Oh no, this is not a new ‘reality’. This is not acquiescing to ‘what is’, or any other platitude. We are in horrific times, pergatorious times – and yes – I just made up a word because that’s the kind of times we are now experiencing.
A joke is our President-elect. Make no mistake, an unqualified hack will be the leader of this quickly sinking country – perhaps a harbinger of the fabled ‘end times’. Yeah, I know I’m giving legitimacy to fiction by naming it as a thing I believe we’re approaching, if not already in, but, hey, ya gotta start somewhere…
The end times described in antiquitious texts is when the current system, way of life – whatev – is abandoned and a ‘new way’ implemented. Or it’s when all the ‘worthy’ people will be ‘taken’ and the rest of us – most of us – will be left with the stinking cesspool those assholes helped create.
God looks the other way while Rome burns – or America and the European Union – at any rate.
Thankfully there are many, MANY, folks not burdened by fictional works who are left scrambling to hold onto the tattered remains of honorable, inclusive, compassionate society.
It sucks that it takes a horror show to jolt the fighters among us, but enlivened we are.
At twelve I knew I wanted to act. It was what I thought I’d be in adulthood. I guess it was just going to happen naturally because I never had a plan. I failed to position myself for that occupation, relying on the ‘will of the universe’, or ‘fate’, or whatever my idiot mind told itself – so it never happened.
My first foray into Community Theater was in the early 2000’s. I had auditioned for a play in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, but didn’t get cast, so I probably told myself I wasn’t ready yet.
I spent the better part of today as an extra in a film, driving over two hours to the set, and riding back home after 10 p.m., exhausted, and probably shouldn’t have been driving, but had I stayed at a motel, I would have spent more than I earned, and had I tried to sleep in a parking lot somewhere I would have been too paranoid to sleep.
This was the fifth movie I’ve been a paid prop in, oops, I mean background work, and I finally realized tonight, after almost getting a featured spot that the director, or the universe, or fate, decided to nix, that chasing acting is trauma re-enactment. I’m still trying to convince those in control that I’m worthy of notice. I’m so tired of my psyche trying to reconcile my neglectful past. It’s not going to happen.
The same cast of characters appears each time, albeit in different physical forms. There are non-protecting bystanders, abusers, and victims. (Victim is often a loaded word, so hear it un-weighted.)
Rising early, I rush about readying myself for the day’s work, ensuring I have collected all I need and might want, and set out into the dank, murky pre-dawn. The creeping light flings itself out in eye-searing magnitude just as the crush of rush-hour traffic gathers at the crest of an eastward hill, and I jam on the car’s hazard button, hoping to avoid rear-collision while slamming on the brakes in what appears choreographed timing – as though the traffic were all swimmers breaking the surface one after the other in dizzying succession.
Surviving the first sun-caused hazards, we attempt merging with the big boys and girls zooming along on the super-highway at their break-neck pace: a feat reminiscent of double-dutch jumping without tangling both jumpers in the ropes – only with higher stakes in the highway metaphor.
Once successfully merged, we soon come to several stand-stills, where many of us frustratingly shift from stopped lane to nearly stopped lane, seeing the traffic gods punish us with every lane but ours beginning to move.
An hour later, fleeing the chaos of four-lanes, for the migraine of two lanes, and a GPS with a shitty sense of humor, or probably just sadistic, I double back to the left turn it told me to take as I was passing it in the wrong lane, and I finally rumble into a bumpy lot, park, and kiss the steering wheel for getting me there without bodily harm or auto damage.
A dozen other, sleepy, hopeful stars ascend the shuttle bus stairs and settle in for our ride to the set.
Once there, we queue up to fill out our pay slip forms, find space to don our costumes, and then stand in the next line for hair, and then one for make-up, and finally find our way into the holding area where there is coffee and juice and cereal and muffins, and why are they feeding us all this crap when we’re trying to stay svelte for when we’re discovered the nineteenth time we cross that street when the director calls: ‘action’? So, I opt for coffee and a banana, and wait for our day’s adventure.
Extra work is similar to traumatic childhood in that we’re never told exactly what is happening that day, and what our role is. We have to become ‘instant experts’ once we’re schlepped to location and placed. Then we’re told that we’re excited, or mad, or confused, or disgruntled, or perhaps all of the above, and the day continues with each of us trying to out prop the other.
I swear the women who were behind us who ended up in front of us toward the end of that particular scene were going to end up in the car with the principal actors by the end of the shot.
And here’s the thing: the principal actors are who matter. Background is sound and color, and does serve a core purpose, but you wouldn’t know it by the haphazard treatment that I’ve experienced on every set I’ve worked on.
My goal is for principal actor roles. My reality is that extra work will never meet that goal. I need to change my approach, or nothing will ever change. In life, or on film.
If you think about it, we’re self-animated, or actuated, puppets. We’re going to die, and if you’ve ever seen a loved one’s dead body, you know how they are utterly gone. Their body seems like some strange putty – some facsimile of who they were, and somewhat recognizable – but definitely not ‘them’.
We are not our bodies – we control our bodies with who we really are.
You reach for an object, not even realizing that you commanded your body to act, rather than being your body – which could or would act autonomously of your desire. Outside of blood, breath, temperature, neurology & cellular replication, our body, unless compromised by disease or disorder, is controlled by our thoughts.
