Crying (111)

Well I’ve been doing a fair bit of this today…

This one is kind of mixed in with all the ‘being weak’ stuff that I wrote about the other day (or started to write about)  And when I say mixed in, I mean glued together, being smooshed into each other by ten tonnes of iron either side, inside a locked safe with the key thrown away in a room 1,000ft under ground… ie really fucking together, and never not going to be. Crying is weak. That is the message that was planted into me very early on, and fed all the time. So really the first huge thing I think of when I think of me crying, is massive amounts of shame. And that’s all thanks to my family

I mean, to begin with I grew up with two older brothers, and that just in itself probably tends to result in a girl being a little tougher and less likely to cry (maybe? Maybe not. Depends on the family and the kids, but with my kind of brothers definitely so). Then you can include my hard mother, who doesn’t cry, never has been a crier. She was tough, not soft, and that was how I was to be. And then, y’know, you can add into the mix my entire childhood experiences. Violent father, abusive family, sexually abusive family, for that matter. And I was the mediator, the one required to keep her cool and keep the peace and make sure everything was okay. I was needed to be emotionless, and to a great extent I was. Different parts generally held different emotions, and I appeared to the outside world devoid of all ‘bad’ ones… Or “fine”. (that word had better not come up any time soon or I really will cry).

So, what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t cry much. I absolutely could get upset, but as I got older I started to switch my emotions off. But to do that, I absolutely did cry… late at night, all on my own. About things that were happening to me, about imagining family members dying, about characters in books and films. I had books and films that I would turn to when I felt like I needed to cry. And I would sob into my stuffed elephant, like really really cry… About fictional characters, and yet also about the feelings of things that were actually happening to me, in my very real life.

And that was almost every single night for a while. I took myself to bed and I read if I needed to, and I cried myself to sleep.

Fast forward on a few years and I felt like I must’ve cried myself out, used up all my tears, because I could no longer cry…my tactical books and films no longer worked, I was immune to them. I was noticeably hardened, to the point where people commented on it. All of it had been turned off  because it was all far too much.

Im still so ashamed of crying, of being weak, of allowing there to be a place for my hurt and of people knowing that I am hurting. But I’m so much better with it. And I do think a certain Canadian friend has helped so much with that, by being kind and gentle and reassuring and sitting with me when it happens. I’m relearning to cry, and I really hate it sometimes, but it feels much better and safer with her by my side. She uses the phrase that “it feels like you will down in the grief” or “die from the pain of it”, and it really really does sometimes. Just today it all felt like too much to bear, it felt like I would never stop crying, and yet always, always, I have.

All of this is not to say that I cry a lot, because I don’t, I’m still getting there. But it’s more. Its also only ever on my own or with safe people, which so far only includes pocketcanadian, (though my therapist is close to being added to that list I think, if she stops disappointing me enough that I actually go back to her). But it’s so much better to give it space, to feel those feelings, even when you feel like you won’t survive them.

Lastly, this makes me think of pocketcanadian and how heavy my heart feels that she let’s me be there when she’s crying, that I’m safe enough. And it makes me think about how being on the phone to her and hearing her cry, is sometimes enough to make me cry too.

seventy-nine: weather(ed)

i keep thinking of the weathered hands of elderly people: the geography of aging. the smattering of brown speckly age spots, the raised, snaking veins, wriggling their way between bumpy knuckles and fragile tendons. the delicate creases in the pliable dough of their palms. i love hands, anyway, and i love the hands of old people perhaps the very very most of all.

and now, i am thinking of their skin. have you ever held the wrinkled hands of someone very old? or brushed your lips against their soft, lined cheek? their skin is like silk… so soft. so dry and so soft. the calluses of their younger days mellowed, the strength of their grip and sharpness of their joints diminished by time.

even though it has been nearly thirty years since i held the cool, knotted hands of my grandmother in my own, as i sat with her, in the throes of fitful dreams induced by the narcotics to dull the cancer that was eating her body from within…even though it’s been so long, i can still imagine her soft, soft hands like it were yesterday. as though she were right here, smoothing my hair back, wiping the tears that are suddenly on my cheeks, stroking my face so gently, so carefully, with such love.

