Today In Self-Discovery…

When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.
~ Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Yesterday’s phone therapy went well. We talk every 2wks, so i caught her up on the week long bender, followed by this last week of doing fairly well and continuing the work. She told me i only lasted about half an hour our last appointment, and most of that was silence. When i told her i was sorry about that, she said, “Sometimes a person just needs to know that someone is there, ready to catch and to comfort.”
I’m so glad i kept looking for the right person to work with.
I’d never have gotten this far without her (or someone a helluva lot like her).

Marking my progress feels good and is important, but it’s not eliminating my current issues. My anxiety is still high, and i’m wrestling with anger, too. It can be hard for me when people do things i wouldn’t do, or think things i don’t think. I find it threatening. It’s hard to overcome. I aligned myself with my abusers in order to stay relatively sane. I believed what they believed and tried to think like they thought. This practise, as with so many others that i’d affected to survive, followed me into my adulthood, long after the abuse had passed. And it plagues me even after eliminating the subsequent danger of extended family associations.

Learning to be myself started with learning to think for myself. My husband was the first person who ever gave me the freedom to figure things out on my own. And when he thought differently he wouldn’t argue – totally foreign to me. He didn’t tell me i was wrong, he didn’t even raise his voice or look at me like i was stupid. No arrogance or sarcasm! I’d never been treated with such respect. I stopped shouting and doubling down. There was no point because he never bought in. He was simply not invested in group think. Group think was my primary way of operating. I’d adopted it first to avoid abuse and try and find safety, and later because i was trying so hard to find a place where i belonged.

I had no idea how to suss what i thought about stuff. How was i supposed to know when i didn’t even know myself? I started by listening to a lot of philosophical points of view, which is bloody exhausting. There were times it felt like they were breaking my brain. But from that i learned a very effective way to seek truth and understanding is skeptical thinking. I still have a lot to learn about how to apply it properly, but issokay, i’m learning about who i am, what i think, and how to think, all at the same time. I usually try to avoid tall orders, but i’ve found these things are intertwined. Because they are, i can work on one thing, and the other 2 just sort of hitch a ride.

I’m peeling back layers, i’m carving the marble, i’m poring over all the books. I’m writing a one-woman show, starring me. These things are all lovely and poetic, full of romance and promise and joy. The scary thing for me is that i’m defining myself away from people. As i discover who i am, so too do i realise who i’m not. I’m not you. Or you or you or you or anyone else. And that might seem like a big DUH! to anyone reading this, but it is a very big and very scary thing to me. I allied myself with the group i was in as a way of hiding. People who’ve known me might be shocked at that, because my personality has been, ah, rather animated and loud and bold. But it wasn’t truly me – well, not ALL me. Some of it was a completely unconscious affectation based on years of behaviour that arose out of a need to fit in, in order to stay safe and survive. My mother expected me to be gregarious and entertaining, and it stuck. I do like it, and it is a genuine part of me, but the abuse and the way my brain works, plus mental illness has conspired together to amp it up and mutate it, somehow. It was like i caricaturised myself in the effort to be what i thought i should be. I kept turning up the volume on my presentation, because it never quite worked. I got abused and hurt and shunned by my peers, regardless. My spastic intensity was a frantic response to pain and rejection. I wanted, i craved, i NEEDED connection badly.
Man, i tried so fucking hard.

Now though, i don’t try so hard. As i live out my life in a safe and respectful relationship, i’m able to take off the various masks and costumes i’ve used over the years. The deep desire i have to know and be myself, has overcome the fear of being rejected and hurt and misunderstood. I also have the gift of knowing i’m an introvert at heart. I know that i’m not hiding out here on our farm – i spend a lot of time alone and don’t have many friends or socialise much because i like it this way. I love humans very much, and i want to make the world a better place for us all. I write this blog in part, with that purpose in mind. The internet has been a lifesaver for me in many ways, and now it can help me help others. I couldn’t do this if it were one-on-ones and face-to-faces and speeches and talks and such. It’d eat me up in no time, and i’d crash and burn. Today, i know myself well enough to know that. I also think that perhaps someday, as i continue along this path, learning to know and love myself, i might take my show on the road. To put a face and a voice to these oddly presented blurbs and terrible poetry.
Honestly, a 1-woman show isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
Maybe one day.

I could travel and do little performances or give little talks. They’ll be weird and perhaps land only infrequently, but for people like me they’d be reveletory – bringing relief and hope and freedom. I could connect with people and come away from it more, not less. Edified, not diminished. Invigorated, not spent.
Maybe one day.

Today i putter about in my Little Crooked House, extremely anxious and incredibly frustrated by the actions of many people around me. But there is a ribbon of peace running through me now; i’ve created this life around myself where i have the time and the safety to do this work. I’ve been able to process unthinkable trauma, to embrace myself as a worthy human, to shuck off the lies of my abusers, to set boundaries between myself and those who’d yet harm me, to show those i’ve harmed that i’m truly sorry by toiling every day to be better – even if it’s just a smidge, to love whom i will without fear, and allow them to love me back in return, to ask for and accept help, to say NO, to take my mask off and step forward as myself… And so much more than this.

I’m moving away from feeling threatened by those who think and act differently than i do. I’m repulsed by group think instead of being drawn to it. I don’t need the world to agree with me or approve of me.
My therapist squeed and clapped as we spoke of these things. She said, “You’re falling in love with yourself! I have goosebumps!”
I didn’t cringe.
Amazing.
I didn’t even roll my eyes.
Unbelievable.

We’ll see how that statement of hers sits inside me.
I’ll keep y’all apprised.
Scintillating stuff, innit?
Heh.

Love and Peace To All,
~H~

Pictured: Bronze sculpture by Rodin.

Updates From the Back 40

Totally random.
Some’re gonna be ranty, and some of ’em mushy, maybe. I’m just gonna start typing, and see where my fingers take me.
Off i go, then.

