I went to Linda’s for a massage today, after I’d got over a couple of hours of anxiety about being seen practically naked. I’d spent the early morning preparing for the first person to see me naked in ages by showering, making sure I smelt nice (not that I don’t usually), washing my hair, shaving everything that Linda might possibly see or touch. I then spent an age over my hair, make up and choosing my clothes. You’d think I’d was going on a hot date not just showing off my semi naked body to a good friend.
Finally happy with how I looked, and thinking that if I look good on the outside layers then maybe Linda will remember that when I’m stood naked, vulnerable and wobbly in front of her, I stepped outside, straight into a downpour of rain! By the time I got to Linda’s I looked a wreck anyway. My efforts wasted.
At Linda’s it was fine. I remembered how my mind has a wonderful way of conjuring up bullshit in the form of fears but that when it comes to reality, almost all of the time, I’m fine, and I was. As any normal person does, I pointed out all my flaws then mentally berated myself for doing so, now, back in the confines of my home I’m glad I did. What I was really saying to Linda was, “I feel vulnerable and scared, please be gentle with me. I don’t feel that I am good enough or lovable because I’m covered in a layer of comfort eating crap that I don’t want to be covered in. Love me anyway. Love me more because I’m imperfect.”
I wouldn’t go so far as to say Linda loved me but she passed no judgement, she only gave acceptance of my body and of my vulnerability. That was all I needed to feel safe.
Linda began the massage and I felt my muscles click and shift before they began to relax. I put my faith and my trust in Linda and I let go with no preconceptions of what may happen or of what I wanted to happen. Afterwards, we went into the living room and chatted As we talked, we opened ourselves up more to each other in a way that you can’t standing in the playground surrounded by other parents and children. We talked a little of our childhoods, mine which was lacking in love, hers that was overflowing with it. We talked of our previous relationships; both of us having experienced abuse in one form or another and then something in my brain had a massive shift. I physically felt it in my head and then it reverberated through my body. We’ve both experienced abusive despite our childhoods being either end of the scale.
All this time I thought that the reason I’ve attracted men that didn’t treat me with love and respect was because my parents didn’t, and all the time I’ve been beating myself up for not doing the work on myself to heal this and to change so that I would attract a loving man into my life and then, in one fell swoop, I discover it’s bullshit. I’ve been unintentionally lying to myself all this time.
It was liberating.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re loved deeply as a child or whether we’re not, sometimes shit just fucking happens and it’s how we deal with it and how we think about ourselves afterwards that determines what happens next.
Linda met Colin next, they created a wonderful, loving relationship. I hopped from crap relationship to crap relationship reliving my pain over and over and over. I refused to let go. I allowed it to become my story and stay my story. Why? Why the fuck would I do that? It’s impacted on my happiness and my children’s happiness but it’s allowed my ego the room it wanted to grow and thrive, the same as I let my ego take over this morning when I became anxious about my body. It’s all bullshit.
When Linda talked about how she sometimes has to tell herself off for things, I told her about my loving parent, the parent I created back in March when I needed to heal, and I encouraged her to create her own ~ to speak to herself with kindness and love.
I realised I should have been doing the same this morning when I was worried about my nakedness.
When I came home I read a message from a friend who was upset that she’d gained weight, she described herself as fat and ugly. I gave her the message I could have given myself this morning:
“Sweetheart, you’re cocooning. This is a difficult stage. It’s a stage where we go in on ourselves, we get depressed, we beat ourselves up and we want to give up, on everything. Ride it out, just feel it. Feel whatever it is you’re feeling. If you’re feeling fat and ugly, feel fat and ugly. Get angry with it, cry over it, get depressed over it but just let the feelings happen. You have no motivation to change the outer because you’re being guided to stay right where you are at this moment to learn something deeper from it and you will if you can embrace these feelings instead of fighting against them. It’s time to start focusing on your inner beauty as much as the outer. Be gentle on yourself, you’ve done a LOT of inner work over the last year, a hell of a lot and you’ve come such a long way in a short space of time. This is just the next phase ~ it’s the cocoon phase. You’ve been the caterpillar, remind yourself what comes next but be patient and loving to yourself while the major inner changes happen. You will find the motivation you want, to achieve what you desire, one day. That day is not today. Just go with it and trust that it’s right for you, right now. Cry if that’s what your body is telling you it wants. It needs it, it’s cleansing and releasing and there will be secrets for you in the tears. This is a wonderful opportunity for self-discovery and growth, just try and go with it and not fight against it.” So why didn’t I become my own loving parent this morning? I got so wrapped up in my little girl lost that I couldn’t reach my parent. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing because what I did instead helped me see that when we point out our imperfections to people, when we really allow ourselves to be in a highly vulnerable place where we could be judged harshly, what we’re really doing is opening ourselves up to the possibility of love. Love from others and love towards ourselves. It’s right to not only show our imperfections but to celebrate them too because our imperfections are our story, they’re our history, and because it is our flaws that actually make us perfect. Perfect for this moment, on this day, for our growth for the next day. It’s about accepting they exist and not trying to hide them, from others or ourselves and that is why we are all perfect. Imperfectly perfect.
