I’m Not A Bitch, Pt. II

Growing up with very few safe spaces contributed greatly to my hypervigilance, my distrust of others, my obsessive need to be liked and accepted, and my extreme emotional reaction to anything that looked remotely like rejection.

Once i left home i had a few roommate situations, which i eventually learned were not for me. I preferred being alone, and when my first son was less than 6mos old, i moved in to my first apartment on my own. I didn’t live with anyone else until i met the man i married, years later. Having my own place, my own space, helped change me in many positive ways. I began to relax a little, internally. I wasn’t so tense physically, i wasn’t so busy mentally, and i wasn’t as close to meltdown emotionally.

I had a place to decompress after a day of peopling. I had somewhere to escape when i felt overwhelmed. I could figure out how to be a grownup and a mother privately, without other pairs of eyes always on me, and to my mind, constantly judging me. I had a safe space where no one hurt me, no one blamed me, no one wiped their unwanted emotions off onto me or made me carry their past baggage. It allowed me to be more who i genuinely am, albeit still unconsciously.

I rarely had people over. It was me and my kid, and i loved it.

Associations with friends and family would be done in their homes, or parks, playgrounds, restaurants, malls, wherever – as long as it wasn’t my place. The only people besides my son that i regularly wanted in my space were my siblings.
I took the occasional lover, but they weren’t permitted to come around until my kid was asleep, and they had to leave before breakfast.

This home base allowed me to grow as a person. I made closer friendships, and began allowing others more access to where i lived. I still couldn’t figure out how to be in an intimate sexual relationship, although i tried. I ended up hurting a few young men, and eventually found myself pregnant again.
The recovery home that had helped me years before, offered me a nice, cheap apartment in a great neighbourhood that also housed other women who’d been through the program, but could still benefit from the financial and emotional support they offered. They also hooked me up with free counselling, and access to other programs to help me continue to try to deal with my childhood trauma, and to figure out how to be a decent single mom to 2 wee boys.

In this 4-plex, i made the most intimate friendships i’d ever had. We visited each other daily, and everybody was always welcome in everyone else’s apartment. It was a busy little commune, and it was the happiest i’d ever been in my life. It taught me that there were good, kind, SAFE people in the world who wouldn’t hurt me – who just wanted to be my friend and love me. We did practically everything together, and we were first on the scene when any one of us were struggling or in need.
Without them and their friendship, i’m not sure how much longer it would have taken me to be able to trust anyone enough to have a serious romantic relationship, if ever.

We all eventually moved out of our safe little “halfway house” – they got a place together, and i got a place which was soon filled with the man i’m over 20yrs married to today. They both approved of him, and i trusted their judgment even more than mine then, because the guy before was a hard lesson in why one shouldn’t date bad boys.

They’re both gone now, and i wish i’d had this insight sooner and been able to share it with them. My gratitude is boundless, and my grief, ever-deep. As we drifted away from each other (the reasons were quite serious then, but now seem so unimportant), we all fell apart, tired and winnowed huskless. Trying so hard to figure out who we were, what we had to offer, and move past the constant pain, sorrow, and dysfunction that had resulted from our childhood traumas.
I ache so to be the only one still here.
I’m swollen with the need to speak with them, to say Thank you! and to touch them, to hold them close and feel the heat of their skin, to clutch their hands in mine and to cry and laugh and talk too loud with them.

None of us knew how to be a good friend. We were all closed in on ourselves, curled tightly around our wounded cores. Trying to find love, acceptance, understanding, belonging… Somewhere. Anywhere. We all knew how our families expected us to behave, and we knew how we should act when we were out and about, around other people. However, it took a great deal from each of us to do so, and we all needed long lengths of solitude to rest and recover from each encounter with the world outside our slapdash treehouses.

