Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Water Skitters

This has been an eventful month.  My mom's still alive but can't really move.  She has little idea of what's going on but seems relatively happy with all the attention she's getting, so that's good, I guess.  A close friend's relative fell off the wagon and went on a drug-crazed crime spree.  They caught him a few days ago; he's now incarcerated and thankfully no longer able to harm others.  Another friend's close to losing everything, due to a loved one's addictive behavior.  A pal of one of my relatives got drunk and bit someone at a bar.  The attack was so savage, the victim will need surgery to repair his bicep.  My relative thought that was a hoot.  He also got a kick out of a young woman stumbling into the local police station, blood streaming from between her legs, to report a rape.  The accused was a drinking buddy of the redneck cops, and they laughed her out of the station.  He thought that was hilarious as well.  My cousin Lydie's daughter had a friend who was murdered over the weekend by an ex-boyfriend.  He shot her then killed himself.  The girl's father found the bodies.

As I said, an eventful month, which isn't quite half over yet.

All this horror got me to thinking.  We all read of tragic events, watch terrible things unfold on the nightly news, experience terrible things ourselves.  We witness the devastation when friends go through trauma and to a certain extent, we feel the pain of all of it.  But for the most part, tragedy close to home has a far greater sting.  We feel bad for strangers we hear about but it doesn't tear us up; not like a loved one or ourselves suffering.  That's probably a survival mechanism; thousands of years of evolution working to keep us sane.

When I get overwhelmed emotionally, I used to do a number of horrific things to dispel the tension.  When it's me personally, I have a tendency to retreat, hide somewhere where no one can witness my fragility.  That's about the extent of my self-destructive behavior nowadays.  When I was younger, it was a much different story.  I've been on the verge of fainting and still kept a smile on my face.  I've chewed holes in the inside of my cheek to keep from screaming, clawed my arms and back to gory ribbons in a frantic attempt to release the emotional pressure, slapped my own face until it was black and blue.  I picked fights with bullies and relished the joy of beating and being beaten to a pulp.  That's what insecurity addicts do when they've lost control, when they're under the influence of their drug of choice: overwhelming self-hatred.  We turn to drugs, sex, violence, self-destruction, even religion to find release.  Insecurity addicts will rush around like water skitters on the surface of a pond, zipping and zagging in seemingly random panic as they try to escape themselves.  Until I recognized that my behavior itself was an addiction, I flopped around in wallowing misery and repeated bad relationships.  I grew so used to things being so bad all the time that cynicism just took over my brain.  Everything was bad because that's how it was.  That was life.  More specifically, that was my life.  Men were pigs, women were backstabbing whiners and repulsive victims, old people were kind because they were too weak to be bullies anymore.  Even children were mean.  I'd experienced it all personally, and my own limited view colored everything I saw.  Life was pain.  Glean what little you could from it until you could finally check out and die.  Just keep slogging along in your manure pile until God let you drop dead.  That was how I thought and felt for years.  Do what you can to help your kids have a better life, make sure to let them know they're loved and precious, shelter them as much as possible from reality.  Hope against hope that they'll turn out to be the very very rare: kind and gracious human beings.

But something happened to my obviously fucked up thought patterns.  I was in a terrible marriage for fourteen years to a highly intelligent but quite sadistic man.  Slowly I let him beat me down emotionally until I was little more than a quivering jelly with moments of half-assed revolt against his tyranny.  Outwardly, I was tough and funny.  Inwardly, I obeyed him and loathed myself.

When my daughter tried to commit suicide, when my son turned to drugs, I was forced out of my own self-absorbed behavior.  Ironically, insecurity makes you very self-absorbed.  I'm a sack of shit, I'm a sack of shit, God, I'm repulsive, I hate myself, I wish I'd die already, me, me, me, I, I, I.  I didn't want to see the obvious flaws in myself, either.  Nobody wants to be told they're self-absorbed when they think they're being selfless.  I truly believed I was being selfless, even noble.  I really did love my children more than anything.  I truly did believe I was making their lives much better than my childhood had been.  And to a certain degree, I'd accomplished that.  Their dad was a jerk, but he was educated, working toward a higher goal, dedicated to bettering himself.  That was a good role model, so I thought, but I wasn't seeing clearly.  I was still seeing through the shit-colored glasses of my childhood.  The kids weren't beaten or raped, molested or brutalized, sure, but they were abused nonetheless. 

An abused-in-the-past parent has little idea of what is needed to promote a healthy environment for their own kids.  The logical part of our brains recognizes what to do but the emotional part flounders.  It's like learning a new language.  You suck at first, but keep at it and you'll get there, slowly but surely.  My kids' misery opened my eyes at last and through the ensuing years, we all learned a thing or two about ourselves.  I know now that it's okay to have had a terrible past but not okay to endure a terrible present.  It takes a lot of work to heal yourself.  A lot of work.  Like any other addiction, you're fighting against yourself to stop doing something destructive that you love and don't want to stop doing.  It doesn't matter that your addiction is killing you.  You hate yourself anyway so who gives a fuck?  At least I'll go out dramatically and very, very badly.  Good.  I deserve it.  Stupid bitch.  That's the mentality I began with.  I never did drugs or drank excessively but my patterns were killing me.  And I was glad.  Events like what's happened this month would have crippled me in the way a quadriplegic would be crippled by a broken leg.  Gangrene would have simply set in to an already incapacitated psyche.  But I've worked on myself these past ten years.  I'm still an insecurity addict.  I always will be.  There will always be a part of me that longs to slide back into that dark hole I clawed myself out of.  But I love this person I've become, this person I have always been, just hidden.  I'm not willing to let myself indulge in misery anymore.  I'll get knocked down, flattened by events, exhausted by sadness and tragedy in the future.  But I'll get up again.  Because I want to.  I want to be what I am now even more than I want to be the tragic figure of the past.  I am using my experiences to help others now.  I have become a force for good.  A goofy, fucked up, stumbling-over-my-own-feet force for good.  Something to be ludicrously proud of.  I'm a good person. 

Good luck with all the hard balls Life throws at you, my friends.  Hang in there.  Look in the mirror and find the sweet kid who's hiding behind your eyes.  Treasure them even if you can't treasure yourself.  Believe in the impossible miracle of self love.  Believe it even when you sneer at the very thought of anything so stupidly impossible.  As Rogers & Hammerstein would sing, impossible things are happening every day.
Love, R    

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