Space for Myself: Reading
I thought I would share some of the ways I followed some of the suggestions on self care that you saw in my last blog: Let’s start with reading.
For many of us, life before domestic abuse was rich with activities we found life giving. For me, and many others, reading was a great pleasure. I recall William Nicholson’s comment, ‘We read to know we are not alone’, which I have found to be true. Reading also helps us enter another world and walk for a while in the shoes of someone else, which encourages empathy in us with the added bonus of taking us out of ourselves.
I recall dreading weekends without my children. They wanted to see their dad, and our therapist encouraged this. I was fairly sure he would not be violent towards them, because he hadn’t been in the past, but, as ever, I was on the alert. Hyper vigilance is exhausting, if necessary when we are under threat – and we lived our lives under constant threat! When the threat is left behind , we need to cultivate periods of rest from it until, hopefully, the time comes when we can relax. For me, that rest came with reading. I read all sorts, but my favourite genre was, and still is, a well written thriller – the detective in me was captivated! I particularly like reading Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels because they take place in settings I know.
Like many others, I also read to try and understand the situation I found myself in – I pursued this understanding with the same doggedness as the detectives in my thrillers! I found what I learned helped me become better friends with myself; by the point of leaving my marriage, the real me had gone underground, and felt responsible for everything. I recall being alarmed and appalled at my relationship being described by a therapist as codependent! My first move was to read Melody Beattie’s book Codependent No More, which confirmed the co dependence in me. This made me laugh because I was adamant I was no such thing; it also helped me understand that codependent does not mean I had an addiction, as I previously thought, and helped me see the manipulative strategies of my abuser. Many years later I wrote my own book, WITNESS, Sarah’s account of life with an abusive husband, also available from my website: http://www.witnessbykittynolan.com
I also recovered my interest in history reading William Dalrymple’s White Mughals which told the story of a 17th Century Scotsman who worked for the East India Company, and fell in love with the beautiful Khair un-Nissa. It was a mutual love affair; her courting him as much as him courting her, which, given the Islamic culture and customs of the time, I found very surprising. This book reminded me of my family’s links to India through my grandfather who served in the Punjab in the early 1900’s. In turn it got me interested in my family history, which in turn gave me a chance to broaden the picture I had of myself, and connect with family I did not know I had. I thought my siblings and few cousins were the last of my family, and now we have found hundreds more from across the globe.
I have always loved poetry. Poetry reaches the essence of things more clearly than any other writing for me. I discovered Carol Anne Duffy’s Feminine Gospels which expressed many of my own feelings. (Later, I discovered her children’s stories, particularly The Lost Happy Endings, which I’ve read to many children). I discovered the mystic John O’Donahue, one of his books Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Hunger To Belong helped me realise the importance of community and connection. Years of isolation and emotional neglect had taken it’s toll. Then I discovered the Australian Cartoonist Michael Leunig, and I leave you with one of his pieces, a prayer, minus the cartoon! I’ve included a link to Michael Leunig’s site where you can see his writing and drawings.
Love and Fear
There are only two feelings, Love and fear:
There are only two languages, Love and fear:
There are only two activities, Love and fear:
There are only two motives, two procedures,
two frameworks, two results, Love and fear,
Love and fear.
I’ve shared some of my journey back to reading, and the tangents such reading brings, hoping it illustrates, in some small way, the power of the written word to expand our lives; lives which, for many of us, had become so contracted. Reading is only one way toward self care; our next suggestion will be ‘Go Outside’.
I look forward to your your comments and suggestions.
Sending out peace to you.