What was said; What I heard

I read something that had a pretty big impact on me at a pretty important time which has led to the inspiration for this post. I have not spoken to my mother in a week. This would not generally be note worthy but this time it is. The last time we spoke ended badly and the space I thought I needed to take care for myself expanded from a half hour to multiple days to now a week.

During this week my Dad showed up in his normal role in our family: peace maker/mother fixer. My Dad picks up the messes of others so everything can stay neat and tidy and we can all pretend there is no mess. Dad also takes care of Mom, Mom comes first. Always.

The space has been painful. I feel like a terrible daughter, I feel like I am the problem, I feel like I am breaking my mother’s heart, I feel guilt, I feel shame, I feel like I will be a terrible mother. I feel self-doubt. I worry that my actions are manipulative, I am constantly second guessing myself. I feel unstable, out of control.

As the space has gotten bigger so has my truth; I feel rejected. I feel used. I feel blamed like a scapegoat. I feel resentment. I feel more stable. I am starting to gain clarity. I am starting to truly understand how much bigger than me this is. I am learning how to care for myself since the focus is not constantly on caring for her. My heart is aching. I feel let down.

Yesterday or the day before, I honestly cannot remember now, I was reading a blog that I have been following for a long time. It is a blog similar to my own; personal, searching, honest. I appreciate the honest part most. I admire and appreciate people who are willing to say out loud that life is hard, families are hard, relationships are hard. I see enough posed photos with perfect smiles, sometimes I need the honesty of how devastating losing a pet can be. This blogger shows up in her truth.

So I was reading this post that true to form was painfully honest and I definitely identified with parts of it. My truth is different from hers but I saw myself, my childhood self, in some of her writing.

I wasn’t sure I had the courage to be so honest but right now seems like the time. The only way for things to be different is to do things differently. That means honesty and stepping out from the shadow of denial. Last week my mother and I broke another vase, metaphorically speaking, and despite all his efforts my father was not able to sweep these pieces under the rug like so many broken pieces before it. So now I am going to stand here in the mess I helped make and accept Alma’s invitation to be seen in my truth.

What was said and What I heard:

Calm down: You are acting crazy. You are crazy.
This isn’t going to work: You can’t do this. You made a mistake. You did this wrong.
Your mother is really upset: Your mother is really upset and it is your fault. You need to apologize to your mother. Please fix this for me. I am scared.
Your brother _____________: I love him more. Your accomplishments, life, words, ideas, problems, are less important than his.
Mother-daughter relationships are hard: This is what it is, get used to it. Stop trying to change things. Stop upsetting the apple cart.
What is most important is that we love each other: Do you still love us? Are we good parents? Please don’t leave us. Family comes before everything, including your emotional well-being.
*Silence*: Fuck you. You are the worst. I will not bend. You will give me what I want. Who do you think you are? You owe me this. You are not stronger than me. Don’t make me angry. How dare you. I do not love you.

What I needed to hear:

This started long before you.
This is not your fault.
I own my part.
Take all the time you need, I will be here.
I am ready to really work on this.
The truth, the real honest truth.

 

There are a lot of ANDs that exist in this space of pain but this time I am going to keep my ANDs to myself. I know what they are and that is what matters. I do not feel compelled to make this mess pretty to make myself or anyone else more comfortable. Not this time.

mom

The Girl and the Sea

Once there was a girl who had been holding on too tightly. This was a girl who had always been afraid of losing; losing what, she never quite knew. Her mind, her heart, her self, her future, her favorite doll.. There was just always this nagging feeling that the world was not safe and so she needed to hold on tightly to make it through.

What this girl did not understand is that not everything can be held so tight. Holding too tightly can  make what looks like love feel like suffication. Holding too tightly can leave you white knuckled and arthritic, a body cannot withstand the constant pressure to hold on so tight.

This went on for a long time and for all her efforts she still experienced devastating losses. She never loosened her grip on the things she cared about or needed to hold on to but it did not keep her safe from losing like she had hoped. Still the girl held on too tightly because she knew no other way.

One day the girl went to the ocean and was invited to step out into the crashing waves. With trepidation she followed the leader and felt overwhelmed by the power. She could not hold on out in the current, she had no control. She grasped at the sand on the ocean floor but it slipped from her fingers.  She reached out for her leader and together they were tossed by the incoming tide. She realized there was nothing else she could do so finally she let go.

For a moment she let go of everything she had been holding too tightly and watched as the ocean washed it away; in it’s place she opened her hand and found an acorn. The symbolism she did not understand at the time.

That day the girl learned that when she let go of the things she was holding too tightly her hands were then open to receive what she was truly meant to hold.

the girl and the sea

Wild Geese

One of my soul friends sent me something that instantly brought tears to me eyes. I feel compelled to share it so others can feel whatever it brings up for them and so I will always know where to find it.

wild geese

The very first line spoken aloud caught like a hook in my throat.

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees.

Let those healing waves crash over you.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air are heading home again.

