Angel

According to Virginia Woolf, if I am to properly be a writer my obstacle is “the angel in the house”, a white, middle class feminine ideal, oppressing women from Victorian times onward. She has seasoned the broth I stew in since birth, she is pure, patient, self-sacrificing and other-focused at all times. I must kill her in order to silence the voice that tells me I have nothing of value to say, that keeps me in servitude and domestic monotony, that motivates me to sacrifice myself for my family, and which elevates this sacrifice to my highest purpose.


In truth I have no desire to enter the arena, to attempt the futile task of killing that which is almost unkillable. I chose a different path- I recognise that she is part of me, she is me.


I turn towards her, see her as she truly is, the gifts and lessons she brings. She has protected me, kept me small enough to go unnoticed in danger, given me a fantasy of perfection and domestic harmony that has buoyed me through rough seas. She gave me something to succeed at when I had nothing but failure and ruin. She opened the door to friendship and community, gave me a new identity and softened my past. She brings humility, grace, and kindness. She teaches joy in service and contentment, if only she can be securely held, contained within right sized boundaries, and allowed the space to express herself without allowing her too much influence. 


I believe any aspect can become a tyrant if allowed to run amok, not balanced and contained by protectors who hold the boundaries. She began with a natural human desire to nurture, comfort, serve and be tender. She has been exploited, isolated, and forced into a role she was never capable of handling. She has been given too much power, elevated and deified- I take away that power when I stop fighting and see her as she truly is: not all-important, just one small piece. 


She has tried her best but can never be enough on her own. She has been scorned and blamed. Anyone confined to the shadows, ignored, and despised will become distorted. Anyone lost will fight to be found. Anyone held in the dark will fight to be seen, to escape through the cracks in her prison to be in the light. My resistance strengthens her resolve. I choose to open the door, ask her to put down her weapons- she doesn’t need to fight to be heard, I’m listening. I acknowledge her, thank her for her service, and apologise for not stepping in sooner. I don’t need her protection anymore. It’s not her job. I allow her softening influence to guide my mothering of my children, and of myself. To hold the little parts that so badly need to be tenderly held. I allow her to temper my feisty impetuousness. I allow her to serve me. I contain her, she cannot contain me.



Possibly I’ll never be a “real” writer, I lack the single minded focus, the will to destroy her. I choose to attempt to “transform and transcend”, as Richard Rohr says. To approach her with curiosity, and include her. 

Untitled

Which part do I regret?

Saying yes, I’ll support you. Yes, I can wait.

Someday it will be my turn

I regret believing the lies:

Not enough. Powerless. 

Smile, laugh, be interested.

Wait your turn. Stop being so selfish. Try harder. Stop talking about yourself.

Be small.

Don’t upset, don’t intimidate, don’t demand.

Stop talking.

Sit down, pay attention, be quiet. Wait.

Swallow rage

Crush desires

Damp down flames that consume 

Ignore the futility, boredom, loneliness. 

The dulled ache the biting scratching animal that snarls and howls

Wait

What is Left Behind

    I remember the old barn, silver grey boards, dusty straw smell, too far from the house to go on our own.

    I remember your cat, Twinkletoes, with her extra toes, runny eyes, and fur that never looked clean.

    I remember walking alone across the field to wait for the bus, pushing through drifts of snow that blew in overnight, the crunch and squeak of my boots the loudest sound in the dark morning.

    I remember the deer, browsing on the edges of the field, and the tiny spotted faun left dead in the bush by the poachers that shot it.

    I remember wondering if the poachers might shoot me in the dark, mistaking me for prey.

    I remember the frost on the inside of the bus windows, scratching shapes and words as I ignored the numbness in my toes that never thawed until I got inside the school.

    I remember that tiny bus seemed so big and full of strangers, big loud kids that all knew each other.

    I remember reading, passing the hour and a half drive in another world.

    I remember the fine, dry snow blowing through the cracks in the walls, dusting our bed overnight.

    I remember the wood stove in the kitchen where she warmed our clothes in the morning.

