A series of letters to (and about) this complex part of myself
I’ve been digging up old stories to possibly share from the blog I was writing about you clear back in 2010. It’s been very interesting.
At that time, I was just starting to understand you—the trauma you left me with, the ways you insinuated yourself into every crevice of my life, making my sympathetic nervous system hum with tension, waiting for the next ball I drop day after day after day. It’s why I even started that blog (which, it’s interesting to note, has gone on to talk about a LOT of different themes and to have millions of visitors over the years and even be featured in many major media outlets for reasons very different than you). The thing that’s funny is that when I started it, it wasn’t to write. It’s because I was so confused by you and the way society expected me to act as if you weren’t a part of me— so desperate for continuity in time and space and the actions that I took to “get things done”— that I opened a blogspot to create a list on the Internet that I could always access—a place where I could write down the ever-elusive “To Do List To End All To Do Lists.” Instead what came out of me was my first of several important “coming out” posts in my life: I came out as someone who has you.
It’s giving me insight to see those first glimpses into my conceptualization of you and how you affect things. Reading this first post I just linked to was interesting. I had a lot to learn about you, both as a clinician and as a person who lives with you every day. But I can sense my earnestness, and my desire to find a way out of the shame you cause (or rather, as I can see more clearly now, that society causes because of ableism: they don’t like you, and they don’t like the ways my life fits into the larger schema because of you.)
Today, I am wanting to talk to you about, well, you.
I am wondering, right now, about personifying you, since I’m writing you a letter. Were I to personify you, I guess I might think of you as… man, the imagery that comes up for you is all kind of bleak. A dumb baby? A dragon? A menacing minstrel (I have no idea why my brain wanted to use the word “minstrel” there other than the alliteration so I’m rolling with it even though I can’t imagine a minstrel in an old court being very menacing)? But really, I view you as a brain, or a part of my brain. You are cartoonish—a diagram one might see in a meme. You are difficult for me to externalize, as you seem so embedded into every facet of my psyche. Other inchoate thoughts attempt to materialize: images of a whispering but good hearted intruder, kind of like Slugsworth in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (was that his name?)—an ominous-looking, shady character whispering problematic ideas into my ear, but who, in the end, maybe isn’t a bad person, and maybe even has my best interest in mind the whole time, though you lead me to make less-than-ideal choices sometimes in the here and now.
Also, a prison guard. Because the idea that you influence me to make less-than-ideal choices implies that I have a choice, but a lot of the time I don’t have a choice, and you are the burly guard standing outside the bars of my mental cell (trapped by your nepheloid layers of inertia), taunting me, barking orders you know I can’t possibly accomplish because you, yourself, stand at the door of the cell, holding it closed.
You are so, so mean to me at times. Truly cruel. I know you don’t mean to be and I know you intend it for my own good. But truly, at your worst, when you team of up your old buddy Shame, you are brutal.
I don’t even feel comfortable sharing, at this moment, the things you say to me when you are at your loudest. I will say you have convinced me, at times, that maybe the people around me would have been better off if I had never been born, or even, specifically, if my parents had simply left me at the hospital, never to burden those around me with my ineptitudes.
The moments of this level of loudness are rare, and sometimes only happen when I dig, fully, in to your voice so that I can ferret your messaging out—fish it out of the murky pond of my subconscious—so that I can look at it clearly and then release it.
Most of the time, your voice is subtle, soft and sibilant as a serpent (man, our brain is really intent on these alliterative phrases today, huh?). You whisper muted imperatives and try to make them feel like ideas coming from my core of self. It seems like you believe that if you say them quietly enough, if you whisper them soft like a breeze, I might not notice the subtle dread and shame they are tied to, and mistake them for messaging from our core—from the most congruent parts of self, or even from the Universe outside our skull. But make no mistake, I’m rarely, if ever, convinced these days. The kind of messages of congruence that you are imitating have an imprimatur you could never duplicate: a soft knowing of my value, and gentle internal assurance that I am okay as I am, no matter what—when my directives come from that place, they contain a kindness that reverberates into my every cell that and motivates me to movement because of hope and excitement and joy—never fear, never lack, never not-enoughness.
