Perspective on the Deupree Family

Kathi Brown was a really good friend from my years in California.  She and her family rescued me when I left a relationship that wasn’t working.  When I was in the Hospital at Davis after a breakdown, she came every day to see me.  One day I said “you don’t have to keep coming to see me,” and she said angrily “Did you ever think that I might want to see you?”  I realized that I meant something to her.  She came to visit me when I was living in my house in Brunswick.  Alas, I didn’t manage to keep up with the relationship because of depression.  I lost a lot of relationships because I didn’t want to inflict my “black cloud” self on other people.

September 2, 1975

Had a wonderful visit with Kathi.  We talked and talked, went to L.L.Bean’s at 2:00 in the morning, went to Camden for dinner, went to the Tempest at Monmouth, to dream class, to the beach, a walk round the point.  Kathi teased me.  At first i was hurt, thinking she was trying to get across an unpalatable truth.  Then remembering something my sister said, i said ‘are you teasing me because i’m teasable now and i didn’t use to be?’ she laughed and said yes.  and super sensitive too.  At last a sense of humor about myself!  Being teasable is another index of how much i’ve changed.

She also made some observations about life in the bosom of the Deupree family. No effort was made to fix a proper meal.  as meal time approached everybody seemed to get uncomfortable.  mealtimes in her family are occasions for celebration, but in ours they are always painful.  My parents never asked about her work, about her husband, about Iran.  She didn’t take it personally — but it suddenly became clear to me why it took me so long to learn to question people about themselves and why i still have to make an effort: it wasn’t lack of interest (as Bettie once suggested) but lack of example.  I told Kathi how i used to go to the Goldsmith’s house for conversation, she laughed.  she understood.  She said that having met my parents she could now see what my struggle must have been, and in some ways was amazed that any of us were doing so well.  It made me feel rocksolid, validated, confirmed.  I was crazy.  It was a tremendous struggle.  I didn’t make up the whole thing to make myself special.  Perhaps this is the first time ive been able to hear it without either guilt (‘i am too critical of my parents’) or excuse-making.  Perhaps it was because, of all my friends, Kathi is the one who has seen me through all the stages of the struggle.  When people say to me with surprise ‘why, your parents are really nice’, it tangles me up in all kinds of guilt: have i presented them as such ogres?  am i unable to see their good side because i want to paint them villainous and make myself out to be a suffering heroine?  But what Kathi said validates me.  She can see in what sense my home life was impoverished.  She helps me to say yes i was crazy, yes i did struggle, but in a matter-of-fact not melodramatic way.

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Not OK to Feel Good About Myself

Reading through my old journals I come across stories like this one.  So painful, so sad.  At the time I couldn’t see that this was something I learned from how my mother treated me. I also, of course, thought that seeing it would change it.  No.  Too deep a belief.  My fear that sharing something I was excited about was “bragging.”  My judgement that the whole scene was somehow “childish.”  The saddest thing of all is that I still see myself as neither loving, nor nurturing, despite feedback that other people have experienced me as both, and I still feel somehow “wrong” to feel good about myself.

