Don’t Lose Touch

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Another area of great interest for me is touch and how it affects children and subsequently adults in later life. If you read my Amazon wish list you would see a host of books about touch and attachment (and lots of memoirs), two things that have captured my attention recently.

The one long-term relationship I had consisted of basically no physical affection or any other kind of affection at all. It’s so sad to me that I didn’t even know that that wasn’t normal. That isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I rarely, if ever saw my parents being physically affectionate. But I never really paid attention to it or understood how important it is and how much it affects me until I started dating the guy I met last Spring. Everything changed then. My perspective on how important physical affection is, especially in those early years, has changed. It wasn’t something I ever thought of as being necessary. This article really touches on how vital touch is for every human being and how we use it to communicate.

I think never really seeing physical affection displayed growing up combined with the fact that I was not ever supposed to even come close enough to a boy to be able to touch him has made me a little paranoid or overly sensitive about touching in general. All thanks to Christian fundamentalism. There is some weird thing with my mother too that I believe has a lot to do with all of that attachment stuff and failure to bond. I cannot remember a time when I ever actually wanted to hug my mother. That seems very strange. But I literally flinch if she tries to hug me. I’ve always had an aversion to touching my mother.

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When my ex and I used to go shopping at a mall or something he would always walk a good 5 or 6 feet ahead of me. All the time, every time. It was very odd. And it made me very uncomfortable. I can remember maybe two or three times in a span of almost 3 years when we actually held hands or walked close to each other. And spending time at either of our places consisted of sitting in separate spaces and never cuddling or any kind of closeness at all. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that’s how a healthy relationship should be. It actually baffles me now that I stayed in that relationship as long as I did. If I’m dysfunctional, he was dysfunctional times 10.

Enter the Spring and Summer boy. I have never felt more instantly comfortable with someone. We hugged the first time we saw each other and it felt like the most natural thing in the world to me, which is saying a lot because I’m not naturally a hugger. But I loved it. As we got to know each other and spent more and more time together, every time he saw me he always held me close like nothing could pry his arms open. And he loved to cuddle with me. Any time we were together he was always touching me in some way. He loved to hold hands a lot too. One day we went to an aquarium the day after having a minor fight and he held my hand ALL. DAY. LONG. It melted my heart and I can’t get it out of my head. There was a lot of very sweet, sort of innocent-like physical affection. I have never experienced anything like it before. He is a very sweet person. I think it’s why I am having such an impossibly hard time moving on. I never knew how much I needed something that I’d never had before.

I’ve been in one committed relationship with someone I was not in love with. And I’ve been in love once, with someone I was not in a committed relationship with. It seems I’ve been hearing a lot lately of people who have been in a relationship for 4, 5, 6, 7 years and then it ending. To be honest I’m kind of terrified of meeting someone and falling in love and having a relationship only to have it end after a few years. It sounds awful. I’ve experienced intense heartbreak over someone who wasn’t ever committed to me. I can’t imagine what it would be like having someone you’ve been with for many, many years suddenly be gone from your life forever.

My family was never an affectionate family. I remember my dad being more affectionate with us kids than my mother. But I also didn’t have that weird aversion to touching him and vice versa that I did with my mother, so I may simply be remembering the good and avoiding/forgetting the bad. I do not ever remember my mother being an affectionate person. Hugs and pats on the arm always felt contrived and extremely awkward and uncomfortable. I am certain it has everything to do with her own upbringing. It makes me incredibly sad to think of any child going without that all-important, necessary physical touch from his/her caregiver. It’s almost as bad as going without food.

Touch is one of the first things we (should) learn as a child. It’s the way we communicate. Ever notice how babies put everything in their mouth? That’s because that’s how they are learning. They use their mouth and tongue to explore anything and everything through touch. Touch is also the way that they show excitement, joy, anger, irritation, and a host of other emotions before they are able to express those things with words. The baby I take care of loves to give me leg hugs and kisses. One day, she was playing with her baby doll and every minute or so she would come over to me and kiss my knee that was exposed through my ripped jeans. It was the cutest thing ever.

She kisses everything, including this little dog door stop. She picks it up and kisses it on the head. Her natural, easily-flowing affection has made me more and more aware of how important it is. And also how much it has been lacking in my life as far back as I can remember.

