Last week I had an insightful conversation with a friend at ballet. She and I have very similar backgrounds. Abusive childhoods (her father was an alcoholic) followed by unwittingly ending up married to the same (my ex is totally both my parents combined). In the course of that conversation she said something that opened my eyes to what has been going on with me the past two weeks. She said that after her husband died, she found herself trying to re-create the chaos.
I hadn’t told her that for two weeks I had thought I might be going nuts because I was doing the same things my husband has done, namely ignoring what needs to be done. I had received some paperwork from the lawyer, I barely glanced at it. I had a phone call to make to a creditor, I simply couldn’t do it and waited for them to call me again. I hated myself. I feared I was turning into him after all these years. But when she said she had tried to re-create the chaos, it clicked. That’s what I was trying to do. It’s as if my mind knew nothing else and, when faced with a trigger (and I have a whole lot of triggers right now) it went back to what it knew. The house was a mess (not that it’s ever going to be perfect but seriously, get the dishes done each day and clean the bathroom will you?), I didn’t do any yard work, I couldn’t take care of the things I needed to do. That voice came back, the one that told me for 21 years that I couldn’t leave him because I was no better than him.
I’ve heard this before, read it in psychological journals back when I was in college over twenty years ago. Children of abuse often do this. I did this with my own kids (though I justified it with “Well, at least I’m not as bad as my parents.”). And for two weeks I was doing it again.
Change is hard. Once the mind is wired a certain way it wants to stay that way. It’s a really lazy thing. It takes determination, and, in the case of someone who has lived in abuse their whole life, a lot longer than the thirty days they say to create a new habit. It isn’t something about which I can be slack. I can’t think, Oh well, it’s not that big a deal. Because once I do, then the laziness of mind sets in, followed by the laziness of everything else.
When I was looking for a graphic for this entry I found this Socrates quote you see above. I also found this deep thought by John Wayne (who is my fave, ever).
An oversimplification, on the surface. But one has to be smart about change, one can’t just expect it to happen.
It’s like seeking God. You can’t just show up at church on Sunday, observe, and expect to become spiritual. It might happen like that once, but if we just go about our lives with no intent or interest in God, we aren’t really going to see him. I’ve noticed that if I spend the day looking for ways God works, I find them easily. If I forget, when we come together at the end of the day, I can’t recall a thing.
I must diligently work toward the future, toward the betterment of myself and my kids, not just trying to fight what was, or even, as I am prone to do, create what “should have been.” I have to create what will be, what should be, what can be. I can’t do it in the context of what I am supposedly fighting against because, in the end, I am really just fighting against my own mind, my own thoughts, the way I was trained from infancy to react. That foundation must be razed and utterly destroyed. I can’t build anything good on it because it’s rotten to the core. I must start, as difficult as it is, from the foundation up and build something completely different from what “should have been,” into what can be.