Adverse Childhood Experience (trauma focus)

“I don’t love you, Octavia. I don’t love you. I don’t love you. Octavia wanted to tell her mother, if you don’t love me, then who will? But the woman already knew the  answer to that question. Nobody. Nobody. Nobody. The woman was cultured, a constant thinker but her world as a child was constantly being undermined by the woman that she loved most in the  world. I am not perfect but I try to be good. I try to be kind. But it was never enough. When it came to Octavia’s brother he could do no wrong. From the women he chose to be with in his life, to his social mishaps, to his adventures. Octavia was taught to say nothing. To look the other way when he was happy and she was not. Forgive your brother, Octavia. Her mother would say breezily watching a soap opera or standing in the kitchen smoking and peeling vegetables. Doors would open. Bang shut. Time would stand still. Her brother would be standing there. Her mother’s face would be all lit up. Her perspective was the same when it came to her daughter. Not good enough, Octavia, she would drawl complacently. A woman should marry. A woman should have children. Why can’t you be more like your cousins? This obstinate behaviour is fine for a man but a woman, in a girl, in a lady. Octavia felt like a dahlia bulb in the frozen earth. All through high school she had achieved. In spite of the eating disorders, in spite of the melancholy and the depression but it had never been enough. You’re not aggressive enough. That’s why you didn’t win anything. Her mother would say. That’s why it’s a red star for nice try and not gold for excellence. Her brother would wink at her in the car armed with all his gold stars. Try and make her laugh. Octavia smiled bravely. She knew she would cry herself to sleep that night. Even now she could hear her mother’s voice with the clarity of daylight. A girl can never be too thin. For her mother being thin was a supreme gift from the gods. It and beauty came effortlessly to her. It had just made Octavia more insecure in all of her relationships. Has she lived? Was she wanted? Was she good enough? Was her opinion and all of her fears relevant? She became nonchalant. She began to not trust people. She hated women. No, she hates the girls that seemed to blossom into beauties. That stole her brother’s attention away from her. His bedroom door that remained obstinately closed to her when the girls came over. They would ignore her. Feel sorry for her. He was already gone. She knew that but he had what she had always wanted. A mother’s love. Octavia’s mother was unattainable to her. Her heart belonged always to someone else. Octavia’s brother. Octavia wrote in her journal. Love matters. I want to fall in love. I want to be in love. Love is like an invention or design. Love is like a precious metal. Love is like a glacial meltdown. Love means you have to change your face sometimes. Be happy even when you are sad because the man will leave, he will walk out on you, he will find someone more suitable. Love is as real as all the visions on earth. Love will save me. Love is a village. I am from that village. I am from that village. Octavia thought to herself as she put the radio on loud and sobbed breathlessly without making a sound into her pillow.

Dear Astronomer, I have turned my head away from all my arrogance and fear, my limited thinking and awareness in the arms of the universe. There are still subjects that are difficult for me. Sometimes it is hard to love the people you find yourself with. Sometimes it is hard to get hurt but I always return to the great matters of the wildflowers. You are my quiet awe, you have my heart, you are my responsibility and I remember the imprint of my deepest wounds as I turn to you and it is like a dream now. For you are the river that provides the sustenance of water for my soul. You are blessed with authority and power, authenticity and greatness. I gather the harvest. The reward of obedience. Birds sing, thoughtful and principled. In the greener valleys the foundations of the oceans are found there bold and cheerful and brave. You are commanding. You are masterful. You are a chariot and messenger. Believe in yourself, as I believe in you. The way I believe in you speaking gently, creator of the stars, the alignment of the planets and all the dimensions of the universe. I remain steadfast in prayer, mindful about breakthroughs, reassured that I am loved the way I am and you never say I am too much. You document all my acts of grace. The power of the leader in you is a qualified mother, maternal and paternal grandmother. For all of the astronomers in my life constantly at work.

You are all gold, but are you electric, or, a spotlight. For tender is the moment. There is much living to be done at this moment. The man is standing at the edge of the river. In another city, the woman is preparing for the day ahead. She is a diary on a page. She journals her very life into existence. The man is a success at everything. He is a poet. The woman is a novelist and playwright. The universe, the moon, the sun, the planets in alignment are all her stalwarts. All her witnesses. The woman hates the fact that her father is growing old, older, into an autumn poet. The phoenix turns in the air on wings of gold, engineered for authentic grace. The woman thinks the man is brave for looking at his soul like that and gravity falls through the air, principled and thoughtful. The rain falling on the roof is like clouds in the woman’s coffee, the smell of winter, a legacy written inside a photograph, and she turns forgiveness into an art, while the man turns it into a philosophy.

You make me think of the potential and belief systems of the mind. How to use the voice to tell my story. I look at all the dimensions and particles of the universe to be found in wildflowers. Wildflowers grow with infuriating exuberance in the face of authenticity, principled and effective thought. They were examples of God’s excellence. I think of the creator behind sabotage. And like a wave almost healing, crafting purposefully the shoreline with infuriating exuberance, I think what comes from the aftermath of sabotage. We can learn to grow in versions of authenticity in the spaces where theology stands on its own, we can take philosophy and all of its teachings and go out into the world and transform the anatomy of loneliness into the science of happiness. We can stay at home and write novels respectful of grief and mourning from a distance. We can remember sabotage, the negative and devastating aftermath of it all and the lessons of friendship and life, abundance and conviction that it can teach us. We can be like the wildflowers. Accepting an awareness of freedom in its purposefully crafted theology.

Abigail George
Abigail George
Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated shortlisted and longlisted poet Abigail George is a recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council, the Centre for Book and ECPACC. She briefly studied film, writes for The Poet, is an editor at MMAP and Contributing Writer at African Writer. She is a blogger, essayist, writer of several short stories, novellas and has ventured out to write for film with two projects in development . She was recently interviewed for Sentinel, and the BBC.