Bad Form

Sometimes a random thing can come along on any given random day and completely change your trajectory. Since I’ve heard it from a few people that they miss my posts, I decided that randomness was as good a subject as any, especially if it leads to something. I’m also just working on some radical honesty and openness so this one may hurt a little. Ew, vulnerability! Again! Things should get lighter after this one because I need some silliness after this and so does the world.

We all have characters we love from childhood, and sometimes beyond, who resonate deeply with us in one way or another. Something about them anchors in your subconscious and they trigger something, happiness, bravery, angst, whatever. Wonder Woman reminds me of being a little girl with aspirations of being both a kind and powerful righter of wrongs, Harley Quinn is for me a strong example of a tendency to place my love and trust in people who don’t care for me in return, a failing indeed, but the one I’ve found myself turning to over and over in my adult life has been the enigmatic pirate in Peter Pan, Captain Hook.

I know it sounds preposterous. You mean that oaf of a villain in the Disney cartoons my kid watches? The inept pirate? The suicidal drama queen of “Hook”? Or the leather-clad romantic love of Emma Swan on “Once Upon a Time”? Colin O’Donahue is so dreamy! Of course, you like him! Well, actually no. I’m speaking singularly of the book version of the character, who just happened to be my son’s favorite when he was little. I confess I’d never really read it until then and I was struck by how different he was to what I expected. I may have written about it before, and I’m not going to dive fully into that moat of neurosis, but I will dip a toe in for context. And now…s*** gets real…

Once upon a time, when I found out I was pregnant with my son, my husband had just left me. I had also just been laid off from my job due to downsizing and had been in a nasty family situation which meant relocation to somewhere that I wasn’t too hot about. I was alone, depressed, and thrust suddenly into unexpected parenthood all within the span of maybe a year. I felt as if I was an alien in a landscape in which I didn’t belong, injured and learning to cope. I was also amongst people who did not share or even understand my point of view on more than a few things. I had no one to talk to and, being just generally anachronistic in my approach to…everything, especially my manners (good form, if you will), there was a perfect storm of isolation and honest, diagnosed depression.

Here was someone in the character of Hook who was also isolated, vulnerable, misunderstood, injured and taunted daily by his attacker, someone who was always thinking, whose feelings ran deep, had a penchant for old-fashioned dress (I spent my early 20’s in ruffles and velvet…it was the 90’s dammit!), harpsichord music (my favorite), and was chafed by the cocky, unfeeling childishness of the person who injured him. I immediately related. At that time, how could it not sting to see my ex-husband, referred to ironically by my therapist as “Peter Pan” in our sessions despite my silence on this subject, enjoy so fully his ability to run around freely and play as he always had despite the fallout he caused and continued to cause? In Hook, I found a lonesome companion, and so he became. I saw him as stronger than me, however. He had a self-confidence and iron will that I had lacked. He’s described often as “melancholy” but having an inner resolve despite being “so terribly alone.” So, honestly, he’s a source of bravery when I feel small, which I sometimes still do. Hook’s portrait takes up a large part of my right arm, and I have a hook pendant which I find myself grabbing when I need to spur myself forward.

Of course, over the years things have shifted and life has changed both for better and worse as it does. Despite being happier, lately, I’ve found my old affinity returning for Captain Jas. as I do when I feel alone. I was searching for something, a painting I remembered from years before, when I came across an interview with one of the many actors who has played Hook over the years, and it seemed he had no kind words for the character. For some reason, it punched me square in the face. I know people relate to being protective of their favorite characters. Read any Batman message board to prove that point, but this was something else. As I walked my dog, I found my mind running through literary arguments in response. Why would a several years old interview about a fiction bug me so much? It hit me that it wasn’t so much that I love Hook, but that he resonated so deeply as me that it placed the judgments directly at my feet. Of course, I couldn’t expect anyone else to see him as I did. Who could? It’s a peculiarly specific filter I saw him through as I’m sure is his opposing one. Still, it challenged me, I think for the better.

