To Something New, Something Strange

 

This strange winter has offered a lot of my favorite kind of days–the kind where the sun is blinding, an almost cold light, yet it warms the wooden floor beneath my socks, my large windows in this old house give me a 360 view of the white, bald landscape of glitter. The abandoned church across the intersection on my quiet avenue juts up white into the blue-cold sky. I can see it from here as I write. It was around 15 degrees this dotmorning when I walked to my appointment. And pushing the frozen steps and treads behind me, the familiar feeling I so love comes back to me, as it always does when I walk, which began and became a sort of meditation for me over a year agdot3o. My mind sort of starts to forget the temperature, and begins to notice the precision in icicles, the light coming up reflecting and drowning in the crystal, aligned perfectly yet different, on the silent porches I pass. The pines that overpopulate my little town are too frozen to feel the full weight of the mounds of snow on their branches, frozen in their bowing. And I watch for a few certain things: rhythm, juxtapositions, and the stunning mathematical symmetry–the geometry of nature. The perfectly aligned needles, the color they have faded to against the backdrop of a white wooden fence dulled by the season and weather, a whole other world of gray, and the skeletal branches of the burning bushes that line this one avenue like crayola brains, their branches now grayish brown and articulate and criss-crossing and of some design that is as old as the earth. The bird’s chorus, patterned to their chaos at that certain moment in morning. There is geometry all around us. And maybe it is just in this form or state of mind that I find it all so simple and yet sacred, there for anyone who sees it.

Once I hum along the streets to this rhythm of breathing and noticing and even pausing some times, that’s when my mind starts to open. And it occurred to me in a sort of unfolding a sort of truth I’ve known but never worded for something about the past couple years: I have been given a second chance–a second chance at giving this life a go, at becoming a woman from a new identity I held onto or dreamed up when all I was ended in that mental hospital, and kept leaving me for a year or two afterwards. It was death every day for a very long time. And this small part of me woke up every day and kept going, getting up every morning through the dark and then into the nothingness after the dark, and then into finding purpose, where I began making subconscious decisions as to what purpose I felt was mine–so many. I went from silence for over two years to a sort of coming to at the reflection of gray blowing branches in the puddle I moved around. How I had stopped and watched the sky reflect in it, and then I stared at the water itself and watched it stream down the avenue, and I heard it trickle into the gutter like a summer downpour Read More

Tripwire, Cigarette, Pencil

Tripwire, Cigarette, Pencil–in that order.

THE TRIPWIRE–TO TRICK AND CATCH ME, KEEP ME LOOKING, ALWAYS LOOKING WITH ALL OF MY SENSES, KEEPING THAT INTUITION SHARP AND PARANOID.

THE CIGARETTE–FOR ATTEMPTED ESCAPES, FOR GRANDIOSE TAIL-CHASING, ESCAPADES IN THE BIN, SMALL REWARDS FOR BAD SHORTCUTS, COMPRESSED AND REPRESSED PASSIONS, DIRTY GOODNESS AND SNEAKY REMORSE, THE ULTIMATE CURSE FOR ALL OF US THAT WRITE OR PAINT OR PLAY AND COMPOSE–BECAUSE WE DON’T CARE ABOUT OUR BALANCE IF IT’S GONNA TRIPWIRE THE PROCESS; BECAUSE WE KNOW WE WILL NEVER PERFECT THAT SONG, THOSE WORDS, THAT VISION, THAT SOUND IN OUR MINDS AND HANDS, PLAYING OUR BODIES AND ABUSING OUR MINDS THAT NEVER REST.

THE PENCIL–ALL I HAVE.

Reinvent Yourself Endlessly

Every time a professor asked me or my peers what my poems meant–I never quite knew how to answer. They’re comments led me around and around the center of how I always felt about it but couldn’t word,  I just acted like I already knew. That’s why it was written–those were the words to what it was, what the truth to me was. It’s not that I didn’t know but that my body or mind seems to piece things together with words and images before I can catch up. My first poem I ever wrote was Vapor in 2005. And I’ve held onto it. It’s even been published. That poem still holds true–it’s some kind of core belief I have but I didn’t have a rope down into that well to truly grasp it. I am writing to you guys tonight because this is happening again in a way–I don’t know what I am thinking until I write it down; I have to write to a someone, and I hold you guys with affection, because I am not willing to write to just myself. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my honest attempt to stop escaping myself. Because I try to be as honest as I can on nights like these. I’m so tired, but I can’t stop feeling words that are coming that I am trying to prepare for. I’m not eating, I’m not sleeping. This is what happens every time before something real is written, and I don’t know what it is but I know my fingers will type it out for me.

