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Sunday, January 9, 2011

"We cannot change our memories, but we can change their meaning and the power they have over us. ~David Seamands

Therapist caught me online this week. We chatted for a few minutes. I told him I don't need him to check up on me--then I asked him a couple of questions that have been bugging me for the past two weeks. He said what I expected him to say, and ended up with the nauseating "Fake it till you make it..."

I'm very good at that faking part. I've done it most of my life. I try not to do it as much anymore--not because I don't want to "make it", whatever that may mean, but because I'm trying to be more honest, more authentic. I'm trying to acknowledge what is really happening, rather than just going through the motions of what I assume other people expect of me.

Still, I think what Therapist meant was, "Keep pushing forward, Sam." And of course, I will. 

My children told me last night that when I'm in a hurry, I drive in the same fashion as I watch Jeopardy. I watch the show shouting out answers, then saying, "Why! Why won't you listen to me? I just told you the answer!" Under normal circumstances, I'm a very quiet driver. My times in the car are filled with occasional spontaneous singing, and conversations with The Big Guy. When I'm in a hurry, you'll find me alternately questioning why the person in front of me must drive five miles per hour under the speed limit, and pleading for him/her to take a huge risk and actually accelerate to 30 (or even 31) mph. Interspersed with my instruction/pleading are commands to please turn left or right onto a side street and get out of my way. And I continue the tirade until I notice that my children are staring at me as if I've lost my mind. 

I suppose if I can carry on intense, one-sided conversations with people whom I know cannot hear nor respond to me, Therapist is within his rights to instruct me to pretend I'm feeling certain things until such time as I learn how to do so in reality. It's just...difficult. In the meantime, no flashbacks and no PTSD still. I want to celebrate this, but it seems silly. Most people don't have flashbacks or PTSD and they don't make a big deal out of it. So--no celebration, but I'm still counting each eventless day with gratitude.

Today's memories:

I am walking with my mother and older sister. We're going to visit Miss. G. She has long white hair which she keeps in a bun, but sometimes she puts it in a ponytail down her back. She's very thin and quiet. I knock on her door. The hallway of her apartment building smells of stale cigarette smoke. I tell my mother I like that smell. My mother says it's awful, but it makes me think of Miss G. and to me it smells lovely. Miss G. opens her door and greets us. She leads us into her "sitting room." I sit on the stiff, uncomfortable sofa while my mother chats with our hostess. I wander to the shelf where the delicate pendulum of an anniversary clock twirls first one direction, and then the other. I think it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I decide that when I am old I will live in an apartment smelling of stale cigarette smoke, wear my hair in a long ponytail, and have my own anniversary clock. 

I'm sitting on the front porch with Mary. She babysits us and I believe she is gorgeous. She has green eyes and thick black hair and when she smiles my mouth has to smile back. My sisters are all in bed. Even the baby is sleeping. I'm supposed to be asleep, too. Mary arrived tonight to find my mother screaming at me and after my parents left I hid in my closet so I could cry without Mary noticing. She peeked through the doorway and asked if I was hungry. I said no. I stayed in the closet a long time. After my sisters were in bed, she took me by the hand and led me to the front porch. It's dark now. Mary points out The Big Dipper. I don't say anything. She picks me up and holds me on her lap. She talks to me about school. Mary is in high school. I'm only in second grade. She tells me about dancing in P.E. and singing in choir. She teaches me a song. I sing with her. Then we sing it in a round. She tells me not very many little girls can sing rounds. She says I'm special. We sit quietly, looking at the stars. Mary carries me inside and places me in the bed I share with my already asleep sister. She kisses me good-night.

My father hands me a paper grocery bag and leads me through tall grass. He shows me the thick stalk and nubbed head of an asparagus plant, cuts it with his scissors and places it in my bag. He tells me to do the same thing. I cut as many as I can find, then I decide to cut some of the grass, as well, and some nearby cattails, too. I find endless treasures to cut and keep. In no time my bag is full. I wander over to my father and tell him I'm finished. His look of surprise turns to laughter as he sees what I've put in my bag. He sorts the asparagus from the rest of my treasures, and explains to me that we only want the vegetable. I look at the assortment of plants, leaves, rocks, and the lone, tiny frog I've managed to catch--desperate, dry, and bewildered at being snatched from its mud puddle. I'm not sure my father is making the best choice. He bends down and nudges the frog. The animal squirms weakly away. My father suggests we find a place for the frog to swim. I pick it up and walk back to the puddle where I found it. My father shudders a bit as he gently introduces the frog into the water, sprinkling some on its back, and leaving it half-submerged. I don't think my dad likes frogs. 

My hair has been piled on my head, teased into a bun which will not last past lunchtime before deteriorating into a mass of unruly curls. I'm wearing a pink dress and trying to stay clean all morning. I hate picture day. A woman appears in our classroom door to let us know it's time for us to come. We line up. My friend whispers that she forgot it was picture day. She's wearing a stained denim skirt, long striped socks, and her fingernails are painted dark blue. I wish I looked like her. The photographer places us in rows according to our height. As always, I am on the front. I want to be a tall person in the back row. My friend sits next to me. The photographer walks toward us and tells us we're each to hold one side of the sign which has the year, our teacher's name, and our grade printed on it. We look at each other and giggle. We hold the sign as instructed. Just before the picture is snapped, my friend whispers that everyone will see her blue nail polish now. I look at her nails, then at my own. I tell her she's very lucky.

I don't like to write. I can't make the letters look nice. I've been reading since I was three, but I can't write. My teacher makes a huge red "S" through all my assignments. S means sloppy. She tells me to use my right hand. I don't know which hand that is. I'm frustrated. I'm trying. I hate having my writing book returned to me. I hate the color red. I hate the letter S. Miss Brown is our student teacher. She has me stay in the classroom during recess and tries to show me the difference between lower case b and lower case d. She talks about bats and balls and I become confused. I throw my pink eraser on the floor. Miss Brown picks it up and walks to her desk. She places the eraser in her drawer. I yell at her. I say the eraser is mine. I say she is stealing. I tell her I'm going to tell my parents and she will have to pay for my eraser. Then I put my head down on my desk before she can tell me to do so. I hope she doesn't know I'm crying. I hate her. After a few moments I notice Miss Brown sitting quietly next to me. I pretend I can't see her. She asks if I've had a bad day. I've had lots of bad days. I don't answer. She tells me it won't always be this way. She says if I keep trying I'll figure out how to make lower case b and d, and it will feel easy. She says I'm smart. I look at her. She has a tissue and gently wipes my face. Then she says she's only keeping my eraser until I feel calm enough not to throw it. I nod. She asks if I'd like it back. I say yes. She walks to her desk, retrieves the eraser and hands it to me. I ask her if she's going to yell at me. She says no. I say thank you.

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