ARE EXCERPTS FROM THE STORY . . .
When I took the courage to disagree and stand up to
my now-ex-husband Charlie, it was a biggy. It was scary
for me because he used to send me to my room if I disagreed
with him, and I would go! But I disagreed with him,
and it surprised him (and me too). I just stood there
and said, "You're wrong." It was a very small
step, but it was my first step toward healing and getting
out of a toxic marriage.
I knew there was something that needed to change. It
was not just being abused sexually, physically and emotionally
by my husband. The healing didn't start until I realized
that things had to change, and it might not be the way
that Charlie told me I'd better change. I had my own
journey to take, and even though it was scary, I needed
to do it.
Many years later, when I felt that the marriage was
going under, I went back to school to finish my degree.
I was determined little by little to get my degree.
My four boys encouraged me, and said, "Mom, even
if you dont make straight As, well still
love you. Most of the time, their grades were straight
As." A joke? -- or a reflection of having grown
up with a chauvinist father? At the end of the first
semester, the grades started coming in. All four sons
got straight As. I was on pins and needles until mine
came in -- All As! Now I have proven to myself and to
them that yes, a woman and a mother is intelligent and
can achieve high goals.
I went into a really heavy depression. I was alone,
Charlie had gone, and all four sons had left, my mother
was in a nursing home in Colorado, calling me to tell
me she was dying. I'd had breast surgery, and I had
a new job. It was too much.
The weekends were awful. It was difficult getting up
in the morning. David had finished at Syracuse and was
home for a couple of days before moving to California.
I realized that I had to do something drastic, and after
consulting with the doctor on call who said he would
meet me at the hospital, David drove me there and sat
with me until I was admitted. Then with my admonition
to go to California, that I would take care of myself,
he left. I had admitted myself to the Psychiatric ward.
I was scared to death. But I knew thats what I
had to do.
There were a bunch of us who really bonded in those
two weeks. I realized that being with people who cared
was necessary for me to heal. Unless I was with someone,
I felt invisible, unloved. I had to have a deep connection
somehow. After two weeks when I was released from the
hospital I drove myself directly to an OA meeting. I
knew I had to lose weight. I ate when I felt bad. Dr.
Bash had put me on so many different medications, one
of which made me gain about 30 pounds in two months.
When I told him that gaining weight was worse than the
depression, he didn't listen.
Another part of my healing is acting. When I read of
acting classes on a Saturday when I needed something
to do, I signed up. My acting teacher is very aware
of peoples emotions -- I could call him a drama
therapist. He picks pertinent parts for me to do, humorous,
angry, brave, etc. There'd be some Saturdays in the
beginning where I really couldn't respond. He'd just
let me sit there and he'd observe. And he gives me funny
parts. He sees my sense of humor. He sees me and teaches
me -- and so it's a therapy for me.
I can't pray for Charlie yet. Except to keep him as
far away from me as possible. If something would happen
to him, I would weep. I would cry. He's my children's
father. We were together for thirty-four years. And
we made our mistakes together. He was my sons
role model. One time after Charlie had moved out, I
heard one of my sons friend say, "Let's go
over to your dads house and get some macho lessons."
Humor, all the way through, has been really healing.
More healing too, is working with past life regression.
I'm doing this healing now with a dear friend. I think
even before I was born I knew I had a mission to help
women find their place -- help us find our rightful
In my dreams I have trees. I was born in Colorado, the
tall pine trees, the quaking aspen. The first time that
my housemate took me back to a past life, I was in a
forest. I dream of dead trees. Trees in my dreams tell
me things of what I'm doing or what I need to do.
I was at the ARK I took a picture of a tree not realizing
what I was doing. One of the last days I was there I
was listening to this guy who was talking just like
my ex-husband used to talk. I couldn't right then express
my anger. There was snow on the ground and I went outside.
I was so furious I couldn't talk to him. I threw probably
fifty snowballs at that tree. Just whack, whack. And
pretty soon, I got to say, "Hey, Aleta, you still
have your throwing arm!" And so that was healing
for me too, remembering that. The whack -- it was a
physical thing for me.
In the first few years, when I was first learning how
to say no, the tree was almost rootless. I think the
tree was just beginning to put down those roots that
are always there, those root that would hold me firm.
Still lifting up, growing up above, but still having
just the life in this tree and the roots going deeper
and deeper. I could picture that.
My father lived with the Indians for two years and I
felt very close to the southwestern Indians. I know
their thoughts are that we are all one, we are all part
of the earth and that we're all part of the trees, and
we get our nurture from the ground. It flows up through
the trees and we're all part of the universe, all the
holistic part. And that is exciting for me, to think
we've been here forever, and we're all part of the same.
Isn't that exciting? And I'm a part of you. We're part
of everything. And when I hear that no man is an island
- well women, too, damn it!
At my 70th birthday my four sons arranged a party for
me, a Dinner Theater for Celebrating Mom. I think so
much had healed at that point. They remembered the good
times and put them in the skit. They could see me, that
I was healed and I had so many friends. And they could
see how my friends love me. My four sons did that for
As I look back at my healing process I think of layers
of things. Things just happened as the time came up
and then the strength within me came. So it would build
up, almost to a crisis, and then I'd make a turning
point. And then, I'd make one step, and another step,
realizing I could make one step and build on the next.
And having people around who cared about me. And the
humor. I couldn't have done it alone.
My beliefs that had been challenged were that I was
going to be that way forever, that I could not change,
that I did not have the strength. That has changed.
Even though I feel down I know there is something I
can do and that I am stronger and stronger. I need encouragement,
but I can keep on. I'm not going to sink that way again.
My belief now is that I'm stronger than I think; that
women are just dandy; and that I can help my sons appreciate
themselves and me; that it's all right to talk about
some things with them.
You know how I would define true healing? My acting
teacher would put some music on and we'd do abstract
poses with each other. I would say, "It's a celebration!
and a little bit back; and a celebration! and a little
bit back; and then roll all over with humor!
I think the healing process is daily, with knowing my
housemate is going to be here and can say, "Was
it a good sleep? Did you dream?" And a bonk on
the head. We're members of that odd bonking cult!
that first little step
For someone going through an especially challenging
part of their healing process, I would say to them,
"even though you think you can't do it, if you
take that first little, little step, it's the first
one, and it gives you the confidence in yourself. It
did for me. It gave me the confidence in myself that
I could take a little step and the next and the next
and the next. And that this isn't going to last forever.
But don't try to do it alone. There's help out there
in all places." Amen.
would you have moved beyond my
struggles to unfold a natural woman?
You would have run and climbed trees.
I imagine you a gymnast, strong and supple,
a wise woman, a warrior.
Chasing dragons over quiet forest floors,
we would have laughed together against fear.
I would have taught you bravery and poetry,
how to stare right at the moon,
how to make good soup.
As my mothering years have drawn to a close,
I dream of who might have been and
celebrate my four sons.
copyrights "Serpentina" Otto Poertzel,
circa 1920, ivory and polychromed bronze, published
in 'In Praise of Women' edited by Jonathan Meader, Celestial
Arts, 1993. "Goddess Durga", Nepal 19th Century,
gilt-copper, semi-precious stones, published in 'In
Praise of Women'