Why I do what I do

me at 3 with suitcase044It took me fifty-five years to figure out what life is about. It took me that long to find myself and to realize that my family members have never had a clue as to who I am. I realized that I had spent over forty years without expressing myself from my heart in front of anyone. I realized I’ve never experienced real love. And I believed that there was something seriously wrong with me.

Which was constantly confirmed by my family.

My view of the world and of my role in it were mysteries to me. The information that I had been given as a child, from my parents and from school and church and from everywhere I looked, was completely wrong.

I have had a very full, if not extremely self-destructive and emotionally painful life. I have experienced more than most people could ever even envision. I’ve been an avid student of human nature since the age of four, and as someone who never learned how to ‘properly’ communicate with other human beings, I have spent nearly all of my inner life feeling abandoned, rejected, and alone. I had very few friends. I spent most of my teen years alone in my room with the door locked, immersed in books or drawing or singing to sad music or just crying.

And I woke up nearly every morning of my life wishing that I hadn’t.

I ‘knew’ from childhood that I was different from other people, especially the people in my family, because I said what I thought instead of what I was expected to say. I refused to blindly believe in god or do what I was told to do if it didn’t make sense to me, and I was looked upon as disobedient and a huge disappointment by my parents and others. I became the black sheep, the throw-away kid, the non-believer. My father called me “stupid” and “tramp” and “fuck-up” and my mother buried her smiling face in the sand and pretended that everything was just peachy and she threw me under the bus to save herself.

Being positive and agreeing with others is what girls and women do (which is what all of America seems to do now, at least face-to-face). But I was unable to pretend. I still am. And when I tried to tell my mother how sad and lonely and confused I was, her lazy rote response was always,

‘Just have faith and believe in God, and everything will be okay,’ or

‘Just be happy! That’s what I do!’

My mother is expert at not seeing anything uncomfortable or disturbing to her in any way, and she is always smiling and happy and everyone just loves her.

Dad gave me a boiler maker at around ten or eleven, and I was a regular drinker by the age of sixteen, a full-fledged alcoholic by eighteen; booze flowed freely in our house. So did violent fights between my father and I. We hated each other until just about a year before he died, after he did some soul-searching of his own. Unfortunately, he never really knew me. Too bad. He would have actually been pretty fucking impressed, if he had only stopped ripping me to shreds long enough to get to know me just a little. If only he had believed in me just once, or took me seriously about anything I ever said. . . . I didn’t know him either though; he was a deeply damaged man who only found some peace in his very difficult life just before he died.

sleepwalking through life: letting things happen

I was painfully shy as a teen. I was incapable of talking to strangers, even on the phone. This shyness and belief that I was a horrible, ugly, stupid and evil human being made me silent, small and apologetic. I barely spoke, when I wasn’t acting manic, and my silence, along with my self-loathing and my nightly mission to drown myself in booze, made me a pretty easy mark by horny young, and not so young, men. My abandonment issues and negative self-esteem made me desperate for affection, which made me a willing mark as well.

I allowed myself to be used and mistreated and date-raped—more than once—and  I became pregnant—twice—before the age of eighteen. I was voiceless and powerless. My thoughts were dark. I became extremely self-destructive. I found myself, quite often, in dangerous situations. Alone, drunk, and crying in the subway tunnel at 42nd Street at 4:30 AM or wandering the streets of Mexico City with only one year of college Spanish . . . I’ve been involved in car chases, I’ve outrun police and have had a gun drawn on me, I’ve played pool with narcotraficantes . . . and I used to wander around late at night downtown back in the eighties when Belltown was frequented by crusty old drunken sailors, queers, drug dealers, and fringe elements like me. I’d stumble through the darkened alleys, just hoping that someone would kill me and be done with it.

But not only did no one bother me in those downtown alleys; I became pleasantly acquainted with some of the drug dealers. They were just trying to make a buck the only way they knew how, and some of them were actually really nice (if only daddy could see me now!).

My search, for what I didn’t know, led me down some very dark and disturbing roads. . . .