    I remember playing with my Rubik’s Cube, turning it randomly on my lap under the table, looking down and it was perfectly solved- I almost couldn’t believe it, and no one else ever believed me.

    I remember the wood pile, her chopping wood for the stove, learning the the difference between green and cured, and the meaning of a cord.

    I remember snow melting in pails for wash water, a tiny amount in the bottom of each pail, and going to the campground to fill jugs with drinking water, afraid of getting caught.

    I remember the new oil heater that was going to keep our house warm, except it smoked and turned the snow black flecked.

    I remember the juicy, crisp-skinned taste of the grouse, partridge, and prairie chickens she shot with her 22, and the tender rabbits she snared with fine golden snare wire.

    I remember the soft rabbit fur you loved to pet.

    I remember the quiet.

    I remember the numbness.

    I remember grama coming to visit, and being confused about why grama was upset and arguing with her.

    I remember Renatta coming to stay, out of the blue, with her family, eating our food, not asking permission. 

    I remember Renatta’s baby’s grave was somewhere on the hill beside the house. I wished someone would show me where it was, so I could visit.

    I remember puffball mushrooms growing in the pasture behind the house, dry wrinkled ones that puffed brown spores into the air when we kicked them, huge fresh ones that she fried with butter, I couldn’t get enough, and you wouldn’t touch them.

    I remember the driveway, a hill too slippery with ice, a dip too muddy when it rained.

    I remember the car, a brown Plymouth Fury with a white roof, sounding out the word Plymouth, being pleased when I made the mental leap between what it looked like, and the word I had heard her say.

    I remember regularly breaking down, hitting the ditch, getting stuck.

    I remember her screaming and swearing at the car, sitting in the back seat hoping that if I was still and quiet, softly repeating “please get unstuck” over and over we might be ok.

    I remember wondering if we would freeze to death.

    I remember you always with your thumb in your mouth, faraway look in your eyes, worn-out-blanky in your hand.

    I remember hating you for not knowing enough to be scared, leaving me with the burden. 

    I remember him crying, missing us. In an apartment so far away with heat coming out of the baseboards, light switches, a fridge, toilet. With Oreos and Kraft Dinner in the cupboards, a TV.

    I remember the bunkbeds he made for us.  

    I remember being alone with him, his sadness and desperate loneliness. Where were you?

    I remember winter, cold, hungry, alone.

    I remember birdsong- chickadees, bluejays, gray jays and huge black ravens.

    I remember sunrise beaming through the trees, cold clean air, quiet, neverending forest of jackpine, trembling aspen, birch.

I remember huge spruce bugs that can bite, and make a sound like an electric saw.

I remember the mama bear up a tree in the yard, staying in the house until she left.

    I remember the old man’s beard moss hanging from the jackpines.

    I remember that bear berries are also called uva ursi.

    I remember wild blueberries, snowberries you can’t eat, sweet wild strawberries as small as a baby’s fingernail. 

    I remember riding my bike on the sand roads, singing loudly so the bears wouldn’t be surprised by me.

    I remember the Jelly Bellies he brought me, eating them one by one in my bed at one of the the neighbour’s houses where she left me to go treeplanting every spring and fall. Where were you?

    I remember you staying with grama, warm, safe, fed- a world away down south. 

    I remember hiding in a culvert with Steve, whose mom was in treeplanting camp too, waiting til the schoolbus drove by and it was too late for us to go to school that day.

    I remember the letters she sent, hoping everytime she’d say when she was coming home.

    I remember stealing onions from Jude’s garden and trying to eat them raw, we were hungry, but not hungry enough to get them down.

    I remember Clearwater Lake, the whine of the bugs, the hot smell and tough stalks of the yellow and white blossom sweet clover growing in the sand.

    I remember the rocks under the surface that I could walk out to stand on when I got tall enough. 

    I remember catching salamanders, wet and slippery. 

    I remember.

Threads

What am I curious about? What am I trying to understand? Why did I survive when others didn’t? Why am I still here?