April 9 – 14, 1976    Women’s Workshop at Biddeford Pool
the core of the weekend for me was Saturday night.  we had split into two groups, I was in Phyllis’ group.  She had worked with Nan, with Sandy, with Brooke, with Shiela, and asked for our feelings as a way to close.  I had felt that I wanted to say something, but could not think what, but now my stomach began to feel very anxious, so finally I said that.  Phyllis asked if I wanted a body massage like the ones the group had given Shiela and Brooke.  I was not sure, but said yes — and was very aggressive about asking for what I wanted.  But afterward my stomach still felt tight, though i felt very relaxed.  Phyllis asked me how I felt and I started into a routine about whether or not my anxiety was important enough to deal with.  She put her hand on my mouth and said ‘I don’t want to listen to your head.’  Immediately i felt utterly safe.  I could say whatever came to me, and trust Phyllis to decide if it was important.  So I just lay there quietly and the word ‘woman’ came swimming up.  So I said ‘It must have to do with being a woman because thats why I’m here.’  a long pause.  ‘I don’t feel that I am nurturing and compassionate, and I would like to be.’  a pause.  Phyllis ‘why would you like to be nurturing?’  I thought or said ‘It would make me feel good about myself’ and then started into a routine about how one should be nurturing for the sake of others not to feel good about oneself.  She stopped me again and suddenly I realized that ‘It makes me feel good about myself ‘ was a perfectly good reason for wanting to be nurturing, I started to voice it but just saying ‘feel good about myself’ brought up all sorts of emotion and tears and I knew we had hit the core.  Phyllis made me sit up and face her, and I said ‘you mean its all right to feel good about myself?’ and she said yes, and I asked the group and they said yes, and then I asked them if it had been OK with them the first night when I had gotten all enthusiastic about journal keeping and they said things like ‘it inspired me’ and ‘im glad you wanted to share it with us’ and I burst into tears and said ‘you mean it wasn’t bragging?’  Phyllis said ‘how do you feel now?’ and i said ‘like a little bird that has just broken its shell and is looking around.’  In some ways a very childish scene on a very childish level, but the very strength of my emotions convinced me of the damning reality of my belief that it was wrong to feel good about myself.  Now I see the source of my difficulties in trying to feel good about myself, even though I’ve been struggling to do so for the last year and a half, believing that this was the only way to begin to be loving and outgoing to other people.

Note: the lack of capitals and punctuation is exactly as written.

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To Be Friendly Toward Myself

In Meeting this morning, someone read a poem by Mirabai about beauty.  I think about how the ability to perceive and enjoy beauty depends on brain chemistry.  I was very glad to find that out, because I thought I was refusing to feel good things rather than unable to feel them.  Appreciation can be done on will, but not enjoyment.  It’s possible to look at something and know that it is beautiful, but not have the felt sense.  Most of my life I suffered from severe depression rooted in PTSD.  So when people recommend “going out and smelling the flowers,” I feel very sad and very angry.  Unfortunately, instead of remembering that my ability to enjoy was damaged by someone else’s action, I get angry at myself for not being able to do it, not being able to “cheer up,” not being able to “get out of a bad mood.”  That is what my mother called it, implying that it was my choice.

Luckily, the universe recently helped me by sending me two messages: one from Lama Rod Owens: “Healing is knowing our woundedness; it is developing an intimacy with the ways in which we suffer. Healing is learning to love the wound because love draws us into relationship with it instead of avoiding feeling the discomfort.”  And one from John Welwood: “This begins with letting yourself have your experience. Genuine self-acceptance is not possible as long as you are resisting, avoiding, judging, or trying to manipulate and control what you experience. Whenever you judge the experience you’re having, you’re not letting yourself be as you are.”

So now I am trying to be friendly toward this self who is confused, tense, uncomfortable, wanting to get away, can’t seem to think…   and it’s very difficult.  My therapist suggested on Friday that what I was calling “denial” was actually dissociation.  Dissociation is a protective mechanism of the nervous system to keep you from feeling something that’s too much for you.  So it’s not a choice.  But at some point you begin to suspect that you are not telling yourself the truth, and that’s where you have a choice.  I think of the stories I read in AA’s Big Book, of how people finally realized that alcohol was the problem.  It’s so hard because every cell in your body is pulling you away from that knowledge.  Don’t I wish I could have a drink, or do a puzzle, or lose myself in a murder mystery.  Unfortunately, those don’t work any more, I continue to feel the discomfort.

I’m thinking that this is harder than feeling the really awful feelings that I have felt in the past as part of my healing.  The intense pain was easier because it involved intense pain in the body, and usually I felt the worst ones when I was with my therapist or at least on the phone.  What’s so hard about this is the feelings keep slipping away.  Even the words slip away.  Nothing to do but sit down next to it and stay there.

I realize that everything has suddenly gotten worse because Kendal Retirement Community has gone on lockdown because two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.  They still don’t have enough information to know exactly what’s happened, have to trace contacts, do more tests.  They said the test they are using is very accurate, but it takes time to get the results.  So a lot is unknown.  All very triggering.

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Unconditional Presence

This came in the Daily Good for September 17.  It’s from the website of John Welwood.  The whole thing is worth reading.  It explains what happened when I saw that I was failing to recognize how badly triggered I was and let myself feel it.  The relief of being real, even when being real is painful in some ways.

