Today In Self-Discovery…

When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.
~ Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Yesterday’s phone therapy went well. We talk every 2wks, so i caught her up on the week long bender, followed by this last week of doing fairly well and continuing the work. She told me i only lasted about half an hour our last appointment, and most of that was silence. When i told her i was sorry about that, she said, “Sometimes a person just needs to know that someone is there, ready to catch and to comfort.”
I’m so glad i kept looking for the right person to work with.
I’d never have gotten this far without her (or someone a helluva lot like her).

Marking my progress feels good and is important, but it’s not eliminating my current issues. My anxiety is still high, and i’m wrestling with anger, too. It can be hard for me when people do things i wouldn’t do, or think things i don’t think. I find it threatening. It’s hard to overcome. I aligned myself with my abusers in order to stay relatively sane. I believed what they believed and tried to think like they thought. This practise, as with so many others that i’d affected to survive, followed me into my adulthood, long after the abuse had passed. And it plagues me even after eliminating the subsequent danger of extended family associations.

Learning to be myself started with learning to think for myself. My husband was the first person who ever gave me the freedom to figure things out on my own. And when he thought differently he wouldn’t argue – totally foreign to me. He didn’t tell me i was wrong, he didn’t even raise his voice or look at me like i was stupid. No arrogance or sarcasm! I’d never been treated with such respect. I stopped shouting and doubling down. There was no point because he never bought in. He was simply not invested in group think. Group think was my primary way of operating. I’d adopted it first to avoid abuse and try and find safety, and later because i was trying so hard to find a place where i belonged.

I had no idea how to suss what i thought about stuff. How was i supposed to know when i didn’t even know myself? I started by listening to a lot of philosophical points of view, which is bloody exhausting. There were times it felt like they were breaking my brain. But from that i learned a very effective way to seek truth and understanding is skeptical thinking. I still have a lot to learn about how to apply it properly, but issokay, i’m learning about who i am, what i think, and how to think, all at the same time. I usually try to avoid tall orders, but i’ve found these things are intertwined. Because they are, i can work on one thing, and the other 2 just sort of hitch a ride.

I’m peeling back layers, i’m carving the marble, i’m poring over all the books. I’m writing a one-woman show, starring me. These things are all lovely and poetic, full of romance and promise and joy. The scary thing for me is that i’m defining myself away from people. As i discover who i am, so too do i realise who i’m not. I’m not you. Or you or you or you or anyone else. And that might seem like a big DUH! to anyone reading this, but it is a very big and very scary thing to me. I allied myself with the group i was in as a way of hiding. People who’ve known me might be shocked at that, because my personality has been, ah, rather animated and loud and bold. But it wasn’t truly me – well, not ALL me. Some of it was a completely unconscious affectation based on years of behaviour that arose out of a need to fit in, in order to stay safe and survive. My mother expected me to be gregarious and entertaining, and it stuck. I do like it, and it is a genuine part of me, but the abuse and the way my brain works, plus mental illness has conspired together to amp it up and mutate it, somehow. It was like i caricaturised myself in the effort to be what i thought i should be. I kept turning up the volume on my presentation, because it never quite worked. I got abused and hurt and shunned by my peers, regardless. My spastic intensity was a frantic response to pain and rejection. I wanted, i craved, i NEEDED connection badly.
Man, i tried so fucking hard.

Now though, i don’t try so hard. As i live out my life in a safe and respectful relationship, i’m able to take off the various masks and costumes i’ve used over the years. The deep desire i have to know and be myself, has overcome the fear of being rejected and hurt and misunderstood. I also have the gift of knowing i’m an introvert at heart. I know that i’m not hiding out here on our farm – i spend a lot of time alone and don’t have many friends or socialise much because i like it this way. I love humans very much, and i want to make the world a better place for us all. I write this blog in part, with that purpose in mind. The internet has been a lifesaver for me in many ways, and now it can help me help others. I couldn’t do this if it were one-on-ones and face-to-faces and speeches and talks and such. It’d eat me up in no time, and i’d crash and burn. Today, i know myself well enough to know that. I also think that perhaps someday, as i continue along this path, learning to know and love myself, i might take my show on the road. To put a face and a voice to these oddly presented blurbs and terrible poetry.
Honestly, a 1-woman show isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
Maybe one day.

I could travel and do little performances or give little talks. They’ll be weird and perhaps land only infrequently, but for people like me they’d be reveletory – bringing relief and hope and freedom. I could connect with people and come away from it more, not less. Edified, not diminished. Invigorated, not spent.
Maybe one day.

Today i putter about in my Little Crooked House, extremely anxious and incredibly frustrated by the actions of many people around me. But there is a ribbon of peace running through me now; i’ve created this life around myself where i have the time and the safety to do this work. I’ve been able to process unthinkable trauma, to embrace myself as a worthy human, to shuck off the lies of my abusers, to set boundaries between myself and those who’d yet harm me, to show those i’ve harmed that i’m truly sorry by toiling every day to be better – even if it’s just a smidge, to love whom i will without fear, and allow them to love me back in return, to ask for and accept help, to say NO, to take my mask off and step forward as myself… And so much more than this.

I’m moving away from feeling threatened by those who think and act differently than i do. I’m repulsed by group think instead of being drawn to it. I don’t need the world to agree with me or approve of me.
My therapist squeed and clapped as we spoke of these things. She said, “You’re falling in love with yourself! I have goosebumps!”
I didn’t cringe.
Amazing.
I didn’t even roll my eyes.
Unbelievable.

We’ll see how that statement of hers sits inside me.
I’ll keep y’all apprised.
Scintillating stuff, innit?
Heh.

Love and Peace To All,
~H~

Pictured: Bronze sculpture by Rodin.

Me, Myself, and the Mirror

I was more shocked than anyone when it began to seem as if i might be an introvert.

I was born to be in service to my mother. I have no way to know just how intentional my birth was. My educated guess is that my conception was accidental, but her decision to keep me was made consciously, and with purpose. It was her second pregnancy with no husband, and in the 60s, in her tiny and uber religious community, that was a huge deal. The first time she was sent to the US to have and surrender the child for adoption, which she did, and so even though she no longer lived with her parents, for whatever reason she went again. At their behest? Mm, doubtful. More like it was her best option, because she had nothing, and they were of some means and would pay for it. I think Grandpa had sold the ranch by then, and he and Grandma had moved to the big city. All their family and most of their friends still resided in little towns dotted around the south of the province, where 1 faith rules most, and even though my grandparents eschewed the Latter Day Saints for the United Church, everyone else they knew were adherents. I imagine the home for wayward young ladies accepted her without a blink, and besides, a non-believer is merely an opportunity for conversion, is it not?

