They helped me to survive and now I will help them to thrive. My name is Dana Landrum-Arnold and I have a story to tell.
#thispuzzledlife

Change Can Happen

Change Can Happen

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
― Leo Tolstoy

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about leaving Albuquerque and moving to Texas. Now after doing all the work in therapy I’m now making another change from Texas to Mississippi. With change comes anxiety about the uncertainties of the future. I’m living life one day at a time and making the transition and believing that everything will work out for the best. I have been preparing, in therapy, for the last two years to be the mom and the healthy person I need to be. I must say that I’m very happy and proud of the person that I’ve become. I wake up every morning glad to be alive and looking forward to the day of challenges and growth.
Texas has been very challenging but so worth the struggle. I now walk in peace while knowing that I can lead myself as a healthy example for my children to follow and be proud of. The daily stress of this move is something I embrace rather than fear. With everything I’ve been through I couldn’t help but develop and grasp hold of a spiritual life. I don’t go around spouting off scripture but I do know one thing….that there is a God and I am not him. Just like Sarah God has always been by my side regardless of my situation. I use to blame God for everything bad that happened to me. But today I can say that God has been here through my trials and sleepless nights filled with tears.

start over

Sarah told me many years ago that “religion is for people who are scared to go to hell and spirituality is for those of us who have already been there.” I have to agree. I hold on every day to the opportunity that I have to grow in some way. I’ve made a lot of mistakes while in my sickness. But I have also forgiven myself for them. With new life comes new opportunities to repair what I can and start over where I can’t repair. Going forward I can see a life where I can support myself emotionally. I look forward to those that cross my path and hope to be able to learn something from each day that I live. And also take the lessons that I’ve learned from my struggles to have a brighter tomorrow.

Blogging has given me hope and a way out of darkness. And there’s not a price that I can put on the therapy that I’ve received. Coach has guided me to a life that I never knew could exist. I’m living proof that if you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired that you can go to extremes to change. Even if that means moving to a different state and living in solitude to make that change happen. Life and mental illness doesn’t have to be a death sentence. It all depends on what you’re willing to do to get better.
#thispuzzledlife

A Letter From Beyond

A Letter From Beyond

With all the healing work taking place I can’t help but think what my dear Sarah would be thinking. So, I’ve decided to write something to help my heart a little bit. Sarah was always concerned and who knows how many of her own tears and prayers were shed and said for me. She was one of the kindest people I knew, and compassion seemed to flow from every pore in her body for me. But make no mistake that she would also very sternly and loving to insert her shoe into my ass if she thought that’s what I needed. I imagine that if she were to talk to me today it would sound something like this…

Dear Dana,
I have been watching you for the last few years and have seen you decline at an incredible rate. You have given yourself every excuse to behave in ways that still make my skin crawl. I told you several years ago to never give yourself a reason to destroy yourself and things around you. Especially no excuses surrounding my death.

All I ever wanted for you was happiness and recovery. I know you were hurting but I never left you. But I have also seen you step up and take charge of your recovery. You have been through some agonizing days and even then, I never left you. And like pulling teeth you have finally begun to allow people to love you when you weren’t able to love yourself. You have finally gotten out of your own way and done work that has brought about healing.

I always had faith in you and your abilities, but you had to see it for yourself.  Your work was about you and no one else.   Your eyes have finally been opened to a new life. You have taken charge of your life and cleaned your side of the street the best you can. Your recovery with your new coach has been done one day at a time. And I can’t imagine a better team to make this all happen. This will continue if you get up every day and choose recovery. This process will continue to help you grow as you become the mother that your children deserve. Continue to work on your relationships that deserve the respect that you choose to give to them. Some relationships will be salvageable where others won’t. Thank God every day for life because people that you choose to allow in your life will be blessed just like me and Doug were. Celebrate life for it’s so precious and can disappear in an instant. Help Mel to raise the boys to be men that you both can be proud of. I loved you but never let love end just because a person’s life ended. You have gifts and a beautiful heart that anyone can see and love. Don’t cheat someone out of your beauty just because of a loss. Grieve and move past the hurt and pain. There are many other people that will be placed in your life that will be cheated out of your noticeable beauty if you let the past affect your present and future. Not only your children and family but also those you have yet to meet.

