Thursday, December 30, 2010

Let Them Fall

"I have so been struggling with the ‘things’ that I felt gave me ‘value’ and when I’m not able to (for various reasons) use those talents I’ve felt quite useless and without value. When I purposefully pulled back from places where I used to be, and there wasn’t any response I was feeling like a stick being pulled out of water. I left nothing behind but a fading ripple and a small dent in the mud below. I’ve been blocked and haven’t written for weeks as I struggle with the value of BEING and the value of DOING. I’ve got value, I’m valuable for WHO I am, not for what I DO. Sole value of a person shouldn’t be whether they are impressed by another person, or whether they can do something – it should be based on who they are and how far they have come to be there.

Where is my value? Where am I if doing the things I love or thought were of value to others are not there or not used? I fear sometimes, even through my prayers, that I’ll be foot prints in the snow – filled in and forgotten in the cold wind. I don’t WANT that, but finding my way through the reasons that I learned it from my childhood forward has been very difficult. My whole life was based on a few key, foundational lies, and now that I am dismantling them some of my former foundation stones are crumbling…do I shore up the wobbly parts or let them fall?"

My comments on Darlene's post at Emerging From Broken. 

How do you make it balance or even make sense when your whole being seems to either hold or lose value depending on someone else's valuation of you?  When you look in the mirror and you don't see what is supposed to matter but rather you see your failure?

Growing up I understood a few things, things I thought were truths, but have in actuality turned out to be foundational lies.  Perhaps, to be fair, they were not intentional to start with but when they are still hounding, haunting and torturing me it is time for them to be brought out, examined and, hold on to your shorts, dismissed?

"You look just like your Mom."  (But I'm NOT my Mom!  We are two different people!)
"You act like your Father."  (But I'm NOT my Dad!  I don't act THAT much like him.)
"If you were a calf I'd have smashed your head in, you are useless."
"Shut up.  You'll embarrass us."
"If it wasn't for us you'd be nothing."
"Everything you are is because of US, not YOU."
"Live your life the way we say or leave this family."
"You don't exactly have a great track record with ______"

There is a terrible expectation that burdens a child when they are taught their identity is not their own and that all the successes and all the failures of their family, the adults, are solely their responsibility.  If you fail to act the way you are told, if you fail to think the way you are taught, if you rebel to find yourself, if your greatest crime is to reach out when you were lonely then you learn very soon that YOU have FAILED.  You ARE failure.

When we are taught our value as persons is actually a value counted on compliance we lose the opportunity to really explore who we are as people.  When that compliance is tied to actions, then our success or failure is directly tied to external things.  When that measuring is in the hands of others, who use their power to control, then you, the child, becomes property, a novelty like a trained animal.

I've been blessed with the ability to be outgoing and appear confident even when I'm not.  This often leads people to misunderstand me.  Not so deep down I'm a woman who is facing some life long fears and quite honestly they cause me to quake and tremble.  I'm going to be 40 years old this summer, shouldn't I have a better sense of self?  I've been working on it.

Starting from the outside  and working my way inward I've build boundaries.  I've created structure and in turn I've found some scary places.  Places inside of me where fears live, where old dreams live, where there is a frustration machine and a garden full of poisonous angry plants which grow into choking vines.  I've been burning, chopping, digging and finally at the stones which are my foundation I'm learning which ones to leave standing and which ones to let fall.

(this post doesn't flow, it is painful to write and yet it is bellowing to be written - forgive me for this roughness)

What if I let them fall? Will I then be a true failure?  Can it be okay to let the ruins crash down? If I let them fall, or stand, on their own without me what happens then?  I'm looking at the foundation lies of obligation disguised as love, of being valued for what I can do rather than for who I am and tangled up in those two I find fear.  A deep chilling fear.

Why fear?  I think it is because of the two lies: that love is an obligation and that what we DO is vastly more important than WHO we are.  Fear is the control factor in both.  Past experience has taught me this.  My fear is real although it is deeply rooted in a childhood response because really they won't come to hurt me now, will they?

What happens to those carefully maintained facades if I walk away? Do I have the courage to walk or will I cower around the corner?  What if I suck in a deep breath and walk up to the door of that relationship and firmly close it?  What if I don't stop there?  What if I brick it shut?  What if I move with no forwarding address?  What if I just let them fall?