I heard a number of stories around the adventures she had, and the events leading up to her leaving the States and me being born in another province, but i’ve been unable to find much supporting information. Yes, the home existed then (and still today). They wouldn’t confirm she’d stayed there, which is only as it should be, i was merely doing my due diligence to inquire. I have a birth certificate that confirms when and where i was born, and was able to speak to the hospital archivist, but they don’t keep records of any of the details of my birth beyond height and weight, and that it was uneventful. I don’t know if she knew the man i called “Daddy” before she conceived, but i suppose it doesn’t matter; somewhere along the way she decided that it served her to serve me up to him for his purposes. Before, during, and after her association with him, she was my 1 true god, anyway. I always knew it, and she knew that i did too, although she still reinforced it regularly.

I was adept at dissociation, and abuse was ubiquitous. It was nothing for her to pick me up from a “visit” and immediately place me in a social situation. I’m not entirely certain if i knew what had happened prior or not, but being as well acquainted with my system as i am now, i strongly suspect not. I might have been molested an hour or 2 before, but there i’d be, shining as brightly as my mother wished, for whatever audience she’d placed me in front of.*

I was always somewhat conscious of how important it was that i behave in a friendly and outgoing fashion; i must leave a favourable impression wherever i went. To do anything else my mother would see as reflecting poorly on her. Not only did she feed on the admiration of others (psychically and monetarily), it helped blind them to what was festering inside her, underneath the facade. To that end, i was her centerpiece of subterfuge. I was bubbly, animated, sweet, and yes, precocious. I spent most of my time with adults, a lot of whom were highly educated. My grandmother was a school teacher who had me reading fluently by 4yrs old. How could i not be?

By the time she and “Daddy” parted ways, my personality was set. At least, it seemed to be and that’s what i’d’ve said had you asked me. My belief now is that what i displayed was more psychological affect than personality. Some of it was me, but some of it was the mask that had been given me to wear. After a time, i forgot to take it off. No, it’s more accurate to say that i’d worn it so long i didn’t know it was a mask. I looked in the mirror and assumed what i saw was me.
It’s taken years to pry that sucker off, so i could get a gander at what lies underneath.

I first noticed something a few months back. A loved one commented, as they all seem to eventually, on my lack of desire for vengeance, or even justice, against those that harmed me. I’ve never wished death, torture, pain of any kind, on any abuser. I wanted to hit my mother one time, when i was prepubescent – and that’s the extent of it. My son brought it up the last time, and when he expressed his lack of understanding, i shrugged and said, That’s just me. That’s who i am.

I’ve been puzzling over that ever since.

I’ve been an automaton wearing a mask for most of my life, long after the danger had passed, and well into being a mother and a wife and someone’s best friend. I’ve been that way for so long that, as i’ve stated – i thought how i was, WAS me.
Then the safety of a loving relationship came and gently held my head up, as therapy held the mirror, and i saw myself. I saw my costuming. And i wanted to take it all off.
When i responded to my son that day, i got a looksee.
There was a heretofore absent surety in what i said to him.
See, i’m always questioning myself: what i think, how i feel, what i say, how i act… ALL OF IT, ALL THE TIME.
When i said, That’s just me; that’s who i am, there was no question. No obsession, no angst, no elipses. There was a period at the end. I knew what i knew.

I’ve been chewing on that, and i can see it in my recent postings. I know the sun is rising on me as a functioning human being. I know i’ve shucked my funeral clothes. I know i’m naked and new. I step from the shower and stand before the mirror, and the foggy coating covering it is fading. I’m trepidatious, but my ache to see myself is greater. My hunger to know myself is stronger. Blurred lines are sharpening, colours are intensifying, and i’m coming into view. I’m tremulous, but my feet are planted shoulder-width and i am set. To see. To know.

I’ve been joking for a few years about being a hermit. When i moved out of the big city in 2007, i remembered the comfort and peace that i’d felt as a farm girl. My home life was hell then, and school was a misery. The only safety i could find was in the endless chores and quiet beauty of farm life and livestock. The wind and the smell of grain and cow poop made me feel happy and calm.  So when mania threatened to break me, i retreated to my Little Crooked House on my quiet farm at the end of a No Exit road. I realised that i shifted into automatic around people, and if i really wanted to deal with my shit, i had to remove the stimuli that triggered the reflex.
I’ve done my best work here, alone.

After that i noticed that whenever i’d go into town for socialising or to run errands, it wasn’t long before i wanted to go home. And then i began marking how quickly my energy drained when i was out and about, and how i could feel my depleted stores filling back up as soon as we turned onto our road to come home.
The entire time though, i was wondering if i was hiding. I thought maybe i might be kidding myself, that i was retreating to avoid, to ignore. I worried my behaviour was unhealthy.

Over the years i’ve tried to be a part of many different groups. I kept looking for a place where i belonged. I’d ken the group dynamic, their values and aesthetics Then i’d shrug on a new coat, and walk amongst them for a while. See if i fit the group; if the jacket fit. It never did, or at least not for very long. My chameleon colours never lasted. I’d be identified for the imposter i was and be cast out, or i’d feel claustrophobic and need to GTFO ASAP.

While standing in front of that psychic mirror recently, i saw that i was wearing a spiked leather jacket. It’s a i’m-tough-stay-away-from-me thing. I thought it was an introvert costume. I looked into the mirror, who is me of course, and i saw that i don’t need it. I’m an introvert.
That’s just me. That’s who i am.
This is not so much a process of figuring out or learning who i am.
I’ve created a safe space, and now the bits of myself that i hid away so that i might survive what i could not have otherwise, are coming out to claim their place.
They know exactly what spot at the table is theirs.
I sit at the head and wait.
The banquet will be lavish.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*I refuse to mangle the flow of a sentence to avoid ending one in a preposition. If this offends your delicate grammarly sensibilities, i do apologise. Be advised that i regularly, and in a multitude of ways, play with and pervert this language, that i think is a bit of a mutt to begin with. Heh. See what i did there?

