Writing Challenge Day 5 -When your past meets your present

Writing Challenge Day 5 -When your past meets your present

About an hour ago I left a presentation on “How to pay less for college”.  In summary, I’m worth more alive than dead.  Actually I have been hyper aware of this for some time.  I also learned I’m a day late and a dollar short, with zero ducks in a row, for this college preparation thing.  Though I noticed from many sighs and rubbing of temples that I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone in this matter.

The triggers come quickly when I walk into a high school.  The lockers, the hallways, the pictures on the wall of which I was never a part of.  I find tears start welling up in my eyes and I have to work hard at composing myself.  This usually manifests in me looking like an angry bitch, which actually isn’t all that far from the truth.

high-school

I hate being at the high school even though it wasn’t one I attended.  I went to a different high school every year.  Parents divorced my sophomore year and we moved each year after.  When other kids were going to dances, learning to drive and keeping up their grades in hopes of getting into a great college, I was severely depressed, smoking pot, binge eating and planning my suicide.

Going to three different high schools I became lost in the system.  Not bad enough or good enough to hit anyone’s radar.  My father had abandoned me and my mother was lost in her own drama so there was no one to consider my future.  I remember them talking about taking the SAT in my junior year and saying how much it cost. It was a small amount but we were dirt poor so I didn’t believe I could do it.  I was also deeply involved in finding a way to die so I didn’t consider a future.

The gentleman doing the presentation was a financial planner and has been giving these presentations for over twelve years.  He spoke about grants, scholarships and loans and I had to struggle to stay present as my mind brought me back to being a teenager.  Could I have gotten a grant since we were so poor?  Could I have gone to college?

Please don’t ask me what I dreamed of doing or tell me it’s not too late because Grandma Moses didn’t paint her first painting until she was 78.  Don’t tell me this.  The harsh reality is that I stopped dreaming at 15 years old. I’d wanted to be a ballerina and was practicing in the living room one day.  My mother said, “What are you doing?” and I replied, “Practicing.”  She let out a laugh and said, “Why?!?”  I could see the look in her eye and knew better than to share but did it anyway “Because I want to be a dancer.”  She laughed louder this time while looking me up and down, “You will never be a dancer!  You’re too short!”  Now I’d love for this story to end with me proving her wrong and going on to be a prima ballerina.  But no.  Instead I quit ballet and stopped dreaming.

Life became about survival and still is to this day.  “So when you are planning your child’s education…” {Why didn’t anyone plan anything for me?  Why didn’t I matter?} “When filling out the FAFSA….” {Was this even around when I was young?  I don’t know.  I’m confused.  I’m overwhelmed.} “So depending on what percent…” {What could I have done with my life?  Was there any hope anyway?}

I left the school as fast as I could after the presentation was done.  I tried to focus on my car and not see the auditorium or the football field.  Each place is reminder of what didn’t happen for me.

It’s been decades since I was in high school but the pain is still fresh.  I’ve found that things I thought I was over resurface when my child hits the age I was at when some trauma happened.  I wonder if I’ll ever get to the other side or if I’m doomed to a life of flashbacks and triggers.

I send my son pictures of me at my desk with the caption “Don’t let this be you.  Work hard.  Go for your dreams.”  He wants to be a screenwriter and eventually a director.  “How is he going to survive and pay his bills?” You know what; I don’t know.  But I sure as fuck will support him.

 

 

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The last paragraph

The last paragraph

Since leaving the church in 2011, and fully accepting my Agnosticism in 2015 (give or take), I’ve left Christianity.  Yet even while being out I find I still go on what I call “Christianity kicks”.  I start seeking it out again looking for anything redeemable.  Searching to see if perhaps I missed a key point.  Oh lets just say it; I’m looking for acceptance from a deity, if one exists, who has spent my entire lifetime ignoring me.   Having celebrated Easter yesterday (ham – yes, church – no), I suppose all the “He is Risen!” posts trigger my indoctrination to kick into high gear for a bit.

Now when I say I get on a kick, I do not mean reading the bible.  I’m not sure I own one anymore.  No, I read stories and experiences in hopes that maybe Jesus simply hasn’t gotten around to me yet, and in these people’s journeys I might find something new.  There are many Christian blogs around where people delve into some deep and heartbreaking shit.  There are people expressing doubt and searching.  There are some that walk dangerously close to the edge of not believing.

So close.  Eight, nine, ten paragraphs worthy of Job screaming out to the heavens.  “Why have you forsaken me?”  “Where are you?”  “Help!”  They justifiably sob about loss and hopelessness.  They swear, fight and flip off the universe.

Until the last paragraph.

