Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, Uncategorized

I Will Love You Forever

Nine years. Nine long years since she crossed over. When she died, I did too. I was lost without her in this cruel, lonely world. My days went black, and darkness surrounded me. I wallowed in my misery.

For seven years. And then, I started to live again. After seven years of pain and suffering, I allowed it to escape my grip. I let go. With letting go, I was able to feel her love as it surround me. It was always there, but I was too tightly wound up in the depression to allow it to sink in to me.

When her love began to replace my dread and worry, I started taking steps toward my healing. I shed a layer of pain, and began to live again. To love again. I knew she would want me to live, and would have been upset with me for letting so many days pass by me. We only have one chance at this life, and I was reborn into a new life.

As I stepped out of each layer of hurt and sorrow, I began to feel lighter, and the dark spaces began to illuminate. My gram was my cheerleader, even in death. When life felt overwhelming, I felt her push me forward. If I held onto fear, she held my hand as I tackled the new challenge. When I cried, she was there to wipe them off my cheeks. When I had something to celebrate, she was there to witness my joy.

As a child, it was her that made me want to do my best. It was her that I wanted to impress. It is still her that makes me strive for new goals. She built me up in a sea of people who tore me down. And, now, as always, she is by my side, making sure I have what I need.

It took me a long time –seven years to be exact, to understand that she gave me the tools I needed to survive. While she was alive, and still. She taught me everything I needed to know, guided me toward greatness, and loved me without exception. Before she left this Earth, she made sure I was going to be okay. Being okay did not mean never struggling again, but it meant that I would be able to overcome any challenge thrown at me. It meant never giving up. It meant finding love within myself, and trusting enough to find it in others.

I am okay. I will always have what I need because I have her love.

Thank you Gram. I will love you forever.

gas lighting, healing, Hope, mental illness, Uncategorized

Gas-Lighting and Perspective

Recently I have been thinking a lot about my past. Writing my memoir, The Monster That Ate My Mommy only scratched the surface of my story. Even after completing it, and receiving feedback, I still did not fully understand the magnitude of the abuse that I endured. I still told myself, “It wasn’t that bad.”

It was only recently that everything shifted and I was able to see. To really see. The dots began to connect. Everything that I had tried to brush off as “not that bad,” began to reveal how bad it truly was.

My entire childhood was filled with psychological warfare, and the baton was passed to my ex-husband to continue to keep me under the spell. I didn’t see this before. I forgave so intensely, that I did not allow myself to fully understand the damage that had been caused.

I existed my whole life in their made up reality. And yet, I never fell completely. I never gave in, but my world was altered. I believed untrue things about myself as I was fed their poison.

I struggle with the image of myself. That is my one weakness. I did not understand why the barrier to my truth was so difficult to penetrate. I did not see what others saw. And then, it hit me. A tiny spot on the mirror was wiped clean and I began to see. I began to understand the extent of the abuse I was subjected to.

My reality was tested as I looked back on the past thirty-six years. The world as I knew it was rocked under my feet as I heard the voices from the abusers circle my thoughts.

8346-illustration-of-lips-whispering-into-an-ear-pv “You’re crazy.”

“You’ll never be happy.”8346-illustration-of-lips-whispering-into-an-ear-pv

8346-illustration-of-lips-whispering-into-an-ear-pv “You just want to get people in trouble.”

“You don’t know how to have fun.” 8346-illustration-of-lips-whispering-into-an-ear-pv

8346-illustration-of-lips-whispering-into-an-ear-pv “You’re worthless.”

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The words loomed over me, settled into my skin and became my thoughts. Even when life started to look up, I continued to be pulled back to these words. I beat myself up over the hold they had over me, which in turn, added to their strength. I found myself questioning their validity, and until recently I believed them.

That was until that slight peek into reality. The grime was lifted from the mirror. It began to become clearer. I heard the same words spoken by all of the ones who had hurt me in the past, and this time instead of believing it must be true, I finally saw it.

My mother had been at the center of it all. She fed the lies to others, and coached them into treating me the way that they had.

Every.

Single.

Person.

The people who had not hurt me, who had not caused me pain all shared a connection: they were not led to me by my mother. They were people I found on my own. The people who loved me, who saw the true me, were not my mother’s minions.

It was not good enough for my mother to abuse me, she needed help. When I did not break under her spell, she enlisted others. Child abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, rape, domestic abuse…all at the hands of people my mother introduced me to.

