cartoon cow writing at a desk

Beast of Burden (1.28.16)

Note: I wrote this article “Beast of Burden” during the full moon on January 23rd. As I was saving the document, I stumbled upon another entry that I wrote addressing the same topic. It turns out that that article called “The Backstory” (which is included at the end of this one) was written during the previous full moon on December 25th. According to my “mentor” (from reading her books) Doreen Virtue, full moons are an opportunity to release lower level energies and negative patterns. Furthermore, after I wrote the “Beast of Burden” article, I received a new song in my dreams. It took me three days to figure out the song and it is called “Secrets” (2009) by OneRepublic. I cannot deny my soul this opportunity to heal any longer.

I receive music in my dreams which I know are messages from my soul, God, and the Universe. I’ve been working with my dreams since I was 20 years old. As my “mentor” Betty Bethard said, “Dreams are your greatest tool for understanding yourself and your life but few people realize how to tap this free inner resource of wisdom and guidance.”

This past year I have been bombarded with songs in my dreams that I haven’t heard in eons. I love music, but I don’t listen to music regularly, or even daily. Therefore, when I receive a song in my dreams I know that it is an important message – an opportunity for me to learn and grow.

Following are the latest tunes from my sub-conscious DJ:
• “Beast of Burden” by the Rolling Stones
• “The Old Rugged Cross” (1913) by George Bennard
• “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
• “We Wish You the Merriest” by Frank Sinatra
• “The House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals
• “I Did it My Way” by Frank Sinatra
• “Making Our Dreams Come True” (Theme song for Laverne and Shirley TV show)

Three healers that I have conferred with have told me that the music is what is important to my soul, not the lyrics. I disagree. I feel like the music and the lyrics are significant in my life’s journey. It is not a coincidence that what I am struggling with on a daily basis is coming through loud and clear via the speakers in my dreams.

The recent songs that haunt me are the “Beast of Burden” and “The Old Rugged Cross.” Therefore, I give up. I’m going to let go of the beast of burden and accept the old rugged cross. I was sexually abused by my father from the age of 8 – 20. I survived the abuse by the grace of God during the 12 years that it occurred and I have been healing through and from the abuse for the past 32 years. Although I am doing great by many standards today, this trauma has affected every aspect of my life and every relationship in my life.

I like myself and I love myself. I did nothing wrong, because I was an 8 year old child when this happened. My mother and father took responsibility for what happened once the issue surfaced and we have worked through this horrific experience together through counseling and other resources to the best of our ability. My story may be unique, because I received the best of my father and the worst of my father. My dad made a terrible mistake that he has to live with for the rest of his life. After many years, I forgave him to the best of my ability for many reasons – because I wanted to; because he took responsibility for his actions; because he tried his best to right a horrific wrong; and, because he got help for himself. My father was a sick, distorted human being as a perpetrator, but he is a remarkable father and human being on many other levels.

Ultimately, I don’t blame anyone for what happened to me, because I believe that everything happens for a reason. Initially, I tried to heal from the sexual abuse with counseling and the lessons that traditional Christianity taught me as a Methodist growing up in the church. I made some progress, but was very frustrated with the disconnect between counseling (or psychology) and my faith in God. One group counselor, who looked like the actress Jessica Tandy, made a flippant comment to me one day and said, “People are evil.” She couldn’t accept the fact that I wanted to maintain a relationship with my parents. Where’s forgiveness in that equation?

At one critical point in my healing process, I shared my story with a minister from high school that I had known in a group called Young Life. The minister looked shell shocked and provided no comfort, no kind words, no prayer, and no support. I felt like I had leprosy. I felt devastated. I needed a larger framework than Christianity to make sense of this horror.

The 1980s were the beginning of the self-help movement. I read Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People? by Harold S. Kushner along with many other books. No sufficient answers. Then I stumbled upon Betty Bethards book The Dream Book: Symbols for Self-Understanding in 1988 which gave me a broader framework to live by. According to Betty, and many of my other sources since then, our souls are reincarnated lifetime after lifetime and we come to the earth plane to learn life’s lessons to balance ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I could slowly grasp that new concept, but the part that really blew my mind was – “Before you ever incarnated you knew what the first 28 years of life had in store for you. You chose your parents, sex, race, nationality, socio-economic conditions, astrological sign. Whatever your circumstances, you set them up. If you chose anything less than a perfect body, it was for a reason: never to punish, only to teach. There is no accident or coincidence in life. Nothing happens by chance. Everything we perceive of as suffering is really a wonderful opportunity to correct past mistakes or imbalances and move toward our ultimate goal of enlightenment.(1)” After many years of counseling and, more importantly, through my own personal excavation of my soul, I fully believe that statement.

Although I have done tons of work on myself throughout the years, it feels like my 8 year old self is clearly speaking to me right now. I have embraced this aspect of myself and comforted this part of myself to the best of my ability and I still feel like something is missing. When all of the pain from my childhood experience spilled forth in 1984, I consciously thought, “I never want to be the poster child for sexual abuse.” Sexual abuse does not define me, but it is a huge part of my life. I cannot experience life without this other part of myself. So little 8 year old Debbie – I hear that you did not mean to be my beast of burden. You are not a beast of burden. I embrace you and bring you to the light so that we may cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it today for a crown. I’m yours in the house of the rising sun and we are going to do it our way and make our dreams come true. And I wish you the merriest, happiest New Year!

