the greatest wound, the greatest healing

site of greatest wound SOM

The above quote is from a book I found yesterday called The Journey from Abandonment to Healing by Susan Anderson, a psychotherapist who specializes in abandonment, grief, loss, and trauma.

I was looking for something about this topic because I had felt stymied yesterday when I was trying to do this marketing homework for my business–writing an email series for potential and current clients to get to know me better. It was writing about my origin story–basically, how did I get in this biz of writing.

This month hasn’t been that fruitful, despite a lot of effort in connecting with prospects. Lots of “sure things” in terms of projects became very unsure. There’s been a steep and expensive learning curve with having my own business–let alone saying and really embracing that I have my own business.

But the issue wasn’t the lull in business, or even getting out of the lull. It was writing about this journey. It’s been hell, albeit a now stabilized version of hell. I hit a wall of deep shame when I tried to think about how I became a writer, let alone a freelance writer. It’s something I’m not really proud of yet.

As I sat in immobilizing emotional pain, I started to look back on just this year. One pattern that really started to emerge was how I had opened up deeply to so many people, but how most had bailed, mainly to tend their own shadow work and growth (and maybe I was a trigger for that impulse, too). But I took it personally–and still kind of do.

I then just started thinking about my whole adult life and looked at all the dropouts from my life. This was indeed a long-term pattern, and I was tired of it. As whiny and pouty as this may sound, I know I have helped a lot of people in the way I wish I could have been helped. But it really hasn’t been fully returned to me in the ways I needed, in the magnitude that I needed.

I felt, and still feel, that I have a blindspot when it comes to my relationships. It could probably be explained astrologically, or even in some Big Picture way about the journey I’m on and what I’m being prepared for in my future. But to make it even more brass tacks, as someone who has studied psychology formally, as well as someone who’s a bit into the “woo”–this seemed like something I was perpetuating, since it was cyclical. To borrow from a Caedmon’s Call’s song, I had a long line of leavers.

I’ve known about my fear of abandonment for some time and some events still stick out in my mind, like when my mom left me at school as a teenager and I sat there waiting for her for over an hour as dusk started to fall, not knowing why she hadn’t picked me up. And this was in the age before cell phones were widely used. The wondering as darkness fell, although my mom was very apologetic about it. It’s still a feeling of abandonment that I will never forget.

Years ago, I visited now former friends and going out to see the husband play with his band at a show. The wife was standing with me–and then she just wasn’t. I was an out-of-towner. I didn’t really know anyone except some members of the band and my friends, this couple.

After the show, my friend just disappeared and I was just standing there, in this sort of warehouse space, surrounded by people. I was in a panic, trying to look for her. I’m an introvert and I’m not one to just start chatting up random people.

It felt like an inhospitable act, ditching a friend who had come to visit you, not even telling her what she was doing or introducing her to people you knew. She had wanted to talk to other people but decided she didn’t want to bring me along.

I don’t remember what I did, but I did bring it up to my friend. She kind of blew it off–I don’t even remember her giving me an apology. But it was a bit traumatic for me. It was probably also a good sign that our friendship wasn’t as great as I thought. These same friends came to a theme park near me and never even mentioned being in town. Although that’s a pet peeve for me, this friendship was years long.

We had gone to church together, done Bible studies together, worshipped and sang together, had ridden out emotional upheaval (read: panic attacks), had long talks. These were not just friends but companions. Somehow, though, I had missed the signs of unraveling and just kept pushing forward, trying to be the friend I wanted (which apparently meant ignoring the actions of others).

This isn’t the first time I’ve had that happen, where I’ve been blown off and I’ve ignored the signs leading up to it. Another long-time friend, a woman I grew up with in church, blew me off when I decided to visit her for Thanksgiving almost two years ago. I had bought an expensive plane ticket to fly out to where she lived, which I had to cancel, and not in enough time to get a full refund. We had made plans in August and then she said almost near when I was going to fly out–oops, we’re visiting in-laws out of state, sorry. Also, no offer to cover the cancellation fee.