My wish for you is still happiness in whatever way that may look. Never forget to thank the people that helped and love you for they too have seen you hurting and hurt with and for you. There have been more tears and prayers said by numerous people that you may not realize. Anything is accomplishable if you realize that there’s a spiritual being bigger than you. For you are not the ruler of the universe. Ask for what you need and keep those you love close. You have learned many difficult lessons these last two years and I am proud of your efforts. Remember that every day of life is not to be fought with but worth fighting for. You make my heart sing and your beauty shines these days because you’ve found your own authenticity. And damn it looks good on you. I miss you and love you and will forever be by your side.

Thank your coach and her seemingly unending compassion and love that she shows you. She is a rare jewel. The days you thought I was gone was nothing more than me backing off and giving her space to try to help the one I and many others love…. you. Be a person people can look up to rather than one people fear. And remember that life is not easy and was never meant to be easy. I’m of you and love you very much, kid.
Sincerely,
Sarah

This has been an emotional piece for me to write but I needed to hear what I could imagine Sarah saying to me. She is still deeply missed. I’ve finally made peace with her death and subsequent absence. But I choose life authentically. I choose to let people love and care about me even though it’s still uncomfortable at times. I choose life.

#thispuzzledlife

Once Again

Once Again
7.30.19
I laugh a lot, but no one sees
How much these visions torment me?
Fight as I may, I have yet to win
Screaming loudly, “No! Not Again!”

God might frown but the devil smiles
He knows his influence on this broken child.
Forward I still go but no one sees
My limping, hurting and the pain that pushes me.

How do I succeed whilst in his mouth of flames?
I’ve tried and tried with very little gain
Can’t anyone plainly see?
How my demons are killing me?

I say, “Yes!” and they say, “No!
We will beat this crazy and very useless ho.
But try as I may spilling heartbroken tears;
All this happening year-after-year.

Prayers are spoken but no one sees
This desperate girl inside me begging Please!!!
To help me stop this destructive path
How many more times can I survive their wrath?

The people who help have grown weary as well.
How can I continue to drag them through my personal hell?
All the while I silently scream, “help but don’t leave!”
The message is constant “Then let us help you please!”
I don’t know how to let you love me and teach me knew things
Please let me be the puppet on a string.

I listen and try the best that I can
Can I start over and learn to let people love me again?
Answers unknown and fears cover my heart
Can I possibly let you mold me like a beautiful piece of art?

This little girl desperately wants to live
But how much more can I take and are you still willing to give?
I’m not greedy and want everything from you.
God, the universe, The Great Spirit says I’m not through.

Don’t give up as everyone has and I apologize for
being such a hardheaded jackass.
Compassionate and caring more than anyone has ever been
Please try drilling through my thick skull once again.

By: Dana Landrum-Arnold
#thispuzzledlife

Tioga Bound

Tioga Bound

“When you know who you are; when your mission is clear and you burn with

the inner fire of unbreakable will; no cold can touch your heart; no deluge

can dampen your purpose. You know that you are alive.”

– Chief Seattle, Duwamish

 

I was looking through my recent blog posts and realized that I had not yet written about a place I went to visit last summer/fall 2017.  There are some situations in life when/where it happens you have to just be quite and let it soak in.  Sometimes just looking at how situations came to be can unlock a little patch of “surrendering to the process.”

I believe wholeheartedly that there’s something about how the stars are lining up in my life.  I don’t have those answers yet but they’re out there somewhere.  In March 2017, I was pretty hopeless in most areas of my life.  Out of the blue I get a call from someone who still completely amazes me with her compassion and patience. I had found my new coach finally.  Tears streamed down my face as I call my wife Melody to let her know what had just happened.  The challenge would be for Mel and I, as a couple, to figure out what was best for our family as a whole.  I had my eye set on one thing as my goal and that was the day I could begin this arduous work with someone already proven trustworthy.