Hungry: eat. Tired: sleep, or fight sleep when you need to stay awake. Scared: hide, or run, or freeze. Happy: smile, dance, laugh.
There is so, so much we don’t understand, all around us. Some suggest that there’s an invisible (to most of humanity) world going on as closely as anything we can observe or know.
Why are some people psychic, or able to observe what others cannot, if they’re not charlatans?
Why am I sensitive to things my friends aren’t? I know when I’m in an occupied space, or perhaps a super occupied space. I lived in a ‘haunted’ apartment for two years, constantly questioning my sanity and perception, but when I moved to another apartment that was not haunted, I could sleep with the light off, and not be afraid to walk to the bathroom during the night.
I have experienced intense energy, or whatever it was, that others seem not to – and I am nothing special.
So what? – right? It matters because even if we don’t know where we’re going from here, it means we are not our bodies, our physical matter. That’s pretty cool. Maybe our brain is the only part of us that matters most, outside of other vital organs, but even those who think our brain is the limit – that everything begins and ends between our ears – that doesn’t account for anything outside our understanding that we experience.
I feel hopeful thinking that my existence doesn’t end here, and I’m as rightfully here as anyone else, and my continuation, while unknown, is as certain as knowing that death is only of my body, but not of my essence.
Occupying the middle part of my life is odd. I’m noticing my body changing in unfamiliar and distressing ways. I think I have arthritis (!) in my hands. I’m learning guitar, but when I curl my fingers they snap at me like I’m trying to bend them in ways they shouldn’t be bent. Idiots.
I drove through a town I lived and had friends in from ages eleven through thirteen, remembering the home of a friend whose birthday fell around Halloween so her parents had created a haunted house for several twelve-year-old girls. I wonder if she ever remembers that? What she, or her parents, couldn’t know is how abnormal that was for me. I was living in a commune/cult where everyday was somewhat surreal, and definitely un-nuclear family-ish. She and the other school girls there, along with her parents, and attending a typical family party were an oasis in the desert of my life. Sure, I grew up learning how to deal with a few hundred adults, and a gaggle of children daily, but I craved closeness and structure.
The commune/cult was diffuse and casually neglectful. Most of them weren’t malicious, but there was so much going on all the time that people naturally found their cliques – circled their wagons, so to speak – only they didn’t realize that exposed the most vulnerable to predation and harmful neglect.
I see advertisements now and don’t recognize anyone I can relate to, not that I ever really could, but at least I was in the same age bracket. The only relatable ads I see are for fiber products, or erectile dysfunction, neither of which do I care about, or apply. Well, fiber is good at any age – we all need to poop.
A sea change is needed, but what do I do? Do I leave my relationship to head out for parts unknown? And what if parts unknown end up on a heating grate in some city, trying to keep warm and guard my few belongings from being stolen – again?
Maybe things could work out, but my life has always been just managing, and never actually living. Do I have the courage? And if I have the courage, can I manage it? I have boxes of books but nothing, except my son’s childhood art and other keepsakes, keeping me from packing it all up, ditching my books at some lucky bookstore, and setting out.
I know there are soup kitchens across the nation, and I suppose my big worry is where I can safely sleep, but otherwise, what have I got to lose? I lose my boyfriend, and that would suck, but I’m failing, and don’t have other ideas to help myself.
My vague plan is heading out to California again and doing my best to get into television or films there – the acting mecca – but it’s also the land of bitter disappointment and ruin.
If I had the money, I’d pay a reputable psychic to help guide me – but if I had the money, I wouldn’t need the guidance…
Mental health is stopping the ruminating or trying to change my outsides to sooth my insides. I’ve been here before, I recognize that tree!
This cycle comes around every few months, when I get the bright idea to pick up spiritual texts thinking I’ll come off better for it. I clearly never have. I come out swinging every time – so maybe I’m a minion. Except, I wish ill on no one except the deserved. Who are the deserved? Rapists, child molesters, murderers, deceivers – those who knowingly take advantage of others.
Liars don’t bother me, unless it has to do with the above unforgivable acts. Murder isn’t nuanced here. Some people would consider killing in self-defense murder. I don’t. To me, murder is killing for pleasure.
Spiritual texts often say that good works without faith or belief in god are worthless. They’re not worthless to those they help. If an atheist helps me it’s worthless? How ridiculous is that?!
If that atheist helps me for their own gain, that’s unfortunate, but I still got help, so why should I care about their agenda – unless they try to hold that over me somehow.
I consciously chose to live several years ago. I knew I was on that precipice, and after I chose living, my life improved greatly once I started eating well, exercising daily, and doing what I could to quell my negative voices.
Unfortunately I’ve lost sight of that in the last few years, but I remembered again. Maybe I won’t always live my best, but if I can let go of a punishing god, I’ll do better again.
My atheist friends tell me the bible, and all spiritual works, are fairy tales meant to control the population, but I’ve remained agnostic because I fear retribution for not believing – so the control aspect has partially worked on me.
I just need to walk away from those damaging beliefs and live my best life.
Kindness, love, help, care, and concern are important to me, but so is holding people accountable for their actions. That’s why we have laws, judges, and juries. I’m not alone in that belief. But I also believe in mercy.
I wouldn’t be a judge because I’d worry that I’d be convinced to be merciful only to have the exonerated person commit the same crime again, or worse, as has happened many times.