No Knot of No Note

I learned years ago, that if i wanted to avoid depression (or deeper depression), to absolutely not, under any circumstances, read old journals.
What happened –every dang time– was i’d be confronted with the same problems, the same situations repeating, the same emotions shared in the same words, the same pain bleeding all over the page, and the same whywhyWHYs… No answers, no resolution, no apparent movement forward. No progress, and so, no relief. It would fill me with a panicky sort of hopelessness – like a bird beating its wings against its cage. I was trapped and unable to break free. It solidified my belief that i was a failure, and invariably cranked the volume way up on all those ohsowelcome (/s) voices that sit in judgment inside my skull.

Some parts of my system are only conscious when they’re in the face (meaning, the one currently presenting, and in control of my body). I can feel them inside if i focus, but i don’t hear any commentary or thoughts that i’d identify as coming from them. Other parts, although many are capable of facetime, never do so. They seem to need/prefer to keep to the safety of my space-soup of thoughts. And some are so poorly developed that they lack any awareness or will to do anything other than the tiny, specific thing that they do, e.g. the one that just screams. When i first began actively dealing with the people that live in my brain, there were only a few parts that could be both in the face, and maintain their own sort of consciousness when they weren’t.

As i’ve grown in knowledge and competency (as the one in charge {hopefully}), that is changing. I see and experience, that as i heal, my Bits N’ Pieces are also; we are all morphing into something else. There are new voices (they aren’t new themselves, they merely didn’t participate in the chatter before), some voices have different tones, and the odd collection of folks and freaks feels different. And now, there are some voices i used to hear that i don’t hear at all anymore. It was the terror i felt at that which brought me back to therapy, after a hiatus of some years.
I didn’t know it was a hiatus, but my therapist sure did. Well, she hoped so, i suppose, but one of the things that makes her the best, is that she’s never tried to tell me how my life should look. I thought i was done – as fixed as i was gonna get. These last 2yrs have taught me that there’s so much more i want and am capable of achieving.

So yeah, i had a peekaboo at my old journal.

YIKES.

I debated including a sample, because it makes me cringe hard enough to crack a rib or two, but in for a penny, as they say…
Aaaand nope.
I noped it.
I slept on it, and in the morning it was clear to me that that would be self-destructive.
Also, i’ve seen enough, too. It’s locked down and shall remain so for the foreseeable future. There’s doing a forensic examination, and then there’s returning to sniff my own leavings.
Ew. No thank you.

While it was hard to read, the results have been very positive.
Not, Phew, i made it through that and didn’t die!
For the very first time, i looked back at old writings and saw with bold clarity, that i am absolutely, unequivocally, a healthier and happier person.

I’m no longer twisted up in various enraged and hyper-alarmed knots. I still feel that way sometimes, but i’ve untied the big ones, and have found mobility, and even some flexibility of movement. I no longer eke out a meager existence as a knot of no note. (Ooh, i think i’ve found my title!) I’ve only got a couple more of those tiny, tight suckers that require long and patient picking, before a bow is within my reach.
A BOW, for Maude’s sake!
I’m THIS close to being tied up in a bow!
Have i ever felt this upbeat on a Monday morning? Hell no. And i’m not even gassed up on espresso, merely an egg sammy and a cuppa tea.

I in no way regret my old journal entries, cringe-worthy though they may be. I started it innocuously, meaning all my friends were doing it. We were doing fun questionnaires and making random, silly observations about life, the universe and, you know… everythink. This is the music i’m listening to and this is my current mood and OMG, the last season of Angel is KILLING MEEEE!!
I had friends on the blogsite that used it for other, deeper things, though. Very thinky thoughts, tough feelings, and inner struggles. Since i was in and out of The Bin, struggling with mania, and looking for someone/anyone that could help me, i quickly fell in with them.

Except i took it to a whole. nutha. level.
As tends to be my way, especially while manic. Heh.

My blog became my therapist. And when i finally (and the angels sang Hallelujah!), finally found someone i could work with, my online journal became my dumping ground. My proving ground, too. I was dealing with the reality of being multiple for the first time, and working with someone who specialised in my unique brand of crazy. She came to my home, and to the hospital when necessary, and helped me look at my brain. She taught me to listen to what it was trying to tell me. I figured out that i needed to talk about what’d happened to me growing up. So i told my husband my story, and then Ms T would sit on my loveseat 10ft away from me (that was as close as she could get for a couple of years), and help me deal with the fallout. And i spilled a great deal of it with my small, tight circle of friends on the journalling platform i used.

It’s all so fucking frantic. I’m alternately furious and terrified – back then there was no angry and scared. Back then i was the embodiment of Histrionica. Emotions running amok. Memories, dreams, and are they memories or dreams, all vomited out onto the page/screen. Delivered with hot teenage angst, too. Like hiding-in-my-room-writing-bad-poetry angst.
I still write bad poetry. Heh.

The overarching and undergirding emotion that i see now though, is hurt. I didn’t write much about it, because the big 1-2 punch of the others took all my time and energy.
And i wasn’t ready or prepared to feel that much pain.
I’m glad and grateful that i didn’t, because i know, as much as one can know anything that didn’t happen, that it would likely have ended me. I’ve been preparing myself for it, sort of unbeknownst to myself, for nearly 15yrs now, and i’m barely keeping my head above water.

The pain has been like being gutted with a knife made of ice. My insides splash out of me, hot and bitterly pungent, my pain bursting from its integuments. I gather it all into my arms, and carefully place it all back in, stitching myself back together with knowledge and love… Only to gasp as the knife slices again. I’ve barely time to breathe between, and this has been my life for a year or more (it’s hard to track when i’m in the thick of it).

As i’m writing this, i’ve suddenly seen that i’ve returned a bit to that fear-stricken girl. I am being quite dramatic. Interesting. Not surprising and certainly understandable, but interesting. I’m getting both mercy and grace for me then – and now. This has been intense work, and its job is to connect me to all the parts of myself that have broken or split off over the years, while trying to survive the unsurvivable. I guess it’s working.
Yay?
I see my then-self as a daughter, of some stripe. She tried very hard. She did the work and pushed through with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. There was vitriol, but it was her due. She never got to be a child, or teenager – not really.
So what if my teenage years were in my late 30s to mid-40s?

If you ask me about the child part, i’ll tell you the truth of it:
In some ways, i’ve only now begun to NOT be a child.
I read those old posts, and armed with new knowledge about a human’s need for connection, and what happens to a child when that need isn’t met; i see a starving child in those words i typed over a decade ago.
I read those old posts, and buoyed by new experiences as a connected human, and how it feels to no longer be alone; i reach out to my then-self and gather her close to me.

