Water of Life

CW: Contains indirect references to childhood sexual abuse. This one is heavy for me – emotional. It may be for you, too. Take good care.

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Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water.
~ Christopher Morley

So i made it to my therapist’s office today. And i started crying as soon as i saw her.
In the parking lot.
Crying.
Fuck.*

Tears are difficult for me. There is, as with just about every fucking thing in my life, a push and a pull with tears. As an infant, i know that i would have cried. I know from gathering as much information as i could from people who would talk to me about her honestly, that she wasn’t a terribly attentive mother. Unless family or someone she wanted something from was around, and then she was perfect and doting. But her mask would slip occasionally with those she called friend. She’d leave me cry in my crib for too long, saying i needed to cry it out or i’d be spoiled. Claimed i was colicky and would drown me in gripe water (which contained alcohol back in the day), and push baby Aspirin. Based on behaviours i do remember from a young age, i imagine the ignoring of my needs went for longer when no one was around to see.

When she’d spank me or hit me, sometimes she’d stop when i cried, and sometimes she’d go harder. If i cried for something other than beatings, say, disappointment or sadness or fear, she’d berate and humiliate me. I was a big baby and needed to toughen up. She’d accuse me of crocodile tears. I remember her telling other people when they’d show concern, “Don’t believe it. She’s faking. She’s an amazing little actress.”

She groomed me for predators from infancy, so i’m going to assume there were some tears involved there. And the people she gave me to were the hardest, when it came to shedding tears. Some of them would hurt me worse if i cried. Some would complain to my mother and then she’d beat me. And some needed me to cry, which became a problem when sometime around 3 or 4, my tears dried up. She took me to the doctor about it, i think, but i don’t remember what he said.

I do remember what caused my tears to flow again. I was around 12 or 13. I’ll tell that story another time, because this subject matter is already heavy enough.

I’ll share another interesting tidbit about me and tears, though. For my whole life, since my tears stopped flowing and through their adolescent return, you couldn’t tell i’d been crying when it was over. No matter how long i’d cried –i could, and did, bawl my little eyes out sometimes– all i had to do was wipe my eyes and blow my nose, and no one knew.

Sometime during this recent bout of therapy, that’s changed. I’ve never been asked, “Have you been crying?” until a couple of months ago. My face gets blotchy, my eyes and nose get red… It’s like my body is giving up all its ghosts. I’m no longer carved from alabaster. I’m becoming a living, breathing, crying being. Filled with snot, apparently. Buckets of snot.

I’m coming to life and i’m mourning my dead. The tears water me. They wash off my grave clothes. They cleanse me of the filth that coats me that was never mine. I’m pink and warm underneath. Red and blue and purple and golden light! I pulse and sparkle as life flows into dead limbs. I’m sitting in my cemetery, surrounded by beautiful dead things, and as i water the barren sand it becomes fecund. Living things are sprouting up around me. Pretty things. Green things. Life from death. Beauty from shit.

Which is all very lovely and poetic (and still true), but in the meantime – i cry. I want to cry all the time, and i cry just about every day.
People, i am not a fucking cryer. I get choked up over art and suchlike. Verklempt. Sometimes my eyes will fill up with tears, but they generally remain unshed. I can cry for other people, too. If a friend/loved one is suffering, i cry. But that place where one sobs until there is nothing but hitching breaths and hiccoughing? That place where one connects with one’s own pain and suffering? Almost never. And until my first round of effective headshrinking with my current therapist, if it did happen it wasn’t really for me. I didn’t cry over what happened to me, what was DONE TO ME.

Now i am.
I’ll be attending to some task, speaking with someone, reading something unconnected, sitting on the goddamned toilet – and the tears will suddenly come. They spill out and pour down my cheeks, hot and salty. My heart aches and my belly clenches. I weep. I mourn. And i know this is only the beginning. I know there is an ocean of tears inside me yet. A torrent waiting to be unleashed.
I’m going to let them come.

