Friday, August 31, 2007
"People come into our lives for a reason and when that reason is complete, the relationship ends." Or, "you learned what you needed to learn and now the lesson is over." Or, my personal unfavorite, "It just wasn't meant to be."
Now, I'm sure in the world where fairies, gods and demons exist one can get one's head around finding meaning in anything, including the very painful end of a relationship. And perhaps this rhetoric comes from the same new age crap factory as "There are no coincidences." But I'm not buying it. I call bullshit.
To me, maybe there's a million reasons why a relationship ends. Maybe there's no reason at all. And sometimes, I think this "meant to be" shit is just an escape for those who don't want to commit. It's much easier to say, "Thanks dear for the life lesson. I'm leaving you now" than to realize what the issues are and be committed to working through them.
And then there's this crap about "not knowing what love is". That's bullshit. If you don't know what love is you have no business even being in a relationship to begin with and if you discover that at some point on the way through, well why don't ya damn well stick around and try to sort it out with the someone who actually loves you in spite of your fucked-up self?! ARGH!!!
We've bought into these fairy tale notions of relationships and what they're supposed to feel like and look like. We're apes people. We're making this shit up as we go along. It's ugly. It's painful. And it's dirty. Yet it can be the most amazing and beautiful thing. Why can't we just let it happen? Why does it have to be so complicated?
Thursday, August 30, 2007
I wouldn't coax the plant if I were you.
Such watchful nurturing may do it harm.
Let the soil rest from so much digging.
And wait until it's dry before you water it.
The leaf's inclined to find its own direction;
Give it a chance to seek the sunlight for itself.
Much growth is stunted by too much prodding,
Too eager tenderness.
The things we love we have to learn to leave alone.
Naomi Long Madgett
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
I woke up with that trapped feeling. I could feel it sitting in my throat. So I figured I'd just play with it. Coax it out a little. So I took my pillow and screamed into it really loud. I started coughing. I screamed some more. I screamed for about two minutes. My belly was full with screaming. I kept going until it felt complete.
I was hoping that this would be enough to let me go back to sleep. I had a shitty night and really wanted some more rest, but my legs began asking for attention. They said, "Run." I said, "No way." They said, "Run." I said, "No way." They said, "Run." Hmmm...
Anyone who knows me knows that I don't run. I walk really fast but I don't run. I was always the slowest runner in grade school and always felt like people were watching me. I also have these awful memories of daily gym class runs. The last part of the run was through a forest back to the school. Although we were running in groups, my mom was still very afraid of me being snatched by some stranger as I went through the forest so she wrote my teacher a note stating that I was not to run through the forest but run along side it...alone. I remember my heart beating so fast as I split off from the rest of the class. I knew very well that my isolation put me in much more harm's way than staying with the crowd. But that's my mom for ya. So running for me has always been this mental block.
As I attempted to lull myself back to sleep, my legs became restless. I offered them a nice walk. But once again they insisted, "Run!" Damn that Forrest Gump--I watched the film before bed last night and it must have entered my subconscious as I slept. I knew I wasn't going to get any rest until my legs had been satisfied, so I got up, put on my running shoes and headed out onto the street. I laughed out loud. I felt completely ridiculous.
I started out walking. I was sure that the minute I started to run, people would stream out of their houses and begin to point and laugh. It took me some mental haggling to get up my nerve to begin to run. As my feet touched down on the pavement, I could feel my whole body resisting. I could feel years of shame swirling their way up through my chest. Who was I to run? Who was I to leave? Who was I to speak up for not wanting to be where I was? I ran as far as my breath would take me. And then stopped. I looked around to see if anyone was watching. No one was. Phew.
I did a couple of more rounds of runs--each time allowing myself to breathe my way through the discomfort, both physically and emotionally. I didn't get very far distance-wise, but I think I made leaps and bounds mentally. Each day I face a little more of the past, a little more of myself, a little more of what holds me back from being who I really am. I can't say it's easy. It brings me to the depths of all the dark places within my soul. But underneath the darkness there is light. And hope.
Edited to add: I finally got my nap. When I woke up there was this wondering: How would my life have been different if I'd known how to speak up for myself or voice my feelings, wants, desires to someone I felt safe with? I doubt I would've felt like running and screaming so much. Glad I'm getting to learn those tools now.
Friday, August 24, 2007
`Snapping out of it' is not an option
Faulty brain wiring may keep some people from controlling emotions, new study finds
CHICAGO–People with clinical depression may be unable to "snap out of it" because of faulty wiring in the brain, a new study shows.