We already had planned a trip to Walt Disney world in Orlando, FL  with our boys obviously not knowing what the coming months would bring.  Anyway, the boys and Mel enjoyed the trip. I just realized how bad things had gotten and was continuing to decline.  Our boys were entitled to have some genuine fun that normally they couldn’t do around me because of PTSD symptoms.  While at Disney World I enjoyed seeing our boys and Mel with smiles on their faces.  For me having so many issues with social situations the trip was torture.  The amount of people and no private space had me wanting to just randomly bite people for no reason.  Then somewhere on the inside I heard…”Orange is not a good color for you!  And you won’t like the flip flops!!!!”  Not conventional grounding  method but it worked.  The fireworks shows, though beautiful, had me running for cover.  But I do love my family.

IMG_0015

Mel’s grandmother passed away which meant we would be staying very close to the city where I grew up.  It doesn’t matter the situation. That area of the country is just not safe for me to be hanging out in.  But It was a death in the family and loyalty to our friends and family are stronger than anything we have individually, as a couple or as a family.  We eventually made it back to Albuquerque.  And things went from bad to worse.

I ended up returning to a trauma unit where I would meet more close friends referred to as my “battle buddies.”  This stay was quite difficult to say the least.  Things were much different and I left there completely defeated.  Just months before I caught wind that someone cared which left me very curious say the least.  The only thing I’ve never been surprised by is in the fact that change is constantly happening.  This situation was absolutely no different.  I licked my wounds all the way back to Albuquerque to my awaiting room where I keep all of my secrets.  It was sort of my prison within my own prison.

Someone did mention about this place out in Tioga, TX called Healing Springs Ranch.  The last thing I wanted to talk about was more treatment.  I was exhausted and felt beat up.  My recent trauma unit stay reaffirmed to me that professionals were just dangerous no matter how they put a nice spin on things.  And I hated them all.  No one would have another shot at me like that was how hurt I felt.  I was so miserable and wanted a way out.  I wanted help but feared it to my core.  Again, I was told to call them and check it out.

I wanted the opportunity to go and try another open campus facility, at some point, because those were where I was most comfortable.  I just didn’t want to go right then. Being on a locked unit never helps me or anyone else.  But what I was about to walk into was something I was never prepared to experience.  I was told who my inpatient therapist would be.  I had already known her from previous visits to other facilities and knew that she was gentle so having that knowledge really helped me to settle.    Here I was about to trust someone to mess with my “system” again and I wouldn’t be able to leave for awhile. And there was only minimal trust to start with.

My wife dropped me and my belongings off after getting checked in.  I was told to enjoy that last Diet Coke for a while.  I froze.  What in the hell did he just say?!!!!  I instantly felt death near.  I knew that coffee was not even a remote possibility for me.  Caffeine, Caffeine where shall I find thee?  I was truly starting to panic.  OMG….what have I just agreed to? I was trying to keep the fear buried and plenty of smiles and laughter on the outside.

finding myself

I soon took that long ride, on the golf cart, to the main building known as the Bunk House.  I was beyond terrified and my inside guys were assessing everything we saw, heard and smelled.  We passed the field of cows I would learn to love and talk to every morning on daily walks.   There were a couple I would name T-Bone and Rib eye.  I know I should have a conscious about their names but I don’t.  And the golf cart would be parked by cows that had this exact conversation go on right before their eyes.

Friend:  Dana those are those different cows called Yams!

Me:  I can assure you that those are not yams.

Friend:  Dana yes they are I know what I’m talking about.  Those are YAMS!!!

Me:  Oh for the love of God and the Holy Angels!  That is not a potato!  A yam is what you have on Thanksgiving!  If that is a yam then that potato has four legs and a tail while also saying…MOOOOOOO! A YAK!  A YAK is what you’re thinking about and that is not a Yak either!  That’s just a messed up looking cow!  We laughed then and still today about how funny that brief moment in time unfolded.

When the doors opened and I began the incline on the floor to the nurses’ office I was greeted by a few people welcoming me to Healing Springs Ranch.  Omg…they’re a cult!  They have a following of people that claim that they care and are happy.  I saw who would be my therapist and instantly I thought…Damn I feel bad for you already.