I have been fighting for me since the very beginning. I fight, I scream, I bite and claw, I run circles around your argument and never give up. I don’t give up. I have used my voice, my body, my hands, my logic, emotion, intellect and creativity.

I have believed in and fought for justice as I understand it, fought against stupidity, illogic, and oppression. I can’t let it go. My mother always told me I should be a lawyer. With admiration and with judgment. 

Since the age of 12 my refusal to give a fuck about what you think I should do has given me power. 

I have always believed I am special, capable, choosing. Not a victim, a volunteer. Believed I could overcome almost anything or anyone if I tried hard enough. And that I’m generally right. And I generally am right. 

I have felt alone. I have learned I can depend on myself for survival. I have recognized my allies. 

I feel very little guilt or shame about my choices and experiences 

I feel tremendous regret about the ways I hurt and neglected my kids while believing I had protected them.

I have been curious to the point of self harm, I just gotta understand, see for myself, try it at least once. I have taken insane risks, but always calculated. I have always been fascinated by the world, by human experience, suffering, growth, healing, memory, the echos in my bones, God, love, intensity, “more”…and all of the “why?”.

No matter how bad it’s been there’s a little observer, taking notes, a little scientist who just can’t wait to see how this turns out, what happens next.

I’m enraged and horrified by the loss of power, influence, being seen, being thought of as valuable. The loss of energy, surety and focus that has come with becoming middle aged. 

I have a million questions for this version of myself. Doubts, fears, lies, shame, grief.

Now, I’ve gotta write it, the story. Show it don’t say it…

Nutana

Fourteen years old, new city, new school. It has a great library, two story high ceilings, huge old windows, classic looking oil paintings, tall, antique wood shelves full of every kind of book. Which I steal. Instead of checking them out. I generally return them.  

I sit at a table reading, drawing, writing notes, rummaging around in my huge bag, trying to look occupied, intentional, instead of lonely, afraid, awkward. Libraries have always been my true home, my refuge. It’s ok to be alone, quiet, introspective, odd, maybe even a bit (or a lot) sketchy. 

The librarian, Mr. B, suggests I join the writing group- why? I’m not a writer, I don’t write? Oh…you mean this? These fragments of images, these word doodles in the corners of my sketch book are poems? !!! How is that even possible? I don’t understand poetry, I don’t read it, I don’t even like it! Except maybe I do? Music is a sort of poetry, I listen to and write down lyrics like I’m starving for…poetry?

Mr. B- bearded, kind, soft-spoken, glasses, thinning hair, a good listener. Shares his poems, one about making bread with his little girl. He tell us: “show it, don’t say it”.

The other kids in the group are older, grade 11 & 12, hippies and D&D types to my wanna be baddass/punk/goth vibe…one of them even wears Birkenstocks…they seem smart, confident, mature, they look like they do their homework, eat regular meals, and don’t skip school.

We share our writing, I love the group and start to feel like maybe I can do this. I practice writing longer, more connected poems. Mr. B invites a local poet to give us feedback. I steal her books from the library and they’re so good! They’re real, interesting, funny. She likes my poems! Except for the one part I didn’t actually write. My friend L wrote it and I thought it fit in. How did she know? What makes mine better? We submit our favourites to Windscript, a high school literary magazine published by the writer’s guild.

And then I’m gone. 

In January of grade 10, after being back home from foster care/group homes for a couple of months, my mom and I get in an argument about me not wanting to go to school that morning. I slap her and she says she’s calling the cops, so I run.

I spend the next few days hiding out and drinking at the home of one of the only people I know who has his own apartment. Luckily he’s into me so it takes almost a week before I wear out my welcome. Then it’s back to sleeping in the post office, the back of the city bus, apartment building stairwells, wherever. Panhandling, shoplifting, hanging out downtown with other kids like me. Definitely not showing up for school. 

