I first found him through Steven Summerstone. Thanks, Steven! These videos express everything I wanted to say.
Some days, I am still so angry and so sad.
I didn’t want to be someone whose overwhelming feeling upon her mother’s death was relief. Yes, she was suffering and suffered greatly her whole life. But I am talking about that sense that “Hey… I can breathe now. I never have to deal with one of her alcoholic boyfriends ever again. I’ll never again be manipulated for money or stolen from or guilted into anything or yelled at by someone screaming so violently that their head rattles and my ears ring with an instant headache.”
I never wanted to have to fight back. She once physically attacked me, grappling me with her full weight (over two hundred pounds), slowly pressing all breath out of me. Her teeth were bared and spittle flew out between them as she heaved her straining smoker’s breaths like a beast.
She desperately wanted to escape the hurt and anger of her childhood and thought she could wring it out of my body by force, losing her humanity in the process.
I never wanted to be a part of that.
I never wanted to carry this hate in my heart.
I didn’t want to be the kind of person who would take a certain satisfaction in knowing that her ashes were sitting unceremoniously on a shelf gathering dust in the basement of a funeral home.
Forgotten, abandoned, forsaken yet again, even in death.
Her sister had wanted to take the ashes back to the island YES I said yes please do but my brother had said no. I was disappointed but did not press the issue. I had a history of being annoyed over his expression of any kind of a preference. And I learned not to question someone who is grieving.
However, even now, I feel a twinge of annoyance at his insistence and lack of further action resulting in them still being here. It’s something I feel sort of obligated to deal with somehow. Although this will never happen. I have washed my hands of her.
My heart is another story.
Last night I had a dream that didn’t make sense until I spoke it out loud. Here is what I recalled:
There was a “hurricane” coming. This seemed to be the word that suited it best. In the dream what it referred to was a really windy storm that was going to blow through town and destroy anything that wasn’t tied down.
I was talking to a blonde woman around my age outside of a room that she was preparing to hide from the storm in. I felt a growing sense of anxiety about the coming storm, but I was also excited. This was how I felt when I was eight years old and we were having a picnic in the park with friends, suddenly the sky turned sepia toned and the wind whipped everything off the table. Four children and 2 single mothers.. we ran back home, clutching what we had salvaged and heard on the radio that a tornado was ripping through town.
I wanted to show the woman that when a storm of this magnitude is around the corner, it has an effect on gravity. I jumped up and slowly soared to the ceiling. There, I showed her how to crawl on the ceiling before gracefully floating back to the ground. She was unimpressed and not interested.
She began telling me how she was going to hide people inside of the room in front of us. The house we were in had a grand feel to it, dark oak, carved moldings, high ceilings and wall sconces.
I noticed that it was a incredibly tall, dark, heavy polished wood door that would shut them up in the room and while I felt that it provided some measure of protection, I felt that it wasn’t enough.
I explained to her that the best way to escape the hurricane was to hide underground. Basements, cellars and the like.
She disagreed. It was then that I noticed that right outside of the room, there were two incredibly tall, grand mirrors, side by side on the wall like the number 11.
“Those are unsafe.” I pointed out. “I mean, they might be screwed on to the wall really well but when the hurricane comes through, they could fall and injure someone. Maybe even kill them. Best to hide underground until the storm passes.”
That is all that I remember.
Why the hell would I dream about a hurricane? I remarked, when recalling this to J and as soon as I said it, the answer came to me.
Have I ever mentioned my mother’s name here? The spelling was unique but aptly suited. Her name was Gale.
I just remembered that I once took bodybuilding pictures of my absent dad to school for show and tell.
My heart just broke into a million pieces.
No child should have to grow up without a father. But I did. I made it. Just barely.
Today an old song I learned as a kid in public school came back to me. I have been obsessed with being impure on the inside and being haunted by all the terrifying sorts of ways that that might manifest as.
I have spent YEARS eating only organic food, fasting, detoxing, supplementing, cleansing in all ungodly manners only to have the feelings intensify. It was recently revealed to me by my therapist than I had been afflicted with toxic shame. The shame that my mother projected onto me. This is one of the mental perversions it will take shape as.
I spent a few years of my youth not talking, after having been thoughtful and articulate and bright. I felt like my mouth was under some kind of magic that made me refuse to respond to anyone reaching out to me in kindness.
Toxic shame can do that. No one batted an eyelash.
The shame I felt over my existence and my mother’s behavior was like some kind of curse. Now, here I am, twenty some years later and I find out that it hasn’t gone away.
