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  • Sometimes the family stories take an unexpected turn down a road thick with fog. As the day wears on, the sun burns away the haze, erasing the difference between the teller and the told. Memories run from the squint of the sun’s discerning eye and try to sleep away the light in a devil dark sanctuary but rays of truth seep through the cracks in my foundation. Come out, come out wherever you are. The tales are telling themselves.

    Chilling chants call the families to the fire
    That burn the night bright
    I wake to wizard white robes
    In the deep of the dark
    Daring down the devil
    To dance with their cherished children

    I watch my father
    Wild with the weakness of his will
    Stand soul bare, flesh flaming
    Singing out to Satan
    While he strips me to the stone

    I fly from the frenzy to the tips of the trees
    Peaceful in my perch
    I leave the listening and the knowing
    In a land that’s nowhere to be found

    Ritual abuse is still a deep taboo we can’t bear to look at. For me, ritual abuse was the rock in my pocket that weighted me down as I struggled to reach the surface in a river of secret shames. As a child, I quickly learned that to speak of such things resulted in isolation. It was the beginning of a life time of being discredited by my family. At first it was subtle in ways appropriate to children - I made things up, I lied, I was angry and acting out, I could’t be trusted. As I grew up, people were told I was profoundly troubled, a thief, a life long liar. Not only could I not be trusted but, if pushed, I was physically violent. I moved away right after college, never realizing how my parents had made sure that anything I said would be suspect. Family members stayed clear because of my parents warnings but I was told that it would be best not to involve myself in all the family dramas and should probably stick to cards and brief phone calls for contact. The amazing thing is that it worked for decades! It was only when my son died and none of my relatives came to the funeral that I found out my mother had called to tell them all not to come because I was so out of control. When my father died, I was told I was not welcome at home. Others were told, I would create chaos because I still was “troubled” and it would be best if I was not there.

    Secrets, especially the ones that make us turn away in embarrassment and discomfort, are the very ones that need the l light of awareness, the courage of attention and the compassion of understanding. Ritual abuse is the stuff of crazy people, horror movies and mental institutions. It certainly does not happen in middle class America in the homes of family members, neighbors or business colleagues. Except it does. When I finally was able to articulate the hazy memories that had plagued me for years, I knew I was lost. My parents had been right. I was profoundly troubled and others had suffered just as my mother had said. Except I had a gifted therapist who gently listened. There was no horror, no validation that I was indeed a danger to myself and others. She just listened. And when I wanted to dig deep and uncover the TRUTH, she asked me to trust the process. She asked me to trust myself. She asked me to trust the little girl alone in the dark closet of fear. I did as she asked and I educated myself, and finally I listened. I listened to my story, to the bits and pieces that could not possibly be real. I listened and finally started to remember. I found a “nun” doll in black robes and another in a white robes. A man that knew my father gave them to me when I was six years old. We met him for lunch once at the athletic club where he lived alone. I didn’t understand why my parents left me alone to talk to him, why he scared me, why I asked never to have to see him again. I didn’t understand why I drew his face for years or why I was terrified of fire. It was a grueling experience to touch such evil, such sick behavior. But I did it. With much guidance and support, I did it.

    Why me? I don’t know. What I do know is that I am NEVER ALONE. I have always been blessed with healing at the center of such sick sadness. What I found is that the unspeakable distortions of the human experience are not unique. There is no place we can go and be assured we are “safe” from our dark side. While my history is filled with things I still don’t understand, I have been able to see the wizard behind the curtain for the ugly little mouse with a microphone that it was. I have found home and it’s safe and it’s good. And I am not unique, I am not crazy, I am not troubled. I am your neighbor, your friend, your colleague, your family member. I have survived to tell the tale because in the telling we are free. image from flickr creative commons
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