The Toll Free Day


She stood right here, on this very bridge, contemplating life and
death with all the wisdom her 16 year old mind could produce. Her heart
and mind raced at an equal pace, flooding her entire body and soul with
an anxious intensity she’d never known before. Her breath quickened and
her shaking hand clinched the cold steel bar of the fence, while she
steadied herself up and into the 2 foot space between where the fence
ended and the toll man’s empty booth began. Today was Sunday, and the
toll booth was most certainly empty due to a recent approval at town
meeting declaring that “Sunday shall forthwith and forevermore be a toll
free day” in the town of South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

The early morning summer wind caressed her face, tossed her hair and
caused her to lose her balance several times. She struggled against the
will of the wind, which seemed intent on sending her spiraling to the
sea below with absolutely no regard for whether or not she was ready to
crash into the sea. For she definitely was not ready, almost ready for
sure, yet not quite, and she defiantly held her position while shifting
her weight to keep balanced on the wooden railing.

“How could I let this happen? Not once, but twice!” She heard the same
question over and over again in her mind, yet was unable to formulate a
reasonable answer. Of course, she was well aware of how “it” happened,
that was not the issue, her question was more about trying to comprehend
her own irresponsible behavior. All she could do was “sigh” and shrug
her shoulders; then shake her head, defeated and exasperated.

Finally, she screamed, “There is no answer!” Yet the nagging question
echoed over and over again like a scratched record skipping inside her
broken mind. She watched a hawk glide effortlessly overhead, envious of
its peaceful existence.

Her own voice interrupted the silence, “This is better than having to
face her again. I just can’t face her, not after what happened the last
time. I’d rather die than go through that “procedure” again like she
made me do the last time. I am not going through that again.”

She looked up at the hawk, circling gracefully above her head in the
sky, and then turned to look down at the empty ocean. The memory of her
mother’s reaction flooded into her mind like a tidal wave.

“What?! How did you let this happen,” screamed her mother, slapping
her across the face. “You’re only 15 years old. You will not have this
baby! Do you hear me?” This time her mother hit her across the back with
enough force to knock her to her knees. “There is no way I am taking
care of your mistake. I will call the clinic in the morning and you will
have a procedure to get this taken care of as soon as possible. Case
closed, and do not breathe a word of this to anyone.”

There was no discussion. They made the trip to the clinic three days
later and the “procedure” was over in less than an hour. They drove to
and from the clinic in silence. Back at home her mother smiled, asked
her if she wanted some lunch, and carried on with her daily routine
without ever once again mentioning the “procedure” or the reason for it.

As quickly as they began, the memories began to fade. The sun warmed
her face. Her breathing became shallow. The beating of her heart also
slowed as did the thoughtless nagging in her mind. The waves lapped
against the bridge timbers. She became exquisitely aware of minute
details, those surrounding her and those inside of her. Her senses so in
tune that she actually thought she felt this new baby’s heart beating
inside of her. The thought was comforting. She would be with this new
baby. They would be together.

She noticed that the wind had died down a bit, which made it much
easier to balance on the railing. She thought matter-of-factly of how
much easier it would be to balance without shoes on her feet, and
proceeded carefully to remove one and then the other; sending them both
splashing into the water below where they were quickly taken by the
hungry current and whisked away under the bridge.

Calm descended upon her from the top of her head to the tips of her
toes. She thought, “This is how it must be, and it is the best I can
do.” She took one final look up at the sky and again saw the hawk
gliding in an effortless flight above her head. “That is a beautiful
hawk,” she thought.

Then a distinct voice broke the silence, as if responding to her thoughts.

“But, my dear, how do you know I am a beautiful hawk? Maybe your eyes only see what you want them to see.”

Startled by the unfamiliar voice, she nearly lost her footing on the
railing. She held tight to the steel bar and looked around; not a soul
anywhere in any direction.

“Who said that?” She asked.

Again the voice spoke, “Do you only believe what you can see? If this
is the case, then you might as well jump and get it over with.”

