A Note On Continuity And Tone

I realize that some of my entries lack continuity and may seem to fluctuate in their tone. The thing is that at this point, I’ll write something, but then add to it when I read it through a second or third time. Because of this, it certainly lacks an editorial finish.

Though I often seem to strike a rather negative tone, writing is one of the things which helps to lift the fog and heaviness. It’s a way in which I’m able to work through negative internal dialogues in order to find my way to a more healthy, positive perspective.

Because I’m still working through a lot, some my writing has more of a “brain storm” quality to it than a polished finish. I allow this because even though writing helps, trying to revise and edit much of what I write would mean I’d never have anything ready to post. As such, I do the best that I can to maintain theme and continuity of tone…but this doesn’t always work out.

I’m also trying to keep my entries relatively short. I don’t want anything to become ponderously long.

If I can’t edit entries as I go, I’ll certainly work at revising them later.

Thanks for your patience!

Be Well,
Theseus

Emotional Nourishment…And My Refusal To Quit

(A Picture From “Green Lane Park“)

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My morning routine is to take my son to school and then go for a walk. This, I have been able to work up towards doing without too many difficulties. Writing for a bit has often become a part of my day, but not with as much regularity as my morning drive and walk.

The rest of my days are spend rather despondent and struggling. I’ve spent most of my life pursuing education and employment. I won’t say a career, as just trying to get through college was an oddessy in of itself. I thought I wanted to study psychology and do some therapeutic work, but I learned long ago that the real reason why I studied psychology was to understand myself and my life rather than becoming a therapist for others. I have “troubles” and boundary issues. Becoming a therapist requires very specific talents and abilities which, even had I been able to work through my own issues, I’m not sure I possess. I’m good at helping others as a friend, father and spouse, but therapeutic work requires very specific skills and abilities. Being a supportive friend (or even blogger) is a far cry from being skilled as a therapist.

One of the biggest challenges is that I’m still stuck trying to resolve issues from my 20’s and younger. One of the things I’ve come to learn is that my trauma started in the crib, before my siblings were even born, and I’ve been striving to process all that happened right up to today. Because I haven’t been able to resolve issues which happened before kindergarten – and more was heaped upon me in the ensuing decades – I’ve never been in the sort of place that my peers were in. I went to high school because that’s what I was supposed to do. I applied for college because that’s what I was supposed to do. My son knew what he wanted to pursue for a career by middle school. He has a healthy sense of self, enjoys challenges, rises to my expectation for “personal excellence” rather than just trying to beat everyone else and – most of all – feels comfortable and confident with and within himself. I’ve done what I can to help and set the stage for him. However, he is what he is because of who he is and I was able to not get in his way. Love and support are all that’s required. He’s found his own way.

Yet I find for myself that I’m still struggling with the basics of life. I haven’t even gotten to the point of learning what I was taught in any educational level. The reason for this is that there are thing which are more fundamental than education, which need to be resolved and mastered before even considering to start learning you “A, B, C’s.” As my peers moved on, I tried to keep up with them. After all, that’s what everyone else was doing. It seemed normal. It made sense. But in all the time I’ve been trying to keep up, the effects of trauma interfere in a way which the “just get over it” and the “that was then, this is now” crowd really can’t seem to fathom.

I heard an interview one time of a woman who grew up in a life of poverty and starvation. She said that even now that she’s been able to achieve a comfortable life in which she never has to worry about food, she still worries about not having enough to eat. No matter where she goes or what she does, her first consideration is to be sure she will have access to having something to eat. In her current life, this isn’t any problem…yet the experiences of childhood still influence her current life. By all accounts, she seems very healthy, successful, well balanced and insightful individual. All the happiness and success boxes are checked. And yet…she still worries about starvation.

