Forgivemas

I am thinking about truth.

About thought and action.

About the significance of words.

About the meaninglessness of words in contrast with behavior.

About secrets and lies. About dishonesty.

About the frequency with which the words “can’t” and “I don’t have a choice” get spoken, and how seldom they are true.

About the meaning and meaninglessness of feelings that are claimed, proclaimed, but not acted upon.

About trauma and fear and cruelty and coping and dissuasion and narrative.

About abuse.

About prolonged immaturity/infancy self-styled as superiority.

(Wikipedia is a little dainty about the role also known as “The Royal Finger” – it means the guy who wiped the king’s butt for him, like a baby’s.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groom_of_the_Stool)

I am thinking about how we use pleasures as substitutes for meaning. For love, joy, purpose, belonging.

About delusions of control and illusions of powerlessness.

About what people imagine power to be. About what power actually is.

About superstition. About a mostly futile wish that “what” can be changed or limited or made wholly impossible by “who,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “want.”

About context and perspective.

About how giving – not trading, not transacting, not exchanging, but giving as in “gift” – can so easily awaken us to how much change we can affect.

About “Loss is one thing, but regret, quite another.”

 

 

 

 

About the difference between regret and remorse.

About “What we do now echoes in eternity” (Marcus Aurelius, or, in slightly paraphrased form, both St. Mark and Banksy). And “In the line of eternity, what does this matter?” (https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-news/the-subversive-joy-of-stephen-colbert-106698/)

 

 

About the inescapable interconnectedness of all life, and the unbelievable stupidity and destructiveness of pretending it isn’t so. About the reality of ubiquitous interdependence, and the destructive myth of the “rugged individual.” And the equally destructive myths of flawlessness, of flawless humanity, of unforgivability and unlovability.

(https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/06/03/i-pencil-leonard-read/)

About isolation and addiction.

About the rise of selfishness and self-pity and self-justification, and the fall of generosity and empathy and compassion.

About relentless rationalization, in defiance of all reasonable evidence of its failure to convince anyone its fabrications are true, not even the self it emanates from.

About the difference in meaning, and realistic disconnect, between “earn,” “deserve,” and “have.”

About hypocrisy.

About how one hurt cannot undo another.

About “… grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned…”     (The Peace Prayer of St. Francis)

About how suffering is not inherently a source of cruelty or failure or wisdom or success – how luck and choice play a part in what each of us do with the pains we experience.

About sorrow and happiness. About “To everything there is a season…” (Ecclesiastes, or Pete Seeger/The Byrds, according to your preference.)

 

 

 

About “…happiness exists in action; it exists in telling the truth and saying what your truth is; and it exists in giving away what you want the most.”

 

 

About forgiveness.

 

About “Everything you done to me, you already done to yourself.”    (The Color Purple)

 

About “And my turning point came with this next question: ‘Sammy, have you ever hurt anyone the way your mother has hurt you?'” (https://www.theforgivenessproject.com/)

 

 

About “…forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.”

 

 

About what it means to defend. To protect. To sacrifice. To love.

It is Christmas, after all, a day with a pretty wide range of connotation, depending largely on individual context.

And I am trying very hard, for a combination of selfish and selfless reasons, not to respond with anger, where anger feels a wholly appropriate emotional response to some spectacularly shitty behavior.

If we will exercise the minimal restraint required not to gratify our anger in an instant, and spend some actual time and energy on trying to figure out what is right, and why people behave badly the way they do, including ourselves, it is actually pretty easy to make the leap from fuck-these-selfish-spoiled-cruel-narcissistic-assholes to some less profanity-riddled, more inquisitive, and potentially more useful thoughts.

I have no idea where I first heard the idea that anger is not a primary, but rather a secondary emotion, one that we tend to use to mask feelings we are more uncomfortable with, the ones we experience as unpleasant and powerless – fear and sadness, particularly. I don’t know what the basis of the speaker’s assertion was, but I do know it stuck with me because it rings so true.

