Salvaging My Soul

“Where’s your lighter”, my husband calmly asked with a red jerry can full of petrol in his hands. Our two young children sleeping peacefully unaware of the danger we were in. With surprising calm I walked to the kitchen, picked up the phone and called my father-in-law.

“I just wanted you to know in case something goes horribly wrong”.

With those words my life changed forever.

It was Mother’s Day of all days, but the day didn’t start or end well, my family torn apart by midnight. The journey that lay ahead, catapulted me into the past I’d long denied, and opened the trauma flood gates even more. It sounds so simple to write, but living it wasn’t. Sitting here 12 years on with the wisdom of my soul guiding my way makes it feel easy, yet it wasn’t. Until I finally began to listen to the voice that had been flickering inside me all my life. Along the journey I met my soul and changed the trajectory of my life.

From birth my soul was lost, my identity caught up in a web of confusion. My human didn’t know then that I’d spend the best part of four decades wandering lost, plundering from one disaster to another, as I lived the human experience my soul had chosen. I understand now my soul was ever present, always reaching for itself but distracted often by the confused human blindly leading the way.

The realisation that as a human we are dual beings, both a human and a soul, led to healing from my lived human experiences, and my journey home to my soul.

Life is a series of meandering dips, dives, twists, turns, sharp ascents and dark descents. Being human is a constant ride into the unexpected where most of us hold on and pray for the best. Some of us have easy journey’s, others less so. I used to believe I was at the mercy of others and whatever life chose to throw at me. That I had no control and I was deserving of everything that happened to me, for reasons I didn’t know. I resigned myself to the false belief I must have done something terrible in a former life for this one to be filled with so much trauma. I convinced myself there was nothing I could do about it except brace myself and face it head on.

I became a warrior of sorts, but not the warrior that fights for just causes. I was the type who donned the armour, threw herself head first into the fight and threw anything and everything at it to make it to the end. Until the next battle presented itself.

It took me five decades to appreciate my soul truth, the truth of my human life experiences and why I was chosen to walk the difficult path. To understand life was happening for me, not to me, and I had a choice every step of the way. If I’d known then what I know now The Journey would have been easier and much shorter. However, it is my journey’s difficulty and length that birthed this book and the soul work I now do. So I am grateful beyond measure.


I entered this world alone and spent the first nine days that way. I can’t say if the days were long as I have no memory of them. What I do know is how damaging nine days is for a newborn baby to go without being held, loved or nurtured, and unable to form an attachment with its life givers. My disconnection from my soul happened at birth. Knowing she was surrendering me, my biological mother was not given the opportunity to bond with me, and my biological father was not given input into my birth or surrender.

I’ve ‘seen’ the bland sterile hospital room and felt the aloneness, confusion and stunned silence of my arrival in this world. I have visited that moment in my timeline and felt my soul’s anguish, it’s desire to go home to the cosmos because it felt so harsh in this world. I’ve felt the cold sterility of my arrival in this world.

Growing up I thought being adopted was special and meant I was wanted because people unrelated by DNA chose to have me within their family when my blood family didn’t want me. I now understand the story my humanness created around this false belief and how it blinded me to the painful, truthful reality of my adoption. I now understand adoption and its individuality at such a deeper level.

My truth is that my biological parents had wanted me, but their attempt at becoming a family in the led up to my arrival, was an unsuccessful, yet well intended, disaster. I was conceived from a one night stand  – a miracle in itself. I was conceived from desire, not deep love. From two people coming together in physical lust, not within a committed loving union. The odds of success were against them from the beginning, but even still they tried.

Knowing the truth has given me a different perspective around my adoption. All my life I mistakenly believed I was not wanted. While the reality is I was still abandoned, it is not true that I wasn’t wanted. I have an acceptance now that my biological parents’ personal circumstances were the reason for my adoption.