We live in a harsh world. We follow base desires rather than adhering to our nobility. Spiritual works call us to our highest selves, but all too often we turn it into a game of whose version of god is best, and ironically condemn and kill each other over it.
For me, finding peace means keeping what works and dumping the rest – and then trusting that I’m not damned for that.
I’m angry at the Universe, at being here, at the way. life. is., at being human, and because I either have to kill myself, or heavily drug myself not to care, I start to take my anger out on those around me. I’m sneaky though because I’m passive aggressive, and I don’t even really know I’m in attack mode except everything starts to bother me, and acrimony is just below the surface.
I’m starting to recognize this as I start disliking my significant other, and wanting to leave, and be left alone by everyone. Only perfection would be good enough for me because my true fight is against the bully in the sky telling me how unworthy I am at every turn, and if I’d only let It micro-manage my life, then – maybe – I’ll be accepted by It and allowed into some perverse kingdom that only judgmental assholes will be going to. If I accept the son of this bully, then I get out of jail free – no matter what I’ve done or do, as long as I’m truly repentant – and, oh, btw, I have to forgive everyone no matter what they’ve done & no matter what harm their actions caused, or continue to cause.
So, yeah, I’m a little touchy today.
I just wanted to be a light in a dark world. I didn’t want to have to jump through hoops, and I never asked to be allowed in It’s shitty kingdom. Will I rend my invisible garments and gnash my non-existent teeth? Yeah, it’s a metaphor, I know, but if god doesn’t see what a shitty idea free will was, then It’s not really a god, because It would fix Its mistake, wouldn’t It? We clearly cannot rise to our noble nature, and after seeing the eons of horror – humanity’s inhumanity – and continuing to let us exist doesn’t speak of a good god, or a just god: it speaks of an impotent god. Because innocents are harmed every. day. But the convenient excuse is that It’s a mystery – as though that’s a valid answer – and that we’re born into sin, so there are no innocents. If you’re here, you’re guilty as fuck, and so whatever happens to you or your brethren is warranted and self-caused.
If I signed up for this, can I renege? Can I desert my post? Can I be destroyed – just utterly destroyed? I don’t want to exist beyond here knowing that none of it mattered, and yet it was impossible for me to detach, and it sure feels like it matters while living it.
God is no comfort to me, nor am I a comfort to god, I’m sure.
Summer’s constant buzz and song fills my house. Crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, and a myriad of other bugs and birds create a constant background hum – either that – or I have horrible tinnitus.
These muggy August nights feature crickets’ constant ‘chee, chee, chee, chee’, while tree frogs sound their ‘bdrrrrr, bdrrrrr’ calls echoing around our hill, quieting close to sunrise, continued by the crickets until long after sunrise when other insects and birds take up the daytime chorus.
The oppressive, humid air makes sleep nearly impossible, even with the fan on high, but I rarely need moisturizer this time of year!
Wisps of hair curl up near my temples and forehead, and a cool shower takes down some of the night’s heat.
A long ago Key West morning suffuses my memory. I’m stepping into a slightly chilled saltwater pool at our motel in Islamorada. The surrounding air, so much like this morning, makes me long for the palm tree setting, while nostalgia’s softening gaze helps me forget any of the stress or conflict of that trip as I feel myself cutting through the cooling water of the pool on that lovely morning.
That memory is a happy place I will call to mind as I attend to today’s stress, work and monotonous chores.
I’ve had a tough time writing lately. Maybe depression has set in – apathy leading the way. Nothing feels interesting or worth investing in. I could look happy and present, but whether or not I am, it shifts quickly.
Is living for the young? Should twenty to forty be the only important part of life? After forty the pain began. It has only increased since. Different issues, more work & time to address it – the ‘free ride’ over.
The problem is the lack of appreciation for a body that feels good & functions well. It’s inspiring when people born without limbs, or other horrific problems, live high-functioning lives. It shames me & I’m so tired of living shame.
Even the love of my life can’t breach the gap. It’s not his path, even if he loves me with all he has.
In my wildest imagination I am alone: succeeding, happy, fulfilled. I’ve never seen it with someone else – just me. Maybe that’s due to trauma – neglect & abuse – I don’t know. I decided that no one, NO ONE, will take anything else from me. I lived that life and I’m not able to continue helping someone else do well at my expense. I mean emotionally. If I had billions I could give most away without issue, but I’m tired of people who want to take my soul.
That’s where I am today. I’m sure it’ll change tomorrow. Cheers.
Drinking makes me feel different, and better – if I don’t drink too much. I’ll be giddy, and happy, and in love with the world, and if I step over that razor’s edge line, I’m in hell, but it’s the insanity alcohol abstention programs talk about, the thought that I won’t drink too much this time, or that third drink won’t effect me so much. It’s what drinking does rather than how much I drink, because I don’t normally drink a lot, and I stop if I get near the vomit line, but trouble starts before that.
I know I’ve crossed the line when my thoughts turn dark and I tell my S.O. we’re through, that I just want to move to a cave somewhere and finish out my days without the stress of human contact.
In other words, I’m certifiable when I drink that next half a drink? quarter of a drink? more than two. Wine makes me reach the terrible place sooner – but there’s more alcohol per volume than beer or mixed drinks, which are more diluted and I drink them slower because I associate liquor with danger more quickly.