**********

So much selfishness and stupidity around me. I’ve made some hard decisions about who and what i’ll tolerate, and it ain’t many or much anymore. As my partner’s and my life might be riding on the choices and decisions i make, i’m finding the capacity for cold calculation and the ability to act swiftly, and even brutally. As all my children are grown, my priority is simple – me and my man. I have a small circle around me that is my next priority, as in, my children, grandchildren, and a few dear friends. I’m also a secular humanist, so i’m fully invested in being the best human i can be, and want the best for the earth and all its inhabitants.

I don’t have any leftover energy to have conversations with those with a history of doubling down or fondness for conspiracy theories. Even if i love you, you’re over there, far away from me, at least until there’s a vaccine, and i’ll probably wait until certain organisations declare the pandemic over.

I’m learning how to be the parent of grown children. I’ve never been meddlesome in their adult lives, but when 2 of them are still at home it can be hard to suss what’s my business and what’s not. Where do i still have authority and what’s simply not my call? I think i’m doing remarkably well. There are times when i’ve got to let them go, even when it might mean they fall, and land, HARD. They get to decide how much involvement they want from me, if any. I’ve made terrible mistakes with my boys, and they get to think what they think about it. They get to have their feelings and they get to react to it how they will. They can shut me out, they can shut down over it all, they can call me out. I’m here for their processes –far away and not talking about it if that’s what they want– but i’ll always be on the periphery. I’m as prepared as i can be for whatever they’d care to throw at me, to accept the responsibility where it’s appropriate, to shut up and listen when required. For now i wait, my amends currently come in the form of working towards being as functional and mentally/emotionally stable as i can get. To show them that no matter what crap your parents visited upon you, there is hope of getting out from under it and having the life you want.

After over 20yrs, i can feel myself finally, finally, finally settling into my marriage. I’ve tested it, i’ve tested him, and i’ve run away. I’ve pulled him close and then pushed him away, over and over. I’ve wrestled with physical and emotional intimacy. We’ve had some dicey years, but they feel over, at least for now. I don’t feel the need to protect myself so much anymore. There’s a deep and abiding trust that’s grown into a level of comfort i haven’t experienced before. I still have a wall, but i’ve built a door into it, and he has a key. When something bad happens, when my emotions or my brain start spiraling, i go to him for connection. He’s my soft place to fall, my water when my well has run dry. I think i’m moving from want/wish/hope to actually believing he won’t purposely cause me harm or leave me. That’s kinda big, for me.

I’m also becoming more and more accepting of how my brain works. Instead of trying to force myself into some form of person that i think i should be, i’m doing the work to figure out who i am underneath all the fear and anger and pain that i’ve carried throughout my life. I live with serious, multiple mental illness diagnoses on top of any nature and nurture regarding my personality and personhood. A lot of the common wisdom doesn’t fit me and doesn’t sit well with me. As i reach inward with love, as i experience forgiveness and acceptance from me to me, i let go of the urge to be who i think others want and/or expect me to be. This is me and this is how my brain works and this is how i feel about stuff and this is my life and no one else’s.

I’m creating the life i want around me because at last i’m able to name what it is and what it’s not. I’m not trying to force myself into another person’s vision of a good life. As i forge a relationship with myself i’m able to connect to my own unique and specific desires, hopes, and yes, dreams. Mending the broken connections between my brain and my body has given me insight and strength. For many years i’ve moved at a snail’s pace. I’ve stopped, gone backwards, tried to rush forward and fallen flat on my face. I’ve tripped and fallen down countless rabbit holes. I’ve been in the weeds and in the shit. And all of that still happens, but i get on to the next thing so much more quickly. My step is getting lighter, but firmer and faster, too. As one who has suffered some long and intense manias, i’ll likely always have to monitor and occasionally rein in the rate at which i progress, but relatively speaking, i see a day when i’m crushing it on the regular.

Defining myself is enabling me to ask for more of what i want from appropriate sources. I’m also growing my ability to say No to whomever i wish and whatever i choose. This doesn’t make me unreasonable nor has it turned me into a diva. This makes my life more productive and brings depth and authenticity to my relationships. My words are fewer but carry more weight. My actions are intentional and add value. I don’t hide my flaws and foibles, but neither do i  wallow in them or present them as an excuse or a get-out-of-jail-free card. I acknowledge, make amends where necessary, pick my ass up and get back to business.

I don’t hate my body anymore.
I’m gonna type that again, because it is a MASSIVE, AMAZING accomplishment.
I don’t hate my body anymore.
I’ve always known my face is pretty, but i’ve always been at loggerheads with my body. I saw it as a traitor. I gained weight when i was around 7 or 8, and i’ve never lost it, completely. As i’ve shared many times before, i became morbidly obese after my marriage, and eventually had weight loss surgery. I got to within 15 or 20lbs of my goal, but unfortunately between my marriage and the male gaze i was triggered and experiencing my first intense and extreme mania. That caused a significant amount of weight gain – about a third of what i’d lost. That was in 2007 and i’ve been struggling to get it back off ever since. Turns out therapy was the missing piece of my lifestyle puzzle where my relationship with food and body image were concerned. Over the last couple of years particularly, i’ve hit my stride. I let go of time and goal-setting. I changed one small thing about the way that i ate, and did that thing until it became a part of my life, and then i changed another. The progress was slow, but it didn’t bother me, because my focus was on a lifestyle change and my physical health – my lifelong experience taught me that the other would come along with it, naturally.
And it has.

That’s incredible already, but the truly tremendous, fantastically freeing thing is i don’t despise my body anymore. I’ve lost and gained, and i’m in my 50s, so frankly, there’s some damage, some wear and tear, you know? But i know why i look the way i do, and i’ve apportioned the responsibility for it. It sits squarely on the ashes of my dead mother, and rests on the heads of every stinking asshole in my childhood who ever laid their hands on me. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to manage, to fix, to hide, to figure it out. It just took time, some healing in my emotions and thoughts, and the right information. I can look at myself naked, and not even think a mean thing. I can wear clothes and not constantly pick at them and smooth things out and pull them down. I wear what i want. I look how i like me to look.
I like fashion, but only as an art form. I’ve discarded the hate machine that surrounds it. I’m slowly developing my own sense of style. It becomes more defined and recognisable as i recognise and define myself.

