Monday, August 30, 2004

Chameleon on a SeeSaw

To cope with the many labels that are mine I learned to become a chameleon. With my mind trapped between two worlds, two ways of understanding and no way to fit in, I leaned to adapt to my surroundings. Keep the struggle deep inside. Left brain on one side right brain on the other. Creative ups and analytical downs. Mature too soon. Childlike too late. Wisdom rises to the top and naiveté waits to spring up. The planets in my birth chart have formed a cosmic game of Red Rover and the stars hoist the seesaw up and down. My spirit seems to live in the space between the polar opposites of my life. I ride my life like a seesaw and rarely stopping to rest.

My birthplace in my family had me growing up either five years too young or five years to old. Too young to play with my older cousins and too old to be accepted by the littler ones. The pattern continues in marriage. I'm ten years younger than my husband and nine years older than his son. It's hard enough to try to relate to being a wife and I have no idea how to be a stepmother so I just call James, "Geoff's son". There's no role for me in that relationship. No real way to become connected. Now I face the birth of Geoff's son's first child and I have no idea what that makes me. Grandpa's wife is okay. How can I be of any use to a grandchild when I haven't had a child of my own? The way my life is turning out I doubt I will ever know what being a mother is like. So once again, I'm in limbo. Expected to play a role life never prepared me for so I worry rather than act. Act like I'm not worried.

Worry has been a friend of mine for a long time. I grew up in a world of adult worries and now I suffer endlessly with the fears of a child. I've lived my life backward always in the reverse order of my peers. When I speak I sound older than my years but when I feel, I am still the matter of a soft-spoken child hoping that one day they would understand. I became a chameleon changing colours to fit the environment. I preferred to be alone. It takes less energy for me.

In my youngest years I was happy. I was that delightful child who talked to flowers and ground to a halt on the sidewalk so a line of ants could cross. I my kitty cats and longed for more animals. In the summer, I would lie on the front lawn talking to the bugs on trees and worrying that they wouldn't get home in time for supper. I watched the patterns of clouds in the sky dreaming of Bonanza and hoping Little Joe would come sit by my side. I was happy alone. Other people made me worry. Other people made me fret. I could see the things they were hiding but could tell them what I say. I wanted to run.

I remember having one or two friends. Not close friends. It was almost as if I kept them for appearance's sake. Although I did the usual things young girls do, it was like a dream. The child chameleon who blended in with the Barbies and horses and tried to keep up with the other girls. When they went home, I could relax. I could escape into my own world. I could have been the child that predator's are looking for - sitting alone watching the world play by. I sat alone. Blank. Occasionally I'd join a game of Simon Says or Red Light Green Light. Even the dreaded hopscotch but mostly I'd try to be alone. Tried to look happy. Always sang in a pleasant voice.

As the child, chameleon grew boobs and began her monthly blood letting, I began to become more detached from the world outside. My friends could share their teenage angst with one another, rebel against their parents and chase the reluctant boys. I began to get scared of the world. I began to obsess about death. Not the usual after school conversations and certainly not the type of topic that endears one to their social group. There was no after-school-specials that talked about adolescence mental illness. So I embraced the depression and obsessions to coldly comfort me. I faked the moves of my peers as an inky darkness began to envelop me. It was a shadow of worries too many to reveal. So I hid them inside.

At the end of the day, the chameleon sits in the middle of the seasaw. Her butt shifting as grief and gratitude move on the playground of life.

Only Human

God is my publisher, my editor, and my artistic director.
I write what I am told and revise as He sees fit.

I often wonder if I have really grown spiritually or if I am becoming a cold hearted cynic. Somehow those around me seem to be so much more in touch with their hopes and dreams, while I am left with only empty pursuits. Their emotions seemed to sky rocket and roller coaster though life, their souls are encased in nicer looking packages, and their manners appeared so much more sophisticated than mine. In comparison, I see myself as a round, slightly lumpy, and unassuming person, but I know I am destined for some kind of greatness. I know that there is a purpose for my life and that I will be recognised for the hard won truth that I so desperately need to express. After 40 years, I've begun to accept that. Timing is the key. My family and friends may be surprised at some of my insights. Not to question the faith and love they have for me, but the image I have always tried to project is one of a carefree, good-humoured person not a serious and somber woman. The last six years of my life have shown me that I am really both.

My good nature only exists as a result of many nights of despair. Living alone with only my twisted ego to tell me what to believe. Quietly and fearfully, I faced the darkness within. I learned to find the angry and neglected parts of my spirit there. Hovering in the corner, sulking around in pain and sleeping with one eye open, was the Beast that lurked within. The part of myself that I cut off (for its own protection) from the world outside. Lately though, the Beast has begun to cry out in a lonely, pitiful wail. Like a wounded animal in spiritual heat. An eerie sound of passion and pain waiting to be satisfied. Crying out for anything that would fill a need that I don't understand, while trying to put words to instincts I never knew I had. What do I need to do to comfort and befriend this Beast?

