The Fascination of Fixing your Flooded Basement

In keeping with the promise I made to use writing about my experience less as catharsis (which is fine but I do have a therapist and a private journal) and more in terms of offering help in practical portions, I want to cover one of the things that has been very useful to me in being on the path to overcoming my crippling PTSD relatively fast. And that has been to Stay Fascinated.

I am fortunate that the capabilities of the human body and mind are endlessly captivating to me, and while I used to know that there were definitely mind body connections, I had no idea how deeply and inextricably they run together.  I had no idea of how layered and protective the human mind is. How brilliantly the webs of memory and trauma are woven to help us to cope in the short term.

Because I am prone to oversimplifications and analogies in my explanations, I will liken it to when your house is a DISASTER.   It’s the worst it’s ever been and then suddenly you find out that you have overnight guests on the way. Maybe your in-laws. So what do you do? You deal with the mess but not in a way that is a long term resolution. You don’t have time to sift through the crap and make decisions, you just need to create an appearance of not living in a slum and having your shit together.

Maybe you grab a bunch of bags in the method of “Stuff and Scream” I outlined sometime ago, whereupon you grab all the crap off all the surfaces you can see and scream at the family members to join you in stuffing it all into  random bags which you will hide in the basement until such a time that the guests are gone and you can deal with it properly.

 So that’s what often happens with trauma. Childhood trauma particularly. Especially when it’s dealt by people who are supposed to be safe and in charge. When trauma comes at you when you are a kid or a teenager or maybe just very overwhelmed and/or unsupported, you are like…Oh HELL no. I am a kid. I am not equipped for THIS. So you stuff it into all the bags and put it into the basement and pretend that everything is fine. 

Now some people actually forget about all the crap in the basement but others are uncomfortably aware of the piles down there. And some forget about it for a while because life is full and busy and distracting, but then something reminds them and oh dear, what a bummer that is.

But regardless of how consciously unsettled you might be, having all your hastily grabbed, not properly filed or disposed of clutter randomly stuffed down in the basement, is going to wreak havoc on your life when bills go unpaid and permission slips are lost and people are crying about the precious artwork they created for you that you obviously don’t care very much about….

And soon enough, if you don’t get down there to sort stuff out, other guests come and you’ll just keep piling more shit on top of the original chaos and and all the mess gets mixed up, and life will get messier and more chaotic, and more confusing, and if you leave it long enough eventually those piles..well they are going to start making sure that you deal with them.

Maybe you get a situation where your family just can’t even with the fact that you don’t have any idea where the passports are,  or your wife is hella pissed because the basement is now essentially unusuable or omigod…maybe…. there is a flood down there.  And then…well you are out of options. Time to face the music. Right?

When it comes to trauma believe this one truth if you don’t believe anything else I ever tell you. You are going to have to get down there and sift through all that stuff at some time if you are going to have a fully functional, happy life with good, satisfying relationships, and if you don’t, you are going to be consistently unhappy or anxious and weirdly triggered in ways that don’t make any type of sense to anyone least of all you, and eventually you will just dismiss yourself as a horrible, worthless person. That happens a lot sadly, with predictably disastrous results.

Here’s where Staying Fascinated is a life saver. Look. Friends. Nobody relishes the idea of going down into a nasty flooded basement full of soggy crap that you have convinced yourself you don’t need anymore.  I mean I guess some weirdos do. There’s probably a show on TLC about that. I dunno. Back to most people though.  This is why you have to find a positive motivation. Not just: “Omigod the house is going to literally fall down if we don’t sort out the flooded basement.”

But how about:  “Ok so when we clean up the basement,  I bet we are going to find so many cool things we have been looking for, and maybe we can even put in new flooring and make it super functional and cozy and have people over to play pool and chill on the yoga trapeze”. 

Is this analogy clear as mud? Yes? Ok: Working through PTSD in therapy is like that. You can look at it as a chore and a nightmare or you can approach it as a fascinating opportunity to understand so many amazing things about yourself and others and how to navigate a life that seemed like it was in charge of you rather than the other way around.
Because honestly, it is.

I was reviewing a few blog posts from May’s gone by and there is a clear pattern. First when I wasn’t aware of my triggers, everything was just awful. Then I was aware of my triggers,  but I was so upset that I was continuing to be triggered and I wasn’t OVER IT already, so everything was even more awful.

Now I know what I’m dealing with. So everything is hard, like really hard but it’s getting better. Slowly but surely,  it is getting better. My therapist tells me that it’s not even happening slowly but very fast actually. And when you consider that I’m working through decades of trauma over the course of a couple of years I must agree. But without her help and without what I understand now, well, you guys I just don’t know. I might not be here. 

Knowledge is power. Knowledge is fascinating.
 Knowledge is healing.

I find that when I’m in a perpetually triggered state as I have been this last month I alternate between not sleeping and then falling into an exhausted catatonic sleep whereupon I have the most vivid often disturbing dreams which are always highly symbolic. That’s draining and triggering in turn and so I resist sleeping or I wake up a lot and so the cycle continues.  Today after several days of bad sleep I found myself having the deep sleep with hectic dreaming. None of it was pleasant. I was working through a ton of trauma in those dreams.  At one point I actually woke myself up doing a jiu jitsu escape. It was jarring but also kind of cool. And while it was all rather harrowing I take it as a good sign that the basement purge is going well. 

Where I used to wake up after these dreams, feeling a sense of dread and panic and anxiety and then spiral into a full fledged PTSD episode; I find that I am now at the point that I can wake up, feel a sense of dread and panic and anxiety, acknowledge my emotions, remind myself that they are stemming from my dreams and not reality, analyze the dreams, put them in their place and use them to solve puzzles.

Part of my dream today was about being very sick. I remembered that I always used to get very sick at this time of year. I very rarely get sick,  but I can’t remember a single late May until this year where I wasn’t truly ill. This year I haven’t been sick.  That’s not a coincidence. You have to get this trauma out of your cells or it will make you sick. 

One way or another, the basement is going to need to be addressed.

I once read an article about experiencing physical pain as an interested observer instead of a victim. I have used that technique to successfully deal with physical discomfort and athletic challenges many times. And it works just as well with emotional pain. We can transfer ourselves from victim to survivor when we choose to be interested in this process. When we decide to take wisdom from it. When we look at it like a puzzle to be solved. When we anticipate what we will be able to do with the cleaned out basement. 

Stay fascinated darlings. Life is about learning.
xo
k

Do Whatever Just to Stay Alive

If you follow my Instagram story you will know that I have been outlining my practical strategies for coping with flare ups of post traumatic stress. This is partly in keeping with Instagram’s May Mental health #hereforyou initiative, and partly to keep me accountable as I fight the demons of May in my own life.  One of my sanity saving go-to’s is to go running in the woods and in the story I featured one of my favourite songs for running to and the mantra that I have taken from it.  I’m sure I have mentioned “Stay Alive” from one of my fav movies, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. Not a difficult day goes by when I don’t chant to myself over and over:

                                                  Do Whatever Just To Stay Alive.


There is a truth and it’s on our side, dawn is coming open your eyes…
Look into the sun as the new day’s rise….

Deep within most of us on some level most times there is the hope for dawn. But that doesn’t mean that the night isn’t dark and frightening and how the hell are we supposed to survive that?

All weekend I have kept the monster manageably contained through feverish distraction.  Yoga, jiu jitsu, boxing, some kicking (damn that felt good).  Kids, shopping, going out, yoga trapeze! The monster was always right below the surface and that’s not exactly my happiest place but doable.

But today is Monday and the house is quiet. And when you find that the brave Kimmie Schmidt in the drivers seat has been replaced by a frightened little girl who is feeling very threatened and alone that’s not a good space to be. Mommy mode saves me until I drop Ella at school and then I sit in the car , swallowing the panic and assessing my options.

1.I can go home and get into bed and pray for the oblivion of sleep since I woke up 25x last night at least.  Nope. That doesn’t seem right. Day sleeping can spiral in a hurry.

2. I can get into the bath. It’s warm and safe in the bath. But no. Too much stillness.. too much time to think and then I have to get out eventually. Plus my house is a mess.

3. Go for a run. Ok. Do that. I don’t want to do that but it seems like a good choice.

I wandered into my room, looking for the last place I kicked off my running shoes. I spot a book I am half way through. It’s Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior. G is my jam. She’s messy. She speaks her truth and she is vulnerable and brave and raw and real. She gets me. She’s been scared and sad and messed up and she figured out how to stay alive anyway. G is always a good choice for me. Running can wait for G.

 I settle into reading about one of the worst moments of her life.  A phrase she has used many times in the past pops out at me. Something like..”when you don’t know what to do…just do the next right thing”.  Yes. Doable. Even a frightened little girl can follow these directions. Ok I need to clean the house. It’s Monday. The house needs to be cleaned.  But where do I start?  I thought of a podcast I listened to recently, Jordan Peterson was  talking about activism and trying to change the world being a bit of a stretch when we can’t manage to keep our own rooms tidy. The man is abrasive in his manner but he has a solid point. We can start improving the world but sorting ourselves out first. There’s no denying that truth.

Ok so I will start with my room.  Smoothing the sheets, fluffing the pillows. To keep my panicky mind focused on the task at hand, I listen to my big sister Shona’s voice telling me what to do next. Nobody can clean a room the way Shona can. My friend checks in with me to see how I’m doing with my “no sugar” pact. Sugar is a disaster for me and I only lasted an hour yesterday. I have asked him to be my sponsor. He is a sugar addict who has been in successful recovery for months.  I tell him I’m good because I haven’t eaten yet. This reminds me I haven’t eaten yet. That might explain some of the sense of despair.  Next right thing would be to eat. I open the fridge to see the overnight oats my sainted husband has prepared. Next right thing to do. Tell him thanks for that, check in on his day. Tell him I’m struggling. We talk about the next right thing to do….

This day will be difficult and at times maybe the emotional labour will begin to feel unbearable. But I will breathe through it. I will get some things done. Maybe not nearly as many things as I wish I could get done because it’s hard to get a lot done when you are in labour. But some things, certainly. I will do Some of the Things. This day will be ordinary, and difficult and ultimately it will be triumphant. Because as hard as it will try to bury me and lie to me and tell me how terrifying and hopeless everything is, I will proceed in the truth which is that in reality everything is actually ok at this moment and that infinite hope lies ahead and I am loved.