From: Unconditional Presence: Letting Yourself Have Your Experience

The journey from self-hatred to self-love involves learning to meet, accept, and open to the being that you are. This begins with letting yourself have your experience. Genuine self-acceptance is not possible as long as you are resisting, avoiding, judging, or trying to manipulate and control what you experience. Whenever you judge the experience you’re having, you’re not letting yourself be as you are. And this puts you at odds with yourself, creating inner division and conflict. The way to free yourself from shame and self-blame is through making friends with your experience, no matter what experience you’re having.

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Lama Rod Owens: Healing is a Process

This came from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation:

Healing Is a Process
Thursday, September 17, 2020

I have been recently introduced to the work of Lama Rod Owens, a Black, queer, American-born, Tibetan Buddhist teacher, who was raised in the Christian church and graduated from Harvard Divinity School. Perhaps it is because of his many identities that his teachings on love, self-compassion, and justice seem to be drawn from the perennial wisdom of Reality itself. He writes here of the needed work of healing our own wounds so that the healing can be passed on:

Healing is being situated in love. Healing is not just the courage to love, but to be loved. It is the courage to want to be happy not just for others, but for ourselves as well. It is interrogating our bodies as an artifact of accumulated traumas and doing the work of processing that trauma by developing the capacity to notice and be with our pain. If we are to heal, then we must allow our awareness to settle into and integrate with the pain and discomfort that has been habitually avoided. We cannot medicate the pain away. We embrace it, and in so doing establish a new relationship with the experience. We must see that there is something that must be befriended. This is the true nature of our experience, and in finally approaching this experience we contact basic sanity. . . .

Healing is movement and work toward wholeness. Healing is never a definite location but something in process. It is the basic ordinary work of staying engaged with our own hurt and limitations. Healing does not mean forgiveness either, though it is a result of it. Healing is knowing our woundedness; it is developing an intimacy with the ways in which we suffer. Healing is learning to love the wound because love draws us into relationship with it instead of avoiding feeling the discomfort.

Healing means we are holding the space for our woundedness and allowing it to open our hearts to the reality that we are not the only people who are hurt, lonely, angry, or frustrated. We must also release the habitual aggression that characterizes our avoidance of trauma or any discomfort. My goal is to befriend my pain, to relate to it intimately as a means to end the suffering of desperately trying to avoid it. Opening our hearts to woundedness helps us to understand that everyone else around us carries around the same woundedness. . . .

Perhaps what I have come to understand, finally, is that somehow I have become the one I have always wanted. This is why I do the things that I do. There is a fierce love that wakes me up every morning, that makes me tell my stories, refuses to let me apologize for my being here, blesses me with the capacity to be silent, alone, and grieving when I most need to be. You have to understand that this is what I mean when I say healing.

May all beings be seen, held kindly, and loved. May we all one day surrender to the weight of being healed.

Lama Rod Owens, “Remembering Love: An Informal Contemplation of Healing,” in Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens with Jasmine Syedullah, PhD (North Atlantic Books: 2016), 64–65, 67–68, 74.

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No Longer in Denial

I realized this morning that I have been badly triggered for weeks and in denial of it.  I saw that I was going back and forth between overwhelm and numb, but failed to get that that meant I never got into a self-regulated state.  I only saw this as I was writing this morning.

From today’s journal:
So tired yesterday I could only do 3 rounds in Rivercrest with Dulany.  I put out the light at 9:00, and woke up at 7:00.  So I guess I was really tired.  I think I did the old pattern of ignoring it.

I slept 10 hours.  I never sleep that long.  Reminded me of Erica saying when I got to Kendal I was “beyond the end of my resources.”  The trouble is that ignoring my needs is an old old pattern from day one.

Grief group was wonderful.  P told us, shaking and crying, of her apartment being invaded by people doing an “inspection.”  She freaked out because being safe is so important to her.  When she apologized for not being “succinct” I told her she was being real, she didn’t need to be succinct.  I said something similar to C last week when she apologized for taking up so much time.  I realize now that, for me, there’s something deeply reassuring about someone being real.  V talked about not being able to cut her hair, and I said I found that comforting, because I’ve been having trouble doing something equally “trivial” and practical, namely repotting my plants.