Emotional nourishment seems different. The need for emotional nourishment is something which all those around me seem to discount or even mock. Make money. Be successful. Control your own destiny, even (or especially) at the expense of others. This seems to be the mantra, the Zeitgeist, of the people in the world which surrounds me. My father thought like that…and he died alone, in a nice big house, surrounded by lot’s of all that money can buy…but alone, from an easily curable illness, because he was emaciated from emotional nourishment and had abused and harmed so many people so severely that no one was willing to be around him any more. The “things” he could offer them weren’t worth the price they would have to pay for it.

I didn’t grow up rich (and that’s not the point). Financially, I grew up more fortunate than some, less so than others: a comfortable middle class. But I’ve been fortunate enough to have met a number of people who grew up in impoverished, but loving homes. I would trade all the trinkets and shekels I had access to for an impoverished, but loving, home. Those who got the emotional nourishment they needed. Those who weren’t abused. Those who grew up knowing they were loved and protected. They’re all thriving now – whether they came from financially fortunate backgrounds or not. I’m happy for them because I like to see people succeed. Seeing personal success, seeing that there are folks who can reach the “self actualized” top of Maslo’s “Hierarchy Of Needs,” inspires me and restores my faith in the possibilities of the world.

I’ll have to get into where all this leads later. But the point (and the challenge) is to resolve that need for emotional healing and nourishment FIRST. My mistake has always been that I’ve tried to either ignore it or tell myself I’ll get to it later. Of course later never comes. You need to have an adequate foundation first, before you start building. I’ve spent my life trying to build on nothing but a swamp, like the Monty Python movie “Monty Python And The Holy Grail.” (NOTE, just the first 50 seconds of this video).

It takes a great deal of time and effort, but I think I’m inching my way ever closer to a life of peace. Not there yet – not anywhere close. But I’m pushing in that direction and am too damn stubborn and determined to quit.

The emotional pain is excruciating, but I may be fortunate that this only pisses me off and makes me more determined. I don’t want to be angry at who or what or why. I just get pissed off. All I want is to be contented…or at least just at peace.

These clips came to mind as I was writing:

(I know a lot of people make fun of Sylvester Stallone and Rocky. But the first movie is a classic and some of the quotes are rather good. Plus…well, I’m from Philly myself, so what would you expect!)

Movie, “Rocky”: I Just Want To Go The Distance
Movie, “Rocky”:¬† What About My Prime, Mic?…
Movie, “Rocky II”: They Say I Got Hart, But Not The Tools Anymore
Movie, “On The Waterfront”: A Lament To My Parents (I Coulda Been Somebody)
Movie, “Rocky Balboa”: Nothing Will Hit Harder Than Life

I know a lot of this will sound pretty candy ass to people who haven’t experienced real trauma. The whole “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” thing can be a very lame cliche. All I can say is I can’t quit. I refuse to quit. I’ve gotten a mouth full of dirt by being beaten down so many times that I almost believe that dirt is an entree.

I still have issues.

I still have problems.

I have memories, flashbacks and nightmares I don’t want to relive anymore. Things which¬† I haven’t been able to process yet – things which have been done to me and which I have done to others as well as myself. (I’m not so sanctimonious or self righteous as to think that, in my own pain, I haven’t caused pain to others.) I’m desperate to be free of such things…almost by any means necessary. Keep your platitudes and your fairy tales about how wonderful things will end up. If you think that way, you haven’t seen what I have. For those who don’t know, it’s likely rather amusing or a curiosity.

There isn’t always a happy ending.

I don’t have any answers or any clear path forward. But I also don’t care if I lose again or get beaten down into the mud…yet again and again and again… I…REFUSE…TO QUIT.

I am a good, decent, man, only striving to do the best I can under whatever circumstances I find myself in. I often – okay mostly – become discouraged, despondent, even depressed. But at some point, I always get back up…

…and I categorically refuse to quit.

Defiance

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Very interesting day.

It’s raining here in Philly and when I first left to pick up my son, it wasn’t just raining, but it was frozen rain which was falling all around me.

