Process of Understanding What I’m up Against

This is what I wrote in my journal this morning.  It shows how I actually use writing to understand myself better.  This process began with a realization that “I’ve had the sense that reading thrillers addictively was in an attempt to avoid something.”  Written on my journal on July 6, and quoted in a blog post.

Friday, August 10

My heart is sore.  Yesterday, trying to back into a parking space in Montpelier, I bumped the car next to me and left a scrape of white paint.  I kept going up the path to Karen’s.  But when I got inside, I started to feel guilty, and realized I had to go back and leave a note.  When I got to the car, the woman was there.  She hadn’t seen the bumper, she’d approached from the back.  I gave her the note with my contact info, but she wanted my insurance info too.  I had to go back inside twice to get the right key.  By this time I was crying, but I brushed the tears away and unlocked the car to get the paper from my glove compartment.  When I got back to Karen I just cried and cried.  Sitting here writing, trying to figure out why I’m so upset about such a little thing, I realize I’m angry at myself.  Furious with myself for such a stupid little mistake.  I can’t find any softness or forgiveness in myself, toward myself.

I guess I’ve been angry at myself all along, starting with the internet scam.  Angry with myself for not handling this whole confusing painful time better.  What do I mean by “better”?  “Dealing with the practicalities efficiently and correctly, not getting all emotional and upset.”

What do I value?  Are efficiency and correctness more important than the underlying psychological / spiritual dynamics?  I can see, what Erica perhaps means, that I am engaged with everything that’s going on.  That I value honesty and integrity. over correctness and efficiency.  Yes, it’s taking me a long stumbling time to deal with a lot of stupid little things.  Because it costs me so much, I don’t have time and energy for more worthwhile things.  Like what?  like meaningful conversations with friends, long walks with the dog, exploring and visiting Howe Library, Montshire Museum, Garden of Life…  Even making sense out of some of this and putting together blog posts.  It’s all so confusing.  I am so fragmented.  Yesterday it was a struggle to write in my Fidelity check register, recording all the checks I wrote for medical expenses from my household account.

Second cup of tea.  While I was up I had a sudden image of Little Jenny, seven years old, struggling with all those checks.  My heart softens.  It’s not important that she be correct and efficient.  I think she’s participating much more in my life than she used to, and I can see how wrong it is to expect her to do things that she’s simply not old enough to do.  But that’s what my parents expected, so I continue to expect impossible things of myself and then get angry at myself when I can’t fulfill them “efficiently and correctly.”

I am so sorry Little Jenny.  You were doing the best you could do.  I should have been taking better care of you.  I remember how I had a similar accident after Shenanigan died.  That time, the woman was kind and said not to worry about it.  I imagine someone coming to me, in tears, because she had scraped my car, and me saying “Don’t worry about it.”  Then I have a hit of fury at the parents who are expecting far too much of this seven-year old.  I also think of my father, scrupulously making sure that mother is recording the checks and marking the ones to charitable causes — and he’s essentially on his deathbed.  What a waste of his last days.  Then I see another scrupulous child, trying to get everything taken care of before he leaves.  I feel grief for him and anger on his behalf.

“Grief and anger.”  That’s what I told Elizabeth I was feeling.  What a confusing tangle.  Such opposite emotions and yet both appropriate for loss.  So many different ways they could be aimed.  I can be angry at myself, or at my parents for teaching me to be angry at myself.

Thank god I talk to Erica this morning.  She’s the only one who can offer balm to my wounds.  O but Laura did a pretty good job, and Elizabeth and Karen.  I think of the line from The Secret Life of Bees, which describes a “time out” from your life.  I hope Kindred Spirits will give me that.

I had to write checks from my household account because my Fidelity account was frozen because of the scam.  First I had to get more money into that account which didn’t have enough money in it, and that was a complicated process.

“Feeling fragmented” was described in a talk by Dan Seigel, on integration.  He talks about “developmental trauma,” a new description for very early trauma while the nervous system is still developing.  He says that trauma prevents the brain from developing integrative circuits.  I found that comforting but also scary.  What does it take to repair that?

I was also told, in a workshop with Bessel van der Kolk, that they had tried to get the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual to recognize Developmental trauma as a separate diagnosis.  The DSM refused, as of 2009.  As of 2017, things had not substantially changed, except that a lot more research had confirmed the problem(s) and the extent of the disorder.

My father, trying to make sure checks are correct.

One of the reasons it was so hard to recognize that I was angry at myself is that I never experienced feelings of anger.  Instead I felt sad, despairing, or sore as I say here.  I did not experience actually feeling anger.  Instead I began to realize that my feeling of soreness, sadness, hurt were because I was feeling “angered at,” instead of angry.   Only once did I actually experience a feeling of anger toward myself.  I also had a therapist who often asked me “Are you angry at yourself?” when she could see that I was.  This helped me to begin to tell when I was angry at myself.

A “time out”   The first week at August’s was a consolation, a pure relief.  The world will give you that once in a while, a brief time-out; the boxing bell rings and you go to your corner, where somebody else dabs mercy on your beat-up life.”    p82  From The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Kindred Spirits is a gathering at Rowe Camp & Conference Center.

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