The POWER of LOVE
Where do you seek or find love? Do you believe in the power of Love?
Do you still long for the person who abused you to love you? Do you wish the perpetrator would admit the abuse, apologize for it, and then somehow love you in a healthy fashion? If the person who abused or raped or tortured you was a parent or a husband or a sibling, do you cut off all contact and never look back?
People often tell me I am strong. They wonder how I survived the abuse in my past. Also, some people wonder why I am not bitter.
If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse or lived in a dangerous household, then where did you seek love? Where did you find love?
When I was initially in counseling with Fr. Marcantonio, he raised this issue indirectly. I was a sweet person as a child and as an adult. Love existed somewhere in my childhood. That love helped to form the child I was and the person I am today. Love existed in my life and always has. The decades of abuse and torture covered most of my life with darkness. This darkness has now mostly cleared …
I recently turned 60 years old. This birthday was a hard one for me. I never before experienced difficulty dealing with any birthday. Much of my life is past me. The future could be short or semi-long. Of course, that is true for all of us whether you are very young or quite old. Life is precious – here one moment and gone the next.
If my household was dark and mainly abusive, where did I seek love as a child? I found it where I could. Love also found me. The power of Love gave me strength and the ability to endure.
I’m thankful to my “inner” child – to the child who sought love in the midst of hell.
A childhood friend of mine was a huge blessing to me. Her entire family became my family-of-sorts. I spent many hours in her home, eating their food, laughing and playing as children do. Her sister was also my friend. I was one year older than one of them and one year younger than the other one. It was the age of playing outside with all the neighborhood kids of various ages. Organized sports and activities were not the norm at the time. We all played games, badminton, running bases, tag, etc. Summers included hours of freedom. I enjoyed this time … when my mother was working during the day … when I was able to put the abuse aside and just be a kid. Joy … what joy.
I had a speech problem as a child. The neighborhood Catholic grammar school I attended did not have a speech therapist on staff. For a short time, I attended an after school class at the local public school. This was not one-on-one speech therapy. It did not help much. I remember being kidded or bullied as a child for these speech problems. (Later, as an adult, I learned that speech problems during childhood may be a sign of child abuse. For further information, see: https://www.beststart.org/OnTrack_English/5-maltreatment.html or http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dcf/child-abuse-neglect/warning-signs.html)
My fifth grade teacher took it upon herself to help me with my speech issues. She had also been the fifth grade teacher of my brother four years earlier. Jim, my brother, experienced rheumatic fever and missed many days of school. This teacher, though she was not a speech therapist, spent one-on-one time with me. She gave me a sheet of tongue twisters to repeat in the mirror. It helped. I am grateful to this woman for the extra attention she gave to me as a child and for the love she showed me through her compassion. The power of Love.
Friendships have always been very important to me. Through most of my life, I have had friends … one or two close friendships during each period of my life.
When you grow up in an extremely abusive household like I did, the entire concept of love is messed up and filled with contradictions. How can an abusive person love you? Can a perpetrator actually love you? How can someone say you are worthless, treat you like a non-human, and then do something nice for you? What mixed messages a child in these “homes” receive?
Alcohol and drugs are escape routes or so it seems. As an adult, I turned to alcohol to self-medicate to deal with the domestic violence and extreme abuse in my marriage to Tom M, my now former husband. Love was a word. “I love you” were words were said to each other. Our love was an act in the play of our lives that we showed others. In private, it was a different, terrible, terrifying world.
I was not taught to seek love within myself.
Even with my religious education and years of Catholic school, I was not taught how to seek solitude within myself or to seek loving connections with the Divine by going within my heart. Rote prayers and prayers of intention that never were truly answered the way I wanted as a child seemed useless to me as an adult in relationship with my former husband. My idea and view of God remained quite childish for decades. Religion, God, did nothing for me … and I lived for almost 15 years as an adult in this awful, dehumanizing marriage without God in my life at all. Our relationship lasted over a century.
My daughter’s birth brought a strong desire to find a loving connection with God through religion (which was the only route I knew). After searching, I ended up back with Catholicism. The spiritual connection evolved over years. Eventually my childish faith changed to a more adult one. This spiritual loving connection gradually graced me with the ability and strength to be released me from a life of abuse, torture and pain. The power of Love – spiritual love.