I’ve also found that three drinks causes inflammation, and my back and joints are in agony the next day. I could take turmeric, and other less, or non-toxic inflammation cures, but then I’m just putting band-aids on the problem which is over-drinking, or probably, any drinking.
But I love alcohol. I adore drinking culture – those false promises of an easy life for those few hours with friends and frenemies alike – all having a wonderful time until the hangover hits, or the ride on the vomit comet that one of my friends experiences every time she over-drinks, and the ultimate realization that most of your drinking buddies are just that, and they’ll fall away if you alter the terms of engagement.
My goal is quitting the booze for good, and I haven’t made my goal, which makes me think I’m in trouble. I’m a functioning drunk, if I’m a drunk. ‘Problem drinker’ sounds less horrible than ‘a drunk’. But the word ‘problem’ is a clue that my drinking issue needs solving.
For my first week of nephalism, I’m going to write ‘enjoy the insomnia and inflammation’, and stick that on the door so I see it on my night out with my girls, or even with my S. O..
Of course, I’ll probably use the other door to leave – but I’ll still know it’s there.
I wish I could smoke weed. It gives me panic attacks though. Not just some vague anxiety but OH-GOD-I’M-DYING terror coupled with the need to get out of my body, which I can’t do without the actual dying part, or if got knocked out, which is why I have Klonopin, that I haven’t had to use for panic for a long time, thankfully.
Panic attacks used to be a daily thing in my twenties and thirties. That really sucked. I don’t remember when they stopped, I’m just glad they did, and if I ever need a reminder of panic’s scourge, I can just have a toke or two, and it’ll all come back to me.
AA is useful, and I’m glad it’s there, but I dislike the cultish feel, and having grown up in a commune/cult, I tend to eschew groups.
Alcohol helps me feel freer, and happy – even if it’s fleeting – and that’s what I chase. I like escaping myself when I can, but it comes with a price – to myself, and worse – to those close to me.
A new definition of freedom and happiness is needed, and the only will power I need is against picking up that first drink.
At writing group tonight I listened to a friend read her piece about her birthday today and how being sixty was kind of amazing, and it made me feel like I can do this. I can get to sixty someday soon, and maybe it won’t be so bad.
She is a strong, beautiful woman, and I might not have seen that at twenty, or even thirty, but time shapes us whether we want it or not. I am not in control. No matter how much I try to determine my destiny, I am foiled by this great unknown we’re all in.
We are all in. Once in a while, some of us break out and try controlling the show, life events, or life’s trajectory, but they are quelled by others or by their own mortality. We came into the world by chance or by design, and maybe we’re supposed to cause an effect, or maybe just witness this incredible moment, because it is really only a moment – especially as I get older and see how damn fast it all goes.
I have no idea where I’m going from here, or if there’s somewhere from here, and maybe religion is right, or maybe it’s all a crock – all people just whistling in the dark – but I’ve found love, and friendship, kinship, beauty, terror, and horror, along with inexplicable help and guidance.
What I’ve found true is following my heart. I might be wrong, but whenever I’ve tried to follow someone or something else’s idea of how to navigate this world, it’s caused deeper pain than just muddling through.
I can’t believe in a punishing ‘god’. It makes no sense to me. Maybe I’ll pay for that, but I’ll take my chances. God is love, or it is nothing. I cannot be better than ‘god’. So, if there is such a thing, It loves and accepts me.
If there’s nothing, then this has been an interesting manifestation of life replicating itself. I hope I’ve left more good than bad, and if my son has a child, or children, then our line continues, and if not, then we die out with his generation. So be it.
Maybe we’ll colonize other worlds, or maybe humanity will perish with this one, but life on earth has abundant time left for whatever will happen.
And though I have no say, I’d like us to have mattered – to be the reason for existence – but that might be ego rather than reality.
Because that’s how I see you. Not really a boy, though. More like a young adult. Emphasis on young.
How would I treat you if I weren’t your mother? I’d still be concerned, and I know that because that’s me. I care for everyone I love – and my problem is being too attached – and I know all the ‘how to live a happy (er) life’ teachers, guides, gurus, masters, etc. say that attachment is the source of my pain. Stop being attached. Just stop.
It’s possible, but it’s not like turning off a switch. And if it is, then I don’t want to know you because you’re probably psychotic.
Little by little I am letting go. Issue by issue. If my job was to keep you safe – and let you take risks – I was a successful failure. I did let you fall off your bike. I did watch as I knew you might scratch your knees when you were running so fast downhill and took a header – and I was grateful that was the worst of it – but I did not let you run out into traffic and face those natural consequences. In fact, I smacked your ass and told you in no uncertain terms that you will never do that again.
Yeah, yeah, violence is never the answer, but it wasn’t violence I was going for. It was reaction from unadulterated fear – from my not being everywhere at once – from what felt like my failure, at the time. As far as that toddler you were, I was god(dess).
The next terrible two incident was finding you surrounded by unsheathed freshly sharpened knives in Beth’s kitchen. You had to open the drawer that was over your head, and take out the knives one by one. You were like every other toddler on the planet – curious and non-stop. And you didn’t have one scratch on you. There is a god(dess)! – but it’s not me…
It was exhausting, and I was in the midst of newly single parenting, and trying to find work, and our own apartment, and was doing the best I could to be present and available for you. You were such a lovely being. Your ‘up, Mama up,’ from your crib in the morning was so precious. How could I not get my ass out of bed for that, no matter how tired I was?