We’d hibernate in our dark, chilly caves, padding ourselves with the protection of food and eating, the escape offered by reading and movies. We were the only people who could fairly easily enter each others’ sanctuaries, with the least amount of effort to engage, the most genuine kind of engagement, and the lowest level of fallout after our encounters. We tried to talk to each other about things that mattered, we sifted through old boxes of memories together, and even peaked into the occasional old attic trunk, whose lock had been bashed off by our ham-handed counsellors*.

We tried to relate to one another. We tried hard to be friends to each other. And none of us were particularly good at it, but we’d laugh at ourselves and keep trying. The stories i could tell of our adventures. Late night rescues from addictive behaviours. Hospital visits. Life skills classes and religious retreats. Police. Lousy boyfriends. Falling in love. Christmases and birthdays and cooking and cleaning each other’s homes when we got too low to do it by ourselves.
In each other’s spaces, we learned there were people who could come in and not take away from us. Someone who would add to us, and not deplete our resources. They brought warmth to my chill and pulled back the curtains on my dim, grey spaces, letting light in. The sun of their smiles. The safety of their understanding and respect when they didn’t touch me. The depth of their love when they delicately asked if they could…

It was all unconscious, then. I was so dissociated. I lacked the diagnosis, the knowledge i needed to knit it all together, a key insight that would finally be a flashlight into the dark places inside me, the places where other people hid.
Little people, big people, young, old, broken bits and fully fleshed out persons.

Perhaps it was finally having real and true friends who’d been through things i’d been through and were trying to “get over” them as i was, that helped me put that last piece of the puzzle in the right place.
I know they gave me my first taste of what it was like to not be alone.

I wasn’t the only fucked up person.
I wasn’t the only person who didn’t act “normal”.
I wasn’t the only one to feel weird, different, odd, other, strange, outside.

And i can see now that we probably unconsciously supported each other in creating a safe space around ourselves, as individuals, a place where no one could approach unless we wanted them to come closer.
And i can see now how wounded and broken we all still were; we didn’t have the right tools yet, and hadn’t all the information we’d require. So we still let in the wrong people – ones who crossed the line and then broke the circle – who penetrated our barriers and broke down our defenses.
And i can see now, them being overcome. By the past, by people, and finally, by life.

It’s breaking me, but it’s girding me, too.
I was so closed off from how deep my feelings were for them, because it was scary, dangerous, to feel so much. I see now, both absolute shit reasons and self-preservation reasons for my pulling away.
I could wax poetic about why they aren’t here now, but i’ve learned too much to do something so selfish and grandiose.
I don’t know why they aren’t here anymore and i am, still.
I do know that i wish they were, with all my heart.
I also feel a deep regret that things went the way they did, but i know i did my best, and i don’t in any way blame myself for their absence.
I believe now that they were the best friends i’ve ever had, until i met my husband.

There wasn’t much light in our lives when we found each other. I’m so grateful that they grabbed on to me and pulled me close, and then let me run away, and come close again. Over and over. Accepting me for who i was, letting whatever i could give be enough, and never being angry over what i could not.

I know now that they taught me so much that i needed to know in order to be where i am right now, today. They were there, helping me lay my foundation for friendship. They helped me know how, when i knew enough and was ready, to build strong walls around me, and what kind of door to put in, and that a good security system was necessary and smart and right… They taught me, with their lives, that it’s okay to be careful, vigilant even, to whom i give entry and to whom i do not.
I have a safe space today, and they’re part of my blueprint.

Their friendship, their personal struggles, and their lives are forged into my armour and their memory stands at my battlements, as i fight for my safe space today. And i am fighting and will always fight, against any and all comers.

I’ll fight to protect this, my safe space, my motherfucking castle. Most don’t even get across my moat, but i’ve found over the years that sometimes, even those i’d once welcomed in must be put out. I’ve pulled up the drawbridge on many, and you bet i’ve tossed some over the wall and pushed them from the turrets.

I’m the queen of my castle.