We had a long Facebook conversation about it which ended with her taking a rather hard line: my relationship and my job come first. And that was that. I told her that she knew what she had to do to restore the relationship, and that she’s chosen her path. We haven’t spoken since. Over 20 years of friendships came to an unexpected, but totally predictable, hard pause.

That event didn’t just come up out of the blue. I had been the one initiating a lot of our conversations and visits (she had never visited me). I said as much, that I had been holding a lot of the space for our friendship–and I owned it. That was on me and I should not have been doing that. I deserved reciprocity.

My tenacity and drive may work really well for overcoming obstacles, but it seems to overlook since of wear and tear in a relationship. It makes me wonder how I came to where I am this year, what I was ignoring and avoiding.

With the friends who have taken leave and have somewhat come back in my life, it’s been strange and strained. It’s not the same and it never will be. Something (beautiful and real) got lost in the interim and it’s most likely irretrievable. And I want to know what part I played in the demise of all these friendships.

My transparency, along with my almost chosen ignorance of how the other person really feels about me and the relationship through their actions, have become huge liabilities in terms of how I relate to myself and to others.

So how do I stop this cycle of prematurely undressing emotionally as well as holding onto dead things for too long?

I have to go back to the beginning.

When I think about my mother, I don’t feel anything. That’s another good sign of trauma. And trauma here isn’t about abuse, but about neglect. I may feel more of a motherly bond towards her, as if I’m her mother and I’m looking out for her, than the other way around.

This fear of abandonment goes back to my birth. My entry into the world was a rough one. My mom thinks we both nearly died thanks to a jonesing-for-a-malpractice-suit anesthesiologist. I just don’t think she and I really bonded.

I know when I was four years old, I got lost in a mall or shopping center. That may have been another traumatic incident, but I don’t remember it.

And not to get too psychological, but when a person doesn’t have a bond to their mother, that’s a big ole hill to climb in terms of developing one’s own sense of self. I don’t know if I have anyone to individuate from, or to mourn that they weren’t there. It’s eerie and unsettling, but that’s been my life.

So I am pretty darn sure I have repeated this dynamic by choosing people as friends and lovers who aren’t that interested in intimacy or I push them away somehow if they are. Yesterday, I hit what I hope is that final wall with that Sisyphean journey.

It is so exhausting to chase, to spurn and be spurned, to yearn and wonder, to leave and to be left.

Desperation is never an attractant.

I got all this from some homework that I didn’t feel ready to do (and still haven’t done– yet).

This is also to say: a trigger can be an invitation to healing, not something to avoid. I RSVPed yes yesterday and googled about abandonment and found Susan Anderson. And now I’m reading her book.

Today, I woke up to overcast skies, but later on in the morning, the skies became brilliantly clear. That transformation is how I feel about dealing with this core wound and my hope that it can be healed. There’s an alarming and amusing alacrity I have about it–like this time, I really am gonna get this right.

I’m sure it’s been hijacking my happiness, causing my business to be a bit halted, and has prevented me from being truly successful. It’s like being stuck in survival mode, no matter what the circumstances are. That is truly exhausting and not really living.

So as I heal, I will focus on the friends who aren’t leaving, and really work on my emotional self-reliance–and I won’t resent having to re-create it.

As Susan Anderson says in her book, a lot of our lives are lived alone. I don’t mean that in some dystopian, post-modern way. Even in community, we still have our own individual lives and journeys.

Through all of my harrowing circumstances, I’ve become a highly resilient person, but yesterday reminded me that I have to learn new, healthier ways of being, and loving, myself.

Coping mechanisms are just that–for coping. For thriving, we have to learn how to find our inner grit, to loosen the grip of codependence, and be fully ourselves as whole and healthy, interdependent people.

I don’t have to feel doomed with existential loneliness. I can now choose to learn differently so I can be a better friend to myself and others.

It’s time for this long line of leavers to end. It’s time for me, and for others to stick around.

break

breaking

When everything falls apart, it is a good sign that everything is about to come together.

from Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser

It’s been said that you should write from your scars, not from your wounds. Welp, this is a wound with a scab forming, and I don’t have time to wait for this to scar over.

Earlier this morning, after tossing some trash in the outside garbage bin, I walked down my now bare driveway and went to the mailbox–something I used to do every day before my car was taken back by the car lender. It was a daily way for me to stretch my legs which doesn’t happen enough for me as a writer.

