Some Much Needed Truth

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The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is how this whole thing started, really. They kept telling me over and over, “Secrets will keep you sick,” until quite frankly I hated that sentence. I didn’t really understand what they wanted from me. I thought, it wasn’t the secrets that were making me sick, it was the truth that was threatening to destroy me. So why would I want to bring that out into the open? And anyways, the opposite of “secrets keep you sick” is what? The truth will set you free? Well that just sounds too good to be true if you ask me. No, not MY truth… and what if the truth hurts? What if it is a sad truth? An ugly truth? The naked truth? (CRINGE).

Follow me back in time for a minute…

As kids we love to play this game, you know the one, Truth or Dare. It is a game that either excites you or terrifies you or maybe a mix of both. It gets your adrenaline pumping. Your curiosity is peaked. Everyone is clamoring as you all gather around to begin the game. Until someone asks, “Truth… or … Dare?”

We all know that “Dare” is the so-called better answer. The cooler answer. The braver choice. But why? You know that if you say “Truth” there will be a collective “Boooo!”. It is seen as the weaker choice. The safer choice. Maybe the easy way out. You are no fun if you choose the truth. The group might even try to punish you with the truth by asking you something shameful, backing you into a corner. That’s what you get for picking “Truth”. I realize it might just be a silly childhood game, but it really shows what we are taught to value in this world. Boldness over authenticity. It is decidedly braver and more acceptable to do something bold on the outside than to do something vulnerable to the inside. But I am going to argue that it actually takes a lot more courage to speak and share your truths.

We think of the truth as being stagnant. Unchanging. But what if truth can be transformational. So much more than just the facts. It wasn’t a matter of simply telling my dirty little secrets. Truth makes space for living breathing stories. My stories. True stories. The me living the stories. The me now witnessing my stories. The me speaking the stories.  The me sharing the stories with you. And trust me, there is nothing easy or safe about the truth. Unlike the “Dare”, there is no band-aid approach to the truth. For me, it has been a very slow unfolding.

I want to unfold. I don’t want to stay folded anywhere, because where I am folded, there I am a lie.” –Rainer Maria Rilke

What happens when we start unfolding our truths?

We see the beauty in ‘opening’ all around us. We forget that we are no exception to this. We are like the seed cracking open, only to then grow and bloom. We are like the sky opening up to reveal light. Even a woman’s body opens up to give birth to a baby, to life. We accept the pain and messiness and discomfort and fear and uncertainty that comes with that journey because we know that there is great beauty to be found as well. So why not for truth?

And so,

I DARE you to join me this journey for truth. To open yourself up. To let your truth out and to let the biggest TRUTH in.

Spinning Fast

I have been afraid to make a post, not knowing quite what to say. Or maybe I just didn’t want it to be true, that things are still so hard for me today. Am I getting better… sometimes I just can’t tell. It doesn’t feel like it… and then the holidays are here as well. Is it life that is spinning so fast or is it only in my mind? I’m looking for solid ground, begging the spinning, please don’t leave me behind.

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Does your head ever spin so fast, you can’t remember who you are?

I keep looking at old pictures, just trying to understand. And when this spinning stops, wondering, on which me will I land? Only I can’t find me. What if I don’t recognize the faces that they wear. As she gets older, I cannot even look, her story is too big to bear. The pictures are so sad, her face is just a blur. There is no me… and there isn’t even her.

I make a pile to throw them away, they are something no one should ever see. When they look at her, I am scared they will soon recognize she is also me.

This pile is still sitting there, where I left it in the corner. I can’t bring myself to throw her away, to just further destroy her.

It seems that this time of year everything always fades into blurry. I start moving faster, trying to keep up because I don’t want anyone to worry. But when you are spinning and spinning, people can only try to get near. But they can’t see you clearly, and you are going too fast to hear. They stand and watch trying to jump in, some wishing for their chance. But each time those double dutch ropes fly by, they stand still in their outside stance. It is not their fault that the things around you are moving at too fast a pace. That they want to help, but don’t know where to start when you won’t even let them see your face.

So this is me, trying to slow down, even just a little. Trying to find my way with pictures and words, trying to meet myself in the middle. To be both waking up and going back into my darkness, is a scary place to be. But with a little grace, I will be okay, because that is what makes me Me.

 

 

If walls could hug

What was it the Care Bears said… “Sharing is caring”? I think I might be resting a bit too safely on that these days. I’m sharing right? So clearly I am doing relationships and connecting… But am I really?

I read somewhere that when we start to share these kinds of things about ourselves that we tend to share the broad statements like “I had a hard past” or “I was abused” (yes even getting that out is a victory!) , but as I now move deeper into healing, I’m learning that what we remember most (and therefore shapes us most) are the details, not the broad picture. Which means that maybe people aren’t really understanding me better or knowing me deeper. The thing we all want is to be known, understood, and loved for it, despite it, all of it. I want that too even if it scares me. Yet, I am still keeping my safe distance, sharing just enough, or even better by sharing with paper or a screen instead of people. Art and writing are instrumental to my healing and nourish my soul and yet I wonder if like a wall, there is another side to this.

darknessThe other side is I have a wall you cannot see because it is deep inside of me. It blocks my heart on every side, and it offers a safe place for me to hide. A wall built stone by stone, until finally I convinced myself that inside, I was meant to live alone. You can’t  reach in. I can’t reach out. You might sometimes wonder what it is all about.