The achievements I have in my life mean nothing to me without the love of my husband and son.  My honour amongst my peers means nothing to me without my faith.  My waking hours are filled with grace beyond measure when I don't let the obligation, the fear and the devaluing expectations into that day.  My sleep is peaceful when I'm not flinching from an angry phone call.  My friendships blossom and grow out of mutual respect for both the scars and the healing.

To heal, to find out who I really am outside of those foundational lies has become a need I must meet.  I need to be freed.  I don't really need to understand because I understand enough to know there is no explanation.  Sure, you could say, They don't know better. or that's how they were raised or the classic  that's just how he or she or they are.  But saying it doesn't make it true nor does it excuse anything.

Consider this your formal notice: I am no longer under that obligation to accept your actions or words.  Stand or fall as you will but you won't be taking me with you.  I'm walking away.  No fights, no stand offs or show downs.  I have come to the fork in the road of my healing journey and if I take one it leads right back to where we go around again and the other takes me forward.  Maybe one day you'll be there'll know where to find me.  

I'll be laughing under a tree or walking by the stream.  I won't be afraid, you won't find me by my fear.  Come with love and you'll be met with love.  Come with anger and I'm walking away.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fuel on the Fire

Today I'm guest posting over at Emerging From Broken.  

Stop by and read my post, and those before it on the theme of anger.  Great posts there and some awesome conversations in the comments.  More great posts to come as we move through December.

"You cannot control your anger until you know it, understand it and can face it.  We can still be angry – anger is a natural response to certain kinds of danger, certain kinds of injustices.  Controlling our anger so it is a vent which safely lets the pressure off.  Finding ways to release that anger can be positive and healing, it can clean our wounds and cauterize the cuts, it can be a warning and it can be a signal. " Shanyn Silinski

Monday, November 1, 2010

Motivational Posters & Greeting Cards

I have an issue with motivational posters and most greeting cards.

My friend Darlene, over at Emerging from Broken, shared yesterday about a motivational video which really struck her and the comments are really coming.  I got done my comment and I knew it was something I had to blog about too!

Have you ever struggled to find a good greeting card?  In a greeting card world where do we find real sentiment?  I'm always seeing lovely card images and struck by the verses which don't apply, that seem patently false.  I cannot, really truly cannot buy a card which says things that are not true!  This seriously limits the sentimental card selection for me and  not every occasion can be handled by Maxine!  

I didn't understand why so many cards made me leave the store feeling frustrated and strangely hurt or angry but as I've moved along this healing path I'm learning that sentiments are not truth.  I remember looking for a card for Father's Day and they all were either praising, apologizing or laughing at the Dads.  I wasn't someone with a sports Dad whose prowess I could praise.  I didn't feel like I had to apologize for not being a good daughter and I didn't see how calling someone names or teasing them was funny.

Cards for anniversaries, birthdays and even everyday sentiments seemed laced with all sorts of cutting barbs, lies and strangeness.  I certainly didn't feel like I could call my brother my best friend nor did I think I should be sorry for being his sister.  But those were the choices!  Father's Day was always hard, birthday cards were sometimes almost enough to bring me to tears.  Why couldn't they be honest?  Why did they have to make the giver sound like a cheerleader or a beggar? Cards for spouses are especially strange to me.  I'm alive because of you or I'd be lost without you or there isn't a world without you and I'm sorry for not being as great as you.  Where is the equality, the love, the we are in this together?

I make my own cards now and avoid that racket.

"Soar Like An Eagle" or how about "Fight, Steal and Bully Like A Big Bird"?

Motivational posters, videos, seminars and books have the 'bully you for your own good' flavor that used to confuse me because it seemed I was the only one they hurt!  Mike Rowe, on a wonderful Dirty Jobs episode tore apart the whole motivational thing and I loved it!  He saw through it from a working person's point of view and I saw through it from a survivor's point of view.

"There is no 'I' in TEAM." but there is a ME and that's who I look out for.  I don't let the TEAM take ME away any more!  You don't get to drag me into the darkness of your abuse!  You don't get to 'motivate me' with your cutting words, your sly, "it's for your own good".  

