Category Archives: leaving family behind

When You Feel Lonely

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Reblogged from the amazing Martha Beckhttp://marthabeck.com/2012/11/when-you-feel-lonely/

 

At times in my life, I have felt utterly lonely. At other times, I’ve had disgusting infectious diseases. Try admitting these things in our culture, and you’ll find they evoke identical responses: Listeners cringe with a mixture of pity, revulsion, and alarm. In a culture where everyone wants a happy family and a sizzling relationship, the phrase “I’m lonely” rings like the medieval leper’s shout of “Unclean! Unclean!”

Fortunately, we now treat disease not by isolating its victims, but by diagnosing and healing them. Finding those who can comprehend the emptiness of your heart, diagnosing and ameliorating its ailments, can keep you productively engaged when your loneliness is at its worst.

The Time-Tested BLD System

Allow me to introduce the Beck Loneliness Diagnostic System, which is based on years of research I’ve conducted by brooding about my own problems during bouts of emotional eating. My system divides loneliness into three categories—absolute, separation, and existential—each of which has different remedies. I prescribe two courses of action for each type: quick fixes (to feel better immediately) and long-term solutions (to banish it for good).

Type 1: Absolute Loneliness
This malady occurs when we believe, rightly or wrongly, that there is no one who understands us and no one who wants to. Absolutely lonely people have few personal interactions of any kind. Isolation creates indescribable despair, for which typical self-help advice—”Have a bubble bath! Try aromatherapy!”—is ridiculously inadequate. The only saving grace of this state is that it often hurts enough to motivate people to try the following prescriptions.

QUICK FIX
Basic human contact—the meeting of eyes, the exchanging of words—is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain. If you’re feeling abandoned by the world, interact with anyone you can—today. If you can afford it, hire a good therapist; if you can’t, hire a bad one. Attend a 12-step group, claiming codependency if you have no addictions. Sift wheat from chaff later—right now, it’s “Hail, fellow! Well met.”

LONG-TERM SOLUTION
If you’re living completely on your own, you must find understanding somewhere, somehow. No matter how scary it is to learn and use social skills, absolute loneliness is scarier. The best method to break out of solitary confinement is to seek to understand others, and help them understand you.

A simple three-step communication strategy is the most effective way to accomplish this. When you meet people, show real appreciation, then genuine curiosity; offer an honest compliment (step 1) followed by a question (step 2). Say “Cool hat. Where’d you get it?” Most often this approach will result in a brief, pleasant chat. Occasionally, though, someone will answer in such an interesting or charming way that you’ll want to respond by volunteering information about yourself (step 3), such as “I can’t wear hats—they make me look like a mongoose.” Repeat these three steps, and you’ll gradually connect at deeper and deeper levels.

The key word is gradually. Understanding is a dance of seven veils in which strangers take turns revealing a little more about themselves—not everything at once. Be patient, and the three-step combo can take you all the way from discussions of headgear to conversations like “You’re amazing. Shall we get married?”

Type 2: Separation Loneliness
If you force yourself to communicate with people appreciatively and curiously, you’ll eventually emerge from absolute loneliness. However, you’ll still experience what I call separation loneliness. Traveling, empty nesting, and almost any job will distance you from friends and family. Only since the Industrial Revolution have most people worked in places away from their homes or been left to raise small children without the help of multiple adults, making for an unsupported life.

QUICK FIX
Use separations to remind yourself how wonderful it is that you have people to miss. Solo time can motivate you to demonstrate that love. Focus on communication over distance. Tell interesting stories on the phone or in an e-mail about your day. Let your favorite people see life through your eyes. Ask them about what they’ve been experiencing, and listen or read with total concentration. You’ll come to know one another in new ways, and absence really will make your hearts grow fonder. Once that’s done, I recommend finding understanding by doing what the song says: If you can’t be with the one you love…love the one you’re with. Use your appreciation-curiosity-openness combo on the folks around you.

LONG-TERM SOLUTION
This remedy requires facing some hard choices. If you’re continuously aching to be with people you never see, the rewards of your career or nifty home in the exurbs may not make up for the sacrifice. Many of my clients decide that their horrible jobs aren’t worth forfeiting years with their family. Others stop hanging out with people—even relatives—who drain them, in order to be with those who inspire them. You don’t have to make such decisions immediately, but you do have to make them. Every day brings new choices. If you want to end your isolation, you must be honest about what you want at a core level and decide to go after it.

Type 3: Existential Loneliness
The final type of estrangement is a bedrock fact of the human condition: the hollowness we feel when we realize no one can help us face the moments when we are most bereft. No one else can take risks for us, or face our losses on our behalf, or give us self-esteem. No one can spare us from life’s slings and arrows, and when death comes, we meet it alone. That is simply the way of things, and after a while, we may see it’s not so bad. In fact, existential loneliness, the great burden of human consciousness, is also its great gift—if we give it the right treatment.