And i no longer seek  or accept sexual attention from all and any sources.
As i heal what was broken sexually inside me i know where to go and where not to.
I can ask for what i want.
I can say No.
I don’t flirt with anything that’s breathing.
I’m no longer inappropriately sexual or bawdy – i know the proper times and places and people. I don’t place myself in dangerous situations with dangerous people, all for validation and approval.
I see what i bring to the table. I know where and when and to whom i’ll serve it.
That’s some freaking alchemy, lemme tell ya.

So there it is, today’s blog offering. A strange kind of positivity, and not as mushy as i thought i might get. I see myself in this, standing with my feet set firmly and wide apart. My fists are planted on my hips and i’m laughing, deep in my belly, toothily, like the star of a lumberjack musical.

A smart, sexy one.

No, no one in my dressing room after the show, thanks.

More soon.

Love and Peace to All,
~H~

Talking To Myself

WARNING: Light reference to suicidal thoughts.

I’m feeling a little better the last couple of days. I’m becoming familiar with this cycle, so i’ve decided to take a hard look at it, not to tweak it, but to find some peace in it. See, at the end of it, i beat the everloving crap outta myself because “i did it again”. I’d like to change that part of it, at least for a start.
There may be some other changes i could make in the future, but if my success over compulsive eating and weight issues is any indication, a kind of acceptance needs to come first. It’s not giving myself over to inevitability (screw you, Mr. Smith), it’s more of an acknowledgement of who i am and where i’m at.
Without that, it seems to make shame and frustration even more of an anchor for me. A millstone. To see where i’m going, i must first look at where i am.

I’m starting with the fact that i’m here at all, which is a good thing.
Next, i’m not the person my mother intended me to be, which is a very good thing.
Also, i have a loving and supportive partner, children, and even a couple of friends, which is excellent.
And, although the list could be longer, let’s finish with the fact that i have a therapist who’s helping me know who i am and work towards being more of who and what i want to be.
Astounding.

The cycle seems to work like this:

– Drag myself up out of the pit,
– Struggle to stand,
– Take a couple of shaky steps,
– Stop and rest,
– Take a few steps more,
– Rest again,
– Start walking a little faster and farther,
– Force myself to stop for a rest,
– Walk more often and with fewer and shorter stops in between,
– Fall into a pit.

There’s some nuance missing there, but that’s nutshelling it well, i think. The bit that doesn’t quite fit into the steps is the part where i’m embarrassed and ashamed that i fell into a pit again. I feel guilty, like i’ve failed my family and myself – including my system. I’m disgusted with, and disappointed in myself.
I see the pit as failure.
I see my level of functionality (or lack thereof) at my age as pathetic.
I see myself as far behind my peers.
When i get particularly low, the feelings can stray into self-hatred and hopelessness, which has, at times lately, brought about thoughts of suicide. Not making-a-plan suicidal, but i-can’t-do-this-anymore, and my-loved-ones-would-be-better-off-without-me stuff.

So, not where i need to getteth mine asseth to thine infirmary, posthaste. Still and all, not a good place to be, and one that can lead me down darker avenues.*

Me: Here’s the thing though, H, what else could you do?

Also Me: I could push harder, take more steps, do more things.

Me: Could you though? I mean, haven’t we tried that, like, a LOT?

Also Me: Yes but, at my age i should be able to handle this stuff.

Me: Should you? Says who?

Also Me: Well, at my age… Hell, folks a helluva lot younger than me have their shit together.

Me: Yeah, some of them probably do, but i’ll bet a lot of them just look like they do.

Also Me: True, but i’m getting older, and with each passing year, my opportunity to be the person i want to be gets smaller and smaller.

Me: That’s the way it is for everyone.

Also Me: I know that, smartass, but my window’s starting to look like the upstairs scary eyes ones in the Amityville Horror.

Me: Small, and split apart. Funny.

Also Me: It’s a gift. Listen, my children are grown and i have grandchildren. I should be further along my path by now. I can’t seem to stop falling. Even if i don’t fall into a pit, i trip and get root rash on my face.

Me: I know. It hurts and sometimes it’s obvious, which can suck, but you’ve found a way to make some good out of it.

Also Me: *sigh* I wanted to leave behind a better legacy than that.

Me: Like what? Sure, you could have been somebody. You could have been a contender. But at what cost? Our system would have certainly paid the biggest price. You could have been a very successful person who would have remained incredibly broken and in pain on the inside: Famous, rich, respected –whatever you dreamed of– a success by current world standards… So? Would that person be who you really are, though?

Also Me: *deepersighpluseyeroll* No. I would have had to completely shut down parts of myself. Pretend my childhood never happened. Never acknowledge the people who live in my brain who saved my life. Inauthentic at best – a complete lie at worst.

Me: Right. So this is the price you’ve paid to be a real live girl. You had a huge mess to clean up before you could stop being wooden and start being flesh. A mess you didn’t even make.

Also Me: But it’s taken so long to get HERE, and i’m still not THERE yet.

Me: You’re never going to get there. No one does. You just get as close to it as you can with the time you have.

Bits of Me: When you take too big of steps, we can’t keep up. We’re too little. You make us scared and we cry. Also, we’re hungry. Can we have a cookie now?

I guess i’m just going to keep plugging away at this. This is how i’ve learned to do it. Maybe there was another, better way, but i can’t go back and do things differently. This is what i have to work with, this cycle. I may always have to take baby steps. I may always fall into a pit, here and there.

