Satin is not my Master

Thursday, June 25, 2009

So in the last two weeks, Emily and I went to Boston to see my brother and his family for his 5 month old sons christening.

My brother and I have often joked that in order for two of the three siblings to be in the same place at the same time, the third sibling must be forced out into the ether in a triangular manner. We are like the Highlander. We do not exist at the same time in the same place so one must observe closely when we are, as it is a rare and special sighting.

In addition to the rarity of the sight of more than one of my siblings in the presence of another is the humor factor...which gets ramped up into the stratosphere. If there is one person who "gets" me, it is my brother. I did, after all, send his newborn son a "Punisher" onesie... which freaked his wife out a little - the giant skull and all, but my brother was overjoyed.

So there we are. Me, Donnie and Emily, all looking less comfortable in church than the other. Emily is watching the statues carefully since she is convinced they plan on coming to life and touching her, I am looking up at the ceiling, hoping not to catch the eye of the priest who is going to know of my religious ambivalence and start throwing holy water on me....and then there is my brother who is clearly desperately trying to appear vaguely interested...especially as he has been seated with wife and child in the very front pew.

Having come in late, Em and I sneak into the side pews. I throw some holy water on Em as we walk into the church and do a pathetic attempt to bless her and me as we skulk down the aisle. There is deep affront on her part: "WHAT DID YOU DO THAT FOR?" she whispers fiercely.

"JUST COME ON!" I whisper back. We get seated and catch Donnie's eye to let him know his family has arrived, versus bursting into flames at the front door - which we had even money on, really.

Donnie's wife, Keri, is a gracious and lovely woman. She beckons us over to where they are sitting ( in the front of the freaking church). Donnie is looking pained.

Em - being an 11 year old - leaps up at being beckoned and hustles ACROSS the church, crossing from the extreme left of the church, across center aisle to where Donnie et al are seated. Since my child has abandoned me, I now must follow - apologizing to everyone she has trampled over to get to the front while trying to keep that hunched over stance as we are in the MIDDLE of a religious service.

I sit. Emily grabs my arm. In her rush to get to the front, she has failed to assess the potential statue strategic positioning. We are now MUCH closer to the statues in all their bloody, open heart, pained expressioned selves.

I lean into my brothers neck and whisper "Are all these people here for you?" because there are ALOT of people in this church. I mean, I assume he is a popular guy and all, but there are WAY more people at this christening then I think came to the wedding. Plus, leaning into his neck and whispering has the added benefit of not having to make eye contact with the priest who is very very close to me.

Donnie whispers back that it is a group baptism. I was unaware that the Catholic church has gone all Sams Club with it's baptisms. 7 babies for one low low price! But hey - I got the kid who is offended when I fling holy water on her, so I am no religious parenting icon.

I lean back and resume my careful examination of the ceiling and the fans. The priest, a jolly Ted Kennedy looking kind of guy decides to mix it up - get the youth involved in the service. He gives a speech about welcoming the babies into ye olde Holy Catholic family, yadda, yadda , yadda - and then he breaks this little unexpected request out.

Can the older children come up and put their hands on the baptismal font and pray over it to help make it holy water?

And he points at my daughter. Directly at her.

She is a heathen deer in the headlights. She doesn't know WHAT to do. She half stands, then sits. I am whispering to her "You don't have to go up there!", while the priest continues to point and stare at her, and she stands back up...then sits, and does this TWO MORE times. Her uncle and I are both looking at her saying "You don't have to go up there, its OK" as the nieces and nephews of my sister in law watch with astonishment.

Emily moves to her game closing move. Sit down and hide her face in my shoulder. That will teach Lord Voldemort the priest to point and stare the agnostic kid in the pews.

From here on out, the priest stayed mighty close to my brother and I in the front two rows. I resumed my ceiling watching, as the priest talked about rebuking Satan - which frankly seemed a little excessive to me. Wasn't it a bit late to be stating allegiances? I mean we WERE in a church and all. Wasn't this something that could be safely assumed? Lots of Satanists jumping up mid baptism ceremony? I now study my choice of shoes. A lovely deep brown leather slingback, stilleto heel and pointed toe. More Satan talk in front of me. Voices Rebuking behind me. Emily in my shoulder. "Aren't you glad I never subjected you to this?", I whisper.

