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.

To Pay Or Not To Pay

“No price is too high for the privilege of owning oneself.”
~Rudyard Kipling

I may not be currently reaching/helping anyone else out there, but as i currently have no safe relationship in my life with whom to discuss my current situation (totally on me, that), i’m gonna be accountable here. I’ll speak to what i can, and try not to be frustratingly vague. I’ll be sharing what matters, i don’t think the details are that important, and the people involved in what i’m going through very much are.

I’ve been blamed for a lot of things that weren’t my fault. This is not going to be a poor-me post, i’m just saying a true thing. I was the reason for my mother’s pain and failure, and the receptacle into which she poured all her resentment and anger. She eventually added other people to our family and that helped spread it around a bit, but for around 12yrs i got it all. And even after more children were added, she still tended to focus the bulk of her rage and frustration on the oldest child. I know that the next oldest, although always abused, experienced it more frequently and intensely when i left home.

The abuse was always my fault. It was my job to accept responsibility for anything and everything that went wrong, and i was a very obedient girl. I wanted to please. I wanted love. I was well into my 20s before i realised that i unconciously took the blame for everything that went wrong around me. It was a reflex that required no thought, really.

Once i started dealing with my childhood issues there came a number of years where i absolutely could not let anything go. And i sure didn’t take proper responsibility where i should have, either. That pendulum swung hard to the other side, and all i knew was that YOU had done something wrong and you’d better admit it and be sorry. Like NOW.

Okay, well i guess i should stipulate that i only exercised this hard stand in my primary relationship. My husband was the only person i trusted. My trust wasn’t always an awesome thing to have, i can assure you. And the issues i had with him were so minor compared to what he had to deal with where i was concerned. I won’t sugarcoat shit and offer them as Raisinettes.
But i still took a lot of shit from other people in my life. Other people were still walking all over me, blaming me for things were not my fault. Or weren’t entirely my fault. Dumping their burdens on me to carry because they always had.

I’d like to tell you that i learned to stand up to them and say NO.
The truth is i just ditched them or let them go.

And then i started making my way back to middle ground – at least with my husband.
I have learned to take a hard, unblinking look at my own behaviour as well as his, and whatever blame is mine i suck it up and admit it. I accept responsibility and make amends.

The problems i’ve had in my primary relationship have been almost exclusively my fault, or at least they’ve been so big that they were all that we had the energy and time to deal with.
Now, we’ve had a couple of years of relative calm.
No hospitals. No police. No hitchhiking into the city and disappearing for a day or more. No violent switching. No running out to the highway and trying to throw myself in front of a semi. No overspending. No days where i can’t get out of bed.
Only a couple of screaming tirades. A couple of angry walks. That’s it.

My problems now centre around socialisation. Through interactions with local folks i realised i sucked at it. It was all unconscious, reflexive, unhealthy behaviours that were all developed under duress and a need to survive – literally. I tried very hard and repeatedly, to quit acting like my life was on the line and i would die if i wasn’t liked by everyone all the time.
I haven’t been able to manage it.
So i did what i did with the close family and friends in my life. Well kinda. I haven’t ditched them exactly, because most of them were really decent people. They didn’t do anything to me except try to be my friend.

Which is admirable and i appreciate it – more than i’ve been able to say to any of them.
Cuz H don’t go out no mo’.
I’m afraid i’ll never be able to take what i’ve learned into any relationships other than my immediate family. It’s not to say that i won’t ever try again. I just don’t think i can take another failed friendship right now.

Besides, i’ve got all i can handle with this crisis-that-shall-not-be-named going on in my life. Which brings me back around to the start of this post.
If this all goes for shit i know i’ll be blamed. And it won’t be my fault. But i can’t be the kind of person i want to be AND stand up for myself. I will have to let people think what they want to think. Even people whose opinion of me really matters.

It’s really not fair, but it’s the right thing.
The price of being understood wouldn’t be paid by me, and that’s a price too high to pay.

