The Good Girl Lie

I tried not to jerk as her acrylic nail shoved into my closed eye. I was getting a facial and she was attempting to press acupressure points just below my brow bones. I’d had this done before by people a bit more mindful of their fingernails, a very good thing.

Why did I feel I couldn’t say “Would you please pull your nail from my eye” or at least turn my head?

I’m often captive to The Good Girl Lie.

A Good Girl can never make someone Feel Bad. A Good Girl can never make someone Uncomfortable. A Good Girl is never to Stir The Pot, Make Waves, or any other liquid or solid analogy that suggests she might have an emotion/opinion/thought that differs.

The Good Girl Lie that is still written in my bones says that my discomfort doesn’t matter, that I should protect the feelings of others above all else–apparently this includes the safety of my own eyeball.

As I write this I hear how foolish it sounds. This Rule, as my therapist/favorite mental health provider calls them, runs deep. I was the youngest of three kids, so I had plenty of opportunity to see how poorly it went when my older siblings had an opinion, had a feeling, had a thought that ran opposite our parents’. I became the people pleaser of all people pleasers, trying to ensure my lovability.

This is a joy I brought with me into adulthood. Our childhood coping mechanisms rarely work well in a grownup’s world–they’re too simplistic, too far off to one side, lacking balance. “I don’t want to get yelled at therefore I will only be Nice” may make sense to a five-year-old, but it doesn’t work well in the real world, where we need another piece, the “I am responsible for my own safety and well-being” part.

Wanting to be Good above all else makes sense to us when we’re kids trying to stay out of trouble with our parents and teachers, but the problem is that we end up taking care of everybody’s gardens, trying to keep everybody happy. No fences or boundaries in this scenario, just lots and lots of neighbors’ weeds and flowers to tend. It’s exhausting! But when we have our own individual thoughts (this is not the relaxing facial I was hoping for) opinions (I don’t like that the esthetician makes it sound like she won’t serve clients unless they buy the pricey products on her shelvesand our own feelings (when she puts her fingernail in my eye it makes me feel grumpy and annoyed rather than relaxed) then we can still be pleasant in the moment while looking out for our own wellbeing. Listening to ourselves can inform our choices and give us options rather than seeing it all from a single viewpoint.

So I didn’t ask her to remove her acrylic from my eye, but it’s a work in progress, yunno?

And I don’t have to go back to her, right? Well, at least not until after the second facial because I paid for two……. *sigh*

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: Do you have a personal equivalent to The Good Girl Lie? Something where you haven’t allowed yourself a voice because someone else might not like what you have to say? A place you just give in even though it’s abrasive to your soul? What’s a step you can take, a boundary you can make, to protect your own wellbeing?

Alright, let’s get out there and stay safe!

9/30/2017 Addendum: I realize I totally ate a slimy, undercooked poached egg yesterday just so that I “wouldn’t make a fuss”. It was gross. Still learning.

 

 

 

 

 

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Growing Up.

“As a child I was molested by a man who was really hairy,” she told me. Now a middle-aged woman she went on to say of her husband, “I make him shave his body.”

“Oh!” I said, filing this startling fact away in my brain for later perusal.

Today I understand why her actions were unsettling to me: she was still living in that place of early trauma rather than working to heal and move away from it.  Trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s a terrible neighborhood to buy a house.

I’m happy to be identified in a myriad of ways–as the woman who laughs at her own jokes (I can’t help it, I crack myself up!) As a creative soul. Someone who listens. Someone who keeps growing and learning to be a better human on this planet, the best one I can be this side of heaven. Remember me as someone trying to get her foot out of her mouth. As someone with far too many hobbies, far too many books. Someone who forgets the occasional appointment, and who walked 50 feet away from the four-year-old at Disneyland forgetting for a moment she was there.

I don’t want to be identified by my early trauma, like I remember the woman from the beginning of this post: “Oh the things that poor dear went through, no wonder she makes her husband shave his armpits.”

