Radical release

(This was going to be a private post, and then I thought, why? This is real life, this is real suffering and this is real healing and release. Why not share it? If one in three women have been raped or sexually abused, why not talk about the journey? We have to help each other figure out how to live a life after this kind of trauma and staying silent helps no one. Short backstory summary: I was held against my will for a period of time by my first husband, from whom I was seeking a divorce because he had become violent. I was repeatedly beaten, raped and abused for about 2 weeks, I think. Hard to know for sure. I escaped to Florida and have spent the rest of my life picking my way through the debris. It has taken a long time, probably mostly because I have never been able to afford therapy, so mucked through on my own. I recently had some therapy, which has stopped for a bit, but which I hope to begin again.) (art by Anna Shukeylo)

Last night, I had an experience unlike any I have ever had.

Some background: I’ve been sick enough for long enough that my mojo had just about left the building. I was beginning to feel better physically and more like myself, so I was beginning to miss fun times with Matt. But I got shy somehow, and then anxious. When we began to have sex, I froze up. This has happened all of my life, since I was 20. Periodically, I will freeze up and sex becomes out of the question for that moment. It is a very uncomfortable feeling to continue. It begins to feel too much like rape and my muscles begin to remember. It hardly ever happens with Matt and hasn’t happened for quite a while. Guess my nervousness brought it on.

I sat up on the edge of the bed, weeping. I remember apologizing, “I’m so sorry. I guess I will be having this happen to me for the rest of my life until I die!” I was also frustrated, upset and angry that this still happens after almost 40 years and all of the work I have done to become well. I felt a strong pain in my throat, the way it feels when I am keeping myself from crying, except more intense. Like it had been when I had that panic attack on the front porch last year. It’s like I can’t breathe and I begin to gasp for breath. It’s frightening.

I was crying and gasping for breath, Matt murmuring to me softly, telling me to breathe. I suddenly felt like I had a scream that had to come out. Or, to be more precise, a howl.

anna shukeylo

I felt like a wounded animal on a hillside, lamenting her death. My head fell back, my neck stretched taut and a sound came out. I don’t know what kind. Not a scream, not a howl. A wheezing cry of some kind. Twice I threw my head back and let loose this guttural sound. All at once, the pressure lifted. I stood, stumbling to the other side of the bed, still weeping softly and whispering to Matt or maybe to myself, “I’m okay now. I’m okay now.” I sat on the bed and began to cry in earnest for just a moment, when all of a sudden, without warning, I began to howl with laughter! I laughed uncontrollably, like a tweener at a slumber party, laughing for far longer than Matt was comfortable. He grew silent and still on the other side of the bed while I shook and laughed uncontrollably for some time. Finally, calm descended and I was able to stop. I felt spent but also wonderful. Light. Like I had lost 20 pounds, like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

I tried to explain it to Matt. I’m not sure how much he can understand of what was happening. I don’t know how much I can understand of it myself! Only that I know these were sounds of anguish that I had stuffed inside all those years ago to lessen the beatings and hasten the the rapes. I knew they were there without knowing they were there. That makes no sense, I know. I kept them covered over, hidden even from myself, but I somehow felt the toxicity and burden of them.

Why did they come to the surface right then? I don’t know that, either. Maybe because of the muscle memory and the fear it provoked. Maybe also because I’ve had several knots loosened, breaking fear’s hold in several ways and areas the last little bit of the journey. Maybe enough was cleared out of the way to get far enough back there, down deep enough to throw the cover off. Who knows?

All I know is that there was a howl in me that was released and I feel lighter and freer today. I find myself smiling this half-smile; a Mona Lisa smile, a Buddha smile. All is quiet within. How thankful I feel for that crazy letting go. Matt was kind of freaked. Said he thought I was broken. I’m aware of his eyes lingering thoughtfully on me today.

I am full of gratitude for Matt. I am thankful for the safe space he provides for me: for healing, for growth, for stumbling and falling. He is right there, never judging, always thinking good things about me. I am a very lucky woman, running over with gratitude for life, with all its twisty turns, its impermanence and paradox and mystery.


liminal living

Aimless Love

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,

I fell in love with a wren

and later in the day with a mouse

the cat had dropped under the dining room table.


In the shadows of an autumn evening,

I fell for a seamstress

still at her machine in the tailor’s window,

and later for a bowl of broth,

steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.


This is the best kind of love, I thought,

Without recompense, without gifts,

or unkind words, without suspicion,

or silence on the telephone.


The love of the chestnut,

the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.


No lust, no slam of the door –

the love of the miniature orange tree,

the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,

the highway the cuts across Florida.


No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –

just a twinge every now and then


for the wren who had built her nest

on a low branch overhanging the water

and for the dead mouse,

still dressed in its light brown suit.


But my heart is always propped up

in a field on its tripod,

ready for the arrow.


After I carried the mouse by the tail

to a pile of leaves in the woods,

I found myself standing at the bathroom sink

gazing down affectionately at the soap,


so patient and soluble,

so at home in its pale green soap dish.

I could feel myself falling again

as I felt its turning in my wet hands

and caught the scent of lavender and stone.