This is the second time I’ve been to grief group in person since back in March.  We had a weekly check-in by email, but it didn’t do it for me.  That group has been an extremely important part of my life since last August.  Finally being together physically again opened me up to a lot that’s been buried.

I’ve been giving myself a hard time because I haven’t taken a shower this week, what will my cleaning lady think when she comes to change the towels.  I’m not worried that I’m dirty, I’m worried that I’m going to be judged.  I realize this morning that showers are difficult when I’m triggered.  I remember being dizzy and afraid I’d fall down when I undressed to take a shower during the Summer from Hell.  I have no idea why this is a trigger.

Second cup of tea.  Come back to the couch to find no Mocha.  I have to see where she is, go into the bedroom, she’s in her crate.  Of course I know she has to be in the apartment.  I still have to check.  I’m sure it goes back to infancy and Mom not being there.

I managed lunch, and to write a birthday note to Eleanor.  Got it printed out, had to shut down the computer, got it in an envelope, stamped and addressed.  Needed a break between each action.  Finally went out with Mocha to go down to Reception to mail it.  Alas, I was just too late to have it go out yesterday.

I often have to shut down the computer before the printer will accept that it’s plugged in and print the item.  It’s just one more thing.  Normally writing something, getting it in the envelope, and stamped and addressed can be done in one sequence.  It’s when I’m triggered that I have to have breaks.

I see that my danger meter is in the red.  Pandemic EMERGENCY!  Climate EMERGENCY!  Totalitarian takeover EMERGENCY!

No longer in denial of how badly triggered I am, I am seeing & feeling how badly triggered I am, which is paradoxically a sense of settling into something.  I see that I’m able to drop all my expectations that I’m going to  be able to “accomplish” anything.  That’s a relief.

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What it feels like to be triggered

from my journal for May 6, 1992

Having a really hard time.  Dana & I tried to sort out the stuff on the back shelves preparatory to moving things into the new store room, but our styles of going about it were in conflict, so we both ended up feeling frustrated and disappointed.  Dana has a way of just blustering through, shoving things around, he would send all the things we don’t need to the dump.  This makes me feel pressured to make a decision, and I start to feel scared and totally blasted.

I can’t tell if I felt that way already, before we started, but it’s the old familiar panic — can’t breathe, can’t make my mind focus, can’t make decisions.  Feel totally overwhelmed.  Also feeling that unpleasant combination of lethargy and restlessness.  I suppose it’s not so much lack of energy as fear that anything I do will be wrong.  So I’m immobilized, but unable to rest.  I went for a walk with Dana and the dog, hoping that exercise outdoors might help, but it made me feel worse than ever.  So I tried to find a way to describe how I feel.

I feel totally overwhelmed.  I feel like a two-year-old, left by her mother in Grand Central Station, watching the adults rush by, no one paying attention to me, nowhere I can go to feel safe, I don’t know what to do, or whether my mother’s ever coming back, or how to look for help.  And I feel like I’m outside and can’t get back in, like I’d gone out on the roof of a very tall building and the door had slammed shut and locked.  I feel high up and exposed to merciless light.  I feel like I’m spread thin on the outside of some cylindrical shape — perhaps my body — and there’s nothing inside, or I have no connection to what’s inside.  I have a sense of my body as a hollow shell filled with thousands of beating wings, perhaps many birds, but they are not trying to get out because from their perspective there isn’t any out.  So what I’m experiencing is that the inside and the outside are completely disconnected.  I feel completely out of touch with my life, like I had suddenly waked up in somebody else’s life.  Dana seems almost like a stranger — on the walk I tried to tell him some of this, finally he reached out and took my hand which helped a lot — I had been imagining that he was very angry with me and that if I tried to tell him how it was for me he would begin yelling and screaming at me.  Yet at the same time I know he’s not like that.  When I said I was feeling overwhelmed and isolated and burst into tears, he suggested that it might be menopause, which is a very real possibility.  I woke up soaking this morning.  So who knows.  If I think it’s chemicals in my body, it’s perhaps easier to detach from it, but there’s still the fear that I’ll always be this way.  I don’t like the sense of isolation, the sense of my life being flat and dead.

