IF By Rudyard Kipling
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting you,
If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
* * *
This inspirational poem written by Rudyard Kipling was framed and hung in our kitchen in my childhood home. Beatings by his foster mother when Rudyard only wanted love and attention, failure and ridicule at a public school and, later on, the death of two of his children, marked his largely tragic life, yet this gorgeous poem manifested regardless of his personal losses.
I think about the “if” poem a lot, even though my brother kept our copy of it when my mother died. The “If” poem connects to me emotionally because, like my mother, I had to hold my head high in crowds with people who I feel didn’t understand me. Even though many years have passed and those people have long since disappeared from my life, I have carried on with their judgments as my own. Quieting those phantom voices required that I answer by saying that we only act from who we are, even if it does not truly make sense to us at the time. This is especially true if we are still unconscious of our underpinnings.
In the beginning of 2002, I began to write. Let me begin by saying that I was not a writer at the time. It was such a curious endeavor, almost magical, as I wrote about things I clearly had no prior knowledge about. My writings were spiritual in nature and felt guided, though I had never been a spiritual seeker. But, I must admit the subjects I was being guided to write about resonated: child abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, promiscuity, materialism, snobbery, and isolation. I soon realized I was writing about myself from a spiritual perspective.
My muse led me down a road that I would have never taken had I not been in such despair to forget about how miserable I was in my life at the time. Any distraction was greatly appreciated. Secretly, I prided myself that this information that came through to me to express to others was original—and in many ways it was for the time—but really it was to educate me about myself spiritually. The information directed my attention about the choices that I had made in the recent and distant past, as when I wrote: “Many of God’s children’s feel as though they have been somehow damaged from life’s experiences.” What a profound statement, I thought, as I held my pen in the air and uttered the words aloud. I continued with this writing, but it was that statement that encouraged me to begin digging into my vast past. I traced back my memories that led to this belief about myself. I can see now that those words that I wrote, and continued to write thereafter, were to help me become more conscious.
In three years, after much deliberate soul searching through traditional therapy, painting and writing, I found the missing pieces to explain puzzling things that I did as a child, young adult and most recently during my middle life that I never fully understood. I was sexually abused as a child. This newly acquired knowledge helped me understand and give new meaning to my life, even though the news hit me like a tidal wave.
My spirituality became very important to me during this time. If I needed strength, or direction, I just asked. It is my belief that we all have access to this universal wisdom since it is inside all of us. Whether we practice a certain religion or not has no bearing on being guided. I found peace in meditating and found my heart in Buddhism classes, both of which was a saving grace to connect me to my husband during this tumultuous time. I am thankful for the books I read, including Dalai Lama’s The Art Of Happiness, Neal Walsch’s Conversations With God, and Alice Miller’s various books. Ghosts In The Bedroom: A Guide For Partners Of Incest Survivors by Ken Graber, M.A. confirmed the path I had taken from guilt and ignorance to knowing who I was and being able to walk without shame.
The guidance I received along the way not only helped me look at my life from a spiritual perspective but also from the eyes of the child and the angry teen I once was. It helped the confused adult I became by calling me to search to find all of the hidden parts of myself along the way. Finding these pieces was not the end of my story, but the beginning of the arduous process of integration and the rise of all the feelings that transported me to a different place in life than when I began this journey.
One day, I realized that I had become weary of carrying the burden of hatred, not being able to let go of resentments from long ago. I pushed away both well-meaning friends and family and strangers in passing because of all the times I had been hurt. Those times were tallied in cement in my mind. I wondered how long it was going to take for me to “feel normal” again, since the hurt robbed me of experiencing my life joyfully, for many years. In essence, my past was still winning by keeping me down and unhappy and I didn’t want that to occur any longer. This imbalanced state of mind, a negative force to be reckoned, was doing more harm than good, and I knew it was best to let it go. But, that was easier said than done.
My turning point occurred when I looked in the mirror a few years ago, and I no longer recognized my body or face because I looked like someone who was carrying the pain of one hundred people. I felt old, I moved slowly, and I had gained weight after all the years. It seemed like everything that had surfaced for me to pilfer through was waiting for me to say, “Enough is enough.” If I had continued on this course of carrying my emotional baggage, which was now effecting me physically, I knew I would be following the tracks left by my mother. Forgiveness doesn’t just happen, but it is a slow process. I don’t know if I am entirely there but I know that I am pointed in that direction.