“I don’t understand. Who is speaking?” She asked again.

“You know it is I, the hawk circling above. Who else could it be, there isn’t anyone else here.”

She asked, “Why are you talking to me? I need to be alone.”

The hawk replied, “You have other needs, more pressing than your own need to be alone. You can feel it, can’t you?”

She could, of course: the pulsing beat of her heart in her neck.

“Yes, I can feel my heat beat, so what.”

“You cannot see or feel yet what you know to be true, because the
truth is like a hidden jewel, waiting to be discovered. How can it be
true that this is the best you can do? Ask yourself twice, once for
yourself and once for the faint heartbeat that you can only sense is
there.”

She held on gently to the steel bar for support. The hawk continued to
circle above. Her eyes filled with tears; aggravating, stinging tears
that burned down into the very nucleus of her soul. She shook her head,
hoping to free herself from feeling….anything and everything.

Her mind began to race again and her heartbeat quickened.

“What am I supposed to do now, Hawk? Could you answer me that one question?”

The hawk replied, “The hardest thing to accept is the unknown, and sometimes there are no answers.”

With that, the door of the toll booth suddenly creaked open, startling
her. She lost her grip on the steel bar. Then, as if in slow motion,
her feet begin to slide out from underneath her. She was still not ready
to actually give herself up to the ocean, and she screamed. In that
instant, she felt a tug on the back side of her windbreaker. Her feet
were steadied. Her balance restored.

“Young lady, what the heck are you doing up there?”

She turned to see Ed, the toll booth man, still holding onto her jacket.

She couldn’t speak.

Then he said, “You could have really hurt yourself playing around up
there by yourself. Now, you come on down from there right now.” He
helped her down, and she stood timidly in front of him.

He looked down, noticed she was shoeless and said, “And you really
shouldn’t be running around here without shoes on either. You know those
seagulls make a damn mess all over this bridge.”

She spoke quietly, “Yes, Ed, I, I, I know. I’ll remember next time, I promise.”

He questioned her, “Now you tell me young lady, why were you standing
up there anyway? It’s not safe, you know that. Did you see my friend
while you were up there, the hawk?”

She nodded yes.

“Every day I see it up there, circlin’ and flyin’, like it’s waiting
for something important to happen. I thought maybe I’d seen some baby
hawks with it last week, but not anymore.” he said.

“Ed,” she asked, “why are you here today? There are no tolls on Sunday.”

“That’s a strange question, young lady. I think maybe the sun has
gotten to you or maybe your little brain is weak from being up so high.
You know that today is Monday. I’m here Monday thru Saturday, same as
I’ve been doing for the past 40 years; well, except for Sundays now. ”

“Monday? Today’s Monday?” She asked.

“And it’s a good thing it is Monday, because if it really was Sunday like you thought, you’d be swimming right now without your good friend, Ed, here, to catch you.”

She said, “I know, thank you, Ed. I guess I’ll be getting along now. I
wonder whatever did happen to those baby hawks that you saw.”

He said, “Young lady, sometimes there are no answers. They are hidden away, like the truth, waiting to be discovered. ”

He smiled, winked at her, and then turned around to go into his booth.
He sat in his chair, the same way he’d been doing for the past 40
years, lit his pipe (which was against the rules), put his feet up
cross-legged on the desk (also against the rules) and pulled his blue,
faded skipper cap down over his eyes.

She looked up to the sky. The hawk was gone. Seagulls dropped clams on
the rocks near the shore. She put one foot out, stepped off to go
forward, not having any idea where the heck she was headed. Still, and
without even a single ounce of doubt, she just continued to place one
foot in front of the other. She didn’t have an answer for how she would
manage, but she was okay with not knowing. Her heartbeat and her
footsteps kept time as she plodded carelessly along.

Sharen Wendy Robertson owns the copyright to all posts on this Blog.

Why Don’t We Value the Cycle of Life?