When you were three, and we were living in our South Portland apartment, and I had just been Momzilla about some stupid shit, and I was sitting on the floor crying, you took my face in your sweet little hands and said: “the anger blocks the love, mama”.
That was your way of grabbing my full attention. If I was distracted and you had something. to. say. you’d grab my face in your hands and force my presence. Thankfully that wasn’t a constant occurrence, but more, that you were resourceful, even as a toddler.
I watched you deal with disappointment in your grade school years, watched as every kid in your class got a party invitation but you, and we ended up going to the public river swimming area that day. I was livid, but I hugged you and dealt with your hurt, and called those parents later, saying that they could have at least invited you for the cake once they knew you were there. I got it, not everyone is going to like you, but when the whole class was there? I started wondering if you had ADHD or something, but really, you were just already your own person, and at that age, conformity was king. You faced social challenges early on, and I did the best I could to support the great kid I knew you were – as well as try to get you to conform some – for your ease, not mine.
It wasn’t until junior high, at Four Rivers Charter Public School, that you found your posse. It was a great fit for you, and I watched you blossom there. You were pulling away from me, as life dictates, and I told you that you were changing but I wasn’t, and I’d always be here.
I feel like I need to say that again. I’m always here. Same as it ever was – to borrow a Talking Heads phrase. Maybe I’ve changed a lot too, but it doesn’t feel that way. I love you and like you and want you in my life as much – or even more now – as I always have.
But, to the point of letting go: it’s for my benefit that I release my bond to you.
You know where to find me, and my love is unchanging.
I don’t know who coined that phrase, but hearing it changed my life. I bring me with me – moving away never solved my problems, though it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. Looking back to my 20’s and 30’s, I’m surprised I survived. Even if I had tried to off myself, I would likely have been unsuccessful, and then maimed for life. So life would still suck, and I’d be scarred, or worse. Great.
Getting over self-preservation is no small undertaking. No one makes it out of here alive, so there’s that reasoning, but what we might do here goes beyond us.
A therapist told me that if I kill myself, I give my son permission to end his life too. I fluffed that off, but since I know 3 people who were successful in the last few years, it’s been working on me in whispers at vulnerable times.
‘You’ll never get out of debt, loser girl.’ That’s one of the lovely names my inner asshole has for me. The ‘girl’ is a nice touch – colloquial and derogatory at once. ‘You’re worth more dead than alive’ – true – as long as I can keep paying the insurance, which looks less likely each time the payment’s due. ‘You’re aging now and you’re losing the little looks you had, and you’re worth less and less.’ ‘You’ve failed everything you’ve tried, and it’s too late to make it anywhere.’ ‘You can’t even get a regular job! Not one interview, and no prospects.’
The most significant, however, is the voice that tells me that I’ll end my pain. No more suffering. No more challenges. No more heartache.
Except, wherever I go, there I am.
Maybe I’ll have a consciousness, maybe I won’t. I’ve never died before. I’ve read lots of books and studies on people who have died and been revived, and they usually talk about bright light, and seeing loved ones who’ve passed on, or of spirits – ghosts – that seem to be stuck in the thoughts and feelings they had when they died.
Finding work I can do has been the bane of my existence. Clearly, I have to get entrepreneurial, but figuring that out is the rub.
The positives of staying alive are seeing the beautiful land where I live, hearing birds trilling, and flying around, watching the fireflies this time of year, and listening to tree frogs and crickets. Cats and dogs don’t care what I look like as long as I can scratch behind their ears and feed them. They aren’t body-based, or judgmental, but humans sure are.
And when depression’s shroud descends, none of that matters in my messed up head. I don’t care about anyone, and that disconnection is bizarre to witness.
Grandma Moses said: ‘Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.’ She began painting her quaint village scenes in her 80’s, and she lived another 20 years, so not only do I have those phrases to shore me up, but Yogi Berra‘s: ‘It ain’t over ’til it’s over’, is another adage to hang onto.
So, wherever I’m headed, I can’t escape myself – and I prefer self-love over self-loathing, but there I am – whatever it is.
My child is grown and gone. He’s 25, and living large in the city, and yet, I have trouble not interfering. I want to say, ‘please listen to my advice because I never listened to those wiser than me, and I totally screwed up my life as a result.’ But, I know it wouldn’t do any good. That was me, not him.
I try to remember that I survived domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. He had a pretty solid upbringing, regardless of my Momzilla-ness. I was present and available. I provided structure, love, and guidance.
Did he have cotton in his ears the whole time? I warned him about my DNA, about his father’s DNA – that the likelihood of him becoming alcoholic is stronger than it was for me, and for his father – but I think he took that as a challenge. He can defy history. He can out-drink his DNA.
It’s painful, and I know he’s young, and he’ll probably survive – but he also might not.
And there’s nothing I can do.
I don’t want to badger, advise, attempt management, or control. It’s not my job anymore. Maybe I fucked up so bad that drinking is his way of getting through life, but that doesn’t make sense. I know I did a mostly good job, and he appreciates my influence in his life.
Letting go and letting him figure it out is what I need to do, I know, but it’s proving very difficult.
