I Win

… it’s just a ride
It’s just a ride
And you’ve got the choice to get off anytime that you like
It’s just a ride
It’s just a ride
The alternative is nothingness
We might as well give it a try
The Ride, Amanda Palmer

I let him touch me.
Okay hey, i used to let anyone, everyone touch me. But that was by rote.
I am nothing if not a good girl.

Wait. I think that i might not actually be a good girl anymore.
Wait.
Holy shit.
I have believed for nearly the entirety of my life that to be good is all.
I was told to think that.
One day, not long enough ago, i realised they didn’t care what was good. “Good” was a dog whistle; merely a means of control. They would have what they wanted, regardless of the cost.

Oh wait.
I should specify.
Regardless of the cost to anyone save them.

It is not hard to know what good is, and it is sososo easy to not be good.
This seems to me a contradiction.

Wait, though. Hold on. I am a good girl, i was always a good girl.
First, i was good because their definition was all i knew, and i twisted and bent and remade myself to fit their requirements.
Not just for survival.
Not just because there was no other choice.
Because love.
Because goodness.

Then i had a baby, and i knew that they’d lied.
I didn’t know what good was. You would think it would be easy.
And okay, it kind of is.
But when you’re told that no is yes and wrong is right, and if you want something to eat and a bed to sleep in you need to subvert your intellect and your instincts or you will be alone and you will die…
You become the bestest girl ever.

But i had a baby and i looked at him and he set me free. He saved my life. I knew the things they’d told me were good and right were actually bad and wrong, but i had no template for goodness.

Religion failed.
Family failed.
Classes failed.
Books failed.

I tried and i tried and i tried so hard. If you are reading this i want you to know that, although i have failed my child in multiple and terrible ways – i loved him. I started working on being better because he came out of me and when i looked at him, i suddenly knew that i could be good.

And even if i couldn’t, that he was worth every effort.

I love Rupaul’s Drag Race, but when he asks for an “amen up in here”, while i understand the concept and believe it has merit, i cannot amen it, because it wasn’t until i had my wee baby boy that i wanted to love in the best way i could, and knew that there was work for me to do before i was able.

I could not love myself until i truly loved someone else.
And because he opened me up to want to love, and loving him never hurt me in the way that loving my progenitors did, i stumbled across an amazing, life-changing, just-for-me love one day.

And i had the sense, and the unmitigated gall, to pursue him without reservation.
I don’t know how. It is completely incongruous to the person i was raised to be.

But wait. I was raised, i know now, to be bad, evil, wrong… at the very least compliant.
Yet somehow, i am here, and i know what good is and i know that i am and i have finally, finally, let him touch me.

Think what you want, of course, and interpret it how you will, but i have figured out how to let him in and really touch me.

Things are tougher than they’ve been in years. There have been doctors and police and dangerous behaviours that i wished with my whole heart were long past. But i am who i am and i have done the absolute best i can with the cards i’ve been dealt.

He can now touch me, and i am not afraid.
I know how to be good; no one needs to tell me.
And if you think i’m not good, not only does it not matter, but my dear motherfucker – you are wrong.
And also, i’m not a girl anymore, i’m a woman.

I WIN.

NOTE: I’m sorry i stopped writing for so long. I’ve been struggling harder than i have in many years. But i knew it was coming, and i said so, didn’t i?
I’m back to writing through it, no matter what. I’m doing the best i can, and every day, my capacity gets a teensy, tiny bit bigger.

Thank you for sticking with me.

I hope what you read here is:
If i can get through it, maybe you can too.

Love Always,
~H~

Sometimes I’m Just Wrong

As people with a history like mine often do, i’ve had severe dental phobia most of my life. To have to hang my mouth open and have someone poking around in there, sometimes causing me pain, can be a brutal trigger. As a child, my mother stopped caring about my dental health around the time she was committed; i was in grade one. The only time she’d bring me in was for an emergency, which happened occasionally. I wasn’t much for brushing, which resulted in a few abscesses and a couple of pulled teeth.

Once on my own i just dodged the dentist. I finally paid attention when i found an excellent family physician during my pregnancy with my second child. She urged me to attend to my teeth, which were becoming problematic.
I required many appointments to get my teeth cleaned and a number of fillings followed. Neither the hygienist nor the dentist seemed to realise or care about my severe anxiety, and i was shamed and lectured every visit, guaranteeing more avoidant behaviour. It wasn’t until i was well into therapy with my current counsellor that i finally dealt with my fear head-on.

I found a nice lady dentist who’d been doing it for decades, and i went to talk to her. No cleaning, just x-rays, and a chat about what i was looking at to get my teeth shipshape. I told her of my phobia. (No, really? Like my huge, watering eyes and clenched fists didn’t already announce it.) I indicated as delicately as i could that it was trauma-based. She was immediately receptive, kind and gentle in her response, and assured me that i wasn’t her only patient with these issues. She said she’d work with me, to help me overcome my anxiety as much as possible (at my pace), and to attain and maintain healthy teeth and gums.