My legacy is that i will always claw my way up out of the pit, even if it’s just to fall into another one later on. I’ll be further along my path. A few steps is better than no steps. I will always try to learn more and live more true, so that i might be, do, and give, MORE.
It may not be much, but it’s real. I may not be much of a success by the world’s current standards, but my Bits N’ Pieces trust me, love me, and look up to me. I have a family that loves and forgives me. I want for nothing. I may wear a mask sometimes, but it’s not on purpose, and everyone who knows me, knows about the masks, and they don’t mind. And if the people who matter to me don’t mind that i fall into pits and wear various masks, why should i?

Time for cookies.

Love and Peace To You,
~H~

*I know what to do to manage these thoughts, and i do these things. I don’t hide them inside my brain, where they might grow and fester. I talk – i tell safe people. I check my daily self-care. I call my therapist. And i have gone to the ER, seen my personal GP, and even checked myself into The Bin where necessary. Whatever it takes, i do it.

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.

Inside My Skin

There is a part 3 for I’m Not A Bitch, but today i’m posting a little blurp-up on how i’m doing right now.

Last year i had a schedule, with routines, regimens, and rituals aplenty, and i was hummin’ along like a vintage car that’s still with and well cared for by its original owner. I was as functional as i’d ever been in. my. life. and i was proud of what i’d accomplished and excited for more and better in my very near future.

That was when my body started poking my brain and saying, Ahem? Ah, excuse me?
I need some help.

It’s a little on the airy-fairy side for a firm atheist like me, but i have come to believe that it’s possible that it’s not just my brain that houses my memories, but my body, as well. Like, when i feel threatened, i can feel it immediately in my feet, my calves, my knees – the urge to run, to get away. The memories of being trapped by my abusers and unable to leave might be there, i think. Nestled in there with my muscles and tendons, lying dormant until a situation triggers old thoughts and feelings about the past and my fast-twitchers spark awake, GOGOGONOW!

I recognise that this may not be measurable in a scientific sense as of yet, but that’s okay. I’ve been working on getting down into my feelings,
<feelfreetorollyoureyesherebecauseicertainlyam>
and the deeper into them i get, the more i experience how connected my thoughts and emotions are to my physical body, when i feel safe enough to allow it.

As a highly dissociative human, i put distance between emotion and sensation and thought, because they have historically been too much for me to cope with all at once. I also never had a person safe enough and knowledgeable enough to teach me how to process these things; the why-am-i-like-this and the how-do-i-fix-it. Now that i do, when she (my therapist) suggests that my memories are not just in my brain, but in parts of me that exist in real time below the neck, well…
I experience, observe, and exist consciously in those moments when i sit down in the armchair by the window in her office, and my girl parts are buzzing like they’re covered in a thousand bumblebees, and she asks how i’m doing today, and my vagina starts to burn, like the bees are stinging me, so she has me take a big pillow and hide myself behind it, and wrap my arms around that pillow and pull it in tight, hugging my genital area, protecting it with a soft, warm barrier and my loving arms, and she asks me,

“How does that feel?”

And i roll my teary eyes and say, “I don’t know. Weird. Better… I guess. Good.”

Or how i pull my legs up onto that armchair, fanning them out alongside me because if i put them on the floor, they’ll start bouncing like corn popping, wanting to run. I feel safe with her in her office, and i come ready to be conscious of my body and be in it in real time. But other people that live in my brain, especially those that exist in a painful moment from the past, come wide awake and all they feel is trauma, and they want it to stop, so badly; they want to get away, nownownow. So my therapist has me put my feet back on the floor and bounce my knees and flex my feet and sometimes i’ve even placed the bottoms of my feet on the bottoms of hers and pumped my legs, HARD, like i’m riding a bicycle away – away from pain, away from danger, away from evil.

And i’ll be damned if it doesn’t help. I think my body is purging the memories of all the terrible things that were done to me when i was little. When i was with my mother and dependent on her for everything – helpless and unable to get away from the things that she did and allowed to be done to me.
It’s like i’m shedding “psychic” pounds.
I know, another metaphysical word coming from me, but i use it as a poetic description of what i’m experiencing, rather than an actual, tangible thing that exists.
What i mean is, i feel lighter in my feelings and my mood and my outlook on life, when i do these things –when i directly address the sensations in my body, and act out the movements it seems to be itching to do– i feel better.

So this is what i’ve been doing. Learning to tune in to my body, rather than distance myself from it. Letting my fists ball up, kicking my legs, covering my breasts, my belly, my nethers, with blankets, pillows, honouring the need for a barrier. Pulling my big dog into my lap and wrapping my arms around her, burying my face in her neck and feeling her warmth, her weight, her protection.

And walking again. Not taking off. Not getting away.
Recognising and honouring the need of my feet, my calves, my knees, my thighs, to move. The memories of wanting and needing so badly to get away from what was happening to me all those years ago and being unable to, all trapped there in my flesh and fascia. Pumping it out of me with each determined step, the pain and the fear pouring down into my toes and out, like i’ve lanced an infection and i’m draining the pus, leaving a trail on the dirt road behind me.

Lighter. Healthier. Cleaner. Freer.

It’s constant work but i don’t mind. I can see and feel the benefits. Unlike the brain work, where i slogged and slogged through the muck, such slow-going. Putting in so much time with little to no change, but hoping. And then seeing that which had been unravelled, ever so slowly knit back together.
The body work yields refreshingly immediate results. They don’t always last, but i can do it again, and the good stuff lasts a bit longer each time. One day, it might just settle right into my bones and that will be that.

So here i am today.
I’m sober. I’m not doing anything to numb myself, neither brain nor body. I’m living my life as simply as i can so that i might teach myself to be present and feel it all. To make conscious, thoughtful decisions on how to handle and cope with the day-to-days, and those times when life just happens. I mean, i wish it wouldn’t do that, but even to have the presence and awareness inside this skin sack in real time to think, Geez, Universe, now why’dja have to go and do that?! is a priceless gift.

