Owning My Depth

I’m definitely in a mood today after the experience I’d predicted might lead to marginalization and transphobia did not let me down in its vexations. I’m not certain as how much my perceptions of others are accurate right now and how much they are colored by a T-inspired blunted depression, but I feel as though, much of the time, I am surrounded by shallow people. People who are flippant and who, although they are capable of being loving and caring to those who are like them, do not concern themselves with the needs of those whom society pushes to its fringes. Indeed, they are the ones, through their complicity and outright discrimination, who encourage the different to be viewed as deviant.

I’m as flawed as the next person, as self-centered and self-righteous as anyone you’ll meet, but I know it. I do not deny the bitter, the ugly and the hating parts of who I am. I may struggle at times to rein them in and to befriend them, but I’ve explored the cracks between the veneer of civility I wear when I feel like being “nice.” I check my assumptions and examine my motivations for areas of bias. I have blessed to know a few people who have depth not only in the integrity of their character but also their willingness to acknowledge where they lack character.

I don’t know how to relate to people who are shallow, especially when I think they are causing harm by their un-examined way of gliding obliviously through life. It isn’t that I take the ignorance that they spew personally, it is that I view them as, at the end of the day, a bad person. A person who denies and invalidates the suffering of others and who refuses to listen or change when they are told their actions are harmful is not merely misguided or incompetent. They are willfully making the world a worse place and I find accepting that they are able to do so unchecked to be an injustice.

Perhaps all I can do right now is to focus on the persuadable, those who are interested in exploring their own inner assumptions, and to know that, because they can potentially do better and do good, they are worthy of much more of my attention and focus than are those who show no interest in being challenged. There are lost causes when it comes to addressing privilege. To the lost causes, I can try to stand up to them in group contexts and to mitigate the harm they cause. It is likely, if I sit with it long enough, I will come to know that my willingness to write someone off and declare them “cancelled” reveals not only the shallowness of their character, but also an uncharted territory of inner contempt I hold into which wells of compassion may need to soak.

How do you handle responding to people you perceive to be shallow, if that is a characterization you hold of them? How do you stand up to injustice? How do you come to know your own assumptions and biases?

The Interior of Loneliness (Today's Daily Remembrance)

It feels like my life is somewhat imploding currently, mostly due to ongoing problems at my job. I’ve written about feeling as though I can’t avoid the inevitable collapse of my defenses and strategies for avoiding a breakdown. Today, I went to my primary care doctor and spent half the time crying about the state of affairs in which I find myself. Where I ended up at was articulating how little social capital I feel that I possess–how few people and related resources I have when the chips are down. I’m both lonely and alone.

My loneliness is not rooted in feeling a lack of feeling deeply connected, rather, it is more foundational to what it means to be a “social animal” as humans are. In other lives, I would have been cast out of the tribe or burned as a witch or left without a defender when the enemy arrived. I’m an outsider not the 80’s teen movie version where the outsiders join up and rebel, but in a way that leaves me truly isolated. In my weakest moments, I wish I’d been born with less capacity for insight and self-reflection, because I think my ability to recognize how differently others hold intimacy as compared to how I do makes what I lack all the more painful. I’m missing both the ability to feel safeness within closeness as well as the ability to receive what others offer in terms of intimacy.

Today, I have no solutions and no advice to myself or anyone like me. I don’t know how to fix it and I felt insulted and misunderstood when my doctor pushed medicine to “reduce stress.” As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a pill to allow a person to love and be loved; it’s rooted in attachment and hard to change. I guess as we approach a day of which I’m not very found, I will have to content myself in knowing that my loneliness and alienation are real, they have consequences in my life and that all I can offer myself is compassion in sitting with the difficulty of those emotions. Do you relate to any of the thoughts and feelings I’ve shared? If so, what has helped you feel compassion for yourself in this space?