Tonight I laid on the sofa thinking about what I’d sent to Linda earlier in the day – the post I’d written about my own loving parent – as I thought on, I got lost in a daydream and somehow ended back in 1986 on a Saturday afternoon. My Dad came home from work and called everyone into the kitchen. Millie was already in there, sitting in her usual spot at the computer. Izzy and Sasha bundled in with all their childlike enthusiasm, I wandered down in my usual day dream wondering what was going on. Izzy and Sasha took centre stage, being young and excitable squealing and laughing to know what was going on. I stood quietly by the table waiting. My Mum was in the kitchen area of the kitchen/diner, my Dad in the dining end where we all were. He had in his hand a large white bag. With a look of pride on his face, he pulled out of the bag a big, thick book, walked over to Millie and said, “This is for you, for doing so well at school lately. You’ve worked really hard and you deserve this.” The book was a computer book, to help Maddy to learn even more than she already knew. Maddy was the only one permitted to use the computer without having to ask first.
Dad came back to the middle of the room, gathered Izzy and Sasha around him and pulled out a toy cat for one and a toy dog for the other and said, “I don’t want you two to feel like you’re left out.” Then he pulled one more thing out of the bag, a bunch of flowers and he handed them to Mum. He then folded the bag, put it down and walked over to where Millie was to look through the book with her. He gave me nothing. He didn’t look at me and hadn’t even noticed me in the room. I slipped into the shadows in more ways than one. I felt sick to my stomach, I felt unloved, abandoned and totally rejected. The pain was like nothing I’d ever felt before, worse than any physical pain I’d ever experienced. I slowly backed my way out of the room hoping no-one would notice me, knowing they wouldn’t. As I silently crept out of the room I could see Mum smiling over the flowers she’d received, Dad and Millie sharing the book he’d got her and Izzy and Sasha playing together with their new teddies. I went up to my room, laid on my bed and sobbed till my stomach ached.
What seemed like an absolute age later, Mum came to my room wanting to know why I’d disappeared. I remember saying, “Why didn’t Dad get me anything?” and then I cried again at the injustice of it. Mum said she didn’t know. She went back downstairs and I heard arguing. A few minutes later Dad came to my room, told me to get my shoes on and said we were going out. We drove to the supermarket and he said I could pick out absolutely anything I wanted, in fact, he got a trolley and he told me to fill it with everything I wanted. I don’t remember one thing I put in that trolley, no amount of gifts or no amount of money spent was ever going to make up for what he’d done. He’d forgotten me, he’d forgotten that I even existed. That’s how much I mattered to him. He couldn’t even remember me when buying every other person in the house a present. When I questioned him on it he said he hadn’t forgotten me he just didn’t know what to get me so he didn’t bother. Nothing he said or did that day eased the pain and anguish I was in. When we got home, my sisters all wanted to know what I’d got, they then all turned on me calling me a spoilt bitch and a Daddy’s girl because I had more than them. How wrong they were. They hated me at that moment, they were jealous of me and yet I had nothing compared to what they had; they’d been remembered, thought about and loved. I hadn’t. I’d had a guilt-ridden shopping trip, not a gift given out of love. There was nothing to be jealous of.
Twenty-four years afterwards, I started seeing a psychotherapist to help me find the courage within myself to leave Tom. I retold that story about the missing gift, I cried over it and the psychotherapist asked me to imagine my Dad pulling my present out of the bag and imagining what it would have been. I said it would have been a floppy-eared, gorgeous brown and white toy dog. Ideally, it would have been a real dog but my parents wouldn’t allow me to have a dog even though my sisters had fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, and 2 horses. I would still have been happy with a toy dog so the psychotherapist suggested that I buy myself the toy dog I always wanted and so after I left Tom that’s what I did. It’s one of the first things I did, it was a part of my healing journey ~ giving back to myself what I deserved as a little girl. Except it still didn’t make a shit of difference. I thought it did at the time, but it didn’t really. It wasn’t given to me by my Dad on the day he gave gifts of love to everyone else.
Back on the sofa the conversation that I’d had with Linda today came back into my mind ~ the fact that I struggle with Jasper, the dog I always wanted. I’ve never bonded with him the way people do with their dogs. I can’t. Something stops me from loving him the way I always thought I would. I can love and be affectionate with everyone else’s dogs but not my own and then I suddenly got why.
He looks more or less exactly like the dog that I wanted my Dad to pull out of the bag and he didn’t. Every time I look at Jasper it’s a subconscious reminder of the pain of rejection, of being forgotten and being unloved. I can’t love Jasper the way I want to because it hurts too much still. I feel angry with him every time he barks, every time he follows me around wanting my attention and every time he gets under my feet. I tell him to shut up, to go away, to leave me alone. I’ve been projecting my anger and pain about my Dad onto him and he, all along, has been showing me this by constantly asking me to love him, just the way I was always inwardly asking my Dad to love me.