I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. I

I’m not a bitch.
I’m changing though, and that can be hard for people who’ve known you a long time, i think. It can be difficult for my partner, my children, my close friends.
I developed a truckload of traits to survive my childhood and cope with the trauma and dysfunction it’s caused in my life.
Even after it had stopped, my brain and my body kept living as if trauma was still occurring, or was just around the next corner.
I discarded some parts of my personality for the same reason.

I’ve gotten to know my system fairly well, and yes, they’re all me, but some of these quirks and qualities are no longer necessary. Well, not currently required.

I don’t see this as integration.
This is a first class vacation for some stressed little Bits.
This is the Rolex/beach house retirement for some exhausted parental types.
This war is long over, and it’s time to clean the weaponry and put it in its pristine arsenal, where i’m the only person who has access.
No one’s leaving and nothing is being tossed.

I know who i was and i know who i am. Now i’m on to the part where i figure out/decide who i want to be. I’m poring over it all, scrutinising everyone, and we’re building me together, fresh and new, from the toes up.
No one left behind. Everyone has a say. Everyone gets to feel.
And to that end, some things have been happening in my personal life that’ve triggered some voices with some things to say, some feelings and thoughts to express.

I hesitated with this piece. I didn’t sleep well last night due to some in-home upheaval, so when this stuff started pouring out on the page, i pulled back. Body vibrating. Hands shaking. Guts churning.
Do i let anger out? Resentment? Bitterness? Indignation? FURY?
What if i scare someone?
What if i come off as a bitch?

My therapist has spent these last months gently convincing me that these feelings need to be felt if i want to move on to some reward-rich, next level healing.
And why wouldn’t i want that?
My childhood didn’t kill me, and all i did to live with it, handle it, bury it, dig it back up, look at it, hear it, feel it, cope with it, heal it, hasn’t ended me either.
So bring it on. Lay it on me. Let’s do this.

**********

Today i’m not terrified.
Today i’m pissed off. I’ve been scared and felt vulnerable these last few months but made it through with no serious wreckage to clean up around me, and i can handle this anger just as well. I neither need nor want to pull my world down around me. I have no wish to torpedo any relationships – i’ve already eliminated all the toxic ones. I have one seriously problematic relationship right now, one that has perhaps triggered this anger (i’m not sure though, because this emotion was going to come up and require processing, regardless of my interactions with anyone in my current circle), but it isn’t toxic.
I think it’s probably normal AF to have ups and downs with loved ones – to have to work through difficulties and navigate some rough patches.

And while i am experiencing some dissociation, that’s just who i am, and i’m aware of it and i think i’m handling it fairly well. I’m not leaving the face and hiding from the conflict. I’m here, i’m in it, i’m the one feeling it and deciding what to do about what’s happening.

This is an emotional purge – a spring cleaning of some brain-clutter.
I’m fine, and the person i’m in conflict with is safe.
I don’t break people, and i don’t even break stuff anymore.

**********

I was taught to do as i was told and never complain.
I was taught that other people’s feelings were more important than mine.
I was taught that grownups, those having jobs with authority over fellow citizens, and males were my superiors.
I was taught that i was property.
I was taught that i was responsible for the “negative” feelings of others.

I learned that if those to whom i belonged or was beholden were in a good mood i was less likely to experience physical pain.
I learned that if these same people liked me i usually received better treatment overall.
I learned that if i could hide, or at least be quiet and blend in, i could sometimes avoid being targeted for abuse.
I learned that if i “absorbed” those emotions of them with power and authority over me, that the abuse might stop for a time, and i’d occasionally be rewarded.

I learned all these things long before i set foot in a school.
Fortunately?
Because school, which should have been a break from the Hell i lived at home, quickly became just another torture chamber.

