It’s always going to be hard for me to know where I fit. You’d think after breathing air for nearly 43 years I’d take that to heart and really own that. Some of that “not fitting” is my own doing of course. I have the classic “I’m unique, there’s no one like ME…why am I so lonely?” thing going on. I like being different, awkward and out of the normal stream of things but I hate to be lonely. When I break that down though what really is happening isn’t that I don’t want to be lonely as much as I don’t want to be uninvited and I don’t want to be abandoned. I know this about me.
What moves me, what lifts me up and helps me to feel most loved and SEEN in the world is being invited in. I will never be the person who forces herself in. I am most afraid of bothering you, of taking up your valuable time, of taking time away from people you really really WANT to be around. I often doubt that I might be a person you actually want to carve out time to see. It’s hard for me to understand my worth. I don’t mean to sound like I’m beating myself up here or feeling sorry for myself, truly. It’s just that at some point in our lives I believe we become rooted and learn to trust people. I think I missed that point. I think I know where.
When I was really quite young, maybe 15 months old we were living in an apartment. We didn’t have the money for a washer and dryer but there were hookups for them in the apartment. One day I guess I was thirsty and my older brother (who was about 2 1/2 then) offered to give me a drink of water….from the hot water hook up for the washer. Scalding water issued from the tap and covered my head, face and half my body.
I spent about a week in the hospital I think. Thankfully, my burns didn’t require skin grafts or surgery of any kind but I was in the hospital and I don’t remember it at all but I imagine I must have been scared. At that time my mom was pregnant with my younger brother and the hospital sort of frowned upon parents sleeping there. So as my mom tells the story each night she’d leave and I’d cry. Whenever she picked up her purse I began to cry because this was a signal it was time for her to go. She tells me she had to bring 2 purses so that she could sneak out. I think it killed her to leave each night.
I don’t remember this, any of this in my head…but I know my body remembers it. Each time I think of it I am drawn to tears. No matter how I reason it or therapy it I am still left with this feeling of utter abandonment, fear, sadness, grief, mistrust.
There is a line of thinking which suggests that all of our “trust” mechanisms as a child are formed before we are 2 years old. This is about the time we start to see ourselves as separate from other people…not just a part of the “whole” around us. We feel confident enough to become an individual person. It’s essential, this trust.
I think I missed some wiring there. It’s no one’s fault really. I don’t blame my brother or my parents. I don’t blame God. When I consider it now, though, how I walk through life with this constant feeling of afraid of asking for connection I am struck by the reality that what my body remembers is that it is not safe to connect, that connections get severed, that things change, that we have absolutely no control. It may be the reason I break into a cold sweat when I am scheduled to meet a lot of new people, when I am getting deeper into friendships, when I am considering a new endeavor or partnership.
My body isn’t wrong.
All of these things are true. It’s not safe to connect, connections DO get severed, things DO change, we have absolutely NO control over outcomes of relationships…
This doesn’t mean it’s wrong to try. We have to try. It’s what we’re made to do, to be in community.
This is where I’m working now, not on what happened to me as a kid, not on what I missed, not on what I’m afraid of…I know ALL of that. My body reminds me each time I have to make a phonecall to someone. My heart beats fast, I feel sick, I feel dizzy. I have a full on panic attack when I have to meet new people in person, even those who I’ve wanted to meet. I think everyone has this on some level, I don’t think that’s outside of the norm really. The problem is that I let it stop me where others press through. I need to press through.
I need to remember in those tense moments that we all risk our hearts when we come into a room together. I need to learn how to reassure my body that even though it may not be completely safe or sure we need to press through, that I will not always be hurt in the end, that I will not always be alone, that I will not always be uninvited.