I know a fair number of people who use sedation dentistry to handle this issue, but i wanted to at least try to do it without drugs of any kind. I prepared as best i could; going over what was going to happen in my head, looking at pictures i’d taken of the dentist’s office, and the chair that i’d be sitting in, the ceiling that i’d be looking at (they have tellies up there – how smart is that?), i thought of how i feel in a dentist’s chair, and went over the different methods i could use to cope:

– focused breathing,
– body mindfulness,
– reminding myself that the intensity of the feelings are a response to trauma that’s no longer happening,
– stopping the hygienist and asking for a break,
– stopping the hygienist and talking briefly about the feelings,
– stopping the hygienist and rescheduling,
– using an anti-anxiety med beforehand,
– sedation dentistry,
– maintain dental health as best i can on my own, do more therapy around the issue, and try again at a later date.

I was stiff as a board the first time i sat for a cleaning; eyes as big as saucers, hands and feet clenched hard enough to cramp. The hygienist had a soft, soothing voice, and she calmed my jangled nerves with banter about her children, a recent move, a holiday. Her demeanor was quiet and kind, and i knew she wasn’t going to hurt me. Cleaning my teeth properly would take a few visits, they’d already told me, but i never sensed any disapproval from her, and there was never the slightest hint of a tsk or a tut-tut in her voice.

Then it’s time for my dentist to do some fillings, some caps, and even a root canal, to preserve my teeth for as long as possible. Her voice is also soft (i think dentists may cultivate this voice – also smart) but her vibe is jovial, even goofy. Her assistant is sarcastic, with a deadpan delivery, and between the 2 of them, they provide a great service and a show besides, which distracted and delighted me so much that i came to look forward to seeing them. Not even kidding.

I settled in to regular maintenance, and then the recession hit. We had to let go of our dental insurance, and i didn’t want to stress our already squeaky budget, when i knew my teeth were in good shape, and i was now diligent and conscientious with care. We still had a son at home who required extensive orthodontic work, and so i stopped going for a couple of years. When our financial situation improved,  i went back, thinking there’d be no problem.

Oh, but there was.

I missed a number of appointments, for which i provided lame excuses, and i’d call after and reschedule with a self-deprecating chuckle. Six months later i did the same thing, i missed my first appointment and called, saying it had totally slipped my mind and i’d be there for sure next time. The receptionist fixed another time with me, but i noted something in her voice before we hung up – a hesitancy. I felt uneasy.

She called me mid-morning the next day.
She told me that they wanted very much to continue providing me with dental care, but in order for that to happen they were going to require the cost of the appointment up front. She explained that my dentist couldn’t continue losing money when i didn’t show up, that it wasn’t fair for her or anyone.
I bristled. Feelings flooded my body, and i reacted with offense.

“This feels like i’m being punished for being mentally ill,” i said.
“I’m going to have to discuss this with my husband and i’ll get back to you,” i said.

To my credit, before the end of the phone call, i knew she had me dead to rights. But shame is a massive trigger, and i was dissociated and edgy for the rest of the day. It took me a while to bring it up with my husband, but not too long, and he understood right away. I called the receptionist back within a day or 2, and told her i knew they had to do what they were doing. And then i paid them.

I was anxious about the cleaning. I thought about why. It wasn’t just being embarrassed – it was a few things. There’d been a break in my association with them, one where i wasn’t in therapy, and i hadn’t had to deal with some of the triggers that dentistry touches on. I was now back in therapy, and learning to stay in my body during times when i feel emotions and/or physical sensations that i don’t want to feel. I understood why i was dodging. I knew i was setting myself up to miss my dates with my dentist.
I was trying to avoid all the feelings.

I showed up on time, and prepared. I knew i was going to feel awkward and embarrassed, which was normal and appropriate to feel, because i’d done them wrong. I hadn’t meant to, and i knew that. I knew they would all be gracious and kind, as they had always been, and they were. When the cleaning was done, my dentist was there at reception, and she gently asked me, “Do you understand that we had to do what we did?”

I told her that i did, and i told them all that i was sorry. I told them that it hadn’t occurred to me that i was costing her money, or inconveniencing anyone – but it should have, and i was ashamed about it.

She said, “You know, we just wouldn’t have had you back if we didn’t like you so much, eh?” And i could see that that was true.

I could also see that, while i’d fucked up, i’d also done some things right.

I’d been honest about my mental illness and my fears and anxieties from the jump.
I’d carefully built relationship with them, so much so that when i started behaving poorly, they tolerated that behaviour for as long as they could – perhaps longer than they should have done, and only for my benefit.
And when they finally called me out, i accepted responsibility for my actions.
Yes, for the briefest of moments -the space of a phone call- i reacted badly, but i knew almost immediately that i was in the wrong, and why, and that i could and would put it right and it was going to be okay.

