Occasionally I ask people for writing prompts to get my brain working, and Dana gave me this one.
How do you un-write the trauma? What is the first step?
If only I could step out of the pictures on our walls and tell you. If only the movies in my mind would play on our TV. I’d give you access to all of it. All the tears, all the screams, all the terror, all the love. Oh, the love.
I can’t say whether she was in love with me. She claims she wasn’t. I can only speak to my own experience, and what that experience tells me is that she was. However, there’s a whole lot that goes into it (as with every story). Love is in quotation marks because I’m not sure it ever really was. There were genuine moments, clearly, but never consistently enough to believe that she wasn’t going to turn around and give me the silent treatment as soon as I wanted to spend time with her. I spent a lot of time playing the game. “How do I have to act to get her to respond to me?” The pattern I learned is that at first, it would be really intense. Everything I needed and everything I wanted emotionally. Then, when she’d had enough togetherness, I dropped off her radar completely. Getting her attention didn’t work. Ignoring her did, though. As I have said many times, the cat wouldn’t move unless the mouse thought he was about to break free. The more I ignored her, the more I could ratchet up her fear that I would walk, and all of the sudden, we were aces again… until the next time she was sufficiently satisfied that I was sufficiently roped in and no more effort was necessary.
I told my therapist today that it was kind of like losing my mother and my child, because for so many years we mothered each other until she took the upper hand permanently and wouldn’t let me reach for it anymore. When I say that I had the upper hand, I meant that I was “free therapy for one older and often not wiser.” I have quoted that before. I’ll quote it again. I feel smart… and used.
When I was a teenager, I felt like I was helping her because she couldn’t help herself. I realize it sounds impossible. If you Google her name and see her title, you will not believe one word of this story… and believe me, there have been plenty that haven’t, especially because of her name and title. Houston was all caterpillar, and Portland was all butterfly.
And here I sit, all these many years later, holding the empty chrysalis knowing that the butterfly just. won’t. fit.
The first step, my darling dangerous Dana, is to be ok with dropping it.