Breaking Radio Silence – Sharing Your Experiences With Honesty

For the longest time, I used to look back at my childhood and adolescent years and think that was just the way things were back then. It’s taken me these past seven years to realize that I normalized a lot of crazy-ass shit because I didn’t have any experience that showed me otherwise. In these last few years, I’ve learned how to peel back layers of silence, and normalization to the truth of what my experiences were and why they happened. It’s not easy sharing these experiences with myself or in writing here because there might be an asshole or two who will refuse to see my truth and not realize their take will be different than mine.

An example of this is when I was around twelve years old. Right now over on Reddit a lady is getting roasted for calling her twelve-year-old daughter clingy and whiny for not wanting to help take care of her newborn sibling. This lady is getting roasted because it sounds like she’s wanting to place too much responsibility on her daughter and not letting her daughter have any kind of life for herself.

I was twelve when my sister was born and yes, I took care of her a lot. At that time, I just felt like it was just expected of me and just part of the responsibilities I had in life. Looking back, it was so more than that. My sister was born at a very turbulent time in my parents’ marriage. My mother was working full-time and the principal wage-earner as my dad was pursuing his pipe dreams and raging nightly at my mother for not ‘supporting’ him. Looking back, I’m amazed my mother didn’t crack up and just say ‘fuck it all’. Maybe my helping her out as much as I did, helped her get through that time. I think I sensed she needed whatever help I could give to her because I sure as hell didn’t have the guts to call my father out on his raging bullshit. My mother was the most mature, and self-less person I’ve ever known in my life so I didn’t take on the responsibilities I did because of ‘parentification’ (when a child becomes the parent because a parent is immature and selfish). She did her best to be a parent to me by simply not heaping any shame or guilt onto me for having my own thoughts and feelings, and for pursuing the things I did, which were mostly quiet things like reading and writing.

My mother wasn’t perfect and she didn’t want to be put on a pedestal only to be knocked off. For the most part, I think she just wanted to be left alone and not have to deal with any drama or bullshit. And like me, I’m sure she was told to her face and behind her back that she was cold and unemotional. No, she was closed off like I was because she was raised to be ashamed and guilty for having her own thoughts and feelings that weren’t dictated by her parents or the Catholic Church or any other bullshit authority. Like me, she was also closed off because she’d been betrayed and hurt by people when she did try to open up. We were close without sharing too much with each other though in the last years of her life, she had begun to unpack her past. I wish she’d gotten the years to unpack it completely and heal from it like I have. But by sharing my experiences along with hers and with honesty and nuance I have found healing like she didn’t.

If you’re reading this and you’re feeling uncomfortable or getting pissed off at me and would just love it if I didn’t talk about things they way I do, ask yourself why. Peel back the layers and dig deep if you choose to. It’s not easy and it’s not that the truth will set you free. I believe we don’t have to go through life leaving shit unpacked and dealt with when it’s holding us back.

This morning I wrote the dedication to ‘Breaking Radio Silence’:

To My Mother,

Who wanted to raise me differently than she had been raised, and who succeeded more than she could ever know.

I wish you could have had the years I’ve had to heal but I will continue to break my silence not just for myself, but for you and others like you, those of us who want to live without shame and guilt, and with all the love we can find in ourselves.

I would love to tell my mother she didn’t need to feel shame and guilt over doing the best she could what she had to work with, and especially the times when she had nothing but shit to work with. I believe shame and guilt are heaped onto people when they haven’t done anything to warrant that by people who want to keep the truth buried, and who are afraid of being called out on their shit. Honesty is the rejection of shame and guilt and the way to finding love.

In the last seven years, I’ve unpacked and dealt with my shit. And I’ve felt like I’ve been having a conversation with my mother through time and space. I feel like she has been supporting me through this journey of recovery so it does feel like a tribute to her and a way for her to recover, too.

My mother wasn’t one to say ‘I love you’ very often and sadly, neither am I. But the love is there, fiercely protected and guarded, and in the process of being set free.

Breaking Radio Silence – Seven Years From the Light of Day

It was seven years ago this week that I left my last call-center job. Actually, it was when I brought my computer equipment back to the office and out-processed because I had been working remotely for the previous year. And when I drove to the office, a huge thunderstorm blew up and it got so dark the streetlights turned on. But as I drove in and then when I drove out, I was blasting one song, “Light of Day” by Joan Jett (written by Bruce Springsteen).

