I am thinking about friendships, something I knew nothing about the first 18 years of my life.  In the world of my mentally ill, severely abusive mother all I was ‘good’ for was ‘punishment’, certainly not for friendships with anyone.

My mother worked hard to control access that anyone had to me.  She moved the family from Los Angeles where her mother, my grandmother lived shortly before my 6th birthday.  That move – no matter what my mother ever told anyone – HAD to happen in mother’s universe so that her abuse of me could continue without interference.

It worked.  Certainly my father never interfered.  Certainly my siblings were powerless to interfere.  Certainly I could not interfere.  Most of the time mother even prevented me from access to my own siblings.  I was banished, isolated, kept in solitary confinement – left to stand in corners, left in my bed – anything mother could do to make sure I remained in HER HELL – Mother was effective at what she did nearly beyond belief.


Like so many other things about being a person, once I left home at 18 I had to watch other people as I guessed at what being human was, what being or having a friend was.  There have been many years in my life when I floated through years believing I had friendships.  In fact, I suppose I DID have friends – but as I age (I am 60 now) I understand more and more about myself as a trauma-changed person.  I understand from the inside out what my extreme insecure attachment disorder does to distort my ability to relate to people.

Sure – I can fake it.  All the rest of this is a very long story.


I wish to mention the following video.  As I watched this tender reunion of two spectacular animals I found myself wishing I had with a friend the kind of closeness these animals are showing me.  What would this feel like, to be able to be this free to express affection?

This is one of the most tender series of interactions I have ever watched.  I never (like many of this blog’s readers) EVER received this kind of touch from my mother – or from my father.  Not once.  Not one single time was I shown that I was loved.

Because I was NOT loved.

This video is about love.  The purest kind of love.  Can anyone watch this and not WANT SOME?

I will never say I am not loved – but with an insecure attachment disorder as severe as mine is – I cannot FEEL this kind of love.  Tragedy.

And yet viewing this video gives me an experience outside of human time in being able to witness what I hope some human beings ARE able to feel, express, and share with other people.  I had this ability robbed from me by 18 years of insane, brutal abuse.


Elephants reunited after 20 years

I cannot explain with reasoning what I am conveying in this post.  Yet I also know there are readers who know exactly what I am talking about.

I also believe that no matter how well people think they can love and receive love — that it might only be with the purity of young childhood that THIS caliber of love exists in the human world.

Am I jaded?  I might be.  Maybe it’s a consequence of my insecure attachment disorder that I cannot really SEE the kind of love these two elephants are expressing happen between people (and I am so NOT speaking of any kind of sexual interaction).

The exception in my life has been my witnessing of the love my daughter and her little son share with one another.  I just wish we didn’t live 1700 miles apart!


This is fascinating!!

More on elephant emotions!


Whatever happened to Shirley and Jenny? 

“In 2000, The Urban Elephant brought viewers the touching story of Shirley and Jenny, two elephants reunited at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee after a 22-year separation. The bonding was immediate, intense and unforgettable between the two former circus elephants. But long after the cameras were turned off, the wondrous moments would continue.

“The two were inseparable. Shirley quickly assumed the role of surrogate mother to Jenny, who though now an adult — had been a baby when they first met at the circus. Their bond was so intense; it would forever change life at the sanctuary. As Carol Buckley, Executive Director of the Sanctuary describes it, ‘that was the love that started our elephant family.’ “After Shirley’s arrival, elephants who had previously been companions and friends were now sisters and aunts in the mother and daughter relationship of Shirley and Jenny. They gave the sanctuary its future,” says Carol. These strong bonds would soon be needed. Sadly, on October 17, 2006, ten years after arriving at the sanctuary, Jenny died.

“Jenny came to the sanctuary quite ill. She had scars and other traces of misuse and abuse from her past as a circus elephant. She had been exposed to tuberculosis. And due to an attack by a bull elephant before coming to the sanctuary, Jenny had a crippled back leg. Her caregivers suspect the leg harbored a hidden bacterial infection that flared up last year.