I’ve just been typing up a passage from last year where I describe a similar state: both immobilized and restless, unable to sense any clear purpose or desire.  A frantic feeling of must do something, and absolutely no sense of what would be OK or correct to do.  Well, I see the double bind, and I see how that must have been a common experience of my childhood, created by my parents’ urgency that something should happen because they wanted/needed it, their complete inability to see that I might have needs/wants of my own and to make space for those needs, so that I learned very early not to get in touch with my own needs and wants when I experienced that pressure from them.  Of course I knew there was no point in asking them for help or guidance or even a clearer explanation of what it was they wanted me to do.  And that’s exactly the state I’ve been describing: I’m all on the outside, externalized, exposed to someone else’s demands, unable to get in touch with my own needs because the pressure to “perform” for them is so great.  Ah! that feels a lot better.  Seeing it helps a lot, seeing that the feeling of must do is just that old inappropriate one conditioned by my parents’ unfair, but unconscious, demands that I somehow “fix it” for them, make them comfortable — which is something that no one else could ever do for them, but there was no way that I as a child could see that, so of course I accepted their expectation as my life’s task.

Gosh I keep writing this same one over and over again.  So tiresome.  When will I get it.

This is a pretty good description of what PTSD feels like when you’re triggered.  I find the combination of immobility and restlessness sounds a lot like being activated and frozen at the same time.  I describe a sense of urgency, and think I may have gotten it from my parents, something I eventually recognized as “false urgency.”  A false sense of urgency can easily be created by being triggered, by something resembling something that happened in the past, thinking it relates to the present situation, and failing to see that whatever it is doesn’t really have to be done right now.

My sense of being trapped on the outside may be a result of being run by the reptilian brainstem instead of the neo-cortex.  In fact my body is reacting to activation of the amygdala, not to some sense from my inner self that I think of as the “real me.”  At this time, I had no idea that I had been traumatized, no information about the process of trauma, so all I had to explain what was going on for me was what I knew about alcoholic parents.  I really needed to have some kind of explanation, not knowing what’s going on, especially when it’s terrifying: “the old familiar panic — can’t breathe, can’t make my mind focus, can’t make decisions.”

Here is some more information about why this happens.  It came in 2019, and I posted it as Three Ways Trauma Changes the Brain.

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Turnaround

Last week I had a “turnaround.”  I finally got it that most of the misery and grief I feel is that of others who are suffering.  I’ve made this mistake most of my life, not realizing that I’m an empath, and that a lot of the suffering I feel is actually that of others.  I, myself, am fine.  Here are some journal entries that show the steps along the way.  One thing I decided is that I didn’t really need to pay attention to the “news,” because ignoring it does not mean pretending bad things aren’t happening.  It just means I don’t get sabotaged by despair.

Sunday, August 16
Profoundly discouraged.  I feel overwhelmed with a downpour of trivia. The planet is burning and everyone is distracting themselves with the political circus.
I’ve been reading EarthDance and finding that my memory of some things I thought she said is incorrect. If I can’t trust my memory, what can I trust?

What can I trust?  That I care about Truth and continue to seek Truth.  That I am very demanding in what I accept as Truth, that I am always willing to let go of what I have accepted as truth if a more convincing one comes along.  That I continually lose faith in Truth, and find it again.  That I love the Earth, and do everything I can do to heal and preserve her.  That I grieve the many many losses we humans have inflicted on the earth, and the huge undeserved sufferings of humans and animals.

I started reading further in From Grief to Vision at breakfast.  Deena talks about the ongoing shamanic work to save the planet and her constant search for signs.

I see that my recent discouragement is from paying too much attention to the news and politics and manipulation of the so-called “real” world.  I thought that instead of going to a Meeting on Zoom, I would spend this time looking for “signs.”

Monday, August 17
Once I recognized that I was feeling overwhelmed with dry lifeless information, I turned to Deena’s book.  About shamanic work, connections with animals, watching for signs from Spirit.  Her stories are sometimes hopeful, sometimes distressing, but at least there’s a sense of reality.  There’s no reality in the political circus.