I had to ask myself those essential questions. Why am I so alone? Am I miserable? Angry? Do people not like me? Have I given up?
I thought through it, trying to be as honest as possible. What is the thorn under my skin?

One thing I’m sure about is that I want to ease misery, not create more of it. That’s why I have the job I do, to ease grieving people through a difficult time in their lives. That in itself can be depressing. (Misery?) I’m also alone all the time. I’m the only person in my office except for my dog who, god-dammit, I should have named Smee. If he hadn’t had a name when I adopted him, that would have been it. Can you imagine? Smee! Come here! Sit, Smee! Yeah, that would have been the living end…

The few people I come in contact with are in crisis and it complicates the question quite a bit. I have wondered often if I should try to redirect to a new career. I hear often from families that I’ve helped them and have a perfect temperament. (for death? Uh…yay?) Being that help has been the reason I stay; that and having a teenage boy to feed and frankly, he eats like Ron Weasley after a week-long fast. It’s truly a sight to behold…

Clouding the question further is that I’m actually an introvert. I have discovered that yes, that is a real thing and that I need alone time to recharge amongst other things, especially with the current state of the world which is wearing down more than a few like-minded people. This alone time is something that gregarious, super-social people tend to not understand. Over the years I’ve been shamed for this, labeled as “depressing” or “anti-social” (a completely incorrect term), and have been harshly judged regarding the way that I exist in the world. Frankly, that has sucked. I’ve lost friendships over it. (Wow. Am I miserable? Guys…this isn’t going so well…) But, I’ve found people who write about introversion who give me hope; that make me believe I didn’t deserve to be ostracized for being reserved. This doesn’t mean that I want to be alone all the time, though, and unfortunately, it’s much harder to make connections or to even find other people like me because, well, introvert! We need a clubhouse or a secret handshake…something.

Also, I don’t hate everyone! Far from it! I have little patience for fake, shallow small-talk, but I do want friendships. I talk to people when I feel comfortable. It feels harder as I get older and people are in their well-worn friend groups that seem hard to penetrate, but I’m not giving up on the hope of connecting.

The real crux of this is the last comment. That question of whether I’ve given up on myself hit a nerve I didn’t know was raw and needed attention. I have to admit that I feel I have given up on myself this year in response to extreme guilt. My mother passed last year, and although she initially had clear-cut wishes, she changed her mind once she got sick and I, being in charge of everything, can’t help but wonder if I did the right thing or if I prolonged her suffering. It’s truly and honestly the fear that haunts me. I realized that this issue is the real reason for my response to that article. I’ve had my own serious illness. I know what I need to do to make things better. I find myself hesitating and I think it’s because I don’t deserve to be o.k. after that. I did as she asked, but she suffered and it was my fault. I’ve never been particularly good at letting things go. This is an anchor I don’t know how to lighten the weight of. I’m trying to accept that I did what I could at the time. I honored her wishes. I can’t change it now, or ever, no matter how I punish myself. Coming to terms with that is the key. Accepting the unacceptable.

A new perspective through which you can see yourself from the outside can be helpful, if painful. It’s been the first marble in the Rube Goldberg mechanism that I hope changes my heading toward brighter seas yet again. Looking at my old posts it’s clear I’ve been agonizing over something or other for too long now. Time for action. One thing this exercise in self-reflection has brought me is that I’m not ready to give up. I’ve restored my writing desk and started writing. I’m making plans. I’ve started to joke again, if clumsily. Hook too had moments of good humor, and I do still love him dearly, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. Maybe that’s a proxy for my own self-acceptance, who knows? Either way, I’m not yet ready to go contented to the crocodile.

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Unsung Heroes

WWII Lion

You ever have one of those moments when the curtain of fog lifts? I stop just short of calling it an epiphany, but something struck me this morning. I was watching a trailer…yes, those things most people fast forward past, or used to. (In my day… hahaha, just kidding). I love movie trailers because I love film and I love seeing artfully made mini-stories. Today, after a lot of buzz, I decided to check out the trailer for the new Christopher Nolan war film “Dunkirk.”