As I’ve written before, I spend my life in the darkness and live in an apparently unsolvable maze. But don’t forget. In the myth, Ariadne, princess and daughter of the king, gave Theseus a ball of string when he entered that maze so he could find his way back out and the two of them could sail away together (my wife and I). The Greek word for this “string” seems to be the word “clue.”

My family has left “clue’s” all over and I seek and follow them fervently.

I picked up my son after a senior project he was doing at his school. He came bouncing out the doors and practically bounced into the car. Prior to his coming out, all the other parents in their cars seemed to be driving all over the pick up zone. “Wrong way” and “do not enter” don’t seem to have been relevant to them. In the rain and the darkness of the pick up zone, my snarky condescension was very riled up. As my parents family would do, I just gazed around and thought…”look at ‘um.”

…But then my son came bounding out the door. He “bouncy, touncy, flouncy pouncied” all the way to the car and hopped in with a huge grin on his face. For the next few minutes, he excitedly told me how well things had gone and how much he was enjoying his project. I joined his tone of enthusiasm and asked him questions about what had happened and which parts seemed to be the most fun. He was absolutely glowing in the back seat…

I have challenges. I have things within myself which I do all I can to hide from others. Yet, the fact that he had so much fun and was so excited about it was something I passionately wanted to cultivate and nurture. Fortunately, I was able to do this for him. This is something I’ve always been able to do for others. If I’ve not been able to accomplish anything else, I’ve always been able to be a loving, encouraging, supportive father. I don’t need to state a case, you can see it in my child’s eyes.

What type of father have I striven to be? These video’s show the spirit of that:

Amazon Nursery Advert
Pixar “Piper” Short

(There’s a time to help and support…and a time to let go)

I want to give to others what no one gave to me. It’s just that simple. I understand the value of it.

Within the past few days, I’ve been able to do this for a number of people. I may live within the darkness myself, but I can see the peaks and I know what that light within in all folks is. Such a light is blinding in brilliance, color and light. In this time, I offered love, support and validation for my son, my wife and one of my son’s teachers.

I don’t understand the assumed call to violence and confrontation. I don’t understand the apparent need to tear everyone else down in order to be the only one left standing. I don’t understand the need to destroy for the sake of self aggrandizement. I can’t fathom the logic behind “if you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’.” Who lives like that? I grew up with all that and the only result I saw was desolation, despair, rage, violence, vindictiveness and nihilism…

…Guess what? There was no victory. No nobody “won.”

I like to see people succeed. I like to see individuals achieve the only thing I expect and demand from my child: Personal excellence. It’s irrelevant what others can do or how you compare. The only thing of relevance in life is “personal excellence” – the summit of what each is capable of. When all achieve such a thing, all rise up and the heavens come within reach.

I’ve seen the effect this sort of thing has had on my own child. When he was ill, many years ago, it didn’t seem possible that he would ever be able to function. With love…and time…and effort…and dedication, he’s gotten so much further than I ever dreamed was possible. In a way, we are fortunate as his illness and wounds were able to be healed by many available therapies and methods. But had my wife and I not pursued the possibilities and sacrificed all that we have, he would have remained broken and challenged (see Lorenzo’s Oil). I’ve heard and seen examples of “foolish hope”…but that doesn’t mean you blindly accept what your told about your child…or yourself.

Yes I struggle within myself. Yes I’m surrounded and plunged into a deep darkness. But I do not believe that this is all there is and I offer what I can to those whose lives I can touch in a positive way. Despite my darkness, I’ve been able to help my son. I’ve also been able to help my wife find a path in which she freely showers herself within he own light. I’ve been able to help others find comfort, support and validation in just being with them and…simply listening.

I’m reaching a bit here, but this song came to mind just now. I certainly do wish peace for you all:

Lee Ann Womak, “I Hope You Dance”

(…take a moment and dance with me. After I wrote this, I went outside and danced under the cloudy raining sky’s of Philly. My wife came outside and asked me – reasonably – “what the hell I was doing.” So the only thing I could do is grab her waist and bring her out to dance with me. She knows I’m nuts, but that’s part of my charm. I’m her poet, her Whitman, her Thoreau, her Shelly. Take a moment and dance. If you can’t, try and sway a bit!)

