I have had a fair number of thoughts and posts pinging and ponging about in my head. But I have been flat out way too busy with work to write them all down. From a few sentences in various post starts in my drafts folders I have a sense of my feelings being all over the place about a lot of stuff I am reading, hearing from friends, trying to resolve inside my own heart and mind.
In the gym, I refer to this as the “furrowed brow” expression, where I am thinking through the way a movement or series of movements is supposed to work and where I should be feeling the contractions or the work in the body. I think I am more in tune with the idea of listening to my body, but is it my fault it is speaking in a foreign tongue I cannot quite understand? Or so it has seemed in days gone by. Not so much right now. Now it mostly speaks very softly and I have to listen really, really carefully to catch the words and string them together into comprehendible sentences.
Emotions for me have a similar puzzling effect. I do not seem to feel or process emotions in a normal or typical manner, and when I cannot feel it in a context that seems typical sometimes means I do not completely understand what it is I am feeling and whether or not it is correct for the context. A discussion with a group of close friends last night sort brought all this stuff to the surface, and I had a unsettled night of sleep and a 75% crappy practice at the gym this morning before it all congealed into the root cause of what I am thinking, feeling, processing. Bear with me if this post is not very linear and zig-zags even more than usual.
First, a little backstory about the last little while of fragmented thoughts and associated emotions.
Work has been busy, hectic, crazy. My son is getting married in less than a month (4 weeks and 2 days), and his fiance has been struggling with her own family drama and relationships and pressing ever forward with sorting it out and putting it away in a manner that makes peaceful psyche sense for her. A couple of my very closest friends are having weird relationship/life shit going on in their lives, and while they are both very big boys and able to handle their stuff, I like being part of their sounding board and listening as they rearrange the deck chairs on their personal Titanics. In this case, though, I know their encounters with their personal icebergs are not fatal; they are just getting their bearings and figuring it out.
I don’t live in an emotional vacuum. When I am listening to someone talk to me about what’s going on in their lives, I am impacted by their emotions and my own responses. Sometimes there is little I can say in response, just listen. Or maybe I have something supportive and comforting to say. Or some level of experience with a similar situation and am able to offer suggestions. Or I completely disagree with their perception of the problem and offer a different point of view.
The thing for me, I am a sounding board and not an echo chamber. If they are looking for someone with an endless well of patience and sympathy, they know me well enough to know I am not that. I am also not a mental health professional, and my personal experience with those resources does not qualify me to even try to emulate TM or anyone else in his profession. I completely understand my limitations as a friend.
Last night I was online with some close friends brainstorming ways we might be able to help another friend exiting an unfortunate domestic abuse situation. Another single mother with young children, another broken family. It hit pretty close to home for me, and while I was trying hard to be practical in my solutions and such, she is having a hard time making the extraction stick. I know how hard of a time she may have going forward, but I strongly encouraged her to stay safe and protect her children. Others chimed in and agreed.
Then there was the mean girl former friend who accused me, publicly, of making this about me and flaunting my life’s hardships. I should “just get over my abuse cycle already” and move on with my life. Since M and I have the perfect marriage, I am hardly in a position to offer counsel to those mere mortals trying to make relationships work.
Wow. Hostile much? I cut off the shitstorm that would have landed after everyone recovered from their shock at this former friend’s utter ridiculousness by exiting the conversation. But of course it got me thinking. Curiously, it was not negative or horrible or even all that painful. If I cared more about what she thought or how she felt, I would be more upset. Once I strengthened my spine and cut her from my friend list, her snark and narrow world view ceased to matter. Mostly.
Being a human being with a heart and a soul, it smarts. I admit it. But that discussion was not about me and whatever I might have been feeling, it was completely not about me. And while I had a really crappy childhood, I did not really intend to dive down that rabbit hole last night and into today, it seems this is where my spinning thoughts have landed.
But first, I had to wide-eyed inform M this morning about our “perfect” marriage. Did he know? Did he realize? And does it tarnish our perfect union that he failed to mention it’s divineness to me? For my trouble I got the patented M eyeroll and his “oh how wrong I have been” face. Then the “what did she say this time?” question? I gave him the readers’ digest version of the interaction and he waved a dismissive hand. This woman (she of the weight loss and big arm fame) is … disturbed. Long friendship ended months ago.
But back to the meat-and-potatoes of this post.
For the most part, my own emotions seem … dysfunctional. I am fairly empathetic. I am not especially cold hearted, detached, or even particularly robotic. I am a good and caring friend, family/tribe member. However, I am pretty practical and straightforward about events in life. Relationships – mine or other other people’s – seem to be complicated, sometimes unduly so.