You can never replicate that because you live in the other, lower energies. You come flanked by fear and shame, and even when you speak in the mildest tones, you cannot hide the vapors of darker energies and humors that make that voice what it is.
Part of me has been beguiled by you for so long that there might always be versions of my younger self, my childhood self, whose influence I still feel at times, who believe that you (your guttural jump-scares, your panic, your alarm bells, your adrenaline dumps) are the only way I’ll ever accomplish anything.
I’ve spent months and months, now—maybe even years—specifically attempting to decouple you from the things I love, like playing the violin, or entrepreneurship, or various spiritual aims and habits, or my favorite activity: writing. It has been interesting to watch the panic that tries to arise in me when I don’t respond to you—when I sit in meditation and just watch you sound the alarms and scream and trigger feelings of the deepest agony and most gut-wrenching fears—fears of abandonment and failure and worthlessness and disconnection—the baseline fears shared by humanity as a whole. You try to use the things I most love to process those Large Fears. You try to batter me with them, and it has been elucidating to watch the way you shrivel to nothing when I shine the eye of conscious awareness on your voice from an internal place of calm knowing and peaceful enoughness-in-self.
I don’t always achieve this, and at times I get sucked in. And that feels shitty. But I’m practicing living in that place enoughness and security and abundance and awareness, and as I do, the power your voice diminishes.
I’m sure I will encounter echoes of you attempting to hunt me down for years and years to come. Possibly to the day I die. And I’m learning to be okay with that, and to just notice anytime this happens. To accept it. To love it, even. To love you, for all you are (as you are a part of me, and I choose to love all of me, including you), and for all you try, in your gnarly, earthy ways to do for me, even with this voice, even when it screams out in terror.
In the meantime, though, I know that it’s enough that I’m pushing toward this separation of you from the things I love. That I don’t take action, lots of the time, when the impulse to act has come from your hoary old voice. That I notice when you hang a deadline or a project or a (and this is the worst) FUN thing that I REALLY want to do and really love, over my head like a warrant for my arrest, and then try to convince me that I will not be absolved and at peace until I MAKE MYSELF do the task you have fixated on.
When this happened I have learned to immediately drop the rope tying me to you and that voice. To let that thing go for a time and move on to other, better-feeling things. Sometimes I manage it. Other times I don’t.
Seeing these things, and gently releasing them, is giving me increasing strength. And that strength is giving me more congruent grounding. And that grounding allows me to see even more clearly. And so I see you more clearly, and everything else, too. And seeing more and more allows me to ascend, whatever the hell that means, I just know it’s true intuitively. And then, from a more vaunted perspective, your directives become punier, and punier—pathetic even. Like the cries of a wild animal desperate to survive even when there is no threat whatsoever. A coyote’s surly growls at a scarecrow: a simple, expression of the imperative of all living things: To Survive.
I get to decide what we do to survive, dear friend, dear dear part of me I am choosing to love instead of hate.
I get to lean into abundance instead of scarcity, desired action instead of freeze-based paralysis, hope instead of terror, enoughness instead of lack.
And as I do, what springs forth from us gets to surprise and delight us both: like this letter I just wrote to you, like this beautiful desk I bought upon which I write, like this gorgeous view of the Puget Sound extending before me from the window of my office, which, as I trusted myself and sat in my place of enoughness, materialized into existence as if out of nowhere, but is now the gorgeous place I get to sit and do amazing things I love— the incredible work I am privileged to participate in day after day.
So, dear friend, as you settle more and more, I invite you to just sit back. Relax. Enjoy that which is drawn into being by the part of us (which, ironically, I also suspect is you) that can seemingly summon beauty out of nothingness—that somehow knows how to use the dust of stars and beautiful energies of the soul (as well as the very lack of time-consciousness you create in us!) to bring into being our wildest, most ridiculous dreams.
I promise it will be worth it. I promise I’ve got this—I’ve got us! Don’t be afraid. Just sit back, chill, and enjoy the ride. And remember, the louder you scream, the more inclined I am becoming, slowly but surely, to kindly laugh as I turn to away from that voice, and instead look ahead at all that’s coming despite your protestations, and because of the parts of you that have allowed my mind to, as Grandpa Woody used to say, dream big, and shoot the moon.
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