Honing My Hero

In writing, “evergreen topics” are yearly or ever-present themes. Holidays, commemorations, historical events, etc., as well as overarching topics like love, career, or lifestyle, for example. Creators are always trying to “up the ante” – to find some new or distinct angle to cover.

You have to be a self-starter or find someone to kick you in the pants to get going.

I’m in the latter category and have struggled because of that. It is my evergreen experience.

Are we all born with character traits that are challenging to overcome? Probably. We are also born into places, families, and circumstances that we did not choose (unless you believe that our essence before this existence picked out our circumstances prior to being born). Sorry, I would never have chosen the circumstances I was born into. Not in an entire realm of possibilities of existence. Nope, wouldn’t have happened. If there is some guiding or directing being or essence, then I was forced into circumstances by a malevolent deity. Or it was bad luck, or just plain random chance. Of all of the possibilities, chance is the least fucked up.

I definitely have a personality type, and damaged neural pathways that I have made inroads on altering, but it has taken me a lifetime of work to do so.

There are so many medications that help alter or by-pass neural misfiring or trauma influenced wiring, but of the over twenty-four (so far) drugs I have tried, none of them have helped, and several made my condition worse.

There is evidence that psilocybin from mushrooms, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and other psychedelic, or mind-altering substances can bypass poor neural wiring and open up pathways for higher functioning brains and life experience. It is exciting research, and I hope to be accepted in a trial. If I am accepted, I could get a placebo, of course, but if I did get the actual substance, I don’t know what happens when the trial ends.

Will I just be taken off of a substance that might greatly help me? Does some big pharma company then control the distribution and price-setting? I don’t know what happens to participants in a trial that ends once the researchers have completed their studies.

For someone like me, it would come at a high price. Unless the substance is one that permanently alters your brain’s wiring after using it for however long it would take to achieve that happy day.

And what if the opposite were to happen? What if my wiring was made worse? I had two rounds of transcranial magnetic stimulation about a year apart, and it did not help my depression or change my neural pathways as others had experienced. It was not a ‘cure’, and it dulled my thinking somewhat.

It’s hard to be a test subject, but I will take the risk because the possibility of a better functioning brain is too attractive to not keep trying.

A friend once said to me that she would not want to do something that would get her unstuck because then she would be too remorseful of all the wasted time behind her.

I understand that, but I already live that, and it seems like she does too, to some extent. Guilt and shame are some side effects of trauma, but there is nothing we can do about the past except to do our best to practice self-compassion.

I did try to change. I am sure I did, in fact, change! I am sure that every person that chooses (or is forced in some way) to confront whatever holds them back or diminishes them or others in their life does change to some degree.

I could not have lived without changing. I nearly killed myself several times, and it remains on the table for me. It represents a twisted form of hope, and power.

Raising my son was a challenge I met. I may not have met it as well as some, and certainly not even to my own inner standards, but I did far better than was done for me. My son will never understand that. He did not grow up in extreme domestic violence and neglect. I had to have help to continue living. My siblings seemingly did not have to have the therapy, educational and recovery groups, and other work to function in their lives. I was also surrounded by people who had had similar lives, and sadly much worse, and we limped through those years together.

My son will never know the times I cried through making dinner because I was so mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted that it took all that I had to cobble together something healthy – and I did not have money to do differently. Even opening a can of soup would have been a challenge – and I would have paid with even more guilt and shame.

Oddly, overcoming those obstacles did not change my life as it did for others in all those success stories I consumed, trying to change my life with positive thinking and affirmations. The fact that I was still alive and functioning at all was an affirmation. I held out unjustified hope that I could change, that I could rise above my situation. It was moments of triumph for me, not permanent change.

I won’t be writing a book, giving a Ted Talk, or otherwise speaking at some puffed-up event about how I overcame my circumstances, and so can you.

All I know is that every once in a while, I rallied to the moment. I gave my son good food. We had plenty of crap food, trust me, but I did my best to have a majority of healthy meals. I also stayed as present as I could, and I did persevere. There was laughter, fun, adventure, creativity, affection, comfort, and deep love – right along with the difficulties. I read to my son every night until he grew older and didn’t want me to anymore. Those times were nearly the best part of every day. It was sanctuary – for both of us.

My son jumped poverty, and counselors and friends in my life have said it is because I gave him a good foundation to do so. There is no “control son” that my contributions can be measured, and I tend to feel that his personality traits would have helped him overcome whatever hell he might have been subjected to.

Some people do rise regardless of their circumstances. Those are the stories people love to read or hear. The successful heroes journey.

Will psychedelics help hone the hero in me?

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Tell Me!

Some time between Halloween and Thanksgiving I start holding my breath.

I don’t realize I’m doing it, but it’s the day before Thanksgiving and I feel like I’m starting to turn blue.

What, what, what?

I didn’t know I have this deep inner recess. For years it was mostly hidden, and I didn’t know I had learned to avoid the area.