I think she is mostly part of me now, and i’ll hold her tight until i’m done breathing.
And i’m not just Histrionica anymore.
I am HistrionicaButterfly.

Be as well and stay as safe as you can.
Love and Peace,
~H~

What Is and Is Not Mine

NOTE: This is a low piece. It contains some reference to suicidal ideations. I’m not in a good place and this is darkly reflective of that. Consider that before proceeding. If you don’t have tools and support for how to handle tough feelings, i would recommend skipping this one.

**********

Hold me down, I’m so tired now
Aim your arrow at the sky
Take me down, I’m too tired now
Leave me where I lie
~ Florence and the Machine, Sky Full of Song

I am not okay. The stress of my therapy is high, the stress of my marriage is medium, the stress of the virus is intense, the stress of politics is insane, and the stress of my children is over 9000.

I’m so turned around i’m not sure if i’m dealing with a depression or a mania. I think i’m coming out of a depression, and a mania is peeking at me from around the corner, but i’m hesitant to rely on my insight into anything recently. As i look back over my last couple of months of entries, there are moments of clarity that may produce self-esteem, while others threaten to drown me in despair.

And yes, i’m dealing with some feelings that border on suicidal. There’s no plan, but there has been some ideation. In the past, both the ideations and the attempts, were more about wanting the feelings i was having to stop, but not being able to do it myself. They were about my actions screaming that i needed serious help, when i didn’t have the words to ask, couldn’t say them, or had no one/didn’t know who to say them to.
Now i have a therapist (the lovely Ms T), and good support by way of my husband, my closest girlfriend, and an online community of people that i trust and with whom i have a long history of being genuine and honest.

The feelings are stemming from the therapy, i think. There’s a lot of looking back involved – that’s just the way it is.
But also, the state of the world is not exactly helping.

I know i regularly write about feeling as if i’m about to break into a million pieces. It too, is the nature of therapy, i think. It results from the looking back. And maybe from the looking forward… God yes – the trying to envision a future where i am not this broken and bleeding thing. This creature that skirts the light, blinking blindly up from the edge where i’m trying so hard not to seep back into the shadows.
But the darkness pulls at me, picking at my clothes like hungry birds.
And the blackness sucks at my feet, winds up my legs, making me slow, like running from the Evermore in an endless nightmare. So heavy – my body will not obey me.
I’m truly becoming afraid that i have nothing left.

It’s not as easy as grieving the terrible traumas endured by the wee and lovely lass that i once was… I wish – i would feel close to glory were that the case.
No, it is the wreckage that i’ve wrought that brings me to this lonely and desolate place.
Laying down the burdens of my progenitors that were never mine to carry has taken most of my life. I was ready to launch into the future – blazing past the atmosphere into the vast Beyond. Neon rainbow unicorn fire-goddess me.
But stop. Here now, what is that impeding my acceleration into the starry soup of fabulous possibilities?
These things at my feet wrapped in butcher’s paper, tied in twine and looking like tonight’s supper?
These are not pieces of me.
These are the bits and chunks that i’ve hacked off of others. Ready for me to drag them back to my hidey-hole. To slowly spit and then to consume its rancid, blackened meat.

If you’ve read enough of my posts, you surely recognise that i get all metaphorical when i’m dealing with the most unpalatable parts of my existence.
The damage i’ve done to others is the thing i must now choke down.
Finally being light enough to take off my death dress and dance into the New Days, naked and scrubbed pink and shiny… I can’t.
Now, that was a tricksy thing you did there, Life/Universe/Me.
Launch cancelled.

Metaphors over. What’s happening is i can now see beyond my own pain and suffering, and that means seeing that which i’ve caused others. And as seems to be the horrid and inexorable way of things – it is to those whom i hold dearest i’ve dealt the most.
I hope i can carry these burdens into the New Days, but i don’t know. It’s ugly and bitter and it’s me and what i’ve done. Just as i was born into a life i didn’t ask for, so were my children. Just as my mother did damage to everyone around her, i find the same can be said of me.
And it hurts to breathe right now.

Oh look at me
At all I’ve done
I’ve lost so many things that I so dearly love
I lost my soul
I lost my pride
Oh I lost any hope of having a sweet life
So I cry,
Cry, cry
~ Jann Arden, Hangin’ By a Thread

Fly*

take me through it
and tell them
you held my hand
the trees sough
and the ground
breathes musky life
i put it on my tongue
because i want to know
and little worms
slide in like sugar
i slip, sigh, slide
through electric wet memories
generational mommas telling me
shh, child
shh, don’t touch
my path is through old trees
and i taste their fruit regardless of my fear
i might be poisoned
they smell so sweet
and i have been so empty
and hungry
spent with need
don’t take my shoes from me
i have places to go
let go of my hand
you are a weight
i’ll not carry
the sky is calling me
it billows
and roils
and beckons me up
up, up
on the wings of the poor
the world is a millstone
warm hay
and honeysuckle
it smells so sweet
i could die

*Mine, from 2012

A Love Song

I remember when we were first dating
No touch yet,
But eddies were drawing us together
Churning between our bodies
Sweet and warm,
A gentle pulling under our feet
Ooooh

We stopped on the sidewalk
You looked at me,
I don’t remember which one of us was talking
Other bodies around us in the sunshine
The smell of green,
Life was suddenly so bright and pretty
Ooooh

Your face spread into a smile
Your pupils opening,
You were a ray of the sun burning my skin
Searing, blistering, burning, setting me on fire
I am ashes,
Rare wind from the south blows me into your pocket
Ooooh

Fragile and Fierce

Fell down a hole again, and LO! there was a bottle at the bottom. I slipped into it for about a week. I’m embarrassed and depressed about it, like always, but the detoxing is mostly over, and now it’s time for the picking up and the dusting off and the starting all over again. Well, i’m not starting all over again, but i’m sucker for musicals.
Come at me.

I felt like one of those super fancy champagne glasses from the 40s and 50s. Not the flutes, but the widemouth ones – oh so delicate and fragile. I felt like a piano wire, stretched until it’s about to sproing. My brain was filled to capacity, my thoughts racing and obsessive. The simmer had come to a full rolling boil, and i knew that i was on the brink of overflowing the pot.
So yeah, i guess i swandived purposely down that hole.
Don’t come at me.