 Don't try to motivate me with your bullying and your threats, you false team and your strange bullying disguised as motivator.  I don't need someone to shout at me, even from a poster.  I don't need your seminar to show me where I'm not social enough for the herd or that I'm not a team player.  Survivors, like me, tend not to be team players because it was the team mentality that crushed us down, pushed us down, drug us through the hurt and blamed us.

The sarcastic inner me loves to edit those posters is that same inner me that doesn't 'get' the other kind.  Is it my gallows humor or my cynical nature?  I don't know, except that I've learned this one lesson: no matter how 'nicely' it is put in words, on a poster or from whose 'caring mouth' the words come - if they hurt they are hurtful words!

It can be hard to tell but you can almost always spot the clues and you can feel when it is wrong for you.  Respect that intuition, that instinct, that my healing path, surviving to thriving friends is the start of learning to listen to a healed part of you.  The part that, as an adult, can say nope I don't care HOW nicely you say THAT, it still hurts and that is WRONG.  That part, as an adult, which says I'm caring enough of myself to walk away from a hurt and it is that instinct which was pushed down, squished and almost killed when we were being abused.

As children, as people trapped in abuse we couldn't act on those instincts because we didn't know to listen to them and we weren't strong enough.  Everyone was trying to make us something else and we lost our self.  We didn't have a choice but we do now.  We can ACT NOW because we CAN be strong enough.  I can - for myself.  For my husband. For my son. For my friends and family.  I can, and I do.  Even when it has me leaving Hallmark's store empty handed or  has me laughing out loud in a corporate lobby at their 'motivational posters'. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Take Sides!

 "Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
 Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. " ~ Elie Wiesel

What? What? Take sides? Don't be neutral?  Isn't neutral good? What are you saying?

I'm saying taking sides ensures there is an acknowledgement of both sides, of all sides.  Even if it is just to say, "No! Stop! That's wrong!"

I'm saying being neutral is a false safe place, it is a big lie which removes anything that looks like responsibility.

Neutral can be a temporary measure to get you to safety, to pause a cycle of violence, to create an escape for a time.  It can not be permanent - you have to stand for something.

When someone tries so hard to be fair, to be neutral, to NOT take sides they are actually taking a side.  They are drinking the sweet poison of denial.  

They can sound something like this - with their excuses:

"We treat our children equally, we don't take sides, parents have to be neutral."

"You cannot take sides, you don't understand the whole situation."

"You need to be quiet, it's none of your business."

(When my family didn't choose sides, they choose for abuse and they choose for silence and they didn't choose for the one being hurt.  They didn't choose to speak up for me, they choose silence.  Not just once, not just because they didn't know better but because there was something more important to them than my hurt, my pain, my wounds.  The friends of my brother, maybe even him, who watched me being raped choose silence, they choose for the one taking.  Even as they laughed about it later, even as they labelled me and blamed me they still thought they were neutral.  They did NOTHING .)

When the youth pastor took advantage of his position, when the gym teacher, basketball coach or anyone else takes advantage of other's silence they are winning!  When someone thinks the long term solution is silence there is nothing being done for the wounded, the injured, the abused.  They are not helping anything but the status quo.

It makes me want to scream when I hear, "Someone should do some thing."  Is that their version of neutral?  Is that their way of not taking sides?  To stand there and ask for someone, besides them, to do something.  

Or have the neutral people tried any of these on you: maybe you misunderstood, maybe you need to see it from their point of view, I'm just trying to see both sides. 

I'm pretty sure I didn't misunderstand a broken arm and a whispered, "Keep your mouth shut.", I think I've seen enough of their point of view to last a lifetime and I live on  my side and it hurts and that's the one that matters to me.

It seems to me that it isn't that complicated.  Simple steps to avoid being stuck in neutral, easy ways to take sides and yet we are faced with the on-going stony stare of silence, the manufactured bliss of neutral and still there is blood, there are tears, there are people wounded and dying because no one will risk being the one saying what everyone knows.  Don't believe them someone always knows.  Even if they only suspect they are the ones who are not surprised when the secret is out.

