Firm Footing

Nights and days came and passed
And summer and winter
and the rain.
And it was good to be a little Island.
A part of the world
and a world of its own
All surrounded by the bright blue sea.
~ Margaret Wise Brown, The Little Island

Being raised alone with my mother for the first 8 or 9yrs of my life, means there are some questions i have that will almost certainly not be answered. Considering my age, most perpetrators are dead or close to it, and the best evidence is either gone, or held in places i wouldn’t go looking. I’ve done the best i can to figure out what happened to me; some stuff i know, some i’m pretty sure, and the bits that are experience/intuition based i mostly keep to myself. I puzzle over it all with my husband and my therapist, (and my Peanut Gallery, of course) but if i’m not reasonably certain, it stays between us.

That being said, i don’t know if my birth was accidental or planned. My mother lied as easily as she breathed (and nearly as frequently), so the circumstances aren’t ever going to be clear for me. My first decade or so was spent believing my father was a Canadian volunteer soldier/POW in Vietnam. Sometime around 12 or 13, she changed her story, and told me that i was actually the child of a man who raped her on their first date. When i was 21 and looking for answers, i had 2 sources tell me she came back from a 2yr stint in Quebec, pregnant and heartbroken because the Jewish man she’d fallen for wouldn’t marry outside of his faith (although screwing shiksas was apparently fine). And i had 1 source tell me that on rare occasions a wealthy, not-Jewish businessman would pick me up instead of my mother.

So, 4 possibilities at least. It was only a few years ago that i felt capable of handling a light search for answers. I got my DNA tested this year, and based on results, the second and fourth choices are the most likely, and the third is an unequivocal nope. I have memories of a wealthy businessman that i called Daddy, except when we went to church and then he sat with another family and i wasn’t allowed to go near him or speak to him.* I know his name and it matches my ethnicity, but so does the name my mother gave me of the man who allegedly raped her. It’s as far as i’m likely to get, as i have zero desire to track down either of these hideous human beings (1 who might not even exist), and they’re probably dead anyway.

I’ve mentioned a number of times that i was born for a purpose. I don’t mean that in a religious way. I’m not 100% certain what that purpose was, but there are quite a few possibilities, whether i was planned or not, and it all revolves around my mother:

-she wanted attention/love from someone/me,
-she wanted attention/love from someone other than me (parents, man, friends),
-i could be molded into someone she could always use,
-i could provide income,
-i could be a receptacle for her rage and pain,
-i could keep people from leaving her (parents, man, friends).

I know absolutely that once i was born, i had a job, and that was to do what i was told, at all times, no matter what. Understand that i didn’t see any of this then – i was just a little girl who loved her mommy and wanted to be good for her. I only see it with time and distance, that i was born to be obedient. To serve. She had me so indoctrinated, so gaslit, that the 2 or 3 times i remember being angry at her, i remember forcing myself to put it away inside my body somewhere, and i’d physically contort with the effort it took to do so. She told me to do something and i did it. She told me not to do something and i didn’t. If a stranger came to the door and she said, Go with him and do what he tells you, i did that. If she dropped me off at a public park at night and said someone would be coming to babysit me for the weekend, i knew i had to do whatever they told me to do, too.

I was so good at taking abuse and thinking i’d caused it, that even after she died i continued the practise with other people i loved. I was easily used and emotionally controlled by family and friends alike. As i went through therapy and the process of learning who i am and how to live my best life with how my brain works continued, i whittled away the people around me who used me or those i just didn’t feel good around. (Some whittled me tbh, and that’s just fine. They saved me the trouble.) I’m now comfortably estranged from any family, save 1 cousin, plus the man i married, the children i made, and my child’s family. And the only long term friends i have (15+yrs), are ones i made online. I have 1 real life bestie. The rest of the RLers i like and am friendly with, but we’re not close.

But the one thing i was born to do was to take people’s shit and like it. And if i didn’t like the shit then my next thought was that it’s my fault i’m getting the shit – i deserve/earned/brought on the shit. Which is some super fucked up shit to be sure, but it dies a hard death. It slithered, slowly and insidiously back into my life. It quietly ate away at a love relationship, until i was stripped nearly to the bone emotionally and mentally. I was reenacting my relationship with my mother, to an extent. Trying to avoid anger and upset. Trying to please and appease. Subjugating my thoughts and my feelings to their moods, and eventually, their whims. It eroded my safe space until there was nothing left, becoming a constant burden.