The positives:
– it didn’t last long;
– there was switching behaviour, but i wasn’t angry or destructive;
– my son who is off work took care of the house, so no shambles;
– i didn’t push my husband to his limits.

The negatives:
– i drank a LOT;
– the detoxing was the most brutal i’ve endured, i probably should have been hospitalised;
– unless i’m bleeding out my eyeballs, there isn’t a mosquito’s chance on a frog’s tongue i’m going there;
– i added to an already stressful situation for my loved ones.

These are just true things. The trick is to look at it all, acknowledge it, feel the feels, and then get on with it. Get back to the work.
I’ve said this many times before, but i might always restate it because i think it’s so important…
My track record, along with the way my brain works, has shown me in a neon-freaking-sign way that i cannot rush things. They’re like the lights in Vegas at night.
OMFGJFCH, SLOW DOWN!!
(I used an all-caps acronym, because that’s the kind of swearing that makes church ladies faint, and truckers and sailors say, Hey, tone it down a little, will ya?!)

This is all i’ve got in me today, but i’ve got the itch to write.
And i assure you that it will NOT be poetry.

Love to All and May Some Peace Be Yours Today,
~H~

Updates From the Back 40

Totally random.
Some’re gonna be ranty, and some of ’em mushy, maybe. I’m just gonna start typing, and see where my fingers take me.
Off i go, then.

**********

So much selfishness and stupidity around me. I’ve made some hard decisions about who and what i’ll tolerate, and it ain’t many or much anymore. As my partner’s and my life might be riding on the choices and decisions i make, i’m finding the capacity for cold calculation and the ability to act swiftly, and even brutally. As all my children are grown, my priority is simple – me and my man. I have a small circle around me that is my next priority, as in, my children, grandchildren, and a few dear friends. I’m also a secular humanist, so i’m fully invested in being the best human i can be, and want the best for the earth and all its inhabitants.

I don’t have any leftover energy to have conversations with those with a history of doubling down or fondness for conspiracy theories. Even if i love you, you’re over there, far away from me, at least until there’s a vaccine, and i’ll probably wait until certain organisations declare the pandemic over.

I’m learning how to be the parent of grown children. I’ve never been meddlesome in their adult lives, but when 2 of them are still at home it can be hard to suss what’s my business and what’s not. Where do i still have authority and what’s simply not my call? I think i’m doing remarkably well. There are times when i’ve got to let them go, even when it might mean they fall, and land, HARD. They get to decide how much involvement they want from me, if any. I’ve made terrible mistakes with my boys, and they get to think what they think about it. They get to have their feelings and they get to react to it how they will. They can shut me out, they can shut down over it all, they can call me out. I’m here for their processes –far away and not talking about it if that’s what they want– but i’ll always be on the periphery. I’m as prepared as i can be for whatever they’d care to throw at me, to accept the responsibility where it’s appropriate, to shut up and listen when required. For now i wait, my amends currently come in the form of working towards being as functional and mentally/emotionally stable as i can get. To show them that no matter what crap your parents visited upon you, there is hope of getting out from under it and having the life you want.

After over 20yrs, i can feel myself finally, finally, finally settling into my marriage. I’ve tested it, i’ve tested him, and i’ve run away. I’ve pulled him close and then pushed him away, over and over. I’ve wrestled with physical and emotional intimacy. We’ve had some dicey years, but they feel over, at least for now. I don’t feel the need to protect myself so much anymore. There’s a deep and abiding trust that’s grown into a level of comfort i haven’t experienced before. I still have a wall, but i’ve built a door into it, and he has a key. When something bad happens, when my emotions or my brain start spiraling, i go to him for connection. He’s my soft place to fall, my water when my well has run dry. I think i’m moving from want/wish/hope to actually believing he won’t purposely cause me harm or leave me. That’s kinda big, for me.

I’m also becoming more and more accepting of how my brain works. Instead of trying to force myself into some form of person that i think i should be, i’m doing the work to figure out who i am underneath all the fear and anger and pain that i’ve carried throughout my life. I live with serious, multiple mental illness diagnoses on top of any nature and nurture regarding my personality and personhood. A lot of the common wisdom doesn’t fit me and doesn’t sit well with me. As i reach inward with love, as i experience forgiveness and acceptance from me to me, i let go of the urge to be who i think others want and/or expect me to be. This is me and this is how my brain works and this is how i feel about stuff and this is my life and no one else’s.

I’m creating the life i want around me because at last i’m able to name what it is and what it’s not. I’m not trying to force myself into another person’s vision of a good life. As i forge a relationship with myself i’m able to connect to my own unique and specific desires, hopes, and yes, dreams. Mending the broken connections between my brain and my body has given me insight and strength. For many years i’ve moved at a snail’s pace. I’ve stopped, gone backwards, tried to rush forward and fallen flat on my face. I’ve tripped and fallen down countless rabbit holes. I’ve been in the weeds and in the shit. And all of that still happens, but i get on to the next thing so much more quickly. My step is getting lighter, but firmer and faster, too. As one who has suffered some long and intense manias, i’ll likely always have to monitor and occasionally rein in the rate at which i progress, but relatively speaking, i see a day when i’m crushing it on the regular.

Defining myself is enabling me to ask for more of what i want from appropriate sources. I’m also growing my ability to say No to whomever i wish and whatever i choose. This doesn’t make me unreasonable nor has it turned me into a diva. This makes my life more productive and brings depth and authenticity to my relationships. My words are fewer but carry more weight. My actions are intentional and add value. I don’t hide my flaws and foibles, but neither do i  wallow in them or present them as an excuse or a get-out-of-jail-free card. I acknowledge, make amends where necessary, pick my ass up and get back to business.

I don’t hate my body anymore.
I’m gonna type that again, because it is a MASSIVE, AMAZING accomplishment.
I don’t hate my body anymore.
I’ve always known my face is pretty, but i’ve always been at loggerheads with my body. I saw it as a traitor. I gained weight when i was around 7 or 8, and i’ve never lost it, completely. As i’ve shared many times before, i became morbidly obese after my marriage, and eventually had weight loss surgery. I got to within 15 or 20lbs of my goal, but unfortunately between my marriage and the male gaze i was triggered and experiencing my first intense and extreme mania. That caused a significant amount of weight gain – about a third of what i’d lost. That was in 2007 and i’ve been struggling to get it back off ever since. Turns out therapy was the missing piece of my lifestyle puzzle where my relationship with food and body image were concerned. Over the last couple of years particularly, i’ve hit my stride. I let go of time and goal-setting. I changed one small thing about the way that i ate, and did that thing until it became a part of my life, and then i changed another. The progress was slow, but it didn’t bother me, because my focus was on a lifestyle change and my physical health – my lifelong experience taught me that the other would come along with it, naturally.
And it has.