The answer seems to come from my Sunday school days. I found myself reflecting on the passage in the New Testament where Jesus says, "What you do to the least of My brothers you do unto Me." I mistakenly thought this passage was about obsessing about how I treated others until I realised that I was included in that statement. After a lifetime of treating people better than I treated myself, I began to feel the reality of Jesus' words. To gain love, I spent my early years trying desperately to be the one of the "least". My goal was to be the least needy, the least noticeable, and the least powerful. I faithfully followed the Golden Rule, but did not recognise that I could not give what I did not have. If I wanted to walk closer with God, I could not I continue to treat myself with contempt. Self pity and self hatred are easy habits to maintain. The excitement of suffering, the perceived nobility of pain, and the endless attempts to run from my true nature were sinful in light of this Revelation. If what I do to myself, I do to God, how could I justify continuing my self abuse? What do I do to replace it? I'm still not sure but I think its time to find out.

The only answer that seems to make any sense is that the only love you can really work on is the love you give yourself. The only trust that could ever be threatened, is the trust you lose in yourself. Therefore, if I lose love and trust in God, but continue to care for myself, I will maintain a loving, although distant, relationship with a Higher Power. This works regardless of the ideology, dogma, or spiritual path I may follow now or in the future.

I also know that I will feel love as much as I am prepared to feel love, and will suffer as much as I am prepared to suffer. What I give to others will be merely a reflection of what I give to myself. If I continue to feed the belief that "the love I give you is better than the love that you return to me," my relationships will spiral in endless circles of manipulation and shame. So where does the real power lie? With the one on the receiving end of my misguided feelings or with me who cannot truly understand the meaning of those feelings in the first place. You be the judge.

I have learned from Day One, to look outside myself to find out what to feel. I watched the faces of those around me and picked up clues as to what those expressions meant. The unfortunate part is that I usually got it wrong. The majority of what I thought were my "dysfunctional issues" are based on the conclusions I drew about the world years before I was capable of understanding it. Is it possible that as children we know about the greatness of our spirit? Could the obstacles that we overcome be nothing more than the soul's way of protecting us from learning the Truth too soon? So who is really to blame? Our parents for not teaching us a way to understand, what they themselves had long forgotten? Our world for not telling us that the thoughts we are thinking are not really true? The doctors, friends, clergy, and therapists that we lie to, out of fear of the Truth? So who is to blame? Most of the time, it's the one that suffers. The choice of how much to suffer and for what means or ends, my friends, is yours.
Human Beings

When did it become fashionable to stop being a human being? At the close of this year I wonder why we try so hard to be anything but what we really are - right here - right now. I see so many people looking for answers to life's questions in angels, new age workshops, the men's movement, the women's movement, the gay movement, 12 Step programs, Tony Robbins-type gurus and a whole host of other commercially inspired spiritual movements. We strive to become highly effective, time managed goddesses and giants.

We look for solace by connecting with others via our wounds, addictions and frailties. We constantly strive to be more than we are by working to become bigger, stronger, faster and more productive. We read the latest best seller, Oprah's book of the week, corporate mythologies and spiritual propaganda while looking for ways to keep up to the cutting edge of human potential.

Why do we feel we have to become more than what we are? Why isn't it enough to simply be all that we are?

When the lives of those I love have ended, I don't remember their cirriculum vitlae, list of achievements or performance reviews. I don't count the money they spent or how much they gave and to whom. I review mental snapshots of them in full array of their emotions - bedazzled, amused, pissed off and serene. I remember the times they saw the real me not the one I pretend to be. The gentle smiles. The wink of an eye. I remember the time when they saw through my smile and asked, "How are you really?" I remember the way their lives unfolded alongside with mine and I am grateful to call them friends.

This is it kids. Today is all that we have.

When we lay down to sleep at night what thoughts creep into the darkness? Chances are we either feel good about the way we have treated the world or we worry about what the world thinks of the way we have treated it. We either sleep in peace or in restless discontent.

