A Life Unravelled

A Life Unravelled

I am of an age

When the formative years

Speak.

“Remember me?”

They ask.

It starts with

Music.

A song.

A memory.

A feeling.

Hmmm …

I had forgotten.

Lost in

Tumultuous times of

Twenty-plus years.

Tumult covered by more

Tumult.

A child overwhelmed;

A teenager confused;

A twenty-something

Ungrounded,

Until in the thirties

Unravelling begins.

As it must ~

Or die bitter.

~*~

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m seeking professional help to unravel and make peace with my life.

Starting in my late 20s I began to experience wake-up calls. People and events emerged to shake things up, most often sending me into an emotional tailspin.

My initial response was always that of the victim.

“Why me? What did I do?”

Then one day something started to happen.

I started to wake up.

My grandmother’s death when I was in my early thirties snapped me out of a career malaise. Instead of being bitter about the loss of someone I loved I was going to honour her memory by honouring my heart’s desire.

I embarked on my true journey with the horse. Granny would like this, I thought, as she was also passionate about horses. More importantly, however, she’d want me to be happy.

My two years as an equestrian coaching intern were a refiner’s fire. The veneer of my “happy” married life began to be stripped away until I could finally see the truth of its dysfunction. The victim was alive and well and absorbed into the drama of another who, I quickly realized, resembled my emotionally distant, self-absorbed and delinquent father.

Within a few years we divorced. I sought my first round of counselling and avoided dating once I realized I was attracting variations on a negative theme. I was determined to relinquish emotional baggage and find a healthier way of being.

My eyes were opening.

Eighteen months later I met my future husband. A kind, gentle, thoughtful, caring and emotionally mature man. (What he was doing with me took me a long time to understand.) The road was rocky. I’d had no experience being with such a person. But  unlike the previously dysfunctional men in my life, he was genuinely interested in my well-being and demonstrated through deed, and not just word, his devotion.

I learned to accept I might be worthy of something different than my normal experience.

My eyes opened further.

Two years later, tragedy in the riding arena as a school horse I’d been riding died following a freak jumping accident. Getting back in the saddle was difficult. The silver lining came a few months later with the opportunity to part-board a beautiful thoroughbred mare, Murphy. This lasted nearly three years.

And then Murphy died of cancer. More blinding misery, but the courage to look for a silver lining.

Five months later, a dream come true when Bear entered my life. Finally, a horse to call my own. But I wanted to be an aware horse owner. I wanted to build a relationship based on trust. I turned to natural horsemanship and enrolled in Chris Irwin‘s Train the Trainer program. While I was fine tuning my horsemanship skills the horses were reflecting back to me how broken I was, my insecurities rearing their ugly heads and demanding my unbridled attention.

Another wake up call; another realization that I needed more help.

Wise Old Equus

Enter art therapy and meditation. I became more grounded and a beautiful collection of veil paintings was born of my unburdening. This journey lasted about 18 months.

And I was still working with Bear ~ the experience of self-awareness around him bringing greater depth and meaning to our relationship. A new self-confidence was emerging; the victim was beginning her retreat.

And then my eyes opened some more.

A week in Sarajevo in February 2009. Panic attacks. Anxiety. My inner personal hell rising to the surface and reflected in the sad, unhappy state of a recovering war-torn city.

Within weeks I was sitting in a therapist’s office, the depression and anxiety, the feeling of being stuck and weighted down by things beyond my understanding more than I could bear.

The true work of unravelling a lifetime began sitting in a chair opposite a stranger whose only desire was to help me along the road to wellness.

The pain, anger, bitterness, grief, shame, the trauma of abuse laid bare. The broken-ness of my life lying before me like the scattered pieces of a puzzle waiting to be re-assembled, but with awareness.

Eyes ever opening.

And with this a sense of liberty. The freedom to begin to see myself differently. The triumph of survival and a new-found understanding of what it means to thrive. The tools to rebuild the puzzle of my life into something more functional. An opportunity to create a clearer picture of who I really am while releasing the illusion forced upon me when I had no concept of self and no choice but to absorb and reflect the drama and dysfunction of the adults around me.