The caveat?

I was stronger than them all.

I believed their words. I bruised under their hands. I lost pieces of myself. But, I did not give up. I kept the fight alive.

With the help from the people I introduced to my circle, my strength began to intensify. Safe people. People who love me. People who believe in me. People who push me to find my true self. People who do not let me continue to believe the lies from my mother’s distorted reality.

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These are the people cleaning off the mirror. Washing the layers of dirt and grime off to allow me to see my true self. They push out the nonsense that made up my reality and offer kindness and love. They are patient and gentle as I learn who I really am–as I see myself as they have always seen me.

Thank you to my helpers. Thank you for your patience, your love, your kindness, your understanding. Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for never believing the lies that my mom told. Thank you.

I do still forgive my mom. I do understand that she had her own demons she was fighting with. I now no longer live in the make believe world she created. The spell has been broken. And I am free.

Depression, healing, Hope, Uncategorized

I Always Knew

Even as a child, I knew that I could not give up. There was always something pushing me forward, and making me believe that tomorrow offered something better. In the darkest of times, I knew that there would be light. I didn’t know when, or how, but I knew.

When I felt like giving up and taking my life, I knew that I couldn’t. I knew there was a life I needed to live. When my mom was unable to love me the way I needed, I knew I would be loved. I knew there was good in people. I could see past their fear, and anger. I could see a scared child, much like myself, hiding deep below the surface.

Even when others hurt me, I felt sorry for them. I wanted to understand why they behaved the way they did. I didn’t hate the ones causing me pain, but I continued to offer love. Hoping, that maybe one day they could see what I saw. I didn’t want to give up on them, just like I was unable to give up on myself.

I never looked at myself as strong or brave, I just did what I knew I had to. I struggled almost everyday, until recently. With so many struggles pushing me down, it was hard for me to see, or listen to anything else. It was this knowing that helped me survive. The knowing pushed me to safety, even when I sometimes led myself astray.

What took me a long time to realize is, everything I ever needed was inside of myself. I didn’t trust my knowing, but it was strong enough to finally get my attention. Through the darkness, through the pain and depression it never left me. It patiently waited for me to see. I believe, with everything that I have, that this is why I am alive today.

This knowing is what fueled me. Fuel for my soul. The spark of light never completely  extinguished, and now it encases me in a golden glow.

I believe we all have this. We all know. I believe this is what gets us through the rough patches. The hard part is trusting that we have what we need.

My challenge to you is to trust that you know. Live life knowing you have what you need within yourself. Don’t give up, even when you want to. Stop, and listen. It is there. You are strong. You are brave. You know.sky

Breathe.

Live.

Know.

healing, Hope, Love, Uncategorized

We Only Have Time For Love

cemetery-2787610__340April 20, 1999 the Columbine High School was under attack by two students. They killed 12 students and a teacher, and then themselves. This day sticks in my head because I was a senior in high school, and it was the first time that I felt unsafe at school.

I remember going home and watching the news with my gram, and not understanding why they would do something so awful. As the names and pictures were shown on the news of the victims, I wanted to know why. I wanted to know why two boys, my age wanted to kill so many people. I wanted to know how the parents of the victims were going to live without their children, and how the parents of the two boys behind the murders were going to be able to live knowing their boys were capable of such hate. I just wanted to know why.

A month after the shooting, we were released from school early because of threats of a copycat type incident occurring. No threats had been made at our high school, but the school wanted to make sure we felt safe and allowed us to go home…just in case. I was relived to know that I only had a few more weeks of school left and the worry of dying at school would be behind me.

Fast forward to 2018 and I am a mother of three children who attend school. One in elementary school and two in junior high. It seems like everyday there is another school shooting on the news, and yet nothing is being done. I send my kids to school everyday and I wonder if they will return home. Parents do not have the luxury of being assured their child is safe while they are at school any longer. It doesn’t matter how many times we are told, “Don’t worry, it would never happen here.” There is no way to be sure of that anymore.

You can be the best parent on the planet, teach your child right from wrong, to love and be compassionate, but you cannot be sure the children they spend their day with have had the same. You cannot be sure that if given the chance your child might not do something you do not believe they are capable of.