Being a slow learner, I definitely took my time to begin the healing process from the Triggery Badness of my childhood. But I’m getting there. For me that’s the goal–to move out of that neighborhood. Become a grown-up in all ways. No longer a traumatized seedling, but a well-watered and mature tree. (Perhaps you’ll also think of me as a woman with mad metaphor mixing skilz. With a Z.)

Some of the steps I’ve taken toward that goal (with the help of my favorite Mental Health Provider, my therapist) have been:

  • Looking at the Truth of my experiences
  • Admitting to myself what is true of those years and what were the Lies I told myself to keep the pain of those events at a distance
  • Allowing myself to grieve over what were very real hurts and losses
  • Making a practice of staying aware of my emotions and their messages
  • Learning to pay attention in my life, to be present.

These sound like wonderfully psycho-babbly steps, but what does any of that look like?

As a child I coped by hiding from what terrified me by literally closing myself in my bedroom closet with my books and toys. Sometimes I disappeared by running off to the swings at the park–anything that would silence the loud, mean voices of my parents arguing, the shoving of furniture and too often of each other.

I felt responsible for how I was treated–for being touched inappropriately by my father, for not being as interesting as my older brother and his friends. I turned off my instincts and stopped listening to my emotions and pain because I didn’t like what they were telling me, that life wasn’t so positive. The truth of what I went through? Not nice. Not nurturing. Lie #1, No Mistakes, only Goodness and Getting Along.

As a child my home never felt safe. When was the next explosion or long cold spell coming? I couldn’t know, so fear started making a lot of my decisions. Fear’s kind of safety for me looked a lot like hiding, staying out of harm’s way. Stay Under the Radar and Don’t Have a Differing Opinion joined No Mistakes as firm (but not helpful) beliefs I carried into adulthood. Let me just say here: the coping mechanisms of a five-year-old child do not serve one well in the six and over age bracket.

Disentangling lies like those from how I move about in the world changes things drastically. What? I can go out into the world and be mindful for my own safety? It’s okay if people don’t like me? I can have my own ideas even if someone doesn’t agree?  Staying aware in my life helps keep me safe and lets me wander farther afield, a good thing since this is a big old world.

Coming to terms with the Truth that I cannot be perfect sounds so simple, but those early Lies run deep in us, they etch themselves in our bones. It takes awareness and practice to heal them and learn better, truer ways of thinking and acting. What is my body saying to me? What emotion am I feeling? What is my pain saying?

Grief is probably nobody’s idea of a good time. But without grief there’s no closure. One thing I had to recognize as true was that I would never have the kind of mother I yearned for–someone who appreciated me simply for being me, who’d want to call me up to ask how my day had gone and was there anything new with the kids? I felt ripped off and I felt guilty for feeling ripped off. I judged myself as Bad and shoved that pain into a box and into a dark corner of the garage. Unfortunately, that box and the next box and the next box just weighed me down and kept me living in the house of that old trauma neighborhood. Few of us really want to clean out the garage, but sorting through those dog-eared boxes? I felt relief. Acceptance. Moving day was coming!

My hope for what I share of my story is that you’ll be encouraged to see that even at 63 I’m learning, growing, changing. And any of us can if we want to–we can trade those old, unhelpful Lies for Truth. We may have to sort through some boxes of junk to get there, but we can. We can accept what’s true about the garbage we’ve been storing, and then we can send those boxes to the dump.

My mind is so much more at rest these days. Next week I’ll share one of the tools that has helped me learn to let go of some of what was never mine to store in the first place.

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: What ways did you learn to cope with difficulties when you were young that don’t serve you so well anymore? Did you develop certain beliefs about people or life that don’t make much sense for you now if you’re honest about it?

 

 

 

 

 

Unseen and Unheard

LATELY I’ve been on, let’s just call it an Unintentional Hiatus.

I’ve been plagued by a couple of things: Fibromyalgia has not been my friend the past few months, and the Lie that loves me the most has been in residence–even though unwelcome.

To address the first one, I’ve been in what is called a relapse of my Fibro for several months now. When your Flare decides to overstay its welcome its name becomes Relapse. The pain and fatigue have been hanging all over my body and brain, rendering me both whiney AND bitchy. If I could take a vacation from myself I would.

