BabbleOnBrooke

Blogging a dead horse

50 Blades of Grey

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“The silicone chip inside her head gets switched to overload”

Sir Bob Geldof was right about Mondays. I don’t know what it is about them that makes me cringe so much. Maybe it’s the symbolic start of a new week and I’m reluctant to face the things it may bring my way? Perhaps it’s that I always have to work on Mondays and there’s always so many tasks, so little reward and so very little time to take a breath. It could be the conference calls that drone on with an overwhelming amount of information – so much so that it all just blurs into a mass of thunderclouds looming over my head.

This is the story of a Monday. A Monday starting just like any other Monday. I got up, got ready and went to work. In spite of work performance being rather awesome the previous week, it went unrecognized on the conference calls. I’ve grown accustomed to this. But in my mind, if it’s not a positive, it must be a negative. There is no in between.

I lost the end of my lip stud at work. There was no way I was ever going to find it. That was upsetting. I asked my “Wusband” (was husband) if he could get me another one on his way home from work since he visits the Tattoo/Piercing place frequently anyway. When he got home, I discovered that it was the wrong one. I’d also lost the stem at that point. The gauge was wrong as was the length of the stem. They were now uneven and creating anxiety for me. I need symmetry.

My boyfriend had invited me to a cocktail event that evening where I would meet another lady whom he’s fond of and enjoys spending time with. I wanted to meet her. I really did. I wanted to go because it made me feel good to be invited. I wanted to see them interact and support their relationship.

I’d previously posted on a facebook group page a desire to get a group together to go to Hippie Hollow with us. We really enjoy going and would like to also be a little more social while we do the things we enjoy. Then when I got home from work, it was shot down by the group’s admin because the event takes place at a “clothing optional” venue. There was nothing in the rules for that page definitively stating that clothing optional venues were taboo. So, another disappointment.

Then, Wusband is about to leave and grabs his suitcase. This was a cut and dry case of miscommunication. He had told me that he was only going to spend one day in San Antonio instead of two. Me, being me, took that to mean he was leaving in the morning, making it a simple day trip and would be back that night. But he was leaving now. He was leaving for an overnight and didn’t make any arrangements for the dog. I had planned on staying with my boyfriend for a few days. I had Tuesday and Wednesday off. I just wanted to relax. The notion of having to come back 2-3 times a day to take care of the dog on top of all of the other things that had overwhelmed me that day was more than I could stand.

I was a mess by 6pm. I was welling up with tears. I was already beginning to display irrational behaviors.  I messaged my boyfriend to tell him I wouldn’t be going to the cocktail event. He was, as he always is, understanding. I became angry with Wusband for the miscommunication. I was out of control angry. All I wanted was for just one thing to go right. Just one! It wasn’t unreasonable for me to check in on the dog a few times a day. I was only going to be a ten minute drive from the apartment. None of the things that went wrong that day were insurmountable dilemmas. All together they were the perfect ingredient list for abject doom, unrecoverable disaster.

I tripled my pharmaceuticals and waited. Nothing was happening. All I could do was try to wait it out. The longer I spent in the apartment with no space that was free of clutter, the worse my mind became. The thoughts of checking out for good were more than tempting. The only place I felt remotely clutter free and slightly more calm was the bathroom. I lay on the bath mat and I cried. They weren’t little soft whimpery  tears. They were angry and frustrated tears that fell heavily to my breasts and then to the floor. They were uncontrollable sobs. Pharmaceuticals were taking too long. The answer was sharp edges. I’d given up.

I took the “I really don’t care if this gets dirty” quilt from the living room and bundled up in it. I felt completely defeated. Nothing mattered to me at all besides the voice inside my head telling me I was useless. The inner voice became an audible voice, my voice telling myself I was a failure and that I really wanted this, I needed this. It was time to end this nightmare.

The blade was pretty dull. The first two cuts were the deepest. Following the veins, tracing over them like the sensual caress of someone who understands you and loves you anyway, I dug in hard. I stopped (again) and I saw the blood. I buried my face in my palms and let it flow. I cried at the frustration of not being able to follow through without a clear conscience. That guilt again. “Why can’t you just do it” were the angry words I yelled at myself , “you know this is what you’ve always wanted”. Over and over I’d repeat those words. As I repeated those words, I hacked away at my arms with the blade repeatedly for a full thirty minutes. I was a disaster. I just kept cutting and the anger continued to build.