*We’d met each other through a home for women in crisis, run by the religious. Understand that, while i’m most grateful for all those religious women did for me, and they did a LOT (fed me, clothed me, taught me how to cook and keep a house, and address my past), they did it according to their religious beliefs, which included bible-based therapy. Also know that i cannot and would not speak for my friends with regards to the guidance and advice we received from them. I’m referring to myself specifically and only when i say it was just mildly helpful, and in some cases, although i have no doubt they loved me and wanted so much to help me, was actually quite harmful.

Friendship

I’ve developed a close friendship for the first time in many years. The kind of friend i check in with most days and hang out with every week.
She’s seen me switched, and had to deal with some of my shenanigans. It’s horribly embarrassing to me, but it’s also been good. She hasn’t walked away, and she hasn’t hurt me. I’ve lost some treasured friendships to bipolar disorder and multiplicity, and the way i coped was by keeping people at arm’s length, and hermitting in my Little Crooked House. I reached out to her for more friendship because i thought the cavalcade of crazy was pretty much over. Blargh.
She’s handled it better than anyone has, ever. Having a friend who accepts me exactly as i am is great, and having a friend who doesn’t treat me any differently after she’s seen my particular brand of cuckoo has been relaxing and healing and freeing. I’ve experienced the silent reaction (pretending the conversation never happened), the bullshit reaction (you are lying, that isn’t real), and the sideshow freak reaction (wow, how many alters do you have, what are their names, can i talk to one, what happened to make you that way).* Her reaction is relatively new. It’s a bit meh, and it’s nice.

Friendship has been a loaded issue my whole life. I’ve wanted connection, but the first half of my life i was running blind, and after that i pulled myself out of the race.
I’ve always been able to draw people in, i can make friends quickly and easily when i’m settled inside. Where i have trouble is building something deep and hanging on long term.

For the years since i accepted my diagnosis and began working on how to live with multiplicity, i’ve shouldered the blame for all my failed relationships.
I’m not easy to get to know.
It’s hard to get close to me.
I can be unreliable.
I’ve disappeared for weeks, even months, with no contact.
I can be histrionic and chaotic.
I can be emotionally unavailable, cold even.
I can be so focused on my own stuff, that i’m clueless about anyone else’s problems.

That’s not so much the case anymore, but back when i had a number of dear friends, those descriptors fit me rather well. I needed to know myself better in order to be able to function more effectively, and i studied it all, good, bad, or indifferent. I looked under every rock i found. It’s a tricky bit of business, trying to find the balance between being understandably broken because of how i was raised, and taking responsibility for the wreckage of my life. I wasn’t much of a success at life, beyond surviving. Don’t misunderstand me though, this is a balance thing, as i stated. I don’t believe in miracles, but the fact that i lived through my childhood and managed not to be a shitty human is as close to one as i’ve ever seen. I’m amazing, and i know it. I should either be far less functional and barely living, or a high-functioning, horrible person. But i’m not. I’m a likable, lovable woman who’s getting a little bit more awesome every day.

What i’m talking about here is an appropriate, adult level of personal responsibility.
And when it came to all the people i’ve lost, i took all the blame. I truly thought it was mine.

Recently, my new close girlfriend told me she’d been reading my blog, and bluntly stated that i’m too hard on myself. A couple of days later, someone who doesn’t know me but reads my blog offered up some similar commentary. I immediately bristled with my friend, but i noticed that i did, and so i went home and thought about it. By the time i received the second comment, i was more receptive, and more still when an online friend who’s known me for 15+yrs shared some lovely thoughts she had about my last piece. She also implied that i’m a harsh critic of my own work.

I’ve been pondering this for a week or 2 now, and i think it’s a valid criticism. I’m too critical of myself. (There’s a joke in there somewhere, but my current headache won’t let me find it. Pfft.) This is difficult for me to accept, as it runs contrary to my upbringing. I was the family scapegoat. I was bad, i was wrong, and i screwed it all up. My every move was scrutinised, and regularly and soundly criticised. I never met my mother’s expectations, nothing i did was good enough. There is constant chatter in my head from my Peanut Gallery, and someone is always picking at me: how i look, how i talk, how i cook, how i clean, how i write, how i mother, wife, friend… They sound like my mom.