I managed to get back to typing journal.  I’d got way behind.  There was the session with Erica where she tells me that being in collapse is not a character flaw.  I have to remind myself of that when I get angry at myself for becoming apathetic, and being unable to do anything.

Tuesday, August 18
I’ve figured out what to say when asked “how are you?”  “I’m fine, but I’m not happy about what going on politically or environmentally.

I decided that all my reading was not helping my spirits, so I got out the book written by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter.  Interesting to see a good relationship between Mother and Daughter.  They are in an odd place where Sue is facing old age, and Ann is struggling with rejection by boyfriend and by graduate program she wanted to do, and she’s not talking about it.  Not even to her mother who she knows is safe.

Wednesday, August 19
The choice I made, that I think turned things around, was reading the book by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter.  It’s called “Traveling with Pomegranates,” and it’s a pilgrimage to embody and understand the Demeter/Persephone myth.  During this time period, Sue was writing The Secret Life of Bees, and some of the plot came from images that Sue was attracted to — collected from magazines — that makes me wonder about doing something similar.  Looking for what does my heart want to do with what’s left of my life.  I think about my relationship with Younger Jenny as being my Demeter/Persephone work.

I realized as I was walking down to Reception, outside, to mail my ballot and my taxes, that the new moon cycle had just started.  Wondered if that was part of my improved mood.

The sections of the Pomegranate book were Loss, Search, Return.

Thursday, August 20
Song in my mind yesterday “Will you be peace or pride, can you at last decide, there’s no-one to fight, we are the same inside.So go home and get some rest…” “all about love, what if it comes to be all that we have left?”  Christine Kane: “The Good You Do”

I notice that, if I have a song in my mind when I’m making breakfast, I crack the eggs just right, not too hard or too soft.

The thing about breaking the eggs shows a huge shift in my life from “figuring it out” — trying to get it right, and using my intuition.  A lot of other little things have shown this same change just in the last week.

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The Dance of Despair and Hope

I haven’t done a post in a while.  I’ve been going back and forth between despair and hope. The despair comes from the current political struggle, the question of the Post Office, Mitch McConnell’s ability to stymie political action on bills that would help the situation, and fear that we don’t have time to struggle with this idiocy.  The planet is burning.  The hope comes from Charles Eisenstein saying that we are a part of a much larger process, and from reading in EarthDance that the earth has an intelligence that keeps the oceans and atmosphere in a balance that supports life, and feeling held by that intelligence.  The author, Elisabet Sahtouris, a systems biologist, tells the story of how the first one-celled organisms created themselves by a process of self-organization, and then created multi-celled organisms by a process that started with competition but went on to cooperation. Knowing that humans need to get together to co-operatively create new systems, I have no idea what that will look like.  But I can hold a container in which there is freedom and safety for a group of people to do this.

3rd cup writing from my journal for Thursday, August 13

I’ve been reading Deena’s book about the planetary crisis.  She says when people realize the extent of the devastation they become disabled by fear.  I realize that my work in this crucial time is what I did at Neskaya: to hold the container in which we can co-create, self-organize, a new way to get our needs met which will be regenerative for the planet.  I realize I don’t have to do this alone.  I’m part of a huge circle, around the planet, holding hands with those who are doing the lovingkindness meditation for all beings.  “If you can’t go on any longer, take the hand held by your brother/sister…  carry it on, carry it on.”  I know that it can be done.  I don’t know if it will be done.  I don’t know what kind of health, economic, political, agricultural, social systems we will create.  Only that it will be characterized by fairness, justice, generosity, diversity.  It may even be different for different ecological systems.  It certainly won’t follow the Western capitalist industrial white-supremicist model.  That’s what’s destroying our chance for a future.  There will probably be a huge number of deaths.  Unfortunately, because of the mismanaged pandemic, right now those deaths are greater for the indigenous and marginalized people who hold wisdom we need for the future.

Deena Metzger’s book is From Grief into Vision.

Carry it on” is a song that was important to me at the time of Kent State.

I’ve often thought that we need to create new state boundaries which put a single watershed in the same political entity, instead of parcelling it out to different ones.

