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December 31, 2011

What I have to share

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:30 pm

Incientally, in my archive search, I found the answer to this question.

It’s this:

Here’s a question I get a lot that I never really have a good answer for – but I think I might have just figured it out:

Hey Rebecca, what do you do?

I write.

Oh yeah? What kind of stuff do you write?

I write about the structural and political dynamics of radical intimacy. What do you do?

In other words, the thing of value I have to share is not talking the experience of how my relationship with my mother hurt me. It’s talking about my struggle to trying and heal that relationship, if I even can. And about how I apply the lessons from that healing process to the rest of my work, if I ever do.

The personal is political and the political is so, so, personal

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:24 pm

So, I just sent my mother an e-mail telling her that I plan to have no contact with her whatsoever for the next two years, because I’m actively in the process of working through a lot of trauma from growing up with her. Two years is about the amount of time I think I need to get to a point where even small interactions with her don’t totally derail my life. I don’t want to go into a lot of the details publicly, but there’s one thing I do want to share.

I wrote numerous drafts of this letter before I actually sent it. Some were angry. Some were pleading. Some were defensive or desperate. Some were cold and professional. Eventually, I realized that most of these drafts were letters I was writing to myself, explaining why it was okay for me to take this space, why it was important. Giving myself permission. When I actually wrote the final draft to my mom, I started completely from scratch and it contained almost nothing from the previous versions. Most of that stuff will get stuck in a drawer or transcribed somewhere private (I wrote these drafts by hand) to be re-read and re-processed when I stumble across them again years from now.

But the following piece – which did not make it into the much kinder, gentler final draft – is something I wanted to share publicly. It’s my pre-emptive response to her projected derailments of my autonomy – a declaration of my right to define my own experience and act to get my needs met. I’ve worked through an intense fog of confusion, guilt and internalized self-doubt to get to this place. And I feel like some of the things I say here are important to more than just this one individual relationship with my mom.

It puts me in mind of an essay I read years ago, a man talking to other men about the way men often respond when women open up to them about their experiences of sexual assault. I’ve been searching through my archives for a link but can’t find one (although I’ve found lots of other good links I’d forgotten about.) However, the general gist was, “Women are taught their whole lives not to trust their own experiences or feelings about their bodies. When a woman opens up to you about having been raped, don’t question her interpretation of the situation. Not because it’s “impolite” or “non-PC” or because you’ll “offend” her – but because she’s already asked herself every single question you’re asking A THOUSAND TIMES, and probably put herself through a much more intensive, rigorous, harsh process of criticism inside her head than you can even imagine.”

This is how I feel about my relationship with my mother. And I think it’s something that comes up universally around both abuse and oppression (which is a form of large-scale systemic abuse). I’ve heard people talk about it around disability, around race, etc: This constant questioning of one’s own interpretation of their own experiences against the narrative put forth by the person or population in power.

Even now, I’m extremely leery of using the word ‘abusive’ to describe my relationship with my mother. Not because it wasn’t, but because I’ve spent so much of my life (especially when I was trying to survive under her roof) convincing myself it wasn’t. Believing this was more-or-less normal was a coping strategy for not going crazy or killing myself. So I spent my childhood and adolescence convincing myself that it was my fault that she was hurting me, and having the belief reinforced by her and other adults that it was my fault she was hurting me…so that even now, at almost 30 years old with a raft of evidence to draw on, the word “abuse” feels slippery and hard to hold onto. I’m afraid to use it around anyone who might question or contradict it. Not because I’ll be mad they “disagree” with me, but because I’m afraid it will throw me back into a tailspin of confusion and self-doubt. (There are particular issues related to having been raised by someone with Borderline traits that probably make me especially susceptible to this e.g. I struggle to trust my own sense of reality across the board.)

Saying the word “abuse” out loud here on the public Internet might be one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.

