Posted by: Marie | December 17, 2014

(976) Good people all around – Part 3 of 3

Post #977
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, October 14, 2012 – continued from previous post]

I got up from my table and walked over to where Debbie was standing . . . I introduced myself and then said, “I’m sure you don’t remember me, but a few years ago, I met you during a child sexual assault trial . . . “

I went on to tell her about how much she had inspired me with what she said to me that day in the courthouse. I told her that, because of what she had said, I had decided at that time I would someday become an advocate . . . and that I am now in the process of making that happen . . . all as a direct result what she said to me.

As I was telling her all of that, her eyes filled with tears. When I finished speaking, she gave me a big hug and thanked me for telling her . . . she appreciated knowing that she had made a difference in my life and in my healing.

Of course, I got emotional as I was telling her all that, and even more emotional when she hugged me . . .


Ali Mountain by Martin Chen

I was all but bawling as I headed back to my seat . . .

A few minutes later, the main presentation started . . . I thought maybe my table-mates might come back to the table during the presentation, but they didn’t. I stayed at the table because I really wanted to hear the Johnsons speak . . . and, the audience was thinning out quite a bit so I wanted to support them by staying in my seat . . . and I stayed because I was very interested in their story.

First, the two radio guys spoke a little bit, then it was the Johnsons’ turn to speak. All three of them went up on the stage together. They said that they were very nervous as none of them had much experience with public speaking, and this was the first time for any of them to publically share their story. It was pretty obvious that it was a new experience for them . . . they stumbled over their words, and their story-telling was a bit disjointed . . . but it was raw and authentic . . . and very compelling . . . very powerful.

Liz told about how her grandfather had molested her starting at age three. Then, when she was eight, she stood up to him and told him to stop. She believes that he thought she might tell someone if he didn’t stop, and that is why he stopped. She decided to not tell anyone because it was done and “over with” . . . she didn’t see any need to tell.

Then, when she was 14, she began struggling with severe depression. She was plagued with the memories of being molested and she knew she needed help. She wrote a letter to her mom, and in the letter she disclosed that someone had molested her but also stated that she couldn’t tell who it was.

She placed the letter on her bed. Then, as she hurried out the door to school – flying past her mom – she hurriedly announced that she had left a letter on her bed for her mom to read.

Her mom, Michelle, read the letter and called her husband (Liz’s dad) at work. He picked up Liz from school and brought her home so the three of them could talk about the letter. They asked her to disclose the identity of her molester, but she wouldn’t. However, the Michelle instinctively knew who it was . . . she didn’t how she knew, but she knew it was her dad (Liz’s grandfather).

So, the mom drove over to her parent’s home and, in front of her mom, she confronted her dad about what he had done to Liz. He did admit to molesting her once, but only once.

Michelle and the dad, Tom, went to the police. As part of the police investigation, Liz was questioned at the child advocacy center by specially trained forensic investigators. The investigation revealed that there had been many, many times that the grandfather had molested Liz. He was arrested and convicted for the abuse.

Michelle and Tom made sure that Liz got into therapy and Liz began her healing journey. A few months later, Michelle began experiencing severe depression, became suicidal and self-destructive. So, she went into therapy, as well. Within the context of therapy, she began recovering memories of being molested by her dad. So, she has been on her own healing path.

As is expected, Tom has had his own struggles with all of this and has had his own healing to do, as well. So, it has really been a family journey.

The point of their presentation was to demonstrate why child advocacy centers and programs are so incredibly important. The family expressed their appreciation for the work done by the police investigators and the advocacy staff . . . the said repeatedly that their story would have been tragic if it were not for those people stepping up and helping them when they needed the help so desperately.

In closing, Tom encouraged anyone who has been abused to disclose to someone and to get help. He encouraged people to share their own stories because healing comes from the sharing. He said there was no “right” way to share our stories, we just need to find our own unique way of doing it.

Of course, because I had already been emotional from talking with Debbie, I totally “lost it” during the Johnsons’ presentation. I just sat in my seat and sobbed . . . I was a huge mess.

Annette sat beside me for a while, rubbing my back . . . Annette’s husband came over and gave me a hug . . . Debbie would pat me on the shoulder every time she walked by me . . . I don’t think they knew what to do with me. Annette had a pretty good idea of why I was so emotional because, when I asked her to be a reference for me, I had mentioned to her that I had been molested. But, I don’t think she had any idea how raw my emotions still are at this point in my healing.

I guess the event was scheduled to continue for a while after the conclusion of the presentation . . . the bar was scheduled to stay open for a bit . . . but, the presentation ended around 9:30 and I was too emotionally exhausted to stay any longer. So, I found Annette and her husband and thanked them for inviting me . . . and I headed towards the door.

On the way to the door, I ran into Michelle and Tom. I thanked them for telling their story and told them I was so very proud of how courageous they were in telling their story publically. I mentioned to them that I had given my business card to Liz and that I had written the name of my blog on the card . . . and that the focus of my blog is to tell my own story as part of my own healing journey, as Tom had encouraged us to do.

Tom said, “Oh, are you a survivor?” I nodded . . .

He said he would check out my blog . . . and he gave me a big bear hug . . .

And that was the end of an incredible evening.

So, anyway . . . as I’m writing this journal entry, I’m looking at the souvenir I have from the evening …

My seashell of hope

My seashell of hope

Each place setting at the event had a seashell. There was a single word on a small piece of paper tied to each seashell. There were a variety of words . . . mine was “Hope”.

How fitting . . . I think it is hope that I need the most in my healing journey. And, now, I have a little reminder that it is healthy to hope.

I think I’ll keep it on my desk at the studio. That feels to me the most appropriate place for it.

Anyway, today, I sent an email to Debbie to let her know how tickled I am that I got to see her again, and to thank her again for being such an inspirational example. I don’t know if I’ll ever run into her again . . . I hope so.


Posted by: Marie | December 16, 2014

(976) Good people all around – Part 2 of 3

Post #976
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, October 14, 2012 – continued from previous post]

So, perusing the event program filled up about five minutes . . . still no one had shown up at my table or at the judges’ table . . .

I looked over at the Johnson’s table . . . it was about half full . . .

I wondered if it would be rude of me to go over to their table and ask to hang out with them until people at my table started showing up . . . it seems to me that networking would be expected at an event such as this, at least to some extent . . .

I really liked them . . . and, after reading their profiles in the event program, I had all the more reason for wanting a chance to talk with them . . . it seems we are kindred spirits, at least to a significant degree . . . and I felt a connection with them . . .

Oh, what the hell . . . it’s not like I’ll ever see them again . . . it won’t be the end of the world if they turn me away . . .

I took a deep breath, stood up, and walked over to their table . . .

“Would it be alright for me to sit with you for a few minutes . . . there is no one at my table . . . I’d enjoy visiting with you . . . would that be okay . . . ??”

“Oh, sure! I’m not sure how long it will be until the rest of our family shows up, but you are welcome to sit with us until that happens!”

“Neat! Thank you!”

I slide into a chair next to Liz. She introduced me to her boyfriend, sitting on the other side of her. Liz then explained the relationships among the family members present . . . her two aunts, an aunt’s uncle, her brother, her mom, her dad . . . I started piecing together the family tree . . . various family members told me where they lived and what they did for a living . . . they were very welcoming and accepting of me . . .


A Walk in the Woods by Martin Chen

I turned my attention back to Liz. I told her that I had read her profile in the program. I inquired if it would be impolite or improper of me to ask about her story . . . or, did I need to wait to hear it with the rest of the audience . . . ??

She said it was totally okay for me to ask . . .

She said that she had been molested by her maternal grandfather when she was younger, and she had not disclosed to anyone. Then, when she was 14, she disclosed to her parents. Her parents contacted law enforcement and the investigation resulted in the arrest and conviction of her grandfather. She went on to say that, months later, her mother began having flashbacks to being molested as a child by the grandfather (the mother’s father) and she started having trouble functioning. Her mom then went into intense therapy, which led to her recovering her memories. She is doing much better now.

I expressed to her how proud I am of her . . . and that I understand some of what she went through because I have my own story about being molested.

”Were you interviewed at an advocacy center?”

”Oh, no . . . advocacy centers didn’t exist back then . . . there were no avenues for disclosure, or investigation or prosecution . . . there was no help for kids like me back then. We weren’t believed, and nothing was done to help us. That’s just the way it was back then.”

”So, no one knew?”

”No, not at that time.”