It has been like living in a haunted house. I explained away every odd noise, every displacement of objects, every shadow or shiver when I walked into the attic.

I never even realized I had an attic – that’s how well the thing was done.

But now, it’s become more obvious, less able to deflect – but still a mystery.

I walked around yesterday, knowing I had a million things to do, but couldn’t settle into anything I started.

Focus, I kept telling myself. Just stop, I kept admonishing myself. What the hell is wrong with you? Get over yourself!

It never worked when I was little, and it doesn’t work now. I just went deeper inside, feeling more and more wrong.

But I’m resilient. I’m still here. I started saying “It’s okay – you’re okay,” over and over, which allowed me to get some things done for a while.

Does that mean I win? – because it sure doesn’t feel like winning.

There is still so much to get to, and I am doing what I can. I need to fit several days worth of tasks into today, but here I am, writing.

It’s a balm, even if temporary.

I will go about my business regardless of the dank heaviness trailing me. It’s just harder.

There is something in that dark, drippy, echoing recessed inner cavern that needs me to figure out how to get down there, and get us back safely – or something like that.

I know this has to do with the trauma of neglect, and of my trying to resolve it by finding people or circumstances that would helpfully replicate it for me so I could work on it, but that didn’t fix it then, and it’s not fixing it now – dammit.

I can continue what I’ve always done, and power my way on through sheer will, but it never really leaves, it just gets quieter.

It feels like a rescue mission that I have no idea what equipment I need to be successful – because I do try – I am trying at this very moment.

What do you need,” I ask, or “what do you want me to do?!”

It’s like when my son was barely verbal and he wanted something from the cabinet up above the kitchen counter. I tried the crackers he liked, and several other items. With each thing I grabbed he just wailed harder – his little face all screwed up with his frustration that “I didn’t understand!”

Any idiot should know what he needed – get a clue, woman!

So I picked him up and put him on the counter and told him to show me what he wanted. I think it was canned peaches.

Maybe I just need some peaches.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

I Should Have Gone

Earlier this year I was determined to skip the holidays and go hang out with my friend in Arizona until my inner storm blew over.

I couldn’t afford it, but I think I should have anyway. I should have gone the American way and put it on a credit card I’ll pay off for the next decade, but it would have been worth it.

Instead, I psyched myself up to make all these dishes tonight that I’ve never made before, and tomorrow we’ll cook a turkey, and be with my partner and his parents. I charged in doing the holiday thing, full steam ahead, and made biscuits and a cranberry orange relish, and stuffing, and cleaned up after myself, and then I broke down.

I glanced at the TV while I worked and saw an advertisement with some blue water in the background – maybe it was for beer, or maybe some tropical get away place – and I suddenly saw how fake everything is. Just stupid and pointless and it’s all made up. Life is just a big lie.

I should have gone to Arizona.

I told my partner we’re done – and not because of us, but because it’s all pointless, and I hate being here, and then I remembered last year.

My mom had been staying with one of my sisters, recuperating from a shoulder surgery in September, and we all met at my other sister’s house in Vermont for Thanksgiving.

I just wanted to be near my mom. So much so that I pulled up a stool to sit in front of her, and she sort of balked at me doing that.

It was a bit odd, but she had just been away for about two months, and I was glad to see her – but the subtext was an urgency to get whatever time I could with her.

Look, I know my mom was older, and didn’t take the best care of herself, but she fucking said she was going to live to 103 to beat her father’s lifespan by a year. All my life that is what she said. All my life.

So I can be forgiven for being crushed that she died at 89, alright?

I am grateful she lived that long, and things were far from perfect for most of my growing up, but we worked through so much baggage when I became a mom. She really stepped up for me. Selfish, self-centered, lost, clueless, traumatized me who needed a mom more than my son needed a grandmother, and she did both.

She showed up, and she stayed for months. She taught me how to be a mother in some ways – in the better ways. She loved being grandma.

I really miss her, and I intensely dislike the holiday season, and I don’t think I care to be in the world either.

I should have saved her somehow, but really, I should have gone to Arizona.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Debts To Pay, and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Where Are You, Mom?

Doe, Winter 2014, by her chicken coop

“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom!” I just kept saying it over and over for several days, as if I could conjure you. I was lost. My guttural howls could not take away the emptiness.

I knew I would not be prepared. How could I be?

I thought our relationship was solid and clean, but regret has inched in anyway. Why couldn’t I save you? Did I do enough? Was I a good daughter, Mom? Did you feel loved and cared about?

You were.

I am limited, and I wish with all my heart I could have made your life better. I never got beyond thinking about how to do that, and everything we talked about doing felt like moving a mountain.

I imagine you’re free and flying around in the spirit world – or have you reincarnated (which was your fervent desire)?

Doe taking direction from Jerri – “Come on, Mom, it’ll be hilarious!”
Doe having a great time: “Take the damn picture,” she said.

It breaks my heart to think you might have stepped into another life – abandoning me again. I was too much for you – your children were too much – so you left, even if not physically. I was a child and needed you Mom. All your children needed you. I still feel like I need you.