That’s incredible already, but the truly tremendous, fantastically freeing thing is i don’t despise my body anymore. I’ve lost and gained, and i’m in my 50s, so frankly, there’s some damage, some wear and tear, you know? But i know why i look the way i do, and i’ve apportioned the responsibility for it. It sits squarely on the ashes of my dead mother, and rests on the heads of every stinking asshole in my childhood who ever laid their hands on me. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to manage, to fix, to hide, to figure it out. It just took time, some healing in my emotions and thoughts, and the right information. I can look at myself naked, and not even think a mean thing. I can wear clothes and not constantly pick at them and smooth things out and pull them down. I wear what i want. I look how i like me to look.
I like fashion, but only as an art form. I’ve discarded the hate machine that surrounds it. I’m slowly developing my own sense of style. It becomes more defined and recognisable as i recognise and define myself.

And i no longer seek  or accept sexual attention from all and any sources.
As i heal what was broken sexually inside me i know where to go and where not to.
I can ask for what i want.
I can say No.
I don’t flirt with anything that’s breathing.
I’m no longer inappropriately sexual or bawdy – i know the proper times and places and people. I don’t place myself in dangerous situations with dangerous people, all for validation and approval.
I see what i bring to the table. I know where and when and to whom i’ll serve it.
That’s some freaking alchemy, lemme tell ya.

So there it is, today’s blog offering. A strange kind of positivity, and not as mushy as i thought i might get. I see myself in this, standing with my feet set firmly and wide apart. My fists are planted on my hips and i’m laughing, deep in my belly, toothily, like the star of a lumberjack musical.

A smart, sexy one.

No, no one in my dressing room after the show, thanks.

More soon.

Love and Peace to All,
~H~

Pockets Full of Noes

As soon as i hear the words “you should… ” i’m out.

I remember an old nugget from 12-step that refers to “terminal uniqueness”, and while i understand what they’re getting at, i reject the concept. There literally cannot be another person exactly like me, as i’m not an identical twin, and human cloning isn’t a thing. And since we’re all gonna die… There you go. I’m terminally unique. So what?

I spent my upbringing plus some years after only doing what i was told, and then doing what i imagined other people would want me to do. At 21 i briefly rebelled by having a relationship with a woman for nearly 2yrs. When that ended in disaster and i immediately went out and got myself pregnant, i saw it as confirmation that my way was the wrong way, and i returned to being/doing what i thought was expected of me… Mostly.

Having a child seemed to give me an ability to stand up for things that had to do with him. I defied my family a number of times where he was concerned. I received a few phone calls whenever they discovered that i wasn’t raising him the way they thought i should. I bucked family traditions. Despite still being willingly tied to their toxic religion and having a boatload of hangups and twisted thinking due to its entanglements in my thinking and lifestyle, i did manage not to inflict some of the worst of it on my boys. They were raised with a healthy body image, and in a relatively sex positive household.

I went directly against some of my former religion’s most stridently applied dogma, as well. Once my obsessive and unhealthy relationship with my girlfriend ended, i made sure i only chose partners for whom my feelings were mild and manageable. I was looking for bed partners, for the most part, although i played at being engaged to please my family. When i stumbled across real romantic love for the first time, a friend confronted me with my hypocrisy. I was regularly attending church, and actively involved in anything they did outside of Sunday services. My friend, who was experimenting with a possible return to the faith, pointed out that i would be judged a fornicator by my own purported standards.
She was right, i was convicted, and i promptly asked my boyfriend to marry me.
(SPOILER: He said Yes, and we’re still together.)

Looking back, i can see how dissociation was at play, here. I’d been highly sexualised as a child, and some of my Bits N’ Pieces were created specifically to handle that. They remained a part of my system even after the abuse had stopped, and were definitely the impetus behind some of my sexual behaviours once i became an active adult, i.e. sexual by choice. I was a dutiful young woman, trying hard to be the model of what my religion expected of me. I studied its book, its dogma and tenets, deeply, and at length. I pondered and “meditated” (quotes because my multiplicity has made proper meditation impossible), and yes, prayed on all of it at length – both on my own and in groups led by my church.

I just… i don’t know. It wasn’t a willful or conscious decision. As soon as someone called me on it, i knew i was in the wrong and immediately took steps to set things right. Yet i’d been having sex since i was 21, and i was religious all along. My mind did what it does and glossed over whatever it didn’t want to know. I took my sex life and compartmentalised it, as i’ve been known to do on occasion. Heh.

Other things come to mind, too. Like when my stepfather would tell my son as he was ending a visit, “You take care of your mom now, y’hear?”

I would instantly respond that children don’t take care of adults, and i would reassure my son that it’s my job to take care of him. And that’s weird, because i didn’t talk back to him at that time. (I did some, to him and my mom as a teenager, and have no regrets. I wish i’d said more, but that horse galloped off years ago.)

I also wouldn’t allow anyone to coerce my children into hugs, or physical touch of any kind. Yet i had no touch boundaries of my own, with anyone – especially family. It was less than 10yrs ago that i realised i’m not a very touchy person. Even now, it’s so ingrained in me that i’ll initiate hugs when stressed/dissociated. But no one could touch my kids without their permission.*

And then there’s my extended family.
First though, i must confess. When my 2 older children were both under 5, i was close with my siblings. They’d spend lots of time with me at my house (i’m older than they are, and they have a different father). When i had my second boy, i launched into what i now know was a mild mania. I became obsessed with 12-step programs, and the friendships that i had as a result of that. I used my sibs as babysitters. Some of it was reasonable, like, when one of them was staying with me and not paying room/board. However, as i became more manic, i drifted away from “the program”, started frequenting bars, and began dating my first and only BadBoyBoyfriend (BBB).