I had a couple of excellent teachers, and i had a couple of absolute crap ones. Mostly though, they were mediocre and clueless. Maybe some were willfully ignorant, but i’m hesitant to apply the label because my mom could put on a good show when properly motivated. I was bright, i had a sunny disposition and an animated personality. So, even if i was clearly poor and my hygiene needed work and i never achieved the grades every teacher probably knew i was capable of, and my mother was hard to reach and the fattest person anyone had ever seen in real life – that wasn’t necessarily a red flag…

Right?

My tone is sarcastic and i’m testy this morning, i admit it. I’ve given a great deal of thought to if and where my teachers bear responsibility for the treatment i endured in school, and i don’t find them culpable. I told my favourite teacher in high school that i was in a bad situation at home, and he acted as if i hadn’t said a word – shocking and revolting a complete abandonment of his fucking mandate sure, but i’d already moved out and was living with friends, so what was there left for him to do? Besides, we functioned in an atmosphere where one of my fellow students favourite teachers gave precedent to the popular kids, and flirted outrageously with all of them that were female. No one seemed to be disturbed by it at all. (He was one of the crappiest teachers i ever had. He thought he was funny and charming, but even in my dissociated state, i found him a repulsive creep.)

I can’t fault them for not protecting me from bullying, either. I tried never to let any student see that they hurt me, so what was there for the teachers to see/hear? I would insult myself first, or laugh along with them, or ignore, or sometimes (i know now) someone else in my system would handle things.
With their big, obnoxious mouth. Heh.
Which only ever caused more bullying, but my life was so filled with stress, i don’t blame anyone who lives here in my brain with me for needing to vent. Those occasional blurts may well have kept me from exploding. Or imploding.
Or whatever – i’m here and i’m alive and i’ll take it, with thanks to my beloved Peanut Gallery. Wah wah wah wah.

At least i never got the shit kicked out of me like i did if i beaked off at home. It was an exceedingly rare occurrence for me to get mouthy with my mother, but it did happen.
Maybe i never pushed any of the bullies too far, or maybe being Amazon-sized was off putting. (Or maybe bullies are actually pathetic cowards. Hm.) I guess i’m saying it’s possible that teachers didn’t see how awfully some of the other kids treated me.

It’s possible.

Everything i’d been taught/learned at home worked both for and against me at school.
I managed not to be the most picked on, or least popular kid in my grade (every time but one – and that, thankfully, only lasted half of 1 school year*), but i think i might have had it easier if i’d stood up for myself, even one time.
I didn’t stand up for myself, though. It didn’t occur to me.
In fact, i thought everything those horrid kids said to me was true, and it was appropriate to pick on me, because i was fat, and i was weird, and dirty and poor and whatever other label they ascribed to me.

I’m moving on from the teachers. On to the students. I’ll be brief, but i’m going to be brutal and blunt:

The ones who picked on me were jerks.
I have 1 friend today who confesses he was a bully in school, and he is one of the kindest and best people i know. Due to him and also the kind of human i am, i’m going to say that it’s possible that some of those kids grew up to not be jerks.
But i don’t think it’s likely.
(One of the meanest girls i’ve ever known immediately resorted to calling me names when i stood up to her as a grown woman.)
I hope they did change though, of course, because my heart breaks for the selfish, cruel, and clueless generations they might inflict on other hurting and lonely children. I know how hard it is to survive that, and i know not everyone does.

From school i could move on to shitty former friends and estranged family, but i’m not going to. One, i’ve processed former friendships well and moved on, and two, i don’t discuss family, because that might look like an invitation to them to come back and have an opinion about me and my life.
And they aren’t getting one.
Besides, they weren’t where these parts were focused. I’m listening, but more importantly, i’m feeling these thoughts and these memories. The fear, the hopelessness, and the terrible aloneness and otherness and wrongness that these crappy human beings visited upon me, Monday to Friday, for a solid 10 1/2 motherfucking years.