I condemn and refute pain and violence. I rebuke hatred. I refute the supposed value of self-absorption, the lie of the Ubermensch and the shadowy caverns of the sanctimonious. I have seen the results of the power and beauty of love and compassion given freely and passionately to my son. Things which were never offered to me. I choose all I’ve offered to my wife and child over the lie of the life which was feed to me.

I’ve gone way over my writing limit. However, here are a few extra “thoughts.”

While my son was sick and my wife and I struggled with many other issues, one of the songs we would listen to together was “The Climb.” This was a theme for our son, but I’ve also taken it on for myself.

When I saw my son come out to the car and was listening to him talk about his day, this song popped into my head (Foo Fighters, “Hero”). My son, after all, is my Buddha.

As I was thinking this, I remembered one of my son’s favorite songs (Family Of The Year, “Hero”). My son doesn’t want any special treatment or to be a “hero,” he just wants to live his life…and I do all I can to help him achieve that.

Sorry for the long entry,
Theseus

My “Prime Directive” And The World Of The Strange And The Stranger

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As I read through other blogs, there’s often a theme of isolation and loneliness. I don’t think this is specific to trauma survivors, however, I do have the impression that trauma – at the very least – makes the many methods of distraction less recreationally distractive. Tv, phones, video games, take your pick. There is something in living a life with trauma which doesn’t permit a comfortable oblivion. Even when attempting to lose ourselves in different things, it’s not because of any distraction per se, but a desire to not see deeper realms from which we’re striving to hide…or really, to protect ourselves from.

In going grocery shopping today, I saw every sort of person. Walking up and down the isles, all I could think about was Billy Joel’s song “The Stranger” and “People Are Strange” by the Doors. In various therapeutic settings, I’ve passed by some folks and thought to myself “What the hell are you doing here? You seem like you’ve got yourself together. You carry your self well and present yourself well. You seem like your doing well…What the frigg?!?”

Yet I know the answer to that one myself. When I was younger, there were those who thought such things about me. None every knowing the heavy darkness which lay within…or the secrets I carried (and still do) with me.

As I walked around today, I glanced here and there, wondering how many of these folks could I run into in various therapeutic settings? How many of them drag around a heavy darkness themselves? How many secrets, kept in dank, dark portions of the soul are making their way around me?

There is a lonelyness and isolation in the life which those of us with trauma lead. I can’t relay or speak to the distractions and isolation of others. It’s like trying to understand the way of life of a different species. My world makes them uncomfortable and frightens them. Everyone asks “how are you” when meeting. Do you really want to know? I doubt it. During a streak of being a bit of a smart ass when I was younger, I used to respond “Do you really want to know?” Those who understand will be amused in reading this…

…Do you really want to know?

I understand that it’s just a conventional way of interacting. But why don’t people start a conversation with “Greetings” or “I hope your well.” Semantics perhaps, but why ask if you don’t really care? I can’t remember where the quote comes from, but it’s something like “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” I’ve lived my entire life around people who never say what they actually mean (because there’s always an underlying context), so naturally, I’m puzzled why most people don’t actually mean what they say.

But in speaking and interacting with people who are unfamiliar with trauma, it’s like trying to relate to some foreign species – Like “first contact” in a Star Trek episode: I don’t want to “interfere in the internal development of alien civilizations.” I don’t want to expose you to what I see and what my life is made up of. I don’t want you to know what I know. I don’t want to force anyone else to live the way I do. It’s just way too strange and different…

…but it’s also a life of intense loneliness and isolation.

I speak, but people hear different meanings in the words and phrases I say. They speak, and many times I assume what I’ve already heard, from others more menacing.

How am I doing?…

…do you really want to know?