I couldn’t fully give myself to the work i was doing in therapy because of it, but i couldn’t stop the therapy either. That was a snowball rolling downhill and about to become an avalanche. I gave so much energy to handling my crumbling relationship that i had nothing left over to properly manage my system. To stay present in my body and feel my feelings was a continuous struggle – one that i frequently lost.

And then one day, things came to a head in my relationship. The volcano erupted despite my best efforts, and i was so sick and tired of it all that i pulled away and took care of just myself: my system, my feelings, my body, my thoughts. Only myself.
I stood up, planted my feet firmly on the ground, and said, No more. This stops NOW.
I took my space back.
I set boundaries and laid out conditions for how the relationship could continue.
I refused to allow guilt or worry or anyone else’s opinion to sway me from taking care of myself and reestablishing my safe space.
I picked up the pile of shit they’d laid at my feet and gave it back to them.
This is not my shit. This is your shit.

It was a kind of liberation.

The world didn’t end. Everyone didn’t hate me. I wasn’t alone. I received acknowledgement and support, and my conditions were met and my boundaries are being respected. And i have a place where i feel safe and protected again; a place that feels like it’s mine and i belong there.
I said NO to someone i love and refused to take their shit and something fundamental has shifted inside me.

Those other family and friends? I didn’t sit them down and have a discussion. I didn’t write them a letter. I didn’t have a huge emotional explosion and vomit up all my thoughts and feelings about them and our relationship… I just let them go. It was easy. No one asked me why or even seemed to notice. I stopped calling, i stopped hanging out, but it transpired without remark. People like that can always find another human bin for their trash. I was imminently replaceable. It hurt some, but it was simple. I was ready to stop and there was no fight involved.

This relationship is with someone i love and i am not willing to let go. But i would walk away, give it time and distance, and come back and fight for it later. I was ready and willing to take a break. I was already restocking my spoon drawer and polishing up my arsenal to come back and fight after i’d taken some much needed rest.

The first day after i woke feeling lighter and calmer than i’d felt in months. A massive weight was gone from me. My anxiety level fell so low it was barely a blip on my radar. During my check-in with my system and my body, i found a strange thing inside.
Solid ground. A little piece of something firm to stand on. An island with enough on it to feed and sustain me. Quiet. Safe. It’s mine and it’s me at the same time. All that dirt from digging up the bodies of my past, watered by my tears. All the work, all the sweat, all the ache, all the holes where people used to be. An ocean of tears has filled them in and i’ve built me an island.

I won’t ever sacrifice myself over shit that isn’t mine again. I may stumble a bit, as this was my life’s purpose, but i’ll figure it out and i’ll put a stop to it.

Whatever is coming will come.
I’m ready.

Love and Peace,
~H~
*Gee, i wonder what that could mean.
<insertmassiveeyerollhere>

The Garden and the Gate

WARNING: Contains specific references to childhood neglect, physical assault, sexual assault, and incest. This piece is a bit brutal and a bit odd. Be certain you’re in a good place and/or have good support before proceeding.

Note: I’m very vague regarding the current situation i’m dealing with, in order to protect myself and my loved ones. Stuff can and does happen between me and people i care about. One of the most effective ways for me to maintain a decent grip on my mental/emotional health is to talk and write about my life. This current therapy i’m in makes it even more important to be diligent in cleaning the clutter out of my head. I must listen to what my system has to say and be mindful of their thoughts, feelings, and needs.

While i am the one who’s written this piece, i’ve done so in a highly dissociated state. I wasn’t completely switched (i.e. i didn’t lose time), but there were a few particular Bits N’ Pieces that dictated the more vague, analogy-driven parts at the end. It’s like, if my brain was a starship, the inside of my forehead feels like the bridge right now. I’m Data at the helm, and Captain Picard, Commander Riker, and Counsellor Troi are discussing where to go, what course to plot, and at what warp speed to travel. (Okay, i’m not Data. I’m very emotional today. I’m Wesley, which is fine, because i love Wesley. So there.)