And so are you.

If you are struggling, and going through your own emotional labour right now and you are not sure how you are going to survive it, may I suggest that you join me in just coming up with one right thing to do at this moment. It can be simple. Maybe brush your teeth. Unload the dishwasher, Empty the trash. Go to that appointment. Clean off your desk. Send a thank you note. Walk to the end of the block and back. Any of these are good things to do. There are any number of right things to do now. Just pick one, You can do that. Do it and then do the next right thing and together we will walk this day out and we will stay alive. (And kicking.)

Much love
k

The Unbreakable Kirsty Sayer

I knew from day 1 of May that it was going to be a doozy. It always has been, and in the last few years my complete short circuits occurred predictably on more or less the same day in May. Leading up to those days were a series of occasions and their accompanying triggers, slowly wearing away at the peace and serenity I work so hard to maintain.  When I finally unpacked all of it  in therapy this  week, my therapist looked shocked. “You are not even kidding about May. Wow. And all that is real. It’s not in your head. It’s real stuff. May really is the worst for you!”

Um…yes. May can die in a freaking fire.

At the end of our session yesterday she said, “I feel compelled to give you a hug. Would that be alright?”

I have many people in my life who say wonderful things to me all the time. I’m very lucky that way, to be surrounded by so many generous and kind people.. A couple of them are truly sincere about it too. They admire me without agenda. It makes me happy that I am a positive influence in their lives, but it doesn’t tend to affect the way I see myself, one way or the other. My therapist however does not say much about me. Not one way or another. And when she does, I pay attention.

Yesterday she said to me, in a neutral manner. “You are incredibly strong,  maybe even too strong sometimes.”
And it connected. 

I looked up and said to her, “Apparently so. And I think it’s time I really start seeing myself that way. It was the first time I was like. Yes. I am strong. Actually.”

After I left, I felt ok. In as much as you can be ok and also be in terrible pain.

I felt like a healthy woman experiencing what I have coined as “emotional childbirth”. I pushed through my good moments being who I needed to be, (a wife celebrating an anniversary, a mother celebrating her baby graduating kindergarten and her other children feeling the stressors of the end of the school year,) and then, I would feel it rise, an enormous measure of pain that washed over me. The contractions have been happening all month, periodically intensifying over the course of the week and the last few days I have been in real, active labour. The contractions.. 

Like a tsunami wall of pain. Taking my breath away, nauseating me. Physical, excruciating pain. In my solar plexus all the way through to my back. Sometimes paralyzing my throat in spasms too. The throat spasms are not unusual in people who are recovering from the type of abuse and secret keeping that induced my PTSD. 

When before I was sure it was killing me, and I just wanted to die, now I know what it’s about. So I breathe through it. I do what I did when I experienced long and difficult labours without drugs and I told myself what to do when I helped others through long and difficult labours without drugs. I sought support from strategic, trusted sources. I allowed myself to alternate between distracting myself when I was able to and then breathing through it when I wasn’t. Accepting the pain, moving with it. Knowing that it would pass. That every surge was bringing me closer to the reality of being healed and whole. A couple of nights ago, I lay in bed and quietly moaned to my husband that the pain was so terrible and profound that I could feel it in my muscles and my skin. His theory was that it had been inside of me for so long, hidden even deeper before and it was working it’s way out.  I agreed wholeheartedly. I do believe we hold psychological pain in our very cells and so this made sense to me. It didn’t make the process any less painful but the understanding made it easier to bear.

In every labour there are pockets of time between the pain and intensity to catch ones breath. During these waves of intense pain I have had many moments when I felt that relief.

This morning I was looking at an ad for some silly not in any way particularly impressive little product on my phone and I heard my voice say out loud with such wonder and delight, “WOW! WHAT. EVEN?!”  I immediately laughed at myself. Affectionately, actually. I reminded myself of Kimmie Schmidt.

If you haven’t seen The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt series, I dunno…maybe you should. I rarely watch TV, but when I’m experiencing a post traumatic episode, I find it therapeutic.  It doesn’t seem like you should be able to make a comedy out of the kidnapping of a group of young women by a faux religious leader who kept them underground in bunker for years, brainwashing them to keep them there, raping them etc. But somehow they managed to do it.  It’s a totally silly show,  but Kimmie herself is nothing short of a delight. Just seeing her face makes me giggle happily.

This morning as I felt myself still labouring through grief, I thought, “Yes!  That’s it! Kirsty!
When you feel sad you must: CHANNEL KIMMIE”.

Here’s what I love about Kimmie :

-Kimmie has seen some dark, dark shit. But she doesn’t let it affect her sense of wonder. Life is so unbelievably full of wonder,and beauty and joy and incredible things to learn and experience and see and hear about. The sheer amount of things that there are to LEARN makes me feel giddy with joy. Think about how happy babies are (with the exception of when they aren’t). Do you know why? No men not every baby is breastfed, so it’s not that. I’ll tell you why. It’s because literally everything is fascinating and new and amazing to them. That piece of paper they find under the couch. Totally awesome. The noise of it when they crumple it or bat at it, the way it feels in their hand, the way it tastes, the way it moves. That piece of paper is the best goddamn thing a baby has ever seen in their LIFE IS WHAT IT IS, and that’s why when you yank it away from  them it’s completely tragic. You just took away the best.goddamn.thing.that.had.ever.happened.to.them, you monster.

But it’s cool because in about 25 seconds they will discover something else that’s also the newest most fascinating thing they have ever experienced. This is also why they need to sleep a lot. Their tiny minds are constantly being stimulated and BLOWN. It’s exhausting. Babies are thoroughly alive and learning and experiencing all the time. And they are happy (except when they aren’t).

Kimmie , oh how I love her, Kimmie captures that childlike wonder and joy.  And in a lot of ways I’m like Kimmie. I am constantly amazed by like…everything. It pisses my kids off a little bit. They are like…”why is everything so exciting to you mom? Ugh!” Nobody is more cynical than a teenager. They’ll get over it.
Anyway I love this about Kimmie and I love it about me too. No apologies. And btw hell yes the fidget spinner is awesome, not just a fad and I will fight you if you try to steal mine. MOVING ON:

-Kimmie is incredibly kind and generous and willing to help everyone. And she respects her own boundaries.
 I’m inclined to be kind and generous and to help people too. I’m wired that way and I feel happy about that. I’m really lucky that I am that way. A lot of people seem to have to work on it or they don’t bother working on it and so they are bastards and they don’t have a lot of people in their lives who think they are cool and that must suck. Anyway that’s never been my problem.  What has been my problem is that my kindness and wanting to help and take care of people means that shitty damaged people can take advantage of me and hurt me. I can be naïve about people sometimes.

Yeah, Kimmie had that problem too. We can tell by the fact that she was led into a bunker and stayed there for a lot of years when she could have easily escaped.  (I’m hoping you see the parallels in my own life here without me getting out a pencil and a ruler and drawing them for you). Now, wandering around NYC, Kimmie is in peril of being taken advantage of all over again. Like every single day.  Happily, Kimmie’s not dumb though and she’s also not weak. (Hey! Same here!) Soon enough, Kimmie figures out the joy and beauty of BOUNDARIES.  Ah boundaries.

We watch as Kimmie figures out those boundaries. And you guys it’s freaking inspiring. But why would that be inspiring. I WILL TELL YOU WHY!

Kimmie doesn’t trade in her kindness or her childlike wonder and awe or stop believing life rocks and that most people are cool.  She doesn’t become a cynical, unhelpful, jaded bitch. Nope. She sets up her boundaries and they are rock solid.  And it’s not just good for Kimmie,  it’s great for her friends too.  She has this one friend who is constantly using her at first and she’s like this woman’s unpaid Everything. At first, Kimmie runs herself ragged for this delusional wreck of a woman and then one day she loses her characteristic cheery shit, and digs in her heels. She decides enough, already and basically lays it all on the line. Tells the painful woman something like, “you are not paying me I am your FRIEND. So either start paying me or start treating me like an actual friend but you gotta pick one and they decide to go with the friend thing. Or the paid friend thing. I can’t quite remember but it’s all good.  And Kimmie provides help but stops enabling, and the friend becomes more capable and confident and accesses her better self and starts treating Kimmie like a human being and in doing so she experiences what it is like to have a real friend for the first time in her life and it’s awesome for them both.

So yeah, boundaries are the best. When I don’t ask for what I need or I give more than I am able or if I let people treat me in a way that I know is disrespectful of my established expectations for relationships doesn’t make me a chill, cool person….it makes me a person who is ignoring my own boundaries. I become angry and bitter and unkind. It doesn’t me happy or anyone around me happy. We don’t do people favours when we let them violate our boundaries.  The reality is that sometimes the needs and boundaries of two people just aren’t going to ever synch up.  This part is important:
If your boundaries are healthy and  reasonable (and you might need to check in with an impartial third party on that from time to time to be sure, in fact I recommend it especially if you are still figuring this boundary shiz out) and they repeatedly show a disregard for those boundaries, then sadly they are showing a disregard for you as a person, and  y’all don’t need to keep hanging. I know babies, it’s super sad and it’s hard and it can be nothing less than heart breaking. But. To stay in that situation will ultimately be sadder and harder and more heart breaking. That’s the truth.
And it’s better for everyone that way. Watch Kimmie. She’s catching on fast that ‘lil firecracker.

-Kimmie doesn’t feel sorry for herself. And she also doesn’t pretend none of that shit happened to her.
Kimmie has a future, she has a lot of lost time to make up for. She doesn’t sit around all day thinking about the shitty thing the Reverend did to her all the time and after she got the Reverend properly sorted out and put in jail where he belongs she didn’t revisit the bunker.  (It’s important to note that she DID go back to that traumatic place even though it was really hard for her when she needed to get information to put him away though. Again, do I have to haul out my protractor to show you where I’m going with this analogy? No? Great ok. I didn’t think so)

So look Kimmie is also  real. She’s super matter of fact about her anger over the whole bunker experience, how jacked up it was and how she wishes it had never happened and that it sucked. (In real life,  Kimmie would need a shit-ton of therapy and Kimmie is a smart strong cookie so I know that she would have no problem in seeking it out so she could move on.)  But while she is real about how messed up and hateful the bunker was, she also acknowledges the survival skills she gained down there. For instance, Kimmie is hella strong from cranking the Reverends “wheel” (turns out it was to power the electricity for his TV in his hidden man cave).  He lied to her and the other girls over that, and she was PISSED when she found out what all that cranking was really for, but now she enjoys the strength in her arms to do all sorts of crazy, fun,  interesting and useful things.