And what does everyone know?  We know that abuse is wrong.  We know silence gives permission by default.  We know that history shows bullies, abusers and cruelly neutral parties always end up on the side of pain, where they like to be, where they can dish it out.  We also know what history shows that silence, once broken, is never repaired.  It is then that we can start healing.

it's not super complicated to speak up for what is right, to speak out when something is wrong.  People make things complicated, they make things hard. Sadly, I cannot even say these are 'Basic School Rules' as our schools are some of the most deadly places for children.  These are the basics, in my playground, where you stick up for those who are being picked on, share and be kind, everyone gets on a team so pick sides and don't let me catch you acting like you don't know better!

I will not be silent!  Won't do it.  Won't risk it.  Because when I look back and I start to wonder what would have changed in the world I lived in, the world I live in now if one person had spoken up?  If one person has one less scar, if they have one less minute of shame, if they have one less day in the myth of neutral then my own scars mean something.  

Silence can be safe in the short term, being on neither side of a fight can be safe in the short term, attempting to find a way without confrontation when it is not safe is wise. Survivors survive because they have learned these things but there will come a time to start living and that means we need to stop being silent. 

It only takes one voice to change the world. It only takes one candle to light thousands.  It only takes one hand to hold another and a chain grows that won't be broken.  I'm still healing and I'm still finding my voice.  I'm praying that you find your voice, I'm praying for you on the healing path and I'm praying for us all no matter where we are in our journey.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Choices are around us each day.  For so many people the choices are innocent and easy - half fat latte or half caff mocha? For others there are harder choices - food or rent?  And for some of us it is some other things entirely.

I was talking to my best friend and it was apparent that the person I am today is so very different than who I was even a few years ago that I felt compelled to tell him about some of the choices I've made to get here.

Thinking along those lines, I realized as a survivor those choices are sometimes life and death for mind, body or spirit, or all three and sometimes they are healing choices.  I can leave behind the defenses that I needed to survive because I can do it without them!\

I don't need to be all barbed wire, tightly tangled cutting those who would get close with hurting, cruel and sarcastic words and I can set boundaries without having to constantly patrol and defend them.  I can choose not to be an addict hiding from the world, I can choose not to be an abuser because I was abused, I can choose to be kind even in when I've beheld cruelty.  I can honour gentle and giving spirits and I know I can be one.

I am still a bit sarcastic but not to cause hurt.  Acid Tongue is retired, the evil bitch has been replaced with the Alpha Bitch.  You see I know I can be a strong woman without being hard, I can be brave without being cruel and I can have faith without accepting hypocrisy.

I can be a better person without imposing myself on someone else.

I can choose the healing path, and I can honour my scars.  Scars are important to me, they show me that I can survive long enough to heal!  They remind me to help others gently honour their own scars.  

I will not live my life being silent to abuse, nor will I live my life hiding away in a toke or a bottle or a pill and I won't deny my healing by denying my abuse.  I will keep seeking and I will keep choosing the light, even though I know full well what lives in the dark.

Don't get me wrong, I still don't park next to vans, I still scan for 'too interested' faces at the mall when I'm with my son and I still can be outspoken and advocate.  

What I am doing differently is choosing to use my words for helping and healing instead of hurting.  I don't need to cause more hurt, I need to cause less.  

However, if what I say makes someone uncomfortable then it is good because comfort zones can be as dangerous and deadly as any back alley or dark corner.

If what I have to say on my path to healing bothers someone I'd like to have them as themselves why before they ask me to be quiet.  After all, I believe that if you can choose differently for yourself then others can also decide to at least try to if not understand, then respect you for it. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tell me about yourself...

So tell me about yourself...

List your experiences and qualifications that make you the ideal candidate for this position...

Let us see who you are so we know you are the person we want for our _________________...

I'm stuck! Really, honestly totally stuck!  There are two things I'd like to apply to do, wild and crazy of me, and they both require that I tell about me.

This is how it goes for me, the survivor:

  • Excellent leadership skills (inner voice mumbles leading what? mush headed rejects?)
  • Dynamic speaker (inner voice criticizes speaking? you don't make sense, no one gets you)
  • Independent and Creative (inner voice mocks of course you are, who would want to work with you?
  • Intelligent, knowledgeable, qualified (inner voice screams LOSER LIAR LONER DUMMY FAKE WHEN THEY FIGURE IT OUT YOU ARE BUSTED)
I freeze up.  How can I talk about myself when  don't even know what to say?

