Yes, it’s dark inside

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Yes, it’s dark inside

I’m perfectly well aware that many of my Alex Conner stories have grit, darkness, and sadness within their pages. But, I also know I have made them heroic, full of humor, and for some of the characters and readers, life changing. Alex’s backstory was something I struggled with. As with most central characters, I wanted, no needed, her to have overcome incredible odds and intense circumstances. One night in 2000, after hours of dancing with friends in San Diego, one of my closest friends opened up to me about what a man did to her when she was a child. I was so completely heartbroken for her as I lay there watching her always smiling face fall into sadness, but then it came to me that I can share her story and give to her a powerful ending to that nightmare within my story. She was gracious in allowing me to merge parts of her into the Alex character, and I hope the ending of Trust gave her something in return, something for all who have been abused. She is a survivor and someone I truly look up to every day.

What I didn’t count on was the transformation I would have now two years later. Yes, I put pieces of myself, my experiences, and piece of the people I’ve met in my life into each part of the first book, but I wasn’t fully aware that I was also healing from my own past. Parts of Alex took on characteristics of a young me trying to claw my way out of toxic and abusive relationship that lasted over two years. These relationships, they don’t start out that way. It’s a slow process where love, or what feels like love, comes first. Then the first violent act is one disguised as protection or jealousy, and a young girl mistakes that for unbridled love- a prince charming fighting for her honor. For me, the ugly side of him reared its head most often in conjunction with his drinking. As we became closer, it was revealed that he was a victim of his own abuser, a continuation of a cycle he was dragged into, seemingly without a choice, a way out, or even understanding of what was happening to him, to us, and to our future relationships.

No one would understand, as even my friends and family could not fathom why I was with this boy. Even my grandfather was taken aback when he wore a hat to meet him for the first time. Maybe an insignificant thing to a teenage girl raised in a different time, but looking back I can now clearly see the disrespect that my grandfather immediately saw and felt. And yes, I stayed even though there were multiple times I was scared of him, when a blade danced along my back, when I was pushed so hard I fell down a flight of stairs, when he attacked my friends verbally and at one time physically, we he lied, cheated, swore, threw things, hit his own friends, and even fought his own abuser, his father, amongst delicately wrapped Christmas presents while his mother wailed in the background, her tears reflecting a rainbow of color amid the twinkling lights.

When you love someone, and see their own tortured past, would any of you stay and try to save them, as I did? Many of you would have walked away long before I did. I tried, many times. Our relationship was tumultuous. Broken off and pieced back together more times than I can count. A staff member saw an interaction he and I had in the hallway, how he was talking to me and the way I was holding myself. Soon after I was called into the guidance office. While speaking with my counselor for the first time someone used the words “abusive relationship”. Yes, friends and family warned me away from him, but those words were powerful coming from someone outside of my life. When she called him in so we could talk, and I have seen him furious, but I have never seen him talk to an adult aside from his father in that manner. I could almost see steam rising off his body; his eyes bore into mine only once, telling me I betrayed him that this should have been our life, our secret to bear. How dare I tell this stranger a thing? And yes, we broke up, again, but we did get back together, even trying this battered relationship as I went away to college, but my counselor’s words always stayed with me, a warning in the back of my mind. I saw another counselor at college; it felt good to speak to someone who wasn’t close to me, who would listen to my secrets, who would help me listen to myself. So much so that I longed to study the human mind, psychology, and part of me longed to help others like me; however, that didn’t come till much later in life.

I left that abusive relationship behind many years ago. But some of the scars followed me, just as they did Alex. Trust was hard to come by, especially when dating, and some of the ways he treated me impacted my behavior, as if tendrils of the monster he turned into left a mark upon my being. I became jealous easily, was less confident, sometimes quick to anger, but one thing that stuck with me, helping me through it all when I didn’t want anyone to know what I allowed to happen, was my love of writing. Throwing my thoughts on paper led to poem books, many of which reflected my struggles with relationships. A novel was what I really hoped to write, and even though he never came to mind when I cycled through plots and character development, it was there, that darkness that had left a mark inside my heart and mind.

When I finally decided that I really wanted to continue my education, my high school counselor’s memory came back to me. Someone had saved me once, and even though it took time for me to really listen, I finally did. I wanted to be that voice for some other boy or girl who just needed to see and hear the truth. As I went through my master’s program in counseling it really shined a light on my life. There were parts of me I wanted to improve. Since I was going to be a mentor and counselor for young lives, I wanted to make sure I was someone they would look up to as well as someone they could learn from.

