The Other Side of Judgement


I posted a short piece a few days ago that sparked several conversations with a few more, I’m sure now, to follow. Such is the nature of the surprise epiphany. Following my silent, and mostly unnoticed, anxiety at being invited down (a childhood) memory lane, came the realization that my view of who I am was somewhat skewed by my relentless and unforgiving self-judgement.

Having a deep aversion to discussing the growing years didn’t keep me from enjoying the memories my family shared. My parent’s sharing their memory of their first kiss brought tears to my eyes. They love each other with a commitment that humbles me. I made everyone laugh when I said I enjoyed the wedding, since I was born 7 months later (a little too big at 9lbs to qualify as a preemie).

We finally put it together that my middle brother was dragged to our front door by a teenage neighbor boy demanding my dad punish him for throwing rocks at him and his buddy. The same teenage boy I had just slapped the fire out of for trying to drag me inside to show me his etchings. I was eight, and my brother was six years old. My dad, knowing none of this, pulled my brother inside and told the guy to take a hike.

My brother had my back. My dad had his.

We learned the timeline of my baby brother getting beat up by bully and pals, my middle brother beating him up (and afterwards apologizing for the pain inflicted), the bully’s older brother on the hunt for mine, and my subsequent dating of the older brother which resulted in amnesty. We had each other covered without discussion.

We agreed unanimously that our baby brother’s escapades were merely training for his service to our country as a Delta Force operator and left it at that.  I remember him gifting me with several things he liberated from someone else, at which time I would quietly have them returned, having no knowledge (of course) how they arrived on my property.

I consider myself a facilitator of unravelling unfortunate events.

The sister-in-law who posed the “favorite memory” question, was horrified when she read what I wrote. Being one of the most loving and sensitive people I know, she was appalled that she could have caused me distress from such a harmless suggestion. After her text of apology, I had to call her immediately to thank her for making me see what I had missed my whole life.

I would never judge my son the way I’ve judged the child I was.

Empowered to experience the invisible link of family, I was able to see past my spawn of satan behavior to the good memories that were woven through that time. I remember the first poem I wrote for my mom. I know she still has it. I remember singing with my dad when we did the dishes together (maybe he was making sure I didn’t hide them under my bed again). I remember my middle brother following JB and I everywhere and being so pissed about it, and then beating up anyone who picked on him for doing so, because that was my job. I remember the Christmas I got a Cinderella watch and a Malibu Skipper. I was unusually good that year?

I remember putting my baby brother in my doll stroller because he was my baby.

My sister’s inadvertent pulling of my emotional trigger blew away the long-time prison where I’d locked away “little me”. I admire that little shit now, even as I bow to the parents who didn’t leave her on someone else’s doorstep.

I don’t have enough lifetimes to repay my family for remaining always beside me.

I owe my sister at least one Tito’s and cranberry. She’s a keeper.

 

 

 

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The Loop


Until yesterday, if you wanted to freak me the hell out, you would ask me any question about “going back” in time. Those closest to me know that I don’t do that shit. No, there is no point in time I want to re-live, I don’t want any “do overs”, I don’t yearn to change a single thing, and for God’s sake don’t ask me what my favorite memory is from childhood.

My brain freezes when this question is put into play.

Yesterday, my sister-in-law asked for our favorite memory growing up, and while everyone started their stories, I went into a psychological state of emergency. I don’t ever go there for what I’ve always considered very sound reasons. I stepped back and tried to render myself invisible with the power of my mind. While one brother started talking, I escaped to the bathroom to save myself, calm down, and scan my mind for what the hell I was going to say.

When you’re the black sheep of the family, this is not a good thing.

I was, obviously, a little shit growing up. I ate and drank everything I was told not to and had my stomach pumped so many times they should’ve engraved my name on the machine at the hospital. I put my arm through the front door having a fit for being told to go inside and take a nap when I was five.

If mom said I couldn’t have money for candy at the pool, I’d lift quarters out of her purse when she wasn’t around. When she told me to stay off the piano, how do you think I woke everyone up one morning? If she tried to keep me out of the Brach’s chocolate stars by putting them on top of the fridge, I’d just grab a chair, climb up, and take just enough not to be noticed.

I was hit by a car at 10 years old because why should I look both ways? If I was punished by KP duty for misbehavior, I would refuse to wash dishes, and take them all  and hide them under the bed until we ran out and my dad would wake me up and make me pull them all out and wash them so we could eat.

At one point in time, I was grounded for so long I considered it a life sentence, so what did I have to lose by sneaking out the window? That was a success until half-way in the window one morning I saw my dad sitting on the side of my bed waiting for me. Momentarily frozen half in, and half out, he just said very quietly, “It scares me when you do that”.

I never did it again.

I ran away from home at 16 and ended up in court and was judged “incorrigible”, someone whose behavior cannot be corrected. I did not beg to differ. So there I was yesterday, deer in the headlight look on my face, and the only thing I can think of to say is that my fondest memory is that I got a year’s probation in lieu of girl’s school to the age of 21.