**********

I was brought into the world for a selfish purpose. My mother wanted someone to love her, which is not unreasonable in and of itself, but her definition of love was twisted and sick. She expected me, from infancy, to fill all her needs.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she often failed to meet my most basic needs, like food, clean diapers, protection from harm, soothing, medication/care when sick, vaccinations, play times, clothing that was clean, and proper according to the weather, and warm human contact.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she slapped me, punched me, kicked me, pulled my hair out, pushed me down flights of stairs, bashed my face into walls, doors, cupboards, stove tops, twisted my arm, pinched me, bit me, bent my fingers backwards, threw things at me, broke things on me, even if she choked and suffocated me, sometimes to unconsciousness.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she sent me out on the street to beg for money. Even if she sent me to the store to steal food. Even if she rented out my body for favours and gifts and cash.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she used me as a receptacle for every feeling she couldn’t/wouldn’t express in a healthy way: fear, shame, guilt, and angerangeranger RAAAAGE. Even if i was her vessel into which she poured an endless stream of poison/venom/bile/shit.

I should love her, no matter what. Even if she spoke to me like i was a grownup since i remember comprehending speech. Even when she talked to me like I was her counsellor/confessor/best friend. Even when she had me touch her like I was her husband.

And i did, with my whole heart and mind and body. I loved her; she was my world. She was the best mom ever. And no one ever loved a child like my mom loved me. She’d had such a terrible childhood, i knew. She regaled me with stories* in lurid detail, stories that i might have identified with if she’d not already consciously, purposefully, carefully, and skillfully, helped me split apart and compartmentalise my brain.

How wonderful, how fortunate, how blessed i was to have such a special mother. So unique, so highly evolved, so triumphant over the evil that had surrounded her. So decent, so kind, so good.

She told me what to think, what to do, what to feel, whom to like and dislike.
I obeyed, i followed, i acquiesced, i surrendered, i died. I died over and over again, cutting off little bits of myself and shoving them into some black void inside me. Junk drawers and overstuffed closets and garbage bins inside my brain, and yes, i see now, inside my body too. Chunks of unacceptable personality tossed onto a compost heap and rotting, decomposing into some rich pile of shit that started talking to me when i was alone and in silence. Monsters morphing behind those closet doors, mostly muppet-like, but not all. Some terrifying and filled with rage and capable of destroying anything and anyone. Clawing at the door and rattling the knob, roaring to be set free, seeking apocalypse – annihilation.

I knew not to speak about how it was between us when the 2 of us were alone and behind closed doors, but not because it was bad or shameful or wrong. I knew how she treated me was special and we were highly evolved and incredibly intelligent and meant for a purpose. I knew the rest of the world was meaningless, and other people were dumb and stupid and incapable of understanding our ways.
I was indoctrinated, brainwashed, and Stockholmed. Fully. Completely. Utterly.

In the years since i first fell in love, accepted my multiplicity, got fat, got thin, got mania, got apostated, and lost or walked away from all friends and relatives, i’ve come to realise and own and carve out a reasonably functional and happy life from this washed up driftwood – to chip out a recognisable figure from this implacable slab of marble, this obdurate pile of refuse, this intransigent fabric.

It’s been the hardest work I’ve ever done; i’ve sweated and toiled and ached beyond measure to create and feed and grow this garden of mine, and it has yielded the most beautiful fruit.
Yes, i’m asserting that i’m amazing and colourful and worth a great deal. My fruit is too rare and precious to ever be put on sale, or for my location to be marked as a destination, though. One must be invited here, and my fruit is by offer only, although free to whom i would give it.

Another weird post, i know. It protects me and those i would shelter to be so arcane.
I’m HistrionicaButterfly, and i’m multifaceted AF, and sometimes it pleases and soothes me to be poetic and mysterious.
Today i’m being so because i’m sad and scared.
Someone i love is causing me a great deal of heartsickness and vexation.

I have a dragon who lives in my brain and he’s like an angel with a sword in that he oversees and protects all my lands and watches the gate.
I might have to banish someone i love, and my heart feels so laden and heavy and burdened. It feels as if it’s sinking into a yawning pit of emptiness that lies behind my heart. The ache reaches out of the muscle and into my bones; my sternum, my ribs, my scapulae.

This is not what i was born to be, or how i was raised to behave.
To tolerate is not even a consideration, and yet i’ve considered, and i’ve called it by that name. I’ve extended myself in grace that i was assured i never possessed.
I’m preparing to put my loved one out of this garden that i’d tended so long for my mother. This garden that was never hers and was always mine.
No matter how loved or how once welcome, you cannot dig up my flowers, my plants, or my trees. You cannot shit in my garden, and you can’t pick or partake of my fruit without permission.