At the Edge, With Helplessness and Hopelessness (Today's Daily Remembrance)

It is not a good day for my capacity to feel optimistic and bright. My attempt to get accommodations at my job is beginning to look like I am going to be retaliated against or, at the minimum, discounted. I could not sleep last night and now have no appetite. In the face of this situation, I need to take some time to access my inner world.

I feel helpless and hopeless. I gotten to this place many times before in my life, but have often failed to label what I was feeling in the moment. I would get stuck on the external threat, perseverating on how to mitigate it, and would ignore all of my internal processes. After several hours of frantically searching the web exploring my next steps, I saw into my inner world and noticed how much each part of me was scattering in every direction at once. I could not calm or come back to myself at all until I acknowledged the state I was in. I’m feeling trapped, alone without anyone to help me bear the burden and worried that even more devastation lies–unpredictably and uncontrollably–ahead.

I fear that I’m at the edge of the crevasse I’ve done everything in my power to avoid, the place where I lose my job, my home, my healthcare and anything else that provides a semblance of normal life. I’ve never asked for accommodations because I feared doing so would lead to this outcome. Logically I know I’m many, many steps from this dire fate, but the landscape feels tilted towards my inevitable demise. That is what helplessness and hopelessness look like to me–drifting from “functional human” into an animalistic state where moment-to-moment physical survival is my only focus. Openly acknowledging the effects of my trauma feels like a direct portal into reliving it writ large.

The few responses available to me when I feel helpless and hopeless center primarily on either engaging in a fight for control or on surrendering in acceptance of my fate. The “be louder” side won last night as I spent hour after hour complying a list of questions and additional documentation for my employer. I won’t get any clarity for a few days at the minimum, and my energy is flagging quickly, collapsing into “come what may.”

The ledge I perceive to be closing quickly has never left me ever since I came to terms with my childhood trauma and ended contact with my parents. I knew living my truth meant I could lose at winning or fail at succeeding at life; I knew I had to take that risk over denying what they’d done to me in hopes of having a “backup” plan. I’ve sworn up and down I’d die on the streets before I’d let them back in my life and I mean it as much today as I did the first day I said it.

Rage starts overtaking me when I sit too long in this place. They (my parents) irreparably broke my mind and the thin lines of glue with which I’ve managed to cobble together a person are yielding to the pressures of my life. I’ve come to a razor’s edge but I’ve never been hospitalized or taken off any significant amount of time because of my disability. I’ve walked and ran and scampered to stay back from the ledge and I’m so, so tired of fighting for a foothold. I feel like I literally asked my job for one g-d extra rope to help me stay secured, and all that’s happened is I’ve slipped further towards the breach. I’m sure if I fall in, people will suddenly, magically gain an ability to see my struggles, all while totally and utterly failing to account for the shoves downward they gave me and the shrugs they offered when I extended my hand in desperation.

Let me, come hell or high water, not be a bystander to someone else’s helpless and hopeless moments, even if all I can do is point them towards available resources. That’s all my suffering ever teaches me, how to not add to other peoples’ struggles. I have no greater insight into when to fight and when to yield, or how to avoid my personal pit. How do you handle feeling helpless and hopeless? What feels like your personal “worse case scenario” in life, and how do you cope with its existence? What are some resources you use to keep from going over the edge into despair?

Potential for Thriving (In the Cards)

Today’s card centers on naming inner passions and contemplating how to ignite them into flames of creative power. In giving voice to my desires, what rises up is a wish for living a life that is founded on the possible rather than the absent. What I mean by this that I want to welcome into my life love, beauty and sacred connection, not simply to banish hatred, distrust and suffering.

If I’m honest with myself, most days I wake up thinking “when will the shit I have to deal with today be over?” It is as if the innocent, caring and hopeful parts of me stay in slumber until any potentially threatening situations have ended. I can go weeks or even months without feeling like the red alarm blaring danger stops trilling.