Do you know that the same volume of water is on this planet that has
been here for millions and millions of years? No more, no less. It
doesn’t just disappear through evaporation or by being consumed, no, it
always returns to the earth either through precipitation or through some
other recycled form, including urine. This is also true for the
physical energy found in all plant and animal life. Energy recycles
itself. All living things, including us, eventually return to the
ground, air, or the ocean and are absorbed once again somehow into other
parts of creation, the pattern repeated in an infinite cycle. Our place
within the cycle of life is not unique, our physical bodies are always
recycled, which naturally also includes our DNA. Of course this means
that we also carry within our DNA the energy of the infinite past of
this planet and of this universe. We are, and we share with creation,
the past, the present, and the future, and we will live on physically
forever because of this never-ending cycle.

Comprehending this as an infinitely renewing cycle is actually quite
simple, for infinity is defined simply as being without boundaries, void
of beginnings or endings. Unfortunately, our ability to comprehend and
conceptualize infinity can only be achieved within the context of our
limited human perspective, which is of a finite nature. Our perspective
is one of physical beginnings and endings. In the universe, we occupy an
infinitesimal and inconsequential physical space, so naturally our
perspective will be based upon our experiences within this minute realm
where we see things are born and then die. Furthermore, since we cannot
actually “see” the constant motion of energy flowing freely from,
through, and into the living environment, it is difficult for us to
really appreciate the unwavering fact that in one way or another we will
live on forever through the process of rebirth right here on earth.

We are all a part of the whole. There is no such thing as less than or
more than. We are, in fact, one creation, from the lowliest earth worm
to the noblest king, from one blade of grass to the tallest Redwood
tree. I ask myself honestly how my existence could possibly be
considered more valuable in the realm of creation than say an earthworm
is, when in the end both the worm and I are simply and equally recycled
back into creation. In all truth and fairness, worms are actually more
valuable than I ever could be because they aerate the soil, unlike me
who does absolutely nothing to improve the planet. There is even a
strong likelihood that at some point part of me will actually be
consumed by an earthworm. Nothing that lives, escapes being recycled,
and regardless of the strength of our character or of the good or bad
qualities that may define us, the bottom line is that we are simply a
part of the infinite process of this recycling of life.

Keeping in mind that we are a part of the whole, it reasons that it
would be physically impossible for us to cut ourselves off literally
from each other or from other parts of creation. No matter how much we
may desire or for some reason find ourselves living alone, the fact
remains that we are forever part of an intricate web of numerous
eco-systems recycling infinitely to create one dynamic living biosphere.
For some troubling reason we somehow consider our physical selves to be
more valuable than anything else in creation, when seriously, who or
what in the whole of this infinite cycle really cares about us or about
what happens in our lives except us, and oh yes, maybe a few others in
our immediate circle?

I think we take this lofty view of ourselves based upon our feelings
of inadequacy, pride, and selfishness. How else can we explain or define
the human need to dominate the world and every living thing upon it? In
addition, and as if world domination weren’t enough, we also exhibit
very little regard or responsibility to care for what we do dominate. If
it were true that we comprehended and accepted ourselves as simply one
part of this infinite cycle of life, we would never hurt or destroy
anything around us. We would recognize our less-than unique place within
this complex system of renewal and rebirth and seek to ensure that the
delicate balance is maintained and cherished. Most of us are guilty, in
one way or another, of taking some advantage of the bounty we find in
nature.

I suppose the real issue is whether or not we can accept the fact that
our value on this planet (since we are no longer a part of the food
chain) is basically found in how the environment can recycle us for the
benefit of the rest of creation after we die? This awareness and
knowledge, that our lives contribute to the maintenance and in turn very
existence of all of creation and that we will live on forever through
an infinite cycle of rebirth, is the key to our own immortality. Whether
or not we want to live forever does nothing to diminish or influence
the fact that we are included in the cycle of life. This undeniable
truth, that we are a part of in an infinitely reoccurring process of
rebirth and
renewal, is one we should recognize and be grateful to be included in.

Sharen Wendy Robertson owns the copyright to all posts on this Blog.

