Sunday, November 04, 2007

Denial or Coping

Here I am in this incredibly great place in my life. I feel happy, I stop in my apartment look around and think I made this. This comfy, happy, SAFE place - a home. And I feel like I'm lucky beyond words in so many ways. I am not the person I was growing up - I'm not the person I was three years ago. Never in my life did I think I would come to a place where I was happy like this. It just didn't seem to be in the cards for me.

This is the kind of thing I enjoy being wrong about.

Yet despite all this happy happy joy joy (good god did I just write that?) the other night I experienced something so bizarre that I wonder if I'm in denial about things. I wonder if there are some issues that rather than addressing and clearing up, the way I've cleared up the clutter that was my living space, that I've merely shoved into boxes and stored away in my brain to be conveniently forgotten about.

I might have mentioned 'round these parts that my parents and I did not have what anyone would call an ideal relationship. They were both alcoholics with many MANY issues of their own, this made life difficult at best. Stability and emotional intimacy and affection were not high priorities in the household I grew up in. Even long after moving away from them the difficulties in our relationships to each other resonated. And when my mother moved in with me four years before she died it simply accented old resentments and my foolish, and unfulfilled, desire to have her love.

So while I know I often sound like a stone cold bitch when I talk about my parents, ending any of my whining and moaning about the past with a dark yet cheery coda of "dead now", there is solid back up for my lack of respect for the dead.

My life improved beyond words after their deaths. I do not miss them.

Except. . . maybe I do.

I'm not in the least happy to concede that notion. Not at all.

Not only does it mean that I have been in denial - something I just abhor because I like to congratulate myself too much for facing the hard stuff about myself (whether I discuss it or not). But there is a possibility that I may have been tricked into denial by my own brain as a defense mechanism. Deal with this later, when you're stronger - you've got enough to get through, this can wait.

The other night I was listening to some music. Songs I'd heard before, no surprises. Except something was different. Something that actually felt like I was cracking open in that space right below the sternum. I actually began crying. It was, to say the least, disturbing. There was something in the lyrics, something in the tone, something that maybe I had let my guard down about that let that music get in and twist me up. I've always been deeply affected by music. At more than one point in my life I have had to give up listening to it entirely because of the emotional impact - happy songs made me sad, sad songs made me think of razor blades. Music is definitely a huge trigger for me.

For the past three years I have been fine listening to any kind of music - happy, sad, anything at all (you know anything that didn't just outright suck - I have standards!) I've listened to it, been affected by it, but only for the moment, only as it should be. Only in positive life-affirming GOOD ways. Then the other night I find my insides splitting opened by songs I've heard before and ended up walking around the streets in the cold with my nose running and trying not to start doing some sort of primal wailing.

May I just say: WTF?!

The songs mentioned childhood sorrows - I'm not going to go into detail, because it's not relevant here. But it was clear to me that I was caught off guard, not even realizing that I've been ON guard about any of this, and that I was crying over my parents.

It has made me think I am afraid to admit that I miss them. Afraid of what that 'missing' will feel like if I let myself feel it. I've had so much sorrow in my life, I do not want to feel anything even close to it again. I never believed I could turn my emotions off, I've always been pretty much a slave to them. Yeah, yeah, get me a collar and leash, very funny. But truly, while I have been adept at hiding my emotions all my life from other people (lesson number one from my parents) I have never been able to hide them from myself.

Along with the fear of what this sort of post-mourning mourning might feel like - should it actually be what's going on, is the disturbing notion of having to figure out the whole love/hate aspect of it all. How do you love someone who has caused you so much pain, has caused such inconceivably strong self-loathing and zero self-esteem? How do you reconcile all that anger and pain with loving them? I just don't know. I'm afraid to find out.

So I ask myself, have I been in denial? Or have I simply put it behind me so I can live.

Music. It's the damnedest thing, huh?


whimsicalnbrainpan said...

I don't think that it's denial, but I do think that maybe you have kept it in the background until you were ready to deal with it.

There is no simple answer to dealing with family issues. You love them because they are family but you hate what they've done to you.

Maybe it's just time that you grieve not only the loss of your parents but the loss of what they should have given you growning up.


marxsny said...

I think that first you have to find peace and happiness and reconciliation within yourself. Since you've done that, you now have the need to move on and reconcile issues you were previously unable to deal with. Just a thought.

BetteJo said...

I suppose we all have our theories, and maybe you are missing what you wanted your parents to be. Maybe you are mourning what your childhood and family life should have been. It's possible.
But whatever it is - I hope you allow yourself to feel it and examine it - IF you are strong enough to do.
Wishing you well ..

Tony said...

I think that one of the more difficult acknowledgments of the human condition is that those things that are often unavoidably viewable as 'evil' are merely the result of people acting within their own limitations. While it cannot be said that your parents "did the best that they could", it wasn't an elaborately-plotted conspiracy, either. ("Let's have a little girl that we can neglect while we wallow in our own shit.") They acted within their own limitations - sometimes perhaps trying to push their personal envelopes, sometimes succeeding, likely mostly failing...

The disturbing realization here is that we're ALL operating within our own limitations. As such, it's hard not to see them no longer as the father and mother who failed you but as kindred spirits on this planet who have failed - just as you have...

Perhaps that's what you're feeling now: compassion for two people who had failings. I'd only say that that was further growth on your part - and further cause to celebrate...

Gary said...

Mark has a great point and I think he may be on to something. Now that you have healed perhaps you want to talk these things out with your parents and since they are no longer living that makes it difficult (ya think?). So, maybe you are not missing them but rather missing a way to finally put all of these feeling to rest now that you are ready to do that.

Reya Mellicker said...

It sounds like such a healing experience. Tears shed in sadness or frustration contain many toxins - it's genuinely, literally healing to have a good cry.

People are complex beings. IMO no one can ever put the history behind them, but we can live our lives, enjoy this precious existence. It sounds like you've done so much great work towards enjoyment of your life.

As for music and the mind/heart, have you seen Oliver Sacks's new book? I'm just about to launch into it - Musicophilia.

And, too, the holidays are here, it's late fall - melancholy is in the air.

I salute you!

Joy Keaton said...

Aww thanks for all the support, but honestly it's all fine. :)

kimy said...

congratulations on reaching new heights of healing and reconciling past pain. there is nothing like music that can bring things to the fore.... joy, joy. xxx