Everyone was so incredibly caring and you just somehow knew that this place was special.  It was just different in a loving kind of way.  In my illustrious career of dealing with treatment centers and stabilization units I had never found this much compassion in one place.  This is a place far from a locked unit.  They loved without conditions.  This has always been a foreign concept for me because from several abusers “love” had conditions.  So accepting this love was going to be a challenge and it was the majority of the time.

Very slowly but surely I would begin to settle in with this new community.  This place whatever its magical powers was loving me and I began to melt.  No one saw this right off but both me and my alters felt it instantly.  I’m a difficult patient in the best of circumstances. But apparently The universe knew what it took to make me crumble……COMPASSION.  I was still a very angry and scared person under all the smiles and laughter.  They had already found my weakness.

family

And you seem to know that the relationship is going to be interesting when one of the first people you see you say, “Hey 13 is that you?!” Calling someone, who would turn out to be one of my closest friends, one of your alters’ names can be incredibly funny.   I’ll be honest that an argument between a 10 year-old and a 13 year-old can be awfully flamboyant. But put them both in adult bodies and that could be sent to the comedy show of your choosing. However, The awesome look at nature and it’s scary and comforting critters it hides seemed to be medicine for my soul.

Charlie the Squirrel seemed to take the place of the Angry Birds in Albuquerque.  My personal encounters involves said tree rodent.  Oh Mr. Sandy cheeks decided that I needed a little more confusion and proceeded to bark at me machine gun style.  With my very well developed hyper startle response, Charlie might as well have been sitting on my face and chewing on it. All I could think to say was, “It jumped out from the bushes and almost killed me!”  Really he just scared the shit out of me from about 10 feet away in a tree. Then I scared the shit out of the people walking with me.  We still laugh about it all.

Life had become routine which I loved.  At night after most of the day staff left for the evening and we had all gotten our night meds and snacks people would head down to their rooms either for a shower and/or bed.  But there were also members of our tribe that enjoyed that 30 minute time period of sitting on the porch with the slight breeze and just decompress from all of the day’s activities.  The night wildlife was front and center.  If you were brave enough to listen to some of the conversations we would have you would realize that there was an amazing amount of healing that went on.  There started out with about 4 people, including myself, who took full advantage of hanging out with this new family.  By the time it was my graduation, there were usually over 10 people at night.

I was usually telling some kind of funny story or just getting tickled about the day’s activities.  There were stories about Miss Betty and the Mr. Bitchy.  Many also know about my Ozzy Osborne impression shouting “SHARON!!!!!!”  Any issues between me and Charlie the Squirrel had to be told. Funny stories from being an EMT. Or the funny things about being a lesbian mom raising little boys.  On a more somber note someone might bring a guitar to the patio and we would sing.

These other clients and staff were hearing details, ugly details of my past and they still loved me.  They were getting to know my alters almost as well as my own spouse.  The work we all did was hard to say the very least.  Walking in their doors with all of my therapy baggage at the forefront assured me just starting on trust again.  But my family members who were also working on their individual issues were also there.  After many years of Melody and I flying solo through this life of Dissociative Identity Disorder, I can only wish that the facility had been there much sooner. Finally I  had found a place that would take the time to get to know someone beyond the adolescente.

There were times when the work we had done during the day time just managed to leave the mark on someone’s face that said,  “I need a friend who understands and to be able to let the tears fall where they may without the fear or feeling of judgment.”  Healing with your peers with no parameters to interfere was total freedom.

At HSR, I found my tribe.  I found a whole host of “safe people” that I never knew existed.  All of the amenities are just a bonus with the total experience.  The food is prepared by one of the finest chefs on my list. The staff packs a lot of knowledge about both addiction and mental health disorders.  Their passion for what they do can be seen many miles away…like Albuquerque.  But what you’ll experience as a whole is beautiful.  I didn’t leave there with a lot of answers.  But I left there knowing and believing that all people aren’t dangerous and that was just what I needed.  Because “those people” and the alumni are who I call….FAMILY.