I’ve marinated in self-pity before, and i fucking deserved to. But this isn’t that.
I’m transporting myself back to my childhood, to bear witness to the crimes committed against me. I look upon that innocent little baby, toddler, child, adolescent, teen, and yes, young woman. I watch what happened to her. I listen, and i feel.
And then i mourn. I weep for her suffering. I ache with her needs. I lament her violation, and i grieve her death. She died over and over again, scavenged bits of flesh and blood from the corpse and made a new thing. A zombie. A golem. A robot. A doll.

The water flows and there’s no bottom to this well inside me.

And i thought it was hard to cry. To release my white knuckle control and cry. To stop dissociating from the grief and cry. To feel the pain of past abuse in my body today, and cry. But it is not the hardest thing. Not by a fucking long shot.
Why does a baby cry?
Hunger, thirst, pain, fear… Unmet needs.
What do we do when a baby cries?
Figure out which one it is and meet the need.
Sometimes though, we meet all the needs and the baby still cries. What do we do then?
We soothe them. We hush, we hold, we comfort, cuddle, softly sing. Blankets, stuffies, low lighting. We whisper words of love, vows of protection. We promise that everything is going to be okay.

And now, here we are at the hardest thing.

I’ll try to post about it in the next couple of days.
Until then, try to have as good a weekend as you can.
I will, too.
Do they still make tissues with lotion?

Love and Peace,
~H~

*If cuss words aren’t your thing, you might wanna pass on this piece. I mean, i often let 1 or 2 into my writing, because i write in my RL voice. What you’re reading is how i talk. Yeah, i’m pedantic and histrionic and show-offy with my admirable vocab. I’ve also been known to swear like a trucker made a baby with a sailor, and it was born with an itch it can’t scratch and a 2′ wide yapper.
This post is feelin’ like it needs to be full of swears.

Thanks Mum

My mother-in-law died, and we held a memorial.
I did a thing that, even 2 or 3yrs ago i might not have done nearly so well. I met a family obligation appropriately, with maturity and i think, grace. I was present, not just in the body, but right there in the face, for almost the entire time. I didn’t use anything in order to cope, and i was genuine and sincere. There was a moment when i could feel myself sliiiidiiiing… But i knew it immediately because i was practising mindfulness, so i was able to recognise that i was pulling out of the face. The words that were coming out of my mouth were things i wouldn’t say. I reined it in by excusing myself from the conversation and the group that was chatting.
I wasn’t too nice, too friendly, or too funny. I shed a few tears, but the deep grief is for me to express privately, and it’s not ready yet.

I shared a few words with those who’d gathered there, about what she meant to me, and i was there for all of them. I hadn’t felt that way since the first time i sang a solo in church. I don’t think i’ve done anything like that after high school. I was a karaoke hostess for a couple of years in my late 30s, but i’m not sure >>i<< ever sang a single song. I sang at my grandfather’s funeral, and i think that’s the last time i did anything in front of an audience sober. Until i stood there, in front of those people who’d come to mark her passing.

Growing up i loved public speaking and performing, and i was good at it.
I’ve spent some time grieving the life i might have had if i’d been allowed to pursue it, or even just been supported when i did things on my own. My mother was concerned with me only insofar as i was a source of positive attention and income for her. She wasn’t much good at encouragement beyond urging me to join something. I think she wanted me out of her hair, so she’d push me to participate in after school activities. The problems came when she was called upon to help, like bake something for the tea, or drive me to swim meets, or be there when i was given an award.

The church choirs and the school plays were the worst. I always got noticed. The teachers and congregants always sought her out to share how impressed they were with my talent. She was approached by people a couple of times who wanted to represent me, saying i could get commercials and jingles and little bit parts were available – even in a city like mine. I loved performing. I loved entertaining people. I loved just speaking in front of people, whether it was a poem i’d written, a scripture in church, or just a book report in class. I’d get excited, but i never got stage fright. I don’t know why those things never panned out for sure, but Mom definitely had something to do with it. Whether it was jealousy, envy, laziness, or she liked the way she had things set up already, i just don’t know. What i can say for sure is that she was certainly lazy, a flaw that only grew more pronounced over the years. Also, when dealing with my past as an adult, i looked back and saw that she’d been markedly nastier and more violent after a school or church performance.