I’m prepared to send my Dragon-Angel to swoop down upon this once-welcome visitor –to be swooped up by the talons and be deposited on the other side of my gate– to be guarded against as one might an interloper. I’m prepared to harden my heart until such time as they return with hat in hand, to humbly ask for reentrance.

No one, no matter how much I love them, will ever be allowed to abuse me again, and i will fight anyone for my safe space, no matter who they are or what they mean to me.

I have hope that all will be well, and in not too much time.
Nevertheless, i’m as prepared as i can be to say No and bar them from the safety and beauty of the space that i’ve built inside me and around me.

Y’all Take Care,
Love and Peace,
~H~

*Some that i’ve been able to verify, some that i’ve been able to debunk, some that i’ll never know for sure.

Image: Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole (1828)

The Tide

I have lost my safe space. It took me years to create and it’s gone. Getting acknowledgment of this has been difficult. Creating change can’t happen without it, nor can the work to make things right again be done by only one person. I cannot do the work that i’ve begun in therapy unless i get my safe space back. I must have a place where i can decompress, where i can be broken, where i can be vulnerable with no (reasonable*) fear.

It never rains but it pours.
I was berating myself for the issues people i love have, but i pulled myself out of it relatively quickly, thanks to some recent work i wrote about a couple of posts ago.

Things have been at such a crisis level that i considered putting therapy aside for a while. In crisis, it is my old pattern to dissociate and do what i think i should do. What i was taught to do was care for everyone else’s needs and to only have thoughts and feelings for others. Well, i can think of myself, but only how i’m not good at helping and i’ve caused my loved ones’ troubles. I’m allowed to think about how i’m bad and i’m a failure.

Fortunately, the personal work i’ve done and am currently doing, made stopping therapy like trying to hold back the tide. Can’t nobody do that, not any of me and not any of them.
That tide rushed in and washed it all away like so many children’s sandcastles.
No stopping. No old ways. Clean salt spray and pristine beaches.

My family is involved, so i won’t be going into specifics, only to say that i’ve been asking for change, but alone in the fight for it for a long time. I’ve been feeling so hopeless after therapy, and up until a few days ago, i didn’t connect the 2 things. Here i will point out that all the work i’ve done to learn about myself, to figure out how i work, and how to get healing and happiness, is invaluable. All the credit for figuring this shit out is mine.

Noticing my distress – that part was easy. Heh. Crying, feeling physically numb and emotionally disconnected (dissociating), switching, drinking, taking off, not eating or sleeping.
Looking at how that upset was manifesting, and then turning my eyes and ears inward, to see what my system would show me and hear what my body is trying to tell me. That second part is not so easy for me. It’s terrifying to me and therefore pretty goddamn hard.
My parts feel threatened and don’t like the atmosphere, and my legs want to get me the fuck outta there. It was so simple once i did those things; checked in to my body and was present and fully conscious of my own thoughts. It came pouring out of me in a rush. A relieved, grateful rush. A tidal wave.

Telling my loved ones what i need and calling out things that are unacceptable to me has helped tremendously.
I think i’m coming into the part of my healing where i refuse to tolerate shit anymore. This is a scary, awful time, but i also feel stronger, more powerful. EMPOWERED by my own actions. As soon as i stood up for myself i felt better. Less scared.

Less scared not to be heard.
Less scared not to be understood.
Less scared to be rejected.
LESS SCARED TO BE ALONE.

My loved ones will hear me, and they will work with me until we understand each other. They won’t reject me nor will they leave me. I know that, i truly do, but when i’m not PRESENT and CONSCIOUS and checking in with my system and more importantly now, CHECKING IN WITH MY BODY… Things can get fucked up mighty fast.

I need my safe space back.
My Bits N’ Pieces need my safe space back.
My body needs my safe space back.
I built this space with my heart and my mind and all my hard work and commitment to my love of my family and my desperate desire to love myself. This place is mine and no one can take it from me, and i know no one actually wants to, but it is an incredible feeling for me to be all fired up like this:

No one, whether dear to me or not, can have this space.
I’ll fight any motherfucker.