We need to stop blaming people and start acting. If you see a child that needs help, help them. If you see a child that needs love, love them. If you see a child struggling, don’t ignore them. It just takes one person, one moment of concern to change someone’s outlook on life.

Love.

Don’t judge.

Listen.

This is our responsibility. We owe it to our children, to our friends, to our neighbors. We need the sense of community back. We need to stop categorizing people. No one deservers to be thrown away. No one deserves to be bullied or called names because they are not like you. The world has too much hate, lets take everyone by surprise and be kind. We are all too self-absorbed; take a moment to think about someone else. Look around. Things need to change, and the best place to start is with yourself. From the inside out we can make changes and it may just cause a ripple effect.

The world is so broken, and all we can do it argue over who is right and who is wrong. If we stood together, and put all of our efforts together, big things could happen. What are we afraid of? What are we waiting for?

Think about the fear our children face each day as they enter school. Maybe they don’t think about being killed each day they open the school doors, but I bet they worry about what is going to happen to them, or be said to them. Maybe they are laughed at because their parents can’t afford the newest brand craze of the month. Maybe kids make fun of them because they think they are bi or gay. Maybe they are called names because they are overweight, too short, too tall, too skinny, too pretty, too quiet, too loud…you get the idea.  No kid is safe from harassment or bullying. Today they are good, but tomorrow it might be their turn.

There is no time for blame. We need to act now, create safe havens for kids to go to, to talk to, to learn compassion and tolerance. We can fight about guns vs. mental health until the next shooting. We can debate on Facebook, send thoughts and prayers to the families and the victims, but none of that will change anything. Think about what you can do now. Don’t wait. This country is suffering and we are running out of Band-Aids.

The only thing stronger than hate is love.

 “The value of love will always be stronger than the value of hate. Any nation or group of nations that employs hatred eventually is torn to pieces by hatred.”

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

healing, Hope, Tom Petty

Don’t Wait: Something Good is Coming

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released “Something Good Coming” in 2010 on their Mojo album. I did not stumble upon this song until 2012 as I prepared for my first live concert. This song caught me by surprise. It was song 14 of 16, and to be honest I didn’t really listen to the last two songs after I heard this one. It immediately spoke to me, and I had to believe, something good was coming…it had to be.

In 2012,  I was in grad school and was on the path to healing, except I didn’t know it then. Life was miserable, I was stuck in every aspect. Life was the same everyday, and hope was not something that I held onto.

“This is how it’s always going to be.”

“Nothing is ever going to change.”

“Why even bother?”

These kind of thoughts plagued my head. The negativity allowed for more to follow. Day after day I dreaded the next. I hated my life. I hated who I was. And then this song entered my world.

The words.

The melody.

The music.

All touched places inside me that had not been touched in so long. There was no way to escape the hope for better things while listening to this song. The more I listened, the more I believed. The more I believed, the more things started to change. Day by day, I was changing too.

When life got too hard, I would skip to song 14 on Mojo and let the song seep into my soul. Something Good Coming…

And there was. There was a better life waiting for my children and me. I began to see ways to change the things I hated. I saw things differently. Things could change, but the change had to start with me. I stopped letting life pass me by. I put actions into motion and everything began to fall into place.

It wasn’t easy. It was downright terrifying at times. When it became overwhelming I slid Mojo into the CD player and listened to track 14. A deep breath allowed the words to enter me in all the needed places and the strength to continue on came.

While in Orlando, FL at my first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert I was lucky enough to hear this song live. There is magic in hearing words live, feeling the beat of the music within your body, as your heart pounds in melody with the music. It was life changing, and the catalyst to the changes that came.

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~2012 Orlando, FL

Every year after this concert, when a tour was announced, I knew I had to go. Nine shows in total. Each brought their own special memories. The 40th Anniversary tour came with an urgency to go to as many shows as I could. I didn’t know why, I just knew I had to go. The first show I attended was in Nashville, TN on April 25, 2017. This was one of those spur of the moment decisions. Not a lot of thought or planning behind it, but I had to go.

When I returned home, I wrote a much needed letter to Tom. For the past 22 years, his music had saved me, and I needed him to know. I took a break from working on The Monster That Ate My Mommy, and wrote all the things I needed to tell him. I didn’t know if he would ever read it, but I felt like I needed to try.

After I wrote the letter, I knew I had to see him from the front row. We had tickets to both Philly shows and the first Boston show. I checked ticket sites to see which show had front row tickets available still. Front row tickets to the July 1st Philadelphia show were within reach…and I jumped on them.

