Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rocks in my Head

I've found in my 60s a freedom and acceptance of myself I never had when I was young and constantly heard my mother's litany of shame in my head. My mother equated affection with promiscuity and physical touch with shame, even between mother and child. Little surprise I grew up conflicted, my whole being longing for affection and affirmation, while I huddled on a ledge of fear, looking out at a world that I'd been told didn't want me.

Times have changed and we understand that companionship and touch are as necessary to physical and emotional health as are food and shelter. And at my age I can now hug freely, speak warmly, be affectionately encouraging to others without any of these gestures being interpreted as sexual in nature. More importantly I've realized my mother was a cracked vessel, and I have allowed her to own her version of me as ugly and unlovable. I have kicked it to the curb because it never reflected reality. I like myself a lot better now, though I still have a few rocks labeled "rejection" in my backpack (i.e. head). Ever so often I stop, take one out and throw it off the mountainside, and pray it doesn't hit any climbers down below. 

Since I'm learning to like myself better I find others like me better too. People come to my door in a near-constant stream, for a hug, a chat, and for no reason at all. People make up reasons to knock on my door. Although I may groan as I haul myself out of my chair, no one goes away without a hug or a word of appreciation, because I know what it's like to be deprived of those things, and to be hungry for them.  

One of the women in our building has Asperger Syndrome. She is avoided by many in the building because once you are her "friend" she's attached to you at the breastbone. This annoyed me to begin with, but then I thought about it. She is desperately lonely. I knew that feeling as a child. I know how it feels to be unwanted, how it feels when no one wants you to join the game or the conversation, sit at their table, or beside them on the bus home.

So I decided I can give her what I have to give, acceptance and normal  friendship. This decision made me feel vulnerable and shaky inside, because I wasn't sure I was up to the task. I had to set boundaries, so she doesn't call me at 6:00 every morning, and every 30 minutes during the day, or isn't camped out in my living room 10 hours on a Saturday, but it's working out fine.

It's good.  She's happier, and I'm happier because I always feel badly if I've hurt someone's feelings. But I couldn't have done it when I was younger.  Too many big rocks on the path. Too painful to climb over them.  What I did before was just let someone take advantage of me (purposefully or just because they were being themselves) until I grew so angry and exhausted that I snapped and completely cut off any communication with them. I felt terrible guilty about it, but I didn't know how else to handle it at the time.

Now I'm thinking that those 20 somethings, with their flat bellies and smooth skin, haven't got a march on this old Mama, looking back at the route she's climbed. I wouldn't exchange my life right now for a million dollars and a chance to live the years between 20-60 again.  It's not only love that's wasted on the young, it's contentment. 


1 comment:

Leslie said...

I love reading your posts, always thoughtful and often inspirational. also love your cats..thanks Leslie