Notes to Self

April 16, 2013

A portrait of resistance

It occurred to me yesterday that I have been slowly uncovering all these varying coping mechanisms or ways that my parents shaped my thought processes but I don’t really have a general idea of what a picture of me would look like.

This is what I have so far:

I am a judgmental person (to myself as much as, or more than, to others) because I was always criticized and I learned to be critical.

I have this idea of how the world should work and if people don’t fit my schema then I get angry; much like how my parents and sisters got angry if I didn’t act the way they wanted me to.

I have anxiety, probably because I was never allowed to have my feelings, show anger or voice my disagreement with decisions made without regard to me.

I believe that I will always fail at everything I do, because nothing I did was good enough or the way they wanted it.

I believe I am unworthy of unconditional love and I am only as good (or loved) as what I can do for people, because I was not good, and did not deserve support and encouragement if I strayed from their idea of who and what I should be. The more I did for them, in the way in which they wanted it done, the better a person I was and the more loved I was (and by the way, this is still going on – I was recently kicked off the will because they felt they couldn’t rely on me any longer. A few years ago they kicked my sister off for similar reasons.).

Hmmm, I can’t think of any others right now, although I know there are more.

So I asked my therapist, if I feel like I will always fail at everything that I attempt, why do I try? What makes me have initiative and drive? What makes me continue to take chances and try new things and put myself out there? Why didn’t I just settle for something safe?

His only response was that people often have this core that is resistant. It survives and continues on regardless.

So, instead of painting a picture of my faults, here’s a picture of my resistance:

I have been married to a wonderful man for almost nine years; we have been in love for sixteen (we dated 7 years before getting married).

I have a beautiful, happy, healthy little girl who knows she is loved.

I have a few really good friends and am making more.

I have a job in which I am respected, relied upon and am really good at what I do. I will be promoted soon.

Even though I don’t like what I see in the mirror, I know it’s a superficial disgust and that the person standing there is really a beautiful, kind, loving, intelligent and wonderful person.

Even though I think about the time I spent sad and broken and how that may have kept me from being more than I am now, I also remember the moments that I shined and stepped out of my shell to be truly magnificent.

Despite the lack of consideration, respect and care that my family showed me, I am a caring person who considers other peoples feelings and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt (at least once because I’m not a fool!).

I am not who they are.

I am not who they want me to be.

I am me.

I survived and I resisted.

My picture of resistance is colorful and blooming everyday. It’s made of tears, fear, anxiety and sorrow but it smells like love and joy (and it tastes like coffee).

How about yours?

 

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November 14, 2012

It’s like Laundry all over again (or is that Déjà vu?)

Some may say that the common cold is the most humorous (or ironic?) plight of the human race; something so simple yet so debilitating (takes me nearly 4 weeks to get over a cold!).

I, however, think it is laundry. Each time you do it you swear you just did it!

Wash, dry, iron, fold, hang, wear; wash, dry, iron, fold, hang, wear…!

Note how it is called Laundry until it’s clean…then it’s referred to as clothes (I have to do the laundry as opposed to put the clothes in the dryer)!

Before we bought a house (we lived in an apartment complex), we would load up the laundry every two weeks and go to the laundromat. Many hours later we returned home with our clothes to hang or put in drawers. It was an all day event. We established routines and traditions – earlier morning laundry meant Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwiches from the deli. Later in the day laundry meant pizzeria food on the way home. Sometimes we would hop into a store in the strip mall for some miscellaneous item we needed. Sometimes we read or played travel games. I often remarked at how much I was looking forward to never ever coming back to a laundromat. I swore I wouldn’t spend an entire day doing the laundry!

I think our fundamental internal struggles are a lot like laundry, each with its own cyclical pattern. We design routines around them. We create habits to deal with them.

Anger, sadness, fear, regret; anger, sadness, fear, regret…

Every few years I seem to have to drudge up the major, traumatic events in my life that helped shape my psychoses. I’ve found a new therapist, decided to try once again to deal with them once and for all or something triggered the cycle.

Sometimes the start of Fall is the trigger. The smell, the colors and the chill. A lot happened in the Fall months.

I wash, dry, iron, fold and try to put away the emotions. Somehow I think the more I entertain the cycle the more residue there is left behind.

However, somewhere underneath these memories, I still exist.

How focused I have become on the memories and residues. How far removed I have become from the complete picture.

It’s like when you have a body image disorder and you look in the mirror – all you see are the fat thighs or the wide hips. You never see your entire self; just the parts you’ve decided are the worst.

I am not the sum of my worst moments.

I am not a remnant of my potential.

I am not held together by residue from mistakes made.

But after spending 5 hours washing and drying laundry and folding and packing up the clothes, one is left wondering how else could that time have been spent?

What if I didn’t spend my energy on anger, sadness, fear and regret? What if Fall just meant another day with different weather?

It has been nearly 24 years of dealing with particular internal struggles and I am left stating at the washing machine wondering when I can stop.

July 12, 2012

If it had been different, about what would we now be talking?

I was fortunate to be able to have a late breakfast with a friend this morning. We have known each other since the 6th grade and are, what I consider kindred spirits. We lost touch during college and then she moved to another country, etc. etc. But she is in town for a bit and after many years of not communicating we recently reconnected (thanks to Facebook by the way) and are talking as if we hadn’t skipped a beat. The really nice thing is that there has never been judgement or jealousy or any of the other emotions that are often in female relationships and that poison the waters of friendship; the awkward, strained things that prohibit one from being totally honest and open. We are certainly totally honest and open with each other. Except when we feel rejected by the other person, which is not only one of both of our fundamental fears but also (I think) the reason we lost touch. Now that I think about this fact, I chuckle that our similarities are the things that sent us apart!

We are both mothers and we are now finding that we struggle with the same fears and obstacles regarding our own children (e.g., what type of mothers we are, want to be and don’t want to be). We also both struggle with similar issues in our marriages (e.g., how our emotional issues affect our marriages). And we have had similar issues with our parents that has left us with similar, fundamental obstacles we have yet to overcome (e.g., lack of self-love).

We both fully agree that if a child feels unconditionally loved then the child is on the road to a healthy self-image. We both agree that we try every day to help our children feel as loved, cherished and appreciated as humanly possible. So maybe one day they won’t have the doubt and self-loathing she and I endure(d).

Finally I looked at my friend and said – if things had been different, if we had received the nurturing we believe is fundamental to a healthy self-image, then about what would we now be talking instead of discussing our fears and mother/wife problems?

“Yeah” was all she said as she shook her head and thought about what I just said.

What struck me was the expression on my friends face – it was a look of hope and yearning.

After all our years of fighting ourselves, is it possible we can find peace?

Then we could talk about the weather or the price of bread…

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