July 1st came, and as we made our way to our seats my heart began to beat in my chest so loud. It had been three months since I mailed the letter and I held on to hope that he had received it. From the moment he entered the stage, my face lit up, and a smile stayed on my face. We made eye contact and as I sang along the smile never left. As he sang he kept looking my way, and the smile grew. At the end of song seven, “Free Fallin'” Tom stopped in front of me and finished the song. For those few seconds I know he knew how important he had been to me. If he hadn’t read my letter, the smile on my face told my story. The story so many of his fans can tell.

It is a moment I will never forget.

During the tour, I didn’t know why I had an urgency to go. I didn’t know what made me get on the plane and head to Nashville. I didn’t know why I had to see him from the front row. On October 2, 2017, I knew. The time to make these dreams come true was on a ticking clock, and came with an important reminder to live.

Don’t postpone things for tomorrow. Our time here is limited. Don’t wait. Live while you can. This is a lesson  Tom had been teaching me since I heard the first song.

There are lessons in everything. Look for them. Learn from them.

And remember…something good is coming…always.

 

 

April 28, 2017

Dear Tom,

I want to thank you, for many things. The summer I turned fourteen I fell in love with your music. Wildflowers had just come out, and when I heard You Don’t Know How it Feels on the radio I felt like you were talking to me. I requested the song on the radio every chance I got, and for my birthday that year I received the cassette tape. I grew up with music, but for the first time, music reached me in places I didn’t know existed.

My childhood was less than ideal, as I grew up in an abusive household with both parents struggling with mental illness and addictions. We found food in the local dumpster when we didn’t have money, and I struggle with PTSD now because of the abuse. At fourteen, life continued to throw challenges my way, and in my darkest hours it was your lyrics and your voice that brought me comfort and gave me hope. Your words were all I had at times.

A few years later, I got mixed up with an abusive older man, and after five years of being trapped and scared the first song I played after I finally found the courage to leave him was Free Fallin’. At this time I was only nineteen, and did not live near any music stores and only had access to Wildflowers and The Greatest Hits. I played them both over and over again, and as before, it was what kept me grounded.

Later, my mom started buying me more of your albums and some of your photos (one was even allegedly signed!) and concert t-shirts off EBay. I was closed off to most people, but the one thing they knew about me was that I connected to your music. I treasured the music and the items, because I never imagined I would get the chance to see you live. I wanted to, but I lived in Vermont, and was with another abusive man, who I had three children with. He was jealous of the love I held for your music.

My gram, who raised me, and was my best and only true friend passed away. I sank into a deep, dark depression, and again, the only thing that brought color to my world was your music. The song that I listened to during this time was Don’t Fade on Me. That song said the words I couldn’t find: “You were the one who took me in…you were the one thing I could count on. Above all you were my friend….” Even now, after eight years, listening to this song brings me great comfort.

A couple years later my family lost everything we owned in a house fire. We had been having troubles with a neighbor, who earlier in the day had threatened to burn our house down, but the fire investigators deemed it accidental. As I stood and watched all of the things my kids and I held dear burn I felt like I had lost everything. All of my music was gone. All of the items my mom had bought me, that made me feel closer to you were gone. All of my gram’s things that reminded me of her were gone. My kids lost all of their toys. We lost pictures…we lost everything. It was devastating until I realized no one was hurt. We were all safe, and what we lost were just things. The song that helped me through this time was Square One. At the time, I did not know that this event was my square one. It allowed me the freedom to put things in motion to leave my abusive husband, and it also gave me a little money to be able to see you live. In 2012 I was able to fly (for the first time!) to see you in Orlando. It was magical. I never imagined I would get the chance to see you and hear you in person.

Living that dream made me see that I could do anything if I wanted it bad enough. The other dream I had since I was a little girl was to be an author, to write my life story. I began to write, but after 65 pages, I got stuck. It was too much to be transported back to all the traumatic events that I had not really dealt with. For two years I put my writing on hold. My mom had hurt me in many ways, I just wanted her to love me, but it was not something that she was fully able to do. I did not feel right exposing our secrets to the world, so I told myself I would write after she passed away. I never imagined I would get the opportunity so quickly, but last April I was at my mom’s bed side as she passed away. Right before she lost consciousness, the last words I spoke to her were “I forgive you Mom. I love you.” She held on for two more days and I was able to tell her all of the things I had been holding on to. Finally, at the end of her life, she was able to give me the love that I had longed for my entire life.

