I’m finally ready to publicly identify myself (for those who didn’t already know) and start sharing my whole story with the world at large.
This post from my author/advocacy page outlines the very basics of my decades-long background of abuse. No triggers that I’m aware of, though future installments will likely have some.
I may maintain Gritty Momma still from time to time, but I intend to identify myself with my real name on the eponymous blog from here on out, and most of my new posts will probably show up there. Please bear with me as I figure out the best way to curate my public identity and organize my thoughts for sharing.
Blessings to all of you wonderful people I’ve met here. You’ve been nothing but very kind, insightful, and supportive, and especially during a time (little though you knew) where I had very much lost myself and was scrabbling hard in the dark to find her again.
I wish, so much, that I had it in me, then or now, to maintain close connections with all of you. You are so cool, and so soulful, and so inspiring. Part of my grappling internally has given rise to the final acceptance that I can’t. I wish, I wish I could, but fundamental human limitation prevents me. I’m not omnipotent or omnipresent, much as I might like to be, so I’ll have to grieve the connections lost and move on. But I want you to know how much they meant to me, and how much I enjoyed them, while they lasted.
1. 180 days logged for our first full year of homeschooling, and
2. The last day of classes for my first year back teaching online.
Many parents and teachers were thrown into these scenarios unexpectedly and unwillingly a couple months ago, but they have been our normal for quite a while already. And honestly, we love them.
We love Mondays, when my husband works from home (even long before COVID) so that I can have an hour in class in the middle of the day while he teaches the boys and plays with the baby.
We love singing silly phonics songs together, computing with marbles, writing letters to friends and family, reading books aloud to each other, planting seeds and watering the garden, playing baseball in the basement when it rains, using arithmetic at dinner to count bites of vegetables, studying the legends of St. Patrick…
It’s been exactly 16 months since I published anything on this blog.
What have I been doing all this time? Remodeling. Mostly figuratively, but also literally:
Over the past year and a half, we’ve tackled a number of moderately challenging homeowner issues that have sprung up in our new house: many aggravating plumbing problems, a situation with the AC unit, and a full reclamation/restoration of our basement floor space thanks to water damage. It ended up being quite a blessing in the long run: now our kids have a fresh, clean, bright, huge rec room to play in, and it only cost us the deductible for our homeowner’s insurance… which was still $1000. Due right before Christmas. Yeep!! But without that insurance, it would have been SO much more expensive.
And we refinanced our house right before, which supplied a bit more wiggle room in the budget right around this time of year.
How’s that for Providentially generous? 🙂
However, these endeavors pale in comparison to the number one priority that has taken up most of my extra attention over the past 10 months: our thirdborn child, born this past February.
A perfect little GIRL to follow up my two darling boys. I have been absolutely enthralled ever since (daddy, too). Her brothers are generally pleased with her existence as well, so bonus!
Of course, enthrallment does not obviate the required toll of sleeplessness (and the constant adjustments to home life) that accompanies the parent of just about any child under 18 months. That, paired with ((mostly)) finishing up the marathon of potty training with my firstborn, starting the whole process again with my secondborn, beginning our first “official” year of homeschooling in the fall of 2019, and taking on more part-time online teaching work, accounts well for my absence ever since February.
But what about before then? After all, the whole preceding fall and winter are blank on this blog, too.
It was bad. Very. Very. Bad. In that post, I bluntly confessed my profound need for serious help and announcing the beginning of my quest to get it.
16 months into that quest, I can now tell you: I have achieved some great triumphs.
So much darkness lingers in my heart and mind, still, it must be prefaced. However–my ability to perceive that darkness without succumbing to it was non-existent before.
And now–now, I can.
There is a book I’ve been reading–that is, trying to read, fraught will immense delays thanks to the demands of parenting–since just right about before little Percy was born on the fringes of spring. I haven’t finished it yet, but thanks to my husband buying me my own copy for Christmas (I borrowed it from the library nearly half a dozen times, returned it late nearly every time, and still barely made it a few more pages forward each time before now), I’m about halfway through. It’s called All the Crooked Saints, and it’s by Maggie Stiefvater.
(Whom I already adore for her work in The Scorpio Races, btw, which I would recommend to absolutely anyone.)
All the Crooked Saints is about nothing more or less than dealing–or not dealing–with one’s mental health. Being a narrative fiction, of course, it doesn’t call it that: it has a more appropriate, helpful designation for the battles we all face–or don’t face–inside our own heads.
Understanding what darkness is–or not understanding it at all–is what makes the story a whole lot more compelling than the pitch I gave you two paragraphs up.
I bring this to your attention because, if you really want to know what the last 16 months have been like for me, I will point you to this book. What it describes will give you a far more accurate and truthful and full perspective of my passage during this time of silence than I think I can create for you here in my own words.
