In life, and love, there is no joy without suffering. (Bummer, right? Wrong.) The experience of being is a series of movements pushing forward, and pulling back in a sequence of over and under correcting. Living is an emotional journey in which we gravitate towards the things and people that fill us with goodness, yet like everything else in the universe there’s fall-out, or an equalizing, diametric effect, think of it as a sweet and spicy barbeque sauce.
We feel the difference between the seemingly opposites because of the distance we create by our thoughts. If we just focus on the spicy our tongues are going to burn, but if we mix in the sweet, or just tap the roof our mouths with it, everything finishes a lot sweeter. Happiness and resentment grow out of the same root, they are emotions our minds pick. We have choices whether or not to see good, or bad, either way they’re linked because what is will always be, and for the most part we are powerless except for how we view our circumstances, or which flavor to taste.
This isn’t a new concept for mankind; this is something most religions, sages, preachers of enlightenment, (chefs,) and some psychotherapist have been teaching since our primate minds evolved into supreme thinkers. However, for me I’m just now getting it, eureka baby, finally, eu freaking reka! So now what? Understanding is just the beginning. Implementing the Jedi-mind trick is the next lesson; I’m looking forward to the practical, or the work portion, well kind of, (just keeping it real.) But, I am excited about tasting a sweet-flavored life even if it means working hard for the savory rewards.
My relationship with Susan is a great menu item to start with because my feelings for her provoke intense vulnerability. This defenseless order is as a gateway for extreme feelings of love, but also heighted fears of pain. My feelings and fears associated with her branch from an unguarded-artery. My heart divides freely for her but the opening is susceptible to old emotional infections, or a safety within the hurt. Our love holds both, finding the distinction is the separation that creates misery, but seeing it and not being able to put it down is perilous. All it takes is the right circumstances to rekindle my wounded little girl places. Once those raw layers are penetrated, I have a hard time overcoming the heaviness of my psyche, and find it almost impossible to receive love.
Essentially, sometimes I get in my own way. I see the possible harm instead of the abundance of gifts. I’m trying to change that automatic response even in the midst of polarizing fear. Understanding what’s happening is the first step, and the second is recognizing the triggers, and the third is to make corrections. Right? It’s a good theory but my crash test dummy often gets mangled. I usually get stuck between the trigger and the correction, sometimes I can even see myself there but time freezes as I watch myself collide in an emotional pile-up.
That’s what happened few weeks ago when Susan made plans without me, I felt turned inside out. It was like a wind that blew feelings of abandonment all over me. I was caught in the turbulence of perceived rejection. My heart felt trapped inside a twisted knot, and blood pooled making my feet heavy. Time stopped. I could see the absurd nature of my alarm, but I was already in the storm. I knew this wasn’t about Susan, other than allowing myself to be close to her; it was about my inner turmoil. Her behavior was completely normal and acceptable for the circumstances, but my reaction was uncontrollable, I felt weak and scattered.
After she left I decided to shelf her for the day by emotionally detaching. I tried suiting up in my she-ro armor of disguise, but I couldn’t make myself invisible to her. She could still touch me with discomfort, but the mom-show had to go on, so I forged ahead. My children needed me and at least I had mind enough not to let my dress-up parade, or problems interfere.
I swallowed, wiped my eyes against my elbows and went about my business. I got the kids dressed and off to Sunday school. Their usual complaints weren’t welcomed but I did my best.
“I hate Sunday school, it’s so boring. All we do is sing.” I’m sorry you don’t like it but you have to go, and besides don’t forget there’s a carnival today. (When all else fails, resort to bribery.) I’ll meet you inside at our usual meeting place. Bye, I love you, be good. I’ll see you soon.”
I drove home with two hours to kill before the carnival trying to figure out how to make myself feel better. I knew I needed a run, but my knees thoughts otherwise so I settled for a walk.
I tried working my new system by focusing on being grateful instead of the emptiness inside. I took note of the mild, sunny weather, and the unfolding of spring, the blooming salmon-pink azaleas and pollinating dogwoods. I looked for critters and birds, following their sounds and replying as if communicating. “Well hello there Mrs. Robin Redbreast, your tummy looks mighty round today. Hi Mr. squirrel, you sure are busy running those limbs. Tall tree, is that a woodpecker carving at your top?” I found childhood delight in the plants and animals and I thought curiously about maw-maw wondering if she could feel me. “Maw-Maw? Is that you, a pedal on a flower? I know you’re with me and feel my sadness.” I smiled with a drop of bitterness. I’d found my ancient remedy for age-old sores, but it needed to be updated.