I didn’t tell anyone at the time I was leaving this job because I didn’t want anyone to try and talk me out of it. It was a toxic environment that was affecting my physical and mental well-being. And there is NO reason whatsoever for someone to suffer through that. Now I didn’t have anything lined up when I left that place because I needed to heal up first (I had two disks in my lower back that were either compressing or bulging and causing me enough pain that would have made anyone else scream). Then when I did begin to heal up and got into gig work, I moved on to the mental and emotional part of myself to work on.

It takes a lot of strength and courage to walk away from a toxic environment or relationship because too many people will tell someone to just hang in there and that it will get better. That advice is just as toxic as the environment or relationship someone is trying to get away from. That puts the responsibility to clean up the toxic environment or relationship on the person who isn’t causing it in the first place, and it places shame and guilt on someone that they don’t need to deal with.

If someone comes to you wanting to get out of a toxic environment or relationship, do what you can to help them. First, you support and validate their experiences. Two, you don’t tell them they haven’t done enough because most people are powerless in shitty environments like this. They’re powerless because they’re in places with people who refuse to stop being shit-heads and deal with their own toxic bullshit. Worst of all, some people just won’t pull their heads out of their asses because they like it up there. So why should people put up with this shit if they can find a way out?

Another thing I’ve heard is that someone might be walking into something worse. Yes, I was told this several times in my life and that’s bullshit. No one knows the future or what will happen if someone does something. If someone walks out of a bad situation and does their best to learn and do better, encourage them and support them. If you can’t do that, fuck off because if someone is trying to do better in their life and you can’t support that, you’re a part of the problem and not the solution.

I’m sure some readers might be thinking: what if someone keeps making the same mistakes? Your job in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them but if you’re trying to get them to think and trying to keep them from going back into the toxic shit, that’s the best you can do.  You can’t live someone’s life for them but in reality, I don’t think this happens nearly as often as some people have gone on and on about. I think it happens because people don’t feel like they can do better or if they try that they won’t be accepted as wanting to do better. Again, be supportive and back it up.

The reason I was blasting the song ‘Light of Day’ back then was because of these two parts of the song. The first was this line,

Things can’t get worse, so they gotta get better

That is so damn true because if you walk away from something bad, things have already gotten better.

Then there is this part of the chorus:

Well, I’m a little hot-wired, but I’m feeling okay
And I got a little lost down along the way
Well, I’m just around the corner ’til the light of day, yeah

Yes, we’re all tired but when you’re away from toxic shit and toxic people, you’ll feel okay. And  yes, you might get lost along the way. But if you’re lost, you can find your way to where you need to go. Too many of us are afraid to get lost or drift or take a different path because we listen to well-intentioned people who don’t realize that if we take a different road away from our shitty pasts, we’ll turn the corner to the light of day.

Song ‘Light of Day’


Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

Breaking Radio Silence – Twenty-Eight

The online magazine-website Bustle has a regular feature they call ‘28’ (link here) in which they profile an actress, author, or other famous woman about the year they were twenty-eight years old. Most of the stories are of women struggling to get up and going in life and touching, and sometimes funny. But when I read those pieces and think of when I was twenty-eight… well, if Bustle ever comes to me and asks me about the year I was twenty-eight they’d probably wouldn’t want me to participate after reading this. Yes, this is my way of saying “I had a very different experience than most people did at this age.” No regrets on my part, but just a statement that twenty-eight is an age and a year I don’t ever want to repeat.

Where was I at and what was I doing at that time?

I turned twenty-eight in May 2002. I was still living at home and was watching my mother slowly and painfully dying of cancer. In the summer of 2002, my grandmother died, I got fired from my first full-time call-center job (no big loss there), and my mom blew an ulcer that caused her to puke a sink full of blood one morning while I held her up and kept my shit together. I was on a dead-run most days and I felt like such a stone-cold bitch because I was so damn good at that point in time in keeping my mental and emotional shit-storms all to myself.