I am thrown totally off-kilter by events like the one I had today, where I woke up in joy, believing that I had nothing stressful with which I was going to have to deal (an extremely rare occasion), and could therefore touch with my fingertips the edges of the positive and the happy. I soon discovered my dog was having an allergic reaction to the heartworm preventative injection he got yesterday, and had to rush him, covered in hives and itching, to the vet. My day now feels like it is lying in ruins, my mind reiterating “threat is likely over…threat is likely over” in an attempt to coax from hiding the scared parts of self I possess.

I so desperately desire a life in which I can stay connected to all the parts of myself, including the upbeat and positive ones, even in the face of hardship and difficulty. I have occasionally spent time notating the events of each day for which I am grateful, but this has often turned into “at least this horrible thing that happened wasn’t even more horrible.” I wonder what a question like “what magic will the world hold for me today?” would do to my psyche if it was the first and truest note playing in my mind as I awoke.

The image I see in my mind to represent my dilemma is that of a person wearing every conceivable bad-weather gear every day, with little regard for the forecast. I am like someone who is convinced that a storm could be lurking or ice could be built up at any spot on their travels. Sure, this person has everything needed the moment bad weather strikes, but they also lug around heavy, hot and uncomfortable material through every other situation. What I also know to be true is that umbrellas and raincoats aren’t the only ways to stay dry; I could and do improvise if something unexpected happened.

In this analogy, I only glance at the rainbow or the blue sky or feel the gentle breeze for a second, and then detach from my joy as I remind myself of all the times I thought it was going to be a nice day and it wasn’t. One raindrop spoils the whole picnic. And, yet, there is beauty to be found even in a ruined outing.

I am not sure how to walk with confidence knowing that, although there will be mud puddles into which I could step, fixing my eyes primarily onto the colors and shapes in the vast sky above grants me a much fuller, more healing and more marvelous view than staring at my shoes will ever provide. What is the first question on your mind most mornings? How does asking it shape the rest of your day? Where do you cast your gaze (or other senses), and how much magic does it allow you to see and experience?

Tend to Your Own House First (In the Cards)

Today’s card draw focuses on closeness and intimacy. This topic is highly charged for me right now, but I want to give it attention. One of the queries associated with the card is to consider what needs to be healed in relation to connection.

As I sit with it, what comes to mind is a desire, both inwardly and in relationship, to be taken seriously not only for my strengths as a person, but also for my limitations, scars and disabilities. I have had so many people in the last decade clamor to me because I am organized, dedicated and empathetic. They have no qualms about seeking my advice or assistance when they are struggling. However, when it comes to my weaknesses showing through, they act like spoiled children who didn’t get the extra toy they wanted, failing to give me the space and grace I need to work through my reactions on my own timetable when I feel betrayed and misused, and instead pressuring me to take care of their feelings at the cost of my own integrity.

I want to start by offering myself as much time and energy as it takes to come back whole after I’ve been treated in a faithless and harmful way, without having to justify to myself why I deserve to be treated with more care and consideration. I want people in my life who are mature enough to hold space for me–to send me the message I’m here when you are ready to talk–instead of treating me like they have an unassailable right to my friendship and loyalty. These hypothetical people look after their own internal world rather than thrusting the disemboweled contents of their inner wreckage on me the minute they are told they’ve violated my trust.

One of the most powerful stands I ever took was to tell someone who wouldn’t respect my boundaries “I know you need a friend to help you through this, I’m just not that friend.” The message I want to send in these situations is: Don’t harm me and then expect me to help you through my reaction of distancing myself from you due to your harm. Take responsibility to get yourself right just like I’m doing.

I can work with people who see me for what I am, someone who has experienced a tremendous amount of childhood trauma, who has few social resources on which they can rely, and who is doing their best with the limitations they have. I am uncompromising in my loyalty to myself; I made the choice when I was about 25 that, come hell or high water, I would never again make myself subservient to anyone, no matter the cost. I won’t ever forget the terrifying feeling of freedom that rushed through me after that decision–the self-ownership I suddenly possessed has been worth the price.

