Pockets

I was watching a program on telly
when i heard a noise outside
I immediately looked to the corner of the room
while i hit the mute button
My ears open
my eyes wide
I got up and walked to the door
First i turned off the porch light
then i looked out the glass at the top of the door
Seeing nothing, i flipped the light back on
I checked the front closet
and once again flicked my eyes to the corner of the room
My soldiers stand ready should i need them

I was walking the dogs down our old gravel road
as i do most days
When i saw a vehicle turn down our way
There’s only one other family that lives down here
and that’s not their car
I do a quick itinerary:
Wrist, check
Pocket, check
Fanny pack, check
I can let the one off her leash
Her growl can turn blood to water
I go over my scripts
I relax my grip as i see it’s the beekeepers

I was downstairs doing laundry
folding warm clothes to make room for more wet ones
Woolgathering
while soft voices murmur in the background
My son yells at his game from upstairs
and i ask myself what i would do
if that was someone else’s voice
I look to the pile of 2X4s in the corner
as i pat my back pocket
I would get up the stairs as quickly as i could
I could get cornered down here
but there are potential weapons in each room
and i’ve practised with all of them

I was eating lunch by myself
at a restaurant i like in town
I can see the kitchen and it’s always sparkling clean
which cuts down on my anxieties
There’s a man eating alone at another table
who catches my eye with a smile and a nod
I was just idly looking around while eating
I immediately go over my scripts
What i will say if he makes small talk
What i will say if he compliments me
What i will say if he asks me out
I check for weapons should he follow me when i leave

I was lying in bed, waiting for sleep to come
with my husband snoring beside me
He sleeps like the dead
So for the thousandth time
i run through what i’d do
if we were confronted in our bed
by violent intruders
I remind myself where the weapons are
I go over how i’d wake, help, save my man
I pat my phone
911 is programmed in and it’s a 1-push button
Whether they stand there and threaten or come straight for me
i know what to do

I was walking home from seeing a movie
I went by myself because i can do that now
No one else was interested or had the time
I like it because no one talks
and i’m not tempted by real buttered popcorn
being devoured by greasy handfuls beside me
It’s dark and there are many more men than women
I love Godzilla
What can i say?
I have quite the hike home
I could save time and energy walking as the crow flies
but that would be foolishness
I pat my pockets and stick to well lit streets

I was weeding the front flower garden
when a strange car pulls into our driveway
We’re at the end of a No Exit road
and i’m not expecting anyone
The things i carry when i head out into the world
are inside in a basket by the door
but there’s not time to get them
I go to our big dog on her chain
She’s already straining to get at him
I can let her off the leash
which will free me to go for my weapons
I check that my face is implacable
I do not smile when i’m alone with a strange man

I was showering before bed
after watching a documentary on a woman with a stalker
He tormented her for years
before he finally killed her in her home
I think about what i’d do if someone came for me
right here in the bathroom
Wet and naked in the tub
I know what to do with what’s at hand
Hot water, soap, detachable curtain rod
Sitting on the toilet
I have help in my pants puddled at my feet
in the back pocket
There’s help secreted in the basket to my right

I have a thousand little plans
for a thousand situations
I have been leered at
approached
chatted up, asked out, complimented
followed, chased, pawed at, catcalled
And menaced, threatened and name-called
when i deny them
or i just don’t respond to their liking
and their little feelings get hurt
I expect the unexpected
because it’s not so unexpected in my experience
They’ll come for me as they’ve always done

I was dreaming one of my favourite dreams
I’m in a huge fancy mall and i’m buying everything
Beautiful clothes and so much jewelry
and i’m eating steak and cake
I can feel him as soon as he arrives
He’s on the periphery watching me
His eyes are glittering and hot on me
It burns and i feel filthy
But i know i’m dreaming and i’m filled with joy
Step into the ring, fucker
I swallow my triple layer chocolate and ganache confection
I call him to me, laughing while i hover in the air
Gathering fireballs in my hands