The Lifelong Impact of Child Abuse and Domestic Violence



I WON”T CRY – domestic violence song

Regardless of how we are raised, childhood experiences always impact
our future lifestyle choices. We are all products of our environment.
Sure, our genes play a crucial role in molding our personality but our
environment also has an undeniable influence. For children exposed to
violent, abusive upbringings, the lifelong pattern of dysfunctional
behavior is almost impossible to break.

Children rarely talk about how they are treated at home.
Why would they when they simply assume and imagine that it is no
different for them than it is in any other household? In addition,
children living in abusive households also carry the fear that they or
their parent will get in trouble if they tell anyone what is going on at
home. Therefore, the abuse usually remains secret throughout childhood
unless it is revealed by chance.

In the meantime, children accept the abuse and are usually just
relieved at the beginning of each new day when their parents are not
angry. They interpret this lull to mean they are “still” loved, and they
are grateful. Without ever having their feelings acknowledged, they
just assume they are to blame for situations and that they’ve done
something to deserve the way they are treated. Regardless of the fact
that it may be due to a parents lack of child-rearing knowledge, those
early experiences of abuse still impact and influence the course of the
child’s life and relationships.

This type of upbringing teaches children to never
question why. In addition, they learn to have unrealistic faith and hope
in harmful, hopeless relationships. As adults they are often victims of
domestic violence, finding themselves in abusive relationships very
similar to what they experienced in their childhoods. Similar to child
abuse, domestic violence follows a pattern known as the cycle of abuse.
This cycle almost always includes remorse from the abuser after an
abusive incident, which in turn fosters a delusion of hope in the
victim. The cycle of abuse, with its grand promises, is an illusion that
keeps many locked into unhealthy, destructive relationships.

Domestic violence usually follows a familiar pattern known as the cycle of abuse. This pattern is described by Domesticviolence.org in four steps:

  1. An initial abusive incident occurs (can be sexual, physical, or emotional)
  2. Tension builds, with the abuser trying to quell their violent
    tendency and the abusee trying to “keep the peace” until, finally,
    another incident happens
  3. Make-up: the abuser apologizes, often promising never to do it
    again or, conversely, trying to shed blame by saying that the victim
    “asked for it” or is “making a big deal out of nothing”
  4. Calm: both parties act as if nothing is wrong, and do their best to ignore the mounting problem.

Although abusive relationships can be incredibly difficult to end,
this is especially true for those people who have also experienced abuse
in their childhood. Regardless of the fact that these relationships are
harmful, without knowledge or memory of how else to live, child abuse
victims often find themselves repeating patterns of behavior that mimic
what they knew growing up. 

Ann Veilleux, MSSW, LSCW gives this explanation of why women stay in abusive relationships, from:  Why Women Stay  “Women that stay with abusive partners very often have had abusive
parents. To them it’s normal to get hurt by the people you love. Their
self esteem is very low from childhood  mistreatment and is further
undermined by violence from their partners. No wonder women can’t give a
good reason for why they stay: It would take therapy (and education) to
understand it themselves. If they had good therapy, they could learn
that they didn’t cause or deserve the abuse. Then they would leave.”

The truth is that the
experiences in my childhood are the framework for how I perceive myself and my
world, and they are also the foundation for the choices I’ve made in my
life.
  As a child, I never talked about how badly I’d been treated, no matter
how traumatic the incidents were. I simply buried the hurt and never brought it
up to anyone. I was just glad at the beginning of each new day that my parents
still seemed to love me. This went on throughout my formative years without
anyone acknowledging my feelings or that what was happening was wrong; I just
assumed it was always my fault, and that I’d done something to deserve the way
I was treated.  Although it may have been
my parents’ lack of knowledge on how to properly raise a child, ignorance is no
excuse for cruelty.

