the roaches, the twinkies & i
January 12, 2013, 9:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

i just had the most amazing idea or realization: i’ve been holding on to sorrow for the drama. my emotional life was complete chaos as a child. my parents were divorced in all the ways that mattered, my older brother was traumatized & distant, and i was left alone most of the time to find ways to deal with it. as a kid i would use my imagination to create a place of safety. so many nights that they now they seem like every night, i would lie in bed pretending to sleep until i knew i was the only one awake. i’d slide from under the covers, creep across the floorboards and into my closet where i would spend the night in creative bliss play acting, dressing up and making stories. in one way or another these are all things i still do today; it is very rare for me to fall asleep before others if i am in company and i still feel most at ease, safe, in the quiet embrace of the witching hours.

the emotional neglect & abuse, most of which was entirely unintentional, i endured created a pattern of instability which i adapted to and incorporated into my understanding of how the world worked, one which i recreate in my relationships now. my re-purposing of this is driven by more than the scars of childhood; i am a survivor in every sense of the word. the bus accidents, the sudden deaths, the rape & molestation, the environmental violence & multiple moments of not knowing if i would live to see the next have all had their impact & influence in the development of a set of coping mechanisms which have been integral to my being here to write these words. these coping mechanisms also often cripple my attempts to move past them. i know how to navigate the choppy terrain of an emotionally disabled friend better than i do the happiness of an emotionally functional one, the right words for sorrow come so easily but those for joy feel ever elusive and foreign in my mouth. i am not alone though, for what its worth, in this thing i wish i was. the martyr in me would suffer to the ends of the earth if i knew it would alleviate that of anyone else; if i could absorb all that poison and contain it within me i would and be satisfied that the pain mattered, was worth more than the strength it takes to live through it. alas, this is not the way.

most adult survivors of traumatized & abused lives work with some version of sorrow for drama(s) past, an ironic nostalgia for something we’ve tried most of our lives to forget. its a part of us so we hold on to it, and we love it because that’s what human beings do, we love. we all hold a strong desire to connect with ourselves as we were first created and when that being is held by forces seeking its destruction, well, it gets complicated. despite the horror of it, the drama of the scarring holds powers that appeal the human experience, those of memory, familiarity & mastery. whatever pride we gain from surviving is deeply rooted in the abyss of shame that such circumstances produce and we draw nourishment from it, somehow. it was not until a seemingly chance encounter with a bit of literature that i learned this and the awareness has stayed with me ever since.

i was walking near the beach at lake merritt one day, through actually, skirting the bandstand on my way to somewhere else, and there happened to be a community health fair happening. i stopped by a table and, as i am wont to do, picked up a few pamphlets from an organization’s table to browse; one of them was on the adult survivors of child abuse. it informed me that one of the ways that the cycle of violence perpetuates itself is through some side effects of being human. we all consciously or unconsciously recreate unresolved lessons from our lives to learn & grow from; we also lean heavily on the ways we got out of the instructive situation in the first place. in the case of adult survivors we recreate conditions which hurt us. the relative peace & tranquility of a healthy interpersonal relationship is so drastically far from our experience that encountering it can be as much of a shock as the initial trauma(s) which disrupted our abilities to maintain them in the first place and if found in one we will often poison that connection with our distrust, insecurity & fear. such is life.

the cruel irony of it took, and still takes, my breath away. i was only just uncovering many truths about my life experience which had been hidden under the silence & the violence, the emotional & physical attacks that had shaped my heart into a shinning glacier, so bright it hurts to look directly at it. much like the polar ice caps, underneath lies a pool of combustible energy just waiting to explode. the contact with the oxygen which supports our life systems is precisely what brings about the explosions; unconditional love is the oxygen our hearts need, and the very thing that can take them under if we don’t know how to swim.

bit by bit i have been melting this glacier of mine, intentionally and with great care lest i crack the lid on that lake, and every time the same thing happens: my unskilled hands slip & i am uncovered. i explode, consuming all matter and energy i contact, including any heart in the vicinity hoping to help; sorrow has a way of doing that. a friend whom i have shared much of my sorrows with chatted with me today about much happier things, and it was in the midst of this that i had the realization. in my chest, sitting right atop the pleasure, was the pain and in that moment i understood it to be sorrow. i was puzzled, why? why is this thing so disparate from the moment pressing upon me right now? the truth was a slow leak: i missed the feeling of competency i have in navigating drama.

i am just learning to love as myself, not an object to be dealt with, controlled or adored at the whims of others, a full human being, and the going is hard. i am re-entering the world with the accrued knowledge of a 28 yr old and the emotional handling of someone stopped from genuine caring long ago. i don’t know how to express affection with same confidence that i have in disarming an aggressor, i am unfamiliar with feeling and am far more limited in my expression than in my vigilant defense, i am a decorated veteran at living between walls and a fledgling chick in open fields.

these things are not bad or good, they simply are. and i am learning, how to walk with these tender claws, how to dig into the earth for support, to take in the expanse of the sky without fear for its falling. maybe there will always be a tide pool of sorrow within me, maybe not. i don’t know and that’s okay. what i do know is that even in the dissolution of the world as i know it the roaches, twinkies and i can live on in our resourcefulness & ability to stay fresh. i will survive and most days this brings me comfort if not peace.


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