Thursday, March 2, 2017

Woman, listed

-that I am never on the computer just before dinner time
I want to take apart this sentence and break it out into elements: dinner, computer, time, never, I. Each of these fluid parts of the puzzle, they can be taken out or placed back at will and at random. They are part of a day, a week, a month, a marriage, a walk. Dinner means with the family, with the family means within a marriage, a marriage means I, a walking computer, lifeless, robotic. being the variable threaded through all of it…walking through dinner, walking through time, walking as a computer walks-without feeling, walking into so many nevers I cannot count them all.
Is that the answer he wanted when he made this list, I wonder? This list with a stated intention for control?
-he is in charge of the entire household: where furniture and pictures go, where my stuff goes and how it is handled, and he will consider my wishes and requests but ultimately he is in charge.
The first time I heard about patriarchy was in a class. I honestly don’t remember which class but I remember really understanding the word for the first time. Like how you can drive by a tree every day and not really notice the tree until someone points it out, and you respond, “oh, yeah. There’s that tree.” Patriarchy I instantly understood to my core since often, it was beaten into me. The dad of my youth swung between raging dictator, with peons flying in front of him, screaming in terror before his feet, and charming uncle, joking and jovial. It only mattered what mood he was bringing home on any given day. This domestic terrorism of mood, of implicated volatility, of the power derived from violently instilling so much fear into a household, is what ingrained patriarchy into me. When I heard about that concept, about how the wishes, desires, and deeds of men can be placed so far above other aspects of humanity as to be positively worshipful, and that this devotion to man-as-god was infused into the structure of our society, my memory bobbed to the surface, having lived in sleepy submersion.
Memory, for me, is like singing. You sing on the vowels, but the consonants hold the words together. The image of a telephone pole is used to describe this; the poles being consonants and the wires being vowels. Singing, i.e., living, happens between the poles, and all the minutiae of daily life soars away from being stored. But the psyche and body are nodal points, telephone poles, of memory. Memories of my dad as being in patriarchal charge are very few. Cutting switches for him to punish me. His blustering into the room and changing the channel from the Wizard of Oz to a ball game. Overturning the breakfast table in a rage.  I learned that the wires that connected it all are patriarchy, which for me, meant the unquestioning compliance with a man’s wishes. Men made the laws, after all. Men made the money, built the roads, decided who was worthy, made the important decisions. Everywhere a woman turns, a man is in charge, of where she is put, of how her body is handled. I already know HE is in charge.
I tried very hard to worship these gods.
that I tell him when my menstrual cycle is happening
I will take this opportunity to educate anyone who is still shrouded in mystery about a woman’s menstrual cycle that as a woman, my menstrual cycle is always happening. My menstrual cycle arrived when I was fourteen and persists up until today, age forty-eight. For thirty-four years I have been in some phase of my menstrual cycle. Of course, there is the science that counts days and marks fertility, for that is an important apex in this particular cycle, as is “day one”. But what they don’t tell you is how it marks a woman’s spirit, how it echoes a woman’s nature, and how it fits into all nature that dies and is born again. During fertility, the point is not that one can get pregnant, but that as a woman, you are filled with possibility. And when I am fertile my whole body sings with the desire to create, to flirt with people, to paint and sit in a flow of ideas. If I am fertile, I am artist. Once that passes, I make a gradual inward turn toward spirit and am called to suffer. That might sound dramatic, but I have a lot to grieve, and I believe that when one feels and grieves, one heals. My body always knows what I need to work on: letting go, being present, getting good and angry. It is a time of deep feeling. It is a time to build up and tend a wound so it can be released. My very body swells with this tightening and then I can flow, bleed, let the wound close over in deep healing.
Is that the answer he wanted when he made this list, I wonder? This list with a stated intention for control?
that I trust everything he says, no matter if he has lied to me, I am simply to blindly trust what he says
Blind trust given to anyone is akin to psychological suicide, especially when that person has lied to you. Trust is a difficult thing when one has been lied to. I struggle, I want to believe the good in people and how they care about how they conduct themselves in relationship, and I don’t want to know that there are people who have no regard for how they treat others. I would say that working this concept has been like tilling soil, bringing it up and tamping it down, creating furrows and adding in compost. There are parts of me that are blind, that do not want to see or acknowledge the possibility of evil, of people who truly enjoy the suffering of this world and of others. I tried to trust them, this church of men-the expectation of undying devotion to things you don’t see or don’t want to see. I was let down every time.
Developing trust has required that I leave that field of unworkable soil and learn to trust myself, to walk in my own land. Blind trust equals dependency and victimization. Walking my own land equals strength and power. I found that focusing on one little piece of someone else’s soil,  my face pushed toward the earth in an effort to make me see, to force me to justify my existence, to shame me; just made me mad, and small.
For so long, I tried to tend that tiny patch of land as forced to, and now I know inside and out how it works. I observed and learned. Now I know, and I have grown in my own land a wide patch of gratitude. For if I had not experienced the certain imprisonment of being required to blindly trust and never question, I would never have gotten angry enough to walk away and learn how to trust myself.
that I make “I” statements 100% of the time, even when speaking of observable behaviors
