This website

The following essays and articles are myimg_5511 introduction to writing. There is no real order to these posts. I’m trying to get out as much of this internal chaos as I can. At a later date, things might coalesce and become more ordered and logical, but for now, it’s a free for all with ideas about the past, present and future all mixed up together.

 

Searching for Home

It took me awhile to realize this, but now I’m understanding how my life as an adult reflects my needs as a child. Growing up, I never felt comfortable in any house I grew up in. I never got that feeling of ‘home.’ There was no place I looked forward to going and no place where I felt safe. There was always someone around the corner to hassle me, demean me, get physical with me, and belittle me. The idea of ‘home’ has always included a feeling of being unsafe and on guard 24/7. It’s an exhausting way to go through the world.

As a child, I was always more creative at friends houses. I’d sit and draw and doodle more if I was away from home. The house from my childhood inhibited experiments and growth and change. At other places, I was able to create freely with out the dread of a constantly negative, judging family.

Throughout my 20’s and 30’s, I had various homes, but often times I’d only live in them temporarily. After six months it was time to move on again.  It was always easy for me to pick up and move because I never got too attached to a place. I never felt grounded enough to want to stay. After a certain amount of time, the pain I carry starts to come to the surface so I move and get lost in the superficial excitement of something new. When I got married and lived with my wife, our homes we’re ok, but a dysfunctional marriage created stress. And again, the idea of ‘home’ wasn’t something I looked forward to.

It wasn’t until I built my own house that I realized how great having a safe, comfortable living space could be. It’s a place to get restored and to rejuvenate. It lets me unpack emotions from the day and from the rest of my life. It gives me a time and place to relax and recoup my energies. Having a private area to practice self healing doesn’t mean I’m actually going to do it though. Going through old memories and asking one self hard questions is a challenge, a safe, home can just make it a little bit easier to get started.

I remember when…

…. my uncle said “Do all teenagers mumble?”

The answer is no, they do not. Some teenagers are raised in households where their voice is encouraged. I was raised in a household where self expression was not encouraged. Anything that was outside of my families small world view, was considered odd and not worthy. Hence, I was considered not worthy. Personal expression that deviated from anything that my mother liked was met with indignation, condemnation and a cold shoulder.

I realized where I picked up that awful trait I used to have. I used to give the cold shoulder to those I didn’t like. Through personal growth and therapy, I can see when it happened and why I was that way. I can also see how my entire childhood was spent living on the receiving end of that cold shouldered dismissal. As an adult, her cold shoulder just gives me breathing room and space. When I received the cold shoulder as a child, it was like the world crashing in around me. My link to survival was my parents. I couldn’t survive on my own. So when that love and attention was removed because I was doing what children do, then it left me hollow and scared inside. The only way to get back into the parents good graces was to come crawling back, and swallow my personality. I’d have to kowtow to my mother to make her feel better and then to get things back to normal where she was merely dismissive and uninterested as compared to actively ignoring me.

 

 

Don’t wrestle with a pig

“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

-George Bernard Shaw

This quote makes me think of my relationship with toxic people. Certain people have spent their whole lives being judgemental, bitter and mean. I have not, so I am not as good at playing that game. Lately I’m learning about respect, relationships and boundaries and it has opened my eyes to a lot of things. I’m learning what I will accept and what behavior I will not tolerate. The realization has given me some power and self agency. Those new feelings make me want to waylay my new power onto those who kept me down. I’m sure it’s a natural feeling to want to show previous oppressors that I’m no longer playing their game.

But by expressing my anger in a way that makes me want to ‘win’ something is the wrong approach. Some toxic relationships have been in the making for so long, its hard to over come them and see them for what they really are.  I can imagine myself going up to a toxic person in my life and I can imagine saying all sorts of truths and facts in an attempt to hurt the other person or to somehow ‘win’ something. But the odds are, that person would still wield some power over me. They’d probably gaslight me and make me feel humiliated or stupid like they have tried to do my entire life.

So no, it’s best not to wrestle with a pig. For me, I will gain my own strength from the insides. I desire to have my worth derive from myself. I don’t want my self worth involved with having to prove to someone else that I’m over them and not under their control. By trying to prove anything to a toxic, I’d probably just be strengthening their hold over me.

