Dissociation: Separation of Self

I lost my sense of self at 5 years old. Before that I have only what I can construct from pictures and stories told to me of my early childhood. I look at those pictures of myself and see a happy, curious, adventurous little girl. I don’t have any sense of recognition of her but yet somehow I sense she is my foundation.

In kindergarten I began molding a new self from outside direction, interactions and responses. I was recreating a new person-shaping and forming her to adjust to the perceptions of what I thought I was being told who I was suppose to be. My reaction and handling of simply being told I couldn’t be Cathy (the name I went by and associated as me) in school and had to be Mary (my legal first name) sent me into a lifelong road of dissociation, separation and alienation of myself.

Maybe my perception was all wrong. In fact I now know that my perception was out of proportion to what happened. Today I realize that the teacher’s intention was to correctly use my legal name she was not attacking my personal identity but as a five year old I had limited capabilities of reacting to someone who made me feel like I was not acceptable to be there and believed I was being told I had to be someone else. Mary’s emergence created confusion and an identity crises in a five year old.

I lived as two different people throughout my childhood. One person at home and the other person at school. In the beginning I was comfortable at home being the person who I thought of as me. The other person that appeared at school was someone else. She wasn’t me. I didn’t even like her. Pictures of me through elementary school were of some stranger, no smile, her eyes seem distant like she has retreated inside herself. She seems lifeless almost invisible. We see an immerging of someone who is acting and doing what is expected of her. I was Cathy at home and Mary at school. I switched back and forth between personalities. It became natural and normal for me. My sense of self was split apart.

As I grew up. That other person began pushing me down, drowning me out. I began to disappear as she took control over more and more of my life. I was drowning and I was spending less and less time out in the world. I stop developing from within. Mary disrupted my growth and influenced who I became. I still see Cathy and Mary as two separate people. I speak of them in the third person. Mary was and is not me. Cathy is some hazy memory of me that no longer exists. I have few real emotionally attached memories of my life. What I do know and feel strongly about is that I hated Mary.

I became distant, shy, introverted, and fearful. I withdrew more and more. I became distanced from my feelings. Dissociation became a way of life. This coping device became a pattern that I used throughout my life. It allowed me to distance myself and my feelings from the experiences of my father’s post-traumatic stress disorder. His dissociation impacted me and in turn affected our whole family. I, however, used the same technique to just disconnect from his emotional turmoil without becoming emerged in it. I also used it to disconnect from my mother’s reaction and handling of it which actually frighten me more than my father’s nightmares and handling of them.

This is how I become a shell of a person. Empty inside. It began with what I thought was a rejection of myself from the outside world. I then turned that rejection upon myself. In rejection of who I was, I abandoned who I thought of as myself. In abandoning her and allowing this other person to take over she became hurt and lonely. And then I distanced myself from the lives going on around me and the people who made me feel like I was in the way. I became good at disappearing and becoming invisible.

There were moments during my life when none of it mattered. Moments when I felt alive and real. Those moments were always when I was at the water, be it a lake or the ocean. On those occasions when I was able to be at sea. I was just present in the moment, being. I never understood what was different at those times or why. I never thought about it. As a child I was just grateful for the reprieve of the constant battle inside myself and the battles of life going on around me. Everything I couldn’t do anything about I receded from. In actuality being away from home and at the beach or on the sea on a boat was the ultimate escape from reality. An acceptable form of dissociation.

For years I made failed attempts to either reconnect with that lost person who was abandoned and pushed down. Then I failed at trying to merge the two personalities into one whole person. During this time from adolescents, young adulthood and on towards midlife depersonalization or derealization aspects of dissociation emerged because Cathy had given up fighting to exist and Mary wasn’t needed anymore.

I fell into an abyss. I slipped into a shell of a life with no person inside. Life was a fog and I wasn’t a real person. I was just a body with no feelings. Aware that I was not having the feelings I should be experiencing with my children was the catalyst for my wanting, no needing to resolve this sense of self issue that had plagued me all my life. Deeply wanting to live through my inner core to feel and experience life, experience life through the senses, sight, smell, touch, and taste. I had no choice but to step out into this journey of connecting with my true self and to live in alignment with my authentic self.

There was no road, no plan of action, to follow. I just began by being present in the present moment and making choices as they came along. It guided me into the woods and eventually to the ocean. The woods unraveled the past where I shed the beliefs I had carried with me. The ocean navigated the way for me to emerge from my shell, the hard shell I had hid myself in. I am always at risk of slipping back into that pattern of coping. I am now aware of the signs and I know the place I need to go.