And what of all the other chicks Kimmie was in the bunker with? Well this part is interesting. Kimmie being Kimmie, wants to help them as they too assimilate into post-bunker life, and she tries rather unsuccessfully, until she realizes that they want different things out of life than she does. One of them, for whom the bunker was a type of nirvana, essentially keeps trying to get kindnapped into new cults and Kimmie gets frustrated with her, until she figures out a way to work with this fetish of cult lovin lady, and helps her  to become her own guru. (That’s a bit sketchy when you think about it, but what do you want this isn’t real life). Anyway! The point is that Kimmie recognizes that everyone is on their own path, and what works for her isn’t necessarily the right answer for everyone. While she stays in touch with some of the girls, she doesn’t seem to think that she has to stay close to them just because they were thrust into these circumstances together. They don’t have a lot else in common. 

I think a lot of us are loyal to groups and people that and whom we came to be friends with out of shared circumstances, and then we get all bent out of shape when those people don’t fit or fulfill all of our emotional and intellectual needs. If Kimmie kept trying to hang with those chicks she would be severely limited and she would feel constantly nuts.  Kind of like how I felt when I kept trying to be a good Mormon. It wasn’t going to work. Those weren’t (with several notable exceptions) my people, and that wasn’t my scene. Some of them need to get the hell out like I did and others of them, eh it’s working. They are happy. It’s not my call to make. I hope I empower the ones who feel like I did to ditch.  That’s good enough for me.

So that’s where I am at, darlings. I will resume my story when May isn’t kicking my ass quite so hard and when I’m not so damn busy kicking it back. Because I don’t go down with a fight. Never!
I am after all,

The Unbreakable Kirsty Sayer…DAMMIT! 😉 Love you all.

 

On Becoming: Ex-Mormon Girl Part 3 : PR Child Soldier



Warning. This is going to be meandering both through time and in topic. It seems that I was pretty triggered by the last couple of installments and I have been working on this one in fits and starts. It’s not cohesive and if I try to make it that way it’s never going to see the light of day so…yeah.

Before I continue I should note something.  What I’m doing right now will be considered by many people as participating in “Anti-Mormon rhetoric”. Growing up I was taught to fear and shun and flee from any hint of anti-Mormon rhetoric.  It was literally the worst thing a person could do. Worse than “fornication” or murder in my mind. IT WAS TERRIBLE. **P.S: when I, as a totally “good Mormon” came out on this blog as being a Democrat years ago, I was accused as being a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” so yeah, there are a ton of Mormons for whom what I am doing right now is the ultimate in rebellious sinfulness. They aren’t even praying for a person like me at this point. I deserve whatever I get. That’s the mentality. Carry on….:)

When I was still in first or second grade I think I was dimly aware of a lot of angst of the anti-Mormon movie “The God Makers” and I remember my aunt coming over to watch something on TV and being super stressed out about what people would say about it. I was warned never ever to watch anything like that. Don’t read it, don’t listen to people who say they know bad stuff about the church. They will only lead you astray.

I was obsessively obedient to this instruction until one day around 17, I remember coming across a pamphlet in our kitchen, Somebody must have come over and wanted to discuss it with my parents. I think it was an anti-Mormon pamphlet and it was about the sketchy past Mormons have had in terms of race. There were some deeply disturbing quotes in there by names I recognized as esteemed past (and possibly present) leaders of our church.   At the time I was living in Swaziland, I was a definite minority as a white person and I was dating a really great Black South African guy. What’s more, I was attending a school which had specifically been built as an educational shelter outside of Apartheid South Africa. I was attending it with Nelson Mandela’s grandson and his stepdaughter.  We had always been a really liberal family, racism was not considered in any way acceptable in our home.  I remember my hand shaking violently as I read the pamphlet. I could not believe it. I knew that the church had not allowed Blacks to have the Priesthood until the late 70’s and when I had asked why I had received vague answers about it being illegal or something. Seriously. I had heard all sorts of airy explanations which sounded plausible to my naive (brainwashed) childhood mind but this seemed extremely wrong, there was more to it than just not allowing Blacks to have the Priesthood, way more. I confronted my parents. I don’t remember their explanations but it was tense and I remember feeling as though I was in the wrong somehow for questioning and asking I was on the defense here, not the Church.

This is how it always went when I brought up major concerns. When I brought up polygamy (which I was deeply, deeply troubled by) I was told to just relax, have faith, God would work it out.  The doctrine I had learned implied that polygamy would actually be required in Heaven but lots of people assured me that only the most worthy people would be required to do that and they would be happy to do so. (Implying of course that either I wouldn’t make it to that state or when I did I would be cool with it.) The inherent inequality of polygamy struck such a nerve with me, but I would swallow the apologists explanations of why it had happened too. So noble of those men to take in all those aging widows in the early church. There was never any discussion on why Joseph Smith saw fit to marry a 14 year old child. Which he did.

Back to the present time. When I began voicing public criticism of the church in the last couple of years (really gingerly at first, super vanilla stuff for the most part) I was unfriended on facebook in droves. I would go to see how this person or that person was doing, people who had been marvelously supportive and kind to me over the years, and find that we we weren’t friends anymore. There usually hadn’t been a big deal made of it, (Mormons aren’t really ones for confrontation) and in fairness, when I first officially “outed” myself on Face-book in December last year,  I had invited people who felt as if this gave them the obligation to gallop in and white-knight for the church to relieve themselves of that obligation by unfriending me. And many did. I get it. Completely. The shunning from most people didn’t bother me at all, but the lack of acceptance from others was devastating. It hurt like hell, but I understood it.  It is exhausting to feel that sense of obligation. To constantly be on the defensive. I know because that state of being pretty much defined my childhood and teenagehood as a Mormon. I was a soldier for the church. A PR soldier. If people say bad stuff, stand firm, deny, reframe it, shine it up, make it pretty, normalize. The Church is always right. The Church Leaders are ALWAYS ALWAYS right. And it is your sacred responsibility to not just believe that but make others believe it too.

Sadly, on top of all that crazy pressure, even the idea of  the church just never was for me. It always felt wrong. From my youngest memories, the term, “The Only True Church” (often followed up with “on the face of the Earth, Mormons freaking love that expression) gave me the cringiest feeling.  So exclusive. It was embarrassing to me in its hypocrisy. Here I was, a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 or 7 and I’m singing, “Jesus says love everyone” and being told about the Only True Church and referring to myself as a member (and others as “non-members”). And how about all the people all over the world who had no idea about this true church? Or who really believed in THEIR true church? And why did God even need people to be in churches, couldn’t they just be nice to other people and love him?

Later, people would come at me with accusations of wanting to fit in, or be cool and politically correct. Please. I was freaking 5 years old and it wasn’t adding up. What’s more I felt like an outsider in my own community when I even thought this stuff. Like I’m some kind of cool 5 year old rebel without a cause? Don’t be crazy.


Straight up hellion right there.

Easter. I was probably eleven I remember sitting on my bed after eating way too much sugar on a day that should be joyful and carefree for kids but I was feverishly writing in my journal. Goals and gratitude. I was trying to pretend to be so spiritual and good. I had talked myself into believing that somehow Jesus was going to read this journal and totally forget my sinning ways. SPOILER ALERT: THERE WERE NO SINNING WAYS. I was a good kid. Like, a really good kid but I felt bad, dirty, sinful, unworthy and ashamed constantly. I own that this was partly because of my personality and partly because of the fact that I was sexually abused just as I entered puberty until I left home. That certainly didn’t help, but I didn’t ever factor that into the equation. I just knew that I was the worst, and I was frantic and scared about it.  It just now struck me that if you read the early years of my blog you will see more of the same. Except by that point I wasn’t aware that I was doing it to persuade God and myself, by then I had pushed that shit way down deep and I thought I was being 100% sincere in my gushings about the church and its teachings. I might be saddest about that stage of my life. I don’t know.

Being 13 or so. A friend of mine teasing me in French class about the temple and how a “naked Mormon Priest jumps into a jacuzzi with some dead bodies and baptizes them”. Ok THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN and he knew that too. He was being a 13 year old asshole and we are still friends and I think he still thinks its really funny but that was hella traumatic for me. The whole class laughing. Me trying to do damage control, trying to repair the church’s image, wanting to die instead. I was 13 man. It sucks to be 13 without all the other shit I had to deal with. God. I could go back and slap him now and I probably should have, and told all those other laughing idiots where to get off too.  Better yet I should have joined in and said, “well not quite but yeah, it’s nucking futs can you even believe my life?!” Amazing how much clarity one has for one’s 13 year old self at age 40. 😉

My parents wouldn’t let me date until I was 18. This was 2 years ahead of the official Mormon dating age but they had read it differently. It was ridiculous. Ultimately I had plenty of boyfriends before age 18 and my parents were pretty lenient about it and boys were always welcome to chill at our house, But the whole not being officially allowed to date thing was awkward and embarrassing and weird as hell and there were plenty of times I just pretended not to like the guy rather than have to come clean with the real reason why he and I couldn’t go to the movies alone together. The same issue arose with “modesty”. Again my parents ended up being quite lenient in later years but god forbid I ever consider a bikini or a sleeveless formal dress. Oh hell to the no, man.  All the same, none of this was terrible. Just stressful and like I said, being a teenager is just stressful as it is. Throw in being regularly abused and then being some kind of crazy Mormon freak who actually wasn’t crazy or a freak and was trying to successfully straddle both worlds. It’s a nightmare.