These are just a few of the reasons that Healing Springs Ranch is where I found my forever home with a brand new, handpicked by the universe, group of likewise compassion and passion for life kind of family.    I learned at “The Ranch” that even clowns need to make time for tears. And that not everyone is put on this earth to hurt me.  As for my alters and I, well let’s just say that the process of “being loving” with our tone to each other is still moving forward just at a snail’s pace.  And I did get to move closer to my HSR family.  As difficult of a process as it’s been not moving here with Melody and the boys, I’m in the arms of members of that same family.  I finally made it here about 2 months ago and I walked into those loving arms of people that I met hear. They understand without explanation but with humor when I say that I’m one of those people who are buy 1 get 15 free.

“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I

guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”

– Robin Williams

https://www.healingspringsranch.com/

#thispuzzledlife

For The Bible Tells Me So Part 2

For the Bible Tells Me So…..Part 2

“If a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in

the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission.”

― Flemming Rose

Let me start this entry by saying that I am in no way putting in “jabs” to any particular religious belief or sect.  I’m simply stating how religion can be used in an abusive nature.  I have my own personal experience with Southern Baptist and Southern Evangelicals.  I don’t dislike either one.  Abuse has also been publicized within the Catholic religion.  But let’s face it, abuse of any kind knows no boundaries and/or limits.

In the many years that I longed for and searched for my birth mom I heard the same story over and over about how she was put in touch with a pastor in the Petal/Hattiesburg, MS area and then like a bad explosion I was born.  When I got older I had to be able to understand what all this meant.  So the only way I could fully comprehend this was to call it  “The Underground Railroad for Unwed Mothers.” To tell a few more of the details surrounding her prenatal arrangements and my eventual birth, my birth mom was from Indiana at the time.  She was 16 years old and had gotten mad at my biological father and fled to put me up for adoption as soon as possible.  This information I received when we met face-to-face.

As I stated in the first part of this blog entry being an unwed mother was not exactly as socially acceptable as it is now.  We are not talking about 50 years ago either.  In the 1970s was when my birth mom had me.  In the 1990s when I graduated high school teen moms were still regarded as “less than” no matter the circumstances.  These “less than” opinions were not only from the standpoint of the church where I personally saw people treated differently depending on socioeconomic, gender, race, sexual orientation and just about any other category where someone might “stand out” as being not “normal.”

not afraid to grieve

Nevertheless my birth mom was actually suppose to go to the Bethesda Home for Unwed Mothers when she was pregnant with me.  However, she was too far along in her pregnancy to be accepted there.  This was the best outcome for me as the baby for her to not be allowed there regardless of the reasoning.  For her, though, she has made it clear many times over that I was “an inconvenience in her life then and now.”  Tell me even reading that you didn’t feel that punch to the gut.  Now imagine that you’re that baby that grew up wanting nothing more than to find part of your identity and you’ve been forced to wait to find this woman that you inherently have longed for your entire life because of state laws.  All the while hoping that your opinion of what “adoption” means to you is different.  Only to be rejected again but now you feel that very deadly blow.  I could do absolutely nothing.  I could say nothing.  Me being left speechless seldom ever happens.

To this day, when I am still and think back to that moment I have to change the subject because it’s just too painful to remember.  To make matters worse, when I returned from finding the answers I needed my husband at the time told me “she’s a filthy and disgusting woman and she gave YOU up for adoption.”  I can’t describe what that did to me emotionally.  Every feeling and thought that I had up to that point about my self-worth came down to that one comment.  I have never recovered from things like that that were said to me daily.

When she was turned down at the girl’s home she stayed with another local pastor and his wife until she had me and like clockwork she left never to think about me again until the phone call from my biological brother telling her that I had been found about 30 years later.  She has had an incredibly difficult life.  She and my biological father passed along some strong addiction genes and well…..not much else.  The “Nature vs. Nurture” debaters would love to study this one.  I was going to mention something about good looks but roasting myself has become somewhat of an art.

enemy no chance

The point in all of this is that religion can be incredibly shaming to those that aren’t stereotypical worshippers.  This means going to church or whatever your place to worship and acting a certain way or   being vocal.  Now, personally, I don’t care how anyone worships or who they worship because I consider this a very private matter between you and your higher power whomever or whatever that might be.  Here’s a quote from an author on this very thing…

“Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme, McHugh is telling us. If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly. Is it any wonder that introverts like Pastor McHugh start to question their own hearts?”
― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Pastor Marvin Winans is a gospel singer a member of the Winans Family a famous gospel group.  He also leads the choir called the Perfecting Church Choir.  He also has produced several albums with this choir while also being a part of “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.”   Winans also delivered the eulogy at Whitney Houston’s funeral in 2012.   The comment from an elder in the church about his policy regarding baby dedication for unwed mothers and their children was this…..

