Dear Kath, (11)

Dear Kath,

I haven’t written one of these here in a while, but going back over the ones I wrote before, I was reminded how much it helps. Including to keep your memory alive. Which is reason alone to do this. I don’t want to lose the last I have left of you. I lost so many of the little things you left me to remember you by. Well, had stolen. Because people can be cruel sometimes. And those lost things feel so huge, because they were tangible reminders of you, of how much you cared about me, about how it felt to be connected meaningfully to someone, to be really loved. Loved well. You really understood how to do that, what it means. I think too many people don’t. Because the things I miss weren’t expensive. And it isn’t about getting gifts. They were little things that reflected what you showed in all  your actions – that you really cared. They were a way to feel closer together when we lived so far apart. They were your way of bringing happiness to people, to put little pleasant surprises into their days. Stuff doesn’t mean anything. But the way you gave did. You were one of those rare people who really knew how to be there for someone, and to let someone be there for you. You understood we could both need both, and give both, at the same time. Which didn’t stop either of us trying to protect the other. Fucking hell, Kath, this sucks so much ass so very hard. I want more time for you. With you. But I am still grateful for the time we did have, for having had you in my life from the beginning. I just need you to keep holding my hand from even farther away, okay? Don’t let go. Because I am never going to stop needing you, and I need you now. And thank you for helping me, still, because once again, this was what I needed to do. I needed to spend some time with you in one of the only ways I have left. It opens up something in me that needs it. I think it is probably my heart.

I love you always,

Lisa

p.s. Sometimes the grief of it all really bowls me over, Kath. I lost so much. So many people. And some of them are here but beyond my reach. And I don’t know which is more painful, sometimes. At least of the griefs that are for my losses. I don’t know if anything can touch the grief of what you lost, that you were robbed of life that you loved so much. But if you were here, I know we would be okay. We would talk. Even if we fell out. We always found our way back to each other, because we never really left – even at the most distant times in our lives, there was never a question of showing up for each other when some big bad happened. But without you, even people who were still in my life with no falling out did what lesser people, or people who pretend their lesser-than-love feelings are love, do when things aren’t easy – they disappeared, mostly. And most of them, well, who gives a fuck, really, people who take without giving, who have no principles and just operate from whatever is easiest for themselves in any situation, are cheaper than a dime a dozen, there is not much to miss. I am fine with fewer people who take endlessly without giving.

But there are a couple of people who, hugely fucked-up and cruel choices notwithstanding, I love above anyone left alive, who I miss in spite of the worst, and those losses haunt me. Maybe more than anything because there really is fuck-all I can do but wait, and hope. Hope that at the very least, with or without me, they are and will be alright. Hope they might do some hard work toward healing inside. Hope that maybe it will matter in the long run that I left the door open. That I won’t lose more people I love for good with things left as they are. That we will all live long enough for something as rare and beautiful as reconciliation to happen. The real kind, not the pretending the same shit is not happening, and keeping it shallow, faking it til it falls apart kind. The kind where real change has already happened inside, so that real change is possible beyond ourselves, with each other.

This is a fucking long post script, but I guess the writing earlier tore the lid off of some things. I think I am increasingly too tired to hold back the feelings, and too overwhelmed still to have room to deal with them along with everything else. I just keep holding on to the faint hope all of this will end up somewhere good, and that I will get to experience something other than more loss. That I will see the return of people I love and miss for a change.

I don’t think there is anyone without some good in them, some potential. I think everyone wounded still has the child who loves and wants to be loved inside, hiding behind all the fucked up things that happened, and that they learned, and things that the same child made up to deal with things too far beyond their capacity to stand any chance against. It is just that so few are able to overcome that child’s perpetual mortal terror to reach out and face the pain and the fear and the disappointments and struggle of the healing process, to learn to have boundaries instead of walls, to accept that not everyone who fucks up, or does something they don’t like, or that reminds them of whoever hurt them before, is someone who means them the same constant harm. To accept that even if they grew up to do harm, they are not bad, or evil – their actions might not be good, and the results might be harmful (and I think there is no just harming another, the harming another harms the one doing the harm, too), but that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong inside them beyond wounds inflicted and improperly – or not yet – healed.

That they can be forgiven. That they can forgive themselves. They can forgive others. That forgiveness doesn’t have to mean disrespecting boundaries – you can forgive and still love yourself enough not to keep being around someone who hurts you, or just someone you don’t want to be around. And no matter how much someone wants to or tries to help them, personally or therapeutically, they are still going to have to eventually do the work to take down the walls imprisoning them, and learn how instead to have more flexible boundaries that allow them to let in the people they choose, who are safe – and to keep out those who do them harm, even if they love those people, at least as long as they keep choosing harmful behaviors.

I wish I could help them, Kath, but that is not just not up to me, it is beyond me alone. I hope they find help, within and without.

