Archive for August 13, 2016

Cottage For Sale

Georgian Bay

Until the last couple of years, I spent my summers on Georgian Bay. When we were still young, my husband built a cottage on land we bought for our tenth wedding anniversary.

It’s spectacular country. The water’s so clear you can see the bottom even when it’s deep.  Colourful striated rock landscapes, towering trees and plenty of wildlife both in the water and on land combine to make this a magic place.

The guest house

As the years went by, our neighbours got too old for cottaging and put their little house up for sale. I bought it and we used it as a guesthouse for friends and extended family. The deed is in my name. It can be sold separately from the main cottage.

An ill-conceived vision

It’s this guesthouse I planned to inhabit for a two-week vacation on The Bay. I was really excited about the thought of the best swimming in the world. The water and the clean air would be so good for my lungs.

Harvey would be in the main house. Sammy the Poodle and I would be a discreet distance through the woods in the guesthouse. If you’ve been reading my blog posts, you know I believed Harvey and I could maintain a respectful relationship while living separately and joining together for family and community events. In my eagerness to have some summer on The Bay, I overlooked the fact that the proximity to my ex might ruin the experience.

The volcano

It wasn’t any single event that sent me into an angry, depressed state. By keeping him in my life, I was making myself miserable. My feelings were too often hurt. By the third day at the cottage, all the upset I’d been pushing down exploded like a volcano. For years, there’d been rumbles, but now the pressure had built up to a full-blown eruption. I had to get out of there and increase the distance if I was to find any peace.

Cottage for sale

And so I have put my guest house on the market. It’s a humble dwelling, built by the previous owners to house a couple and children. Inside it’s one open space with a kitchen area (fully equipped) and a separate bathroom with tub, shower and sink. The composting toilet is in a separate building. The hot and cold running water in the kitchen and bathroom is on a grey water system.

From the fairly new deck all across the front of the cottage, the land slopes gently down to the sandy beach where little kids can safely wade. There’s a dock with a swim ladder and from there you can swim forever. The whole cottage is furnished and I’m asking $129,000.00.

If you’re interested in knowing more, contact my agent, Gary French at chezfrench@sympatico.ca or phone him on his cell at (416) 407-5544.

How to Help a Friend Who Experienced Sexual Abuse in Childhood

sad-woman-crying-next-to-her-therapist_1098-1924Have you ever found yourself listening to a friend’s disclosure that she was sexually abused as a child? How did you handle it? What’s the best way to receive such news?

Here are some of my ideas, based on my thirty years as a trauma therapist. During that time, I helped women who had been sexually abused in childhood.

Statistics Reveal that Child Sexual Abuse is an Endemic in Our Society

It’s likely anyone reading this article will at some point find herself listening to a friend’s disclosure of child sexual abuse. Statistically, this crime against children is all too common.

The Centers for Disease Control’s 2012 research into child sexual abuse in the USA found that one in six boys and one in four girls reported being sexually abused before the age of 18.

What I Learned Listening to and Supporting Victims of Childhood Trauma

For thirty years, I had a front row seat as we gradually became aware that child sexual abuse was endemic in our society. For the first time, people were remembering and telling their stories. We were becoming aware that our children were being traumatized in their parents’ bedrooms and in church basements. They were abused in music lessons and in gymnasiums by the very adults they looked to for caring and protection.

Nobody Wants to Have Been Sexually Abused

I know the pain of these adult victims as they remember the terrors of their seemingly normal childhoods. No one wants to have been abused. The shame at having been betrayed is immense. They’re embarrassed and bewildered. How could this have happened to them, they wonder?

When your friend confides in you about her childhood trauma, she may have spent agonizing months or years dealing with her own disbelief. She may have wished that what she was remembering was a false memory. She now faces a host of awful realizations.

One of the worst realizations has to do with betrayal. Knowing that a trusted adult exploited her innocence and trust is incredibly painful. The closer the relationship, the worse the trauma.

Survivors Are Good at Looking Good

No one can blame you if you think your friend is too high functioning and too attractive to have been a victim. After all, you say, she has a great life. She’s successful and she’s always well dressed.

Don’t be fooled by what you see on the outside. In abuse survivors, the inside is often very different from external appearances.

Remembering and Forgetting

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have had a terrible secret to keep. Most often they were threatened with death by their perpetrator if they told.  Sometimes they were warned that a family member or a beloved pet would suffer if the child told anyone about the abuse.