And now, the second, the Boogeyman, the Lie That Loved Me, Casino Lie-ale, Live and Let Lie…. I wanted to make this blog as a safe place for others who deal with their own Lies. To maybe feel they aren’t alone and realize we all struggle. But my most deeply etched Lie, that my voice doesn’t matter, has been a pretty constant companion lately, rendering me mute.

When I was a child I felt it was better NOT to have a voice, NOT to draw attention. Because, say the wrong thing and dire consequences would follow. I watched this over and over with my parents and older siblings, and with some serious mother vs father action. Better I should play in my room, go to the park, or hide in my closet. Unseen and Unheard was safest.

In my post-childhood years I have done a lot of shoot-myself-in-the-foot things like dumb myself down to let other people feel smarter, let other people tell me how I should think, believe that everybody else’s voice was more important than mine, that my voice/my thoughts/my beliefs were inconsequential.

And yet, I have loved to express myself in writing since I was small. I’ve known that the God who created me gave me my own particular voice, often sappy, often snarky, and a unique view of the life I’ve lived. How can I know that Truth, and yet believe the ever-present like-flies-at-a-picnic, like-dirt-on-my-car, like-failed-deodorant Lie that WHAT COULD I POSSIBLY BE THINKING THAT I HAVE ANYTHING WORTH SAYING??!?

Whew.

I think what I’ve just described is what’s referred to as Cognitive Dissonance. By definition, that means the mental stress and discomfort experienced by someone who has two completely opposing beliefs. I believe I have something worth saying, yet I believe just as strongly that I have nothing worth saying. Well no WONDER I’m tired!

And this is the power of the Lies In Our Bones.

So even if I end up only talking to myself I need to keep writing. To defy that Lie. To put myself out there though flawed and tired and possibly repetitive and maybe even boring some days. To put myself out there when I feel ugly and stupid and needy and simultaneously whiney and bitchy. I mean, don’t we all feel something of the sort sometimes?

Yes–even though I know God loves me without condition (even some of my friends and family do, more’s the wonder) my bones are still in the process of healing from the deeply carved Lies of past early experience. I’m a struggler. If you’re a struggler too, please join me.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE.

How did I become this person?

…this “dogs in a stroller” person? Here’s how.

Once upon a time it was 2002. You know, the 2002 that came after the world was supposed to end in 2000. That one. Finding ourselves still quite alive those two years later, and my job having been downsized, our family got Barnaby (the smaller dachshund on the right) and in 2003, Morris. These two pups were brighter of coloring and spryer of step back in the day, just as I was younger, spryer, and without a standing every-six-weeks hair coloring appointment. And then…time. Time went by.

I became this stroller-full-of-dogs pushing woman because time marches on and change and even frailty happens. The dogs wear out more easily, and I’m in less of a hurry (and possibly wear out more easily. Ahem.) So we three walk a while, then we sit a while. Then I push them a while, and we sit down a while. Walks with the dogs have become more of a process than they once were, 14 years back. They’re a different thing, not worse, not lesser, just different.

My sister and I used to laugh about the things we could remember from our twenties, for instance, “All thirty-nine of us!” and the things we’d forgotten–like, what joke was that a punchline to anyway? We’d talk about our childhood, and about how this child or that she had babysat was now married with kids, I’d debate when to let my hair go gray, and she, the older sister, would tell me that she Refused To Age Gracefully! Then suddenly she was gone at 62. Did not see that coming. And my life was different, lesser without her in it.

I could go on about embracing the new and the changes and the pain and the joy blah blah blah and yada yada. But if I’m honest, most of life we don’t really see coming. Some of the good things I didn’t see coming years ago? That at this point I’d be less fussed by what other people think of me. And that I’m a good enough friend and mom when I relax and am myself. That walking more slowly with old dogs means I see more of what’s around me.

The Lies are slowly losing their hold.

What will I do for myself today?  Breathe deeply. Today I’m calling that Good Enough.