When we lived in Swaziland the teasing and scrutiny regarding the church got even worse. There were a bunch of Evangelical missionaries in the area and those guys are VICIOUS man. Turf War! My friends soon became aware of the fact that I was Mormon and some of them nudged me relentlessly about it. I don’t remember them being overtly mean or disrespectful but I do remember every goddamn thing being attributed to our Mormon-ness and it made me mental. Once a national magazine came out with a cover story something along the lines of “A Mormon Temple Bride Tells All”. Holy shit-balls. Panic Stations! This was BAD.

 Look, let me explain something here. I didn’t even know what went on for a Mormon Temple Bride. All I knew was the temple was awesome, I was going to have to be squeaky clean to go there, it was super risky dating non-Mormon dudes because there was every possibility that I would want to marry one and he wouldn’t want to convert and then No temple marriage for ME and well then….it was an unthinkable tragedy. No eternal marriage, no eternal family. Generations would be lost to non-belief. It was UNTHINKABLE.  All my non-Mormon boyfriends were immediately made aware that this thing would never go anywhere unless they converted. I’m sure they were all,…”haha, FINE WITH ME, escape route included!” Anyway I remember hustling to the magazine stands at the store and hiding all the copies of that magazine. (Averting my eyes lest I inadvertently see some of the “SACRED NOT SECRET”  (another one for the Mormon Phrase Manual), information included in this fallen girl’s account.   When you go to the Temple you make solemn convenants never reveal what you have seen or heard in there. Like on penalty of eternal damnation. Up until not long before I first went to the Temple you even had to mime slitting your own throat and disembowling yourself should you ever do such a thing. Holy shit.  DOES THIS SOUND OK TO YOU?  In fairness, apparently it didn’t sit well with a lot of people ‘cos they dropped that.

And then came the Gay issue. But that’s for next installment because this one is already long and crazy enough and I gotta post this thing already. And here I go…editing be damned as I’m sure you have discovered by now 😉

On Becoming Ex-Mormon Girl. Part 2 :"Born Into the Church"

I was as it is referred to in Mormon lingo, “born into the church” but not born “under the covenant” as my parents were not “sealed in the temple” for “time and all eternity”. I’m giving you a crash course in Mormon lingo right there. You are welcome.

 My newly divorced mother was raising me and my six year old sister alone and she maintained her stalwart activity in the church as she does to this day. I have never seen her doubt or falter. Never. She had converted to the church as an adult. I’m hazy on the details but I think my father joined shortly after her.  I’ve heard he was pretty into it for a while but at some point he left. I have no idea why. Given the transgressions leading up to the divorce I would imagine that perhaps he was excommunicated unless he left of his own accord. I don’t know, I’m sure I have heard the story but I forget the details. I never knew my father.

My mother remarried when I was 18 months old and my sister and I were adopted by my step-father. My stepfather sold his beloved car so that we could travel from South Africa to London, England. This was where the closest LDS (Mormon) temple was at the time.  We went to the temple to be sealed to him and my mom and any subsequent children they might have together later (they would be “born under the covenant”). That was when I was about 2.5.  I would never see my biological dad again. I have no memories of him in my life growing up except going through a phase of obsessively wondering about him and if I would know if he died. I had no idea what he looked like although sometimes my mom said that certain expressions I pulled reminded her of him. I was getting to know him over email as an adult when he died suddenly. But that’s another story.

As a newborn infant, instead of being Christened, I was given what is known in the church as “a Name and a Blessing”. A group of men, “Priesthood holders” from the family’s inner circle, (other family members and close friends), come together into a circle. They each place their hands on the left shoulder of the man beside them, their right hand cradles the baby who they tend to bounce gently up and down. Usually the baby’s father or grandfather offers the blessing on the infant and announces the name “by which they will be known on the records of the church”. In my case, there was no suitable candidate. I was blessed by a family friend. My mom would often recount two things from the baby blessing which stood out to her. I would be “beautiful to behold” and “I would live to my full stature”.

I would ask my mom what these things meant. “You will be pretty to look at and you will rise to your full height in life…”.  As a child who was terrified of pretty much everything many things including a pathological fear of dying I took comfort in these things. I took them totally literally. Ok! Check!
I wasn’t going to die as a child. I at least had a reprieve until I reached my full height. I hoped that wouldn’t be too soon because death was beyond terrifying.  And here’s why. I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the Celestial Kingdom. The Celestial Kingdom is the top tier of the three-tiered Mormon heaven, reserved for the people who did all the right things and got to be with their families and Jesus and God. First prize. I was failing dismally already even as a little girl. (Hold the phone for later when I would discover that the top tier was even further divided into three tiers of it’s own….spoiler alert: there’s not enough xanax in all of Beverly Hills for that discovery.)

Problem was, the assurance of not dying early got a little bit fuzzy for me when I didn’t determine myself to be particularly beautiful (the other part of the blessing my mom had remembered). I didn’t even think I was particularly pretty (inspection of childhood pics this afternoon confirms dark childhood suspicions). My mom  had often explained (in line with the churches doctrine) that all blessings offered were contingent on the faith and righteousness of the recipient. So if I wasn’t pretty then it must be because I wasn’t living righteously enough which meant..dun…dun…dunnnnnnnn……

I remember vividly. having a quiet panic attack in the back of the dark car at the end of a long trip home from somewhere. I did the math. Yep. I was sure to die early. Damn. My poor mom, she had no idea her fond remembrances of my happy baby blessing day were going to be so twisted by the mind of her neurotic child.

Here I am, around aged 6 I’d guess.. probably pondering my eternal damnation down a couple of Heaven levels from my family with only the odd mercy visits from Jesus.. WHEN HE FELT LIKE IT.

I remember when I was baptized at age 8.  I determined ahead of time that this was it. I had heard often in church that everyone sins, but baptism washes our sins clean .No matter what we had done. Baptism meant it was all going to be gone. So this was IT. My second chance. I was going to NAIL THIS THING.  PLAN OF ACTION:
1. Get baptized. 2. Stay perfectly sinless unlike all the other losers I had heard about who messed this thing up after getting their second chance..wtf??? 3. GO TO CELESTIAL KINGDOM.
Whew. Reprieve.

Everything went according to plan. I remember dressing in my white baptism jump suit. I remember my stepfather saying the baptismal prayer, we practiced how I would plug my nose before he dipped me back and dunked me under the water, I remember an extra shove to make sure the job was done correctly. Baptism by immersion. If even a hair floated to the top it wouldn’t take. I was super relieved when I felt that extra shove.  Whew.

I remember my mom helping to dress me in my little navy blue and white dress in the bathroom adjacent to the baptismal font. (I’m so mad I can’t find pictures of that day, I looked so happy for a change!) We were in a hurry so we could rejoin the program which had been planned especially for my special day. There was no sharing of baptismal thunder in South Africa. I had heard rumours that in America, a bunch of 8 year olds would get baptized on the same day.  This did not appeal at all. Imagine sharing your BAPTISM DAY, in my mind it was akin to a Mass Wedding. Q’uelle Nightmare!

My mother was heavily pregnant with my little sister Thalia. My sodden wet jumpsuit which I had barely managed to drag out of the font behind my tiny self was now her problem to take care of. It was probably dripping everywhere, her back probably hurt as she bent over to help me fasten my buttons and tie my bow, with all the planning she was probably exhausted and over it. I remember looking up to her and saying with a radiant smile, “I feel something special mommy inside of me, it’s warm, I think I feel the Spirit”.  “Don’t be silly” she snapped. Typing this I am laughing out loud.  That response is both so like and so unlike her, depending on the circumstances, and I am sure she would be mortified,  but I remember it clearly. I was deeply wounded and embarrassed at the time but now I find it hysterical with a slight twinge of sympathy for my silly little eight year old self. I wanted so badly to feel the right things. This was my big chance after all. Wipe everything clean. Get the golden ticket so to speak. And now I had it. I was as clean as a whistle. My freshly purged eight year old soul was a one way ticket straight to the Celestial Kingdom when the time came. I would be able to chill with my peeps. No more worries.

I hadn’t even left the building when I sinned. I was irritated by my brother pushing past me to get to the car first. I said a quick prayer to repent. I put it out of my mind, hoping it was a minor enough sin. Maybe none of the “angels keeping records”  had caught that one.

The next morning my mom laid our cereal on a little table in the courtyard outside our kitchen for me and my brother.  We were running late. I remember digging in. “Wow Kirsty, you didn’t bless the food! You just got baptized last night and here you are, already being a heathen” my mom commented.  She didn’t make it into a huge deal but she wasn’t kidding either. She was disappointed and I was devastated. I had blown my big chance. Now what. I was sunk. I was 8 years and one morning old and my eternal goose was cooked”.

To be continued.


Here’s part 1 if you missed it.

Becoming: Ex-Mormon Girl Part 1.

The other day, I was regaling a friend with a story about an unfortunate family interaction with members of the church recently. (We had found it fairly amusing, given that we assumed they weren’t trying to make sure that the family stayed away). After I wrapped it up I commented,  “you know what? These guys have no idea what they are even doing wrong.  Why people are leaving in droves. They put so much energy into getting them and then they lose them.  And they don’t seem to get it at all. I almost want to help them. Like, as a consultant. You know like how security companies interview burglers to improve their systems?”  I warmed to my topic…

“I could be EX-Mormon Girl. I could go around the country training LDS leaders.”

I was only half joking. “our stake president is actually a really cool guy, I bet he would let me get experience speaking to our stake for free”.

“No” said my friend.  He knew I was mostly kidding but….”Don’t do that. They are looking for a type. And you ain’t it.”

Yeah. Good point. Ok I guess I will have to come up with another brilliant plan. But I think this conveys how complicated leaving this faith can be. How conflicted it is. How confusing it is.

Here’s the thing. The Mormons have been extraordinarily good to us.I have talked about it often on this very blog. Some of the people I most love in the world are active Mormons. They are good people. And there are some cool things about the Mormon church. I’m a confident public speaker in no small part due to them, I can conduct music in a rudimentary way. I’ve been in plenty of leadership positions even as a stay at home mom. When we moved to places where we knew nobody and had no family, we could always count on the church network. We always tended to gravitate to having more friends outside of the church than in it but everywhere we lived we have found a least one or two families to become close to and those relationships have been precious. Our children were given a great sense of intergenerational family thanks to the church, and the many kind and loving teachers and leaders they have had in it.  And the church has helped us out tremendously in financial ways over a long period of unemployment and at another time when we were struggling very badly.  In addition we have received a lot of service from members of the church.  We have been beneficiaries of great good from the Mormon church. There is no escaping  the truth of that and I would never want to downplay or deny those things which were absolutely saving graces at the time.