Adoption is one of the biggest traumas a person can carry if you talk to the experts. All my life I have carried this trauma, unaware and ignorant to the load I carried. In part this was resistance but more so disregard. It was like I didn’t care because I believed my biological parents didn’t care. So why should I bother? Reality is it was overshadowed by my childhood experiences.

Childhood Abuse and Neglect

The truth about my adoptive family was far more destructive and cruel and shielded me from the adoption trauma I carried. It replaced it with another trauma I also failed to acknowledge most of my life – the cruelty of my adoptive family. As I’ve spoken about their treatment people reflect to me words like “cruel/cruelty”, “neglect”, “abuse”, “a lot of trauma”. A huge part of me rejected their comments, not because they were wrong but because I’d become very clinical about it all. A self-protection mechanism, not wanting to feel the memories!

I don’t have many photos of my early years to reflect on, but I do have a lot of memories. One glaring memory is of me around eight years old, in the backseat of the family car blurting out “I’m never going to have children”. When asked “why not?” I responded “because I don’t want them to be treated like I am”. A bold statement made with the innocence and naivety you’d expect of a child that age, but also with an acute awareness that my treatment wasn’t right.

At such a tender age I called out my adoptive parents for their abuse, neglect, abandonment, shame, guilt, humiliation and favouritism.

Favouritism was prevalent all my life and continues to be to this day. My 18 months older brother, also adopted, was treated very different to me without any attempt to hide it. I spent much of my childhood isolated from life outside my bedroom walls, unless my appearance served their purpose. I competed for even slight attention while my older brother was treated like a prince, his freedom wide and expansive. I’ve spent my entire life in my brother’s shadow, watching him receive love, attention, support, opportunities and inclusion in family activities.

A regular occurrence for me was being forced to sit under the old-style pull out stove grill as Mum cooked dinner. It was a regular sit spot for me as she cooked and my Dad and sibling sat in the lounge watching TV. I can see my young self holding my knees to my chest, resting my head on my knees, feeling alone, scared and too frightened to speak. Trying to keep out of Mum’s way as she cooked above me. 

If I wasn’t in my bedroom, or under the grill, the other room I spent a lot of time in was the laundry, directly beside the kitchen and off the TV lounge room. In complete darkness I was often pushed into the laundry while the other three people in the house played happy families, oblivious to my existence. My memory recall of the laundry is vivid and strong, with no room for doubt or second guessing how I felt in those frequent visits. Sobbing accompanied my laundry presence every time and fear flowed through my little body. I hated the dark and especially being alone in it. That fear of the darkness was present into my 30s, only having my own children shifted it. My unconscious desire for them to not feel alone in the dark like I did most of my life.

Life carried on for my family when I resided in the laundry like I was the family dog. Often they would eat and I would be left sitting in the dark, bought out to eat after they’d finished. My dinner cold and sterile on the bench. God forbid if I didn’t eat it all too as I was made to sit there until I did. Sometimes my Mum would photograph me vomiting it back up, my discomfort a source of pleasure and further opportunity to humiliate her young, adopted daughter. In writing that my stomach feels sick, knotted with disdain and disgust that an adult would behave that way. Especially to a child.

Humiliation is behavior I became very familiar with as it was Mum and Dad’s favorite behavior management tool. I can still see six-year-old me sitting in the front yard as my sibling and the neighborhood kids laugh and play around me. I have a sign around my neck with numbers on it like a criminal mugshot. There is a photo of me wearing it and my facial expression clearly shows how distressing it was for me to wear that sign, in public for all to see.  Shamed and humiliated, unable or not game, to remove it. My Dad made that sign and they both made me wear it.

So strong was my craving to be loved and accepted I overlooked my adoptive families  cruelty most of my life. My saving grace was my extraordinary ability to love without conditions. Even those who treated me so atrocious. It’s only now I realise how that ability should not be without boundaries as some people manipulate and use it to project their own pain and suffering onto you. I put myself in so many horrible and destructive situations because I didn’t recognise my gift, and therefore wasn’t careful managing it. 