seventy-five: enable

i have a fair number of people with a variety of addictions (food, alcohol, gambling, drugs) on both sides of my extended family (and my wife does, too), so i thought immediately about enabling in that sense; that is, an unhealthy interdependence, whereby the person with the addiction is protected by another/others from the consequences of their behaviour.

i of course also thought about abuse (when don’t i?) and about how angry/sad/crazy it makes me feel when i think about how long i was complicit with the story my parents had woven about me. how long it went unchallenged, how deeply i believed it, how hard it was to consider that the wrongness i had always believed was mine, maybe wasn’t. how difficult it is to shake, even now. that its familiarity, its tune, has been bred into my very cells, it seems.

i enabled that story. meaning, i actively participated in it, for years. in fact, that story is still being told, and i wish i could say it doesn’t hurt me, but it does, it really fucking does. i’m a grown-ass woman, but they can still make me feel miniscule.

that i’m not seen, that i’m not known by them, feels like a wound that might never fully close over. i think we’re doing so good but then a word…a text…a fucking greeting card aisle…a stupid holiday…and it’s weeping again, the pain fresh and new and sharp.

fifty-six: water

i have a bunch of unrelated thoughts. i’ll just write them here.

*

i don’t usually have baths, usually only if i’m feeling little and triggered and i need to calm down i do. and when i do, i make it so so hot, put in baby soap or essential oils, and, as i cry (which i often do) i let my head sink under the water so my ears are covered, and i close my eyes, and just listen to my ragged breathing and my heartbeat until they both slow. sometimes i add more hot water. then i lie there some more. until the tears are done, or, more often, until someone bangs on the door with an urgent need to pee in this particular toilet or until someone pokes her head in to check if i’m alive in there.

*

i also thought about ani difranco’s song everest, and about one my favourite lines: that the moon was so beautiful, the ocean held up a mirror. i love that. water as a reflection of the sky, as a mirror of what’s above.

*

i am from a province where there are many beautiful lakes and rivers, but not near the sea. my wife has the atlantic ocean in her blood, and for her, coming home means being near the sea. it is so interesting that i have come to love it with the passion that i do, given my origins and my roots. but i just find i can breathe there. that it soothes me. that the sound of it, the smell of it, the coming and going of the tide, its movement and constant life, also feels like home to me.

*

we got married by the water. and, water poured from the sky as we exchanged vows…our original plans of being outdoors foiled. we had a backup plan though, we didn’t even care, we were the furthest thing apart from bridezillas you could imagine. and the sunset that night, and then the meteor shower later on? more than made up for it.

*

this blog is also about water; about the sea, the place where pocketbrit and i meet. ages ago i asked what her sea looked like, and it gave me chills, because it was so similar to mine. more recently, i asked her what her cottage looked like, and there were more variations there, but the basics were the same: the pounding surf outside the windows. warmth. coziness. a fireplace. room to stretch out or curl up into a ball, depending. blankets. each other, as close or as far as feels tolerable, given the day. love.

*

did you know that our bodies are up to 60% water? that’s wild. also wild: the amount of tears i shed earlier today, while i sat on my bathroom floor, on the phone to pocketbrit, as i panicked. i was so young. she was so gentle. and then, part deux, tonight with my wife, as i confessed how so very not okay i have been, how i’ve been hiding it from everyone (i’m sorry), how lately, i just keep thinking how much better things would be for everyone if i weren’t here. i couldn’t see anything, for hours, for the water; the struggle continues as i try to finish these words.