Anger is an emotion, from my perspective, that has a lot of power-hype, but is really a show of vulnerability or weakness. Fight is a fear response. Fear is a survival-threat response. Whatever our cultural narratives about anger and its companion action, violence (which is more varied, I believe, than the limited array of actions we are conditioned to label that way), it seems pretty clear that those things have little to nothing to do with strength. Strength is what is required to do what is difficult, not a descriptor of what is easily, speedily self-gratifying.

What does this all have to do with Christmas? Well, for a start, it means working today to manage my own fear and sadness in a way that doesn’t involve me texting “Go fuck yourself” to anyone. Trying to understand the hype and the subtext of the varied meanings assigned to the day. Trying to understand why so many people seem to fail to try to understand.

It means minding my own hypocrisy.

It means putting in the effort not to leave myself trapped in the myopic perspective of an endless present of pain that comes with a fear response. Survival-mode means now; prolonged survival-mode makes now feel timeless. Like an inescapable eternity. Like hell.

It means considering the relative value of survival strategies and coping behavior that have short-term and long-term value, and how to make the best of the former til the latter, which tend to be more time-consuming to achieve efficacy, can be fully realized. About not falling into the trap of treating short-term strategies as long-term sustainable.

It means being grateful I held back my angrily reactive thumbtyping to insensitivity that was hurtful, whether it was consciously or thoughtlessly cruel, and spent the day considering, and ultimately affirming, why that was the right choice to make.

I am glad I held my thumbs. Because this might bring me no greater kindness, but I am fairly certain it has done me a world more good than “Go fuck yourself” would have done.

I hope today brought you some joy. If not, I hope you made the choice to seek some perspective instead of adding your own contribution to the sum total of human misery. And if you didn’t, that you will accept that as long as you are alive, it is not too late, and decide differently, now, or in the future.

 

 

Tiny Breakthrough (Temporarily Defeating the Metaphorical Flamethrower Bear With Profanity)

For want of anything else to do with everything that is causing my crushing anxiety, I just opened a document with the thought of writing something, and having nothing to say, pretty much just typed nonsense (okay, profanity), and, oddly, while I was doing that, I felt a lot more relaxed.

I am going to guess because it took enough of my conscious, chatter-box brain’s attention to type words to distract it from focusing on any source of stress. Maybe the swear-iness also helped, since those are words habitually associated with venting negative feelings.

Just putting this out there, on the chance it is useful to anyone else.

Give it a shot.

Maybe typing “What in the fucking fucking fucking fuck of fucking fucking fucked up fuck ups fuck ups fuck ups fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck…” will also be of use to you.

Or you could pick a less swear-y repetition. “All the puppy puppying puppies time the puppies puppy puppily puppytime…” might work better for you.

Hell, if you are scientific-method-ly-minded, try both, and see if one or the other feels more helpful. Maybe throw in a third neutral word (since puppies might have some positive or negative emotional resonance for you), like typing “and” over and over, for point of comparison.

This was a random discovery on my part, so no idea if it will actually be useful to anyone else, or even for me again, but as anyone who feels like they are drowning in a relentlessly rising tide of shit well knows, like twenty seconds of peace can be heaven, since “anxiety” is, as far as I am concerned, just a euphemism for “survival response,” which is, in turn, a euphemism for “death-threat response,” which really should be what we call it, since that is, you know, what it is, and how it feels.

Saying you feel “anxious” diminishes the reality that you are trying to accomplish what, in better mental and emotional climes, would be mundane tasks, while your entire body (your brain is a part of your body, and that we tend to pretend that is not so based on the Western world’s raging, multi-century boner for Cartesian dichotomy and mind-body divide strikes me as stupidly self-destructive) is screaming:

“HOLY SHIT, IT IS A BEAR WITH A FLAMETHROWER, RUN, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, GRAB A STICK AND HIT THE BEAR WITH IT, DO SOMETHING, DO ANYTHING, DO IT NOW, LIE DOWN AND PLAY DEAD, OFFER TO BUY THE BEAR A DRINK, STAND STILL LIKE A STATUE, SOMETHING, WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING RIGHT NOW OR WE ARE GOING TO DIE!!!!!

