by P.K. Hill
6.9.2020 –If only book acknowledgments could be this long……💜💜
Dear Tara and Branka, and all the survivors who in different ways have helped me stay true on the healing path…
It is difficult to put into words how grateful I am to you. I have spent my entire life searching for a way to become whole and to heal from the violence of childhood sexual abuse and rape which fragmented my soul and messed with my spiritual balance changing the trajectory of my life forever. My childhood, family, and faith were taken from me in the dark of night in convent bedrooms or in the back seat of church cars by the unholy who carried bibles under their arms, wore rosary beads around their waists, or white round starched collars around their necks.
The abuse was devastating. But worse than the abuse, so much worse than the abuse… was the conspiracy of silence that was adopted by my family of origin, my friends, and my church family who claimed to be Christians but failed to follow the gospel of faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these being love.
Turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children is not love.
By their silence, and as complicit bystanders to the abuse of children, they violated the most basic tenets of Christianity; Love does no harm.
In an attempt to heal from the atrocities of child rape, I walked many roads. I tried affirmations with Louise Hay in Town Hall in New York City and sitting in Plum Village in Southeast France with Thich Nhat Hahn, where by example he taught the art of mindfulness while washing a coffee cup or walking … peace in every step.
I sat on the floor of small candlelit Greenwich Village apartments cross-legged in prayer and meditation with Marianne Williamson. I spent Sunday mornings with Eric Butterworth in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. I tried. I tried hard.
I traveled to Isla Mujeres five different times to study with one self-appointed guru and spent years at the Xavier Retreat Center in Convent Station, Morristown, New Jersey with the veiled and vowed, and as other retreat participants, walked the labyrinth or swirled their way through Interpretative Dance, or spoke in tongues with hands raised high to the sky. I slithered into the woods and smoked marijuana and wondered why my high was different from their high. They were high on prayer I was high on dope.
In summer I spent my time at Kripalu Yoga and Retreat Center in the western hills of New England or at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck in the Hudson River Valley of upstate New York, or in private residences in Rheinbach in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
I studied Reiki and energy healing. I read the right books, carried crystals, and wore chakra beads. I chanted Om Namah Shivaya. I prayed my Hail Mary and I genuflected making the sign of the cross on my forehead whenever I walked by a catholic church. I looked good on the outside but I never journeyed inside and so I remained unfamiliar with my internal terrain.
Before all that effort, I was a devout Catholic school girl wearing the plaid uniform with the Peter Pan collar, saddle shoes, and white socks studying and memorizing the catechism preparing for a life in the convent or the afterlife in heaven at the right hand of God. As a kid during the 40 days of Lent, I rode my bicycle to church for daily 6 am Mass and communion not ever missing a day. I went to confession. I did penance.
I cleaned the sacristy every Friday. I ironed the priests’ robes, scrubbed and buffed the floors in the convents until I could see my own face reflected back (that was the instruction given by Mother Superior). And because girls were forbidden to be altar servers, I polished the golden chalices which held the body and blood of Christ.
But again, I failed to take the road less traveled. They say the way to hell is paved with good intentions. I was full of good intentions.
And of course I went the route of so many victim-survivors of childhood sexual abuse by self-medicating my self-hatred with alcohol and drugs which took me to the doorstep of hell more than once and then to the practice of the 12 Steps of recovery which actually began my healing process in 1978.
I walked many roads trying to mend my fragmented soul but nothing seemed to work. I did not know that trauma and rape alters the pathways in our brain, affects neurotransmitters, and scars our immune systems for life. I thought I could heal myself if only I tried hard enough. I tried very hard. I even became a therapist mistakenly thinking that knowledge was the missing link.
Desperate, I tried to follow the path of denial that my family of origin embraced and when that did not work, and after two friends watched me grieve the murder of a dear friend and walked away leaving me alone in my sorrow, grief, disbelief, and confusion, never making a call to other friends, leaving me alone and brittle in a most fragile state. I sat alone on the floor of my living room with a loaded pistol in my hand and attempted suicide. Nothing took away the pain and confusion, anger and grief, depression, and fear–nothing until you suggested I follow my breath.
It was my breath that introduced me to my heart. Both of you accepted me with all my torn edges and sharp pieces long before I accepted myself.
I am more than my pieces.
I am more than ragged edges and razor-sharp pieces. I am not a spoiled little brat and despite the words, my parents branded into my brain as a child they were wrong–I am more than a mere tax-deduction.
This breath thing…this heart meditation that you introduced to me does not come without pain or practice but the gifts it offers are more powerful than basic breath. It offers me compassion for others and self-compassion and self-forgiveness for myself.
Thank you for walking this journey with me…👣👣✍