Everything I have written so far–planning my grand, tragic memoir–is/was really, I am realizing, a desperately structured narrative so I could validate it the events, find order in the chaos, and so I could actually feel for the girl in the story because I have a hard time doing that for myself. Or I did. That’s changing. I am changing, and everything I’ve written–none of it is going into whatever it is that I am compelled and pulled to write. What pulls at me has been pulling for almost a decade, but it’s even stronger now, the words waiting, because I have been watching it unfold and the words only gradually come.  Call those vignettes, that attempted narrative structure, a healing process, call it a coping mechanism, call it a perceived truth (as all truths seem to really be), it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because how I write it and how I remember it has been two different worlds. The memories and images, feelings (mostly physical, body feelings, frozen emotional states of the past, etc.) and events of course are as true to myself as I can be. But my life is not a linear, chronological tale-it is a history of flashes out of order. And the flashes are what I look to when I write, involving my one fail-safe–my senses and body memories. I’m more tied to the smell of lilacs, tractor oil, Old Spice, the weeds along the path to the baseball games I went to all summer when I was a girl, the milkweed, trains, the iron ore at the dock, old books, the perfume I wore when I was being abused, the feel of water and wet skin on me, physical alarms and instinct, than I am tied to actual happenings or events. And that is a blunt truth: dissociating your whole life–you live in fragments, just like how I remember it. And I have changed and do so constantly into something that makes me feel alive–and I never really felt alive before, not for this long of a period. I am in love with the simplest things like blue, deaf mornings in the winter, the way the telephone wires reflect in puddles, the smell of a storm coming, white seagulls on dark clouds Read More

Early a.m. Thoughts on Madness & Hunger

I have therapy today...ehh
I have therapy today…ehh

What is the difference between madness and hunger? Madness gives us something to hang our coats on, while hunger drives us.  Yes, that is it.

My sister had her palm read and the woman told her our father was caught in Limbo.  I can’t stop thinking about that this morning.  Not feeling it.  Just thinking it.

Back to Hunger and Madness.  The difference.  I haven’t quite got the “hunger” part of it yet.  Hunger is the tireless journey, the
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Falling Out and In

