one hundred & seventy six: healing

the first thing i thought (and then wrote) was: never-ending.

shoulda left it there, but no, i decided to take a little lookie-loo on google. idiot idea.

healing…

(via merriam-webster): to make free from injury or disease. to make sound or whole

(via wikipedia) (i know, i know, not the best authority on anything, but…): the process of the restoration of health from an unbalanced, diseased, damaged or unvitalized organism

there were others, but those kicked me in the gut sufficiently.

to make sound or whole. to restore health from a damaged organism. fuck.

to re-establish a life, to revitalize. sure, okay.

i don’t know why it’s hurting so much to read all of that, i don’t have the words to describe how impossible it all feels. and to summarize all that has been lost, has been ‘unvitalized’ (is that a word, even?), to look out upon the landscape of what needs restoration and think, holy fuck, do i even have enough life left to do it?

where will this pain live, when i’m 50 or 68 or 91 years old? where will it have settled? will i be whole?

one hundred & seventy five: bliss

i am not sure i have ever experienced happiness to the point of oblivion.

but the closest i can think of is when i am floating in the water, on my back, sun on my face, eyes closed. i love that it is quiet and muffled. i love that i can let my body go, let it be weightless and held.  i love seeing the sky, and only the sky. all the blue, all around.

one hundred & seventy two: pride

this word actually reminded me of the endless lectures we got as kids, usually regarding doing our ‘jobs.’ we often got accused of having a lack of pride if we didn’t delight in our 500 chores (washing/drying/putting away dishes after every meal, vacuuming the entire house, dusting, scrubbing toilets and sinks, washing the floor, wiping mirrors, putting laundry out onto the line, taking it off, folding it), or if we didn’t do them up to their standards.

in particular, it makes me think about one of my dad’s most regular speeches about how our family was a team, and as team members, we all needed to do our part, we all needed to contribute, they worked so hard to provide all these things for us, how our laziness, lack of enthusiasm and pride in our chores was an insult to them, was proof of how we were ungrateful, selfish, spoiled kids. i can hear the pseudo-patient, long-suffering tone of his voice even now, and i simultaneously roll my eyes outwardly, while i feel my insides shrinking up.

the one persistent, childish fuck you for my apparent lack of pride was one i maintained as long as i lived in their house: i kept my room a a total mess. and even now, i tend to be more messy than tidy, and it is yet another example of the way they have a hold on me, even still. my doing the opposite of what they would do just shows how much control i continue to let them have. it’s ridiculous. insta-shame.

*

my parents were incredibly stingy with praise and in being proud of us. they were proud of us to other people, but rarely in earshot. they bragged about our accomplishments to their friends (as reflections on themselves as excellent parents, mostly) but were very intentional about keeping our sense of pride in ourselves miniscule. we learned that ‘getting a big head’ was one of the worst things that could happen, and any sense of self-confidence was evidence of this. compliments or praise that we shared with them, from teachers or our friends’ parents, were considered highly suspicious, and their intentions were always questioned: ‘what are they playing at?’ and ‘hmm, they’re probably just buttering you up because dad teaches their son.’ compliments paid to us when they were present were quickly batted away: ‘oh you don’t know what she’s usually like at home’ or ‘oh but you should see the state of her room’ and ‘we just wish his math grades would reflect that!’

i don’t know why they were like this. i don’t know why some pride was sanctioned but others wasn’t. i don’t know what they thought would happen if we were proud of ourselves, or if they showed that they were proud of us. we would like ourselves? we would be comfortable in our own skin? we would get better than them?

(though honestly, isn’t that the fucking goal of it all?! i think so. i desperately want our daughter to be better than us, to struggle less, to achieve more, to be happy, to be satisfied, to be loved, to be safe. i want her to be okay. i want her to be as big as she wants to be, to take up as much space as she needs, to chase whatever dreams she has, to have the hugest expanse of what is possible for her lying ahead. why would i want to curb that? why would i want her to pack herself away?)

i don’t get any of it. yet i get all of it, very intimately, because i live with its effects, every minute of my life.

one hundred & seventy one: playfulness

i’ve just written a fairly despairing addendum to yesterday’s post, so this word is quite a contrast, and i’m not sure i’ll do it justice.

i am a playful sort of person. i delight in making people laugh, i am incredibly silly and appreciate ridiculousness (and am adept at finding it anywhere), and love when people play along with me. i am self-deprecating and although i write incredibly seriously on this site, many people in my day-to-day life would have little to no idea i was capable of it.

i keep things light, for the most part. it is my comfort zone, it is easy for me to be clever and amusing (and amused), it is a major defense mechanism to keep me safe. bathroom humour? totally in my wheelhouse. bodily function jokes/sound effects? yes, please. (it is why i am a favourite with 8-12 year old boys. and british people. right, pocketbrit?! ;))

on that note, i absolutely love making pocketbrit laugh, it is the best sound. i love teasing her, having her tease me. i love that she is so so silly, that we have that in common too, alongside all the heavy stuff. it is so important to me.

