Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Shake it Off ? CAN'T!

Some things happen to you - that you can't wash off.  And some things happen in the world that you can't shake off.  Through all of life's encounters, phases and journeys, that which has happened to you shall become your history, your own story and much of who you are.  Should you ever try to ignore truths in an attempt to deny your past or just to cope with it, the end game will not change. It's just a matter of how deep you want to go into the realm of reflection. 

Whatever has happened to you, will translate into who you are and who you become.  Consciously or subconsciously.  Not being of the medical or psychological profession, I can only surmise my conclusions from what I've seen around me, in my own life and the lives of others.  

In a week encompassed by media coverage of celebrity suicide, international siege and small town unrest, I can't help but reflect on how all this effects me.  And it certainly has effected me.  Too many people would like to shake it off - turning the page of the newspaper or changing the news channel of their television sets.  With me, it brings things up on a regular basis.  It makes me think of life in general and in detail.  It also reminds me to pray.

Actor comedienne Robin William died.  May his memory be for a blessing.  News reports proclaimed it a suicide.  For days, the media leaked bits and pieces of a life most did not know - one of addiction, depression and Parkinson's disease.  Labels were thrown at us as we searched to make sense of a death.  Reading of what had transpired in the all too lonely life of this public figure, I was reminded of my own experiences.  How could I not be?

People suffer.  Some in numbers.  And some people suffer in solitude.  You can carry a pain in your heart that overcomes any physical pain imaginable.  And you can just want that pain to end.  I was there.  At that low point in my life.  I remember a time when I thought I could not breathe, nor survive a day, without my sons in my life.  At 14 and 17 years of age, my sons and I became victims of Parental Alienation.  Their father was able to manipulate them out of my life during my divorce proceeding, via lie after lie after lie.  Unable to defend myself against so many untruths, never given the chance, the estrangement was deafening. Once in their late teens and early twenties, the abuse by my sons was unbearable.  I was sent emails and private messages daring me to kill myself.  One son told me to buy a gun and shoot my brains out - that pills were for wusses and that I did not deserve to live.  Another blackmailed me for thousands of dollars in order to "possibly" see him again -  yes, this was a time of hell on earth. I was afraid to live with the pain and disappointment that swelled in my heart. I almost didn't survive it. And I can't wash off the memories or shake them.

I did learn to live with them.  Hearing of Mr. William's publicly exposed suicide reminded me all to well of how strong I have become.  The need to expose suicide, eliminate the stigma of depression, is all too real for me.  It is imperative to talk about it. What we can take away from this tragedy is of utmost importance.  Hear your friend, your family member, your neighbor, and even that stranger you encounter.  Listen for their need of help or assistance.  Tell them you care.  And if you are suffering through an insurmountable amount of emotional pain, I find that the best way to lift your spirits - is by bending down to lift up someone else's. Isolation and withdrawal will not rescue someone's soul. Years ago, when I thought my own life didn't matter (if I wasn't a "mother" - what was I?), I began volunteering as a Soldiers' Angel.  I gave emotional support to our troops, as well as organized care packages sent to them in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And with a letter writing team, I learned the importance of just being there.  I also volunteered with the elderly, mostly Holocaust survivors.  It was there that I truly learned the importance of just listening.  As they told me their Holocaust and WWII stories of survival, I realized the miracle of strength they all had - and the importance of telling their histories.  They knew that I cared and admired them.  Just by listening.  I volunteered in food pantries, domestic violence shelters (where I was once a client), and in children's programs (oh! to see those young faces!).  Spirits can be lifted in the most unlikely places.  I was helping others, as I helped myself.  I re-invented myself as a warrior of sorts, too. And in learning to reach out, I realized I was never alone.   Life really is a two way street. 

All these thoughts and more resurfaced during the news barrage surrounding Robin William's death.  I couldn't shake it off.  I didn't want to. I was reminded of all the lessons I had learned and all the good that came from them.  