At the end of all the angsty feels, i chose to see it as a dodged bullet – my various mental diagnoses left untreated in the entertainment field may well have made me more infamous than successful, if i’d managed any success at all.
Still…

That’s what grownups do, yes? Or maybe i’ll call them “growers”, as in, those who grow. Not just up, or out, but in and down and through and deep and beyond. People who have the kind of life that looks good to me seem to, anyway. Those who find happiness and satisfaction in their day-to-day, and if there’s none to be found, then they look harder, look forward, look upward, look anywhere, knowing it’s there somewhere, or at least believing in its possibility. Those folks. There’s no particular character trait or personal voodoo woo-vibe they got goin’ on. The only thing i’ve found that they have in common is the way i feel when i’m around them. It’s simple, clean, fresh, pure, real, fundamental and beautiful and… And that’s all i can tell you. What exactly the quality is i don’t know, but i know that i like it. I know that i want to be around people who have it, and i know i want some of it for myself. Not theirs, though. I wanna make my own.
But still…

My mother took a possible future from me. I cannot say whether it was accidentally or on purpose, and that part truly, no longer matters to me. The thing that matters is that i’m mad at her for it. I resent her for emotionally hobbling me. And i mourn my lost opportunities. All those doors, from the ones i walked by at her bidding, to the ones she quietly clicked closed when i wasn’t looking, to the ones that must now remain locked. Sometimes i’m still sad about it, and nothing i’ve overcome or accomplished has changed that. Today i may be a queen, but my parent still gave me away for pride and the king only wanted me for wealth and i can’t really make straw into gold, i’m just clever and lucky.

It may appear that i’ve strayed wildly from my initial paragraphs. How did i get from eulogising my dear mother-in-law to Rumpelstiltskin?
I’ll tell you – i’m not exactly sure, but it feels organic as fuck.
I was standing there in front of those gathered, wondering if my legs might give out, sniffling in punctuation, but i was looking up and making eye contact. I knew what i was saying and i was there and invested in communicating what she meant to me and how i felt about her.

One day i’ll tell you about my brief career as a karaoke hostess, but for now let it be enough that i was in full-blown mania, and my multiplicity was out. of. control. I took the job because it appealed to my need for attention and excitement and drama and some of my Bit N’ Pieces still wanted to sing and dance and play dress-up and flirtyflirtflirt with eeeeverybody!
The thing is, i had crippling stage fright. I simply could not sing without a drink or 10 in me. I’ll analyse it/break it down another time, but for now just get this, okay?
I never had stage fright as a child and now it was ALL i had. I drank the stage fright away, but i also drank me away – that was someone else singing.
And i think the same thing would have happened had i tried out for a play or took a public speaking engagement.

But i stood there fully present in my body, communicating my thoughts and feelings to a group of people that mattered to me. We were all there for Mum, and so i cared about every person there, and it was important to me to share my love for her and my grief at her passing. And i believe i was able to do so.
Since then i’ve been trying to write about it, but i kept putting it back in my unfinished folder, because i knew it was missing something. I hadn’t found my voice to tell you the story yet.

I have, now.

My mother took away my voice. She silenced me to the point where my brain made other people to speak for me. And while her death set me free, it took me decades to find which voice was truly, most essentially and basically, mine.

My mother-in-law gave me the beauty and marvel and magic that is a mother/daughter relationship. She gave me a safe and nurturing place to say things that daughters say to their mothers – and she always responded to me with a mother’s love, in a mother’s voice.
I wanted to convey to the people in that church, just how powerful and beautiful her gifts to me were, and i think i did, a little.
But now i see that she gave me one more gift, even in death. Her love of me inspired such love in return, that i was able ditch the stage fright. No need for liquid courage, no help from the Peanut Gallery.
I stood in front of a group of people and told them something i wanted them to know.
And they heard me and they felt it and they got it.

She helped me get back something that my mother took away.

Thank you, Mum.
I miss you.
I love you.

~H~