Once I learned how to trust myself and what I saw, I could remember the person I was. I was once little girl in this relationship. I spent hours crying in the bathroom, just not being able to make sense of anything, being abandoned, criticized, and beaten down by a man I loved. I lived and circled within these tiny words, liminal, confined. He was just my father reincarnated while they were both still alive. So when I learned how to trust myself, another part of me came up, a part that was like a raccoon with a trinket. A raccoon with shining eyes and paws filled with mischief. My paws wrap themselves around “I” statements with delight. Finally, I am “allowed” to have an “I”. It doesn’t matter that he would not hear anything that comes after the “I.”  I can say anything I want.
I feel hopeless that “I” statements would fix anything about this relationship.
I feel stupid for ever having believed a word you said.
I feel pissed off when you make stupid lists of demands.
Is that the answer he wanted when he made this list, I wonder? This list with a stated intention for control?
change my Facebook status to “married”
Changing status is not easy, especially when one demands that your status be as he wishes it to be. Status has typically been assigned to people based on their sex (man), color (white), and resources(rich). I have learned that “white rich man” equals the most status. In dealing with a man who grew up having that status conferred on him without actually having to earn it, I have learned that control of a woman’s status is an unspoken privilege of being a white rich man. This man behaves as if he is conferring me a favor by assigning my status.
History is filled with men who determined a woman’s status. It used to be a woman was only considered property of a man, and she could only claim certain rights according to how she married. In divorcing, I still had little right to claim my own status or privileges with regard to property. That divorce left me just as penniless and in debt and as void of rights (thanks to family court) as a woman who divorced in the 1700’s or 1800’s would have been. And then the status of “divorced woman” is conferred on me, causing society to eye me differently because I did not have the wiles or wisdom to make a man stay put. And there is always the implication that it is a woman’s responsibility to make a man stay put, never his responsibility to commit and humanely connect.
In some way, he was right. Changing my Facebook status to “married” would have elevated my position in society. That’s just the way it is, in patriarchy. Elevation happens in relation to the broadcasted orbit a woman forms around a man, star hitched to his wagon, ever running behind.
that my emails and Facebook are always open to him and that I give him my passwords
            I am a little aware of what others might think. People have different reactions to someone else’s divorce. They will pull out all the not-very-helpful platitudes such as, “just let go.” “Time heals all wounds” (with the implication being that now is the time to be healed.) They don’t know that the divorce was just a small patch of earth you tilled for a while, that was part of a whole plan of growing your life, that some disasters stand in representation of past disasters, and that getting out of cycling pain takes longer than anyone but you could know. Not everyone has had a life of abuse at the hands of men. Most of the time I feel like I am out of place anyway, employing psychic doggie paddling to keep up, to understand how the rest of the world thinks and works.
Louise Bourgeois wrote and painted, “To unravel a torment, you must begin somewhere.” My unraveling began with that list. It put up such a huge wall between me and my "beloved" I could not even see around it. Nor should I have seen around it. The only thing to do was leave and find myself. That sounds trite, to “find yourself.” Yet there is truth that if your “self” is only valued as being in service to its own disempowerment through men, then you don’t really have a “self”, not in the context any man would.
Seeing it that way, helps me realize how utterly foolish and ridiculous these demands are. Open my emails and Facebook to him as if he were the most benevolent dictator? "Father knows best?" But in looking at these demands again, they aren’t even offensive any more. They’re just sad. I took it so seriously because I wanted to have something that worked, to know that not all men stomped on women, to really make a go of relationship and confirm all the lovely sentiments I had had about family. It didn’t work that way. I chose wrongly and sentiment is not substance. Unraveling this torment has not just been working out the torment of a relationship, it’s been addressing the torments of father, of man, and of patriarchy. It’s in my bones and shaking off the woman-shame placed on me has been hard, defining work.
Is that the answer he wanted when he made this list, I wonder? This list with a stated intention for control?
He said he needed to control me. He didn't realize he was already in control, but had lost control of himself. He didn't realize that the control of patriarchy touches every woman and that he is just a willing participant. He didn't realize that true strength comes from within, and for that reason, he gave me a great gift because I found my own courage.
Still, I work to list myself. I define me. I confer my own status. I am valued and valuable.
I am woman and as such have a thinking mind.
I am woman and no one has the right to name me.
I shake off names such as “bad mother”, “unworthy” “not good enough.”
I reject my father’s notion that a girl is not a blessing from God.
I reject any man's notion that women are only here to serve him in some way.
I reject all the heaps and piles of shame placed on me, shame that didn't belong to me, shame that made me cry and wonder how I could have been so bad as to be punished and shamed so loudly, so violently, and with such cruelty.
My life is lived in service to Love.
My hands are precious and valuable and able to do good work in this world.
I will not, literally, “dick” around with control freaks and lists when there is so much suffering in the world and people need helpers, not bullshit patriarchal shamers.
I will learn from oppressors how to support and affirm humanity, and ease human suffering.
I embrace my sexuality and all that being a woman entails.
I will fiercely love and protect my children and be all-Mother to them.
I will not waste one more minute worrying about what some selfish, judgmental bullshitter says about me.
I fill my life with artists, makers of beauty, writers of words, workers of healing, magicians.
I am  blessed, beloved, celebrated child of God.