QUICK FIX
One word—art. In the face of great sorrow or joy, love or loss, many human beings who went before me learned to express themselves sublimely through clumsy physical things: paint, clay, words, the movement of their bodies. They created works of art that remind me I am not alone in feeling alone. Seeking the company of people who have learned to transcend the isolation of an individual life, who have felt as I feel and managed to express it, is the best treatment I’ve found for existential loneliness. (Notice that this advice is the opposite of the quick fix for “absolute” loneliness; you may need both prescriptions.) Make your own artistic connections. Read novels, listen to samba, watch documentaries: Seek art from every time and place, in any form, to connect with those who really move you.

LONG-TERM SOLUTION
Same word—art. The quick fix is to appreciate others’ artistry; the real deal requires that you, yourself, become an artist. I’m not asking you to rival Picasso or Mozart, but I would challenge you to think the way they thought, to put aside convention and embarrassment and do whatever it takes to convey your essential self. Use anything you can think of to understand and be understood, and you’ll discover the creativity that connects you with others.

If you begin to apply these prescriptions, whether by drumming up the courage to connect, choosing a moment of love over a moment of work, or creating something as silly as a bad cartoon, you’ll soon find yourself stumbling across beauty and communion. Loneliness, far from revealing some defect, is proof that your innate search for connection is intact. So instead of hiding your loneliness, bring it into the light. Honor it. Treat it. Heal it. You’ll find that it returns the favor.


the puddle of self love…

magicThere are so many wonderful concepts in Terri St. Cloud’s recent blog post, “real feel“.  I would strongly encourage you to take the time to visit her site, Bone Sigh Arts, and read the post on her reflections on self love.  Near the end of the blog post is one of my favorite parts where she says she wants to swim in the sea of love, but then realizes that she may in fact be more in the pond of love.  Ha, I loved that!

Its so easy to be vulnerable and open after reading Terri’s writing and art.  She’s a master at self reflection and being vulnerable.  Seriously, Brene Brown should be studying her!

Figuring that I have to start somewhere in the monumental task of unlearning unloving behaviors and learning to practice self love, I find myself more in the puddle of self love.  Not swimming in the sea of love, or being in Terri’s pond of love but a big puddle of love. Its an okay place to be and I’m happy here.  I’m splashing around, discovering what works and what doesn’t, clearing out the muck to see the treasures hidden deep in my puddle.

Following Terri’s lead of vulnerability and self disclosure, I will admit that I don’t take as good of care of myself as I could and certainly not as well as I care for my daughter, husband, pets, garden, friends, community, job etc.  And the answer to the why don’t I take better care of myself question is that I haven’t fully learned how to yet.

There is great comfort in seeing that I’ve taught my daughter how to love and accept herself.  I’ve been a consistent reminder to her (actually she sometimes compares me to an annoying gnat buzzing around) that she is a beautiful creature with extraordinary and unique gifts.  I see how she cares for herself and I feel great pride in that. But still it gets me wondering why I don’t practice it more with myself.

Actually, over the last 5-10 years but self care has increased exponentially. And like Terri, I’ve had so many, many moments where I didn’t know who I was, what kind of life I wanted, what sorts of books I enjoyed reading.  For myself, it comes from not only, lack of a role model but actual negative reinforcement to the concept of caring for one’s self.  Coming from a family that was bred on stoicism and weaned on martyrdom, I was taught and shown that life was a chore and one didn’t complain about it.  It was nose to the grindstone, don’t look up until you’re done, giving yourself a break was a sign of weakness kind of attitude.  Any peeks to the inside of ourselves could reveal our true selves which in my family, was the sworn enemy.  There was no telling where that kind of selfishness might lead you.

Geesh, so here I am.  Solo from my family, learning to splash in my puddle with my friends and acquaintances who believe in vulnerability, authenticity and the power of whole hearted love.  I like it here even though it still feels foreign.  Making major life changes do feel foreign for a while, until you reach a crossing over point where you look back and can’t believe that you ever lived as you did.  As I’m playing in my puddle, learning how I might swim in the pond of self love, I watch and model others who are practicing the same thing.  Some are in front of me, while some are behind me.  We are all learning at our own rates, blossoming in our own time.

I continue to thank everyone I’ve met along the journey who has challenged my old patterns of thinking and inspired me to adopt a more loving approach to myself.  I’m an eager student willing to learn.  I send gratitude to the universe for placing the perfect people and events in front of me.

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a day of questions….

a day of questionsIt is indeed a day of questions. This particular day of questioning has been followed by weeks of questioning.

Its an awkward junior high dance of where to place my feet, what do I do with my hands, how can I stop sweating each nuance of my being?