A life unravelled.

A life reclaimed.

~*~

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Broken Record

When we embark on our healing journey it’s a bold step. We are energized by the idea that with appropriate professional help we can wrap our past up in a neat little package and fire it off into a universe where we need never meet up with it again.

And perhaps if we did not think this way we would never take that first liberating step toward a new way of being.

The truth is, while we travel the bumpy road to wholeness we bump into our old selves all the time. With guidance and growing strength we are able to tip our hat to that old part of ourselves and keep moving on.

Sometimes, however, we can get stuck in that old place ~ that old way of being that says we aren’t good enough; no one cares; you belong in the shadows; asks “who the hell do you think you are?” … and on.

I’ve been going through a bit of that lately, and have remained largely silent as a writer because of it. These moments get in the way of my creativity and my sense of place in the world.

Today, however, following an intense tête à tête with my amazing therapist yesterday, I’m ready to step out of that malaise and get on once again.

Doing my best to remove that broken record from the turntable of my life.

Herewith a verse inspired by this experience.

Enjoy and thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

Broken Record

Old familiar

Broken place

I let you go …

Honestly!

Yet, here you are …

Again, like some

Broken record

I’d forgotten.

The needle slipped

To a broken,

Repetitive

Debilitating

Groove

That torments,

Taunts and

Irritates until

I can no longer

Bear your

Broken voice

Telling me over

And over how

Broken I was

And still am …

Am … Am … Am …

Not!

Enough!

I remove the needle

That pierces my

Broken soul

And smash that

Broken record of

My Self. It is

No longer my

Truth. Time to

Dance to a

Different tune.

Play on!

Carefree

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, All Rights Reserved 2013

#FWF Reprise: Childhood Gift … The Arab Tent by Henry Landseer

Free writing is a great exercise and a little more challenging when the memory is involved.

free-write-friday-kellie-elmoreAs mentioned in my last Free Write Friday post on the Childhood Gift, my childhood is very much a blur. During last week’s free writing exercise I couldn’t think of anything to share besides the bear story. Which is fine ~ it’s a nice story. Somehow, though, it left me feeling empty.

The fact is, my mother had given something of great meaning to me when I was a child (besides a roof over our heads, food at the table and a youth steeped in culture), but what it was I just could not recall through the fog of memory while trying to free write on the topic.

That was until a memory jogging discussion with my therapist on Tuesday reminded me of a special gift I still have and that means the world to me.

I’m actually surprised I didn’t think of it as it’s within eyeshot every day.

I don’t recall the exact age I received this thoughtful gift. Maybe nine years old. And I don’t even remember how it was given to me. Perhaps for my birthday.

When my mother toured with the opera company she would frequent antique shops in the various British cities she visited. She would often return home, after a few days away, with easily transportable items she hadn’t been able to resist, like old picture frames and glassware.

I didn’t pay this much mind until one day she presented me with a gold-leaf antique frame bearing a print of “The Arab Tent” by Edwin (Henry) Landseer (1802-1873). The beautiful print she purchased at the gift shop of the The Wallace Collection in London, where the original is on display.

The Arab Tent

This beautiful print of a grey Arabian mare and her bay colt sheltered in an Arab tent took pride of place on my bedroom wall throughout my formative years. Now, despite more life-altering physical moves than I care to remember during which I lost or misplaced many possessions, it somehow graces a wall in our family room.

I guess this print and I were  meant to be together for a lifetime. 🙂

The Arab Tent has become even more meaningful in recent years …

Before Bear arrived in my life I was part-boarding a beautiful grey thoroughbred mare called Murphy. For two years she felt like she was my horse and her owner was happy for me to treat her as such.

MurphyIn the spring of the second year, Murphy became quite ill. We didn’t know what was wrong with her and for several months she was on-again/off-again with work. By autumn she was dropping weight rapidly and a trip to the equine hospital was in order.

She arrived on a Thursday. Within a day and after several tests she was diagnosed with cancer of the peritoneum (lining of the heart). She was dropping weight by the minute. By Saturday she was dead; euthanized. There was no staying the tide of that terrible disease.

Her loss was devastating to me.