Part Two:


"it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society".
                                                              - Jiddu Krishnamurti


-cease negative talk and self-talk in front of the children

I have, throughout my life, learned the art of supporting another. As a parent, there are two children and two parents you have to work with: the child you WANT your child to be, the child who IS, the parent who can accept who is being parented and make the sacrifice to affirm that person, and the parent who refuses to accept and goes about their selfish way trying to cram their child into a parent-fabricated box.
I believe it is the job of parents to simply uncover who their child is, and not force them into an ill-fitting, harsh box.

Because the world we live in is especially unkind and will hurl all kinds of negative messages toward a human being, messages meant to shame and not validate. Therefore, it is important in intimate relationships, in all family relationships, that you not become a person who is a shamer. That instantly makes you an unsafe person.

One thing I have learned about myself is that when I'm around unsafe people, I wheel out the self-deprecation and wholeheartedly and proactively participate in my own oppression. It's protective, really. I don't want to see these people as unsafe and want to invest in the relationship, so I shoot myself down before they do, because I know it's coming. I deflect through self-abnegation. However, had that person been safe, they would have inherently understood that the only thing that combats the destruction and shame in this world is the love of grace, and giving this grace to each other. They would have understood the ways of the world and have shown love. 

But when a person who is unsafe demands, in essence, that they be given exclusive rights for "negative talk"-criticism and judgment heaped on another person- then we see a hypocrisy, or a subjugation, in place. Right in front of the children. Unapologetic. Unaware. Only he can criticize and judge ruthlessly. A child sees and hears, "your mother must not shine so brightly, and if I take down her shine a few notches, she has to shut up about it." Shut up about it. 

A demand does not fix a negative message. Love does.

The crux of this message is shut up and be perfect. Never feel insecure or doubtful of yourself, because you certainly cannot expect a kindness from a man in response to your humanity. No, only bathe yourself in my manly, superior vitriol. I alone tell you who you are.

