Firm Footing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a kind of liberation.

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever is coming will come.
I’m ready.

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

Still Not A Bitch

PART III

Lately i’ve been thinking on the reactions to this person that i’m becoming. I’ll tell you flat out and straight up that i’m incredibly self-focused. It’s not that i don’t care about others – i’m chock full of sympathy and fairly bleeding empathy. I believe that turning an intense and unflinching eye inward is how i not only saved my life, but made myself into a decent and functional human. My mother intended for me to be someone quite different than who i am today. To put it mildly, she wanted me as slave labour, as a receptacle for her rage, to worship her as a deity (you think i’m kidding… ) and as an ever-flowing fountain of unconditional love for her and her alone.

The best gift i got from her other than my life, was her early death. It might have been my only chance to escape her conscious and deliberate indoctrination of me. I’m not sure i would have had the insight, the will, or the strength to free myself from her iron grip. When she died, while i was immediately emancipated from serving her, i was still left with a personality and behaviours that had been designed to ally myself with selfish manipulators who mostly took and rarely gave. I was a slave without a master.

My system didn’t just save me from the horrors of my childhood, they kept me from bad relationships, and some potentially awful friendships. I still managed to make best friends with 2 of the kind of people i’ve described above, though. Not deadly like my mother, but toxic AF. They both did me the favour of ending our friendship, which i’m grateful for today. (More commentary on that later.) Some of my more developed and powerful parts would exert their influence in other areas. For instance, i avoided roommate situations, preferring to live alone. I could perform the sex act, although it was mostly other parts in control when it was happening – or i was heavily medicated with alcohol and/or other drugs.  What i couldn’t do was commit. I never thought about marriage or children. I became pregnant due to unsafe sex practises, and was engaged for a time because i was asked and i was very religious and thought it was expected. It was my system that made the decisions to keep the baby and ditch the dude (to be clear, he wasn’t the father).

When i accepted that i was bipolar and a multiple (years after these events), my level of function plummeted. I practically abandoned my children and nearly destroyed my marriage (a different, way more suitable dude). On the plus side my crap friends ditched me and i became estranged from what was left of my family. I had no one to pretend for, anymore. All that was left was my husband, my children, and a couple of excellent professional health care providers – one medical, and one therapeutic.

Everything inside me fell apart. Some fully sentient creatures (by the broadest definition), some feelings and memories that had developed their own personalities, and then all the other things that make up a person, like: my good qualities, my flaws, my skills, how i coped (besides being crazy), my hopes for the future (mostly for my loved ones, and for my relationships with them – i never really had much in the way of life goals or aspirations – too busy just surviving, i think).
Everything that made me who i was became detached and scattered about. I’ve spent the last dozen years or so trying to put myself back together. I’ve spent it trying to become the captain of this ship of fools. Learning to read the stars. Making repairs. Trying to fix the goddamned rudder.

I started out with a blueprint, but somewhere along the way i decided it wasn’t mine. I decided on a major overhaul. I decided i would be the architect and i would have precisely the ship i wanted.

I didn’t know enough about myself to know how to rebuild me, let alone how to REMAKE me, but i didn’t do this much work at this much cost for this much time not to have exactly what i want.

I started out with only the vaguest ideas, mostly based on not wanting to be in pain or stuck in chaos or hurting those i loved anymore. But somewhere along the way i discovered that there was more to life than that, and i wanted some of it. I discovered that i was a capable and talented architect. I discovered that i already had almost everything i needed to build the ship of my dreams. I discovered good and hopeful dreams inside me. And i discovered that i knew how to get, or at least could figure out how to get, anything i didn’t already have, in order to be shipshape.

Some of the changes i’ve made have upset those around me, and a lot of those people are now gone. Mostly it was their choice, and it happened before i realised what i was doing or how it was affecting them. And all the leaving hurt. Often, it hurt so much i would fall into a deep depression or act out in some way that caused chaos. But i kept doing the work, the remodeling and the cleaning up after, and now? It still stings a bit occasionally, but less and less all the time. Now i know i have choices, too.

Some of those toxic people have tried to contact me. Sick, passive-aggressive bullshit that’s so obvious to me now. And those parts of me that my mother built so carefully, those parts that think that people who love me abuse me because i’m bad and i deserve it? Those parts that think abuse IS love? I’m gathering them to me and showing them what love really is – by keeping the bad people away. By helping them form alliances and friendships with protectors in my system, including me.

Those sick and dangerous people who wove a false narrative. That told me not to tell the truth. That told me not to be angry or sad. That expected me to act like everything was okay and no one is bad (except me) and no one is hurting and everything is great because Jesus and the Cross. Those people that never, not one of them, not one, single time, said sorry to me for anything they did to me, ever.

My ship is a sailboat: small, sleek, mostly slow and just soaking up the sun, but fast as fuck when she wants to be.
Underneath, my ship is also a submarine, full of sailors who love the life, and we’re slowly building a yacht.
(This is almost more allegory than analogy, because the way they treated me is a moral issue.)

My mother made me a tugboat and she used me constantly, with no decent or regular maintenance. I was already in terrible disrepair when she died, but it didn’t stop the rest of ’em from having me haul their shit around. None of them believed there was an invisible submarine underneath. I’ll bet if they saw me, they’d still see an old tugboat, too.

Well, they won’t get more’n a glimpse, and no Ahoy! cuz i’ll trim the sails and hightail it outta there, lickety split. They can just stay on the shore, danglin’ their feet in putrid water and tellin’ each other how fine the day is.

If these parts don’t seem quite connected, stay tuned. Heh.