James messaged me at around 10pm. He really wanted me to go and spend the night with him. I told him I was in no fit state to be driving. He offered to pick me up. I really didn’t want him to see me like this. I was happy just to lay there bleeding in my cocoon on the bathroom floor. I told him it was going to be a “red blanket night” which is code for “I’m bleeding and I don’t want to mess up your sheets”. He asked me if I was okay. I didn’t really know what to tell him other than to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when it’s “not as bad as you think it is”.

By now the pharmaceuticals had kicked in. I tried to stand up but everything was a blur and I couldn’t keep my balance. I had to pack if I was going to spend the night. I stumbled around trying to make sure I had everything I needed.  I fell repeatedly and picked myself up as the floor seemed to move under my knees. James arrived and surveyed the damage. I’d already cleaned off as much of the blood as I could and I was still in my quilt cocoon. I couldn’t see very clearly. The floor looked much closer to my face than usual. There was a spinning sensation that I was aware enough to note as being cliche while slightly intoxicating. Even in that state I did my best to remain as stoic as possible, gathering my things (albeit clumsily) and not wanting to accept help from the one person who shows me more love and acceptance than anyone else ever has. I wanted to die. I really didn’t want to be spared this time, or any other. But I spared myself the guilt of leaving. I spared others the grief and the effort it would take to dispose of my body and my memory. I cried myself to sleep wrapped tightly in his arms while mine continued to bleed intermittently. I awoke to the realization of needing long sleeves to cover the damage for the next month of summer in Texas. I awoke knowing that someone else was going to come home to an empty apartment and a bloodied quilt cocoon.

The cycle of guilt will never stop. It only ends when we run out of oxygen.

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Doing amazing things doesn’t make you an amazing person.

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This is me. I’m bound in rope, actually by this time the ropes were coming off. I have large metal hooks in my upper back suspending me from the steel beams of this performance structure. I have hooks in my sides rigged with steel cord for pulling and contorting my body, directing it to go where needed. I have needles in my chest, my arms, my cheeks, probably my legs as well but I don’t really remember. I was bruised from the impact of various implements. My hair was pulled. My face was slapped. I was in my zone. Focused on the pain. The pain that drowns out all of the thoughts. The pain that’s louder than the voices. The pain that makes me forget I have the flu, and a sinus infection. The pain that makes a crowd of complete strangers think I’m brave and can tolerate anything. The pain that reflects what’s inside.

This is an amazing thing to some people. For me it’s just an escape. It’s not amazing. It’s no more amazing than taking a dozen pills a day to keep me stable and functional.

I didn’t do this to impress anyone. I didn’t do this to impress myself. I needed this time away and I needed it to be my escape. It wasn’t. It was a momentary opportunity to meet new people, all of which have been actively pursued and flirted with by my estranged husband who (whether I liked it or not) insinuated himself into this entire situation. It’s hard to believe that a few months ago he was discouraging me from doing the things I enjoy, the things that bring me inner peace, because he didn’t trust these people. Now he wants to be everybody’s best friend. In doing so, he’s made any connections I want to have with the same people a “package deal”. I can’t have the connections and friendships with them without him being there, in the picture, always. Every one of those connections is just another connection to him. Another way of manipulating and controlling  my life just like the hooks and steel cables manipulate my body. He knows me well enough to also know that my fear of rejection and level of self sabotage is strong and overpowering. He knows that I give up and shut down.  He knows I become a recluse. Talking to him about it only yields comments about my selfishness and my need to control his actions. He either truly doesn’t see what he’s doing, or he does and my feelings of isolation as a side affect are of no consequence to him because it keeps me in my place. It keeps me off balance and it keeps me from having any emotional support. So I will continue to seek pain  wherever it comes from. Healthy or not. It’s the only thing I can ever really count on to take me away from myself.

Tie yourself to the mast my friends and the storm will end…

I’m having a very rough day. Nothing acutely bad has happened. I’ve had to get through some things with work. I feel a little disconnected from the rest of the world. I feel alone today. Emotionally isolated. I know I’m loved. I know my husband loves me, in spite of everything we’ve been through recently. I know my boyfriend loves me. I know my children love me even if they don’t agree with my choices. My brain knows all of this but my heart hurts anyway. My heart and my head both tell me that I’ve no right to lean on anyone else for emotional support. I have to weather this storm alone now, just like I used to a long time ago. It feels like a vicious cycle that I’m stuck in. The emotional isolation I’m feeling is painful and makes me want to reach out for help to make it go away, but I tell myself that I have nobody to reach out to. I tell myself I burned those bridges and the new ones I’ve formed feel highly flammable (even if they may not be flammable at all). This is heightening my sense of isolation and bringing about an unwanted awareness that I’ve paid a price for my autonomy – a heavy price. I’ve paid a price for being independent and strong willed and stubborn. Independent, strong willed and stubborn women don’t reach out for help.