Billy Collins

I would like to do whatever it is that presses the essence from the hour ~ Mary Oliver

To live on the threshold between the secular and the sacred, to find joy and fullness in small things, to see the divine in nature…this is what makes the difference between living life or just existing.  Slow down.  Get in your body, in the moment.  Look, really look.  Listen, listen deeply.  This is the lesson of the small child.  This is to be awake, to be aware, to build a bridge across the abyss.  No more sleepwalking.  No more missing the mystery, the miraculous and chaotic and juicy wonder of living on the threshold.  As Sir Patrick would say, “Engage.”


to go another way

“Someday, sometime, you will be sitting somewhere.

A berm overlooking a pond in Vermont. The lip of the Grand Canyon at sunset. A seat on the subway.

And something bad will have happened: You will have lost someone you loved, or failed at something at which you badly wanted to succeed. And sitting there, you will fall into the center of yourself.

You will look for some core to sustain you. And if you have been perfect all your life and have managed to meet all the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, chances are excellent that there will be a black hole where that core ought to be.

I don’t want anyone I know to take that terrible chance.

And the only way to avoid it is to listen to that small voice inside you that tells you to make mischief, to have fun, to be contrarian, to go another way. George Eliot wrote, ‘It is never too late to be what you might have been.’ It is never too early, either.”
 – Anna Quindlen


Rant inspired by a broken heart

Love Revived

I give this guy credit.   He is making a serious effort to love. Unfortunately, there are few who are able to cling to what they think inerrancy of scripture means and still follow the mandate within those scriptures to love without limit, expectation or exception. That is where the rubber meets the road and that is where the problem comes in.

{The issue of civil rights for all of humanity has been dear to my heart all of my life and will always be one of my most firmly held beliefs. I’ve been struggling with the words to convey some of my feelings about the position of some within church on this (including some of my loved ones). I have much to say and want to share it with love, but that will be another day. Today, I watched helplessly while someone I love like my own skin wept at this video. I’m angry. Today, I rant.}

I don’t know why this is so hard. Think. Think for just a moment with me. Consider the way the church eventually re-interpreted scripture dealing with slavery and a woman’s place, not to mention the adjustments in interpretation that have been made over the centuries because of scientific discoveries. Yet every time, Every Single Time, the church dug in its heels and stubbornly chose to hold to an outdated interpretation of scripture. Christians, God’s representatives on the earth, held up their bibles and used “the inerrancy of scripture” to deny the civil rights of human beings, then as now. Slavery was accepted and fought for using the bible, but that’s been awhile and perhaps the church has filed that in the “forget about it” bin along with all the other sins against humanity it has perpetrated…but women had to fight for the right to vote in the very recent past and inter-racial marriage was still illegal in the very recent past. Surely we haven’t already forgotten that it was the church leading the call to injustice, using the bible yet again to justify bigotry and inequality by taking a few verses and interpreting them without any consideration for context, cultural changes or scientific discoveries. But while the injustices against women and people of color caused the church to rethink hundreds of scriptures, the question of sexual orientation has fewer verses to rethink than the fingers on your hands, including the ones that are easily discounted. Jeez. Come on, people! Say it with me: Context. Culture. Science. Or at least say this: God has called me to Love.

Learn from the past. Think of all that is at stake. Think of all those who have been turned away from the church and have lost all hope for redemption… because of the church. Educate yourselves on the issue; don’t just parrot what you’ve been taught! Think of the wounded, the outcast, the broken.   Who did your Christ come for? Who did he hang with while he walked the earth?

All of these lives. Don’t they merit the time it would take to rethink what God would want, what Jesus would do? What of science? Don’t say this is a choice. It has been definitively decided. It is not. If you won’t believe the testimony of thousands around you, (who live a life that is made horrific by homophobia, by the way, and who would choose that?) believe science. Get your head out of the sand.

And stop saying you love me “no matter what”, as if you are doing me a favor by being gracious enough to extend your love to me even though I am a sinner. Why are you so superior? Aren’t you just like me? Why do you think your sinfulness is purer than anyone else’s?

And just for the record, the “tolerance” of which you are so proud? It’s insulting. What if (gasp) being queer isn’t even a sin? What if I was knit together in my mother’s womb just as I am, orientation and all? What if your assertion that God makes no mistakes means that God made me just as I am, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made just as I am, and that I am embraced and bathed in his love just as I am – with no need to change to become acceptable to my Creator? Why do you think I need to change to become acceptable to you?

For God’s sake, stop breaking his heart and stop bringing untold pain and suffering to his children. Choose love. God is love. Take the whole counsel of the Word. Love triumphs over hatred. The letter kills but the Spirit gives life. Knowledge puffs up but love edifies. Choose love. And if you are ever brave enough to discuss the tiny handful of relevant scriptures with me, I will be ready. I’ve been ready for years. Bring it.

Rant over.