Two weeks after my mom’s death I sat at my computer and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. As I wrote I listened to I Forgive it All on repeat and cried. I really did forgive it all. Two hundred more pages fell out of me, and I have been working on my edited version, because I want the suffering to be worth something, I want to be able to help someone else that may be in a similar situation, much like your music and words helped me.

The songs that I have mentioned are just a few of the ones that have touched me. I wanted to keep this brief enough to let you know that I owe you. If it were not for you and your music, I would have lost my battle with depression years ago. You were a friend when I had none. I have seen you in concert four more times since Orlando, and have three more shows to go to this year. When you come on stage, a smile takes over my face and tears well up in my eyes, because I am grateful for all that you do for your fans and I wanted you to know that you matter. Your lyrics, your songs, your voice matter. I know I am not the only one who feels this way, but I wanted you to know.

If possible, I would be honored to use this as the epigram for my book, The Monster that Ate my Mommy: …there’s somethin’ good comin’ for you and me, sometin’ good comin’ there has to be… Because of you, I believe this to be true.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

Sincerely Grateful,

Jessica Aiken-Hall

 

Grief and Loss, healing, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

2017: The Year My Dreams Came Alive

5954D43C-D01F-4EE8-95F3-A9634268D394A couple of weeks before 2017 came to an end, I started to reflect on the last few months. They happened so fast, and were filled with so much joy, and heartbreak. As I thought back to what had happened, I could feel the energy swirl through my body. For the first time that I can remember, I felt clear of negativity. It was such an unknown feeling, I almost did not recognize it. I just knew that I felt lighter—and free.

Freedom is something that I have been chasing my whole life. Freedom from the abusers I encountered throughout my life, freedom from my own negative self-talk. Freedom from the darkness. Sure, the light had always been there, but the weight of it always lurked near by. Depression is like that. Waiting to pounce when life seems to be going too well.

The months from 2017 replayed in my head as I allowed this new feeling to linger. January tested me in a job that went against everything I believed in, and it was Tom Petty that helped me see what I needed to do in February. “Can’t sell your soul for piece of mind.” Tom was right, he is always right. I walked into my job without a plan and quit. The money was good, but it demanded I went against my own ethical code and left me angry. I did not want to waste another day being unhappy.

Quitting a job with no backup plan was not something I had ever done before. There was no time to have a plan in place, I just had to jump and pray that I landed. A week of feeling sorry for myself and letting anger fester inside of me, I picked up my manuscript that I had received from my editor, Alice Peck, in September 2016. I dusted it off and began to go through it. There was a lot of work to do, and the thought of it was overwhelming, but I brushed away the fear and developed a plan.

February, March and April were spent reading, writing and rewriting some of the most painful parts of my story. Depression came crawling back as I sat alone in the living room remembering things I had spent a lifetime trying to forget. Each section of my story I became the age I was writing. I dropped myself back in time and relived each painful memory. Tears fell from my eyes as I typed. It was exhausting, but I was not going to let the pain keep me from my dreams of being a published author.

It had also been almost a year since I had the attunement for Reiki II, and I felt that I was ready for the Master training. I reached out to SaliCrow and asked if she was able to offer the training. She had a Reiki II class coming up at the end of the month, so it was perfect timing. I spent some time studying and making sure I was ready.

April came with the anniversaries of my gram’s and my mom’s death. Year eight for Gram and the first anniversary for Mom. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 40th Anniversary tour began on April 20th—the year anniversary of my mom’s death. I sat in my car listening to Tom Petty Radio talk about the beginning of the tour, and read comments from friends on Tom Petty Nation talk about the meet ups and the shows they were going to. Most of the friends that I had made in Tom Petty Nation were going to the show in Nashville, TN. I remembered how badly I had wanted to go the year before for the Mudcrutch tour so I could meet them.

A thought popped into my head, as though it was a message from my mom. You have to go. There was no way that could happen. The show in Nashville was five days away. I’d need a plane ticket, a hotel, transportation once I arrived, a ticket to the show, a place for the kids…these thoughts tried to talk me out of going. There was no way it would work, but the voice telling me I had to go was louder than the others.

