Risk Aversion*

I read my writing aloud in public for the first time two weeks ago.

I began this blog a year and a half ago as a way for me to begin to break the silence and shame I felt inside.

You see, I grew up in an environment that encouraged me to suppress my feelings and my true thoughts. In essence, I learned to hide my truth.

Because of things that had happened to me when I was young, I was afraid that to speak my truth would bring pain to others in my family. I needed their love, so I learned very early on to present a version of me that would be pleasing for them and others. It was literally a matter of survival, keeping my truth hidden.

Additionally, problems in our family were not acknowledged verbally for the most part. We pretended to each other they did not exist. If it was something that absolutely could not be hidden, there was a real strong pressure to keep the family problems secret, to keep them inside the home. I was not verbally warned not to seek help. But I knew it was considered dangerous.

So I learned to keep my true self buried deep inside, hidden far away from my family, and from the outside world.

I got so good at it, I lost touch with my own true self. I had hidden it so well, it became hidden from even myself.

I am a performer, so I need to be able to use my truth to reveal the truths of the characters I play. I learned to go deep within, but I found that as much as I loved bringing what I could to my work, there were internal tensions that made it very challenging. And so I began to embark on unraveling those tensions, to see what was underneath, to find more freedom and to expand my capacity to reveal through my work.

It has been an amazing process. I did not set out to, but I have ended up finding my self in the process. I’ve been making a deep excavation within, bringing out the remains into the light.

It has been excruciating at times, terrifying, wondrous, exquisite, mind-blowing, beautiful, sad beyond belief. But most of all, it has been a becoming whole.

In the process of finding me, I discovered that I wanted to be able to own and share my truth without fear or shame. So I started to practice doing so.

First in small, safe ways. To trusted people. Then, I began increasing the risk level, expanding my level of comfort by extending myself into the world in ever-widening circles.

This blog has been a hugely gratifying experience. It has been so important for me share my true internal experience, my real creativity, here. There have been times I have felt so fearful after hitting the publish button…it has felt so risky…what if someone in my family reads it? What will they think of me? If people know this or that, will they see me differently? Will they judge me, label me, only see me this way or that?

I realized that I was so afraid of only being seen for what has happened to me or what I have done, the mistakes I have made, or what I have NOT done or accomplished. I didn’t have a sense of being valuable just as I am, not what I do, did, will do, haven’t done.

The blog and posting has been stretching me in so many great ways. It has also helped me learn to let go of needing to be seen a certain way in order to feel valuable, safe or lovable.

What I did not expect was how amazing it would be to have people read and then reach out to share back. That has been and continues to be such a gift. (So thank you.)

And then, I had the opportunity to submit a piece I adapted from a blog post for an evening of work written by women on what it means to identify as a woman.

When I began writing this blog, I had never, ever intended to read my work anywhere, but there I was, sending it in, in hopes of being chosen, so I could share my work live, in person. (What?!)

When it was selected, I was ecstatic. And terrified.

Every childhood-conditioned muscle in my body was braced for trouble. Every old voice that wanted to keep me silent was working on my psyche: Who was I to think I had something of value to share? What if I upset people? What if someone was unhappy with what I had to say?

In the week before the event, I was questioning my sanity in having chosen to do it.(What was I thinking?! Why was I putting myself through this?!)

The fear and the voices continued right up until showtime and as the first readers read their work.

And then, my name was called. My turn. I gathered together my courage and began the long walk down the aisle, my heart pounding in my chest.

And then three steps from center stage, I suddenly felt something click inside. When I stepped into the light, I just knew in my bones that I was in the right place at the right time. I felt a sense of home inside. I felt warm. I felt safe.

What an amazing experience! It was an experiment, but it turns out I love sharing my words live, and also experiencing the words of the others involved. Who knew?

I am so grateful to whatever healing force inside me has been leading me on this journey to be free. It is a beautiful thing to break free of the shackles of one’s own past and to be able to freely express one’s own self.

*(Written 10/17/17, but I used a draft from Oct. 1 and didn’t realize I needed to change the date before publishing it! So here it remains, looking like I wrote it Oct. 1. But I promise I wrote it 10/17/17.)