I’m dealing with a current relationship that reminds me of needing to be liked by a loved one in order to avoid being hurt, and whose treatment of me brings back all that pain from school.
I’m not cool.
I say dumb stuff.
I talk too much.
I’m weird.
I’m wrong.
I’m awkward.
I’m too big – i take up too much space.
Nothing i do is good enough.
I’m defective.
I’m not welcome. GO AWAY

*Fuck that school, fuck those lousy teachers, and above all, fuck those incredibly cruel and arrogant piece-of-shit students that are probably every bit as stupid and petty and shallow as they were when i attended their crappy school in their crappy town.
You’re the most popular kids in a school of less than 300?
Wow. What an accomplishment.
Generations of your family have grown up and raised their families there?
So amaze. You managed to live out status quo.
Very greatness. Such awards.

Thanks for adding to the burdens of an already battered and broken child. I’ll bet your kids would be proud of you. Heck, i’ll bet they’re just like you, you big, important fish in a tiny little pond.
Go you. Cue the marching band.

**********

I have more to say about my current situation, and what i’m learning about myself and who i want to be, and i want to share some super positive and exciting things that are coming about as a result of this absolute shit situation, but that’s enough for today.

The parts inside me that have held these feelings deserve for this piece to stand on its own. Writing it made me angry for them, which helped me be properly angry for myself.
Which helped them tap into their anger – their entirely, wholly justified anger at terrible treatment from terrible people.
I’m going to think about it today, and i’m going to listen to and feel what’s going on inside of my body (below the neck) as a result of thinking about this stuff.

Cleaning out my closets and junk drawers. Bringing all my muppet-monsters out to play.
My toys, my room, my house.

My weekend is here, and i’m going to do my best to rest and enjoy.
Thank you for being here and witnessing my process – you’re helping me create myself and my life.
Love and Peace,
~H~

If It Quacks Like A Duck…

Put your gun down and don’t shoot it.

It’s funny (peculiar, not ha-ha) how the thing i’ve been trying to write about for, well, maybe years, comes to the forefront after i get back to a draft i’ve saved for 6+mos. It’s sat on my blog and been reworded, revised, and deleted over and over, because it’s one of the most difficult subjects for me to address. I’ve never felt like i’ve gotten enough distance from it to have anything helpful to share.
Maybe now i do.
I may still put this back on the shelf.
I don’t know what i’m gonna decide, but i’m in suspense!
(I know, if you’re reading this, that makes precisely one of us. Heh.)

The bullying started in grade two. I’d just been returned to my mother after nearly a year of being in the foster care system. During that time, i learned to cope with food. Unlike at home, foster care afforded me regular access to healthy food. Breakfasts came with fruit, toast, cereal – i had Flintstones chewable vitamins for the first time in my life. Lunches were either prepared for me to take to school, or i came home to a mother who had it ready on the table. And the most amazing meal of the day was suppertime, when there was a father, hungry and home from work, sitting with mother and children. Everyone chatting about their day, as the other children snuck their Brussels sprouts onto my plate. It was just like i’d seen on television. There were even after school and bedtime snacks, for crying out loud.
At home there was often nothing in the fridge. I’d come home from school starving, having not had lunch, and tear apart the cupboards looking for anything edible. I remember i’d make a treat out of soda crackers: i’d put a small dollop of ketchup on one, followed by a tiny drip of mustard, topped with a quick sploosh of Worcestershire sauce, and then pop the entire thing in my mouth. I pretended i was eating fancy appetizers.
If there was food, i was often expected to prepare it, and if my mother thought i had eaten any of it before she returned home from work, i was guaranteed some kind of beating, the severity of which usually depended on what kind of day she’d had.

I’m telling you this to demonstrate why, when i was returned to my mom on Christmas Eve, i was a bit overweight. Add to that, my mom was celebrating getting me back from the “evil” foster parents that were trying to take me away from her – and her favourite way to celebrate was food. This time though, she actually shared it all with me, because she was fresh out of the mental hospital and chest-deep into the latest 70s pop psychology, so she was wearing her Bonnie-Franklin-as-Ann-Romano-in-One-Day-At-A-Time-i’m-a-great-modern-mom mask. (It came off before Christmas holidays were over.) For 2 solid weeks, all i did was eat. And i’m telling you that so you know why the bullying started immediately on a frigid January day in 1975.
I was the fat (not really) kid.