I suppose each day brings me closer to my truth.  I’m not sure why my truth has been so buried.  Who decided that it was to be my life’s journey to dig through the muck and proclaim my findings a treasure?  Why is it taking so long?  My post it notes that line the area above my desk say to practice acceptance.  They also remind me that I’m entitled to make mistakes and that I can’t start the chapter of your new life if you keep re-reading the last one.  I wonder if I’m not assimilating the lessons of my life or if I just have too many post it notes?

Today’s biggest question is one of my voice.  Usually my biggest questions are regarding my voice; where it is, how loud is it, how do I use it to the greatest good?  But underneath those questions lie the deepest challenge I face today.  What do you do when it is apparent that your voice and message make those in your life uncomfortable?  Where is the line of discernment between how the individual should proceed when they form a part of a larger  group and what is their responsibility to the greater good? Should one compromise the group for personal benefit?  Does one pray for the fear to be released from the family/community/church/friends with whom you’ve made a life with or does one practice a life unspoken or better yet, a life carefully spoken to those only ready to hear?  And if so, how does one know the difference?

I’ve been quite drawn lately to the plight of the gay person who struggles with whether or not to come out.  I find this a struggle that is similar to mine in the sense that neither can reveal the story truest to themselves without wondering how detrimental or incredible the outcome might be.  How does one make that final, irreversible decision and action?  It’s a long standing fantasy of mine to be able to tell the story of an abused and compromised child only to break the shackles of shame and liberated by the act of coming out.  It seems as if it would be freeing beyond belief.  Not taking the steps toward fulfilling that fantasy is a sort of slow emotional suicide.  That scenario involves lots of pretending, not stating the obvious (well at least the obvious to me) and leading my life with as much rhythm as a flat line on an EKG.  A basically unappealing and empty existence.

Is the solution a matter of re-framing one’s thinking to accommodate only thoughts of gratitude and a positive nature?  Isn’t that denial?

Could the whole matter of avoiding the tough subjects in life some sort of grace that I’ve yet to develop?  Isn’t that fear?

Should I practice more acceptance of what is and isn’t in my life and resign to a life without unabashed celebration of my total self?  Isn’t that numbing and settling?

I’d love to hear from anyone who not only has had the same questions but any solutions to this personal crisis as well.  Wishing I had more answers than questions, I leave that to you.


I’m the dissenter….

Recently I read a conversation on Facebook where a friend was crying out in pain due to her family shunning her.  Her pleas were confused, angry, sad. By her standards,  she’d been loyal and loving in her gestures toward her family over the years but they had chosen to ostracize her for reasons that they wouldn’t share with her. This challenged many feelings inside her.  She questioned her reasons for staying true to herself, thinking maybe she should have been softer with them, perhaps even more enabling.  Many times she’d reached out attempting to find a common ground with them, something to build a new foundation upon, to no avail. But the bottom line of her pain was that she missed them.  Terribly.  Her emotional loss visits her often.  And I felt her pain even from where I was sitting 1000 miles away.

If you change out the players and setting, you have my exact family situation.  Since my friend and I feel many of the same feelings towards ourselves and our families is probably why we’ve stayed close.   It’s also why this post struck so deeply.

As hard as I try to maintain contact with my family, they just aren’t motivated to return my gestures.  As I’ve grown and learned more about myself, I’ve been able to temper my anger toward our abusive upbringing that we all were subject to.  I, above anyone else, know the deep wounds etched in our young psyches.  I guess I always figured that this fact would make me safe to them.  I understood. I got it.  I was one of them.  Yet somehow, sitting in one of my many therapist’s offices over the years, I convinced myself that if I healed, worked hard, found the solutions for us and held up the light of illumination that they would somehow follow me along that hallowed and healing path.  My fractured reasoning combined with a dogged and desperate approach to enforce my fractured reasoning would result in many, many failed attempts and lots of heartache.

For a while, I was just plain pissed.  After all, I was one of them, how could they turn their backs on me?  I had gone through divorce from an abusive partner, poverty that left me selling my possessions including my car, a child to care for and a tender spirit that had given so much that she’d lost herself completely.  They turned their heads, they wanted nothing to do with me.  When the anger began to wain, the depression ensued, medications were taken, anxiety filled my days with my child.

This was a painful, painful time and the healing took the form of one minute after another, one hour, then one day.  My trust eventually extended to several women friends who gradually over time replaced my family of origin.  We created our own family gatherings, raised our children and moved on piece by piece.  But this was hard, hard work.  And dammit…I didn’t want a replacement for my sisters, nieces and cousins, I wanted THEM.  They were the ones that my heart stayed attached to, they were the ones whose blood my body recognized simply by standing close by or thinking of them.  What I realized is that there aren’t enough curse words, things to be broken or tears to be shed that will make another person return to you if they don’t want to or simply can’t.  And it was in this last phrase that I finally took another step toward healing.

My family can’t be around me.  They just can’t.  And they don’t.