It’s been raining almost daily. It’s rainy season in Florida and we desperately need the rain since we’ve had a severe drought and subsequent brush fires for months. Usually, the weather wouldn’t deter me from my daily little walk. But I haven’t been interested in getting the mail. Maybe it’s because I’m still little heartbroken.

Although the mailbox was closed, the mail was damp from all the humidity, which can reach full saturation (100%) especially in the mornings. One of the letters I received was from my now former awful car lender, telling me how much I still owe after the car was auctioned off. The amount is basically the interest of a high-interest loan, which would have been OK 9 months ago when I was working a full-time job with an employer. But that four-figure now just another drop in the ocean of debt that doesn’t even reach my shore much anymore. I live in the small lagoon of survival now.

This car situation has been a tough one to overcome, and it’s not because I no longer have reliable transportation. Sure, part of it is the pride of being a self-sustaining adult and not being able to hold onto what seems to be a basic necessity in a city that has some godawful public transportation.

Admittedly, though, when this first happened, I felt some instant relief. I no longer have to deal with this money drain for a vehicle I used like maybe 5 times a month? Based on what I make now, I can be just fine as I build my freelance writing and editing business, even with the occasional Lyft ride.

Through another bill that I’m actually fighting since I was not driving the car, my toll transponder told me when my car was taken: early in the morning, in the 1 o’clock hour. That night, I actually slept so well–how ironic.

Also, I’ve been here before, 2 years ago when I was teaching and making even less than what I make now. I could take as a moral issue in one of two ways. The first is a (self-)judgmental, (self-)blaming route–how can you have this happen to you again? You’re irresponsible with your money. The other route is just seeing the larger landscape of where I live right now. I’ve done the best I can in a shitty job market and lower income people are routinely taken advantage of. I’ll take route #2, because route #1 is a well-worn path that doesn’t head anywhere except to more heartache.

The heartbreak isn’t over the car, per se, but what my cries for help represent to me–only three people helped me: a total stranger and two friends.

My cries for help went unheard and unheeded.

There are so many reasons why: race, gender, the lack of a cult of personality online, the bootstrap mentality that isn’t applied equally. Not really here to dive into all of that, into the politics of what gets funded and why.

I’m also not here to make this about abundance, prosperity, believing enough (or not), manifestation, or any other things that many times just seem like American capitalism dressed up in spiritual garb, but has no semblance of compassion or empathy.

Over a month later, there’s quite a lot of resentment that I have to burn off or hand off to the Universe. As I try to gain a better perspective, I am accepting what is.

Simply put: no one likes being inconvenienced. That’s the ethos of America. It’s the heart of innovation, but it’s also the heart of our mores and social structure. It’s the mentality that tells you that asking for help is some sort of entitlement. Even the way Social Security is framed is as an entitlement vs. an investment that people make so that they had some income for their twilight years. How dare you ask for help for your basic needs! You should just get a job (or else you’re clearly just lazy and want a handout). There’s someone in the current administration who said just that about Medicaid recipients, millions of those being children. It’s a pervasive mindset, no matter your political leanings or religious beliefs.

What has been really hard but necessary to do is to not make this seeming failure be about me or my worth as a human being. Even knowing that culturally, there’s still a lot of shame in asking for help, this still stings, a lot. I’ve been helped in the past, so why am I feeling abandoned now?

How this all happened still marvels me, which makes me believe that something bigger is going on.

At the time I started to think about writing this particular post, I felt very broken. There are still parts of me that feel very shattered and irreplaceable. I was concerned that I was depressed–and if I was/am depressed, then of course, it makes sense after such a loss like losing reliable transportation.

Nothing seems to be going right and things seem to get worse as I spiritually grow leaps and bounds. There are synchronicities all over the place. I know that Spirit is moving in my life–and maybe it’s because of the destruction left in its wake.

Then I remembered a book that I read, Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser (yes, it’s basically a book about manifestation–but there’s nothing wrong with writing down what you want and need and leaving it up to the Universe how it provides those things to do).

