Friday, June 08, 2018

Brain

So I have always been really interested in the human brain, how it works, what drives us, and how people who look "with it" on the surface can be so tormented by inner demons that they just...quit and cash out their chips way too early. I spent years watching my mother struggle with the very real demons of mental illness only to end up in a delusional space inside her own mind from which I could not rescue her. But it was her mind, not my own, and there just didn't seem to be a light bright enough to poke in. At some point she stopped looking for one.

I am not sure where this is going so I am just going to ramble. I am very good at that.

Anthony Bourdain killed himself today. Kate Spade the day before. Priscilla Morgan in 2011. Millions before, and millions more to come. I don't believe suicide is about a single choice. I used to think it was. I have always seen it as selfish and thoughtless. My mother reared me on The Hemlock Society and always had lots of information about how to end your life on hand. Her desire to control her death was terrifying for the developing little me; heartbreaking, devastating. I dedicated a fair amount of life energy toward trying to stop her. And yet, we know statistically that a certain percentage of mental illness is, frankly, fatal. It should not be so, and we should work to change that, but it is still a fact. The brain, as it turns out, is a treacherous thing. But it is also plastic, and with the right support and right path, it can heal and recover and blossom. Mental illness, addiction, self-destructive behaviors - whatever you want to label them - they do not need to be fatal.

Yesterday I watched Robert Lustig speaking on his book 'The Hacking of the American Mind'. It isn't just the American mind that has been hacked, but we Americans do seem to have cornered the market on denial and delusion and God knows we are spreading it around the globe as fast as we can. A few days before this I had come across Bright Line Eating as a result of my engagement in The Food Revolution summit earlier this year. My blood sugar is ok, my eating currently very clean (whole food, plant based, vegan) but there are pitfalls everywhere and I have fallen into a couple in the last few years (maple syrup, wine). Things come together sometimes. Perfect storms of information which, if you are open to it, can change your life or at least your view of life. Bright Line Eating is basically about addiction, and adopts a pretty hard stance on the substances that addict us. Lots of very good, convincing and clean science backs this all up. Moderation simply isn't an option. Anyone who's ever been really clean knows this. Zero tolerance. The minute you step over the line into moderation, all bets are off. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you have let the snake out of the bag and I guarantee he will will coil up around you and tighten until your lights go out, or you find a way to cut him loose. I love snakes from a distance. But I want to cut mine loose.

I am an addict. Drug of choice isn't relevant, since we now know that the function in the brain is the much the same, regardless of substance. The difference between drugs of choice is about legality, stigma, and money, not about what they ALL do to your brain. Hell, rats in studies have been addicted to levers. You heard me. METAL. LEVERS. The substance isn't the issue. But I digress.

This addictive part of me is not an unknown for me personally, although sometimes surprises others. My parents were, in their own ways, addicts as well - with my father aware of and modulating his addictions (except maybe that one time when he ate that whole tub of bacon in my dining room), and my mother insisting that she was not an addict at all, but a victim of the health care industry that gave her valium and darvon, then ruthlessly took them away. It wasn't her fault - and based on brain chemistry and a traumatic upbringing, it really wasn't her fault. The idea of fault, like the concept of sin, tends to bring shame and guilt, which in turn paralyzes people into inaction. Resignation. "I must be a horrible person and therefore cannot change" instead of "I am a normal human being who strives to be my best self, fails at times, forgives myself, and tries again". But she would never admit that she was "like those people", to which I would often reply "those people... like the human ones? Like me?" She hated that I identified with addiction and referred to myself as an addict. I was, she insisted "better than that"; better than "those people".