 

Asking for help

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I was just thinking yesterday about a conversation I had with my dad a few weeks ago at dinner. It has been a bit of a nightmare moving into my own place for the first time. Thankfully my dad very willingly came down with his truck to help me move and take care of some issues that came up with the apartment. He even told me that he would come back down again if the problem wasn’t resolved satisfactorily and help me move to another place. I was already extremely emotional about the whole moving situation so having him here to help was wonderful.

I always deal with some kind of guilt when anyone helps me do something that I think I should be more than capable of doing on my own, considering I am an adult. Moving is a multiple person job, but there are a host of other things I feel I should be able to handle all on my own. So I’ve been thinking that even for my dad to come help me is something to be ashamed of. Or that asking anyone (especially family) for help is something to be embarrassed about. In the time since I moved away from the home I grew up in, which has only been about a year and a half, I have found so much support, and love, and willingness to help from a lot of my family including aunts and uncles and it has literally saved my life. That may sound like an exaggeration but I assure you it is not. I deal with some pretty dark thoughts as I have mentioned before in previous posts, and if it wasn’t for some of the family support I have had recently, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

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It just dawned upon me though that my dad was helping me solely because he loves me. That shouldn’t seem like a shocking revelation but I constantly struggle with even daring to think about asking him to help me. As if there is shame in the asking itself. The conversation we had at dinner when he was here centered around school. We were homeschooled and all of us kids struggle greatly with social situations/anxiety/depression/being functional adults because of it. The part that is awesome now is that my dad freely and honestly admits that it was the wrong decision to raise us the way he did and he feels guilty for having failed to give us the skills to be a successful adult.

Coming from what I grew up with, that is a precious thing. He knows us and sees the severe struggles we deal with on a daily basis as adults and realizes that it was his fault for choosing to raise us the way he did. He may have been blinded by fundamentalism back in the day, but he doesn’t hide behind that or use it as an excuse now for why his kids have so many issues. It was his fault and he has no problem admitting that and apologizing for it. And that helps me breath easy again. Knowing at least one parent is aware of and realizes he made a lot of bad and hurtful decisions when it came to raising his kids is actually somewhat comforting. It makes me feel just a little less lost.

The reason I bring all of that up is that it makes sense to me all of a sudden that he would want to do anything and everything he can to help us when we need it. Parents should be doing that from the moment their child is born, but better late then never. My parents got divorced last year and there was a whole big to-do with loads of drama when my mother moved away. Lots of selfishness and ungratefulness permeated the entire move and I was feeling bad before my dad even got here that I had asked him to come help me. I was worried that he would see me as being selfish and ungrateful too and I was completely preoccupied with making certain that I said “thank you” as many times as I possibly could. I’ve had a few conversations with my dad recently about personal problems and he told me that I “have a good head on my shoulders.” And I cried. I’ve always known and felt loved by my dad but his saying that broke me down because I don’t feel that way about myself.

I just realized I’ve spent a lot of time the last few months feeling guilty about not being super happy, and healthy, and full of energy, and ready to go do things, and successful, and whatever host of other things people think other people should be. But feeling guilty about not being those things changes nothing. I really haven’t been taking care of myself at all. There have been so many things going on, moving being just one of them, that I’ve let everything and anything that has to do with making sure that I am eating well, and exercising, and going to the doctor, and sleeping enough fall away completely. So not only do I feel terrible in general, I also feel guilty for feeling terrible. It’s a vicious cycle.

One thing that I am absolutely terrified about is becoming like my mother. She never took care of herself, and our family had a lot of bad habits that kept us from being healthy both physically, mentally, and emotionally. I wish she and my dad would have realized how desperately the both of them needed real one-on-one and family therapy. It is my top priority to get myself to a healthy place. I think it’s going to take a long while, but not wanting to be like my mother drives me to keep going. But really I should just be doing it for myself. I should be eating well, and exercising, and going to the doctor, and sleeping enough just for me. Because it doesn’t matter if the rest of the world thinks I should be happier, or more energetic, or whatever, it only matters that I begin to see myself in a healthy way. It only matters that I make my own health a priority no matter what anyone else thinks.

What Makes You Happy?

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Why it is that some people feel the need to tell me what to do to be happy, or to stop doubting, or to stop talking about things that they don’t think I should be talking about, I have no idea. My life is much better now than it ever has been before and it is only going to get better from here. What I have found to be true is that keeping everything inside, and ignoring or pretending that there isn’t a problem when there really is, is what makes me miserable. I know, I did it for years and years.