I got caught doing something shitty, and i reacted by trying to avoid taking the blame. To assuage my chagrin by haughtily providing an excuse.

I’m not bad – i’m sick!

While that is true in a way, it’s neither appropriate nor is it helpful to apply that in this instance. After i hung up the phone i felt it right away – i was convicted in my heart by a jury of me. I’ve identified myself to these people as someone who lives with serious, multiple diagnosis mental illness. I’ve done so first for my benefit, but also for others like me. I want to bring awareness and exposure to those around us, in service to us and apart from that, who have little or no experience with us (or knowledge that they’re having such – because they certainly are, am i right?), and by so doing, help pave a way for fellow neuroatypicals and those living with mental illness to do the same. To see that it can be done, and perhaps they might do it, too.

I feel the weight of that responsibility. It’s a good weight, one i’ve willingly and purposefully shouldered, and it’s a right thing and a steadying force in my life. It gives meaning and provides balance and even serendipity. I would not so inadequately, so boorishly represent a community that has my love so easily, and needs help and understanding so desperately.

The love and life that i’ve found there made my path clear, and set my shoulders squarely towards it.
Yes, part of the reason why i behaved the way i did was the way i was raised and the way my brain responded to try and save me, to help me cope and to perhaps spare me some of the worst of it, that i might survive. And survive i did – and in these last years, even more and better.
Yes, there are reasons -childhood causations- for my behaviour, but in the end, today, right now, at this moment, i am as free and autonomous and aware as i can possibly be, and i am happy and grateful and relieved indeed, to be solely responsible for my choices and actions.

And sometimes i’m just wrong. And i was.
I accepted the consequences, which were fair, and no one abused me and i didn’t die.

I can hardly wait to screw up again.
Heh.

Thanks Mum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have, now.

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

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

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

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

~H~

Cycles, Seasons, and the Fine Art of Gardening

I live with Bipolar Disorder. It’s a cycle of mania and depression. Mine is of the unspecified variety, meeting various criteria for BP I, BP II, and Cyclothemia. This means that sometimes my manias and depressions can be so intense as to require immediate hospitalisation, and sometimes i can cycle between less intense versions incredibly quickly (days), or interminably slowly (years). It is, for me, a cycle though; one invariably follows the other. On and on, round and round. Circular. Perhaps relatively infinite.

It is both poetic and not. When i’m not currently depressed or manic, i can look at what’s past and describe it with clever metaphors and colourful analogies, which is fine – even good. It’s an indication that i’m ready to clean up any messes, take inventory, and restock my shelves in preparation for the next (potential) disaster. When i’m currently experiencing a depression or a mania however, if i’m seeing my situation within a poetic framework, it’s not usually good – it’s often dangerous. Getting all romantic about either feeling 10ft tall and bulletproof or suicidal while i’m in it, can be a red flag that i’m dissociating, and am or will soon be unable to control what happens next.

This last mania was prosaically endured. That is a bonafide victory. I was in it hip-deep before i figured it out, but that’s markedly better than last time i was hit this hard, when i had to almost slip beneath the water before i realised how far i was from shore.
I figured out i was manic.
I did the things i’ve learned to do that can help:

– minimise social interactions;
– practise mindfulness throughout the day;
– avoid people, places, and things that provoke intense feelings;
– be gentle and forgiving when i’m not doing things correctly, or at least as well as i can do them when i’m not manic;
– process thoughts and feelings with a safe person, often.

It turned out pretty well, i think. No hospitalisation, no police involvement, no massive drama. I didn’t have any terrible fights with anyone – not even my husband, who is usually the target. I don’t have access to credit or cash when i’m manic, and my husband even keeps my ID with him for safekeeping (because i lose stuff when i’m on a tear – sometimes very important and/or expensive stuff), and to discourage me from going anywhere. I didn’t go on a bender, either. I drank a little, but not falling down drunk, picking fights, or crying jags. No drugging. This is all good.

There were things that could have gone better, of course. It was still gruelling. It was sometimes ugly and painful, and it was consistently scary to varying degrees. I lost my ability to write coherently – and i couldn’t find a fuck to give about it. My carefully crafted daily routines fell away, one by one. The paranoia and hallucinations (both visual and auditory) that often come with an intense mania, meant that my daily walks had to be put on hold. I can see people in my peripheral vision that i’m certain are coming to get me, and that can easily trigger my multiplicity; a complication to be avoided if at all possible. My brain got very busy, but it also got very scattered, so my husband would text me he was heading home for supper and i hadn’t yet gotten dressed or washed my face. I started watching crap telly again, too. At those times i gravitate towards reality shows that highlight other people’s misery. I think that subconsciously i’m telling myself i’m not too far gone because i’m not bedridden by my weight, or hiding in a house filled with garbage. I don’t need an intervention, and you are NOT the father, so… It could be worse, eh?