I’ve lost the booze bloat and the grey cast to my skin. I’m back to managing my food choices and eating at a calorie deficit, nutritionally sound and designed for slow and steady weight loss, my goal of a single digit clothing size before summer hits is doable.
I often wear my clothes a bit on the tight side because:

1) I like having my business held in, hugged, and smoothed out;
2) It boosts my self-esteem and motivation to be wearing smaller sizes; and
3) It keeps me consciously in my body, that tight squeeze, that occasional escape of flesh over the top of my jeans.

Understand, this is not a shaming technique. I’m proud as heck of what i’ve accomplished, and any shame i carry about my body is due to childhood stuff, which i’m working through, tyvm. I’m also not suggesting anyone else do what i do for my weight, my body, my brain, my relationships – none of it, period. What i’m doing is sharing my process, in every way and on every level (save sexual and spiritual, although that may come some day), not so that you can do what i do, but so you can see that it can be done. 

I’m 52yrs old, and there’s no shame in that, either.
I am not who i was born to be.
It’s taken a lot of hard, intense, terrifying work to get where i am today.
Nobody could do it for me and a lot of it i did alone because i couldn’t find the right person to do it with me. But i persevered, taking little nuggets of wisdom from this place and that person, knocking on door after door, taking class after class, asking “professional” after professional? for help.
(That word though, what a loaded word in this particular field, heh.)

I got disheartened, led down wrong paths, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, ignored, unfairly judged, and many times, told i was Just fine! and/or Highly functional! because i was so willing to open up and do the work, and already had so much self-knowledge and personal insight and i’m clearly intelligent and have a large vocabulary and i’ve never been arrested or lived on the street, so… What’s your problem?

With such narrow definitions, it’s a wonder anyone gets any, let alone enough help, but some of us do.
If you have stuff inside you that needs work, i want you to see that i’m doing it, and so maybe you can, too.
If you need help with that work (and who doesn’t?), i want you to see that i found some (FINALLY!), and so maybe you can take heart and keep trying until you find that good fit: that person, that place, that program, that system -whatever it is- that clicks with you and helps you get your feet underneath you and walking forward. Or running, swimming, flying – however it works for you to figure your shit out and get through it. Whatever gets you moving towards something that you’ve always wanted for yourself.

I did it and i’m still doing it.
I should be either dead, or locked up, or completely non-functional, or just a shitty, awful human. I am none of those things.

Every time i blog it’s for me first, because it’s been very effective.
But it’s for you, second – because i want you to hang in there. I want you to find help, answers, love, success, happiness. All of it.
I wish i could do more, but i’m a lot of work, and this is what i can manage.
So far, anyway.

I’m pluggin’ away. It’s what works for me. I go through some tough, scary shit, but i just keep plodding along, learning about myself and how i work and doing the work that’s in front of me.

Then there are moments, beautiful, transformative, life-affirming moments, where i can see, not only how far i’ve come, but the depth and the breadth and the weight of what i’ve been able to achieve. It may not look like much to the rest of the world, but that no longer matters to me. What i’ve been able to do with my brain, my body, my life, is incredible and amazing. TO ME.

I hope that i can inspire others to just hang in there and keep trying. Stop and rest and feel how hard it is when you need to, you deserve that, but as soon as you can muster, try some more.

Love and Peace and So Much Thanks,
~H~

Image: Reclining Nude (c1887), George Hendrik Breitner

Now

First, a reiteration of the most important bit from yesterday’s content warning:

If you are currently in a place where you’re easily upset or triggered by content, this may be a piece you’d like to skip, either until you’re better able to process, or even altogether.
If you are a multiple, this piece contains the prelude to a discussion of integration. Take care of yourself and your system. Think about it before proceeding. Talk to your p-doc or whomever is your mental health professional go-to.

**********

Yesterday, any way you made it was just fine
So you turned your days into night-time
Didn’t you know, you can’t make it without ever even trying? 
And something’s on your mind, isn’t it?
~ Karen Dalton, Something’s On Your Mind

After years of chaos and then the drudgery of therapy (it just is, for me), i felt freer and more happy than i had ever felt. I knew my system and how it worked, and they knew me and trusted me to be in charge and care for them. I organised things in my mind in a way that made sense to any part developed enough to be able to get there. I enjoyed a couple of years where, while there were still many difficulties, i was able to manage without the 3 big ones i’d worked hardest to avoid: police involvement, hospitalisation, and serious marital discord.

I turned my attention to my physical health then, as i live with some chronic conditions, and have struggled with weight and food since i was a child. I was morbidly obese in the early aughts, and had a gastric bypass which was very successful. Unfortunately, it also heralded my first severe mania. Medications, heavy drinking, along with lousy food choices and eating hygiene meant that around 1/4 of it came back on – when one starts out as big as i was, that is not insignificant. I spent the last 10yrs taking off and promptly putting back on, about 1/3 of that amount.

Over the years i did learn a lot about eating and food, and my relationship with them. I found a way for me to lose the weight i need to, and keep it off. I don’t talk numbers or details, because that can trigger obsession in me, but what i will share is that i stopped dieting, and made one small change to how, why, and what i ate at a time. So when i shifted my focus to my physical health, it was more about adding exercise in. Again, the details aren’t necessary, just know that my approach was the same as it had been to food; one small, manageable change at a time. I’m not looking for magic, or instant results. Slow, steady steps forward are what works best for me.

What happened was the same in my physical health as i had experienced with my mental health. It took time and patience and commitment, but small changes gradually built upon each other until the results were obvious and easy to demonstrate. I passed that 1/3 loss that i couldn’t seem to conquer before, and i was heading towards my goal, closer than i’d been in many years.
I added in more socialising.
And then i added in parttime work.
And then i began volunteering.

That was when my dreams got ugly.
That was when some voices stopped talking.
That is when i crashed.