Until next time, take as good care as you’re able, and i promise to do the same.
Love and Peace,
~H~
* I say “reasonable” because being vulnerable is probably the hardest, most scary thing i have ever done.

Homeostasis

ho·me·o·sta·sis
/ˌhōmēəˈstāsəs/
noun
  1. the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.

This has been a good year; my most functional to date. I stopped hermitting, made a couple of friends, and reconnected with some old ones. It’s the year that i added exercise to all my lifestyle changes regarding food and eating, and all the work finally started paying off with some significant weight loss. I took up some parttime work, and i began volunteering my time in a couple of areas that matter to me.
By the time summer rolled around, i’d hit my stride and was feeling successful, and also like it was just the beginning.

Fall brought a change in the weather, dead leaves picked up and strewn about by chill winds, sucking the warmth from the ground, bringing the kind of silence that fills your ears and echoes in the stillness.
It’s analogous to what was happening in my brain; old voices whispered into an unsettling quiet, invading the hush. I shushed but they persisted, until i was so full of sound my body couldn’t contain it and it spilled out of me like Shhhhhhhh, bleeding off the pressure like a tire with too much air.

Dreams, too many, then nightmares and sleeplessness, and then the old urge to run. To get away, to go home, and for the first time in a very long time, wondering if it might be better to just stop. I didn’t know why it had gotten quiet, but i did know that it had caused fear and panic inside me. I went looking for answers in the dark corners of myself, but i only found emptiness, a yawning blackness where something once had been. The voices following after, soughing through my head like wind through trees.

No sleep, no peace, the anxious murmurs, old bones rustling like ancient scrolls. I have trouble hearing my therapist over the susurration – she repeats everything once, twice. Again please. Sorry.
She doesn’t say “integration”, she says “homeostasis”.

My switching tics return.
I stop exercising because i keep trying to “go home”.
I pull away from people, from work, from helping.
I don’t fit in my body correctly.
I break my ankle.

Maybe it seems like my year started out good, got great, and then got fucked.
Kinda accurate.
Maybe it looks like i started out walking, broke into a run, then tripped on a stone in the road and went sprawling.
I mean, that does look like road rash.

All those years spent fighting the urge my parents programmed into me to go home. I think in resisting it i found true direction. My Fortress of Solitude. My true north.
Homeostasis. HOME.

This has been a good year.

**********

I have some resolutions. I have some little goals and some bigger ones. I intend to continue on as i have been, one foot in front of the other, pushing doggedly forward, adding one kilometre onto the next, putting distance between myself and the place i was told to go, and instead heading towards the place i want to be.

My resolutions this year are less nebulous, more distinct and definitive.
They are little things like building my wardrobe to better reflect my own personal style, and having exercise be an integral part of my personal hygiene, like showering and brushing my teeth.
They are bigger things too, like blogging and keeping in touch with family and friends. Deepening my relationships; letting worthy people in a bit more.
Returning to helping and growing its scope.
Getting my house shipshape, top to bottom. Declutter. Organise. Move Kiddo downstairs and finally turn his room into my makeup/change room, with a day bed and a light-up mirror.
Keep moving our home toward healthier eating.
Read more fiction, and maybe even write some?
Blog more than last year, maybe even through the tough bits this time?

It’s 5:37am on January 1st, and i was woken by a bad dream a couple of hours ago. I got up, got a cup of tea, recorded what i remembered of the dream, and then i brought up my blog and clicked that little rounded rectangle button that says WRITE, with a plus sign, and bashed out this wee thingy.

Not a bad start to the year.
Homeostasis right now looks like bed and hubby-shnuggles.

Love and Peace To You, and Happy New Year!
~H~

I’m Listening

This was an intention statement that i made a year ago today.
I’m proud of my conduct and progress in this area, and i intend to continue.
To that end i share it even with those that i don’t personally know or interact with.

Happy Thursday.

**********

Dear People-that-i-personally-interact-with,

I wanna tell you something. I have a lot of thoughts about this and more than a few things to say about it, but i’m gonna keep this short (ish).

The reason i’ll be brief is because this stuff is super important for me regarding what kind of human i want to be, and also how i see the other humans in the world, but based on how my husband’s eyes have rolled up into his head a couple of times, i think i have a tendency to drone on and on about it. Pity the poor man when i’m trying to figure something out. Heh.