All my life I’ve known I was adopted. I’ve no recollection of when, how, or my age when I was told. I’ve just always known.  I recall comments of “No wonder you were never wanted” throughout my childhood but I was never bothered by it as I didn’t have any desire to know anything about my birth parents. I was adopted – simple as that.  I now know there’s nothing simple about adoption and that a plethora of subconscious negative talk was happening within me. But I grew up just accepting I was adopted and seeing it as something different that made me special and unique.

In my early 20’s I had the strange and sudden urge to find my biological parents. Until that point I’d never been interested but I’d moved out of home and something in me was searching for my identity. Searching for my birth parents was a very random action, clinical and methodical. Exactly how I approached my adoption and childhood abuse. Two significant traumas with lifelong, far reaching consequences but I lacked today’s wisdom and was unable to hear, let alone understand, the voice of my soul.

My search quickly provided me identifying information about my birth Mother,  including the name she gave me at birth. I remember the day the letter arrived and the confusion and bewilderment of having another name,  mixed with the conflict and joy at finding my birth mother. My quest had given me a second identity, rather than helping me discover who I was as I’d hoped when I applied.

With frightening speed I found my mother and it was  like having a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle thrown onto the floor and being faced with trying to make sense of the scattered pieces. There was overwhelm and confusion where to start. Confusion is apt to describe that moment and ensuing moments, which I plunged headfirst into without understanding or preparation. Looking back, I can see how disconnected from the concept of family I was, and lacking in emotional stability to grasp the magnitude of the connection. Reckless abandonment would aptly surmise my state of being.

Meeting my birth mother and two younger siblings plunged me into chaos and despair,  disrupted sleep, endless questions, confusion, bewilderment, deep sadness, regret at my reckless abandonment, and deep regret at opening Pandora’s box. I saw a counsellor regularly for six months to unpack all the layers, yet I also went looking for, and found, my biological father. That was one piece of important information I did manage to extract from the disastrous meeting of my birth mother.

Just how desperate for family in the truest sense of the word was I?

It’s amazing, yet no suprise, the stories I told myself around how I would be received by my biological parents, their families, my siblings and my parents’ partners. What I didn’t expect was to have my Mother reject me and my Father accept me. In my head, I’d assumed it would be the other way around.

Some of my birth mother’s resentment for me was because as I arrived in this world her Grandfather departed. The birth of her first child she was forced to give up, and the death of her beloved Grandfather who raised her most of her life, caused her enormous pain and resentment.

I wonder each birthday what kind of emotions arise for her on that day. If they’ve changed since meeting me. If our blood and energetic connection stirs a longing, sadness or happiness.  If she lives with regret or gratitude for adopting her first child out. I will never know, but I often stop and reflect. There is no anger or sadness within me about being adopted, just recognition and gratitude for her giving me birth. Without her I would not be here today doing what I’m here to do.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell my birth parents the truth of my childhood as I didn’t want them to experience any guilt or shame, regret or sadness. I remember with painstaking clarity how I avoided saying too much at all. Despite at the time having a tense and fractured relationship with my Dad, no relationship with my sibling and a new relationship with my Mum, I still protected the perpetrators and ignored my own needs. I had shut down within me the reality of my childhood. I recognise now the depth of trauma I was swimming in then. Rather than healing my wounds, I was compounding trauma on top of trauma and there was more to come.

Violent Marriage

I met my ex-husband shortly after meeting my birth parents. It was just the two of us for the first ten years. We lived overseas for two years, travelling and enjoying ourselves.  On returning to Australia we relocated interstate and for six years focused on our careers. We married ten years after first meeting and relocated again to start our family near our families.

Our first child arrived two years into our marriage and changed everything. I’d seen his violent nature a few times over the years, but not at the ferocity that unfolded with the birth of our children. A ferocity that continued, and worsened, for years after I left.