”How did you get through it?”

”I buried the memories – like your mom did. I didn’t start recovering those memories until later in life, when I went into therapy because I was suicidal – again, like your mom.”

”I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have anyone help you as a kid.”

”Yes, it was terrible. However, now I’m preparing to be a CASA so I can help that to not be the case for the kids of today. I have the ability to do something about it now. I’ll be doing something really good with a part of my history that was really bad.”

I took out one of my business cards – thank goodness I went back to get them – and I wrote the name of my blog on the back. I invited her to check out my blog, if she cared to. She thanked me . . .

About then, the last of their guests arrived and there was really not room for me at their table any more. And, when I looked over at my table, there were a few people sitting there. So, it seemed my time to leave had arrived. I thanked the Johnsons and headed back to my own table.

I had only a few minutes to introduce myself to the people at my table, and make a little small talk, before the judges took their place at the table next to mine and the master of ceremonies picked up the microphone to welcome all 400 (or so) attendees . . .

The MC then launched a slide show that described the advocacy centers and related facilities that would benefit from this event. And, the slide show gave credit to all of those who had played a key role in making this event possible. When the slide came up naming the two event co-chairpersons, I noticed a familiar name . . .

It was Debbie, the real estate agent who spoke with me two or three years ago when I returned as an observer to watch a child sexual assault trial for which I had been called – then dismissed – as a juror. On that day, she told me that she had been molested as a child, and that, as an adult, she is involved in the CASA program and in the victim’s advocacy program in order to create a different experience for the kids of today. She said she is doing something very good with her own painful history as a part of her own healing journey.

Wow . . . I had just said to Liz what Debbie said to me in that courthouse . . . and now, it was very likely that Debbie was right here at this same event . . . talk about a small world . . .

I started looking around for her . . . I had only a vague memory of what she looked like as our conversation had been so brief . . .

I noticed a lady sitting at the judges table, next to Annette, who reminded me of her . . . but, when I met Debbie at the courthouse, she was wearing a conservative (but stylish) business suit and her hair was in loose curls around her face. The gal sitting next to Annette was dressed in a glamorous and not-at-all-conservative short skirt and very high heels . . . her hair was pulled into an upswept style, and the application of her make-up was suitable for a night out on the town . . . I couldn’t be sure it was Debbie . . .

Anyway, the slide show wrapped up, the directors of the child advocacy centers and programs were introduced, the MC explained the logistics of the food service, and we were invited to start our culinary adventure. Before I headed to the first food station, I slipped over to the judges’ table and asked Annette if she could point out Debbie to me . . . she told me that the gal sitting next to her was, indeed, Debbie . . .

I could see that Debbie was very busy at that moment with moving the judges into place at their table on the stage . . . I figured I’d try to catch her at some other point in the evening’s festivities . . .

I went through the line at the first food station and returned to my table with a fair-sized plate of food. We were given only a few bites of each food; however, a few bites of every item on the comprehensive menu is A LOT of food. The good news is that we had a couple of hours to work our way through all the individual menus.

During all the eating, I was able to visit with the other people at my table. I learned very quickly that I have very dulled taste buds . . . they were all discussing the fine variants of all the different flavors . . . what flavors blended well together and which flavors clashed . . . they asked my opinion a couple of times . . .

Well, let’s just say that my assessment was limited to: I really like that, I disliked that so much that I would have preferred to spit it out, I could take it or leave it, and it tastes like chicken. All the extraordinary efforts to create amazingly memorable food were lost on me. Obviously, I have really, really, really primitively-functioning taste buds because I would have been just as happy with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – maybe happier.

As I was waiting in line at the last of the five food stations, I realized I was standing next to the director of the CASA program located in City #2 – she had been introduced on stage during the opening comments. She was standing alone, so I introduced myself and told her that I was applying to become a CASA in City #1. I asked her about the schedule of the training in her program and if she thought her training was comparable to the training offered in City #1 – I explained that I was exploring the possibility of doing part of my training within her program and then transferring it to City #1’s training program. She was open to that possibility . . . and she said the training content was pretty consistent nationwide.

She invited me to consider applying to become a CASA in her city . . . she said she thought I would likely be a good fit. I thanked her for the invitation, and I explained it would be tough for me to go that route since my mom lives quite a distance from City #2 and I will need to be caring for her more and more in the coming years, so I need to try to keep my life centered more around City #1. She said she understood . . . and she thanked me for being willing to be a CASA.

When I got back to the table with my plate of food from that last food station, there were only two people at my table, and they left within a few minutes of my sitting back down. So, I ate my food in solitude.

I can’t say that I enjoyed interacting with the people at my table. They had come to the event in groups of two or three and they weren’t interested in including me much in their conversations. They asked a few polite questions – mostly about my experience of the food – then they turned their attention back to their exclusive friendships. The conversation in which I was included was of little interest to me . . . the latest phone they had bought, a concert they were planning to attend next week, the brand of make-up they were trying out, their dream car, what so-and-so said to the other so-and-so at last week’s party . . .

My attempts to move the conversation in a more inclusive and meaningful direction were not warmly embraced.

They seemed to me to be rather shallow . . . self-involved . . . critical and crass . . . so, I wasn’t too upset when they all disappeared long before the food service was finished. I’m assuming they went to the bar area so they could focus on drinking. I didn’t see any of them again the rest of the evening . . . and that was my preference as I then had room to put my water glass and my elbows wherever I felt like putting them.

As I was eating that last plate of food (I’m a notoriously slow eater), I noticed that Debbie was no longer hurrying about . . . she was standing and talking to some people in a relatively relaxed manner. I decided it was a good time to talk to her . . .

[To be continued in the next post . . . ]


Posted by: Marie | December 15, 2014

(975) Good people all around – Part 1 of 3

Post #975
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, October 14, 2012]

So . . . last night was the big “Top Chef” event in City #2 . . . it was a fundraiser for the local child advocacy center.

After getting dressed up in the nicest clothes I have (which are not so very fancy, but fancy enough), I got in my car and headed out of our neighborhood. About two blocks from the house, I realized that I had not brought any business cards with me.

Normally, I carry a big ole’ canvas bag that serves as my “purse” and that contains everything I could possibly need during the course of a typical day of teaching piano lessons. But, for this event, I was carrying a dainty little black evening bag . . .

The main reason I was attending this event was so I could generate some contacts within the world of child abuse prevention. So, having business cards would be important.

I turned around and headed back to the house . . . went back inside and pulled some cards from my big canvas bag . . . and got back on the road . . .


Blooming by Martin Che

The event’s cocktail “hour” was scheduled to go from 5:00 to 6:30pm. I know enough about social events such as this to know attendees are expected to be fashionably late. So, I aimed to arrive about halfway through the cocktail “hour”. My aim was quite accurate as I made it to the venue at 5:45.

The check-in desk was located just inside the main entrance. I went through the check-in process and was given the number of the table assigned to the guests of Annette and her husband . . . it was table #1. It seems that table #1 would be pretty easy to find, but it still took me quite a while to locate it. I eventually did find it . . .

When I found the table, there were already two people sitting at the table. I introduced myself. Then, I selected a chair and asked if anyone was sitting in that chair. They hesitantly said that no one was yet sitting there. They seemed surprised when I sat down with them . . .

I asked them if they were there as guests of Annette’s family. They said no, they were guests of the Johnsons . . .

Hmmmm . . . very interesting.

I questioned the seating arrangement, but they seemed as clueless about the logistics as I was. So, we decided we would all sit tight until someone else came along who could help us become less clueless. Besides, they were really nice people . . . it was a pleasure to converse with them.

As the conversation progressed, I learned that some of the members of their party (but not them) were the keynote speakers for the event. Oh, how neat!

A little after 6:00, some more members of their party showed up, including the keynote speakers. The speakers introduced themselves as Tom and Michelle (husband and wife), and their college-aged daughter, Liz. They all were very polite to me, although they seemed very surprised that I was planning to sit with them. They said they thought they had a whole table to themselves . . . but, whatever . . .

Then, I thought to ask them if they had gone through the check-in process, which would give them their table assignment . . . oh, no . . . they hadn’t known they needed to do that. They simply had sat down at one of the tables near the stage.

Oh! That explains things!

I offered to walk with them to the check-in area so they could find out their table assignment and so I could confirm mine. They accepted my offer, and that’s how we discovered I was at the correct table and they were supposed be a few tables over.