Now, just a little background, I haven’t written in a long time. I haven’t felt able to. My life, and the world at large has seemed to be nothing but an avalanche of misfortune and loss and I’ve been unable to articulate, or even understand exactly how I feel about it. I’ve not been handling life so well. At best, I’ve been angry and overwhelmed and at worst, I’ve felt a general loss of connection to humanity. I just don’t feel like this is my world anymore. Paradoxically, I don’t feel like I’m alone in that.

A little while ago, in said trailer, I was shown what I didn’t even realize I was mourning.

Humanity.

Of course, humanity is still alive in the world. By humanity, I mean empathy, kindness, and the heroism that happens every day. What has been different, at least to me, is that we don’t see it anymore. We’re overwhelmed by conflict. Politics is conflict, news is conflict. Most of the media we’re hit with is either vapid or profoundly mean-spirited. Conflict and violence has taken the lead and I don’t know about you, but it’s begun to make me feel burned out and more than a little bit hopeless.

It occurred to me that maybe my new-found affinity for Superman and Captain America (and my very old but newly ignited affinity for Wonder Woman) has more than a little bit to do with needing that shining example of people doing the right thing, especially when it doesn’t benefit them. They are beacons in a world that grows more muddy and pessimistic by the day.

“Dunkirk” did the same thing for me, but more profoundly. As it unfolded I found myself transfixed. Before I realized what was happening, the tears welled up. The world has perhaps always been in conflict, but people, good people, have always been there, even if they’re not on the news. It reminded me of that. It also reminded me of why I have such a deep respect for Britain in WWII and why film is so powerful.

“Dunkirk” reminded me that regular people, like me, like you can be extraordinary. We can follow those examples even if art is the only place to see them right now. Film, and art at large remind us of who we are and who we can be, and thank goodness for it.

Be human. Be a hero, even if no one can see it.

R

All the King’s Horses

3182668739_eca417e9f9Its been a while. It’s been the kind of a while that stirs up a “get stuff off your chest” post…It’s been a maelstrom of meditations, medical problems, friendship fallout, and catching myself in symptomatic behavior. To be honest I’m still being carried by the swirl. I know I’ve written about this before, my difficulty with relationships and BPD, but things have come to such a screaming apex that I thought it might be time I wrote out just how it feels being this socially inept.

Firstly, my long suffering relationship with DG has come to an end. He’s no longer in my life. He moved on, found new friends, and is happy as a clam from what I gather. Its rubbed in my face to be honest. It’s a cycle that’s become overly familiar over the years, simply because there is a clear cut pattern that replays with every relationship. There are a few obvious phases that sometimes overlap and sometimes come alone and fierce.

Anna Karenina
This is the phase of pure paranoia. Things will be going along swimmingly until we spy a tiny, probably meaningless and unintentional hint and spend hours trying to decipher the meaning. We weave these thoughts into an ever increasing web of certainties that may or may not have any basis in reality. Consequently, by acting insecure and suspicious, we push away the very people we fear losing.  Like Anna Karenina,  the smallest signs of being abandoned take hold with a ferocity painting only visions of endings that no reassurances can overcome. While those feelings led her to suicidal resignation, I’m trying to reason my way out of mine.
Humpty Dumpty
The big one with BPD that I can tell you is happening for me right now is the cycle of putting someone on a pedestal (idealization) and then just as quickly, after whatever trigger occurs, feeling nothing for them or even worse, feeling anger toward them (devaluation). I can tell you that I had no idea I was doing this until the pedestal broke, but looking back, this person’s word was gospel to me, every opinion the totality of truth. Now that the break has occurred, all I can see are the fractures left over from the fall.  People are angels or devils with no in between. It’s a hard way to see the world and it’s never made an appearance so strongly with me as it is now after DG. Even Though I recognize what’s happening as symptomatic, I can’t stop the feelings from overwhelming me.
I’m no longer fairest in the land, it’s Snow White.
Here comes the anger and the jealousy. The view is extremely selfish… everyone wants to be favored; to think they’re the closest, the most important…but when the illusion is broken, it’s a long way down to the concrete. This comes into play when you are no longer the center of attention like you once were. It comes with the inevitable pulling away that comes with every friendship whether it be the arrival of a significant other, new friend, new co-workers, whatever the new and exciting thing may be. We feel replaced, no longer good enough (that is if we don’t have the solid self esteem to show us otherwise – which we usually don’t). So, my friend found a new friend. Most people deal with this in a healthy way hanging out with other people who want their company. Focusing so much the one perfect person, however, made that impossible. In the all or nothing thinking, there is now nobody left. I felt devalued and it set of the chain reaction of devaluation and landed me in my angry little hole. Being pushed off to second place (or lower) is something I’m keenly aware of.
Fear and Loathing and the Devil Ether

