Archive for August 3, 2014

The watershed moment happened in an unlikely place – the hall corridor of a hospital — and was tipped off from an unlikely person – a little old lady in a hospital volunteer’s uniform. I was searching for the grief therapy group I had signed up to attend in order to process my parents’ deaths, and nobody at the main hospital could tell me where I needed to go to find it. As I became more and more frustrated and angry, the tears began to well in my eyes and spill out over my lower lids (much to my determination not to let the public see me cry). Out of the blue, an elderly angel comes up to me and says “Oh honey, do you need a hug?”

I am not a very outwardly affectionate person. I don’t hug and kiss my close friends every time we see each other. I never enjoyed kissing my in-laws (a definitely huggy-kissy bunch) and I felt extremely uncomfortable safe hugging my students. So, I was definitely conflicted about getting a much needed hug from this elderly stranger. I decided to go for it.

In between sobs and hiccups, I was able to choke out “I’m here for the grief therapy group, but I can’t find it!” I must have sounded near hysterical at the moment, so she quickly stopped heading wherever she was going and immediately brought me back to the information desk and told them to get the hospital chaplain down here so I could get some emotional support. And after an extended chat with the chaplain where I divulged some pretty heavy duty material about the events which have occurred in my life, she said something that was the most thought provocative comment I’d ever heard anyone tell me: “You have never learned how to ‘feel your feelings'” Wow.

Looking back on my childhood, I see a long pattern of emotional invalidation  I had never recognized before this year: from my non-nurturing father, in the form of Catholic guilt from my mother, and through relentless teasing and bullying from my siblings. I was never physically abused or sexually abused, but the invalidation of my feelings caused me to question my very own sense of self. I was constantly being told by an overwhelmed father of six kids: “Stop spinning your wheels, Scooter” “Stop crying, you have nothing to cry about” “You have no idea what you’re talking about” – comment after comment where everything I said was doubted, discounted and dismissed. In order to stop having to hear it all the time, I just shut down my feelings and refused to share them with anyone — because to do so would put me at risk for judgment and further invalidation.

My one coping mechanism was to turn to intellectualism. If I couldn’t show people my value through my emotions then I was going to show them all how “intellectual” I was. I became fascinated by everything and anything — a knower of many things, a master of none, so to speak. I could debate and discuss virtually any topic that came my way. I could even discuss topics that weren’t of interest to me provided I was given enough time to research them first. I absorbed information like a sponge. I was determined to prove my worth through intellect, not emotion. The beauty of being intellectual is that it is a fact based function. Facts can’t be argued, discredited or disproved. There is nothing there of any emotional substance, therefore I wouldn’t get judged or invalidated — again. A brilliant alternative and safety net.

And I have been doing that since the day I walked into the hospital chaplain’s room and she told me to stop. It’s hard to change learned behavior when you’re about to turn 50. But, I’ve begun regular therapy to help me. I’ve found a wonderful psychologist who has been slowly assisting me in getting back in touch with my inner child, who is so much more damaged than I ever realized. Together, we are rebuilding my emotional self, and I’m just now starting to take emotional risks and recognizing how others’ comments and actions affect my feelings.

What I’ve noticed lately is the amount of feelings I’ve repressed and how I’m processing them now. Instead of pushing them down (like I did when my parents and brother died), I’m acknowledging them, putting the appropriate label on them and dealing with them accordingly. Whenever I start to feel “something”, I will say “sad, it’s sadness at this moment” or “anger, this is what anger feels like” and then I take a moment to let it wash over me. Unfortunately, the angry feelings are very strong – I’ve been snapping at a lot of people over the simplest things. I’ve had to tell my loved ones not to take my overblown reactions too personally – it’s all part of my therapy. Those poor folks.

I have a long distance to go in getting myself back in balance between intellectual and emotional health. But, with the continued help of my therapist, I see myself coming through this a much happier, much more enjoyable person to be around.

I know I can do it – because I feel it can be done.

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Well, this is fascinating. My muse has recently been diagnosed with a new disorder. It seems she has a “slight” case of MPD – Multiple Personality Disorder. This could explain her wildly fluctuating behavior and speech patterns. I’ve suspected something for a little while, but going back through the transcripts of previous conversations, I realize now I was talking to several different “people” –sometimes all at once.

I was finally able to connect the dots when, out of the blue, “Trudy” actually took the Marlboro ciggy out of her mouth and popped in a wad of Double Bubble bubble gum — a signal that something was up.  Of course, Trudy was still being as belligerent and orny as ever — between bubbles, she was muttering such semi-incoherent phrases as “Peach cobbler, bitch!” and “Kiss my ass, state trooper boy”.