There is nothing I can do to prevent myself from feeling mistreated and betrayed; it is baked into my brain as what happens in close relationships. All I can hope for it is to continue to prove myself trustworthy to myself in treating myself with kindness when it happens, to being honest with others about my limitations, and to holding out the slightest of hopes that some people will enter my life in this new decade who are more mature and capable of meeting me where I am. What do you feel you need for healing? What is most important to you in developing closeness? Where does connection happen?

When Tears Fall (Today's Daily Presence)

This week has been super unpleasant and triggering. My PTSD is dramatically escalating in response to people acting unprofessionally towards me and I’ve cried more in the last 24 hours than I have in several weeks. It feels appropriate, then, to focus on my eyes for my body scan today.

My eyes swell to an embarrassing degree after I cry. Apparently tears associated with crying come from a certain gland in the eye and are both more abundant and less salty than other eye secretions, which leads to eye tissues (given that they are saltier) pulling them in and puffing one’s eyes! Knowing that my swollen eyes are filled with my absorbed tears definitely makes the entire experience even weirder.

For my meditation today, I decided to close my eyes and to imagine myself floating in a warm sea. I drifted aimlessly through the water as I felt all my tension flowing out of my body into the sparkling deep. I felt the sun warming me and, with my eyes closed, allowed the feeling of nowhere to be and nothing to do to envelop me. All I have to do today is stay afloat. Some days that’s all I can do, and it’s enough to be in the here and now, resting my weary eyes. What comes to mind when you think of your eyes? What self-care do you provide them? How does the idea of floating sit with you?

Emotional Self-Acceptance (Today’s Daily Remembrance)

For as much of my life as I can remember, I’ve existed in states of flight, fight and freeze. I feel anger and anxiety more often than not. At times, I become so overwhelmed I go numb, losing my connection to my body and to the present. I crash from these fragile states into deep ponds of depression. Coming to terms with who I am emotionally, then, has not been easy.

One of the ways in which I’ve grown more comfortable with myself emotionally is that I’ve learned it is possible to have positive emotional experiences alongside the negative. Happy and sad emotions are processed, to an extent, in different places in the brain, so the experience of one doesn’t necessarily cancel the other out. Activities such as my Daily Writing have helped me to bring a little joy into my life amidst the sea of negativity in which I find myself floating.

In addition to having moments of feeling upbeat, I have also benefited from a fuller capacity (after much therapy) to give voice to not only the situations that cause me distress, but also to what I feel moment-by-moment when I am upset. Being with my body, even when it doesn’t feel good, has lessened my dissociation and helped me to feel slightly more confident in approaching stressors. There is a sense of “this will be over soon” that comes to me at times, rather than the timeless horror my trauma-brain foresees.

Finally, I think aging itself has enabled me to see my track record more clearly. No matter how impossible, how helpless and hopeless I feel, I muddle my way through things. I do not give up immediately when difficulties arise and I also recognize when something is intolerable and must be resisted or released. I do not trust life to be kind or easy, but I do trust myself to find a way to respond to it. What is the nature of your emotional life? What have you learned about yourself and how have you grown emotionally?

After the Fire (In the Cards)

Today’s In an Open Hand card draw was the Dampen card. This card centers on releasing anger and noticing where it might be transforming into grief. Specifically, the card invites a consideration of accepting disappointments.

My experience of anger in relation to issues that affect people other than solely myself tends to be in reaction to injustice, for example, in considering issues that relate to a societal level of unfairness and inequality. I often cycle in and out of rage, uncertain as to whether my energy is best spent fighting to right a wrong or in uplifting those who are working to create equity. There is likely a place for both experiences that I hope to reach.

My personal rage is of the same thread, but is harder for me to channel into a productive series of actions. When someone harms or disappoints me, I notice my contribution to the issue and then feel stuck as to whether or not it is fair to blame the other person for their role in the situation. I tend to withdraw from the person who let me down as a way to manage my emotions, because my experiences of directly confronting those who have hurt me very rarely leads to genuine contrition and a sense of my needs being cared about. There is no forgiveness possible when the other person refuses to own their actions. My anger, then, seems futile, and my disappointment invalid.

