“When I get mad, I put it down on a pad…”

17 Oct

Some of you reading this post may have an idea of what types of circumstances had a role in my upbringing. Some of you may not, and so I feel I should give a very brief synopsis. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, a state with one of the highest populations of German Americans. A lot of blue eyes and love of beer in that place, and my household was no exception. My father was openly racist and used racial slurs as common language. Niggers, kikes, chinks, and spics were all normal vocabulary in the house. “All in the Family” was his favorite show, and my mother, although not as vocal, possessed the same views. I grew up with an English surname and blue eyes, white skin, dishwater blonde hair, crooked teeth and dorky glasses from the discount section of frames. After my parents split and I spent more time with my mother and my older male siblings than with my father, I still heard the same words: fags, niggers, chinks and spics. This time it was my brothers, not my father.

I knew those were shitty words. To be honest, I was much more fascinated by swear words. I didn’t like the racial  slurs, I hated “All in the Family,” and my father was an abusive sociopath that made my home feel like life under Stalinist Russia. Thankfully I was exposed to Milwaukee and  diversity after my parents split, and I went to school with children of my age that didn’t look anything like me. I didn’t see why there was any reason to see these kids as different from me. I just wanted to hang out with them like everyone else. Because of that, I was exposed to break dancing. And that shit blew my mind.

I recorded some music from the radio that I listened to constantly – “Electric Kingdom,” “Freaks Come Out At Night,” “Jam On It,” and a few other gems I’m sure can be found on the “Breakin'” soundtrack. I was so into this music that as soon as I got home from school I’d play my tape. One day, my brother heard it and came into my room. He asked me why I was listening to “that nigger jungle music?” He took my tape and never gave it back. I knew I couldn’t let anyone else know I liked that music for my own safety.

Let’s fast forward some to mid teenage years when I heard about this militant rap group that was scaring the shit out of old white people. Being pre-Internet, my exposure was limited to such controversy. I certainly wasn’t going to find out about this group by asking my brothers, and I was isolated from having friends, so eventually when I did get to hear this group it was in high school. Some cool kids gave the goth girl a chance and let me join them for a few Newports in the school parking lot and that’s when I saw the album cover for Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet” in a cassette case. I thought-that’s that group!! I got the opportunity to listen after I expressed my like of Run D.M.C. I was so amazed at what I heard! I also understood why assholes like my brother would think these are some scary motherfuckers. I thought they were amazing! The camo and the berets, the arms folded across the chest – these men were not taking anymore shit.

At one point I bought the album and listened over and over, carefully listening to the lyrics. What these artists were expressing was not exclusively about their struggles and injustices, but those of other groups that have been  oppressed. I heard Chuck D say: “Teach a man how to be a father/Never tell a woman he can’t bother.” Holy shit. These guys get it. And they know people like my father and my brother SHOULD be scared, because their petty fears are being realized…diversity is coming, and they can’t stop it.

So I signed up for the revolution within myself. I broke the cycle of that hate. I found inspiration in Public Enemy. I realized that I didn’t have to accept those ideas or values that I never felt were fair anyway. I could stand up for myself. I could empathize with people of different races and ethnic groups. We had the same wants, the same fears, and we laughed at the same things. People I met that didn’t look like me were a lot nicer to me than the ones at home…that looked like me. My best friend in 5th grade was a girl named Kelly, and she was so tall and pretty. I envied her social skills. Her name was Kelly Washington and she was a Black girl. That same year, I was asked out by a boy for the first time, which mad me run away because I was so nervous, and his name was Lamont. I always felt so bad for running away from him, and if you’re out there, now you know I ran because I was nervous, not because of you!

Today I tweeted Chuck D a thank you for being one of my heroes, for bringing ideas to rural Wisconsin and into my ears. I didn’t feel so alone after I knew others existed that felt like I did – like the system is FUCKED. He tweeted me back! What an amazing human being. Mr. Chuck D, thank you for helping me see the power in words, and the power in thinking for yourself. You haven’t compromised your values, you haven’t stopped. When I wonder if I should keep writing, if it matters, I realize you never know who’s listening. Thanks for not stopping Chuck, because I was listening.
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Cyclical Sanity