She struggled with food addiction for all of her life, as have I. She was addicted to opioids and benzos given by doctors, and if she were alive and walking today would probably be one of those great grandmas in the county with a (nicely dressed, well-spoken, clean-looking) dealer on lock. She had ways of obtaining codeine and benzos that blew my mind, because I knew her primary physician would not prescribe. She would, in middle and later life, never drink more than one beer, insisting that any more would make her "a drunk like (her) father". She would never accept any of this as addiction, or "dry drunk" control of a potential addiction. And she strongly recommended that I exert greater moral control over myself and "remember who (I was)". The problem is, I am not sure that she ever understood or knew who SHE was, let alone who I was. She never understood that addictive brain type isn't a choice (no kid lisps that they want to be a drunk when they grow up!), that brains are being fundamentally altered from our earliest days, that for a certain percentage of us "moderation" is simply a thing that cannot exist safely, that addiction isn't a moral flaw...and on and on and on. Most of us never gain the insight into the brain that comes with learning and awareness - not to mention the huge advances in science. But I've seen it without proof for a very long time, and am starting to see it now a growing body of proof - thanks to science, PET scans, and smart people who've put this shit together - all of whom I envy their damn PhD's. I was too busy reproducing to get mine.

There have been glimmers and glimpses for me all of my life of truth. I have struggled with varying degrees of addiction to various things and substances for as long as I can remember - beginning, from my earliest memories - with food. Food is the first thing we have access to that fundamentally alters our brain chemistry and can set us up for a lifetime of addictive behavior. I was a formula baby. My mother made it herself with a variety of substances, including corn syrup. It's what they did. No one could have known then what the outcome would be. There were no PET scans. Maybe someone suspected...they must have been messing around with rats enough to know what sugar does to the behavior of animals. and could have predicted that it would affect human behavior as well. My first non-formula food was at 14 days old when I was fed orange juice. That was rapidly followed by beer in my bottle when I developed a UTI - it would make me pee, the doctor said - this is the same doctor that accidentally overdosed me on phenobarbital and belladonna for colic when I was an infant, so he probably knew best, right? After that came codeine cough syrup by the gallon to control a wicked asthmatic cough that kept the whole house up at night - ALL prescribed and legal and recommended by the experts. In the early 70's beer was everywhere and kids sipping half-empty cans at various gatherings was just a thing that happened. I am lucky I survived, really. Those addictions were not my choice but that doesn't change what they were - exposure to substances that poisoned my brain and established pathways and patterns that I will likely confront until I die. This is not hopelessness - it is honesty, and everything good and clear begins with honesty.

I cannot remember at what point I became aware that my brain wanted things that were poison, but I do remember telling my mother in my early teens I was done with the codeine because I did not like how it made me feel - it had gotten to feel normal, and life without it was not. Something in my controlling little self rejected this idea of normalcy found only in a bottle of tiny white pills or cherry flavored syrup. In retrospect this experience likely saved my life or at least a lot of years of potential addictions to other drugs. I had a healthy respect for them - healthy enough to keep me off street drugs, with the exception of marijuana. She was terrified that I would cough myself to death, die in my sleep, not survive adolescence without it. Surprisingly I did survive - in retrospect the withdrawal must have been a fun ride, but I was too young to suffer much for long, thank God. Nicotine is a wonderful cough suppressant when you are smoking a pack a day. You hack up a lung in the morning, light a butt, and damned if your breathing doesn't come right into line...with a wheeze so tight you CAN'T cough. Then came Dexatrim...which one could obtain legally at the pharmacy on Main Street, and take to not only lose weight but stay awake for DAYS on end - always a benefit when you work during the day but all the fun happens at night. When my sister Jody pointed out that the stuff would kill me, I thought about that annoying banging heartbeat feeling, and quit - cold turkey, just like I had stopped the codeine. Oh to be young again - young and so very stupid. Weight loss is it's own addiction. So next up, free of opioids and amphetamine - but still sucking down nicotine - was a foray into anorexia (at my lightest I was around 70 lbs, and convinced I was fat). Beer came next, followed by wine and a brief trip into hard liquor. I didn't struggle as much with obvious sugar. I could not, for example, eat an entire pan of brownies like my friend Cheryl could, unless I was very stoned (did I mention pot?) or drunk. I occasionally found myself eating a half a batch of cookies, but I tended more toward pizza, or half-pound roast beef sandwiches loaded with Hellmann's. So next comes bulimia, of course. All the while subconsciously aware that something just was very very wrong in my brain. Something I couldn't prove, or pinpoint, or explain. I just knew that something wasn't...right.