(For those who use the misleading term “fight-or-flight” for what I term the death-threat response –  or, if you prefer, murder-response – I included a variety of bear-related mentions of all of the elements of said response, which are, to my non-professional knowledge, freeze, flop, friend, flee, and fight.

Also, so far as I am aware, freeze is the most common survival response, just fyi. If some bad shit happened to you, and you think you are weak or cowardly or somehow complicit in whatever bad thing happened because you couldn’t move, you can let that shit go – your survival brain was at the wheel, and that is its favored move. Happens, apparently, to most people who face down death – and with anything that physically endangers you, I don’t imagine survival brain drawing distinctions between death and other injury. Prior to antibiotics, a scratch could be the death of you, and evolution moves at a snail’s pace – there is no rationally believing the oldest parts of the brain do a recent-advances-in-medicine-check before going to defcon-flamethrowerbear when our physical safety is threatened. Seriously, from a second-hand-therapist mention, the part of your brain that is responsible for your anxiety/survival/fight-or-flight/death-threat/murder-response does not understand language.)

I hope the nonsensical repetitive writing trick might be helpful to you, and also hope you know to apply it only when you are dealing with a phantom flamethrower bear; if something in your immediate vicinity is actually threatening you with bodily harm, typing “fuck” over and over seems pretty unlikely to be helpful. Then again, I am no more a self-defense expert than I am a mental-health professional, so really, in either case, you should bear (flamethrower-bear-pun accidental, but acknowledged) my limitations in mind as you assess your actual- vs. phantom-bears, and respective strategies for dealing with said (hopefully) metaphorical bears.

I Ask

Today, I ask for a miracle. One that frees me. For grace. For help. For unexpected kindness. For good fortune. I ask, because I don’t know what else to do, and I don’t want to give up, and I need more than I can give or do or afford or survive alone.

What good does this do?

Maybe none.

But still, I ask.

I ask because sometimes, just sometimes, what we ask for will be given. That it often won’t too often keeps us from saying what it is we need, what we feel, keeps us from asking for fear of being denied.

I ask because I don’t want to give up without having tried everything possible to get through. I ask because that I lack doesn’t mean I don’t deserve. I ask because the act of voicing what we need can in itself help us. Can remove one burden – that of silence. Can refocus our minds, our attention, so we start to look for signs of hope instead of despair. I ask because taking action, even just putting thought into words, can help break anxiety, so much of which tends to be amplified by inaction.

I ask because I acknowledge there are many arenas where I have no control, and what I need depends on another’s choice, or chance, and the only role I can play is to ask, and to hope.

I ask because as long as I am writing, I am making a space where it is harder for my pain to follow, because my mind is elsewhere.

I ask because sometimes people will be motivated by seeing another do the same thing they fear to do, and maybe someone else will find their voice, and ask for what they need.

I ask because I need, because I hope, because I wish for better and believe it might be possible. I ask because putting thought into words makes me feel better. I ask because doing so is one more step on this long road. I ask because asking means I haven’t given up.

I asked. I didn’t burst into flames. No one pelted me with rocks. A lot of what scares us most is worse in our minds than in practice. If you need something, ask; bearing in mind that asking requires humility, the acceptance that the answer we want may not be the answer we get.

I asked, and what did I get? So far, at least a temporary degree of tranquility in place of anxiety bordering on despair, a Maya Angelou clip algorithmically produced telling me to take up the fight, another 400-ish words into the practice writing and publishing regularly, a tangible reminder that I am capable of doing many things that can feel far more challenging in my imagination than they actually turn out to be, which in turn makes me feel a little more confident I can do some of what I need to but am anxious about, and the created possibility that my small effort might make a difference to someone else who needs to put thoughts to words.

