healing is in the air
life is a precious ring given to us by love
to polish and shine with all we learn
~Jane Siberry, Morag
Letting go is a helluva thing, innit? It is where i currently find myself. As i said to a friend the other day, i am on a precipice. I feel my feet are on solid ground, but i’m close to the edge, and i can see the vastness of the chasm just a step or 2 away. I mentioned in my last post that i wondered if my parachute would function properly, and bear me safely to the ground below. I felt the significance of it as i typed it out, and knew i’d be writing more about it at another time. Off we go, then.
All the work i’ve done over these last years has been leading me to a moment. Okay, there’ve been many moments, times that i’ve known/felt were significant. I understand that that’s what therapy is, a series of steps that lead to moments that prepare me for and bear me on through the next steps. Some moments though, are more charged than others, more thick with fulfillment and promise. I’ve sought epiphanies and had many as a result – they’ve been vital, perhaps integral, to my continuing on with this work. It has mostly been cerebral stuff yes, that is, until i’d dug deep enough. Once i struck the well i moved into the emotional, and i felt countless times like i was drowning, like i’d never find dry land. When i did, i thought everything was done. And then i stumbled and fell. When i looked up i saw a mountain in my path, and i learned that the only way forward was up.
These last years have been physical, literally physical work. Physical AND emotional AND mental. As i climbed i saw something waiting for me at the peak.
We know that mountains are not just a pointy bit at the top, as they appear from far away, or in a child’s drawing (because that is, after all, what they see –what we all see– from a distance). If you’re a hiker/climber you well know, and if you watch nature programming and/or have seen the coverage of the Everest questers, you’ve at least seen it. There are summits sure, but also ledges, ridges, shoulders, cols, dikes, faces, saddles, and oh yes, pinnacles. Mountains are a lot of parts, and are certainly a most apt metaphor for my journey over the last 2yrs. It’s been a climb… One helluva climb.
Can you see where this metaphor is leading? Of course you can. Yes, i’m at the top, and it’s a summit of a sort, almost extreme enough to be called a pinnacle, i suppose. The thing is, i cannot see what lies in front of me, nor below. The question is, will i jump? BASE jump life, are you crazy? Why thank you Sir/Madam, i am. In this case though, i don’t think my crazy factors in. The preparation for this has been hours and days and years of work. To meet pain and fear in the daylight, to know them intimately, to build relationship with them. I had to learn how to know them, in order to relate to them, to communicate, and most of all, to listen to what they had to share with me, to teach me. I had to provide the atmosphere for communication to happen. I spent my early years in a brain fog, but once i hit my mid-30s, it was nothing short of cacophony up there. Although i’ve never experienced quiet in this old noggin of mine, at least when i was younger it was more like a soft buzz than the shrill and the shriek of my 40s.
I marshalled my brain-voice force and soldiered on, sure.
I wish i could continue on with metaphors – they’re so much easier for me.
More romance and less suspense/thriller.
Letting go scares the everloving you-know-what outta me.
Horror may fit better. (A tad histrionic, that. Heh.)
Until now, the question regarding this work, this journey towards better mental health and functionality has not been “if,” but “when.” But letting go is not a small thing.
To me, letting go means to step away from hypervigilance. To stop functioning from the constant, underlying fear/belief that everyone will hurt me. To be present and mindful when experiencing fear. To look it in the face and then hold it in my arms and soothe it with true things:
Everything’s going to be okay, because i can handle it.
To understand, with wisdom and maturity, that some people will hurt me and i won’t die from it.
Letting go means dropping the facade (a facade is different from a social mask, which i use without compunction). To live from a place where i am fully myself in whatever capacity i know myself at that time –with appropriate protections at appropriate times– like, not telling someone private things about myself because i want to fit in and be liked.
Letting go means releasing my grip on the controls, i.e. allowing people to be who they are and think what they think – which most importantly includes what they think/feel about me. This ties in to the fear of being hurt, rejected, or betrayed. I spend an inordinate, unhealthy amount of time and attention trying to read others. I have reams of mental scripts for social interactions. I’m always trying to anticipate someone’s reaction, and i still wrestle with the desire/perceived need to orchestrate outcomes. My subtle manipulations are, in a significant way, removing, or at least interfering with, a person’s autonomy. Once i gained that insight, it instantly became not okay. It’s proven a difficult thing to lay down, and its time is overdue.