I didn’t notice the missing voices, but some parts did, and there was panic. It flooded my body, feeling like it was filling in every space, like frost spreading on glass. Except from the neck up, which was suffused with hot blood, gushing in my ears, swelling my skin. I knew i was in trouble, but i couldn’t make out what was wrong. It was too loud, it was too many, and it was too much. I stopped sleeping. If i dropped off it was due to pure exhaustion, and then i’d only get a couple of hours before nightmares would set in, and i’d be forced to wake myself up.*

It took tragically little time for me to unravel. I stopped exercising, volunteering, working, socialising. I left the house as infrequently as possible, and i drank regularly, to quiet my brain and get some sleep (NOT RECOMMENDED, BTW). I started losing my control over the face. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and terrified – terrified of things going back to how they used to be.

Like finding myself walking towards the highway, trying to return “home”.

It started happening when i first became severely manic, and i would switch, hard and often. I kept wanting to go home, and hearing it in my brain. It felt like an imperative. Go home. Some younger bits crying for home, others saying more authoritatively.
GO HOME. GO HOME NOW.

During those difficult years of getting to know how i work and who else lives in my brain, i tried to go home countless times. I would leave my Little Crooked House and hitchhike into the city. Trying to get home. Revisiting old places and looking for people from my past. I would eventually find myself back in the face, usually in an untenable situation. I would get to a phone and call my husband. Sometimes it would be hours before he found me, as i’d be sliding all over the place. He also spent dozens upon dozens upon dozens of hours following me, trying to get me in the car, trying to keep me from hitting the highway in the first place. More than once i tried to jump out in traffic in the city. More than once i tried to walk in front of semis on the highway, parts of me holding my life hostage to try to get to some place i didn’t know. I did know what that word “home” meant to me as i looked back unblinking at my childhood. Pain. Fear. Alone. Anger and ugliness everywhere.
I tell you this because i started finding myself walking towards the city again.

I had learned to manage the walking by going for walks. Heh. Compromise and negotiation was and is key to managing my brain and the splitty pieces that live inside it with me. I love walking and i always have. So if someone inside wanted to go for a walk, i took them. When i set out to improve my fitness level, walking was the first thing i started doing regularly. My doggies were ecstatic and i truly enjoyed it. But walking turned dark when those voices did. I felt it in my feet, in my calves and my knees – this itch inside, a need to stretch, to go. To go home.

I’d find myself on the road, without the dogs, walking. I could feel it in my legs and hear it in my head that i was not going towards town, i was heading towards the city. I’d feel kind of floaty, like my head was a balloon, which means i’m sliding around, but not hard switching.

I was scared and i felt so defeated that, after all this work parts of me still wanted, and could still try to take me to this unknown and potentially harmful place.
I did the only thing i knew to do – i called my therapist and started seeing her again regularly.

Maybe another day you’ll want to feel another way, you can’t stop crying
You haven’t got a thing to say, you feel you want to run away
There’s no use trying, anyway
I’ve seen the writing on the wall
Who cannot maintain will always fall
Well, you know, you can’t make it without ever even trying

So next, let me tell you a little of my history with my therapist.

*See “lucid dreaming”.

Then

I haven’t written in quite a long time. I always say i’m going to write through the tough times, but so far i’ve not been able to manage it. My brain gets so full when my people are stressed, it’s like chasing echoes, or trying to grab onto the mad wisps of dream smoke, upon awakening.
How am i supposed to fully realise my desire to help others by sharing how my brain works unless i can do this? The sigh that came from me just now felt like it rose up from the tips of my toes.

I’ll keep trying.

To that end, there may be some hope. I’m writing now, and i’m still not at all well. In fact i’m worse at this moment than i was when i stopped writing. Therein lies the reason for this warning:

I do not know you.
I do not have any magical formula or secret key to fix your life.
All i have is the desire and the will to find my own, and share it with you, because it is all and everything that i have to give.
Me. How my brain works. My journey towards a higher level of functionality in my world. Self-knowledge. Trial and error. Stubborn and steadfast, and always interminably slow.

Here is the second part of the warning, and it is most important:

I am not well right now, not mentally, or emotionally, or physically. I may not be making good decisions right now. I may look back and cringe/cry/curse. I’m not myself half the time, which in multiple speak, means that other, split parts of me are regularly in control of my body, and i have varying levels of awareness, from watching myself like i’m on tv, yet being unable to influence what’s happening, to no clue that i’ve been gone at all, until i find myself back in the face (my slang for back in control) again.

If you are currently in a place where you’re easily upset or triggered by content, this may be a piece you’d like to skip, either until you’re better able to process, or even altogether.
If you are a multiple, this piece contains the prelude to a discussion of integration. Take care of yourself and your system. Think about it before proceeding. Talk to your p-doc or whomever is your mental health professional go-to.

What follows now is the piece i was working on when i shut down. I’m working on more for tomorrow.
Yes, tomorrow, but we’ll see, won’t we?

**********

I know i always say this piece was hard to write. But this piece is hard to write.

It involves sharing some deeper, more intimate details of how my brain works, and that has filled me with anxiety and no small amount of shame. I’m anxious because i don’t know if i’m going to be able to communicate it well enough that anyone can understand, and i might just come off as kooky, or wholly unbelievable. Then there’s the shame part. I always struggle with shame when i’m sharing about my multiplicity. This is due in part to it being a controversial diagnosis, partly due to my own struggle in accepting it, and a lot because doing so is an undressing of the rawest kind. This is deeply personal and private. Getting to this point, where i have enough of a consensus to do so, was a difficult task.*

From the jump i’m fairly certain this won’t make much sense, but i’m forging ahead, because i’m committed to sharing who i am and how my brain works: for me, for my beloved Bits N’ Pieces, and for anyone who might find help or comfort in these pages filled with angsty blurts and hopeful gushing.