So I will go for the live and let live approach. I want to get to a place where I feel ok with someone else (i.e: toxic parents) talking bad behind my back and trying to isolate me and getting others to do the same. It doesn’t mean I condone that behavior or would ever attempt to do the same. It just means that I have to accept that old biblical proverb: haters gonna hate and that has nothing to do with me.  I’m going for acceptance. Eventually I’ll try to love the toxic people, but for now I’ll just work on accepting them first.

Cord Cutting

Usually I have this desire to completely remove anything annoying from my life. The problem with that method is that there isn’t much room for growth. A better methodology would be to assess the situation or relationship and address the annoyance instead of just throwing the baby out with the bathwater. (this phrase is horrible, but it fits the situation.)

Relationships connect people and normally that’s a positive thing, but often times that connection can be unhealthy. Sometimes that connection is open and positive, but other times that connection is built on guilt, shame, expectation and other negative feelings.  The idea of cutting cords is not about cutting someone out of my life. It’s about reassessing the relationship and making it healthier for both parties involved.

Having come to the realization that I was the scapegoat of my family has helped me come to understand my expected role in my family much better. It’s funny how blind one can be to the facts. Take for instance my relationship with my brother. We used to talk more when I smoked and drank, but now that I don’t do those things, I’m realizing that our connection was mostly based on that and it was my job to keep the connection alive.

For years I was always visiting him. I would go out of my way to visit him and my nephews. Since I lived thousands of miles away, it was taxing. I’d be using my vacation time. I’d be using my money, my energy and resources to go visit him but there was never any reciprocation. I lived in one of the most beautiful and exciting places in the world, but that place, nor I, was worth visiting.

In fact, I moved back to the east coast because I thought that maybe it could be his turn to come visit me. For two years, I tried to get him and my nephews to come visit me. Every time I brought it up, I’d get the blow off. He’d make up an excuse or try to push it off. I don’t know why he is like that as an adult. I know as children, our relationship was basically his actions causing me to feel like to shit, so maybe he just continued that same paradigm.

Another example was the fact that I made him the best man of my wedding and he didn’t even throw me a bachelor party. I feel like this one hurt, but I buried it at the time. I had a three day destination wedding and he tried to co-op one of those nights and say he was going to throw a bachelor party then. What? You’re throwing my party on the day I’m already throwing my party? Um.. no. That merely seems like a pathetic attempt at salvaging some ounce of respect. I rolled with it at the time and I showed up at his rental house and said, ‘ok let’s party.’ Then his wife kicked us all out because she and the kids had to go to bed. Great party, bro.

Honestly, if I didn’t want to see my nephews, I really doubt either of us would be putting in any effort into the relationship.

I found a page that talks about this topic at the alchemy of healing website. It offers questions for one to answer and in doing so, one can do things with consciousness and not arbitrarily out of frustration or annoyance.

1. It is good to meditate on what is your intent with the cord cutting. What did I learn from this person or event I am cutting cords with.

I learned that the best relationships go both ways. There is an equal amount of reciprocity between the two parties. I realized how passive aggressive he is in his comments towards me. I realized that I wanted a relationship bad enough to overlook all the discrepancies and to submit myself to an unhealthy situation.

2. How was I able to grow as a person with them?

I wasn’t. Throughout my childhood, he did his best to keep me down. Snide passive aggressive comments that stung to the core were things I had to bury and act like those things didn’t happen. Looking back through the filter of time, I can see how my self improvement, growth or any time that I was doing well or a situation where I was better than him, was met with fierce condemnation and belittling comments. I can’t be sure, but it seems like his worth was wrapped up in keeping me down. 

3. What am I grateful for?

Hmmm. I’m grateful that I can see the truth now. I’m grateful that I’m learning about healthy relationships, but those things were learned through bad examples. I’m grateful for the few times he did put effort in and managed to come visit me.

 

 

 

 

 

The Inner Critic

I’m not sure if everyone has this exact voice or if others voices are as loud as mine. I do realize that inner critic isn’t me. It’s a voice that was put into me through abuse, trauma and just living life. It’s not my true voice. It doesn’t even sound like me. Now it is time for me to dismantle it. I found these questions on this forum here.