26 Sep

One thing ends and another begins. Thats great news if your circumstances suck, but what if they don’t? What if you’re humming along just fine and something just ends? I suppose I am positing such a question because I want to know what is accepted behaviour for that type of situation.
I do not have a model for what is appropriate for healthy. I’m understanding that I was influenced by my mother and father whether I like it or not. In realizing such, it also offers an explanation of how I learned such maleficence. Admitting I was raised by a sociopath and a woman with borderline personality disorder lets me be a bit easier on myself and say, “no wonder I’m fucking confused.”
Most of everything I learned from them is a lie. However, not everything which has led to quite a conundrum in the past. Where do I file away the memories of my father crying as I drove away, or my mother taking care of me like Florence fucking Nightingale when I was extremely ill? I have put the whole lot in a big ugly sack and threw it off a cliff. I can’t spend the rest of my time sifting through all the shit. It would drive myself insane.
There it tumbles off the cliff to smash on the rocks. That 5% of the time there was humanity manifesting in any of them is great, but it doesn’t change the fact that most of what I know is pain and untruthful. Basically I can’t use anything they’ve taught me as a healthy guide for living. So getting back to appropriate behaviour, I don’t always recognize when someone or something is inappropriate. It may take time, and in that time there are a few of those tender moments that go in the 5% category, but that only serves to cloud the waters further. Then it hits me, and really, it is just like the light bulb lighting up over my head – holy shit this is unhealthy. That is when it ends. Then what?
How do you mourn a toxic relationship? The relief of course is primary, but there is a void, absence, and even if it was uncomfortable I knew what it was. Now there’s nothing, so the questions abound as to whether or not I can let go of the feeling of being tricked, or being blind, and am I any judge of character at all. But I cut myself slack now because I see where I learned “family” and relationships, and don’t blame myself solely anymore. I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing sometimes, like allowing myself to relax is still awkward, but its not the propaganda I learned from very sick and untreated people.

Frozen (has nothing to do with the movie or Madonna)

23 Sep

Listening to an old David Bowie album and enjoying the feeling that comes from venturing out of the house and fulfilling obligations successfully is what I am doing on this Tuesday afternoon. After an energy drink (I know, shitty stuff, but in my defense my caffeine threshold is pretty high, so to actually feel it I have to make it fucking count) and some time with the felines, I find myself drawn to keyboard. Once again, there are things I could be doing such as folding laundry, however, the laundry will be there when I am done.
I have learned that I cannot postpone something that I need to purge through words. I may think it more practical to come home and do household tasks so they are completed and off the radar giving way to free time. It just doesn’t seem to work that way. Creativity doesn’t seem to comply with a schedule. The only schedule it seems to adhere to is “whenever the hell.” That is why the laundry can wait.
I have fond memories of the album I am listening to because I bought the LP version when I was 16 years old. The album is from 1973, the year after I was born. I remember sitting on my twin mattress that lie in the empty queen size waterbed frame after I put the first record on the turntable. I felt like I unlocked some door into a subculture that was accepting of me and my interests. Here it was – Ziggy Fucking Stardust. Bowie threw away gender and became a god damn space alien named Ziggy Stardust with his band, the Spiders from Mars. This just blew my mind because it went so far beyond the bullshit that was on the radio and even beyond the supposed “underground” music that seemed to be a requirement for the subculture. It amazed me that he did this in the seventies.
Bowie is not linear in his transformations. I love that, because it inadvertently makes him anachronistic. That is why this album kicks my ASS still. I love anachronistic stuff, and actually strive to be such in my clothing choices. In that regard, I also feel anachronistic due to being without children. I don’t have that as a gauge of the passing of time, and thus I don’t view myself the same way. I’m not a parent, and being that I have severed contact by choice with my family of origin, I am not a sister, and I am not a daughter. I am to my husband’s parents, which is a gift of such enormity that I am not able to comprehend it completely due to it being out of my realm of experience. I am a daughter to these two people that I have chosen to allow into my life because of their genuine compassion, kindness, and love. It is amazing to experience that, and also hard to understand. It brings me to tears more often than not, because I am astounded that they know me and love me anyway.
I have had to make choices to continue on the road of self care that have been difficult and painful. The type of pain that comes from absence of others; knowing they exist but simultaneously knowing it is of no matter because you can not speak or interact with them for the benefit of all involved. Sometimes it is like watching someone drown and not being able to intervene. The destructive and/or toxic behavior exhibited by the person makes the relationship non-equitable, even after compromising. So there you stand, on the pier watching the familiar hand reaching up out of water as it sinks slowly on its third and last way down, powerless because if you try to save him/her, you know you will certainly drown. Following this experience is guilt usually, disbelief, and personally speaking, a great deal of wondering why in the first place.
The absence of others in that situation is painful, and makes me think of a plastic food container with liquid in it that has been frozen. While being frozen, the container gets dented and the liquid freezes in a way that is not intended. When it begins to thaw, it thaws unevenly because of the weird dent. The dent is the absence. It feels like I’m just hangin’ out, thawin’, and its not the most fun because I froze in a weird shape. Now I have to thaw and reform correctly without the dent, or the absence, or the pain.
That whole description is kind of abstract, but it is that image I have seen in my mind when I have let go of the members of my family of origin and other individuals that are not safe. As I regard myself with more care, I find my tolerance for unhealthy situations has grown lower and lower. Because I am not as concerned with the approval of others and more with my health and safety (two things I have had to cultivate from the ground up), I am not as concerned about my actions being disapproved of by others. I am not going to purposely act like an asshole, that needs to be clear, but I do not feel the need to forego my own needs to please others. To thine own self be true, muthafucka. I do enjoy the swearing.
It is the first time in my life I can genuinely say that I give a shit about myself. Not just because hey, being alive is great, but because I value my life and myself, and I feel like I matter. Why do I matter? The same reason we all matter. Just because. :)
Tomorrow may be a different story and I may feel sad or anxious, but its more practice to learn to tell the critic in my head to go fuck itself. Crisis/opportunity?