He was trouble. My first relationship was a tumultuous one, filled with chaos, some violence, cheating, and general immaturity. I mean, we met at a halfway house, she was a violent alcoholic, and i’d been kicked out of my family because one of them tried to rape and asphyxiate me. We were fucked up kids and both of us acted that way. After that debacle, i only dated people to whom i wasn’t very attached.
Cue BBB. I was manic, and he was a handsome, charming ladies’ man. He pursued me, and i was dazzled. No guy like that had ever wanted me so brazenly. Hit me up for sex when no one else was around/available sure, but want me for a relationship? Aw, hell no. He was on parole for cocaine and beating up cops, and he was *ahem* very experienced, which was new for me. Hindsight makes it clear that i was a naive, overweight girl who’d spend money on him, and he was lonely and broke.

He took me on a number of kooky, fun adventures, and that’s when i really took advantage of my sister and brothers, using them as babysitters too often and for far too long. My heart and my bank account were flat busted when he was done with me, and i’d done irrevocable damage to my relationship with my sibs. Screwed blue and tattooed! as he’d have put it. But hey, i met my husband shortly after that, so it worked out for me in the end. (I’m now comfortably estranged from all extended family, save 1 precious cousin.)

All this buildup is to say that i had 1 more hard rule when it came to my children, a boundary that i didn’t set for myself until yeeeears later. When my sibs would be looking after my boys, they knew not to evereverEVER leave them alone with any other family members. Their secrets are sick and deep, and i knew it firsthand. It’s a long and sordid story why i was still involved with any of them, but we won’t be going there. They’re still alive, still sick AF (in my opinion), and i’m not going into personal crap that they might decide requires a response. The important part of it is that, even though i was still seeking their acceptance and approval, part of me knew they posed a potential threat to my boys, and so i protected them from situations where they might be vulnerable.

I don’t know why i’m writing about this today, or what specific point i’m trying to make, if any. My ability to compartmentalise is something that i’ve been looking at in depth recently, and i guess i just find it interesting.

All the times i said No once we got away from the man i called Daddy, and someone hit me up for sex.
All the times i sniffed out danger and got away. (I didn’t always, but i did often enough for me to feel compelled to examine it more closely.)
How i raised my boys with healthy boundaries, instinctively.
All the times i advocated for them against people i was taught to obey.
How i had no hesitation saying No for them, when i couldn’t for myself.
All the times i avoided the toxic kinds of romantic entanglements i so often saw others who’d been through childhood abuse get into.
How i had the sense to choose a good, kind, gentle, hardworking partner. I chose the absolute perfect person for me. After everything that’d been done to me; how they’d broken me, shattered me, mercilessly crushed me – how in the hell did i do that?!

I’ve come to see it as the gifts being a multiple gave me. The way my brain works enabled me to secrete parts of myself that my abusers must have been sure they’d destroyed.
My will.
My body autonomy.
My sense of self.
My ability to mother.
My desire for healthy attachments.
My freedom to choose.

Today i bristle at being told what to do. I can stubbornly stand my ground, even when it’s against people i love or those in positions i was taught to obey and not question. I say No often. I’ve drifted away from toxic people and toxic behaviours. I don’t answer the door when they knock. I’m no longer blindly obedient to anyone or anything. I make up my own mind; no one tells me what to think anymore. And woe to any and all who’d try to “should” me.

Perhaps i’m writing about this because i’m in the process of mending the severed connections between my thoughts, my feelings, and my sensations. Maybe this work is deepening and broadening my insight. I think that maybe, just maybe, i’m feeling not only compassion for myself, but some serious appreciation for how amazing i am. Hell, i might just be Queen Amazeballs of Crazy Island.

If so, i’mma need a crown.

Until next time, y’all hang in as best you can, and i promise i will, too.
Love and Peace,
~H~

I am bigger on the inside
But you have to come inside to see me…
We are so much bigger

Than another one can ever see
But

Trying is the point of life
So don’t stop trying
Promise me.
~ Amanda Palmer

*Unfortunately, while i did set some good protective barriers for my children, i did inflict a lot of religious crap on them. My church promoted homeschooling, so i did that until my oldest was 12 and my middle one was 8. I had NO business doing that. I was ill-equipped, to put it mildly. I lacked the education, the attention span, and the temperament, too. I was descending into mania, and the neglect was undeniable. They were basically not schooled at all.
This is not to say that homeschooling can’t be done well by someone else.

 

Making My House A Home

When you can’t take it anymore
Why not forget the past
And off you run
Baby, run
No more tears, no more mistakes
Why don’t you just check out your bags and run?
Baby, run
~ Run Baby Run, Amanda Lear

I’m hard-wired to run.

My mother would move us every year or 2, without fail – sooner if folks started becoming suspicious, or the authorities came poking around home or school. The abusers that surrounded me also programmed me to return home at the first sign of danger. /irony
Paedophiles love a multiple, but that’s a different story, and one too dark for me to tell today. Once i left home, i never stayed in one place for very long, maybe, 3-6mos, tops. I never thought anything of it, it was just the way i lived. I’d get antsy and the urge to go somewhere else was never far from me. Memory fades some with age of course, but even now i can think of 32 places i’ve lived in my 53yrs.

I had some decent therapy under my belt when i had my first child, and so i had the insight to promise myself that i’d stay in one place for 1yr minimum for his sake. And one year was the best i could manage. That is, until i moved in with the man who’d become my husband. We lived in our city’s ‘Hood in the same house for 10yrs, and we’ve been out here on our beloved Little Crooked House on the Prairie for 12, now.
But still… I deal with the urge to run on a regular basis.
The therapy i’m in, coupled with our current pandemic, has kicked it up to daily, and sometimes many times a day.

My childhood taught me that some shit is always gonna come down the pike where you gotta skedaddle. You smell trouble brewing, you GTFO ASAP. We always left things behind, too. When we moved we generally had to move fast, say, to evade creditors or avoid Social Services. Other times it was due to local gossip – whispers about the huge woman with the husband that looked like a teenager (he was), or the children that didn’t seem to be properly cared for (we weren’t). There were also occasions when my mother would tank a friendship so badly, that she’d move us out of anger, shame, owed money or apologies… She was the queen of the geographical cure.