Whenever I perceive my sense of self receding or feel the inclination to revert into disassociation I know the first step for me is to go to the beach, to the ocean, to the sea. Being there pulls me into the present moment into connection to nature, to the wisdom of being. It guides me into the space of emptiness that is pure being. In that space I connect to my soul, where I reside. Once I am grounded in that space, I can them return to everyday life living from within rather than a place of withdrawing or receding within and disconnecting from life or from myself.




Our First Cruise: Cruising in a Hurricane

Before I get into our current Sisters Adventures, I thought I would do a little reminiscing on how we came to love cruising the ocean blue. Ships and far off places were introduced to me by my dad, Jack. He was a custom broker in Boston. He often was going to the port to pick up paperwork from a container ship or going with custom inspectors to inspect incoming cargo. It was here that I first fell in love with ships. They were container ships and I learned about the process of importing rugs, furniture, lace, fabric and other items into the United States. I was fascinated about where these items came from and the countries and the customs and people of these far off places. He talked about taking me on one of these freighter ships on a trip.

And then Carnival Cruise Lines brought its first ships into the port of Boston. He saw these wonderful ocean liners and decided we were going on them. Our introduction to the ocean cruise ship was on a trip on the Carnival Mardi Gras from Boston to Bermuda. Bermuda was someplace we were familiar with because it was where we would go for a short vacation when our parents could afford it.Dad thought that this was a wonderful opportunity and he convinced mom to agree to this trip.We excitedly anticipated our very first cruise.

I had two friends and my sister had a friend who wanted to go and so we booked a quad cabin that was a small room with two sets of bunks. My parents booked a cabin for themselves and my sister.  All five of us girls actually stayed in our quad cabin with a cot in the middle between the bunks.

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We set sail in September from Boston. The memories that are strong are just pieces of the time we spent on the ship. The feeling of being on the ocean and my connection to it as well as to the friends I was with and the people we met are what has remained strongly imbedded in my being.

We left Boston on slightly rough seas. As the night progressed the seas got more turbulent. By morning I knew we were in for a wild ride. The ships staff were battening down the hatches. Decks were cleared. Doors were locked. We were informed by the Captain that we were in for rough seas as a hurricane had developed in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship was lunging and lurching. Walking down the halls straight was impossible.

I was excited! This was a wonderful opportunity to actually experience a hurricane. The Captain, officers and staff were on high alert. Yet I knew that none of them were afraid or worried. They went on about their duties with diligence. Safety of the ship and passengers was their high priority. Their confidence that all would be fine and that the ship would ride out the storm assured me that I had nothing to fear. So I went on enjoying myself, the cruise ship and even the storm.

I can’t day the same for many of the other passengers. The officers and staff encouraged the passengers to stay in the main larger areas of the ship, maintain food in their stomachs at all times and to only drink enough water to stay hydrated and not to drink too much otherwise. Many passengers didn’t follow the advice. They went to their cabins and were sick and unhappy. Many complained about not being able to enjoy the cruise.

I don’t remember anyone in our group having any difficulties or being sick. We enjoyed ourselves. One of my favorite things to do was to go out into the glassed in Promenade and watch the waves going up over the ship and feel the ship going down under and then back up again and lurching side to side. I also would go up to the room where the navigator was where they were tracking the storm and steering course and ask questions and watched the storm’s path and listen to the officers deciding the ship’s direction. It was here, either going in or coming out, that I would cross paths with my father. Another of our common interests.


We had five teenage girls in our cabin. Our cabin was situated aft off a small corridor off the main port side hallway. There was one other cabin at the end of the corridor. One evening as we were getting ready for dinner, my friend Rose said, “We have to find out who is in the cabin so we can find out if we are disturbing them.” So she opened the cabin door and left it open.

We heard someone coming down the hall. Rose jumped out of the room, and startled the women. Rose introduced herself and told her we were sorry if we had been making too much noise or bothering her. She said she didn’t know if anyone was in that cabin because she hadn’t seen or heard anything. She looked inside the cabin and exclaimed. “You aren’t all staying in this little cabin?”


“Oh, my!” she said, “You are welcome to use my bathroom it must be hard for all of you to get ready in here.”

Her name was Hilda and we became fast friends. Not only did we stay in touch with her, we would visit her at her spending many weekends at her house. Rose and I even went on another cruise with her and my great Aunt Dot.

