Heroes of London are my metaphor for the changes I must face in the wake of childhood abuse, especially during the month of January.
Every year, about this time, I find myself needing to keep in mind the abiding courage and restraining wisdom all Brits were forced to resort to in the wake of the events surrounding WWII.
The month of January brings with it a chilling recall owing to my own private anniversary of remembering, during which I have to make every added effort to keep my chin up, as my inside chips are generally down. My old way of life was rotten at its heart, yet no one paid it any mind. It took my own realization of the truth to get me freed of every ramification to the extent where I may write about it for others.
You see, I came up from a very troubling background, the very heart of which I had not explored before that frightful weekend in January, 2001. I had known only too little till then, even though I could tell something was not right. Some abuse survivors may never get to the point of that first realization. Some cannot forget, and are haunted from childhood on. Some splinter apart in reaction, forming disparate personalities intended to help them cope during their worst moments. I was the forgetting sort. But all of that came crashing back into the forefront of memory with the advent of 2001.
January, then, has become a time of remembrance for me, as well as one of feeling slightly unhinged by memory. I have a heavy hearted view of life when January blues are upon me. But it is not anything for others to cure. I must weather it and walk forward the best I'm able. I'm actually getting better at the letting go part. Sometimes, however, any anger I haven't had time to heal during intervening months tends to rear its less than promising head right when I least expect it.
Always, I wish I could run away, get away from my worries, but you know the old saying about how, wherever you go, you take yourself with you. There can be no getting away from the calls of necessity to heal, breathe, and care for oneself.
Today, I am breathing better, although yesterday I felt pretty much like smashing everything within range. I practice breathing techniques, along with meditating, but that first weekend after the turning of each New Year makes me relive all the sorriness I felt at that first revelation, one I'd rather not have to deal with.
I live much as Londoners of the post-Blitz era, always on the lookout for things to repair and replace. I used to imagine myself, in those first two years in particular, as someone reliving the German bombing raids there. I felt shell shocked, frightened, desperately sorry, and without hope. Trying my damndest to recover the dignity I'd lost due to pain and anguish over a past I could not reshape, forget, nor forgive became a lifelong project. But Germany lost the war, and the whole of Great Britain revived itself. This means my metaphor allows me to grow along with the unfolding events of the post-war era as accessed through literature, movies and music of the period. This is a rich well I tap, full of inspiring views, of breathtaking acts of true courage when chaos was rife. It has enabled me to reclaim my true worth, much as the Britons were forced to weather the worst of the Blitz even while things looked bleaker for them than before.
I was not brave enough at first. I wasn't even aware of just how brave I would need to become. What had been done to me cannot be described here owing to a safety factor which I will also not outline for you. Suffice it to say, I was not fully able to cope there for a long while, and hardly dared believe I'd ever come to find my peace had been finally restored.
My peace. For me, peace is my greatest ally. I look to it to better my self image, to restore order to my mind and heart, to keep me going at times like this when there are few choices beyond buckling down and working at it with as much creative fire as I'm able to muster.
My morale has been known to crater drastically once the New Year turns and winter chills the blood. Once again, I may look to my old metaphor of British Resistance in order to restore my verve and nerve together. Sometimes, it takes just popping in a favorite movie that can support the theme, such as Mrs. Miniver or Memphis Belle, to revive morale. I lived through a frightening time, one which it does little good to speak of here, save to say it did occur. Any particulars stay within the more private pages of my current diary or of the many art journals I keep.
For today's art journal entry, I'll be utilizing the bit of ephemera above, for that is the theme of my recovery at this point within January's cold and harsh line of thought. It might include pictures of London in its post-war dynamics of rebuilding and revitalizing its center. It might include an older photo of Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister most associated with the restoring of the public morale during Britain's darkest hour. Were you aware he had a habit of taking naps in his office in London even if bombs were dropping? And he managed to stay sane the whole way through, even with his "black dog," or depression to deal with. I'd call that impressive. Most inspiring to me is how he could function that way while leading his country.
Let the lights of my own metaphorical Piccadilly Circus blaze as brightly as post-war London's did, so that I might find more joy in the recovery than I had previously. I hope to see my trees regrowing, and every pathway to freedom, with peace as the process, swept clear of the debris or refuse of family's destructive ways and means. I am ready for such a change, and welcome all the good as I welcome this renewal.
And so I start over with every January's dark time. And every year it is a somewhat different experience for me. This year, I find I can bear up a little better, but it still hits me with the force of a rubber freight train. One may easily pick oneself up following such moments, yet the shock and despair are profound. As a consequence, I might have to bunk down in my little creativity cave, as I call it, where I can keep the bearish, growly moods of despair and rage away from those I care for. This can extend from January's outset right on to the end of the month, not a pretty prospect.
I am London. My family's legacy may have made me a bombed-out, broken down husk of a person without her rhythm, sense of self, or dignity, yet I did make it through those first ten years of recovery. And I am really noticing a trend that is forward moving always, a fact it is easy to hold fast to even when I've unknowingly entered a mine field where any old, unreconciled memory can trick me into believing I'm sorry to be alive. I also sweep for mines daily, doing cleanup before breakfast time, all of it for my relief and renewed pleasure in the day's events. Just knowing I can write about it within this context and not break down is like another victory, one more step toward my own, personal VE Day.
I didn't ask to be a warred-against child, but I have my willingness to keep going now fully installed, something the me of ten years back would not have known could be.
And here I am. Though somewhat tattered, and with a few fissures in the foundation, this "Londoner" survives on her rationed time but with renewable hope in abundant supply. And that is a fine way to continue on.
The image above is in the public domain.