Klauser has a chapter aptly called, “Handling Breakdown.” It basically talks about how things may have manifested in a way you weren’t expecting; or, if your desires haven’t come to fruition yet, that you shouldn’t give up.

Two key quotes: “There is no failure, only a delay in results.” and  “There is no failure, only feedback.”

Why I remembered the book wasn’t for those quotes. It was because she talked about how when everything isn’t working out, that you are close to a breakthrough. She compared this to the process of childbirth, ten minutes before delivery which is called the “transition.” It’s the toughest part of labor.

I saw this happen recently with this reality TV star who filmed a special about her pregnancy. She wanted to have her baby at home, and while she was in labor, she hit a wall of exhaustion. She was just done, just through, no more. She got up to go to the bathroom, but before she and her midwives could leave to go to the hospital, she had the baby on the toilet!

So maybe I’m proverbially on the toilet right now, wanting to go to the hospital and have this baby of a profitable writer’s life. I know I need to keep pushing, even though I am exhausted.

So who is holding me up as I push? I do have a few good online friends that have been of great emotional support. But I have no one local like that in my life right now. Astrologically, I can easily blame this Pluto in Capricorn transit that is transforming me from the inside out, as it has run roughshod over my very essence and ethos.

This struggle is beyond the car now. Yet the car was a breaking point for me. Like what gives? I know I’m supposed to be a writer, to be a writer here. But I can’t connect to anyone permanently here. I lost my car twice. Grad school was a nightmare, so was life afterward. I’ve survived horrible living conditions–and I’m enduring one now. How many L’s can I take, and then take them like a champ?

What gives?

I’m not used to things being bad for this long, especially not with work. Eventually, I find the community, I find the better job, it all comes together. To have the reverse Midas touch is not my style. I always find help. I always Mentos commercial or MacGyver my way out of shit.

I’m super can-do-without-you, and that’s by necessity. For better and for worse, I grew up highly resilient, priding myself in not needing others. I’ve been humbled since I moved down here in 2012, realizing how I can’t be who I need to be without some help. And, for the most part, I’m actually quite OK with asking for help now, even as I face the fear of rejection.

So rejection has come and I am starting to be able to accept what is–I don’t really have the supportive community I need, not yet. I can also see the thin yet gleaming silver lining of this tough circumstance–I’m saving hundreds of dollars.

That brings me back to the spiritual support that I need to access. Yes, the loss of my car brought me to my knees. It was sad to repeat a loss like this, thinking that I would be better off this time around. Can I rejoice and be happy like Klauser says? Can I “count it all joy” like the writer James of the New Testament? Can I be grateful for my faith being tested and producing patience?

It’s really like holding onto a seedling, knowing one day it will be a tall tree. Depending on the day, the hour, the minute, I can hold onto this tiny hope or I can drop it and drown in despair.

At least in the spirit realm, I’m not alone. My cries for help were heard. I matter. To be able to really believe all of that, in the face of disappointment, of loneliness, of heartbreak–emotions I’ve felt often in my life–it takes some faith, faith at times I don’t have or want to conjure up, faith that something new is breaking through, something better that I could ever imagine.

So I have two choices. I either keep playing this shitty game of Tetris where I feel like none of the blocks are clearing, or I quit the game altogether.

The latter doesn’t even feel like a choice, so game on.

(self)-abandonment

2016-10-15 09.21.48.jpg

Maybe it’s the power of suggestion, but today (Saturday), and yesterday (Friday), I was feeling so antsy-pants. So I walked it out, which I hadn’t done since I left my job that was within walking distance 3 months ago. I took the picture of these azalea blooms, which are located about halfway in my 50-something minute, 2.2 mile walk. Azaleas down here act like semi-annuals, not like the spring annuals I’m used to. It’s mid-October, and spring flowers ever bloom.

So. Anxiety. It’s not really related to the joblessness. I feel confident in that realm  of possibility in my life, as I am laboring to rest until Monday. It’s back to the last post: love.