We headed back to the table and I helped them move all their stuff to their assigned table. The lady who had been at my table when I arrived was not in good health and was using a walker and oxygen; so, they needed a little help with moving her to the new table. I was happy to help.

As we were moving them, I light-heartedly commented that I was sad to be kicking them off my table since I enjoyed their company so much! They responded in kind.

Their moving left me by myself; no one else had yet shown up at my table. Annette and her husband had not yet shown up . . . they were assigned to the table next to mine, and their table was still empty. Annette had told me earlier that she would be in briefings right before the event (since she was one of the four judges), so I was not surprised her table was empty at that point in time.

I decided to use the quiet time to peruse the event program . . .

The keynotes speakers (the ones I had just met) were a family who had made use of the child advocacy center when the daughter, Liz, had disclosed to her parents that she had been sexually abused. They were speaking about the experience and what the advocacy center had meant to them.

Liz is a senior at the local university and is pursuing a career in art therapy. She wants to work specifically with abused and neglected children. The dad is a firefighter in the area and the mom works at one of the local child advocacy centers.

Other speakers included two local radio personalities who are very outspoken advocates for child abuse prevention programs. They do a lot of fundraising on the radio for related causes. (On a tangent note, they are from the radio station to which I listen exclusively. And, the backside of that radio station’s headquarters is almost adjacent to the backside of the building that houses my piano studio. From my studio, I can look out over the railroad tracks and see their back parking lot. I’ve never met the two guys, but I would be able to see all the comings and goings that occur over there if I cared to watch.)

Two whole pages of the program were dedicated to the menus of the various chefs and their sponsoring restaurants and catering companies. The menus were impressive, to say the least. The chefs had to incorporate a “secret ingredient” into their menu, but they were not told what that ingredient was until a few days before the event. The program stated that the secret ingredient was coffee . . .

In addition to the main course menus, there were appetizers and desserts. The appetizers were garlic bread and buffalo wings. The desserts included various flavors of cheesecake, chocolate creampuffs, raspberry-filled creampuffs, and cannoli’s.

These were the main course menus:

Chef/Vendor #1 (Oskar Blues):

Cappuccino Smoked Leg o Lamb with Silky Parsnip Potatoes, Red Pepper Jam, Minted Mostarda and Arugula Pesto

“Red White and Blue” Slow Cooked Prime Rib Club Steak with Collard Greens, Grilled Bread, Shitake Mushroom Coffee Infused Red Eyed Gravy and Maytag Blue Cheese Cream

Green Chili & Chicken served with Roasted Coffee, Dark Chocolate and Almond Mole, Cotija Cheese and Fall Vegetable and Tomatillo Salsa

Sweet and Savory Yorkshire pudding – Prime Rib Rendering Soufflé with a Cinnamon and Sugar Batter, finished with Coffee Gelato and Hazelnut Chantilly Cream

Chef/Vendor #2 (Nordy’s):

Lamb Wellington

Ribeye and Chorizo Meatballs

Coffee and Chocolate Chicken Mole Tostadas

Coffee and Chocolate a la Taza

Chef/Vendor #3 (Tavern):

Chicken, Corn and Roast Green Chili Chowder

Roast Lamb and Arugula Salad with Haystack Mountain Goat Cheese and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Shaved Prime Rib Sandwich with Bourdon Glazed Dell Mushrooms

Chef/Vendor #4 (Coyote’s):

Oven Roasted Prime Rib on Toasted Crostini with Wasabit Goat Cheese and Mango-Arugula salad

Blue Corn Tostada topped with Lamb Confit, Blackberry Jam and Coffee Yogurt Crema

Shredded Chicken and Fois Gras Tamale with Lobster Cream and Fresh Chive

Chef/Vendor #5 (University Catering):

Pumpkin Spice Lamb Latte

Red Chile Chicken Salad with Tomato, Cilantro, Onion and Nopales Pico in Red Tortilla Shell

Coffee and Chili Rubbed Beef Rib on a Mini Bun with Pepperjack Cheese and Chipotle Mayo

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


Posted by: Marie | December 13, 2014

(974) Don’t worry, be happy

Post #974
[Private journal entry written on Friday, October 12, 2012]

This morning, I finally found the time to write a response to Lori’s email:

Hey, Lori –

Ah . . . I’m curled up in my pj’s, under my bedcovers, catching up on my more thoughtful tasks . . . it seems a good time to respond to your very thoughtful email!

Thank YOU for sharing your story . . . it is clear to me that you have a very solid, firsthand experience of what it is like to be a survivor and also of what it is like to fight your way back to a more whole and healed state. That says so much about you . . . so much good stuff!

I hope you do someday write your story . . . I’ve heard (and have found to be true) that one of the steps in healing is to create a cohesive narrative about our lives . . . what happened, how we reacted (destructive behaviors), how we have worked towards healing, and how our lives have been affected during the entire process. Some people write it down, others carry it in their head . . . I guess whatever works!

A huge part of creating my cohesive narrative is to capture my journey on a blog (Coming Out of the Trees). To-date, I’ve published about 750,000 words in my blog. Telling my story in that way has been healing, as has being part of that on-line healing community. If you are interested, you are welcome to check it out – I write under the pen name of Marie:

[blog link]

I had to laugh when you said you have been told you swim in deep waters too much . . . ah, yes . . . I’ve been told that many times, too. I’ve decided that I’m better off staying in the deep end . . . the company is awesome!

I would love to get a cup of coffee! I think you would be great company (deep waters and all, LOL). Let me know when a good time would be . . . I usually have sizable blocks of time during the school day.

– Marie

Throughout the day, we sent emails back and forth until we settled on Monday afternoon as a good time to get together for coffee at my studio . . .

How neat! I’m looking forward to it!


Well, it simply wouldn’t be Friday without some Kris and Bella drama . . .

I had a set of lessons from 4:00 to 5:00pm at a client’s home. After those lessons, l headed over to the studio, turned on the lights, got everything set up for Bella’s 5:20 lesson . . .

Eight minutes prior to the lesson time, I got a text message from Kris:

Just now home I’ll pay for today just pooped and not coming

Grrrrr . . .


This morning, I spent some time on the phone with Ramona, one of the clarinetists who will be part of the ensemble at the music teachers recital next month. I’m not sure what the deal is with her . . . maybe she is technologically challenged (she is of retirement age), maybe she marches to her own very unique drummer, maybe her thinking is inflexible, maybe she’s have issues with dementia . . . . I’m not sure.


Photo by Martin Chen

She couldn’t understand how to access the pdf files and the audio files I had emailed to her. I tried walking her through the process, step-by-step, but she just could not follow my instructions. Finally, I was able to email her a single file – the music for just her part – and she was able to open and print it. Maybe the multiple attachments were confusing her . . . I’m not sure. But, at any rate, she finally got her music printed.

I told her I would send her an audio file – just one file attached to an email – so she could hear how the parts all fit together. She said, “No, I don’t want that.”


Why would a musician not want to at least get an idea of what the piece sounds like? How will she know when she has the melody line and when she has harmony? I don’t understand her resistance . . .

I encouraged her to let me send it to her . . . she refused to allow me to do so.

I found myself wanting to remove her from the ensemble . . . she wasn’t doing “it” like I wanted her to do “it”. She wasn’t following my rules . . . and that meant she was going to “ruin” everything . . .

And then I realized that this whole ensemble adventure is truly an adventure . . . one I have the opportunity to embrace with curiosity and wonder . . . it is the perfect opportunity to allow things to unfold organically . . . because it doesn’t really matter if the performance goes according to my plan or not . . . that’s not what it is about.

Rather, it’s about co-creating a fun experience with a bunch of big-hearted musicians.

So, I just let it all go . . . I didn’t insist that she listen to the audio file . . . I simply let her do “it” her way and I encouraged myself to embrace “what is” and “what will be” . . . whatever that may be.

And that feels better to my soul.


Posted by: Marie | December 11, 2014

(973) Kindred spirits

Post #973
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, October 10, 2012]

I attended the music teachers association meeting this morning . . . this is the group to which I switched my membership this past summer due to all the ruckus that occurred with the other group of music teachers nearly a year ago.

I didn’t attend the new group’s meeting last month, which was the first meeting of the new school year. So, when I showed up to this meeting, I was welcomed warmly by all the members. They repeatedly expressed to me that they are glad I am now officially part of the group.