 “Pastor Winans has a strict policy — he won’t bless the babies of unwed mothers in front of the congregation”, Fox 2 Detroit reported.

Grace said “she felt degraded by the pastor’s decision. She’s hoping he reconsiders, even if it means having her son dedicated during the week by a church elder.”

Until then, she told Fox 2 Detroit “she has no plans to return to Perfecting Church.”

“I absolutely would not set foot back in the church right now because I feel like they look down upon me and my kind, meaning single moms and unwed mothers,” Grace said.

Pope Francis recently said in May that the Catholic Church should bless children born out of wedlock, because their mothers chose life over abortion.

“’Look at this girl who had had the courage to carry her pregnancy to term. … “What does she find? A closed door,” he said, according to Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. “This is not good pastoral zeal, it distances people from the Lord and does not open doors (http://archive.eurweb.com, 2013).”

What about those of us that can’t attend comfortably because of trauma either by clergy abuse, PTSD, social phobias, etc?  Well, let’s just say that I’m open about many facets of my life regardless of ostracizing.  Loud music which is usually the status quo in most churches sends chills all over my body.  Not because of the words but because sensory overload and hyper startle  reflex that will have me cringing and crying if I can’t get out of the situation.  If I’m still unable to leave violence is my “go to when niceness doesn’t work.  I’m openly gay  and legally married with children, addictions, mental illness, phobias, PTSD, eating disorders and medical cannabis.  Do I need to keep going?

I’m that baby that was refused dedication to the church because I was born to an unwed mother  (figuratively of course).  My point is this…..the church has lost sight of its mission if Christianity is your thing.  I have my beliefs and questions just like most that keep that information in the dark.  I don’t believe for a minute that the only relationship you can have with God or your chosen deity has to be within a church.  Nor does it make you “less than” because you don’t chose to worship like others.

I’m currently surrounded by people who are loving Christians who understand mental illness and its roots.  They don’t shame me into going to church with them it’s a choice that I make.  And if I start having an issue I simply leave the service and it’s no big deal.  Many churches have a room removed from the service area or provide ear plugs for this and many other reasons and conditions.  God just knew that when the mold broke that I would be quirky but that I would SURVIVE and thus far that’s exactly what I’ve done.

#Thispuzzledlife

Who Really Cares?

Who Really Cares?

January 11, 2017

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”

— Elizabeth Cady Stanton

I think this is a question that is often asked but responses are typically….”Not me for sure” “I could care less what people think” “Their opinions don’t pay my bills”  But if we all really look deep do we truly care what people’s opinions are of us as an individual?  I can only speak for myself on this topic but I can honestly say that I’m torn.  Remember, this is where I am emotionally on this topic at this moment.  With so many internal opinions this answer is likely to change momentarily.  However, I can say that the majority of my life the message has always been conveyed to me that “image” is very important, if not, one of the most important things in life.  And it’s the opinions of others that somehow control the vision or path of my future.  Let me explain…..

Being raised in a very conservative and small southern town the typical way of dealing with things has always been to “keep it in the family and put a smile on your face.”  Do I think that this way of thinking is detrimental to completing the normal emotional/psychological/physical developmental stages?  Why no.  But I do think that in some instances it can make for difficult adjustments.  I clearly remember as a child getting ready for church on Sunday mornings and for one reason or another I or my sister would get in trouble usually leading to tears of frustration about simply not getting our way.  But let us pull into that church parking lot and it was, “Dry it up and put a smile on your face.  We are headed inside the church.”  What this translates to is this….”Don’t let anyone see anything that is considered ‘out of the norm’ because it will reflect poorly on our family thus making us look like incompetent parents.”  Now, I obviously can’t say that this is exactly what my parents were thinking or feeling but it definitely rings true for those friends, family and perpetrators that I’ve had dealings with.  I’m also in no way trying to demonize the way my parents raised me.