I struggled with my diagnosis for many years, running from any mental health professional who’d suggest it. I finally considered it because i’d been trained from birth to believe what any religious elder told me, and i’d sought counselling from a social worker who attended my church. She brought in a psychologist who was also a church member to backup her diagnosis. So i finally, seriously considered that i might be a multiple, because i was raised to be a good girl, to respect authority, and to respect religious authority above all.

I could see that i easily met all the criteria for MPD/DID, but it just seemed so ridiculous. There were a number of high profile cases that had been soundly debunked. There was also something about other multiples – i didn’t like them. None of them. In fact, it was an instantaneous and visceral dislike, except for one who became my very best friend (but that’s a story for another time). I also understood that my mother had gone out of her way to both encourage my multiplicity, and to indoctrinate and threaten me against acknowledging any of my more obvious symptoms to anyone, especially myself.

I found what i was looking for in my dreams. Answers, affirmation, and even confirmation, after a fashion.
My dreaming life has always been a significant part of my life. I suffered night terrors from the time i was a toddler, to the point where my mother took me to a specialist for treatment. I remember dreams from as far back as around 4yrs old, i think. My dreams are heavy with themes and motifs, and most fall into a few categories. As a child, the most common ones were of being hunted by something i sometimes couldn’t, sometimes wouldn’t see, of houses filled with death, and of being covered in bugs. There were other themes added as i became a teenager, more still as a young adult, and again since i accepted that i am more than one.

I’d pored over my dreams my whole life, trying to understand what they could tell me about myself. I knew they were different from my peers from an early age. There was a moment of stunning clarity when i realised that some of them were not dreams at all, but memories. The therapist my mother had sent me to when i was so little, taught me lucid dreaming, and part of that was to pinch myself, HARD, as a way to ground myself, to know i was okay, the idea being that a pinch in a dream is painless…

But in my dissociated state i’d begun pinching myself while being abused, and it did hurt. And when i acknowledged that there were pinch dreams that hurt, i was struck with how those dreams were so much more literal than the other ones. There was no need to interpret, there were no metaphors, no symbolism; it was all ugly and starkly, painfully clear, and yet blurry, fuzzy, with softened edges, unlike the dreams where my skin felt like i was covered in bees, and everything was in technicolor, with sensurround! TM

I was able to identify a feeling that came along with all these “dreams”, a putrid, stinking hopelessness, and panic so intense that it was like a vacuum that seemed to suck me inside of myself. It pulled me towards a black door in the middle of my body, the centre of the universe of my brain; the door beckoned me, it promised safety and relief.  It was a splotch covered in stars and i wasn’t afraid of it. I knew i could go there and everything would be okay.
I now think that’s the place i went while my people took care of me.

My dreams that were not memories were so clear, with crisp edges and vibrant colours, but the feelings were fluffy, nebulous, bouncing around and occasionally brushing up against me.
The memories were seen through a sleeping fog, bathing me in a soft froth of imagery, but the feelings grabbed and held me captive with hard, bony fingers, and as i squirmed helplessly, they sliced away at me until all was bloody and ragged.

That was when i began the work of accepting what had happened to me as a child. I vomited it all up to my husband and a small, trusted group of blog friends. This was cathartic, and almost certainly necessary for me, but as soon as it was done i locked down the blog and was slammed with a hurricane of parts demanding to be heard, demanding face time, demanding my time, wanting random needs met and feelings assuaged and needing to know if they were safe and who the hell was going to take care of them? It was years of chaos.

I learned how to manage this onslaught by first acknowledging them, one by one, and then getting to know them by listening to them. Hours and hours and days and months and years of listening. I had to purposefully, mindfully, and with clear intentions, pull myself out of the dissociated, fugue-like fogginess i’d settled into through a lifetime of living with constant commentary and background chatter. I gave my head a shake, figuratively and literally, focused on my breathing and feeling myself inside my body: feet on the floor, hands on my thighs, butt in the chair, churning in my belly, mild headache, sweat under my arms, all of it, whatever it was, as long as it was real and tangible and ME. And then i’d listen. They started out, most of them, talking only to themselves (they knew i was listening, and i knew they knew), but eventually they began speaking and/or throwing feelings directly to me.

Well, at first it was AT me, but you know…
Patience is a dad-blasted virtue, i can tell you.

*Anyone who was against this, agreed that it was okay as long as any details occurring when they were in the face, would not be discussed, which has been honoured, with love and respect.

I Made This

Some of the “groups” you might say i belong to, fall into what some call “marginalised” territory: woman, queer, fat, mentally ill, neuroatypical, even atheist.
I can/should/will/do only speak for myself, and this is what i have to say:

The fewer fux i give what other people think about me, say about me, or what they call me – the more freedom and happiness i enjoy in my life.

I have actively stopped looking for other people’s understanding and approval.
If you want to understand me, and i determine it’s for a good reason, i will share how i think and feel about things with you.
But make no mistake – i am not seeking anyone’s approval for who i am ever again. You are free to think and feel however you’d like about that.
I don’t need you to find me attractive.
I don’t need you to “get” my sexuality or taste in partners.
I don’t need you to get me at all.
I don’t need your friendship.
I don’t need your stamp of approval.
I don’t need you to like me, or think i’m smart, or funny, or pretty, or cool.
I don’t need you to understand my emotional issues or the way my brain works.
I don’t owe you an explanation for why i am here in this moment, doing what i’m doing.
I don’t look to other people for validation anymore, because i learned that i’m the only one whose giving of it actually matters. Society can call me whatever it wants to.
My various and sundry peer groups can refer to me however they wish. They’re free to welcome me or put me out.
Even those i love can purposely, willfully misunderstand and misjudge me.
You work your agenda, because i know i’m working mine.
It doesn’t matter anymore, because the more i know, understand, accept, approve, love, and even LIKE myself, the more solid and sure i am in each moment.
Present.
Aware.
I’ve got my meat suit on and i can feel it.
I’m not watching life happen to me from a minimum safe distance.
I do not need the protection of the patriarchy.
I do not require the social connectivity of a matriarchy.
I don’t want a tribe, or a community, or a village, or a nation, or a group, or a club, if the cost is my individuality, my freedom to think and feel as i will.