When Trust was completed twelve years after I completed my counseling program, I didn’t think of him, or the painful part of my past, at least not consciously. But as the years have gone by since the novel was completed, I have read books and posts about survivors of abuse and something in me stirred. I re-read the passages of how Alex felt when she had no control over her own life—the helplessness. How the abuse she suffered impacted her even when she thought she had gotten rid of her abuser for good. But in the end, he is gone and that part of her life is over. She could move on. She could forgive herself. Trust allowed my psyche to beat back my own lingering demons, to heal from what the relationship had done to me and to stop being so angry at myself for what I thought was weakness so long ago. So yes, this book was for me in more ways then I had realized. It is for all survivors of abusive relationships, for my friend, for anyone who has been a victim, who has felt helpless, and who has suffered at the hands of someone who controlled their body, mind, and soul.

Last year I finally revisited to the place I lived during high school and college summers, the place where this relationship began, where I was reminded that it truly existed. I never wanted to return to the small town in Colorado, I felt a relentless resentment towards this place we had moved to during my seventh grade year and that I never went back to after the Christmas of 2000. This summer I returned to visit family who still remained in the desert town of Western Colorado and I realized I hated who I was during many of the years I was there, but it had nothing to do with the actual place- the beautiful Colorado desert. It was truly a heart opening experience. I had finally allowed myself to love this place and to forgive myself. Yes, the old me had stayed because he had been only a child when he was warped into someone who didn’t know anything other than that type of love-a raw angry, controlling, terrible love. I am thankful that I was strong enough so that my part in that cycle of abuse was forever broken. As I shift away from myself, as it is my nature to be empathic and caring, I hope he has also found the strength to break the cycle. That he has love in his life a, genuine and kind love, one that he didn’t have from someone who was supposed to care for him the most.

Thank you for reading this soul-bearing post, and I hope everyone had an amazing holiday season!

Parker

Parker Sinclair

Founder, Owner & Author

Rawlings Books, LLC

http://www.RawlingsBooks.com

Author of Trust: The Alex Conner Chronicles Book OneTruth: The Alex Conner Chronicles Book Two, & Forbidden: An Alex Conner Chronicle Novella adult contemporary fantasy novels and Eve of the Exceptionals (YA fantasy releasing January 2oth, 2016).

Eve of the Exceptionals

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A Healing Heart and Mind

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As I have gone through grief, and now watch, listen and feel others go through it as well, I have been thinking about how I would help them professionally. What is the best way to let a parent, friend, or loved one of someone who has lost someone close to them know about some of the therapeutic ways to find happiness. About the ways to live with the pain. Because there is no complete removal of the pain, in some cases that isn’t even the desire. To fill no pain is to not feel at all, to not miss, to not mourn and then you are not keeping your loved one alive in your heart and mind enough. But what if that pain paralyzes you endlessly? What if you can’t keep it within you? This sadness that is now a part of you, a shaper of who you are. But, you are drowning in your sorrow, forever missing and longing for someone who is no longer there, can no longer physically be there with you…for you. Is it your destiny to cease to be as well? Will you then be another loss to those who have already lost this person, you all love? And how long will you feel what you are feeling? It may be anger, denial, a disconnection with reality. No, there isn’t a timeline for grief, even though I do believe in steps and phases, but there isn’t a set amount of time for each of them. And, not everyone experiences all of them in my opinion. I was stuck in anger for most of the time since my mother has passed…denial was not an option. I was somewhat prepared for her passing, more so than I think a lot of people are given the nature of the medical professionals in my family. No, I don’t necessarily think it should be that or even can be that way by any means, just my experiences, and the way things happened for me.

There are different reasons for grief and mourning…sometimes it isn’t a person at all; it may be a pet, or a place you have loved and cherished. My grandfather lost his home in Katrina and all of the memories of my grandmother along with it- washed away into the Back Bay as his refrigerator floated in the ruined garage. All of the pictures, clothes, knick-knacks, jewelry, memories…gone, and there was grief and despair along with that loss. We all felt that for him and through him. The loss of memories and of a home that we all shared during holidays and visits. Pieces of my grandmother that were still able to keep her close washed away with the raging waters that racked the gulf that year. I had thought this would break us all, but my grandfather moved through his grief, wave and after wave wracked this quick as a whip pilot, doctor, and psychiatrist. Father of four, grandfather of three…militarily strict but funny as hell. Oh, how I miss him every day as well.