One of my first experiences of body appreciation was by reading Peanuts. That’s right, my philosophical beginning came through a comic strip. Not to diminish Mr. Schultz’s worldly observations, but I was a 5 or 6-year-old reading Snoopy’s exploits, or maybe it was Charlie Brown’s? – giving his legs and feet a pep talk, something like: ‘feet don’t fail me now’, as though they had brains of their own. It was revelatory for me to think about my legs and feet as maybe failing me, or that they deserved recognition for their constant work on my behalf.
Flash forward more decades than I wish, reluctantly wearing reading (in this case, writing…) glasses, experiencing appreciation for what was. I was going to eradicate aging though, merely by believing I could. Hey, the cultists told me we only age because we think we’re going to – that it’s all attitude and belief. That I’ve aged merely indicates my lack of faith…
One of my sisters needed glasses her whole life, so I guess she was spiritually lacking from the get-go. Idiocy aside, aging means diminished ability – no matter how well we eat, or how many vitamins and minerals we take to slow the process. The only way to stop aging is to die. That’s it. Plastic surgery doesn’t stop bodily degeneration, unless we start implanting baby organs, and stem cells to replenish our damaged cells. And there’s a bodily cost for those ‘interventions’: getting surgically sliced and diced causes damage too.
Fighting the inevitable – outside of being my Native American, or, First People, name – is exhausting. Acceptance feels like giving up. I know it’s not, but my emotional self says: ‘Screw you! – you’ll never take me alive’. And my body replies: ‘Well, that’s the intention…’.
So I extend my gratitude backwards. My body served me well, and still does.
Shame is possibly the worst side-effect of trauma. Guilt, shame’s ignoble cousin, seeps in churning the mess. Guilt has its place, when you do something unkind, unhealthy, or unhelpful, guilt proves conscience – and shows that you’re probably not a psychopath, although you still might be an asshole.
But guilt that worms its way into my psyche without validity serves no purpose. Shame lies to me, but I believe its lies.
I’ve read that young children cannot process that their parents or caregivers might be wrong, or harmful, so I took it in as my fault. I didn’t have friends in my first years of school, and even then, at 5 or 6 years old, I thought my classmates knew that I was defective. But I was resilient; I knew how to laugh, and laughter was my guardian. I didn’t know I was smart because I didn’t grow up in a nurturing environment – I just knew ways to escape without going anywhere, and how to hold in my anger and fear until they finally exploded in tantrums and sometimes blind rage – usually toward my antagonizing next oldest sister.
Shame clung to me – it twisted into my DNA, bored into my neurons, exchanging itself through synapses.
Of course I’d try to get unkind people to love me throughout my life, it’s what I was taught. Of course I’d find men who would add to my shame, further deepening what I already believed about myself. I never got what I so desperately wanted and needed, love and approval. Approval is exoneration, absolution. If I got validation from others, then I wouldn’t have to be ashamed anymore.
Only it doesn’t work that way. I have to validate and approve of myself.
I don’t want to live in shame anymore. I’ve done nothing to warrant such heavy chains, such a terrible prison.
Did our ancestors age in the same way we did, or would they have if life expectancy weren’t half of what it is today?
They ate much better than we do – when food was plentiful. They had all the super anti-oxidant berries, fruits, many grains, nuts, seeds, and non-pesticide or other chemical laden, non-gmo meats and vegetables. They breathed cleaner air, drank purer water, even though air and water may have been polluted by methane, or volcanic ash, or animal and human waste, it was still better than our toxic world, and their immune systems had to have been fairly robust to advance our species to today.
So many new supplements, creams, and ‘super foods’, crowd store shelves in our collective quest to stay young, and energetic – full of piss and vinegar – maybe literally as Fire Cider asserts better health and its implication of longevity, or at least more energy.
I want what they’re selling. Youth in a bottle piques my interest every time, and I spend too much time searching for the truth behind the façade, feeling more uncertain of those products’ plausibility. And whether or not those foods and substances hold real promise, I can’t afford them anyway.
Staying young will be for the ultra-rich.
We’ve all seen examples of those chasing permanent youthfulness, with hundreds of horrifying plastic surgery examples making those people nearly unrecognizable, and certainly not better looking. Even successful surgeries don’t always increase happiness, some creating greater insecurity as the chase for the next enhancement is on.
Self-acceptance, wherever we are in life, is our best ally, but that doesn’t mean it’s easily achieved, and it’s advertisers’ goal to make us life-long consumers of their products, and they are very good at their job.
It seems like younger generations are getting more savvy, however, and that’s good to see, but they haven’t reached middle age and beyond yet, and whether I’m still here or not, I hope they’ll remain skeptical of promised life-enhancing elixirs.
We started meeting around this time last year, and what helped as much as songwriting was the wonderful and resilient women who participated.
Sharon Brody from WBUR.org came to Robin’s recording space last summer to interview those of us who wished to, and to talk about Songbird Sings, and how we were helping heal some of our trauma through song writing, and through connecting with other survivors/”thrivers”.
In an interview with Robin, several participants, and myself, some of my song, February Day, plays after I speak, and in the background.
I seem to write best, and most often, in a group, and hope to continue song writing, as well as blogging, fiction, and non-fiction writing. Snippets of two of my older songs, Listen To Me, Rock of Gibraltar, and our collaborative song, Free Your Power, can be heard on the CD Baby site: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/robinlane.
