In search for the answer or answers to the eternal questions of what do I want? What does my soul want? What is it that I feel that I am lacking? Of what does this hole within me consist? Why am I so lonely? So needy? What is it that I need? What can, if anything, make me whole?
I search constantly for similes to accurately illustrate this internal instability I feel. Like that wooden tower game, Jenga, I am missing a few of the essential pieces of my foundation.
“Adults with attachment difficulties want to be loved and accepted but don ‘t have the “tools” to achieve that goal. Their cognitive distortions sabotage what they want and need. This is why traditional therapy usually does not work for these adults. In traditional therapy, the adult client with maladaptive upbringing usually functions more from his frontal lobe. This is because talk therapy tends to be more of a cognitive process for them. They never access and deal with their limbic-stored emotions. The more intelligent the client, the better they are at defending their stored up feelings of inadequacy. As a result, they tend to get frustrated by traditional therapy and don ‘t believe that it helps.”–http://www.instituteforattachment.org/adult_intensives.htm
I’m sorry I don’t tell you a lot. I have a hard time thinking of things to tell you because I do not see that my day to day cares are relevant to you. I do not know that you’d care about my coworkers, my yearnings for people to like me, my thoughts or concerns beyond current events. What we have in common, Charlie, your friends, family, health, and the community in NC, is much more relevant to both of us.
In an effort to share something with you I will tell you this, I purposely did not answer Uncle Paul’s phone call this morning. Partly, I was afraid of having to cut short our conversation because I was on my way to work. Mostly, I was afraid of the awkwardness of our conversations. I knew he wanted me to visit him and I know I should, especially considering how much I regret not spending more time with Grandma. So I called him back this afternoon and we arranged that I would spend tomorrow evening with him. Now that the arrangement has been made, I feel better and almost look forward to it.
I have made a lot of friends during the time I have been here. Friends? I guess they’re friends. They are people I admire. They are people I hope to get closer to; they are people I want the approval of. But at least I think I can say I am in a better place than I have been in the past.
It is thundering here and raining. The lights are dimming intermittently. I will say good-night.
Figure 1 “Echo and Narcissus”
These pieces I created are a result of our first Art Therapy Studio weekend. This class is supposed to be our opportunity to engage in the art therapy process with ourselves as the subject. Our first directive was to create something out of paper and only paper, no tools, no glue, no scissors, nothing. My construction is the top photo. I made a stack of what I know as fortune tellers. My classmates called them cootie catchers. The heart I added was more of an afterthought. I had a few minutes left before time was going to be called so I impulsively took a piece of scrap construction paper and tore out a heart. And even though I had no real intention other than to follow directions during our art making time, my creation, which I titled “Echo and Narcissus,” turned out to really illustrate who I am. Guarded, lonely, isolated, aloof, scared…
The next day we were instructed to build upon our previous works of art. See Figure 2 This is after extensive exploration of the meanings behind our initial creations. You can’t see it very well in the photograph but I again made a series of “cootie catchers” and this time I set a tiny white heart on the head of a pin and stuck them in the center of the “flowers.” As of yet we haven’t really explored these secondary works in class. I commented in passing to one of the instructors that, “it’s pretty much the same thing as before.” She asked, “What do you think that means?” I know I am afraid. I know these figurative towers are at least smaller than the one in my initial creation. It reminds me of a quote I’ve read, “To become whole, first let yourself be broken.” The colors are running in this secondary creation, as if blurred or bleeding, by tears? by rain? Where should I go from here? How do I learn to reach out, descend from my tower, let myself be “broken,” become vulnerable, feel love without doubts or qualifiers or fears? And then, “Sometimes we put up walls, not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to knock them down.”
Where do I go from here?
In class this weekend there was talk about what you see in others is usually a part of yourself as well. Meaning if you dislike selfishness in others, you can usually find it in yourself. I won’t get into the whole discussion of the undeserved negative connotations of “selfishness.” If you think someone is weak or scared or whatever, you can find a part of that in yourself. In addition, what you can see in other’s artwork is also a part of you and your own self expression. It isn’t a huge leap of thought because we all see life through our own “lenses.”