One query the Dampen card poses is about what needs to burn out on its own. This is the only path through my personal anger that I’ve found–to simply allow time to pass and my attention to drift so that, eventually, the slights I’ve endured feel less intense. New growth will replace the old, charred heartwood of connection that was destroyed through hurtful actions. The ashes, though, feel like they accumulate in the low-lying areas, creating a landscape with divots of barren in my heart. Each flame-up of anger takes more than it leaves and each re-growth is more sparse than the one that preceded it. It is the area in which I feel most helpless and hopeless as a trauma survivor. “Try again!” is weak courage when I know how high the risk of conflagration runs. How do you handle your anger and disappointment? What keeps you seeking connection even after the failure and ruin of a close relationship?

Caring for an Animal (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

On Sundays, I bathe and groom my dog, so today’s simple pleasure of providing relaxation for an animal fit right into my routine. My pup has hair instead of fur, so he has to be washed once a week and his coat needs a lot of TLC. After he gets a bath, I clean his eyes and ears before I brush out his hair and trim the edges. He even gets a spray of doggie cologne! In cold weather, I finish with a salve for his paws.

Since my dog has become a part of my life, my depression symptoms have become much more manageable. In particular, the ache I so often felt in my chest has disappeared. Interacting with one’s pet increases oxytocin levels and is linked with fewer depression symptoms. In both of these studies, the effects held only for women; the researchers of course did not take non-binary people like myself into account. All I know is that I am tightly bonded to my pup and that he loves a good grooming session with lots of loving touch (after his dreaded bath is finished). If you have pets, what benefits do you find you experience from your interactions with them?

Unsolidified: My Self-Definition

I knew my reason for existence before I knew who I was as a person. I’m here to aid in the soul-recovery mission of reconnection lost, buried and disowned parts of self with Self. I’m a shame-eater; someone who lives as unabashedly authentically as possible in order to provide space for others to do the same.

Coming to know one’s self when all you have to go on is chips of cracked porcelain takes patience and reconstruction skills. Nothing feels permanent to me about who I am; the projected image fills in and reshapes faster than I can process at times. I work often from the outside in; I alter my external surroundings, my appearance, my relationships and suddenly another motif of identity is emblazoned on the wall of my being.

Above all, I am fluid. Every pot I shape that bears my image solidifies only so far as I shield myself from the kilns of predictability and unity of self. I gaze with envy at those who know themselves, not simply as well as I know my pieces, but who know themselves whole and as one. I can tell you the story of how I move but not where I’m located; my being resists roots, resists entombment, resists place.

This is for survival, this ability to reshape and reform at a moment’s notice. Quick, gather the shards and make haste at any sign of danger. Present as battle-worn and shield or as open and tender, whatever works in the moment. But others take my façade as being; the true cracks are too well hidden and the visible fissures their “aha, weakness” distraction lines. They see me as I want to be seen, as I need to be seen, not as I am.

I go piece by piece, holding each up to light, notating its edges aloud, and still I without witness. My dog, truthfully, can ferret out my lost selves better than any, which somehow makes it worse. Lacking community, I must be mirror and container and wall and ground for myself.

Many of my margins break from center. I am nonbinary. Panromantic. Asexual. A sexual abuse survivor. A person with dissociative identity disorder, multiple anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, chronic pain and on and on. A person without family, home, deep cultural ties or social support. I am paradox: rigid, brittle and yet able to bend and restructure myself instantly.

I know why I’m here and what my task is. I know why I was shattered beyond recognition early on. The unfairness of it is irrelevant; my purpose is fixed. I find myself and know myself and super-glue myself as I live it out. I know joy in simplicity and hope through endurance. Little that I have has come easily. Nothing makes me prouder than being present as a cracked and worn piece of self is cupped in palms with delicacy and honor. Even flecks of glass catch the rain.