I want to deal with this inner critic issue, but i have enough on my plate already. I do counter the voices quite often when the subject is how i look.

System: You look ridiculous in that outfit.
Me: I feel pretty, so it’s staying on.

I realise now that i don’t deal with the other stuff, though. I’ll try countering those voices where and when i can, but i won’t be pushing too hard right now. However, i do want to do one thing, it’s been percolating in my brain since that day in the car with my friend.

It’s not all my fault that i’ve lost the friends i’ve lost. Some of them naturally faded away, but a few were toxic to me in one way or another. The truth is they were shitty to me, and did me a favour by leaving. I was taught loyalty is all, and crappy treatment is to be expected. I didn’t see the behaviours until they were long gone, nevertheless i still saw the blame as mine.

But they used me, and i just loved them the best way i knew how, and when they weren’t getting enough from me to tolerate how sick i was getting, they left. I desperately needed help, and they left.

So there, i said it. I have a bowling ball in my belly and i feel like puking, but it’s out there. I may have sucked, but they also sucked.

There is my bit of growth for the day.
I’m not the bad guy, i’m the good guy. I also think i might be a pretty decent friend. It’s their loss, and they can kiss my pale, fallen ass.
Heh.

*I don’t particularly have a problem with any of these reactions. If it’s too much or you just don’t have the spoons to deal with my stuff, that’s okay, we can pretend i never said anything. I’m not lying, it is real, but i don’t blame you for thinking it’s a load of crap. I thought the same thing for most of my life. It’s cool to be curious, too. Feel free to ask me anything you’d like, just be aware that i might choose not to answer; some things i don’t share.

If It Quacks Like A Duck…

Put your gun down and don’t shoot it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~A Conversation Between Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou~

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

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

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

MAYA: That’s right.

OPRAH: They try to demean you.

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

OPRAH: It is an assassination attempt by a coward.

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

**********

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

Thoughts About a Friend

Well, if it’s so deep you don’t think that you can speak about it,
Just remember to reach out and touch the past and the future.
Well, if it’s so deep you don’t think you can speak about it,
Don’t ever think that you can’t change the past and the future.
You might not, not think so now,
But just you wait and see–someone will come to help you.
~Kate Bush, Love and Anger

I have this friend. We weren’t always friends, but we’ve known each other for a very, very long time. We knew the same people, so i heard a lot of stuff about her and i’m sure she could say the same. We don’t talk about that, though. We don’t talk about those people either. She knows i don’t want to talk about them, and she respects that.

She respects me. She said so last week.
That is one thing that i don’t get in my life – or at least i don’t accept it.
Respect.
I have been a dysfunctional mess for most of my life. The only thing i’ve had going for me is my somewhat charming personality.
But she respects me, and so we don’t talk about those people.
She respects me, and that means that she has respected my space. She has this way about her that i don’t quite know how to describe. She’s calm. She has a soft and gentle voice, that always sounds as if the next sentence might just be sarcastic, although it mostly isn’t. Her eyes are kind and intelligent, and her face always looks so serene. She’s got that Mona Lisa face. Like she knows a lot and doesn’t mind at all that you don’t. Not smug though, she’s welcoming. She makes me feel welcome. I feel like i’m enough and i am okay just the way i am when i’m with her.

As you may know from other posts, i have slowly withdrawn from people, until i pulled out of the human race entirely over 15mos ago. The only people i associated with were my children and their families. I needed time to figure out what i wanted from others, and what i was willing to give. She would come by every few months, even though she knew i wasn’t peopling. I’d send my husband out to cut her off at the pass and i’d go hide in my room. She’d leave coffee and doughnuts. She’d tell my husband that it was okay that i didn’t want to come out, or she was sorry i was sick. A lie that i made him tell her, that she probably knew wasn’t true. Yet she would stop by again a few months later – like it was okay for me to lie.
“Just tell her i love her,” she’d say to him.