I could feel the song rise up in me… I tried to hold it back but I could hear the kids voices sing-songing along. I let it come like many of the memories that sometimes come to me to be healed.
Nobody likes me
Everybody hates me
Think I’ll eat some worms!
The song then goes on to describe them, how gross it was etc etc etc.
We were taught this is grade school, an entire chorus of innocent children being indoctrinated with foul images, ideas and words. I can think of other songs with cute catchy tunes we were taught in school that I look back now with bewilderment upon. Mantras of violence and self hate. Child abuse because this affects the brain.
I was overcome with emotion over this memory and the feelings. I pulled myself together afterwards, did my boundary excercises and put this on. This is what children’s music should sound like. And I am so sorry for myself and any other children who trusted that what adults fed our growing brains and psyches would be only beneficial.
I’ve been attempting to call back memories of those adults who showed me support as a child.
Today I recalled my swimming lessons. I think I was maybe eight. This would have been four years after my near drowning and while I exhibited a healthy bit of caution, I was unafraid.
The levels of swimming certification were yellow, orange and red. I wanted the red so badly and I had this fiery, wiry, wild little body that was really strong and agile.
It was the final test and for this, we each had time alone with the teacher. I can’t remember her name or what she looked like but she was young. Late teens, early twenties maybe.
We had to hold our breath under water, identify colors underwater, swim laps. But then came the floating. She supported me on my back in the deep end of the pool while my muscles spasmed and tensed. Surely, you don’t just lie there? I have to do something..?
She calmly, soothingly kept encouraging me.
It was counterintuitive to every human instinct but the truth was that when you completely relaxed, on your back, in the deep end, you would float. She’d move her arms away and back in very small increments.
The triumph!! when I first felt it. I was elated. And heartily congratulated and celebrated. She called me ‘sweetie’, which no one really ever did. I can remember every specific moment in my childhood when someone called me that. It was like balm for my soul.. that I felt slightly ashamed and unworthy of receiving. Now, as an adult, it bothers me greatly to be addressed in this way by anybody under age 70.
I think I only spent twenty minutes alone with her. Me, that little scrawny child with the afro, glasses, and the Goodwill bathing suit with no one to speak for her.
Those twenty minutes drastically contributed to my life in a profound way.
Right now my mission is active: creating, speaking and spreading concepts that can drastically improve the lives of children and adult children. But I plan to spend my retirement in children’s hospitals as emotional support. There were small moments of deep kindness I experienced as a child that I will never forget. I’d love to help someone else in that way ♥
There is a part of me that is suspicious anytime a therapist tells me your mother was ________ or your mother always _________ or your mother didn’t _________.
I think, how do they know?
I mean, I give them whatever I can. And I tell them the good and the bad. But not everything. There isn’t time for everything or I would tell everything because I have carried all of it for much too long.
I start to feel the way I do when I take eye exams. I hate that they are trusting my subjective opinion to make medical decisions about me.
Which is clearer, the top or the bottom row?
Is it better or worse when I do this?
Can I really be trusted to give them an accurate picture of the truth through my eyes?
Then I remember how we learned about soils in forestry.
When you are learned, you can look at the bark, the tilt, the way the leaves of a tree grow and know exactly what kind of soil it grew in and what conditions it endured.
You can look at it and know what it’s first winter was like.
How far into the ground it was planted.
If I had walked in there and told them that I had a wonderful childhood (I actually thought I had at first, the majority of people with childhood trauma have mental blocks in place to make them feel this way as well), it would not have made a difference. They would have known the truth.
Part of what came along with my childhood was a well programmed guilt-o-meter to prevent me from talking about it. I still feel it. But I do it anyway.
It’s not I who should be ashamed of my childhood or any of the ways that I responded to it.
And it’s still so hard for me accept that.
Looking back and while growing up, I was often torn apart inside trying to make sense of how what my mother was saying about her parenting abilities (stellar!) and who she told me I was (a vain, lazy, spoiled, ungrateful child. ahem) just never matched up for me. Everything she said and did was lacking in logic and rationality and if I were ever to question it, she would turn it back on me. I was the one who was wrong for observing it in the first place. I was critical and mean for speaking up and trying to divide the family.
I knew that I came from a childhood of abuse and neglect. But it was only recently that a professional with 30+ years in this field suggested to me that she might have had Borderline Personality Disorder. Everything that I have read on it so far has been blowing me away.