…of course you don’t. You wouldn’t even understand – you wouldn’t even begin to fathom – if I told you.

Sorry for the bummer entry. Just trying to write something today,
Theseus

My Own Inner Darkness…My Son’s Light

(Butterfly Landing On My Shoe During A Walk In “Longwood Gardens“. If Your Ever In The Philadelphia Area, I Highly Suggest Stopping By This Old DuPont Estate)

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Had a nice time with the family on Saturday. Even though my son is getting to the age when he likes to spend more time on his own, he’s recently suggested that he, my wife and I go out to King Of Prussia mall to wander around and then have dinner. That’s been really nice.

Sunday and today are a struggle though. Even when there isn’t any tumultuous emotional situation or issue going on, the pain is still very much there. I’ve done any number of healthy, productive things to work at processing this pain, dissipating it, striving to be free of it. Alas, this pain is my constant companion. It makes my endocrine system illness more difficult to deal with and blunts the joy of living with a loving family of my own.

This morning, I looked up a few other things to add to my efforts. One thing I’ve found is that you just keep trying different things – and try them in good faith – until you find something that works. I’m going to try and add a Gestalt group therapy, a Zen meditation group and even CES (Cranial Electrical Stimulation). The “talk therapy” I’ve done has, overall, been very helpful. Though I still struggle, my inner world isn’t as dark and bewildering as it was when I was a teenager and younger.

However, as I’ve written before, that sort of therapy hasn’t been able to resolve everything. It’s not that I’m looking for everything to magically be gone. I realize that wounds don’t just disappear, they turn into scars which remain with us for all of our days. I don’t mind the scars. I can deal with that sort of thing. It’s the festering wounds which I want to be free of. In the past 2 / 3 years, some of those scars were ripped open again and I just haven’t been able to get back to some semblance of peace.

Emotional “thinking.” Emotional pain, has a logic all it’s own. I’ve only come to understand this in the past year or so and the challenge of understanding how it works and how to process it and accommodate it is something which I know will take some time. In my experience, there is no quick fix. There is no magic pill of relief. It’s all a part of the journey and the path that I’ve been placed on. My wife says that because I’m the type of person I am, I must have asked for a challenging life to be born into…just because I like to snub my nose at challenges and taunt that darkness and the Minotaur. She’s very sweet and very funny. I had to laugh at the apparent truth of this.

Things have gotten better than they were, but yes, I still do struggle. All the work I’ve done before has lead me to where I am now, with a deeper understanding of what else needs to be done. The challenge is that I haven’t had anyone to help or guide me along the path. Worse, I’ve come across innumerable people who’ve only made things worse. Most medical doctors I’ve been to misdiagnosed my physical illness to the point where they actually made it worse. Most therapists I’ve worked with have been helpful, but there have been a few who misdiagnosed me as well and pursued treatments which, at best, were not very helpful. I’ve always striven to do the “right” thing. Yet I’ve had no family, no friends who understand (or want to face) the depths of what I’ve been through, no mentors or kindly folks who have pointed out more beneficial paths. If anything, others have not been safe, nor trustworthy.

Certainly, I was looking in the wrong places, because I don’t believe that people are “bad” or “evil” by nature. I’ve seen happy, healthy families. I’ve met innumerable individuals who are good and kind and compassionate and caring and all the rest of the best of what humanity can be. Often, it’s seemed as if I’m outside in the cold, looking into scenes of people sharing warmth and love. Sometimes I’ve joined in. Many times I’ve been invited and welcomed. But there’s such a vast chasm between those who have grown up with and lived in that warmth and love, and others such as I who have demons writhing inside. People who’ve grown in healthy (or relatively healthy) environments seem uncomfortable with darkness such as mine. It makes sense, but it also means that in order to be a part of that world, I need to never speak of it and pretend to be someone I’m not. That’s the sort of life which makes wounds fester.