So much work lies ahead to realize my dreams, and being a singer-songwriter leads more to lots of gigs in lots of coffee-shops, bars, and out of the way places, than to vaunted halls of music, but at least I’m trying, and that trying keeps my hope – and so far me – alive.
I’m supposed to be writing. I know, I am writing, but I’m supposed to be working on one of the project’s that I’ve tried to complete for the last decade or so. Maybe I don’t really want to write. Maybe I just want to want to write? I mean, thinking is easier than doing, right? Except, it’s not, really. It’s just as painful to avoid as it is to confront – at least in this instance.
Am I afraid I’ll be found a fraud? Out of ideas? Stupid, incompetent, poser?
I’m all that. I’m just me, trying to figure out a way to make my time on this spinning living planet work for me.
I thought I wanted fame, and I am sooooo glad I never got it. Fame is crap – unless you get rich by having fame, and then it’s not the fame, it’s the wealth. For some, it’s the fame. Egomania.
Of course I’m ego-driven. I wouldn’t be writing if I didn’t think I had something worthwhile to say – even if it’s just worthy to me. I also get inspiration, edification, joy, and connection from other people’s writing, art, and other creativity, and it’s satisfying to get positive feedback – or even neutral feedback. Negative feedback sucks, but then I have to step back and ask why I got that kind of comment. Was I offensive? Are they reacting from their fear? What’s my responsibility to them – or them to me?
We owe each other nothing, which makes connection all the more beautiful.
Often, I write to survive. Just getting something out is therapeutic, especially when I feel the nothingness crowding in.
Some things are far too personal to share except to skirt around the edges, and other instances have found me kicking up all the muck and slinging it around on the page, hoping that someone will relate – that someone will tell me their story too – that someone else’s noise will quiet mine.
I am very thankful for all who have read my blog, have become friends – regardless of how often we make contact – I know I have your support, and I hope you know you have mine!
Many new readers have stopped by this year, and some of you have subscribed, and I appreciate that so much.
Depression sometimes absorbs so much time, so I don’t respond as often as I read your, and others’, blogs, but I appreciate the wealth of viewpoints and creativity here on WordPress, and other sites as well.
I have learned so much from so many bloggers, and I appreciate the different perspectives and topics you bring.
You never know how much a random thought, a poem, a fictional work, personal challenge posts, songs, other art, and especially humor, have helped me throughout the year, and will continue to.
Thank you all so much! Your interest means a great deal to me. Your comments are precious, and I hope you all find what you need and hope for in 2016!
Nat King Cole croons The Christmas Song, and I remember that it’s my sister-in-law’s favorite holiday song. Many years ago we went caroling: she, my brother (her husband), my next oldest sister, and our younger brother, as well as some family friends, and I remember our fun, our exuberance, and just us as young adults.
Eventually, our lives expanded out like the big bang – each of us in our various orbits, claiming our bit of space, our independence from one another.
What role our family trauma played, I’m unsure, but untreated trauma does not resolve of its own. It can be medicated, white-knuckled, tossed outward, or left festering inside, but it has to be handled.
There are healthy ways of dealing with trauma and not so healthy ways. So much creativity has been born from pain, and those who’ve had that outlet are sometimes healed, but not always.
I doubt my brother would want me to feel sad for him. It’s not pity he needs, and it’s not pity I’m giving. I lived with my parents too. I was there too. I was affected too.
He doesn’t want advice from his littlest sister, even though I had to deal with my trauma or die – even though I sought professional help, and practiced the tools I was given – even though I trained to help other trauma survivors – even though sometimes it’s still next to unbearable remaining alive.
The best way out is through, for me. Just let the feelings be, but visit the skills I’ve learned before I’m in crisis. I forget that. I think I’m healed – that I’m all done feeling pain – or that I’ll always cope well from now on.
Pride kicks in too – the belief that I’m knowledgeable, and therefore untouchable. The other side is despair. Why remain alive if I keep going through this, or if I can’t make life better?
I can hold my brother in my heart – as well as my whole family – and I re-affirm that he is whole and complete. He is competent, capable, and has enough humility to seek what he needs. He knows I care, he knows I’m available, and he knows I understand as perhaps few others can.
He’s made it through, all these years later, and I remember that what’s not dealt with keeps manifesting itself until it’s faced – whenever, or however, that trauma shows up.
I’ve re-connected with most of my siblings after raising my son and having my space again. My S.O. has been an understanding, caring, and deeply loving partner, and I know how rare that is, and I still want to run away now and then. My old nemeses, fear, self-hate, and depression, muscle their way in, but if I’m fortified enough, they’re easier to battle.
This time of year is filled with the ghosts of trauma past, their presence appearing unconsciously, making it seem as though now is the problem, or that I have made no emotional progress.
I cannot save my brother, or anyone who doesn’t want to be saved, but I continue to love and care anyway. The violence witnessed, and perpetrated on us, got into our psyches, but it was also programmed into our DNA before we were born, from the violence done to our parents, and on down our line, but we can use our will, we can learn self-love, and we can practice self-care, changing not only ourselves, but the DNA we pass on to our children, and that they will pass on to theirs.
Christmas is about hope in terrible circumstances. Whether it’s just a story, or has some historical truth, the message, to me, is perseverance, self-love, and love, and hope, for humanity.