My thoughts on grief are more of my thoughts on a happy life. It all relates when you lose sight of your happiness. When you lose your course, your strand of the web you were on with such sure footing and then blown off. Then you have to try and find some happiness and rational for moving forward. To shed the anger, the jadedness, the loss of faith and find a way to continue in their spirit, in their memories, yet without them. I don’t claim to heal intense levels of depression with these suggestions. In those cases, it is imperative to seek professional help, and if you know someone you think is depressed or suicidal, don’t fear asking them right out about their safety. You won’t inadvertently put that idea in their head, but by asking you may just save their life.

There are four things I believe can lead to happiness, spiritual growth and a path to healing.

Journaling: Finding the time and a way to get the racing thoughts out of your head on onto paper, a computer screen, a napkin, what have you is very therapeutic. It doesn’t matter if those words ever see daylight again. Sometimes it can be cathartic to read it or even destroy what you have written, sending it back into the universe (safely for goodness sakes, no living room bonfires please!). Journaling is also a wonderful technique for anger when you put down what you wish you could say to someone and then safely destroy it, thus ridding yourself of what is eating away at you. Journaling can often help recall forgotten and beautiful memories about your loved one. It can allow you to be raw and unfiltered (make sure you keep it private if that is your wish), and can also lead to incredible levels of creativity and wonder.
Empathy: Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is incredibly medicinal. It allows us to step away from your worries and concerns for a while, which our souls need a break from, and feel compassion for someone else. Being empathetic can lead to helping a fellow person in need which is also very healing and helpful for everyone involved.
Mindfulness: This technique saved me from what I think was a complete paralysis in my anger. I had lost my creativity and the future of my writing, and I just knew I was seconds away from panic attacks. Those seemed inevitable as work became increasingly demanding and stressful for not only me but everyone around me. I read about the technique in a book for mothers that focused on the need for me to be happy in order for my family unit to be happy as well. It isn’t an obvious notion for most of us to think about taking care of ourselves first as the best way to take care of others. Some are whispering “selfishness” in dark corners right now. No, we think doing more and more, pushing and spreading ourselves thinner and thinner so that our loved ones lives are fuller and busier are the answers to their happiness but it isn’t. Our children, husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, partners, lovers, friends and co-workers won’t be truly happy if we are suffering. Our mental and physical health is of the utmost importance if we are actually to help others around us. Mindfulness allowed me to take a break from everything and focus on only myself. Sometimes I know it is hard to find the time, sometimes I forget I need it, but it is refreshing, mind opening and essential. A free link to the technique is below from UCLA as well as a link to the book I read to get me on that track.
Nature: Enjoying the outdoors, the environment around you, tree hugging, dog petting, walking, biking, exploring, traveling, it is all incredibly therapeutic. Taking the time to watch a sunset, to go for a walk in your neighborhood, to count flower petals and practicing colors with your children outdoors is my last but not least recommendation. Most of us may be cooped up inside working all day, not feeling the warmth of the sun or the chill of the rain. Whether you like to paddle board, walk, skate, or even taking a drive with the windows down along a back country road. Taking your time and exploring, it is all therapeutic, and I believe necessary. Our history stems from being one with nature to the give and take, ebb and flow, the web of life. We are all connected, the earth, soil, water, animals, plants, bees, and trees; it’s important commune with it all once in a while. So go pick strawberries, body surf in the ocean or hike along that beaten path. It is cleansing and enlightening.
Right now I am in the midst of watching those around me experiencing intense levels of sadness, and I thought this is something I know about. Grief is something I have been trained on, lived through and utilize myself. My main character in the Alex Conner Chronicles overcomes a series of various levels of grief and utilizes many of these suggestions herself. Alex may be damaged, perhaps even broken, but she sought to make her life better despite it all. And if what you are currently doing is not working it is time to make a change, time to try something new. Looking to heal and be happier didn’t change the amazing parts of the person Alex is, and the same goes for me and hopefully for each of you.

If you would like to read more about Alex, please visit http://www.ParkerSinclair.net for a 3 chapter sample of her first book Trust and to join my mailing list. Be Well, Be Happy and Be You!

Parker

Mindfulness information and free guided practice: http://marc.ucla.edu/default.cfm

The book that led me to mindfulness: http://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-Mothers-Approach-Yourself-Children/dp/1741140102