Thursday, March 3, 2016

Gingerbread houses and heroines

It isn't like I want to go back there. It's not like I want to be near them again. But it was the thick of the holidays, and in my memory lingered the pleasant smell of biscotti baking in the oven... slivered almond and cranberry biscotti. Then row upon row of plump chocolate biscotti, newly sliced and cooling. Such a tough cookie, but perfect for dipping in coffee and softening up over family gossip.  This was our magical pre-holiday tradition, baking cookies together, catching up, and listening to Christmas music that my mom had compiled on tapes and had played since we were babies. So there was a healthy helping of nostalgia to go with the biscotti. Some of us were living in other states, but somehow, most of my four sisters if not all of us found ourselves in our Mom's kitchen to help bake right before the holidays.

Not this year. Or last year. Not since being cut off. It's been easy to start feeling down for myself over the holidays, but I decided that overall, honestly... I'm much better off where I am now here in Florida, far away from my toxic family. I'm done thinking about the past, done being a victim. My mindset and perspective has changed.
I saw a quote a few months ago by Nora Ephron that stuck in my mind and keeps bubbling up to the surface in a pleasant, random, fizzy way...
"Above all, be the heroine of
your life, not the victim."
Yes! Exactly! This gal has sass and gumption. I'm so ready to hop on the track going forward these days.
I'm focused on enjoying life to the fullest! Getting a puppy was the first step for me. Then leaving K and moving. Then most recently, my latest endeavor has been creating new holiday traditions. Because the holidays can be quite a vulnerable time, creating traditions with friends can help each involved feel more grounded, rooted, safe and cozy. More loved, even.
My first new holiday tradition this year was building a gingerbread house. Oh my gosh, this was so much fun, even if somebody... not mentioning any names... ate the gummy bears that were meant to grace the pathways and front door of the house. As you can see from the photos, my graham cracker house is pretty simple. Next year I'm going to enlist more friends to help make the gingerbread house even more nifty.
The friends I'm staying with bought holiday sweaters for our dogs and I took pictures of them. Sparky wasn't in the mood to pose when I was snapping shots, as you can probably guess from the shirtless photo above, but he agreed to a rain check in the future. Next year, we may create holiday cards out of the photos, which will be a creative tradition I'd enjoy. Sparky insists he wear a monocle and plaid vest, and he wants to sport a stogie as well. I said I'd think about it. Yes, we all are going to be those people who send that kind of card, lol.  
I'm not the kind to put up holiday lights, but the neighbor down the road rigged this palm to light up at night... it's quite jolly walking past it on 90 some degree December days, seeing cut out palms for Christmas and not pine trees.
These peaceful reindeer are grazing in the late afternoon, tropical weather.
Santa arrives even if the weather's way too warm for his outfit.
This year I started a new tradition with my friends: choosing a live tree from a tree farm. All the years previous, I'd never had a real one.
We wandered around searching for the perfect tree....
... until one of us exclaimed "Here it is!" And that was that. There was a "knowing,"
similar to when you clap eyes on your dog for the first time... you just know.

We drove the tree back home and had a decorating party where we baked cookies, listened to Christmas music and decorated the tree. After that we went last minute shopping, which was pretty smart since Christmas was the next day.
This Christmas has been by far the best Christmas of my adult life. My roommates and friends are empathic and quirky, warm natured and authentic, with a tad of goofy thrown in the mix. We had fun addressing presents to each other that the other hadn't bought, just so everyone felt like they had contributed equally in the gift giving.

I whipped up mashed potatoes while my friends roasted the turkey and tinkered with the sides. My one friend made this gravy that could have won awards... it tasted like something a grandmother who loved you quite a bunch would make to warm the cockles of your heart. We lifted toasts of sparkling cider, then curled up in the living room to watch favorite Christmas movies.

I didn't miss my birth family on Christmas day. I actually felt more supported, safe and free to be myself with my new friends than I ever did in my own family. The positive, loving energy here transformed the day into something magical. Even Sparky and Mamsie joined in the festivities... they both earned a stocking each this year.... but whereas they pawed milk bones and chewies out of theirs, we upturned a clementine nestled in the sole of the foot, and piles upon piles of miniature chocolate snowmen and Santas in ours. Because even heroines need some kind of super power fuel, right?

1 comment:

  1. Hello AJ! I found your blog from a link on Quiverfull. So glad to read of your ever-increasing freedom and good health! It takes time, so much time! and physical distance, and whatever else a person needs to do, to see, and step away from, the old stuff.

    I'm one of those Quiverfull moms (9 children). If it weren't for my children's hugely escalating problems as they reached adulthood, I never would known what I was: an abusive, freaked-out, mentally unbalanced, isolated, lonely, judgmental, unkind, blame-gaming bitter woman who was making her own life /everyone's life miserable while destroying her kids' emotional health. My kids paid the price...

    All the years I was in distress, I sought help from the Christian far right, fellow Quiverfullers, counselors, pastors, homeschool leaders. The results: I was told continually that I had failed and there was no hope for my kids or for me. It was definitely "too late" and we were not welcome in their circles. I was one of THOSE women... too angry, too outspoken, too everything. They felt sorry for my husband and pointed fingers at me.

    I had to physically give myself permission to explore nonchristian resources. This worked. I discovered why I was unhappy, why my kids were so messed up, and how to stop hurting them. The best help came from the internet, from psychology books I ordered off Amazon, and a million different websites. I surfed non-stop and devoured everything like a starving prisoner just out of jail.

    The changes were small changes at first; I did them quietly and without telling anyone, freaked-out that the god I no longer believed in would bash me each time, until one particular night in 2009. That night I guess I was finally ready. It was like I had a checklist of all my beliefs clearly laid out in my head. I stood up and addressed each one to the so-called-god (lol I talked to my ceiling alot back then), and lo & behold I jettisoned them completely. Nothing was left. I had no more beliefs. I stood there for awhile, feeling the vast space inside, and wondered "Well... what do I do now?" I opened my eyes, took stock of the situation and said: "I appear to be a human being, standing here, on a round and solid thing called earth, along with millions of other human beings. I don't know how I got here, or what any of this means, and that's totally okay. I'm apparently alive, and I have two hands. That is all I need to know." I allowed the mystery of life to be just that: a mystery. It still is to this day. I have no answers for anyone but I do have more love and compassion for people than I ever thought possible.

    I learned to take care of myself in all ways, to nurture myself, and 'ordain' myself as my own life coach. I began many new things which gave me self-esteem. I also started conversations with all of my kids about their upbringing, but since I was the perpetrator of the emotional abuse I likely don't remember everything I did, which I also told them. I said I was deeply sorry for everything I did (and neglected to do), that if I had it to do over I would do it far differently, and they know I'm sincere. I'm open to hearing whatever they want to tell me, and I continue to gently educate them about delayed PTSD and other symptoms they may still struggle with. Many times they don't realize a current problem is related to how they were treated. It's a sad legacy but a hopeful one too.

    Thank you for your honesty and for living your life! I can't imagine how painful it is for you to have parents who won't accept what they've done, and won't accept YOU. Just know it's a symptom of their own unhealed sickness. Your story is proof that you've grown far beyond them, and who knows, the story is not over yet. Stay true to yourself, forgive yourself, and find whatever you need to feel safe and loved.

    Best wishes and lots of love!


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