I am building myself from the top down.
I do a lot of things backwards.
The hard way is just a way.

I am Narcissus; i saw my reflection and i fell in love.
But it didn’t kill me, it saved me.
I am Eliza Doolittle, and the professor can kiss my bloomin’ arse.
I killed Victor Frankenstein. I walked on ground, both blessed and cursed, and dug it ALL up. I called lightning down from the sky and i cried out to all the flesh and bones and dust, “TO ME!”

And now Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.

I’m Listening

This was an intention statement that i made a year ago today.
I’m proud of my conduct and progress in this area, and i intend to continue.
To that end i share it even with those that i don’t personally know or interact with.

Happy Thursday.

**********

Dear People-that-i-personally-interact-with,

I wanna tell you something. I have a lot of thoughts about this and more than a few things to say about it, but i’m gonna keep this short (ish).

The reason i’ll be brief is because this stuff is super important for me regarding what kind of human i want to be, and also how i see the other humans in the world, but based on how my husband’s eyes have rolled up into his head a couple of times, i think i have a tendency to drone on and on about it. Pity the poor man when i’m trying to figure something out. Heh.

I was raised “right wing” but would currently be considered “left wing”.
I’ve decided that, with respect to interpersonal relationships, i don’t know what the hell those terms mean.

The recent political campaigns and elections i’ve seen in my province, in my country, and in my closest neighbouring nation, have all been contentious and divisive. I’ve seen so much fear and anger and hatred amongst people on both sides of the political spectrum and i get it.

I SO TOTALLY, TOTALLY GET IT.

You do you. Say your piece. Trim your friends list. Make your ultimatums. Draw your lines in the sand. Curate. Block. Plant your flag at the top of your hill and defend it against all comers.

I want you to know i believe in your right to do that, and i have no judgment about whether it’s good or bad, or you should or shouldn’t do it. It’s your life and you should live it as you choose and do what you think is right. I support you in this respect.

This is a belief and intention statement from me, about me.

I have thoughts and beliefs about things like religion, politics, sex, family, the law and law enforcement, the rights of other living beings, the environment, the planet, the universe, what’s right, what’s wrong, who’s right and who’s wrong… all of it. Just like you do, and i can guarandamntee that there’s not a single human with whom i completely agree with about everything out there. If there is, it’s because neither of us have the time or the inclination to discuss ALL OF THE THINGS, and our jaws are starting to lock up and we’ve got a headache from nodding so much.

What i believe is that there is room enough here for everyone, conditionally. Those conditions would include tolerance for differences of opinion and points of view, and a willingness to be wrong and to see things from another perspective. And the earth could stand a chance of being a truly transcendent place if everyone actively tried to understand everyone else.

Maybe that’s just me. Anyway…

Maybe it’s also just my perception that the divide between “sides” is getting wider and deeper. However, maybe there are others out there who’ve been watching it happen and are becoming more and more concerned for our future. And maybe, like me, you’ve also been wondering what in the name of all that’s good in the world, can little ole nobody me do about it?

This is not the part where i tell you. I can’t because i don’t know.
I think that most of us by now have gotten the message that we all have a voice and we all have something to say, but there is another piece of that message, a yang to its yin, that i believe has been lost.

If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Although that was initially intended as a philosophical thought experiment regarding observation and knowledge of reality, i can use it to illustrate the point that i’m trying to make, which is this: Have you really spoken if no one has listened to what it is that you said? Does it matter what you say if no one listens? If everyone’s clamouring to be heard, who is left to hear?

I’ve decided that i am. I’m left to listen, and listen i will.

Look, i get frustrated, too. I think everyone should think what i think because i’m clearly right.
But i read the same tones and hear the same inflections in the words of people espousing various beliefs that in my opinion go from nonsensical to repugnant. So then WTF? I used to go to snark pages to blow off some steam about how incredibly ignorant and stubborn some people can be, but i quickly found that i didn’t feel good about participating. Over the past few months i’ve found myself not going to those pages at all, not even just to read them, because i don’t even feel relief anymore. For me those groups are just echo chambers, and i think they gave me a false sense of security, and gave me an excuse not to think for myself, not do my due diligence, and close my ears to opposing opinions, beliefs, and points of view.

This does not mean i’m suddenly open to changing my mind about all or even any of my beliefs. I have good reasons for the things that i believe to be right and good, and i can back it up. What i’m saying is that i’ll listen, even if i disagree -and more than that- i’ll listen respectfully. I will tell you bluntly though, i may not find your beliefs or opinions worthy of any respect, but as long as you can have a civilised and relatively reasonable discussion with me, you will have my quiet attention.

I will try my best to understand where you’re coming from.
I will not patronise you, neither with my demeanor nor with my responses.
I may believe you to be dead wrong. I may even find what you’re saying to be morally reprehensible.
But i will hear you out. I will listen to you and try to understand where you’re coming from, unless or until you either become intolerably disrespectful or aggressive, or i perceive to my satisfaction that you’re being intentionally or otherwise wilfully ignorant, at which point i will end our interchange in as decent and quick a manner as i can manage.

For myself, i cannot see how i can do otherwise, and not be contributing to this increasingly wide, deep, and treacherous divide between recognisable and appreciable sides of any and all issues. I don’t know how good i’ll be at this, but wherever this place is that i’m starting at, it is my sincere promise that i’ll get better at it.
Listening.
Understanding.
Communicating respectfully.

Okay, so maybe you think this isn’t short or even ish. If you don’t believe it, just ask my husband, and be vigorously assured.

Have as good a day as you’re able.

Love and Peace,
~H~
P.S. Isn’t one expected to be dropping resolutions rather than adding more at this stage?

Thanks 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~