Monday, April 9, 2012

Tolson 4 TEARS on "NABBW" Interview



This is an archived interview that appeared on the National Association of Baby Boomer Women operated by Anne Holmes and includes the community forums at Boomer Women Speak.

Baby Boomers Give Voice to Domestic Violence Interview hosted by Dotsie Bregel with author/advocate Lynn C. Tolson.


NABBW: It’s time to feature an everyday baby boomer making a difference in the lives of other baby boomer women, and all women. Lynn has been associated with the National Association of Baby Boomer Women since it’s inception. I’ve read her book, Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story, interviewed her for our teleseminars, and enjoy her company in the BWS forums. Her mission is to put an end to domestic violence. Enjoy getting to know her in the interview below.
NABBW: Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself
LT: Do you have space for one paragraph of 300 pages? That’s the length of my book, Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor’s Story. Since my late teens, I’d been told that I should tell my story about surviving my self. Every excuse kept me from writing. When I was forty-eight, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctors told me that if I did not get treatment, I would have six months to two years to live. I had to publish my book if it was the last thing I did! No more excuses! In the last five years, my story has been my life’s work, because it has a message of hope and healing. I started the Project for TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide. TEARS exists to comfort victims by telling my story, confront violence by breaking the silence, and challenge society via information and action. So no shed tear is wasted. In my mid-life, I’m all about TEARS, my nickname for the book and the work.
NABBW: Tell us about your family
LT: The first thing (but not the only thing) I liked about my husband was his name, Woody. On October 20, 2009, my husband and I celebrated our 21st anniversary. We married at Lake Tahoe. As arranged, a minister walked us up a trail fragrant from pine-cones and dappled with sunlight. I was wearing black satin pumps (with stockings that snagged on a twig) and a silk dress befitting the 1980s, complete with football sized shoulder pads. Woody wore a suit and tie, and his best (only) dress shoes. As we were saying our vows, my ring fell into the dirt. So did his contact lens. As we were squatting and sifting through pine-needles, it occurred to me that we could have worn hiking boots, cargo pants, and rock-concert tee shirts. That scene represents our generation, intertwined with tradition and innovation. 
My husband and I never had kids. By the time I thought I was emotionally mature enough, it was biologically too late.
NABBW: What is your favorite childhood memory
LT: I grew up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, depending on which parent/step-parent had visitation rights. My favorite place to visit was the Jersey shore. On the boardwalk, the air smelled of caramel popcorn, cotton candy, and salt-water taffy. Atlantic City had beach houses where gambling casinos now stand, and our rental cottage was just a block from the ocean. I craved the white noise of the ocean surf, which drowned out the dreadful shouting of parents’ irreconcilable differences.
NABBW: What qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?
LT: The generations of women before were silenced, especially pertaining to personal traumatic experiences. My grandmother talked about World War II and her brother’s “shell-shock” (he’d been away as a medic) but she could not speak about her own battle as she nursed her black eye from her husband’s wayward fist. My mother was silenced by her husband’s violence, but others called her shy. I was silenced by witnessing/experiencing domestic violence, but they called me sensitive. Now, women are taking care of them selves. I’ve learned the qualities of speaking up, speaking out, and speaking my mind for this and future generations.
NABBW: What inspires you?
LT: The word “speak” comes to mind, as in Boomer Women Speak. I am inspired by the camaraderie in the forums. Where once I was intimidated by the shame and stigma of abuse, I now feel inspired to share. I have been inspired by my cohorts to be real, and that my reality is OK with them. In the open and comfortable arms of women my age, I have been inspired by them to see through the darkness and move into the light.
NABBW: What brings you most pleasure in mid-life?
LT: My grandmother died this year (with Alzheimer’s at age 102.5) and my mother is dying from Alzheimers at age 78. What brings me pleasure pertains to the senses: Young hands holding older hands, palm-to-palm, lifeline-to-lifeline. She experiences the pleasure and expresses it in a sentence shortened by Alzheimer’s: “Feels nice.” I take pleasure in those touching moments.
NABBW: Do you have any interesting hobbies?
LT: Cleaning house used to be my main hobby. Fortunately, in mid-life, I’ve cultivated other hobbies. Reading (is that interesting?) has been a hobby since 3rd grade Nancy Drew mysteries. Now it’s non-fiction about real-life drama. I am a fan of Sue William Silverman’s memoirs. Painting/collage is a hobby, and I am creating a book with my abstract art to coincide with affirmations/revelations from TEARS.
NABBW: Do you travel?
LT: My husband and I love to travel in the good old USA. We’ve traveled from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. We can travel around our neighborhood and be in awe of the scenery and wildlife since we live near the Rocky Mountains with Pike’s Peak in view. Whenever possible, we travel with our two adorable but rambunctious West Highland White Terriers.
