Saturday, April 9, 2016

The baby book haunting

My mom kept my baby book around, and as soon as I could read I absorbed it. It was part of the belongings that stayed in our home...a fixture, like the old poetry book we had. But something shifted and one thing I had read over the years washed over me differently  It was seemingly innocuous:
What mom said: "It's a girl!"
What dad said: "that's ok, honey, we'll have a boy next year"
I mean, after all, lots of dads in the late 60's wanted boys first. Lots of dads were wrapped up in the sex of the baby.
Yet these words threaded into my heart, in and out a million times, I got it, I knew it, I still live it: my dad was a gaping void and an aching need in my life. I could never have been good enough to earn his love (and still am not) and yet I tried so very hard to do so. That sentence from him encapsulated the subsequent history of his complete disdain and rejecting judgment of me. Those words, for me, were the root of my shame: unwanted. unworthy, unlovable, rejected. Those messages have hung around me, cold,wispy ghosts...convincing me they are perceptible and attractive to cold, wispy men. With my father, I was  always orbiting his distant sun, trying to warm myself . Magnetic forces, an unseen wall, kept me from quite arching near him. And so "dad" became a cold, lifeless concept, one that caused deep deep fiery hunger in my bones for far too many years, fire that left the ash of grief, despair, and complacency. My dad, the smiling cold force, the grinning grim wall, wielding the stunning violence of absence.
He didn't want me. Not really. I was a disappointing girl.
In my relationships with men, this has been everything. I have made myself a small, distant planet far too often, and I have blamed myself for being too small or too...too...something. Too expressive. Too emotional. Too needy. Too much, too little, too fat, too grumpy, too lively, too loud, too slow, too inadequate, too stupid. Needs not allowed.
And of course, there are many that would have me believe that needs are not ok. No, needs are fine. Hungers...greedy hungers that take over your soul and invade the space of another...these are not needs. I have had such hungers and they have indeed separated me from others and myself. But needs..needs are human. Everyone has needs.
 If there is a guy in the room who is going to reject me in some way, I can smell him within ten miles and I am instantly drawn to him. And so I get sucked in.  Sometimes the cycle takes years, sometimes weeks, sometimes days, sometimes months.
The psychological terms for it are: repetition compulsion and re-enactment. Trauma bonding. Love addiction. Whatever. I gather these terms to help me cope. I dive furiously into theory, get way into my head, over-intellectualize the whole affair, but do nothing to soothe my heart or help me grieve.
Waves of grief come anyway. Disappointment in my lack of a father. Disappointment in men who also behave like that. Disappointment in myself for my own alarmingly injurious absences, for others and self. Overwhelming sadness for so many losses and separations.
I sob in the morning, touching the heart of being unwanted. I sob in the evening, feeling the impact of the never-listening walls I've loved. I sob before bed, holding my inner child and telling her *I* want her. I sob in the bathtub, feeling every cell in my body swell with the pain of rejection and then release it. I sob in the bathroom, at the cutting board, behind my eyes when talking to my children from the next room, when vacuuming. I sob while reading a story to my son...I am glad I am a girl. I embrace every single moment of grief and open my spirit a little, things were not the way they should have been.Yes, I have been rejected. Yes, I have been abandoned in every way possible. And yes, there is grace here to rescue me. Grace and gratitude for recent and ancient rejections course through me.Waves of compassion for my self and everyone in pain. Huge gratitude for the awakening to healing.
It is in grieving that healing happens. I close with a passage where Terry Real describes how this happened with his own therapist:
"Depression freezes, but sadness flows. It has an end. The thing I had spent so much time avoiding had just swept through me- and I was fine. In the healing safety of Paolito's company, my covert depression had become overt. My overt depression had transmuted into grief. And grief, I would come to understand, is depression's cure. By empathizing with the wounded part of me, bolstering the adult part of me, and adroitly sidestepping even the slightest alliance with my internalized hatred, Paolito modeled for me the healing of the empathic reversal that lay at the heart of my covert depression. He taught me, through his example,to cherish my own vulnerability, and to quietly disregard internalized messages of self-contempt. I know that I owe him my life, just as many of the men I work with let me know that they owe me theirs. The chain of toxic injury can be matched by a chain of grace and restoration." ("I Don't Want To Talk About It",Terrence Real,p. 285)
May we all find our way to graceful healing.

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