Thursday, February 9, 2017

From the Untitled Archives

I found this post the other day and realized I'd never actually put it out there...or maybe I put parts of it out there, or a different version or something, but, reading over it, I liked it, and wanted to share. I'm currently working on another time-line piece, but it's taking a minute to process through MY SOUL. So, forgive me. I spend about 20% of my time trying to figure out what I want to write about, 77% agonizing over actually writing, and maybe 3% actually writing. It’s a shame the way this writing messes around with my heart. Ya know?

So....this is back in the fall of 2016....a different time indeed.

Summer is almost over, and as the cooler air floats in and settles on the concrete, grass and astroturf of Chicago’s myriad of front stoops, I feel an all too familiar looming sense of terror. Winter is coming. And winter is going to hurt. It has me questioning every choice I’ve ever made as I spin out of control down the tunnel of sugary marketing ploys painted orange and yellow. It’s beautiful, but it’s also unsettling (and way too sugary), to say the least.

I am unsettled, and I know exactly why, for the most part. My therapist keeps telling me I’m more together than I’ve ever been since she’s been working with me, but I can’t get behind it. Of course, that’s always been my biggest problem: getting behind myself. I play a good game, but I really don’t trust my own instincts in that fiercely confident way that I want to. I haven’t given enough merit to my own accomplishments.

Sure, I like repeating that I have a master’s degree, especially when people ask if I can do things like, “hold this.” I can toss in a good multi-cultural factoid when the conversation turns to travel and world view. Heck, I can give you relationship advice as I’ve spent a gooooooood looooooooooong time analyzing my past relationships and doing my damnedest to see the whole picture, but I certainly can’t take my own advice, and I wouldn’t bet on my answer with a quiz team, and I’ve rarely relished in my own innumerable memories.

I maybe give myself credit once every….3 or 4 years?

So, I’m due for a “me” party, time to reflect on all the choices I’ve made and where they’ve led me. It’s natural for me to want to reconsider my choice of settlement during this time, as I’m more open to the time it will take to make the right decision. I’m not desperate….but again, winter is coming.

As I compose my list of pros and cons for going back south, I keep getting sabotaged by those old demons I've been fighting off for a while now. That's natural, I bet. When I lived in The South, home, I was always a little frustrated. I felt stifled, held under water as I kicked and fought my way to the surface of whatever I needed to learn about myself. Everywhere I went, I was followed, at my heels, by these memories, this PTSD, the beasts.

Describing the beasts, using literal terms, makes them seem ridiculous, even to me. Par exemple, A friend in a rocky, at best, relationship found an article about gaslighting and shared it with me a few years ago. Gaslighting is basically manipulating someone into questioning their own sanity. It's been popping up a lot lately, I think, in the media, part of the whole carnival ride paradigm shift. I had never heard the term before she shared the article, but it made sense to me.

I was awash in memories of old boyfriends turning on me suddenly, telling me I was yelling, I was out of control, crazy, when I didn't feel like that, like I was yelling. I didn't feel rage. I didn't feel out of control, but they said I was. They told me I was losing it. Instead, I saw myself as the little girl I used to be, with dirty knees and wide eyes feeling like she was being ignored, feeling like she was not being heard. It was confusion, desperation to understand. A little girl asking, "please help me understand. How can I help? What can I do? What am I supposed to do?" It was empowering to finally have a word for something that affected me so deeply, helped me recognize that little girl.

Not two days after my friend had shared the article with me and her boyfriend, I remember sitting in one of the classrooms of the old theater where I spent the first solid years of my thirties. It was after the usual Saturday night show, and we were drinking beers and trying to make each other laugh. I remember her boyfriend mentioning the article around the time all the mens' voices had raised at least a few volume levels. Everyone laughed.

"Gaslighting? Like I'm actually making her think she's crazy?! How crazy is that?!"

And everyone laughed. The whole room roared with laughter.

I waited for the noise to die down so that I could point out the irony, but it didn't. He kept going, harping on what an idiot notion it was to even think of complaining about being made to think you're crazy, and how crazy she was. She was so crazy. They're all crazy. Crazy. Crazy. CRAZY CRAZY CRAZYCRAZY.

And I just sat there, expressionless...the beasts nipping at my heals. But I didn't turn around.

If I had been strong enough to turn around and face them, I would have said to him, in as non-threatening a voice as humanly possible, "Well, why do you think she feels that way? What's going on in her life that is maybe causing her to feel like she's losing it...if it's not you?" It seems like it should be easy, but as I ask the questions, I begin to feel the tension. He bristles, worried that I'm about to get angry, "crazy."

Weak me gives into the accusations. She buckles and cries out, flies off the handle. "I'm not crazy! I'm not yelling! I'm just....please let me finish!" She tumbles into her own trap and ends up in the fetal position, weeping the tears of defeat whilst listening to country music, the music of pain.

Strong me. Stops. Listens. Takes a deep breath, and says calmly how she feels, how she sees the world regardless of who is listening. She explains that she understands his point of view, that it's hard for everyone, for all of us, but we have to be able to have a dialogue, to ask questions, to be questioned without getting defensive, to give answers. We all get defensive. We all put up a wall.

And then, she is done, regardless of what is said after. She has said what she wanted to say. The rage of the subject before her, behind her, is noted, but not adopted. She turns inward to the little girl with the sticky tears on her face born of the confusion that comes from miscommunication, from being ignored, from being told to shut up, to sit down, to be different, to be different, to be different, and she embraces her.

I will dry her tears and hold her in my arms. Then I'll make a lot of cookies, and regardless of what the CDC says about cookie dough, I'll eat the hell out of it.

I think of other girls and women that face the same dance as society urges them to be a partner instead of a person. Relationships are a choice, after all, not a requirement. I think of men that face the same quandaries, the same unimpeachable ideals of how they should look and think and act. We are all in this together. Let's admit our fears. Let's be honest. For once.

If I can do this. If I can really trust myself. I can begin to trust others. I can begin to trust other women and men, young and old. I can carry my own suffering, not as a wound, but as a badge, tell the stories of my journey, lean in, leave my house...I can help, and that's all I've ever wanted to do.

He likes Righteous Babes. What can I say. 

*If you have never seen Beasts of the Southern Wild, stop everything and change that.

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