This all leads me to the fact that while I know all of this, and can recognize the symptoms, just like the devil Ether, “you can actually watch yourself behaving in this terrible way but you can’t control it.” The feelings are so overwhelming. You can reason with it. You can try to think your way out of it, present it with alternative scenarios, shame it, cry and hope it goes away, but in the end, the emotions have their day. You find yourself thinking terrible things and plotting until you snap yourself back to reality.

It isn’t easy. No one can Live up tho the picture I painted, no matter how loving or kind. No one can live up to the best friend myth that I keep looking for either.

The problem is I’m still, well,  I’m mad. Angry. While that’s an honest feeling, it also ranks me in the “unhealthy relationship” category and pushes me even further down the scale of people likely benefit from friendship. I’m still behaving in this terrible way by feeling betrayed and reacting to what was to me, a very real event. So, it’s kind of like shooting yourself in the foot accidentally. It seems I might have to get used to the idea of of being fully on my own and learning to like it.

To Quit or Not to Quit

editormanuscript

I took the title of “writer” off of my profile today. It seemed like the right thing, after months of not being able to make progress and after some of the critiques I’ve had.  It was easier than it should have been.

After my last round of pills for  anxiety and depression, anything remotely like creativity dried up. I had nothing stirring around in this big, empty, wooden head of mine. Reading became a painful reminder of tasks undone and dreams not pursued. The more I read, the more I realized that maybe my trusted friend was right, maybe I should look at some of the other things I’m good at.  I’ll never forget that comment as long as I live. It felt like a curved sacrificial blade was slicing and pulling out my heart.

That became my reason for stopping, that I was no bloody good. My writing is not polished, it’s overly complicated, it’s amateurish. There was one nagging thing though, and like all things that are pushed down, it eventually resurfaced. The pull started again, the ideas.

I need to do it.  Good or awful.

There are a lot of reasons to quit something. It may come to nothing, it may be received with harsh criticism, it may have been done before (everything has)…but the drive, the need can’t be extinguished and so, to silence that inner demon, I’ll write. I’m not sure what yet. I’m not sure my manuscript is worthy of revisiting, but I’m going to do it for the satisfaction of having done it. I’m going to take the next steps to get the novice mistakes out of the way and even if the final product is bad, it’s mine. It’s work I’ve done, it’s sweat, tears, and emotions that needed exorcising.

What spurred me on tonight was an essay by another writer about the ten years she spent on a book that came to nothing but that everything had been worth it. Looking from the outside, it made so much more sense. Perseverance is a hard thing to practice when you’ve beaten yourself down and had no cheerleader in your corner,  but it’s the cornerstone of success. Even if I’m the Ed Wood of authors, I will have at least done what my inner self called me to do in order to be happy.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to reinstate my title of writer. I know that no matter what, I’m going to be writing in the quiet. I need to flex the muscles a bit more, but I intend on never quitting again, especially if it’s based on someone else’s opinions.