I recognize the asynchronous development that I have with relationships. When it comes to this area of my life, I feel like a complete failure. I keep planting seeds here, for my own chosen family, my own community. Some seeds sprout. Joined groups, made acquaintances, but not any real friends. Everyone’s dance cards are full. I’m somehow at peace with that, because I know I’ve tried as hard as I could, but that there are other places to try. I look forward to trying things out when I’m more financial stable.

The anxiety I feel is rooted in knowing, somehow, that my singleton days are numbered. I’m happy about that. But I feel very vulnerable, like I’m out in open space, waiting for someone to just drop in on my head, or full-on tackle me and take me down.

Or not.

Either way, it’s been a struggle, to wrestle with my desires, try to pin them down, get the five count of victory, and then, integrate them into me. But it feels really awkward. I’m not really used to this. I skipped a lot of this in my adolescence (that’s a whole other essay). I don’t know how to be earnest about romantic relationships anymore without feeling foolish.

I think back to the first two people I fell in love with: my parents. I don’t feel bonded to either of them, really. Growing up as the firstborn, and with my brother who has developmental delays, my parents implicitly relied on me to not need them. And then I relied on that as my identity: not needed. I’m good by myself. I sublimated my desires, right into the air. I took one for the team, often. When I was 8, I gladly took one for the team when I was presented with the choice of a boy’s bike that I could pass down to my brother, or a girl’s bike. I took the boy’s bike. Thirty years later, I have no idea if I really wanted the girl’s bike, though.

When I was 17, I wanted to go on this cross-country missions trip with my youth pastor who was leaving that fall. My mom decided it was the time to go back home to West Africa and visit for a few weeks. Granted, she hadn’t been in almost 20 years at that point, since she immigrated to the States. It was assumed I’d be the woman of the house. I don’t know if I was really needed, but that summer stunk with my frustration and disappointment.

In friendships, I rarely ask for help, to the point that asking for help felt shameful for me, and when I’m forced to, the compassion I am hoping to receive…it seems to come drip by drip. It’s not that I’m not grateful, but I feel the undercurrent of the assumption, that I’m gonna be just fine, that I don’t need help. Mentally, it’s frustrating because I know that’s not true. Yet I’m the one who has been passing out those propaganda leaflets. “Be my friend! Low drama! No need to even water or feed!” #DoubleCapricornProblems

As you can imagine, this dynamic doesn’t really work well in the pink fluffy cloud land of romance. Ideally, it should–hey, I’m here because I don’t need you. I like you. Let’s do life together. But, somehow, I’m still stuck in the wallpaper of my youth. Sometimes, people see me and try to pull me out. But many times, I’m still undercover, still a charming chameleon.

My time in Florida, which has been a transformative, painful experience, has also been quite disarming. In the last three years, I’ve met four disarming men, one online. I realized that the first was even in this list this week. He was like the third–said the right things at the right time, but wasn’t at all interested in carrying those words through to the real world of actions and consequences. I didn’t really realize how much that hurt until I was looking at an old journal entry right after he shut me out (three years ago), and how careless I may have been with my own heart.

Second guy, I don’t think he will ever know what he was laying down and why I was picking it up. I’ll blame his millennialness, for now. What I learned from our energetic tango was that true caring is starting to be the thing that I value most in people. I don’t think this was cowardice, why he denied the mixed signals. It was a sleeping but powerful consciousness calling me forward into a new level of spirituality (funny, we’re both ex-evangelicals)…but not for anything that would deal with him.

Fourth guy…is a set of ellipsis?

I may have said this in my last post, how I was drawn to him before I even met him, by his name. Kismet calling.

I’m still trying to figure out how I can be that authentically empathetic with people, like he was with me. I’m inspired, I don’t know if I have it in me. He should teach a class. If I could do for others what he did for me…

What’s scary is that I found that I was standing off from my own self when we met. I’ve been on a journey of self-love, like many of you reading this. It’s a lovely buzzword, and if you had some decent parents, you already have a head start. My parents weren’t at all interested in my very vast, emotional landscape, where I lived and thrived. I also was “just fine” being off by myself.

