Two years ago my most vivid and important memories began when I was around seventeen years old. It was at that point that I left my home, returning only briefly for weekend visits every three or four months. I remember the day I arrived at my first job. I would live and work on the site. My mother drove me to the location. We arrived after a couple of very silent hours. I got out of the car, hauled out my suitcase with the only belongings I felt like taking from my home, threw a hand-stitched quilt from my grandmother over my shoulders and tucked my pillow under my arm. I looked at her still seated in the car, and awkwardly thanked her for the ride. She asked if I would be all right. I said I supposed so. My mother nodded, put the car in gear, and drove away.
I stood rooted to the spot, not quite knowing what to do next. I had never met my employers. The job had been arranged through a friend. A young man walked by. He said, "You look lost." I answered that I felt lost. He walked over, picked up my suitcase and asked if I was a new employee. I nodded. He said, "You'll need to meet Mr. and Mrs. Harris." He took me to the dorms, waited while I left my belongings, then took me to his supervisor. She called Mrs. Harris who arranged to meet me at breakfast the following morning (at 5:30 a.m.), then showed me my bunk and quarters in the dorms. I never saw the young man again.
I had never lived away from home before and was unprepared for the loneliness I felt. At home, regardless of the toxic abuse situation, I always had at least four siblings to work or play with and I had developed a closeness with my three younger sisters. I had been completely surprised that I was sorry to see my mother leave. I suppose I had expected a hug--although I'm not certain why. I could not remember ever receiving a hug from her. There was a feeling that she was glad to have me gone. That was not a good feeling.
I did not adjust to my new condition quickly. My bunk mate was more than ten years older than I, and sort of unusual, and within two days I had caught a respiratory virus and was miserable. Bunk mate became concerned for me, purchased some cough medicine and doctored me each morning and night, so that I could work during the day. In the meantime, I had been partnered with a young woman a couple of years older than I (the youngest at the work site until I arrived), and we quickly became friends. She made arrangements for me to move to her dorm and we became bunk mates. At that point, the summer passed quickly and wonderfully. I made many friends. We arranged our days off so that we could camp, shop, go to movies and explore Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole.
I suppose I came into my own that summer. I made decisions about my life which I have adhered to from that point forward. I learned things about myself. I became independent in a way that was positive and healthy. I had no desire to return to my home life--ever.
My memories after this point in my life replaced those of my teen years and childhood. When I began therapy, I was hard-pressed to remember anything prior to this. I realize now that this was a conscious choice, although, at the time, it didn't seem so. Now, after more than two years, I have allowed many of the memories to return--good and bad. The process of allowing and accepting the memories was painful. I did not want them.
I'm learning, as I sift through my past, that many of my quirks have developed in response to these memories. I don't like it, nonetheless, it's true and I do not turn from reality regardless of how much it may hurt. Occasionally, something seemingly unrelated leads me back to memories I previously disregarded. For example, today I found myself talking with Tolkien Boy. This used to be a daily and sometimes nightly pleasure. Now, if I have a complete conversation with him every couple of weeks or so, that's something rare. We've both become rather busy, and as I predicted more than a year ago, life has taken us over. It's the inevitable outcome of all my friendships, but I had hoped to change this part of my life. I've not been able to do so.
However, in my brief online brush with TB, I found myself blithely imparting unsolicited advice. Fortunately, TB had to run away before I truly got warmed up, and he thanked me for my advice, alerting me to the fact that I was giving it and causing me all sorts of dismay and embarrassment. As a rule, I dislike sharing my personal opinions about anything, especially in the form of advice. I find it judgmental and rude, and quite honestly, of all the people in this world, I'm the last person qualified to judge or advise in any capacity.
In the spirit of reconciliation, I sent TB a retraction and an apology, to which he replied, "What about giving advice frightens you?"
What frightens me?
Unbidden memories began to crop up. As a child, I was paraded in front of extended family and friends because I was bright and beautiful. I could recite many things from memory. I sang. I danced. I was precocious. If I was performing, I was perfect. If I offered an original thought, I was sent away. This pattern continued as long as I lived at home. I learned quickly never to allow people to know what I truly thought. I offered no opinions.
I realize now that this still permeates my social interactions. There are few people with whom I feel comfortable expressing myself. I have done so anonymously on this blog, but if you meet me in person, probably I won't. But expressing my opinion doesn't really frighten me. I feel discomfort but not fear.
So...what frightens me about giving advice to people who are important to me? I care about them, deeply. I want them to enjoy being with me. I don't want them to leave me. But more than that, I do not wish to be dismissed. TB is in an interesting spot with me because I've been analyzing a particular aspect of our friendship now for about a year--with no significant progress. It's something which makes me vulnerable to him--which I absolutely hate--something which, unless I can figure it out and become comfortable with it, will no doubt encourage me to spend less and less time with him. I don't want that.
I expressed what I was thinking to him today. I advised him about an innocuous part of his life. And I am a child again--waiting to be sent away until the next time I am asked to perform for him.