DIY Wall Art

22 Sep

Wall Art!: http://youtu.be/4gY2i1tJIfM

You can call me slow, but I call it deliberate.

22 Sep

I could be lounging by the river, reading a book, or cleaning up the kitchen, but instead I am lying in bed binge watching a show on Netflix after a bowl of shredded wheat and soy milk. I haven’t had enough coffee to keep me from taking a nap. So, I watch another episode and take an anti anxiety pill. I take it and try not to feel bad about taking the pill. I have been seeing anxiety and depression a bit differently as of late, which makes me happy. I have noticed some patterns that have helped me perceive anxiety and depression as things I do not OWN. They are nouns, feelings, intangible. They don’t belong to me. I can feel them and let them go. At times, I don’t even need to engage in them, because they are habitual. I feel anxiety while projecting into the “what ifs” of the future, and depression while ruminating on the past.
Yes, I have PTSD and sometimes I lose my sense of time, but the more I realize the feelings of depression, anxiety, or imminent danger are part of PTSD, I realize I do not generate these things because of some personal defect. The more I believe that, the more I am able to let go of shame, and the more I am able to see that I may have PTSD, but I am not PTSD. It is a learned set of responses, and I can and am learning other responses to use in place of them. It is work, but I can feel a difference. It is enough to make me want to continue to grow and learn more healthy behavior and ways of managing stress.

Relax.

15 Sep

Over the weekend lots of decorating and crafty stuff was done. Feels great to be in this home where I can see the sun light pour in through the windows  and feel at ease. In that regard, I realize how much my environment affects me. Of course not completely, but I have more of a sense of how crucial it is for mental health.
I feel my feelings and know that I am in a safe place where I can deal with them and examine them now. They are not so overwhelming. It is very empowering. When I feel triggered I can deal with it in a safe place and in doing so, I am allowed some breathing room between myself and my feelings. It is then that I am able to discern what the fuck is going on as opposed to reacting by rote.
In the former environment I felt threatened and unsafe. I would experience triggers and feel as though I was not working hard enough to heal, and that had to be the reason I was not feeling better. It took some time to realize that idea was fucked. I try HARD at making a go of things and yes, there’s a lot one can do to make things synergistic, but at some point I had to acknowledge that I was trying, but the environment was sickly, and I had to disengage from it.
At some point, I began to believe I was not the problem. That means at some point I stopped believing that I did not deserve comfort and safety. For that I am thankful.  Thankful for feeling like a toad in a pot of water that is slowly heating because instead of boiling, I got angry and got out of it. I am thankful for the knowledge that even though I was told most of my young life I did not have worth, I know that is a big, ugly, sinister and manipulative lie. I recognize the feeling of that lie more than I ever have. For that I am grateful, because it means I care about what happens to me.
Somehow the grand mystery of self care is becoming less of an enigma. It does not mean getting drunk and/or going on a cruise, or getting a manicure. For some that may be a good idea, but self care is all about yourself, so it’s only what is restorative to you. I kept wishing someone could give me a manual on self care and I could call it a day. However, it is something we must learn for our own health and safety, and something we learn from self exploration and self awareness. I don’t find the idea of getting a massage pleasant at all, so that is not self care to me. I may have to watch a few Joan Crawford movies and paint my own nails. The point is self care is as varied as the people practicing it. The manual, so to speak, seems like so many other things…to be written as you go through it. Which brings me to a quote from Ricky Gervais, which I will use to close this post:
“Relax. No one else knows what they’re doing either.”

Hang your head, or hold it high.

11 Sep

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, there was a young woman who fancied herself an expatriate. Surly in her regard for her home country, she would tout her non-belief and share it with anyone willing to listen. She, like many other inhabitants of her country, was not poor, but not wealthy either. She did have just about everything she needed and yet she found contempt for this place.

One morning, after a lack of sleep and and motivated by obligation, she geared up to take care of some personal business. That was the morning the inhabitants of her country (including her) sat with bated breath as a thousands of citizens died a senseless and horrible death. Glued to television screens and radios across the world, people saw horror manifest before their eyes. Bodies flying from skyscrapers and transmissions from the poor souls that knew their last moments were ahead, the sounds of large structures slowly giving way to become rubble, shaky amateur camera feeds showing the horror was real and hearing people cry out in disbelief, pain, and fear-that was what filtered through her eyes and into her mind.

It took a few days, but after the shock began to dissipate, she began to reassess the way she felt about this place in which she lived. The bad mouthing stopped. The generalizations about her country stopped.

I became happy to live in the United States after September 11th, 2001. I saw so much compassion in so many people that it changed me. We were all devastated, and I noticed people being exceptionally kind to one another.  I stopped believing the United States was just a bigger version of Texas and started to look at the privilege I have by being born in the U.S. I am grateful for my change of perspective.

This day, however, is just a collectively dark one. There is  a solemnity that is almost palpable. We will never forget those we lost. We cannot. It is embroiled into our minds as a flashbulb memory and a collective one in a way. It will always be with us. Our culture changed that day, as did our perspectives.

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