It's no wonder daughters feel that they must starve themselves, break glass ceilings, walk behind, try to please. It's no wonder they feel less than. It angers me that my children must deal with this modeling of dislocation of who they are in the world.

That's right, even my criticism and judgment is superior to and insight you have into yourself.

Only a man is qualified to voice the inadequacy of a woman.


She must not do it herself, so she can never be more than he says she is.

She must shut up.


-cease punitive and vindictive behaviors

I don’t remember misbehaving, but I remember switches. A man I loved hit me with it. A man who was supposed to care for me punished me by making me pull down my pants and take a belt when I was too young. A man I loved punished me with silence, and criticism, and put downs. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop these punitive and vindictive behaviors. I tried crying, pleading, and every time, something in me broke. No, I could not have stopped these behaviors if I tried.
Why was I being punished? Because I was not the hoped-for boy? Because I had needs? Because I spoke up? Because I had opinions? Because I wanted to be heard?

And who can stop the punitive behaviors? When an abuser has proclaimed themselves the victim, they will stop at nothing to fully punish their scapegoat. They are obsessive, monolithic, singular in their quest. They have a lie to prove.

My head cannot fathom the magnitude of selfishness it takes to expect someone to do that which you cannot yourself do, to so stubbornly insist on a double standard. Nor can it fathom the powerlessness I once felt, once had heaped on me.
What woman, alone, can stop a personal patriarchy, held in place by myriad supporters and players?

A projection is a mighty powerful train ride: heady, soporific, seductive.

Addictive.


-find a way to cope with my intense emotions

Coping is an interesting thing. One copes to barely bear a burden, to get by, to appear strong. Coping is a psychic band-aid, a way to mitigate deeper pain, to avoid being passionate enough to touch and express one’s self. Coping with deep dysfunction sometimes draws out the blood cries, the angry wounds, the need for the protection of righteous anger.

And I did find ways to cope. I asked for hugs. I asked for the anger to stop. I asked for help around the house. I was obsequious, pleading, even begging. I became a shell of a person...is that what he wanted?

He said, repeatedly, he wanted control. And he wanted me to have no feelings about it. No feelings about the cruelty, the extreme lack of compassion, the covert seething red river of anger. No protest of this senseless act of relational destruction.

It is something a stone would say: "here, you cope. I can't tolerate feelings."

Control is confining to the person who is doing the controlling. It limits that person to keeping the right to offer nothing. To keep the title of relationship without actually having to offer anything financially, emotionally, or physically. It is the right to be deliberately inadequate and force the other to perform for you, the "right" way, to make up for your underfunctioning.

There is no love in that.

Thank you, stone, I needed your message.


-that I cease triangulating

A triangle is the most stable of all shapes. It is the most interesting because of all the angles one can take to arrive at a triangle…a million different triangles can happen in any given moment. Triangulating is a going around the triangle and is actually a circular motion, an establishment of something that wasn’t there before, a lie sent one way to set up the triangle. I could not stop this from happening to me.

I learned about two things: enmeshment, and projection. I could not stop the triangles forming around me, the ones I wasn't included in, the ones that congealed and led to a full-on contrived scapegoating. I could not stop the lies, the pettiness, the snobbery, the cruelty. I didn't have the power to stop this blaming of me, this negating of me as a person. I feel dirty thinking and writing about it now. If the stuff of this shame were visceral and tangible, it would be putrid, slimy, dirty, filth. Black, sticky. Vile, acidic, full of the stench of shame. Remorseless in its cruelty. 

Again,  projection is a heady drug. It protects you from all kinds of truths about yourself and is a pretty delusion.

Triangles eventually enlarge and will  attack that which does not assimilate. 

I am free from all the shapes of that particular prison.


-that I spend $500 a month on food 

Reasonable dialogue and committed cooperation is not based on demands. It is based on reality and respect. Control is starvation, is need, is constraint, is a slow way to choke out the life of something, to suffocate it, to starve it. Restrict nourishment, determine the constraints, and punish when the bar is not met, set bars in order to justify punishment, play keep away.
Control is damaging to those who are bludgeoned by it, and ironically, also to those who wield the club. They base their lives on conditions and therefore, give up control of themselves.

