Monday, August 3, 2015

Harsh

I am realizing, for most of my life, I have been so harsh.

Harsh with myself. Harsh with everyone around me. Worst of all, as a mother, harsh with my children.

I hear it echoed back at me, in the voices of my children when they are harsh and intolerant with one another, giving each other no space to be hurt, to be weak, to have needs.

Stop crying. She's not hurt, she's just being a baby. He's not sick, he's just faking it.

I hear my own harshness coming back at me, and I feel regret. Even though I was never consciously being harsh with them. I was being the only way I knew how to be, instilling in my children the skills I thought they needed to have.

Because I thought harsh was what life required. Harsh worked. Harsh is how you survive, is the way you make it through.

Get up. Don't think about what happened before. Don't think about what might happen next. Block it out, shove it away. Put your clothes on and walk up the stairs. Smile and imitate the others and fit in, because that's what people want from you.

I'm not sure if these kinds of words were said to me by an abuser and I internalized them, or they rose out of my own observations and conclusions--probably both. And maybe this was what I needed to do at the time, and how I made it through a morass of pain and confusion. I spliced the bad experiences, the emotions, the pain, neatly out. I set them all up on a high shelf to deal with 30+ years later, because I probably did not have the ability or the resources around me to deal with them as a child. In some ways I marvel at how smart this was, at how my body or spirit knew to do that. At the internal mechanism of disassociation that God in his grace put within us in order that we might survive horrible and overwhelming experiences.

Now, at 40+ years old, with a young adult, a teen, and a ten year old, I'm trying to learn some new ways. Making space in my life to finally deal with hurts that happened long ago. Space to think my own thoughts and feel my own emotions, instead of shoving that all away to do whatever I think the people around me want me to do. I'm still very skilled at blocking these things out, at driving myself forward, and simply functioning. I can go from a devastating counseling appointment to a light social event with only a few minutes to transition. Too good at it maybe.

In some ways I am proud of being so strong. Proud of making it through as well as I have. It is no little accomplishment. And it's a good life skill to have. There really are times in life, emergency times, when strong is what you need to be.

But all of life should not feel like this. Surely? A series of hurdles and you're forcing yourself over each one, not letting yourself think how tired you are. Or how despairing it feels when you stop to rest.

I have a few good friends who have little ones. I notice that when these children cry or are hurt, they are not told immediately to get up, to stop crying. It surprises me.

I'm trying not to be so harsh with the little ones inside me who were crushed and shut out. But it feels very different. Very tentative. And those little ones don't really believe me yet, because harsh is what I've always done.