No reason for such rude behavior, honestly. I’ve tried to talk with Trudy and tell her how inappropriate her comments can be at times, but last time I did it, she threatened to “put my black belt to the test”. Since she carries a switchblade and a 9 mm in the cab of her semi, I declined her invitation to an ass-kicking and spent most of the next half hour “talking her down” from whatever menopausal moment she was having.

But the bubble gum — so out of character for her. That’s when it hit me — that wasn’t Trudy. Gone was the 5’2″, 150 lb lesbian truck driver with the smoker’s cough, missing upper teeth, leathered skin and thinning gray hair. Sure, she was still dressed in her typical trucker uniform – red flannel shirt over a “wifebeater” T, dirty jeans and loggerhead boots, but that wasn’t the Trudy I knew and admired for her open honesty and willingness to put me in my proper place. Oh no, this person in front of me was much, much younger. I had to get a good look at her.

I say “her” because honestly, men don’t chew and snap their gum that way. Maybe the person who stole Trudy’s spotlight is gay — I don’t know and really don’t care.  That’s between them. I’m just here for the entertainment factor anyways. But still, something told me this new character was a lot younger, and definitely less “street smart” as Trudy.

I sense a naivete that can only be matched by the stupidity of youth. So, I am going to go out on a limb and say I was talking to a 17 year old cheerleader. Some of the clues? Well, the constant gum chewing — like watching a cow standing in the field, vapidly staring at the barn, chewing its cud. And the hair twirling — annoying as hell. The constant twirling of the index finger around the pony tail. Leave your hair alone, dammit!

But the final clue? Every other word out of this one’s mouth was either “like” or “whatever”. I hate having to spend a moment of my time listening to my beloved language get slaughtered. I try to keep our conversations short. On the other hand, it is fun to mess with youth. I can tell her practically anything, and she’ll believe it. Or at least crinkle her cute little button nose, lean her head to the side and in her high pitched, annoyingly nasaly voice, giggle “Oh my god, that’s so, like, funny!”

She does like to hang on every word of mine. She also likes to hang on every high school football player too. I see a teenage pregnancy in her future if she doesn’t pull her shit together soon and stop acting like such a slut. I’ve checked her Facebook,and she’s gathering a long list of “friends”, most of whom probably aren’t aware she’s still underage. Someone’s going to get in real trouble if they don’t watch out. Honestly, my “mother-daughter muse” talks we’ve had seem to go over her head. This whole “I’m immortal” thing is being wasted on her youth, I have decided.

There is one other personality I’ve had the pleasure to meet who is by far my running favorite. Oh for the days in my twenties when I was still willing to meet the world head on and tackle life’s mysteries! She’s a real go-getter this one. She’s everything I never was, which is why I love her so much. She’s twenty-something (somewhere between 22-25) and just does what she wants, to hell with the circumstances. She spent some time over in Italy with the entire national soccer team. She won’t tell me “exactly” what happened – but I sense a few unconventional sex practices took place. She and her sister muse — Erato– probably found a supply of Mazola, whipped cream, feathers and satin laced handcuffs and had themselves a party. I bet she never asked for names.

She’s a bit of a gold digger, and continues to find a long list of men to supply her with all the latest technological gadgets to keep her on her eventual path to self-destruction. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have a model’s face on a perfect body devoid of wrinkles and the after-effects of childbirth and age-related gravity. She’s happy to tell everyone that “her boobs still point to Orion” (She’s Greek, so of course she had to get that shout out in there). Even though I love her, she does need to get her ego in check. There will always be someone coming up behind her who is prettier, thinner and more desirable. She just doesn’t know it yet. Ahh, youth.

That’s it for roll call. I continue to have conversations with my muse (now “muses”) and some days, I’ll find myself having to change my own behavior based on who decides to show up. Honestly, I like the mystery of it all. It’s so, like, awesome. Unless, of course, the Sandman shows up. He’s kind of a douche bag towards me. I bet he and Justin Bieber are friends.

Calliope’s Pen

Posted: August 3, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Waxed tablet

grasped tightly between delicate fingers.

Scroll empty.

Stylus poised to accept its destined commands.

Inspiration flows.

Creativity takes hold then quickly evolves.

Song forms.

Music imbues the brain with thunderous sound.

Words cascade.

Poetry captures the heart in unwitting emotion.

Calliope dissolves.

Fading photographs bloom behind closed eyelids.

Leaving me.

Unburdening myself of her gift to me

Now scribed to empty pages.

She feeds my soul.