Financial abuse started on getting engaged, not reaching full fury until I gave up work to be a full-time parent. Each week I had to print out the bank statements and account for each transaction. Many an argument was had over the transactions, especially if I spent too much on grocery shopping. It reached the point where I dreaded going shopping as I knew I’d be in trouble regardless how frugal I was. Another casualty was my self-esteem. I wasn’t able to buy clothes, getting my hair cut was an ordeal, and looking after my general appearance became a thing of the past.

The physical abuse, while horrible to receive, was where I found my strength. Once the boys arrived I fought back, stood up and gave as good as I got. I threw shoes, threatened knives, hit, scratched and kicked back. The rage that burnt inside me created a fire breathing dragon. I didn’t have the ability to fight back until the boys arrived. For me my mothering instinct was a powerful thing that fuelled my desire for a better way of life. It gave me the inner fire I needed to stand up for myself. It also turned me in to someone I didn’t like, further adding to my already battered self-esteem.

Emotional and psychology abuse is the killer as far as I am concerned. Every derogatory comment stains your soul. When you start everyday being told you’re a “dumb, fat, ugly slut” you start to believe you’re useless. I endured slanderous comments day after day. Things could change in an instant which was like living on eggshells all the time. Some days were mixed with niceties, others abusive from start to finish. The daily fear of putting a step wrong and breaking another egg was horrendous.

By the time the jerry can of petrol appeared I’d endured horrendous abuse at his hands. I had more than enough reason to trust he would follow through. The old saying ‘children change your life forever’ couldn’t have been more true. My unquestionable, unfaltering love for my sons, and strong motherly urge to protect them at any cost, began the demise of my marriage. The threat to burn us alive finished it.

Something inside me died that night after a day of mixed behaviour. I’d been out a lot of the day doing ceremonies as an authorised civil celebrant. Sitting at the computer as he yelled at me over and over, I calmly asked him for $10,000 with the promise I would be gone for good if he gave it to me. He ranted and raved and told me I would never get a cent from him, that he would bury it so deep in the new family trust that I’d never get anything from him. How true to his words he was I would discover in the years to come.

At that moment I did what I never did and pushed a button. I didn’t care anymore and I wanted out. While he yelled I logged in to our joint bank account and drained it of every cent into my personal account, which had been established for a while. I told him what I’d done, knowing full well there would be a repercussions.

He went to his office, logged in to the joint bank account, found it empty and in silence walked outside. Not long after he entered with the jerry can. In that moment I knew things had gone too far. As the boys slept unaware in their beds a strange peacefulness swept over me.  I knew it was over. It was time to move on to a better way of life. It wasn’t about money, lifestyle or anyone else. It was about me. Happiness, confidence, dignity, self-respect and integrity were lacking. I needed to find them before it was too late for me. Before my boys believed this was normal family life and how women should be treated.

Special Needs Son

“Sshh, sshh, sshh. Sshh, sshh, sshh. Sshh, sshh, sshh” over and over again I would whisper in my son’s ear to calm him down. He was only four months old but was getting used to being woken with a fright at his Daddy’s yelling. His shouting and screaming penetrating our son’s innocent mind as he slept in his cot. Rocking him back and forth, holding him tight and trying my hardest to ensure he felt safe and loved, all the while churning with guilt inside. On a frequent basis I asked myself “Why was this beautiful boy being subjected to the pain too?”

There are more occasions than I choose to remember where I found myself in this same situation. Over time they became more frequent and intense. I can now see the pivotal points in our relationship, and my timeline, where traumatic events made my soul scream enough for me to hear, even if I couldn’t understand. His abuse persisted as our son grew and second son was conceived.

As if it wasn’t bad enough the language and insults in front of our 22 month old son, he also began the rejection of his unborn son. A barrage of insults about how I could “fuck off after the baby was born” leaving our toddler with him. That he wouldn’t be helping me out and he didn’t want “the damn baby”. Words that one day would become a harsh reality, yet hidden blessing, for our youngest son.

His barrage continued,  accompanied by his fists and a hit straight into my swollen belly, all in front of our son. This too had become more frequent over time as he cared less and less about who witnessed his struggle to compose his temper and outbursts.