My relationship with my mother is a book in itself.  This is not a post about her or me but rather about the deep waters we get ourselves into in a desperate search for love.  All of us–my two sister, me, and my mother–desperate for love.  We fail to remember we can receive it from each other, well at least me and my mother.  You can read my poem about my mother HERE (Mama It Was Too Late) and another, HERE (70s Soundtrack).  OK, one more HERE (A Trauma Theory).  It was like so many moments, so many years, built up this moment here that happened a few weeks ago–asking my mother to validate me for her abandoning me when I was abused as a five-year-old but more-so when I was sixteen.  How she chose his side, chose to believe him over me.  I found myself pounding my fist on the table and screaming through tears “My life is fucked!! It’s FUCKED because of what you and “” did!”  After the screaming match and her denying everything, me storming out after her sarcastic apology, my sister stopped me and told us we had to once and for all, deal with this burden and talk it out.  (I was quite proud of her by the way).  My mother fell apart.  “I did the best I could! If that’s not enough for you I’m sorry but I did what I had to” (i’m summarizing).  I was so still and controlled suddenly.  “No,” I said, “It wasn’t enough.  Not for me.”  She said I hope I know what this feels like some day as a mother and I said that I wouldn’t because I would never abandon my Emma and side with her abuser.  Not a chance in hell.  She kept saying how she did her best or what she thought was best and that she was having trouble with her mental illnesses then (screaming at me like I should cut her slack for manic depression) and calmly, coolly, I said something I’d been waiting to say for years: “I don’t feel sorry for you.”  It bit at her, but she yelled “I don’t want your pity,” spitting words at me like I’m the problem, as if I’d always been the problem.  I think I’ll always be the problem.  I told her I wasn’t doing this to assign blame and hurt but that, as a part of my healing from C-PTSD and everything else, I needed validation for what I’d been through and how I’d reacted and for what I didn’t receive.  I wanted her to be there for me through this NOW and help me and try to understand what I’m going through instead of making it all about her.  “Everything is not about you, Amy!” and calmly again I said “Mom, for once, this is ALL ABOUT ME.  I’m the victim in this, not you.”  And she broke some more saying “I know, I know.”  I saw for the second time how fragile and weak she is.  I thought back to her decisions, her generation of marriage and children and abuse, her view on life, her 1970’s please-the-husband-children-come-last.  At least that’s my take.  This is the woman who, I think out of desperation, married my alcoholic biological father out of fear of being alone and unloved, always feeling like the ugly duckling, not believing in her beauty.  He was slow and a drinker.  What drew her to him?  Yet she was smart enough to leave him.  And foolish enough to marry the man that was after me from the beginning.  She was desperate.  For love.  Absolutely desperate, she was willing to sacrifice my well-being in order to maybe have more financial support and someone to “make her feel pretty” as she told me a few months ago.  Yeah, I wanted to say, he made me feel pretty too.  Ugh. I feel like she’s never known who she is, like she felt she wasn’t worth it.  Why?  Why is/was her self-esteem so low?  So non-existent?  (pause: my theme song is playing right now as I type: “Loser” by Beck, hehe).  I can’t help but feel like her spite for me is because I’m stronger.  I’ve always been stronger.  She knew I rebelled and hated me back then because I stood up for myself when “—” was sexually abusing me.  I wouldn’t have it.  Yet I was under her finger enough to promise I’d never tell anyone as she asked because I wanted her to love me.  I’ve always tried pleasing her and walked on egg shells and “made everything shine” for her and comforted her telling her what she wanted to hear because I wanted her to love me and have an ounce of respect for me.  “You wish I were dead don’t you?  Look at you!  Look at you!” she screamed as I stood there ever so calmly.  Her fears she tried transplanting on me.  She wanted them to be mine, like she wished it were true.  Why?  I said she was wrong, and that I loved her, and that all I ever wanted was to be worth it enough for her, worth saving, and I never was, and why not?  She couldn’t answer, it was too late for that answer.  She showed, didn’t tell.  I wasn’t worth it enough to save, to protect.  I was just a kid, an offspring.  I wasn’t supposed to have emotions that mattered, I wasn’t supposed to argue her values.  And if I did, shame on me.  She’s such a tough, mean, bitter shell on the outside and weak and scared inside, like a child.  And I’m trying to learn to not be so concerned about that child anymore.  She’s  a big girl.  She needs to face up to what she did and own it.  I’m not going to own her shit anymore.  And after this falling out or in, it became so much easier.  I was watching a woman so desperate for love all her life she was now angry and bitter, believing she has no choices to better her life, and she’s right back where she started as a young, weak breaking woman because she didn’t have the balls to grow up, to experience the other love in her life she was offered.  Love only meant men, as if they were the only creatures that mattered.  I don’t pity her anymore.  And she knows it.  And goddammit that feels fucking good.  A weight was definately lifted between the two of us, but there’s still so much ice in the air waiting and I don’t know why.  Maybe because I know I’ll never get what I need from her, and I’m not even sure what that is.  Love.  Worth.  Unconditional love.  She doesn’t have that for me.  Her love has conditions.  For me anyways.  I doubt she’ll ever read my essays and poetry about what I’m going through (as my sister told her to do if she wanted to have the courage enough to read it all to understand me–she said “would you read it if it were about you? and Jodie said Yeah it’s gonna hurt but she should read it if she wants to be there for me).  Yeah, she’d read it if I was worth it.  She’s so afraid of looking into the mirror, afraid enough to not put me first for once because that means facing the truth.  And living in lies is living a dead life.  I once told her when I write (she was upset because a post was somewhat about her) I told her I’m not gonna hide the truth, the truth in what happened is the reason I write, and I was in no mood for protecting her good name so it wouldn’t hurt her.  Believe me I’ve already censored myself plenty in order to protect her….from her.  My sisters and I have worked over-time protecting her from her.  She does good for a few years, and always falls apart, and we’re the ones picking up the pieces and raising her, trying to get her to believe in herself, to believe she has choices, and she hates us for it, shuns us, gets back on her feet, and is bitter.  We can’t really win.  We’re always waiting for the next shoe to drop.  Only we’re getting older.  We’re looking at our lives, and deciding for once that we matter too.  What do we have?  Fathers that left us, abused us, abandoned us, and a mother that toys with our heads and hearts but at least she never left us.  So what to do?  All we have is each other.  We have to make this work.  I have to find in myself my own mother (again) and accept who she is and what I get from her.  She’ll always think my intentions are evil for some reason, when all I ever wanted from her was to be loved unconditionally and be worthy.  I have to find my worth in myself, and that’s hard, a battle every day.