But it wasn’t always like this. When I was little, I only needed two walls, and they didn’t block me off from all of you, no, that’s not why I needed them at all. After my dad was done with me and I was left in that big bed shaky and raw, I would crawl myself up to the corner where the bed met the walls. I curled up in the corner so the walls could hug me and I rocked and rocked. I guess some part of me knew I needed to be held and I let the walls be there with me. I still feel safest in corners.

But when did two walls become four, and when did she learn to close all of her doors?

What if keeping myself safe does not actually mean keeping myself alone?

Little Reminders

Whenever I start to find myself in a place of feeling stuck, or like this journey has no end, I start to worry…maybe I’m not making progress anymore. Am I just spinning my wheels?

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It is important for me to be honest with myself about these things so I can work on it. But I am also learning that in these moments, it is equally important to remind myself of growth. I am wanting to learn how to do this for myself, more little reminders, especially when the process is feeling particularly daunting.

Memories feel daunting. That is where I am at right now. They say these things don’t reveal themselves to you until you are ready to face them. What they don’t say is that you will still be overwhelmed and scared and confused and every other big feeling that goes along with these memories when they are revealed. So how do I honor both of these truths? That on some level, I am ready…and… that this does not make it any less painful to go through.

Each time I witness a memory, the minutes, hours, days following feel a bit like this…

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I think I understand why Maya Angelou said, ” I hadn’t so much as forgot as I couldn’t bring myself to remember.”

When I am lost in this chaos of remembering, I would like to remind myself this:

I know remembering is not easy, but each time you let yourself remember you are actually doing grounding work. You may feel completely ungrounded inside, so this probably sounds strange. But with each piece you collect (or memory that you face), your life is suddenly making sense. With the truth you have started to reveal, you now have the framework to fit the other pieces into. It’s like with a jigsaw puzzle, we start with the edges, creating the border or the frame first. And then we can fit the pieces in from there. I know it feels scary and unsettling right now, but with each piece you gather you are becoming more and more grounded in your truth.

 

Mixed Messages

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So the reason I am writing today is because of mixed messages.

There was a post I read this week. It was made by a woman I admire and respect. She is an well-known advocate for women and mothers and humans and honesty and kindness. I do not wish to name her because I believe her intentions to be true, and at the same time I see these mixed messages so often and each time they effect me deeply (I have the feeling I may not be alone in this)…and so I am (for the first time) choosing to respond.

The message was this: “Y’all. What happened doesn’t matter. It never does. All that matters-all that ever matters is: what next? You are not what happened to you, but you just might be what you do next.” 

With each word I read my stomach contorts itself into a knot that rises to my throat. Sickness fills my body. My eyes burn with hurt and shame, but no tears form. My cheeks are hot. My brain is already beginning to scold me for thinking I could ever believe something different. Little Me voices repeat those two words trying to make sense of it. First with the tentative question…it doesn’t matter… my voice struggles to break through the immense weight of my smallness, I whisper…doesn’t matter… doesn’t…matter…don’t…matter…you…don’t… matter…

I think I now know why my voice so often dies in my throat.

I know I am supposed to feel empowered after reading this post because today is a new day. This post was intended to be an “inspirational message”, right? That only makes it more painful. These words adding to this knot of not mattering that lives inside. I don’t know how to reconcile the fact that even the people in this world who are supposed to be our advocates, who claim to support us, are telling us: to forget, to pretend, to hide, to ignore, to diminish, to change, to reject a piece of ourselves, to dismiss a big part of what formed who I am today (how could it not?). I don’t know how I could make any other conclusion than if it doesn’t matter, never has, never will…how could I? How could who I am ever be okay?

My response is this: It has to matter. We matter. Healing matters. All of it matters. 

We all have to stop telling each other “it doesn’t matter”…whatever “it” is for you. I’ve already been telling myself this for so long. My hand has been holding my crayon in a death grip scribbling those words over and over, rubbing the shame and hurt into the paper as deep as it is in me, until the crayon snaps and I start over.

What I need to hear is: that it matters over and over and over and hopefully I will start to believe that it could matter, that I could matter. It has to matter because I have to go there. I have to go there because I have to tell her she matters.

I know it is not a fun or comfortable thing to talk about for me or you. Trust me, I agonize over this a lot. And yes, I already know that what I do with the rest of my life is up to me. But I fear that until I start to truly believe that who I am just might matter (all of it), what happens with the rest of my life is a bit of a moot point to me…no matter how many times I hear that “I am not what happened to me, but what I choose to do next”. Instead, I feel like such a let down. I think, I don’t know what you want from me…and I feel like a fraud when I give it to you…because I’m still not doing it for me. Because that doesn’t matter.

What doesn’t matter… is how long it takes.

Audre Lorde says, “Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside of you that wants to be spoken out.” And I am saying, that one little piece matters too. Every piece of you matters.