Being the fat kid was bad enough, but i increased my target value by being both obviously poor, and overflowing with personality… personalities… Whatever. I had the reek of something gone off inside me, and everyone around me could smell it. To the sharks on the playground, i was blood in the water.
I could share lots of stories, but you’ve likely heard similar ones, or had an experience or two yourself. I don’t want to wallow or dwell. I’m loathe to talk about this part of my life at all, but it has become clear to me that it still effects how i experience friendships and peer groups, so i either handle it, or it’ll just keep on handling me.

I’ve said stuff like this before in other journalling pieces, but i may have glossed over it. Maybe it’ll help if i just let it get embarrassingly emotional and awkward for everyone – the ugly cry of the blog post. A little bloodletting to balance the humours. Trephination to release my inner demons. Barf it up and flush it, H. (I’m revving myself up with metaphors.)

I avoid this issue because that’s how i felt the entire 12 years i was in public school. Embarrassed. Emotional. Awkward. Also, exposed and vulnerable and utterly alone.

I was being raped and beaten and emotionally tortured at home. On the good days i was just neglected. School should have been a port in the storm. It should have been some respite from the constant emotional upheaval. Instead, the armour i wore to protect me at home was like waving a cape at the school bullies. I added more fat over the years, and threw in poor hygiene because i’m an overachiever. Heh. It was actually because my mother modelled it for me, coupled with the bathroom being a very dangerous place for me, abuse-wise, but if that had occurred to anyone at school, it never manifested in my rescue. There were a couple of visits from social workers – they came to the school, not the home, so i think a teacher or 2 may have tried, but my mother was an exceptionally clever woman, and a fabulous actress.

For 19 solid years i had it drilled into me that i was alone.
I was defective and gross and no one would ever like, love, or want me.
Everything i did was wrong, or not enough.
Everyone i loved hurt and/or left me.

That’s a long time for some extensive programming to sink in, take hold, and grow roots.

I was physically separated from my mother at 20, but even though she died before we could be reunited, she was always with me. Fortunately, gratefully, no one in my Peanut Gallery is representative of her, although they all have their own experiences and opinions of who she was to them. I’m referring to just how well her indoctrination took. I was generally a very obedient child, especially when i was younger, and her training was thorough. I did what i was told: in public i was unfailingly polite and proper, deferred to all adults, was quiet and demure, unless called upon to be precocious in order to impress someone. As she descended into hopelessness, depression, and rage, her mask began to slip, her hold on me lessened some, and my own facade developed some cracks.

Still, i approached every person and every situation the same way. I wanted desperately to be liked and accepted, but i was terrified for them to get to know me too well, because they might find out how rotted and filthy i was at my core.
Thusly i conducted every friendship i ever attempted – a stilted dance of pulling someone in too close, out of tempo, only to fling them stage left for an ill-timed solo, or turn away and dance by myself as if they weren’t even there, usually in a style that didn’t match the song.
I know now that i must have been very difficult to be friends with. I’m surprised at how long some of them stuck with me. Some left with good reason, others were probably just tired. I mourned them all, but miss none of them today. (I have been happy to reconnect with a couple of good people, though.) People as broken as i was don’t always have the greatest taste. The only long-term friends i have that i’m even remotely intimate with now, are online. They either don’t notice or don’t mind that i get close and then faaaaaaaar. Most of them even know and accept that i’m not always quite myself, and they treat my people with as much love and respect and patience as they treat me.

I don’t know if i can ever have that with anyone in the flesh.
I don’t think i’ve ever given anyone a decent opportunity, but i was ignorant, and now…
Now i don’t know if i can, or even if i want to.
My mother and my home life taught me to wear a mask, and i got so good at it that my masks became people that live in my brain.
My peers and my school life taught me that all my masks were ugly, and it hurt so much that i crawled up inside my brain and let my masks take over.