During the business meeting, they were asking for members to perform in the teachers recital at next month’s meeting. This recital is a very informal event . . . the members play for the other members whatever pieces they have been working on recently. Typically, no one from outside the group attends. It’s not expected that the pieces are to be performance ready . . . it’s just a fun, relaxed time of sharing.

They were concerned that too few teachers would sign up to play. So, I signed up to play the piece I’m preparing for my upcoming student recitals (How Great Thou Art, arranged by the Christian pianist, Dino Kartsonakis).

After discussing the recital, we moved onto other business . . . I sat quietly, absorbing the details of business meeting . . . and then, I had a brainstorm . . .


Photo by Martin Chen

I was surrounded by highly skilled musicians, many of whom are able to play multiple instruments . . .

The piece I recently composed, Pieces of Me, is arranged to be played by two pianos and two other instruments (viola, oboe, French horn, etc.) – there are four parts . . .

I wondered if three or four of the other teachers would be willing to play a part of my piece so we could perform it as an ensemble. I decided that I would ask around once the meeting was finished and while everyone was packing up to leave.

As I was waiting for the meeting to wrap up, my mind wandered back to my time with the other music teachers group . . . there would have been no room for such an idea . . . with me being such a “not-legitimate” teacher and all . . . the idea would have been shot down immediately . . .

In reality, I didn’t know if this group would be any more accepting, but my felt-sense was that they would.

When the business meeting and the educational program concluded, I headed over to talk to the man coordinating the recital program and I asked him about my idea . . . I told him that I could send him a pdf of the music and an audio file, as well, so he could see if it is something that he would be okay with . . .

He looked at me with a rather strange expression, then he said, “Well, I don’t need to ‘approve’ it . . . if you would like to pull together an ensemble, we would sure welcome that contribution to the program . . . it sounds like a really neat idea!”

Oh . . . wow . . . just like that, my brainstorm was accepted and embraced . . . wow . . .

So, I checked with the lady who would be hosting the recital to see how many pianos she has in her studio . . . she has a grand, a studio upright, and a digital keyboard with a number of voices. Then, I started asking around to see who plays what instruments . . . I found one lady who plays clarinet and she suggested that I contact another teacher who plays clarinet but who was not at the meeting . . . . the guy coordinating the recital program said he could play the strings part on the digital keyboard . . . two other teachers said they would play the two piano parts . . . they all thought it was a cool idea and were very excited about being a part of it.

And, just like that, my brainstorm became a reality . . . it’s really going to happen! I love it!

Later in the day, I contacted the second clarinet player. She said that she hasn’t been to a meeting in two years, but that the ensemble performance sounded so fun that she would commit to showing up just to be part of it – she simply had to get in on it!

So, I created pdf files and audio files for each of the parts and sent them out to everyone so they could become familiar with the music over the next month . . . all the parts are so simple that the teachers could easily sightread them. But, I figured they might like to be a little familiar with the music before the day of the performance since we aren’t going to get together ahead of time to practice . . . we’re just going to “wing it” and see how it turns out.

I love it!! This is awesome!!

I’ve never heard one of my own compositions performed by another person, so this will be a first for me . . . what a treat!

I invited to mom to come to the recital . . . she said she would come . . .

So, after feeling down about the money stuff, this was a spirit lifter, for sure. I’m even feeling hopeful around the CASA stuff . . . I have the sense that I will find a way to come up with the money I need to get me through the training period . . . I’ll find a way . . . I know I will . . .


I had hoped to find some time today to send a response to Lori’s email. But, my day has been a non-stop rush. So, this evening, I sent a quick email to her to let her know I received her wonderful and courageous email and that I would respond in a thoughtful manner on Friday (the next time I will have enough free time to do so).

I’m tickled to have found a kindred spirit in my 3D world! I hope we can kindle a meaningful friendship . . .


Posted by: Marie | December 9, 2014

(972) Cohesive narrative

Post #972
[Private journal entry written on Tuesday, October 9, 2012]

I feel a bit like I got punched in the gut . . .

I got a call from my CPA today. In previous years, I’ve not had to pay taxes at tax time because of two reasons: 1) The taxes withheld from my school bus driving job have been more than enough to cover the taxes due for that job and for the income I make in my piano lessons business. 2) I’ve not made much profit from the piano lessons business because the expenses have totaled almost as much as the revenue – it’s expensive to start up a business.

However, this past year (2011), I had only a small amount of income from the bus driving job, so the taxes withheld there were minimal. And, my start-up costs for the piano lessons business are lessening while my revenues are continuing to increase – my profits are slowly increasing.

I already knew I wouldn’t be getting a tax refund this year. And, I was expecting to have to pay some. But, the amount I figured I’d need to pay would be something like $200 . . .

My CPA told me today that I need to pay around $1,000.

That takes my breath away . . . I don’t know how I’m going to come up with that much . . . I’m already on a six-month extension for filing my taxes because my spring had been so busy and because I didn’t have the money to pay my CPA for preparing and filing my taxes. Because of the extension, I’m already having to pay some late fees . . . the late fees will get worse as time passes.


I should be paying estimated taxes each quarter, at the end of each quarter. But, I haven’t gotten ahead enough financially to do that. I’m doing good to pay what I owe a year+ later . . . I’d have to catch up on about 18 months of taxes before I can start doing the quarterly payments. Also, there are some legal reasons why I should be paying quarterly taxes, and by doing things the way I’m doing them, I’m putting myself at risk for getting in trouble with the IRS.


Photo by Martin Chen

But, I barely have enough income to pay for the rent on a bedroom suite in someone’s basement . . . I have no health insurance, I have no ability to pay for medical care, I have no ability to replace my 15-year-old car once it dies, I don’t even have the ability to do some repairs on my car that desperately need to be done . . .

Bottom line, the only financial expenditure that is really negotiable is my therapy.

And I don’t think that is negotiable because I’m afraid I’ll fall back into a suicidal position if I stop therapy. This is the first time since I was nine years old that I’m not praying to die on a daily basis. I don’t feel like I’m far enough out of the woods to be able to withstand not having therapy.

Now I have this dream to become a CASA . . . to save up $1,000 in the next year or so I can withstand the financial impact of having minimal income during the three weeks of training next October . . .

Maybe the CASA thing can’t happen right now . . . maybe that’s hoping for too much, too soon.

I’m kind of freaked out today . . . feeling depressed, panicked and hopeless . . .

I’ll take some time this weekend to rework my budget. I haven’t reworked it in a while . . . maybe I’ll find a little pocket of spare money somewhere . . .

Most likely, I’ll just empty out my bank account and pay the taxes as quickly as I can, and just pray and hope that nothing unexpected happens during the time it takes for me to get a little buffer built back up in my bank account. I don’t have a better plan . . .

This won’t be the first time I’ve lived on a wing and a prayer . . . I’m pretty good at doing that . . .


I had a lesson with Renee this afternoon. Incidentally, she showed up right on-time today . . .

As soon as she sat down at the piano, she excitedly told me about her choir concert scheduled for 6:30 this evening. She said that her dad and step-mom were going to be there but that she hadn’t even bothered to invite her mom . . . her mom never comes and it hurts too much to invite her and then have her not show up . . . it is less painful to just not invite her . . .

Renee then asked me if I would be interested in coming to the concert . . . she really wanted me to be there.

Normally, my weekday evening schedule is so full that there is no way I could simply drop everything and go to a concert with only a three-hour notice. However, I had set aside an hour this evening for an “open house” chamber event. I knew I could get by with staying at the event for far less than an hour . . .

I had a lesson scheduled for 6:30 . . . if that student could move her lesson to an earlier time, I could stop into the chamber event for a few minutes, teach the rescheduled lesson and still make it to Renee’s concert at 6:30. I explained all this to Renee and told her I would do my best to be at her concert . . . but no promises . . .

Before we settled into Renee’s lesson, I sent a text to the mother of the gal with a lesson scheduled for 6:30, asking to reschedule . . .

I hadn’t heard back on the text message by the time Renee’s lesson ended and her step-mom, April, showed up to take her home. When April heard I was trying to rearrange my schedule to be able to go to the concert, she seemed surprised and very appreciative. I told her that I’d text her when I knew for sure whether I’d be there or not.

Shortly after they left, I heard back on the text message . . . yes, they could reschedule to 5:40. I sent a quick message to April letting her know I’d be at the concert. Then, I followed the rearranged schedule:

4:15 – another regularly scheduled lesson
5:00 – head to the chamber event
5:25 – head back to the studio
5:40 – teach the rescheduled lesson
6:15 – head to the concert

Fortunately, all three venues (my studio, the concert and the chamber event) were within a few blocks of each other. I didn’t have to waste much time on commuting. (That’s a distinct advantage of living in a small town!)