I run into R from writing group. He’s downtown changing buses. He asks how I am and I say “I’m good, just a bit hungry.” I think I’m being manipulative, looking for rescue. The truth, I am hungry. I am asking for help. I trust R a little bit. I’m happy to see him. I’m only manipulating myself, trying to shield myself from my vulnerability and pain by imagining I’m cool, in control. Mr. B told me later that R went back to look for me, to help me. That he was worried about me and regretted not getting me some food that day. He actually saw me? Cared? Understood that I really needed help? I feel grateful, powerful, ashamed.

A few weeks later I get picked up. I’m being charged with assault on my mom. I’m on probation for shoplifting so this gets me sent to youth rehab for four months. 

While I’m there, Mr. B sends me a copy of Windscript. They picked me! My drawing, my poems, they’re in there!

I’m a writer. 

From the Nutana Collegiate Memorial Art Collection

What am I Not Writing?

My story. My strength. My wisdom. I’m keeping myself small.

The view from here-

I used to think I knew what I wanted to write: personal essays, creative non-fiction, memoir. 

Truthfully I still want that but my horror at being seen, of risking being seen as unoriginal, unimportant, arrogant, self-important, laughable, and vain keep me from committing/admitting it, even to myself. Years ago it seemed like a new idea, now it seems like everyone is doing it (and so well)…my pride/ego interferes- I want to be special! First! A pioneer! Too late…

My truth is that I know my story is worth telling. It’s interesting, unique, and can only be told by me. I’ve been encouraged again and again to write it, and I’ve been content with the idea that I should, I can, and I will…just not yet. If I never start I’ll never fail. It can be a tragic martyr story “I would have, but…everyone just needed my support so much.”

My truth is that I love writing. I also love the positive feedback I get. I love the attention and being seen positively. And I’m afraid to admit that part of it. 

I don’t want to be dependent on outside validation, but I know I need support, community, teachers, and feedback. 

“Writer” was the first positive identity I earned as a young woman, at a time when the rest of my identity was: slut, drug addict, crazy, liar, bitch, selfish, thief, street kid, hopeless. My high school writing group was the first supportive community I was a part of. 

I’m starting to forget, the urgency is abating as I “do the work”, deal with my shit and grow up. I’ve always been motivated by urgency, pressure- internal and external. I’m hoping this shift is a good thing,now that I have some space from it, it’s not just a therapeutic purge. The opportunity to write from my scars instead of my wounds. Next comes work, diligence, commitment, failure, “shitty first drafts” and all the rest of it. 

My fear is of failing myself, of letting myself down by never giving it a real shot. Of giving it my absolute best and finding out that I don’t have what it takes, or that I don’t want it enough. 

Fear, again.

I’m terrified right now, its been building all day. I can’t stop obsessing, I’m in worst case scenario beliefs, my thoughts are racing, I’m totally in my head, likely because I don’t want to/don’t know how to be in my body. I want a divorce just to get some relief. And that’s a total fantasy.

Fear is covering grief? Shame? Anger? People always say anger is a secondary emotion but i think that’s just a way to avoid feeling it. Anger shows me where my boundaries are being violated. I’m terrified of anger, I repress and hide it whenever possible. Maybe the fear is actually the secondary emotion…fuck. People suck.

No easy way out, no objective reality/truth, just my own knowing, my own truth which is only mine.

My truth. Changes, depends, shifts, reverses, hard to trust myself.

My truth right now: I am so incredibly angry at the injustices being perpetrated on me and my children. I am enraged by the gaslighting, abuse, blame, and shame that we are all being subjected to. I feel afraid and hopeless, I don’t see a good way to solve this. I want to be understood, supported, loved and cherished. I want to be happy and safe.

Don’t Dial Pain

Don’t text pain, don’t email pain, don’t read pain, don’t stalk pain.

If it’s urgent, it can wait.

Comfort the little girl

It’s ok, you’re ok. I’ve got this, I’ll take care of you, you matter to me. Everything is going to be ok

How am I feeling? What do I need?

Grace Over Drama

Core Negative Beliefs

And the opposites:

1) I’m not lovable, valuable or worthy of anyone’s time and attention

(I am lovable, I’m a beloved child of God and I’m special)

2) I hurt everyone

(I’m not responsible for other people’s pain)

3) I’m too much, too needy, want too much

(my needs are normal and natural, I can meet my needs with the help of the people and opportunities God brings into my life).