But I’m saying it because I think there are parallels between my abusive relationship to my mom and the abusive relationship between people who are oppressed, oppressors who consider themselves either harmless or benevolent, and the system of dependencies, power dynamics, and genuine complicated emotions that keep them intertwined. I think there’s something worthwhile in here about the need for – and heartbreak of – conscious, self-imposed separatism as one of many tools for healing deep rifts.

So, here’s what I wrote:

“Growing up with you was terrifying. I lived in constant fear that if I said the wrong thing you would fly into a rage and hurt me or sink into depression and try to hurt yourself and that in either case, it would be my fault. I never knew what to expect from one minute to the next and felt constantly on the defensive, having to protect myself from your attempts to crack into my head and then punish me for whatever you found there. I’m not ashamed of you; I’m afraid of you. I’ve been scared my whole life. I’m scared now. I don’t want to be scared anymore.

Maybe you’ll say it wasn’t that bad. That I’m being melodramatic. That I’m too sensitive. That you were also scared of your parents growing up and you got over it. That my expectations – the expectation that, as a child, I would feel safe in my own home – were too high. I’ve considered all these possibilities. And even if they’re true, none of them change the impact that growing up with you had on me or the fact that I need space to heal.

You keep suggesting that I should just “let it go”. That no matter what perceived harms you might’ve done me in the past, I’ve had enough time to grieve and hurt and process and now I should move on, let you “back” into my life. The truth is that you’ve never been a part of my life. I’ve been protecting myself from you since Day 1. Trust me, I wish I could just let go of all that and move on. If I could have, I would. I’ve been trying to for years. But that means I’ve actually never given myself the space to process, hurt and grieve. I’m taking that space now.

And maybe you’ll claim it was someone else’s fault. That the way you treated [my brother] and I was because of the way Dad, your parents, your job, the economy, or the teachers at our schools treated you. Even if that’s true, and I believe that in some ways it is, that doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t live in fear of them; I lived in fear of you. And I need time away from you, a short time in my life, to feel completely safe so that I can take care of that frightened child.

Perhaps you’ll even claim it was my fault. That you were afraid of me. That I was “selfish” or “heartless” or unpredictable growing up. I’ve also considered that possibility, rolled it over and over and over in my head. But even if it’s true that I was an emotionally overwhelming child – and I’m sure it was at times; I’m an emotionally overwhelming adult – the fact remains: We were CHILDREN! You said it yourself a million times ad nauseum, “I’m the Mom!” That doesn’t just mean you get to set curfew and decide who does the dishes. It also means you were responsible for protecting us, taking care of us and making us feel safe – not the other way around. I never felt safe with you.

I don’t even feel safe writing you this letter. I feel almost certain that you’re going to respond with some cutting, defensive sarcasm, tell me I’m being “lawyerly” or that I “think I know you so well”, maybe even accuse me of being “abusive”. I don’t have any defenses against that kind of attack. Even now. After nearly 30 years, it still cuts me to the core, makes me feel worthless and small. All I can do is duck, dodge and avoid it – and since I never know when it’s coming, that means avoiding you.

But maybe, if you’re able to see any of this hurt at all, you’ll just say that you did the best you could. I genuinely believe that. Given what you’ve told me about growing up with your own parents, you didn’t have very good models and couldn’t have known how much you were hurting us. I believe this was hard for you too, and that you deserve compassion for how hard you tried. But that still doesn’t change the impact it had on me, and I am too hurt and angry to feel that compassion right now.

I hope you have others around you who care about you and can offer it. And I’d like to get to the point where I can feel compassion myself – if not for your sake, then for mine. This anger is a poison in my system that colors every moment of my life. I want to get it out. But to do that requires work. And that work requires space. Lots and lots of space.”

Something Short

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 2:46 am

Okay. I told Becky I was going to blog tonight and I don’t think the last three posts count. I am kind of brainfried, but I’ll try to get something down. She also said we can snuggle while I blog, so that’s an incentive. (Not that I think she wouldn’t snuggle with me otherwise…right?)

