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#451462 - 10/27/13 05:41 PM Old Woman
mattheal Offline

Registered: 06/10/12
Posts: 142
Loc: Ohio
I canít get the old woman out of my head.

Iíve always admired those writers who can transport their readers to another place with words. I am grateful to them for helping me escape; however briefly. Maybe they are part of the answer of how I got by. I wish I could write like them. I canít even tell you what she looked like, what she was wearing, or even where I was. The doctors tell me memory problems are normal with my condition. Normal should be a comforting word and it feels really out of place in this context.

It was three days ago, and I think it was a store, but I am not really sure. I had held the door open for someone else, and continued to do so for the old woman, even though it took her some time to reach the door. I wonder if other people would have even noticed her. I think there was enough distance between her and the door that it would have been socially acceptable for me to let it close. I wonder why others would want to hold the door.

I canít remember her exact words, but I know she thanked me and then said my mother raised me right. A comment I should have let slide, but I told her that she didnít and that kindness was all me. I wonder if it came out of my mouth so quickly because somethingís are so true that you donít have to think of them, or if it was part of those other reflexes, the ones I am trying to change. The look she gave me made me wish I hadnít said anything.

She was trying to paying me a compliment, and instead of saying thank you, my response just made it clear that I am damaged. Part of me felt slightly empowered by what I said at the time, but it was fleeting. Itís always the same. A stranger with a walk-on part in my day says or does something, and I respond by saying or doing the wrong thing. It happens quickly and leaves me feeling bad for days.

It was a trigger. Nothing more than a programmed response that helped me survives childhood but hold me hostage as an adult. I am really making an effort to identify what triggers the reflexes. I do know that every day someone could come by, hit my knee, my leg will jerk, and I will not even know it happened? I donít know what triggers these muscles or how many I have. I rely on others to help me this figure it out. Those conversations are exhausting. I wonder if being able to see these things on my own is what they mean when they talk about healing.

Thatís been my goal since last February, but I am not sure what it means. Other people say I have made a progress, and I think I have, but I am not sure where I am heading a lot of times. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, and while I understand it, my first thought is that he probably had a rough life. I think itís a lot like going to the doctor, few people go when they are well, but most only go if they are sick. I canít imagine happy people getting caught in the vortex: searching their past in order to find someone to blame for their happiness, or struggling to decide what they can or cannot change about themselves. Happy people just focus on being happy. Maybe that is what healing means.

Life forced me to examine it, and I would be lying if I said I was not jealous of people who donít have to. I wonder if holding the door was just my way of saying I can be good despite my mother and my childhood. I should have seen the message in her words Ė thank you, you have good manners. But something contracted and all she heard was ďI am damagedĒ.

I know she had gray hair.
It's okay to find the faith to saunter forward
With no fear of shadows spreading where you stand
And you'll breathe easier just knowing
that the worst is all behind you
And the waves that tossed the raft all night
have set you on dry land
- The Mountain Goats - "Never Quite Free"

#451473 - 10/27/13 07:43 PM Re: Old Woman [Re: mattheal]
nomorevic Offline

Registered: 11/19/12
Posts: 41
Loc: North Carolina
Hey Matt.

Unfortunately, I can relate to your experience and feelings. I wish I had some enlightening words of wisdom to offer on the subject. For me, I have been noticing my triggers and working with my therapist to come up with quick, short, and inoffensive responses. It has been my experience that people take it as as sign of disrespect to call a spade a spade when it relates to parents. I don't think you said anything that wasn't accurate and I hope you can forgive yourself for not handling the situation the way you would have liked.

Kind regards,

#451480 - 10/27/13 08:44 PM Re: Old Woman [Re: mattheal]
dark empathy Offline

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 2551
Loc: durham, north england
Well Mat while my story and my triggers are different to yours, I very much recognize the feeling. It's as if so many innocuous, even good objects are charged with electricity, you can be fine, then you go to do something completely innocuous like pick up a cup of coffee and bzzzzt! suddenly your in pain and hurt and shocked right out of the blue!

It's still worse when it comes in form of a complement and the person didn't mean it.

For me, it's blatant talk about s/x and about relationships that does it. Someone will talk about dating, make a riskay comment, use the s word in conversation and bzzzt! It's like you said a reflex.

Still worse when it comes in form of a complement since then it feels like I have to swallow my tongue and force myself not to react, like a couple of weeks ago when a woman I'd not seen for several years, an old family friend who used to drive me to school as a child said to me "Oh your such a handsom man, I'm surprised your not married by now"

God! I'm sure she meant it kindly but ---- well ouch!

I won't say it gets better because frankly it doesn't, indeed I'm fairly certain now that short of rewiring my hole nervous system or finding a relationship to give me an entire new set of associations, (practically impossible), I'm stuck with genophobia and all those knee jerk reactions.

The thing I will say is that as you said, knowing yourself can help. Where as i used to physically flinch if someone mentioned s/x, now I can zone out, I can make myself cold so that it doesn't affect me, (this is how I get through books and films that mention it). I will also say I've got to a point now of knowing the pain as mine, of saying, "I know what this is, I understand it, but I'm not going to let it affect me" Indeed these days I will actually tell people if I flinch at a mention of s/x, ---- "sorry I'm genophobic" It's just something I have to live with, and I know I can.

