I should be sleeping right now. I've been sick all day. But I can't sleep. My mind is going too fast. I remembered something. No, I understood an old memory--and now I have to dissect it. I have to face it. I have to do it out loud, in public. I need to know that there is a chance that someone will hear me. Why? Because this is about a piece of myself that I threw away a long time ago, a piece that I need to earn back. Yes, earn. It wasn't something that I lost accidentally. I remember ripping it out-- a kind of soul level dissection-- and throwing it away.
It's going to sound weird. It doesn't matter. I can always come back and clean this up later. I need to write it because I'm only now starting to gain perspective.
Here's the thing: I have a gap in my timeline. I noticed it when I was about 12. I've managed to find and fill in some of the pieces since I realized it was there, but there are about 4 years of my life that I have almost no memory of. If they were years 0-4 I wouldn't worry. I don't remember much about those years either, but I do remember being 4 and 5, 6 and 7 and I remember my 8th birthday. Then there is a hole. I know the facts. I can name my teachers and recall certain aspects, but they aren't like my other memories.
Years 4-7 I remember in color and mostly in first person. I was always shy. I was terrified of getting in trouble, but I was starting to open up: I had a good sized group of friends, I played during recess, I went to birthday parties. I was shy but not voiceless.
Then I remember my 8th birthday. I don't remember the actual day, just parts of it. I remember waking up excited. It was going to be a good day-- a great day. My 7th birthday had been amazing, my 8th would be amazing too. I think I put on this dress my grandma had made. It's kind of dorky to think about now, it had school-related items all over it. I had earrings that dangled and I think my hair was still long then. I was happy to go to school. I walked to school in the morning-- or were we riding bikes? I don't know. The air was crisp in the mornings and full of promise.
Then I remember going home with a stupid birthday expectation. I was in a bad mood-- something must have happened at school but I don't remember what it could have been. I got home and my expectation wasn't met. It was such a little stupid thing; a birthday tradition that had been started for the kids my mom watched at her daycare that I had assumed I would get to take part in.
No. I was told, that wasn't for me.
Even as I did I knew that it was a stupid thing to be so upset about, but the anger was so strong. I felt like I couldn't hold it in. I locked myself in my room and threw myself on my bed and I screamed and cried and punched my pillow and kicked my bed and told the world it was stupid and unfair and I hated everyone and everything.
I knew that it wasn't true as I screamed it, but I didn't know what else to do with the anger. I was so ANGRY and it scared me. I felt completely out of control. When my tantrum turned to shaking, tear-less sobs I tried to understand. Why had I done that? Over a cake, really? I wasn't a baby. How could I be so upset over such a small thing?
But it wasn't the cake and I think I knew on some level that there was something much deeper driving pain into some place I couldn't comprehend. I don't know what I was so mad about. I don't know why it hurt so much.
I remember fighting myself to regain control. I remember feeling rage and pain and shame at my response. I never wanted to feel like that again. The pain seemed unreal. It was stabbing into my heart and I couldn't breath and I didn't have the energy to cry or scream anymore. It occurred to me then, what detachment meant. I don't know where I'd picked up that word; I just remember it suddenly made sense.
I was in pain because I had expected that things would be a certain way and I was wrong. If I hadn't expected it, it might have still hurt but not to this degree. The solution seemed obvious. I just needed to stop expecting things. If I didn't expect anything then I would be happy when things were good and not sad when they didn't go the way I wanted.
I remember vowing several things to myself that day: 1. I would always dislike anything related to the number 8 (part of me felt that 7 had been my last good year and from 8 on the world was wrecked) 2. I would no longer be excited about birthdays, if I started to feel excited I would remind myself that it was useless and stupid and just another day and 3. I'd stop expecting anything good. The world didn't owe me anything. It was foolish to expect that. It was better to understand that life would be hard and most likely painful. The most I could do was control my response to it so that at least I wouldn't be caught off-guard by the pain ever again.
The part of me that had been screaming and kicking and throwing a tantrum-- that part had to go. I couldn't afford to feel that strongly any more. It would hurt too much. I would mess up too much. I didn't want to lose control again. So I pried that part out of myself and threw it away. Don't come back. You aren't welcome anymore...
...And then the next 4 years became a giant black hole. When I emerged sometime in junior high I was not the same person. I had stopped playing with friends at recess. I stopped talking almost at all. My writing had gone from fanciful stories of flying pigs to descriptions of families (animal families because I was afraid that if I used humans as characters they would know-- who would know what? I don't know. I just feared that they would) being torn apart by murder. I thought about death a lot. The sky broke open. I started hallucinating. I became terrified of just about everything. I was afraid to exist and at the same time afraid not to.
When I was in 6th grade I wet my pants in class because I was too scared to ask to go to the bathroom. I was scared that: 1). I would have to use a voice which no longer felt like it belonged to me 2). the teacher would see through me and know that I was rotten and evil 3). I was scared of actually being in the bathrooms at school. I started wetting myself a lot actually because I couldn't bring myself to use public bathrooms and I couldn't bring myself to ask for help.