When I got home I told George about it. A familiar phrase came from his lips, “You have to go.”

But how? How could I pull it off? It was now just four days before the show. I went onto an airline site—tickets were available. I stated looking for a place to stay…but I didn’t even have a ticket to the show. I searched for a ticket…the only ones available required me to buy two. Maybe this wasn’t going to work out after all. Discouraged, I went back on Tom Petty Nation and asked if anyone had one ticket they were looking to sell, and let the others know I was thinking about going. More people told me what George had said, “You have to go!”

Messages began coming in. An offer of a place to stay and a single floor ticket gave me hope. Maybe this could happen. I went back to the airline site…tickets still available. I let George know it really could happen. When I couldn’t get him to talk me out of it, I purchased the plane ticket and made plans to buy the concert ticket at the meet up and confirmed that I would have a place to stay.

With three days to spare, there really was no time to be nervous. When I drove myself to the airport I was only hours away from meeting a bunch of people I had been friends with for years online who love Tom as much as I have. Only my second time flying I was a little afraid of what might happen, but I had to do this. It might have been the reminder that life is short, or something else leading me there, but everything lined up just right to make it happen.

When I arrived at the arena I learned the floor ticket I had bought from another TPN member was seventh row…center. The show was magical, and like always, it felt like Tom was the only one in the room. With less than twenty-four hours in Nashville, there was not too much time to explore, but I was able to meet a bunch of amazing people who understood my love for Tom and my connection to the music.

After the show I went back to work on my manuscript and prepare for my Reiki Master training. On April 30th, I became a Reiki Master. Still unsure of myself, I felt something pushing me along. I was moving forward, and maybe not on my own. I felt that I was on the right path.

After completing the Reiki Master training I had more time to think between writing. While I was thinking, something told me to look for front row seats for one of the upcoming Philadelphia shows George and I were going to. I found a pair right away, but the price almost stopped me. I logged out of the site and went back to writing. It was a crazy idea. The mouse clicked on the ticket site again and I added them to my cart. I watched the time tick away before they were thrown back to be sold. I closed the screen again and went back to writing.

What if this is my only chance to ever meet Tom? What if I never get the chance to see him front row again? I’d spend the rest of my life regretting not doing it. I went back to the ticket site and added the tickets to my cart again and made the purchase. They were going to be a surprise birthday gift for George, but when he got home I could not keep the smile off my face. I needed to tell him the exciting news, but I wanted to surprise him. When I couldn’t stop smiling, I spilled the beans. “Guess what I did today.”

“What did you do?”

“It’s an early birthday gift to you and me…we are going to see Tom front row!”

He was as excited as I was, but the only problem was it was a two month wait. How could I wait that long? The excitement filled my every thought, but left just enough room to continue on with my rewrite. Tom’s music filled the quietness of the room as I wrote. His voice kept me grounded as I relived abuse and betrayal.

By June my rewrite was complete and it was sent off to a new editor. Now that the manuscript was out of my hands I had plenty of time to think about the upcoming shows. As I waited for the tickets to arrive I became increasingly anxious…what if they were not real? What if someone just took my money and I won’t even get the front row tickets? I held back the excitement enough to not be severely disappointed if it did not turn out as I hoped. No tickets in hand until two hours before the show. The excitement did not return until we were sitting in our seat. This was real. Tom Petty was going to be feet from me. An impossibility was becoming reality.

As Tom and the band walked on stage I felt warmth radiate throughout my body. A smile so big that my cheeks hurt. I couldn’t jump and shout…I was too much in awe of who was in front of me, and who was beside me. Tom made eye contact with me a few times, maybe my smile got his attention. I knew he could feel my gratitude. I sang along with him and continued to smile. At song number seven he walked over to where we were standing and finished playing “Free Fallin’” right in front of us. At the end of the song, he looked right at me and tossed his pick to me. George was taking pictures and did not see this happen. I started to cry. Tom saw me, and he knew. He knew that he mattered to me, and that was as good as meeting him.

It was like a dream. I couldn’t even talk about it right away. It was unreal. Stuff like this didn’t happen to me. As we looked through the pictures when we arrived home we saw it. George had captured the pick being tossed to me. A spilt second caught on camera to cherish the moment forever. There was no denying what had happened now. My heart was full.