I don’t exactly know why or do I have any explanations as to my conclusion but have had many possibilities given to me by loving friends, sponsors and therapists.  One thought is that I am the one person in the family that left.  I am the dissenter.  Like the little girl in the photograph, she’s the one who is standing up, preparing to separate herself from the circle.

In their eyes, I chose to honor myself, putting my individual needs over the group’s needs, get the hell out making sure that my life and my daughter’s life would never reflect that stagnant, cesspool upbringing that I had.  I had left the cult and the cult like thinking that defined us. Following this line of thinking, my family then shunned me as a religious community might shun those who no longer follow the thinking of the group.  So maybe, we were really just simply a sociological~philosophical~anthropological~spiritual textbook example? That’s the cunundrum, its all of these truths but  it. is. not. simple.  Have I overthought and personalized a situation that perhaps historically has happened throughout time?  Believing I was not unique actually made me feel a bit better.

I search for reasons behind the fact that they can’t be around me.  My friend and Inner Bonding facilitator, simply states that they are too wounded.  Their inner child feels too wounded to be able to give any love back to me at this point and maybe never.  But what does that mean for me?  That I never know them again?  That years go by and people die and new babies are born and the children get married and I’m never, ever a part of this?  I was wounded too but found a way to free myself, why can’t they step up and do the same?  We could lift each other up instead of giving up and staying so stuck, perpetuating the same cycles over and over.  They have the same ability that I did to throw off the blinders and go out into the world and experience other ways of life outside the cult commune.  Wow, look who just showed up!  The angry cheerleader strikes again!  I want to inspire them with my chosen set of values, yet when they don’t respond, I’m pissed.  Hmmm…..

Actually, I’m hurt and sad.  I miss them and I want them whole and happy.  I want to see their children and have them know my daughter.  Then, I’d like to throw in a family reunion where we all have T-shirts printed the same, with a rainbow overhead, while we frolic the day away proclaiming our undying familial love for each other.  Insert my family as interesting, well read, politically moderate and non-racist individuals who love themselves and perform altruistic work for a living preferably with an environmental flair.  And you can see where this goes….off into fantasy land. But since this is reality and the previous scenario is not going to happen, I learn there is absolutely nothing to do about it.  Except to pray for their peace.  And well, there is that acceptance part.

Using my best  DBT (Dialectal Behavior Therapy) skills, I stay as centered as I can and allow the feelings to wash over me.  My mantra being that I must accept myself and my family for who they are and what they can give.  Just accept….with compassion….the place where we are at this given moment.  Send them love.  Send me love.  Breathe.

My niece responds via text  “damn, I miss you”.  She has read the quarterly upbeat newsletter type thing that I do.  Actually she confesses that she received it a week before but looked at it with dread for days before opening and reading it.  That puzzles me but I let it go.  My newsletter is similar to what families send out around the holidays, updating family and friends that they don’t see in person throughout the year.  I’ve chosen this method of communication by default.  Since we don’t have family reunions or holidays together or even Facebook connections, it is my safest, best and most creative way to stay in touch.  The subjects are benign and safe.  This issue was about the dogs in our lives.

Here’s the other thoughts that I try to release from my heart….How can you miss someone and let that be the overriding feeling?  As in, I miss you so much but will do absolutely nothing about it.  I will simply choose to sit here and miss you and deny myself the experience of trying to work things out or even let myself think that I deserve a chance at happiness?  I’m going to tell you just enough to let you know I still think of you,  making the move to reach out and give you a quick, elusive, snippet of love and then yank it back so fast that you won’t even really know it was there.  An illusion, a wisp, a fantasy that can be denied.

I mailed out 12 of my newsletters to my family a month ago and to date, I’ve received one text of  “damn, i miss you”.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Give yourself love and compassion and then extend it to them.

Related articles:

6 Steps of Inner Bonding

Dr. Margaret Paul,  Do you chase when someone withdraws?


PAY ATTENTION

she is lost again.

and i’m the only one she can speak through.  i am her voice and her vessel.  i carry her and speak for her.

hurled into the swirling spiral by the Dreamtime, no earthly choice just the mystical presence that puts her in that place between worlds.

the animals were there again: bear, turtle, owl, wolf, skunk.  each bringing a forceful message of  PAY ATTENTION! to the signs we give you.

she frantically hurled herself through the streets of this in-between world, trying to speak to strangers but her words weren’t understood, her language was foreign to each passerby, she couldn’t hear them either no matter how hard she concentrated and tried, though their mouths moved, the roaring in her head didn’t let their sound in.

the bear appeared growling, reared up on its hind legs and she quickly changed her path.

the skunk met her at another intersection to quickly alert her of its reputation and she turned and fled again.

she flopped in a grassy spot under a tree to rest, to find herself, wanting the path toward home. she felt her body relax until the wolf’s howl pierced the night and snapped her back into alertness.  PAY ATTENTION!