As a brief glimpse, though, allow me to quote a few excerpts:
“The miracles at Bicho Raro always came in twos.
The first miracle was this: making the darkness visible.
Sadness is a little like darkness. They both begin the same way. A tiny, thin pool of uneasiness settles in the bottom of the gut. Sadness simmers fast and boils hard and then billows up and out, filling first the stomach, then heart, then lungs, then legs, then arms, then up into the throat, then pressing against eardrums, then swelling against skull and eventually spilling out of eyes in a hissing release. Darkness, though, grows like a cave formation. Slow drips from the uneasiness harden over the surface of a slick knob of pain. Over time, the darkness crusts in unpredictable layers, growing at such a pace that one doesn’t notice it has filled every cavern under the skin until movement becomes difficult or even impossible.
Darkness never boils over. Darkness remains inside.
But a Soria could draw it out and give it form.”
“…The second miracle was this: getting rid of the darkness for good.
No one wanted to see their darkness made manifest, but the reality was that it could not be fought until you saw its shape.”
Until you saw its shape.
I have seen the shape of so much of my darkness, finally, through the work I have done–through the work God has accomplished in me–over the past 16 months.
I used a great deal of therapy from a licensed trauma counselor to begin. So much was exposed and untangled and sat with and understood, peacefully, for the first time.
I gathered a number of vital tools from those sessions, tools that I have needed for decades. And I used those tools to go to work.
I began to remodel my faith. I began to remodel my relationships–first with each one of my children. Then with my husband. Then with my extended family members. I began to remodel my sense of self, my sense of worth, my sense of joy, my sense of belonging. My sense of goodness and peace and righteousness–what those things really look like.
I finally, just barely, began to taste and see that the Lord is good.
And it has changed so much.
I can’t tell you where this journey or process will end, because I am squarely still in the middle of it. I have a LONG road, or roads, to go. But I am so happy, and so very content, to finally be ON this road.
I have wanted to be on this road for a long, long time. I feel like I have finally, finally launched.
And the blessings of just that have stacked up and overflowed in my heart and my life abundantly more this year than I ever could have hoped.
I was moved and grateful for the words of a staunch and devout Catholic friend that I’ve made here, BeautyBeyondBones, in reference to the avalanche of horrifying news that has overtaken the Catholic church in the past few weeks. But I feel very strongly that she, and the rest of us who profess any form of the Christian faith, ought to know by now (or be emphatically reassured if we don’t) that this isn’t, in ANY degree, a problem primarily constrained to the Catholic form of worship.
“Although the decentralized nature of Protestantism makes statistics very hard to find, we’ve particularly found opportunities for abuse and cover-ups in three kinds of situations.
“(1) Some congregations have dominating pastors with unchecked authority.
“(2) Evangelical culture has a conference and lecture circuit with celebrities and quasi-celebrities who come to cities for weekend workshops and one-night lectures that provide opportunities to sin and go, leaving behind casualties.
“(3) Megachurch leaders face the ordinary temptations but also extraordinary pressure to cover up problems, knowing that a sniff of scandal will summon packs of critical reporters.”
“Mary Lou Davidson Redding, a retired editor of The Upper Room magazine, says she warned conference directors about Hensley for many years. Here’s her account: In the early 1990s at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference at Eastern Carolina State University, Hensley had tried to slip his hands onto her breasts while she was in a dormitory hall, stopping only when someone walked in on them. When Redding later told a friend what happened, that friend rolled her eyes and replied, ‘Oh, is he still doing that? He was supposed to stop.’
“More from Redding: ‘People knew his behavior, and he was still being invited to conferences.’ She decided to warn people about him. When she saw his name on a conference brochure, she called the directors to tell them about her experience with him. No director she warned ever disinvited him: ‘They overwhelmingly said to me they want their conference to be a success, that people are coming because he’s going to be there.'”
“The few cases mentioned in this story should highlight the fact that sexual abuse is not just a Catholic problem. It’s also a Protestant problem, and a deeply human one.
“Our investigations show that many churches and ministries have not always done a good job protecting and empowering the victims. As cries of #MeToo reverberate across the nation, so too have stories of #ChurchToo, in which men and women within evangelical churches voice their own tales of long-suppressed guilt, shame, and anguish. They say their trauma isn’t just from the violating act itself: Trauma festered when trusted church authorities failed to believe or protect them, failed to report the crime to legal authorities, failed to change the institutional culture that enables and minimizes the severity of sexual abuse.
“Yet because this issue has become so public, more and more churches are acknowledging the existence and severity of sexual abuse within their communities, as shown in many cases mentioned above. More churches are asking for help to help the vulnerable, so this could be a wake-up call for the Protestant world.”