Since all this inner gardening work i’ve done has finally started bearing some truly delicious fruit, i have only shared it with family in the flesh, and with my dear online friends. I’ve not yet invited someone to my table and served them any of my harvest. I’m afraid they won’t even want to sit and partake. Or what if they do and they find it bitter, or overripe? Or what if they eat it, and i suddenly find that i’m one with my bounty and they’re hungrily devouring me and i cannot stop them? What if they pillage my garden and feed until i am nothing?

Angry children climbing my trees and plucking every fruit, trouncing every lush vine, and mercilessly uprooting every flower. And always, the children who watch and do nothing, as my beautiful garden is turned to desert, their whispers blow all my top soil away.

This is the ugly cry of it.
My mother twisted me into an odd duck, and schoolchildren -both the bullies and the do-nothings- plucked me to death, one feather at a time.

~A Conversation Between Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou~

OPRAH: Maya, you were telling me that your life is defined by principles, and one principle you have taught me is that we can’t allow ourselves to be “pecked to death by ducks.”

MAYA: That is true. Some people don’t have the nerve to just reach up and grab your throat, so they just take …

OPRAH:  … little pieces of you, with their rude comments.

MAYA: That’s right.

OPRAH: They try to demean you.

MAYA: Reduce your humanity through what New York cartoonist Jules Feiffer called “little murders.” The minute I hear [someone trying to demean me], I know that person means to have my life. And I won’t give it to them.

OPRAH: It is an assassination attempt by a coward.

MAYA: Yes, some people don’t have the courage to just walk up to you and pull the trigger. If somebody just walked up and said “Boom!” — well, there you go. Bye. But when a person commits these little murders, and then you catch him or her at it, he or she might say, “Oh, I didn’t mean it.” But make no mistake: It is an assassination attempt.

**********

I’ll just be over here, swimming in my little pond in my garden.
No peckers allowed.

Sledgehammer, Part One

WARNING: This piece is about my relationship with my mother, and includes references to both physical and non-physical forms of sexual abuse, including rape.

Let me tell you about my mother.”
~Leon

I don’t really know what happened to my mother. She told so many stories that cannot now be verified, and i’ve caught so many of her lies, that i cannot paint her picture with much detail.

Abstract expressionism it is, then.

My mother was born out of wedlock in 1945, to an young Canadian nurse and a British RAF officer.* She was adopted out to a first generation Canadian couple in southern Alberta. They’d lost their first child, a son, within weeks of his birth, to measles, and my grandmother was unable to bear more children. They adopted her first, and then later, a boy. This was during a time when many people believed that adopted children had “bad blood”, because they’d been born to loose, sinful women.

They were raised in a place where nearly everyone, including their relatives practised a particular faith, a faith my mother’s family decidedly did not. The bullying in school was constant, and terrible. The teachers were all of the same faith, and the bullies were never reprimanded. Her brother though, as a boy and a baseball star, avoided most of the school bullying, and all of the suspicions of adopted children being tainted at home. He had replaced the son my grandparents had lost. Mother was an unfortunately necessary step to getting their precious boy – girls were less desirable than boys, but a girl could get your foot in the door, you see.

She must have at least sensed from the very beginning that she wasn’t wanted. When she was raped by one of my grandfather’s ranch hands, their response must have settled the matter. The man had threatened to kill her brother if she told, but she was hemorrhaging so badly it could not be hidden. She wasn’t taken to a hospital, a local doctor came to the ranch to see to her privately. The man wasn’t accused, arrested, charged, or punished, he was merely fired. She was 5yrs old.*

She got pregnant at 15, and was sent to a home for unwed mothers in the US where she was forced to give her baby up for adoption.* Following the surrender, she attended school away from home, to help keep her secret shame safe from the rest of the town and area. The girls at her school being as purely vicious as they were, i don’t imagine she minded at all.