Notes from my journal (on a love that is true)


I’ve been ruminating on what it means to truly love. There is a slice of the evangelical fundamentalist pie who seem to want to love their LGBT neighbors but who still tow the party line as far as Biblical interpretation goes.  I find this to be more harmful in some ways  than outright discrimination and hatred.  It hurts deeply to be reeled in by this quasi love, only to find that the love, acceptance, and respect aren’t genuine.  This does great harm to a wounded soul whose heart has been broken multiple times by the church.  It is often the final nail in the coffin as far as any hope of inclusion or real love from the Christian community and can turn a seeker away from God for good.

What a great shame this is.

Those who espouse the maxim, “Hate the sin but love the sinner” may be trying to come from a place of love, but it isn’t authentic.  It is missing the qualities that make it real love.

One of those qualities is understanding.  There is no depth to a love devoid of understanding.  To understand a person, you must look deeply and listen deeply.  This takes an open heart and mindful attention.  When our hearts are open and we look deeply into a person, listening deeply to their words, understanding can blossom.

Another missing quality is compassion.  To understand a person, to join in their joys and sorrows, will birth compassion.  A compassionate heart loves without exception or limitation.  A compassionate heart looks deeply into the suffering of another and not only empathizes, but also works to bring about change that will ease that suffering.  And the change that is needed is most often in our own hearts.

When we love truly, our love will radiate authenticity.  There will be a depth born of close looking and study, deep listening and compassion.  The end result of this kind of love is the desire for freedom for the loved one – that they be free to become their best, most authentic self, that they have opportunity to become more open-hearted and able to also have understanding and compassion in their dealings with others. And that they not be shunned or turned away from the Love that conquers all hatred and heals all sorrows.

One more thought about the “hate the sin, love the sinner” fallacy.  Our part is to love.  Period.  God reveals himself first and foremost as Love.  Absolute Truth can only be known through love, for it cannot be grasped by the mind.  Only the one who loves deeply and truly can be certain they are in contact with any kind of truth.  If there be a longing to please and hold to God, we must hold to love, for God is Love.

We can veer off the path when we value knowledge over love.  The overriding testimony of Scripture is that Love triumphs over knowledge.  Some fear losing faith because of a lack of holding to knowledge, but we should instead fear losing faith by a failure to love.  This is the testimony of the Word and of countless saints throughout the centuries and in every religion. Mankind has always failed his God when he failed to love his fellow-man. This simple truth can keep us humble and make us wise.

A little knowledge can puff up like a balloon and inspire us to believe we have a dimension of truth denied to others.  The danger then is that we think it our duty to enlighten those who do not share our “truth” and punish them if they refuse to agree.  All efforts to love soon become tainted by the imposition of our “truth”.  Division, discrimination, injustice, and hatred then own the day, whether the other is black, a woman, gay, a non-Christian, or even a believer from another denomination.

These words of caution from one of the church fathers rings with truth and is as relevant today as it was in the fourth century:  “As long as we remain sheep, we overcome.  Even though we may be surrounded by a thousand wolves, we overcome and are victorious.  But as soon as we are wolves, we are beaten:  for then we lose the support from the Shepherd who feeds not wolves, only sheep.”  ~ Chrysostom

When I Met My Muse

   I glanced at her and took my glasses
  off — they were still singing. They buzzed
  like a locust on the coffee table and then
  ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
  sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
  knew that nails up there took a new grip
  on whatever they touched. “I am your own
  way of looking at things.” she said. “When
  you allow me to live with you, every
  glance at the world around you will be
  a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.
~William Stafford

the movement

I read today about the emergence of a movement, one rising from the ground up, a worldwide network of NGOs (non-government organizations) that is arising spontaneously in response to a global crisis that threatens humanity and our planet, along with all the other earthlings that make their home on this ball hurtling through space.

I found it encouraging to read about organizations of all sizes, from billion-dollar to single person organizations – between one and two million of them addressing environmental issues and working for social justice. We don’t hear about it in the news, but it is happening quietly all around the globe. It has been compared to the immune response in a human, all of these NGOs quietly going about their business of healing.

I especially enjoyed reading the difference between globalization and corporization. Globalization brings connection and understanding through the exchange of cultures, music, religions, food, etc. Corporization is a five-hundred-year old domination of people, communities and countries for the sole purpose of profit. Virtually all of the wars and acts of genocide in the last five centuries have been all about money and behind all of them are corporations. Corporization is the raping of our planet’s resources and the obliteration of local cultures by market fundamentalism.

It was the most encouraging thing I have heard  in years. Perhaps we will quietly defeat Goliath with millions of tiny Davids. Perhaps if we all keep our eyes and hearts open to small ways in which we can make a difference, a collective impact will be felt that can save us yet. What do you have passion about? The environment? Indigenous peoples? Women and children in third world countries? Protecting or restoring cultures that have been or are being swept away? Factory farms, with their inhumane treatment of our fellow earthlings and the devastation of the environment? Destruction of rain forests? Female genital mutilation? Sex slavery? There are so many causes, so much pain and suffering. It can feel overwhelming, but it need not be. What causes your heart to break? Take that thing, that suffering, and work to bring healing. Maybe it will be meditating or praying. Maybe you will find a group of like-minded warriors to join up with. Maybe you will use your art, your music, your words. Maybe you will use your tenderness, your smile, your hospitality. Millions of people, millions of small actions, and a civilization and a world might be saved.