Next follows a few decades of being relatively clean and sober and truly happy, although still not fully understanding what my addictions were, or how they worked, or how my brain did crazy shit to get what it wanted - which ultimately was (is) sugar, no matter how well disguised. I now call this the "pizza and puking" years. In a very weak defense, pizza did make me feel horribly ill. It wasn't until about 13 years ago that I discovered that wheat is not my friend, and that gluten literally makes me sick. Now, 13 years off of it, and even a little can wreak havoc. Then there was Diet Coke...consumed by the gallon during college because it was cheaper than buying food - and I needed my food stamps to feed my kids...or I was just addicted to the stuff, one or the other - or both. I drank that until the left side of my face started to go numb and a concerned individual mentioned that perhaps aspartame was bad for humans. A little reading and a lot of withdrawal and my face only gets numb when I fall off the "artificial sweetener" wagon, usually by accident. READ YOUR LABELS!!

And all the while words are popping up on my radar...hyper palatability. neurotoxins. dopamine. serotonin. conspiracy (that one is my favorite). compulsion. addiction. advertising. down regulation.

I love how people insist they make their own choices, and that fat kids are just a result of parents with no will power and generally weak moral fiber. Neither of these things is true. People are deluded - and, frankly, drugged - into thinking they have free will, and fat kids (and adults) are a result of a carefully orchestrated marketing strategy to sell as much food to as many people as possible. And it is working really, really well.

Lustig says - and given what he does as a life's work he would know - that we have an epidemic - AN EPIDEMIC - of obese 6-month olds. The rising cost of food related illness is skyrocketing ever upwards, and will decimate our economy very soon - well, really it already is. Lack of protection from lobby groups and marketers who seek to promote their products regardless of the harm inflicted on humanity continues as some sort of short-sighted egotistical American idea that we have CHOICES, after all, and just need SELF CONTROL and MORE EXERCISE to balance out that additional gut-load of calories in their poison crap - trust me, they just want you to buy their shit, and it making you feel bad about yourself sells more ice cream and fries, well, they just run to the bank that much faster. As any addict in recovery can tell you...it just isn't always that easy. Gene just showed me a reddit this morning of a group of morbidly obese kids dancing by a pool. Trust me, those kids did NOT choose to be that fat, and their parents are likely as confused as anyone. Misinformation abounds. Everything in moderation, after all. Just exercise it off (do you know how long it takes to exercise off a 20 ounce Coke?). McDonald's is OK as long as you don't eat there daily. Whatever. If that's you, and you can walk away after half a sleeve of fries, great, and I am truly very happy for you. You won the genetic lottery, my friend. But for 30-50-% of us - and that number is climbing every day - there just is no safe way to consume that shit. And "that shit" includes crap like the boxes of "weight control" oatmeal I saw yesterday that contain SIXTY CALORIES MORE than plain oatmeal. And the processed food, and the frozen food, and the fast food...and on and on and on. If it's fast, convenient, easy, or processed....probably bad. I would rant about meat, but I will let others do that.

There used to be this thing called science, and we used to believe in it. At this point, all the endless Boy Who Cried Wolf shouting has left many of us confused, bewildered, and quite hopeless, not knowing who or what to believe.

I don't like hopelessness. Hopelessness kills people, or gives them space to kill themselves. It doesn't fit my personality - like the skinny people who can skip the fries. I am very grateful for that part of me - the bit that keeps getting back up again, over and over, always willing to try. So I reject hopelessness. But I am also aware that my brain is hurting and damaged; I've let it get poisoned, and that choices that will bring it back aren't going to be easy to make. I have been meditating for 4 months now (180 days straight as of today, not counting the couple of start-and-stop months before that) which is a really good start. Things seem to be clearing up in there. The sugar that has gradually crept back into my life as comfort in grief needs to go - and it even has an end date now. Some of that is wine, some of it is food, all of it is nothing but refined, brain-damaging poison.

