(A Picture From “Green Lane Park“)
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.