(See what I mean about refocusing our attention from despair to hope? There are so many ways we can shift our perspectives, it can just be difficult to recall when our brains are in the limited-focus space of survival mode, more so if we did not have those healthy coping behaviors role-modeled for us in our developing years, but we can still seek them out, or find them through trial-and-error. Which, as an aside, reminds me of some Guy Winch talks about healthy coping behaviors. He has a couple of TED talks, and some other talks posted to YouTube. I will take a second to grab a link, should anyone be feeling curious but lazy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pYnzLiVefg)

I certainly hope more of what I ask will appear, but not a bad start.

Dear Kath, (9)

Dear Kath,

Back again, with my stomach churned from anxiety, trying to pep talk myself and finding it not at all helpful. Considered the whole “think of all the things you have survived” strategy, but thinking of those things is pretty much just scary, not empowering. Which makes sense, as courage is not fearlessness, courage is acting in spite of feeling fear. And fear is what I feel right now. Whether or not I have survived equally bad or worse does not make this any easier. It makes it terrifying. I know how bad things can be. Have been. Are. I don’t want any more. I want to be through this already. I am choking, sister, and there is fuck all I can do in this moment, but I also don’t have the capacity to forget about it and relax. If you are watching out for me, please, send the dog with a backpack full of cash, or similar. I need a fucking break. I am past my capacity to function in dire circumstances. I need a fucking break. Please. I want to know what it is like to live a life that is tranquil. That is lucky. That is something that doesn’t give me nightmares and rob me of the escape of sleep. I want to know what it is like to have some peace. I want to know what it is like to live a life that doesn’t feel like an escalating series of punishments. I want to know what it is like to feel real relief, to know everything is okay, now, and will be okay. This is pretty much straight word-vomit, but I needed to blurt somewhere. I needed to get the panic out of my head and anywhere else. I need you. Where did you go? That is the question that haunts us after death, isn’t it? You were right here, you were here, and now you aren’t. Why aren’t you here? Where did you go? Dammit, I need you to be here. I need to pick up the phone and be able to hear your voice. I need to hear the voice that…gave me some solid ground. I feel like I have lost every single bit of stability, every inch of foundation, one piece after another. Relentlessly. For years. And years. And years. I can’t take any more, Kath. I lived past losing you, and it just keeps getting worse. Please, please, help me right now. Help me, please.

I love you. I miss you. I feel lost without you.

And I considered just leaving this in the drafts or deleting it, but ultimately, truthfully, it made me feel better. One of the worst habits born of fucked up experiences, I think, is learning to try to suppress what we feel, to deny it, to bury, not to express it. And sometimes what we really need to do is just let ourselves have a good, mindless, freaked-out blurt. Word-vomit, indeed. One of those instances of better out than in. Suppression is one of those things that I think is the root of, and amplifiers of, anxiety.

I have not solved my problems. I am still waiting for the backpack dog. But I feel at least like now I can put some shit aside for a while and let my mind be distracted and hope that allows me to sleep peacefully after. Not everything helpful is pretty. Not everything that is helpful is a cure-all. But it is still worth doing.

I put my very brief panicked word-barf out there for anyone who is keeping it all inside. Maybe try word-vomiting that shit out, onto a page, into a hotline staffers’ ear, to a trusted loved one who has the capacity in the moment to hold some space for your pain, whatever you have, wherever it feels safe, let it rip. You might not make a lot of sense, you might not say what you logically mean, you might say things that are exagerrated or nonsensical – and you might find that venting your feelings (in a non-abusive way, if you are venting to another person, I am not advocating for yelling or throwing shit or any of that biz) provides you with relief from the very feelings you want to be relieved of.

Letting your freak-out flag fly might help. It helped me. I am going to watch some Netflix and hopefully hit sleepytown.

Seriously, Kath, this whole exercise is turning into a weird fucking journey into basic emotional coping and self-care skills. Beats the hell out of sitting around feeling terrified without end. What the fuck would I have ever done without you? Thank you for being someone who loved me so truly that you left me with a little piece of the space you held for me. It is like I still have your permission to say how I am, and that is enough to allow me to do it. I don’t think you will ever stop saving my ass. Goddamn, I miss you, bitch.

I love you so much. You are still the heart of my heart. Always will be.

Lisa