So here I am. I’m not crying but the tears are starting to well up. The pressure in my chest hurts and wont go away. I should be at work, but I can’t be there in my current state. It’s making my stomach hurt. It’s making me feel nauseous. It’s causing me panic.

The physical feeling I have is the same physical response most people would associate with having made a truly embarrassing and life changing mistake, or having done something shameful and irreparable. I don’t accept that I’ve done those things. I don’t accept that my choices have been easy or frivolous. I don’t accept that they are wrong or shameful. At the same time, I can’t bring myself to just accept “me” as I am. I’m not happy with my body right now. My skin is breaking out. My diet is terrible. My will to live or take care of myself is getting slowly crushed under the weight of responsibilities that my mind inflicts on itself.  But tomorrow is another day.

When you just want to die

My children have always been my reason to keep pushing on. I lived for them. Only for them. They have always been my constant source of survival instinct. They don’t need me anymore. One of them doesn’t even care about me anymore. She’s angry and upset that I’d have the audacity to seek happiness in whatever form it took. Now I have one less person to live for.

I grew up with a complete lack of physical affection. Not physical attention, but physical affection. I grew up feeling unwanted and unworthy of love. Right now I feel that again. Unwanted and unworthy… and wondering if this is just a test. I need to go back to the hospital. I need to be somewhere safe for myself. If I’m going to survive the night, I have to get checked in. I don’t want to survive though. but whatever I end up doing I have to commit to it and do it now. I don’t want interference. I just want to be left alone.

I forgot to seek happiness in myself. Again I placed my happiness in the hands of someone else. I’m better off alone. I’ve always been better off alone. Death is as alone as you can get. That’s what I want now. I don’t want to feel anymore. I don’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s happiness or unhappiness. I need to be gone. I need to just disappear. I need to disappear for good.

Evelyn.. I love you. You’ve come so far and it destroys me that I won’t be here to see you become the beautiful woman I know you are on the inside. I will miss you dearly. Please, learn a lesson from me. Don’t let anyone tell you who you need to be. Don’t waste a second of your life living it for someone else. It’s bullshit. It will drain you and hurt you repeatedly until you can no longer suffer it. Be you. Take care of your siblings.

Tali.. I know you don’t approve of me or my decisions or my life. There are things you’ve done, decisions you’ve made that I didn’t approve of either. It’s not my place to judge you. I never lost an ounce of respect, love or admiration for your will to survive and your ability to always land on your feet no matter how shit things get. I wish I had that kind of drive. I wish my will to succeed was intrinsic like yours is, and not the by-product of parents who punished you for failure and had unrealistic expectations. I adore you no matter how much you hate me right now. It’s ok for you to hate me. It’s ok for you to consider me an emotionally unavailable parent. I’m sorry for that.

Nick and Julian.. I love you guys. If I didn’t, I never would have made the sacrifices I did to be a good mother to you both and an example of love, honesty and trust that your own mother couldn’t be for you. I feel like my work here is done. You’re both fine young humans who know how to show respect and how to show love. That’s something you can only learn from receiving it and I hope I’ve done a decent job of showing you the love and respect a parent should show their children unconditionally.

John, I know you’re going to be devastated. I’m sorry. I can’t keep living for you or for anyone else. Know that I love you and I’m deeply apologetic for being an epic failure to you. I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused you. But you need to be strong. You need to keep your shit together. The kids are going to need you. They all love you dearly. None of this is your fault, or anyone else’s.

Rob, my best friend. My twin flame. I already know you forgive me. Perhaps you can convince everyone else to do that too. I miss you man. I miss you like crazy. If I could have you here to hold my hand, I think this might be a little less painful. Stay safe. Look after the Blonde Squad. You’re very important to them… Just as you are to me.

