walls and corners

There are good days. There are not so good days.

Sometimes I suddenly am aware with a gut-wrenching force that I am more than a quarter of a century along and I don’t know how to be happy, I don’t have any answers at all and I am still trying to figure out what questions I even ought to be asking. Far enough away from childhood and youth that the process of living it can now be picked apart, bit by bit, shoved under the omphaloskeptic microscope. Turns out that’s painful. Turns out the process of turning into someone I want to be when I don’t even really know who I’ve been and who I was feels a bit like trying to build a snowman out of ash. You think you are forming a shape and then you move away and there it goes, invisible in the wind. And it’s like, why am I doing this work when next year I’ll feel like a totally different person again anyway.

Turns out too that when you’ve spent twenty-plus years trying to be something for someone else, that when you strike the “else” and that “someone” becomes yourself it’s exhausting, impossible, isolating. I don’t know how to live for myself and I don’t know how to talk to people anymore when what they think they’re going to hear out of my mouth is so different from what’s at the back of my throat. Somehow somewhere as it’s sliding over the tongue and through my lips it turns into banalities. “So what’s new for you?” “Nothing much. I sprained my finger.” I sprained my fucking finger?

How about this: I have a part-time job that puts me under the poverty line and I have ideas, a lot of them, about community and sustainability but I don’t have the resources or the know-how to make it happen and I’m in love with two people in totally different ways and I want to do sex work to help make ends meet and I waste a lot of time and I am so full of self-doubt it brings me to tears on bad days and I eat nutella out of the jar on a regular basis and I am sick most days and I don’t know how to have sex and not have it be sex-after-rape and I might not ever go back to school and I might not ever get married and I might not ever own a fucking house and I might have family that looks a whole lot different than is imaginable to just about everyone and my politics might not make any sense to anyone except myself.

Someone wrote to me a few weeks ago and asked me, what are the daily consequences for you of being a rape survivor? How does it affect your daily life? Here’s a thing, and it’s about more than rape but that has a lot to do with it: I keep walls behind me; I face doors at all times. I sit on the inside. I tuck myself in corners and against walls so that I can see anything and everything that might be coming at me and it is my life’s work to pull myself out of the corner and into the middle of the room where it feels like I have to spin so so so fast spin spin spin just to keep an eye on the 360-degree 3-D world surrounding me. And recently when I was talking to friends about self-destructive habits and patterns we have to work hard to keep ourselves from, the one, for me, is curling up and crawling into a fully-enclosed, iron-encased space where I am protected at all angles from things that be. My form of destruction is keeping myself so safe from everything that I become invisible, that I evaporate. Willing myself to untuck unfold, peeling myself off the floor away from the wall out of the corner is sometimes all I feel capable of in a day and those are the days that leave me spinning. Sometimes I get to the middle of the room and plant two feet down and it’s all my force to stay put. Good days — of which there are many, don’t get me wrong — are days when I can keep myself busy in the middle of the room and forget, for a bit, that I’m not watching out behind me.

Of course this is just an obnoxious extended metaphor but it also is the rhythm of my life and there are times I feel it crushing me. I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m depressed; of course there are times I wallow and feel nothing but most of the time I feel exhilarated or I feel obliterated or I feel something in between. I’m busy, I’m growing. Growing pains, I said in my last post, were a thing of 2011, and it already feels like they’re going to be even stronger this year.

I try to create narratives out of my life: I’m the protagonist, of course, and there are antagonists and various story arcs and things add up and loose ends get tied up. But then, memory doesn’t work in a linear way and as soon as I think I have it figured out I find more loose ends — like the time when I was in seventh grade and went to piano camp and all the boys snuck into the girls’ cabin, one per each bunk, except for mine cuz there was one more girl than boy and I was a goody-two-shoes; and then the time I played soccer in fifth grade and the boys all made fun of me and told me I kicked like a girl and I cried and didn’t go back; and the time I gave a boy a blowjob because I went to a party with someone who didn’t tell me it was a party for all the “smart girls” to give all the “popular boys” blowjobs; and the time I made out with my second cousin at my great-aunt’s funeral — things that I’d forgotten about, things that don’t make sense to me, things that I want to place and tie up in an ugly box with a piece of twine and throw away or maybe in a pretty box with tissue paper and a bow but either way I don’t want to deal with them because I want everything to make sense, because I spend so much time trying to make it all make sense, because I want to know who I am and what the hell I’m doing.

What do you do with all that? What do I do with all that?

4 thoughts on “walls and corners

  1. I really wish I had something wise and insightful to say that would miraculously make things easier or better but then I would just be lying. I can say that looking at who we are and who we want to be *is” painful. I think that is why so many people wander through life without ever taking a look close look. I can pinpoint specific ages where I made decisions about who I was and who I wanted to be. At 25 I decided I deserved better friends, at 39 I decided that I was tired of hating who I had become and that maybe I deserved a better version of me and the chance to actually be “me” without the expectations of others. That’s the short version anyway.

    When I read your post the 1st thing that came to mind was the Toby Lightman song Everyday. It’s one of my favorites.

    I don’t know if I can embed it here. This is the link:
    http://youtu.be/P0CkCW5G2Zo

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0CkCW5G2Zo&w=560&h=315

    Lyrics:
    “Everyday”

    Everyday is a struggle between what I wanna say
    And what I should keep to myself
    And the words that manage to leave my lips
    Don’t hurt me, but they hurt everyone else

    And I find myself in need of a pause
    I’m not sure why, but I think that it’s because
    Of this desire to be what others want me to be
    Which is nothing close to me

    [Chorus:]
    But I’ll see better when the smoke clears
    When the smoke clears inside my head
    And I can listen when the screaming doesn’t repeat everything I’ve said
    And all that remains me and who I am at the end of the day
    And this happens everyday

    Everyday is a battle between what I wanna know
    And what I don’t wanna figure out
    And everything in between in these thoughts of mine
    That you know I can’t live with out

    And I find myself in need of a pause
    I’m not sure why, but I think that it’s because
    Of this desire to be what others want me to be
    Which is nothing close to me

    [Chorus]

  2. The hard answer is you sit with it. You don’t run or hide from it, you merely sit. It’s not easy, in fact, it’s near impossible and such a process in itself. This though, writing, sharing, putting it out there, away from “in there,” whether that’s your head or your heart or both, it’s one of the first and best steps. Let the love and support wash over you for you are indeed greatly loved and cared for.

  3. Hi,

    Just wanted to say you are not alone. I don’t have anything wise or comforting to say but I do get much of what you described; your anxieties, worries, concerns and questions. I’m older than you, just coming out as a bisexual femme and although my circumstances are somewhat different much of what you wrote rang true.

    For what it’s worth I believe that telling my story is an important healing tool in whatever medium whether for public or private consumption; blog, visually, sharing with like-minded and/or understanding people. Having safe witnesses who support me. You expressed yourself eloquently and openly and that’s half the battle I think.

    I find it so falsely comforting to curl up and hide – it’s my familiar safety zone to be invisible – and it sends me into despair. I say to myself as much as to you, keep sharing and being visible. Your past and your experiences are yours and are to be honoured. And they don’t ever need to be explained to anyone. Minute by minute, move through your present, your feelings, your fears and doubts. And trust.

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