The BringYourOwnBeverage conversation: What lies do you see losing hold in your life? What do you think of me color-coordinating my outfit with the dogs’? KIDDING!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The blame game

Somewhere in my teens I was informed by my mother that was the reason she had to get her teeth pulled and replaced with dentures. My birth that early September had followed  an extremely hot summer, so she was forced to chew ice.

Picture, if you will, mojo exuding from the tiny splayed fingers of my unborn hand as I reach toward my mother’s mouth while chanting, “Chew ice! Chew ice!” in a tiny demonic voice.

I’ve never known such power since.

What causes a mother to blame the child in utero for her own actions? I’m frustrated to only be able to make lame guesses since nothing about that makes sense to me. All I know is that she did, and that I felt guilty–and that doesn’t make sense either.

I can’t know what motivates someone else since I can’t see inside their head, as much as my nosy self would like to. And even they may not know why they blame us. Yet we’re the ones left trying to figure out what to do with their big steaming pile of…. guilt.

One of the deeply written lies in my bones was (I’m improving!) that I had the power to show others how capable/smart/creative/wonderful/loved they were, and how happy they could be. Turns out others also carry lies written in their bones (surprise!) and it’s up to them to do their own work to change. Most importantly, they have to want to do it differently in the first place. So, if my mother didn’t want to bear the responsibility of ruining her own teeth, Damn the Truth! Blame the unborn!

Finally I had to face the billboard size fact: I am not responsible for anyone else’s happiness/unhappiness–or teeth. Sure, I needn’t be a giant headache inducing pain in someone’s hiney, I still need to make my own choices daily/hourly/minute-ly to be the best me I can be. I still need to be the empathetic, laughing at my own jokes person I am. But Other Person’s steaming pile of guilt? Here, let me put you down over there with the others….

What will I do for myself today?  If I carry guilt from my own poor decisions I will learn from it, I will make changes. I will also remind myself that I can’t force someone else to carry their own *pile*. I will practice saying “No thank you!” to those who would make me liable for their choices.

The bringyourownbeverage conversation: What situation are you currently in where someone wants you to carry their judgment/unhappiness/blame etc.? How can you remind yourself to Just Say No to their guilt?

Shouldn’t I be a grown-up by now?

I was perusing the quotes on my daughter’s Pinterest board and came across this:

“Characterize people by their actions  and you will never be fooled by their words.”

I thought, where has this girl been my whole life? and realized, right–she wasn’t around till 1980 when I was 26 and gave birth to her.

All my life I’ve had trouble with being easily fooled. For whatever reason, I’ve trusted others easily, even when they might not have had my best interests at heart. I’ve trusted that when someone says something they mean it, and whatever good thing they promised would come to fruition.

My bad.

So how did it happen that my daughter knows things to be true, like that actions speak far more loudly than words, when I’m just learning it some 36 years after her birth? I mean, shouldn’t I be a grown-up by now? Shouldn’t I know these basic truths so well that I’m not surprised any longer when someone’s words and actions don’t match up? Often I’ve hidden behind that trust of others, wanting badly to be able to trust them, without weighing in the all-important factor of how the life they live doesn’t quite match the words of their mouths.

I think it comes down to this: we learn when we learn, we grow when we grow. We each have our own trajectory on this road trip called Life, each of them skewed by the varying twists and turns along the way. And it’s unfair of me to judge myself for not being to the place of adulthood where someone else is. This is my own pot-holed road.

What I will do for myself today: if I should perchance learn or apply a new truth today I shall do a happy dance, yes, even in public, and celebrate learning at 62.

The BringYourOwnBeverage conversation: What are you learning that is dance-worthy?

 

Tell me I’m fat.

Yesterday when being shuttled home from the dealership where my car was being serviced, the talkative driver referenced my weight with a look and a comment while telling a story about an eating contest. He said, “And we were like you and me,” nodding toward my lap, “him a big guy who drives big ol’ Buicks, and me,” he said, nodding down toward himself.

I was raised to be polite, so I didn’t ask, “What exactly are you saying?” Plus, I was thinking, well, he’s right…I AM big. Bigger.