A few days before my mom died, my dad collapsed due to physical exhaustion (he was really good at running himself down like that) so I had to move my mom into my bedroom and sleep in a chair. The next day, I had to bring in the hospice nurse to get that started for my mom and I was able to do that because my mom and dad had set things up to where I could take over if I had to. When the nurse came over, my dad was in bed due to exhaustion, people were coming over to visit because my sister had just had a baby, and I was conducting a three-ring circus. When I walked the nurse out to her car, she asked me if I was alright. I told her I was and that I’d been preparing for this for a long time.

In reality, I never felt more alone than I did back then. I felt like everyone other than my mother and father damn near hated me for the way I was at that time. Behind my back at that time, and in the years after, I’d heard that I was a stone-cold unemotional bitch. Now I will freely admit I put up huge walls around myself and probably would have said ‘no’ to anyone who offered me comfort in any way. I would have said ‘no’ because I felt like if I lowered those walls I would have shattered into a million pieces and never been able to put them back together. And if that had happened, I would have been useless. Instead, I felt like the last person left standing.

And I’m not going to apologize for the painful words and images here, or if I come off as angry and bitter. I’m nowhere near as angry and bitter as I was for so many years as most of it was buried very deeply inside of me. Once I took those feelings out and worked through them, the pain of those feelings has eased to where I have begun to heal. I’ve healed because I know I did the best I could with what little I had to work with at that time. And that deep down, I’m not a stone-cold unemotional bitch.

What would I say now to my twenty-eight-year-old self?

I would tell her she’s doing the best she can, and not to apologize in the future, or if she does, to take those apologies back. I would tell her she’s not a stone-cold unemotional bitch. I would tell her she won’t shatter into a million pieces but in the future she’ll learn how to work through the pain and grief she’s going through and heal from it.

At the end of my twenty-eighth year on planet Earth, I was getting ready to move out into my own little apartment and I had started my second full-time call-center gig. But I also knew I had a long road ahead of me with my dad and that’s a story for another time and place. In the years since, I’ve had some high moments, and a time when I became a stone-cold bitch and was again, the last one left standing when my dad died.

One week from today, I will begin my forty-ninth journey around the sun (yes, it’s my birthday next Monday) and I look forward to it because I know I’m on the road to the life I want for myself. It’s been a roller-coaster ride over the last twenty years but well worth it. Now I’m beginning to see I don’t have to let the mines go off as I walk through my emotional fields. Instead, like I said yesterday, I can see the mines, defuse them, and build them into something better. In the past, a part of me wished I knew then what I know now. But then I remember something my crusty old bear-dad used to say, “Sometimes it’s hard to remember this is a learning experience when you’re going through the shit.”

In the end, we learn by doing. And in learning and doing, sometimes we can find healing. I know I have, and this is why I write about it now.

Conversations From the Road – Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down

Illegitimi non carborundum  

“Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down.” (or ‘grind’ depending on your translation from the Latin)

My dad had this saying on a piece of paper pinned to the corkboard above his workbench when I was a kid. It was something he told me often, especially when it seemed like the world had gone totally off the rails and was like a constant never-ending shit-show. My crusty old bear-dad was right and lately I’ve been hearing his voice a lot inside my head. That old bear is trying to teach me something from beyond the grave so it’s time to listen up, everyone.

In the years after my mother died, my dad dealt with a lot of grief and pain. He used to say out loud, “Why am I still here?” It hurt like hell every time he said that because I wasn’t ready to lose him, too though I knew he was on borrowed time. One day I found my voice and told him: “Because you still have things to teach me. And I’m listening.” After that, he never said that shit to me again. Instead, he tried to teach me as much as he could and tell me his stories as many times as he could before he departed this Earth.

And in those years before he died, he would tell me don’t let the bastards get you down whenever I talked to him about some shit I was going through with whatever job I was working at or feeling like I couldn’t forge some kind of a life of my own. He would say that to me with emphasis whenever he thought I was backing away from my writing. He always used to tell me he wouldn’t have backed my writing if he didn’t think I had real talent and drive. He said if he thought I didn’t have what it would take to make it as a writer, he would have just patted me on the ass and said ‘that’s nice’ then sent me on my way. Because no matter how bad things got, he never wanted me to give on myself.