next to her she sees the spotted arc of turtle’s back and reached for her.  to her horror, the turtle shell cracked in half revealing the soft underbelly of the creature inside.  the girl knew instantly that she hadn’t been protecting herself.  she wept for her and blessed the turtle for its gift, sending her home to the Mother.

the cracked shell…a message…from the in-between….PAY ATTENTION!

leaning against the tree, she closed her eyes and was transported to the sacred spiral again. this time landing on a beautiful, gilded carousel.  eyes wide shut, she feels the hard, unyielding exterior that she had wrapped her small arms around.  she feels its slow, mechanical bobbing, resting her head upon its plastic mane willing herself to open her eyes.

finding courage to peer out through the spinning of the carousel, she spotted familiar faces in the surrounding crowd .  her sister, her mother, her husband and daughter.  each of them slightly turned so as to not meet her eyes, almost with their back to her.  they know her but wish they didn’t. they don’t like her when she’s in-between worlds.

spinning. swirling. bobbing.

then…all noise stopped in her head. silence. purposeful quiet. so the sounds coming through can be heard clearly and distinctly.

first a faint groan, followed by the slightest pop.  then picking up speed, the cascade of

splintering

SPLINTERING

SPLINTERING  the air.

the tree that stands alone in the forest, heavy with age and stress, fulfilling its time and finally surrendering to gravity.  the crescendo ending in a deafening thud as it has just split itself in half.

PAY ATTENTION!

she snaps back again. back to the carousel.

under her she feels the surface turn warm and pliable. energy radiating, coming to life.

living

breathing

snorting horse breaks the shackles around its legs and she grabs on tight.  unsteady at first, she synchronizes to its rhythm.

fear turns to joy.  heartbreak falls away. 

she feels the wind on her face as horse gallops her through the people, through the fields, to the ocean.

free. alive. wild. joy.

leaving all the people behind, leaving the in-between, she doesn’t look back.


“the boy” drunk dials me….

“the boy” called me today which he does periodically.  The younger generation call it drunk dialing but I know this pattern from a historical perspective and know he just needs to make contact with a person from that time who understands him.

Certain phone calls I rarely answer but his I do every time.  This was the first time that he was stumbling, almost incoherent drunk and to top it off, he was driving.  After extracting the information that he was minutes from home, I kept the conversation light until he reassured me that was in his driveway, out of the car and inside his house.

“When are you coming home?”, he slurs into the phone.

His voice was an immediate shock of familiarity even though its been a year since I’ve heard from him.  His pleading words took my breath away.  I didn’t expect him to call let alone ask me this tough question.  He misses me, he says.  He doesn’t want anything, just to visit with me.  Even now as a full grown man, his deepest wishes are to have companionship, connection, family.  Our sober conversations where his feelings are sufficiently stuffed down, wouldn’t have revealed his pain. But today, his emotions unleashed and fueled by alcohol, they came tumbling out.

My heart is immediately beating with his. The rhythm synchronistic and strong.  We are small children again marking time as the cycle of physical, emotional and sexual abuse alters us forever.  It changes who we might have been and steals all opportunity for joy in our future.  We are branded, he and I, with trauma.  Deep, imprinting, searing scars.

I tell him that I’ve been taking care of myself and that I miss him too.  I hear relief in his voice at my words that I’m doing good.  He wants to know that I’m okay and that I can always call him for any #%&!ing thing I need.  His voice is urgent as if he’d been thinking those thoughts all afternoon at the tavern and had to purge them quickly.  His courage coming from cheap rum and cokes.

As children we were there for each other.  We were handed a situation that no child should ever have to deal with.   5-yr olds should never have to know how to defend against raging, drunken, ignorant adults wielding their pathology on them, but this is, in fact, is what we had to do.  We became expert ninja fighters at a very tender age.  In fact, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fighting.  The sensation of burning slaps, welts and impact upon our small bodies is a feeling that has always been present.  Back to back, we would stand, flailing hopelessly against people 10 times our size.  But we always, always tried.  Defending each other was the only dignity we had in that cruel world we grew up in.  An earlier post tells a more complete story. https://rescuinglittlel.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/boy-torture/

I tell him that soon, I promise, I will come visit him.  I do not ever use the word home as it is not.  My home is where my beautiful husband and daughter live with our dogs, our garden, our family here.  But I know what he means, he’s asking me when am I coming back there to help him defend against the demons that are in his head.  The ones that huge amounts of alcohol consumed in the middle of the day can’t even come close to drowning out.  He wants to know if there is any peace beyond the crazy, futile gyrations that he takes himself on.  He wants to know, what Van Gogh perhaps imagined when he created the series of paintings near the end of his life.