1. What happens right before a harshly critical or self-rejecting voice inserts itself into my inner dialogue?

Usually the critics voice is repeating things I’ve been told. When someone  has been the scapegoat since childhood, there are many phrases and ideas to pull from. My life was a constant barrage of negativity, dismissive comments and down right cruel intentions. I find that the inner critic comes out when I’m already feeling down. It rises to the surface when I’m feeling insecure and unsure. The voice tries to keep me from rising up. It wants to hold me back. It wants me to feel inferior because that’s how my family wanted me to feel my entire life.

2.In what ways do my inner critic’s slogans and diatribes resemble fear mongering propaganda?

Usually the voice is not reasonable and not factually based. It’s not pulling from historical precedents, it’s using the game plan of that most governments use. Facts aren’t necessary. The voice doesn’t go for logic because it knows it can’t win in a logical argument. The inner critic goes for the emotional wounds that have never healed. It knows my weak points and it attacks them ruthlessly.

3. How would I respond if a friend or acquaintance talked to me the way my inner critic does?

If a friend spoke to me the way my inner critic does, I’d let them know that shit is unacceptable. Or would I? Since I’m still under the influence of my inner critic, maybe I’d just accept it? I’d like to think I wouldn’t, but my friends don’t talk to me that way. The acquaintances and members of my family that might talk to me that way tend to go the more passive aggressive approach. Which in itself can be mildly infuriating. I get very frustrated when someones words don’t match up with their intentions.

4. What are the hard (non-negotiable) boundaries I need to assert between my inner critic and the rest of my mind?

This is very difficult for me. Even when I try to set up boundaries, the inner critic always steps over them. I know its because I wasn’t raised to have proper boundaries. People are easier to control and manipulate if they don’t have proper boundaries. Let’s just pretend for a moment that I can set up non-negotiable boundaries.

a. I need to understand and feel that the inner critic is not me. It’s not even a part of me. It’s an invasion into my psyche from outsiders wanting to keep me down. Wild animals don’t have inner critics (as far as I know anyway). I don’t think deer wander through the meadow telling themselves they are worthless and should probably save this patch of grass for a more important deer. I know this intellectually, but I’m having trouble feeling it emotionally.

b. Maybe I’ll just let the inner critic speak for a moment or two. Then accept that he has that point of view, but that it is not mine nor is it the advice I’m going to follow. Giving it space instead of trying to control and suppress it might be the best option. It’s a similar tactic to a boxer who plays defense while letting their opponent tire themselves out. After my inner critic has used up all his ammunition and every available tactic to try to assault my self esteem, I’ll thank him for his input and then promptly disregard it. Unless it’s based on facts, but the odds are that his attacks aren’t based on facts at all.

5. How can I mediate between the internalized parental voices and the parts of me that are hurt and frightened by them?

Hmmm… that’s a good question Mr. Internet. Having a parent and older sibling that dismiss you and actively try to sabotage you due to their own insecurities is a large burden to carry for the rest of ones life. Even now as I type this, I hear their voices in my head telling me what I’m writing is stupid. The voices are telling me that I’m wrong. They tell me that I’m stupid and exaggerating the facts. They tell me I’m weak. They tell me they were just trying to make me strong, even though I know they are the weak ones for trying to keep others down.

So how can I be this mediator? It seems too daunting of a task.I suppose first off, I can deal with things in small increments. I need to take small steps and I need to be consistent. I can give the voice space at first, but i need to always counter its falsities with facts. My family didn’t base their accusations and insults on facts and my inner critic doesn’t either. So I can look for supporting evidence to counter their claims. When the inner critic says something, I can pause, breathe, listen and decide if its saying something true or not. This will be much easier once I get more in touch with my feelings again.  In the meantime, I’ll just be patient with myself and do my best to to counter the inner critic with positive people, active self care and a constant rebuttal of that voice with my own true voice that responds with kindness, acceptance and love.