When M and I went through The Troubles years ago, I was so angry. I wanted a divorce because I was angry with him for being an insecure, controlling asshole, and really angry with myself for being such a weak-assed loser.
I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor. I was victimized. For years. And I have this whole range of emotions – none of them pleasant, good, or positive – from those 9 years (age 3 to 12 that I remember). The scars are deep and life-altering. But I grew up and clawed and scraped and crawled out of that very dark and deep rabbit hole. I did not do so on my own. There have been years of therapy of various sorts, and yet I was still incredibly angry with myself over my childhood.
I know it affects me and my rather simplistic world view. When my marriage deteriorated to the point of The Troubles, I wanted little more than to never see, speak, or have to deal with M again. Because to have to see, speak, or deal with M, meant I had to face the reality of all I could not, would not talk about ever.
The Troubles brought shitty childhood to the surface. I had to tell M, started marriage counseling with one therapist, individual therapy with another, worked through my shit in the chunks of time I could take the pressure of facing it. In the process, I finally broke and told friends about my life. I was not just mostly estranged from my parents and family, I had a genuine hate-love-definitely-don’t-like with them. For the first time, I spoke honestly about my upbringing in little dribs and drabs with my nearest and dearest friends. I learned how to write about it, sort of; not in the excruciating detail of my training sessions or the day-to-day events of my life, but it has been a big step for me to even speak of it at all.
Thing is, I am growing weary of the manipulative bullshit that comes up in life. M and I do not have a perfect marriage. We have a functional marriage that we work at every single day, and mostly we succeed. The affection between us is real, and I do not hold it hostage or use it to manipulate M to do my bidding or to get my way. I also do not use my history for sympathy or to dodge responsibility. The only benefit from a shitty childhood is the wisdom gained from recovering and healing from those experiences, and in the process figuring out who I am, what kind of person I am. Trust this is a very small consolation.
I have a pretty low tolerance for bullshit. I have put up with way more than I should for a lot of reasons, and every year that passes I learn a little more about me and what I deserve from life. Including not being dissed or dismissed.
My brand of fucked-up-ness restrains me from doing a lot of things. Being happy is not necessarily one of them. I really prefer a life where I am comfortable, and I choose to be happy. Thing is, comfortable and happy are evolving in their underlying circumstances. Several years ago I thought my friendship with someone stabbing me in the heart was important to my overall sense of self and happiness. All it took was starting a regular regimen of exercise to make me understand her brand of crazy.
In overcoming or learning to redirect the energy from my own fucked-up-ness, I have developed a strong aversion to bullshit, deceit, manipulation, and game-playing. Just lately here a lot of that has been creeping into my life, and I have been having to prune my friendship tree. It’s … excruciating. But I deserve much better than what I have accepted as normal and customary. I do not bring my past up to draw attention to myself. I do not do it for sympathy. I do not need the attention, and I really do not want sympathy. But sometimes I can help others, and sometimes the experiences I have had brings something to someone else in my life.
I just don’t know if my emotion management skills are up to par. I still question myself on whether or not I am doing the right thing, saying the right words, feeling the right emotions in each unique situation that occurs. Because of that level of self-doubt, I tend to try harder to ensure I am kind enough, compassionate enough. Good enough. Enough enough.
Inside my head, negative girl is rattling her chains and practicing her quiet stealthiness. She’s biding her time and waiting for me to wilt under pressure. Wait on. I did walking lunges and romanian deadlifts with big heavy weights this morning, second time this week. If there was wilting to be done, it would have happened then.
There have been a lot of people I’ve know through the years that have a much tougher time. Others with similar histories have been lost to drugs or alcohol, suicide, or even worse types of physical or sexual abuse. I made it out, with a puzzled sort of expression and seemingly-flawed navigation system as to how I am supposed to react and interact with others. It’s partly why I value relationships so much, and why it feels as if I am making better choices in life.
But it’s still hard. It’s hard for any normal person to hear about domestic violence. It’s a little to a lot difficult to understand another person’s choices, particularly when they do things you find head-scratching incomprehensible. Like being cruel to former friends. Or returning to a man who beats you.
My fucked-up-ness is not in question; I did, and do, the best I can in spite of my personal history. I have a good life with amazing children and a terrific husband, a great tribe of people who make my life interesting and worthwhile. They make me more than enough.
For awhile I floated through life and thought I was doing the right things. Pursuing steady work, health insurance, raising a family, saving for older and grayer years. Now I’m taking steps to ensure I am still around to meet that older and grayer future. And it perplexes me why it would be threatening to someone I have known nearly all my life.
Perhaps my emotions and management and projection of them are in good working order. Maybe my idea of what “normal” is means I am not fucked-up enough or crazy enough to understand.
And I am so strangely relieved by that.