Diapers and Dragons

Friday, January 21, 2011

Inner Child

I was, by all accounts, a bright, outgoing, bouncy, extroverted child. I was the chubby-cheeked darling who toddled up to another child, whom I had never seen before in my life, in some European airport and flung my arms around him as though he were my long-lost bff. I was bright-eyed and adventurous, making friends left and right with people young and old.

It changed around age four or five. It all blurs in my memory. The timeline fuzzes over and I can't remember whether certain things happened before or after or during kindergarten. I don't know which events slammed me first and set me up for others. I don't know when the walls started going up, or how fast I built them, or all the reasons why.

My therapist wants me to create the timeline. She wants me to through it in my mind, step by step. She also wants me to find out what else might have been going on in those years, aspects of my environment that may have had more impact on me than I know: the sort of things that would be internalized by a bright, emotionally sensitive child and become a part of her without anyone ever dreaming she even noticed.

What is it, she asks, that convinced you so long ago that you would never be good enough?

I don't know how much I can dig. I'm aware of certain elements, and facing those are hard enough. I'm not sure whether I even want to know what else might have been going on, what else might have happened. What I do know is that when I think back to those years, I'm swept away by a wave of grief and anxiety.

I've been talking a lot to my closest friends lately about the nature of my relationships. It's anything but coincidence that I do not have a close girlfriend who lives close enough to be a part of my daily life. I have a couple who live within driving distance, but such is the nature of life and metropolitan suburbia that we rarely see each other and mostly settle for chatting on the phone.

The three girlfriends who are currently my most intimate friends? The closest lives an hour away--forty-five minutes if there aren't cops around--and the other two lives states away. One I've only seen face to face once in our friendship. The other I haven't seen in fifteen years.

It's safer that way, you see. Let someone be intimately close AND be a part of your daily life and the emotional risk becomes too great. If something goes awry in the friendship or someone moves, there's a deeper loss. And even then, be careful what you say. Be careful just how much of your naked, raw, and oh-so-tender inner self you let anyone see. Keep everyone at an arm's length, for protection.

MTL is the first person I've let all the way in.

I knew it would be a risk. I knew that if I was going to let him in at all, it would have to be all the way. All or nothing. He wasn't going to settle for less. And deep down, I didn't want to either.

I didn't know how much of a risk it would be. I didn't know how unprepared I am, from a lifetime of walls and numbing myself down and disconnecting myself emotionally, for both the joy and the pain. Because it turns out that when you love someone enough to let them all the way in, everything becomes brighter and stronger and sharper. It means when I hurt him and he hurts me, whether intentional or otherwise, the pain is agony. It also means that the joy is bigger and deeper. Thankfully, the joy far outweighs the pain and is far more common, but...


Here's where I'm flung back to that five year old self. Here's where I sit and realize that deep down, despite everything, I still don't believe I'm deserving of love and joy. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I keep waiting for him to wake up one day, realize that I'm not worth it, and walk away.

Because deep down that little girl is huddled in a corner, whispering that everyone leaves. And they leave because that is what she deserves.

I don't know how to talk to her. I don't know how to face her pain. I don't even know all the reasons she's there.


"little girl"

little girl
sit quiet in your corner
veiled in plain sight
shield yourself from
who might see what's there inside
know what's inside

little girl
put on all that armor
fend off every look
protect yourself from
that might break through to your heart
might break your heart

it's pain that teaches you to hide
fear that teaches you to run
never reaching out
never reaching in
always in flight from the unknown
that which you can't control

little girl
who tore out your heart so long ago
and told you you'd never be enough
for this world
who made you crawl into
the walls of your own mind
the armor of your own skin
the shield of invisibility
for those without the will to see
and they never get to know

this little girl
little girl
with a heart full of possibilities

and now you're grown
and still hiding
still building walls
and donning armor
only allowing those you choose
to climb over
and behind
and into your world
little girl
with a heart full of pain

9 bits of love:

kyouell said...

I came from your comment on Mommy Wants Vodka. I totally get you. I just haven't been able to write about it. I'm not even brave enough to find a therapist. Oh, there's more, but I'm afraid to put it online where family could potentially see it. Just wanted you to know someone out there has a little girl inside that is very similar.

The Allen Family said...

Another little girl here who completely identifies with what you're saying. I've been to therapy and I know why I sit in the corner, but that alone doesn't help. I have to constantly fight to be open and vulnerable in my relationship with my husband. I finally feel safe enough after almost 12 years of marriage to let him see the real me and try to work this stuff through. Cheering you on as you continue to work through.

Kathleen said...