4) I’m not enough, I have to try harder.

(I am enough, I do enough, I have enough).

5) I’m not real, I’m a fraud and manipulator. There’s nothing at the center of me. If anyone really sees me they’ll know that.

(I exist. At my center is love, compassion, gratitude, and wonder. I forgive myself for using hiding and manipulation as survival strategies)

6) Everyone will leave me unless I make them stay.

(Trying to force people to stay will push them away, people will come and go in my life, the ones who stay will be there because they love me and are meant to be in my life)

7) My only value is in how I look and how I make other people feel.

(I am valuable and lovable just because I exist, my own inner being is beautiful just as I am)

8) I will never change, I’m fundamentally broken.

(I’m doing the best I can, I am capable of changing and have come a long way and changed so much)

(I’m powerless but not helpless, I can take positive action and trust the outcome to God)

(Neuroplasticity/evolving my own brain is possible)

Goals

It’s an interesting question, why am I still in recovery? Now that I’m through withdrawal and relatively stable and healthy, what am I hoping to accomplish?

The obvious answer is to give back, actively work step 12. That’s really not all though.

Thinking about this question has been a good opportunity to assess what still causes me pain/discomfort and what feels like it’s holding me back from being more fully content…

The challenge becomes apparent immediately, as one of the things I most would like to change is my longstanding practice of raising the bar on myself whenever I get close to achieving whatever I’ve attempted. So…first goal is knowing that I’m good enough, I’m doing enough, I have enough (time, love, recovery, ability, intimacy, genuineness…whatever) and that I don’t need to constantly be striving, living in the future, trying to be better, comparing myself to the idealized (fantasy) image I have in my mind of who and what I could or should be….

So maybe the next step ought to be looking at how far I’ve come, all that I’ve done in the 3+ years since The Bridge. But even that’s problematic, the image of a linear progression of healing and life…I want to be free of it but I’m seriously not.

I’ve been free of all bottom line behavior for nearly 22 months. It seems not a big deal now but I remember how incredibly hard it was to break free and the intense amount of pain/grief/terror that I had to get through by just experiencing it, feeling the backlog of suffering I had been running from for over 30 years…that’s big.

Other than that I’ve learned how to take care of myself, to connect with my inner child and be my own loving parent. To be aware of my boundaries and trust my perceptions. I’ve become much more gentle with myself and my family, I’m more able to see and admit my responsibility in challenging situations. I have much less intensity, fantasy and obsession in my head. I pray every day and meditate at least a few times a week. I can walk away from conflict. All of this is sometimes, not always. Always is probably too much to expect.

-Feeling safe. Decrease my fear of abandonment and continue to reduce the frequency and intensity of the wound being triggered. Less overall fear and anxiety, less need for clonazepam.

-Being more present. Less distracted by living in the future/past, fantasy, obsession (especially obsession about J), dissociation.

-Feeling more genuine. More honest, appropriately vulnerable, making more effort to show up as the most real/present, curious, and openminded version of myself. Sustain healthy relationships.

-Having more fun. The ability to prioritize my needs and wants appropriately. To write, do crafts and art, to sing more…and to learn what fun is for me.

-Having clearer and quicker awareness of my motives. Less manipulation, more honesty (especially with myself)

-Paying attention to myself. Continuing to grow my awareness of my boundaries, feelings and needs. Improving my ability to respect them.

-Feeling secure. To truly know that I can and will survive if J and I end our relationship.

-Trusting myself. Knowing that I’m strong enough to go if necessary, I won’t stay out of fear.

-Trusting HP, truly feeling that I’m beloved and never alone. Feeling more aware of HP’s will for me.

-Believing I’m lovable just as I am, not only for what I do for others. More right-size in my assessment of myself and my behavior. Seeing and valuing my strengths. Believing that I’m special, worthy, and beautiful.