"Those statues are creeping me out", she replies.

I hear ya sister. Kind of how I feel about all the unnecessary Satan rebuking. Now if you want to rebuke Satin, I could get behind you. In this summer heat, Satin is completely unneeded. And frankly frivolous.

We stumble towards the end of this never ending Satan rebukation. Father Voldemort decides to start the Lords Prayer - which I know having been well indoctrinated in Catholicism before I had the wherewithal to flee. I look around at the congregation thinking, "I'm pretty sure I never taught any of this to Emily" and glance down at her. She is fake mouthing words - perhaps to a Jonas Brothers song?

"What are you saying?". I whisper. She shrugs her shoulders and continues to fake mouth words.
Aw, thats my girl. Fake it till you make it, baby.

(Next post - The mother we spent the entire service mocking for inappropriate baptism garb - With PHOTOS!)

Crimeless Punishment

Monday, June 15, 2009

I am going to get in trouble for writing this. I know this already.

There is going to be fall out and anger around this, and the dual voices that modulate much of my behavior argue furiously about the words that I am typing.

This pattern of pre-emptive punishment is something I am intimately familiar with, as I spend alot of my time punishing myself for the decisions I make. Even when I know they are right. Punish, Punish, Punish.

Why, asks my new therapist. Why do you punish yourself Dawn? Why do you pick fights with people you love before birthdays or other events? Why?

I stare at her sullenly. My mouth draws into the tight lipped O that forms when I am biting back my words.

Because. Because if I punish myself first, then no one else can do anything worse to me. I have already done my best to make me suffer, so when the other shoe drops, it is a small annoyance rather than a cataclysm. No one can disappoint me.

She write notes, furiously. I am a unique beast in her life, I dare to believe. The self aware crazy. The smart crazy. The occasionally witty crazy.

For years, I have hidden one of the many things I do as punishment to myself, for my punishments are not purely emotional. For years I have done these things and carefully pushed them out of my mind as habits. It was only through the Envisage project that I started becoming aware of them, as I photographed some of the instances. I am a picker. I am a scratcher and a digger.

I do not bite my nails. I do not smoke. But when in private and nervous, I start to scratch. Usually my chest first, or my feet. If it is a very bad time, it will be my face. I will pick at skin, at toe nails, at imagined bumps or warts until the skin dissolves under my non-bitten nails. I have ripped off toenails in my compulsive worrying at my body later having to lie to pedicurists that I caught the nail on something. Because what is the alternative? the truth? That I pick,pick, pick at things until bleeding? That I scratch the hell out of my breasts where the world can't see them, often while under very hot showers?

I mean, I know this is not an acceptable habit. I know it has a big whiff of the crazy about it, so I hide it. There are whole after school specials about the cousins to this little compulsion - the cutters, so in my skating the edge between full blown and charmingly crazy, I hide it.

About three weeks ago my 25 year old sister drank antifreeze in an effort to punish herself. According to her, it was not her intent to kill herself, as she very nearly did having stopped breathing and having to be airlifted to a larger hospital with her organs failing rapidly. It was her intent to punish herself.

Magic words, those. Punish herself. Oh, I know this well.

We were raised in a house of secret keeping. Don't tell what goes on here. Don't betray, don't reveal.The consequences of stepping over the rules was punishment. Not physical punishments - no, that would be too gauche. Too obvious. Our punishments happened long after the event, when you least expected it. They got maximum benefit that way. Your guard was down, and the knife went deeper. As children of my mother, we learned to punish ourselves first. In this way, we deadened the later punishment that was coming - and it was coming, I assure you.

It is the super power of the narcissistic parent, this self punishment. Rather clever, don't you think? Get them to do it, so all you have to do is look at them? Get your children so hyper attuned to your ever changing moods that they begin the punishment without a word? And then deny that anything ever happened? Tell them they imagined it all?

And even now, writing this, I begin to pick at the skin around my nails. There will be trouble from this. I am not supposed to talk about these things, you know. Then people will know. Know the depth of the crazy. And what will they think then?