Dear healing girl,

It matters because you matter.

“Everyone has that moment I think, the moment when something so momentous happens that it rips your being into small pieces. And then you have to stop. For a long time, you gather your pieces. And it takes such a very long time, not to fit them back together, but to assemble them in a new way, not necessarily a better way. More, a way you can live with until you know for certain that this piece should go there, and that one there.” -Kathleen Glasgow

 

 

Coming Clean

This is Me…Coming Clean
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Today I was driving in my car and a Taylor Swift song came on the radio, with the chorus saying over and over something like, “I think I am finally clean”. I started to drown, straining for a breath of any size. Panic and heaviness washing over me. With one thought dragging me down, will I forever feel unclean? I was supposed to go to the Dr. and I couldn’t bring myself to leave my car. This only further fueled the feeling…what is wrong with me?

The word I often use to describe a sensation that is really unnamable is “icky”. The icky is the summary of all the yuck stuff that has happened, that I’ve been part of, that I’ve lived through, sometimes wished I’d died from. It is a part of me, not just a feeling that will pass. Icky lives inside your head, on your skin, and in your bones. It takes over until there are truly no safe zones. I can feel it everywhere, like fingers dancing on my skin. I scrub and scrub but there’s no cure for something that lives within. It makes my skin crawl, but there are no bugs for me to swat at. I punish myself, and tell myself it is because I am fat.

The only way I know how to be free from this is when my mind feels like it is operating apart from the body that contains it. Numb. Blank. But I know this is no way to live. Still in the shadows, on the sidelines, or in between. Living in the wings, the spaces where I can see but not be seen. I feel like Pig Pen from the Peanuts, with dirty emanating from me where ever I go. Something that is bigger than me, something I don’t want anyone to know. Even my name is a lie. For Caitlin means “pure”. It is wrong to be called something I have never been for sure.

I have tried everything to make myself clean. It is overwhelming to be asked what it will take to make me feel clean. Or what I would need to believe that the icky is not me, not mine. Because it seems that no amount of soap or disinfectant or punishment can rid me from the icky I feel or make me suddenly “pure”. So what do you do when what you really need is more like a magic cure?

What if what I need is a fresh perspective? What if living life wasn’t about being pure or searching for the thing that will make me clean? What if purity and being pure just means being harmonious in thought, word, and deed? Like being aligned in the truth of yourself? What if instead I lived in search of being completetly human? To live , to feel, to give, to take, to laugh, to cry, to get lost, to be found, to love, to be everything that is human. I think this is something I can actually wrap my mind around.

“I had this dream that my life was a rolling canvas. Everyday it rolled off the sheet, bleached white, into the beach of my life. Come sunup, I’d begin to paint it with my thoughts and actions. My breathing, my living, and my dying. Some days the pictures pleased me, maybe pleased others … but some days, some months, even some years, they didn’t, and I didn’t ever want to look at them again. But the thing is…every day, no matter what I’d painted the day before, I got a new canvas.”  -Charles Martin

Neither Here nor There

Do you ever feel this way… stuck in the in-between? Like you are neither here nor there…

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This journey is lengthy. I am better than before. But there are still so many places where I feel so sore. Inside feeling lost, scattered, dispersed with no border. I guess I can see why these things are so often called a “disorder”. Solid ground I can’t find. I am constantly asking myself, am I losing my mind? My mind is spinning out. I shush the sounds of doubt. By searching for answers and silver linings. Maybe I can make meaning of the madness I feel. Finally tie down the things that dodge defining. If I could just find clarity somehow, somewhere. I could know if I’m a here or a there.

down-the-rabbit-holeHave you ever climbed a fence? Carefully placing your feet step by step, making your way up to the top. Slow and steady you climb. You are doing it. And then you get to the top. Suddenly, you don’t know what to do. Where do you put your feet? What do you hold onto? You don’t want to fall back down. So you keep holding on. Dizzy. Your thoughts go round and round.

Why is this the hardest part? Crossing from one side to the other, not the climb itself, not even the start.

I think it’s because our brain catches up to us. We are suddenly aware of how far we have come and also how far we have to go. We realize what all is now at stake. We fear making the wrong step, fear it will be too big a mistake. We get stuck in our head, spinning in circles. Not moving forward out of fear of falling back. We focus solely on needing to know what the next “right” move will be before trying anything. Sometimes we contemplate stepping back down the way we came from. It certainly feels safer. Other times we stay balancing on the edge. Still grasping for what is KNOWN. What we often don’t realize in these moments is that actually, “(this) lack of comfort means we are on the threshold of new insights.” Change.

“We don’t notice things change. We know that things change, we’ve been told since childhood that things change, we’ve witnessed things change ourselves many a time, and yet we’re still utterly incapable of noticing the moment that change comes–or we search for change in all the wrong places.” –Arkady Strugatsky

And so I will continue bravely making my way. Even if it is across an earthquake, that cracks beneath my feet. And I will choose to stay present, to be in the moment when here and there finally meet.

Dear Girl,

This willingness to exist inside the ungraspable strikes me as the bravest stance of all.

Sincerely,

The Journey