Arn't I A Woman?: What's love without tragedy?: On Turning 30

Lisa

Lisa
This blog intends to be a safe public space; A communal cyber sanctuary from oppression. All are welcome here.

Jan 24, 2016

What's love without tragedy?: On Turning 30


What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?
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As my 30th birthday looms around the corner, my mind has been racing for ways I can prove to myself that I am worthy of transitioning into a new decade, one ripe with adulthood charm and class and the ability to move beyond childhood trauma and maladaptive coping mechanisms into a glorious freedom. Coupled with the light sheets of white winter snow glittering across a Georgian landscape, I interpret these as signs of a theoretical spiritual cleansing I must undergo.

Except I feel more dirty and down and haunted than ever. 

I am motivated by fear and control. My therapist and I have discussed recently how I may have complex trauma from my childhood, which can be similar to PTSD except instead of experiencing trauma from one catastrophic event, "complex trauma describes both children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature, and the wide-ranging, long-term impact of this exposure"(National Child Traumatic Stress Network). My trauma compounded into adulthood created pockets of fear in my brain that desperately taught me to do anything to avoid hurt and pain, for fear of exacerbating the trauma. Avoiding pain because of fear leads you to try to control everything: yourself, other people, your environment. It also is underscored by perfectionism; perfectionists are afraid of not being good enough, and trying to be perfect is also a form of control in an attempt to avoid negative experiences. The truth about perfection, of course, is that it doesn't exist. Like finding the limit on a vertical asymptote, we can approach infinity but we can never reach it. 

 I guess what I'm trying to say it, I'm disappointed in myself. With all the work I've done, I feel like the same lost girl I was at 20 or 21 or 25. Even in the context of this week, I find I am repeating the same patterns and behaviors that serve to hurt me. I lead with insecurity, refuse to exist inside any confines of uncertainty, get too drunk, fail to enforce boundaries, and get down on myself when things don't go well. 

I met a boy and I really like him. But there has been a series of unfortunate circumstances surrounding us. It's brought up huge walls of insecurity for me. I'm mad at myself because I've been really afraid things won't work out, and maybe they won't, but that shouldn't be the end of my world. And it's never entirely one person's fault when things don't work out, so this idea that there is something so wrong with me that it is impossible for someone to love is rooted in irrational thinking patterns, not truth. It is an insidious belief. 

Still, in my mind I had a beautiful picture of my 30th birthday. I looked great, and was with all my friends and family, and I had this new boy by my side and I felt happy. Instead I feel lost. I feel as if I can not find a way to break through old patterns. The beginning quote of this blog is from the movie Wild, and it helps settle me sometimes when I feel lost. Maybe I just have to go through it, all the mistakes and feelings of insecurity and trauma and heartbreak over and over again until I can really grasp my freedom. Recovery is a long term process, not a short-term goal. Still, I wish I was in a happier place. 

But maybe that's exactly where I need to be for this transition. Maybe it's just a part of my story, and this pain I feel is what will guide me through to the other side. I feel free right now, as I type this, phone off and no worries about what anyone else is doing or thinking. I can just be me. This is the gift writing has given me. I spend such little time really focusing on myself in regular life; instead, I focus on externals. My job. My relationships. My body. I want to focus on me. I want to be brave but maybe in order to become brave you must first experience cowardice, conquer it, and then move through it. 

I don't know. My life is way messier than I thought it would be when turning 30, but hey, that's where I am. One of the things that really resonates with me is I was told the other night I always expect the worst thing to happen (which is true and is a common cognitive distortion called catastrophizing). So my goal, just today, is to be mindful, and radically accept everything that comes my way without assuming the worst, but being prepared for the myriad possibilities the day can bring. My goal is also to carry that through my transition. My goal is to be strong. To recognize that I am in a sticky place, but that I can respond differently in this moment. I can remember my value and remember that value is not predicated on what I look like, who I am dating, or my station in life. My value is eternal and can never be taken. Here's to 30. 

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 I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.

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Sojourner Truth

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention

Akron, Ohio