In order to get through the day, when I was really scared I imagined someone holding a gun to my head. If they shot me then it would all be over. The end. I'd be fine.
I couldn't laugh out loud anymore. If something made me laugh it would be silent and I would do everything I could to suppress it.
I didn't want to be seen. When I got home from school I went to my room, I closed my door and my windows and I hid. I couldn't even wave to people-- My body felt foreign. My name wasn't my own. I cringed whenever I heard it used.
This transition didn't happen all at once, but slowly through those 4 years all these things changed so that when I was 12 I remember standing alone against a chain-link fence watching myself from somewhere else and thinking that I had always been this way. From then on my memories were in mostly black and white with muted colors. The couple friends who had stuck with me through those four ghost years hardly spoke to me and when they brought up something that had taken place during that time I was horrified by how little I remembered.
That's how I knew that something had gone wrong in my brain, actually. I was outside with my neighbor. We were sitting on the curb talking like we sometimes did in the evenings. We'd known each other forever so even though I didn't talk much anymore we still hung out.
Do you remember when you used to hang out with Anthony? She asked me.
I stared at her.
You used to hang out with him all the time. He was like your boyfriend in third grade.
I had no idea who she was talking about and that terrified me.
How can you not remember?
I didn't know.
Slowly after that conversation some of the memories came back-- 2 in particular... maybe 2 and a half. I remembered him bringing me a small purple stuffed animal he'd won in one of those claw machines and I put it in my desk and when I got home I used one of my other stuffed-animal's collars for it. I remembered that during my sister's birthday party one year he was waving at me through the front window-- I think he was her friend's brother. The half memory was probably when I was 10 or 11. My sister was hanging out with that friend and I had tagged along. I don't know where my parents were (maybe they dropped us both off or maybe they were talking to the friend's parents). I remember thinking that I should see him, but that for some reason I didn't. I was sad but only slightly disappointed as I walked around over the rock-decorations in the front yard and waited for time to pass. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe he wasn't really real, I thought. There must have been more moments than that but more than 15 years later those are the only three memories I can conjure back.
A similar thing happened with another friend from that block of time. I think her name was Jeorgina. I remember we had been somewhat close and I remember once she had drawn a heart in the sand and put J. J. in it for us. I remember finding out that she lived nearby and running into her and her brothers while I was out skating. We hung out in or near her house. Then I remembered going back to that house later and not being sure if the previous memory was correct. I don't remember seeing her again. I remember being very scared of her brothers, I think angry at them, but I wasn't allowed to be angry anymore so just scared. Then I thought maybe I had made it up. Whatever it was that I was upset about, maybe it was something false. Another false belief.
y the time I was in junior high I was pretty much terrified of all boys and men. I don't know why. I used to hang out with "the guys" all the time. It just happened that I had mostly the same interests. But, suddenly, they were terrifying and the girls who wanted to spend time alone with them were going to get hurt.
I would cry. I would be so terrified that I would feel sick and start crying uncontrollably when I found out that someone wanted to "make out" with someone. It was stupid, but I couldn't explain it. The thought just made me feel sick and helpless.
Maybe something happened. Maybe nothing did. I learned when I studied psychology that usually if there was trauma it was remembered in vivid detail. I learned from personal experience that when things hurt too much I would physically get sick and black out.
There are things that have hurt more recently that I completely forgot for a few years. When I was reminded and brought back to the space where the events I'd blocked out occurred, then the memories flooded back and now little reminders make me cry. I don't know how things work for most people, but I know from recent experiences with pain that at some point I stop remembering.
If you know me well you've probably heard me talk about this before. That's because it's driven me crazy since I realized it happened. Every time I learn something new about my response to the world I go back to this black hole and stare into it trying to understand.
The reason this is coming up for me tonight is because I was thinking about how much things have changed in the last few years. I've been thinking how this year seems to be full of lessons. Last week I got the impression that I had shifted out of the lessons based on things like security, accepting certain emotions, and gaining confidence. I had felt a shift last week, that said: it's time now to work on your heart.
Saturday night I had a weird experience. I was given the message that things were about to get hard and crazy. I would need to hold on, but it would be okay.
Okay. I answered nervously.
Then I had a dream that felt incredibly real and I woke up dizzy and with my heart pounding my hand which was clasped over my heart was numb and felt swollen. The dream was about a plane crash which was scary but not what scared me. In the dream we were flying through a canyon and the plane ahead of us suddenly nose-dived and exploded. We all knew that we were next and sure enough seconds later the plane dipped and the wing struck the side of the canyon as we turned and plummeted to the bottom. I held the hand of my best friend who was sitting next to me. There was fear on the plane but I was not scared. We are going to die. I thought, there is no way we aren't, but it will be fast and soon we will transition into the next world where we will be free and all will make sense. I prayed that it would be fast. I tried to imagine what it would be like to float up out of my body and to live in a place beyond time and space.
