I save everything as drafts.
I’m careful about what I say.
I wonder what is the cost of having a voice.
I see other people using stuff I’ve built and words I’ve said to act like they’re more than they are, and I watch what they (don’t) do with my name and my work. I just watch.
I have come to appreciate my own life, my own two hands.
If a few people ran off with a bucket of water, I am still a fountain.
I designed a pergola this summer and built half of it. Oversaw posts going in the ground with concrete.
I made a new friend and taught myself about medical patent law. I worked a beer festival. I accompanied someone I really love to cancer treatment and hospitals. I mourned the death of a childhood friend, and the death of another childhood friend’s child. I cheered on friends who are building networks and companies and having babies. I hosted big cookouts and made simple dinners.
I navigated the adult game of peek-a-boo or tag that marriage often feels like.
I rescued my second youngest brother for the whole summer. A sweet kid taller than me now, eyes the color of avacadoes, we were working on my house and his first job, and through the issues of black and white categories, the risks of being failure/sin focused. Then he came down with shingles.
I had to go around my mom to get him emergency healthcare instead of prayer and raw garlic, but I did and he is better now.
We are recovering together from the scars of overly detail oriented fundamentalist thinking, learning not to be stuck in emergency mode but prepared for emergencies. A lifetime’s age difference between us, it isn’t always easy to figure out middle ground, but it’s there.
I say together because I can share some things I’ve learned with him and some I’ve learned from him.
No one should be seen as an empty vessel to be filled or discarded. None of us are utility tools or flowerpots for other people’s seeds. None of us are lazy if we don’t bloom on your schedule.
I’ve halfway forgiven the narcissists, the control freaks for being wrong about all that. They have so many losses and don’t know what it’s like to hold a lover or a baby or a friend in their arms and truly be there skin to skin, soul to soul. No wonder they imagine power will stop up the hole meant for emotional resonance even though the rest of us know it won’t and shouldn’t and is a fool’s errand.
I know what I have today, and that it is mostly good.
I don’t recommend anybody to survivors groups anymore. I think it can only get you to the step of existing in a new dogma. The healthy survivors leave and the broken ones stay. It becomes the blind confidently leading the blind while refusing to stop for actual directions.
High demand patriarchy dies hard, has a million offshoots and thought-stopping techniques each as unfortunate as finding Japanese knotweed growing in your yard. Which I have.
It can break through concrete, stay dormant for 20 years, travel a yard a week, underground. It is a patient vigilance you need with it. A lifetime of it.
Fellow survivors, I encourage you to get out there in the world away from the tangled mess of other survivors’ burdens, meet real experts, learn to build many things yourself, have a good cry when you need to, find fulfillment in your own ever-evolving hodgepodge setup and healing. Tell jokes about the times you believed something crazy or fell flat on your face. Practice self-forgiveness.
Accomplishments and winning awards don’t make it easier to live in your own skin, and neither does stress and pressure, which catches up in the weirdest ways. Try to find peace instead of war. Recognize the transference you feel in what you can’t help but hate.
Rest. Put a hammock in your own back yard.
Feed the plants. Water the birds.
I see now that all of America is facing what I grew up with right now, and we will struggle in this abusive relationship until and unless we decide we are done debating and ready to act.
I have been here before and know I can’t hurry anyone else or make them listen. On average you will defend and shut down for years and try to leave 7 times before you go. It is a process. The most dangerous time is when you actually end it.
So meantime I garden and take care of my loves and myself. I quietly stand for what I believe in. I am here. Replenishing.
When I get anxious I do yoga, read and write, fix up antiques, go out on the water. I have hope in my own abilities and the next generation. I am also more careful on where to put that hope.
I see my face in the mirror and it is older than last year, but today I like it, love it even. I didn’t always. I notice it breeds a cautiousness, being able to love your own face.
But I sat with it and was kind and gentle until I did.
I broke the abusive high demand cycle. Yesterday. The day before. Many times over. Many days over. I pulled it out like the weed it is.
And if it comes back today, I will gently tear it out again.
Someday maybe all my invisible work will be forgotten and you’ll never know it or I was there at all.
Sure, I have better things to do, but I also have this to do. So here I am, still at it.
Not letting it get the better of me.
This is some of your best work yet… beautiful…. raw…. honest…. and full of grace. Thank you.
Beautiful, Heather. You’ve traveled a long road.