I wish I wrote on this blog more. I wish it were one, long continuous conversation instead of me sending postcards to the winds when I feel panicked or sad. I suppose I should be comforted, then, that I’m not here more often, if that is what drives me here.
I guess what I’m saying is I wish I made more of this sacred space. I so deeply admire the many, many bloggers I know who write every single day. I so enjoy being kept close to their internal dialogues. I even find it comforting knowing their posts are adding up on the days I don’t read them. They are a constant, a presence, a well I can always return to. (Thank you Lindsey, Alexandra, Jill, Wolfie, Rita, Mir, Rita…)
I spend my days flitting in and out of other people’s minds, every day another discovery or three, another post my co-workers and I share with delight or our hearts in our throats. It’s magical, really.
I want to be magical. Constant. A presence.
The work I am doing in therapy right now is very hard. Eighteen years of carefully unpeeling my gorgeously constructed, highly evolved coping devices and at last I am standing naked in a burned-out field, nowhere to hide, nothing to do but keeping feeling over and over and over and over again the one-two punch: that I am terribly vulnerable, very afraid and that I am absolutely fine and solid and well.
It’s a lot to take in. And I have to keep taking it in, week after week after week.
I know there are people who could never understand eighteen years of therapy, who would consider that a failed effort. But actually therapy has helped me build up great admiration for my brilliant mind, a mind that crafted such a complicated combination of responses to the stresses of my childhood that I’ve had to walk the emotional path backwards, a step at a time, so I wouldn’t lose the thread, so that I would know what I was feeling was genuine, so that my therapist could patiently tell me where to look instead of what to think.
Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling so wounded — me with all my successes and achievements and the relative ease that making some money in my past has brought into my life compared to so many. But that’s part of the sickness, too, downplaying my ache. I have a lot of material to bully myself with. Because I succeeded, you see, at the fantasy that was supposed to save me. To become some kind of magical, powerful adult who could be so big that the agonies of life would never touch her. I wasn’t going to marry, no, too afraid of that, and so I convinced myself I’d never need it or want it. (And we can note that I have not stayed married or successfully partnered, and raise a collective eyebrow.)
Learning to stand still and feel both the crushing grief for the child that was me and all she had to carry — all she decided to carry, as an act of self-preservation and self-delusion — as well as the truth that I am whole and well and on my way to healed is an endless journey. I know I will never fully reach the end of it, even if I walk my emotional history all the way back to the beginning of time and carefully dismantle all the defenses I built to help me get through.
That is bittersweet, for sure, but I am learning to love my wounds, slowly, and to accept that the deal I made with myself as a determined, willful, empathic, driven girl was impossible and that I cannot judge myself for having failed it.
I promised myself, over and over, in the darkest and hardest and most disordered parts of my childhood that I would not be damaged, that I would understand my parents’ weaknesses, that I could digest their adult issues and forgive them, that I knew they were doing the best they could, that my mother never got her chance, that my father had no idea how to reach my mother in her pain and her mental illness, that the line between discipline and abuse was not as clearly defined as it is now, that it was too hard to resist leaning on a brave, bold little girl who spoke like an adult and showed such fierce strength…
I promised myself, lying in bed at night, waiting to hear my parents go to bed and turn off the lights, I promised myself, as tears slipped out of my eyes and into my ears, closing off the sounds of the house, I promised myself that I would not be hurt by all they couldn’t be, because I would make my understanding big enough to erase the damage.
But it was never going to be possible to be that big. But I could not have let that truth in back then, for I would have disappeared into something that would swallow me whole. I felt that empty, liquid void lapping at my ankles on the worst days.
I still struggle to believe that this powerful mission of mine failed, even now. Even as I’m typing these words, I feel my body wince against the admission that I couldn’t do it. (I did do it! I did do it! Don’t tell me I didn’t do it!! I’m here! I made it!)
I am grown now, and even more so, older, and bloodied and bruised in the way we all are by life and its regrets and heartbreaks. I am serene in how I’ve carried those heartbreaks, staring them straight in the face and allowing them to run through me, my eyes open to learn and see who I am, what the world is.
How could I ever possibly explain to you that even with all that, I still don’t know how to unlock the door in my subconscious that will let me forgive myself for not getting out of my childhood scot free?
There is the tapestry of identity that we weave from memories, experiences, hope and dreams. And then there is the tapestry that is woven in a back room of our mind, untended by our conscious.
Someday I will be able to let go of the idea that I need to forgive myself for being wounded, and then both rugs will become one.
Until then, I suppose I will be an occasional visitor here, caught up equally in the relentless task of living life’s details while also quietly, unconsciously twisting together these two different stories — both one and the same, as they have always been, the total sum story of me.