“Unresolved trauma, which is associated with BPD, often obstructs a mother’s ability to parent effectively. Parents who are unable to reflect back on their childhood history and integrate their experiences have a limited capacity for emotional availability to their children (Crandell & Hobson, 1999). Specifically, a mother with BPD may lack the capacity to respond appropriately to her children by projecting past material into the mother-child interaction (Crandell et al., 1997). For example, defensive splitting may interfere with the parent-child relationship via the mother with BPD’s perception of the child as either “all good,” who needs to be saved, or “all bad,” who needs to be reprimanded (Newman & Stevenson, 2005, Glickhauf-Hughes & Mehlman, 1998). Even the act of care giving itself may trigger painful memories from the mother’s history of trauma, making it very difficult for the mother with BPD to cope with the daily challenges of parenting (Main, 1995). These triggers often causes her to engage in maladaptive, “frightened/frightening” behaviors, whereby the she is both frightening to the child and frightened herself at the same time (Holmes, 2005; Hobson, et al, 2005). In this way, mothers with BPD are often classified as “high risk” parents (Newman & Stevenson, 2005), at risk of child abuse and/or drastically overprotective behaviors.”
“The following are commonalities in parenting behaviors that typify mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder:
(1) they use insensitive forms of communication;
(2) are critical and intrusive;
(3) use frightening comments and behavioral displays (Hobson et al., 2009);
(4) demonstrate role confusion with offspring (Feldman et al., 1995);
(5) inappropriately encourage offspring to adopt the parental role (Feldman et al., 1995);
(6) put offspring in the role of “friend” or “confidant” (Feldman et al., 1995);
(7) report high levels of distress as parents; (Macfie, Fitzpatrick, Rivas, & Cox, 2008); and
(8) may turn abusive out of frustration and become despondent (Hobson et al., 2009; Stepp et al., 2012).”
I was going through cheques that had been written to me and I had very different feelings about each one.
The first was from a woman who was paying me to be sort of like a personal assistant. The cheque (sorry for the spelling.. that’s how we do it in Canada) was for $15,000 for one week of work. I remember thinking this is too much for a person to get paid and that she must have made a mistake so I started going over the schedule looking for the error. Everything on paper somehow pointed to this fifteen grand as having been totally worth the value of the work I did but I could not accept it.
That was when I realized that I was in a dream. I had this weird moment in the dream where I realized that the reality was that I was worth this much but it was not computing because
it didn’t match up with my beliefs about myself, value, money and time.
The second interesting part was that there were cheques there written to me by people I consider friends or relatives and looking at them made me feel VERY uncomfortable. I felt as though I didn’t deserve them, despite the fact that I acknowledged that I had earned them.
This dream makes all of the sense in the world as I have been working through a lot of these types of issues over the past little while.
I do not believe in the paradigm of “earning” or “deserving” things. I personally know people who have exponentially more than other people I have known who have worked tirelessly for eternity. I can not say that they ‘earned’ what they have. I do not find that unfair.
I try not to think about ‘time for money’ anymore so much as
‘value for energy’
My current financial goal for the short term is $10,000 per month and I am pretty close to achieving that despite the fact that I sleep in everyday until whenever I want, go wherever I want (which isn’t far in truth, I prefer the comforts of home until my health is better) and “work” less than 4 hours a day and not even every day. My bigger goal is $20k a month and honestly I don’t even see that as being so far off.
I’ve been going back and forth on the issue though. I recently had to double my consulting prices because what I am working on for myself is of more value. It remains to be seen whether the first client I’ve informed of this change will still want to go ahead with the work at the new price but there it is again, time for money. It’s really losing it’s appeal, but it’s still there.
I’ve really been running into this issue in my personal life as well, which is why that came up in the dream. I just recently decided that it is definitely time to stop offering coaching, consulting or work that I usually charge for to friends for free. This has consistently bit me in the ass.
People end up not valuing my time or what I have to offer. I recently accepted a request from a friend, offering a free consult that I have been charging $125 a hour for (people have been paying me this gladly) only to have them cancel half an hour before and suggest that we reschedule…. their free service that usually costs money… on my dime.
I’ve had friends ask to pay me for my time only to then act shocked at the price.
I’ve gone out of my way to provide free coaching for people who really don’t want to change.
I’ve shown up to help people with their social media strategies for free only to have them turn around and diss me on twitter (OH the irony!)
While I completely and totally understand why this behavior occurs and where these issues are coming from, I can’t keep exposing myself to it. Of course, in my way though, I am really really grateful for it. It has drawn my attention to a serious blind spot that has been affecting my health and my entire life.
I’ve just recently recognized that I have had a MAJOR boundary issue my entire life.