Regarding socrates and happiness, I freely admit being jealous of the happy people is difficult, especially! when said happy people throw a hissythit over something miner and turn a stubbed toe into a crisis.

One thing I'm realizing though, is that a lot of peoplle's happiness can be very miner emotions, ---- not all, it's certainly not fair to say all people who are happy are only minerly happy, however I have noticed that for every person who can truly! enjoy an experience there are people who convince themselves that they want something just to fit in with a group, or simply wander around the world in a daze saying everything is "nice" this is what Socrates meant by the unexamined life.

Interestingly enough as a philosophy graduate I've studdied both Socrates and the subject of happiness (ironically my undergraduate disertation was on happiness.

I find it interesting thinking about Socrates words, that Socrates himself basically saw his business as being a professional nusance! He wandered around Athins, asking people inconvenient questions. he asked the generals what the nature of courage was, asked the preiests what the nature of goodness (or piety), was, asked the great polititians what the nature of freedom was etc. He made himself so much of a pest that the people of Athins basically all voted that he should drink hemlock, since they were so irritated by his constant questions. He once described himself as a gad fly and the established rule of Athins like a fat and lazy horse that the fly was stinging into motion.

So, taking this into account I do actually wonder if Socrates meant! people to be disturbed by it, to confront the bad things about themselves, and move forward through it, and whether so many people (perhaps not all but a good many), who are happy are just complacent.

I'm not saying the end justifies the abuse experience or all the pain and darkness and fear and striving of recovery, but I do wonder if the eventual goal is that something more! can come out of it than would've been there if we'd simply gone through the world saying "nice! nice! nice!" as so many people seem to do, indeed part of me also wonders is whether those who do! end up fully happy have done a similar amount of self examination, abuse or not, since certainly those of my friends who I most emvy for having the sort of things in their life and the sort of experiences I'd want are the people who know most about themselves, albeit that knolidge didn't come at the same cost as mine has.

To get back to your old woman, whatever else you can say about yourself your the sort of person who takes time for others, and others appreciate that, ---- and it's remarkable how few people in the world have that ability.

#451499 - 10/28/13 12:00 AM Re: Old Woman [Re: mattheal]
traveler Offline

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 4133
Loc: resettling in NE Ohio
well, Matt, i'd have probly handled it differently - but not better. i most likely would have just smiled pleasantly and nodded - and inwardly my stomach would have knotted up and i would start seething and thinking of all the things i wish i would have said - but didn't have the guts to actually say. and then i would have kicked myself for the next few days for being such a wimp and letting the CSA affect me so much and turning me into a doormat.

so - bottom line - not that much difference!
"My experience has shown me that I all too often tend to deny that which lies behind, but as I still believe, that which is denied cannot be healed." Brennan Manning, "All is Grace - A Ragamuffin Memoir"

#451629 - 10/28/13 08:12 PM Re: Old Woman [Re: mattheal]
ratfish1207 Offline

Registered: 10/22/13
Posts: 4
Loc: Texas
I did not perceive your comment to the old woman as confrontation, discounting, or divisive. I found it to be an honest statement and an indication that you are taking responsibility for your kindness. I am sure that the old woman was caught 'off guard' (kind of like a person saying "Fine thanks" to a person asking "What's up" rather than the customary "Not much," which is expected) to your unconventional response, but I find your assumption of her automatically identifying you as "damaged" as particularly concerning. The old woman cast a statement that is an overgeneralization--we only learn kindness and respect from our mothers, not from our moral development and desire to be kind to others. I, too, had a harsh, critical, demoralizing, emotionally-castrating mother (think Norman Bate's mother on steroids--I honestly thought that it would take a wooden stake through her hear to kill her and friend's of mine who are psychologists described her as 'soulless'). Her upbringing, combined with my history of being raped by three adolescent males when I was in the sixth grade, resulted in chronic feelings of worthlessness, guilt, helplessness, and an automatic assumption of guilt for all of the world's woes;, and then set the stage for a pattern of repeated victimization and further demoralization of myself as a person. Those are the FALSE beliefs. I have never been as surrounded by as many compassionate, caring, kind individuals as I was during our recent WoR weekend. While I am conditioned to automatically distrust the comments of others, I now find that my perception of myself is the minority (only myself believes what I say about myself)--what others told me, the perceptions of those around me, were, in fact, reality. I trust the opinions of those I met that weekend. There was not pretext, no bias, no underlying motives. I realize now that my self-perception and my automatic assumptions are faulty, and THESE are the issues that I need to address. I had very little one-to-one interaction with you over the weekend, but my impressions of you were that you are intelligent, funny, sarcastic, compassionate, nonjudgmental, and caring. Those are characteristics that I find are somewhat scarce with the people I meet in the street--and highly regarded my another person who has similar characteristics. Your unconventional response to the old woman merely resulted in a somewhat surprised reaction from the old woman, like me saying "I feel like shit" to a person asking "How are you?" Your automatic response to her reaction needs to be updated, because you are none of those things that you automatically assume.

Andrew (from Texas)


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