One day she came by and i went outside to meet her. I don’t even know how it happened. I was just out there and i was saying Hi. She only stayed for five minutes. It was like she knew that was all i could take. She respected me.
She’s going through some serious crap in her life. I knew it, but i didn’t think i could do anything. I’ve been standoffish with our “group” of people for many years now. I couldn’t imagine what i had to offer that she would want. She stopped by one day, and i let her in the door. All she wanted from me was a hug. There were tears slipping down her cheeks, but we didn’t talk about them. I hugged her for longer than i’d hugged anyone in years, and she said she loved me and she left. It took all of five minutes.

She accepted me and loved me for exactly who i was, precisely where i was at, every time she saw me, all the time she was with me. She made me feel welcome and that i was enough, just the way i was at that moment. I felt like everything was gonna be okay.
And when i knew that i wanted to go back out into the world and try being the person that i really am inside, around real life human beings – she was the first person i contacted. Because she respects me. For who, what, how, and why i am. And i know that is an incredibly rare quality. She is a quality human.

I feel honoured and privileged to know her and so very fortunate to be loved by her.
She is one of the best friends that i have ever had. I respect her more than just about anyone else i know.
It’s her birthday, and i hope she has a great one.

Love and Peace,
To Her and To You,
~H~

Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?

Do you really want to hurt me,
Do you really want to make me cry
?
~Culture Club

It’s been a year since i quit socialising. Actually, it’s been more like 2, but i’d tried to do a bit here and there in 2015. It was all a disaster, and convinced me that i needed to do something a little more drastic. I haven’t been out to a major gathering since a wedding last Hallowe’en, or had people in my home for a meal in even longer.

I’m not lonely most of the time. I have a teenage kid still living at home, and the other 2 stop by regularly with the families that they’re building. In the last year, that’s been more than good enough. I have some online relationships that have filled any serious need i’ve felt to interact with anyone outside of them.

I’ve never been good at peopling, i guess. It’s not been for lack of trying. I may have put more effort in to having friends than just about anything else. No long term success, though. I’ve had friends off and on throughout my life, some very close and very dear. None of them though, for a long time. The longest friendship i’ve ever been able to maintain was around 15yrs, and no other friendship even comes close to that one, which is, like all the others save one that has been rekindled, either over, or no longer close.

I accept that it’s mostly been my fault. I accept that it’s hard to be my friend, much like i accept that i’m an odd person – not because i know it, but because i’ve been told it’s so, and the opinion seems to be largely borne out. I don’t feel like i’m particularly hard to be friends with, but based on my track record it seems fairly obvious. Heh. I’m not exactly sure what it is that makes me so weird, either. However, based on how hard it is for me to maintain a relationship, or forge new friendships, coupled with how people look at me and treat me… Some people have even told me right to my face, which i actually appreciate. Especially now, with my resolution to stop reading everyone reflexively; blunt people are less stressful.

I had a job from the time i was very young, and the most important part of it was to behave in certain ways around certain people. Different ways around different people. It hasn’t lent itself well to a strong sense of identity. I wasn’t so good at being myself but i was quite good at being who i thought other people expected me to be.

Well, i thought i was good at it.
Now i’m not really sure.

The harder i’ve worked on myself -you know, my brain and my fucked up life- the more i’ve wondered if that was ever really so.
That i was good at it.
You know, peopling.

It also seems to be that, the healthier and more functional i’ve gotten in my brain and my much-less-fucked-up life, the less good i am at peopling. I get nervous, anxious, awkward. Everything feels forced and i know i’m trying too hard. I feel exposed, naked, vulnerable… I’ll smile too wide, laugh too loud, talk too long, drink too fast. Sometimes all at once. Dissociation to some degree is never far behind. I can devolve in 2hrs or less now.

I’m kind of a train wreck.