My sister is out of the locked ward, and back on her meds and doing well. We talk as much as I can get her on the phone. Survivors, I told her. Soldiers on the same field of battle like Madge said in her comment. During one of the talks while she was still in the ward, I told her that it wasn't her job to worry about our mother - to worry what she would think or say or do. Not your job, I told her. Her job? Get better. Start uncovering her triggers for the need to punish herself - and work to defuse those. I know I am.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

My past week has pushed the tenuous push and pull of choices and consequences in the forefront of my brain.

Beyond my three person family, some heavy shit has been happening in my family of origin. So heavy, in fact, that I have had to wade into that quagmire and start to pull out the debris of decades and figure out what the hell to do.

As always, I go to my adult place. It is, after all, what keeps me sane. Calm rational Dawn. You all may not be as familiar with this manifestation of myself, but she - Like Professional Dawn - is amazingly well put together.

After many, many months of my well orchestrated avoidance, my mother has burst through the citadel and reintroduced herself into my life. Yeah. There was a 7:30 am phone call today. Seven thirty in the MORN-ING. She even said "Is there something the matter" to me when I did not greet her with the appropriate amount of enthusiasm? Verve? Whatever people who are awake and alert at 7:30 in the morning possess?

Seeing me move, Coco assumed that it was time for nose rubbing and salad.

"What mom?"

rub-rub-rub, scratch, rub, nose bump, more rubbing

"oh. Ok. That sounds good"

Rub, rub, rub, rub, nose bump to demand more rubbing. Now staring, with the one unblinking rabbit eye.

"Ok. Yep. All right. Hmm? Yes. Ok. Bye"

There is stirring from the other rooms as Emily comes in to lay on top of me. This is her morning greeting. Laying directly on top of me....preferably on top of my inevitably full bladder.

"Were you on the PHONE?" she asks. She is unbelieving too. The mother she knows barely speaks to the people to whom she lives prior to 8 a.m., let alone on the dreaded phone.

In this side family drama not related to the entropy of my marriage, many things are fading in and out of focus. Who is the keeper of truth in a family? What roles do we play as adults to our siblings? Where is the line between helpful and overbearing? I am walking this line with my sister as she sorts through the consequences of her actions - and we all sort out the consequences of my mothers actions or lack thereof.

And here is the sticking point, not so much who is at fault - but who will tell the truth? Who will verify in a family of secret keepers and master chameleons? Who will be the adult?

Me. I am the adult - and not in a martyred poor me way, I get enough of that rained down on me by my mother that I don't need to replicate it. I choose to be the adult and take responsibility for my actions...or my choice to be silent.

In the utter terribleness of the last week, I am being given a way to a relationship with my sister. For that I am immensely grateful.

Oil and Water

Friday, June 05, 2009

The tide rolls in, the tide rolls out - as we figure out what to do and how to proceed.

The odd euphoric calm that has come over each of us was unexpected. We're working better as a team than we have since the days of Emily's birth.

There are many things, in hindsight, always in hindsight, that were indicators that we would not be together forever.

My need for a nest, for a home, for roots...juxtaposed with his need to wander, to travel, to GO. Our oil and water combination could only be shaken so many times until we refused to merge.

My wait and see approach to the world next to his hypervigilance. My occasional retreats into the world of crazy and his baffled watching from outside my cave. My inability to bring what he found important to the forefront of my brain and his inability to give me the things I needed, even as he believed he WAS in fact giving me everything.

To me, the dishes could wait if a book was waiting to be read. The tub could stay funky for another day if the day was a good one to garden. The other things weren't as important as the now.

There were, of course, many other things that remain in our shared locked closet of the marriage.
They are not yet available for public consumption. I am not sure if they ever will be, and this is one of the reasons I am so sure that I can never know what goes on in anyone elses marriage.

And as I cried in the garden, sobbing, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry that it didn't turn out the way we hoped"...and he held me patting my back soothing me, we try to spin the ending so that we can both pick up and move on as whole people. A bit bruised, but not broken.

I hope I will be able to write about something else - wish for it. I apologize to any of you who read this for being so one note and kind of fucking depressing. Pushing this out of my head I hope to make room for the other things, and helps to keep the fear at bay.
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