Anyway I came across the following quote, that echoes the same idea, online this morning:
“This is a subtle truth: whatever you love, you are.”–Rumi
In response to this idea I wrote the following:
I am art. I am writing. I am fresh air and sunshine. I am love. I am affection. I am intellectual pursuits. I am sweets, cakes, cookies, chocolate, candy. I am color. I am creating. I am sleep. I am exercise. I am crocheting. I am documenting and recording life. I am reading. I am music. I am travel. I am community. I am support. I am friendship. I am memory. I am birds. I am cats. I am movies with Aunt Elaine. I am photography. I am Western Pennsylvania. I am San Francisco. I am Cape Cod. I am knowledge. I am the smell of coffee, freesia, lilacs, lavender, basil, rosemary, cherries. I am confidence. I am personal peace. I am people. I am flowers. I am physical and mental health. I am purpose. I am Aunt Elaine. I am “Lucy.” I am my boss. (Again I won’t get into the whole authority figure thing I have…) I am Mom. I am Dad. I am camp fires. I am blueberries.I am swimming. I am the ocean…
Back at the apartment. Most of the time when you get back from a trip there is this feeling of elation at being back among your own things. No more tiptoeing around other people’s likes, dislikes, shoulds and shouldn’ts, etc. No more living out of a suitcase. You are back on your own comfortable, familiar, territory. When I got home yesterday it was more like, “Oh. It’s my stuff.” It kinda fell flat.
I feel the lack of having someone to confide in keenly this morning. It is not that I told my mother all that much. In fact in the scheme of things I told her very little. What relevance would my life here have to her? Besides all of that I have a tendency not to realize that she lacks the same day to day frame of reference that I have. But I long for someone to tell my thoughts to, something or someone beyond the written page. I long to tell someone how much certain things or people mean to me, what thoughts struck me throughout the day, and…I don’t know. I guess I am looking for some kind of external validation.
I don’t know if what I need is a friend, or a therapist.
Well today is my last day visiting Mom. There is an anxiety, an incompleteness, I am feeling this morning. If I don’t get whatever it is I’m looking for I feel as if there will be a lingering sense of disappointment. How do you begin to look for something if you don’t know what it is? I’m very aware of my inner
whole hole this morning. I’m anxious and…restless, on the verge of tears at times when I am especially aware of the hole. The hunger I feel is never satisfied.
So this weekend I go to North Carolina to visit Mom. I haven’t seen her since Christmas. Right now I’m feeling pretty good about where I am mentally. I still have my rough
days weeks but it is different because I am in a different environment. I am worried though about how things might be once I am in the company of my mother and sister again. I am afraid of falling back on old coping patterns (in my journal earlier I wrote problems instead of patterns). Here I am on my own, no one’s opinion to worry about, no one to tell that I am going to be late getting home, no one to care if I let dishes pile up in the sink, no one to give way to, no one to tell me I’m wrong, and most importantly no one to suck the life out of me. I am afraid of going home (“home is where the mom is”). I am afraid of being oppressed by feeling I’m doing something wrong, giving way to others preferences, and having my preferences mocked. I am afraid of the anger and pain I often suppress when I am around my mother and sister. I am afraid of being insignificant, disregarded. I want the freedom to tell them what I want to do without caring whether or not they approve.
For example, we occasionally go over to my sister and her husband’s house for dinner. They like to eat much later than I normally do. By the time dinner is ready I am tired, very hungry, and cranky. Then frequently a long period of conversation occurs after dinner especially around the holidays. Because we usually take one car, with mom driving, we often end up leaving a couple of hours or more past the time I would have preferred. Read, me being even more tired and cranky. If I were to express my readiness to go and my desire to be in bed with a book I’d be mocked, mainly by my sister, for being a “party-pooper,” and being old, just for preferring to go to bed early. I need my time to unwind. When they come to Mom’s house for dinner, we again eat a good bit later than I’d like.
This is only one example. Anyway I know and I tell myself it is all petty stuff but I am tired of feeling in the wrong for nearly everything I do while in their company. And I am extremely tired of sacrificing my comfort for everyone else’s pleasure. I want the freedom to say , “Mom, I’m taking my own car so that I can leave whenever I want.” (And if dinner is extremely delayed I am leaving and grabbing a pizza) I want the courage to tell my sister or my mom when they piss me off or hurt me rather than falling back on discounting my feelings like I’ve done for as long as I can remember. I tell myself, “Oh, Laura, it is not that big a deal. You’re just over reacting. Suck it up!” Deep down I think, “Well, maybe they’re right.” I want the courage to say, “Hey! That hurts!” It is hard to constantly be undermined in such a subtle and occasionally unintentional way.
So my question is, how do I hold onto the extremely tenuous identity I’ve cultivated here when I go visit family?