*

i recently watched a video of me bathing our newborn daughter in the NICU, the second bath of her life (the first given by a gruff nurse as she screamed bloody murder) (our baby, not the nurse) and i was struck by how very…purposeful i was. i was gentle, but i was confident, i knew what i was doing, was not remotely swayed by her tiny slippery body or her (numerous) indignant protests or her newness or the fact that this was the first bath i was giving our baby, the one i’d waited for my whole life, the one i thought would never come, especially after five rounds of fertility treatment and a huge bleed early in the pregnancy. no, in this video, i had a job to do. she had sticky molasses-like poop up her back and down her legs, and i was tasked with getting it off.

but then, by the end, when she was really yelling, her fists waving, her legs kicking, i gathered her up onto my chest, and i rocked her, and i swayed, and i apologized as i pressed my cheek onto her wet hair, and she quieted. and the video kept playing for a number of seconds with me doing that, and watching those last few seconds the other night (over and over again), it all got very watery then, too.

fifty-four: birth

whenever someone’s child has a birthday, i wish the kiddo a happy birthday…and then, wish their parents, a happy birth day.

never mind the nausea and heartburn and ten-month takeover of your mood and hunger by a growing parasite who seems to reside simultaneously on your bladder, in your crotch, and between your second and third ribs…or the physical pain pushing a miniature human out a narrow stretchy tunnel that happens to be an intimate part of your body, or the weeks of bleeding afterwards. i’m talking about the creation of a whole new person and being responsible for bringing them into the world. yeah, it happens every day, in all sorts of ways, all over the world. but it changes you.

it changes your body. your identity. your shape. your function. your meaning in life. your role. how your body works. who you are. who you’ve been.

birthing our daughter changed me in ways i never thought possible. most obviously, i became a mother (and what a tangled identity that is, more so now than ever). i grew her in my body, from a microscopic bundle of cells, to a fully formed tiny human. and then, i fed her from my body, on the outside, for several more months. i never felt more powerful than i did in those first few weeks; at least once a day, i would find myself looking at her in wonder, thinking, i made that. as her cheeks filled out and the dimples on her knuckles deepened, i marveled that i was sustaining her, growing her, nourishing her.

it was the one time in my life i appreciated my body for what it had done, and was doing. it was the one time in my life i felt i was in the right place…if not just for a few months.

fifty-one: kind(ness)

this is a word that is both meaningful and hard for me.

meaningful, because i hold kindness in high esteem…value it greatly. aspire to it, try to embody it, cultivate it, and live it in my daily life. i fail often, of course. but i won’t ever stop trying, because i know its profound impact, and i believe in it, am a devout follower.

and yet, hard, because there was a bit of a shortage of kindness in my household, growing up. my parents were purposely unkind fairly often, but even when they were not, i would not describe them as especially kind. things at home felt very particular, all sharp edges and expectations and discipline. measured responses. a lot of impatience. it is difficult for me to recall spontaneous cuddles or affection or praise. when i think of kindness in my childhood, it is not their faces i see (but thankfully, i can think of other instances of kindness. kind eyes and kind faces and kind hands and kind acts, and i am grateful to have those.)

*

many times, even a stranger unexpectedly calling me ‘dear’ or ‘sweetheart’ invites a massive lump into my throat, floods my eyes, even before i can control it. it is so so embarrassing, how a correctly-timed kind word, or a loving glance, or someone speaking gently can entirely do me in. i used to say to my therapist that my idea of torture would be to have someone say a bunch of loving, positive, things about me to my face. like in a row, one after another. it makes me squirm even now, ugh, where would i look, what would i do with it all, when would it stop ugh ugh ugh. but tie me to a chair and criticize me, withhold praise, shrug at me or otherwise act indifferently for hours, and i’d snuggle in like i was home.

*

speaking of therapy…yesterday, i had an appointment and we were about to do some work that i had been avoiding. my therapist was asking me to check in with my little one inside about something, and i didn’t fucking want to, i just didn’t want to hear about it. i crossed my arms, pulled faces, fidgeted in my seat. she waited, and watched, patiently, and then, right in the middle of my huffing and puffing and eye-rolling,  surprised me with a snort and a belly laugh. you’re so, so cute, she said. i could just see her in you right then, that sweet wee girl. i could’ve laid in her lap and cried just from that, for hours and hours and hours. my face is wet just remembering it. why is she like that with me?

and why weren’t they?

