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Monday, August 30, 2010

Probably I just ate something that disagreed with me.

I am out of sorts today. I'm supposed to be running, but my constant sunshine has taken a break this morning and I'm not excited about being rained on right now. The weekend's unplanned trip to care for a recently deceased client's estate is part of my job, but for whatever reason, I wasn't prepared to add that to my getting-back-into-the-school-groove schedule. The trip went fine, the settlement was uncomplicated, I'm home and rested, but I still feel like my life is upside-down right now.

I missed Darrin's birthday which could be part of my disequilibrium. Traditionally, we don't get each other large gifts, but we do set aside time to just be together. I'm the type of person who could receive something very expensive, but it would have little worth beside an hour of one-on-one time. There is nothing that means more to me than having someone I love all to myself for a moment.

There seem to be major changes taking place inside of me, as well. It's a mixing together of sorts. I can't really describe it. For four years I worked on allowing vulnerability in my life. I put myself in situations I deemed "unsafe", meaning I allowed emotional closeness in a variety of relationships as I had not allowed in the past, and I tried to get to a point where those relationships no longer felt threatening or frightening--and it was difficult. A couple of those relationships were jeopardized or ended but not by me, which in itself is a triumph, I think. Now, finally, I'm learning how to navigate relationships without panicking and it feels like my "self" is saying, "Okay, you can do this. There's no need to keep allowing such vulnerability on a large scale," and boundaries are snapping into place.

I think this is a good thing, overall. Everyone needs to define their boundaries. But because it feels beyond my control, I'm feeling a bit of helplessness, as well. On top of that, my willingness to talk of myself with other people is fading. I'm still doing it because I think it's important. One of the reasons I was unable to feel connected with people for so many years was because I listened to them constantly but never shared any part of me in the process. The relationships were completely unbalanced and when I felt used up emotionally, I left. Those relationships also cemented in my head the belief instilled by my parents as a child: Nothing I have to say, nothing that is important to me, no part of me has any worth to another person. I have believed this for a very long time.

Poor Darrin was the first person I believed really wanted to know about me--and as soon as I trusted him I began talking and I couldn't stop. I told him everything that was on my mind, but I also wanted to know about him. It was the first time in my memory when I was able to have a conversation in which I felt my words, beliefs, and thoughts were valued.

I'd like to say this state has always been present throughout my marriage, but it hasn't. When I'm having difficulty managing memories, emotions, or PTSD, I stop talking. Sometimes it takes weeks (and occasionally months) until I feel safe enough to share again. Initially, Darrin thought something was wrong in our relationship and tried to prod me into talking about what was going on inside me--a very bad move. It just makes me cranky. When I explained that sometimes I just need space to think and sort things out, and I'll be back when I'm finished, he was generous enough to recognize this was not about him, and to grant me that time and space. Occasionally Darrin can see that I need to talk but am having difficulty. In those moments he tells me he loves me, he holds me, he says when I feel ready to tell him he'd love to hear what I'm thinking about. This creates an atmosphere of trust and security which allows me to talk with him sooner than might otherwise happen.

I'm thinking about this because the all too familiar reticence is back. I find myself beginning to talk about something of importance to me and the thoughts which used to haunt me constantly, emerge once again. I become aware I'm wasting someone else's time. I know the things of which I wish to speak are important only to me. I'm certain I'll be rebuffed openly or my words are being silently ignored or rejected--and this is acceptable because I should not be speaking in the first place.


My head reminds me that when people do not share their thoughts and ideas with me, I feel closed off from them. I remember how much I love hearing from my friends and family members. I think about how I cannot connect emotionally with people who listen beautifully but do not allow reciprocity. And I tell myself that if I cannot share myself verbally, those with whom I speak will feel I do not trust them. There is almost a selfishness in listening but not speaking.

It would be nice if my heart could hear and understand what my head is telling it. This is not happening, however. Heart is completely ignoring Head. I'm still trying, though. Last night I talked with a friend about something that happened this weekend which has been messing me up inside, somewhat. I even initiated the conversation by sending an email asking him to talk to me when he came online. But when he said hello, I fought an internal war for a minute or two before I was able to discard the thoughts of "this is stupid--no one cares about this except you and your therapist--and him only because you pay him to care" and "you haven't talked with this person for awhile--maybe you can get over yourself long enough to hear what's going on in his life first" and "this is a trivial thing to get worked up about and really doesn't deserve conversation".

However, I did talk with him. I'd like to say I felt really glad I had done so, but the above thoughts turned into "it was nice of him to humor you" and "I wonder how long people will tolerate my pathetic self-centeredness" and "I wish I could learn to stop talking about me all the time". I think, however, that what might be going on is that I'm processing words said to me as a child and weighing them against reactions from people who currently care about me. Because I'm sifting through old responses and words or implications received when I tried to speak as a child, it's inevitable that many feelings from the past are intruding into my present and I'm not navigating them successfully right now. So this might be temporary, but right now it feels as though it's here to stay--and it feels awful.

I look at myself: On Saturday I sat with the heirs of a millionaire client. For years I have prepared multiple business and personal tax forms and returns for our client. I had a wonderful relationship with her and her spouse. I gave sound investment advice, in tandem with my father, to them and in the aftermath of a recession and unstable economy, they lost very little and regained in the past year, all that was lost and more. Because we worked together successfully, those heirs were receiving a great deal of property and money, most of which they would receive with little tax consequences because of steps we took before their parents' deaths.

Our estate settlement meeting was friendly and warm. The heirs thanked us for the work we did with their parents and with them, personally. This was the first time I had met them--I had worked only with their parents. On parting, each of them shook my hand, told me it was a pleasure to meet me, and one of the lovely daughters hugged me.

The person at that meeting is not some Samantha-projection. She is me. I don't put on a show or give a sales pitch when I do business. I give information, I laugh when something funny happens or is said, I answer questions, I enjoy the people I'm with. If you meet me on the street weeks later, you'll meet the same person who attended our business meeting. So if people respond to me in business and personal situations, that means either the people I'm with are putting on some kind of weird show of liking and affection (and why would they do that??) or my view of myself is skewed and needs to be adjusted.

Except--I don't believe it's my view of myself. I believe this is me, finally allowing myself to hear old words--hurtful words--and to access old memories of emotions and experiences, and decide if they are valid in reference to who I am, who I was, and who I will become. Perhaps I must go through this right now because I have people in place who will remind me that those words were said by someone who gave birth to me, but never took the time to know me, words said in irrational anger triggered not by me, but by something inside that person and aimed in my direction.

Or maybe it's just time. I've waited many years to confront this particular demon. I know I need to do it. I'm very afraid of doing it alone, however, and I'm not sure I'll be able to ask for help when I need it most. I'm hoping the defiant little girl who repeatedly rejected demeaning words and who stubbornly lived through abuse and subsequent rape will come to my rescue. For the first time since I began this quest, I'm recognizing her strength and beauty, and I'm remembering her innocent way of reaching out to people around her, cuddling without self-consciousness or guilt beside any adult person who would allow her to sit nearby, talking and giggling with abandon until years of abuse silenced her. I'm remembering she moved with incredible energy, spinning in circles until losing her balance and laughing as the room continued to spin while she sat still. She danced. She sang. She took risks and could never learn enough in one day. She hated naps and loved to run.

I am that little girl--she is me--and I need her.

The sun is out. I think I will go run.

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