When I was little I spent hours outside exploring the unknown looking for something I didn’t have, or trying to get away from my mother. I’d ride my bike up to strange mailboxes as if ordering food from a drive-thru. “Hi, I’d like a happy meal with a coke.” Imagining someone would answer back, “Would you like a cheeseburger or hamburger with that happy-meal?” “Oh, I’ll take cheeseburger, thank you. And can I please have some ketchup?” I’d pedal on squinting my eyes, and wrinkling my nose against the sun until I was hungry again. “Hi, I’ll have a large dipped cone and a small fry.”
I met unknown animals along the way, following them until they were out of sight. I’d scoot off my bike and crouch down under shrubs with my palm extended toward a cold nose and long whiskers. “Here kitty, kitty, kitty, here kitty. Come on out kitty.” I searched trees for nests with little candied eggs, and in creeks for salamanders and turtles. I picked flowers braiding them together in halos and blew dandelions making wishes in the air. I’d pray for the madness to stop, and for my mother to love me.
And on certain nights when the screaming wouldn’t stop, I’d pull the blankets up around my ears crying in bed, calling out to my dead Paw-Paw, “If you were here you’d never leave me. You wouldn’t let her do that to me, would you? I know you’re watching over me.” I’d fall asleep squeezing my pillow tight with a stuffed animal on my head. The next morning I’d get up careful not to wake her and get myself ready for school, leaving without anyone saying goodbye.
I learned how to make adjustments according to her moods. She did as little as possible, and I picked up the slack where she left off, in whatever means necessary. I coped by escaping, and left out of fear. She only wanted me when she needed me, a secret in the void of protection. “Shannon, do you love me?” Um hm. that’s good. Momma’s had a hard life. Oh, as my eyes shot side to side looking for the chance to lock myself away in my room, in my world of make-believe and nice families. I’m going to play with my Barbie-dolls. Don’t ever get married Shannon, and don’t ever have kids.
As I walked, everything reminded me of my childhood. I found contentment and connection in nature. I made up my own rules, and tried repressing my deep emotions except for when speaking to the dead. I felt innocent and temporary relief from burden, but it didn’t last. In order to make it stick, I knew I needed to combine the lightness of my childhood imagination, with the choices of an adult.
I didn’t get to hand-select my mother or childhood experience, but as an adult I have more control over how to feel, and I want all the goodness life has to offer. I’m the only way out of my childhood, and I’m not going to keep myself locked inside and locked out of love.
When I contemplate an exit, it’s an invitation to free myself from my past, by understanding more about who I am. I’m working on forgiving my mother and hopefully myself but they are intertwined, one enables the other.
Through this process I’m honing in on my strengths although my insecurities sometimes prevent me from accepting them. It’s always been easier to embrace the negatives as they kept me free from self-evaluating, and accountability. The things I disliked most about myself provided a constant excuse to blame everyone else for my failures. I hid behind past resentments instead of searching for the changes I needed to make. In the end, it’s about me and how to atone for my mistakes.
My book is the vehicle, and writing it is where I’m finding and sharing my gifts. I’m wounded and scarred but I’m uncovering beauty underneath. Hopefully my words will heal my spirit and smooth out my jagged edges by helping others as well. We all hurt, but we’re also resilient, and capable of living triumphantly despite our hardships.
I’m beginning the process of organizing a book proposal and I need your help. You’ve become my focus group and I’d like to hear from you. It’s recommended that I do market research within my audience. Will you help me? If so, please let me know how my writing makes you feel? What types of response does it elicit for you?
Do any of these titles move you?
Baby You’re No Good
Flattening Under Cars
Hiding under Cars
Jumping from Cars
Nurturing the Rawness
The Unconventional Rainbow
Breaking Dishes and Healing Hearts
Sticky But Not Tragic
Somewhere Other Than Tragic
Wounded and Breathing
The Wounded Side of a Rainbow
The Scars of a Rainbow
Wounded and The Softness of White Vinyl
Blame is Lame
Crazy is better than Fiction
Thanks for your input, SK