I took two weeks off from riding and then, determined to get back in the saddle, started riding school horses again.

Then, about a month later, my future husband suggested it was time to turn my life-long dream of having a horse into reality.

Three months later Bear entered our lives.

Going back to The Arab Tent for a moment, what amazes me is how prophetic this beautiful piece of art seems ~ like a mysterious foreshadowing of what was going to be.

My experience with the grey mare (Murphy) gave birth to the brown colt (Bear).

A kissI get goosebumps just thinking of it.

Now every time I gaze upon The Arab Tent in my family room, I am reminded  of these two beautiful horses that have graced and brought important meaning to my life, and how their coming was, seemingly, pre-destined.

All that remains is for me to view the original of The Arab Tent at The Wallace Collection. I hope that day comes soon.

God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. I’ve experienced enough of life so far to believe this with my whole heart.

You just never know the profound significance of a simple gift.

I’m so glad I remembered this piece of my life and my mother’s role in it.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

The Critical One: The First and Second Letters in a Series …

Free Spirit

As part of my healing process I’ve been writing letters to different aspects of my Self that need resolution.  So far I have published a complete series to “The Panicked One.” Another series to “The Guarded One” is in progress.

Recently, I embarked on a series of letters to “The Critical One.”

I know I am not the only person who struggles with this miserable character, so I have opted to publish these letters in an ongoing occasional series of posts as well as store them in their own page in the menu.

If The Critical One stands in the way of your self-expression and dreams I hope you will find this even mildly cathartic.

I welcome any constructive and positive feedback.

Be well,

Dorothy

~*~

From: Dear Me: A Collection of Letters Addressed to Various Aspects of My Self … ©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

~*~

The date of each letter is the actual date it was written as a free writing, and freeing, exercise.

Herewith the first two letters to …

The Critical One

Perhaps one of the most devious and undermining aspects that requires addressing is The Critical One.

In fact, it’s hardly worth addressing the other aspects and hoping they’ll heal without also taking to task this damaging menace.

~*~

July 5, 2013

Dear Critical One ~

That is a harsh name, isn’t it?

Is this why you are so unhappy?

It lends itself to your unforgiving and harsh assessment of The Creative One and The Guarded One your, dare I say, fairer sisters.

Are you bitter?

If so, why?

Who rained on your parade?

The Perfectionist? That cruel mistress of illusion?

Ah … this makes sense.

Really, you must learn to let her go. She is phoney ~ the weaver of lies; the standard bearer for the unattainable; the spinner of unhappiness.

How can you even listen to her?

When you can let her go we shall re-name you to something more positive, softer like … not sure yet. We’ll need to think about that.

In the meantime, you have something to think about.

Perhaps, like your sister, The Panicked One, you should consider retiring.

You, like she, have exhausted yourself by serving as my “protector.” It’s time to release the manic need to control my interactions with life so as to keep me, supposedly and in your estimation, safe from, well, criticism, rejection and the like.

I can take care of my Self.

Please give this some serious thought. I have your, and my, best interests at heart and I can feel you need a permanent break.

I need a permanent break from you …

Pick an island. I’ll pay your one-way fare.

Lovingly,

Dorothy

~*~

July 7, 2013

Dear Critical One,

You always seem to find a way to get in the way.

And I would love you away …

Surely you have exhausted your resources. Are you not yet spent in your need to nit pick everything I do, say, experience?

Your need to control these aspects of my life must surely end at some point. Aren’t you tired of having to be in control all the time?

Have you not yet learned to trust me?

If not, I wish you would.

In your effort to “protect” me from the criticism of others by undermining me first, you actually do more harm than good.

Let me enlighten you …

Every time you nit pick, second guess, question, dismantle, dissect and just plain destroy my self-expression you destroy a part of me. You curtail my confidence, stifle my voice so I can barely hear myself never mind engage my thoughts, feelings and opinions with others.

While you maintain the stance of being helpful you’re actually being counter-productive.

Sometimes I think you must actually dislike me to be so cruel.

Why are you so cruel?

What did I ever do to you?

You don’t protect me. You prevent me.