Researchers who compared the way people with severe depression responded to negative stimuli relative to a group of healthy controls found that the circuits involved in controlling emotions were disrupted in the depressed people.
"The neural circuits involved with regulating emotions may be damaged in people with this condition," says the lead author of the study, neuroscientist Tom Johnstone, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Medicine and Public Health.
The study, published yesterday in the journal Neuroscience, shows one of the hallmarks of depression is that people with the condition seem to be unable to pull themselves out of a funk or black mood.
In order to figure out what goes awry in these situations, Johnstone and his colleagues conducted an experiment on a group of 21 depressed people and 18 healthy controls.
Researchers tried to manipulate them into a negative state of mind and then watched how well they could bounce back.
Specifically, they presented their guinea pigs with a series of images of things such as car accidents or threatening-looking animals and then asked them to consciously modulate their responses, by envisioning more positive outcomes than the one implied.
They also asked the participants to try imagining the situation was acted out rather than real.
"We ask them to reframe the content of what they're seeing," says Johnstone. "We hope to engage cognitive areas in re-interpreting the emotional content of a stimulus."
As expected, all of the individuals had increased brain activity in the prefrontal cortical areas that are known to regulate the emotional parts of the brain.
In the healthy individuals, high levels of prefrontal cortical activity correlated with low levels of activity in the amygdala, the almond-shaped structure that appears to regulate fear and anxiety.
In other words, they were able to quell their emotional response to the images.
In the depressed people, high levels of activity in the amygdala persisted in spite of the intense activity in the regulatory regions, and even increased in response to it, suggesting that their conscious effort to control their emotions was thwarted by dysfunctional brain circuits.
The researchers speculated that signals from the prefrontal cortical area of the brain are not getting through to the amygdala in the depressed people. But the reasons are still unknown.
The findings suggest that cognitive behavioural therapies based on a belief that someone can change the way they feel about a situation by altering the way they think about it may be counterproductive for some people.
"Our results suggest that there is a subgroup of patients with depression for whom traditional cognitive therapy may be contra-indicated," says senior author Richard Davidson. He notes that in some cases, the depressed person's effort to recalibrate their response resulted only in greater emotional activity.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I was alone the night the announcement was made. I heard it through a hook up patched secretly into the meeting's phone line. I was at a cottage, supposed to be enjoying a much-needed holiday. J was working that week and would arrive later. But I was alone when the announcement was made. And I cried alone.
When I was 15 my grandfather died. I was alone when I got the call from my parents. I cried alone then too.
J is gone now. The last witness to my jw past. I have been perusing photos today. We were happy once. We shared a lot of good times. Now they are gone. Like all the others in those photos. They are all gone. It is unlikely I will ever see these people again. Just like I will never see my grandfather again. Part of me has died along with each of them. And here I am, once more crying alone.
It is raining outside my window as I type this. The sky is gray, heavy with sadness. My heart feels like it has sunk into my stomach.
I do not yet feel the freedom of being released from the Matrix. The illusion was a warm blanket in a harsh world. All I feel is grief. The grief of what will never be again. And the unanswerable question of whether it ever was to begin with.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
As a teen, I felt trapped in my life. Trapped in an abusive relationship. Trapped in a school system that I felt pressured by. A school system where I felt like I was just another cog in the wheel. I felt trapped in a religion that expected no less than perfection and a mother that mirrored her chosen faith with stoic adherence. I felt trapped in a mind that had questions about love, the universe and everything in between. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?
I remember my first panic attack. I was sitting in accounting class. I had this wave of heat surge through me. My brain kept repeating, You have to get out of here. You have to escape. You have to leave. I ran from the classroom and locked myself in a bathroom stall. I sat on the back of the toilet and just cried and cried. I had never felt so alone. I was 15.
When I read Holocaust survivor stories, it was usually the ones of escape. The stories where the heroes managed to evade the Nazis and emerge from the war to live again. I couldn't read the stories about those who died. I never read The Diary of Anne Frank. I knew how it was going to end and I didn't want to face that after having built up a relationship with her through her diaries.
Whenever I would read of the Holocaust I wondered what kept these people going. What motivated them every day to keep living. Why more of them didn't commit suicide. At 15 all I wanted was for my life to end. It seems funny to be back here at 33. To be facing the same questions. The same fears. The same feeling of being trapped. Of feeling so utterly alone. I think about killing myself constantly. Ways, plans, timelines. Yet I don't. What makes me continue on? I'm scared.
