Recently, I attended a work-related training event, and I think I saw someone with whom I shared physical intimacy in eighth grade. Gah, anxiety! because I felt unsure about whether to say hello. Two of my workmates sat on either side of me, and one of them sat near this man, this reminder of eighth grade and my intense awkward in it. I didn't mention my thoughts or possible association to my coworkers. Eighth-grade-reminder and I shared a couple of extremely brief glances, and even then I couldn't figure out whether it was he. I tried to not stare. I don't know if I was successful, and I want to think that everything seemed totally normal. I've been tapping on memories associated with eighth-grade-person. You see, he was friends with another guy, one with whom I also shared intimacy. They were really good friends. I have this picture of myself as this totally crazy eighth grade lust machine, running around sharing sexual acts with people my age and a few years older. Ugh -- that frames my experiences in shame! What happened was that my life situation drastically shifted as my teenage years began; I didn't have consistent emotional support; and I sought comfort in the exhilaration of sexual hormone excitement. In other words, I acted normal.
For a long time, I've viewed my sexual experiences with a huge amount of scrutiny. I put my sexual self on the table, utilized my tools of analysis, told myself I looked down on me just like my "best" friend told me she did right after eighth grade, just before ninth grade. I'd told her that I put a guy's penis in my mouth. I think I wrote it in a letter. When I saw her in-person later that year, I asked if she looked down on me after she read my letter. I think, at first, she may have paused or said no. At some point, she said she'd thought about it, and yes, she did look down on me. It was kind of an f'd environment in which to hear the news because I happened to be visiting her in her home, sleeping on the floor next to her bed. So, picture someone saying, "I've decided that I do look down on you for your sexual identity," and she's actually in a bed up higher than you, literally. looking down. on you. (Fun fact: Later that same trip she taught me how to shoplift. I got great at it! Then someone in a store caught me, and I got walked out in the mall (in handcuffs?) and put in a police van. We drove downtown. The police put me in what appeared to me to be a storeroom. More on that in other posts.) So yeah, my sexual identity and middle school and high school and shame. Lots of shame... for so long. So unnecessary, this shame. We're sexual creatures. We adventure. We learn. I read Blackout by Sarah Hepola last year, and her words really helped me see myself differently and release a lot of shame.
When my dad didn't make me a part of his life after the divorce, I felt completely abandoned. I remember that he stopped in at the house to build me a desk. We went to the building materials store together, like we did in my earliest years. I remember the feeling of "I feel meaningful when you make me important." After he finished the desk, he gave me a toolbox full of tools. That was one of the last few times we spent time together doing anything other than catch a meal in a fast food restaurant. I was 13.
Up to that point in my life, I felt special to my father. Then he married someone about eight years older than I am and allowed her to treat me poorly. He was consumed by his devotion to this woman. She came from a background of physical abuse, abandonment, poor. From my view, my dad went crazy trying to rescue this woman from her life of challenge. He was so into her that he didn't see her flaws, the huge gaping holes in her psyche that tormented and abused other people. He didn't see his own flaws, the ones that allowed him to abandon his own children.
My sisters and I grew up in a family with a lot of love and almost zero empathy. This can be a challenging concept to grasp, especially for those who did not experience this type of neglect. What do you call it when your parents love you and also leave you alone a lot? How 'bout when they leave the country and you're only 12 or 13? What if they leave you in charge of two younger siblings? That happened to my eldest sister. My parents traveled abroad, and they left my 12- or 13-year-old sister in charge of two younger siblings. I want to say they were gone for a couple of weeks, and it could have been 10 days. At some point, my dad's mother or someone on my dad's side discovered that we were alone in our home, my sisters and I. I don't know how they found out. Maybe they called and one of my sisters told them? Yeah, three kids alone in a house. Just go to school! There's food in the fridge! Wow. Thinking on it now, I feel pretty angry with my parents for their lack of concern and planning for us as their children.
Humans require stories, tales of good and honor so that we have something for which to strive. Equally important are the words of woe and disappointment, cautions against pitfalls, and experiences with boredom and mediocrity. Our surroundings and the people in them share what's available to them. If we live to see the later years, it's certain that we left the early years with holes in our logic. This is how life must be, and it can be a huge frustration for the perfectionists among us. (What, there's no way to avoid imperfection?! Oh no!) The irony is that it's precisely the imperfections that allow perfection to exist. We need the contrast because it creates reality.
No one person or group will ever meet every expectation. This doesn't mean we quit striving. It means we remember ideals and do what we can to meet them. Failures aren't an indication that the process is butchered, as many a perfectionistic tendency would have you believe. They're signs of life, of a thinking person who recognizes that behavior is malleable. There are a lot of reasons why things won't work out or why the world is a terrible place. It's a lot to think about and process what's happened in our history as a human civilization, and it's totally natural to feel overwhelmed by the devastation that we wrought upon each other. It's ok to not know what to do or how to say stuff, to talk about it with people and feel embarrassed or strange. Normal is composed of weird and crazy that make nirvana a daily event.
Well hello there.