Obviously, part of me thinks I should write about Borderline Personality Disorder and family relationships and abuse. But there’s this other part of me that’s like…what is there to say? That a hundred other people haven’t already said? My experience of this isn’t special. It’s shitty, but it’s not special. Lots of other people have had the same or vaguely similar shitty experiences and written everything from blogs to books about it. I can process what it feels like with the people who I’m close to, but I don’t think the specifics of my story have anything to contribute to the common conversation. In short: My relationship with my mother has a huge and complicated influence on my life, but it’s not actually what’s interesting about me.

Is it?

If it’s not, then what is interesting about me? What’s worth writing about that contributes something to the conversation? What gift do I have to share?

I have some ideas. But, for the moment, I think I need to just focus on those snuggles.

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 2:24 am

It’s done. I haven’t sent it yet. I’m going to sleep on it. But it’s done. Okay.

Is there a reason you’re sitting in the dark?

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 12:11 am

Inside Joke Interlude

BECKY: So, I’m sitting in the kitchen reading and Ashi passes through the room, doesn’t see me there and flicks the light off on her way out. Then she stops in the hallway, turns around and says to me, “Is there a reason you’re sitting in the dark?”

ASHI: …It’s like a history of race relations in the United States.

BECKY: Except backwards.

ASHI: Reverse racism!

December 30, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 11:40 pm

Okay, I’m going to write it now.

I’m really glad I’m among friends to do it. I feel a little scared and kind of sick.

December 27, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 12:02 am

I said I was going to post every day, but then I stayed up talking philosophy with Matthew ’til 2am last night, so I didn’t get the chance. Then we slept in ’til 1pm, spent the afternoon cleaning the house, went to the gym, and then wrote together at the Trident until it closed. This is the first time I’ve been online all day. But Matthew-time is probably better for my psychological health than any type of Internet-time, even the most virtuous blog-posting variety.

It occurs to me that my relationship with Matthew would probably make a great case example to explore a lot of the ideas in my queue right now: asexuality, relationships that exist outside the romance/friendship binary and how we talk about them, “relationship drag”, etc. All of these are thoughts that have been triggered recently by reading others’ work (links forthcoming), but it probably makes for more interesting writing to consider them in the context of my own life rather than simply rehashing them in the abstract.

At the Trident tonight, I worked on a draft of the letter to my mother and another draft for a blog post here on “origin myths.” Part of me wants to stay up and write tonight, but I’m having brunch with Josh tomorrow morning and it’s our only chance to see each other while he’s in town for the holidays, so I should get some sleep. I think I’m just going to read some e-mails tonight, write a notecard to August (I’ve been writing him one every night while he’s on the Ice), and maybe try to get up early in the morning and do a little writing before I have to start the rest of my day.

Part of me wonders if I should come up with pseudonyms for people I write about here. But I feel like, similar to coming up with a pseudonym for myself, it’s a moot point by now. There are already too many breadcrumbs leading back to my real name and reams of writing in which I’ve referred to the important people in my life by their real names, so it seems pointless. Not like I’m writing anything particularly scandalous about anybody, I suppose. (Although, apparently Josh did once get in trouble because his mother read my blog and discovered that he smoked. 😉 )

December 25, 2011

Statement of Purpose

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 2:44 am

I’m going to try and post at least something here every day. Just a few notes on what I’ve been thinking that day, if nothing else. I probably won’t, but I’m setting that as an intention. Writing regularly is a form of self-care for me and my goal is to spend the next year doing extreme self-care.

I want to use this space to start doing some work. I feel like it’s been an effective space for that in the past. In this case “work” means fleshing out some of the theoretical social and political ideas that have been collecting like dew in my head, on my notebooks, in conversations and interviews and scribbled notes and quick txt messages sent to my inbox for the past couple of years.

This means I’m also asking the universe to bring some of my intellectual co-conspirators out of the woodwork to collaborate with and challenge me here. Some of you I talk to in person on a regular basis, others I’ve had very little interaction with over the past couple of years.