The first boyfriend I ever had I married. I met him when I was 14 years
old. We married just as I turned 18 years old, a few months after I learned I
was carrying his child. I wish I could say that he changed and became abusive
after we married because that would make this so much easier to understand,
but, the reality is that in the four years that we dated through high school I
was subjected continually to his physical, emotional, and mental abuse on every
level. I tried over and over again to end our relationship but the sweet talk,
promises and fear of abandonment always brought me back with him.  My upbringing taught me to never stay angry
with someone who “loved” me, and that I should just be grateful if someone
wanted to be nice to me after mistreating me. 
I just hid how I felt, pretended it didn’t happen and never mentioned it
again for fear of being hurt again.  My
upbringing also taught me about hope because in the cycle of violence the abuser
almost always exhibits remorse after an abusive incident; this remorse in turn fosters
a sense of hope. 

 I stayed with my husband for the next 28 years, and so did the cycle of
violence. We built a life, which included four children and several successful
family businesses. Honestly though, simmering just beneath the surface of
everything in my life was my fear of him. 
I honestly thought I loved him and could not live without him.  Classic battered women’s syndrome.

 The dynamic of power and control between my husband and I was
established at the beginning of our relationship. It was a cycle that we both participated
in, and it prevented us from ever experiencing a “healthy”
relationship with each other. Throughout our tumultuous marriage there were
three restraining orders, four stays at abused women shelters, visits to the
emergency room, and numerous visits to marriage counselors. We were locked into
a never-ending pattern that neither one of us was strong enough to break. It
always came back around to him being physically and mentally abusive toward me,
and also to our children. The cycle of violence, with its false sense of hope,
prevented me from ever give up on trying to make our relationship work. I
always wanted to believe his remorse was sincere and believe in hope, and I
did
not want to live my life without him in it. This was all I knew.

 Prompted by physical abuse which escalated to a very dangerous level for
me (and included a grand jury indictment against him for rape and assault),  I finally divorced my husband in 2006. Yet, even as we stood there in
court, I wondered why he could not change his ways, enabling us to save our
marriage and all the years we’d spent together. 
I wondered how he could let things end this way. I still hoped, even
after the judge accepted our application for divorce, that my husband would
find the strength somewhere inside of himself to change. Regardless of the hurt
he inflicted, the loss I felt from being separated from someone I’d been with
since I was 14 years old was emotionally devastating. I still, even after
everything we’d been through, had not given up the hope that one day he’d
“get better.”

After the divorce we still tried to be “just friends.” This
proved to be a frustrating and impossible arrangement based upon the history we
had together, and the fact that the dynamic was still there between us. Yet,
even though we both knew this to be true and even though we
were already
divorced, it would take a tragedy of incomparable depth to finally and
completely sever our relationship.

The life-altering, random day was August 7, 2008. Our 20 year old son
(the youngest of our four children) was driving home from work. He lost control
of his car, crashed into a tree and died instantly. For several months after
the accident we did spend more time together consoling each other; however it
was soon apparent to both of us that there was nothing left between us to hope
for. My hope that we could ever share life together again was finally gone. It
took our son’s death to help the both of us move on and thankfully we haven’t
spoken to or seen each other in over three years.

 I started writing and recording songs after my son died and have
produced two cds in the past two years, Whisper On the Wind (which is dedicated
to my late son) and From My Heart To Yours, both of which are available on
iTunes, Cd Baby, and on my website. One of the songs I wrote after producing my
son’s cd is called, I WON’T CRY and it deals with my experiences living with
domestic violence.

I remember back two years ago how terrified I was to actually go into
the studio to record my song. It was with tremendous fear and determination I
recorded that day, along with taping a video of me singing. While I recorded my
song a marvelous feeling of empowerment came over me, stronger than anything
I’d ever felt before. The song is a testament to the truth that early childhood
traumas, experiences, and conditioning can and often do determine the way a
person lives their adult life. But even more important, my song is one of
strength and survival. I sing for myself and for anyone looking for the
strength to end an abusive relationship. I pray that my song will help others
find peace, loving light, and courage in their journey.

Sharen Wendy Robertson owns the copyright to all posts on this Blog.