*

the most pride i feel as a mother is when people say our daughter is kind; we’ve heard it from her teachers, our friends, her friends’ parents, her grandparents. she is kind, so kind to nearly everyone.

except herself.

and when i am reminded of that, when i see that and hear how mean she is to her little self, how intolerant, when she makes a simple innocent mistake and is sobbing and telling me that she is the worst kid, she is a rotten person, she doesn’t deserve to be here, it is the most desolate i ever feel as a mother. it is hard not to just quit, right then and there. did i do that to her? is it just in my blood, something i can’t help being and giving to her? is it a cultural affliction, or just a genetic one?

*

years ago, i remember hearing about amma, a woman colloquially called ‘the hugging saint’ from a province at the southern tip of india. i don’t remember where exactly i heard of her, or read of her, but i remember seeing a picture of her and being struck by her kind face. and also recall a video of her, quietly but meaningfully hugging people, hordes of them, one by one, for hours on end. searching out their eyes, and holding them close to her, smiling gently as people dissolved into tears in her arms. when asked why she did it, she responded simply that we all deserve love, no matter who we are. at last count, she has apparently comforted over 34 million people…that amazes me. how much love she gives, but also how much she gets back. she must be brimming, all of the time.

this is not really finished but it’s all i’ve got for tonight…sorry it’s just trailed off in the middle, i’m overcome by sadness and tiredness and the kindest thing feels like burying myself in my flannel sheets and succumbing to sleep.


Pain #2

Reading pc’s post again tonight brings tears to my eyes. She writes beautifully about the ugliest of things and she’s put words to things that I had zero desire to try to write about yesterday.

I want to add some more. And I suppose there are two types to this. The physical pain, and far worse, the emotional. I’ll start with the former.

  • The bruises on a body from ‘kids being kids’.
  • The feeling of suffocating when your head is held underwater and however much you flail and try to get out of their grip, you can’t.
  • Or when their hand is over your mouth and nose, or around your neck and you can’t escape.
  • When their body is on top of yours, pinning you down.
  • When your arm or leg is held so hard you end up bruised.
  • When you are hit or pushed down or threatened without the requirement of words even leaving their mouth.
  • When their penis is down your throat and you cannot escape. When you gag and can’t breathe, and the only air you can get into your lungs is when they release the pressure of their hand on the back of your head and you can pull back just long enough that you can breathe through your nose again before they thrust your head back forward and you’re suffocating. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat x 100.
  • When you disappear to wherever you can, because the things they are doing to your body are more than you can cope with.
  • When doors are slammed on hands. Objects thrown at faces. Plates and glasses smashed on the wall behind you.
  • The sweet sharp pain that is self inflicted in order to try to bring yourself back to the present, or punish yourself, or just feel *something*. Or rather, actually, to so often feel nothing, to numb everything happening in your brain and body, to remove yourself from it all.

And yet, the actual physical pain and fear is short lived right? Ha. No, not really. Because the emotional pain brings them back all the fucking time. Periods become triggers where your body feels like it’s still happening, over and over, where your memories torment you. And all of these things come back, out of nowhere, when you least expect it, when you might be having a good day, and then SLAM. Hit in the face with this shit, out of nowhere, for no reason that you can pinpoint.

And as pc has said, all of the other shattering things.

  • The fact that they chose him, yet again. The fact that you’re not chosen. The knowledge that you won’t ever be.
  • The fear that has your knees curled up to your chest whilst you sit on the floor of the shower for half an hour hoping that the water will wash it all off of you.
  • The birthdays, the christmases, the fathers days, the mothers days, the lunches, the dinners, the family gatherings, the celebrations.
  • The never ending silencing.
  • The earth shattering loss of parents that can make you feel orphaned, and alone and like you won’t survive it.
  • The shame. The white hot, flushed cheeks, sweaty bodied shame.
  • The fucking ocean of grief. And the ocean of grief that you haven’t been able to cry for in years.
  • The years spent taking care of yourself because nobody else will. The putting yourself to bed and the crying yourself to sleep at night.
  • The feeling unseen, unheard, unappreciated, unloved. Unloveable.
  • The taking all of it on so that you can retain some semblance of control.