The Landstuhl Catholic Community (back in 2002-2006) provided loving connection for both Megan and I. We were given opportunities to notice, feel, and intuit real love. I began to truly understand what love was and meant on several levels and in several forms. Landstuhl was a healing community for patients, soldiers, military families, civilians, and for Megan and I. The power of Love – love on a community level!
When I was in the Spokane area with Megan and in hiding, we experienced situations filled with love. It is amazing to me. Eventually Megan and I resided in the guest quarters in a convent for retired Sisters of Providence. Love quietly exuded from the people in these building as well as from the building itself.
You know the feeling … the intuition … when an actual building seems to have an aura of its own. Your senses tell you if you are safe or not. You feel darkness or lightness. The convent was a safe haven. It is where I spent many, many months after Megan and I were discovered and unjustly separated. What a huge spiritual blessing!!
As I travelled my healing path … from Illinois (where I returned to a relationship with God) … to Germany where I became sober, engaged in counseling with Fr. Marc and found solace in the Catholic Community at Landstuhl … to Spokane and the convent … to Boulder with its diversity of spiritual practices … I intuitively sought Light and Love more and more. Spiritual practices of all types interest me. I, of course, have my own spiritual practices.
Solitude – being alone – can be good or scary. As a child living in an abusive household and as an adult living as a psychological captive being alone was often a punishment or a form of torture. No details are needed here. Even now, if I am in a situation where I must be alone, I sometimes feel apprehensive. The understanding though helps.
Now I purposely choose solitude. I do not need or want to spend time with others just to be with other people. (Of course, I desire and do spend time with friends and enjoy that time. I do not need a huge number of friends or social engagements though to be happy.) Being with myself is a state I enjoy. Spending time in prayer, meditation, and contemplation is also quite rewarding and comforting.
I see others’ views of me more clearly. It is easier to note the real love versus the fake words of praise or manipulation. My heart is open to accepting love. By accepting love in all in its myriad of forms, I give love more easily. Maybe I am now fully learning what a child learns if they live and grow up in a healthy household filled with love and light.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
– Jalaluddin Rumi
All of us, as survivors of trauma or not, may put up barriers to love. Self-harming is a common barrier for survivors of abuse and trauma. Feeling unworthy of love is also a barrier. Abusers instilled shame in us that we do not deserve. These issues tend to lessen when self-care is primary and self-love starts to dominate.
An adult friend of mine in Germany during the years I lived there modeled self-care more than any person I knew at the time. She was not obsessed with health or diet; but, she ate decently and exercised regularly. This self-care seemed so easy, positive and natural. What a role model she was for her kids! A loving connection with her own self existed and was primary. That was not the case for anyone in my home-of-origin or even in my marriage.
Life with Tom M., former husband, was a nightmare. I was caught in a web of manipulation and hate portrayed to the outside world as love. Oh, I wish I had left my marriage years earlier. Regrets serve little purpose.
I am grateful for learning life lessons and being aware of the power of Love. Better late, than never!!
Loving connections often popped up in my life without seeking. There have been several friendships in my life where I was able to be myself on a level that included being silly and joyous. In these friendships, I could lower my walls and have fun in the moment. These memories bring a smile to my face and tears of joy to my eyes. These individuals saw a part of me that not many have seen. It is with thanksgiving that I recall these friends and times.
Age — We all grow older or die. People deal with health issues as well as financial ones. Life seems even more uncertain on those levels for many of us. Yet, I am aware of light and love, and even joy, more often.
How wonderful it is that I am now able to enjoy my own company, to enjoy the simple pleasures of nature such as walking in snow, to spend time in loving connection with Spirit in an empty church or anywhere, to share precious times with friends, to connect with strangers usually unexpectedly and on short notice, and to experience the power of Love.
The power of Love gave me strength, courage, endurance, peace and joy.
Please take time today or this week to sit. Breathe. Still your mind or let it still itself. Reflect for a few moments on the loving connections in your life. Is there abundance or lack? Is solitude and silence a chore, impossibility or a treasure? All is okay. Wherever you are at this moment is fine. Become aware. Take notice. Life constantly changes. People evolve. A healing path is individual and personal. Accept that you are worthy of love.
In your past, where did the power of Love affect you the most? Where does the power of Love influence your present life? Witness the love within you. Life – love – light. Smile!
Sit still in sweet solitary silence for a little longer. Envision love – maybe as clouds that envelop you or as anything that appeals to your heart and senses.