Nine years ago this month, I told myself I wasn’t doing so bad with my life. I told myself I was doing pretty well and if I just stayed in my little lane things would work out for me. This put my mind in a place of safety and contentment that in turn, unlocked another thought close to a year later: “Everyone else is just as full of shit as I am sometimes, but I’m not a bad person.” These two thoughts cracked the silence I had encased my thoughts and feelings in, cracks that eventually broke my silence altogether. It’s been hard as hell to deal with that, but I don’t regret it at all. Because another thing it’s made me was my crusty old bear-dad was right all along: don’t the bastards get you down.

One the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with is realizing I didn’t do so many things I wanted to simply because I was afraid of dealing with people giving me shit for that. My father knew I’d done that and that’s why he would tell me not to let the bastards in this world get me down any further than they already had. This is why I tell people, especially young people to live their lives to the fullest and to not give in to the assholes in this world who will them not to do things, or say things, or worst of all, that they don’t know how to live their lives. To the assholes of my past and those in the present who feel like they have the right to try and dictate to other people what to do and think, or who have taken their own shit and turned it inside out and mean as my late father would say: “Fuck off.” And if anyone gets butt-hurt about being told to ‘fuck off’, I’d tell them what my late father would say in reply to that butt-hurt bullshit: “What part of ‘fuck off’ don’t you understand?”

I think so many of us get ground down, worn down, or tired out from dealing with bullshit from assholes past and present, and with all the shit that sells in the media and such to where we think we have no purpose in our lives. Like my father lamented all those years ago, “Why am I still here?” And my answer to that question is the same now as it was back then: because we still need to learn from each other and be there for each other.

This past week when tried to write, I couldn’t. Yet another silent period of not writing as I’ve gone through so many times before. Yet again, I asked myself why that was and today I got an answer that makes a lot of sense: I’ve approached writing as if I’m walking through a minefield stepping on mines and just letting them blow up in my face. But I told myself today: I can see where the mines are, and I don’t have to step on them and let them blow up in my face. I can diffuse them then take them apart and put them back together in a way that doesn’t blow up in my face. Why this has been so hard to hear has been because of one thing: what ‘people’ aka ‘assholes’ might think about me working through my shit instead of just wallowing in it and letting it grind me down. Because as my late father tried to me years ago: when you work through your shit you’re going to change, and some people won’t like that. And he would also say life isn’t a popularity contest.

I think we all need to feel like our lives have some meaning or purpose in what we do and how we live. As I said to my father all those years ago, I needed him to teach me what he could before he died. Because he and I knew back then he didn’t have that many years left on Earth. And what he was trying to teach me back then was my purpose was to share my gift of writing.

Because in addition to the non-fiction triumvirate from Hell as I sometimes call it (Breaking Radio Silence, Stand or Fall, Behind the Story), and the lovely romantic fiction I love to write, there is a third area of writing I want to pursue: travel writing, writing about people and places in order to inspire people to get out of their walled compounds and out into the world. I want to show people the world isn’t such a fucked-up place, that there is a lot of good, a lot of beauty, and yes, places of pain and loss that we need to remember, too. This is why I feel the call of the road so much because people can go as far as they want to or stay close to home and find beauty and goodness.

Your purpose in life doesn’t have to be like the way I want to live as a vagabond storyteller. It can be as simple as being a good parent, spouse, teacher, or just doing good in this world by living with kindness and generosity towards others. It can be as simple as voting for people who care about this world and who haven’t sold out to special interests that are trying to kill us (yes, I’m talking about Republican Party elected officials who are in thrall to NRA blood money). Most of all, it’s just believing in yourself and if you’re not causing harm, you’re doing good. And yes, there will be assholes who will try to turn that against you because they’ve taken their own fears and shit inside themselves and turned it inside out mean as my daddy would say. And as my dear old crusty bear- dad would say in reply to that: don’t let the bastards get you down.

Conversations From the Road – Weekly Wrap-Up

This past week I blogged about the following:

Breaking Radio Silence – Introverted Silence

This morning on Twitter I responded to a post from a dude asking if he was an asshole for sending his wife away alone to the empty house her parents had left her (she lives in London, England and her parents had just moved to Australia to be closer to her brothers). The reason her husband sent her away is he thought she needed time alone because she was ‘starting arguments’ (his words) and he didn’t want to deal with her because he was dealing with an enormous amount of stress from his job. In the week she was gone she only texted him a couple of times then at the end of the week he found out she’d been off work sick with jaundice and hadn’t told him because she ‘didn’t want to bother him’ (her words). Now that she’s home (and by the way, she’s pregnant, too), she’s not very talkative around him. So he asked if he was the asshole despite apologizing to her.