I was raised “right wing” but would currently be considered “left wing”.
I’ve decided that, with respect to interpersonal relationships, i don’t know what the hell those terms mean.

The recent political campaigns and elections i’ve seen in my province, in my country, and in my closest neighbouring nation, have all been contentious and divisive. I’ve seen so much fear and anger and hatred amongst people on both sides of the political spectrum and i get it.

I SO TOTALLY, TOTALLY GET IT.

You do you. Say your piece. Trim your friends list. Make your ultimatums. Draw your lines in the sand. Curate. Block. Plant your flag at the top of your hill and defend it against all comers.

I want you to know i believe in your right to do that, and i have no judgment about whether it’s good or bad, or you should or shouldn’t do it. It’s your life and you should live it as you choose and do what you think is right. I support you in this respect.

This is a belief and intention statement from me, about me.

I have thoughts and beliefs about things like religion, politics, sex, family, the law and law enforcement, the rights of other living beings, the environment, the planet, the universe, what’s right, what’s wrong, who’s right and who’s wrong… all of it. Just like you do, and i can guarandamntee that there’s not a single human with whom i completely agree with about everything out there. If there is, it’s because neither of us have the time or the inclination to discuss ALL OF THE THINGS, and our jaws are starting to lock up and we’ve got a headache from nodding so much.

What i believe is that there is room enough here for everyone, conditionally. Those conditions would include tolerance for differences of opinion and points of view, and a willingness to be wrong and to see things from another perspective. And the earth could stand a chance of being a truly transcendent place if everyone actively tried to understand everyone else.

Maybe that’s just me. Anyway…

Maybe it’s also just my perception that the divide between “sides” is getting wider and deeper. However, maybe there are others out there who’ve been watching it happen and are becoming more and more concerned for our future. And maybe, like me, you’ve also been wondering what in the name of all that’s good in the world, can little ole nobody me do about it?

This is not the part where i tell you. I can’t because i don’t know.
I think that most of us by now have gotten the message that we all have a voice and we all have something to say, but there is another piece of that message, a yang to its yin, that i believe has been lost.

If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Although that was initially intended as a philosophical thought experiment regarding observation and knowledge of reality, i can use it to illustrate the point that i’m trying to make, which is this: Have you really spoken if no one has listened to what it is that you said? Does it matter what you say if no one listens? If everyone’s clamouring to be heard, who is left to hear?

I’ve decided that i am. I’m left to listen, and listen i will.

Look, i get frustrated, too. I think everyone should think what i think because i’m clearly right.
But i read the same tones and hear the same inflections in the words of people espousing various beliefs that in my opinion go from nonsensical to repugnant. So then WTF? I used to go to snark pages to blow off some steam about how incredibly ignorant and stubborn some people can be, but i quickly found that i didn’t feel good about participating. Over the past few months i’ve found myself not going to those pages at all, not even just to read them, because i don’t even feel relief anymore. For me those groups are just echo chambers, and i think they gave me a false sense of security, and gave me an excuse not to think for myself, not do my due diligence, and close my ears to opposing opinions, beliefs, and points of view.

This does not mean i’m suddenly open to changing my mind about all or even any of my beliefs. I have good reasons for the things that i believe to be right and good, and i can back it up. What i’m saying is that i’ll listen, even if i disagree -and more than that- i’ll listen respectfully. I will tell you bluntly though, i may not find your beliefs or opinions worthy of any respect, but as long as you can have a civilised and relatively reasonable discussion with me, you will have my quiet attention.

I will try my best to understand where you’re coming from.
I will not patronise you, neither with my demeanor nor with my responses.
I may believe you to be dead wrong. I may even find what you’re saying to be morally reprehensible.
But i will hear you out. I will listen to you and try to understand where you’re coming from, unless or until you either become intolerably disrespectful or aggressive, or i perceive to my satisfaction that you’re being intentionally or otherwise wilfully ignorant, at which point i will end our interchange in as decent and quick a manner as i can manage.

For myself, i cannot see how i can do otherwise, and not be contributing to this increasingly wide, deep, and treacherous divide between recognisable and appreciable sides of any and all issues. I don’t know how good i’ll be at this, but wherever this place is that i’m starting at, it is my sincere promise that i’ll get better at it.
Listening.
Understanding.
Communicating respectfully.