I used to think the Holocaust survivors were brave, courageous people. But maybe they were just cowards, like me.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Monday, August 20, 2007
There are people I wish I'd never met. Experiences I wish I'd never had. Situations I'm not better for. Experiences that have left indelible marks on my heart, mind and soul, from which I will never recover. I'm pissed with people telling me that I'm going to get through this, that time will make things better. What if if doesn't? There are layers and layers of pain and trauma in my soul. Just when I think they've healed another experience comes along and brings all the layers back to the surface. Flashbacks, nightmares, memories.
Fuck you J. I wish we'd never met. I wish I'd never gotten involved in your life. I wish you'd just left me alone. We had no right getting involved in each other's shit. What the hell did we think we were doing?
I remember, you would make me dinner, that was always your way of placating me. But then you'd leave the kitchen a mess for me to clean up. It always made me sigh, that your good intentions left nothing but a mess in their wake. And that you never stayed around to clean them up, to see the damage done. The fun is gone, you thought, time to move on.
J., I wish you every kind of pain. I wish you heartache and flashbacks and nights so tortured that you feel death would be your only solution. I wish you the kind of sorrow and rage that alcohol and sex and drugs can't touch. The pain that knows no consolation. The pain of knowing that you've ruined a life, that your presence has left an indelible mark and all the songs you sang can never make it go away. The pain of knowing that you were loved, but did not love in return. That you lied. And that you took an already fragile heart and used it as your personal play thing.
Life is not a game. It never was. If you have any decency left in your jaded soul, you will start to realize that. And start understanding the basic ideas of cause and effect. Grow up asshole. Grow up.
Friday, August 17, 2007
And I had another realization yesterday. I've been waiting my whole life. As a jw, I was waiting for the end of the world and the paradise to follow. Waiting for god to heal my ails. I've spent parts of my life waiting to be loved. Waiting to get into relationships. Waiting to get out. Waiting for the meds to kick in. Waiting to get off the meds. Waiting for the day to begin. Waiting for the day to end. But most of all, waiting for my life to begin.
I realize that I don't really want to kill myself. I don't really want to die. Death doesn't scare me. Life does. I'm afraid to live. I'm still learning what that even means--to live a life. All I've figured out so far is to breathe, in and out. And keep breathing, in and out. And to take life one breath, one moment, one day at a time. I'm learning to be present with what is now. Because really, where else is there to be?
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I get myself prettied up. I allow myself to get excited. I'm going to see someone I love, why not get excited I think to myself. And then I wait. Always waiting. I'm tired of tentative plans. Tell me you're going to meet me. Tell me where. Tell me when. And then follow through. And be with me. Be present with me. Look into my eyes. See me seeing you. Forget about work. Forget about your deadlines. Forget about everything but this moment here with me.
My therapist says I'm angry with life but that I keep turning that anger inwards, on myself. And that is apparently where the suicidal thoughts come from. Well fuck life. Fuck these men who can't commit to a lunch let alone anything else. Fuck these men for saying they love me. And fuck love. It's all bullshit anyways.
My friend Geoff has said that considering the way men behave it's amazing more women aren't lesbians. I'm beginning to see Geoff's point. From Belle & Sebastian's song Seeing Other People:
"But if they don't see the quality then it is apparent that
You're going to have to change
Or you're going to have to go with girls
You might be better off
At least they know what they're doing."
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
May my heart stay open and loving even when I'm feeling hurt and frayed.
May I learn always to include others in love's vast embrace.
May my heart remain pure and kind amid the painful details and muck of life.
May virtue and serenity belong to all even my competitors and adversaries.
May my brokenheartedness open my heart even further and bring forth love and openhearted compassion.
I just finished watching it and I know now why I needed to see it. I am Richie Tenenbaum. If you have seen the film, perhaps you'll understand. If you haven't, see it. It's worth watching. And if you still don't get the reference, it's okay. It is what it is. And sometimes this blog is just for me.
The train thunders into the station. I soak up the black soot it kicks up from the track beneath. It is the dust of cremation. It is a veil to hide me, to shield me away from all that aches, all that drives a wedge between what was and what is.
There is a sacredness to this moment. I face death here in this subway station. Here on these tracks. In the eyes of the oncoming train. And I face myself. Every ounce of pain that makes me want to jump and that small spark of hope that still dwells somewhere within my soul. The spark that presses my legs back against the cold tiled wall until the train comes to a stop in front of me. The spark that carries me through each train ride, each moment, each day.