My comment-reply to this that’s getting a lot of ‘likes’:

To anyone reading this: if you are in a relationship where you are afraid to ‘bother anyone’ with anything, leave them now. People like that are selfish, useless, s**ts and won’t change at all. I hope she dumps his sorry a**.

(Here’s a link to the exact post for details)

In his asshole-posting, he said she was ‘introverted’ which got me thinking:

How many ‘introverted’ people keep so much shit to themselves, try to take care of themselves, and soldier through pain and shit simply because they don’t want to ‘bother’ anyone?

How many ‘introverted’ people feel like they’re never good enough for anyone, that they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t?

And all because us ‘introverts’ are ‘different’? Because we’re too ‘sensitive’, too ‘emotional’, too ‘independent’ until we have to reach out in some way, or we try to reach out in some way and because of that, we catch people off guard.

How many of us ‘introverts’ feel like we’re something to be ‘figured out’, or to be taken apart and put together in a way that fits in with everyone else but doesn’t consider our thoughts and feelings?

To any ‘introvert’ reading this:

You’re not a burden.

You’re not bothering anyone just by being yourself.

And you’re not just a problem to be solved.

You’re a human being with thoughts and feelings that you have every right to regardless of what they are- good, bad, ugly, or anything in between. And you have every right to deal with those feelings in any way you choose to, even in silence.

When I read that post I also had this thought: if I had married in my twenties or thirties, I would have been that young woman. I would have taken scraps of kindness and affection that dude-assholes like that young woman’s husband doled out to her and then had them all taken away when the shit came down. I’m glad I listened to the part of me that told me back then I didn’t have what it took to be a wife and mother but in reality, was about self-preservation. I mean, at least I don’t have an ex-husband-asshole to deal with nor am I raising kids on my own (though trust me, I wanted to have kids of my own).

My father used to say there weren’t that many genuine assholes in this world and to not let them get to you because of that. If he were alive now I’d say this: “These assholes may be few and far between, but they do leave behind a shit-ton of wreckage for the rest of us to deal with.” And if you’re reading this and maybe feeling your back come up at what I’m saying here: go deal with your own fucking shit and quit projectile-vomiting it onto the rest of us.

And my advice to that young woman stands because I’d also like to say your goal in life is NOT to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. But asking for help, or wanting comfort is not being a burden on anyone. If you feel someone asking for help or wanting comfort is a burden to you, find your tits or balls and come right out and say that so the rest of us can avoid you like a venereal disease.

Because in the end, I think us ‘introverts’ are much more emotionally aware of ourselves and have worked through our own shit more than we realize. We’re not perfect, but we’re not totally fucked up beyond all recognition either. We’re not delicate or hard-as-nails. We’re survivors, yet we still care.

This is why I found the courage to write like this and will continue to do so.

Breaking Radio Silence – Breaking Chains

For a very long time, I’ve been trying to work out a structure with my ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ book. I know I want it in three parts but drilling down past that has been hard as hell at times. Yet a break was made in the enormous hard rock of my brain over the last couple of days when a Thought came into my mind, sat down in a chair, and said to me, “I’ve got something important to tell you.” When a Thought takes up residence like that, I’ve learned to sit down across from that Thought and go, “I’m listening.” And I listen with my entire being and think through what I’m being told in my mind.

What I needed to hear was an answer to a very persistent question I’ve had for the last few years since I started this crazy-ass journey of mine. The question was:

How in the hell do I break free of all the hateful, hurtful, cruel, and ignorant bullshit I’ve heard way too many times in life?

The Thought sitting down across from me replied:

Break them one chain at a time. Break the hold they’ve had on you once and for all with a sledgehammer and a spike.

The Thought followed with this: You know your purpose in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them or deal with their butthurt bullshit over you breaking your silence and breaking the chain they probably didn’t even know they had around your neck. Most of all, you know there are people like you who are breaking their silence and trying to break the chains but are still searching for answers that you have found, answers that could help them.