When it was over i cruised for a while. I was exhausted, and it was the right thing to do. I also wanted to take some time to examine where i was at emotionally, to see if i could anticipate the timing of the depression that would surely come, and maybe even gauge its severity. I don’t know how realistic that was, but i did need the rest. I think that i may have quietly crossed the line into the next phase already, but i’m not sure, because it doesn’t feel as intense as the mania did. My downs are usually inversely proportional to my ups, and if i’m presently in a clinical depression, it’s a very mild one.
I’m often tired and my desire to sleep more has returned (although i never have much luck getting more).
I feel a bit inept, and everything looks a bit greyer and somewhat ominous.
And i am definitely, definitely irritable. Ornery, even. I find those closest to me to be rather exasperating right now – the most intense of all my symptoms.

Once again though, i have worked hard to find and develop ways of coping with this disorder:

– try to say Yes to one social engagement per week;
– practise mindfulness throughout the day;
– avoid sad stories/movies/tv shows, etc., no wallowing allowed;
– be gentle and forgiving when i’m low energy, and acknowledge every accomplishment and small adherence to routine;
– process thoughts and feelings with a safe person, often.

So, as i have mentioned many (MANY!) times before, i just pick myself up, dust myself off, and resume my slow, steady movement forward. Mania means often reining myself in, because going too fast can cause a stupendous crash, whereas depression means often dragging myself just a few steps before i collapse, overwhelmed and tired for no particular reason.
But as i have also said before – it gets easier every time i do it, and this time was no exception. It was still easier than the last time.
Even though this mania was far more intense and longer than the one that preceded it.
Despite wrestling with dissociation and losing time, sometimes days.
In spite of 2 or 3 or 4 angry walks, which have not occurred in probably a year or 2.

There just came a point where i knew the mania had waned to the point where i had the power to stop it. And i did. I decided i was done, i informed the Peanut Gallery that the shenanigans were over, that i’d be taking a little time off to recover, and then i was gonna get back at it; their full cooperation was expected.
So there was a couple of weeks of no expectations, save arrested manic behaviours.
Then i started back to my routine. I went back to one thing, and that was to only eat between the hours of 8am and 8pm. Because i’ve had gastric bypass, i have a very small stomach pouch – but i can still gain weight by just grazing all day long. I did gain some back, probably somewhere around 10lbs, but that’s all right. The changes i’ve made to what, when, how, and why i eat are sound and healthy and meant to be lifelong, so a blip is okay. I have no doubt i will get back down to where i was before i started gaining a month or so ago, and then some. This is a process, all of it, and the pace is necessary, and it doesn’t bother me.

I started with my 12hr window to eat, and then i just started adding bits of my routine back as i felt able. It didn’t take the months of dogged dedication that it took to make them habits. I didn’t even need to give myself a week before i added on something else. It’s all back except the exercise, the caloric restriction designed for weight loss, and the 1 home improvement chore per week. I’m back to my sleep schedule, my morning and night hygiene routine, my reading, my writing, my baking (which i never completely gave up anyway… AMAZING). The rest will come in the next week or so. I don’t know exactly when, but so far i’ve seemed to have decent judgment regarding the timing of these things, so i’m just gonna keep trusting myself to know when. For now. If i fuck it up, say, if i’ve taken too much back on too quickly -oh well- that’ll become obvious at some point, and then i’ll reassess and tweak my lifestyle where i think i need to, and i’ll just keep on truckin’.

**********

Just a reminder: I’m not trying to fix anyone’s life but my own. I’m looking for my own answers, my own solutions. I am not, and have no desire to be anyone’s life coach or guru. I share how my brain works, and the way i’m learning to live with it because i’m 50yrs old and still pretty fucked up and not highly functional, but i want so badly, as i’ve wanted all my life, to contribute something to my fellow humans. To be of some use, some help, TO DO SOMETHING GOOD.
I’m working with what i’ve got, and what i have is what you see here on these pages. I have kept plugging along no matter what, and i’ve kept trying to figure my shit out, and i’ve banged on all the doors and cried at all the windows and did all the diets and seen all the headshrinkers and attended all the groups and whispered/screamed/wailed all the prayers and made all the sacrifices.
And it’s working. It has all played a part in who i am and where i’m at today. Some words, some wisdom, some therapy, some information, embedded inside me like seeds.
And ALL the kindnesses, ALL the mercies, ALL the graces, ALL the forgiveness, ALL the handouts, ALL the love – watered and sunned and fed and growed my garden until it now produces enough to feed me, to shelter me, to nurture my thoughts and my feelings and my dreams and desires. Now i till and water and fertilise my own soil. I can protect the tender shoot from the invading weed – and i pluck that sonofabitch out without hesitation and free of misgivings.