None of this is simple. Being a Mormon is difficult. Leaving the faith is very difficult. Life after leaving the faith is lonely and full of conflict. It’s all just…difficult. But then it gets less and less so. In that regard anyway. Leaving the Mormon faith is a decision I am more grateful for every day.  The Mormons warned me it would be though. They covered this contingency. “Little by little the Spirit will cease to strive with you, your heart will be hardened, Satan will have you in his grasp.” And so still. To this day. I find myself second guessing my decision. There is a little part of me which probably always will. And everyone will have their opinion on why that is. The Mormons will say that my soul knows the church to be true and the Spirit is striving with me. My brain will say that the Mormons are very sophisticated in their brainwashing. I really believe that to be true.

“People can leave the church but they can’t leave it alone” One of those catch phrases much beloved of Mormons.  The truth is that they set it up that way.  From the earliest ages you are taught to doubt your instincts if they are “leading you astray” or “causing you to doubt what you know to be true.” Doctrinally they talk a really good game about examining your faith. “search, ponder and pray” is preached and sung about and urged. But there’s a catch. Search, ponder, pray..but if those measures turn up short, and you don’t find yourself embracing the faith, that’s on you.  You are wrong.You did it wrong. Keep trying.  Sort yourself out. Figure out why. That’s the only option available to you.

There is this one “General Authority” (are you noting the weird lingo? This stuff never even struck me as off until very recently) who every Mormon I’ve ever talked to really digs. He’s cool. He’s chill. He’s handsome. Ex-pilot. Cool accent. They call him  “The Silver Fox”. As an aside, the bar is set suuuuuper low for these dudes in terms of charisma.  Poor sweet Mormons. Shit, that comes across so condescending and yeah, I guess it is. It’s just that they ask for so little from these old guys. Everyone is so eager to laugh at the tiniest bit of levity. (That always did strike me as off. I remember rolling my eyes even as a young kid when one of the General Authorities would do something like pause, or raise eyebrows or make a vocal inflection that indicated he wasn’t quite as serious as usual, and people would eagerly roar with laughter. It wasn’t even funny you guys. And I found it sad. On that level I always knew what was up and I found it really demeaning.One could say it was a warning bell for me. When people are giving other people that much power that they will laugh at their unfunnies…something is off. I was growing up in an environment with an unhealthy power deferential and I was attuned to it.

 Anyway, so this guy is incredibly popular for the reasons I listed above but also because he generally preaches actual Christian tenets. Like loving and not judging and being accepting of where people are on their journey.  He might be the only reason some Mormons hang in there. He imparts many beautiful quotable quotes, Many gems. Yet still,  I would venture to say that his most pinterested quote is…waiiiit for it.

“Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”

How about this. How about faith and doubt coexisting?

I know some highly intellectual Mormons. People who are more brilliant and more intellectually curious and more logical than I am or can ever hope to be. They are Mormons on their own terms. They sort through all this shit and make it work for them. I don’t know how they do it but I believe that they do and more power to them. I think most of them figure out a version of Mormonism that they can handle and stay “active” for the sake of family and community. I don’t think there are a lot of people I describe who are highly intellectually curious and don’t see some fatal flaws in the doctrine. But hell, what do I know.  I don’t share my story for those folks. They will be just fine.

I share for the ones like me. Smart, aware, tuned in to reality and themselves enough to question. Intellectually curious enough to say, “heeyyyy what about…”  but for whatever reason not able to break free. Guilt, fear, self doubt. I don’t know. But something is tying them down and if they are like me, they often aren’t even able to articulate their truth and why this is not working for them. I listened to a podcast last week, Jordan Peterson was speaking and one phrase resonated so hard. I scribbled it on my kitchen blackboard. I’m in the zone now so I’m going to  have to paraphrase but it was something like, “The ability to speak your truth will be a bulwark between you and hell”.

Over the years I flirted with leaving the church. I had a handful of periods of inactivity. Once I remember being in the kitchen of friends and just freaking out. “How can you believe this shit?” I raged.  “How can you believe in a God who is a literal terrorist? Who insists that you jump through a thousand hoops, that you participate in all sorts of crazy rituals, that you go to the temple, that you dress in weird clothes and memorize rhymes and riddles and secret handshakes to come into his presence?! And if you can’t keep up, if you can’t do “all that you can do” or hell maybe you just don’t want to…he will take everything you hold most dear and separate you from it? Are you kidding me? He dangles your family, being with your family for eternity in front of you.  THAT. IS. TERRORISM. Do what I say or risk losing your husband and children forever. Does THIS NOT STRIKE YOU PEOPLE AS MESSED UP?”

Everyone in the room told me that I needed to be on meds. They literally did. And I literally got on meds. And stayed on them for years.  I did not need the meds. I needed the ability to speak my truth. Until I did, I was in hell.

And yet. Even after articulating this rage, this fear, this rage from living with this fear, from never being able to keep up, from being so completely exhausted by the cognitive dissonance required for all of it,  I took the dry blue pills. I went back. I kept going back. Even though I couldn’t cut it. I couldn’t do what I was supposed to do. I couldn’t believe what I was supposed to believe. I was always so angry. But I went. Even though I would come home from church every.single.sunday seething. Even though every time my husband and I piled our 5 tired, disgruntled hungry children who had been made to to sit still and “be reverent” for 3 hours while dressed in their sunday best in the van and we drove home screeching at each other every Sunday. Miserable. Resentful. Drained. Even though with the barest examination this clearly wasn’t bring my family closer to each other or to God. I went back. And I took my kids with me.

Ok so here is what. Since  I was a little girl, I sensed I had a specific purpose. It was very clear that I was to help people. To comfort them in some way.  I was so excited to discover that way was. Would I be a Dr? A psychologist? A lawyer fighting for their rights? Over the years I have been a doula, a personal trainer, a motivator…but still I waited for my real purpose so that I could settle into it and give it my all.

Yesterday I went for a really long run and as I ran and thought about conversations I have been having with people who have been reaching out to me lately, it finally became clear. It’s not a big revelation, friends have been trying to tell me this. Family have assured me of it. Here’s what is is. That mission? The purpose?
You’ve been doing it.
You. have. been. doing. it. for years.
I’m a truth teller. I’m an oversharer. This is my job here. We all have a job. Mine is to tell my truth. Nobody else’s.  I speak from my soul, the truth of my experience. I speak to my tribe.

I don’t think of myself as remarkable or unique. There are many of us with this purpose and I might not have anything new to say. I probably don’t. But somebody reading this, might find something that they haven’t read anywhere else which resonates with them. Something which makes them feel understood. Less alone. Less Other. Less of a failure, less of a freak. More emboldened to speak their own truth. To trust their doubts. To trust their faith. To trust their feelings.

Yesterday we were driving to a party. Ella told me about a boy who had pointed out once that he could see her underwear when she was wearing a dress without leggings underneath.
 “It hurt my feelings mommy, and now I don’t like to wear dresses anymore without pants.”
We talked about it.  About other words for hurt feelings. Expanded her vocabularly into words like “embarrassed” and “self conscious” or “uncomfortable” or “defensive” or “exposed.”

 As the conversation wound down I said to her, “the important part is that you always listen to your feelings. Your feelings are real. Your feelings are smart. They might not always be telling you what they seem to be telling you right at first but it’s important to pay attention to them. We can always look at them and try to figure out what they are saying and what to do with them but remember that you have smart feelings.”

I’m going to post this before it gets too long and I overanalyse it to death. It’s going to have typos, the editing has been minimal. I wrote it on a picnic table in the woods fresh from a run before the battery on my ancient laptop ran out. I have so much more to say but I’m starting here.  I feel like I need to post this today and I have smart feelings.
xox

Hello. We should talk…

It’s been a while darlings and everything has changed.
It might be the strangest time in anyone’s life. Or it might not be. For me, it’s definitely up there.

I last wrote when I turned 40 on my own terms.

When I turned 40 I found my voice. It’s been there all along of course, and from time to time it squeaked out and said tiny bits of what I was really thinking but most of the time it was strangled. As long as I can remember there have been nightmares of calling for help on the phone and not being able to talk. Or not being able to see the numbers to dial for help.

And then the truth, as it always does, set me free.  It wasn’t a pretty process, the birthing of the truth. Kind of grisly actually. Lots of stitches, lots of scars. Still in the recovery process. Hell of a ride. But so worth it. As birth always is.

Mostly those nightmares have gone away. I don’t feel strangled or stifled anymore. I’m no longer aware of  that constant lump in my throat of that brick like weight in my solar plexus, almost literally physically holding me back from…wherever it is I’m going or whatever it is I want to say whoever it is I am going to be. Now it’s just actual real life, irritating logistics that get in my way but those are a lot easier to work through. I can see the numbers to dial now and my voice works just fine.

Let’s talk briefly about that cringey “Letter to my formerly depressed self” about a year ago. I’m not even going to link to it. I am not. Ugh. don’t remind me. No seriously you guys need to stop referring to that shit every time I get low. Real talk: I hate that letter so much. I have thought of deleting it, but I’m not going to because it’s part of the record of my process.  Depression doesn’t just go away. It never becomes “Former”.  Neither does trauma.  It circles you down the drain either forward or in reverse.  That’s the quickest analogy I can come up with. At your worst, when you are trying to go it alone,  you are right around the grungy hole of the drain, the abyss is echoing, you might have one leg and one arm already being sucked down into it. Maybe you are ever looking into the black nothingness of it with something like longing and relief.

Getting help pulls you back from the grungy hole, drags you away from the sewer system..the great unknown. Once you get help and while you work at it, the circumference of the swirls get bigger and further away from the black hole, but the black hole is there. It is always there. If you neglect the things keeping that force field in place the swirling suction starts to feel stronger.