my wife and i have our own stupid language that we speak…well, not a language exactly, but a uniformly wonky sort of way we pronounce words. i have no idea of its origins anymore but it’s persisted for over a decade. sometimes our daughter will ask us to speak it to each other so she can try to emulate it (she can’t, goofy girl) and then we’ll all laugh because it’s so entirely dumb. but it always makes me smile. especially if we try to spell it as we pronounce it, it always brings a smile to my face.

and a last confession in relation to this word: i totally find myself funny sometimes. like, absolutely crack myself up. even as a kid, i would do completely silly things around my family and wait for them to notice and to say something. they would notice, but my parents in particular would often refuse to give me the satisfaction of acknowledging whatever idiotic thing i was doing, and this cracked me up, endlessly. i mean it strikes me as a bit sad, just now, but as one small example: i took the green leafy top part of a strawberry and went to dinner with it sticking out of one of my nostrils. both my mom and dad saw it but didn’t say a word. (it eventually got launched onto the table after i unsuccessfully stifled a chortle, five minutes in…)

but the game of it, the fact that i knew i was being ridiculous and inappropriate, the fact that they wouldn’t play…i don’t know. i think it’s funny. and sad, now that i write it. but mostly funny, because i guess it was one of the times when i was in on the joke, when i was controlling the situation.

one hundred & seventy: goals

i am a huge list maker. like actually, on paper or on my phone, but also virtually, like in my head. a constant tally of the things i need to do, of both the banal and extremely life-altering variety.

my main goal in life used to be to be completely amazing, to be the top of my class, to win awards and accolades, to be the best. cream of the crop and all that shit.

my goal these days is to simply be enough: a good enough mom. an acceptable wife. a decent friend. i don’t need to win any awards, i just want to meet expectations and not fall short too too often. i just want to not fuck it all up.

*

i’m adding an addendum to this post (it’s the next day). i’ve had a royal shitpile of a day, and part of the reason is because i was waaaaaay too lighthearted about this word, and it’s been eating at me.

coz really, the word, and my memories surrounding it, made me feel a bit sick.

my goals have always been driven by a need to make up for the fact that i am an entirely disappointing human being. my lists are usually reminders of the variety of ways i need to compensate for this fact. i am not easygoing at all about my lists and my goals; that said, it would be impossible to check all the boxes on my lists because they are entirely outlandish, unrealistic, and inherently punitive.

when i was younger, my goals were very much about how to improve myself physically. when i was 11 and 12 and 13, for example, i made sure i did a bunch of sit-ups and leg lifts before bed, because i was sure i was horrifically revolting (i wasn’t) and that i needed to counterbalance my affinity for junk food. i dieted constantly, as i saw my mom do. i felt gross and ashamed about eating, my body, and food. although my body was strong, athletic, and lean, and helped me to excel in team and individual sports, what i saw in the mirror was totally different.

a lot of my goals were to excel at things, so i would impress someone, often a teacher (ugh, i am flushing with shame to write this). i wanted to be excellent because it felt good, yes, but also because i wanted desperately to be special. to be attended to. to be acknowledged. to be seen.

*

one of my main goals in therapy is to stop the cycle of violence…the intergenerational trauma…the perpetuating of shame. i can’t bear the thought of passing it on to my daughter, and having her pass it on to her own children. it’s kinda like, the buck stops here, fuckers.

but right now, i am suffering so much. that sounds dramatic but i’m not sure there’s a better way to put it. lately, it feels like i might drown under the weight of all the work i have yet to do. i described it to my therapist today, that it’s like being in a dark room, and someone opens the door a crack, casting a thin slice of light inwards. and when i look around me, that crack of light illuminates huge, teetering piles and collections of stuff, representing the ways that the hurts of my childhood continue to affect my present life. representing the ways in which i have internalized my parents’ voices, the ways in which i carry them with me, the ways i am complicit with shame and the ways in which i allow it to control my life.

lately, it’s all just been so, so hard. triggers in every direction, body afire, brain lit up like hundreds of landing strips for an endless stream of incoming planes. it feels absolutely impossible, feeling sure i had made progress, and then to have the door swing open to reveal towers of additional shit, boxes and boxes of stuff, piled in every corner…you can bet i’ve run out of the room, slammed the door and latched it tight, but it’s too late, i’ve seen it, i know it’s there. i know how much more there is to sort through.

and i’m not sure i can do it…i’m really not sure i can bear any of it for much longer. i’m so exhausted i can’t even cry. i can’t make goals. i can’t think of the future. i can basically hold on, moment by moment.

please tell me this isn’t all there is.

one hundred & sixty eight: shame

the good ol’ search function on our blog reveals that i’ve written about shame 33 times (and i can’t even believe it’s that infrequently). i didn’t count the number of pocketbrit’s posts that came up but i’d guess it’s similar to me.