I’m struggling today. Certainly, that’s obvious. But I’ve come across a couple of new possibilities in order to deal with and process deeper layers of pain which I never fully understood before. This sounds like progress to me. This sounds like hope to me.

Though I continue to struggle with that inner darkness and ravenous, pursuing Minotaur, I’ve helped create a home for my child which seems to be free of what I fight within myself. How my son is happy and thriving, I do not know. But he is loved and supported by innumerable teachers, (physical) therapists and regular folks on the street because of the light and life which so easily shines from his eyes. We can’t go anywhere (most times) without someone running over to us and saying to my son “Hey! Good to see you man! How have you been!” The light which shines in their eyes as they talk with my son for a few moments is a light which I know he’s sparked and infused him with. My son is my Buddha.

If my son’s light and his influence upon others is the only thing I’m able to help create in this world, I believe myself to be most blessed.

Wish me luck on my path today.

Be well and at peace,
Theseus

…Can’t Stop This Feeling

(A Picture From Valley Forge National Park)

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The other day I was driving my son home from school. As usual, he borrowed my phone and started playing the sort of current songs which I’m not familiar with and haven’t been keeping up with for longer than I care to mention.

I find it odd that he seems so happy and contented. Even though I’ve worked very hard to hide and shelter him from my darkness, it still surprises me that he doesn’t seem to be as effected by it as he is. Bless him. He’s struggled with his own health issues and the challenges have only seem to have made him more appreciative and happy about all the positive things that life can be.

But there was one song he played which had a rather strange effect upon me. It was Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t stop this feeling.”

As it started, my son began to wave his arms around and bob his head as if he were singing it himself. He bounced around in the back seat with an energy and enthusiasm which I wish I could conjure for myself. But a strange thing happened as I listened to the lyrics. There, in the rear view mirror of my car, I could see a timid figure emerge from the trunk. As the courus rang out again, I saw the small head of a child rise behind the seat my son was bouncing around in. Strange. So very strange. That timid child rising from the trunk looked very familiar, and I realized it was the form and essence of what I once had been.

My son saw none of this and continued to bounce around and dance in his seat, lost in the joy he seems to so naturally feel. And yet that other child, way in the back, began to grin, with tears streaming down his face. There was a gratitude and a happiness obviously welling up within him up which I had been trying to give him unsuccessfully all day, but which he now seemed to have found in the joyous rapture of my own son’s singing.

It was a hard ride home. My son played the same song over and over again, bouncing around with the understanding of things which I can not fathom. The other child, way in the back, began to nod and bounce his head as well, tears continuing to stream down his face. Every time I looked back, he would duck back beneath the seats. Yet I knew, even though he was timid and uncertain, the joy my son was expressing so freely was having it’s effect on this other, lost, child as well.

When we got home, my son bounced upstairs with his school bag, still humming and mouthing the words to the song. Upstairs, I could hear that he started playing it on his computer and could hear the bouncing and pounding on the floor (which made me know he was still dancing around to the same song). At one point, there was a loud CRASH!, with an immediate cray of “I’m okay!!!” He must have bumped or slipped into something which had fallen. But that didn’t stop the song or the continued bouncing and banging on the ceiling above me.

As the song and banging continued, I caught a glimpse of that small boy again from the back seat. He was timidly peaking around the corner from the living room and I smiled to him and waved him over.

As my son listened to the song a few more times, that other boy cautiously made his way over to me and sat next to me on the sofa. Neither of us spoke, but as the song repeated, that little boy leaned over and rested his head on my shoulder. I reached out and gave him a hug as he wrapped his arms around me and began to violently sob. It wasn’t a sad sort of thing, but sounded more like something of relief and happiness – a happiness which I have rarely known that boy to know.

We just sat there, together, sobbing quietly together, as my son danced around in his room, to the music which he related to so easily.

I don’t know how he could so easily see and experience such joy, when I and the child below find such things so difficult to fathom.

However it’s happened, I’m profoundly grateful.

Be Well,
Theseus