So i decided over a year ago that it was time to take a break. I desperately needed to get some perspective, and my body needed me to stop punishing it with drugs. My body is healthier and my vision is much clearer. I don’t always like what i see, but at least i’m not crashing into it full speed, wondering What the heck was that, and Is this the collision i won’t walk away from?

Here is my truth: When the people who created me did unspeakable things to me, it broke me on a level that can never be mended. I know that. I don’t know if i can ever trust anyone enough to let them really know me – even what little i know about myself. I know i’m trying my best, and i know i’ll continue to try, but it may be that i’ll never be able to people very well. Some of those friends that i’ve lost along the way have said they couldn’t live with the wall i have around myself. Others have called me closed, unreliable, full of myself, full of shit.

They’re not wrong, although in my own defense, it’s hard to be genuine when you have no clue who you are, and you can’t let down your walls long enough to figure much out.

So i guess what i’m saying is, Fuck them. Kinda. Not really i suppose.
But they hurt me.
People hurt me.
All the time and even when they don’t mean to.
I think just being around people hurts me a lot of times.
I’m sick of people’s shit and i’m tired of trying to figure them out.

I feel safe in my Little Crooked House, and i’ve almost never felt safe in my entire life.
I still get hurt here, but they’re sorry, and they know me. I guess?
I don’t really know right now, but i’m really fucking trying.

Sorry for all the cursing. Dark night of the soul stuff actually makes me less poetic and more profane.
Love and Peace,
~H~

Ghouls, Goblins, and Bodachs*

*NOTE: A friend suggested that some of my social media postings may also be appropriate for my blog. So here’s one from yesterday. ~H~

 

When i get upset – i want space.
I appreciate your concern, but a quick check-in and an offer to be around if i need to talk is enough. For me, it’s more than enough.

I’m not a touchy person. I only hug if i really mean it, now.
Please do NOT touch me (.) when i’m upset.
Please do not check up on me.
I’m not playing a game, i really really YES RLY want to be left alone.

My emotions used to leak out all over the place, but now i’m getting good at containing them in an adult manner, so my husband and kids know to leave me alone, and i don’t tend to lose it in public anymore.

Before i got this good at managing my stuff, things could get ugly. When i would feel vulnerable and someone got into my personal space without my permission, i could get a bit snippy, or outright lash-outy.

I’m sharing this, not so much for me, but for the friends and family that i’ve seen recently go through this. If you’re like me, i wanna tell you something i’ve learned over the years.

The ones that really care will hear you when you thank them for their concern and ask for some space.
The ones that come back at you for repeated updates, y’know:

Are you okay?
No, no more than i was last time.
Do you want to talk?
No, even less than last time, and certainly not to you.
You know you can talk to me about anything.
Sure, as long as it isn’t personal.

^^^ Those people aren’t asking because they care about you. They’re attention-seekers, drama moths, and chaos addicts.

And the ones that get their nose out of joint, and make sure everyone sees their feigned hurt expressions, deep sighs, and silent treatment?

You brush them off. If it’s in the workplace i know you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, but you give those people a wide berth.
They’re emotional ghouls. They’re like those girls in high school who ignored you at best, or tortured you at worst, who suddenly had their arm around your shoulder and were handing you a tissue when you started crying during gym class. They look at you with glittering eyes and swear they won’t tell anyone. By afternoon classes everybody knows.
They’re like the Bodachs in Odd Thomas, or the Goblins in Twilight Eyes.

Anyway, i know some people i care about have had to deal with that kind of thing lately, and i wanted you to know you’re not alone, and it’s not wrong to tell these people to back off. If they’re worth your time, try telling them they’re being invasive. Maybe they’re treating you the way they’d like to be treated if they were upset. Tell them you aren’t them and you sincerely prefer to be left alone.

And if you’re one of those people that hovers and asks more than once, ask yourself if maybe it’s not more about you when you press the issue. Sometimes, some people do play a game (i know i’ve done it with my husband more than once) where something is clearly wrong and they insist it’s nothing or they say they don’t want to talk about it – but it kinda seems like they really do. Maybe you’ve known them for long enough to know it’s a pattern of behaviour, or you know them to be just generally manipulative, but you’re a nice person and so you always play along…

You can stop playing their game. Take them at their word. If you don’t believe them, just tell them that you’re around if they change their mind and then walk away.