I share it all in the hope that you might believe that you can do as i have done, because i believe you can. Take anything you like from here and use it to seed your own garden, but do not feel obligated to plant any of it. Feel free to just look upon it, whether it’s to drink in its beauty or to see in it only what you don’t want to grow in your own.

You are welcome, regardless.

Enjoy your weekend, if you can.
I’ll do the same.
Love and Peace,
~H~

Knowing Me Knowing You*

As i continue to know myself better, so do i know others. What i’m learning is that i know so little as to be laughable, yet the pittance that i’ve gathered is worth more than anything else that could be considered mine.

I thought i was so tragically unique.
I’m not like most people. I’m odd. No, but i am. I’m so very different.
I took the tests they gave me growing up, and they confirmed it.
Various teachers and helpers of every ilk and stripe echoed it.
When i was grown, i formed deep and lasting love relationships of my own choosing and my uniqueness became less tragic, and more romantic. As i had my unconditional love reflected back to me by non-abusive people, i began to accept, and even like myself a little. I began to see myself as the muse of all the poems and love songs where the subject is a mass of contradictions and is loved/desired in spite of/because of them. She is mysterious, enigmatic, deep, ethereal, unknowable, beyond you.

So dramatic. Such art. Much longing.

As i mature and deepen as a human, i see more beauty in truth. In flesh, bone, blood, breath. Enduring mystery has lost it’s appeal, and i’m not as interested in things that are, at least historically, unknowable. I’ve become far more curious, however. And that curiosity is naturally extending itself beyond my own borders of skin and brainspace. I reach out into the spaces outside of me and i want to know more about it, and them, and you.

And i can see something.

I see that you are like me, and i see that you are not like me.
I can define you, but i also know that i can never quite define you – just like me.
I see that i can sometimes be something, and sometimes not. Take patience, for instance. When i’m happy and well-rested, i can be very patient.
Where my boys are concerned, my patience could be my mutant power.
Sometimes though, no amount of happiness or sleep is gonna stop me from losing my shit, and sometimes, no one can cause me to lose it so easily as my husband and my children.

I know you get it.
I know, because i see you are the same. Maybe not exactly, but enough that you understand. For you, perhaps you had a great example of parental patience at home and so you just easily model what you grew up with. Or maybe your parents were terrible at it, and you made and have kept a vow to never be like that with your own kids.
You have your own story and your own reasons and some subtly or even wildly different motivations… But it is enough that you get it.

I see that you are multifaceted and contradictory and conflicted and ambivalently ambiguous and weird, just like i am. I also see that you aren’t like me at all. You cannot be. You were not born to the same parents or under the same circumstances or at the same moment as i was. You did not live through the same situations as i. You may have lived through similar things, but you did not process them the same way i did, nor did you react to them in the same way. But you may have reacted in a comparable, or otherwise homologous, fashion. Even if you didn’t -even if our reactions were miles apart- perhaps you can relate anyway. You may have felt emotions on par with mine and given consideration to expressing them as i did. Or maybe, as was so often the case with me growing up, you just reacted, as there was neither the opportunity or inclination to consider anything; the reflexes of a child that follow many of us well into adulthood. They most assuredly have in my case.

You may have zigged while i zagged, but i get why you did it that way. Or maybe i don’t. Sometimes i don’t get you at all, or some particular facet of you is too much like me that it hurts too much or i am too afraid to look at it and see. Maybe as i grow i’ll be able to or maybe i never will. I don’t know, but i do know that i can quickly and easily find many more things that i have in common with you, and that is what i want to do and what i will do. It’s who i want to be. I like me this way. I like you this way. And hey, even if i don’t like you, i find you ever so much more tolerable. And you being relatable makes it easier to like you – even if it may only be parts of you.

The better i know myself, the more like me and relatable i find you. I experience on a deeper and deeper level how we are all alike and yet not.

All of this may sound strange coming out of my agnosticism, but i don’t think so. These observances may be somewhat metaphysical, but they’re not spiritual for me in any way.
I’m learning who i am, and making decisions about who i want to be and what i want to bring to the earth’s table.

To help. To unite. To teach. To share. To love.

Happy Sunday,
Love and Peace to All,
~H~

*This was a Facebook post of mine from Friday that i suppose could do well here, too.

Like Swimming

HELLO, GOOD AFTERNOON, AND WELCOME TO THE MONTH BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY!

If you read that like Terry Gilliam stepping out of a Zulu suit in The Meaning of Life, then you’re reading it how it was written.