I am a good story teller, I'm a passionate advocate, I'm a good behind the scenes person to make things happen.  I'm good in the shadows where no one can see or sense my scars, my fear, my pain, my inability to get past the inner voices who only want me to fail.  They wouldn't say, fail, they would say, "not doing what we think is best with the undertone of, because you obviously have no idea what is best so we'll take care of that".

I do know they are liars, but they are the only ones I can hear when I'm faced with telling someone about me.  I don't even think I have a good idea of how those who love me see me because I've been tangled up for so long.  Every achievement has been because of their awesomeness (nothing to do with me at all) and every failure has been because of my utter failure to be what they wanted (nothing at all to do with me, vicarious living ain't fun or easy for anyone).

How does God see me? 
How does my son or husband?  

How about my friends?  

My family?  Okay some of them I do know, it is their voices I hear when the inner voices are shouting at me.  

I know how I would like to be seen, but is it really how I'm seen?  I have maybe five photos that I think are good ones of me, only one or two are of me alone.  The rest are with those whom I love best and I think they are great photos because I'm able to reflect love.

Bigger still is the question that I think we all face what makes us think we deserve to be seen as loving, worthy, sweet, kind, tough, resilient, caring, dynamic when all along we've been led to believe we are dirty, whorish, small minded, cruel, worthless, unlikeable, unlovable and do I need to go on?  

Even in the face of it being a lie it is still hard to get past it...I would love to be able to say, "I am totally the best person for this and I know this because of the following..." and I would love to have the silence of confidence inside where there are no doubters in my mind and there are no traitors in my corner.  

Can I do it because I know I'm really qualified and a good candidate or can I do it thinking I'll fake it until someone figures out I shouldn't be here and I'll quietly leave...

Friends, survivors - how would you describe you? 
How do you think the people who love you most see you?

Today I'm struggling and today I'm going to find the words!  

PART II: Tangled Wire Knots

Monday, August 23, 2010

Emotional Barbed Wire

"We love you but right now we don't like you."

This could be the single most confusing thing I've heard in my life, and it is one that I have consciously tried to understand for years.  I still cannot.  It baffles me.  It confuses me.  It makes no sense.

I understand
loving a person and not liking their choices, but this statement always had me believing that love was an obligation and that liking someone was more of a character judgment, a choice.  The obligation of loving was somehow expected and desired, required even.  

However, being able to say I love you was mysteriously separate from actually liking that same What?  Let me wrap my mind around this, if I can, that you can 'say' you love someone but then be also able to 'say' that you do not, in fact, like that person.  What sort of twisted mind came up with that bit of emotional barbed wire?

For anyone who doesn't really know much about it barbed wire is a terrible thing.  Once you get tangled up in it the harder you struggle to get free the deeper you get cut and the more you bleed.  People and animals have died from being tangled in barbed wire.  The only way to get free is to carefully disengage each barb, cut each wire where you can and gently pull yourself free.  

HOWEVER...this is the hardest thing to do when you are actually tangled up in it!  Emotional barbed wire is just as deadly, just as wounding and just as likely to kill you.

The "love but not like" lie is a whole rotten, rusted fence line of emotional barbed wire, and although it has been said since I was a little girl I still don't understand it.  I don't think it is something that is really understandable because it was only meant as a means of control, of power.

Love is something that is given freely, love is something that shouldn't have a string or price tag.  You don't really have to love everyone you like.  That would weigh a lot!  BUT, can anyone who truly loves say there is love in their heart for someone they don't like?

There are people in my life that I love dearly and we don't always agree with or like the choices that the other makes.  If my little boy makes a bad choice, do I tell him he is a bad person? NO!  I still love and like him the person, his choice is something else.  It is a choice to agree to disagree, it is not a judgement call on them as people.  I have many people who I genuinely like and a few I deeply love - seems simple to me that when I don't agree with their choices (and some have been shatteringly bad choices) I still care for them as people, I still value them as people, I still hold their person in my care and in my prayers.

Emotional barbed wire is everywhere, and when we are recovering our lives, when we are finding out what life is like as a survivor, there are rolls of it everywhere! Rusting on fences, shining on rolls, tangled in the bush, draped over our doorways and beds...emotional barbed wire ready to tangle, twist, cut us and make us bleed.

