The Worst of Times and The Best of Times

As I was getting into bed last night I thought about how no matter what I write, people will isolate that which presses their buttons, and will interpret what I’ve said according to the way they see life.  Also, when I have something to say and I introduce something provocative people will be diverted from the main theme.   Well I guess we all have choices in this, writers and readers alike.

You know the way your mind wanders down the road and takes miscellaneous turnings?  Somehow I ended up mulling over the way bankruptcy has opened up my life.   It’s funny.  I said to a friend the other day I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, but the truth is I’m glad it happened and I think I’ve benefitted in ways that are downright miraculous.  All in all I really believe I’m one of the lucky ones.

Bankruptcy strips you of all the props that society uses to measure the value of a person – and to make us feel safe.   But those props stifle your soul if you’ve compromised your aspirational self to acquire them.   The part of you that dreams.  Basically you do work that doesn’t fulfill you so you can buy a decent house, a decent car, go on holiday…

It’s complicated, because you also want to provide for your children.   You stifle your dreams because they’re too painful, but they press upon you.  You long for a freedom you can barely express, let alone actively go after.  It’s too scary to take a risk because you believe the props are what stimulate you, excite you, keep you alive, make your life worth living.  Keep you and your children safe – that’s a big one.

Part of the props are all the rules – be this be that, don’t be this don’t be that.  If you don’t follow the rules you won’t be successful, your life will go nowhere, you’ll be irresponsible.   If you’re not successful or responsible you’re utterly worthless and might as well be dead.  Very believable rules with seemingly life-threatening consequences if you break them.

Some people can live within those boundaries, and seem to achieve fulfillment.  But I couldn’t.  When I left school, I spent about 12 years trying to articulate what my longing for inner freedom meant, then trying to become a musician and a writer.   I didn’t even know how to support myself adequately, so I ended up a wreck at age 30.  I’d been away from home and country all that time, and when I returned I found a therapist who said “you have to learn how to make money”.  So did my family.

So I chucked my dreams out and went for the money.  Maybe then they’ll all love and accept me.  Built a business from scratch.  Within ten years I was doing pretty well considering where I’d come from.   But there was nothing left of me inside.  I bought the idea that the props are the most important thing.  And discovered within myself a whole library of rules and regulations I didn’t know I lived by.  I had everything I needed to make a success of the prop-life.

Except that it ate me alive.

So, painful and terrifying as it has been at times and sometimes still is; hard as it’s been to deal with my own ignorance, several betrayals, the shame and humiliation of being dependent, my unhealthy relationship with my mother – my bankruptcy did me a favor.   And much as there were many external factors seemingly beyond my control, at the core I believe a part of me was saying “enough.  I can’t do this any more.   I can’t go after money for its own sake.  Whatever it takes, I’m going to let my aspirational self have its day”.

So I went back to school in a way.  The school of what makes life truly meaningful for me.   How to achieve it and also experience a degree of material reward, but never at the cost of my soul.   Never that again.   Ever.

Still trying to figure it out.  It’s a work in progress.

House of cards tumbling down

My whole house of cards came tumbling down today.

I got the new computer and printer, and they look very wonderful, they’re the first new quality things I’ve had for over ten years.  TEN YEARS, folks.  Imagine my excitement.

And I can’t use them. Because the printer needs a new cartridge and the pc doesn’t have Microsoft Office.  The cartridge costs anything from R200-500 and the software costs R1500.  Money I don’t have. The frustration of no resources blew out my lights.

What the hell is the point of being alive and being so positive and looking for solution and clutching onto my dreams when I just keep hitting this brick wall?  It gives me a monumental fucking headache.  Brain damage.

I know there must be a solution somewhere but it eludes me.

Rage.

Somebody asked me to do some sewing for her, and offered me R50.  I said I’d do it for R100.  She didn’t want to pay that.  I accepted her price, feeling like a poor white.  She got this smug look on her face, aren’t I clever, I got you for cheap.

Yeah, you’re real clever.  Congratulations.

What am I doing here?  I’m so sick of the frustration of wanting to move with  ideas and not being able to.

Who gives a rat’s ass whether there’s a solution out in the universe for me, and it’s just my own incomplete consciousness that stops me from finding it?  How does knowing that, or suspecting it or fearing it get me closer to the solution?

It doesn’t.

I feel utterly worthless and stupid.  Hundreds of thousands of people have overcome things that happened to them in their childhood and moved through challenges and made their way in the world.

What’s wrong with me.

I’ve been as angry as a snake for hours.  I hurt like hell.