My plan for myself is to use Bright Line Eating from the book, and not the boot camp because right now I just plain cannot afford it. I am not obese. But I am an addict who needs to get clean - even if the drugs of choice are "only" sugar and Facebook. Bright lines seems like a really good place to start. Really, really bright ones. Lines that I simply cannot cross. One day at a time.

This started with a short riff about suicide. See, I think it's all connected; addiction, mental illnesses, suicidal thoughts, depression - all of it is connected up there with all those neurotransmitters and neural pathways. That brain...it's a complex and at the same time simple thing. Our enemy is within. I think we need to know that enemy, look it squarely and honestly in it's face, and find a way to talk it down. I don't know how, and I suspect the path is different for us all. I just know that if you are struggling...keep looking for answers, keep reaching out, keep finding paths to survive. Survive until you thrive. Hope lives. It's real, and happiness is not a myth. Pleasure is a lie. But happiness is real. Go find some.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Never Make Plans

I had this great plan to come in here on this day and write some ...thing. I don't even know what, exactly, just some ..thing. But now it's today and I only have one thing, one tale, one story. And so I will tell it.

The first day of spring was March 21 that year. I didn't actually know this that morning when I got out of bed at 5:30 or 6, after announcing that I was in labor. I was to learn it in the form of a card of congratulations that came much later in the day. My labor was, at first, not to be believed by most, and in retrospect I can't really blame the people involved...they had reason to assume otherwise.

This was nothing like the first time. The first time the intensity of "real" contractions had taken me by surprise in spite of my endless readings of Spiritual Midwifery and Childbirth Without Fear, my relentless breathing practice and my harping to those around me that birth was PERFECTLY NATURAL and women had been doing it for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. I had become very emotional very quickly, right down to calling my mother to sob "...it hurts!" into her ear at 2am...she was the person on duty at the answering service that early morning, and although I wanted to be big and brave and know-it-all, I knew nothing, and I sobbed that into the phone. But I learned. And for some reason the second time around everything fell into place. It's not that it didn't hurt. I think it did. But it was manageable. Just relax, breathe; everything has an end point. You will not be in labor forever. This is the last time you will have that contraction. It will not come again. Be in it, then let it go. Metaphor for life, really.

Making my way downstairs quietly so as not to wake the sleeping toddler in the next room, I began my day as I always did. I started laundry. I considered that I could be away for a day at least, and so began making a quiche which could serve as breakfast, lunch and dinner for the people I was leaving on their own. I called my sister. I called my mother. I called my midwife. To all of them I calmly related that I was in labor and that my contractions were about 3 minutes apart. I am not sure any of them believed, but they mobilized anyway.

It was amazing, that labor. This, I knew, was what it was meant to be. Alone and peaceful, folding laundry and grating cheese between contractions, rolling out pastry...taking a small (and later regrettable) bite of bacon, sipping some water; I was like some other-worldly earth mother. Peaceful and graceful, I walked from room to room, taking one contraction at a time, enjoying the solitude with this little person inside me, knowing that this was to be our last few hours as one entity. A boy, they had said, based on heart rate. Most likely a boy. I wanted a girl. But a boy would save a fortune on clothes. And I had a name either way. It no longer mattered to me what you were. The who, on the other hand, was crucial. And that I wanted very much to learn.

It had not been a picture perfect pregnancy. We had moved early on, and I had done my usual moving in "thing" - attacked the house and the boxes and the appliances with bleach and vigor. I had moved the fridge, mopped the whole house, put the fridge back, and unpacked any number of boxes. Somewhere between the fridge and the hardwood floors I felt a twinge, and then another. Suddenly it dawned on me that pregnancy isn't a guarantee, and I became terrified for the little life inside me. A visit to the midwife showed that I had reason to be - I was 2 cm dilated and partially effaced. Bedrest. With a toddler.