At 22yrs old, she got pregnant again.
This is the point in her life where i enter, and now there are too many asterisks to even bother using them.

~~~~~~~~~~

-she got pregnant by a married man,
-she was raped by a married man,
-she got pregnant by a man of another faith whose parents would have disowned him,
-she got pregnant by a man who left to fight in Vietnam and was captured in country…

She went again to the States to the same home for unwed mothers, but this time she rebelled. She left and got a job and her own apartment, where 8mos into her pregnancy she was the victim of a break and enter and a violent rape.

~~~~~~~~~~

She fled the US for home, only to go into labour on her way, requiring her to make an unscheduled stop in Vancouver, where i born.

I won’t be going into what happened the first 7 or 8yrs of my life. It’s a story that doesn’t need to be told again. What i mean is, i can tell you a bit about my mom by way of explaining the terrible fear i always carry of becoming like her, without putting myself through the unnecessary pain of recounting the most painful years of my life. The years that fractured my brain into the little pieces that i am now trying so hard to manage and love and maybe even heal…

What i will say about those years is this: Afterwards, i believe that she suffered a crisis of conscience over what she’d done, and she didn’t manage the crisis well. I think she fell into a deep depression. I think she tried to fix what she’d done by having other children and parenting them better than she had me. And when she wasn’t able to (she was better to them in some ways and worse in others), she set upon years of self hatred and vain attempts to excuse her behaviour. Finally, it is my opinion that she eventually gave up and gave in to what she had become, and spent her final years reflecting more and more on the outside, what she was on the inside. Filthy. Bloated. Foul.

It is her final years that have most imprinted upon me this fear i have inside.
I watched her descent into utter depravity. As parts of me can move forward or recede as required, as parts of me can emotionlessly record events i have watched her slow free fall into a bottomless pit of what i can only describe as uncleanness.

I watched the house get dirtier and dirtier, until there were used dishes covered in molding food all over the house, including the floors, and yes, even the bathtub, where they were also covered with stinking scummy water, like the ones that filled every sink.

I watched my siblings get dirtier and dirtier, until their eyes, which looked unnaturally large against the pulled masks of their starving faces, seemed to fairly glow. I watched them climb through piles of unwashed laundry that were stacked higher than they themselves stood, looking to find the least filthy item to wear to school.

And i watched my mother. I watched her take food out of her children’s mouths to fill her own gargantuan appetite. I watched her swell from an incredibly beautiful woman who would be called “thick” today, to a mass of heavy, unwashed flesh that topped out somewhere over 600lbs. I watched her stop caring about what she wore, until she simply wore nothing at all. Moving from room to room completely naked. When someone came to the door i had to beg her to drape a blanket over herself. And i was privy to her abandonment of all attempts at personal hygiene, until her stench would fill the room so pungently, that i would involuntarily heave.

I tried to help stem the tide of garbage and odour and clutter and spoiled food, but i was living a life almost completely dissociated from what was going on around me. My room was a sty, too. I would be beaten for it regularly, and it would be clean for a while, but it wasn’t long before it looked much as it had at my last beating. My environment was a reflection of what was going on inside me, just as it was with my mother. I was also terrified of cleaning the house. If i did so under her watchful eye, i’d get criticised, screamed at, and beaten. If i tried to get a bunch of cleaning done when she wasn’t around, i almost never did it right, and she’d beat me when she got home. She even told me once, after my best friend and i had come home for a visit to an empty home full of trash that one had to actually wade through in places, and spent over a day cleaning, that she would have preferred i’d done nothing.

(To this day i hate cleaning the house when other people are around, it makes me terribly anxious and i avoid it as much as possible.)

After i left home, nothing really changed except that my portion of abuse was redistributed among my siblings. I know she beat them until the day she was in the car accident that would eventually kill her. I know that some religious folks who’d been trying to help her went to her home while she was in hospital, to clean it up in anticipation of her return and were pretty grossed out by what they found. I know that i visited her in hospital and begged her forgiveness for all the trouble i’d been to her and she magnanimously forgave me. I know that she seemed to be recovering, but because of her massive girth and doctors’ relative inexperience with the super morbidly obese back then, they missed a small tear in her cecum, which leaked slowly into her guts for nearly 6wks following the accident, causing her to die from multiple organ failure due to sepsis.