Van Gogh’s image “Worn Out”

Vincent Van Gogh, himself,  wrote in Van Gogh: The Life. VanGoghBiography.com

I was trying to say this in this print — but I can’t say it as beautifully, as strikingly as reality, of which this is only a dim reflection seen in a dark mirror — that it seems to me that one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the existence of ‘something on high’ in which Millet believed, namely in the existence of a God and an eternity, is the unutterably moving quality that there can be in the expression of an old man like that, without his being aware of it perhaps, as he sits so quietly in the corner of his hearth. At the same time something precious, something noble, that can’t be meant for the worms. … This is far from all theology — simply the fact that the poorest woodcutter, heath farmer or miner can have moments of emotion and mood that give him a sense of an eternal home that he is close to.”

This is what “the boy” wants to know in his moments of emotion and mood.  Where is his eternal home?

And reaches for the closest anchor he can think of.    Me.


shining Father’s shoes

This is going to be one of those stories that makes me queasy to put down on paper.

I already have a tightness in my stomach and my head is starting to swim.  I don’t feel eloquent and words are not flowing from me.   I  feel little, vulnerable, and so desperate. But I need to write about this and force myself to go forward with it because to truly release the hold that trauma and shame have on one’s soul, you must drag it into the light no matter how difficult that is.  It must be removed from the rat’s maze in one’s head, doomed to run the same rutted path.  Once its out, you can look at it, dissect it, let your loved ones look squarely at your worst fears and help reassure you.  Otherwise it stays inside and festers into illness of your body and soul.

Somewhere as a little girl of 5 or 6, I got the idea that men liked having their shoes shined.  I’m thinking that during the 40 and 50’s that may have been true when men dressed more formally and wore dress shoes as daily attire.  I’m sure it was considered a treat to sit at one of those stations and have someone spiff up their shoes a bit and most people’s houses I knew had a tin of shoe polish and a shining cloth as part of their household items.  I must have seen these items lying around or saw a scene in a movie of men having their shoes shined and internalized this thought.

This is where my thinking goes astray.

Why on earth, would I consider myself to be so subordinate and subservient to put myself in a position that I would kneel in an attendant position in front of my father, voluntarily lower myself to an inferior status, is a question that I haven’t completely answered yet.  I  know that I would practice on shoes that he wasn’t wearing, rubbing vigorously as if on a time schedule, practicing my efficiency. I don’t remembering him ever asking me to shine his shoes, I just wanted to. I’m guessing I thought it would gain me some approval from my ever distant father, the father whose only attention came at night, in secret, in the dark.  

I wanted to do anything, including prostitute myself to gain his affection and admiration.  This I know for sure, my motivation was his approval.  I would wait for him to come home, having rehearsed and practiced my craft and convince him to sit on the upper part of the picnic table while putting his feet on the seating area.  It was there that I would kneel in front of him, apply the polish and pop the buffing cloth showing my expertise until he would smile at my skills.  Even at those moments when  had his approval, I found it still wasn’t enough and proceeded to spend my lifetime trying to fill that leaking sieve of a psyche that would spill its contents as fast as it would come to me.

Adding insult to injury, my family, so very cruel with words, reinforced my shame by reminding me that I was a deplorable, pathetic girl who couldn’t get enough attention.  “you are a spoiled rotten child who always has to be the center of attention”  echo in my mind. Those types of scenarios set the stage for a lifetime driven to fill the emptiness by doing anything to gain approval from my father and subsequently other men throughout my life.  Shining shoes was just the beginning.

My daddy taught me to be comfortable kneeling down in front of him, being servant-like in my approach to him, letting me humiliate myself with so little regard for my dignitiy.  Weren’t you the one who should have instilled a sense of myself instead of teaching me to be your dirty little slave child?  You had already stripped me of the innocence  of my body and now you were closing in my soul.  Damn you.  I hate you so much right now.

I see that beautiful little girl with her rag and polish, waiting for you to come home so she could endear herself to you by lowering and subordinating herself and all the while you were perfectly, fucking fine with it?  How come I can look at her and see her beauty and you can’t? 

Thank God for my anger because it is my fury that sets her free.  Here’s where she and I rewrite the story.  I tell her to get up and I hold her tight, whisking her away to a place where she is honored and cherished and not depersonalized.  I set her down in a soft place to heal and teach her ways to find her beauty.

You never thought I would grow up to be intelligent and courageous about all of this dysfunction, did you?  You never thought that I could outsmart and outwit you by escaping far into my brain only to thaw out later.  You had not idea of my strength as I tackled all the screwed up thinking given to me by you. BUT I DID.  Guess what? You are dead and I’m over here finding and claiming my power.  Little by little, memory by memory, I am blotting you out, I’m blotting out all of the men you let near me, I’m reprogramming my brain, one tiny detail at a time until soon, I will have a completely new way of seeing myself and the terror I grew up with.

So yeah, I knelt before you, like you were some savior or God to me.  I did that.  I was a child that didn’t know any better and relied on a monster for a father for some shred of attention..

But that was then and this is today, I’ve long gotten her out of that cesspool of existence.  