In one month i’ll be fifty.
I’LL BE 50 YEARS OLD! (That one was Sally O’ Malley.)
Pardon me folks, but holy shit.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not ageist. It’s not that i’ll be old, or too old, or washed up, or a failure. None of that applies.
Number one is that i never thought i’d make it. My whole life i have assumed i would die young. At this point 50 doesn’t seem that old anymore, but when i was 4yrs old, staring at myself in the mirror with a bottle of poison in my hand and contemplating suicide for the first of countless times, 50 was inconceivable.

There are other factors of course. The regular ones that most of us go through. I have regrets, and i wish i had accomplished more. Both of these things, oh, so very much. I try not to trouble myself with these thoughts overly, because what i have gathered from most of those who’ve been here before me is, honey, it’s de rigeur. As Socrates is said to have uttered, if “the unexamined life is not worth living,” then my life is chock full of value. Heh.

I’ve been feeling like i’m being slowly pulled down under. Like i’ve been fighting the current for too long, and i’m close to exhaustion. It’s largely due to the personal issue to which i’ve alluded a number of times, but some of it is because of something else i’ve devoted much of this blogging process to, and that is my certainty that i am at a pivotal place in my personal growth. I’ve done a tremendous amount of work over the years, but it has all been tearing down the old and laying the foundation for the new. Now it’s time to build. The junk’s been cleared out and the old structure razed. The basement’s poured and the framework is done. The rest is all sweat equity, and this house ain’t gonna build itself.

I’ve shared how i started with teeny tiny little baby steps. I’d take a wee and wobbly stumble forward, and immediately rest, congratulate myself, and do it again. The rest in between stumbles was not insubstantial, either. I mean, i rested. Starting with weeks. It was a long time before it was even days. It’s only been this last year that it’s become hours. Today, one month before i turn fiftyholyshityearsold, i don’t even need any time at all between some of those steps. I regularly do some of them one-right-after-the-damn-other.

Lookit me. I’m swimming. I’m stepping. I’m building.

This morning i felt the same terrible drag on my thoughts, my feelings, and my body that i’ve felt for a couple of weeks now. I thought, I’m fighting another depression. Well hell, that sucks a dirty penny, but hey, i’m just gonna keep fighting. I’ll just keep schleppin’ along, doin’ what i been doin’, and it’ll be all right.

It hasn’t been all right though, and it’s been troubling my mind and disturbing my sleep and stirring up my Peanut Gallery and i haven’t been able to write a goddamned word.
So like i said, i felt it again this morning, like more than a dozen other mornings in a freaking row, and so i went back to bed at around 10 or so.
I had the troubled dreams i’ve been having for the same amount of time, and i woke at 12 feeling worse. Worse.
Naps usually make me feel better. They are one of the things i can do between stumble-steps if i need to rest. I rarely nap anymore, though. Usually my rest/reward involves playing on the computer or watching something on telly. Naps are specially reserved for those times when i really need it.
But it didn’t bloody work.
I dragged my more-depressed ass out of bed and forced myself to shower like i haven’t had to force myself to shower in a long time. Which made me feel worse. And anxious.
Great, now i’m anxious too. Wonderful.
I shouldn’t have had leftover cheesy noodles for breakfast. Too many calories and heavy carbs. Ohai Inner Critic. I was definitely needing some self-hatred to add to this toxic brain-milieu, so thanks, ever so.

I’m still in the shower at this point, but already the doing of something positive, that is hard to do, starts having an effect. Rather than just thinking, i become aware of the fact that i am thinking, and i am, quite suddenly, keenly conscious of precisely what i am thinking. I practise a bit of mindfullness: i bring my awareness to the water spraying my skin, my hand with loofah, exfoliating, the scent of my bodywash, my fingers massaging my scalp, brushing the conditioner through. I watch everything wash down the drain and imagine that it is not just dirt and skin cells and soap, but also the psychic weight of all the negativity i’m carrying is sluicing away from me as well.

I’m standing in front of the mirror and i look at myself and what i’m doing. I’m towelling off, i’m moisturising my skin, i’m doing my morning toilette and i treat my skin to a deep-pore extraction and my hair to some keratin creme. I’ve been practising looking at my body -really looking- while i do this, and so i find myself doing so out of habit.
But today… Today that work bears fruit. My body bears the scars of a childhood full of beatings and sexual abuse, and the resultant war of self-hatred that i waged against it for the majority of my life. Years of morbid obesity have not been kind, and now that i’ve lost most of the weight, my skin looks as empty and hollow as i might look on the inside if it were possible to see after all the psychological fat i’ve shed.

But i look, and today i see. And today i don’t hate it. Today as i was standing there and really seeing my body i thought i looked okay. I accepted what i was looking at in a reasonable and rational way, and i was kind to myself. It was not a you’re-a-beautiful-fucking-goddess moment. That’s not who i am, nor who i want to be. I saw myself as nakedly as i’ve ever seen myself and it was more than okay. It was fine. 
And it was then that my brain asploded with a lovely epiphany.
I don’t seek them and i don’t need them, but they sure are nice to have, sometimes.