This epiphany fueled me to don my running shoes again, shed those unwanted pounds and I felt my energy return. There is always a moment of surprise when I look at my face in the mirror now and I see bright eyes ringed with eyelashes and arched eyebrows. For many years after I was raped at nineteen, I destroyed my beauty by picking and pulling away the frame for my eyes, and what some say is the window to my soul. This is “The Me” I remembered, even though I am older, but I know that I am that much wiser.
Writing, I have found, is a new and healthier portal to release my inner pain. Thoughts I could never utter to another soul before are now appearing on these very pages, giving rise to a voice I never knew I had. Physically, I am not perfect, but I have had to accept and let go of my perfectionism, as I know I am still beautiful with my blemishes. I know the scars on my body mark the times I withstood turbulent times, like the tree that stands tall when all odds are against it, yet survives year after year, giving to all that needs its energy. For me, those I give to are my children and husband.
My journey did not offer the closure I expected with my parents when they were alive, but it did bring me to a different awareness. I found a stockpile of forgotten letters written to me from my mother when she was “working her program” of sobriety. These letters tell me of her regret and deeply felt sorrow when she was undergoing her own self-evaluation while I was first living on my own. Reading them again, after all that I had gone through these last few years, made it feel like she was speaking to me even though she had passed, because I am listening with new ears. And, when I was given the opportunity to speak to my father before he died, about our sorry history, I found a tiny shell of a human being lying scrunched up in a huge hospital bed and I knew it was too late to say anything to him. Even though they have both passed on from earth I still have so much to say to them.
It would take me another three years after the death of my father to create a time line to understand my place in the family and the events that took place before and after I experienced sexual abuse at home. The eight-year distance since the time of “finding out” about my secret past helped me understand my parents in a different way then I ever expected. I felt compassion for who they were as human beings because those feelings for myself emerged when I looked back on my own life choices that caused me much suffering. I realized that they never truly experienced living life in freedom from shame and denial. They never moved on to something new because they never went through the process of birth and renewal and felt joy in life that comes from such an experience.
If you look at my family tree, you would find a lot of people running as fast as they could from the life they were living. Those who couldn’t escape in a geographic sense did so mentally and emotionally, with pills or booze. Some even took the matter in their own hands by permanently ending their own lives. It would have never occurred to me that they were all running from one thing and it was the same thing I was running from when I came to age as a wife and mother. Perhaps I would have never found out if I weren’t part of that much lauded seventh generation, the one in which cycles of abuse are supposed to shatter. Maybe I would still be running away from myself, and my family if I hadn’t been offered an invitation to alter my path, but I had no idea the depths I would go through to drastically change.
This book is not only about coming to consciousness, or even how I was led to finding the key of sexual abuse in my life so I could heal, although I will explore all these areas. It’s my hope to reconstruct a structure of pivotal events as I look back on my life unflinchingly, so I can slip in key information to illuminate characters I knew only briefly or who had never even met, but who shaped me deeply. In a way this my journey about becoming whole, the costs involved in doing so and my faith in God and the Divine realm that helped and guided me when I thought I’d never see the end. I have an undo amount of gratitude for God and the angelic realm, as they guided me from experiencing further travesty. My life journey totally paralleled the spiritual information that I was receiving and writing about; on becoming whole and free from the shackles of childhood. This journey took over thirteen years to complete from beginning to end.
The purpose of this book is to finally tell both of my parents how their decisions in life affected me as a child. I also need to write about my journey to healing, which helped me to find a path that was different from theirs. I believe there is no separation between life and death. Somewhere, I know I have their attention now. More importantly, it is my hope that I can write with honesty, even though it is painful, so that I might connect to someone whose life is difficult, who is facing far-reaching consequences. I want to help people examine their own lives, just as I was guided, which led me out of a cycle of self-destruction and onto a better path.
Lastly, I pray that this is a book that God inspired me to write when I asked that my pain be healed years ago. This is a story about picking up the pieces, putting myself back together and transcending beyond the hurt. It took doing so to become a better mother, wife and human being to connect to others along my path. My message is simple: Heal yourself. Heal your children. Heal the community. Heal the earth.