Thanksgiving last year, I was in a state of wide-eyed anticipation, eager to get started and continue on a number of projects dear to my heart, looking forward to family visits and other usually-joyful occasions.
The year in between, however, has been characterized by betrayal, abandonment, and loss. Each of my closest primary relationships -- other than the girlfriends, god bless the girlfriends! -- in fact, has dealt me a blow of abandonment and/or betrayal this year. In spectacular fashion. And may I defy the censors and emphasize, in spec-fucking-tacular fashion. This is a year which has left me crumpled in a heap on the floor, from which I am still attempting to gather up my pieces, and hoping some of the prettier ones will be krazy-glue-able back together.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this year has truly sucked. In spec-sucking-tacular suckitude (bite me, spellcheck!).
The year that was supposed to hold such joy and promise and kick-assedness and taking-on-the-world and making-my-dreams-come-true and shiny happy rainbow coloured puppies and ponies has instead been one of despair and desolation and getting my ass kicked into the deep, dark ground.
Happy Freakin' Thanksgiving. Gobble gobble gobble PITY PARTY! (Great head space for a Thanksgiving post on gratitude, eh what?)
Listening to everyone giving thanks for their shiny happy rainbows, reading Twitter and FaceBook posts about their thankfulness for smiling puppies and ponies and people who stick by them no matter what and love them the way they deserve... I knew I was supposed to come up with something... Dear lord, I spent four months blogging about "The Week in Awesome" towards the beginning of this anno horribilus, surely I could come up with SOMETHING other than "I'm thankful I haven't stabbed anyone in the eye with a fork, so have yet to be incarcerated as a dangerous offender."
(Although, considering the year it's been, I should probably be quite proud about that awesome fact...)
And I thus was spending the first half of Thanksgiving weekend fully entrenched in "waah, waaah, waaaahhhh!" mode.
But then I came across this quote in a friend's FB post:
It is relatively easy to feel grateful when good things are happening, and life is going the way we want it to. A much greater challenge is to be grateful when things are not going so well, and are not going the way we think they should...
The religious traditions encourage us to do more than react with passivity and resignation to loss and crisis; they advise us to change our perspective, so that our suffering is transformed into an opportunity for growth. Not only does the experience of tragedy give us an exceptional opportunity for growth, but some sort of suffering is also necessary for a person to achieve maximal psychological growth.
In his study of self-actualizers, the paragons of mental wellness, the famed humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow noted that "the most important learning lessons... were tragedies, deaths, and trauma... which forced change in the life-outlook of the person and consequently in everything that he did."
[Robert Emmons, from "Thanks!" ]...and was floored, humbled and challenged.
Opportunities for growth abound right now. Heck, by the time I deal with them all, I'll be eight feet tall with a brain the size of Texas! ;)
But yes, this conglomeration of tragedies and traumas forced me to (finally) take my dear friend Ali's advice (did I mention my awesome girlfriends?) and "enrol" myself at the Trauma Centre, to deal with the next stage (how many friggin' stages are there, fer cryin' out loud?!?!?) of my recovery from that childhood rife with opportunities for growth. And just a couple of months in, I can feel myself drop-kicked off the old plateau and zooming to new heights.
To a place where I know that, no matter who I am or what I do, I don't deserve to be treated as anything less than human. That speaking my truth is not punishable by violence (physical or emotional). That I have every right to expect honesty, loyalty and integrity from the people who demand it of me. And that those who claim to love me had better put their actions and behaviours behind their words, and not just at those moments when they want me to do something for them.
Yes, I realize this all seems like kind of a no-brainer to most people, but... you might need to read some previous blog posts to get a wee hint at how very foreign these concepts are to someone who was groomed from an early age to be paedophile-fodder / caregiver / rescuer / doormat / outlet-for-your-rage, sire / secret-keeper. (Plus, holy crap... I must say that I'm discovering more and more layers of that grooming via my ongoing therapeutic work -- there's probably a LOT of people right now praying the secret-keeper brainwashing is gonna stick, because the forget-everything-or-at-least-believe-you're-only-remembering-because-you're-the-crazy-one brainwashing is rapidly being chiselled away as I come to fully realize the depth and breadth of my abuse...)