I learned not to get attached to things, e.g. clothing, stuffies, pictures, various knickknacks and tchotchkes (isn’t that a wonderful word?), bedding, dishes. Even books could be left behind. (Yes, i’m as aghast as you.) Even some lovely things of my grandparents’ that she inherited upon their deaths. That carried into my adulthood. Although i didn’t leave things behind when i moved out –i left places empty and clean– i manifested my mother’s example in a particular way.*

I didn’t decorate my space.
I didn’t put up pictures or paint or have a decorating style. Bric-à-brac was minimal. And i lived frugally, so i’d take whatever furniture, dishes, bedding, and suchlike that i could get. I’m one of those people that has trouble resisting something if it’s free. Number one, i keep my money for something else. The #2 (hahaha – yes i still laugh at poop jokes) that was quietly hovering in the background, was that if i needed to run, i wouldn’t feel as guilty for leaving things behind because i hadn’t spent money on them.

When we lived in the city and were expecting our third child, i tried to decorate. I watched HGTV all day, every day, and became obsessed with painting techniques and decorating. I started, but i couldn’t finish. I seriously couldn’t. I painted the room, did a cool texture thingy with plastic bags and primer, and started putting up a teddybear border close to the ceiling. I thought i stopped because i was pregnant and tired, which i was, but also negative crap like i was fat and useless and talentless. (Honestly, those teddybears were rather awful. Heh.)
I believe now that it’s tied directly to my reticence to set down roots.
Lest they be torn mercilessly from the ground, you know?
No, says my mind.
No, you never know.
What’s HOME, Precioussss?
I didn’t know, and i distrusted the concept, though i saw it modeled well many times outside of my childhood hellhouse.

My husband and i moved  me and our 2 younger boys out of our blue-grey house with the red metal roof, on a relatively quiet street, smack in the middle of the ‘Hood. I was at the peak of my first big mania, working in the entertainment industry. I was partying 5 days a week, engaging in high risk behaviours, and day-drinking while neglecting my children. It would take some time to sell the house and deal with our furious 15yr old who refused to move with us who was trying to figure out how to emancipate himself (and understandably, rightly so). He stayed in the city and we went to live with Mum on the farm. (His mom, but she took me on as her own. She was the sweetest person i’ve ever known.)

It was the right thing to do. I calmed down measurably. I kept my drinking to the weekends when hubs would come and visit. I spent quiet days eating toast and drinking tea with Mum, sleeping, and… And what, i don’t actually don’t know. I was a cavalcade of people taking their place in my face and having their way with my thoughts and body. She accepted it all with gentleness and grace. She mothered my Bits N’ Pieces, and never spoke of it. When i brought it up to her years later, she told me she hardly noticed and every part of me was nice to her and she liked them all.
(Pardon me, friends, while i have a wee cry that she’s gone now, and i miss her so much in this moment.)

That’s a little better. Sister Jeannine was correct when she told me, over-and-goddamn-over, that tears are cleansing and healing. I would roll my eyes at her and she would laugh at me were she still with us.
Ah me, loss is such a bitch.
Sec. Gotta blow my nose.

Anyhoo, the man-thingy made it out to us 6mos later and we moved into the Little Crooked House across the road from Mum. The day my mania hit its apex i had been drinking (i’d returned to it once out of my mother-in-law’s house). I’ve written about what happened at length, and am happy to leave it done. I bring it up to say on that day i tore up our house. I broke things and threw things and did a significant amount of damage.

I’ve been crawling my way out of chaos and dysfunction since then.
Mr. Man works 12-14hrs a day, 6 days a week to support our family.
I turned my attention to raising my children while figuring out my brain and my past, as best i could.

Our house sat damaged; clean but unadorned. We took some of the money we made on the sale of the house and bought new furniture for the first time. I thought i was a post-modernist, minimalist. Ha. Turns out my taste runs to the somewhat masculine, my-living-room-looks-like-a-study, style. Huh. Okie doke. I found myself eyeing a large picture at the local hardware store. It was damaged, and i looked at it every time we went. For months it sat there, not selling, and finally offered the manager a price below what they were asking and he said Sold! We took it home and placed it above our fireplace.
It was my first picture.

Over my years of therapy with my best and current Ms T, i’ve picked up a wall clock and a few tchotchkes. Friends have kindly given me some of that LiveLoveLaugh kinda stuff that i see in other people’s homes. My boys made things at school that i proudly displayed on tables and shelves, and clinging to my refrigerator with magnets. I was almost like a normal, regular mommy. I’ve picked up a lot of mirrors over the years, and Mr. Man has hung a few here and there. (HGTV taught me it makes small spaces look bigger. They were right.)

About a year ago i was shopping at Ikea with my bestie. I’d been back in therapy for a while and was feeling better but worse, as one tends to do when one is doing the therapy thing, i think. Then i saw it. A large, unframed print of a Klimt painting. I love Klimt. No, i adore Klimt. It was one of my favourites, it was on sale. I thought about buying it, walked away, then made myself go back and grab it. I bought it quickly, with as little thought as possible, because i knew that’s what it would take for me to get it home. I also had my husband hang it that evening for the same reason. Progress, w00t!

Still and all, the damage i’d done all those years ago, stayed. The divots and scrapes and holes hung like stark pictures of my pain and failure; coloured in violence and shame. He works so hard i hadn’t the heart to ask him to help me fix it. Plus, i felt i deserved to be reminded of how horrible i can be, how sick and out of control. Bad H. A finger pointed and waggling, poking me hard in the chest. My reaping.

Cue pandemic.
He’s still working enough (so grateful), but his hours are cut and he’s getting some weekends off. Entire weekends, holy crap. He turns to me and asks if i’d like to fix up the bathroom. My eyes well up and i’m nodding as he’s talking about plaster and drywall and paint. He brings home an epic whack of swatches (he works in construction) and i get to choose! He fixes the massive chunk he cut out of the wall when we had a leak, and when i come back to see how things are progressing, i see he’s been patching and sanding outside the bathroom. He’s erasing the damage of my past actions.

Well, i’m a bit of a crybaby today.
Cleeeeansing, heeeealing, H.
Oh look, tears can act as lube for my eyerolling. There’s no click as i look at the back of my brain. Heh.

Work like this has taken me a long, loooong time, but i’m here, i’m doing it, and i’m HOME. We have plans for more paint, and yes, more pictures on the walls. If this madness continues, there may even be curtains, folks!

I’m on my way
Just set me free
Home sweet home…
~ Motley Crue, Home Sweet Home

Y’all hang in there now, y’hear?
Love and Peace,
~H~

*My mother also left things behind because she was slovenly and lazy, and hadn’t a shred of gratitude for anything she had, ever.

IMAGE: The Kiss, Gustav Klimt (1907/08)