I can understand how difficult your life was, and I know you loved us, but love is also a verb.

I forgave you as life went on, and I thought we got whole. I guess the onion metaphor is apt, but how many damn layers are there?

You did make living amends when I had my son, your only grandson. You were such a great grandmother. You helped heal so many of my childhood wounds, but your passing opened them again.

Grandma Doe with Austen
Doe with her daughters and grandson 2017

I wanted you to be here my whole life, as unrealistic as that is. I would have kept you suffering in your painful body for my selfish desire to have you near me, like I owned you or something. Like you somehow belonged to me – and I think that’s a trauma bit from when I was so very little, and so much terribleness was happening in our family, and in the world – just like it is again.

You’re lucky Mom. You got out. You’re not suffering anymore.

Do you miss being here though? Or is it better “there”? Where is “there”? Are you conscious? Is consciousness outside of the body, and we just believe it’s in the brain, or are you completely gone?

Please forgive me for my lack, Mom. Please forgive what I couldn’t manage. I don’t know if it was my job to make life the best it could be for you, but it feels like I failed you.

I liked our conversations and our mostly shared values and morals. I am grateful for the time I got with you. I am so glad I was close enough physically and emotionally to help you and spend time with you regularly.

Doe and Jerri in 2010
Laurel Lake swim day

I had wanted to do a “Tuesdays with Morrie” thing with you, but never got it together. I was going to call it “Wednesdays with Mom.” I have never been accused of being original.

Today is Wednesday, so, I guess I’ve begun. If you’re answering me, I’m too dull to hear it. I keep waiting for a sign that you’re still around, but I would doubt whatever you would send me anyway – and you probably know that – so why waste your energy?

Energy is something I absolutely know you still have because of the first law of thermodynamics: energy is neither created nor destroyed. It can only change form or increase. Physicist I am not. I don’t even understand much of it beyond the simplest of terms. Not that I don’t try. I blame my love of standing in front of Dad’s Lincoln Continental and breathing in the leaded gas fumes coming out of the car’s grill for my intelligence deficits. Sweet Jesus, why didn’t anyone stop me? I was 5? Did you even know about that, Mom? I doubt it.

Now, of course, we know that the leaded gas was spewing toxic lead into the air and landing everywhere, especially into my tender lungs and organs and bones as I stood there breathing deeply.

You wanted to make it to 103 years to best your Dad’s 102 years on earth, but you missed 90 by two months instead. Still, not a bad stretch.

I believed you though. My whole life you repeated that like a mantra. You were going to live to 103. It was just a fact we all accepted. You seemed to know, but obviously it was just hope.

Doe March 22, 1930 – January 2, 2020

And maybe you would have made that milestone if you didn’t drink so much, or if you had let us clean up your mildewing/ moldy stuff trailer while you lived – or if I was able to follow through on getting you a new-to-you trailer, or a tiny house that could have given you those 13 more years?

I know that what I was able to do was worthwhile. I have some sweet memories to savor. My job now is to keep the bitterness from spoiling them.

I love you Mom.

Doe circa 1936
High School graduation 1947
Doe 1950 something

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

A Stitch In Time

When I was about five or six, my family moved into a two-story house heated by steam radiation.  I used to try spinning on the twist knobs at the bottom of the cast iron radiators, and managed a three-quarter turn.  I stopped my efforts at a full turn when I fell and got a black eye after hitting the knob. 

My older sisters and brothers used to scare me and my little brother around Hallowe’en by taunting us before bedtime with a ghostly sounding chant of: “There’s a bad guy in the window!”, starting low and soft and reaching a high crescendo after the third or fourth refrain, and we’d run screaming up to our rooms.  A night or so before Hallowe’en that year, my brothers got the bright idea of cutting out a cardboard silhouette of a man, placing it in the upstairs window near my bedroom, and illuminating it with a flashlight behind the curtain.

While the 'bad guy' in the window didn't look like this, this drawing I found is creepy enough to represent what it looked like to me.

I got so scared when I saw it, especially because one of my sisters was chanting the ‘bad guy’ theme just before my brothers moved to reveal the cut-out, or somehow made sure I saw it.  I ran screaming with my hands over my eyes and my head down, directly into one of the cast iron radiators.  I cut the top of my head open so deep that my mother had to bring me to the hospital to get stitches.

I remember that when we got to the hospital and they were cleaning the wound, the nurse told me that the doctor was going to sew me up, but if I needed him to stop, just tell her it hurt, and they’d stop.  I was lying face down in a pillow, and yelled as loud as I could for them to stop because it hurt so much, but they didn’t listen.  My only consolation was that it took three nurses to hold me still enough for the doctor to finish sewing up the wound.  I was so mad at that nurse for tricking me.

Being lied to about pain when I was a child led me to always tell my son that shots, or stitches, etc., would indeed hurt, but that I believed he could handle it, and it would be over as quickly as possible.  Thankfully, there weren’t many times I needed to prepare him for pain.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.