As much as the ship’s captain and officers did their best to avoid the hurricane it was impossible. The hurricane zigged and we zagged and the hurricane zagged and we zigged. It was a game of sorts but a serious one. As we approached Bermuda we were out of the circulation of the storm but it was still meandering about. We were finally allowed out on to the decks. The ship was being guided by helicopters, a navy ship and even a submarine!

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The ship did not pull into port but laid anchor in the harbor. The ship offered the option of returning back to Boston by air. Many of those who were sick or were unhappy did. The captain informed us that if we chose to leave the ship to explore Bermuda we risked getting left behind. If the hurricane turned again and headed towards Bermuda he would immediately pull up anchor and head back out into open seas. If he did there would be a representative from the cruise line at the port to help make arrangements to fly back to Boston.

We had friends staying in Bermuda, at the hotel we always stayed at and so we took the risk. We tendered off the ship and went to the Sonesta Hotel to spend the day. We spent the day sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling having a wonderful day with our friends. Every once in a while my mom would say go see if the ship is still out there. So us kids would climb the nearby cliff and walk out to the point and look. Each time the Mardi Gras was still sitting there in the harbor.

At the end of the day, we returned to the ship. The seas on the way home were not the seas of the hurricane but were still rough. The ship was no longer full of passengers. Those of us who remained had the trip of a lifetime. The shows were spectacular! The food was amazing from breakfast to the mid-night buffet. The music and dancing the night away.


The Captain provide us with a map that detailed both the path of the hurricane and our path as a souvenir. Many of the passengers never wanted to take another cruise again. Instead it excited us and ignited a passion for the ocean and cruise liners in us that endures strong today. And so after a hiatus of raising children, Susan and I have returned to the sea and to the Cruising Adventures we have held in our hearts for all these years.

It is not only a love for each of us individually but it is our connection to each other and our family. And for me especially it is where I carry my dad’s love for me in my heart and soul. The ocean is home and family and me.

Susan and I began our cruise adventures on the very first Carnival Ship, the Mardi Gras and then cruised on the Carnival Ship itself. Several years later we sailed on our first maiden voyage of the Carnival Festival. Later this year we will be cruising on the newest Carnival Cruise Ship the Carnival Vista.

More Sisters Travel Adventures


Creative Life Plan

While everyone else seems to be thinking and planning for Christmas, I am deep in reflection. I am looking over this year’s Creative Life Plan and feeling good about what I have accomplishment, and reevaluating the items I did not. What do I want to continue working on or towards? What is still interesting and important to me? What direction or directions do I want to take now? Have my dreams changed any? And if so how?

I am clearing out clutter I have collected or created, in my physical environment, in my mind and in my emotions. Clearing out space opens space for new opportunities and experiences to come into my life. I open space both in my environment and in myself to develop creativity and creative flow.

I look at my life like an adventure journey. Where do I want to go on that journey? I am also open to unexpected opportunities to experience something new or something I had never thought about along the way. I develop my Creative Life Plan each year with dreams of the moment or experiences I would like to have, projects I would like to work on or finish. I include dreams, visions, and goals.

I leave plenty of room for unexpected or new ideas or dreams to incubate and flexibility on how I accomplish or manifest any of my dreams or goals. I know that as I learn and grow with each new experience that I may discover something new I want to have a deeper knowledge or experience of. I also may realize that something I thought I wanted isn’t at all what I imagined it would be or that it doesn’t interest me any longer.

Sometimes a path just isn’t possible. It doesn’t have the results I would like to experience. Adjustments are necessary. I do not get discouraged, disappointed sometimes but I just shift and readjust the path or find another one that fits me better.

This coming year will be one of shifts and changes in new directions, new opportunities and wonderful exciting new adventures. I have been feeling the energy shift begin inside of me already. It has been stirring with each adventure I have taken this year, with the dreams that have come true and those that have not. New ideas and doors of opportunities have been show to me. Several have intrigued me. I now have some new places and ideas to explore on a deeper level. Ones I never thought of before.

Often I dream but don’t believe it can actually become reality. In the manifestation of one dream it has expanded my belief in my dreams. If one dream can come true than anyone of my other dreams are possible to. Now I know that a dream can become a reality only when it is something I really want and I believe it is possible.

