To Thine Own Self….

I was coming home today from my Sunday activities, looking forward to a restful afternoon.  It’s pretty rare that I get to lounge around and simply read for much of the day. But today is dreary, cold and wet so I decided not to do the outside stuff I wanted to do. And I don’t really feel like walking the dogs in this weather, so it’s a great day to curl up with my book.

But then I remembered that my middle daughter said something about getting together. Silently I groaned inside and hoped she wouldn’t call. Of course I felt that old sense of guilt creep in because a good mother would be thrilled to spend time with any kid, but honestly this is not the way I feel.

That made me look at my feelings. My middle daughter and I have always had a different, and often strained relationship. She was our foster, then adopted daughter. Being adopted myself, it was something I wanted very much. But through the years, and with two birth children, the actual  playing out of our lives has not been what I had imagined.

Maybe this OK except for the fact that I’m a very honest person. I guess I don’t know how to act or be any other way. I’m not good at hiding my feelings or acting like I feel something other that what I really feel. When it came to my daughter, even though I wanted our relationship to be just the same as with the other two, it never really was. She never felt about me the way they did, and honestly, I never felt the same way about her.

I know I will be struck down for saying such a thing, but it’s true. We spent many hours trying to explain to her that what you get is what you give, but somehow, it never seemed to sink in. And now, as a young adult–she has picked a boyfriend that I find I would rather not be around. So often I’m not in the mood to see either one of them. Their lifestyle choices, while she tries, can be depressing and disappointing. And like I said: I’m not a good actress, so some days it’s just best not to get together.

I’ve often wished I could fake it: like in the bedroom. But hey baby, if it didn’t happen, it didn’t. And I admit I like one of my dogs better! I only keep my beagle because I feel it’s my responsibility. I’m not afraid to admit I don’t really like him all that much.

And I’m always getting in trouble for saying what I think. As long as I can remember this has been happening! At least since I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that we don’t need to tell everyone what we think all the time. And I do try to temper things with kindness now. But I will never sugar coat things, especially if a friend specifically asks me a question.

With me, what you see is what you get. You will hear from me the truth and you won’t hear from someone else what I said. And I believe: to thine own’s self be true!

So while I love all my girls, I do treat them differently. And I love them in very different ways and at varying levels at given times. While the beagle drives me nuts and is not my favorite dog, I still take good care of him–but I favor my other dog. Oh well. And maybe my inability to “fake it” during intimate times is why I’m single now? All I know is that this is the only way I know how to be. Some love me for this honesty, some find me too much. But I find myself just right.


Filling My Dance Card

There has always been this weird thing about me, but I am feeling it so much more clearly in my golden years. It’s the dual part of me that is part loner, part socialite. It’s the oddest thing and at times creates great conflict within me.

Sometimes one of these personas claws to the front and that will be the cloak I may wear for a while. If it’s the loner woman, then I feel very at odds if I’m in large groups for some reason. No-one would really notice this, because I always had a pretty good way of hiding this fact.  But I would feel myself draw in on myself, sort of like a movie character fading out of scene. I was there, but not really.

When I’m feeling the opposite, then I literally can’t stand being by myself anymore. I start hunting for connections of all sorts: one on one or larger. My personality becomes bigger than life and when I’m in a group I seem to draw people to me. I once took a test of “How Charismatic Are You” and I scored off the charts. And a friend once told me I do this “Marilyn Monroe” thing where I just turned on the sex appeal-just like a switch. I believe that’s this part of my dual personality.

These two sides clash and so it becomes hard for others to know who they are dealing with at times. Most think I’m warm and friendly. It’s the side I try to put forward. But I really tend to see myself as very comfortable alone, and sometimes even preferring it. It may come from being raised an only child–and a latch-key kid at that! I spent many, many hours with nothing but my imagination for a companion.