The month of July was filled with three more concerts. The first night in Boston a TPN member told me Ron Blair was in the hall talking with people. I quickly walked out…and there he was. I went up to him and shook his hand and walked away. What just happened? I found George and told him…he followed me back out to where Ron had been and another TPN member, Brien was there standing next to Ron. George convinced me to ask Ron to take a picture with me and he and Brien took some pictures for me.

The next night we had not planned on going, but after the night before I looked for tickets and found front row tickets marked way down. We were both exhausted, but George told me we had to go. Less than twenty-four hours later and we were back in Boston. Dana Petty came out to dance while Peter Wolf played, but it didn’t look like she was able to see. When she came closer I offered for her to stand in front of me so she could enjoy the show. She smiled and thanked me but continued dancing where she was. Then one of her favorite songs came on and she came over next to me and danced. It was so great to see her enjoying the show, and be able to be a real fan without a bunch of people bothering her. At the end of the night she came up to me, thanked me, gave me two picks and hugged me. What was happening?

The next show was back in Philadelphia, this time third row. I was a little sad this was going to be our last show of the tour, but so grateful for what had already happened. I was also a little nervous that this might be my last time seeing Tom live in concert. After all, they had said this was their last big tour. I left that night with a little sadness in my heart. Something deep inside me told me we were driving away from the last show. I tried to brush it off. What a great time we had, and I wanted to keep that euphoria alive.

In August I was offered a job after spending a few weeks looking for a good fit. At the interview everything just felt right. The people were nice, it was a job I had done before and I knew how to do, and best of all, the stress level was nonexistent. Things continued to fall into place.

September came and I had my manuscript back from my editor and it was ready for me to go through one last time. My cover had been designed and everything was almost ready for my book to be published in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On September 8th, The Monster That Ate My Mommy went live. I panicked as I realized what happened, and had no time to prepare for my story to be live in the world, but felt there was a reason.

Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe’s book, The First Signs of April  had been published on September 5th, and because of the closeness of their publication we were able to have a couple of co-author events. M-E helped push me on the path to healing, and beginning this journey with her was serendipitous. The first event was planned for October 20th, to honor Tom Petty’s Birthday, as well as the anniversary of my protection order.

I spent the next few weeks preparing for the event. I picked three pieces to read, one about child abuse, one about domestic violence, and the last, a happy one, about my first time seeing Tom Petty in concert. The chapter about Tom was the saving grace; the only piece that held any happiness. Until October 2nd. That awful day that the world learned of his death. The pain of this loss was devastating. How could losing someone I didn’t even know hurt so bad? That’s where I was wrong. I knew him, I had known him for years. He was a dependable friend. My only source of constant joy for the past twenty-two years. His words had gotten me through so many tough situations. Healed so many broken hearts. Gave me joy, and hope, and happiness.

I tried to practice the chapter, and as soon as I saw his name on the page I could not see past the tears. I was ready to give up, to quit this dream, but I knew I couldn’t. His songs gave me the strength I needed and pushed me forward, just as they always had. Tom was gone, but he left such a beautiful legacy behind, and I wanted to do the same.

Just a week after my book went live, I started the End of Life Doula program at UVM. I completed the online course in November and received my certification. All the pieces I had been missing were coming together. The picture to the puzzle was beginning to become clear. I need to use my skills to help others, to heal others.

The rest of the year found my book seventy-one reviews on Amazon, most all 5-star, and the others 4-star. Readers were saying incredible things about my book; about me. I was getting messages from people who read my story and thanked me for sharing so honestly, and helping them see things differently. That life of darkness I thought I had lived was now a bright light, helping others see the way.

As I went through the year’s accomplishments with George, I told him how grateful I was for all that had happened. I told him how, for the first time ever, I felt at peace, as though I am right where I should be. Calm. Peaceful. Right. All unknown feelings, but the freeness of them felt so in sync. He told me, “The year is not over yet.”

Hours into December 24th George asked me to marry him. Knowing I get to spend the rest of my life with someone who treats me with love and respect, and who builds me up and encourages me to follow my dreams is what I have been searching for my whole life. Until I met him I did not believe such people existed. I thought all the movies lied to us and set us up for disappointment. George showed me love is real, and love is true, and best of all, love is returned. For the first time ever, life is as it should be. The freedom from negativity is overwhelmingly present.