James.. What to say to you.. ?  You know how much I love you. I truly do. I don’t want to  be that person in your life who brings you down. I can’t be a source of happiness and stability. I’m really bad at that. It’s crazy sometimes to have no feelings at all, then waves of them hit you like a tsunami. Tonight is a tsunami and this time I just want it to take me away. I enjoyed my time away with you. I’ve enjoyed all of the times I’ve spent with you. You’re an amazing person and any woman in your life should be damn proud and thankful to have you there. I am.  It breaks my heart completely to be saying goodbye, especially like this. It’s horribly unfair and cowardly. But you know, the last time I tried this,   I called a friend. I was happy. Slipping away. I felt the calm and the peaceful drifting. He took measures and I was brought back from the brink kicking and screaming internally. I want that peace again. I want to feel nothing again. Holding you one last time before the end would be nice, but I already knew when you took me home that this might be the last time. That’s why I didn’t want to let you go. I’ve been hanging by a thread for a long time now. It’s getting thinner and it’s about to break.

The many ways in which we love

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This week has been filled with so many extreme emotions and it left me thinking about all of the different ways we feel love and show love.

A few weeks ago, I reached a limit I never really thought I’d reach. I decided that I needed to take a step back from my marriage and re-evaluate my life from the ground up. In the process I realized that this bold step backwards would never have occurred to me if I hadn’t possessed a shred of self-love and an appreciation of my own needs, my own worth. This time “self-care” was brutal and messy. It was the severing of an intimate relationship that has lasted for over 15 years. It was filled with a sense of grief, coupled with a sense of freedom. In loving each other so deeply and to the exclusion of everything else, we absorbed each other’s anxieties and took on each other’s problems. We projected onto each other the sufferings of our upbringing and we shared in the celebrations and complications of raising each other’s children. Our love turned into a burdensome monster that enslaved us. In times of vulnerability on either side, the chains that held us together disguised themselves as soft arms embracing and comforting. In times of altercation, they became weapons of mass destruction. Now they’re gone. They’ve been replaced with a calm sense of being present in each other’s lives without being a deciding factor or having power of any kind over the other. When you remove power over someone else from your repertoire of emotions, you feel so much lighter. You notice immediately that the fear of not having that power was exaggerated beyond measure. Losing it was not the “big deal” you thought it was going to be. Love without power is healthy and it has room to breathe and to grow in any direction it chooses.

In my marriage, I experienced a plethora of different love types. The first was a “protective” love. At that time I found it to be endearing. It was flattering that my husband wanted to keep me safe. There was “romantic” love. This was shown through intimate contact and the want to please me with gifts and offerings. There was “encouraging” love where we would each remind the other that we’d get through anything life had to throw at us. Then came “manipulative” love. The type of love that is heavily laced with hidden agendas, insecurities and power struggles. It strips you completely bare in terms of autonomy and decision making, to a point where you just give up fighting it – you’ve already used up all of your spoons. Manipulative love comes with expectations – dozens of them. It’s not about gas lighting or being physically punished for your wrong-doings or shortfalls. It’s about control, ultimatums and the need to dominate the thought processes of the other person.

I’m in a place now where I can love freely and with positive intent. That intent is not to be someone’s everything. It’s not to be loved back unconditionally. It’s not for me to force anyone into doing or not doing things that bring them or me happiness. That intent is to be whoever we are in each moment. To appreciate every detail, every curve, every shape, every smile, every second of contemplation. Every word spoken or unspoken.

Love bites and hair triggers

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“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”
― C. JoyBell C.

It’s a rainy Sunday. Pretty relaxed and without any immediate life pressures. Just a few random conversations interwoven to a point that they’re hard to distinguish from each other.  One is about throwing myself into everything I do. Loving completely. Living completely. Being vulnerable sometimes. Allowing myself to be exposed to new lessons and discarding the old lens I used to view my experiences through.

Another conversation is about unfinished business. I have my unfinished book on this laptop. Part of me wants to try to complete it, leaving nothing out. Part of me wants to re-write the whole thing with a running commentary from the perspective of the other characters in the book and how they were either well loved, destroyed or left in shock by the things she (I) did.

I have an argument in there too. It’s obscure and has many facets and implications.