Love-phobic

BriefEncounter1Love. It’s a sticky subject to say the least, It encompasses so much of our being from the time we’re born and bond with our parents to that first friendship to that first crush that truly teaches us what the word “crushed” means. It’s a scary prospect, love. This week, I’ve learned that for me, it’s a lot more scary than I ever realized.

No. I’m not talking about a stalker situation, though that’s a whole category that deserves discussion as love gone wrong, though I’m not sure you can categorize it as love. It’s obsession and power. I’m talking about the vulnerable side of us that we hide away from everyone except those that we deem worthy.  It’s a giving of our whole self to someone. It requires that the other person will treat that raw. squishy bit of us with care. Like the Ood holding it’s own brain in it’s hand, we’re required to trust completely.

For as long as I can remember I’ve searched for it, longed for it, dreamed of the day I’d find the one and live happily ever after with my partner in crime. From Wuthering Heights to Brief Encounter to Dracula I’ve dremed of how it could be and wished for it. (A highly romanticized view of it, anyway) While doing some deep soul searching lately and trying to figure out why it is that I have such trouble relating to people and being myself apart from my shy persona, I’ve had a kind of huge realization. I’ve been looking forever for someone to love and accept me. It feels like a lifetime of disappointing encounter after disappointing encounter where that trust I spoke of was broken and that word “crushed” came up in reference to my heart. The big revelation is a bit of a surprise to me.

I’m the problem. I’ve always been the problem.

When I look back at the way I’ve been, it’s always been me that’s pulled away. This week I finally figured out why. A memory came up that showed me just how wounded I was and a big reason not to trust people with my exposed heart. It was something that happened when I was probably five or six, a best friendship gone wrong, which has had lasting tentacles. I can see it’s effects through all of my relationships telling me that people aren’t safe. People disappoint. People hurt. Unconsciously I’ve repeated this pattern over and over again and proved myself right.

When I realized this, I had a lot of anxiety, which showed me that I was on the right track. All the over-excitement when someone showed any interest in me was actually anxiety…fear. The last time I went on a date, I had to take a sedative to breathe, I was so anxious. That should have been a clue. My extra weight…a wall to keep interest away. Even my silence and shyness, not being myself in front of people, not showing them who I am, is a wall to keep people from getting too close or from seeing the real me; to keep them from rejecting me and making me feel bad or, God forbid, liking me and down the road, making me feel worse with a bigger rejection,

It feels almost silly finding out that you’re afraid of love. Heartache is so much easier. I know how to do that and really well. I’m used to that, but being open, really vulnerable to somebody, that’s terrifying. Now, that’s not to say that I still wouldn’t love to experience it before the end of the world, it just appears that I have a lot of work to do before I can. What a weird day.

WM

 

Vegas Baby

Pink Vegas There’s no denying that I’ve had my share of heartache, especially over the past year. Relationships are my sore spot, since I have all sorts of anxieties around bonding with people and the constant fear of abandonment that comes with my particular diagnosis. During those dark moments when I’m obsessing over what went wrong between DG and myself, (or any of my exes and myself) I’ve turned to one source over and over again…Miss Mandy Hale aka The Single Woman.

I can’t even remember what it was that brought her to my attention. It may have been a book sale or a recommendation when I was looking up dating advice or how to survive when you go from the it girl to the avoided girl. I remember reading her Guide to Letting Go and Moving on and being thoroughly uplifted, which, believe me kids, is a hard feat to pull off. I’d never had such to-the-point, heartfelt advice that stayed with me. I swear I could have taken several of her quotes and pasted them on my bathroom mirror to recite in the morning as mantras.