Several years ago, Sister Henrita told me to Dream Big. I didn’t know how to dream big. I didn’t believe in myself or my ability to accomplish any dream. So I dreamed a vague dream to live at the beach it had no details and no specifics. Well I very quickly accomplished that dream of living at the beach. My life exploded in many unexpected ways.

I have now opened doors of new bigger dreams – of living at the beach with more details and more specifics. So this coming years Creative Life Plan will include paths and avenues and adventures to lead me closer to those bigger dreams. Some dreams take more than a year to manifest. Sometimes it can take years. So the Big Dream is a direction or compass as to where out there in the distant horizon I am heading. Smaller dreams and goals move my direction as I go along. It is the path to this year’s adventures.

One thing I have learned is to be open to the unexpected paths and journeys that come along the way. Often they lead to a better way to travel or a new different dream. And sometimes it just enriches the passage enriching who I am and who I am becoming. And that is why I do not make resolutions instead I create my Creative Life Plan. It allows me the guidance of my dreams and goals but also the creative flexibility to shift and change through the experiences and journeys. I am free to change my mind and even change my dream and direction.

I also choose a word or phrase that will guide me along my journey. It will help steer decisions and choices that come along the path. This year includes an Epic Adventure Journey as well as a shifting tides in expanding my dreams larger than I ever believed possible. I am growing deeper into my being and into belief in myself. Right now I am still working on what that word or phrase will be. I will get back to you on that.

So what is in your Creative Life Plan?

Introduction to Sisters Travel Adventures

My sister, Susan and I began taking cruises when we were teenagers. Our dad spent time working at the port and loved the ocean and ships. When his business was doing well Carnival Cruise lines began cruises out of the port of Boston. He was so excited for us to take a cruise.

Our first cruise on the original Carnival ship, the Mardi Gras was an adventure at sea. We encountered a hurricane roaming erratically in the Atlantic. Several cruises later we embarked on a maiden voyage of a new ship. Eventually our cruise days dwindled and real life, marriage and children took precedent. But I was ever so great for the opportunity to be at sea and go on so many wonderful cruises. The memories sustained me and I always knew one day I would return to the sea and traveling.

Several years ago when our mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, my sister and I decided to revive our family tradition and began taking yearly cruises together. It has become a wonderful way to get together and spend time with each other. My sister still lives in Massachusetts not far from where we grew up but I now live in North Carolina. The ocean has become a central aspect of my life. The ocean is a connection between us and our childhood. It is a bond that continues to thrive.

We ventured out slowly, first taking a short five day voyage out of Miami. The next year we missed taking a cruise because mom was in the end stages of Alzheimer’s. After she passed away early the next year we planned our next cruise. To usher in a new chapter in our life, we planned a longer cruise, a nine day cruise out of New York City ending in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This cruise was our first big epic adventure together and our revived tradition became solidified.

Here I am going to document our travel adventures. This will be an ongoing series. At present we have been going on one cruise every year. Our goal is to not only continue that adventure but to eventually begin spending the winter months living in places we have always wanted to live. Our focus is mostly the Caribbean islands as we love island life and warm weather but sometimes we plan to take other adventures to places we haven’t been. Each trip is not an exploration of a new destination but an exploration of ourselves and our being. Not only are we learning about the places, culture and people we visit but we are learning about our self, our relationship to each other, our past, to the environment, to others and to the world at large resulting in our own personal growth and development. It is about stretching ourselves, stepping out of our comfort zones and growing deeper into our own deeper authentic self.

Welcome to our journey.

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Writing my Memoir


I have been working on my memoir for several years now. It is still very much a work in progress. During a recent meditation, I have been guided to share my memoir here as I go through this rewrite/editing.

It is scary to share this raw material with you especially since it is not yet in its final editing process. I have been hesitating about following this advice. Most writers wouldn’t dream of sharing a book they are writing until it is been through all the editing processes and published!

I am still not sure about this but divine guidance is one I know I can’t ignore.

I will post chapters as I process through this current rewrite. Please remember this is still very much a work in progress and one that is a deeply emotional experience.

During the course of this journey as I have told my story to others I have been asked if I am writing it. I am a writer after all and so I am writing my story – struggling through it that is but I hope my story will inspire you to live your own journey and know that you can walk through your life and sail through any transition that occurs for you to find your dream. Or something that resembles your dream- Sometimes we have to recognize that we are actually living the dream it just doesn’t look exactly like we imagined it to be.

So I invite you to walk with me through my messy journey that has lead to living my dream almost-



Author, Cruise Consultant, Travel Writer