Some people said "she was out of control. She needed to be reined in."

How positively patronizing. How utterly patriarchal. Kind of like, "she was warned, but she persisted."

Patriarchy seeks to control out of its lack of faith in itself. It does not see that cooperation, support, and vulnerability will get you more of what you want and need, and more pleasure, than control. It has not learned to feed itself, so it ruthlessly exploits others to feed it. It has not learned that it is not necessary to crush others in order to be valuable. It has not learned that the value of others is not their material usefulness, but that as human beings, we have spiritual value.
It has not learned the way of love and grace. Instead, it upholds hatred and hypocrisy.
For this reason, we should ultimately not fear its weakness, but pity it.

I hate it for my children.

"Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence" -Bell Hooks

-that I cease psychologizing

I'm off the hook on this one, because not fewer than six, doctoral, post-doctoral, and master's level clinicians validated me and led me to a word that has been the bane of my existence and the fruit of my healing ever since. Two of them kindly got out their DSM and said, "have you heard of..." and walked me through the traits. It doesn't take anyone trained in anything to diagnose a hangnail, or baldness, or a common cold. These things are obvious. 
Psychologizing without having all the knowledge is irritating at best, and at worst, makes one look foolish. But I did my homework, extensively, thanks to the prompting of highly educated and experienced people. I am not uninformed in the least. I am smart and I strive to think for myself. And honestly, any label helps me more than it does the label-ee. Because this illness is one of blame and blindness. And this illness thrives on the stupidity of its victims. It demands walking on ego-bomb eggshells. My own labels, I can face and handle just fine. But in this case, the demand is really telling me, "don't think for yourself." and, "I can't handle unfavorable information about myself, even if it is truthful."
I always say about those less-than-favorable labels, if you don't want to be called one, then stop being one. Apologize, make amends, and muster up some empathy. Stop being hypocritical. Stop blaming everyone but yourself. Stop judging, criticizing, and gloating. Stop taking pleasure in doing the wrong thing. Stop scapegoating.
But if a person with that label could, they would have.
My downfall was that I didn't recognize this. I thought I was reasoning with people who had basic care and empathy. I was sorely mistaken.

The fallout from dysfunction, sadly, is not cleaned up by those who made the mess. It's not unlike  a whole family of alcoholics who deny the problem and create a convenient scapegoat target. The work must be done by those who were damaged. Lines of ownership must be re-established and rooted in reality of life, not the illusions of an abuser. A healing journey involves renewed understanding of personal responsibility with the boundless blessing of grace. 
It was not my "fault". I did not create the dynamics. 

I will not shut up, especially about the truth.

I will continue to honor my voice and the voices of others.

I will set an example for my children of how to feel, deeply and openly, how to love, and how to find spiritual medicine for their own wounds. 

I am not afraid to help others shine.

I live my life in gratitude.

I accept that anyone who has a compulsion to punish another human being is dysfunctional, and when this punishment is hurled at me, I know it is not about me.

I will be awake to hurtful, unsafe people and not blind myself with denial.

I think for myself, and do it quite well.
I am responsible for myself.

I am allowed to feel anger on behalf of my children and myself when we are forced to bear the burden of others' shame. We will not accept this burden.

I will ultimately have compassion for abusers.
I will be raw, real, and grab this life with both hands and savor and enjoy it.

I will unburden myself from expectations of perfection and know I am loved just as I am.

No one can separate me from Love.





2 comments:

  1. This makes me cry. In a bad way. That any woman has to go this. In a good way. Hope for abused women in my own world. Thanks Angie.

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  2. I remember when you contemplated compliance to this tribute to patriarchy (ridiculous list). What a beautifully crafted tribute of your own; a tribute to finding our hidden or lost selves. That "small patch of land" you tilled for a while has truly grown your life and you my friend live a life of service and love like few others I know. I wholeheartedly agree, lets not dick around with such foolishness any longer whether in reality or simply in our thoughts. May all women find the same courage to begin unraveling their own torment. We owe it to our daughters and sons and we owe it to our most perfect and devine selves. Thank you for your inspiration♥️

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Thanks for your comment!