And today I read more about the siege - as airstrikes were claimed to be within the constraints of a limited campaign to break the siege of stranded Yazidis on Mount Sinjar.  I pray not only for the protection of American personnel and all the innocent people stranded in the siege.  I pray for the freedom and safety which is so at stake.  Evil is all too evident in our world.  As the days progress, what is happening to those people on Mount Sinjar?  Dropping water, food and supplies is not enough.  What next?  We cannot look away.  We should not shake it off.  Remember....first they come for the Saturday people.  Then they will come for the Sunday people.  Who is next, in this disaster of evil takeovers?  Involvement is key, support of the good and innocent is imperative.  No, you can't just shake it off and ignore it.

Then there is Ferguson.   Ferguson, Missouri.   Had you even heard of that town until the murder of a young man occurred there?  A death by a gunman - a police officer.  This is especially difficult for me to deal with.  Unjust, prejudice, descrimination?  Or self defense?  I'm reading and registering the facts that are disclosed.  Most disturbing these days is the way in which their local police force has dealt with their other citizens - those who want to have a voice in the pursuit of justice.  

If it weren't for my confidence in my own local police department - I would not be writing.  As a survivor of domestic violence, my safety is always an issue.  As long as my ex walks this planet, I will always have to look over my shoulder.  I never feel safe, but the officers in my present town are the best.  It wasn't always like that for me.  I can remember a time when I lived in a Westchester suburb of New York, and the police were called to my home regarding the domestic violence.  With a bruised neck, and a child clinging to me - an officer of that police department looked me in the eye and told me he was not there to solve domestic disputes, he spoke to my then husband, and left. I did call his superior to complain - and was given an apology. But then the violence continued for years - I had learned that the police were not there to help me. It was an awful way to survive.

I relocated during my divorce proceeding.  Now a proud New Jersey resident, I give praise to my present police department every chance I get.  People don't always know how that comes from my heart.  Without such honorable and brave men and women, I may not be here.  And I certainly would not have the courage to share my story of surviving domestic violence in order to help others.  When I first came to New Jersey, I registered an order of protection (restraining order) against my ex husband with them - and had to explain my situation and safety concerns.  They were nothing less than understanding, supportive and patient.  With the confidence they award me, I am able to do my best in educating others so that my past does not become someone else's future.

When I read of the police enforcement, behaviors and actions in Ferguson - I thank goodness I don't live there. And for those civilians who want their voices heard - may they forever find the strength to continue in their fight for justice and truth.  A life was lost tragically.  That in association with Ferguson, Missouri, should never be shaken off and ignored.  May justice prevail.  I have learned that there is power in voices, ever since I found my own voice.  We all must keep speaking out and speaking up in the name of justice.    

We all get the same 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  What we do with it, what we take away from it, and how we are effected by it  - is all unique.  We see good and evil.  We hear of joy and heartbreak.  We can participate in "tikkun olam", a concept referring to repairing our world.  Or we can try to ignore so much of what demands attention.  I will continue to be sensitive to all that surrounds me, and participate in tikkun olam to the best of my ability.  My past has made me that way. How do things effect you?  We can choose to make positive changes from negative experiences and information.  The most important thing is that we don't try to just shake it off.  What takes place in the world, really does effect each and every one of us in different ways. We should deal with it.  And most importantly, learn from it.


Mutha said...

Semper Fi

Anonymous said...

Not even after you say uncle, my dear Julie. The father of your children is a psychopath as is the father of my children. And you are absolutely correct, we cannot shake it off. These evil creatures look and act normal, or even better than normal but it is all an act. They have no empathy, no humanity, no soul. We must keep going to stand up to and expose these monsters for what they really are and pray that eventually society will realize the harm they cause and stop them.

Ruth Ross said...

You are a very strong woman, Julie. Your story raises the hair on my head, but the woman I recently met is beautiful, strong, creative and a joy to know!

Anonymous said...

Thank you and bless you for everything you've overcome in your life - and for caring and helping others to make their lives better. Your story is inspiring - and this is a great post!

Judy said...

Julie, you continue to be an inspiration to all. Your eloquence, honesty, dignity, and pure class are a joy to behold. I was there in your darkest time and I'm so happy to see the amazing growth that has occurred. You are completely on point in this post, as in all others. We must not "shake it off" but continue to speak the truth so that others learn

Steve said...

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter". Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Paula Izzi-Reid-Firth said...

Julie, I cannot express how much you have touched my life and continue to be an inspiration living through an unimaginable ordeal. Thank you.