After that, like a sign from the heavens, I came across her 30 Day Blogging Challenge and that was a revelation. Taking on the Single Woman’s daily questions not only opened me up from the little ball of pain I was and got me thinking and challenging the relationship I was stagnating in, but it got me writing too, and from a hopeful place. (Also, not an easy thing to pull off). I’m not one to tout other people’s stuff, but so far, not only has her new book, I’ve Never Been to Vegas, But my Luggage Has, already given me a quote to hang on the bathroom mirror, (“When you stop blooming where you’ve been planted, it’s time to put down new roots.”) but it’s given me something incredibly close to my own experience to relate to. Her account of going through panic attacks and deep depression, both of which I’m currently starting to heal from myself, have my agnostic brain calling this book a blessing. Yeah, I said it…

I’m in the midst of a marathon read in the hopes that it will bring me the same uplifting push towards self-confidence that her other books have (I read her other books in one day flat). When you’re circling a drain, synchronicities are much appreciated. I’m open to the possibility, and so far whenever I need a good kick in the pants and a shot of belief in myself, her words are put in my path like an elixir. She has an incredible talent for being both inspirational and concise.

Though I’m not quite at the end, I’m getting that no matter the slings and arrows (or lousy relationships), we all have a path to walk. That path may not be what we thought it was going to be, but the detours are marked if we care to look, each one a lesson. We can end up in an entirely different place than we imagine, but after our hissy fits and self-deceptions, we find that can be a better place, a more rewarding place, and beyond anything we thought we wanted. For the first time in a long time, I feel lit up with hope that I can find my own overgrown trail to walk toward my destination. I’m grateful, hopeful, and full of it. It’s wonderful to have the tools to create your own upswing, and this new book has definitely been one of them for me. Inspiring stories do that for you. I can only hope one day to have my own to bless people with. Until then, I’m going to keep reading and keep watching for those exit signs.

Recognize the End

dead-end-jobsWhat was the last thing you contemplated leaving? What were the pros and cons? Have you made up your mind? What will you choose?

It’s rather funny that today’s prompt should be about endings. This day has revolved around that very subject. Actually, all week, I’ve been contemplating leaving things in a number of ways, some less than healthy and some much needed. When you come to the realization that where you are is not where you’re meant to be and that you’re beginning to wither from being planted in the wrong place, everything begins to change.

While there are times I feel blessed to be in my job, for example, when a family has truly found closure because of what we’ve done, it’s great. Most of the time, however, I find myself emotionally drained by it. For the most part, I try to be someone who is compassionate and helpful during one of the most difficult of life’s challenges and transitions, but what I’ve found is that I give much more of myself than I should and end up taking home grief that doesn’t belong to me. There isn’t much joy between these walls and they are the same four walls every day, spent alone or with grieving family members. It’s become a challenge for me to get to the end of the day, and when I do, I find the rest of my day much the same.

 It’s what routinely is referred to as “a rut”. I can tell you, I’m tired of listening to this record skip over and over again. I’d like to get to a chorus eventually. Some joyful singing. A revelation. A plot twist. Something new is needed.

While, lately I’ve been convinced, due to I’m sure what is partly my illness, to shuffle off the mortal coil, the rational brain that’s in there somewhere is actually crying for a change. I just can’t see the direction. I have to believe that one will make itself known. The wait is sure unpleasant though. As with any painful transition, there are growing pains.

It seems like I’ve been searching for my purpose forever and I’m still not sure where it lies. I’m opening up to the possibilities. The one thing I do know is that it’s time. When you begin to hate your life, it’s a big, fat sign that you need to move on. Right now I have no idea what the choice will be. There are no pros or cons to weigh until a direction opens up, but the decision is the first step. It’s time. I’m done here.

The other big revelation is that I finally got closure, well, somewhat, in my strained relationship. It is indeed over. The bandage has been ripped off and there’s nothing left to ponder or wonder about. I’m on my own to discover what it is that makes me happy. Things feel at once more hopeful already, even though, as an ending, it feels sad. This one gutted me though and through, but I needed the lesson. The finality of it has set me free in a way. The world is open to the boy and me. It may seem silly, but there will be some way shown. Things do have a funny way of directing you. I just wish the universe would hurry up a bit.