Is this a very catastrophizing way of looking at a very harmless situation?  Absolutely.  But this is a very multi-generational and societal way of thinking that is very common nationwide.  This is also a side effect of a society that focuses primarily on appearance that is often unauthentic.  Nevertheless, these very unrealistic expectations that have false attainability beliefs infiltrate the minds of impressionable children and teens and they are constantly chasing an image or ‘image like’ appearance not only to fail but fail miserably.  The thought, in turn, of not being good enough is implanted and constantly reiterated until it becomes a belief and then a self fulfilling prophecy.  This obviously doesn’t ring true in every situation but, I would be willing to bet that there are both young teen boys and girls who struggle with body image and appearance in epic proportions.

All of my perpetrators in some form abused me in ways that attacked my appearance and body image to a level that has left long time scars and often gaping wounds both internally and externally.  These wounds, by far, have been some of the deepest.  Body image and self worth were tied into one very distorted concept that birthed very distorted beliefs.  The specifics of these events are left for those willing to listen professionally.  Please understand that they are as fresh today as the day they pierced my skin and psyche. This belief is also one that is also held in high regard by society as evidenced by the astonishing numbers of children, teens and adults who are held captive by eating disorders, compulsive plastic surgery or any substance or behavior that falsely advertises that there will be TOTAL control or perfection such and I would be the first one with my hand out.

comfort zone

Now, why all of this long and drawn out explanation?  Well, because for me this is exactly what my ‘perfect storm’ looked like. Essentially, I’ve been marinating in false beliefs and concepts the majority of my life in many different ways.  These beliefs that have developed at a very young age while also being further molded by daily verbal and emotional abuse just so happened to be the perfect breeding ground for lifelong eating disorders and body image issues.

I was recently asked the question…”How do I imagine a world without the care of what people think?” Again I quickly thought, “I don’t care what people think in the least bit.”  Then the reality of the question hit me a few seconds later and I looked at her like someone who had just seen an individual streaking in their living room.  All I could muster was the puppy head tilt.  I honestly had to fight back tears because I knew what was being hinted at and how incredibly painful this topic is for me.

Since I’ve now had time to digest the question further I can honestly say this….I have no idea what a world where no one cared what other people think about them.  This in no way has any hint of sarcasm attached to it.  It’s almost like asking Helen Keller what it’s like to have sight?  When I’ve never lived or understood how to live life full of true freedom in that way, it’s difficult to imagine a life like that even being possible.  That’s not to say that people don’t fully understand and embrace that concept currently.  It sounds like a beautiful fantasy that I’ve been unable to touch, smell, see or taste thus far.

I can tell you that personally with the weight on my shoulders that I’ve carried daily for many years surrounding this topic, it would probably feel like I was so light that I might float away if I were that free.  I don’t really know an answer that isn’t conflicting.  What I do know is that caring what people think about me and my life and life choices does not get the bills paid.  I think also that because of the nature of human beings wanting and needing to belong often times we tend to try and conform naturally to what society, family or friends think for fear of not belonging and having that connection of acceptance from another.   I also know that caring what people have thought has left me with devastating effects to my own detriment  and often in ways not seen with the naked eye.  So, I guess maybe this is just another situation where moderation is the key and too much is dangerous.  I’m not too proud to say that I just don’t know or understand that balance yet because I live in a constant state of fight or flight.  However, I’m beginning to understand exactly how far this issue permeates every part of my being.

Usually, I write and I get a noticeably uplifting release.  Tonight, however, I must say that the feeling is an all over heaviness on my heart, mind and body.  As a tear muscles its way through a tough, outer exterior, I am reminded at how very painful and yet cathartic these moments can be.