As I get older, it get scarier to think about living alone the rest of my life. I have many friends all over the country. I make friends easily and keep them. Talking to strangers is something I’ve always done, maybe because I grew up in New York City where personal space is much closer than New England where I live now. It’s harder to make friends here I find. And definitely harder to find intimacy. Or maybe it’s me? Maybe my need to be alone so much is detected and can’t be incorporated into a relationship?

I would think by middle age most people would need lots of personal time and space? This doesn’t seem like a lot to ask. I’ve learned how to balance my social desires and my “I vant to be alone” moments much better than years past. It used to be that I might shut down or close people out because these times crept up on me.  But now I realize that my need for internal quiet is simply a necessity for me and I can identify them maturely.

In analyzing myself (which I do ad nauseam), I could link the fact that I was abandoned by my birth mother quite young to the fact that I learned to be a loner at an early age. It was a survival technique I suppose. And yet I also had to learn to be social in order to survive within the environment where I was left so people would care for me. So this constant internal juxtaposition has always been at play.

I’m currently in a place, as summer reaches its apex and we plummet towards fall then winter, where I don’t want to be lonely during the cold days. So I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands and find a community and make some new friends…hopefully. I’m going back to the Unitarian Universalist Church in a nearby town to see if I can stir up anything. I used to go there years ago, and was a member of a UU church when I lived in Upstate NY. They are welcoming, liberal and socially active. And that’s the other thing: I want to be more socially active. Time to walk my talk more.

So, no more sitting around weekends feeling sorry for my lonely self. Time to take this charismatic personality and step out into the big world (or small town) and say “here I am!” Hopefully the other self won’t come creeping around and try to steal the show while I’m filling my dance card.

Changing The Story

I’ve really been getting into my beginning yoga practice. I started with a book I had, and then I began to buy some DVD’s. These were much more helpful as you could actually see and hear what an expert yoga teacher wanted you to do. Of course going to a class would most likely be the best, but time and money predisposes this option for me. So for now I am content with slowly building my practice this way.

One of the teachers I am enjoying was so amazing that I began to watch her on some YouTube videos. Not only did I watch her doing yoga, but I have been listening to her at some conferences also. There was one in particular that struck me and I’ve been contemplating it ever since. I believe the combination of yoga and having new ‘teachers’ in one’s life, allows an opening for unexpected and maybe buried feelings, thoughts and emotions to bubble to the surface. Maybe we have been working on these things in our subconscious without knowing it and suddenly now there is a light in which they can shine their way into our mindful awareness.

And so this happened to me. Her talk didn’t directly help me come to my epiphany, but it pushed me there I believe. It was partly about how our self talk creates situations especially between us and other people. For instance, we may believe that we are having bad relations with a family member and may be putting blame on that person. Maybe we think that person keeps attacking us or avoids us or doesn’t accept us for who we truly may be. But what my yoga teacher said is that if you delve into your own behavior, you may discover that you may actually be creating the situations with this person that makes them act the way they do.

I certainly realized this about my older daughter. She is always extremely defensive with me. We seemed to constantly get in fights every time we spoke on the phone. Even if I had the best intentions, it always turned out poorly. But when I recalled our last huge fight, I had to admit that I did press a button rather than avoiding an issue. This happens with my mother too. So I wrote my daughter an email to say I was sorry. I’m trying to change that story.

But this all lead me something much deeper. And it all came to me quite suddenly as these things often do. It’s all rather personal and I’m not sure how much I will actually be able to share. It’s quite cathartic to share so I will try. It revolves around my difficulties with my relationships with men and intimacy.

I’ve mentioned in my blog before that I am adopted. In fact, there is a whole section related to this so I won’t go over it. But I will mention again that I wasn’t adopted until I was 18 months old. This I feel is significant. I personally am one who believes that much of our important growth happens in the first two years of life. What we imprint during this time may have some significant impact.

When I was about 50 (I just turned 57), I rushed down to Florida because my adopted mother had a fall. I knew only bits and pieces of ‘my story’ up until this point. I’ve had no contact with my birth family ever. My mother was in a vulnerable position after her accident, I took advantage after I helped her heal, to find out what more I could. And this is where I learned a most crucial part about my life.

