Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Blessing & Curse of Great Potential ...

I am a walking, breathing, self-contradicting dichotomy.

With a penchant for redundancy ...

I was born as the first-born of first-borns (even though Dad had an older brother; Dad played the role of the eldest, but that's his story, and not mine) ... into a family of high-achievers ... who more than strove ... they actually achieved.

Expectations were high for me - including being expected to "just know" how to do things ... I wasn't taught how to do the basics ... but I was disciplined (code word for "punished") when I didn't do them, or didn't do them "right". (I have thus spent the last few years of my life, on my own for the first time, learning to do the basic life skills that most folks are forced to learn in their early 20's ... the learning curve has been inordinately steep, and festooned with shame-festing.)

I remember hearing, "what is *wrong* with you?!?" Implying, of course, that something was terribly wrong with me. I didn't know what it was ... it wasn't mentioned. It had to be something deeply, inherently, fundamentally wrong. A fatal flaw. I was terminally unique. I also heard, "You are such a defeatest." Well, yes. A child who believes they are fatally-flawed is afraid to try ...

And I knew I had to hide this -- I couldn't let others know about my flaw, my badness. They might hate me, reject me, banish me, forsake me.

I developed a few strategies, very early on ... I tried so so so SO hard to be *good*. Or at least, good enough, to escape being reminded of how bad I am. At age three (I remember my age, because my sister, three and a half years younger than me, had not-yet been born), screwing my my courage to approach my parents, and asking them if I had been "good enough" that day. I had to know. I didn't want to find out the hard way, so it seemed better to face it head-on. I was three. Somehow, I already knew this.

My other strategy was to dazzle 'em. Whoever. Whatever it took ... I could grin, and laugh, and dance, and sing, and recite poetry on the coffee-table-stage, dressed in my best dress ... anything to fool anyone that I was ok. That I was good enough. So that I didn't get banished.

And, when those didn't work, or when I was afraid they wouldn't, I hid. I gathered up some small toys, and hid, under the dining room table, playing safely and quietly behind the long tablecloth ... and, when I was older, in the woods, or by a creek, or up in the sanctuary of a tree. Hidden. Quiet. Safe.

All my life, I have felt like an impostor ... a hypocrite. A pretender. Comparing my insides to everyone else's outsides, and always, ALL ways, coming up short. Alternating between trying my damndest, and giving up in utter exhaustion ... why bother if I just can't be good enough? Why give my all, and find out I'm *that* inept ... why not hold back, hide, retreat, and tell myself, "well, I didn't really give it all I had."

ALL this potential ... I was supposedly smart, and pretty, and capable, and disciplined, and special, and privileged, and talented. But I felt so less-than ... I was the girl with the best-friends who were gorgeous, and brilliant, and uber-talented ... while I was pretty (sometimes), and smart (to a degree) and could play the understudy or the back-up singer ... I was the army-brat who moved a lot, and never quite fit in with the "cool kids" ... I was the invisible "good girl" who didn't get the attention or the dates ... I was the late-bloomer who was passed over.

And ... I was taken care-of ... I was protected, and sheltered, and trained in how to be a wife and mother (even though I was told I could "be anything I wanted to be" when I grew up). I became incredibly dependent - a kept woman ... afraid to try ("if I don't get it right, I will be punished").

I have this taunting, haunting judge in my head ... it says, "you are inept ... you are pathetic ... you are incapable ... you don't have what it takes ... you're not going to make it ... you are unworthy of being loved ..."

I live with that voice, and other fear-based, pain-soaked voices, in my head. They meet me most mornings, greeting my first conscious awareness with a viciously voracious onslaught ... they creep into bed with me in the middle of the night ... they sing me to sleep ... they find me, in odd moments, throughout the day ... sneakily slithering up my spine ... rendering me paralyzed ... unearthed by seemingly unconnected triggers, as I go through the motions.

