Sometimes Dana comes and hangs out with me in our bedroom until I fall asleep, because it’s so difficult for me to drift off without her next to me. It was one of those days on Monday when I told her I couldn’t think of anything to write. Writing has become how I think deeply about an issue, especially if that issue is a conflict, because I have to weigh both sides endlessly until I come to a resolution. Right now, there is no conflict… which is wonderful, but at the same time, I doubt any of you want to hear about what I had for lunch.
There is also no need to create a story where there is none because I don’t want to write about what I had for lunch (I’m having roast chicken, by the way). I just have to wait until inspiration strikes me, which it did… twice.
Dana sparked me the first time by saying, “why don’t you write about all the ways you’ve changed since ‘all this stuff’ has happened?” By “all this stuff,” I am sure she means the story of how my perspective was systematically changed by an abuser so I couldn’t tell what was fantasy and what was reality. She would simultaneously call me a family member and dispute it at the same time, so I never really understood which way was True North.
The biggest way that I’ve changed is that my story doesn’t. I know what’s real for me, what is tangible and present at all times without the feeling that the floor is about to fall out from under me. I feel more grounded than I ever have, capable of being a lightning rod instead of a scorched branch. In short, I’ve learned not to care.
For someone as dialed in to their emotions as I am, learning not to care so much was a gargantuan feat of will. I had to undo years and years of processing data the same way, which was that if I could only be more impressive, then the family I’d been told I had would actually answer the phone. I thought that I was garbage because I’d loved so hard and still failed. I failed her, and I failed myself, because my ego was so tied up in her success.
It sounds like a crazy mess when you think of both people as fully-functioning adults. The fallacy in that logic is I wasn’t a fully-functioning adult when we met, so that when I became so, she was my Achilles heel… the computer hacker with back-door access.
In healthy relationships, both sides have that ability to undo each other, and I mean that in the best possible way. We have to have those people that remind us who we are, who we have been, so that the future is different than the past. Relationships tumble and roll in tides of emotion as one person gives and one person takes. When you don’t let yourself take, you wind up with a relationship that breeds contempt and resentment. The “giver” feels used, and the “taker” feels guilty.
The disconnect in abusive relationships is that they don’t roll over continually. The “giver” rages that you want/need too much because the protective walls that they’ve built up around themselves prevent them from allowing themselves to take… until one day, they’ve had enough and you’ve really stepped in it because they obviously bear no culpability for their role in your dance.
Being able to see past that pattern literally saved my life, because I could finally walk away from encouraging myself to feel worthless. In retrospect, I wonder why I couldn’t have brought myself to do it earlier; it’s not that I have regrets, because I don’t. I’m just curious about the person I would have been had I made this connection in my twenties instead of my thirties. One of the things that really held me back was my own internalized homophobia, and that little kid feeling of “no one likes me except .”
When I was a kid, it’s not just that I needed a safe place. I did, but there was a larger issue at hand. The world reacted to me differently than it does now. In the present day, I am different than most people, but I am no longer bad, wrong, shameful… the list goes on. I don’t just have to have that one special place I go for encouragement and comfort. I have many of them.
The next time I was sparked to write was hearing my friend Frances sing at the Mucky Duck on St. Patrick’s Day. Her voice was so pure, and touched the smallest, most vulnerable piece of my soul. Frances is one of those singers that will tell you she can’t sing, and then she’ll go up on stage and rip your heart out with beauty. Her fingers fly up and down the walking bass. The sound is warm and inviting. Frances’ voice and accompaniment starts to feel like a room you wish you could sit inside, or at least take a peek.
And then all of the sudden you realize that the reason you want to go there is because it is stripped bare, all the way down to the elements, so that it is beautifully, perfectly, amazingly clean.
The way you’d be if you weren’t just so damned human.