I've never been good at sitting still. I think I lasted three days. I began to move cautiously - no heavy lifting, no pushing of appliances. I sat in Daniel's high chair to prepare meals at the kitchen counter. Not a lot of heavy cleaning got done. I carried grocery bags one at a time instead of losing myself up like a pack mule. The baby stuck with me; forgiveness offered for my ingratitude and heavy lifting. And I became a territorial, primal monster on the inside. When my grandmother "helpfully" and callously remarked that miscarriage was nature's way of fixing a mistake, I almost killed her. I am sure we did not speak for some time. And for the record, she doted on the eventual baby with greater zeal than I usually witnessed in her, so I sense she spoke with forked tongue - but then she's an Avery and they have that habit. Cruel to be kind was generally the order of their day. But not in my world, not on that topic. No. Not that baby. The mistake wasn't the baby. The mistake was the obsessive mother scrubbing a house from top to bottom in the first trimester. Why should the kid pay?

So here we were, all those threats of danger, and exactly one day before the calculated due date, right on schedule and with no more fuss than a walk to the park that baby was about to appear.

I remember the moment things changed in labor and my contractions moved to a minute or so apart. I would have been more than happy to stay right where I was, have the baby, get back to the quiche with it tied to my chest like the good primal animal I was. But midwives at home are not covered by insurance, and midwives in the hospital are. So we went.

I had no contractions from home to the hospital, about a 5 minute drive. On arrival, a gust of ice-cold -15F air rushed up to meet me when I opened the car door, rectifying that situation in a hurry. That was a "bad one", and I walked into the hospital more acutely aware than ever that I despise the cold.

Back then the hospital was in disarray for renovation, and the entrance door for all patients had changed to the ER side of the building. Not knowing where to go I signed in as directed and joined a host of others waiting for admission for various things - the ER, surgery, labs and radiology all in one giant space with temporary cubicles set up. Pre-HIPPA, you just wrote your name on a sheet of paper and waited to be called. Not the best triage system. People around me suggested that I tell "them" I was in labor...but "they" were busy and I didn't want to "make a fuss". Finally a woman near us walked up and said, pointing, "She's in labor...and her contractions are almost a minute apart. You should take her ahead of us." My name was taken, a call was made "upstairs", and a nurse in pink scrubs pushing a wheelchair appeared as if by magic. She introduced herself and asked me to get in the chair. I declined. No. No wheels. Pregnancy, labor, delivery - it isn't a handicap. It's a stage of life. It's bringing a new life. Thousands of years women have done this job. And the vast majority of those have been women laboring in a field somewhere, or out gathering firewood or berries, delivering a baby, tying the cord with whatever came to hand, cutting it with an unsterile object, and going back to work with the newborn tied to their chest. And we survive. It is what we are made to do.

When I stepped off the elevator my midwife was there to greet me. I was so happy to see her face. Midwives rotate. My least favorite had just gone off call. My most favorite had just come on. It could not have been more perfect. We walked down the hall and into my favorite room - The Big One With The Double Bed. No sterile hospital space, no bed that breaks down into something other, like a creepy medicalized Transformer. Just a regular bed.

A brief check showed that I was not just in labor, I was past transition and heading for home. My contractions, which had slowed during all the fuss of moving from home to hospital, and the weirdness of sitting in a crowded admissions area trying not to breathe "too loudly", bounced back to a minute or so apart. I still had my earth mother face...each contraction coming on, being acknowledged and ridden out, and then let go. Textbook. Exactly like I knew it could be. Exactly like I knew it SHOULD be. Not quite an hour later I watched in fascination as my belly lifted with a contraction and seemed to bear down, pushing without any help from me.