I sit on the floor in the hallway. The waiting room is full. He's going to ask me how I am. What's there to say? I am weary. Weary of this life. Weary of this story. Longing for authenticity. To see and be seen. To see a purpose for this futile existence.
"How are you?" he will ask.
"Fine," I will say. "Just fine."
Monday, August 13, 2007
I'm feeling nostalgic today. Teary. I'm missing people. But as I look through my old photos I realize I don't know these people anymore. I know the story we had together at the time, but I don't know who they are anymore. Did I ever really know them at all?
Some of them I wish I could see again. Really, I just wish I could be in their space and be quiet with them. Hold them. Love them. Be present with them. Be me being me being with them.
Sigh, there are no more words.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I visited the Taste of the Danforth festival today in downtown Toronto. For those who aren't local, this is an annual street festival (Danforth Avenue) showcasing the local food and wares of the area, which is predominantly of the Greek culture.
I try to go every year. I love the food, the music, the culture and today, the sun. It was a balmy 31 degrees Celsius. Clear skies. Just peachy. I got to enjoy all my favourite Greek treats: Dolmades, Gyros and Loukoumades.
It's funny though. There was one stand that was selling Tandoori Chicken on a Ciabatta Bun. Only in Toronto could you find an Indian dish served on an Italian bun at a Greek street festival.
Friday, August 10, 2007
"The only step we can take...is the next one, yet too often people get ahead of themselves, and that's where they get themselves into trouble."
I get myself into trouble often by trying to take too many steps at once. On more than one occasion in my life I have bitten off more than I could chew. I've succumbed to the pressure and expectations of myself and others and the feeling that what I'm doing is not enough. That who I am is not enough. And from that space, I've created much angst and depression.
I am in the process of learning that there is only one step to be taken right now and that is the next one in front of me. And then, as if by magic, the next one appears after that. And then another after than one. And on and on it goes. And before I know it, I'm living a moment, then an hour, then a day, then a life. And it doesn't seem so big and scary anymore.
I approached him and told him how much he'd affected my life. How his actions had hurt me and how everything he said and did to me affected me for the next 17 years of my life and that I often wished we'd never met. Although asleep I could feel the heat of rage run through my body. He never turned his head. He didn't even acknowledge me but I know he heard my words. I felt this strength within that startled even me. I felt my feet connected to the ground and my shoulders held back. I felt my voice get stronger and stronger as I spoke. I said what I needed to say and then I just stopped.
The room fell silent. My heart mellowed. I saw him as the five year old of that room. I saw that he was a child, a hurt child, a loveless child. A child that didn't have the ability to treat me in an adult way because he wasn't an adult. Who couldn't show me love because he wasn't shown love. Who abused me because he'd been abused. Who had exploited me because he'd been exploited. The little boy turned to me. I scooped him up in my arms and said that it was okay. That he was safe now. And that all was forgiven. And that I hoped he could go out into the world now knowing he was loved. And the dream ended.
I awoke feeling lighter. And I realized I've known many of these five year old boys in my life. These abused, exploited, scared little boys who don't know how to love. And I've been hurt by many of them. But this morning I embrace them all. Wherever you are, my friends, know that you are safe and loved.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
A few hours later, my dear sweet friend Ganga called me. We chatted about my horrid night and how this dark night of the soul seems to have no end. She then played one of her songs for me. She's a wonderful guitarist singer/songwriter who writes inspiring songs for women. She has the voice of an angel. As I laid in my bed listening to her play, I was filled with gratitude. I feel blessed to have these people in my life, people who are along for my journey. People who aren't shying away from the dark moments I'm going through. People who believe in me.
I'm out of bed now. Sitting at my kitchen table, watching the sun stream through the trees, as the wind banters around their branches. I still have no desire to go to work but at least I'm alive for another day. Sometimes, that's as good as it gets.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
What is your emotional footprint? How are you impacting the lives of others by the emotional state you hold? What is the quality of your interactions with others?
Ponder these questions:
- To follow the carbon analogy, do you have your shit together? If not, how is your shit affecting yourself and others?
- Are you stinking up the environment with your emotional garbage?
- Are you using up the valuable resources of love and compassion by emotionally vampiring other people's good vibes?
- Consider your past and present relationships. Have you/are you impacting that person's life in a way that is healthy? If others were asked about your impact on their life, how would they respond? How would they feel about the emo footprint you've left on their life?