Being introspective is how you discover what is real and facilitate change in your life. Change will never happen if you pretend nothing is wrong and just “think good thoughts.” Change will never happen if you ignore the pain that has been caused. The reason I like to be introspective and the reason I am writing this blog is that I am taking responsibility for myself. All of those things that I struggle with and all the the things that hinder me need to be addressed. And I am the only one that can do that. I want to be a better person. And that means working through all of that uncomfortable, painful, sad, nasty, overwhelming stuff.

Sure, I could just go back to pretending I’m all good and acting like reading the bible and praying makes everything ok and that I don’t need anything else. That would actually be easier. But I would never become a better person. I would sit in a place of complacency and go along being what people expected me to be and I would never reach my full potential or chase my dreams. I would be a robot. I don’t actually care what people expect me to be, at least not anymore. That hasn’t always been true. But it is now. So I will talk about whatever I want to talk about. And I will write about whatever I want to write about.

If you think I am miserable because I’m writing about uncomfortable, sad, painful things, you are wrong. Am I in pain? Yes. Am I miserable? Absolutely not. I’ve never felt more free and strong. I have never felt more confident that I can say what I need to say and that it matters and that it is important. I have never felt more at peace with the fact that it is perfectly ok to be in pain and to talk about it. It is part of the human condition to be in pain. It can’t be avoided. Talking about uncomfortable things is hard. But it is the thing that has pulled me up and made me stronger. I’m not going to stop now because someone thinks what I’m writing is inappropriate on a public forum.

I would much rather be real than try to pretend and portray to the world that I’m some kind of happy-go-lucky, rainbows-and-sunshine, lets-all-just-smile-all-the-time kind of person. That is not me. I know one day things will get better. They are already getting better. I’m taking baby steps. Maybe it will take a few months or maybe it will take a few years. But the whole point of doing this is to stop holding it all in. The whole point is to be honest and talk about things that people don’t like to talk about. If you don’t like to read or talk about what I’m writing about then go away. No one is making you stay and read. I really like to talk about things that people don’t like to talk about. It gives me a sense of empowerment and proof that I have something to contribute.

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I am just figuring out who I am and what I love, and want, and need. That in and of itself is difficult because I have always felt that it was wrong to want or need anything or anyone. God and the bible are supposed to be everything. I’m not supposed to want to be in love, I’m not supposed to want a relationship, I’m not supposed to have needs (implying that I’m needy?), I’m not supposed to want more than what I have. I would never presume to tell someone else what I think they should do or need to do to be happy. It is enough work trying to figure out what makes me happy. I don’t even have enough energy to do that for someone else.

Someone decided I needed a bible lesson on thinking on good things and not on the negative. What I find amusing about that is that it was implied that I will be living in a big hole of resentment and hurt if I keep thinking “things that are not good things, not lovely things or things that are not of a good report”. The thing is I’ve already been living in a big hole of resentment and hurt for the past 26 years of my life. So no, thinking about, and talking about, and working through those things is doing just the opposite. It is pulling me out of a hole of resentment and hurt, not keeping me there.

Believe it or not writing this blog is very much a positive in my life. In fact at this time it is probably the major factor that is keeping me going. Talking about negative things doesn’t mean that my life is being negatively affected. For now, talking about negative things is bringing more positivity and clarity into my life then anything else. Understanding myself better has only done positive things. And It’s a process. I realize some people may not understand why I feel I need to do this but it doesn’t matter. Everyone has their own way of working through things and you can’t tell someone else what is the “appropriate” way to deal with things.

Sometimes I feel that other people want or expect me to skip steps and just “get over it already.” It’s as if they’re saying, “ok, you’ve talked about it enough. It’s time to be happy and joyful and never speak of those things ever again. And you should just stop doubting God, faith, religion, the bible, etc. because… I say so. Go be the happy, happy good little Christian girl you used to be and stop making us think about the bad stuff that hurt you. We don’t want to think about it. You just need to forgive and stop being bitter.”

I’m sorry but I’ve also discovered that the answers and remedies to the difficult, painful things in life are not black-and-white. It’s not a simple “do this and don’t do this and everything will be good” equation. Nothing works like that. Oh how nice and easy it would be if that’s how the world truly worked. But sadly, it is not. And I am happy. I am happy that I’ve been presented with a huge challenge that in the end will make me a person of greater character for having overcome it all. That is something that is worth the “talking about the negative”.