Reading my sisters’ blogs always makes me want to blog. I imagine them smiling at my blog, and then blogging, and me smiling at their blogs, and then blogging, and the cycle goes on.. that’s one cycle that I can totally live with. By the way, did you hear the news? Prepositions were NEVER words you couldn’t end sentences with. That, apparently, was all a bunch of malarkey from the get-go (see interview with Patricia T. O’Conner, author of Woe is I). Anyway, cycles I enjoy are deafeningly eclipsed by cycles I hate. I would make a list, but I have to go pick Adam up from work. 🕑
I’m back, and in a horrible mood. Why? Because my bootstraps got stuck in the wet cement of this shit town, Iowa City. I’m sitting here, in my “home office” (in quotes because I didn’t do a lick of work yesterday or today, and often spend hours procrastinating in here when I should be so grateful for it and working whenever I’m in here), listening to teenagers getting drunk and throwing beanbags at my window. There’s a sports game happening in a few hours at the stadium next door, and all of the black-and-yellow youth have congregated in my front yard to drink their Coors Light and Michelob Ultra out of black-and-yellow cozies and play yelling games. Gawd, they can yell. Their music (horrible, nasty, croaking, sleazy modern country music) isn’t even that loud, why are they yelling?? Anyway. These kids always put me in a bad mood. They’re so damn oblivious. Happy. Dumb as rocks. I know, I know, I’m really letting my nasty-flag fly high.. I’m sorry. I don’t want to be so disgusted with happy people. In fact, I feel pretty sure it’s all misplaced rage. I’m actually disgusted by my own lack of motivation and self-will.
I’ve been thinking about starting a group/program/app/thing that pairs up creative strangers, and gives them a kind of regimented accountability check-in that they are required to participate in with each other, if they want to stay in the program. They would each have their own individual creative goals, strengths, and experiences to bring to the table – but together, they would be joining forces for the sole purpose of defeating creative stagnancy.
— INTERJECTION — THE MOTHERFUCKING PRICKS HAVE SET UP A FUCKING BOOMBOX RIGHT-THE-FUCK-OUTSIDE MY FUCKING WINDOW. Oh my fucking god. Okay. I have three options: 1) Walk outside, smile passive-aggressively at perpetrator (as long as it’s not my landlady) and say, “Hi! I’m actually working right inside here, can you please move your [MOTHERFUCKING] boombox somewhere else?” and immediately walk back inside and die from guilt, 2) Put earplugs in and murder everyone in my mind, or 3) Leave. 🕒 🕞 THEY MOVED IT. PRAISE BE TO GOD IN HEAVEN, HALLELUJAH, ARRIVEDERCI. End interjection.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this for a while – one reason I’ve been thinking more about it now is that I need it now, more than ever, being a full-time, self-supporting freelance artist. Another reason is that I had a pretty lousy experience this Summer with a slipshod and pretentious startup (“accelerator program”) that promised me all of the things I was looking for – community, accountability, structure, accessibility, mentorship, connections, encouragement/feedback, and creative stimulation and turned out to be almost the exact opposite of every one of those things. A real bummer, because I spent quite a bit of money, time, and energy to be a part of it. Lesson learned.
Ever since my first [open] AA meeting (I dated a recovering alcoholic for a while), I’ve loved the structure of their groups, their meetings, and the accountability built into the program. The 12-Step model is a beautiful thing. I feel like it works so well because it’s like a self-winding watch – the momentum of life keeps the mechanism moving, which in turn keeps the timepiece accurate. In fact, AA has a slogan for that, “It works if you work it [mumblegroan: but ya gotta workit every day].” Why do I remember every single AA slogan? Because they’re on point, cheesy, and most importantly, simple af.
Anyway – I’m rambling now, but I think I’m going to do this. Next subject..
Time has passed. An entire day. I’m back at the ol’ compy again. Adam’s at work, I have another opportunity to work. I actually put a lot of time into one job yesterday, it turned out to be a salvageable day. But today.. well, I keep having melt-downs! I know I need a friend base, someone to talk to besides Adam.. it’s hard to give up this awesome alone time though. I don’t realize it’s bad for me until it’s too late usually. Poor Adam. Being alone, for me, is like floating in a sensory deprivation tank; I don’t feel anything, I don’t have any real emotions, I could just stay there forever. It’s only when I get back around things and start bumping into them and hurting myself that I.. well, that I start to feel pain, I guess. I guess that’s why I was so good at being single – no one was allowed in my closet-ful of skeletons. Not even me.
