Thursday, December 13, 2007

Self Examination 1

I was brought up in such a way that I learned early to live with emotionally closed doors. Open them up for a second to peak out at the world, maybe play in the dooryard for a little while and then scurry back inside before getting hurt. So afraid of being hurt that I don't think I ever realized that my running back inside in its many forms was hurting those left standing outside the door. Those people had no idea why I took flight. Why the door closed. Sometimes, and the farther I go along in life, more and more rarely, the person is still outside my door when I gather the courage to peak out again. As a result, I peak out less and less often. Hard to see an empty, desolate dooryard.

There have been only a handful of people I have ever let into my inner self. Literally 5. Those people I love fiercely. I depend on deeply. I don't think, given my tendency to live in my own head, that they know who they are or the exclusive company they keep. I really don't mean that to sound egotistical at all. I have trusted so few in my life. But those I have, I have trusted with my life, heart and soul. For the most part they have loved me stubbornly, in spite of myself. A few I have lost along the way.

Since the time I can remember I loved my father with every fiber of my being. I longed for his company. I missed him, and blamed my mother for it. She deserved some of that blame, and so did Dad. But once I became an adult, I had to shoulder my part of the blame. I wanted him to call me. To reach out to me. I wanted to be wanted and missed. I behaved emotionally like an infant who cried until someone would pick me up and tell me it would be ok. That was unfair to both of us. I waited too damned long. I wanted him to be something he could not be. He died before I could fully realize what I was doing. The grief I felt was overwhelming. I have moments when it still catches me unawares. And at moments of clarity, when I fully realize the dynamic in place, it is this side of unquenchable. Ah, so THIS is regret...

When I was in my very early 20s I met my husband. My love. My partner. My protector. My foil. My parent. My child. The one who has never left my emotional dooryard. He has sit patiently on my porch for twenty years. His steadfastness, passion, love, honor, intelligence and gentleness is more humbling than I can say. I don't know why he has hung on. I have fought him tooth and nail, and still he hangs on to me. I don't ever want him to not be there. He is home for me. He is where I am safe. He takes the blows of every fight I wage that has nothing to do with him. Talk about slings and arrows! He has always let me know I was his number one, smart, beautiful, loving, and still I sought external affirmation. But when his wellbeing is threatened, I fall apart. He is my rock. I have bared my naked soul to him like no other, and there are still such dark places he knows not of.

At that same time, late 80s, I met another man that I still know. He and my husband are best friends. He is such a good friend to us both, and someone that I also love and need in my life. He brings to me a sparing partner in a quick witted sharp banter. He is so pragmatic, but without being judgmental. He has no idea the depth of my friendship for him. It is almost as if he and my husband are the two sides of the same coin.

When I was in my mid 30s I met a person that was to be my best friend for 4 years or so. I don't think I have ever had, nor will I ever have, such a girlfriend. We understood each other on a fundamental, we don't need to say the words kind of way. We are both emotional hiders--crawl into a pit and drag a rock on top of it. That said she is much more courageous than I am. She will confront most things head on where I tend to be more oblique. I have always admired that about her. That and her willingness to look at herself, see what needs work then set out to do the work. Very few people have that strength. She is smart, beautiful, loyal and I love her deeply. The thing is that that friendship ended. I was probably to blame. Needed too much. Gave too little. Shirked blame and responsibility too much. When I understood that she was done, the grief took my breath away for weeks and weeks. My throat would ache with unshed, unshedable tears. It has been months. It still takes my breath away, just not daily. Something I see, hear or want to share brings it home with devastating clarity. I have written to her to no avail. I am terrified to pick up the phone. Do I lack the courage to hear her grievances? Do I lack the strength to redress them? Or am I just afraid that there is nothing to be done for it all? Doesn't matter, really. The result is the same. She moved on, and I am bereft.

My brother, about whom I have written here already, also possesses more courage than I. And I have treated him and my girlfriend in the same way as I did my father. I wanted to be reached for. Invited in, without inviting nearly enough. Happy to talk and visit when they call, but not picking up the phone. I told my brother that I wanted to feel like I mattered, that I was worth it. He told me point blank that I was making people feel the exact same way I didn't want to feel. In constantly having to reach out to me, they thought I felt they were not worth reaching for.

