Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Little Girl Lost: A Life on E

Love serenade,
Soothe me with the morning sun.
Help me find someone,
Peaceful and non-judgmental.
Holdin' me back,
And make me feel whole with life.
And stay the same.
Life.
Without the pain.
~Seal, Dreaming in Metaphors


As she stepped into the house, her grandmother rushed toward the door to swoop her up, as most grandmothers do.  Instead, this grandmother halted - pre-swoop - gasped, and shouted, "Oh my god, what happened?"   The little girl, whose chin was stitched and bandaged replied, "Mommy hit my chin on the floor."  "That's a lie!" exclaimed the mommy, "You know you slipped on the rug and hit your chin."

I was 4.

Four-year-olds don't lie.  They haven't learned how to yet.  That day I did.  I also learned how to keep secrets.  My mother taught me.  Moreover than learning to lie and keep secrets as joint strategies of self-protection, what transpired leading up to that exchange set the tone for the next 4 decades of my life.

I've had a 40-year identity thirst.  A thirst I shared with Boomer, discovered through those voices of women when I went prowling (read:  Voices).  It's a thirst metaphorically illustrated on the fuel gauge of my car - its needle perpetually sitting on E; acutely Empty and never Enough.  Emotionally and spiritually empty, to an extreme, in the absence of confidence or security in being loved, appreciated and valued.  A feeling and believing that we are never Enough - for ourselves or others.  Enough simply in who we are, just as we are, with whatever we have to offer, or not.  Enough in just being - me. (read:  Significance and P.T.S.D)

Early in our courtship, Boomer had given me a pair of earrings.  Yellow gold, with a small diamond in the stud and a dangled sapphire.  They're petite and very sweet.   I'll never forget the moment I opened the box, before I had a chance to say anything, "They're not big enough...," he said.  When Boomer proposed (read:  Will You), and gave me the beautiful engagement ring I now wear on my right ring finger, "I wish it was bigger," was second out of his mouth after popping the question.   Throughout the years I shared with Boomer, revealings of his own personal torments of being enough grew increasingly apparent (read:  Perspective).   Another example was in the letter he wrote me during our relationship sabbatical in 2003 (read:  He Said), "My dearest SMO, ...don't give up on me...I'm begging you...remember what we had and what we could have... ."

On the day my chin hit the floor, by my mother's hand, I hadn't cleaned up my toys in the play room good enough.  There was a time when every move I made, every step I took, everything I said, every toy I picked up or put away, was perfect.  I was cherished and accepted simply for being me - SMO (read:  Every Name) - for doing the best I could, mistakes and all.   Somewhere, somehow, it got all fucked up and the rules changed - though no one told me - until that day at my grandmother's house.

Something else happened when I was 8.  Exactly what, I don't remember.  Whatever it was resulted in me being stripped down to my underwear, sent outside in the cool weather to stand on the front porch, alone, with a suitcase beside me, and "wait for someone else to come and take me."   I either didn't do enough, or say enough...good enough.  My performance didn't deliver enough, so my mother divorced me.  Her emotional abandonment was a recurring routine that played out many more times in various ways.

My mother was verbally, emotionally, psychologically, and physically abusive with me and my brother. Let me be clear, this is not about bashing my mother (read:  Mother).  My mother is a good woman with limited skills and abilities, that were repeatedly stretched beyond her capacity, and I (along with my brother) got the brunt of her frustration.  She was a young wife, 19, when she and dad married.  Within a few short years, she had 2 small children and a husband who was an alcoholic gambler.   My mother's coping skills were tapped almost immediately.  Both my brother and I became the vessels through which our mother vented her rage.  I am not defending her behavior toward me all those years.  I am, at long last, making sense of it.  And in doing so, I make sense of me, not as an excuse, but in understanding how I got to this place in my life - - including being an alcoholic's widow.

The requirement to perform in absolute compliance at predetermined, usually unspoken, peak levels, defined much of my youth, thus birthing an identity thirst I've been chasing to quench for over 40 years.  Being good enough has hauntingly been my motus operandi throughout my life; conversely I have been chasing it too, by way of perfection and submission (read:  Florida).  Chasing the impossible - to satisfy, please, protect, and deliver - to everyone except myself.  How?  Omit the truth, acquiesce to pressure, pretend to be perfect, have it all together, develop a false confident facade, and never-ever admit you are powerless over the chaos in your life.    The relentless pursuit of perfection and your approval became my identity.   If I am good enough you will like me, better yet, you will love me.  If I am cool enough, pretty enough, smart enough, sexy enough, skinny enough, young enough.   Trying to be enough is tough.    

I have been parched with thirst in my desire to feel accepted and loved just as I am. I have chased after the right fuel to feel full inside:  whole, worthy, and worthwhile.  I have unceasingly chased a dream of having and living any other life than the one I had.  Because I didn't get it and I didn't understand it.  I was a child who grew up in an alcoholic home.  Though my parents divorced when I was 7, I was collateral damage.  All my mother saw in me was my father.  What my father saw in me was my mother.  I was a commodity in their post-marriage relationship.  Mostly at mother's doing.   All I knew growing up is that I secretly wanted something - anything - different and better from what I had.

At 16, I caved, delivering to the pressure and had sex with my long-time boyfriend.  Subsequently I became pregnant.  He opted-out, and 9-months later I delivered again - - my daughter.   At 20, I dated a man 8-years older than me for a year; when a soft conversation of marriage came up I ran to the bridal store to buy a wedding dress - - with my mother no less.    There was no ring, nor proposal, but I had the dress.  I was chasing a dream of happily ever after.  My life, at that time, felt like anything but.   I broke up with him when he became verbally abusive from his coke habit.  The dress hung in my closet, waiting for the next dream.  Three years later, at 23, he arrived.  He was tall, stunningly beautiful, intelligent and climbing the corporate later - just my type (read:  Getting Caught).  Within six months of dating we were engaged; four months later we were married, and I wore that dress in my closet. Ten months later we were divorcing.    I was consumed with shame and guilt of not being good enough to make either of those relationships work.  So much that I never spoke of them... a secret.  The handful of people who knew didn't either.  Whenever I referred to those relationships I lied by omission of truth.   Truth of my own inadequacies, hidden agenda or just what happened.  I had to in order for you to perceive me to be perfectly enough.    Whatever that is.
Muwah!  SMO, age 2 - 1966


Though our circumstances and situations were different, going through his personal mementos I uncovered earlier exemplifications how Boomer, like me, had had the rules changed and where he too struggled with believing he was enough:  as a man, a son, a husband, a father, a lover, a brother, a friend.  The irony of all this is that through Boomer's death,  I embarked on a mid-life exploration and reconciliation of self, paralleled with my healing recovery work.  Something Boomer never got to do.

Water seeks its own level.  Boomer and I came together at a place and at a time that helped both of us experience fullness to our collective tank.  A part of his legacy with me, is the courage to examine my history, transform that emotional and spiritual full tank to being enough and having enough on my own - just as I am (read:  Go Big).   To once again, just maybe, when no one's watching, kiss myself in the mirror.   That's the real dream.

I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart.
I am. I am. I am. 
~ Sylvia Plath

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