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Posts Tagged ‘reality’

I feel kind of like a Bristlecone Pine lately, scarred, contorted, but still alive and reaching.

I know that I have been quiet lately. It’s the sort of quiet that comes when things are massively changing inside and you are afraid to say much of anything about the changes, because inside you feel fragile and unfinished. I find it hard to even say much about other people’s posts, because I still feel so self protective and unable to open up enough to the outside world and really connect with what others are saying. Which kind of makes sense and kind of is ironic, because the changes have to do with recognizing there there really is a world out there and that other people and I actually do exist.

For me, this is nothing short of earth shaking and I am struggling to keep from being overwhelmed by the intensity of the experience. So, for now, I will take Mama Bear’s advice and just try to sit with these realizations lightly, breathe them in, and learn to be with them.

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At the moment, I am just reeling under the impact of some additional perspective into my parents and my relationship with my parents that has come up in a period of about 24 hours.  It isn’t bad, in fact it is quite good because it reflects that some very important internal changes are going on right now.  But it is certainly disconcerting to literally feel dizzy because of shifts going on inside.

What it all boils down to is that I am finally really accepting that I both can and should trust in my own perceptions of things.  Sounds simple and obvious, doesn’t it?  For me, this is a profound change, particularly when it comes to my parents and it is shaking me to my roots.

I have spent 20 years trying to learn how to do this, in one form or another.  Sometimes I am largely successful, but even then, it isn’t based purely on my own perceptions, but my sharing them with others whom I trust and having them reflected back at me as being accurate.  It wasn’t really trusting my own take on things, but rather trusting others to be able to evaluate things correctly and reflect back to me where I was on target and off base.

For a long time, I would pretend to not understand as much as I understood, when it would have involved stating, “This is the way that I see things.”  This happened all the time in everyday life.  I rarely do that anymore, although it has shown up occasionally in times of extreme stress.

The place where I most profoundly distrust my take on things is in regards to my parents and my relationship with them.   I have said before that I have a complicated relationship with them.  They really are not bad people, but they are the products of their upbringing.  I grew up fully buying the story that they were fantastic parents.  All of my friends thought that they were wonderful.  My mother was always cheerful.  My dad was always charming, outgoing, and “fun.”  They were constantly active and on the go when my dad was home, although he was in the service, which could take him away for months at a time.  I was provided with everything that I needed and then some.  I was enabled to go to an excellent college, despite the financial strain it put on my parents.  I had everything to be grateful for and nothing to complain about, right?  I certainly believed that.

But looking back, I remember being sad and alone so much of the time.  As a teen, I believed that I had everything, but there was a hollowness inside.

And then after college graduation and marriage, all hell started to break loose in terms of body memories and flashbacks beginning to emerge.  It was all unbelievable.  Abuse had nothing to do with the image of family that my parents created.  When I told my mother that I believed that I had been sexually abused, her response was, “But we were so close.  I knew you so well and I would have known if something was happening.”  And that was the family myth, that we were so close that she almost had a psychic link with me.  It was like I was being told, “If I didn’t see it, then it couldn’t have happened.”

During that period, my parents never overtly said, “We know better than you.  You are wrong.  You can’t trust what you believe to be the truth, if it doesn’t match with how we see things.”  But it was such an underlying and completely pervasive message while I was growing up that it was in my bones and so I felt immense pressure to comply with their version of reality, which most certainly did not include abuse.  I did not have the strength to resist that pressure and take on healing from the abuse at the same time, so I cut off contact with them for years, although I did re-engage with them after the birth of my daughter.

Recently, Mama Bear asked me what it was like for me to not have contact with my mother all of those years.  My response was, “I don’t remember.”  I hate to say it, but I suspect that I don’t remember because it wasn’t any real hardship for me.  It just was.  And frankly, it was a relief to no longer feel so much pressure to believe that the sky was green and the grass was blue.

As I have talked with Mama Bear through the years about my parents and my relationship with them, I have been very aware that she hasn’t ever met them and her view is purely through me.  In the back of my mind, there was always the worry that one day she would meet them and go, “What’s the big deal?  They seem completely normal to me.”  I wasn’t worried that she wouldn’t see them clearly; I was worried that my perceptions of them was that off base.  I was worried that I was being “too sensitive” or “blowing things out of proportion” or “distorting everything” or “unable to see things clearly” or “indulging in my imagination.”  Even though I was painfully developing a new understanding of my parents and my relationship with them, I couldn’t fully trust that understanding, because it went against the image of my parents as the “perfect” parents.

I have worried about sharing many of my insights into my parents with my husband, because he has met them and I feared that he would scoff at me and say, “I just don’t see that!”

But over the last few months, as I have felt more able to share with Mama Bear things like fearing that everything that was off about my mother was all in my mind, she has been able to help me start to see that I can trust how I see the situation as being at the very least what the reality is for me and probably very close to what others would see as well.  As she said, “Your mother is not going to react perfectly, she already hasn’t, many times over.”

One of the most profound disconnects for me is between my mother’s belief that she knew me so well and was so close to me, and the devastatingly deep sense that I have of being completely and utterly alone with the abuse and in so many other ways while I was growing up.  Obviously my mother’s version is much more palatable than mine and it was what I would have told you if you had asked me in my early 20s or before.  My version was much too painful for me to own.  Now days I am slowly replacing that aloneness with the knowledge that in the here and now, I have many people who love and support me and who can bear to know that terrible things happened, that I was hurt very badly, and to be there to hold my hand or provide a shoulder for me to cry on when needed.  In the context of the very different reality of now, it becomes possible to own the oh so painful reality of then.

The clincher came for me today, though.  My mother had not known about the accident and was surprised at a reference to it in an e-mail, so I sent her something that was almost exactly what I posted on my blog the night of the accident.  It was completely honest about how the experience was frightening, could have been much more serious, and that I had an extreme reaction after the accident.  I was curious to see how she would respond.  Her reply had 3 sentences: The first was “Is there anything that we can do to help?”  (My mother is known for offering help when I am unlikely to accept it.)  The second was congratulations to my husband for something.  The third was asking me to give him a hug from her.  Nothing at all that was directly about the accident.  No, “That’s so terrible!” or “Thank, God you are alright!” or “I’m so sorry that you went through that!”  It isn’t that she isn’t caring, and I am pretty sure that she had some of those normal reactions, but she couldn’t reach out to me when faced with a situation that had been potentially life threatening.  And it became very clear that my mother is unable to deal with any difficult emotions and she so will ignore the situation.  Suddenly it becomes so much more believable that she couldn’t bear to see that there was something wrong with me when I was a child.  And it becomes crystal clear that her version of reality is severely edited, whether she is aware of it, or not.

So now I am reeling under the realization that I really can accept how I see and feel about things.  I shouldn’t second guess my perception of things when it does not agree with the family myth.  It probably isn’t 100% accurate, but it probably is as accurate as the next person’s perception would be.  The problem does not lie within me, it lies within my mother.

(I will write about my father later, because this is already much longer than I expected.)

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