I was raised by the ultimate stoic.
"Never let them see they've hurt you."
"Never let the bastards get you down."
"Don't give them a victory by letting them see you are upset."
I'm a pretty obedient person in most ways and I took these messages to heart. I worked on trying to always hide any hurt I felt. I can't begin to tell you how much time I spent crying in the bathroom on my visits to my father's house as a kid. It felt like I was always suppressing tears, always trying to recompose my face so that I could get out of the bathroom and face people.
School was similar. I remember countless times trying to hide my pain or trying to hide the effects of tears. I was bullied and teased. One might call it harassment It peaked in 9th grade. That was the time when the "wild girls" were really wild! They were vicious, cutting and relentless. I went to a private girl's school in Sydney and teenage girls can be completely heartless.
There was a moment in year 10, I think, but it might have been year 11, when I accidentally overheard something that changed the way I think about the face you show to others. I was at school with a girl who is now very successful and quite well known in the UK and here in Australia too, I will call her The Chef. In year 9 The Chef was one of the cool girls, she was rather mean and was definitely a wild girl but with the passage of time we became friends. We used to have a double free period between recess and lunch in year 12 and she and I would to jump in her car and go out to Watson's Bay and sit on the pier eating fish and chips. We played hooky together and contemplated life, the universe, and everything, Back to year 10... The Chef and I were in our transition from enemy to friend. On day I was in the bathroom shut in a cubical. I heard the door crash open and the sound of someone crying, within moments the door crashed open again and I heard one of the teachers speaking to The Chef. The teacher was making consoling noises, trying to calm her down. I didn't quite know what to do. I was accidentally privy to a very private moment. I remained silent. Then I heard The Chef say something that really impacted my attitude to vulnerability. With a tear-stained voice she said, "Why can't I be more like Displaced? None of these people ever upset her."
I was STUNNED! Totally gobsmacked. I was stunned for a number of reasons... Firstly I was surprised that my act had worked - I had completely fooled this person who had been one of my tormentors. Secondly I was stunned to find that she actually thought I wasn't hurt. I was also really surprised to hear HER say something positive about me, as if SHE admired me. At that moment I began to wonder if maybe my mother's methods were not the ideal methods for me. Perhaps if I were to show my pain more people would realize they are hurting me and back off. Perhaps it wasn't all about victory and winning. Since that day I have always been more cognizant of my feelings and of how much I repress them. I have worked on becoming more open and honest about my vulnerability.
Today I saw my Psychologist. I was talking about the forthcoming Christmas affair. The subject rolled around to how I handle my condition, my disability, with them. Instantly I knew that I would suck it up and fake it until I couldn't stand it any more. I have tried to talk to some members of my family about my condition but they just don't seem to get it. I get a lot of comments like "yeah getting older sucks" and "oh me too I get a bit of arthritis in my knee now" They just don't seem to get that I am in constant pain and that I am immobilized by breakthrough pain. They don't hear me when I say I am having terrible fatigue. I share the responsibility for this. I have a really hard time letting people I don't completely trust know my soft spots. There is not a lot of trust here. I am loath to show my weakness. This is really adding to my stress level as regards the Christmas gathering.
Between seeing the Psychologist and starting to write this blog I received a couple of really nice messages from my nephew.... "Hello Aunty"... I haven't seen him since he was about 4, he is a little younger than The Boy. This is the first time we have messaged on Facebook, though I do keep an eye on his posts and occasionally I comment. He is really excited about everyone being together for Christmas... Maybe it will be okay.
Vulnerability has gotten me in trouble many times. I have revealed something personal to the wrong person and had them use that information against me. Betrayal has been a painful recurring factor of my life. Yet I open my heart and mind through this blog every day. Why is that different? How come I can trust the stranger who is reading this *waving* and not my own family? I strive to be as open and as vulnerable as possible in this fledgling relationship; I don't want to start a new life on a false or brittle foundation. I know I can survive almost anything. I know because I have been to the depths of despair and I have lived. Trust is a precious and fragile thing, no amount of superglue can put it back together once it has been shattered. How many layers of positive and caring interaction does it take to cover the cracks of broken trust? Too many.
Yesterday I was sent a link about 30 things to STOP doing to yourself ... I found it pretty interesting. The first one is to stop spending time with people who suck the happiness out of you... Hmmm... It has been very thought provoking. We'll see.