“”The day before she died, Jenny had been down and she wouldn’t get up. Shirley stood by her and insisted that Jenny get up. Jenny just couldn’t get up. Then Jenny stood up but she had to lean on Shirley to keep up. If you looked at Shirley’s face, you could see that she knew that Jenny was dying. Jenny dropped to the ground and Shirley walked into the woods.”

“Jenny was on her deathbed when Shirley walked to the woods but she would give Carol and the sanctuary caregivers the privilege of one last incredible glimpse into the world of elephants before she died. “After Shirley left, Jenny started to make this rumbling noise. With each exhalation, she would rumble. It was almost like a singing. As Jenny did this, Bunny and Tara (two sanctuary elephants) came running over. We thought that was it and she was going to die. And then Bunny and Tara started trumpeting and rumbling. At a certain point, I turned to Scott (Director of The Elephant Sanctuary) and I asked him how long this was going on. He said 58 minutes! Well, she continued for another two hours. Jenny lived through the night and was even perky and silly. She passed in the morning. And when she died, she did a vocalization that I had never heard. It was like a trumpet. It was very low and got quieter and quieter. She passed very peacefully without straining or exerting herself. To experience this ritual was amazing. I had never seen anything like it.” Shirley stayed in the woods until Jenny passed. She didn’t eat for two days. “It was very hard and especially hard on Shirley. Shirley’s whole life was about taking care of baby Jenny. It was like a mom losing her baby.””


The Urban Elephant


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  1. It’s important for our colleagues to not just understand the theory of their work, but also see how an expert does it. By focusing on my performance I give others an example of how the work should be done, allowing them to emulate me if they choose to.

  2. I love elephants, they are the most amazing of animals – caring,
    Sensitive, intelligent. I wish we could reach this level of openness
    In first of all knowing love and then sharing love. I’ve realised how
    much I guard my own heart from connecting with people but at the
    Same time wondering how much I can. I can relate to that – I feel like
    I’m watching from the outside when I look at others. You do express
    Yourself well – I guess its just hard to describe to your satisfaction –
    And to clearly know what you want to say?
    I didn’t have many friends and really was a hidden child so did not
    Have relationships. I realised I’m so taken up with the game between
    my mother and me that I can’t think beyond it. My mind has been so
    Numb with anxiety as to what will happen/ she do next. A strange world
    To have lived in – hardly able to have time or space to think.
    Your abuse was so extreme – hit me again when I read this. Most people
    Don’t understand – I don’t know of anyone who has experienced that level.
    Yet I feel that you are a warm person in your responses and I am most fond of
    You tho never met! I hope that you and I and others can experience moments of
    Being loved.. X

    • Hi dear – I added a few more elephant links to the post just now – I wish I could spend a lifetime being with animals like these! So much to learn – and I do try to learn from humans!

      After I posted this last eve I realized what I was writing was very much connected to the depersonalization-derealization of dissociation – that numbness….

      I had a gentleman at the laundromat cafe tell me yesterday that perhaps instead of trying to write my abuse story first, perhaps I should write what I know of my mother’s story first. An intriguing idea….

      Does your mother live in South Africa too??

      Sending warmest wishes, thoughts and prayers your way!! xo

      • Yes she does live in SA. Yes – dissociation and depersonalisation were definitely what you were writing about!
        I’ve just been reading those posts and can so see it. I now understand my reality better – so much better. My childhood
        Makes sense as far as it will as dissociative experiences. I can so see the pattern of trauma starting in my grandmother
        – as far as I can go back – she was very dissociated. Now I understand my brain a lot better and won’t panick so much
        When the numbness happens. Others who don’t have that really don’t understand how something can ‘just happen’ to
        A person.
        My mother lives in the next town – pretty close. I have made a decision not to read her emails – they just retraumatise me.
        I’m not sure yet when and how our interaction will be in future – I’m just maintaining peace and self care..

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