And don’t harp on about the past. The past is just that ~ past. Gone. No longer relevant to who I am, or who you are today.

You need to adopt a new attitude ~ an attitude of acceptance. In fact, I would be happy to anoint you as The One Who Accepts if it would help you to see yourself differently. Wouldn’t you like to see yourself in a more positive light?

Please … relax your need to cling to the lies The Perfectionist has whispered so manipulatively into your ear.

She is not your friend.

She is our enemy.

The Perfectionist weaves her web of lies and ensnares the unsuspecting and you, dear Critical One, are just such a victim. The lies she tells you are the lies you unload on me … and I’m not taking it anymore!

So, wake up before it’s too late, before you are so deeply bound by The Perfectionist’s deception that there is no escape for either of us.

You don’t need to be a victim, and I don’t need to be victimized by you.

I can help you to be free. And the amazing thing is that once you are free I am too.

Kiss The Perfectionist goodbye and walk with me in the more supportive role of The One Who Accepts.

It’s never too late to let go of the damaging old ways and embrace new affirming ones.

You can trust me on this …

Lovingly,

Dorothy

~*~

To be continued …

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Letters to The Guarded One …

Free Spirit

Six weeks or so ago I had a dream.

It remained vivid in my consciousness after I awoke so I wrote it down and shared it later with my therapist.

It occurred to us both, during our discussion, that this dream was introducing to me another aspect of my Self looking for some resolution. This time one of mystery I’ve dubbed The Guarded One.

Click on the image above to connect to The Guarded One.

This series of letters is an ongoing exercise and I will notify you of further updates as they roll out.

A third series, this time addressed to the Critic, is due to begin soon.

Please feel free to spend some time with these letters. Though personal I believe they deal with universal issues to which we can all relate to one degree or another.

Perhaps something you read here will resonate with some lost part of you.

Be well,

Dorothy 🙂

 

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Dear Me: A Collection of Letters Addressed to Various Aspects of My Self

Free Spirit

How often has your life with all its good intentions and dreams been hijacked by some aspect of your Self with whom you just haven’t been able to connect?

Mine has. Many times. So many, in fact, that four years ago I finally enlisted the help of a good therapist to lead me to a new level of self-awareness. I was tired of being middle-aged and feeling broken. Something had to change.

Recently, as part of my therapy, I started writing letters to my Self. This exercise is helping me to connect, through the written word, with the wounded parts of myself that are, subconsciously, getting in the way of my ability to lead a full and happy life.

At its most basic this is a free-writing exercise connecting me to my subconscious.

My issues are not unique.

Abandonment, rejection, isolation, neglect, loss, etc. are universal issues we all experience to a greater or lesser degree. How they manifest, how we act out and how we respond to them is what sets each of us apart.

Finding the strength to look in the proverbial mirror and make the changes necessary to help us heal and move from survivor to thriver is stressful in and of itself.

We build our individual worlds around the way we’ve been programmed. Changing that programming takes self-awareness and courage.

These letters are written with the intention of reprogramming aspects of my Self that are working under old protocols that no longer serve.

For some reason I feel prompted to publish them. Maybe they’ll inspire, in some way, other’s looking for answers. I don’t know. I’m just doing as the muse moves.

This project is entitled ~ “Dear Me: A Collection of Letters Addressed to Various Aspects of My Self.”

The first series of letters, “Dear Panic, is posted in the menu as a static page.

The series is complete as is unless Panic crashes my party again and I need to spend some time talking her down.

Two more series are in the works. Rather than wait until they’re “finished” I’m going to publish them on an ongoing basis. Together we can observe what happens as the series unfold.

When a new letter has been posted to its relevant static page I’ll send out a notice via a post to let you know.

Life is too short to allow emotional pain to be our driving force. Our wheels spin and become stuck in a rut of our own misery.

We either tune up, or tune out.

The choice is ours.

Please feel free to explore these letters. Maybe they’ll resonate with you … maybe not.

Regardless, there is no formula, just a sincere desire to become whole and live my life with my best Self forward.

From my heart to yours … please take care of your Self.

Be well and thanks for visiting …

Dorothy 🙂

~*~

Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013