Under these terrifying circumstances, the normal child’s brain is capable of wiping out whatever memories are inescapable and intolerable. This is how our human race survived wars, famines and other dangers. We couldn’t have survived if we’d crumpled and given up.

Conscious memory of the abuse is wiped out so that the victim can survive. On the other hand, not all victims dissociate the memories. Some young brains, for whatever reason, don’t wipe out what is too terrible to remember.

Here’s a guide for what to say and what not to say.

What Not to Say

  • Are you sure?! (Eyebrows and voice both go up at the end of the question)
  • You’re just remembering now? How could you forget such a terrible thing?
  • Tell me all about it
  • How can you say that! Your father / uncle / grandfather / teacher would never do such a thing

Positive Ways to Respond

  • I’m so sorry. This must be very difficult for you
  • A hug
  • If you want to tell me about it sometime, I’m open to that (if you really are able to hear)
  • Keep calling her on a regular basis. You don’t need to talk about the abuse
  • Just make yourself available. Realize she may be fearful you’ll now distance yourself. Telling is risky
  • Stay in touch

Based on your own experience, what would you advise other women to do when a friend discloses child sexual abuse? What feelings and emotions did you experience listening to your friend? Would you react differently if you could listen another time? Did you remain friends after the disclosure?

Your Positive Energy is Like Money in the Bank

after-the-gym-class_1098-143I don’t know about you, but one of the hardest things about aging is my lack of energy.

At the end of the day, I wonder where the time has gone. I’m too tired to keep going, but I’ve done so little. There’s much more I planned on, yet I really don’t have the energy to keep going.

Here are some thoughts on how to maintain a sense of positive energy after 60.

Strategies that Failed

I’ve tried numerous approaches to preserving my scarce and precious supply of energy. I have tried sleeping in the afternoon, going to bed early, drinking lots of coffee and caffeinated drinks. Alas, I’m still wilted long before I’m ready to call it a day.

Energy on a Budget

The other commodity that’s in short supply after retirement is money. I know how to preserve my cash flow. I have a bank account and I think carefully about how I spend available finances. There are necessary expenses and there are optional expenses. Some of those optional items give us a solid sense of well-being. Others don’t. Personally, deciding which is which shapes my spending habits. I need to get bang for my buck.

Deposits and Withdrawals

What if we thought of our energy in the same way we consider money in our retirement? We could ask ourselves which outputs of energy are necessary and which are frills. For example, maybe it’s mandatory that we keep our living space clean and that we shop for groceries to feed ourselves. Once that’s done, what’s left is discretionary energy. The art is to decide how best to spend it.

Friends Can Be a Source of Positive or Negative Energy

To assess the value of relationships, take a list of friends and acquaintances. Divide your list into those who represent deposits and those who represent withdrawals of energy. Write down the names of people with whom you spend time. Consider each one.

How do you feel after spending time with them? Are you left with a warm glow? Do you feel loved and respected? Or do you always come away tired and dissatisfied with your lot in life?

It’s important to spend your energy with those who contribute to your well-being fund. Now that we’re older, we can’t afford to run negative balances. There won’t be any newly generated wealth. The energy level we have now is what, with good conservation, we can expect in the future.

How to Spend Your Energy

Some activities make deposits to your energy account. Some make withdrawals. Draw up a second list. What activities are you involved in during a typical week?

Just as you did with friendships and acquaintances, evaluate each event. Are there other activities you’d like to enjoy? Whatever makes you happy is like money in the energy bank. You don’t want to drain the account. It’s important to avoid bad investments.

Exceptions to the Budget Choices

Sometimes we are faced with life’s inevitable demands. Maybe this comes in the form of aged parents whom we need to look after. I wouldn’t presume to tell an older person in this position how to budget. We all have to deal with our consciences, our love and our sense of duty to those whom we love.

The best budget is the one that allows as many deposits. These are heartwarming experiences, moments of joy, when a sense of being loved as possible. Avoiding excessive withdrawals is important. Sometimes this means finding others to share the expenses of energy involved in caring for our loved ones.

Pay off Your Debts

Most of us carry a few major issues and a bunch of little ones. Take care of any that can be eliminated with some thought and effort. Who do you need to reconcile with? Would an apology on your part ease the stress you’re feeling in a certain relationship? Get rid of these debts. They’re costing you a lot in tension and stress.