Biting. Just that, on it’s own, as a stand alone sensation. I love it. It’s primal. It feels like it reconnects my mind and body and brings me back to myself when I’m not feeling present. Pain demands my attention! My husband bites me in a way that is arousing and painful at the same time. My other significant other bites with more sensuality – also very arousing. I like to bite him because I can feel and hear what it does to him and it’s powerful and deeply moving. The marks we leave on each other in both of these intimate relationships seem to hold varying connotations.  When I leave a mark, it’s nice to look at. It pleases me to see the end result and I can remember the sights, feelings and sounds that accompanied its making. My other significant other seems to view it in much the same way.  I leave those marks because it’s part of how we express love and how we show raw affection. It’s not like licking the frosting off of a cupcake so nobody else will want it. It’s not territorial. It’s not a declaration of any kind. It’s part of how we bond. Yet my husband sees it differently. He views it as a declaration. He sees it as something that should be exclusively his power to wield.

I recently spent a few evening hours with a sadist. It was our first formal meeting. In a sense it was like we were both interviewing for a role in each other’s lives. I was trying to get a sense of connection, as was he. Wondering if there is enough of a connection to continue a sadist/masochist dynamic. He asked me a lot of questions about what types of pain I like. He tested a few pain thresholds, various pressure points. Then he introduced me (baptism of fire style) to Shin Rope Torture. It was quite the experience. The pain was exquisite and crippling. He told me to get up and walk. I tried to take a single step but it was like all of my muscles were in a state of atrophy or they’d turned to concrete from the extreme confines of the ropes. The knots against my shins dug in deeply and I laughed in spite of myself for not being able to take another step. I felt a little vulnerable in that moment. He took the ropes off just as painfully as he’d applied them (at my request). My legs were on fire. He ran his knuckles up and down my shins to accentuate the pain in the already inflamed areas. It made me hiss. Then he asked what else I liked. Needles. I’ve been a human pin cushion since I was very young. I was sick a lot. I got stuck with needles as a result. So now I’m hooked on needles. He showed me some work he’d done. I told him to go ahead. I was totally down for feeling some metal. The first needle went through my hand, the pressure point between your thumb and pointer. It barely registered on my pain scale. Seeing that I was a bit “meh” about that, he brought out the short ones, much thicker ones and one at a time, very slowly and close to the bone he pushed them through my fingertips. I felt a bit of euphoria at that point. He asked if I like to be bitten. I’m sure he had seen the marks on my neck. I do like to be bitten, a lot! This biting was literally a stand alone, non sexual method of testing my tolerance. No skin broken. But he bit hard! Harder than I’ve ever been bitten in my life! This was not a “love bite”. This was biting that left raised welts I could feel through my clothing. But it was very different in that context. There was nothing territorial about it. Nothing sensual or sexual about it. Just pain. Just allowing someone to cause you pain that makes you feel alive and jump-starts your brain. It’s a missing piece of my life puzzle. It’s a piece I might have found. When he told me “You’re not a baby. I did not go easy on you.”, I felt better about not having been able to walk in the shin ropes!

“Dr. Charles Moser and Dr. Eugene Levitt surveyed 225 sadomasochists (178 men and 47 women recruited via an advert in a sadomasochistic magazine) about their sexual behaviour and published their findings in the Journal of Sex Research. Among their sample, the most common sadomasochistic activities were bondage and flagellation and bondage (50% to 80% of the sample). Painful activities (biting, use of ice or hot wax, and face slapping) were less common (37% to 41% of the sample). The most painful activities engaged in (piercing, branding, burning, tattooing, insertion of pins) were the least common (7% to 18% of the sample). These results suggest that biting (among the S&M community at least) is relatively commonplace.”

A fish out of water

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I’ve never lived this far away from open ocean before. It feels suffocating. Sure, there are plenty of lakes and streams nearby, but it’s not the same as battling the waves that pummel the rocks and cliff faces. It’s not the same as climbing the sand dunes and feeling like your legs are going to burst into flames from muscle fatigue induced by the sand that constantly shape-shifts under your feet. The sun feels different on salty skin. The smell of seaweed, as rank as it can sometimes be, is also familiar and comforting. When the wind picks up and blows the loose sand against you, the sting is like a kiss of gratitude, she appreciates your enjoyment of her offerings.

I miss it.

I miss so many things. The spaces need to be filled. I don’t know what to fill them with. I find myself needing to get away on my own for a while. Go and seek out the ocean and waves and cliff faces. Play in the dunes. It’s been over a year. It’s taking a lot of self-discipline to stay where I am and not just jump in the car and leave. It’s been a long time since I’ve adventured solo. I don’t think I’ve done it once since setting foot on this continent. Another of my freedoms I gave up.  I have no sense of self. I left it behind. Part of me wants to go back and see if it’s still where I left it. Logic tells me that would be a fruitless waste of time and money. I have to find a new self I suppose. This one won’t be built for the purpose of pleasing others at its own expense. This one wants to make split second decisions and live fearlessly. This one wants to conquer the voices that constantly tell her she’s wrong.