This is the first time I’ve written a blog and haven’t felt better by the end.  And it’s my 101st blog.  I should be celebrating.  It’s an achievement, isn’t it.   Well, I’m not celebrating.  I want someone to reach out to me and say it’s okay, you don’t have to be strong all the time, it’s okay to be disheartened.

Well, whether it’s okay or not, it’s what I am.
Disheartened.

My words are pale, they don’t deliver images which can come anywhere close to what I feel, how bleak my world looks from the inside.

This too will pass.

_____________________________________________________

And it has.  I still don’t know what the solution is to this ridiculous and appallingly frustrating situation that I’m in.

But I won’t let myself listen to the part of me which shouts that I’m a worthless failure.  It’s bs.  I’m not.

Facts: bankruptcy is hard to recover from.  Having no material resources is a common human predicament.

Like I said, hundreds of thousands of people have managed to get out of this exact hole.  I must be able to, also.  I’m human, aren’t I?

I won’t let this take me down. Not for a minute longer.

I was happy yesterday, able to have faith in myself, believe my life is going forward.  Happy to be part of the human race, not regretful of a second of my life so far.  Sure of its meaning.  Patient with myself, and clear about the bigger picture.

Today the storm clouds gathered.  It was just emotion, that’s all.  I got angry, frustrated, scared, sore.   Did some tantrum, crying, expressing, got it out of my body.  Sanity restored itself.  It always does.

So I guess it’s back to choosing what to believe.  When that’s what’s in front of you, when that’s the only thing you can control, you might as well choose the idea that holds prospect.  Might as well.

Maybe all this choosing I’m doing is building momentum behind the scenes.  Really looking forward to choosing other things, I’m dead sick of this one.  It holds no entertainment value for me at all.  I’d rather be choosing my next travel destination, or my plastic surgeon, or which actresses and actors and director etc. I want for my completed script.  Now which grand piano should I buy?

Some kind of sick humour rises to the surface; at the age of 55 I’m dependent on my unwilling mother and taking in sewing work for R50 – I’m like a character out of the Jane Austen era.  In straightened circumstances.  Well I did the damn work and it took me an hour and a half. That is the sum of my valiant financial achievements at present.

Break open the champagne.

It is quite funny, in a satirical, Bridget Jones kind of way.  I suppose.

Bankruptcy, Poverty and Shame. Wanting Relief

I’m not enjoying myself today.  I’m hungry to have had a different history. Hungry for anything but the truth.  I don’t want to be where I am, don’t want to have found life so challenging, don’t want my bankruptcy to have happened, don’t want to have needed it to wake up to myself at a deeper level.  I don’t want to have taken so long to re-build myself and my life.

I just don’t.  It’s raining outside.  I’m raining inside.  Cup’s half empty.

I want solution quicker than I’m able to access it.  I don’t want a crappy rusty car that could break down at any time, and that has bald tires – I want one in good condition and is safe. I want a warm jersey and a pair of jeans, and a pair of track shoes. Mine are falling apart. I want to earn money with my writing. I want someone to reach out to me and say “hey, you could do this, this is how you go about it, I’ll show you”.

I want to not be ashamed of myself all the fucking time.

How am I going to make it out of this whole mess? I’m 54, and still wrestling, still trying to find a place of normalcy for myself, a place in the world that isn’t driven or defined by neuroses – mine or anybody else’s.  I’m still shuffling off, not this mortal coil, but the aspect of me that doesn’t belong to me.  At least I’m doing it.  I suppose.

I’ve always been dogged by fear that I was crazy.  I guess it’s understandable.   Thing is, I know the real me and also see the me that I was conditioned to be.  I can separate them out and distinguish between them.

I can also identify the dialogue in my head which has controlled me all my life, and separate it out into the different ego states of parent, adult and child.  I can see how we hold beliefs that we aren’t aware of, have emotions we don’t know about.  I know that unexpressed emotions create depression.  I can see the abandoned children in people. Does all this mean I’m just becoming conscious, or does it mean I’m crazy?

I so want to be done with all this.  I want to move on for real – at the deepest part of me, so I can be done with my history because I’ve brought my repressed emotions out and addressed my unmet needs, and my baggage is unpacked.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  I do want that right at the core of me, but today I can’t really care, I don’t want to be sensible.  I just want relief. 

My Mother and I – Mother and Daughter

I’m having a difficult time facing the truth of what really happens between my mother and I.  I want to pretend I had a normal childhood.  But I didn’t, and normal mothers don’t force their 14 year-old daughters to go out with pedophiles – and then forget about it and refuse, years later, to even listen to what happened, because it hurts too much.  It hurts you?  What about me?