When I finished my prayer I realized I was still holding my friend's hand. There was a flapping sound in the plane-- like a large bird.
Haven't we hit the bottom yet? Shouldn't we be dead?
Open your eyes and see.
No. I was scared. I didn't want to feel panic watching the ground come up at me.
I realized I was holding my breath. I can't hold it much longer, are we going to hit the ground soon?
Take a breath and find out.
No, please. I don't want to. If we were already under water or burning up breathing would hurt.
Sigh. The winged creature said, what if you hit the river but you are still alive?
Why? How would I still be alive?
Because maybe you are?
Will I die soon?
Maybe, maybe not. But not before you take your next breath.
I don't want to breath.
You have to.
What if I don't die in this crash? What if I'm injured? How long will I have to live with the pain? What if everyone else dies and I'm alone? I can't live with that. I'd rather just die, please.
You will live as long as you can because that is why you are here. That's your next lesson.
You have to fight for your life. It doesn't matter if you will die after one more breath or in 60 years, until that day comes you will fight. You will have no choice. That is how you will show gratitude for the life you've been given. All living things fight when it comes time to die. Even if they know they are dying they will fight for as long as they can. The body will automatically fight to stay alive because life is a gift and it deserves to be fought for. There is no shame in losing the fight, but you have to fight with everything you have. So even if it hurts; even if you don't think you will be able to stand the pain you will take a breath, you will open your eyes, and you will fight like hell to keep yourself and your friend alive. You don't have a choice in this. Now breath.
When I inhaled I woke up and I could still hear giant wings flapping in the room.
I was terrified for the rest of the day. I decided to take a trip to see if I could figure out what I was supposed to fight for or if I could become strong enough to survive this crash. I went out by myself into the desert and ended up at a red canyon (ironically I didn't notice the obvious connection between the red canyon in the dream and the canyon I ended up at until after I'd returned home). I didn't hike much but I walked around near the visitor's center looking for some indication that there was a point to any of this.
I went out there looking for something. Hoping I'd find some symbol or message-- a direction. I came home frustrated and discouraged. That was supposed to be a fun journey-- it was lonely. I'm lonely.
Then I got sick. These last few days I've been scared of that dream and confused by what I'm supposed to be fighting against. As I was getting ready for bed something occurred to me. I had been feeling lonely. I used to talk about how I wanted to go on adventures. I'd wanted to prove that I was the kind of person who would do so. I did. It wasn't fun. I missed having someone to go with. Then I realized my heart was hurting.
It has been hurting for a long time now. I had told it not to turn to stone. In junior high I had said that true strength came from keeping the heart tender. I would always allow myself to love, hope, care. I never wanted to be cold-hearted. So I refused to seal that part of me up for safe keeping. Instead, I realized, I had sealed it off outside of myself. It had been hurt so many times in the past and I did not protect it.
I don't get angry when people hurt me. I had stopped getting angry about what I considered an injustice against me when I was 8. I had decided I would never get that angry again, but I had also decided I would not bury what that piece of me was meant to protect. Since then, situations that would have resulted in me getting ready to fight have caused me to get dizzy and sometimes faint. The more recent result has been that I've been waking up groaning in pain, wanting to scream and cry and not knowing why. Its been hurting for such a long time now that I forgot that there was ever a time when it didn't.
This year (my 29th) is about healing. Right now I am working on my heart, but I can't heal my heart. Time is doing that for me. What I need to do is find that part that I threw away. That anger/rage had been part of me for reason. It was the fighter. It was there to teach me to fight for my life. It gave me no choice but to fight for it and to fight passionately. Time will heal the pain, but if I can't earn back that part of myself it won't matter because there will be no way of defending it again and the wounds will just keep growing.
Suddenly the dream was no longer scary. It made sense. I needed to believe that my life was valuable enough to fight for without holding back. There was part of me that had always known how to do that. I had torn that part out. Now I need to find it again. If I want to live-- not just exist-- I need to be willing to risk that pain. I need to be willing to lose control of my faculties and fight like hell to stay alive.
I don't know how to do that yet, but I needed to write this all down because I think that part of what I lost when I rejected that fighting spirit was my voice. This is me taking steps to reclaim it. So now it's out here-- It's messy, its confusing, its completely imperfect-- but its me speaking up and trying to take steps toward reclaiming what I rejected. I'll never be perfect.
I'll never be stoic.
I don't have to be. I don't want to be.
I don't know if I'll ever know why I did it-- what it was that hurt me so badly that I thought that this was the answer. But I can't live this way anymore. This isn't enough for me. It never was. Life isn't meant to be half lived.
Now if I could only find that other half and ask it to forgive me.