Kiss my ass and shine your own fucking shoes.


weirdly grateful

i’m feeling weirdly grateful as i sit in a coffee shop playing hooky from life.

i don’t want to be at home planning my holiday dinner to make everyone else feel as if we have all met some crazy criteria and checked off some box of “there, that’s done”.  its not making me feel good at all and am wondering why do i’m doing this to myself.  i have to stop the planning that is making me feel crazy and get in touch with what is making me feel mean instead of just saying no, this is not what i want.  there are so many layers of issues here and i must go somewhere to sort them out, so here i am figuring out what hurts before i can find gratitude.  and to top it off, i don’t feel eloquent.  i’m not inspirational right now and my essence isn’t shining through.  the words aren’t really flowing, they feel stuck in my throat and i want to cry.

first and foremost, i miss my daughter.  i haven’t completely adjusted to not having her in my life, she is forever angry at me and even if she shows up to the holiday gathering, it won’t be like she is really there in spirit or with love.  that is the part that i miss.  the sweet little girl who drew cards for me for my birthday and shopped for my christmas gift on the sly, the tiniest of gestures that i recall as monumental. slowly rotating that thought,  i’m grateful to have the most wonderful of daughters and for the moment of balance where i surround her with love during her time of confusion and questioning.   a huge gift for the both of us.

second to that, i miss my family.  not my husband’s family but mine.  my tribe, the ones who have the same blood running through their veins.  i appreciate and am grateful to my husband’s family.  they have provided me with a security and a comfort that i have never known.  their longstanding history of stability and enough money has benefitted me greatly and for the most part, that is where i want to be.  but sometimes, i want my own people.  even though i know that they aren’t good for me, that most of them are in a seriously amount of denial about the incidents of abuse in our family and even though that i have to look hard to find anything in common with them.  many of my family are smart and have bright, sharp minds and wit.  but what they do with their god given talents is where the true sadness of the story lies. they can’t see their gifts, they can’t love themselves enough to stop perpetuating the cycle of isolation and ignorance that was handed to us.  i was the one who got angry and got out of there and not only handed that cycle back, i threw it at their faces and shot it from a gun aimed directly at their hearts. so, i’m grateful for my family that i grew up with and the ability to know what is good for me.  kind of the serenity prayer of the wisdom to know the difference.

next, i miss my tribe of women, the alice’s of my life.  marianne and i were ruminating over this last night on the phone about how life changes and moves forward and we lose some friends/husbands/lovers/children, hold onto some and gain some new ones.  a bittersweet movement that we have become accustomed to its comings and goings, noting that it doesn’t sting like it used to.  the first time i experienced that kind of rejection, betrayal, loss, it knocked me to my knees, i couldn’t breathe for weeks and felt my legs were made of jello.  i didn’t know what to do with that crazy amount of hurt, it suffocated me.

but now, i’ve weathered divorce, parental deaths, injury, loss of health, recovered memories of abuse and a daughter who finds me intolerable and while this all sucks big time and often sends me the bed to pull the covers up over my head, it doesn’t suffocate me any longer.  i can breathe, not great, not strong or not deeply, but i still function.  for that i am weirdly grateful.  now i know the difference between regular-i’m-human kind of hurt and trauma that cripples and maims because i’ve survived it.

so i sit here and force myself to write about feelings.  it helps to know that one of my heroes, Martha Beck, isn’t a party person either.  her post today reveals something i would have never suspected about such an successful and together woman as herself; she struggles with social anxiety.  wow. i would never in a million years judge her as less than because of this, yet continue to judge myself for needing solitude at this time in my life.

can i be grateful just to have learned this for today and begin to start knowing myself well enough to accept this? can i be grateful for the courage to write my words while stammering and awkward?

i continue the search for purpose behind the madness and gratitude where i’ve only known anger and fear.  this is why i left the house, this is why i can’t stay there and risk hurting my gentle husband. i have to be the inspiration i need right now. i say no to the party and yes to me.

drowning kittens

Kitten Love

i scare myself alot when i remember too hard or too much.  i would prefer that i see tapes of waltons mountain or disney movies played across the insides of my eyelids but instead i see roaches crawling out my skin or shadows of a fiendish demon child.  this particular one drowns kittens.  so removed from her beautiful gentle soul, she finds a litter of kittens recently swept away from their mother by a powerful rain storm and attempts to hold them under the water until their eyes pop out and they stop struggling.

i watch myself as i fade back and forth from me to the one watching me.  the ground is soggy and full as i walk across the yard, puddles everywhere, my shoes are already full and the water up to my mid calf.  i hear the kittens before i see them and make gestures toward saving them, plodding toward them, hearing their tiny mewing, no mother in sight.  i’m suddenly impacted with what they feel; lost, too small to make it on their own, disoriented from recent events.  i gather them up in my dress holding them close and think about starting back toward the farmhouse.

i stop and look back over my shoulder for several reasons.