Anyway.. I did have a melt-down this morning. It was embarrassing. I kind of doubt I’m going to post this, so I’ll just dive in and get all the gory details out of my system. Basically what it boiled down to was that I wanted something. Let’s just call it “attention.” I always want “attention,” It’s probably unhealthy. I won’t go talking about Adam behind his back, but suffice it to say, he wasn’t meeting me halfway. So, sick and terrified little me decided the best course of action would be to pitch a passive-aggressive fit. This never works! Why do I keep trying it?? It literally, never works. In fact, it’s probably the reason our marriage is breaking up. Just kidding, our marriage is not breaking up. But he doesn’t give me the “attention” he used to, so it might as well be!
SIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGHHHHH. I’m such an idiot. Such. An. Idiot. I KNOWWWWW how it works, guys, and it’s called A Paradox. You’ve got be self-sufficient and not expect anything from anybody, so that when you give somebody the kind of attention you know they want, they will return the favor. You aren’t expecting something for nothing, you’re actually more like buying attention by giving it. And if they don’t return the favor? Well, that, my friend, is called domestic abuse, and it’s disgusting. But hey, it’s all one big crap shoot anywho, amiright or amiright or amiright?
Anywho.. my home office keeps getting whiffs of sewage smell. It’s so gross. I picked up some cheap incense the other day (we’re not allowed to burn candles, did I mention?), and it smelled really good in the package! But then when I lit one, it smelled like a reeeeeally delicious American Spirit cigarette. Which – if I’m being perfectly honest – I feel like I need more than a happy marriage, faith in Christ, nourishment, community, and basically anything known to sustain life in our world. Soo.. not burning that anymore. Sewage smell will have to do for now.
Going back to conflict resolution though, I think I need to flesh something out. Wait – is it “flesh” or “flush?” Oh, I feel certain now that I’m saying it that it’s definitely “flesh,” but WHY? What the fuck does that mean? Hang on. AH-HAH! Flesh out is like fill out, like, “her figure really filled out after she got married.” Merriam-Webster says, “Think of fleshing out a skeleton. To flesh out something is to give it substance, or to make it fuller or more nearly complete.” Cool. Okay, so I need to flesh out this frustration that I have regarding conflict resolution.
First, I’ll confess something. After an 8-hour-long neuro-psychiatric (?) examination/evaluation back in Albuquerque, I was diagnosed with a few things – the biggest and best being chronic PTSD, from prolonged acute childhood neglect and emotional abuse. If you’re like most people, that makes you think of horrible things, things much, much, much worse than I’ve ever experienced. So don’t write me off as a whiney baby just because they don’t have a better name for what I got. Anyway, I don’t want to go into great detail about the diagnosis, but it’s relevant to this issue of conflict resolution I want to flesh out, so I’ll touch on it.
Memory: argument between myself and sibling, enter parent. Parent demands “no fighting, apologize for exactly what you did.” I do not understand 1) why no fighting, 2) why parent so disturbed, 3) what I should apologize for, 4) why I should apologize, 5) why I feel unbearably angry at parent, 6) how I should respond in truth – because I’m not sorry, there is a serious (to me) conflict going on, and I want resolution that makes sense! So what do I do? (This is one of an uncountable number of similar memories, by the way.) I spit out a venomous apology to sibling, and as soon as parent’s back is turned, I stick out my tongue at sibling – sibling cries out for parent, parent returns and Carla gets spanked.
(From this episode: Ned Flanders was an angry kid, so the docs implemented the University of Minnesota Spankalogical Protocol on his ass. “The only problem with this treatment was that it worked too well! You became unable to express any anger at all! From that time on, any time you felt angry, you could only respond in a string of nonsensical jabbering!”)
This young exchange aged into a predictable cyclic pattern. My last spanking was when I was sixteen years old, and it was for – you guessed it – having a bad attitude. Because what else can I have, when I’m not allowed to disagree and express emotion at the same time? Negative feelings were punished in the house I grew up in. Parents were terrified of conflict, so much so, that they attempted to smother it wherever it arose. I don’t know how much sense I’m making right now, but this is an incredibly significant ingredient in my psychological makeup today.