I think maybe now I can put this aside for a while. I just needed, again, to give voice to my grief and my hope. It helps, sometimes, just to feel it, to say it, and to accept what is while acknowledging what might be, what I hope for. Thanks again, sister, this really did give me a little peace in the moment. I know you would understand. It is hard to love some people, but we have both had lives with a lot of that kind of love. And it can bring so much pain and destruction. But we love who we love. We just both didn’t get taught to direct enough of it our own way.

The goal is the balance, not to stop loving. I think we both have known plenty of people who have tried to, and pretended to – but they still feel what they didn’t show, and it never protected them from grief when the people they loved without treating them lovingly were lost. It just left them to live in the then-irrevocable truth that they had hurt the ones they loved, and would never get a chance to show the love they feel, and hiding it didn’t protect them from the pain they feared, after all. I want better than that, Kath, for all the people you and I love who still haven’t allowed themselves to go over the wall.

I hope the ones who have lost already will learn from it and love better with those they have left, and I hope those who haven’t faced that kind of permanent loss yet will learn from the pain of those who did, and make those changes before they have to live with regret. I have lost people I love, people who died with important things left unsaid, and that changed me. I have said the important things to the people I love since then. I would still be deeply pained to lose anyone I love, especially people I have already lost in a less total way. But I would not be adding to my regrets. And I know how badly the ones I have already feel. I don’t want that for anyone. Even for a total fucking stranger reading this because they are wiling away an insomniac night playing wordpress roulette.

Don’t say the important things because you expect to get the responses you want; and important things to say aren’t those intended to cause pain. They are the vulnerable things too many people keep inside. Even if you never get a response at all, the pain of rejection is, I promise you, nothing to the pain of someone you love gone forever who didn’t know how much you loved and appreciated them, that you were sorry for hurting them, that they made a difference in your life. I have experienced both. I choose possible, even probable, rejection every time. No contest.

Fucking hell, I miss you.

 

 

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.

 

 

I love you.

I don’t know if I will finish the longer thing I started writing today.

If I don’t, fuck it, I will finish it later, or I won’t.

Not everything important is complicated, even if we pretend it is, so we can avoid what we fear.

Today is Christmas. And if you are someone I love, and you are here because, for whatever reason, you won’t approach me directly, then for you, this is the gift I have to give, that I hope is one that will bring you something good: I love you.

I love you if you don’t love me.

I love you if you treat me hatefully.

I love you if I don’t believe you love me.

I love you if you don’t believe I love you.

That isn’t lunacy, or masochism.

Love is sanity beyond sanity.

I love you.

Be happy.

Be healthy.

Take care of yourself.

Know you are worth the more difficult path.

Take it, if that is the way your happiness lies.

Whether your Christmas is merry or miserable – and no matter what, I hope it is happy, I hope you will allow yourself to be happy – I love you.

I love you.

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.

Dear Kath, (10)

Dear Kath,

Today is one of those days when I just feel sad, which I tell myself at first is for seemingly no reason, even though if I allow myself to think about it, there are many reasons. I just don’t want to think about them. I don’t want to feel sad. Which I know, intellectually, is counterproductive, I know if I just let it out, it would probably pass, and in trying to avoid what I already feel, I am just prolonging it. And I probably never would have articulated this outside of writing to you.

I really, really, really wish you were here. I wish I could spend Christmas with you. I wish you could help me. I wish someone who is still alive who I miss would surprise the hell out of me by putting aside their selfish fears and give a damn about healing the pain they cause. I wish a lot of things, and feel sadder thinking about them, because imagining the people I miss actually acting to help me and not hurt me feels unlikelier than you returning from the dead.

I don’t know whether that I miss them is a reflection of self-loathing or, you know, “the voices of my better angels.” I tend to err on the side of the latter, because I think one of the worst things we allow to arise from people behaving unkindly is choosing to kill off our own kindness.

I do know I would give anything to be pleasantly surprised by them. By one of them, even. I would love to live to see someone I love, who has done me harm, put down their armor and just say “I’m sorry. I was scared. I fucked up. I am working to do better. And I am holding myself to my word.” I hope I get to live that experience one day. I want them to believe that is worth doing. I want them to believe they themselves are worth the path that feels more difficult in the short-term. I want them to believe they can be forgiven. I want them to believe honesty can actually bring a good outcome. I want to believe the same for myself.

I want to go home, Kath, and everything that meant is gone. Including you. God, I want to go home. If I could have you back, that is what I would choose above all. Hell, if bringing you back meant taking your place without getting to see you again, I would still choose your return. I would give anything for you to get to live the long life you wanted and deserved.

I don’t know, Kath. I don’t know if this is helping today, except that missing you is one of the reasons for my sadness, and allowing myself to think about you might help in that regard. I am pretty sure it is a dream that the ones I love and miss will ever read this, much less give a fuck about it, at least beyond where it might make them feel good to know they are loved and missed, to where it would make a difference for me. I wish they would, but knowing they almost certainly won’t, I need to say it, anyway. Because it is how I feel. It is the pain I am suspended in, and probably will be until the hope slowly dissolves the more time passes, leaving something else in its place.

I miss you with everything I am, Kathleen. Thank you for allowing me the space to grieve.

Love,

Lisa

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.