On parenting and letting go.

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As a parent, you really ought to try to love without expectations. I think that’s the most important cornerstone of parental responsibility. Your child was brought into the world (in my children’s case out of love, but in some cases not) without their permission. You created a life that may not be a happy one in spite of your best efforts. As a parent I want my offspring to be happy and that’s not easy when, as a parent you’re not happy. Those little sponges absorb everything. They take on your bad moods, your anxiety, your frustrations. They start to inherit your traits – be they good ones or flawed. But to then admonish them for the traits they inherited from you or from others who raised them, that’s fairly inexcusable in my book.

I’m the middle child. In my childhood, I was never shown love or exposed to it. My parents had very little love for one another and could only communicate with sarcasm and insults or unrealistic expectations. I inherited all of that. I had to learn to love in my own way. That sometimes came with unrealistic expectations. I’ve grown to understand my need for emotional attachment and feelings of safe physical attachment as having come from a childhood without any firm footing. I’ve become very aware and very cautious about forming attachments in my own adult relationships. In the past I’d learned some hard lessons about attachment and how distinctly different it is from love. It turned my two sisters in to very materialistic people, yet I’m attached to very few sentimental things. Those few things I presume I still possess, but I don’t need to have them close to me to feel their comfort. Some of those things are in a house in San Antonio. Some are much further away in a house on Kangaroo Island, Australia. Even if they’ve been destroyed, the attachment isn’t really directed towards the objects themselves. Rather, it’s the feelings of safety, the memories of the people who once loved me and of happier times coming from my thoughts centered on those objects that hold me captivated.

There comes a time when, as a parent, you have to let go of your children, just as you let go of the material possessions. Just know that they’re there, safe and hopefully happy in themselves knowing you love them unconditionally no matter what they decide in life. I’m fortunate to have children who have grown to be independent and determined like myself. They saw the bad times too. They saw me battle mental illness and addiction. They still inherited a little of that, but they know I don’t try to hide it about myself or expect them to hide it from me. It’s a two way street.

There also comes a time when, as an adult, you have to sometimes let go of your parents. If they have been a source of toxicity in your life and show no signs of improving that, apologizing for it or changing any of their ways, it’s not fair for them to expect that you would want to keep them in your life, continue to try to keep a toxic family together and “be the adult” when they don’t want to be adults.

I mentioned already that I’m the middle child of three sisters. I’m their polar opposite. My older sister and I never got along. She was cruel and jealous for most of our childhood and only became more so in adulthood.  My younger sister grew to be very much the same. I was the only one with a child at the time and that truly changes who you are and what you value. It changes your priorities and leaves you relatively intolerant of other people’s petty bullshit. My younger sister got angry with me once for telling her to show some respect and clean up after herself. She held a knife to my throat and threatened to cut me ear to ear. Not exactly something you can really forgive or forget. My older sister shamed me for having sex with another man. This other man also happened to be my closest friend at the time and it was without consent. I felt bad enough about it and didn’t need her to rub salt into the various wounds.  That was the last real contact I’ve had with my sisters. It’s been about 17 years, possibly more.

When I left for the United States, I’d already been estranged from my parents for at least 3 years. 2 years after moving here, my second husband coerced me into mending bridges with them. I really didn’t want to do that.  But as I’m typing this, my husband is with his family in Wisconsin, visiting his father’s grave. I never met his father. It was difficult for me to justify to him why I wouldn’t want a relationship with my parents when he would give almost anything to have just one more conversation with his father. So I gave in. I let them back into my life. It was a mistake. They never apologized for any of the harm they did to me. They just moved on like it never happened. My father came to visit twice. He was pleasant. Everything was fine. He even got along well with and was accepting of our girlfriend who was living with us at the time. But I knew this would be his last visit. He tortured me with hours of old family photographs and new ones which, of course, I’m not in. When we said goodbye at the airport, the very last words out of his mouth to me were that I needed to fix things with my sisters. I was devastated.  They would be the last words I would ever hear from my father in person. My husband heard those words too. That was when he realized the weight of what he’d done. He forced all of that toxicity back into my life. Driving away from the airport, my husband let out one critical remark about my driving and I lost it. I burst into tears trying to reconcile what was happening.