When a conflict arises between Adam and me, I still have an insatiable desire to figure it out. I feel like it’s part of my DNA, that I firmly believe contradictions do not exist. The limitations of my understanding are obviously going to keep me from solving the big puzzles that humanity’s always struggled with, but I do believe that it all could make sense, and hopefully will one day. Disagreements are fundamentally exciting to me, because of the challenge and the puzzle, because of the unknown becoming known, and because true understanding brings us closer together. I mean, have you ever had an experience where you were in heated and uncomfortable conflict with another person, and eventually brought to realize that you were in agreement regarding the foundational aspects of your conflict the entire time? Didn’t that create a bond between you? That’s the bond I live for.
That being said, when a conflict arises between Adam and me, even though I do have that desire to figure it out, my automatic reaction to the conflict is BIZARRE. No kidding, it actually feels like half my brain shuts down. Not joking, not exaggerating. It feels like I revert back to six-year-old Carla who’s not allowed to disagree, and should be ashamed and punished for causing discord. Obviously, now as then, even if I act according to the guilt/shame complex I adopted, my true self revolts internally, and what happens inside my brain is.. well, I have a lot of problems.
Anyway, so let me boil it down: I have a learned reaction to conflict, which was engrained in me over decades of detrimental life-training, and I do have a natural response to conflict, which – thank fucking God – hasn’t disappeared or atrophied completely, despite years of stifling it.
But the questions remains, what am I going to do now? How can I repair all the damage I’ve inherited? The answer is simple.
I mean, unfortunately, I think the obvious answer is – a lifetime of very, very difficult work. Ha. Great news. Sigh. I wish it were as easy as just quitting something cold-turkey and replacing the bad habit with a good one. I’m pretty good at that, so far.. I wonder if it’s possible for this kind of thing though, even on a small scale.
Seems to me, there’s a neural pathway in my brain that needs to be decommissioned – let’s call it Route 666, and my job is to reroute that heavy traffic flow. (This is fun.) So the first step is to identify at exactly what point Route 666 begins. When we know that, we can ready the blockade and plot out the course of the reroute. What exit should traffic take, and what highway will pick it up? Should traffic come to a complete stop before merging onto the new route, or will there be a designated on-ramp lane? Is this road capable of handling the anticipated flow, or does it need to be repaved, reinforced, lighted, or widened for accommodation? Where does it lead?
Once all of these details have been sorted out, the next step is implementation. So we should set up the blockade on a low-traffic day and monitor the course closely for accidents, congestion, wayward vehicles, and of course successful arrival. It might even be a good idea to do a test run with an emergency vehicle, to get a feel of the new course, but also be ready just in case something goes wrong. Once traffic is flowing, the only thing to do is just make sure the blockade is secure and the new pathway is up to snuff. Hell, maybe we could even plant some flowers along the new highway. Incentive, right?
Man, that was fun. Maybe I’ll turn that into a book. This blog is hereby copyrighted material. Thou Shalt Not Steal It.
A’right, so let’s flesh it out a tad more, shall we?
Route 666 is a learned neural pathway characterized by violent, defensive behavior that diverges from Sherlock Holmes Parkway (problem solving) via Memory Lane (the point where memories and/or emotions arise, usually caused by events in which similar things occur). Since its inception, Route 666 has become the preferred course for all traffic traveling along the SHP at Memory Lane. Because of this divergence, Memory Lane has become overgrown and neglected past the exit for Route 666. My mission, should I choose to accept it, is:
- To prepare Memory Lane for traffic flow,
- To procure a vigilant escort for passage on and off Memory Lane, and
- To block Memory Lane’s access to Route 666.
Seems fairly straightforward. What does this actually look like though? Well, I think, first of all, that preparing myself to actually have these memories and feel the feelings they bring is going to look a lot like just general self care (do what’s good for me, ignore invitations to engage dangerous people for the time being). My escort into and out of the fog and feels of Memoryville has to be God, Himself. What that means to me is creatively reminding myself to open my heart, listen, be honest, meditate/pray, engage gentleness and mercy, and deflect any attachment but Love. This is so hard, but I think putting it out there (here) is good. It’s definitely possible. And blocking the way onto Route 666 – what’s that going to look like?
A significant amount of time has passed and I don’t feel like re-reading what I’ve written to make sure it’s palatable to my blog’s audience. I wanted to share a fun little story before I posted this, but I think I’m just going to publish this one now, and post the story another time.