Reposted in Response to The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: risky

Beach Day

First the shock, then I screamed

Sharp stings across my calves

Filled my chest with angry hurt

Blue water, friendly one moment,

Betraying my trust the next

You swept me up in your Goliath arms

Held my beating heart against yours

Pulled me to the safe crevices I knew as Daddy

I squeezed my eyes tight in fury

You asked to see where the hurt was

Rubbed and kissed it, swore at the fish

I think that’s the last happy memory I have of us

Wish I could go back in time

Into the crawlspace of your chest

And be just your daughter again

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: sting

Titanic

The voices begin, gremlin whispers at first, that become more insistent and convincing quickly, overtaking the lightness inside.

She feels her heart grip in her chest, stops breathing as if to quell them by denying them air. But they are unstoppable, somewhere inside she knows this.

The anxiety snaking through her muscles and the panic in her gut signal new chords of thought that join in with the voices. A cacophony within, compelling her to go home, get safe, now.

But there’s more than just the forceful compelling dark boom. There are silvery threads of sadness, an ache, as she looks out on the day. It is beautiful, pulsing, but the vibrant life feels separate from her somehow.

She’s torn between wanting to live in the world, to take her place in the throng, fulfill her purpose, and needing to heed the voices and the pull of the force within that wants her home.

The internal battle is ugly and choking. The warring sides are not equal. One is made stronger by the other’s resistance; the other, depleted.

Headed for the iceberg, there’s no turning back.

Just as the darkness crescendos, the lightness, the life force inside, gives up. Like giving in to the pull of an undertow, that part of her goes limp and releases to the strength of other forces. Releases into the dark of the ocean.

It is a familiar dark place, a quiet void, from which she will be spit back to shore again, at some point.

Spent, beleaguered, dazed, she will crawl back to civilization, to piece herself together, and begin again.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: crescendo

Date with Destiny

I knew.

Before it happened, I could feel it.

It almost didn’t happen.

If I hadn’t been on just that road at just that time.

His car passing my overheated one as I sat in it, seemed so…miraculous.

I’d not seen another car for at least an hour.

After realizing I ‘d no cell service, I’d kind of lost it. Then I calmed myself down, surrendering to the dawning reality that I was not going to make it to my friend’s wedding on time.

The fact that he stopped seemed so…amazing.

And he seemed so…genuine. (And kind of cute.)

Hope leapt into my chest like a butterfly. I could still make it!

I grabbed my bag and climbed into the passenger seat of his rather nondescript, conservative car. I took a deep breath in and thanked him again, settling in for the ride.

That’s when I felt it, as I looked down and checked that my cell was in its side pocket in my purse. The visceral dread in my gut.

I don’t know what changed, why suddenly everything that seemed so right suddenly felt so wrong.

But as I heard the car door locks click to “locked,” I knew I’d made a mistake.

And just as I looked up and felt the blade of a knife plunge into my waist, into the place where I feel most vulnerable, where it is a scary mix of ticklish fear to be touched, I saw that he knew that I knew I’d made a terrible mistake.

And as I left my body and watched what he did to my body from above, it all seemed so very, very…clear, and so very, very…inevitable.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: visceral

Flight

I lay on my side

Face away from the door

Stay still, slow my breath

Pray he thinks I’m asleep

Then a breeze shocks my back

The sheet lifts, the bed shifts

Hot breath at my neck

No luck tonight, fear chokes my heart

I go into a trance, nothingness

The familiar comfort of the void

Leave my body, don’t need it

My soul and I, we float into the wallpaper

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: trance

Residue

There's something under my skin
Something grainy, irritating
I can't get to it, make it go away
Want to cut it out

Feels like him, still there, still taking what's mine alone to give
A pressure behind my neck
An invisible yoke I can't escape

Can't get rid of the grip, can't get away
Can't rub away the imprint of his touch
These are the moments I despair
These, the moments that he wins

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: grainy

Lust Life

Much of my adult life has been about coming to terms with lust.