God knows I don't see myself as she who must be revered. That's not it. I love them all. Gave them parts of myself I can never take back. It's almost that I am in my own private jail. I can't get out, I can only be visited. I know on an intellectual level that I hold the key to free myself. I know that living like this is painful in the extreme. I know that once I loose those whom I do love so deeply, I will be left alone. I know I need to open myself up, not to let people in, but to get out of myself. No one wants to be trapped in my cell. I get that. I went into my 40th birthday with such brash optimism that I finally was learning what life was for and about. Seems that my proclamations were a bit premature.

I have a son who is learning how to be loved by a woman in how he sees me behave, both towards him and the rest of the world. I want him to be more courageous than I am. I think he might be learning that from Daddy. But I know I need to change myself for no other reason than to ensure that my beloved, kind, tender, smart, honorable, funny son is never left sitting on the emotional doorstep of the woman he loves, with only occasional access to her inner warmth and beauty. I am convinced that my father in law did that too, to some degree. That he was to his wife what my husband is to me. That man died 17 years ago now. It has destroyed my mother in law. Robbed her of any real joy in life, regardless of kids and grandkids. Heavy burden for her husband to have carried, though he like his son carried willingly. Not the legacy he would have wanted to leave his son. Truly sad for those left behind. Lord, I pray that I will learn how to stop making that same mistake.



Kate said...

You're back! You're back! I missed your stories and looked for you almost every day. Your dooryard is definitely not empty!

Kat said...

Hello Rebecca! Thank you for knocking at my door! It is open to you. Later in life rather than early in life, I learned to access my emotional self more, to lay responsibility for my choices more evenly, to forgive others and to forgive myself as well. My emotional support has always been Nature and her creatures and my blog is mainly to reflect these interests and concerns. I live a rather reclusive life out here in the countryside with my big dog :-) and welcome opportunities to converse and meet kind and thoughtful individuals. Thanks for your visit!

Kat said...

just the other day I told a lady, a baseball fan, to check out Ken Burn's fabulous documentary on the history of baseball :-) do I need to tell you? or are you already familiar with the series?
Happy Holidays!

Rebecca said...

Kat, Just about everything Ken Burns does is fantastic! I do know of his series on baseball. I love the sport, present scandal not withstanding. But really, when has there not been a scandal in baseball. Isn't it a near perfect union of poetry in motion and human frailty? Those who are impatient with the pace of the game I truly do not understand.

Kat said...

I once heard a wonderful analogy to the pace of baseball, likening it to a coiled spring.... how in the early innings everyone is relaxed and enjoying the atmosphere, the game, each other
and then as the innings advance the spring starts to coil and the energy and tension within is palpable and in the last few innings everyone is focused on every move, every pitch and then the moment when that coiled spring releases in a tremendous outburst...

I wish I knew the exact words which were much more succint than what I have expressed :-).

I liked the analogy to opera expressed by one fan in the Burn's documentary!

Maria said...

Isn't it funny how children can force you into good places?

If it wasn't for my daughter, I fear that I would be an emotional recluse. I reach out because of her, because I want her to have a good role model, not because I am good at reaching. Like you, it is not my talent.

I tend to be very aloof. I have met a few people who read my blog and they have all said that same thing basically: "You are so much warmer on paper!"

I hold my cards very close so I understand exactly where you are coming from....

The World According to Me said...

Hello Rebecca

You write so honestly and beautifully.

It's good to have you back!

Bah said...

Hi Rebecca...I'm Rebecca. You're the only one that knows that, though. Shhhh. ;-)

Looks like you're breaking through and in such an eloquent way. Bravo.

eastcoastdweller said...

You have opened up Your soul to us, in these words, Rebecca. Know that You are among friends.

Your earnest desire to change is a sign that change is possible. And I'm willing to bet that You are a much better person than You think You are.

Your husband, too, sounds like a fine man.