When I got to the school, I didn’t take a seat . . . I really didn’t want to stay for the whole concert (three choirs), just Renee’s choir. I picked a spot to stand against the back wall.

When I showed up, Renee’s choir (6th grade choir) was already sitting on the stage even though the concert was still several minutes from starting. Renee and the girl sitting next to her saw me come in and they waved at me from the stage. Then, her dad and step-mom turned around in their seats and waved to me. I’m glad they all saw that I had shown up. I think it is important they saw me.

Her choir performed quite well; I was impressed! They finished and were off the stage by around 6:55. At that point, I headed home as I had plenty of things on my “to do” list for the evening.

Renee has very few adults who show up for her in a consistent and meaningful way. I’m glad I could be one adult who cared enough to show up, at least this one time. She needs all the support she can get!


This evening, I was watching Dr. Drew’s talk show. He was talking about how his clients who have experienced trauma usually need to create a cohesive narrative around what happened as a part of their healing. It helps them put the pieces together and it helps them start making sense of it. He said it is a critical step in his clients’ healing journey.

I realized that that’s what I’m doing through therapy and especially through my blog . . . I’m creating my own cohesive narrative. Obviously, there are still holes in the narrative, but I can see that my healing is furthest along in the areas for which I’ve been able to create that cohesive narrative. I like that term . . . and I like the concept. I think I’ll keep it in my toolbox.


Tonight at bedtime, as I was getting ready to shut off the light and hunker down under the covers, I checked my email . . .

Lori had responded to my email . . .

She began her email with these words:

Hey Marie,

Thanks so much for sharing your story with me. I love hearing people’s stories and consider it such an honor. Thanks for trusting me. I know it does not come easy!

I am overwhelmed at your resiliency and desire to heal and make a better life! So many people would give up and be satisfied with a meager existence. You have so much courage! Also, you do a truly wonderful job with the kids. It is amazing to see that something that introduced you to so much pain can also be a tool of blessing to others and healing as well!

She went on to share her own story of childhood abuse . . .

Then, she concluded with these words:

If you ever want to chat or grab a cup of coffee, I would love to! I hate surface-y friendships as well! My husband says I swim in deep waters too often and I should come hang out in the shallow end. Although he is not shallow! I just have a busy brain like my daughter! : )

I wish you much peace and healing! You have so much to offer the world!


How neat! It would be neat to have a friendship with someone with whom I share a similar history . . . someone who really understands what it is like to walk in my shoes.

I’m not going to respond tonight because my brain is fried . . . I want to provide a thoughtful response and I’m not up to doing that tonight . . . but I will respond once I have a few spare moments . . . but, right now, I’m turning off the light and going to sleep!


Posted by: Marie | December 7, 2014

(971) Reaching out

Post #971
[Private journal entry written on Monday, October 8, 2012]

In the days since my therapy session, I have been wondering what Edward must be thinking about what happened between us . . . his being willing to hold me and my telling him that I had no idea how one does something like that. I wonder if he is shocked that someone can be as old as I am and not yet know how to position her body in order to allow herself to be held.

I wonder if, when he goes home to his family, he is consciously aware that the two females who are in his life – his wife and his daughter – both know what it is like to be held in an affectionate and caring way. I’m sure he is grateful that he is in a healthy enough state to provide that for them.

I’m sure that they both already know that when someone holds you, you can hear his heartbeat . . . because I’m sure he cuddles with his daughter and wife. I’m sure they both already know what it is like to feel safe and comforted while being held. I’m certain that Edward makes sure they have that experience on a regular basis.

I want to be mature about this . . . and generous . . .

I am glad for them . . . truly I am. And, I am sad for myself. And, I’m a bit jealous. I don’t want to be jealous, but I am.

It’s not that I don’t want them to have that . . . I just wish I had it as well.


One of the parents of one of my younger students is a CASA for the next county over from mine. A week or two ago, I asked her (Annette) if she would be a reference for me on my CASA application. She said she would be delighted to be a reference. She was so excited that I’m going to become a CASA . . . she said I would be a perfect fit for the position.

Well, it turns out that there is a huge fund raiser for the CASA organization and other similar/related organizations coming up this Saturday evening. It is a “top chef” event where a bunch of chefs and their crews prepare food for the event attendees and the attendees get to vote for their favorite chef. There will also be a panel of judges selecting the “top chef”, and Annette is one of the judges.


Photo by Martin Chen

Annette and her husband purchased a whole table of seats, and because she is a judge, the table is located right up at the front of the venue. Now, purchasing a whole table of seats is not a small deal . . . I think the tickets are something like $50 a seat, or maybe more. And, there are like nine seats per table, I think. So, that’s a considerable amount to spend.

Anyway, Annette asked me if I would like one of the seats . . . she offered it to me as a gift since this event would allow me to interact with the “powers that be” in the network of child abuse prevention agencies. She felt it would be good for me to meet some of the main players.

Of course, I jumped at the chance!

She told me that she would hold a second ticket for me for 24 hours . . . if I could find someone to go with me . . . but, after 24 hours, she would pass it along to someone else.

I contacted Cindy (the paramedic) and I contacted one other parent with whom I’ve developed a friendship. Neither of those ladies could go. So, I guess I’m going stag . . . which doesn’t bother me one bit as I’m rather used to showing up places by myself. It’s a comfortable zone for me.

So, those are my big plans for Saturday evening . . . guess I’ll have to go dig in my closet for fancy clothes . . . it is a “dress to the nines” event . . . not sure what I have that I can wear . . . guess I have a few days to figure it out . . .

I think it’s going to be a blast! I’m really looking forward to it!


One of my students has some unusual learning challenges. The experts have been unable to map his disability to a particular disorder. He has the sensory overload issues – including a low ability to focus in on one specific stimuli while tuning out others. So, that part of the disorder is similar to what kids with autism experience. However, he has none of the interpersonal challenges and behaviors that are usually seen with autism . . . it’s clear that he is not on the autism spectrum. But, the experts really don’t know what is going on with him.

I have been working with him despite the fact he is only four years old. The earliest I normally will start lessons with a child is age six. However, I believe there are some developmental benefits that music will provide for this little guy that will be critical at this point in his development. His mom, Lori, was referred to me by some other parents specifically because they felt I could help this little boy with his development of certain skills. I agreed to work with him to see if I could help him.

I did some informal testing with him to find out which of his music-related skills are already strong and which components of his learning ability are lagging. It turns out that he is very sensitive to color, including the various shades and tones of each color. His color-related vocabulary is incredibly impressive.

When it comes to numbers, he can associate a number he hears spoken out loud with a specific finger or number of beats. However, if I ask him to write down the number of the finger I’m holding up, he is unable to do that. If I write down a number and ask him to play a note that many times, he is unable to do that. However, if we do the same things using just our voices and our ears, he is easily able to do those exercises.

All the kids in his family are home schooled. So, I was surprised when Lori told me she was not aware that the break-down in his comprehension of numbers is in the visual component while his auditory abilities are very strong. She wanted me to explain how I had tested for that so she could do further testing at home. Of course, I showed her. She was grateful to have that information.

Anyway, I have been pondering how to best set up a learning system for him. Obviously, we should use his auditory skills as a pathway for teaching him new material. And, we should use color coding to enhance the visual aspects of reading music.

This week, at some point in my pondering, I remembered a color-coded learning system I developed several years ago for my autistic student, Matt. The system did not worked well for Matt because Matt’s perfect pitch over-rode the color-coded pathway of learning. Once I knew the system was not going to work for Matt, I stuck it on a shelf and didn’t use it again . . . until now. I’m betting that the system I created for Matt will be ideal for this little guy.

Today, at his lesson, I showed it to him. He fell in love with the color coding and was able to immediately start playing the songs, almost without mistake. He was so excited because he loves music and he has been wanting to play “real” songs on the piano for a long time like his siblings. He almost couldn’t sit still long enough to play a song because he was so excited. Both his mom and I were awestruck and we both were fighting back tears . . .

He was in a world of his own, playing song after song . . . he didn’t need our help . . . at least not for a few minutes . . . so, Lori and I sat back and visited a little bit. She asked me what education or training had taught me how to figure this stuff out for my students (she was wanting to know if the training would be available to her) . . . I hesitated a bit before I answered . . .