Love and Peace to Any and All,

~H~
P.S. I hope i didn’t say “shit” too much for you. I go through phases with cursing – sometimes i do it a little, and sometimes a LOT. In my writing and speaking life. Sometimes a curse word really is the best word to use for me. Hey, i’ve got some decent vocabulary i could use, but sometimes nothing fits but the “bad” word. I’ve haven’t gone through a crisis this big since i got well (okay better), and i’m scared and panicky and stressed and anxious and, well, if you don’t care for profane language i’m seriously fucking sorry. Heh.

Discharge

 

 

Hey You.

Yeah, you. I know i haven’t addressed you directly in a while, but i’ve been dealing with some stuff.There’s a shocker, eh? Not so much, i know, but here’s the thing: i still worry what other people think of me. Much less, mind you, but sometimes still too much and at the wrong times.

And that line can be pretty tough to figure out.
Also, i’m not sure in this case that i have.
So, you may actually be sick and tired of hearing about “my struggles with mental illness”. Blahblahblahdeblahblah.

I’m gonna risk it, because getting the kind of better i want to be, is inherently risky. Sometimes people don’t get it, sometimes they misunderstand entirely, and sometimes MissusH, they just. don’t. like you.
So, i’m writing to you on the assumption that a couple of you are going to fall into those last 3 categories… And it’s not gonna kill me.

It may seem to some that being mentally ill is all i talk about. That’s fair. It’s just that i’ve always been this way, and i didn’t know what-in-the-actual-FUCK?! was wrong with me until around 10yrs ago. And for some of you who’ve known me a lot longer than that, i may have seemed relatively okay, just maybe a little odd. You may have given some passing thought to my unmet potential. But my brain has alwaysalwaysalways worked this way, it’s just that i was able to manage reasonably well enough to get by. Then my mom died, and i slipped. Then i had kids, and i slipped further. I fell in love, and slipped even further. And then i lost weight and tumbled all the way down the rabbit hole.

The diagnoses came fairly quickly and easily after that, and i was so exposed and vulnerable, i couldn’t deny them anymore. Yes, it was terrifying (no exaggeration), but it was also such a massive relief like i had never, ever experienced in my entire life up until that point. My life was a winding top that hadn’t yet been released. I had lived my life trying to hold all my shit together, and i’d wound myself tighter and tighter until i was barely functional (and by barely i mean not really).

And to continue the metaphor would be wholly appropriate, because baby, i spun. I went spinning wildly, and everywhere – to which anyone who’s known me over the last 10yrs can attest… Ah, don’t though, plzkthx. Heh. I’ve stopped spinning, but i am wicked unsteady on my feet. I still stumble and totter and weave, and occasionally do a hard lipstand.

I want to live a functional and authentic life, as happily and freely as i’m able.
To that end, i think about life, the universe, and everything. And i think out loud.
If you weren’t reading this – it would still be here. So, you may as well. You know, if you wanna.

**********

I’ve been very focused for the last few years, on curating my life. Not to live in an echo chamber -i grew up in one of those- but to create an atmosphere which is most conducive to growth and beauty. On one hand, it’s involved breaking down walls and busting down doors that were built around me, limiting my access to information and knowledge. I found the forbidden fruit, i ate it, and it’s my favourite. I don’t live in a little, dim shack anymore – i live in the goddamned garden. And i tend to that Tree diligently, that it might continue to bear the fruit that i love so much. So far, that has mostly involved a lot of weeding.

I’ve been pruning people. It’s been one of the most difficult, most scary, and most rewarding things i’ve ever done in my life. Once i knew what was “wrong” with me, i had to look at why, and then once i knew why, i could figure out who i am and what i want and where i want to go. How i get there has mostly involved just removing obstacles. People, whether they mean to be or not, are in my way. They’re weeds, trying to choke the life outta my Tree. And just… NO. If you’re gonna be a weed in my garden, you’ve gotta go.