Until the day that I was so filled with fear and rejection and hopelessness about absolutely everything that life had to offer someone like me (as well as the state of the planet and the fact that no one seemed to care), I threw in the towel. That day when I could not tolerate one more second at my hateful job. And I was no longer able to take any more of my mother’s hurtful, ignorant bullshit nor her inability to see what she has done to me and continues to do. And the very last straw, on top of so many others on my broken back, was my sister’s inability to acknowledge, let alone apologize for, so many very shitty things she’s done to me, including the last shitty thing that I’ll ever give her the chance to do: forgetting that she had made plans with me on Christmas Day. Since my mother had long since banned me from holidays (because I make my morally deficient brother-in-law “uncomfortable”), I spent Christmas eve 2014 alone at a dive bar in Pioneer Square, and the rest of the year, as well as January 2015 in bed, drunk, stoned, and so very close to ending it.

The way I saw it, I had only two choices:

  • kill myself
  • quit everything and everyone and cash out my pathetic 401k and try to find just a tiny bit of joy before I left this apathetic, uncaring world.

I chose the latter.

And in the process of writing my story and of finding some people who care enough to talk to me and hear me and accept me with my flaws, I found my way back to my soul, my spirit, my voice. I found my way back to god. I am so very thankful for the people who have been in my life over this last year, even if it didn’t seem that way. I’ve learned from every encounter I’ve had, good and bad.

And my mission, for the rest of my life, is to try and make others understand that we need to start listening to each other. Because I see the look of despair that I felt all my life in the eyes of people all around me. People who feel powerless. People who have been forgotten about, rejected, abandoned. Like a dog that’s been left tied under a porch without love or affection. Like me.

I want them to know that it can get better—if you face your dark side or your secrets or your fears and render them powerless. Or at least manageable.

I am facing that side of myself every day, and sometimes it still takes control of me and I react from my go-to place of terror and powerlessness and fear and I lose control and I lash out . . . or have a panic attack, or tear up self portraits or other artwork. . . . But not nearly as often as before. Before, when I still believed that rules had to be followed and that I was lesser than others. Before I escaped my family and the pain I felt when I spoke with them and before I stopped drinking at home alone. Before I started smoking cannabis for my chronic pain and to calm my spinning thoughts. Before I took the blue pill. . . .

I feel an overwhelming need, now, to write about my experiences, as many of them as possible, so that my nieces and nephews can have a chance to know the real me. And so they can know that they are not alone. I understand what they are going through because I see their mothers doing a lot of the same shit my mother did to me . . . and she is still poisoning young minds with her blind-faith ignorance to this day.

My mother didn’t hear me when I told her I wanted to die, all those many years ago (it has only gotten worse), and now she refuses to believe her grand daughter when she tells her that she is depressed. My mother “blames” it on me. Like I’m giving my niece, the one I have been having brilliant conversations with from the time she was three, ideas about suicide. The girl who had been asking me the questions that were burning in my young mind, sparking my painful childhood memories. And when a three-year-old asks me, ‘Is my mama crazy? Papi says she is. . . .?‘ she really needs to know. She needs to have that question answered; she is truly concerned. I spent many hours going back to my past over a period of about ten years, during those intimate conversations, to my very base emotions during my most informative years, and I realized that I felt like I was completely alone as early as two or three years old. I was terrified of everything. When I started examining why I was so terrified, I realized that my home was no place for a child.

I write to try and validate my existence somehow; to try and make some sense of my sad and wasted mess of a life so that it doesn’t all seem so pointless.

So that perhaps others can avoid some of my mistakes.

And I feel an urgent need to write and explain how I know the things that I know, and why I may become upset if you tell me that my experience is mine, but that yours is different;

because what I hear is:

I believe what I believe, therefore I cannot believe what you are saying.

And that is that: ignored, dismissed, just like always. I feel physically attacked like I’ve been punched in the gut and I may lash out. . . . Because I am still learning how to balance my ups and downs, my highs and lows, and I am not always successful. I fall down a lot. I’m still locating all those unmarked but well-worn buttons, and sometimes they are accidentally and unknowingly pressed. But,

I have finally found my soul and my bliss and my passion, but now the hard part really begins. I need to convince the world that I have something to offer and that I am wiser than I appear or am ‘qualified’ to be. That I actually know what I am talking about. I need to find a way to co-exist with those who refuse to see me, and learn how to not let them push my buttons, all those many buttons…

I am no longer willing to stay small and silent and unheard and unseen. I am ready to