She is a pastor’s wife . . . and I’m always a bit leery about talking about my paranormal experiences with evangelical Christians . . . I really didn’t want to open that can of worms with her . . .

But, I finally decided that I believed she would be respectful of what I had to say . . . I didn’t think she would try to cram her beliefs down my throat . . . her vibe indicated that she would be cool about it . . .

So, I told her how I have no training but that my intuition is very strong and how I often hear angels whispering in my ear, telling me what to do . . .

Her mouth dropped open . . . she said she absolutely believes in intuition and in angels helping us out in that way.

She then asked how it is possible that I have no education or training in working with special needs students . . . hadn’t my general music education touched on that?

I explained that I have no music education, either . . . that I only had four years of lessons as a kid . . . and a few lessons with Matt’s mom in the last year or two . . . that I had never intended to be a piano teacher, I just fell into it due to a series of serendipitous events.

That made Lori all the more curious and she started asking me a million questions about how I ended up as a piano teacher. The conversation started getting into territory that was not appropriate for young ears. So, I asked Lori if she was pretty open-minded . . . if much shocked her . . . she said that very little shocks her and that she is very open-minded . . . that, as a pastor’s wife, she has been exposed to more than I could imagine.

I offered to email my story to her, including the parts I felt I couldn’t discuss while the kids were nearby. She said that would be great. So, this afternoon, I sent her the 13-page document that summarizes my story.

I guess we’ll see what that brings . . . I hope it is not offensive to her . . . she seems pretty cool . . . I guess time will tell.


Posted by: Marie | December 5, 2014

(970) The power of a simple heartbeat – Part 4 of 4

Post #970
[Private journal entry written on Friday, October 5, 2012 about a conversation with my therapist – continued from previous post]


Me: I would like . . . (sob) . . . I want you to . . . I would like for you to move closer to me . . . I want to feel safe . . . with you . . .

Edward: Oh . . . would you like for me to come over there and sit on the couch next to you?

(I nodded . . . and sobbed . . . )

Edward: Okay . . .

(He cautiously moved over to the couch and sat down to the right of me with about an arm’s length between us. I remained up against the arm of the couch, sitting up very straight, my body rigidly facing forward with both hands on my knees . . . I could hardly bear to turn my head to look at him . . . )

Edward: Is this okay?

(I nodded . . . )

Edward: Do you want to keep some space between us or would you like there to physical contact between us?


Photo by Martin Chen

(I could feel a sense of panic coming over me . . . I was desperately afraid of what would happen if I told him what I really wanted . . . I desperately wanted to tell him anyway . . . I pulled together as much courage as I possessed . . . )

Me: (Whispering) I would like there to be physical contact.

Edward: (Carefully putting his left arm on the back of the couch behind me) Okay . . . whenever you are ready, you can move in towards me . . . where would you like to sit?

Me: (Getting hit hard with sobs) Is it really okay for me to touch you?

Edward: Yes, it is okay. You can touch me.

Me: Really?

Edward: Yes, really.

Me: (More sobs) I’ve never done this before . . . (sob)

Edward: That’s okay . . .

Me: (Hiccup/sob) But, I don’t know how to do it . . .

Edward: What do you mean?


The simplest answer would have been to say, “I’ve never ‘just cuddled’ with someone” or “I’ve never been ‘held’” . . . but there is no way in hell I could ever use words like that . . . they are far too loaded with shame . . .

How can I possibly find the words to explain that I don’t have the faintest idea how to have physical contact with a man without there being a sexual component to my behavior? If I screw this up – if I do something that causes Edward to think I’m coming onto him – I’ll lose the one relationship that is giving me hope. I can’t afford to screw this up.

I struggled to find a “safe” way to answer his question . . .

Before I attempted to speak again, I took some deep breaths to try to calm down a bit and to stop my hyperventilating . . .


Me: Like (sob) . . . I don’t where to put my body . . . where does my head go? Where do my shoulder and arm go? I’ve never done this before . . . I need you to help me figure it out.

Edward: I would be happy to help you figure it out.

Would you like to lean away from me or lean towards me . . . or maybe just sit side-by-side, facing forward?

Me: I would like to lean towards you.


Edward had been sitting up straight. His posture felt so “formal” to me that I felt I would have had to also sit up straight, which meant, in order to have physical contact with him, I would have had to scoot my entire trunk close to him. I was overwhelmed by the idea of that much of our bodies touching.

As if he read my mind, Edward scooted his buttocks closer to the front of the couch – just a tad – so that he was slouching a little bit. He kept his arm on the back of the couch while he turned his knees towards me a little so there was a scooped-out cubbyhole place for me. Because he was now slouching slightly, it would be possible for me to keep the lower half of my body a ways away from him as I leaned the upper part of my body in towards him.


Edward: (Patting his chest with his right hand) You could put your head right here . . .

Me: Okay . . .

(I took a breath and prepared to move towards him . . . froze up . . . sobbed a little . . . took another deep breath . . . another attempt . . . froze up again . . . )

Me: Phew . . . this is tough . . .

Edward: You don’t have to do it . . . it might be too much, too quickly . . .

Me: I want to do it . . .

Edward: Okay . . . take your time . . . there’s no hurry . . .


I had been keeping my left hand on my face – covering my mouth when I sobbed, covering my eyes when a new wave of emotion hit. I kept my hand on my face as I took another deep breath and carefully scooted my way towards him. I closed half of the gap between us with my lower body.

Then, I kind of fell over sideways, in towards him, and put my head on his chest while supporting most of my weight on my right elbow. He weighs a lot less than I do and I was afraid I would squash him if I put my weight on him. I ended up halfway lying down, halfway sitting up. The only part of me that had contact with him was the right side of my face and my right neck/shoulder. It was an awkward position, to say the least.

As soon as I got into that position, big, loud sobs tore out of my body – I continued to cover my mouth with my hand as each sob escaped. Edward put his left arm and hand on my left shoulder. He patted my shoulder a few times, then lightly rubbed his fingertips in small circles on my shoulder . . .

I heard him say, “It’s okay . . . you’re safe, little girl . . . it’s okay to cry . . . go ahead and let all those emotions come out . . . I’m protecting you . . . I have you . . . you are safe . . . ” That brought fresh sobs.

Within a couple of minutes, I felt the terror drain out of me. A sense of peace and safety moved in, all over my body. My breathing eased up . . . I felt my spirit move further into the core of my physical body . . . I became aware of the vitality of Edward’s body . . . in my “feeling safe” fantasies, the man’s body always has a quality of inanimateness . . . I was surprised at how alive and real – although relatively cool – Edward’s body felt . . . I was clearly aware that he is a physically separate being with his own will and autonomous movement, rather than an enmeshed figment of my imagination.

In my fantasies, the men have to follow the dictates of my fantasy. They have no free will. And, they always disappear into thin air when I get to the part where I want them to hold me in a safe way. They disappear and I’m left behind, stuck in my place of terror.

Yet, here, in real life, Edward was holding me . . . for real. He’s very much alive, he very much was freely choosing to engage with me in this way. He didn’t disappear.

I felt his hand gently shift from my shoulder to the back of my head . . . just above my neck . . . he lightly stroked my hair a few times with his fingertips before cradling my skull with his hand.


Me: I can hear your heartbeat.

Edward: Yes . . . you can hear my heartbeat! How about that!

Me: That’s weird . . . I hadn’t thought about that being the case . . . I mean, it’s weird in a good way . . .

(Edward laughed a little – I could hear his breath and his laugh through his chest. We sat like that for maybe three or four minutes (or less? It was so hard to measure time in that situation, it moved so slowly) . . . until the fear I might overstay my welcome became too intense for me and I sat up. As soon as I sat up, he moved back to his chair – I think he could sense that I needed space again. We settled back into our respective spaces . . . and I realized I had snot running down my face . . . )

Me: Did I get snot on your shirt?

Edward: I don’t think so . . . and, if you did, it doesn’t matter . . . the shirt is washable. It doesn’t matter, either way.

How are you feeling?

Me: I actually feel relatively good . . .

Thank you for that . . . wow . . . that was an intense experience . . . weird . . . really weird . . . but, in a good way . . .

Edward: Good. I’m glad. Congratulations on taking such a brave step!

Me: Thank you for being willing to support me in that way.

Edward: You’re very welcome!

Where are you in the processing of that memory?