"Did that feel push-y?" asked Anne from her comfortable rocking chair opposite me. "Yes, a little" I responded. Endorphins are a wonderful thing.

She came to my side and checked - yes. 10cm. Time to let this baby out. Time to see that face. Time to meet that person. Let the bonding begin.

Left lateral Sims position, a brief series of controlled, perfect, panting pushes and I heard a voice say "Do you want to feel your babies head?"

"Yes."

One more push and the head was born. A brief moment to catch my breath, and shoulders next - big shoulders, too - that was memorable, although the pain immediately forgotten.

"It's a bouncing baby....GIRL!?"

Reaching down, I lifted the blueish squirming animal up to my face. Slowly, giant brown eyes opened in the little round face, covered in vernix and creased from a lifetime spent in water, and blinked up at me. And down I fell into them. Hello. Where have you been all my life? I'm your mother. And that won't ever change.

Lots would come after - both immediately and not - and more will come, some good, some bad, some indifferent. Some passionate, some angry, some cold and hurtful, some gentle and warm.

I have thought a lot in the last couple of years about whether or not, all things taken into account, I would do it again - either time. In my lower moments I question my sanity in choosing motherhood. I mean, really, you could smash your head on brick walls until you are bloody and the pain wouldn't come close. But neither would the joy.

In the final analysis here is where I stand: a thing, once done, cannot be undone. It can, however, be accepted for what it is, and, like contractions, moved past and forgotten - retaining the good, releasing the less than good. Hold onto the good, let go of everything that isn't. Hold onto the love, let go of everything that isn't.

And so... Happy Birthday, Girl. Whatever you are to yourself you remain one of the best things I have ever done in my life.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Chameleons and Other Creatures

I don't even know where to start this because I think it plans to be more self-revelatory than I have been in a long time.

I've been so boxed off from myself for so long...probably since I was a very small person, and certainly since around 2008 or so. And I can blame menopause, thyroid, deaths, births, marriages and divorces...but I think that is what we call life.

There are so very many things that I would do so very differently if I had a do-over.

We will start there. I am sorry. So very sorry for more things than I can put on 'paper', and if you are reading this my darling little porcupine, a fair amount of that is directed at you. My shrink informed me that I am "very self aware", and although I do reside in denial as much as possible, I am aware of things I did, stories I told, choices I made, words I chose, paths I took that were not for your betterment, or my own. I had this narrow restricted view of life, and now everything is so much more open. Dad would love this shit. (Dadism #1 - "Discretion is the better part of valor")

I've undergone and am undergoing this crazy process spiritually, politically, emotionally. Will I ever be less than my freaky self? Not likely. Have I changed deeply and in ways that you wouldn't recognize? Probably. Definitely. Part of that is simple self-discovery. Most of my life, and there's been half of it gone already, have been spent in chameleon mode - being who someone else thought I should be, or at a minimum trying to be who someone else thought I should be. The 'who' varied, but the need to make everything perfect, control everything, make everything right (be good, do penance, be better, be perfect) probably begins with - sorry, Pris - my mother. (Again, of course, because mothers are always at fault, which is sad but true - they spend more time with us than anyone, and their issues are projected onto us, even if, like me, you try to make it so that doesn't happen!). Growing up on eggshells, the scars of which many of us now bear, alters who you are at a very fundamental level. For some, there is a giving in. For others there is a strong and consistent resistance even in the face of apparent yielding, a deep knowledge that you are not what people think you are and not what you're being conditioned to be. Like a plant kept in the dark, but watered and fed. Pale and weak and unhealthy, but by God it knows there is sun someplace, and it will just hold the hell on until it gets there. It made me a crappy role model. (Dadism #2 - "I am I. Not who my mother was. Not who my father was. I am I.")