And i know it was years before i even began to unravel, examine, and otherwise dissect the relationship i’d had with my mother. I’ve spent years and tears and not a little money in an attempt to learn the extent of the damage she wrought in my life, and to find ways to counteract it all. For a very long time all i could do was stem the flow. I was like her, thinking i was getting better and then i’d find another source of infection that was keeping me sick. And like in our literal lives, sometimes the antibiotic wouldn’t work, or it would stop working, and i’d have to search for something else – something stronger, or something else altogether.

END PART ONE

*Maybe. I cannot verify this as fact, but i have included it because, after years of study and contemplation, i accept that it is probably true.

The Mystical Power of the Ninja Mouth*

*The title is firmly tongue-in-cheek, fellow nerds, so don’t go full Sheldon on me.

Ninja
noun
a person skilled in ninjutsu.

  1. informal – a person who excels in a particular skill or activity

 

I used to bristle when people would make any reference, no matter how remote, to me being a chatterbox. I still kinda do, but it’s slowly getting better. It wasn’t all that difficult to figure out why i’m sensitive about it – i just had to intentionally wonder for a while. It’s amazing how much stuff gets clearer when i do such an odd thing, eh?

I was a child made for a purpose. I had roles to play and there were scripts to follow, but none of them involved any lines about what was actually happening to me. That was never spoken about, except in the vaguest of terms. They used my nature, my personality, my love of communication, for their own personal gain, but forced me to subjugate all those qualities in any case where it may have been a benefit to me, personally. So i could talk, and in fact i had to talk, but only about the things they wanted, and in the way they desired. There were also periods of strictly enforced silence. I had to speak a certain way in certain situations; sometimes meek, hyper-feminine and unctuous, sometimes precocious and worldly. The times i had to keep my mouth shut were easiest, because i didn’t have to go too far inside myself to get away.

However, when everything you’re told to do flies in the face of every instinct you have, and you’re required to say nothing when you need to scream, it fucks you up, and even the best facade will develop some cracks. Those cracks were mostly obvious at school, with fellow students. I blurted a lot. I would say such strange things at such inappropriate times that i was regularly called a spazz. Or i would say something that was so obviously intended to fit in with the cool kids. They’d roll their eyes at me, swatting me like the social mosquito that i was. I was a know-it-all in elementary school during class, but the bullies and the popular kids (who often fit both categories) had pretty much crushed my love of class time, much like they’d squashed any social aspirations i’d held, by the time i hit high school.

Once i graduated and got away from home and school, i tried so hard to make friends. I ached for a place to fit in, but i talked too much and bathed too seldom. Heh. When i got a chance to talk with someone and perhaps begin a friendship, i came on too strong. I was that guy that approaches you in the bar and you wouldn’t date him for anything because you can smell the desperation coming off of him in noxious waves. I must have made one helluva double whammy. I would try too hard to impress; i wanted to be likeable, charming, smart, funny… All of it, all at once.

It took years of practise before i was able to dial it back enough to make some decent friends. Even then i wasn’t any good at sustained intimacy and commitment, whether sexual or platonic. Over time i became very good at acquiring friends, but terrible at keeping them. The closer they got, the more obvious it became that i was chatty, but not talkative. And the few i really talked to would leave. One that i loved and trusted very much even told me that i was full of shit. I didn’t tell anyone anything for years after that one.

I haven’t known what to do about my mouth. Do i talk more, or less? To whom? About what, when? I don’t trust my own judgment because when i finally disclosed my story, my closest girlfriend called me a liar and ended our friendship. I was pretty sure i knew how to have better, longer lasting friendships, but only by being someone else. It’s hard to be genuine when you’re still chipping away at the marble, not entirely sure what the figure will look like when you’re finished. So i just withdrew. I don’t want to be someone i’m not anymore, and i don’t quite know how to be me yet, so i went away. I went back to Start with a brand new playing piece and 200 bucks.
END of PART I

 

Oral Hygiene

My mouth used to get me in so much trouble. It’s funny though, because i never said the things that most needed saying. You know, like, Help me, or Someone get me outta here.