Having grown up in a fairly conservative family with mainly Protestant roots, I learned early on to deny and repress my lust: for life, for sex, for fame, for love, for food.

So much so that I lived a kind of double life from my teens into my twenties.

I hid many behaviors that all revolved around my various appetites. Somewhere in my somewhat stunted emotional development, I had learned that being seen as having a need (be it physical or otherwise) was weak, unattractive.

And so I learned to pretend I did not have them.

And yet, at the same time, I also had a very strong need to be seen as a sexual object. (See Sexual Healing, my previous post on this issue.) This presented quite a war within me. I desperately wanted to be seen and treated like a sexually desirable woman – that was sort of the ultimate need. At the same time, I had shame and embarrassment around this and had strong messaging that that was bad, and that I should be a good girl with no sexuality, appetites, strong opinions or feelings.

And so I pretended to be one one way while in secret I acted in other ways.

I invested a great deal of time into creating the illusion that I was chaste, a normal eater, and had  a very neutral opinion on just about everything. I monitored my emotions and watched myself around people, carefully choosing mannerisms and tones to project a good girl.

Meanwhile, I was living quite another kind of life, a life I hid from my family, my friends. A life of appetite and lust and danger.

There were certainly angels watching over me. I was often in the wrong places at the wrong time. Somehow, I survived.

At a certain point in my twenties, the jig was up, as they say.

My psyche demanded that I heal the split, and I began the process of recovering wholeness again.

Of uncovering my own genuine appetites from a place of love, curiosity and acceptance. Of letting go of the urge to keep my appetites hidden.

I began a process of embracing of my true nature and wants and needs as beautiful reflections of my own humanity. I began the shedding of the shaming nature that I inherited.

An unlearning of the social pressure that happens in middle school to put a damper on enthusiasm, to keep a lid on want to look cool.

I learned to let myself eat as I really wanted to in front of others.

I learned to let myself be seen trying, excited, wanting, sexy, hungry, angry, hopeful, happy, disappointed, frightened, messy, unhappy, empty, full, vulnerable, awkward, lonely, blissful.

I learned to let myself be seen. As I really am.

Today I value the self-honesty that I live from. Truth is of huge importance to me.

Though I am still in awe of the capacity I had within my own psyche to maintain such a dichotomy the way I did – that I could compartmentalize two such distinct worlds at once – I am so grateful that that is just a chapter in my story.

Today, I have one world with many parts: parts that co-mingle and bring me great joy in their diversity.

I celebrate my appetites, I revel in my enthusiasms and passions.

I love my lust. It is what lets me know I am human. And alive.

So today, I try to wear my lust like a smile.

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: lust

 

Carry On

Things That Are Traditional in My Family That I Inherited (Whether I Like It Or Not:)

Grandmother’s Thanksgiving Stuffing

Disbelief in Good Things Lasting

Aunt’s Pumpkin Bread Served at All Gatherings

Serving Dishes and Calling Them “Salads” Even Though They Contain No Vegetables Unless You Consider Miniature Marshmallows and Jello Vegetables

Dad and Uncle’s Christmas Chili

Finding the Least Trafficked Back-Routes When Driving Places Even If It Takes Much Longer Just Because “It’s The Back-Way”

Spode Christmas Tree China On the Table at Major Holidays Whether It Is Christmas Or Not

Distrust of Strangers & Non-Family People, Too

Gradma’s Green Bean Recipe

Waiting for The Proverbial “Other Shoe” to Drop

Watching Longhorn Games on TV No Matter What the Occasion (Funeral/Holiday)

The Avoidance of Heavy Traffic and Bad Weather At All Costs Even If It Means Not Going Out

Keeping A Stiff Upper Lip/Never Let Them See You Cry/Keep It In The Family

Inspired By The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: traditional

 

 

 

 

Glory Daze

I can still taste it

The soil that you rubbed my face in

What did you feel

As you looked at the fear in my eyes

Did you feel stronger

Having made me feel small

Or did you know down deep inside

That nothing you did to me

Could ever make it all better

I can still taste it

But it only reminds me 

Of how far I have come

And what little I’ve left behind

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: soil