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.