39 weeks pregnant and exhausted I grabbed my keys and walked to a local park. With my head in my hands I sat alone in the darkness that once scared me, and sobbed. I no longer only had myself to worry about and the intensity of the violence had magnified tenfold. A slap on the face would’ve been welcomed, but he no longer just slapped. He spat on me, insulted me, disrespected me and punched me and the walls around me. As I sobbed I wondered what I’d done in my life to deserve it.

I was pregnant with his child, carrying our unborn son. My rounded tummy was smooth and glorious. My skin glowing from the life growing inside me. Pregnant women are the most beautiful women in the world in my opinion.  I couldn’t understand how a man who helped create the life inside me could hurt the vessel it was living in. Two days before he was born our son was subjected to the stress, violence and pain that had become my secret life.

I would think about this time of my life and be swamped with guilt at the environment I brought the boys into. A diary entry I made at the time best surmises the guilt I felt.

“Divorce is probably the best option for us. I don’t want the boys to grow up in this environment and I don’t want them to be bastard boys with no respect. He raised his hand to me and told me he didn’t care how pregnant I was. What is that teaching our son?”

I always knew, but never admitted aloud, that our second son was lucky to be born. We had separated and then reconciled in the hope we could keep our family together. Our son was the result of our reconciliation but the abuse started again only months into my pregnancy. It continued after our son was born, and worsened after I left.

They say a mother’s guilt never goes away. By staying in such a toxic environment I managed to magnify the normal mother’s guilt. The definition of guilt, according to the dictionary is “a feeling of responsibility for some offence, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined”. The offence I committed was staying. The crime I committed was not providing my boys a safe environment. The wrong I committed was wearing rose coloured glasses believing the situation would change.

By the time our second son was born the abuse had been going on eight years. It was intensified by the arrival of the boys and would take me another 2 ½ years before a jerry can of petrol gave me the courage to walk out the door.

18 months after leaving, with constant turbulence and fear in between, my youngest son was diagnosed with a number of neurological conditions. He was given more acronyms after  his name than the doctors who diagnosed him. It also meant years of abandonment by his father, his grandfather (my adoptive Dad), the education system and many friends.

“The maternal stress his mother  was under from Domestic Violence while in utero” gifted him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, combined type ADHD, elements of Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Anxiety, and Depression. He was four and a half years old. Three years after that he was confirmed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 3.

His diagnosis, the continued abuse and harassment by his father; moving house nine times in five years because he kept finding us; my inner torture and mounting trauma all tipped me over the edge. It was the closest I came to suicide and my intention was not to leave the boys behind in that quest. In that moment I heard my soul scream with clarity and without room for doubt. It’s flicker was now a fire bomb guaranteed to get my attention. And I was listening.

That moment of April 2011 was where my journey home began. It was from the bottom of a deep ravine of slippery walls and minimal footholds, but it began. I questioned everything and started to seek to understand. Tired and battle scarred I was looking for the holy grail of ‘living’.

To celebrate 12 months of freedom and leaving my violent marriage I got my first tattoo. It wasn’t about decorating my skin, making a stand or proving anything to anyone. It was about my values and my promise to myself. The tattoo contains Japanese Kanji symbols for  Strength; Integrity; Wisdom; Freedom; Mind; Body; Soul.

Strength to persevere – Integrity to hold my head high – Wisdom to learn from my mistakes – Freedom to be myself – with my mind, body and soul.

I had no idea just how influential the symbols tattooed down my side would become as I faced my demons and bigger challenges over the ensuing eight years. It played a crucial role in my final brutal trauma before my journey home was complete.


Disbelief is the best word to describe my embroilment in defamation proceedings.