I have told you i have plans
but not precisely what they are
I have told you i have weapons
but not all the whats and wheres
I’ve mentioned my scripts
but not regaled you with their cutting eloquence
I cannot, for the world is what it is
and it is full of people who will do what they will do
I will do whatever i must
which includes my constant mental rehearsals
My feints within feints
I will bend like a reed in the wind
and i will get you before you get me

~ Mine, April 27, 2021



IMAGE: DESIGNECOLOGIST





Secret Plans

WARNING: This post is a bit dark, and references suicide, childhood sexual abuse, and rape. Consider before reading and take good care.

**********

It was one of the earliest, most formative moments of my life. The sexual abuse was happening a few times a week, at least. I was never not in pain, physically or emotionally. The energy it took to distance myself from the horror i was living, was bleeding me dry. I was fighting for survival, but felt near death. I looked at myself in the mirror, and i could see a black skull and crossbones just underneath my skin, like a shadow. It looked just like the warning on the glass bottle of reddish, pinky-orange liquid (i now think it was probably mercurochrome) i held in my hand that was marked POISON. I looked into my eyes and immediately felt older, calm and strong. A voice inside me said, If it gets too bad i can drink this. Instantly, relief washed through me and i was able to go on with my day.

I was 4yrs old.

That was my first secret plan. I knew what to do if i didn’t know what to do anymore. I could make it stop if i couldn’t take any more. I’d set a boundary and it gave me an inner peace, plus strength to carry on. It was my Mj√∂lnir, and i could call it to me whenever i wanted, which gave me power. The downside was, that i intended to use it on myself – to destroy ME, rather than those whose actions had caused its creation and might precipitate its use. It was my only getaway plan for a very long time.

From 4 to 40, suicide was my Hail Mary.
Around then i was swept up in a mania; a big, bad, long one.

I looked up and saw a door opening into darkness. I looked down and i was sitting on an old, dirty mattress with no sheet. The walls were marked with dings and stains. The light bulb in the ceiling had no fixture.

My head was spinning and my stomach felt like it was undulating. I knew i was under the influence of something, likely booze, and maybe street drugs, as well. I got up and went to the doorway, only then realising it was an archway at the bottom of a set of stairs, not a door. I was in the basement of a house, and i could see light coming from a closed door on the other side of the room. I could hear low voices, and they were definitely male. I looked around me, but i saw no purse, no jacket, nor shoes. Terror was zinging its way through my body so hard my legs almost collapsed underneath me. I made my way up the stairs and out the back door as fast as i could, wobbling about on limbs that felt like water. Leaden, like a nightmare. Out into a freezing cold autumn morning, still dark. Suburban sidewalks quickly led to a highway through the city that i knew very well. An old phone booth connected me with help and home.

That was the first time that i’d felt the desire to LIVE! since i was very small. It was an absolute imperative, ringing through my entire body like a WWII bomb siren. It shook me out of my dissociative fugue and got me thinking. It was still many months before i was able to wriggle out of mania’s grasp. And unfortunately, i still found myself in a couple of similar situations. But my subconscious, along with my ever so helpful Peanut Gallery (yes sarcasm, but they mostly try to help), were busy working the problem behind the scenes. When i was ready, the lesson to learn was right in front of me.
Sacrificing myself to save myself was no longer an option.

You’d think that this is where the story turns brighter and more hopeful. And of course, walking away from the possibility of ending things was a great moment, and a definite turning point. Another formative point in my life. This was where i finally realised that i was not my enemy, save in the most esoteric sense. This was where, at last, i saw my true enemy. And i started making new plans. A thousand little plans for a thousand different occasions.

I’d always been fascinated by true crime stories, and getting into therapy and confronting my own true crime story kicked it into near-obsession. And once the internet opened up i had an endless supply to feed my interest. In some ways it comforted me to know i wasn’t the only one who’d been through such things. It helped to know that others found these stories terrible and disturbing, and that most people couldn’t even imagine these things, and could never understand those involved in such awful acts. It helped counteract all the programming i’d received, that i was a liar, i’d imagined it, it wasn’t that bad, i’d asked for it, etc. I saw this reflected in the face of survivors, and repeated for the cameras, over and over.