Me: I’m feeling pretty calm . . . settled . . . I would say that there is a sense of completion, to a significant degree. I’m not in that fragile place I was in when I walked in here this morning.

Edward: That’s awesome!

Me: (Reaching into my bag for the hand lotion) So . . . you were saying that you wanted to say something to my dad . . . ?? I kind of interrupted you . . .

Edward: Oh, that’s fine! I’m glad you did! I always prefer going with whatever comes up organically.

Me: (Rubbing lotion all over my face, especially on very irritated skin around my eyes and nose) Me, too.

So, do you still want to talk to my dad?

Edward: I do, but I don’t think we have enough time left today to get into in a way that would honor the process. I’d like to save it for another day.

Me: Oh . . okay . . . I guess I lost track of time! I didn’t realize our time is almost gone.

Edward: It’s my job to watch the time . . . so it’s fine that you weren’t watching it.

Me: Thanks!

Since we have a couple of minutes left, let me update you on Renee, my student whose dad spoke to me about feeling like he was “losing her” . . .

Edward: Oh, sure! I remember you talking about her . . .


I told him about her wanting to play in the recital and her recently improved attitude . . . and how emotional I am about her participating in the recital – and it’s still six weeks out. I wonder . . . how big of a mess will I be on the day of the recital . . . ??

Then, we said our good-byes . . . Edward asked me to call him later in the day to let him know how I was doing. He said he was concerned about me, given the intensity of the session. I promised him I would do so.

And that wrapped up our session. I packed up my stuff. As I walked towards his office door, he asked if I would like a hug – of course I wanted one! Then, I headed out into the daylight . . .

After I got back home, I took it easy for a while . . . I didn’t take a nap, though, I just snuggled up with the cat and watched TV.

About 3pm, I left a voicemail for Edward telling him that I was a bit tired but that I was experiencing a sense of completion around the memory. I told him I was feeling settled and calm . . . connected and comforted.

Shortly after leaving the voicemail, I got dressed and headed over to the studio for lessons with two sisters. Other than an hour of lessons, I had a pretty relaxed evening . . . a nice way to end a tremendously meaningful day.


Posted by: Marie | December 4, 2014

(969) The power of a simple heartbeat – Part 3 of 4

Post #969
[Private journal entry written on Friday, October 5, 2012 about a conversation with my therapist – continued from previous post]


Edward: (After a pause) You said that you know things will be bad if you hear your dad ask where you are . . .

Me: Yes . . .

Edward: Let’s say that you just heard him ask where you are . . . what happens then?

Me: He is walking back to my bedroom . . .

(I focused in on my senses . . . how did I know he was coming . . . could I hear his boots on the floor? Wait . . . was there carpet on the floor or did we have hardwood floors . . . ?? Maybe it isn’t something I hear . . . maybe I can just feel the energy of his body getting closer . . . )


Photo by Martin Chen

Edward: (Interrupting my thoughts) What happens when he gets to the door of your bedroom?

Me: I don’t know . . . I don’t know . . .

I’m getting angry with you again for asking questions I don’t have answers for . . .

Edward: Would you like to stop? We can stop . . .

Me: No . . . I’m okay. I want to keep going . . .

Edward: Okay . . . take your time . . . we have all the time we need . . . I’m still here with you . . . you are safe . . .

(I nodded my head in acknowledgement . . . then I refocused my attention back to my body memories . . . I kept trying to feel what would happen next, but things kept going fuzzy and gray . . . I’d back up and try again . . . the same thing would happen again . . . again and again . . . until my ability to remain connected with my body dissolved and I started floating . . . I felt my body slide down even further into the corner of the couch, into the fetal position with my head on the arm of the couch . . . I was trying to become as small as possible . . . )

Edward: Where are you? Are you still hiding or have you gone away?

Me: (Letting out a groan) I’m not sure . . . I can’t remember what happens . . . I mean, I have little snippets of memory captured from a distance, but I can’t remember the details of what happens next. I’m fighting to stay here, but I’ve gone a little bit numb . . . I’m floating a little bit.

(I spent the next few minutes with my eyes closed, trying to ground myself again. I felt the tension start to drain out of my body. My body went limp. I was so tired . . . I knew I needed to say something to Edward . . . check back in with him . . . )

Edward: Where are you now? Can you tell me?

Me: I want to sleep.

Edward: Tell me more about that . . . what’s happening with your body? Is it easier for you to breathe now?

Me: Yes . . .

(After a thoughtful pause) I hurt.

Edward: Your body hurts?

Me: Yes.

Edward: Where does your body hurt? Does your bottom hurt? The backs of your legs?

Me: No . . . the inside of my body.

Edward: What part of the inside of your body hurts?

Me: My lungs are burning . . . my muscles are exhausted.

Edward: What do you mean your lungs are burning?

Me: You know how you feel after you’ve run a long way and you’ve had to breath really hard for a long time . . . and your lungs burn from trying to pull oxygen from the air . . . ??

Edward: Yes.

Me: That’s what I mean.

Edward: Tell me about your muscles being exhausted . . .

Me: They are tired from being so tense . . . and frozen . . . they are tired from having to fight . . . not fighting to stop the bad stuff, just fighting to be compliant without being annihilated.

Edward: Is your dad still with you?

Me: No, I’m alone . . . I’m in the time afterward . . . it’s all over . . . it’s the time after. I’m trying to pull the pieces of myself back together again – I’m trying to find all the pieces.

Edward: Can you tell me what happened when your dad came into your room?

Me: No . . . I can’t remember that part . . . I kind of skipped over it just now and fast-forwarded to the time afterward . . . the main part of what happened didn’t get recorded in my memory, I guess.

Edward: Is there pain on the outside of your body?

Me: No.

Edward: Do you think you don’t feel pain on the outside of your body because there is no pain there to be felt or because you cannot feel that part of your body?

Me: I’m not feeling that part of my body . . . right now, I’m only my head, lungs and heart . . . and I have a general sense of my muscles.

Edward: Do you think you maybe dissociated during that time?

Me: Yeah . . . that’s probably why I don’t feel any pain on the outside of my body.

Edward: You are probably correct . . .

Now that it is over, are you able to leave your bedroom and join your family again?

Me: Well . . . I can once I pull myself together and can behave appropriately . . .

Edward: Once you can act like nothing happened?

Me: Yeah . . . once I can be compliant and “good”.

Edward: How do feel as you are trying to pull yourself together?

Me: I’m just numb – or I want to go numb. I don’t really want to pull myself together . . . it is less painful to stay in my room . . . to be numb . . . I only pull myself together and go out to be with my family when I am commanded to do so.

Edward: That seems like a very lonely place – a painful, lonely place.

(I nodded my head)

Edward: Have you ever wanted to just want to run away from it all?

Me: Maybe . . . I guess sometimes . . .

Edward: (A tad playful, like we were kids having a childish conversation) Where would you like to run away to? There are so many places to choose from . . . where would you like to go?

(I realized that I really had no desire to “run away” . . . rather, my desire was to die. I understand he was trying to be helpful . . . but . . . )

Me: (With another wave of sad tears) I want to go nowhere . . . I don’t want to run away; rather, I don’t want to “be” at all . . . I’m sorry . . . I can’t play your game with you . . . I don’t want to run away . . . I want to die.

Edward: Okay . . . I’m not sure what you mean by “my game” . . . what game is that?

Me: The game where you’re trying to get me to be playful, like a child . . . when you’re trying to get me to play a fun game of “pretend we can really run away” . . . I’m not able to be playful when I’m feeling the weight of wanting to die.

Edward: Oh . . . okay. That’s okay . . . you don’t have to be playful. There is space here for you to feel the pain of wanting to die . . .

And, of course it makes perfect sense that you would want to die . . . can you tell me what relief dying would bring to you?

Me: It’s not so much that I really want to die; I just don’t want to exist at all.

If I die – or if I didn’t exist at all – I wouldn’t have to experience the pain. I wouldn’t have to experience anything – good or bad. I’d rather feel nothing than to experience what I’m experiencing.

Edward: Of course feeling nothing is preferable to feeling this much pain.

Marie, I am so sorry that there wasn’t someone there with you to comfort you in those painful moments. There should have been someone there for you – someone to hold you safely and take your pain seriously . . .

(That comment struck me hard . . . and I started going through the list of people who might have provided that comfort . . . my mom? No, she was a source of abuse, not a source of comfort. My sister? No, she would rather get me into trouble and then rub my nose in it . . . and there was no one else around . . . )

Me: (With a new rush of painful emotion) But, who would do that for me? There is no one to do that.