Disbelief it got to the point of legal action. That complete strangers could slander a person because of a difference of opinion. Slander severe enough to warrant legal proceedings. Disbelief it occurred because of a public hospital being built. Disbelief it made it to trial and all attempts to settle out of court were rejected and that despite the evidence one defendant refused to see the truth. Disbelief that three years of legal action consumed so much of my energy. Disbelief my strength and determination to start again was detrimental in the case of defamation. Disbelief at the defendants’ disregard for the seriousness of the trial that they were unrepresented by legal counsel. Disbelief I was a pawn in a much bigger chess game not only from the defendants’ perspective, but by those close to me at the time.

The statement I made often throughout the legal proceedings and the situation which caused it was “it should never have happened”. Again my mind tried to hijack my soul with negative thoughts of “WTF, more drama, more trauma”. But this experience solidified all my life experiences and wisdom. It  gave my soul a sturdy grip on  the final foothold out of the deep ravine I’d fallen into years earlier.

Three years of legal action ended with a court judgement in my favour for 21 of the 24 defamatory comments in my claim. The judged awarded me damages against both defendants and aggravated damages against one. 

It is curious that celebration and congratulations are the expected reactions when you’re successful in legal matters. I’ve never found cause for celebration, only a sense of relief. Prior to this I had two occasions to be involved in the court system. The first being my divorce which was mutually done online with no need for a court appearance. The second was in a civil court and for the purpose of securing the boys and my safety from the domestic violence of their father.

That experience was frightening, difficult and prolonged. It took two years to secure the boys on the domestic violence order and was my first experience of how draining and unjust the legal system is. Despite the evidence of domestic violence against the boys, because he is their father it was treated different. Family law in Australia states that in divorce both parents have a right to see their children. It was difficult to get a civil court judge to rule that a father was not allowed to see his children.  Despite the physical, emotional, financial, and psychological abuse of them.

So I’d had prior experiences of the legal system being unjust, difficult to navigate, conflicting in its complexity, and challenging to your mental health and general well being. It’s not an experience I’d hoped to encounter again.

So how did I find myself in defamation proceedings?

A huge part of my disbelief is that the provision of a public hospital, in an area in desperate need of it, caused such division and nastiness within the community that it was the catalyst for my defamation proceedings.

I watched the community divide and witnessed people accepting the false emotional narrative. As I watched I also researched and uncovered facts that contradicted the agitators narrative, and I chose to speak out. I put my name, and therefore face, out as the public spokesperson for people in support of the hospital. In doing so I set myself up as the main target for the agitators and their supporters.

At the time I had no way of knowing what venom would come my way.  Had I known I would never have done it, but on reflection I also accept this as a journey I had to take for many, many reasons related to my soul and its purpose.

It was a destructive and prolonged journey but the irony was that to defend my truth I had to know myself. My personal journey home to my soul was already well underway and prepared me well. After two years of legal action there was a week long trial. My two days on the witness stand were a baptism of self-awareness, self-worth, and self-ownership. That week, for the first time in my life I stood in my truth.  While it was a turbulent ride, the intensity threw me out of the ravine and home to my soul. It was an excruciating test from my soul to ensure I was qualified by my lived experiences to share my wisdom with others, and guide them on their journey home.

The wisdom of our soul is available to everyone, we only need to listen when it call us. While it is challenging, there is exquisite beauty waiting for us, but The Journey requires courage, bravery, commitment and persistence. With absolute certainty I know to walk in the human darkness carries you forward to the light of your soul.

The soul is the core essence of your truest self. The driving force for your human existence that never gives up or extinguishes, irrespective of our life experiences. It was the very fuel that kept my human going when it wanted to give up and die.

Some of you may relate to my personal story, all of it, some of it, or none of it. It matters not. I begin by sharing part of my story to show you what is possible to overcome when you take The Journey home to your soul. As we navigate The Journey together over the coming chapters I will expand on the themes of each chapter by relating back to my personal story.

I have walked the journey home to soul. Are you ready to embark on your journey?

Published by Penelope Hockings

I am a Soul Weaver, an Authorised Civil Celebrant & Ceremonialist, a published Author, teacher and student of the Soul. I am an intuitive psychic and channeller and I am here to help people reconnect and remember their soul and who they are beyond their human form.

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