It’s over a year later now. In that time I have avoided conversation or any contact with my parents. Recently I sent them a letter, a long letter with many adjectives and adverbs outlining how my life had changed and what they did to send me down this path that was far from easy. I reminded them that I was not in any way responsible for how they treated me, nor was I responsible for my sisters’ behaviors. I was not going to be the adult of the family that they always demanded I be – the one who fixes everything. I was removing all of my family from my life along with all of the toxic feeling it contained. It’s regrettable that I had to do it for a second time and I sat on that letter for 2 weeks before mailing it. Then the guilt of them receiving it so close to my mother’s birthday hit me a little. But I remember that most times, it never mattered to them when they hurt me. I spent many a birthday in tears and that may be the reason for my never wanting to celebrate it now.

My husband has supported my decision. He understands it now and is sorry for the pain he brought back into my life to suit his needs.

These are times when you have to realize that keeping toxic people in your life is something that you ultimately control. Sometimes Parents have to let go of their children. Sometimes children have to let go of their parents. Irregardless, both parents and children have to let go of the belief that it is the obligation of the child to take care of their toxic parents, simply because they gave them life.

 

The right to keep what is yours

pexels-photo-744973.jpegImagine as a child, you were given a pendant. The pendant is full of great power and abundant love. The pendant drives your heart and your thoughts. It keeps you safe from not only the harm that others can cause you, but also the harm that you are capable of causing yourself.

As you get older, you sometimes forget to put it back on when you get out of the shower. You accidentally leave it at home when you go to work. Worst of all, you give it to someone else for safe keeping until you can return for it.

When you return for it, that someone else has taken ownership of it. All that power, all that love, the drive to continue to do better and be better, the safety. The person you entrusted it to didn’t think you needed it back. The person you entrusted it to decided that as long as they possessed it, they could be your source of great power, of love, drive and safety. But they never knew the story behind it. They didn’t feel it calling to them, because it’s been calling out to the person it belonged to all along. You hear it calling you. You hear it desperately trying to reconnect with you, but you can’t have it. You’re told it no longer belongs to you, that it’s in safer hands now.

You fight for years to get it back, through all of your perils and heartaches, broken dreams and dashed hopes. You blame yourself because you entrusted it to another person. You don’t want to blame the other person for not returning it to you, because they’ve done their best to decide what was right for you when you were powerless, loveless and broken.

One day you wake up and you realize that you were only powerless, loveless and broken because that person couldn’t interpret the calls of the pendant. They never heard it speak to them. They only thought they knew what was best for you and if they never heard the pendant object, they believe they must have made the right choice for your life. You want to fight for it again. You have to get it back this time. It’s yours. Only yours. The power struggle is epic and destructive. The keeper of the pendant has become so accustomed to your lack of resistance, that the thought of giving all of that power, the abundant love and safety back to you is not just foreign, it’s abhorrent. It’s a personal attack on their ability to make decisions for you. They refuse to give it back over and over again. You struggle to take it back over and over again. Every refusal and every struggle makes the pendant scream in such a shrill tone that you feel your ears begin to bleed. You feel damaged and cornered, abused for having asked for it and later even more battered for having demanded its return.

Finally it’s back around your neck again. You’ve been reunited and it feels strange, different than it used to feel. It feels starved of your attention. You were the only one it ever needed or wanted attention from. In that pendant resides all of the choices you were denied the right to make. All of the love that you should’ve given yourself. It’s bursting with all of the wisdom you needed to keep yourself safe.

The person who reluctantly relinquished it back to you, the person who kept it out of your reach for more than a decade, wants reparations. What can you give that person to show them your gratitude for keeping what was never theirs to keep? How can you be thankful to them for begrudgingly deciding to return it to you 15 years later than agreed upon?

This is what I’m being asked to do today. This is what I’m being expected to show gratitude and acceptance for today.

I’m being asked to thank someone for giving me back a part of myself they’ve held hostage. I’ve been expected to feel that “sorry” is enough for all of the damage it’s caused. I’m being forced to show love and forgiveness to a person who doesn’t even fully realize the harm they’ve subjected me to at their hand, at my own hand and at the hands of others. Sorry is a short word. It’s two very small syllables. It’s so easy to let it tumble out of your mouth. It begs to escape your lips almost constantly. Love is an even shorter word. Its weight is at least a dozen times greater yet it only contains half of the syllables that sorry does. It’s heavy in your chest and it wants to stay there where it’s warm and safe from judgment. It wants to stay where it doesn’t need to explain itself. It only comes out when your heart gets so full that you have to expel it so you can breathe.  Sometimes it has to push and shove its way past the queue of pending apologies to finally be seen and appreciated. Love can’t be seen or appreciated when it has to be apologized for.