(1) Bethards, Betty. The Dream Book: Symbols for Self-Understanding. Inner Light Foundation, 1983. Page 13. Print.

The Backstory (written December 25, 2015)

Earth is a planet that acts as a school for us humans to learn life lessons. I believe in heaven which to me is from where all life is created. And I believe that hell can be life on earth. I also believe that we can transform a life of hell on earth into a life of heaven on earth. I was sexually abused by my father from the age of 8 – 20. I lived a life of hell being abused by one of my primary caregivers who was supposed to guide and protect me. The hell continued on a different level as I worked to heal from the abuse, because it is not okay or comfortable to discuss sexual abuse in our society.

It’s difficult to embrace healing when society is not ready to deal with some of the horrific behaviors human beings create. I was raised in a loving family by two wonderful parents, but my father made a HUGE mistake. My father’s horrific behavior has affected my nuclear family, my relationships with friends, my relationships with people, my relationship with my husband, my relationship with my three daughters, and most importantly, my relationship with myself. Once the secret came to light in 1984, my parents reached out for help through our church. We were referred to VIPCare (Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care) which was a blessing. Unfortunately, sexual abuse was just beginning to surface in our society at that time and the counselor did not really know how to help us. My parents, my brother, and I went to family counseling every week and we tried our best to heal with very poor guidance and resources.

I was raised in the Methodist church which introduced me to the concept of a loving God. In high school I was involved with a Christian organization called Young Life. During college, when I was desperately looking for support and understanding, once the secret was unleashed, I shared my problem with the leader of Young Life and he looked at me in shock and disbelief. He did nothing. No prayer. No kind words. Nothing. I felt shunned as if I had leprosy. This minister’s reaction made me feel more alone and abandoned by God which intensified my pain and suffering.

I spent tons of time, energy, and money going to psychotherapy. I primarily experienced individual therapy and some group therapy. During the beginning of my healing process, I was involved in two different car accidents that further exacerbated my pain and suffering. After car accident #1, I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. The hits kept on coming. I was on medication for allergies, a pituitary tumor, pain, and depression. I spent more time at doctor’s offices than I did anything else. Ultimately, the traditional choices I made using Western medicine for my healing processes created a never-ending cycle of feeling stuck and getting worse.

Over time, there were three books that I refer to as “The Trifecta” that helped me discover alternative paths to healing. The first book is called The Dream Book: Symbols for Self-Understanding by Betty Bethards (1983, Inner Light Foundation). Betty introduced me to the concept of reincarnation and life lessons on the earth plane. I bought this book when I was 20 years old and it blew my mind away. In the beginning, I was very resistant to the lessons, yet somewhere in my soul, the information rang true.

The second book was given to me as a gift from my parents in 1987. My mom used to always write inscriptions to me in the special books that they gave me growing up. What is so fascinating about the healing process is that my father wrote the inscription to me in this book. I avoided reading the book for years, because I was apparently not ready to hear or receive the information. But when I finally read the book, everything fell into place. The second book is called Love, Medicine & Miracles: Lessons Learned About Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. (1986, Harper & Row, Publishers). I’ve met Bernie in person twice at book signings and he is an incredible teacher and healer.

The third book that helped me is called You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay (1999, Hay House). I stumbled upon this artsy looking book at a Books-a-Million store years ago and it has been another lifesaver. I used to HATE the concept of positive thinking, but now I firmly believe that our thoughts create our experiences.

Books were not the only resources that helped me heal. My orthopedic surgeon for my knee pain (caused by car accident #2) referred me to a chiropractor in the late 90s for neck and back pain (unresolved pain from car accident #1). Chiropractic care lead me to massage, massage lead me to acupuncture, and the rest is history.

So here I am – a human being who was given, or asked for, an incredibly challenging childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood to learn life lessons. I know what it feels like to be abused, to feel like a victim, to feel devalued, to feel oppressed. My life experience enables me to empathize with victims and survivors from all walks of life regardless of age, race, or gender. Through my own personal spiritual practice, I’ve learned to make sense of and to create a purpose out of a childhood full of pain and suffering. I did nothing wrong. I am a survivor breaking generations of incredibly dysfunctional energy in our family system. And I am proud of and thankful for my parents for working with me to the best of their ability to help me heal and help heal our family system.

I am choosing to co-create with God and the Universe the life that I want to live which is based on the Golden Rule – treat others (people, animals, the earth, things, etc.) like you want to be treated. My unique perspective of life recognizes the yin and yang of life. We are perfect. We are imperfect. I embrace the light and the dark in order to make sense of and give meaning to life.

Typically, I think it takes more courage to jump over the sun than it does the moon, but tonight, I’m jumping over the moon. Carpe diem.