Darkness

They were givers of hugs and holders of hands. When I was baby, when I became an adult.

One of the things that hit me hard after Grandma died was visiting her home and sitting on her couch and all I could think was how she would sit there next to me and hold my hand. If she was there. Which she wasn’t and wouldn’t ever be again.

And now, 4 years later, he’s gone, too.

I’m having waves of realization over how much of a constant, an anchor, they were in my life.

My other grandparents have demonstrated a preference for their biological families. So, yeah, I don’t really feel bad for having a preference for my biological grandparents, thanks. The last time I saw the mother of my adopted father, she didn’t know who I was. Thanks for caring so much, grandmother.

Speaking of my adopted father, it becomes difficult to push away the hatred in my grief. He did so much behind the scenes to prevent me from spending time with my dad and his family. All those years, lost. Anger at my mother for letting her husband do that to me. Anger at my dad for leaving me and letting all those years of heartache invade my life. Anger at myself for choosing a life so far away and letting my adult years slip by so quickly, my life too full of debts and commitments to get away often enough.

Rage. Guilt. Sorrow. Grief.

Meanwhile, the world is exploding — not just with bombs and gunfire, but with fear, racism, reactionary diatribes, and more. Humanity just lost someone who loved people and gave back and it is difficult to see hope when it feels like everything beautiful is collapsing.

I know it isn’t. I see people embracing refugees with different skin and beliefs than them and I’m reminded that there’s always hope.

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”  – JRR Tolkien

 

A New Voice

I’ve spent many years trying to turn down some of the voices of my childhood. You know how it is: a situation approaches and all you can think is what your mother would say if she was there to lecture.

There were positive voices over the years, don’t get me wrong. But, the loudest, as is often the case, were the worst of them all.

It has been 17 years since I lived in my home country, and about 13 of those years have been living away from family. Much of that negativity has dissipated, fading into the background. Unfortunately, the voices I was listening to instead over the past 16 years have turned out to be just as toxic.

It is startling to me to realize how loud these influences are. While I don’t wish to dwell on them, I find I must untie all of the strings that pull on my mind — and untie them one by one. Tricky little buggers still get tangled and have to be unwound over and over…

I am trying to replace those voices with ones that are positive. This becomes confusing because I thought I was doing that before, and only jumped from one pile of shit to another. I’d rather not repeat the process again. But, I don’t want to hold back out of fear, either.

Perhaps, what is most needed is to strengthen my own voice first of all.

“Sometimes it is good fortune to be abandoned. While we are looking after our losses, our selves may slip back inside.”
-Ameni Rozsa

How?

How dare they?

How dare they?

How dare they?

Do people realize how they are perceived, how their actions harm others? Are they so blind to think all this mess belongs to someone else? I think they must be unaware, else how do they sleep at night? They must believe their choices are Right.

I once was certain, myself. Looking back, I am sure that I caused harm to others based on my convictions. Convictions I no longer hold. Digging through my memories to try and see how much carnage my stupidity caused. Thus far, I’d guess it’s a fraction of the damage left by these particular others.

I’ve found myself seeking out people and apologizing for my ignorance, for preaching at them when I should have been cheering them on, for supporting a system that tore them down. It feels good to own up to any part I played in all of this. Also, the responses I’ve gotten from people have been reassuring, which is a bit hopeful. Not that I’m out to merely make myself feel better – I’d like to undo what damage I can, if possible.

I think that my simple acknowledgement is healing for those I’ve spoken with thus far. One of the biggest frustrations is this inability for the abusers in question to recognize that they have hurt people. Their bubble of denial creates a continued state of wounding.

But, perhaps it’s not simply denial. Maybe they are entirely unable to see themselves for what they are:

“A beast does not know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast, the less he knows it.”
― George MacDonald

Anger

I am in my anger phase of grief and processing. It feels cathartic to be this pissed off, to vent with friends, to rage against injustice and abuses, to sift through the past 16.5 years, to rip up paper and throw away mementos that are associated with it all. But, though this sort of anger is therapeutic, I do not want it to settle into a form of bitter-anger. So, then, I wonder if I should try to stop the anger…

I ran across this quote today:

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
– Maya Angelou

Exactly. Thank you, Maya. I can be angry. I need to be angry. This anger spurs me towards action, towards health, towards closure. This is a process, not a destination.

Emergent

It will be five whole months tomorrow since I broke from my old church (officially), and branched away on a new path in life. As is typical, it both seems longer and fresher than that.

In the early days, I was trying to be cautious — attempting to avoid offence. My goal was to take the steps I personally found necessary, while maintaining relationships. I felt this was possible, despite our differences. Though I inwardly rejoiced in my freedom, I didn’t want to flaunt these disparities to people who were fixated on side issues and ignoring the heart of what I was saying to them. I did not leave them so that I could live differently than them– I’ve always lived differently than them.

Having had my pleas for understanding unheard, having faced strange accusations, having learned about lies and hidden agendas — I now realize the attempts to avoid misunderstanding were largely wasted. I may as well toss aside my caution and embrace a greater (and more public) honesty. It’s not only healthier for me, but for others who have been hurt as I have… and perhaps for those who remain uncertain.

Yesterday was the first day of spring. My husband’s hops are sending up shoots, our fruit trees are on the verge of bursting into bloom, and the first of my garden seeds are peeking out of the damp soil. Like these tiny bits of new green, I’m allowing bits of who I am to emerge from my veil of introverted privacy. Publicly approving something controversial, posting opinions and photos on social media, referencing my decisions instead of avoiding the topics — hello, world! Here am I.

Process

The reality is setting in. Or something like that.