Okay, so maybe you think this isn’t short or even ish. If you don’t believe it, just ask my husband, and be vigorously assured.

Have as good a day as you’re able.

Love and Peace,
~H~
P.S. Isn’t one expected to be dropping resolutions rather than adding more at this stage?

Thanks, I’ll Pass

I’m not celebrating Christmas this year. This will be the third year i’ve not done so. I’m certain about my decision and very comfortable with it, but i’m 100% open to returning to it at some point.

Christmas had become my personal microcosm. It was a vignette of how i once viewed life and the living of it. But as i was getting healthier mentally and emotionally, i could see that it was getting hard for me to continue my growth through the holiday season, or even maintain the status quo until it was over. It had become a frantic sketch of the overwhelmed wife and mother who is desperate to be Martha Stewart but only manages Lucy Ricardo. It was like looking at an old snapshot, with yellow seeping into all the colours and the edges curling up.
Quite a few things were happening for me back then. I realised that i was doing the backstroke in my ocean of despair, which was probably a sign that it was time to get out and dry off. I can’t tell you with absolute certainty that i needed to swim around for as long as i did, but i thought so, so that happened and there you have it. When i stepped out onto the shore i immediately felt the sun’s warmth. I realised the ocean had been cold and brackish, and i had turned blue and prune-skinned. My mourning clothes lay on the ground where i’d left them, but they proved scratchy and a poor fit, so i left them behind and walked on, keeping an eye peeled for something more appropriate for the walk and the weather.

I loved Christmas as a child for all the regular reasons, but mostly because my mother was almost always on her best behaviour. She loved the music, the decorations, the gifts of course, and Oh my! didn’t she love the food. When i was young she made a real effort to make things beautiful and festive, she gave care and thought to my gifts, and when she wanted to, my mom was a helluva fine cook. When she was happy, everyone was happy. She could be brilliant and charming and funny and dear. My grandparents, although they had become careful what and how much they gave her, were wonderfully generous with me, and to the best of my recollection, we spent all, or at least part, of every one of those Christmases with them until i was 7yrs old. Christmases slowly, but steadily declined after that.

The year i turned 8 she fell out with the man i believe to be my biological father and suffered a psychotic breakdown. She was committed, and i was removed from the home and placed in foster care. During that time my uncle was killed while on holiday, and my grandparents were devastated and never recovered. They were completely unable to handle my mother, and they gradually lost interest in seeing me (i’ll never know how much she had to do with that, but i suspect at least some). When she was released it took her some time to get me back, and interestingly enough for this piece, i was returned to her on Christmas Eve. The honeymoon period lasted a couple of weeks,  but by the time next Christmas rolled around she had taken an underage lover and moved us to a small town to hide her crime. She made him a father at 16. She was 34. I was 11.

She proceeded to have 3 more children in the next five years. The boy she stole from his family became a man, but had dropped out of school in grade ten to be with her, and she wouldn’t let him out of her sight long enough to get any education or training that could translate into enough income to care properly for all of us. She wouldn’t even permit him to put in the kind of overtime that might be parlayed into more money or a dogged climb up the ladder won by the sweat of his brow. Even if they liked him and gave him opportunities for advancement, people would eventually figure out that something was off about him, or his home life. Mom’s mask would eventually slip, the house and/or the children would be seen, and then suddenly he had a new job and we had to move, or the other way around.

Mother became less and less able to keep her mask in place, and she coped by isolating and eating. She became angrier, lazier, and fatter. The places we lived became more broken down and she filled them with dirty dishes and piles of unwashed laundry. The children were beaten when they weren’t ignored, and they responded by fighting constantly and destroying everything in the house that wasn’t already broken.
And every Christmas was a little worse than the one before it.

After she died and i had a child of my own, Christmas suddenly became important again. I wanted him to have the perfect ones i’d seen on tv, and i had those distant childhood memories to help me. Some of the people who live in my brain were a great help in this, and they derived happiness and healing from it as well. We all did. It’s probably worthwhile to mention that my son was born a week before Christmas, and i spent December 25th alone with him in a room at the YWCA, listening to Christmas music on the local radio station.  On his first birthday he set fire to the apartment we lived in, but it was professionally cleaned and ready for us by the 25th. Both of them were better than any Christmas i’d had since my grandparents.