It’s really funny too because I thought I’d be the last person on the planet who you’d think would have a boundary issue! Here’s the thing: one’s sense of personal boundary is formed before age six. What this usually means is that
the child will take on the personal boundary of their primary caregiver
Growing up, I watched my mother consistently let losers into her life. Now, I understand that alcoholics and other addicts are people who are dealing with a lot of pain and disconnection based on their lack of support since birth. Back then, I just saw them as losers who would gladly prey on a desperate single mother and (sometimes, literally) take whatever resources they could right out of her fatherless children’s hands. Because she would let them.
One of them stole an opal ring I had been given as a birthday present right off my finger as I slept. One of them gladly took one of the few things I treasured when my mother cajoled and shamed me into giving it to him, a beautiful statue I had won and picked out in an arts store. It was a woman with long hair washed up on a rock by a roiling sea, listening to a sea shell.
I would later realize that I had become that woman, but that is another story ;)
Sometimes, it was our school lunches that had been meant for the next day, straight out of the fridge.
They came into our lives (not just hers, because that’s what happens when you have kids, what you allow into your life, you allow into theirs) they came and took whatever they wanted and more and she would gladly give and give and give and give to them.
Unfortunately, her benevolence never touched the part of their hearts that was frozen by the lack of support in their childhoods. Not a one of them took her help and used it to clean up their act, get off alcohol or seek professional help (which is the only form of “help” that can work for people at this point).
I’m pretty sure the upstanding gentleman who stole the ring off a poverty stricken, fatherless child’s finger didn’t use the pawn store money for psychotherapy sessions.
When you give to people who are coming at you from this angle, it’s like throwing what you are offering into a black hole. But it’s also not good for you to be giving to anyone from that state either.
What is happening here is that both people are desperately begging each other for love. Neither is really getting it.
There is no victim. There is no ‘giver’ and ‘taker’. Both are equally trying to get something from the other.
It has taken me a while to understand this.
Anyway, watching that as a child, I vowed that it would never happen to me. And it didn’t! I was on the lookout for hurt men looking to get something from me for a very long time and thought that I had successfully avoided the pitfalls that my mother never managed to escape.
But here’s the thing,
The problem is not always where you are looking for it.
My entire life, I have been involved with hurt women who saw me as some type of salvation. This has happened to me since elementary school. And since I was only looking for alcoholic men, I never saw it coming.
I let them into my lives and tried to save them. I let their problems become my own. And I never really “helped” any of them.
When you are trying to help someone from a space of not having any resources to help yourself, it’s like trying to fill someone else’s cup while yours is empty, hoping doing so will make your cup full.
As you can imagine, this would be time consuming, frustrating and in the end, nothing has changed.
This boundary issue has manifested into what is the biggest physical boundary that we have in this life. My skin. It is my weakest genetic link (the part of your body that will start to show systemic dysfunction before all others) and of course matches up with this completely.
I’m excited to take on this new challenge in my life.
One person in the family that the generational dysfunction expresses through.
You will find that every member of that family is living a life of dysfunction in some area, they just make it look better or are “good on paper”. But they are definitely all suffering.
One crazy uncle. One sibling with a (visible, diagnose-able) mental illness. Somebody with chronic body problems or an addiction of some type (food, shopping, sex, drama, drugs).
So easy to write them off as a strange, randomly black sheep. Trouble maker. Odd man out.
When in reality they are the most sensitive one, manifesting generations of pain. They are the brave ones, going it alone, refusing to conform any further and breaking the cycle of denial. They face devastating levels of rejection for this.
This realization usually comes after hitting rock bottom… and then the rock bottom of bottom…. maybe more than once and is the point at which they either remove themselves from the dysfunction and start to build themselves back from the bottom up, replacing their foundation and becoming something elegantly unshakable. Though still troubled (they always will be, somewhat) they become testaments to self love and the consistent act of putting one foot in front of the other. (See Oprah, Wayne Dyer and Maya Angelou)
Or they become wrecked on the shore of life. Another one lost.
I’ve seen far too many examples of the latter, including my own mother, whose life was (if we are being brutally honest) a disaster.
I dangerously teeter between the two extremes myself still to this day.
What keeps me going are pictures of myself as a child. There is such inspiration to be found in the bravery of children before they become adults with jobs they hate and layers of emotional armor, denial and manipulations for surviving the world around them.
They are burning bright with the purpose of life. When I see that in myself, I am reminded that I am so much stronger than the pain, loss, illness and emotional violence that tried to shut my eyes forever.