I think maybe yours goes a little deeper than just this trite explanation, but I do know that some of it stems from all of the people that did leave in our lives. There were always goodbyes. So many. So often. I find that MKs, when they come back here, go 1 of 2 routes: they either cling so tightly to relationships they smother, or they push people to at least a couple arm distances away. For the smotherer, she is so afraid the people she loves will leave, she thinks if she keeps them CLOSE that will be prevented. For the pusher-awayer, why even bother with relationships when they will just end anyway?

Draft Queen said...

I love you. I get this and I get how hard it is for you.

After all, there is a reason the first man I ever told I loved lived 3000 miles away. (He's a douche, but that's totally not the point. I set myself up for that; I'm masochistic that way.)

GingerB said...

You know I love it when you post your poetry - even your most raw emotions touch me in a most beautiful way.

I had to break this comment up - it was rejected for length: Hi honey! I get you too, although it manifests for me in different ways - I dump my partners in the blink of an eye without working through it. I don't think I consciously think they are not good enough for me but I am happy to remove them from my life if things don't feel healthy, perhaps faster than I should, or I wouldn't have had ten "serious" boyfriends. My husband has been my longest standing partner (thinking about getting rid of him too, but you know, those darn kids and all) But I do know about that inner child who is full of pain. I think I know my timeline - when I was about six my mom became a born again Christian. All her kids could read and were potty trained and I think she thought we'd just raise ourselves by reading, as she sort of had (but she grew up in a house with a maid). Like Aunt Becky's story, you can see me go from cared for to rats in my hair and dirty stained clothes. Because we were smart it was easy to slide by in school, and eventually my sister combed my hair and repaired holes in my clothes, but by eleven each of us kids began smoking pot, sluffing school, and begging for attention that we never got. Now, my sister got the attention when she had an unplanned pregnancy at 17 and my brother got it whenever he got put in detention and I just pretended I was all grown up and moved in with my boyfriend when I was 14. But I remember coming home from elementary school to an empty house because my mother was at prayer groups after her part time job, and every weekend was filled with their oblgations to various groups. We didn't do music or dance or sports or anything that cost money, no parental involvement (except my Dad would take me to the free county softball league, and he did attend every game, silently) but my mom just was emotionally unavailable. I know she was depressed when she was widowed, but when she remarried (and it has lasted 38 years) and found Jesus you'd think she'd be joyful and that would show in her parenting. But no. She always felt not good enough I guess, and she tried to fix it by focusing on religion and her relationships outside the family and there we were wanting someone to notice who are friends were or guide us in developing life skills or just do things together. Everything I know about getting along with people really did come from the books I read and my own experiences but I think I could have benefitted quite a lot from some motherly guidance. This lack of focus went on to aulthood - the first time I had to go into a hospital she wanted to bring me flowers but had to ask me what I liked, she forgot I had psoriasis at age 11 and had to take the bus across town five days a week by myself for the treatments (enormous impact on me and apparently no memory for her, OUCH!) and actually she didn't remember that I had childhood asthma. I am sort of baffled by how disconnected she could be, because I find my kids quite fascinating even if they are exhausting and all of that. We don't have horrible endings - my sister and I are pretty successful and she did a great job as a single mom and the experiece propelled her to get a great education so she could provide well for her child. My brother is an unemplyed bipolar genius, but I guess 2 out of 3 ain't bad, and being bipolar, more involvement may not have helped him, no way to know that answer.

MomZombie said...

Well done, TeacherMommy. You've captured the essence of the greatest obstacle of my life, too. I don't think I ever had a "before" though, at least not one I can recall.

GingerB said...

part 2:
But what I want to suggest to you and your readers is that coming out of an intact family won't save you, or a religious family, or whatever. Childhood is freakin' perilous! You deserve to have the chance to figure it out, so you can heal as best you can and do better by your own children. I hope you can find the thread of memories that you need, and that you find healing in your quest. And you are not alone as an emotionally scarred little girl - I actually only know two women who don't appear to have been seriously wounded by their childhood. Just two, out of all the dozens of women I've known quite well, and I've had quite a large group of friends I would say I know well enough to hear these innermost secrets. Most women I know make relationships based on past bad patterns or a wounded sense of self and it is the exception rather than the rule to beat that pattern and choose your path with an open heart. I'm sending you hugs. I wish you didn't have to feel so fragile but I applaud you for the strength you have to go through this proceess - I never have yet although I've thought about it a lot with the counsel of my close friends and my sister, but to actually do the work you are doing - hey, I am too busy, just like my Mom was! (laughs bitterly) And now I am taking my girls to dance class and not addressing my inner wounds. Take care, strong girl!

Betty Herbert said...

The commenters above say it all. Your therapist sounds like a hard taskmaster, but I'm sure it's a really valuable project. It's possible, of course, that you won't find one, easily-identifiable event, but more than that, is sounds like you've already done the biggest part of the work. Good luck with it, you're very brave. x

Heidi said...

I've got a little girl like that one too, but you know that.


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