I shudder to think who I would have become with that kind of training.

Two years ago, when I called my parents to ask if I could stay with them until I found a place to live, they said yes without hesitation. They came home from vacation and didn’t ask a single question. They let me cry, and sleep and recover. They gave me time to find my way through the sorrow.

That is love. I will never forget it. That is my fondest childhood memory.

I still refuse to look back. No do-overs needed. I’m right where I need to be, come what may. I still don’t like being told what to do, so don’t waste your time. But I am at least self-aware enough to pause before I act. Smart enough to ask myself if I’m getting ready to leap into action because I want to, or because someone said “don’t you dare”.

The odds are growing, ever more, in my favor.

We may all breathe a collective sigh of relief.

 

 

 

Tightrope


I made a grown man cry yesterday. He thought I was angry with him, at least that was the story. The truth was that he lost his wife and mother to cancer within 10 days of each other, and is already back to work. He was essentially a human being with all skin removed and every nerve exposed.

The very air around him brought him pain.

No matter how softly I spoke to him, his face winced and flickered with emotion as if I were a DI screaming instructions instead of letting him know that he could take it easy, I didn’t need him to do anything yet.

I was eventually able to gentle him into a state of ease, but it took every bit of the work day. I considered it more than worth the effort. I was happy to have the temporary help I needed, but was also exhausted by what it took out of me to make him feel safe for the day.

People don’t always see you for who you are. They perceive you from what they are experiencing in their lives at any given moment. You could wear yourself out trying to explain or justify your truth or intent, but it rarely makes any headway in their belief in what is real for them.

I’ve learned it’s better for me to trade defensiveness for compassion. 

Everyone is going through their own shit. It can get really rough. I’m pretty good at knowing when I’ve screwed up and doing what I can to make things right, but I’ve learned enough now to know that many times someone’s attitude and/or judgment comes from where they’re at or what they’re dealing with, and has nothing to do with me.

I’m just a stand in.

But I did momentarily feel like I’d been video-taped kicking a small puppy without ever having lifted a foot. Living is hard when you’re grieving. Breathing is hard. Holding space and bearing witness is hard.

Being human is hard.

Is it only Tuesday?

The Shaman


Depression

is the inflammation

of the mind and body

lacking care.

We never ask

the question why

due to the thoughts we hide,

so hesitant to share.

With shamanic wisdom

we must take our hearts

and open up our eyes

to find where we neglect

to love ourselves,

by giving more than

what is wise.

When did we last feel

the sun shine warmly on

our own uplifted face?

Or move and dance

and laugh with sheer abandon

in our solitary space?

When did we stop offering

the pure and good

to body, mind and soul?

Why did we think

crutches, masks and lies

would be the things

to make us whole?

Isn’t it past time to

lay down everything

that we’ve been told is true…

and love ourselves so well

that we can’t keep

the truth of us

from shining through?

 

 

 

 

 

Melancholia


Put down the drink, the smoke, the pill

the food, beleaguered credit card.

No longer mask the rage, the tears, the sorrow

sometimes life is hard.

Stop trying to dismiss what you must feel

to alchemize your struggles into gold.

You are not meant to flatline

let your heart learn how to warm the bitter cold.

You cannot become without the pain

that you allow to fiercely filter through.

Feel it, let it loose to roar and whisper,

as it changes every part of you.

Don’t apologize for being human

in your fear, your doubts, your deep dismay.

Refuse to silence any truth that finally

your soul would bid you say.

Do not suffocate the raw emotion,

the ferocity with which you fight.

If you restrain the fire that burns within you,

you will lose the world you would ignite.

 

 

 

 

Love Affair


She knew that he loved

by the way his words flowed,

endlessly admiring;

the way he spent his time

on his beloved.

He could not be swayed

from his belief

that no one else could

ever be as worthy

of his time.

He was steadfast

in his conviction to focus

solely, and without

apology,

on the one he desired

more than all

others.

So finally,

with a quiet resignation,

she accepted

the incontrovertible

truth.

There was no place

for her

in his love affair with

himself.

 

Shame On Me


I was not a good enough wife. Or daughter, or mother or friend. I dropped the ball too many times and couldn’t live up to the ideal. I’ll fess up to that. I did try with mighty and heroic efforts but it was not to be done.

Shame on me.

I wanted to be seen and heard sometimes. Yes, that is a selfish thing. I wanted to be valued, treasured and trusted. Too much ego going on. I wanted the love I gave to have value that carried itself forward.  I have no words for that.

I can’t change what I was born into, I can only determine how I want to live. We are so much better at dismissing pain than we are at feeling it. We’re better at causing it than facing it. We are lost in the midst of trying to hold onto that thing we cannot name.

Depression is the thing that says “Fuck you, I’m tired of the character you play”. 

I’ve heard that shame cannot cling where it is spoken. I hope that is true.

I’ll speak it. Let it go.

Love takes courage.

To give.

To receive.