Sometimes it has nothing at all to neglecting your self care. You can do everything right but life just sucks. I don’t know about every type of depression. I deal with PTSD and that can be fixed but it takes time. I’m really happy with my progress. I’m cruising along really well supposedly. Still. Triggers just happen, shit comes to the surface at unexpected times. It can suck but I’m learning to sit with that. Life is hard for everyone. Everyone has some sort of damage, some sort of battle. This thing is my basket of deplorable (to coin a phrase). I deal with it, I hope to deal with it less and less over time but I can do this. I got this. I don’t like it, but I got this. Probably. I hate to tempt blog fate. Blog fate can be such a little bitch. There are days when I definitely don’t got this. I get by with a lot of help from my friends. Moving on. Because enough already.

Ok wait.  I have to make just more than a glancing reference to the Ultimate Shit Show.
So.  Donald Mothereffin Trump won the election. It’s a total shock to the system on a daily basis. Honestly I still can’t quite grasp it.  And most of you can’t either. There’s no big revelation here.
But what I do find fascinating is that in such a short time it has really had a part to play in reshaping my outlook, how I spend my time, who I spend it with. Which brings me to:

Hey! I was published in a book.   Over the years, I have been published in magazines and newspapers, I used to have a paid column on a major internet network when that was still a really big deal. I’ve been paid for my writing here on and off over the years, but seeing my name in print between hard covers. For a book that mattered. Telling a story that I thought I might never acknowledge even to myself?

That feels..like an accomplishment. That felt good. I almost didn’t do it. And the fact that I pushed through and did do it feels even better.

Now. It’s not my book. It’s a collaboration of stories. We all met in the aftermath of aforementioned Shit Show and as women do, we came together, freaked the fuck out, then poured all that angst into something major and created a miracle. In three months, thanks to the grit and tenacity of a few and the bravery and love of all, 80 women from across the country had written a raw, an honest an often untold story of what the election of  The Creature meant to them. For many it was a similar process as what it was for me…first the bad, ofttimes the pain, the trauma, the hurt and the unwanted feelings…and then came the fire,  The resolve, the fight. Cliff notes: As women we have unified. This is our moment. This is our time. This is our movement and because we aren’t going down with the biggest, screamiest fight of our lives, we will ensure that future belongs to our daughters. It’s their turn. Our sons will be just fine.

I would not have survived the days since November 8th 2016 nearly as well without my new posse of fierce, funny, brave and brilliant friends and even so, it’s been a struggle for us all. But struggle is life. And life has been not boring. That is one thing I can heartily attest to.  I hate boring and life…is. not. boring. in, 2017. I wish it were exciting in a less terrifying and disappointing way but the sparks of light and love that shoot up to the surface of this horrifying garbage  heap do inspire and invigorate me. Every penny of that book goes to help other women. You should get it. We didn’t have a cent for marketing and that thing is holding it’s own. That book is a Nasty Woman.

So that’s good. That’s really good. But I sometimes miss my old life. This one is really noisy. I asked my friend if he thought things would ever go back to the way they were and he said no. I believe him and that makes me sad. I miss when I had more intimate relationships with the people on my facebook page. I miss the mundane silly things. I miss the friends I have become estranged from since the election and since I left the Mormon faith because I have spoken out about things. Sometimes with too much anger and too little measure. I have hurt people. That makes me sad.I don’t know if I regret it though. I can’t honestly say I do. I regret losing people I love but I don’t regret saying what I needed to say. Even if it was in a messy angry way. I used to say that above all else I didn’t want to hurt people. But now I’m different. I’m a bit darker or maybe more honest. Maybe I’m moving through something to get to the other side. And here’s the truth. I avoid hurting people. I actively dislike hurting people even if they deserve it and I abhor hurting those who don’t. But here’s what else. I am through with allowing myself to be the collateral damage in that goal. First do no harm. To Oneself. I’m on the list now. It was about time.

And sometimes, like maybe yesterday, I take a tiny bit of guilty pleasure (ok make that a lot) in the possibility of inflicting discomfort on someone who has done me wrong. But this is not about that either.

I find myself composing essays lately. As I run the wonky trails in the woods, I will have a big idea for one, it makes me quicken my step, catching a tiny little of air as I skip down the tiny hill. They come to me as I drive, turning the radio down as a thought carries me away and blooms into a topic. Then there is an essay, a series of essays. It won’t all fit…that’s going to have to be a book…

 As I go through the motions of washing dishes,  as I  watch the morning’s wasted cereal being sucked away by the garbage disposal. As I methodically sweep the floor and push the broom into those weird little cracks between appliances to get the tortilla chip my youngest son leaves as his calling card every morning, I am far away lost in questions and words and ideas.

Sometimes I sit immobilized on my couch in my silent house gazing across the living room at my laptop, paralyzed with the agony of all I want to say and wondering how to say it all. All the questions I want answers to. I want to record things, I want to ask things, I want to explore things. And my process for doing that is by writing about them.  I need to write about the things which shaped me as a girl, and a woman and a mother. About the community I walked away from, about the friends I have lost. About the friends I have gained. About the strange awkward numbness of estrangement  and the unbreakable threads of enduring love between families devastated by lies and sickness and secrets. About when it’s better to forgive and work through things and when it’s better to let go so that you really can.

About how weird this idea of aging is. If  the beauty industry didn’t tell us that we needed to start looking out for “seven signs of aging” would we notice it  when we were in our 30’s or only when we were much older?  In some ways I guess it’s good. To become acutely aware of your own mortality. So that you can stop wasting time. I want to talk to other women about how 40 has made me love being in my own skin.  About how there are moments when I hate looking in the mirror. How can I feel feel so healthy and strong, probably physically better than I have ever felt before yet look like the crypt keeper. What the ACTUAL HELL?! And then there is another moment when I am laughing and unconscious of myself and I look up into the mirror visor in my car and am surprised to be staring into the eyes of a woman with a such a confident and lively expression on her face. How for the first time I see a woman who I would like to be friends with.  A woman who looks..well like a woman, not a little girl. I love that look. It’s a subtle change. I don’t know if it’s a change in facial structure or something less concrete but I’ve seen it more and more over the last year and I do believe that it’s my favourite look. Even if it does come with “fine lines and wrinkles”. Why is there this this incredible shift at around 40. When we suddenly own it .Hormones, experience?  It’s magic is what it is.

And sex! I want to explore why so many people think most women don’t like or want sex after they have kids. And why for some reason everyone is down with that. It’s a total crisis when a guy stops wanting sex or can’t make it happen but women…well they are so tired after all. What the hell? Sex is awesome. It’s really awesome and I think women should be enjoying it until they die or are close to dying just like it seems that men do. I mean. What on earth not? We have all that equipment designed solely for enjoyment y’know? Seems like a terrible thing to waste. Not just sex. Pleasure in general. Why are women so afraid of pleasure. Why are they so into self deprivation? What’s in it for them?

I want to talk about friendships. The ones we have from cradle to grave, the ones we have for certain seasons, the ones we have that fulfill just about every emotional and intellectual need and the ones that fill only the shallowest of them. Why some of the most intense and lovely ones can just fade away after time and why that can be ok sometimes and why some that shouldn’t die do, and how sad that is and maybe what we can do to rekindle them.

I want to talk about parenting relationships and the weird social constructs we have imposed on those. The ideas of how we should be communicating with our kids, or not. The limits we should supposedly be imposing on them. How I have defined my role as a mother and how I don’t actually give a damn about what people think about me in that regard anymore and how much it is has improved my relationships with my children.  (OR HAS IT? I want to talk about that!)

I want to talk about why I left the Mormon faith. Because sometimes even I get confused regarding the reasons.  I want to talk about why life is so much better for me and my family since leaving. (OR IS IT??? I want to write about that!)

I want to talk about how much I hate where I live and how much I love it. I want to talk about how I have grieved and celebrated the circumstances of my life and my fantasies for the future.

But I don’t want to just talk about all these things with reference to myself. I want to talk about them with other people.  I want to have conversations. I have gravitated to facebook because it is a place for conversations. But there are so many limits. Today I wrote something that had come up in the LDS General Conference. It made me mad as so many things regarding the LDS corporation do. Somebody I have known for many years responded. I feel her. It’s something I might have done from her side of the fence not long ago and I respect her for it. I think it took a courage of convictions and I admire her calm confidence. She prempted by saying she knew she would be ridiculed and torn apart on my page for expressing herself. Initially I found that fairly irritating and I resented the accusation. I don’t allow bullying. I do allow vigorous debate with a no nonsense style.  I accept that tensions get high and people aren’t careful about feelings. I’m pretty comfortable with that in a debate scenario. But it doesn’t mean that everyone else is.  I have lost many familiar and cherished faces from my facebook page. I know they think I  have become a dark and cynical person. They would rather not deal with my brand of..whatever. I get it. And if things are going to turn ugly and personal I do think it’s best that they keep their distance. And yet.

I know that if they heard my voice  and they heard me discussing these things with other people though, they would probably get a different sense. I am endlessly curious about the human condition.About how other people see the world. What makes them tick.  I miss the diversity. I miss having people who are brave enough or thick skinned enough or to coin a Mormon phrase, contentious enough to come to my page and challenge me. I want them to change my mind as often as they reinforce my confidence in my own choices.  But the written word has limitations.

Today I thought about doing a podcast. It seemed like the natural easiest solution. I even researched it a little bit. Logistics and technology are not my bag. I can’t think of anything I have less interest in. If you want someone to come up with content, to be engaged and engaging, to keep the conversation going though, I’m your girl.  I think that’s going to be the next move for the blog but I need logistics people. And I need people who are willing to talk about stuff with me. And maybe we have 3 listeners. And they will be our tribe.And that will be enough. And that’s what I want to do.

So. What do you all think about that?

Well I’m out of time.
So ends the longest blog post of all time. Is anyone still out there? It’s ok if you aren’t. I understand. This is not a blog post I might want to read on someone else’s blog either. Or maybe I would?

Either way, I am satisfied. Satiated for now.  Because I scratched an itch. I filled my craving. My craving takes many forms and today was a day to indulge. In the grey light of this morning I snuck out of bed and sat cross legged and started writing as a new friend recently suggested that I should. I hand wrote, stream of consciousness in a beautiful grey Moleskine journal. I don’t remember what I wrote but I remember that it flowed and that it was delicious.