- Are you currently working to forgive anyone in your life? Is anyone working to forgive you?
- Do you take responsibility for your reactions and responses to life or do you blame others?
- Can you identify your emotions as you're experiencing them and allow them to be? Or do you feel the need to suppress, analyze, judge or transfer them onto someone else?
- Do you seek out relationships to fill a void, to heal a hurt, to escape boredom or to avoid having a relationship with yourself?
- Are you in a place of being able to show/receive unconditional love?
- If you were to die tomorrow, what relationships would you feel needed healing? Who would you want to see and what would you want to say to them?
- Make a difference in the life of a child. Not necessarily by having one, because I'm of the opinion that you'd better have a damn clear emo footprint before you procreate. No, I mean, take a child under your wing. See them. Really see them, not as mini adults but as whole beings unto themselves. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Honor their emotions. Hold their hands. Play.
- If there are relationships that feel squidgy in your belly when you think of them, sit with it and wonder what it is that is left unsettled. I've found that writing a letter (that I don't send) can help move the energy around unfinished business.
- Life is short. If you have the opportunity to tell someone you love them, do so.
- Be as honest as you can with yourself about why you do what you do. Take responsibility for your choices. Although you did the best you could with what you knew at the time, your choices may still have impacted someone's life in a hurtful way. Do what you can to make things right. Even if all you can do is offer up a silent "I'm sorry" to the universe.
- Learn from your experiences and when you feel you can, choose differently next time. Each day is another chance to make a different choice. Every breath is a "do-over".
Monday, August 6, 2007
I wonder sometimes if we get stuck in the story of who we think people are. We base our opinions on past experiences with them and assume that years later they are still those people. Granted, sometimes people don't change. Sometimes they even regress. Yet, it is interesting to see when someone has changed and you realize you can let go of who they once were and meet them anew.
I found my time with my mother refreshing. Like I could relate to her as a fellow adult on a journey of self-discovery. We laughed. We cried. We shared things about ourselves that showed vulnerability. We were willing to take that step and see what happened. And it was good. It felt safe.
Time and distance often provide us wonderful opportunities for re-evaluating relationships. Once revisited, we often find that we are both changed. And that the relationship can be far better than it ever was. That we can see each other afresh, through new eyes. I am happy I took time away from my folks. As I am sure they are happy for the time they spent away from me. It seems to have done us all a world of good.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
What did affect me deeply was learning that my all-time favourite "elder" from my old congregation is not doing well. I worry for him. As he worries for others. He and I are similar souls. We could talk about anything freely. He was my sounding board and my mentor and a surrogate father in many ways. I'm sure it broke his heart when I left the jw's. I was like a daughter to him.
I have recently been having fond memories of the time I spent as a jw proselytizer. As grueling as it was, I enjoyed being out with my fellow "brothers and sisters" doing a work that I firmly believed had God's approval---a "life-saving work" no less. We would usually go out in car groups of four and if I was lucky I'd get to travel with this older "brother" in his car group. Once we reached the assigned territory of homes or apartments, we'd split off into pairs to go and "witness" to the public. I loved being paired with this elder because we always had such great conversations in between doors. We could talk about anything. Often we'd end up in tears as we discussed life and love and faith. Despite our age difference we were kindred spirits.
I remember the day we spent in the ministry and we had some time to kill before the next meet-up group. So we did McDonald’s drive-thru and we each had Filet-o-Fish sandwiches. I still think of him every time I eat one. There are some memories that will be forever bittersweet for me.
I remember accompanying him to the hospital once while he had some tests done. He seemed really unused to having someone care for him. I think his heart never quite mended after his wife left him. As a jw, he could not remarry and I think all that love he had to give was slowly eating away at him. Perhaps it still is.
I miss this man. Some days I miss him terribly. I’m tempted sometimes to write him a letter telling him how much I love and miss him. But I’m afraid it will just break his heart more, since he will not be able to respond. Or maybe I’m just afraid of the rejection I will face in receiving no reply.
The grief is heavy tonight.
Saturday, August 4, 2007
I was present today. I was in the moment and aware and just being. Just being me being with my parents. No pretenses, no expectations, no judgment. Just enjoying what was as it was. I like this. I could get used to this. I think I already am.
Friday, August 3, 2007
It seems a strange paradox to have these two states co-existing and yet somehow there is a beauty to the paradox. Without the dark, there is no light. Without the light, there is no dark. I am life, death and everything in between. I am.