I became the Christmas queen. I did it all: the decorating, cards, gifts, cooking, baking, entertaining. Capital E entertaining. Family, friends, friends that were like family… Anyone and everyone. And i was good at it. Maybe not Ina Garten-good, but i put on a mean Roseanne. Christmas was my favourite time of year. I felt happy and functional and almost normal.

In the years that followed i had another child, fell in love and got married, gained a tremendous amount of weight, had another child, had weight loss surgery, and then fell head first into the deep end of my first clinical mania. My childhood was catching up to me, becoming inescapable as i saw myself reflected in my children. My fears and flaws were magnified in the lens of a committed sexual relationship. My old wounds were still raw. Being a mom, being in love, and playing house had proved merely a Band-Aid. I felt like a failure and a fraud and the anguish became so unbearable that i couldn’t control my people. December became one long bender for me, but i still had to keep up appearances for everyone else.

How do you throw a fabulous holiday while you fall somewhere on the scale from tipsy to pass-out drunk? I had varying levels of success. It was never a write-off, but my mental health was lousy and my drinking to cope was obvious and my family is not stupid…

These last few years i’ve been doing markedly better. Don’t misunderstand me though, through all of it i was trying very hard not to be a mess, and i spent time, money, and most of my energy trying to figure my shit out. It just took a long time. You know, wearing mourning clothes and swimming in the ocean of despair and all that, heh. It took time and patience and a lot of work to get some damn traction in my life. Along the way i learned some things about myself that i didn’t know, like:

– I’m not religious;
– I’m much more of an introvert than an extrovert;
– I crave a simple, quiet life;
– I’m a terrible driver;
– I’m a helper and a giver and a lover.

I realised that putting on Christmas was not bringing me the excitement and the joy that it used to. My 2 oldest children were grown and gone, and our youngest was close to legal. The holidays are culturally enjoyable and edifying, but no longer hold any spiritual significance for me. We’ve been experiencing an economic recession where we live for the last few years, and the money could be better spent on other things. I wanted to curtail my drinking, and the holidays are a skating rink made from all the booze i’ve spilled on Christmases past.

So i put up a few decorations, we had a fancy supper and exchanged gifts. And it was pretty good.
The next year i broke my leg and couldn’t put up any decorations or even make supper. We decided to spend our money on a fancy spread in the city downtown, and then we went and saw Star Wars: TFA. There were a few gifts for the kids, but hubby and i didn’t exchange anything. We both liked it.
Last year i cooked and baked for our children and grandchildren, but that was it. Our youngest prefers us to take him shopping and spend the money on new clothes, which i love. Everyone was satisfied.
This year’s holiday season will include Star Wars, Chinese food, and feeding the entire family all day long until they can roll home on their own.

This year i knew i was doing well enough that i could do the Christmas thing if i wanted to… But i just didn’t. The other 2 years of not celebrating Christmas weren’t super-conscious choices. Hubby and i discussed it a little from the mental health and financial standpoint, but we didn’t go much deeper than that.
This year i went deep. I gave it a lot of thought. I was my own 3 ghosts and took myself to all the places and looked at all the Christmases and contemplated what could be.
And i still love Christmas. I’m no Scrooge, humbugging all over other people’s holidays. The decorating is gorgeous and the music is fun and festive – it’s just not in my house right now. Even though there’s no religious meaning for me anymore, Christmas remains very significant from a cultural perspective. I like the generosity and the parties and the FOOOOD! but i’m really enjoying the freedom and power i feel in saying No, i’m not buying anything. I don’t feel guilty or less than or left out by refusing to do so, either. In fact, the rebel in me is revelling in telling corporate North America and conspicuous consumption to shove it up their Black Friday.

I see a very real possibility, even likelihood, that i’ll return to some of the things i used to do during Christmas, like decorating and music and parties. For now though, this feels so good and so right. It’s not often that i have no doubts about a big decision, but i have zero regarding this one. If and when i do return to marking the occasion, it will be on my terms, and in my way. There’ll be no more trying to fix what was wrong with the Christmases of my youth, and i won’t need to put a pretty bow or a star on top of a pile of unresolved issues.
Whatever you do or don’t do for the holidays, i hope it’s a minimum of stuff you don’t want, with a maximum of what you do.

I’ll be here on the other side of all of it, no matter what.

Love and Peace to All-a Y’all,
~H~

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.