A good friend stopped in on Tuesday night, and it was a comfort to my mind, my heart, and my physical being to see her after my week away. In broad strokes and fine lines, she painted the picture of her holiday visit from her co-dependent parents. As the vivid colors swirled together, I could begin to make out the shape of the upheaval their stay caused in her life. We laughed, we cringed, and I let slip one or two profanities. Then, it was my turn.
“Where do I even begin?” I wondered aloud. I sat on the champagne colored carpet of my living room floor, my back against the armrest of the sofa, tracing a directionless loop between its piles with my finger. How could I start to describe the events that transpired between the twentieth and twenty-seventh of December? I tried to write about it so many times, but the words would not unite. Fragments of adjectives, nouns, and verbs crashed into each other in my mind. I couldn’t put a single sentence on the page. This blog fell silent, and the empty echoes of my lost voice rattled me just as much as the deluge that seemed to pummel me from without. When I finally managed to form a description of how I was feeling, I composed the following on Christmas day:
I was flooded with thoughts and emotions tumbling together like a mass of tennis shoes in an industrial-sized drier. Hot pressure mounted as laces knotted and snarled. I couldn’t tease one reaction apart from another, couldn’t make sense of the logic from the feeling, and my brain screamed, “Turn it off!”
The story was so twisted that I couldn’t find the ends to untangle it. Yet, I began. Soon, a string of events tumbled forth in no particular order, building off of each other with haphazard fluidity. Each time I thought the surge was cresting, another wave broke, while my friend listened with energetic attention and patient compassion. Finally, when I was done, she offered, “You were in survival mode. That’s all it was, just surviving.” That was why I couldn’t write. That was why I didn’t do better. Frustrating as it was.
Frustrating as it still remains with each recollection and retelling.
It shouldn’t have been so hard. I should have acted differently. I was aware of the instances when I was reacting. I could distinguish when I was using blame, judgment, and shame as defensive and offensive weapons, both against myself and others. At those moments, I held my reasonable mind against my emotional mind and chose the latter. I should have used the skills I learned. I should have made different choices.
Isn’t that the catch? Should may be one of the trickiest words in the English language. If is a close runner-up.
What exactly happened? The details of the actual events are not terribly important now. Rest assured, it was not about the food.
Could it be that the sounder I become in mind and spirit, the more plainly I observe the disorder around me? As I learn healthy coping skills for the first time in my life, return visits to the place of my dysfunctional origin is interesting when that environment remains mostly unchanged.
It shouldn’t have been so hard, but it was. “Grist for the mill,” my therapist called it. I called it fertilizer.
Maybe some learning and growth will come from it. For once, I am grateful for the 750 miles that separate me from the place I call home. Vanillasville seems pretty nice right now.
Today, I’m not going to blame, judge, or shame myself or others. I already did enough of that to last a lifetime. No. It is what it is, and it was what it was, and what will be what will be.
Instead, I choose to remember the joy of Christmas Eve with an amazing friend and her family, watching my delighted goddaughter unwrap her presents. I will cherish her pure excitement at the discovery of her new fire truck with its flashing lights and screeching siren. I will focus on the serenity of a Christmas Day bike ride, when temperatures peaked in the mid-60s and the air felt fresh and exhilarating upon my skin, and I will recollect the peaceful flow of early morning yoga. Finally, I will remember the wholehearted conversation with my mother on Christmas night that allowed us both to move an inch closer.
It’s a relief that it is over. It wasn’t pretty. I was hurt, and I hurt others. And I should’ve done better. I am telling myself that recognizing the gulf between who I am and who I want to be is the first step in bridging it.
Today I am choosing acceptance.