As I think about all that happened in 2017, all that I accomplished, all that I lost, all that I gained there is no room for sadness. No room for sorrow. The sun is shining, even on the darkest of days. There is hope in each day. Maybe there always has been, but my blinders are lifted and I can see. I can feel. Only goodness to come.

Tom was right (he always is), “Something Good Coming.”

Spring 2016 855In Memory Tom Petty and my second father that were lost in 2017. May you Rest In Peace, play a little music, cause a little trouble and feel all the love we send your way. Thank you both for your part in rescuing me.

healing, Uncategorized

Worth Waiting For

 

summer 2016 012.JPGWhen I was twelve years old I remember waking up from a dream and feeling safe. For me, feeling safe was an unusual feeling. I laid in my bed, under the covers and thought about the man I had met. As I walked along a path in the woods I came to a small stream. In the stream was a large rock, covered in moss. Upon the rock sat a man with deep brown eyes who stared into mine. When he began to talk to me I felt at ease, as though we had spoken before. As he sat on the rock, looking into my eyes he told me that he loved me, and he would wait for me. He said that it would take me a while before I found him, but I would and he would be ready and waiting for me.

I often thought back to this dream, to the man on the rock. I thought about the possibility of finding love, a love that was comfortable and safe. I tried to talk myself out of the existence of this man, but my mind and heart would bring me back. When I got older and began dating, each boy and later man who I would date was never him. Their eyes were never the eyes that had connected with mine in that dream. As the years passed I gave up on the idea of this perfect for me man waiting for me. I summed it up as a silly dream and gave up on finding the feelings I had woken up with that morning so long ago.

Each relationship I entered I soon knew I did not belong. Some held onto me longer than others. Some hurt my soul deeper than others. Some hurt my heart, while others hurt my whole existence. I was trapped in a cycle of toxins, released with every hurtful word, every raised fist. The deeper I got into the toxic spiral the more I felt I would never escape. The man on the rock still haunted my thoughts, as though he was reminding me to never give up on his promise. To keep looking, keep searching for him. I pushed the idea that there could be a man like him waiting for me out of my head. I felt that I was destined to be unhappy for the rest of my life. I felt that I did not deserve a love that was pure, and real, and safe.

Little by little I began to die inside of myself as I allowed the damage by others to slowly destroy me. Until one day. One spark of light came in and lit the path for me. It led me to freedom. It led me to safety. As the light lit up my darkest corners the man in my dream came to me. In my darkest hour, in my weakest state I was given the gift of love. Of safety.

As I looked into his deep, brown eyes I knew. I knew I had seen them before. I knew I had felt this way before. I knew that we had met before. I knew that he had waited for me. As our eyes connected mine filled with tears. Tears of love, tears of relief, tears of trust, of safety, of belonging. I knew in the instant that our eyes connected that he was the one that I had been longing for. He was the one that I had been waiting for; who had promised to wait for me.

I didn’t know if he knew of the connection too, but I trusted he would remember. I trusted that we met again for a reason. I trusted that the universe aligned so our paths would cross. For the first time, I just trusted. I worried that I may not measure up. I worried that I may not be enough. I worried that I may not earn the love that I had been longing for my entire life. The thoughts came and went and circled inside of me. I had been told for so long that I was no good, that I was not worth anything, and those thoughts stuck with me. But he never once gave me reason to believe them again. He never once made me feel like I was less than.

As I tried to find a reason why he may leave me, why he may see what others had seen, he always gave me reasons to believe I was wrong. When I was unable to love myself, he loved me enough for both of us. He stood by me, and my kids when our world shattered. When things became a nightmare he never left. He stood by us and waited. He shielded us with safety and provided love and support. He never left. He kept his promise from twenty years ago.

For the first time in my life I am not called names or hurt. After three years he has not once called me a name or put his hands on me in anger. For the first time I can see, I can feel what it is like to be loved. I don’t have to chase it, I don’t have to beg for it; it just is. To be loved and only be expected to love in return. I never thought such a thing existed. I was wrong. All those years of hurt, sadness and abuse are over. They are over. I never thought I would be able to say those words; but they are over. Never again will I allow anyone to treat me the way I had been treated. Never again will I question if love is real. I know. I know without a doubt. I feel with all that I have that love is the only real thing out there. Love is all around when you allow it in.

To the man with deep, brown eyes; thank you for all that you are, for all that you do, and for waiting. I love you.