In that last paragraph everything gets quickly wrapped up in a sparkling Jesus bow.  I wish I could say they give enough of their story that you are able to understand what occurred that their God suddenly made everything OK; or is about to make everything OK, as they pray, believe, have faith, lean in, etc… Nope.  Pain, suffering, shit, torment, heartache….yeah, Jesus!  I follow along hanging on their every word, believing I’ve found someone that gets it, yet the ending is always the same.

So was it that simple?  God/Jesus made the wrongs right?  The Holy Spirit wrapped its loving arms around them?  Enough faith and belief reconciled the atrocities done to them?  I do have many theories as to what occurs here and I won’t share them as they aren’t kind or helpful.  And really, I’m not trying to take away people’s faith, even if I consider it an illusion.  The truth is that last paragraph feels like an emotional slap.  “Works for me and it sucks to be you!”

So what’s my last paragraph?  My answer to just about everything: I don’t know. Head in my hands, a deep sigh and back to it.

km turned back 2

I’m through apologizing for being me

I’m through apologizing for being me

“You love that I debate with you; only you hate that it comes from your daughter and not one of your sons!”
“Yep!”
“Well it sucks to be you.”

As best I can recall, this was the ending to one of the many tiring debates between myself and my father.  I believe I was around 20 years old.  Though I don’t remember the details of this small war, I’m sure it was something about the bible and no doubt how women were treated.  I was female, and due to my lack of penis, I was supposed to shut the fuck up.

While my father was still a pastor, he feared what I would do and say as a teenager.  I was a wild card (no, please stop your snickering pastor’s daughter comments right now), I was vocal and I didn’t fit into the proper mold.  I was told “You don’t want your mother and brothers to end up on the streets because I lost my job due to your actions, do you?”

So I lived a double life.  I attended all mandatory events, put on a sweet smile and tried to suppress who I really was.  Sometimes I even tried really hard to be the good girl.  Who I was certainly wasn’t OK, so I learned to be very sorry and apologetic.

apologize

A good friend posted this picture on my Facebook wall saying, “I imagine this was how you looked as a child.”  In attitude, yes; in looks, well not so much.  Yet the words resonated and pierced me “too big, too loud, too emotional, too edgy”; simply too much.  I’ve always been a little too much.  When you’re too much you learn to acclimate and accommodate.  You take up too much space so you learn to be smaller.

“Calm down!  You’re getting all riled up!”  Too much.

“So tell us how you really feel! Ha Ha Ha.”  Too much.

“Stop being so sensitive!”  Too much.

You lose pieces of your soul, bit by bit, when you have to hold back who you are.  Yet you can only hold it in so long, well I can only hold it in so long before not having the capacity to contain it much more.

So I’m though apologizing for being me.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” ~ Anaïs Nin

 Today is that day.

You don’t get that.

You don’t get that.

“You don’t get that.”  Four words that haunt me.  I was first told this sentence by a friend who was describing an episode of Celebrity Sober House with Dr. Drew (stop judging me – I fucking love that show); she described a therapy moment where a patient was sobbing over all the things he wanted in his father.  He wailed for a caring, loving, present and understanding father, and was met with the blunt statement “You don’t get that.”  It stopped him cold, and me as well.  My first thoughts were that this was such a horrible and hurtful thing to say yet so painfully true.

I’ve read other blog posts about this episode which took this to mean “Suck it up.  Stop whining.”  That wasn’t exactly my take as I do feel whining, or rather weeping out the pain of your soul, is cathartic and necessary.  Processing pain is never a one-time event.  It seeps out slowly and sometimes in ways you aren’t fully cognizant of without a lot of self-awareness.  I’ve processed the pain of my relationship with my father, well my mother too, for as long as I can remember.  Sometimes I delve into their selfishness and abandonment, and at other times I go a different direction and mourn what never was.  I’ve forced myself to forgive them repeatedly; yet when you see the same behavior that caused the pain, it all comes back up.

Dr. Drew is certainly right in that “I don’t get that.” in so many ways.  I wasn’t blessed with parents who were invested in their children.  (Side note: I will need to do a post some time about how much I hate the word “blessed”.  So triggering.)  My brother and I have remarked many times that it would have been a lot easier to stomach if one of them had been an alcoholic, a drug addict or mentally insane, because then there would have been logical reasons for their behavior.

I do acknowledge I hold onto things a bit tighter than would be healthy.  Acceptance truly is the key.  Yet sometimes the trauma of one event, overlaps and collides with something completely different, and this is where it gets tricky.  For instance this past September I found I was panicking and triggered over a rape 20+ years before. I’d been stable and OK with what happened for a long time.  Forgiven myself for actions that were never my fault.  I could speak about it like the weather.  So why was this shit coming back to haunt me now?