You have the right to keep what’s yours, to live your truth and to love and be loved without apology.

On picking your battles

Brookex1-1So you might wonder why the picture above is even remotely applicable to picking your battles. I had just returned from a work-induced trip to Houston which was not a choice or given with anymore than four hours of notice. It happened to coincide with a huge convention for middle eastern folk and on night number one I was trapped in a small hotel lobby surrounded by people who were coughing their germs all over me and there was nothing i could do about it. By the next day I was infected with a flu that immediately hit my chest but I had work to do. I was not on a vacation. I was stuck there with a raging fever and didn’t have an inhaler with me. It was a three day nightmare of fourteen hour work days and acute debilitating illness. I worked through it.

By the time I got home, I was having a lot of trouble breathing. I went to the emergency clinic and they wanted x-rays. OK.. why not? So the x-ray technician was a bit of an asshole. He was training another tech and I’m assuming that he was asserting his misguided sense of authority over me by telling me I had to remove my piercings for the x-ray, to which I replied “nope”. This was just an x-ray, not an MRI. Nothing was going to rip them out of me magnetically so I refused. We argued back and forth on this issue for far longer than was necessary. He argued that they might obscure the view of something in my lungs. I argued that they’re small and unobtrusive (unlike him) and the chance that they would be obscuring what would be the deciding factor in whether or not  I was developing bronchial asthma (which I ended up with anyway) or pneumonia was minuscule and inconsequential. I used many big words. Big words intimidate low-paid people in scrubs (from experience). I won. The picture above is a triumphant testament to wisdom overpowering rules and regulations. In not choosing his battles, he made himself look a little stupid in front of his trainee. I’m sure it was very important to him to look as though he was in command of the situation and he may have lost some respect that day.

Everyone has battles and in the grand scheme of things, the above battle was probably not worth the argument on either side. The spoils of this dispute for me was not having to risk infection by taking them out, not having a sterile place to store them and having to put them back in again (and I got this funny x-ray into the bargain). There really were no spoils for the x-ray tech other than stroking his ego in front of his trainee.

So what makes a battle worth starting, continuing and ending? The answers are different for everyone. I avoid conflict with people I care about as much as I can. But as the saying goes “you always hurt the ones you love”.  The ones you don’t love and the ones who don’t love you back don’t really hold any consequence. But when you go into battle with someone you don’t want to live without, it’d better be over something that is fundamentally, monumentally important to you.

For me it’s freedom, autonomy, impulsiveness. Because introversion is my strong suit, when I get the urge to let loose and do something a little off the wall, I expect that my decision will be supported and encouraged by those who matter to me, even if it’s not their cup of tea. I do some crazy things sometimes just to prove to myself that I can. I’m not a teenager anymore. Life is far too short to put things off that challenge your child-like belief of what “normal” is.  I’m married. Very married. Two days ago I told my other significant other that I love him. It’s the first time in over a year that I’ve said those words in a romantic sense to anyone other than my husband. It took me hours to even pluck up the courage to say it, but I didn’t want to wait until some cliche moment like the first time we make love, no holding back. I don’t know when or even if that will be. So why wait to tell someone how you feel? Why are people dishonest with themselves about their feelings? Was I expecting him to tell me he loved me too? No, I wasn’t. I don’t love anyone with the expectation of being loved back in the same way or with the same intensity. But what he said meant even more. He told me that he wasn’t afraid to fall in love with me. That holds so much more value and honesty than “I love you too”. That’s a battle I’m willing to start, continue and fight every step of the way for if I have to. How many people come along in a lifetime who will be that honest with you about their feelings? How many people would just accept an “I love you too”? Before he came along, I would’ve accepted a bland and generic, obligatory “I love you too”. But now I know there are better ways of expressing love. Sometimes with words, sometimes with actions. sometimes both. By describing his feelings manifested in real and tangible shapes, he tells me what it means when we touch and how our relationship impacts his life day to day. He is worth fighting for. He is worth perseverance, patience and gratitude because he’s making me a better person. He’s showing me how better people choose their words.

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