Home. A tear falls from my eye.

The world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like wild geese..

I see those geese flying in my minds eye. I see the blue sky, I feel the breeze. I read these sacred words and know I am okay. We are all okay.

Thank you for this my kindred soul. It meant more than you know.

Badge of Honor

Processed with MOLDIV

I went to the dentist today to have some work done. It was to be a 2 hour procedure, the kind of thing most people dread. I was indifferent.I was indifferent because the dentist doesn’t bother me much. I definitely do not enjoy going to the dentist but I don’t dread it or get anxious either. It is just something I have to do sometimes to be healthy.

So I get in the chair, they numb me up, I put on my headphones and lay back for the next two hours while they do their thing. Some poking here, prodding there, “bite down on this for 5 five minutes”, “open wider”, “bite down”, “open wider”.. and so on.. 2 hours late she asked me to rinse and spit and I informed her that she still had cotton lodged up in my cheek. Suddenly she was flummoxed. Wait, you can feel that? You should still be numb..

Then after talking for a minute about what else I had been able to feel we realized they had not given me enough numbing agent at the beginning. Oops.

She commented on how I must have a high threshold for pain and I confirmed that I do and that was that.

When I was driving home I was thinking about it a bit more though and what that actually means.. People wear that truth like a badge of honor, I have a high threshold for pain, but what does that actually say about us?

Does a high threshold/tolerance for pain = I am really good at numbing. Or shutting down. Are we essentially just saying I am highly skilled at not feeling.

And why is it different for different people? Do some men have a high tolerance because of what it means to be a man in our patriarchal society? Do not show emotion. Do not cry. Do not allow yourself be vulnerable. Don’t be a pussy.

Do some of us have a high tolerance because of the other pain we have bore? Either no pain could ever be as severe as these initial painful experiences we have had or maybe it is that the initial experiences were so painful that we learned how to detach/numb in painful situations as a way of protection/self-preservation..

Either way it suddenly struck me as really odd that having a high tolerance for pain would be seen as a positive thing. Well, actually that is not true. I do think it is a positive thing, I still see it as a protective factor. I think what I mean is, yes maybe it is positive AND it is maybe kind of sad.

Good for you that you are able to take care of yourself this way AND I am sorry that whatever happened to you that made you develop this skill happened.

I do think in our society we try to cover pain up and put pretty details on it to make it more bearable when the truth is there is room for both the light and the dark when it comes to pain.

You can be a strong, resilient, survivor AND being completely shattered by the experience.

You can see a silver lining as a result of a painful situation AND feel engulfed by the storm cloud that created it.

There is room in this world for all of it. I do have a high tolerance for pain. This is true because of the pain my body has endured. I am quite skilled at detaching when I feel the need to protect myself. I have also become a skilled number. I have neither pride nor judgement towards these truths, they just are, and they are mine.

I guess what I am wondering is, will this will always be my truth? As work on rebuilding my relationship with my body and I go back to those places of pain and allow myself to finally feel it will my ability or want/need to numb still exist? Is it possible that I could get to place where I see pain as just a part of life and not longer fear it?

I don’t have answers for this right now but it was an interesting realization to wake up to.

numb

 

Did You Hear That?

ptsd

One last post tonight to put myself at ease and to experience my own unburdening with the hopes of then falling into a restful sleep.

I have been sitting alone in the living room for the last hour writing. Normally I enjoy this quiet time; just me and the house and my tea and my thoughts. Normally. Sometimes though when I sit alone at night in my living room my PTSD creeps up on me, an unwelcome guest crashing my party, here to terrify me until I can barely breathe.

It started with a noise.

Was that a knock at the door? It can’t be, what time is it? No it’s much too late.. Then what was that noise?

Get up, heart pounding, stomach has already dropped out, adrenaline pumping. Walk into the bedroom;

Babe? Was that you?..
Oh it wasn’t? Then did you hear that?..
Oh you didn’t?.. Well I am sure I heard a knocking..
No but you don’t understand, I am sure I heard a knocking..
Okay, you’re probably right..

Return to my nest on the couch. Continue writing, but not without first enlisting the company of my trusty guard dog.

It was nothing. It was nothing.

Check to make sure the doors are locked..

It was nothing. You are safe. You are alone. You are safe. It was nothing.

Sit back on the couch continue writing.

Hear a knocking. Look at the dog. She didn’t react.

It was nothing. She would have reacted. She would have barked. It was nothing. You are safe. You are alone. You are safe.

You are alone. You are alone. You are alone. It is dark. You are alone.

You are okay. You are okay.

Continue writing.

Feel a bump on the couch. All systems on red alert. Heightened sense of hearing and touch. Aware of every inch of your surroundings. Listen… Listen…. Listen… Nothing.
Look at the dog. She didn’t react.

What was that? I am sure I felt something. Is there a monster under the couch?

You are not a child. Monsters are not real.

How do you know?

Try to convince the dog to come sit on the couch by you.