I wish I could give you a pair of fencing pliers, some side cutters, a hacksaw for heaven's sake so you could cut yourself free when you feel the barbs digging in.  Do you know the signs of emotional barbed wire in your life?  Once you do it is easier to avoid, and easier to untangle from.  It has taken me many years to untangle this lie from my life. 

 I promise myself, every day, that I won't be stringing wire.

Friday, August 20, 2010

How Many Stand Silent?

How Many Stand Silent? 

How many stand silent,
Watching as you quietly die?

How many stand silent,
Watching as you are abused?

One, a dozen, the whole world.
What if no one spoke for any of us?

Would you speak if the hand raised,
was raised against you and yours?

How many stand silent,
Knowing who deals death
Just beyond their door?

How many stand slient,
Knowing cruelty lives and thrives
Just beyond their door?

One, a dozen, the whole world.
What if no one looked at any of us?

Would you cry out or would you cower away,
if the cruelty was coming through your door?

How many stand silent,
Waiting for someone to speak?

How many stand silent,
Believing the lies, "I've changed"?

One, a dozen, the whole world.
What if we stopped believing them?

How many stand silent...
How many stand silent waiting for...
Just one person to say, "Stop! Enough!"?

How many stand silent...
How many stand silent waiting for...
Someone else to make the world change?

copyright Shanyn Silinski 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When the bullet hits the bone

"Where am I to go now that I've gone too far

So you'll come to know

When the bullet hits the bone
So you'll come to know
When the bullet hits the bone."
Twilight Zone, Golden Earring

Have you ever been shot at or had a gun aimed at you?  I have.  It's a feeling that tells you that you are utterly exposed, naked, that you are soft flesh, weak bone, blood and spirit.  It tells you that nothing will ever be the same again.  It can tell you what you are made of deep inside.  It can tell you what parts of you matter most.

"Sexual abuse is like a bullet that's never been removed." - Ksenia Oustiougova

What happens when you cannot remove the bullet?  What happens if it keeps moving deeper?  What happens if it stays and builds up a scar, tough and hard?  What happens if it infects and poisons you?

When I think about sexual abuse I think Ksenia's quote and I understand that when someone uses trust to hurt you it is like being shot.  And worse than being shot with a clean through and through, it is a bullet that never gets removed.  

It stays, burrowing deeper, building scars, cutting and making you bleed.  No medic, no doctor, nor surgeon can remove it.  It stays and unless we can cut it open and reach inside to pull it out into the light, it stays.  It stays.  It stays.  

It scars over, it leaves a faint mark on the outside.  Inside there is a trail, a wound track that follows the bullet from precious place to precious place.  Abusers use their power to shoot us.  The trails of their bullets scar our trust, our memories, our feelings.  They rob us of safe places and trusted people.  They leave us wounded, bleeding and sometimes they walk away.  Sometimes they stay and see us in pain and fear.

When we start down the path to healing, when we see ourselves as survivors, we start to understand the bullets we feel that no one can see.  Sometimes we move the wrong way, sometimes a person will cause us to flinch back from the cold steel and sometimes we hold our hands over the wound, trying to feel it again, to prove it was real.

You made it through the impact, past the blood and tears, the smell of your own fear and the taste of your own sweat and tears.  You survived the shot, the hole, the wound...only to find that when you are ready, really and truly ready to share, there are those who would dare to ask you why you still think about it.

They ask, "Was it that bad?" "It didn't really hurt that much." or they cruelly say, "Oh well there are others much worse off than you."  It isn't them carrying around a bullet, a wound to your body, mind and soul.  But they, who have only ever done the shooting, dare to question those who have the holes from being shot.  Those who carry bullets never removed, never dug out, never touched very often shot by shooters who carry no shame, no blame and paid no earthly price.

For those of us who carry bullets, count, calibre or range isn't what matters, I honour your scars, I celebrate your being amongst the survivors.  I proudly tattoo around my scars, I write about my bullets and I sing the songs that were stolen from me so long ago.

Join me and my sister survivors as we blog weekly on a on the links below to visit:

Chicks with Scars
Sugar Patch
Ye Old Crone's Gazette