So many like me had stood alone, facing abuse at nearly every turn, and they’d faced these same admonishments, and been threatened with the same punishments. All these programs and documentaries i watched helped me walk away from the people-pleasing robot/slave i’d been raised to be. They also wound up giving me practise work for my plans. Plans that i’d only begun noticing i’d been making for some time. My system and subconscious at work again. Still. Always.

It started out with me talking at the tv. I’d shout out, No, don’t leave alone! or Watch out for that guy! or This situation is a red flag! Stuff like that. I’d ask myself what i might have done differently. Please understand that this is not a condemnation of any victim or survivor of any sexual or physical assault. In my books, if you survive you win. For those that didn’t, there may have been nothing they could have done. We’ll never know, and it isn’t for me to say. This isn’t about rape as a political or social issue. This is about how my brain works, as someone whose life was in danger from sexual and physical assaults for a lot of my childhood. Even when the frequency and severity lessened, it never completely ended until i got away at 21. I was never not on guard in some form or fashion. I was hypervigilant, but i sucked at protecting myself because i was so well groomed to be attractive and useful to predators. The indoctrination was often hard to identify and root out.

I was still assaulted after that, just by strangers. So i needed new plans.

As i’ve dealt with more of my past, i’ve gotten more healthy mentally and emotionally. I’m less dissociative, and more aware of my surroundings. I’m not the naif nor the social tumbleweed i once was. I’m getting good at not reflexively, desperately reading everyone’s affect for my personal protection, but i do give people and situations a perfunctory once over, at least. It’s just wise, good practise. People are gonna people, and some of us are vicious predators and oily opportunists. I prepare for that; i have painful, personal knowledge and experience with the truth of that.

Sometimes bad things happen. How i prepare my thoughts and my body for that truth potentiating in my life has grown and changed along with me. My plans are many, and though committed to memory, i go over them regularly. In every activity, in every place, with every person – i either have or am working on a secret plan to stay alive.
I don’t know if the watcher inside me will ever close their eyes.
I’m not convinced that they should.



IMAGE: Kevin Bosc

When Christmas and Gridiron Collide

 

The decision to continue my non-celebration of Christmas has already proven to be a wise one. I am struggling a little.

Because i’ve developed the habit of both preparing for the coming weeks and reviewing them after, i’ve been noticing a few things lately. I think about what goals i already have in place, and how other activities, including appointments and the day-to-days, may affect their furthering or accomplishment. For instance, while getting ready for the holidays, i thought about how i wanted to get through them without any crutches, including addictive behaviours and switching. I thought to myself, “It’s gonna be hard,”
And that’s it. That’s all i thought. I just glossed right over it and didn’t go any deeper. I mean, why would i need to, right? I’ve done all this work and i know myself pretty well. I know it’s going to be difficult.

It’s like running my fingers over the books on my shelves. As they run over the spines i remember each one’s content in my mind, and the general vibe briefly washes over me, like the breath of a lover between kisses. I’ve read it before and i know what it’s about, so why read it again? But it’s not like that with some books. Some i return to over and over, so many times that the spine is hopelessly cracked and flecks of laminate are missing from its paperboard cover. Some words are so beautifully, so importantly put together, that i must experience them many times; it’s simply not enough to know that they exist or to have visited them before. I cannot be satisfied with a fingertip-touch or a warm glance. And i should not be – some of the depth and the nuance and delicate intricacy is lost without at least an hour or two lost in its embrace.