In the end, I’m sure the inner critic, if it does have thoughts of its own, is mostly worried about being snub out. It’s worried about it’s own existence.

Journeying North

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On this meditation journey I started out in Tuolumne Meadows. As I grounded myself and visualized my surroundings I started to feel comfortable and then imagined myself walking north through the meadow of wildflowers and grasses. I continued through the shallow running river and climbed the bank and wandered into the forest always heading north.

At one point, I found myself going into the ground. I was scrambling through the earth. Trying to keep heading northward. Soon the dirt and soil turned to lava and I was making my way through sharp rocks and boulders. I hear a voice say to me, “I’ll protect you with this invisible field.” I didn’t understand it, but I trusted it. And soon I was almost swimming through the lava rocks. Going deeper and deeper while continuing my northern trajectory.

Eventually I pop out into this small cave lit by glow-in-the-dark mushrooms. I walk through the cave and down a tunnel on the opposite end. After walking down the tunnel, I decide to take a left and I walk right into and through the tunnel wall. Immediately, I get a sensation of tingles all up and down my body. (I take these bodily sensations as clues. It’s like the tingling sensation is my guide telling me my choice is correct.)

At some point, I feel a pull from above. It’s a pull from the ‘real world’ but I want to stay in my meditation and go deeper. It’s a feeling where my mental focus and my physical body were being pulled in opposite directions. I struggled through and almost wished I didn’t, because now I found myself crawling through maggots and worms. They were all around me and inside me and coming out of my mouth. It felt nauseating and made me almost physically ill. My desire to stop meditating was intense, but I pushed through and stayed seated.

I crawled against the rocks trying to get the worms and maggots off of me. There were bushes tight together and I crawled through this tight space and that brushed all the worms off of me. When I broke through the bushes I found myself facing the arctic sea with thousands of stars above. I did stay on course and made it as far north as I could imagine.img_5380

Out in the ocean there was an Orca waiting for me. He said he was my spirit guide. I said I was saddened because I never saw an Orca in real life. He said that was ok because it is his strength and wisdom and guidance that he offers. He reminded me to be honest and true to myself and to others.

By this point, I had been meditating for quite awhile and the excitement of finally getting somewhere, and my desire to not lose this image forced me to come out of my reverie and to start writing. The drawing above represents the Orca I saw and the drawing below was the view I saw after emerging from the ground.

 

The Beginning

My therapist asked me to write about my “healing journey.”

The whole ‘journey’ metaphor still feels a little cheesy to me, but there really isn’t a better word to describe what I’m going through. It’s not a quick fix. There is no known destination. I don’t even know if I’ll get through all this shit. I’m just going one step at a time.

My whole life was spent avoiding issues, and running from the pain I felt inside. From the outside, it looked cool. I got to travel around the world and do amazing things. On the inside, I was hurting and my life was based around running from that pain. No matter how far one goes the pain from childhood trauma just can’t be out run. It can be avoided for a little while, but eventually that shit comes up to catch you.

The catalyst for the change that’s occurring now was definitely getting divorced. I knew the day I got married, that I’d probably get divorced. It was just a subtle feeling somewhere deep inside. Unlike most of my feelings up to that point, that idea didn’t register, but after thirty plus years of repressing negative thoughts and feelings, I got pretty good at ignoring bodily sensations. Everything from negative feelings and shame to physical sensations like feeling too cold or being hungry.

My marriage was based on dysfunctional patterns that my wife and I both shared. I wasn’t raised in a loving household. Growing up, I was the scapegoat and I was treated bad because others in the household couldn’t deal with their own negative emotions so they dumped all of that negativity on me. I thought it was my job to give and give and give. It didn’t work in childhood and it didn’t work in marriage. I ended up feeling used. I  gave emotionally, physically and financially and didn’t get anything in return. Unfortunately I still feel a bit bitter about that, but I’m working on it. And in the end, I know it was because of my actions.

That feeling of being used was brought on partially because I didn’t know how to ask for things and partially because I was taught and raised to see relationships to be one sided affairs – with me on the losing end. As my therapist mentioned ever so bluntly,  you can only be used once, after the first time, the other person just sees the patterns as the way things are. And really why would she want to change that?