Sun has a way of getting in through the cracks. The more cracks, the more sun. More cracks, more sun. And if you get shattered. Well. It hurts and you bleed, and then the sun hits you explosively and you begin to grow. That's me. Plant, in the dark. Watered and fed, sparsely. Waiting for the light. Afraid of it, because it's going to hurt, but wanting it anyway.

Slam all the doors, close all the windows, do what you will. Be a turtle, a porcupine, a chameleon hiding in the underbrush. The light will get in regardless. Then you can either ignore it or stare at it until your eyeballs burn up or...just let it shine. In my life I have done all that.

I have always thought I needed something for which to exist. Something to save, take care of and fix. I also believed that I had to be "good". And by good I mean perfect. And by perfect I mean "someone else's vision of perfection". Well, when all the things you think you exist for are gone, and you have nothing really left, you start to get up close and personal with who you actually are. I think for many of us, the "less damaged" (lucky? blessed? oh you fools be grateful!), this happens when we are young. For those of us stunted by the dark closet, it takes longer. Some never get there. (Dadism #3, adapted version - "You can make good men better. I am not sure what you can do about the rest.") For me, it took what feels like a really long time.

Who I am and what I believe is who I have always been. Who that is, is NOT who I appeared to be, or the beliefs I gave lip service to. There was always a war and a rebellion inside. Again, this goes back to the need to Be Perfect. Get It Right. Don't Make Me Hit You Again. For some people, there isn't enough love. There isn't enough proof. There isn't enough loyalty. There isn't enough of anything. When you grow up with someone like that as your primary caregiver - or even as a loud screaming nagging voice that you have to visit on weekends (just as an example), it causes you to believe that you must, must, must always try harder, be better, do more, prove this, prove that...but the bar always moves, because their needs are never met, and you always end up feeling worthless and like a failure because you just didn't get it exactly right AGAIN, no matter how hard you tried, no matter how much you wanted to that time. Example:

You have so much natural talent. You are so beautiful. (That girl is better than you. You could be better than her if you tried harder. She looks so pretty and thin.)

I love you more. (No, I love YOU more) No, I love YOU MORE! (OK, you win, you love me more.) If you REALLY loved me, you wouldn't give up so easily!!

Now let's say your other caregiver just wants things to be peaceful, and hopes that by not protesting, not making waves and not making a fuss things will go better for you. The unintended but unfortunately subliminally heard message is "...because you are great, and amazing, and I love you, but you are not worth the fight and the fuss, so let's just keep things quiet and hope it dies down, ok?"

I didn't realize that until recently. That's unfixable. Just pure "Oh, shit, I didn't see that, I am so sorry." But now...instead of endless self-torment...there is just forgiveness, awareness, and acceptance. I cannot undo anyone's past. Not even my own. The thing is what it is. And it doesn't have any...barbs anymore. It's neutralized. Seeing it from this place changes everything. And that brings us to Dadism #4 - "Time heals all wounds and wounds all heels". I always saw myself as both the heel and the wounded. I don't see either now, really. I am not a horrible person, and instead of that being lip service, it's now knowledge. And where the deep gashes were there are scars that are beginning to fade the more the sun pours in on them.

All along the path to this new and evolving place there were a series of wholly unhealthy diversions into territory in which I did not belong, but believed I deserved to be stuck in. It was all holes I put myself in, and clung to because I thought they would protect me or save me or keep me from Being Bad. All untrue. And nobody could get me out of that except me. (Dadism #5: "Charity (love) begins at home.")

So where, and who, am I now? Not really sure. Different. But not. Sit down with me and we can discuss the finer points and my answers will either shock you, or make you smile and say "Yeah. I know. I was wondering when you'd figure that out."

Some months ago I posted this thing on the facebooks that said "What if everything you ever believed wasn't true?" At the time I thought I understood what I was saying. Turns out I am only just beginning to understand what I meant. And probably never will know for sure.

But I do know this: If it doesn't look like love, it isn't for me. I like who I always was. And I am walking away from who I wasn't - no grudge, no guilt, no shame. Work in progress. Unfinished.