I know what’s going on and i know what i need to do. It’s a lot and i’m scared AF, but i’ll even tell you.
I need to do MORE than i’ve been doing. It’s okay that i haven’t been doing enough because i didn’t know that i wasn’t. I’ve been progressing along the road to mature functionality admirably well, all things considered.
But now my brain is telling me to do more, and i didn’t understand, and so my feelings tried to help by telling me something was wrong. This is how it’s supposed to work.
I have been working the way healthy people generally work.

I need to start acting just a bit more like regular folks though.
So i won’t be going back to bed after i’m already up for at least the next month.
Weekdays i’ll be getting up at 5:30 like usual, and i’ll be going to bed at 10:30, which i try for, but it’s a bit spotty (maybe because i can go back to bed?)
And i’ll be blogging too – Monday to firetrucking Friday. (I know i cussed a fair bit for this post, so i’m trying not to overdo. Heh.)

I don’t know how terribly concise this post was, but welcome to how my brain works. This is who i am and this is all i have to offer. If you’re still here i thank you, and maybe i’ll see you tomorrow.

Be as well and as happy today as you are able. I’ll do the same.

It’s a lot like swimming first time over your head
It gets easier when you move your arms and legs
And for air you lift your head, why don’t we try right now
Yes right now
Yes right now
Well
~Like Swimming, Morphine

Love and Peace,

~H~

Sledgehammer, Part Two


I hit a wall, I thought that I would hurt myself
Oh I was sure, your words would leave me unconscious
And on the floor I’d be lying cold, lifeless
But I hit a wall, I hit ’em all, watch the fall
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer
You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer
~Rihanna

When my mother died i thought it was the most horrible event of my life. I can remember numbness and shock. I remember 2 of my siblings shuffling around like wide-eyed zombies, and 2 of them giving voice to the pain and loss we were all feeling. Overwhelmingly though, the impression i took away was one of confusion and not a little exasperated and annoyed.

It was a start.

I hadn’t been close to her for the 2yrs or so prior to her death. We’d had a falling out of sorts, over an issue i won’t be discussing here. Suffice to say, she was punishing me by not only cutting off our relationship, but refusing to allow me access to my siblings. I’d been thrown into therapy almost against my will due to some family legal issues, and my mother did not care for the way things were going.
I was talking.
I was telling.
I was not allowed to do that.
It was implicitly known that whatever abuse was done to me had never happened, as soon as it was over. It was never to be discussed, and i know now from my own investigations into my past, that the few times she was confronted it was cleverly denied. (If it was a family friend, the friendship was suddenly over. If it was someone in authority like a teacher or social worker – we’d move.)

I was in a religiously run halfway house for women in crisis. The women there were both young and old, wealthy and poor, different colours and creeds. We were addicts, and we were battered, we were mentally ill, and we were sexually misused and maltreated. We attended classes on everything from addiction and treatment to life skills like how to balance your chequebook and how to get a job. We went to school and we did volunteer work. We exercised regularly and were taken to gyms and swimming pools. Each of us had a worker assigned to us, most of whom lived in-house with us, from whom we received one-on-one counselling.

It started in the classes at Native Alcohol Services. The home where i was did a lot of work with First Nations women, and NAS offered daytime classes and they accepted everyone, even non-aboriginals. I still remember the name of the woman who taught the class. Darlene told us about her life on Rez: the abuse she endured, her descent into addiction, and how she got sober and got educated and became an activist. She was tiny and powerful and i was mesmerised. She handed out worksheets and questionnaires and i filled them all out diligently. I wanted the teacher to like me. I want to impress her, so i work hard and i fill it all out as completely as i can.

I’m 21yrs old and i am realising for perhaps the first time that i was abused growing up.

My mom had so many wonderful qualities. She was warm and funny and highly intelligent. She knew a little bit about everything, was a great conversationalist and could hold her own in many an intellectual discussion. She was an excellent cook, a superlative baker, and had a gift for any craft she put her hand to: sewing, knitting, crocheting, fine needlework. She had perfect penmanship – i’ve never seen more beautiful. Although never more formally educated than her high school diploma, where girls those days could avail themselves of some intensive secretarial training, she initially surrounded herself with intellectuals and various highly educated professionals. She did so by incredible typing skills. Although slow compared to some at 65 words per minute, she almost never made a mistake, and had a gift for deciphering even the most illegible scrawl. She eventually made her way to a local university, where she ended up working for the head of the department. For extra money she would go in to work at night and type up grad students’ theses. She’d bring me with her and i’d wander the halls, never getting into any trouble, but i can tell you i had some adventures. She was well-liked and found herself invited to professors’ homes and student parties alike. I was brought along to these also, where i learned that if i sat very quietly and just listened, no one would notice me and so i wouldn’t be put to bed.