In this journey of being pro-me, I’ve gotten better about not being negative about myself. But being positive and affirmative? Outside of academia and music, I don’t know how to do that very well. So it’s like I’ve been driving in neutral for most of my life, just coasting. I’m not horrible. I’m excellent in a couple of things, and the rest of me is OK. Ordinary. Nothing to scream about. This coasting then became about survival, which I am excellent at. But this summer I realized I was doing more than surviving. I was on my way to thriving, but still had (have?) the mindset of living in extremely hostile conditions.

The fourth guy…I’m not sure what driving metaphor would work. He waved me over? He lurched me into first gear? He stood in my way and I had to slam on my brakes? All of the above?

And in a minute, I’m already going into my feelings about stuff. I had gotten so great at dreaded small talk, and now, here I am pouring my anxious heart into some new acquaintance’s hands, and he didn’t even flinch.

And it keeps happening, and then I leave the conversations not knowing anything about him and I’m flustered. And it’s two weeks later, and I feel chagrined.

I’m past survival, hooray! BUT, internally, everything wasn’t “just fine,” and he knew that. I had said so. And I hadn’t had anyone in town to talk about this. It’s all been online–and I’m grateful for Twitter. All I thought I was doing was sharing this very common professional experience of living in the gig economy. But I was coming out of the wall, so easily.

There are a lot of thoughts about this 4th person, and about myself, and I don’t know how to thread them. There’s the thread of the anticipation/dread which is pretty basic: will we ever see each other again? And that’s not my call. Dude has the digits and the email.

There’s the thread that stands out in a full moon like this: what do I really want? This feeling of easily being seen or this person who chose to see me? Right now, it’s both/and, not either/or, and that’s going against what I’ve had readings on. But I can’t even be spiritually logical and commonsensical about this anymore. This may be a must-take, a mistake I need to make.. Also, the outcome doesn’t matter as much as I feel it does (easier said than felt and realized).

There’s the thread of self-disappointment and sadness: I’m still not where I want to be in my life, circumstantially especially. If anything started, with anyone, what am I bringing to the table? A lot of potential?

There’s the frayed thread of dealing with this idea of being separated from my emotions and my desires in order to pacify and please others. It’s frayed because I basically came into the world with it. I didn’t think this was me–seems very antithetical. That dude held up a mirror and showed me it was.

There’s the thread of fear. I don’t like being vulnerable and open, because people are assholes, lots of them. And, this has been an ongoing conversation with the Universe, of using my flatlining love life as a way to spiritually up-level me. I’d like to declare that season over because it’s exhausting, to gather up my energy and try again, scared to make the same mistakes over and over. Reading the old 2013 journal entry about the first guy made me scared that I was stuck. But no one who has read for me in tarot or otherwise thinks that. Even my own readings tell me I’m not stuck. Things are moving forward. I am ready. For something.

And I have to start thinking about what I deserve in a non-entitled, life has been hard way, but in a more receptive, the Universe has my back sort of way. To be proactive in creating wholeness in my life. To affirm myself when no one else does. Now that the storm is over, the fire is out, the war has ended–I can start to choose what I want to do, where I want to go, and who I want to be with. I’m not beholden to anyone.

Related (or, said in another way): there’s a thick thread of shame, about all of it, it being my realm of relationships. How many more wild goose chases in the name of spiritual growth can I take? This feels like the last one, for many  reasons–the main one being exhaustion. I’m glad I’m efficient in the recycling of my heartbreaks, but this is starting to look a little silly, like I have really poor judgment and poor boundaries (not like those couldn’t be corrected, of course).

Ultimately, it’s the shame of having feelings, of having desires, of not being on the same page with, honestly, most people. I don’t need most people, though. Still, when I get in sync with someone, it seems so rare, like it’s fate. But it could be another kind of fate. And that’s a growth point for me, beyond rescuing myself from self-abandonment. Sometimes a conversation is just a conversation, even if I want more. And wanting more is OK. Even as a double Capricorn, I can only calculate risk so far. The leap of faith beckons. You take your first step in the air. Gravity takes care of the rest.

Sometimes, you have to admit to yourself that you want to him to feel the same way as you do, and that he’ll do something about it. You want to bask in the sun again, the sunlight of recognition and acceptance. Your true stellar alignment comes when you are no longer a moon, gaining light from other stars, but when you are your own sun.

You were already, and always will be, the sun.