Over the last six years since I conceived the ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project I’ve struggled with how to put it all together. I don’t need all the details, but I have needed some structure to work with. The first part of the book I know is how I broke my silence and what thoughts and feelings and events in my life did that. The second part has been a bit hard to pin down because it’s the tricky part. It’s tricky because of the truly sticky, ugly shit that will come up. Now I realize this means I’ll have to bring up the chains of hurtful, hateful, cruel, and ignorant thoughts I have heard way too many times yet internalized when I shouldn’t have. Those chains have to be broken and they can only be broken one at a time.

Then I asked that Thought (or my subconscious or wherever that Thought came from):

What do I do after these chains are broken?

The Thought replied:

Forge the connections you have always wanted to have in your life, and you can start doing that by sharing your words with others.

This Thought as I will call it, comes from what I call the best part of me, the part of me that has refused to give up, or let me quit altogether, and the part of me that believes in the good of this world. The good in this world and myself is unconditional love, empathy, compassion, and conscience. It’s the part of me that tells me I can work through my shit and my pain and heal my wounds to where I can live the life I want to. It’s also the part of me that tells me I’m so much stronger than I’ll ever truly know, and that I have the strength and the courage to stand up to hate, hurt, cruelty, injustice, and ignorance. And most of all, that I’m not alone in this world, I’m not a worthless piece of shit, and my thoughts and feelings do matter.

Breaking the chains means taking every hurtful, hateful, cruel, and ignorant thought and breaking the hold by speaking the truth in reply to that shit. Forging connections will take time and is something I need to figure out as it’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to because of the chains. I think once the chains are broken to the best of my ability, I can begin to learn how to forge the connections I want to have in my life.

As Admiral James T. Kirk said to Lieutenant Saavik in ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’: “We learn by doing.”

And I’ve learned that if you do something long enough, work at something long enough, you’ll figure out what you need to do and get where you need to go, and where you want to go.

Conversations From the Road – Strength and Choices

On Twitter, my reply to a post from a woman whose husband said he would leave her if she went through a medical workup to try and diagnose a potentially serious and possibly life-threatening health issue has gotten a lot of ‘likes’. Here’s my exact reply:

I’d tell her to leave him now because he’s shown her exactly what he’s like- an insensitive, cruel, gutless coward who has no intention of keeping his wedding vows. I’d take him to the cleaners in a divorce and use the settlement for medical treatment.

I then followed with this:

Every time I see read like this, my blood boils because my mom broke down after her mastectomy thinking my dad would leave her (which he never thought about doing). But ever since I rage for the women whose partners do leave them when they get sick.

My father used to say you never know what you can deal with until you’re faced with it. There is an exception to that: any life-threatening illness or something you can’t run or hide from.

In August 1995, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer after a golf ball-sized tumor was removed from her left breast followed by a mastectomy to remove her left breast. My mother had to face her own mortality, face the fact that something inside her body was trying to kill her and there was a high probability it would. Cancer is something you can’t run or hide from in any way so there is no choice other than to face it and deal with the best you can.

My mother grew up the daughter of a violent alcoholic father and an uptight religious-fanatic mother. She didn’t talk about her childhood very often but when I reached my twenties in the last seven years of her life, she opened up a little. Growing up, I just accepted she was reserved, not too affectionate and that she didn’t say ‘I love you’ too often. But she NEVER talked to me in a way that was hurtful, cruel, insensitive, or in a way that made me feel like I would never be good enough. She always told me she was proud of me, that she loved talking with me, and that I was a pretty girl, things I’m sure she never heard from her mother. But I also saw her keep her shit together when my dad would rage at her, and then she’d get up with little to no sleep and go to work the next day. And like me, I’m sure she heard shit behind her back and to her face that she was cold and unemotional when she was anything but.

But not long after her mastectomy, we were alone in the house just talking when she said out loud, “What if your father leaves me?” Like the foolish kid I was, I immediately reassured her he wouldn’t. But she wasn’t so sure about that. She began to break down and for the first time in my life, I watched her lose it. She broke down and cried in my arms. Her fear and pain were like nothing I’d ever seen before or since. And I want to say this: my father never, ever talked about leaving her but if he had, I would have gotten her away from him and my last words to him would have been, “You are dead to me.”