I don’t know exactly who or what got to her, but some of the people she hung out with were into some cutting edge new therapies. Self-exploration and self-discovery. What started with Gestalt therapy, Erhard and EST, took a wrong turn somewhere and she became involved with some bad people and some evil things. I didn’t understand at the time, but i do believe that’s when my mother really died.

I don’t know if i’ll ever be able to sufficiently describe my feelings for her. I loved her certainly, at least when i was a child, but her parenting was, from the very beginning, so selfish and self-focused, that i felt more towards her as one might their god. I was in awe of her. I feared her. Most children want to please their parents i imagine, but it was more than that for me – i sought only to please her. I would search her face for micro expressions, listen intently for tone and inflection, puzzle endlessly over her behaviours… Always, always to gauge how she was feeling, what she wanted, had i done right, had i done wrong.

I think some of her manipulations came naturally. It started as a natural human quality, and was likely skewed by the lack of attention and love in her home life. I can tell you absolutely that all of the therapy, counselling, and encounter sessions she ever participated in never ended up making her a better person – only better at screwing with others to get what she wanted. She was, at the end, an incredibly dangerous person, limited only by her appearance, or those either lucky or savvy enough to pick up on the sickness that was much, much more than skin deep.

Which brings me back to her funeral.
There were over 100 people at her funeral.
There were only a handful of people there who’d known her longer than i had, and no one who’d spent more time with her.
I knew maybe 2 dozen of them.

There was a receiving line afterwards, and all these people filed by that i didn’t know, telling me things that should have been gratifying, but thanks to the education i’d been receiving at the halfway house, they unsettled me instead.

The priest spoke of their meetings together and of her desire to convert and her love of and identification with, the Holy Mother. (Is there an are-you-fucking-serious font?!)

Woman after woman embraced me and told me she was their food sponsor and inspiration. (Um, did you notice she’s over 500lbs?!)
How she’d been through so much and had come so far.
Really? How far is that, because she still has a filthy house, a huge, filthy body, and she’s still beating the shit out her children that have the misfortune of being too young to get the fuck away from her.

Not that they would have, if they’d been able. I mean, i didn’t. I’d leave home and come back, leave and come back again. I had broken away from her because she’d put me out.
Our separation was her idea. Oh, how it must have rankled that the law had taken things out of her hands. The legal system had finally stepped in to do its job and was protecting me from further abuse by prosecuting the abuse that they could.

The loss of control must have driven her crazy. First thing she did was take my siblings away from me. Over the years she’d made the delineation between them and me more and more clear. It was like i was the unwanted, adopted girl, and they were the prodigal son, reincarnated and returned home. Not that being so spared them any abuse; no, their lives were full of pain and neglect. It was more subtle torture for me, a reinforcement of my otherness and aloneness. She kept me separate. Always only hers.

So, when i went to her funeral my sister and my brothers were afraid of me.

And that is the woman that all these strangers were mourning.

Are you beginning to see, reader, why i am so afraid?

My mother taught me hiddenness, she exemplified laziness, and though many believed otherwise, she was diseased and rotten inside.

I often feel as if i’m fighting against what i was intended to be. I’m often afraid that, deep down inside, i’m bad. That maybe i’m tricking everyone just like my mother did. You can say, Oh H, look at how far you’ve come and how much you’ve accomplished…

Yes. Well. Didn’t they say that about her, too?

Yes, in the next thing that you will say you are quite right. I am not beating my children, my house is not filthy and neither am i.

This is why i blog. This is why i share my thoughts with you. Because as i’m typing i think it is the laziness that scares me more than anything.
She did less and less, until finally she couldn’t have saved herself had she wanted to.
She sat there on the couch, massive and naked and stinking, watching television while her children starved and her house fell apart.

I am terrified of that level of laziness. I fear that it’s inside me, and not too hard to reach.
I had so much potential: highly intelligent and gifted in many areas. Successful in most things i tried. Yet here i am, nearly 50 and with only a couple of years of basic, adult functionality under my belt. Could i have been more if i’d only tried harder?

Well that’s an easy question to answer. Brutally – yes. Yes of course. But i didn’t and so i’m not and it is what it is. So then the next question would be whether or not my reasons are valid enough to justify being at this point in my life rather than somewhere much further along in my personal development as a human.

Don’t worry. I’m just sharing with you what life is like as me. This is how my brain works and these are the thoughts that i have that are mine and are not yours because they are mine. Heh.
I know that the answer is that i am not bad, and while i struggle with laziness because it was so perfectly modeled for me growing up, i am not at that level. I am relatively successful, relatively functional, and reasonably good, with intentions, goals, and long term plans that are already in play to be consistently better.

While there will realistically be set backs, and perhaps even glorious failures, i know one thing as certainly as anyone can know anything:

I will never, EVER stop trying.

END, PART TWO