I bought a pack of six of those journals last night. Tonight I will go back and buy 6 more and I will fill them all because that’s another craving I have denied for a very long time now, and indulging it felt sublime.. And perhaps I will end up with 12 journals filled with nothing of any type of substance but they will be meaningful to me.

Because I am a writer and I won’t pretend any longer that I am anything less.

Thank you for being my reader.

I Remember When

I’ve been working on another blog post but the theme of change has been thick in the air today and late this morning a friend of mine asked a question which triggered some memories. So I thought I would jump in….many prompts late with the 8 minute memoir project a couple of my most admired bloggers are doing right now. I hope that’s ok. Even if it’s not. I’m doing it. Because that’s the kind of crazy maverick I am you guys. 😉

I remember when everything started to really change for me. When things started shifting in a solid way. I had never been comfortable or satisfied with the status quo. Never. Even as a child.  But I remember when I started to feel it in my chest.  And then in my throat. I remember when it would start making my pulse quicken and my stomach feel hollow with it. When the whole natural universe seemed poised to squeeze it out of me and to hold me up while it did.  A little bit more every day, it built and built and built. It actually felt like it was seeping into my bones, making me stronger until I was ready to pour what was left of it out.

I remember running that summer. In the woods and on the beach.  Running, listening to music. Always the way in which I find clarity, the way I meet with myself.   Two memories in particular stand out to me that summer. Running along the beach . The shore was narrow and uneven where the waves of the lake broke and scattered across it.  My left leg was lower than my right on the sand.  It was awkward but I was determined. I had to struggle to find every foot hold and my bare feet made light circles as they displaced the water in the sand. My music was telling me that I had to be braver. That my voice was worthy of being heard. That yes it was uncomfortable but it was ok.  No it wasn’t wrong .Yes. ok. More than ok. Needed. Desperately needed. A sense of triumph and resolve started to grow inside of me.

I remember running in the woods, wanting to please the God that I had grown up with. Pleading for things that made sense to my kind and inclusive heart to synch up with what I heard when I sat on the soft upholstered wooden benches and the cold metal chairs. The way they seemed to for all the other peaceful looking people there.  Pleading for my kind and inclusive heart to stop warring with my rebellious, impetuous soul. 

I remember the moment the music went quiet. The notes of the music melded with the notes of the birds in the woods. I remember that I saw a lovely doe. It looked at me expectantly but fearlessly and suddenly there was absolutely no doubt. None whatsoever. Just love.  My kind and inclusive heart and my rebellious soul were one and they were perfectly in synch.  And my voice was strong and brave and needed to be heard.

I still haven’t made my voice heard on the issues I was wrestling with regarding my religion and faith in the way I envisaged and I will know when the time is right for it. If ever.

But I made my voice heard in my own personal life. The courage I took from those moments. The peaceful confirmation of myself as a wise and valued member of the universe taken from those sacred moments, offered to me by the sand and the water and the soft forest floor and the birds and the butterflies and the doe and the sun filtered through the green of the trees. That acceptance and courage allowed me to confront ugly truths and damaging people when I least expected to have to.  And that confrontation was painful and dark at times and took almost everything I had to offer. But I never regretted it. Not even for one moment.

I will never swallow or doubt my kind and inclusive heart or my rebellious soul when they clamor urgently for my voice to be heard again.  And the knowledge of that feels like the sun rising inside of me.

On Celebrating 40: A State of Wellbeing Address

Hello fellow Being Alivers

Tomorrow I will celebrate being on this mortal coil for 40 years. 6 months ago I promised myself I would write a blog post today and this is that post.

Since February 6th I get the odd pal texting to say, “hey wasn’t your birthday February? It says August on Facebook. I could have sworn it was February?”
 “Long story”,  I always laugh. Here’s that story:

When I think back on mid January 2016 I picture myself sitting in my car in a deserted parking lot at 10pm. The engine is off, it is freezing outside. I’m sitting in a fetal position in my front seat sobbing hysterically. I am a small child. Feeling terrified. Completely terrified. Alone and terrified. I have just received devastating news from my good kind completely innocent husband which has triggered this reaction inside my brain.  It goes from being news which cannot in reality threaten my safety or wellbeing in any way to something that is happening to me. Something which is a clear and present danger. I cannot ever see myself feeling safe or whole again. That is last Winter’s defining memory. Winter ended. That dark night ended. A friend came to my rescue, that night, tucked me into bed in her guestroom. My sweet husband went shopping with me the next day for new curtains, we changed the furniture around so that my home, the place where I got that news could feel safe again.

That night was the last in a series of triggers that left me very broken. And then came putting the fractured pieces back together. Good, GOOD in every sense of the word, oh I’m choking back tears now thinking about JUST HOW GOOD they are, people sit vigil with me. In person, over the phone, reaching out late, late at night through text messages, they sent me funny memes, beautiful playlists, sent me endless patience, endless love, constant reassurance that the dawn will come, that I’m worth fighting for.

Expecting nothing, wanting nothing in return but for me to believe that.

I started seeing my blessed therapist regularly. I told her that how triggering my birthday has always been for me. What a struggle it is. How I have always actually looked forward to turning 40 but not this way. Not this way. I didn’t want to feel like a frightened damaged child. I wanted it to be a celebration of the woman I am.

A woman who clawed her way through 30 years of PTSD, incorrectly labeled as depression, without having a clue of what she was fighting. A woman who nonetheless passionately raised 5 beautiful amazing children far from her home country, far from family support. Who moved across the country heavily pregnant with small children in tow, not once but twice and started all over again. A woman who finished her business degree with honours, with 4 small children and a couple of side jobs. Who achieved many things. Created businesses. Has a good heart. Helped  people. Created a peaceful happy safe fun home. Was a supportive loving wife for 20 years. Was a loyal friend. Contributed to her community. Loves and looks for beauty every day. Laughs easily, loves music, loves to dance. Loves life.

I told her that I didn’t want to feel as though 40 was something that happened to me against my will. I wanted to welcome it and celebrate it for the huge privilege it is. I told her that I had an idea. I would celebrate it on August 6th. A historically happy day. The day my cherished little brother’s first son was born. Also my “1/2 birthday”. It would be in the summer! It would be a date for me to work towards. And I would even change it on facebook to make it official. “It’s brilliant!” she laughed. All friends and family who knew, were forbade from acknowledging February 6th as my birthday. And I went to work.

I went to work. I went to therapy, I ran, I did yoga. I started to eat better. To avoid sugar and other foods which made me feel sick or sluggish.  I read all I could on PTSD.  I tried to be more disciplined about rest. I started to come alive. I started to feel whole again.

And then I made a big mistake. I stopped therapy for a while. I’m not exactly sure why. Then a slow, slow Spring arrived and with it the perfect storm of triggers. The terrible, frightening feelings rushed back. The PTSD went through what I now recognize as its predictable cycle of shutting me down.  But this time it was extra devastating. This time it arrived with a chilling message: I would never be ok. I thought I would but here I was, right back where I started. I couldn’t keep doing this I could not. I couldn’t do this to my family, to my children.  I tried so  hard to explain to my inner circle why it was better that I didn’t. They told me I was wrong. That I was entirely wrong. That the PTSD was full of bullshit and lies. That I would beat it. They rallied again. AGAIN. They doubled down on love, reassurance, they sent more music, more funny texts morning, midday and night. One friend divided up a book he had written and sent me it to me in daily postcards. A book! Into DAILY POSTCARDS.  A friend called when I told her via text that I wasn’t ok but no, I wouldn’t be able to talk. She said, “but can you just listen, baby?” I could listen. I did listen. By the end of the conversation I was laughing. Of course. Laughter always saves me. Laughter and love.

My siblings rallied with comfort and advice at all hours. My sister was ready and willing to fly me to her in South Africa on a day’s notice. Research on how to help me was made on my behalf. Texts flurried back and forth between my girlfriends and my husband. I was given the message that all that was expected of me was to heal.  Other friends quietly, practically and faithfully did everything they could to keep things on an even non-stressful keel for the family. Kids were ferried to and fro without me even having to ask. My husband was both mother and father. So many huge and small but always quiet acts of service and love were performed for my children on my behalf that I may never know but that I will always, always feel unspeakable gratitude for.  Thank you. So much. This human connection gave me the faith and hope that life wasn’t just a ridiculous cycle of marking time until death.

Once early in the year I lay under my covers, a dark safe cave. Listening to music.  I had just listened to a song by the Verve that had been recommended by my friend, one of my lifelines with whom I was texting, as he described the bright future he felt was definitely ahead of me. As I read the hopeful reassuring words, the next track, One Day by the Verve came on. It was what I call a movie soundtrack moment.  Reiterating all that was being said. All the things that had been said. Nothing can really penetrate a message into my soul the way music and nature can.

Whenever I feel low or I feel that I need the reminder to be disciplined about doing the work I run in the woods and listen to this song. And whenever I do,  I think about paying it forward. I send my love out to all the people I know who are walking in pain and all the people I don’t know who are walking in pain.  With every footstep on soft forest floor and with every heartbeat I send this message to  those beautiful people as the message was sent to me

“You’ve got to tie yourself to the mast my friend and the storm will end.”

Tomorrow I’m going to celebrate the privilege of being alive. In all its ugly glory. And then I’m going to get back to work. On myself and on paying it forward. I have taken many notes along this journey and it’s time to share them in a more practical accessible way than I’ve been doing up to now. This blog has taken on many incarnations through its lifetime and I hope that this one will be its most valuable. That it will serve and help and comfort. That it can be added to the sea of voices that are out there to remind us that the fight is worth fighting. Even if you don’t understand it, even when it seems pointless and ridiculous. 