There are so many more. This list isn’t even close to exhaustive, but I have another post I need to write.

forty-seven: pain

i haven’t much wanted to write this one, either.

it’s just…this one little four-letter word cannot even begin to capture the experience of remembering what i did, nearly three years ago. it doesn’t even start to cut it, represent it, describe it.

it doesn’t cover the far-reaching loss of relatives, friends, and acquaintances i’ve experienced since then, the isolation. the whole-body pang when i hear the word family. the three father’s days and mother’s days i’ve endured since then. the putting-up with the continued mindfuckery by text and email. the depth of guilt for not knowing how to negotiate a relationship with my parents for our young daughter (and the original panic of ohmygodohmygoddidhehurthertoo). the boundaries we’ve had to put in place for her protection, without being able to answer her angry questions as to why they are there.

the interruptions to intimacy within my marriage. the countless nights i’ve sobbed into my pillow, soundlessly and at top volume and most everything in between. the ways it has manifested itself in my body, through physical illnesses and symptoms i’ve never had before. the impact on our finances, as i pay people to help me clean up the mess that was left in my body, in my inner child, in my life. the way i’ve questioned my parenting. the self-loathing. the self-loathing. the self-loathing.

the terrifying, whispery refrain that burbles up every so often that everyone would be better off if i wasn’t here. that i would be doing everyone a favour. the way that i have believed those horrible words, that i have considered them so closely, more than i care to admit.

and one of the grossest aspects of this pain is that i am not alone in it. it is shared, among so many millions of us. people i know and people i don’t. people i love, like pocketbrit, and people i don’t love at all. the stories are varied but the exquisite, soul-shattering experience of it? is not even remotely unique.

there is no comfort in this.

just tears and tears and tears.

Wrong

I didn’t want to write this yesterday and I still don’t really want to write it today.

I hate this. I really fucking hate this. It feels debilitating and so sticky and like it’ll never go away. The feeling of being wrong grows with shame, some days till its an inferno in my belly. Other days it’s quieter, but it is always there, waiting for the smallest slight, the side glance from somebody on the street that you’ve never even met, that you take as utter disgust. The laughter that you assume is about you, the comments, the nitpicking that you take on as fundamental flaws of your person. The sideways glances, the people ignoring you, the people secluding you, that are actually only not inviting you because you’re so closed off and putting up your ‘don’t come near me walls’ without even realising you’re doing so.

Its the people that are meant to love you and build you up and support you, and help you grow and watch you thrive, that tell you you’re too fat, too dumb, not funny enough, not pretty enough, not sporty enough, you laugh weirdly, you’re too shy, you’re too much of a tomboy… ‘what’re you wearing? Go change’, ‘your hair looks ridiculous, go brush it’, ‘is that a boy?’, ‘stop sucking your thumb, you’re not a baby’, ‘don’t cry, you’re being stupid’, (halfway through telling something important as a kid) ‘that’s nice, now just go upstairs and do x y or z’, ‘why do you have to do that?! What’s wrong with you?’, ‘this is your fault, just go upstairs’, ‘if you tell him we’ll get divorced and it’ll be all your fault. Is that what you want?’, ‘shut up and stop being stupid and help’, ‘why don’t you have a boyfriend?’, ‘why don’t you ever tell me stuff?’, ‘why are you so secretive?’…. This list is far from exhaustive.

Its the lack of interest or care. Its putting yourself to bed at 7 years old, because they won’t. It’s becoming independent and closed off because anything else is unsafe. It’s wondering why your siblings are more important than you. It’s trying to deal with abuse and bullying and wishing you were dead all on your own, because you’d only be laughed at. It’s being mocked by multiple members of your family all at the same time. It’s crying yourself to sleep at night.

Its grown up in my body as I’ve grown up… Planted early on, and fed the best nutrients as I’ve grown. Its been fed so much that I now can’t believe anything else. It’s now so inherent, that even the slightest glance or laughter or annoyance is taken on as evidence of my wrongness. Its taking on things that have nothing to do with me, from family and friends and even strangers, just because I’m constantly searching, constantly adding to the pile of evidence without even realising I am.

It gets in the way of fucking everything. It’s debilitating, it’s terrible. So so terrible.