It’s believed in yoga theory that your muscles, in particular the muscles in your hips, hold your emotions, pain and trauma.  It’s not uncommon for someone practicing yoga to have emotions well up, even tears, while doing hip opening postures.  Amazing work is being done by Bessell van der Kolk, who wrote “The Body Keeps the Score”, “he transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust.”  Interesting.

think

So perhaps, those of us that are still triggered, can’t let go, can’t walk away, may be dealing with our brain’s trauma wiring, and we’re not so rigid and unforgiving after all?

I was ridiculed and criticized while in the church for continuing to be hurt from my past . They gave SO many reasons why this was happening and all were apparently my fault.  “You’re not accepting the price Jesus paid on the cross….you’re not trusting God…you’re not praying enough…you’re bitter (OK, I agree with that one)…you’ve got a demon (personal favorite).”  I walked to the front of so many churches with my forgiveness list, nailing my anger to a cross (literally), throwing my written thoughts in a fire, telling others, repenting of “my part” (though most of that was fucked up) and crying, crying, crying.  Nothing worked.

I avoided this post for a few weeks as I didn’t have a cute little conclusion.  Lets just say I’m working on it.

 

Back to the grave

“These aren’t about me!  This isn’t me!  These were the things my father said about my mother!”  Therapy is hard work; weeks, months and years can go by without a breakthrough.  It’s still beneficial for slogging through the days of your life, but we all want that light bulb moment.  This was mine.

I’ve been in some form of therapy on and off for years, decades really.  Crying about a father that didn’t want me, facing the traumas and horrors of my teen years and accepting that I did the best I could with what little I was given.  There was emotional release, for a moment, but it was truly the same words being repeated year after year without getting to the other side.

I should disclose that in addition to my psychological therapist; I now have friends who know me well enough, and love me enough, to give just as much guidance and support.  These therapist friends are a Facebook group of people I met through the page Stuff Christian Culture Likes (SCCL).  I found the page accidentally while searching Jonathan Acuff’s – Stuff Christians Like.  Stuff Christians Like was cute but tame; I got some laughs but didn’t really feel understood.  Finding SCCL blew open my world, as I found my people.  People being honest about their doubts, their fears and the atrocities committed by the church.  Through random chance (divine intervention?) I was put into a group of 20 people who have stood beside me in some of the worst times of my recent years.  I believe their presence in my life, along with my therapist, allowed this mind blowing moment.

My therapy homework assignment was to write statements I felt about myself in a specific area.  I did my list 10 minutes before leaving for the appointment as it was too painful to see the statements and hold the emotions for a sustained period of time.  As I read the list I saw my father’s face and was rushed back to a dinner we had shortly after my parent’s divorce.  He went into graphic details of the ways she’d betrayed him, ruined him and broken him.  Healthy boundaries didn’t exist as I had to listen to his tirade about my mother.  He ended is saying, “I have a hard time looking at you because you look so much like your mother.”  I was 16.

As I exclaimed, “These aren’t about me!  This isn’t me!  These were the things my father said about my mother!” I felt my body tingle.  My face became flushed and I started struggling to breathe.  My therapist called me to mindfulness and brought me back to the room, as my memories were swirling and starting to swallow me up.  I said, “I’m going back to the grave with this list.  I need ridiculous dramatic moments to push me along.”  I added, “I’ll do it Saturday, February 13th, the day before Valentine’s day, I want this off of me before then.  I also like that it’s on the 13th.  I was raped on the 13th.  I want that day – that number back.”

It wasn’t as cold on this day back at the grave site.  Not nearly as tumultuous to drive there either; I knew my route and was focused.  Still couldn’t find his damn headstone but I now had a place that I’d designated for my release moments.  I read the list allowed, half crying – half screaming, much angrier than the previous time.  As I ripped the list up and gave his statements about my mother back to him, I stomped and growled.  Felt a bit like a toddler, or someone losing their mind, but it felt right and good.

gravev2.1.jpg

I then drove to my step-mother’s and brought back the key to their house. I’ve held onto it with thoughts of breaking in when my step-mother isn’t there. I didn’t want to take anything. I wanted to snoop. And I wanted to see if my father wrote anything…about me…that’s nice. I kept the key in my purse so I’d be prepared for my moment.  It had to go.  Now in my family when there is an issue we typically write letters back and forth, raging with venom as to why we are right and deserve an apology.  I did nothing this time.  My silence was the statement.  I wrote her name on an envelope, put the keys and a post it saying what they were, and didn’t even sign it.  Be gone.

grave_key

The blogs I’ve read recently tend to end with a bible verse or some statement about how “God did ___”.  I don’t have that.  I was told for years in church that God would reconcile my father and I and make everything new and better.  I was disowned two years before he died, and though I did see him before his death, God didn’t do shit.  As always.

There isn’t a nice way to wrap this up as the journey continues.