Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What is courage?

This week has brought some new territory in it for me, and I am kind of trembling in the corner about it. I don't like writing about this. I feel uncomfortable. Painfully exposed.

There is a group on Facebook that has started up to prepare for my 30th high school reunion. (yeah, 30!) I feel these shaking tendrils of the past pulling me in and I feel resistance and fear and anxiety, remembering who I was then and the experiences I had, which all seem in my memory to wrap around everything I missed and everything I wasn't. I wasn't pretty. I wasn't thin. I wasn't popular or witty or a good student. I didn't have a single saving grace, chubby in my overalls with fingernails bitten to the hub, gigantic Coke bottle glasses and really REALLY bad hair that demonstrated my inability to recognize the difference between men and women's mullet trends. I was afraid of life passing me by. I could feel myself missing out. I watched the other kids get to do things I could not, not for financial reasons but because my dad was...well.....crazy. Not "gosh guys, my dad is such a jerk/dork/pain" kind of crazy, but true to the bones not right in his head. I know this now. I accept this now. I don't know if forgiveness is appropriate, though I try to offer it anyway most of the time..... There was violence. There was hostile and hateful emotional assault on a daily basis, usually very early in the morning before Dad went to work, before the sun came up. Days started and ended in fear. There was loss. Chronic and constant tension and awareness...what was I doing, what had I done, what could he imagine I was going to do....what horror would visit down on me today, or my mother, or my brothers? Living in that kind of stress, on that kind of guard, makes for one weird, weird, jumpy, angry, chaotic person. I was desperate in my relationships outside of home. I wanted friends. I wanted to do things kids games and performances on stage. I wanted to date. I wanted to be liked. I wanted a posse. But I see now I was chaotic in my efforts, socially awkward, weird and chronically overwhelmed with feelings of being jealous, envious, anxious, angry and needy, yanked back and forth between rebellion and compliance. Desperation poured from my bones. Deep down I was a very good girl, very rule following, sweet natured and compliant...but with the way things were, I wanted to be tough. I wanted to be mean and strong and too cool to be hurt and too cool to care about what was happening. What 16-year-old knows how to do that effectively?

Even when I did manage to connect with others, it got derailed by the home situation. I could not bring people around and I certainly could not go do the things they did. On the rare occasions that I was not grounded, it just wasn't worth the hassle of what it would take to get out of the house. I wasn't allowed to drive, I had ridiculously early curfews and the accusations that would then face situations died before they could ever get started. I met my best friend Cami in my senior year and found a bit of peace in her ability to stick with me and see good things in me, her happy and calm demeanor earning me a reprieve somehow from some of the insanity that went on at home. I stopped tying myself to the fringes of the cool kids and gave up on that. I had Stewart as a long-distance boyfriend through my senior year too, which at least gave me a plausible reason why I could not date and handsome pictures to show off of a soldier that said he loved me. But still, looking back, I am sad. Sad for myself, for the things I gave away, for the chances I took....for the ones I should have and didn't.....for the anger I carried around inside me. The relationships I missed. I was a trauma survivor. I see this now. But at that point in time, I was still surviving it. It is past time to forgive myself for that.

That is what I come to I guess. I am not that girl anymore. I am me now and I have got to forgive myself for all I wasn't then. I wasn't mistreated by my peers so much as just...ignored. Invisible. Disconnected. What kid could conceptualized what was going on at my home, and even if they did, what could they possibly do about it? If I had visible bruises maybe.....but most of the time not. He was very careful about that. How could they form a connection with me when I could not spend any time with them? It is part of who I am, part of who I have become now. It is taking courage to visit the trauma of those days...and courage is something I know. So here goes. Class of 1988 30 year reunion. My history, I am figuring out, had very little to do with these people. That is a good thing. That opens a door to rewrite this story.