Those overwhelmingly under-towing waves of unrelenting, nebulous fears ... impending doom warnings ... as if a tidal wave, or a tiger, were bearing down on me ... "run! fight! hide! save yourself!" ... and there's nothing there, but these hangover emotions ... this back-ground dirge-music of fear ... that there's something horribly wrong ... with me ... and that there's nothing to be done about it. OH but the power of those conditioned nuances!

And yet ... I know I have this untapped potential ... I see that I am intelligent ... that I am able to connect diverse dots, to create a Whole-image, and that I'm gifted at being able to describe what I see, using word-pictures, so that others can join me in grasping the emerging concept; I see that I have an eye for beauty, that shows up in how I decorate and arrange my surroundings; I see that I am gifted with an eye for color, that I discovered my latent ability to paint, to bring beauty out of common objects; I see that I can empathize, and emote and express what others are feeling and thinking; I see that I am able to engage an audience, with theatre, with public speaking, with story-telling; I see that I am able to connect, deeply, with other human beings; I see that I am able to love strongly, unconditionally and lavishly ... a gift that has been borne out of the heartbreak of previous rejections. I see that I am resilient, and tenacious, and relentless in being myself, in not compromising who I am discovering myself to be. I see that I am a passionate seeker of truth, of freedom, of expression, and of authentic living.

I see that I am both terrified of life ... and yet I long to live it as fully as is possible!

I see that I am a complexly-ordinary, complicatedly-simple, messily-beautiful, mundanely-exciting, fucked-up-perfection of a woman ... all this baggage ... all this potential ... what a glorious mess of a rawly-resolute human being I am ...


Jim Wehde said...

This sounds like it would be a lifelong thing...that you could hope to turn into background music. May it be so as quickly as possible!

Michael Landis said...

<3 <3 <3!

Do what pleases you. Fuhget the rest. And in doing what pleases you, you may (or may not) find it pleases others, too! Whether or not it does....

It pleases you. <3

Sue said...

I so understand the paralysis, and the urge to be and do what you struggle to get to. Even though you know that there actually is something to get to. And some days you're there. And other days that hurdle is so big, and nobody would believe you because you were there the other day. But now you're not. And you're stuck and you're paralysed and it feels like the unnameable thing is going to win.

At least, that's how it feels for me :) But you SEE. You can see it all and articulate it so brilliantly. And you also have the artist's eye to wait and watch and see what fills up empty spaces.

That's the space for transformation right there. I forget this myself, and then something new rushes in to fill up the space I made that I didn't believe would be filled.

Life is so very bizarre ;)

Cheryl H. said...

To see someone having the courage to break out of the norm..to take charge of the road they travel and make life their own is beautiful. To be able to look at things in a light of understanding that you have and realize that this is who you are and where you are going is inspiring.

Debra Masters said...

I was always in trouble. I never knew why. I got to be 16 before someone told me to cook something and then kicked me out of the kitchen because I couldn't. I have this amazing IQ that people beat me up with because I didn't do things the way that number said I should. The voices haunt me when I am quiet, therefore I must never have quiet. I must never turn off the music I listen to, never be away from the noises of the family I raised, because if I ever once STOP MOVING/STOP HEARING I will then begin to listen, and have to deal with, all that "you cannot/are not good enough/pretty enough/sexy enough/passionate enough" GARBAGE I've been fed all my life. One husband told me "if anyone really knew you, they would hate you" and I believed him for awhile. Even though that ate me alive. This husband? Oh, GOD the emotional damage is beyond comprehension or explanation.

You have a vast audience and we hear you. We FEEL you. We KNOW you. We ARE you. And we are here for you. We KNOW (when we aren't listening to our own inner demons) that you are fabulous and competent and good (what does that word even MEAN????). That you are loveable and loved. And that you are incredibly articulate and talented.

Thank you for sharing YOU with us. As we struggle along with you. We will hold each others hands in the dark as we stumble to full wholeness and light...

Harry said...

What a magnificent stream of words from a totally indomitable spirit. Sack the tyrant in your head, Dena, and reclaim rightful sovereignty. I'm rooting for you:)

Dena said...

I am so completely honored by each and every single one of you!

You get it. You see it. You see me.

THANK you! <3