Talking with my mother now is not about me being in control of that situation.  It’s about being as honest as I can without totally losing compassion.  Back when I was being abused and she turned on me, she used to say “Amy you reap what you sow.”  Now I’m saying it to her in my head.  She’s reaping what she sowed.

PTSD thoughts…

…just a thought on labels and healing (perspective)  4-7-10

     It’s a tricky thing—this method of healing.  Because I don’t doubt my courage.  I was, like so many others, forced to be tough.  That stays with us as we grow—blossoming and mutating in ways at the same time.  But hey who says the mutations can’t be beautiful?  Just different.  Different perspectives.  I find myself not even having to muster up the courage because it’s within arm’s reach, as it always had to be.  The problem is how to use it?  These are times I may realize I need to just BE and FEEL.  But again, there are good times, and bad, horrible times.  And moments of pure bliss—small, yet ever more than enough, more than I can wrap my heart around.  I have chronic, severe PTSD and the episodes (flashbacks) and anxiety and dissociation quite consume me at certain times.  I was armed and ready and fighting—and then I realized I wasn’t going to win.  There’s no way.  And I think that’s because I’m not just being—I spend so much energy on the fight when I really need to learn to sit and feel, accept it and just be.  How hard it is for people with PTSD to “just be.”  How do you do it without slipping into dissociation I wonder?  But I’ll keep practicing, I’ll get it.  Rewire those thoughts, eh?  I have to have the courage to fight in a different way.  I need to redefine that word.  I need to use my courage to feel and be, to take a moment and love my thoughts and think outside my head and with my soul—stepping away from the disorder when it’s in full swing and to accept myself and be aware that what is happening is natural and not of me, but from something I would never allow to happen to me.  I will respect myself more when I struggle through the dark thoughts and emotions, and tell myself “this too shall pass.”  I’ve started to face the vacuum of my identity, and I feel it, then I try to build upon it, and create the woman that’s inside of me—after I love her up some.  Self-love has to stop being at the bottom of my list of things to do. 

     I feel it’s important that I say that I don’t (and maybe many of you don’t either, depending on your situation) feel like a victim.  That word is so empty to me.  I come from sexual, emotional, and physical abuse since the age of five, so to me—that was just the way it was.  I had nowhere to go and know way of knowing better except for one thing that kept me connected to by spirit: instinct.  I knew it was wrong and that it hurt and I didn’t like it, and I had the courage to stow away inside of myself to get free, because where else could I go?  I knew somehow that I was worth protecting—even then. I carry that with me.  No victim is not the word for me I feel.  Only “normal” “healthy” people see us as victims.  Victims seems to imply an attack on a mind and body already developed “correctly”, taught right from wrong.  I don’t know what word fits—we feel maybe like we’re selfless (or coreless), unidentified spirits with spirits that swell with such private beauty because we’ve seen the agony.  We’ve been burned, and so, we know.  We know what is dark and lost and hiding.  Imagine this though—we will one day blossom and be so striking—striking to ourselves in particular.  Doesn’t that feeling seem so far away?  How do we know our spirits will blossom?  It’s obvious.  The beauty inside has been hidden from us and we searched for it desperately within our own minds and bodies and souls, and we ventured (and continue to) into the fire, and we came out not innocent—but beautifully AWARE and incredibly okay.  We learn to be okay.  We survive and we fight.  We change our definition of “fight” and do it a different way, without the violence and the dichotomies.  We see ourselves.  We survive and we fight—because we had to train ourselves to do so.  We’re self-taught; we know our souls more intimately than anyone else I dare say.  Our souls shone through all the filth and dirt and tears.  Our souls guide us to purpose, and we keep getting up no matter how many times we fall.  We are an army–the most beautiful army in every sense, fighting through love just for a glimpse of ourselves.  We are not ever victims.  We have always been fighters, we have always been courageous.  Our instincts gave us courage.  And now we have to ease those instincts and love them and feel our way toward ourselves again.  My soul never left me—and that used to be my biggest fear.  My soul is bleeding out the infection.

Amy J Sprague