Well, that was an interesting digression that i’m not sure fits entirely, but it is an insight into my mood most assuredly, so it stands.
I’m trying to relate it to my playbook for living with mental illness. I have a list of strategies and plays i’ve developed for handling what life throws my way. I don’t think sportsball teams simply commit the plays to memory and then just show up at gametime, ready to play. The players practise. They practise a LOT. They look to the coach for direction, for instruction, for guidance.
It’s a very good analogy because i’m multiple. I’m the coach, the quarterback, and the hungry rookie going slightly mad sitting on the bench, aching to get in the game. I’m the fans, both for and against, the colour commentator on the sidelines and the beloved announcer in the booth above it all. The opposing team is made up of people, places, and things, and the game is LIFE, of course.

Those players haven’t just memorised those plays. They’ve practised them so many times they’ve built muscle-memory reactions that work like breathing, so reflexive it’s like the OOF! that explodes out of them when they’re tackled.

Would a team that wanted to win against a tough competitor show up without practising plays designed specifically to deal with what that other team is known for being particularly good at? Hell NO.

I ran my fingers over the book on the shelf and remembered what was inside it, when i should have taken it down from the shelf, cracked it open, and read it again.
My players needed a coach to call them to practise, to scrawl the plays out on the board in class and to run them through on the field.
I wasn’t well-prepared so they weren’t, either.
This has been a rough game against a tough opponent.

I’m dealing with the depression part of living with Bipolar Disorder, which means i don’t have much energy or enthusiasm and i’m tired most of the time. Being depressed when most of the people, places, and things around me are happy and excited (or at least wanting and trying to be) saps what little reserves i have stored. And that makes me vulnerable. My patience is thin and my skin is thinner. My vision is blurry and my voice is a whisper.

What i mean is
**i can be easily hurt and i’m not great at interpreting what’s going on around me, and i’m shit at communicating what i’m thinking or how i feel**
That’s better. Sorry for all the attempts at various literary devices, as anyone reading this has certainly grasped more quickly than i have said – i’m still in the grips of all this.

So i let some things get to me that needn’t have, and i shut down a bit because of it.
Rejection is one of, if not the, primary issues/triggers i have. So i was worried and anxious and hurt and scared and it seeped into everything.

But here is where things get better, so don’t worry. There is no need to feel badly for me beyond this point. If you’re empathetic, you probably feel some sadness and anxiety for me, and thank you for that, but you can stop now, because i’ve developed coping skills and routines to help me live a reasonably happy and functional life.

While i do need to work on game preparation, i am already the queen of post-game analysis.

I’m a bit too emotional and that caused exhaustion, but i didn’t overindulge in anything and i didn’t switch. I slid around in the face from time to time, but i was able to tell my family that i wasn’t all there, and they know what that means. Looking back, even though i wasn’t fully aware of what was going on, my self-talk was quite gentle, and that is excellent progress. I didn’t tell myself i was being stupid or wrong for the feelings i was having or the actions i was taking – i just didn’t delve deep enough for full clarity. There were times i was irritated to the point where i could have spoken snappishly, but i didn’t. I had enough awareness that i knew the feelings were bigger than the situation, meaning something else was probably going on inside me at a deeper level.
I realised that whatever was happening inside of me wasn’t about what was occurring outside of me, and responded in a relatively reasonable fashion. I will take that, and any congratulations to be had go to the players.

I need to watch more games, both ours and theirs. I’ve got some great plays and some smart strategies, but we need better preparation and more practise. I’ve got this playbook, and i’m going to use it during practise, and the way my brain works (i.e. my Peanut Gallery) is the home team. They can split up and practise against each other. (Trust me – they already do, heh.) Upcoming situations will be the next visiting team and we’ll get together on practise days and watch footage of how those guys play before we show up, so we’ll be as ready as we can be to compete.

And we’ll still play for fun. It’ll be more like weekend flag football and all the players on the other side of the scrimmage line are my family and friends – it won’t be like the Grey Cup or anything.

This is a very weird way of saying that i wasn’t as prepared as i could have been for the Christmas season this year, but i will be next year.
I think. Heh.

 

Love and Peace,
~H~