it feels too huge to even try to tackle tonight. it is the thing i’m working on in therapy right now…in particular, the shame i feel about the inordinate amount of shame i have, and the horrifying way i often succumb to its downward spiral. how knowing him and naming him don’t seem to help not to listen to his voice. how i am still so affected by him, how fully i still believe what he has to say.

to be fair, i have made baby steps, namely, that i am able to tell nearly instantly when i encounter the voice of capital-s Shame. and every once in awhile, i’m able to steel myself against him, sometimes sufficiently enough that i can defend against his wily, evil ways. however, even those times, i am not grateful to him for getting me here, i fucking hate his guts. and lately, it’s seems to be a losing battle and i get sucked into the undertow, choking and sputtering for days on end.

the shame about Shame is the worst, though. because most times, i don’t want to admit that he’s got me. that i’m not better than that, yet. that i am too weak and too small to fight him, that i let him win. that i’m siding with their voices, that i’m not as healed as i pretend to be.

insidious bastard.

he makes me think that dying is a viable option. that the best thing would be to remove myself from all of it. to protect others from me, to shield them from my rot, to excise myself from the world, to erase my existence.

he steals pocketbrit from me, and me from her, so much lately. he tells me that my wife and daughter would be better off without me. that i am pathetic, that i am never going to get better, that i am wrong and stupid no matter what i do. that i deserve to be alone, just like they said. that i’ll never get it right, even if i try my hardest.

he gets in my ears and transforms the words, expressions, and tone of the people who love me. puts me on edge. isolates me. sings me to his side of things. and reminds me, at every turn, that there is something so unbelievably wrong about me that my own parents couldn’t love me.

my therapist tells me, over and over, with unbelievable patience and gentleness, that he’s the one who’s wrong. that his voice was directed to me, that it’s not mine. that just because shame speaks, doesn’t mean that he speaks the truth. that in fact, it is his voice that got me here, that enabled me to survive to this point. with amazing, persistent, optimism, she tells me stories about how we can listen to it without accepting it. (ha. maybe she can. i am less successful at this).

coz really…the cadence of his voice is so familiar, his words so horribly intimate. he knows how to make us curl up into a tiny ball. makes the tears prickle with alarming immediacy. helps us pack it in, tells us to quit trying to be too big for our britches.

i wish i knew the antidote to his convictions. i’m open to ideas, honestly, so feel free to share in the comments.

one hundred & sixty seven: volatile

this one is fully my mom. if we think about volatile as the opposite of stable (which i do, i guess) then this one is for my mom.

it wouldn’t be fair to say i never knew what was coming…i did. i could tell by looking at her face whether i’d need to try extra hard to be good or quiet, or whether i’d more actively need to try to smooth things over, to anticipate what might make things worse. i can remember so many afternoons in grocery stores, shrinking away as she raked the poor cashier over the coals for not ringing something in correctly or not honouring their price comparison policy. the sound of her voice was accusatory and loud, self-righteous, grating, and even imagining it now makes me cringe.

there is one time i remember in particular, i would guess i was 5 or so, and my brother (then 3 or so) and i were fighting around dinnertime. i’m sure we were shoving and whining and being fully annoying, as little kids close to supper can be. i don’t even know what happened exactly, i just know that all of a sudden my mom yanked a kitchen drawer open, pointed to the knives in the drawer and screamed ‘why don’t you just kill each other already?!’ before slamming out of the house.

i don’t exactly remember what happened next, except we clearly didn’t kill each other coz we’re both still here. i seem to recall we just stopped, in shock and disbelief, i think, and maybe slunk to our rooms. but what i wish i could recollect was, did we go and look for her? how long did she leave us in the house on our own? where did she go? what happened next? i’m not sure.

there were other times i remember where she would entirely lose it, in frustration, would slam into a part of the house or into a room and cry hysterically and loudly. one time in particular, i was about 10 or 11, she took herself to the basement where we could hear her howling, and it was the first time i didn’t follow her down there, or go down to check on her, as i often did. i remember being scared that i didn’t want to, scared that i didn’t do it. wondering about the implications. again, i don’t have a clear memory as to what happened after…whether she resurfaced and just pretended all was well, or whether i got in trouble for not following her. i don’t know. but it was all very unpredictable: her love, her presence, her ability to parent, her patience.

one hundred & sixty six: comfort

this one felt too hard to actually tackle tonight, so i’m doing a list, entitled where i find comfort:

  • hugs and snuggles, from wherever i can get them
  • imagining people i love sleeping – something i have done as long as i can remember, as a way to calm myself at night (i know it’s totally weird. add it to the list)
  • the smell of the oil i used to use on our daughter as a baby…lavender and calendula and orange and beeswax and other lovely gentle-smelling things
  • words – poems or lyrics or music; books i’ve read, loads of times; handwritten words for me by people who love me
  • hot chocolate with whipped cream
  • purring cats, our old guy in particular, who starts up if we so much as look at him
  • my worn, soft stuffed pup tucked under my chin
  • lying in my bed, with covers pulled fully up or over my head
  • looking up at the sky
  • sunsets
  • chicken soup with egg noodles and lots of dill