Everything winds back to my relationship with my mother, my experience of her, how impossible it is for me to get my needs met with her, and how much I keep trying, butting my head against that brick wall.  The person holding me back is me.  I don’t want to admit to the truth of her.

I’m torn between knowing that she’s subject to the same responsibilities as everybody else, and fearing that she was so wounded as a kid that normalcy wasn’t even on the cards for her.  My expectations of her seem cruel and unfair in the light of that possibility.  But where does it leave me?

I’m fighting a war I can’t win.  How can I accept the way she is, when my experience of that way is exploitation of my vulnerability?  How can I make my peace with it in the face of what still feels like abuse to me?

I’ve spent my life saying “she doesn’t mean to hurt me” but it doesn’t change anything.  Intentions don’t hurt us, actions do.  Can she become aware of what she’s doing and thus be accountable?  I don’t know.  I have to stop hoping for it.

The past is still alive between us, not because of her, but because I’m still vulnerable.  How can I be in a real relationship with her, how can I have conversations with her – in which she steals all the strokes, where she’s always the talker and I’m always the listener – without it hurting?

I’ll never be able to breach that solid fortress which is her refusal to acknowledge that she’ll sacrifice me rather than face her truth.  It would be easy if I hated her but I don’t.  I still love her – is it love, or is it a raw, very small child’s need for love?  Every time I pick up that phone, no matter how well I prepare myself, no matter how well I try to keep myself behind safe boundaries, she always gets to me.

Every time she turns up the vulnerable volume I’m crushed.  I want to say “it doesn’t matter that you hurt me, so long as you’re okay.  I know you don’t mean it.  Please don’t hurt, Mom.”  I’m the sacrificial lamb and I get slaughtered every time.

How do I stop wanting her to meet my needs in a clear and unconflicted way,  one that doesn’t include making me pay emotionally?  How do I stop wanting her to just tell the truth?  There’s a little, innocent girl alive in me, watching her.  Hoping. Maybe this time it’ll be different.  Maybe this time it will have changed forever.

I wish I could stop loving her but I can’t.  I wish love was simple, but it isn’t.  I can’t change her, and I even recognize that she has the right to be who she is.  My challenge lies with me, not with her.  Not to understand her better and not to prove her sane or crazy, because I can’t, but to look elsewhere for my needs.

So I don’t depend on her.  So she can’t hurt me.  I have to learn to strengthen my own boundaries.  Or else walk away.  But how do I close the door on my mother?

The shadow of the past

I’ve never known that I had rights or could say no to abuse and bullying.  I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions and meet my needs – didn’t even know how to identify them.  Didn’t know how to use my brain.  Didn’t know I had creativity.  I was sure I wasn’t loveable.  My experience of  people was always traumatic because I was sure they despised me with good reason.  I survived by being a nonentity.   It was a nightmare, but it’s how I stayed alive, so there’s still sometimes something safe in it, something attractive.  I still have to wrestle with the darkest of my demons, the shadow of a past that beckons me become nobody again.

I understand now that I am entitled and I know how to establish boundaries and listen to my emotions, meet my needs.  But I’m not brilliant at it yet, and often the world still becomes a terrifying place as the shadow of my past hides the reality of my.  I can’t see the reality, I can only see the past, where there was no solution. Where I wasn’t loved or entitled or valued, where I was punished emotionally for being.  Where my self-esteem was like a piece of old, torn, moldy, smelly dishrag. Shameful.  Abhorrent.

6 years ago, bankruptcy made me supremely vulnerable.  Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.  I thought it was the end of my life. But getting to rock bottom isn’t a bad thing, it’s a challenging thing.  Uncomfortable isn’t bad, it’s the door opening to a new way of doing things.  New is painful at first.  Stepping out of history, leaving the past behind.  It doesn’t feel safe, it feels wrong, that’s what is so hard.

But it led me to see the authority I gave to money and the myths I’d learned about myself and life, about my self-esteem. I got a chance to start fixing things from the inside, rebuilding my foundation for living.

Although bankruptcy is about money, the crisis was provoked by my belief system and my fear that life would end if I couldn’t get material things.  Beyond that it was about my fear of becoming vulnerable and having to ask for help – which was about fear of being punished beyond my threshold of emotional pain, and re-experiencing the emotional punishment I was subjected to as a child.

The shadow of my past.  It’s still powerful, but not more powerful than my spirit and the part of me that is emerging from my history.  Still a bit tentative, a bit shaky, but with a resolve that’s indestructible.  The days of my past overpowering me completely are over.