I've Got a Little List

The Lists

"As some day it may happen that a victim must be found
I 've got a little list-I 've got a little list."
-Sir William Schwenck Gilbert

Drinking List (1982-1990)
8 years active drinking
20% of my life drunk
14 years actively sober
33% of my life sober
Drank alone in bars
Drank more than the women, less than the men
Loved and playfully stalked an older man
Found morning bruises left by drunken men
Haunting regretful night with someone who shall be nameless
One nightstand with a guy named after a drink - Tom Collins
Escaped the manipulation of a religious cult
Explored New Age ideologies
Crashed my car into a ditch with 3 others in the car
Crashed my car into a pole coming off the bridge
Sat in comedy clubs to soak in the anxiety
Urinated in public places
Hit bottom in 1989
Stopped drinking in 1990

Therapy List (1990-2004)
8 therapists in 13 years
20% of my life in therapy
Lynn - adult child of alcoholics issues
Jim - alcoholic issues 1-1
Joanne - alcoholic issues group therapy
Shannon - support with regretful night
Sandy - art therapy for inner child
Anita - post-traumatic stress disorder
Garth - co-dependent issues
Neil - family issues

Jobs List (1982-2003)
21 years working
54% of my life working
5 layoffs in 6 years
Housekeeper in hospital - 5 years
Food Service Worker in hospital - 2 years
Operating Room Assistant in hospital - 1 year
Photocopier Operator - 6 months
Cashier - 1 year
Bindery Operator - 1 year
Receptionist - 3 months
Print Center Assistant - 2 years
Business Development Assistant - 6 months
Receptionist - 3 months
Self Employed - 3 years
Administrative Assistant - 1 year
Project Assistant - 2 months
Policy Writer - 6 weeks
News Editor - 6 months

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Grey Coloured Glasses

I got my first pair of glasses back in Grade 7. They were gold framed, bassett hound rims that made the world sharp and warped all at the same time. It seemed that as my world became increasingly fuzzy, the magical child in me began to fade away. Reality replaced fantasy and the world began to take shape around me.

As I walked to school that day the clarity was surreal. The ground bubbled and bulged beneath me as the lenses corrected my world view. I walked, leaning to the left, fearful of falling into the valleys of these new visions. I was hesitant to make it to school. Fearful of the bullying and ridicule that would face me. As I entered the class, the coolest kid in Grade 7, approached me. Here was the moment of judgement. Would he approve?

"Nice glasses," he said smiling.

"Thanks," I replied.

It was the first time I had experienced the all consuming touch of approval from my peers. At least I thought it was approval. No one teased me after that. Was I was accepted by them? The clarity of that moment remains with me. Not because I could see clearly, but because I could now see everything. All the things that were hidden from my view. Was that smile real or mocking? How could I tell?

From that moment on, my life behind glasses began. So did my depression. There were too many questions about my new world view. I felt overwhelmed and depressed and longed for the soft blurriness of my short past. The glasses became my own personal isolation booth. Even though they only covered my eyes, I felt as if they encased all of me. From behind the imagined walls, I watched people laugh, cry, cheer and groan. Unable to reach out to them. Unwilling to let them reach inside to me. So I learned to imitate their actions to cover up my inability to express my own.

At home, we lived in a "rose-coloured" house. My family life was textbook and classically dysfunctional. Dad was a high-functioning alcoholic and mom was his faithful martyr. Dad was the family bread winner. Mom worked for the little extras. Dad suffered long bouts of depression as my Edith-possessed mother ran thought the house keeping her world in spic and span order. My folks are the true definition of two halves making a whole. Dad needed mom to do all the feeling work in the family and mom needed Dad to take care of her. Their relationship worked for them. I don't claim to understand why things turned out the way they did for them. All I know is they played the game of life together.

My brother began his emotional withdrawal from antics of the family and asserted his independence early on. I became emeshed in the lives of our parents. The more he became his own person, the more alone I felt. He was my confidante in those days, drying my tears when kids made fun of my increasing bust size or helping me adjust to the new challenges of preteen puberty. We knew that our family had their secrets and we adjusted to our roles and played our parts. He was the Star and I was the Mascot. He burst onto the world, while I stayed home to try to boost the spirits of my mom and dad when the drinking got to much, when dad sunk into depression or when mom needed someone to talk to.

Over time I learned that the clearer I saw my family, the crazier I thought I was. From the age of eight onward, I decided that I must be the center for all things and that everything around me had to be caused by me.

I read a once a book where the author claimed that people with who were near-sighted had fear of seeing into the future. I think in someways that was true for me. The future I saw, seemed filled with worries and concerns. Dangerous and anxious.

To be continued....

A New Direction

Well, most of the major problems I was worried about never came to pass. Strange how your life can hang in the balance and fear can take away so many moments in your life. I've decided that I'm not going to try to be brave anymore or be a deeply spiritual person. I screw them both up. So, from this moment on, I'm going to be in the Now. Just here. Just today. I'm trying to corral all the projects and little writing snippets I've done into some kind of managable and editable form. This blog is now going to help me do just that. Be prepared for the pieces of my journal, bits of the mind that is mine...