As it turns out, while I obviously haven't allowed any more physical or sexual abuse back in my life, I had sunk back into the caregiver / rescuer / doormat / secret-keeper mode quite easily, while also harbouring dysfunctional thoughts such as "I don't deserve", "I am less than" and "I am unworthy", and training others to use, abuse and ignore me, because that was surely my place in the world.
Egads. The things we do to ourselves...
And, using that whole frog-in-a-gradually-brought-to-a-boil-pot-of-water analogy, I guess it really did take the "perfect storm" of betrayals and abandonments before I could snap out of complacency and acceptance-of-shitty-treatment and say "Hey, cut that out! I deserve better!" To do a total re-wire (work in progress, of course...) and reprogramming of what I would and would not accept and expect in my life. To try to salvage and rebuild the broken relationships with those who are willing to join in the new programming and also do the work this process requires. To stop tap-dancing my ass off to somehow single-handedly build a healthy relationship with someone whose only goal is to tear me down and who wouldn't know "healthy" if it bit them in the ass. To put the reluctant ones on hold until I can get a better handle on things. To make my own needs and safety on equal footing with, or even (gasp!) more important than other's desires. To treat myself as sacred. (Yes, I threw up in my mouth a little just typing that one -- I did warn you, it's a work-in-progress...)
To treat myself as sacred.
Not the one who gets the leftover crumbs, if there are any, after everyone else's needs have been attended to. Not the one who only gets to speak up if there's zero chance of anyone being even slightly bothered by what I have to say. Not the one who quietly waits in the corner for someone to recognize that she's a human being as well, and is worthy, as much as, and deserving.
No-one else will recognize these basic truths if I don't recognize them for myself. No-one else will treat me as human if I'm telling them not to worry about treating me with basic common decency.
If I want people to treat me as human, I have to treat myself as sacred. And I have to keep reminding myself of this until it stops making me want to vomit, and I'm nine feet tall with a brain the size of Australia. (Still 5'6", but... work-in-progress, didn't I mention?)
And I wouldn't have remembered to do this, were it not for this year turning out so very different than originally planned.
So, here I am: grateful for all the terrible things that were done to me this year. Not grateful in a way that means I will accept this kind of treatment from anyone ever again -- yes, I'm looking at you, assholes-in-waiting, so just put it out of your mind -- but grateful for the reminder that, as a card-carrying human being, I do not deserve to be mistreated, and I am well within my rights to refuse to accept violence of any sort (without that being an invitation for more violence!).
I am grateful for the opportunity to re-draw and fortify my boundaries.
I am grateful for the opportunity to rebuild my life on more solid foundations.
I am grateful that there are people willing to rebuild with me, and some awesome girlfriends cheering me on.
I am grateful for the reminder to not be less than, to reclaim my voice, to be the best me I can be, and to know that whoever and whatever I am at any given moment is the best me I can be under the current circumstances.
Yessirree, I am grateful to the gate-keepers, the liars, the abandoners, the cheats, the betrayers, the backstabbers, the assholes and the abusers. They have shown me who they are, and reminded me of who I am. I am not who they want me to be. They do not define me, but I can take these circumstances and use them to better define myself. Be who I want to be.
I am grateful to those who are willing to learn along with me that I do deserve better, and are willing to make the effort to offer up the treatment I deserve.
I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow, and reshape my life into something better.
I am and forever shall be grateful to the Trauma Centre for the incredible work they're doing -- for me and for everyone who needs their services. Grateful to Ali for pointing me there.
I am grateful to the girlfriends, most especially Ali and Lisa, who make me laugh, and cry, and mix some mighty tasty martinis, and who have been there for me even when I've pretended I don't need anyone there for me.
I am grateful that the liver is a forgiving organ. Because... see previous point about my girlfriends' awesome drink-mixing abilities.
I am grateful for my honorary and chosen family. I can't change my blood, genes, nor history, but I can decide who to keep close to my heart, who to trust, who to share my life with. I have a beautiful pool of people who fit the bill. :)
I am, indeed, grateful that I have not stabbed anyone in the eye with a fork this year, and therefore have yet to be incarcerated as a dangerous offender.
I am grateful that those projects and dreams that had to be put on hold for a while will still be possible when I'm ready to pursue them again.
I am grateful that I have the resources available to take this next step in my healing and recovery.
I am grateful that, this time next year, I'm going to be eleven feet tall, with a brain the size of the planet.