Recently a friend brought my attention to the This American Life episode called Tell Me I’m Fat. One of the things I treasure about our friendship is the trust that allows us to talk about the No-Nos of life, like our honest feelings about the bodies we inhabit.

I reacted to the title, Tell Me I’m Fat, with shame and horror–more judgment! Do I not judge myself enough when I eat anything outside the realm of leafy greens?

Several women were interviewed on the show, sharing their views about their own bodies and struggles. Some, like Lindy West, author of Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman, felt that words like “overweight” suggest a lack of acceptance. That overweight means there’s one Right weight, and her weight is simply Wrong.  She’s accepted that the body she inhabits is Fat–let’s just embrace it, and move on and enjoy our lives.

Another, Elna Baker, talked about the journey that began with wondering if her inability to get a boyfriend or a job was due to her weight. On losing the weight she realized that, yes, it had all been about her weight. That her current boyfriend would not have been attracted to her before. That people treated her differently, other thin people she encountered in public looked her up and down and then nodded, leaving her to wonder, was there some sort of thin people code she’d previously been oblivious to?

The subject of obesity as a moral issue is also discussed–are we weak or stupid or sinful because of our poundage? Another interviewee, Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist, says in her book,

Sometimes a bold, sort of callous person will ask me how I got so fat. They want to know the why. “You’re so smart,” they say, as if stupidity is the only explanation for obesity. And of course, there’s that bit about having such a pretty face, what a shame it is to waste it. I never know what to tell these people.

Yesterday I wondered with my shuttle driver, how would he react if I said something along the lines of, “And it was like you and me–yunno, an idiot… then, me.”

But I don’t. I don’t want someone else to feel the way I have at the words of others. Once in a Starbucks a stranger approached me to say how he’d lost a lot of weight because he’d had diabetes, and I should do the same–all while he looked me up and down.

I want to be as kind to myself as I am to these misguided souls. I don’t beat THEM up, so why should I beat up myself?

What I will do for myself today: I will live out of the joy of the person I am, reminding myself that I’m so much more than my packaging. The gift of who I am is inside.

The BringYourOwnBeverage conversation: What do you judge the hardest about yourself? 

 

Mother Yearnings

I was 17 years old. My mother and I were on a trip to the Oregon coast, a place we both loved. Generally rugged and wild and windy, it was a blue-sky day worthy of summer clothes.

Climbing onto a large, rough rock for a photo-worthy moment, I posed in my bohemian skirt and elasticized neck white blouse. I wore a scarf over my hair, tied under the back of my gypsy-shag haircut. Considering that under the scarf lurked a bad experience at the salon–a far too short cut on top and baby bangs I hadn’t wanted–I felt pretty.

I was posing the heck out of that skirt and scarf when my mother said, “I had a friend when I was your age who looked beautiful no matter what–she could have worn a burlap sack and been striking!”

She reminisced a bit longer about this amazing young woman, and all the while I held my breath. Just like me, please say just like me….

She didn’t. It wasn’t in my mother’s nature to flatter. She was telling a story that had been  inspired by what I’m sure were my own self-deprecating comments about my hair, but not so that she could assure me I still looked pretty. It was just about the memory of her amazing friend.

***

Decades later I was in a conversation when I realized I was subtly posing the heck out of my new outfit and freshly styled hair, waiting for the other person to comment on how good I looked. Suddenly it hit me–I’m still waiting for somebody else to make me feel that I look nice! I’m always waiting for somebody ELSE to give me worth….

Sure, I will always love being on the receiving end of a compliment, but any feeling of real contentment needs to come from inside–from within me. In that moment I realized that I’m the one who needs to love me, I’m the person who needs to feel good about how I look, who needs to rock the new hairstyle. If I wait for someone else to give me the opinion I want to hear I could be waiting a long time–clearly sometimes decades.

TheBringYourOwnBeverage conversation: Validation means to demonstrate or support the truth or value of: recognize or affirm the validity or worth of (a person or their feelings or opinions); cause a person to feel valued or worthwhile. Where do you get your validation, from others or from yourself? Which do you find lasts the longest?