So i ask for space
And you give it to me
The world keeps turning
And i don’t make a voodoo doll of you

~H~

Tell Me Who You Are, And I’ll Believe You

“The real message is to accept your children,
and accept your friends,
and accept people for who they say that they are.”
~iO Tillet Wright

 The other day i found myself in a situation where i was able to see some good fruit come from a decision i made a while back.

 Some months ago, i decided to let people tell me who they are and what they think.
 What i mean is, i decided to stop trying to read people. No more guessing if they were being genuine or telling me the truth or representing themselves correctly.
 Through examining my life, and trying to be healthier and happier, one of the things i’ve learned is i can’t change anyone but myself. Over the years, i’ve been misjudged and misunderstood – i’m certain y’all have been as well. I’ve learned the hard lesson that i can’t make anyone think the way i want them to think about me. I can’t make anyone understand why i am the way i am and do the things i do.
 One day it occurred to me that the reverse is very likely also true.
 So i’ve stopped figuring people out.
 I was taught to read people, and i can usually do it fairly accurately – but so what?
My life isn’t constantly in danger anymore, so what does it benefit me to know that the smile i see on your face hides a seething hatred of me?

What good does it do either of us for me to notice the subtle, secret body language between you and someone i know damn well isn’t your spouse?

There’s a reason you’re playing your cards close to your chest, and it’s none of my business, or you would have told me.

There’s a reason you’re clearly lying and it’s none of my business, or you wouldn’t be lying to me.

And what about the times i’ve been wrong? People have been wrong about me, and i’ve been wrong about people. Not just a few times, either.

What good did it do me to know what you were really thinking or what you’re up to or who you really are behind closed doors?

Not much good at all. That smug feeling of superiority or having one over on you didn’t feel very good once i stopped caring so damn much about what YOU think of ME. In fact, it makes me feel like a shithead – and i think it SHOULD.

So i don’t do it anymore, and my life is a lot less stressful. It turns out some of the drama in my life was created by lil ole me. Heh. I’ve already got enough things to deal with, without creating any extra trouble.

I ask myself one question, though:

Could it hurt me to take them at their word and be wrong?

For instance, if a mechanic promises me he’s been working on my brakes all day and they’re perfect, but i get the distinct impression he’s lying due to his shifty eyes and the smell of whiskey – i’m going to address the potential lie because i have to drive home in that vehicle he was supposedly working on. I could get pretty hurt all right.

And hey, if you’ve got bruises again, and you tell me you ran into a door AGAIN, i may question you about that – because you’re my friend and if you’re in trouble and i don’t ask or offer help, that would hurt, too.

Other than that – i take you at face value.
You tell me what you want me to know about you.
I will believe what you tell me, unless i have an important reason not to. Still i won’t jump to conclusions without asking you.
You get to keep your private business private.
Like if i irritate the fuck out of you.
Or if you smile and make small talk to my face, and gossip about me when i’m not around.
I’m not close with very many people, so chances are you don’t owe me any personal stuff at all.
If i am close with you, i was never super nosy, but i’m even less so now. I want to know whatever you want to tell me, and that’s all.

I won’t take it personally if you keep something private and i find out later.

You tell me who you are, how you’re feeling, and what you’re thinking. I won’t be trying to second guess you. Even if i get the strong feeling that you’re lying to me, i’m gonna let it go.

I’ve been doing it for quite a while now, and it feels good and right.

Less drama, more peace. I like you better now, and hopefully it’ll be reciprocated.

If not – that’s your business, not mine.

Love and Peace,
~H~

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.

The Mystical Power of the Ninja Mouth*

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

Ninja
noun
a person skilled in ninjutsu.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I Made My Friends Like J. F. Sebastian

“There’s some of me in you.”