Nah. I told a couple of friends in high school. They probably half didn’t believe me and half didn’t want to hear it even if it was true. They couldn’t have done anything about it, and besides, i only had to make it through high school and i’d be free. Told my favourite teacher, my last year. We were working on something together and i blurted out the reason i’d left home, was working full time and living with my best friend. My confession was followed by one of the most excruciatingly painful silences i’ve ever endured. And then we resumed our work as if i hadn’t spoken at all.

It had to be obvious that i wasn’t quite right. I mean, the students all knew it – every one of them. In every class in every grade in every school i ever attended. My clothes and my lack of participation in any activity that required money made it clear that my family was about as poor as it gets in my country. I think my mouth may have overshadowed everything else. I was loud and obnoxious with students, which made me an even easier and more frequent target than i would have been had i just been fat and poor. And as is the case with so many abused children, i lied. A LOT. I exaggerated every detail or just flat out told a total bullshit story. It was all for attention, and of course it worked, but not the way i wanted.

I’m sure i frustrated the teachers, some to the point where they’d call in my parents for a meeting. Maybe they were even sizing up my parents, looking for signs that they might be the problem. I don’t know if anyone even picked up on my situation, let alone cared. To be fair, my parents were highly intelligent people who could make you believe just about anything… for a while. And when the mask finally slipped and people started asking questions, we simply moved.

I remember one time i was going home on the bus, and i realised the kids were laughing and whispering and making faces at me because my hygiene was terrible. (Super embarrassing, but true.) I made up the most ridiculous lie. Like in the history of lies it was the one that wouldn’t even fool your little sister when she was 4 and you told her chocolate milk came from brown cows.

I didn’t tell them my clothes were always dirty because my mother rarely did laundry, and if i tried to do it myself i’d sometimes get beaten for doing it wrong. I also didn’t tell them that a lifetime of sexual abuse had made me hate my body so much i could barely stand to touch myself. The bathroom was also a place where i was extremely vulnerable. I was terrified to be naked at all, and baths and showers were done in a panic, and not with any regularity.
I didn’t consciously know the truth, so i couldn’t have told them why i smelled like an old boot filled with cheese. I just knew i was gross and bad and i had to make it someone else’s fault so they didn’t hate me.

I tried to be anyone but myself, and i used words to try to be funny, cool, smart, even tragic (oh, the irony), but i only ever came off as strange and awkward and annoying. I tried too hard and it made the decent kids uncomfortable while the bullies could barely contain their glee. I was scorned by crappy humans and pitied by the rest. Still, i just kept talking. I lacked the self-awareness to manage what i said. I blurted, i leaked, i was a constant stream of words. My mouth was the bleed valve that eased the persistent pressure in my head. I tried so hard to be interesting, but they either disliked me or wanted to like me, but i made it difficult.

I carried that into my adulthood, and it has only been in the last year that i’ve been learning to rein in my mouth. Not to stifle things that i want or need to say, but to check my intent and to consider the cost. Balance is tough for me, but i try to check myself just enough. I used to obsess over everything i said as an adult. I’d rehearse it in my head a bunch of times before i said the thing i wanted to say. But that was different because my intention was wrong. I was seeking approval, acceptance, and affection at any price. Now my intention is to be genuinely myself.

I’ve spent this last year not saying much of anything. I’ve been around other people a few times, but there was still not enough control, so this last 6 months i’ve not been around very many people except my family. I don’t know if i’ll ever be much of a social person again, but i’m weirdly unconcerned. I’m learning who i am and how to be myself. The only place i feel truly safe is my home, and the only people i fully trust is my family. It’s sort of like dress rehearsals for a show that may never open.

Happy Tuesday,
~H~