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Losses of my Life

Continued from journal for February 18, 1992

What am I grieving for?  All the losses of my life.  I suppose I might as well list them.  And immediately, up comes that sense of boredom and criticism, who do you think you are, you think your life should have been a bed of roses, stop complaining.  Well, dammit, I will complain.  I lost a chance to bond with my mother at birth, I think, because of standard hospital procedure.  I also suspect I lost a healthy sense of my own hunger due to being fed on a schedule.  I also suspect that my body and nervous system may have been weakened by the stress mother was under during her pregnancy.  I didn’t have a sense of safety, of things being basically all right during my infancy.  Mother must have been anxious about Dad, and lonely, and turned to me for comfort.  So I never had a chance to ground myself in someone’s understanding, faith, competence.  That feeling of no foundation, of nothing under me to hold me up, of having nothing to stand on.  Another loss was the lack of bonding with my father, I was too old when he came back, he too immature, with unrealistic expectations.  And of course neither of them knew how to help me when I got dethroned from my privileged position as only child by the birth of my brother.  Thinking of them as Extravert Sensory types helps alleviate my bitterness that we never connected very well, that they never understood what was happening with me or what I needed, and I was always saying the wrong things to them.  So — loss of any kind of fruitful relationship with my parents.  Then the loss of any kind of normal experience during adolescence (except that romantic pain & pain of misunderstood is “normal”) — but if I had had some sense of confidence or self-esteem, some guidance through the difficult trials of trying to find my way through the reefs and shoals of trying to learn how to get along with the opposite six [sic!].  If I hadn’t had my sexuality frozen at age 12 by daddy’s thoughtless or drunken molesting, if I had had any sense of being attractive, if I hadn’t been so needy for affection, if I hadn’t been so alienated from my classmates by my intelligence and odd interests — adolescence would have been more of an adventure, more like that summer I spent learning geology in Wyoming.  And the loss of my artist self — I suppose that’s one of the most painful — if I’d had more of a sense of being an artist it might have provided some grounding, some ballast, I wouldn’t have felt like I was floundering so badly, would have had more of a sense of wandering and exploring, even when there was pain and lostness, at least I wouldn’t have felt drowning or overwhelmed, I would have been able to stay with the wandering instead of frantically searching for something stable to hold on to.  I wouldn’t feel like I had wasted all those years, I could have developed artistic skills under my belt, I would be able to draw and paint and dance and sculpt with clay as easily as I can write, I would have all those media to try to express myself in.  Instead I feel painfully inadequate and crippled, stuck in the narrow channel of words because that’s all I was able to develop.  And I would have had the self-esteem and the self-grounding that comes from using ones talents and capacities, even if no one had liked what I created, even if I hadn’t been able to make a living at it.  Then I might have had a different set of losses to contend with.  The other big one is the loss of my health, the lack of energy and the need for effort and discipline that require that so much of my life be directed toward trying to keep from getting sicker, so there’s nothing left for fun or for creativity.  And the loss of my sex life: the painful painful affairs, blaming myself for being uptight, the long painful years of celibacy, and then finally not being able to share that with Dana.    Health, creativity, sexuality, those are big losses.  It is appropriate to mourn, and I have a right to grieve.

I feel like I’m carrying around this huge cold stone, like I’m pregnant with it, like it’s a chrysalis.  I don’t know what’s inside, what will come out.  Well stay with it as witness.

Walked the dog as far as Hughes, dragging my burden of sorrow.  A good day for sorrow — soft sky, bleared sun, bleak trees.  Faded blue sky full of little milky cloudlets.  Mountains in sharp clarity and color, white snow, indigo on the high slopes, purple grey lower down.  Details of ravines, firs following a stream, stand out in high relief.  A mild damp day, no warmth from the sun.

Knowing about types from Myers-Briggs helped me see how different I was from Mom & Dad, allowed me to stop feeling guilty for not being able to connect with them better.  Although I say I “have a right to grieve,” I’m not able to really do it.  Not until Erica recommends Francis Weller, and I get the book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow, do I really understand that I do have a right to grieve.  I finally start to be able to work with it, and discover that the unacknowledged and unvalidated grief was probably the source of my lifelong severe depression.

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