Come here baby.. C’mon.. Come here honey.

Give up. She is not moving. Continue writing.

No more noises. Heart rate back to normal. Menacing thoughts silence. Ability to focus restored. Sense of safety restored.

Normally I enjoy this quiet time; just me and the house and my tea and my thoughts.

Normally.

 

 

Coming Out

power

We just got back from the Women’s Rally downtown. It was incredible. We heard the music and crowd while we were still walking a block away towards the event, when we turned the corner and I saw the scene laid out before me I began to cry. It was like coming home.

It was so beautiful. There were families, and every different kind of person you could possibly imagine. I saw fellow social workers, and some of my professors, and even our PCP walked by us with cat ears on! It was so great to see so many people I personally know but also just the turn out in general. The messages people were carrying on the signs they made were love, pure love. Some were also sad, sad because of the truth they hold. I cried behind my sun glasses for the first ten minutes while we were there, I was so overcome by the energy of it all and what it meant to me personally as someone who has very real reasons to be afraid right now. I am sure I was not the only person who felt so moved.

We walked around and took it all in and then planted ourselves so we could listen to the speakers. The first speaker spoke of the importance of coming out and how the rest of the world could learn a thing or two from our LGTBQ+ brothers and sisters about coming out. She talked about the importance of coming out everyday; in the grocery when we see someone treated poorly, at our jobs when we are afraid to speak out against something we know isn’t right, in our families, in our relationships, in public, everywhere. We have to come out as the people we actually are and have the courage to be seen. She talked about coming out as feminists, and as allies, and in all these other ways. We have to be willing to come out and been seen as the people we actually are and then live in that power of wholeness and authenticity everyday. It is a big ask, I know this because as much as I was inspired by her words I was also afraid.

I was afraid for the same reason we are all afraid; how will this change my life? will being my true self negatively impact my life/work/relationships? what if _____ isn’t/aren’t okay with it?
An extra fear for me that has always kept me small is fear of my safety. It is a fear I know I share with many. Coming out means allowing those who hate us without even knowing us to see us. In the closet we are safe, those who claim to hate us can’t see us. Coming out means taking an enormous risk. For some of us the stakes are higher than just will this person stop being my friend? or will this family member disown me?
For some of us it is will someone try to hurt me?

I was inspired though in spite of my fear. And just being in the presence of all these amazing, open minded, loving people made my light feel all the way turned up.

I agree that we need to come out, it is the only way to accomplish real progress. We have to step out of our fear and into our greatness.

When I think about my own coming out I know I am still operating from a place of fear, but I am working on it, and maybe one day I will find that courage to turn my light all the way up.

Preparing for Body Work

I don’t know what to call the phase of my therapy I am going into so I have been calling it body work because the focus is on how my body experienced the traumas of my past. I had my first session of the new year with my therapist and we discussed what I have been dealing with the last few weeks. She helped me realize where the feeling of panic is coming from and what I can be doing to help myself with it. What it comes down to is that I have to give myself permission. Permission to truly surrender to this part of my journey and fall apart.

Over break I have spent quite a bit of time thinking, processing, writing, and meditating over my next phase. This is dark work I am graduating into and it is hard to go from being in the depths of this to then pop back up quickly to go to the grocery store. We talked about how for the next few months I may be showing up differently in my life and in  my relationships and that in order to avoid my own suffering I need to give myself permission to let this happen. I will not be a bad friend if I have to take time off from socialization. I will not be a bad wife if that load of laundry is not done right this second. I will not be a bad family member if we do not see family every weekend for game night.

That last part was important for me to hear and mull over because there are absolutely expectations placed upon me by my family based on what has been tradition in the past. The thing is though, as we evolve in our lives traditions have to evolve right along with us. Every weekend no longer works, too much has changed. Too much has changed with me, too much has changed in my brother’s family.. We, as a family, are trying to force something that no longer wants to occur naturally. I know better than to do that. I do not believe in forcing things in life.

So the first conversation I had about my new boundaries while I am doing this work was with my mother, the head of the family for all intents and purposes. I explained that I am making myself a priority and that while I am doing this kind of work I know I will not have the capacity to show up the way they are accustomed. My decisions about how I show up and when will be based on how I am feeling at any given time, they will not be based on my love for them. I love them enough to be with them all the time, this is not a question of loving them, it is a question of loving me too and giving myself permission to come first right now.

With my friends this will be easier because as of right now none of my close friends live in the same city as me, the pull for my time will not be as hard. Plus I know my close friends, my soul friends, will understand because they too are committed to their growth in life. I know they will be supportive and understanding.

I did talk with my hubs but that is a post for a different day. In truth my relationship with him is the  only one I ever try to protect, all my other relationships come second. I was worried about exposing him to anything that might spill over as I take this deep dive. My therapist helped me so much with that and the conversation I had with him helped ease my mind as well.

So now it begins. The word for the year is transformation, one of the first intentions: I will give myself permission.

permission