Started later on Thursday evening and finished on Friday.
The snow continues but this is Wisconsin. Typing that twice -- “this is Wisconsin” -- in a matter of a few hours. It is cold and rather disgusting out side. I’ve stayed in the same neighborhood as the clinic that Julia attends on Thursdays after attachment therapy. The Y is close by as is a grocery store. I shop. I work out hard for the first time since Christmas. I have lost ground in my routine but not so much. The work out tires me out but it does not bore me. I am appreciating my iphone’s ability to grab my favorite podcasts. The New Yorker in my ears can get me through boring exercises with ease. And I just want to be home. Cold. Tired now. How did I ever do this last year when I was so fragile? I am grateful for the mild winter weather that we’ve had so far this season. It has helped me feel strong, helped me find strength. Maybe the next few months will be easier for it.
At attachment therapy today, Julia drew in the workbook about the people who took care of her in the orphanage. Julia drew a man which is unusual in itself since from what I know of her orphanages, the Ayis or nurses are all women. Julia talked about someone who took her on his lap and tickled her on her stomach -- she absolutely hates tickling. She was angry with this man and talked about how she kicked him and wanted to hurt him. She could not or would not say explain a lot about her anger. She says that this man took care of her and went away and came back again. He talked about how she wanted to hurt him again. We -- Marilyn and I -- tried not to put words in her mouth, not to shape the story. No leading questions! And man, is that hard! And so, it is hard to get every bit of the story that she remembers. We cannot scrape up the bits to make the gravy.
Julia has done and said other things since I’ve know her which have led me to believe that she might have been abused, but never this close. She has always been very private with her private parts. More so than most 5 year olds when she came to us, but I wasn’t sure if that was a sign of anything or if it was just coming into family intimacy so late. I’ve never pushed her to allow me to clean her when I thought she did not do a thorough job or show me something that hurt when the hurt was somewhere private. In the past few months, with her skin condition, she has allowed me a great deal of access to her body, any and all parts of it. Trust? Or surrender? She had no control over what was happening to her body. Of course, neither did I. Could it be that she was so bothered by the itch, so much at her wits‘ end that any comfort that I might offer, be it washing, applying creams, or spraying was . . . not exactly welcomed, but tolerated. Was she asking to be healed in every way that she could? Was she just hoping that I had some power to heal her?
This line of thought makes me realize how much more trusting she has become. She will still ask me not to hurt her -- taking off bandaids can hurt, combing hair can hurt -- but she no longer pulls away like she did for a long time after coming home. She will also say now, “you love my body, right?” And I tell her the I love it and that my job is to take care of her body until she is 18. She likes this. In our loving kindness meditation, she regularly asks me to say, may you heal.
May you be safe,
May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
May you heal,
May you live with care, with me, forever.
The “with me” and “forever” are also her additions. These words are very powerful for her. And for me.
Back to her telling at Marilyn’s. Julia adored David. She enjoyed having a Daddy a great deal, but when she plays families with her dinosaurs, it is almost always the mommies that take care of the babies and little children. I think that caregiving is for mommies in her imagination. This also makes me believe her story is real. Another thing that I just remembered -- When Marilyn gave her the instruction of what to draw (and this is part of a trauma workbook for kids), she asked her to draw the person who took care of her in the first three years of her life. Julia said, “you mean the father”, which Marilyn and I took to mean her birth father because she had just finished a section in which she imagined her birth mother and father. I said, not your father, but the Ayis in the orphanage. Julia then immediately started drawing a man with a baby. She drew over that picture of the baby on the man’s lap, replacing the baby with a young child who was very angry and trying very hard to get away from the man. Julia’s drawing leaves no doubt that she did not like this person. The child trying to get away from the man is angry, scared, insanely moving her limbs.
But now that I think of it, maybe I should not have told her that we wanted her to draw the Ayis and not her father. I have Julia’s file which says she was abandoned at 10 days old, so logically the person she drew could not have been her father, but of course, so little in her file is true, there is no reason to believe that even that fact is true. She might not have been abandoned until she was 2 or 3. I know she was in the orphanage by the time she was 4.5 because we have a picture of her from that time. So, even in trying not to influence or change her story, I might have done just that.
This dealing with half formed, half remembered, snippets of memory grows more complicated and elusive every time I consider it. The possibilities, the teasing out of stories, are almost endless.