I’m going to try my best to limit this blog to what I’m thinking, and focus on writing about how I’m feeling over here. (Feel free to send me a Friend request over there if you’d like to read it. You’ll need a LiveJournal account.) Of course, they inform each other and there will be some overlap. But it’s more that I want to try and distinguish between theorizing and emotional processing – although, of course, there will be some overlap there, too…

Case in Point: I feel pretty vulnerable doing this, because of that perennial fear…that people I’ve been close to and am vulnerable to will read it and tell me they hate me or that I’m crazy. This has happened more than once and it makes me want to curl up and hide every time. But I also really want a space where I can engage with the work of other people online and engage with other people online about my work, because I don’t think my ideas are going to improve otherwise. (One of the reasons I’m sort of asking the people who tend to understand me best to come hang out with me here is so that I feel like there are people out there reading who have my back.)

So, that’s that then.

December 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 2:57 pm

So, evidently, my mother came across my blog. Not this blog, I don’t think. I feel like the e-mail I got last night would’ve been significantly more hysterical if it had been this blog. I think it was this one – which, ironically, is a squishy little LiveJournal I started explicitly for the purpose of processing grief around my abusive relationship with her. I didn’t respond. Instead, I laid awake in bed feeling triggered and terrified for a while. I wished that the sweet sleeping boi at my side would hold me. But I would’ve felt too silly, waking them up at 3am and having to explain that I’m crying because, “My mom found my blog.” So I just lay there and stared at the ceiling until I finally fell asleep.

What do I want to do with this? My immediate gut response was, “Fuck it. I’m done. I never want to expose anything vulnerable about myself online ever again.” But that’s silly. First of all, the Internet is already seeded all over the place with tiny little pieces of my soul, most of them attached to my real name. There’s no way to erase that history. And I find a lot of value in that. Both in that it allows me to be seen, at least a little bit, in the ways that I’ve always struggled and craved to be seen, and also in that I’ve been extremely appreciative of so many others who’ve bared themselves on the Internet in ways that have given me insight, encouragement, strength, solace, and perspective over the course of my life. I know that some of my writing has done the same for others, and it’s important for me to continue giving that back*.

It’s one thing to bare my soul on the Internet for strangers, though. And another thing entirely to bare my soul to my mother. I just don’t know what to do when people I’m afraid of use that vulnerability to hurt me. I’m not going to stop writing. I can’t. I won’t. But it just freaks me the fuck out.

* It’s funny to talk about this here, because I feel like it’s been so long since I wrote publicly, my ability to do it well is extremely rusty. The sentences in this post feel clunky and awkward. But the feelings are real.

December 22, 2011

Notes to Self

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:38 pm

Here are some things I WANT to write about:

– Identity, planeswalking and the provenance of bodies
– The difference between planeswalking and being a chameleon (with a little bit on how to spot a planeswalker and why you might want to)
– An exploration of the intersections between maymay‘s ideas about marriage as an emotional validation racket and relationship labels as drag
– using gender as a criteria for boundaries; why we do it, how it’s problematic, what we might do differently to achieve the same (or better) ends (with some exploratory discussion of my own fuzzy gender-based criteria for romantic and/or sexual partners and what the hell is up with that)
– a discussion of how i describe my relationships in the context of “
The Three Ts” articles
– some “hard radicalism” around the notion of oppressor identities as inherently debased (and maybe an essay on what hard radicalism is and why it gets me in trouble)
– i suppose i could write something about, y’know, what i’ve been up to lately. but i probably won’t.

I realize that these sort of posts are traditionally lists of things I won’t ever actually write. But I have a four day weekend coming up and I’m setting an intention to devote some of that time to writing theory. (And some of it to writing my mother an e-mail telling her I don’t want to have any contact with her for a solid year. :/ Doing that is so scary, I might just find myself writing theory to procrastinate…)

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