Letting go means being kinder and more forgiving to those to whom i’m closest. I’m unfailingly polite and friendly to those outside my circle, but if i’m married to you or made you, not so much. From the place of childhood trauma, the amount that i love them is a threat, and from that place i can be prickly, sometimes downright cruel. I jump to conclusions and assume ill intent, because in my mind it’s better than being caught off guard. Hurt occurs in loving relationships – the intentional sort, too. It is not abuse, however. If i was being abused i would have left or had the offending party removed. I’m not though, yet i’ve been allowing parts of my system to behave in ways that are unacceptable.
Many of them are trapped in past abuse, and some of the more developed parts stubbornly refuse to move forward with me. They’ve been on notice for awhile that things are changing, and getting set to change a lot more yet. I have the will, the ability, and the power to take drastic measures if need be. I’ve ended physical violence, verbal abuse, and destruction of property over the years, but i’m ready for more. Yes, everyone gets grouchy and snippy sometimes – what i’m referring to is not that. I’m like a rescue dog that’s been savagely beaten, who keeps growling and snarling and nipping, long after they’re being treated properly.
I am not a dog.
I have what it takes to stay the sarcastic comment and silence the passive-aggressive commentary.
I know i don’t need protection from these people.
Time to stop baring my teeth.
Most of all, letting go has to do with my past. Of course it does. At first, i couldn’t have let it go if i’d tried (i wouldn’t have, but if i had, you know… ). Once i’d become well acquainted with, and more than a little attached to my system, i resisted it as hard as i did the mere thought of integration. It felt like letting go of them (my memories) was a betrayal of myself and a denial of my past. And on an insidious level, i thought it would rob me of any legitimate reason for being so messed up. I also thought that maybe it was about forgetting, and a part of me wanted to forget, but was afraid i’d never be able to, that i’d be stuck in the horror of it for the rest of my life.
Letting go of my past doesn’t mean forgetting, nor does it mean that i won’t still be dealing with it and working through it. It means stepping out of the past and living as fully as possible in the present. There are parts of me that are trapped in the past, so this would involve bringing them along with me, and i know there is only one way to do that, which in turn calls for more letting go. That is care. It wasn’t only abuse that caused me to split; the stage for it was set by lack of care. Perhaps worse than the abuse itself was unmet needs, the overarching of which was love. My physical needs were given sporadically, and taken away on a whim, but i was never loved by the one who brought me into this world and charged herself with my care. To her i was something to be consumed, more possession than person.
The thing is though, the abuse stopped when i got away from her and my stepfather at 21yrs old. My mother’s been dead for 30yrs and i’ve been comfortably estranged from my stepfamily and half siblings for maybe 10. No one is abusing me anymore. I’m surrounded by people who love me and accept me for who i am and how i work. I’m safe and in a loving situation and i receive daily care. I care for myself and i take care of myself, and i trust my partner to care for and take care of me, too. He’s stepped in countless times and done for me what i was unable to do for myself – both emotional and physical care.
It’s time to stop living as if my childhood is still happening. It’s time to let the wounds close over and stop picking the scabs – time to let it all scar over.
I’ve been preparing for this moment for years. I’ve always known that letting go would be a thing, but i didn’t know what it entailed or how to do it. As i’ve shared here, i have developed some ideas on how that would look, and it’s time for me to try it. I’ve always bristled a bit at the insistence of others that i’m a survivor of mental, emotional, physical, sexual violence and abuse. I watched others like me bristle at being called a victim, and i got it for them, but it was not for me. Every time i get super low and feel like the world’s biggest failure and total screw-up, my husband says gently to me that these things aren’t true. He says, “You are not (x), you are a victim.”
And i’ve seriously needed to hear that, over and over, because i couldn’t accept being as broken as i’ve been without someone who is safe and loving and providing me with care to tell me that it’s true and accurate and understandable and okay, to be as incredibly fucked up and non-functional as i’ve been. Being called a survivor felt like being told i should be done dealing with my past. I wasn’t. I’m not. And by letting go, i think i’d like to skip that whole “survivor” stage, and just get straight on with living. I’ll keep on doing the work, but my path will look different. I don’t know how because, as i’ve stated, i can’t see the bottom. I haven’t jumped yet but i’m fixin’ to…
Very, very soon.
we’ll see things we’ve never seen before
they say we will do this and much more
we will have the healing hands
to help the ones we love
which will be every living thing
IMAGE: Cristofer Jeschke