This week I went see Coldplay (again) with my oldest son who is starting college in a couple of weeks. We experienced a pretty intense range of emotions that night from euphoria to flat out fear when our attempts to get home were more complicated than anticipated. Honestly I’m still recovering. Some of it was amazing and some of it was terrible but I wouldn’t trade that night for all the world. Ending up at 3am in a hotel room with my son laughing hysterically over the events of the evening. Feeling that connection. Feeling so much love and pride in this amazing human being and so much privilege in sharing this connection. That’s life. Sometimes it’s wonderful and often it’s terrible but it’s a privilege and it’s meant to be done together. If you’re not feeling it right now, you will. Just tie yourself to the mast, my friend, this storm will end.  And then another will come. But that too will end. And through it all we will have each other.  xoxoxoxox

One day maybe we will dance again
Under fiery skies
One day maybe you will love again
Love that never dies
One day maybe you will see the land
Touch skin with sand
You’ve been swimming in the lonely sea
With no company
Oh, don’t you want to find?
Can’t you hear this beauty in life?
The roads, the highs, breaking up your life
Can’t you hear this beauty in life?
One day maybe you will cry again
Just like a child
You’ve gotta tie yourself to the mast my friend
And the storm will end
Oh, don’t you want to find?
Can’t you hear this beauty in life?
The times, the highs, breaking up your mind
Can’t you hear this beauty in life?
Oh, you’re too afraid to touch

Too afraid you’ll like it too much
The roads, the times, breaking up your mind
Can’t you hear this beauty in life?

One day maybe I will dance again
One day maybe I will love again
One day maybe we will dance again
You know you’ve gotta
Tie yourself to the mast my friend
And the storm will end
One day maybe you will love again
You’ve gotta tie yourself to the mast my friend
And the storm will end

How Does It End When the War that you’re in is Just You Against You Against You?

Hello darlings

How are you?
Me. Such a mess! A mess! Of note!
I can’t contribute much to this world and that’s a frustration, but transparency about my struggles is something I am committed to. For whatever it is worth. I hope it is indeed worth something to someone.

Life is great though. I mean it really is. I have no complaints.  Everyone is healthy. I’m healthy. Everyone seems happy enough. Everyone seems to be doing what they are supposed to be doing. It’s not Winter anymore. The sun shines from time to time. The dog is still alive. I have a family who are incomparable. I can’t describe their wonders, their support. Living in my pretty little doll house is easy.  It’s small but it’s chill. There’s minimal conflict at any given time, the people who live here are all very awesome. It’s a safe, happy fun place to be. Messy a good deal of the time, but nurturing.  I have friends. They are kind and good and true.  Generous, caring, selfless and loving beyond words. There are no real worries. No true problems. Cute white picket fence town.  Everything is provided for. Couldn’t be easier.

But my life does not seem valuable. It does not seem worthwhile. It does not seem helpful. It does not seem to be worth the pain of living it. The world in my head is often very dark and sad.  My dreams are dreadful.  Every night. The hardest part right now is that it’s back. The darkness.  C-PTSD is the name for what plagues me. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

 Last May I was practically catatonic but it was to be expected. The things that I had been through in the months just prior to that were a culmination of many many many many years of suppressed trauma and had been cataclysmic in many ways It was really the first time I was addressing my trauma. This May is pretty chill. Nothing is going down other than the good stuff.  Awesome handsome, cool fun, overachiever first kid graduating with honours and a full college scholarship. Four other awesome fun etc kids. Booyah. Mother’s Day. (omigod Mother’s Day can we please please please just dispense of the horror of mother’s day trust me when I tell you it does more harm than good to more people than not. I’m just saying.) Actually, my own Mother’s Day brought every reason for gratitude and  oh grateful I was. It was delightful and I was Over the top grateful. Triggered? That too. The whole week leading up to it maybe a couple of weeks. So bad. All the bad, bad feelings.

Honestly, the last six months have been full of triggers. And some of the time I was a trooper through those triggers and faced them like a little champion and some of the time I did all the wrong things and pretended none of it was happening to me…lalalalalalallaaaaaaa.. After a while I “had to take a break” from therapy. I just couldn’t keep digging. I felt the need for emotional independence. I just wanted to be normal, carefree, in the present. Apparently breaks are ok. They happen. I took way too long of a break. My bad. You don’t quit therapy. That’s a luxury that is not afforded to those who are in the early stages of dealing with unresolved C-PTSD.

You guys, I don’t know much about freaking anything but one thing I have learned and I know and I live every day is that TRAUMA WILL OUT. You can’t DIY yourself out of it, regardless of how smart and resilient you may think you are.  That MOFO will insist on being heard and the way it can be heard if you don’t know what is going on is confusing and weird and insidious and very damaging to the soul. So you won’t necessarily act up in the way one might expect you to.  You may go about your day and be the freaking life of the freaking party all the damn time.  You might smile and hold down a job and laugh a lot and throw lovely parties for your lovely children.  And show up and do the things you say you will do, and run and do yoga and seem like you  have it all together. More than all together. But those observing closely will sense the cracks in the facade, they will see that you aren’t ok and then one day one of them will show up at your workplace and ask you with a kind and worried face how you are because they are truly worried and then maybe the dam will break and you will sob and you will sob and you will sob. Openly. Just as you have been doing as you hide in your car, the storeroom at work, the bathroom before you wash your face and touch up your makeup and go back to being “on”.    And then you will realize that your cover is blown. And you will wonder why you bothered with the cover at all.  And then the old question that you have fought against since you were 11 or 12 years old will rise to the surface again and will coldly, boldly ask you why you bother with life? You are so stupid and so weak and worthless, so ridiculous and generally just so very useless. You are taking up space, and air. And time and other people’s worry.  Wouldn’t everyone just be so much better off not having to worry about you? What a burden you are.

It will tell you that in all likelihood you are much too broken to fix. The patch job that you’ve been doing all your life, the one that you used to reel in all these kind and unsuspecting people who unwittingly have grown to like or even love you…it’s wearing off  it’s falling apart and there’s no way to fix what has been revealed and soon they will ALL ABANDON YOU. Total abandonment is inevitable! Why wouldn’t it be? Why would people stand by you while you muddle your way through this shit?  To fix you will take resources, and time and concern.  Which could be so much more easily channeled into so many more worthy causes. More worthy uncomplicated, undamaged people. Right? Quit while you are ahead. There’s no hope. Do it to be kind. Do it to be kind to all the unwitting people who you cunningly made care about and now are saddled and burdened with you.  Right?

They tell me wrong. They tell me I’m wrong. They keep saying I’m wrong. There’s a part of me that believes them.

Yet.

All my life I have been motivated by being kind. I recognize that about myself. I am kind. I like that about myself. I value kindness above any other quality.  Being kind is good. I’m not always kind, not by any stretch of the imagination, but ultimately, I try very hard to be. I really do.  I want everyone around me, whether they love or like or even know me to be ok. I want the world to be ok. I don’t want other people to feel pain or suffering. If you make kindness your primary motivation in life you can live to have a very valuable life. See Mother Theresa.  You can also become very neurotic and allow yourself to become very hurt.  See me. I know that. I’ve lived that. I’ve been somewhat successful in my kindness I think. I believe I have raised kind children.. But I haven’t successfully extended the kindness to myself on any consistent basis.

The same friend who showed up at my workplace and watched me cry and cry and cry later sent me a text with a link to a song. It had been a horrific day. Horrific.Worst of the worst. I was out of options.  I was in the lowest of low places. I didn’t want to listen to it. I knew that she has a very simple and very profound faith in a God that I do not have a simple faith in.  I do not have good connotations with that God and I really didn’t want to have anything to do with anything that would remind me of Him at that time.  But! If a friend takes enough time out of their day to think of me, and send me a kind wish and then goes so far as to look up a link and send it to me in an effort to help me, well then dammit the least I can do is listen. That’s just good manners. Suicidal depression aside. Good manners trumps all.  I lay in my bed under my covers and listened. The song was short, it was tender and the message was simple. There was an oblique reference to God but I inserted my kind friend’s face in there instead. Actually the faces of many kind people in my life flashed before me one by one.

And then one line broke through the stoic ice cold numbness I had summoned to protect my fragile heart and broke it:

….you can’t expect to be perfect, it’s a fight you have to forfeit so
lay down your weapon, 
darling take a deep breath and believe that I love you. 
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself.
You’ve got to learn to love your enemies too.

My breath caught. The tender nurturing simplicity of the injunction broke through my cold self loathing determination and I sobbed again. Just for a moment. I’m sorry to say that crying doesn’t come easily to me because I think it can be very cathartic. I wish I cried more easily. But it was enough. Enough to break the cold clinical devastating spell of what I thought I should do and had to find the courage to do to make everything ok for everyone else.

Later by some miracle, I managed to go for a run,  the song rolled around on my playlist and again that same line emerged, I felt my step quicken so that I could keep my composure but again it broke me. As I ran I sobbed and sobbed. I felt humanity. I felt a tiny shred of kindness toward myself, the self that was also the enemy. Maybe not something not quite as powerful as kindness but an acknowledgment at least, that the light within me deserved to you know…not be snuffed out….. I’m not sure, to be honest how to explain how I felt. But it was something. Enough to get me through the day.

Since then, I’m getting through the day. Sometimes one minute at a time, sometimes hours flow fairly effortlessly by. Generally it’s a minute by minute thing.

You guys I wish I had a happy spin or pretty bow for this story. I do. It seems like that would be the kind way to end this. But another line from the song, the title of this blog post which asks, “how does it end?”  This war in my head. Just me against me against me?

 And I can’t tell you. I just can’t.

 I can tell you that:
I’ve overcome a lot to be where I am, however tenuous that place might be I’ve had a part in bringing about some truly nice people into the world. And I do remember even as a young child experiencing trauma confidently innately believing that all would be well, if it had to happen to someone I was glad it was me because I’d be ok. I knew I was strong and I knew I could make bad things turn out to be good lessons. I knew it would make me kind and more compassionate.

 But it would appear that I forgot about myself.  Compassion is supposed to be turned inwards too. I talk a pretty good game about that. But when it comes to me, I don’t feel it.  I don’t see the point in it. I don’t see much value in me. Keeping it real. Right now I see myself as infinitely disposal and dispensable, completely replaceable. But I also tell myself that while I may be dispensable, first do no harm. First be kind. Be kind where you can and give what you have. Right now, I don’t have much to give.  But I do know that sharing my pain in the past has been kind. People have told me it has helped them. And so I hope it does.

If you can; be kind to yourself today. If you can take a deep breath darling, and lay down your weapon and just be kind to yourself today. I hope you will.
xoxo