Familiarity went first. I left the place i knew and went to a place i didn’t know. It made it easier to remove people that had to go. It took me a long, clumsy, awkward and painful time to do it – but i did, and am, doing it. Family had to go first. They thought they knew me. Heck, i thought they knew me too. They didn’t, not at all. And to be fair, how could they, when i didn’t even know myself? I have neither the wish nor the intent to go into any detail, just suffice to say, we were never really family in the first place, and the time has passed for us to be associated with one another. It’s only a source of deep sorrow and pain for me, so it’s been a very healthy and self-loving decision on my part to walk away.

My mother’s death saved my life. She was the most toxic relationship that has ended. Not her choice and not mine, but life’s. She raised me to be a certain kinda way, and i don’t know if anything other than her death could have stopped her from achieving that. Once i acknowledged the relief and release that her passing gave me, i was given my first serious chance at being who and what i want to be. The end of our relationship made change seem suddenly possible for me. It became the benchmark for assessing the pros and cons of my continued relationships with others. Life plopped a gimme into my lap, but the other ones would be up to me. (Don’t get nervous now, i’m ending relationships by walking away. Life has no feelings – i have all of them.)

I think i couldn’t see myself through my own eyes. I was raised to be obedient… subservient even. I was raised to be a reflection of other people’s desires of what i should and should not be. I was raised not to think for myself, but instead to sing out the words and ideas and beliefs that had been forcefully vomited into my brain without my permission. Not once in all of my childhood was i asked what i thought about anything, and the only time i was asked what i felt, it was understood implicitly that i was only being asked to confirm what they thought i should be feeling. Looking back now, i see a group of nodding heads, calmed and comforted by the lack of dissension. It never occurred to me to have an opinion different than my family’s… I didn’t know i could, let alone that i DID.

When i say “family” i mostly mean my mother, and to a lesser extent, my father and stepfather. My mother’s family never had much to do with her, save her parents, and she didn’t much care for any of them, including her parents. My stepfather is living and i have no wish to libel him or his family, only to say that i’m content for things to be as they are. For the loss of my siblings, i hold pain, regret, and some responsibility, but again, i am content. I fear the damage done to all of us by our upbringing is too great for us to overcome. Maybe some day, but not today.

Since pruning my life of family my garden has become more vibrant and beautiful. There are colours and smells and tastes that please me and comfort me and inspire me to work harder and create a yet more incredible space. I’ve rid my life of things that limit its fertility and capacity for growth.

I was told that other people were mentally inferior to us.
I grew up with an epithet for everyone who wasn’t us.*
I was raised to believe that everyone who didn’t believe what we believed would be eternally tortured when they died.
I wasn’t allowed to watch any programs that seemed “gay”, like Laverne and Shirley, SOAP, and Perfect Strangers.
I could bring a black man home, as long as we didn’t make babies.
I was asked to stop bringing my First Nations friends around.
I was threatened with shunning if i ever brought a Mexican home.
Minutes after viewing my mother’s body, i was told i was going to hell because i had a girlfriend.
My mother would have disowned me for my Mohawk son.

Those are just a few things by way of illustration. Life plucked the strangleweed outta my growing space, giving me a chance to get rid of the rest of it. I’ve been able to root out racism, bigotry, misogyny, misandry, homophobia, transphobia, and religion. My life, my garden, my tree, they’re all MINE, and the more it reflects who i am, and who i want to be, the more reluctant i become to have anything here that isn’t also beautiful and pleasing to me. I’m unwilling to please anyone at the expense of myself.

So, that’s where i’m at today. Coming to the end of my mourning period, i think. Trying not to feel bad about it, and also trying not to feel bad about not feeling terribly bad about it.

Gonna go walk the dogs.
Love and Peace,
~H~
*I want to make it clear that i heard the epithets, i didn’t use them.