Love, kindness, and care are what matters, and the carols my family and friends used to sing were, and still are, a gift of light in a dark season – for ourselves as well as others.
I wish all whatever you need, and for more joy, comfort, peace, and love – whatever you celebrate, or not!
I missed you more intensely this year. Remembering our trips to the library every year, you picking out books you wanted to read, or have me read to you, and me picking out scary and fun Halloween stories to read together. I miss how you’d cuddle up on my lap and play with my ear as I read to you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad you’re grown up and handling your adult life beautifully, but sometimes I feel like we’re near strangers, and I struggle knowing what to talk about now. Wanting a separate life with little contact is understandable – I remember being your age – although I can’t know your perspective as a man.
Life changed when I had you. My life was no longer solely my own, and becoming a parent changed me in ways you can’t know unless you become a parent.
The struggles we endured as you grew have not faded, but I think I handled them well. An image flashes of you at fourteen standing stock still while I hugged you, telling you I love you, and even though you were changing, I was not. You did, at least, allow me to hug you.
We got through those dark times, even if sometimes the memories still tear me up, and I wish my best memories with you were more current, but I’m reminded of our sweet and happy times together every year.
Holidays heighten my old loss with you, that necessary loss we all experience, and even though I’ve spent time reading to other people’s children at a play-group, or with the children I cared for, it isn’t the same.
The sadness only lasts a few days, and sweet memories are there too, but missing you pushes out better feelings I try to invoke, and it’s OK to feel this – especially as I have little control over its insistence.
Shame that I’m not wiser, happier, better, more emotionally balanced, presses in, and my best weapon is non-resistance.
This is depression’s scourge, my trauma brain – whatever – and minimizing my reality by suggesting I ‘choose happiness’, or other platitudes, only increases isolation.
It took all this to say I miss our connection; I miss the boy you were, even if I celebrate the man you are.
I practically needed a crowbar to get myself out of bed this morning.
Way over-doing brush cutting and hauling scraps out to a pile at my mother’s place left me with contracting pain down my right arm, making it impossible to sleep, so I took a muscle relaxer, which; while it helped, also relaxed everything – and I still feel like my head weighs a ton.
We’re at another end of October, the summer’s retreat depressing, but autumn’s offerings somewhat eases the transition. The turning leaves have been spectacular, and it’s been lovely to witness.
Our local Pumpkinfesttook place this past Saturday, October 24th. One of my girlfriends invited two of us to sing back-ups with her for, Curly Fingers DuPree, a great local band, so we debuted as the ‘Curly Q’s’. It was so much fun, and as with most shows or events I’ve been involved in, there’s the anti-climax feeling when it’s over – like, ‘that’s it?’ Heavy sigh.
I broke up with the best guy I’ve ever dated, and I started listening to suicide’s siren call again. If I go that route, I know I’ll cause irreparable harm to my son, my S.O., and many friends and family.
I actually opened my virtual ‘coping toolbox’, and found a reason to hang on another day. I’m doing what I can to stay positive as the darkness and cold increases. I’m using all the attitude adjusters I know to not slip down.
Sometimes keeping that guttering candle of hope burning is as easy as lighting a new candle with the old flame, but other times a bonfire is needed, and as many others before me have said, it’s better to have a full ‘coping toolbox’ when times are easier than trying to fill it when I’m desperate, and not in my right, or wise, mind.
You know those moments you have: you step outside and the scent, and feel of the air, the time of day, the light’s slant, and shadows interplay, perhaps – or the trees, and several things in your surroundings at once – brings you through time?
I could have been back in 1995, San Diego, California, yesterday.
My ride dropped me off, and as I stepped out, swirls of mist rose in the morning sun steaming off the pavement and walkway ahead of me. The warm day, odd for this time of year, added to the sense of somewhere else, and the aroma of damp leaves and earth, the look of the concrete steps and iron railing – the experience’s totality – was remarkable. (Thus, I am remarking?…)
The moment was imbued with the best of my experience of that time. Heading to the Small Computer Repair course I was taking then, I passed the handsome coffee-cart guy every day, and more often than not, two or three leggy, beautiful, younger, blonde girls were flirting with him while he made their lattes or macchiatos – whatever was hippest to drink back then.
So it was surprising that he paid any attention to me at all. The times I could afford a coffee, he chatted me up rather than vice-versa; asking me questions about my classes, how it was going, or wishing me a great weekend on Fridays. I passed by him every day and he never failed to say hi, or wave if I was rushing to class that day.
I sometimes wonder if I had had more money to spend on coffee if it would have ended in a date with the cute barista, or if I was refreshing because I wasn’t the typical beauty vying for his attention, or because I didn’t fawn over him. If only he knew that it was that I didn’t consider myself in the same league, having been told directly by more than one guy I wasn’t anything special. Their jerk-factor notwithstanding, I felt I was attractive, I just wasn’t spectacular.
So much of my time in California is a blur now. I remember being there, but don’t remember day-to-day feelings, especially when depression threads its constricting tentacles around and through me, dulling my memory as well as my present.
Being granted that visceral time snippet helped me remember I am fully alive, that I have been present to myself and others, and I put that sweetness in my mental ‘cope box’, hoping I’ll know, or be able, to open it when depression barges in again.