-Focusing on solution, celebrating progress. Stop raising the bar every time I approach my goals.

-Kindness. Above all else.

Why the fuck am I still doing this

I honestly just feel angry, I’m so fucking powerless. I know that keeping the fantasy alive in my heart does nothing but hold me back. From feeling the full extent of the pain. Which is what I have to continue to do if I want to live a life that isn’t run by avoidance of the pain. No fucking wonder I don’t always want to do it. It’s shitty and fuck this. The miracle is that I ever am willing to just fucking do it, keep going, keep grieving and working and trying to change my patterns. I want some kind of reward or something, something to work for, a better hope, fucking something.

Continue reading “Why the fuck am I still doing this”

How it is right now

There’s nothing new with me, nothing to report. I could list the books I’m reading, the shows I’m watching, things I’m interested in but the truth is I’m not interested in much, including the stuff I’m reading and watching.

It’s the same stuff, just calmer, less intense all the time. Settled and usually pretty content. I’m not doing anything new except my microdosing experiment which I wrote about elsewhere. And was pretty anticlimactic anyway.

I do almost nothing outside my home. Outside: take A to soccer, football, baseball, homeschool activities, occupational therapy, haircuts, swimming pool, library, walks, bike rides. I still play Pokemon Go. Not exciting, just a comfortable routine. I go to a women’s SLAA meeting once a week. Sometimes a mixed SAA or NA meeting. I get groceries, occasionally go for tea with a sponsee/sponsor/recovery partner or G. Very occasionally. I go out with J once a month or so, out to eat or something. I went with S and A to Calgary to see E for 4 days. It was exhausting, I’m still recovering. I still work at the hospital sometimes.

Inside: phone meetings 3-5×/week. Calls to recovery partners daily. Cooking, baking, cleaning, reading, watching Netflix, playing cards, backgammon, board games. Reading to A, helping him with chores, schoolwork and life/emotional regulation. Dragonvale World…2+ years in. Recovery work- step writing, inner child/trauma healing workbook. Phone appointments with my therapist. Eating. Lots of treats and sweets, I’m gaining weight. My hair is more grey. My favorite is soaking in a hot bath with Epsom salt, candles, tea, snack, watching Netflix or talking on the phone. Sometimes I meditate, I pray a few times every day. I make brunch on Sundays and S&A come over, then we play Amiibo Festival. Then I make homemade pizza and we watch a movie.

Still sad and scared lots but less all the time. Not getting high on fantasy, intrigue, romantic obsession. Not much anyway, and so much less than ever before. Less afraid of J but still hypervigilant about his narcissism and agression coming back, as of course it does at times. We’re more connected and have more vulnerability/intimacy, less intensity/obsession.

Everything is the same, just slightly less intense all the time. Which is good. I’m tired.

Maybe this is really all there is

Getting old, losing any attractiveness I ever had, sad, tired, lonely, feeling hopeless, everything I thought was important is ashes, I don’t care about any of it.

Everything I enjoyed, everything that felt good was just addiction, distraction, dissociative coping. What’s the fucking point?

I know there’s more, actual intimacy and connection, love. Transcendence and joy, purpose, meaning. Contentment.

Maybe I’m too fundamentally broken to access any of it with any regularity. Glimpses and moments make me believe. But I don’t believe I can have it, not really. If this is self pity, what does it matter?

Waiting is a waste of time, of life. But being present in my current experience is so painful. I am intentionally giving up my ability to spin future fantasies into technicolor magical hope and happiness.

And that leaves me here. In a huge concrete arena, fluorescent lights, I’m cold, alone, exhausted, sad and desperately want to feel loved, special, important to someone. My reserves are depleted. I want to be nurtured, appreciated, supported.

More than anything I just want to feel secure, to feel truly, fundamentally, reliably safe and secure for the first time in my life. I just have nothing left right now and I want help.

I pretend to be strong, confident and happy, to never cling or need or demand. I’m tired of having to work so hard. I want to relax into the arms of acceptance, love, grace, hope, connection. Safety.