#Thispuzzledlife

It’s Pow Wow Time: The Gathering of the Internal Nations

It’s Pow Wow Time: The Gathering of the Internal Nations

4.18.15

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

— Chief Seattle, 1854

To many people a “pow wow” is just a cool production of Native American individuals dancing.  However, I must admit that I’ve always been drawn to the culture for much different reasons.  Initially, I was attracted to the dress and dance, as well as, traditional and cultural newness that I had never known.  I always knew that the attraction that was much deeper an even a spiritual attraction to these beautiful people.

You have to understand that having been adopted and then hearing stories of my biological heritage hearsay is all I have to go on.  For whatever the reasons I’m connected spiritually to the Native American culture.  When I met my biological family I was first told that we all had native heritage going many generations back.  It doesn’t take long to look at me and realize that there’s nothing 100% Native American about me.  I like to consider myself more like a casserole.  If you’re not from the South or don’t understand the term, Google ‘casserole’.

For years, I’ve tried to understand why I have such a strong attraction to not only the culture but more specifically pow wows.  The Gathering of Nations Annual Pow Wow in Albuquerque, NM each year has since helped me come to several revelations.  This particular pow wow is the largest in North America and is just as it says…..The Gathering of All the Nations.  Not just one particular tribe such as Navajo or Apache but all nations of tribes are welcomed to attend.  This pow wow also represents the carrying out of traditional dances and ceremonies which include dances of elders with children.  The bright colors in the regalia, not costumes or outfits, are more modernized but beautiful nonetheless. The pow wow generally is held in a coliseum venue and the four directions: North, South, East and West are blessed by an eagle which is considered sacred.  The meaning of the Eagle symbol was to signify courage, wisdom and strength and its purpose was as the messenger to the Creator. The eagle was believed to carry prayers to the Great Spirit in the Spirit World and also had a special connection with visions.

eagle

One general truth that threads throughout the Native American spiritual beliefs is the belief of Mother Earth.  The Native Americans felt that the earth was our mother, the sky our father, and all things were interconnected.  The many Creation myths of the Native American stress the mutuality and interdependence between people and other forms of life.  There is mutual respectfulness required when interacting with trees, birds, and plants and also natural forces such as the wind and the rain. Their creation stories empathize that Creation did not just happen a million years ago and end there, but that the Spirit that first infused the world is still with us now and can be experienced as “immanence”, the spirit which imbues all things.

To many Native American tribes the Native drum contains thunder and lightning, and when it is beaten it helps to get the creators attention and it also helps contact the spirits of the Native American forefathers.  There are those native peoples who also believe that the drum is representative of the

heartbeat of mother earth.  Whatever the reasons for the traditions, which I’m still discovering, put it all together and the result can make the hair stand on the back of my neck and arms while bringing me to tears.

One if not the most important part of the whole pow wow is Grand Entry.  This is where all of the dancers in each category are led out by a veteran guard and in front of them are the Elders, the most sacred.  It’s a symbolism and feeling of being that can’t be written in words.  Their spirituality and religion I totally respect. And yes there are certain ethics that must be upheld to remain respectful of traditions.

Outside the venue is a trader’s market that has vendors that alone could keep you busy all day long.  Food vendors with Indian tacos, buffalo burgers, fry bread and roasted corn thoughts are dancing in my head.  But the magic is in the environment by watching dancers and drummers carry out traditions of their ancestors.  The coliseum is bursting at the seams with tradition and they’re free to do it without any consequences from the government.  All while lightly dusted with the smell of sage and sweet grass.

Not being able to go this year is like a void and let me explain why.  The beautiful Grand Entry instantly connects me emotionally and spiritually with my own ancestors.  One time every year I can feel the level of comfort that cannot be felt at any other time.  The drumming is a connection to my birth mom’s heartbeat that I long to hear and be a part of but never will.  This is my comfort like I was wanted by her.  Once again, total comfort.  Like the safe feeling I get being around my brother Levi, this feeling is magnified 100 x when I connect with the protection of my ancestors and those who have crossed over.

This obviously is not everything that fully encapsulates all of the spirituality and religion of the Native Americans.  This is how it helps me regain my own balance and peace in a world of utter internal and external chaos.  My internal ‘system’ seems to gather and are all peaceful and comforted just for one weekend that we all like to call “The Gathering of the Internal Nations.

#Thispuzzledlife