i couldn’t be more than 4 and yet i’m out here far from the house and no one notices.  for a brief moment i’m wondering if i am in trouble for being gone too long or too far.  yet i remind myself again that i am invisible.  its not a new feeling; one that will continue through adulthood;  i will always remain invisible to my family.  for one to be noticed, one would have to see or have vision, and neither of those characteristics my family possesses.  to put it another way, more accurately, children are simply livestock; at least in my world they were.

stripped of any unique characteristics of our personhood ,we got fed and clothed.  then the adults waited for us to grow up to become worthwhile in terms of our service to them.  time couldn’t be wasted on companionship, reading, learning, talking; our worth was determined by the chores we do, meals we prepare, amount of vegetables picked from the garden, or for our bodies given to the men for their lowly and despicable gratification.  for generations, this family has failed to make any movement from even the base level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; its been this way always.

the shadow clouds my memory here, the heaviness spreading across my eyes leaving me with the quick, kick in the gut feeling of a memory so painful that my conscious just erases it.  selectively my brain intuits the bad information and the door slams shut. i suspect the little girl feels the kittens have no future without their mother and death seems the humane option.  the child’s reasoning is black and white only; no mother for love and protection equals pain.  death is preferred over that fate.  as an adult, it is so difficult to hold and speak for this tortured child whose brain has been forced to cope more in the dark side than the light and cannot see options other than provided by the ignorant.  her act of drowning the animals was a merciful one meant to relieve the inevitable suffering.  and even though her sweet gentle soul has already been splintered into a million tiny shards, she is unyielding.  she won’t stop sending messages through the mundane or the divine to get the help she needs to achieve grace for her broken soul; this lifetime or the next twenty, it doesn’t matter.  and that’s what i’m here for; to put us back together and stop this insane cycle.

i snap back and i’m holding a kitten under the water in the deep puddle.  it struggles with all its might, scratching my small hands and writhing for air.  i watch myself bear down on it harder and push down further, seeing small red lines appear on the backs of my hands, listening to the other kittens mewing hysterically.  i feel nothing.  absolutely nothing.  i should but i don’t.  i want to vomit while i write this because it isn’t me, not really me but yet it is and this is my attempt to let her tell her most awful secrets.  now she gets to say that things happened to her that made her do awful things that she so desperately wants forgiveness for, to be entirely heard and understood.  i will let her tell her story to me and i’ll repeat it for you.  i was and still am her host.  she lives within me.  her hands are my hands and we did this together, we tried to drown kittens. she must say it over and over because to know what it would take for a little girl to be so spiritually devoid of feeling, because the men continue to leave her in such intense pain that her brain splits only to return to take the tiny innocent creature to its death, making it part of the cycle of pain and relief.   i’m gone again.

my sister slaps me across the face and grabs the kitten from my hands.  i’m glad.  i look up at her with my face burning but am still glad, the hot pain of the slap is so insignificant.  the kitten is saved and for this one moment there is a presence out there who is monitoring us.  my sister in on guard and taking action.  not sure how she got there, but feel that i can rely on her for the moment to carry us through this.  she is so angry and annoyed with me but i don’t care, it doesn’t matter what she feels toward me as long as she continues stay present as i attempt to make sense out of me coming and going in the hellish existence of my brain.  i realize that my clothes are soaked and i’m shivering from the cold but still no one notices. my small shaking body are of no consequence but i do have the presence of mind to consider that i might be yelled at for adding to the laundry pile should i decide to change from my wet clothes.

my sister has the kittens wrapped in a blanket and is attempting to feed them some milk.  she will do this for weeks until they grow strong and able to make it on their own.  i join her in warming them and feel a strange spark of compassion that keeps me present while i nurture the feeling of wanting them to live.  i’m shaken to the core at the gigantic swing of my emotions; from dead and unfeeling to sobbing for them to live.  my actions are coming back to me, washing over me in hot waves and i begin the familiar routine of hating myself.  the heaviness is here, the type that comes from emotion so exhaustingly polar that i feel the sudden need for sleep.


Daring greatly

Today’s inspiration comes from a quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship In A Republic, delivered at the Sorbonne (1910):

 
The Man in the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;who strives valiantly;who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;

but who does actually strive to do the deeds;

who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

It is my hope as I do the deeds of my personal internal work that I can look to achieve what Theodore Roosevelt cited in his speech.  So often and more than I want to admit, I’m the critic.  Mostly to myself although it comes out at others too.  I am in the arena, every minute, every day and am covered with blood and sweat.  

I don’t even mind doing the deeds, the work is necessary and vital to my recovery.  But to give myself credit for being daring, whoa, that is a new one.  Me, daring greatly, is that really what I’m doing by challenging the rut of a life that I was handed….Never, never do I want to be a cold and timid soul….I am gonna think about this and really, really try this one on for size….I like it, a daring soul?… me? 


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