I will abbreviate it here, but when she found out about me at 18 months, I was living in a whore house. My birth mother was a prostitute and I was being raised by many of the woman there. Supposedly she wanted out and to leave and start a new life in California and needed the money to move. This was New York City in the 50’s. She was Italian. I also learned that I was the ‘lure’ to get the ‘Johns’ to come into the place. I’m not exactly sure what that meant, but I took it to mean: a cute baby, toddler whatever. Apparently, I was somehow ‘rewarded’ for being nice to the men. So I was taught it was my ‘job’ to be a ‘man pleaser’–even at this tender age.

My mother told me I didn’t appear to be mistreated and seem fairly well-adjusted. There were a few quirky things. I have no pictures of me as a baby or very young. The adoption did go through, but there were some hitches and there is a lot more to story. But those parts are not the point to this story.

On hearing this all at first I wasn’t completely surprised. The way my mother had told the story before, even though it had been disjointed, I could almost guess. But some parts of it made my blood run cold. Suddenly all the parts of my life that had gone wrong or that I had struggled with and continued to be a puzzle to me became crystal clear! Now all the parts fell into place and I got it.

The promiscuity with men that haunted me my whole life while having no real satisfaction from most of it now became so obvious. A very large percentage of these men would tell me that I was special that way, how I knew how to ‘please’, that I gave myself over so fully and honestly and from my heart. Men would call me years and years later to tell me this and I wouldn’t even recall the event. I would have dark places in my brain where these memories should have been.  It’s almost as though I had somehow assimilated a prostitutes ability to disassociate from the act; that somehow I learned this is how sex was suppose to be. And of course, I had learned that it was my ‘job’ to please these men.

I was rarely satisfied during these times, but that never seemed the point. Somewhere deep in the recesses of what my brain and body ‘knew’, it wasn’t suppose to be about me. Sex was about the men, wasn’t it? Always about the men. They would come to this place and visit then go.  There would noises and movements of sex, and they pay and would leave. But the women would stay. The men never stayed. And this is the story that has lived with me, inside of me all these years! Like a flash, this came to me the other day. And so this is how my whole life has played out thus far: no man has ever stayed!

I have lived this story over and over. I’ve played it, created it, shaped it and breathed it. It was in me–a part of me. So much so, that I couldn’t even see it or understand it until now. I’ve put blame on the men. I’ve put the blame on me. I’ve wondered about my sexuality. I’ve wondered if I was just meant to be alone. I’ve been unraveling it for a very long time. And the parts of it have come to me very slowly. They came to me when they could. Maybe I couldn’t have handled them sooner and I know my mother couldn’t give me the information sooner. In the end, I believe it all comes together when you are ready. There is no blame anywhere. It was just the story. But now it’s time to change the story.

No longer do I have to live this story. While it’s true that woman have always stayed longer in my life and they have always been the ones I trust more, it doesn’t mean it has to be like this forever. I realized too, this really wasn’t totally my story, but one that I played in. I didn’t choose this story but it was thrust upon me. It would not have been one I would have picked for me or my child. So I can now say goodbye to it and go down a new path.

I’m grateful for those who cared for me and thank my birth mother for her bravery for trying to make a better life than prostitution. It had to have been hard to give up a child to save yourself, but I understand it. I did something near to it when I got my divorce. And she knew I was safe when my adopted mother came for me. She must have cared for me fairly well while I was with her those 18 months, along with those other women who were part of ‘the oldest profession’. I feel blessed to have been in the company of so many women–it takes a village sometimes.

I wonder where they all are now and if they ever think of that little blonde girl. I thought of my birth mom this July 1st and wondered if she thought about me on my birthday (if she’s still alive). She’d be 78. We are never too old to change our stories so maybe someday she will decide to change hers again and look me up. Until then, once upon a time…….