My father was far from perfect, but he was there for my mom from the beginning to the end. But he and I were able to make a choice and I think we both knew my mother couldn’t, that she just had to deal with dying very slowly and painfully.

To anyone reading this who has said out loud, “I couldn’t deal with watching someone go through the hell of a terminal illness or anything like that.” Go to Hell where you belong. Shut the fuck up, walk away, and stay away. And don’t talk about not wanting to deal with the pain because those of us who stay with those who don’t have a choice will tell you your pain is nothing like the pain of the person who can’t run or hide from it.

Those of us who stay till the end will spend the rest of our lives grieving, and will only find healing in time, sometimes a long time. This is why I rage for women like my mother, and for daughters like me and husbands like my father who kept our shit together in the face of death itself. True strength and courage are facing pain and suffering head-on then working through the aftermath.

Breaking Radio Silence – Apologies and Small Steps

I posted this tweet as a reply to a comment about trauma survivors apologizing all over themselves every five minutes, and how us survivors have to learn how to stop doing that:

One of the biggest things I’ve had to work through was not wanting to scream at the world, “I’m sorry for my entire f**king existence!” To anyone who has felt this way I say this, “You are good enough. And you sure as heck don’t need to apologize for that.” (Twitter, 4/8/2023, @MicheleKS

I know that tweet-reply sounds big and bold but in reality, it was just a tiny baby step I needed to take to get through the storm I was in several years ago. Five years ago this summer, I went into a huge storm of emotion and memory. Some days it was so bad I could barely get out of bed but when I reached the point where I didn’t want to walk outside and scream, “I’m sorry for my entire fucking existence!” I knew I was getting somewhere. But why do trauma survivors want to apologize so much?

For me, apologizing was for two reasons. One was the hope that it would get people off my ass and two, I truly believed I was a fucked-up piece of shit human being who would never be good enough for anyone. This is why in my tweet-reply above I ended with, “You are good enough. And you sure as heck don’t need to apologize for that.” What that means is that you don’t need to apologize if you haven’t done anything wrong in the first place.

I’m a good ways past this point now but every so often I think about this. And by the fair number of ‘likes’ on my above tweet-reply, I think it’s something that needs to be talked about.

If you walked outside and screamed your apology about your existence and people were around, you’d probably get hauled off to the nearest loony bin. But if you said it to someone giving you shit about something that you’re not doing wrong, nine out of ten times you probably would shut them up in total shock. Because I want to say this right here and now: most people who give you shit when you’re not doing anything wrong are just projecting their own bullshit onto you and honestly aren’t thinking about you and your feelings at all. So, when you apologize, you’re not apologizing for what you haven’t done, but for what they’re doing to you.

How do you stop apologizing to this kind of intense bullshit when you’re vulnerable and trying to recover and heal?

I stopped apologizing when I walked away from people and started working through my own shit. When you work through your own shit, you learn how to treat your wounds and heal them yourself. And then you realize apologizing doesn’t appease anyone or change anyone either. You can’t change anyone but yourself and you start changing yourself for the better when you stop apologizing for shit you don’t have to apologize for.

My father used to say, “Sorry doesn’t get it done.” For many years, I rebelled against that saying in my mind but in the last few years, I’ve begun to see where he was coming from with that (and he actually got it from his dad, my grandfather). Now I would word it like this, “Sorry doesn’t get it done. Apologies don’t heal. Healing comes from doctoring your own wounds and protecting yourself.” Healing means learning how to do things better, in this case how to take care of yourself and not hurt yourself in the totally fucked-up belief that if you beat the shit out of yourself then someone else won’t do it to you.

You want to stop someone beating the shit of you? First, don’t do it to yourself. Second, find a way to stand up to someone doing that then walk away from them. Trust me, if you walk away from someone who hurts you, you’re not hurting their feelings even if they say that to you. They need to work on their own shit and if they do come and offer an apology, do what you will with it. I will accept an apology but I’m not going to back down from the stance I take to protect myself. Also, if I’m not doing anything wrong I’m sure not going to apologize for that.