I go to therapy and tell her that I don’t deserve her time. How could I, when I’m so unworthy of attention or care? And oh my, love from friends…? How on earth do you let that in when you know they’re mistaken about you and one day they’ll realise it and take it all back?

And yet somehow I have, over the years. The small comments and actions of worthiness have sometimes been let in and believed, and yet I really don’t think there will ever be enough of them to counteract it, or even make a dent in it.

It has to come from me, the belief of worthiness, of not being wrong, and yet how can I when if my brain and stomach and heart aren’t in total agreement of my wrongness, are at total odds, one shouting one thing and one the other. The one with the most evidence always wins.

I hate this, I can’t tell you how much.

And im not reading over this, I don’t want to… So I’m going to just hope it makes sense, and I’m sorry for any typos, and I’m sorry its so so whingy.

twenty-five: belonging

um, i’d appreciate a break in the heavy words, you bastard randomizer.

this is another toughie for me.

*

i can remember, quite distinctly, being 10 years old, and slipping a note under my parents’ closed bedroom door after we had argued. the ink was smudged in places from where tears had dripped off my chin. i apologized for being different, for being difficult, for not fitting in. i was not like them, i didn’t belong. i was wrong. i was sorry.

something i said that in that note touched a chord in my mom; i remember her, in return, knocking on my door, her own face tear-stained, coming in and hugging me tightly. it was unexpected, and i didn’t quite understand what was happening. yet younger, ten-year-old me, the girl with the mournful eyes? was glad and sad…and confused. (but was i being seen? or was i a trigger?)

*

i also remember a couple years later, in junior high, the easy way in which my friends slung their arms around me and each other, the way they leaned in, the easy way in which they touched each other and showed affection. it made me feel like i belonged. it made me yearn for more of that easy, relaxed intimacy, in ways i didn’t understand. i had a place. i was wanted.

*

i remember studying it in graduate school; the illusive and coveted sense of belonging. how it was esteemed in our textbooks as a way to mobilize and heal communities. how we could assuage hurting hearts, bridge divisions based on socioeconomic disparities. to instill a sense of belonging in our participants was the the desired core of every program we tried to implement. the antidote to brokenness.

*

when i first met my therapist, i told her that everything was ‘fine’ with my family. it was my inlaws that were troublesome, my own family was close-knit. but, when i think about it now, i was tethered to them, to their sickness, to their stories, to their lies. i belonged to them, i was theirs.

it was not until i stepped away that i could see the the insidious, deadly, silent ways they ruled my life. they fucking owned me. belonging to them, being a part of their tribe, nearly obliterated me.

*

in some ways, i understand the sense of ownership…the need to huddle in, to maintain a secret language. we want to stake our claim, hold our beloveds near. we all want to belong, be close.

but what the fuck, friends. what does this even mean? how can we even stand to believe these sorts of platitudes, that we belong together? when will the other shoe drop?

*

the truth is, i rarely let my guard down, i rarely let myself consider that i may fit somewhere, that i may belong. that i am in the right place. that where i stand is where i’m meant to be. that i am welcome. that i am loved. that i belong.

which is why i cursed the goddamn randomizer up there, because fuck you, i am loved. i do belong. i belong as a wife and a mom, i belong to this beautiful family i have built. i belong as a friend to my sweetest pocketbrit. i belong as a valued colleague and health care provider. i belong to my community. i belong on this earth, i belong to the universe, to the collective capital-l Love that holds us all.

…but fuck, if i could only just feel all of that, in my darkest hours. if i could only just collapse down into that sense of belonging, lean into its constancy, sob into its lap when i feel lost and alone. if i could just trust it, if i could truly know it, if i could have faith i would still belong, even when i’m terrified and young and afraid; when i’m not my best self, when i’m not trying, when i’m petty and horrible and spinning and angry…

if i could feel like i belonged, even then, as imperfect as i am at any given moment, i will know i am healing. all i want is to be enough, to be okay enough somewhere, with someone(s), that i will continue to be invited back forever, however i am.

security.

comfort.

love.