Edward: Would you like for me to do that for you?

(That took my breath away . . . I did want him to do that . . . I wanted him to hold me and comfort me . . . but . . . that’s only a fantasy . . . but maybe not . . . I decided to say “yes” and see what happens . . . I nodded my head . . . )

Edward: You didn’t deserve to be treated that way – you deserved to have someone protect you. And, you deserved to have your pain taken seriously . . . you deserved to have someone there with you, comforting you, when you were experiencing pain . . .

(Once again, emotions overtook me . . . the craving to have someone hold me – to feel safe – was so strong. I sobbed a bit . . . then caught my breath again . . . but Edward had already moved on to a new topic . . . he was sitting all the way back in his chair . . . he was so far away . . . )

Edward: There are some things I would like to say to your dad . . . would that be okay? Would you still feel safe if I did that?


I realized he must not have been offering to hold me; rather, he must have been offering words of comfort and to take my pain seriously. My heart sunk . . . the window of opportunity had passed . . .

I nodded my head in response to his question about his saying some things to my dad . . . what else could I do?

Then, I got hit with another overwhelming wave of needing to have the physical contact and wanting to feel safe . . . I struggled with my breathing . . . more tears came . . .

Several months ago, I had asked Edward if it would be okay for me to move in close to him and place my head on his knee or shoulder, should I ever get brave enough to do so . . . he said it would be okay . . .

I’ve never acted on that . . . but now, my need for that kind of physical contact with him was unbearably strong. I decided to ask for that kind of contact . . . I took a deep breath and tried to form the words . . . I couldn’t . . . I took another deep breath . . . another . . . Edward watched me with concern as I struggled to speak . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


Posted by: Marie | December 3, 2014

(968) The power of a simple heartbeat – Part 2 of 4

Post #968
[Private journal entry written on Friday, October 5, 2012 about a conversation with my therapist – continued from previous post]


Edward: Tell me more about that sense of fragility . . .

Me: (With a wry laugh) Well, I started my therapy session without you . . .

Edward: (With a gentle laugh) Oh, really . . . ??

Me: Yeah . . . it started about three- or four-o’clock this morning . . . and I even had trouble holding it together while waiting for you downstairs . . . I’m afraid I’m a bit of a mess . . .

(As I struggled to control the arrival of new tears, I told him about my efforts to build my tolerance of the heavy feelings and about this morning’s flood of body memories. At some point in my monologue, I noticed that Edward was sitting on the front edge of his chair, leaning forward towards me. I was comforted by him being just that little bit closer to me.)


Photo by Martin Chen

Me: I don’t really know where this is coming from . . . I don’t know if it has to do with the sexual abuse or from my dad . . . I can’t pull up any specific memories associated with the feelings in my body.

Edward: It sounds to me that you are stuck in a loop . . . that you haven’t been able to move through the memory to bring it to completion. Is that a possibility?

Me: Yeah, that does sound accurate.

Edward: Would you like to see if we can move you through the memory so you can experience a sense of completion – at least to some extent – around it?

Me: Yes, I would.

Edward: I’d like to start by asking you some questions about what you are experiencing – would that be okay?

Me: Sure . . .

Edward: Can you tell me . . . are there any words that go with those feelings?

(When I thought about using words to express what I was feeling, I was hit with a sense of paralysis. I froze up. It’s all I could do to shake my head and whisper, “No”)

Edward: Okay . . . let’s try something . . .

Where in your body are you feeling the terror?

Me: I feel it in my chest and neck . . . like in my lungs and throat . . .

Edward: Can you put your hand where you feel it . . . ?? (Demonstrating with his own body)

(I nodded my head and placed my hand around my neck, almost like I was choking, but a little bit lower.)

Edward: Is it in your throat?

Me: No, it is lower . . . like around my collarbone.

Edward: Okay . . . if you feel comfortable doing so, I’d like for you to close your eyes . . . and keep your hand on that spot . . . would that be okay?

Me: Yes. (I closed my eyes.)

Edward: Good . . . you’re being so brave . . . I’m here with you, you are safe . . . I’m right here with you, protecting you . . . you’re doing well . . .

Can you tell me more about the body memories . . . can you describe them to me?

Me: I’m feeling waves of terror . . . I get a burst of adrenaline, my heart starts racing . . . I feel like I can’t get enough air . . .

Edward: With your breathing . . . does it feel like your choking or that your airway is closed off?


I closed my eyes and tried to listen to my body . . . to gather the information I needed in order to answer his question . . . but, I couldn’t find the answer. I felt anger rise up. I buried my face in my hand as a couple of sobs escaped.

I heard Edward moving around in his chair – I didn’t open my eyes, but it sounded like he was leaning forward in his chair, as he had been before. I was glad. I needed him close.


Me: (After a few moments) I’m feeling anger towards you . . . I don’t have a good reason to feel that, but that’s what I’m feeling . . .

Edward: Tell me more about that . . . what are you wanting to say to me? It is okay if the words don’t fit the situation . . . they don’t have to.

Me: I want to tell you that I don’t have the answers . . . I want you to stop pushing me to have all the answers . . .

Edward: Does it feel like I’m pushing you to have the answers?

Me: Logically, I know you aren’t . . . but I feel threatened by your questions . . . but, that’s just old stuff coming up for me . . . I’m okay . . . let’s keep going . . .

Edward: Okay . . . but you don’t have to . . . we can stop at any time.

Me: Thank you . . . I do know that . . .

So, to answer your question . . . I don’t feel like I’m choking . . . I can get air in and out . . . it’s more like the air is thick . . . I can’t get enough oxygen . . . I can get enough air but the air doesn’t have enough oxygen so I have breath heavily in order to get enough oxygen.

(After some more reflection) Um . . . do you know what it feels like when you’ve been under a blanket for a while . . . the carbon dioxide builds up and the oxygen starts running low . . . how you have to take in more air in order to get enough oxygen . . . ??

Edward: Sure . . .

Me: That’s what it feels like . . . like there’s not enough oxygen in the air.

Edward: Okay . . . I understand.

Can you tell me about the position of your body? Are you lying down, are you sitting up or standing up?

Me: (After a reflective pause) Um . . . I’m not lying down . . . I’m sitting up . . . with my legs under me . . .

Edward: Like you are sitting now or more like in a position of prayer?

Me: More like I’m praying . . . but sitting on my heels.

Edward: Would it be beneficial for you to move into that position?

Me: I’m not able to because of my weight.

Edward: Because it would hurt your knees?

Me: Yes . . . and my legs would go to sleep. But, I can stay like I am . . . my current position is close enough to the memory that I can make it work.

Edward: Okay . . .

(I took a breath, shut my eyes and again turned my focus onto the feelings in my body . . . )

Me: I think I’m under a blanket, actually . . . I’m hiding . . . like maybe I’m under my bedcovers . . . or hiding among the clothes in my closet . . . no, wait . . . it’s more like I’m kneeling on the floor at the foot-end of my bed . . . with the covers pulled off the bed and over me . . .

Edward: What is the state of your body . . . ?? Is it limp? Tense? Are you numb? Are you stationary or in motion?

Me: Um . . . I’m tense . . . hiding . . . waiting . . . I’m by myself and I’m waiting for something to happen . . . something bad . . .

I’m by myself and I’m waiting for someone to show up . . .

I’m not sure who I’m waiting for . . . I’m guessing my dad . . . and that would make sense, since I’m in my bedroom . . .

Edward: Are you frozen? Or hyper-alert? Or maybe dissociated from your body?

Me: I’m not dissociating . . . but I am hyper-alert . . . frozen . . . too terrified to move . . . all I can do is wait . . . frozen . . . paralyzed . . .

I’m trying to be as quiet as possible . . . I’m trying to hear what’s happening in the main part of the house . . . so maybe they will forget about me and nothing bad will happen . . . I’m trying to determine my dad’s mood . . . if I hear him ask where I’m at, then I know it’s going to be bad.

I have to be quiet . . . I have to not make any noise when I breath . . . even though my heart is racing and I’m breathing heavily . . . that’s why I can get enough oxygen . . . it’s because I can’t allow myself to make noise when I breath so I can’t breath as deeply as I need to . . . that’s what the suffocating feeling is about . . .

Edward: How awful to not be able to allow yourself to breath . . . to not even allow yourself to meet such a basic life-sustaining need . . . ouch!


[Continued in the next post . . . ]


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