NABBW: Do you practice preventive medicine?
LT: I consider massage therapy as preventive medicine because it soothes the body and the mind. After the trauma of domestic violence, my body could no longer discern between a hard hit and a warm hug. Massage was a healing element after abuse, as it trained my body to receive gentle touch.
I consider walking/hiking/yoga as preventive activities. Between my first and second surgeries for breast cancer, I did water exercise. I recovered more quickly after the second surgery because my body had been strengthend. I don’t take vitamins. I do take pharmaceuticals that have been beneficial in treating the depression that often results from an abusive childhood, even after the abuse has ended. The best intervention medicine comes from the entertainment of my pets!
NABBW: What do you stress about?
LT: I stress about money! I’ve worked for domestic violence and sexual abuse awareness without an income for five years. I’ve delivered speeches to shelters and consulted confidentially with victims as a volunteer advocate.
NABBW: Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks?
LT: Yes, looking healthy and being attractive is important. On my grandmother’s 100th birthday, she rubbed her chin and said, “I have a whisker.” I plucked it for her, knowing that I will be as concerned as her, even at that age. I’ve had bi-lateral mastectomies due to cancer, and reconstructive surgeries. Considering the pain I went through, I don’t even want a tattoo! I do enjoy the lotions and potions used for skin care, and I would not mind micro-dermabrasion to remove the sun-spots acquired at the beach.
NABBW: Have you re-invented yourself?
LT: I am constantly re-inventing myself in emotional, physical, and spiritual areas. Women who experience domestic violence may lose their sense of self. Often, re-invention means returning to the women they were meant to be before abuse. We were not meant to operate in fear; we are destined to give and receive love. That is what re-invention means to me. For me, every invention retains one common characteristic, and that is my intense personality. I’d like to re-invent myself to include a sense of humor! 
NABBW: Do you plan to retire?
LT: Given that my self-styled job is to confront violence against women and children, I unfortunately don’t see a chance of retirement, unless/until we experience peace in our homes. I want my husband to retire, but since he has to support me in my ever-evolving endeavors, retirement for him does not seem likely. He does buy lottery tickets!
NABBW: Do you engage in any faith based practices?
LT: My core faith-based practices include The Lord’s Prayer and The Golden Rule. I also use active meditations, such as walking and writing, to have my private conversations with God.
NABBW: Can you pinpoint major turning points in your life that led to your life’s work/play at midlife?
LT: This is intense, but more common than women know. In my forties, I had a series of frightening memories and debilitating migraines that literally brought me to my knees, sobbing in the shower. Since my sanity had always been in question, I thought, “This is it. I’ve really gone insane.” The grace of God led me to a therapist who diagnosed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) related to witnessing and experiencing domestic violence in childhood, and beyond. Thus began another phase of my healing journey. What is common amongst mid-life women who have been abused is this: When the children have moved out and/or when the careers wind down, women may begin to remember what they’ve put in the back of their mind for decades. They may not experience symptoms of PTSD yet they may experience depression and/or anxiety. Mid-life women tell me, “I thought I was having a nervous break-down!” Yet, with help, this period may lead to a break-through, with safety and sanity the ultimate gift. Leading women on the path to hope and healing became my life’s work.
While telling my secrets in that round of therapy, I decided to reveal the secret artist within. I’d been a shadow artist all my life, admiring others’ work. In mid-life, I chose to spend less time artfully cleaning my house, and more time creating watercolor paintings and mixed-media collages.
NABBW: Do you still have unfulfilled dreams, and are you doing anything to accomplish them?
LT: It may be in my genes to live to be one-hundred, so I may have half a life left. I have dreams of writing, dreams of romance (but not writing romance novels), [maybe if my husband retires he’ll be more romantic?] dreams of riches (to feed me in old age) and dreams of rewards for working a worthy cause (every email from an encouragd woman enriches me).
NABBW: Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

LT: It is not anyone you know, like Oprah, or expect, like a relative or teacher. The biggest influences on my life has been my therapists. I’ve had two therapists, coincidentally both named Karen, and they have influenced me toward a love-of-life perspective. They both influenced me to a concept of God as a fiercly loving father, rather than a force to fear. I am influenced by my boomer women cohorts, who offer a sincere concern for one another and the world at large.
NABBW: If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be? Feel free to be as serious or fun as you choose.
LT: As stated earlier, I am a very serious person. So here is my very serious mission statement: to write, relate, and inspire the recovery of the spirit in personal creative development.

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