I’m so very angry right now. And sad. Still sad. Even when I was happy this winter, it was fringed with sadness. But, now, much of the happy has been replaced by the anger.

As I mentioned before, I thought this was simply a couple of paths veering off from one another. I expected a bit of fallout, knowing there would be those who’d be unhappy with my choices. There would be some ripping and tearing as we pulled apart. Sure. All mend-able, though.

Now I’m finding years of history dredged up and called into question. So much that was not what it seemed. It’s wiping me out, dizzying in scale. I find myself often with a racing, pounding heart — hands shaking — stomach roiling — tears welling.

I’ve gone from dealing merely with the upheaval that comes with re-examining ones own beliefs, to now questioning the last 16 years of experiences and relationships. How often was I lied to?

Yet again in my life, trust has been smashed by those I put the most confidence in. My father left when I was little. My mom manipulated and criticized. My first step-father abused us. There were many instances of wacky religious leaders over the course of my childhood.

I think there was almost exactly a year’s gap in between leaving the abusive step dad behind and joining the church ministry team that would be my spiritual/emotional home for the following 15.5 years. Looking back, that year-long gap was a happy time, despite the parental divorce and turmoil and crap that went down. We had some fun, my mom and baby sister and I. There was much growth in my life.

Here I sit, nearly 16 years later, waiting for the coming Spring. I’m feeling a bit like my February back yard: haggard, beat up, and shit on. But, Spring is around that proverbial corner. Like back in ’98-’99, I have this chance to recreate myself, to grow.

I have to remind myself of this potential of new life. I have to face the betrayal and the grief and the anger and the fear…and then put it behind me so I can learn and grow.

(Honestly, though… I really  just want to throw things right now. And eat french fries.)

More Turbulence

I’ve recently found out that someone I’ve relied upon for years is a liar. Yes, yes… I know, many of us are. But, in this case, I’m not talking about standard, garden variety white lies– such as hiding the three doughnuts you ate for breakfast yesterday. This is full-fledged, relational-betrayal, multi-person-damage-causing deception.

I haven’t merely put my trust in this person… I’ve followed their advice for big and little decisions, interwoven most aspects of my life with theirs,  worked side by side for over a decade, ran to their defense, fought to gain their approval, believed what they’ve told me…

For the last several months (year? or more?), I have just thought that our paths were slowly diverging. We’d walked together, but that was simply changing as life evolved and beliefs shifted in different directions. We could still be friends, though. Right?

As the fog I’ve emerged from has continued to clear, I’ve gone from just seeing the fork in the road ahead to looking behind and seeing unexpected carnage littering the path behind. How was I so blind? Why was I so sheltered from the violence? Is any of it my fault? Could I have stopped it?

I have moved from a place of elation at my freedom, to some sort of grieving. Anger, anxiety, depression. I should really be writing to help clear my head, but I’d rather just hide away in books.

Why Do I Write?

Discussed briefly with someone the other day the difference between creating art (literature, etc) for a wage vs creating for personal reasons. It’s a point I’ve often pondered and had planned to blog about, and having it brought up again reminded me.

I’ve noticed that when I work on creative projects for specific people, it changes how I work. In some cases, my artistic abilities are hampered significantly. I worry instead of create. I ponder their reactions in my mind, instead of playing with ideas.

If I wrote for a wage, I would likely learn discipline and it would force me to put pen to paper. However, would I compromise in an effort to churn out content? Would I come to resent writing as a drudge? Or would I overcome all that hinders me and manage to write something worthwhile?

While I certainly could stand to learn some discipline in my writing, I feel that (for myself personally) writing is something I do because I need to write for myself. I must write for the sake of writing and for the sake of my own sanity, not for contracts and paycheques and acclaim.

The trouble is, I have to remind myself of this over and over as I write. Perfectionism and worries about peoples’ opinions continually hamstring my thought process. I have to quote Anne Lamott like a mantra in my head. Shitty first drafts. Shitty first drafts. Shitty first drafts.

Oh, Happy

Since last autumn, when I began to make some marked changes in my inner life and schedule, I have experienced moments of pure happiness. Moments so unexpected they’ve left me giddy.

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” – Kurt Vonnegut

Is it that the circumstances in my life have changed? Not hugely. I still have many of the same struggles (finances, business stresses, health). But I think these gems I’m enjoying are the result of simply slowing down, make space in my schedule, and allowing myself to be happy. Noticing when something makes me happy. It sounds so cliche, I know. Whatever. It’s working.

Walking down the street, earbuds on, a perfect album playing in subtle harmony to the breeze wrapping around me. Amazing.

A fleeting exchange with the old lady jaywalking while I wait at the crosswalk:
“You rebel!”
“I’m a wild thing,” she laughs.

The recently discovered sweet, seductive warmth of scotch.

Black coffee, on a quiet morning, with nowhere to be.

The hush during a heavy snowfall.

Words on paper written by a brilliant mind, leaving me gasping for air, heart pounding, or wiping away tears.

Tiny, simple bits of life. So easily grasped if I am aware. How have I let myself miss them these last few years? I won’t waste much time on regrets or worry that I’ll miss more in the future. I just want to be.

“In this story
we sit down on Luna Bridge
and catch snow in our cupped hands
and music is coming from the houses
or it sings inside me
I begin to mind

Oh happy, oh happy, the end,
the end, the end.

In this painting
the whole world is navy blue
I run home from the mailbox
in all the dim of five o’clock
to see you.

Cars and trees go by me,
you are in the yard
and in my arms again

Oh happy, oh happy, the end,
the end, the end
Happy, oh happy
the end.”
– The Innocence Mission