So, if you find yourself wanting to apologize when you don’t have to, tell yourself this, “Fuck that shit. I’m good enough as I am.” And if you’re trying to heal yourself by working on doing things better in your life, then you are telling yourself the truth when you say you are good enough. Because if someone can’t accept your best even if it’s not absolutely irrefutably perfect, that’s on them, not you. Do the best you can with what you have to work with and know that sometimes you’ve got to carry around a bucket of shit for awhile as my late father used to say. That’s just life, as the old man would say. But he also used to tell me not to be so damn hard on myself.

Small steps add up after a while, more so than big steps sometimes.

Conversations From the Road – Burn Out, De-Construct, Build Back Better

In the last seven years, one thought has been extremely persistent in my mind:

What if I burn every bridge from me to the rest of the world? What if I go a bridge too far?

I’m going to let you all in on a little something here: many times when I have a blog entry ready to go, my mouse pointer hovers over the ‘Publish’ button for a few seconds as my heart jack-hammers into my throat. Then I take a deep breath and click the button to publish. In all the time I’ve been doing this current blog for the last year or so, I  haven’t had anyone come at me for anything I’ve written. I haven’t had any angry, or ugly communication from anyone. Yet I have feared that for so long because in my past, when I tried to open up just a little, I got a hard shot across the chops sometimes in addition to very hard push-back. I internalized this for so many years as being my fault in some way, and that imprinted hard and deep into my mind. So in turn, I’ve been trying to de-construct that imprinting and create something better for myself.

But last night at around one-thirty in the morning as I laid awake in bed, this thought came to me:

What if the bridges I’ve always been so afraid of burning completely were never really there in the first place?

I’ve thought about this question since last night and what it means to me is this: the bridges I’ve been so afraid of burning never truly existed. They were bridges I wanted but have never had in my life. Now I know I put up barriers on any attempt by anyone to make a bridge to me but in explanation, I did that because my efforts at building bridges haven’t really gone that well. I used to blame myself for taking shots across the chops for trying to express my feelings and stand up for myself because I always thought I’d done something wrong. It’s taken me a long time to realize that although I am just as flawed and as fucked-up as anyone, wanting those bridges yet not truly building them wasn’t wrong either.

There’s a line from a book I recently re-read yet again, the book ‘Carnal Innocence’ by Nora Roberts:

“Sometimes we hurt more for what might have been than for what is.”

For the last seven years, I’ve had to work through what I now call a de-construction, a de-construction of a life I’d led that wasn’t sustainable, or good for me. I think this is more commonly known as ‘burn out’ but I like my term better because if you can de-construct something, then you can build it back better, stronger, and truly sustainable. It’s not easy to de-construct your life, your thoughts and feelings, your beliefs about yourself and work through the facades you created but in the end, it’s worth the knowledge that is gained because that knowledge can NEVER be taken away from you.

Seven years ago this month, my pain levels shot through the ceiling. I had two disks in my lower back there threatening to blow themselves out and my pain level was way off the charts, so much so I don’t quite remember everything from the month of April 2016. By the end of that month I realized one thing: I couldn’t go on like that anymore. And yes, I walked away from that job at the end of May 2016 to nothing and in the years since, I’ve been busted down to nothing. I know there might be people out there who would love to have a go at me and tell me I should have known better or done something else or some bullshit like that. I’ve been afraid I would retreat if that ever came to be, but I know this: I won’t retreat.

In the last seven years I’ve had to learn how to mourn not just for what was, but for what might have been, and what I wanted but never got. In this mourning process I’ve learned bridges that are built on perfectionism or never being good enough deserved to be burned to the ground because in reality, they were never truly there in the first place. They were one-way tickets to people and places that you can walk away from while doing just fine on your own.

To those reading this who have burned out and had to walk away from things in order to save your life, I understand exactly what you’re going through. I want you to know you can get through it, and you will come out better for it. I call this ‘de-construction’ and once you de-construct what you need to then you can build back better and create something that is stronger, and sustainable in the long run. And if anyone comes at you with any shit about what you’re doing or why, shrug your shoulders and give off your best Generation-X vibe like me and say, “Whatever.” Then follow it up with this: “Fuck off and work through your own fucking shit like I’ve worked through mine.”

Burn out, de-construct, then build back better.

%d bloggers like this: