Hallo again. Here I am at last and happy to be back with a new blog. It is 3a.m. Before I write anymore, I want to congratulate my web creator, Kim Krause Berg, on becoming a grandmother since I last wrote. (Thank you Yvonne! K.K.B)
I had writer’s block for a while, not because I had nothing to write but because I had too much to write. Having a grasshopper brain didn’t help either. Tonight/this morning, I had a revelation which didn’t allow me to sleep, and I decided to get up and write about it in the hope that others can find some peace in their own experiences.
On Saturday March 18th, I went to bed feeling healthy and fell asleep. When I woke up Sunday March 19th, I couldn’t walk. The pain was excrutiating.
I couldn’t understand it, but managed to get ready for work which was a 45 minute drive. Once I was in the car, I was more at ease, and arrived, hobbling in to do the service which I love. Afterwards I met with a bride and groom to plan their wedding before finally going home to deal with the pain. I couldn’t.
It was a major challenge to move, so I held onto furniture to get around. What comforted me was that I had physical therapy the next day which would deal with this nonsense.
2022 was a nightmare for me. The pain started at the end of 2021.
To cut to the chase, I ended up with a walker and the pain was excrutiating. Thank goodness for Zoom so I could continue to work but the pain was relentless. I discovered how very kind people are such as those who drove me to doctors, shopped for me and were available for whatever I needed.
People are good and accommodating when necessary, so I am grateful.
Going to bed tonight, I thought the pain has eased and it did, for awhile. Then it didn’t. I noticed that I do things to entertain myself when I can’t sleep.
- I converse with me. John used to say I did that to have a conversation with an intelligent person!!! I have a mug that says that too.
- I sing.
- I remember incidents in my past which created who I am today. I think about why I am how I am today. It’s fascinating. I compile a list of people who have been so incredibly loving and supportive in my life. It’s a long one and some longer than fifty years. I also thought of the slogan, “No pain, no gain,” which took me in a different direct ion entirely.
This time it was about justice.
Many years ago, about 60 to be exact, I was experiencing a lot of self doubt, low self-esteem, and not understanding me at all. My beloved cousin Wilfred, who was an Army physician and later a family doctor, persuaded me to see a psychiatrist. At that time in England, if one saw a psychiatrist one was really sick but I agreed anyway.
The psychiatrist was in Kings College Hospital, a very highly esteemed facility. I liked him on sight. There was something warm and gentle about him. I soon learned that he knew how to deal with a frightened woman who didn’t know what was happening to her.
He tested me in many ways and had me complete questionnaires. I was with him for about two hours and finally he said, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with you other than you have an outsize sense of justice that is going to get you in a lot of trouble if you don’t curb it.”
Strangely enough that brought me a great deal of comfort. I knew he was right but I never considered it as a problem. Right there, my love of words took over, starting with the word problem.
I realized there are no problems, and nothing is hard or difficult. Everything is a challenge and we can rise to challenges. It’s called resilience and I didn’t know I had it until that moment.
With this being a revelation, I felt much better and able to do my work without constantly questioning my decisions. I was blessed with brilliant people who educated me about life and its reality, including how to deal with resentments and regrets. I experienced all kinds of wise training.
Which brings me to pain and sleeplessness.
This last episode, which I am experiencing now, opened my eyes to some of the thoughts and memories pain brings to me. We are all different and I am a very curious woman who wants to know why – about everything.
I don’t dwell on the pain – I want to know why.
Tonight, I thought about that psychiatrist and how right he was about me getting into trouble. I got into trouble with the prison authorities to the point they threatened to deport me. I questioned, where did that come from?
I know it was being a child of war, wondering about why we were bombed, shot at – escaping death so many times. Why such a man like hitler existed – no capital letters for him. I was loaded with resentments as a child especially when the Holocaust was revealed. As a little girl, I was enraged at the injustice of such times and couldn’t understand hatred and cruelty.
I still can’t.
I recalled another incident which happened when I was 15. At eleven years old, I won a scholarship to a very prestigious school in London called Mary Datchelor High School for Girls.
At that time in the United Kingdom, one had to sit for exams to assess what kind of school was the correct choice. This school was mainly for fee paying girls and they offered a few scholarships. At the time, the school was evacuated to Wales so there weren’t too many students or teachers in London. I loved it.
We had a school uniform, and I was able to buy one at the used clothing cupboard. I was so proud of that uniform because it didn’t show how poor we were, and I looked like the other girls. They had a system there, of school prefects, all of whom were elected by the girls and when I was 13, I became one. I was so proud of my badge which I wore on a ribbon around my neck.
At that time, the school returned after the war was over so that was another adjustment. I was elected every year and happy about it. I gained confidence. As a prefect we had to sit at a table in the cafeteria with 10 girls and “keep the peace”.
One day when I was fifteen, there was a lot of giggling at my table. I didn’t pay any attention – they weren’t causing any harm and they were very silly anyway. A teacher approached to find out what the noise was about. They went very quiet, and the teacher took various papers from them. Apparently they had biology classes where the teacher was talking about sexuality. They had drawn some pictures of what she taught in an unacceptable way so they had to be disciplined.
All well and good, until I was called into the Head Mistress’s office (Principal). She was intimidating to say the least. Dame Dorothy Brock. I will never forget her for a variety of reasons, this one in particular. She started questioning me about the girls at my table and accused me of being part of it. I assured her I was not, but she didn’t believe me. Of course the silly girls wouldn’t say anything to vindicate me so she and the whole staff believed I was guilty. I remained a prefect but the attitude of some members of the staff almost crushed me. I couldn’t do anything to change their minds.
The highest honour in the school was to be elected as Head Girl. The girls encouraged me to run for office. The Head Mistress and the staff refused to let me do so because of my “irresponsible” behaviour over that incident. I was called into Dame Brock’s office, and this is what she said.
“Yvonne, you are a born leader but you are leading the girls in the wrong way, so we will not allow you to be Head Girl. Maybe you will learn from your behaviour.”
I tried to explain again but it fell on deaf ears. I was crushed. The school went on strike when they heard about it and finally a fee paying girl was appointed, not elected.
This was the next step of recognizing injustice. It affected me for some time after I graduated in my first job. I joined the women’s movement at a very young age and found fellow travelers there. After a few dull jobs, I went to work at the National Association for Mental Health in London as a secretary and that’s when the changes happened. It was the start of a career I never expected. They saw something in me I didn’t see, and I was off and running.
Being trained to work in that field taught me even more about injustice. In those days, degrees and University were not required. Education was by on the job training; the best in my opinion. I took night courses too and it wasn’t until I came to this country that I had to go to University to get degrees. As a result, I didn’t learn as much as I had worked at the mental health facility all those years.
Pain brings out a lot of memories for me and I am so relieved to know I have let go of most of them. This one just makes me more determined to see that people are justly treated, respected and encouraged.
It’s true, I have encountered a lot of people who don’t get me, which is fine because the people who do, I will love forever.
The list is so long. They don’t mind my passion or that at times I am unreasonable because of this sense of justice, or rather, injustice. Recently when the not so Supreme Court of Injustice made their ludicrous decision which started an avalanche of horrific laws pertaining to women all over the country, I was ready to roll. I had marched with Gloria Steinem in the seventies, and I was ready again.
I am a fighter I will admit. The war, the racism I endured during that war, the school decisions, and other situations, made me who I am today. With the help of a therapist, I disregarded all those experiences and learned from them.
I am grateful to so many people who changed my direction and I will mention a few from long ago whose wisdom is still with me today.
- Dr. Dan Newman of Cincinnati
- Dr. Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
- Marion Reasa, Counselor
- Dame Cicely Saunders founder of the modern hospice movement
- Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies, and author of the internationally best-selling book, On Death and Dying
All of them mentors whose life experiences also contributed to who I am today. There’s a huge list of those who inspire me today and you know who you are.
So, the message I share with you is this.