~J. F., Blade Runner

Friends. Yeah. Looooaded subject for this chicky right here. So much so that i don’t talk about it. It is, perhaps, when i feel the most vulnerable. I had no friends growing up. Not really. I was rarely allowed to hang out with other kids after school, and hey, i wasn’t asked that often. There was a time in grades 7 and 8 when my mom was trying to appear more normal, so i actually had a few friends to sleep over, but that was about it, i think. We couldn’t usually have anyone over because our house was a pigsty. And the bigger my mother got, the worse the condition of the house.

With the exception of 2yrs in a big city, the rest of my secondary schooling was done in small towns, where i was quickly branded weird, and was always either close to, or at the very bottom of the social ladder. When i finally escaped the back and forth hell of school and home, i went to work in another town. There i was able to turn my attention to making friends. I wasn’t very good at it, but i made 2 very dear friends that accepted me and we bonded, i think in part because they were broken inside in some of the same ways. I lost one of them while trying to please my religious community. I’d give a lot for the opportunity to apologise to her and the chance to make amends. I’ve had a few best friends since then, but they’re all gone now. One i hated to leave behind but i had to – the only friendship i’ve ever walked away from, and it pains me to this day. Another one was based on a super-sick dynamic, and so when she got mad at me and stopped talking to me, i stopped kissing her ass like i’d always done and the friendship was over. The last was a terrible betrayal that still hurts but i think i’m better off.

That last one made me crawl way up inside myself and i haven’t been that close to another person outside of my husband since then. It’s been a tough job, this figuring out who i really am. You read in books and hear in love songs about the woman who’s a study in contradictions, and it seems so romantic. You ask my husband though, and he’ll tell you that an ambiguously ambivalent woman will test a man’s mettle. It’s not romantic at all. My parents taught me on the one hand that we were better than everyone, and that i was on this earth for a special purpose. But that purpose seemed to be as the receptacle for all their anger and hate and diseased emotions. That makes for complications where any future relationships are concerned. I was told by more than one friend that they were moving on because there was a certain level of intimate connection that they craved, but of which they didn’t think me capable. And they were right. There were others who dropped me because i was unreliable. I might show, i might not. Can’t fault them for that, either. Then there were those who got fed up with being the only one who initiated contact. Totally accurate. I’m terrible at keeping in touch.

I want human connection, but i’m terrified of being rejected. I have a long history with rejection, i don’t care for it and i’d prefer to avoid it if it’s all the same to you, thankyouverymuch. So i’m a let’s-hang-out-now-piss-off kind of person, and who has time for that? It’s not fair to you. Besides, my last couple of attempts at making close friends were brutal. I was terrible at it. I’ve been stripping down to who i truly am under all the protective barriers and the brokenness, but i’m still not ready for prime time. So the only people i hang out with are my husband, my kids, and my grandkids.

I don’t know if i’ll ever be a people person again. I mean, i love humans. I love y’all soooo much, but i’ve got a lot to learn about how to be a genuine, true friend. I’m gonna have to start with myself and the family i made, because y’all can be some heinous assholes. I’m not well enough or strong enough yet not to take all your shittiness personally. I’m looking for rationality, normalcy, and above all, balance.

I’m truly fortunate to have my Little Crooked House and the man-thingy and my lovely young men and their families. And i also have an online group of friends that has sustained and even saved me, more times than they know. I know some folks scoff at such relationships (and some are pretty scoffable… scoff-worthy… whatever, scoff off), but they are an integral part of how far i’ve come. A group of friends i’ve had for 10yrs, that accept me for exactly who i am and where i’m at, even if i don’t have a fucking clue who or where that may be. They’ve been a safe place for me to talk about things, to work things out, and to try on new ideas and parade them around and see if i like the fit. The internet and the friends i’ve found here have been both boon and balm for my horn of plenty-crazy. So, wherever i land on the social spectrum – i’m covered.
Love and Peace,

~H~