Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guilty of Obfuscation - Or....I Fear I Did Not Make Myself Clear

I am thrilled that my last blog on Love stirred up so many heartfelt comments   However, based on some of those comments I think I must follow up with some further clarification.

First, I have to tell you that pondering and thinking about stuff is my life.  I can never fault myself for thinking too much.  I think about things that bother me until I finally understand why and then I can forget them and move on.  I never rehash old problems or relationships unless something develops that tells me I am not really finished with the subject.   Being able to finally see truth and leave old stuff behind has been one of the blessings that has kept me alive.

Second, my introspection does not make me sad or depressed.   If I fail to discover what is at the bottom of something that  is hurting, I just set it aside to deal with later, and if I do discover what is making me miserable, that in itself usually fixes the problem and I can be done with it.  And, oddly enough, what I usually discover that liberates me is some new way of seeing the situation  that generally reveals some flaw in myself  that I had not been aware of.   Getting closer to the truth about things and about yourself is a totally liberating thing even if that sounds  contradictory.  The old adage "Know thyself"  is a great key to peace and happiness.   When you discover a flaw that you were unaware of you not only behave differently, but you are in a position to DO something about it.  Those are all great things, not negative ones. 

What was so great about my realizing that I have a few shortcomings in the Love department was that it enabled me to stop blaming anyone else for my uneasiness over a recent stumbling block in a relationship.   For me this is a huge achievement and not a disappointment.  I find that I tend to get a bit smug with myself often and this leads me to wrongly evaluate a situation.  It is really good for me to smack myself down every now and then to be closer in touch with the reality of things. I don't know if I can communicate how important it is for me to find out what I have done wrong in a situation where I had considered myself blameless.  If the problem lies within your own jurisdiction, you can REALLY TRY to fix it......there is no way of fixing things if you are convinced that you are innocent and the other person is totally at fault.  (and even if they are, realizing that you are not totally innocent changes things and makes it easier to accept their shortcomings.).

Actually I have a pretty solid and positive sense of self  so this process does not damage my increases it.  But, there was a time  in my life when I had no self confidence whatsoever.  I have written about that in a past blog.  It was the time of my first big insight and the moment when I started to rebuild myself from the absolute bottom.  I was writhing around in a pit of self loathing and said to myself in total despair, "You are a no good rotten person.....why should you continue to exist?".  That is when the voice of truth inside me said, "No, Lois, that is not are good to animals."  And I saw that it was true and realized that I had at least one redeeming feature.  The pain and depression left and I was at peace with my new least till the next problem appeared.  It left me one step up from absolute bottom and I never fell back from that step up.

Now,  if I can find hidden flaws and recognize them and accept them and go on loving myself (after the first few moments of disconcerting horror) I am definitely better off than I was before.

In my blog yesterday, when I rated myself as a 2 on the Loving scale I was not really being honest.  I felt that was about right at the moment,  but I do believe that my actual score is higher than that.  And with each new flaw that I discover I can try to improve  and  become even more of a loving person.  If I manage to do that, well.....that would be a good thing.  And if I don't, I guess whatever I am will have to do.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In All Seriousness Lo asks, "What Is This Thing Called Love?"

 The fact is that certain circumstances in my life recently have caused me to question my own ability to love.   I find myself pondering the possibility that I cannot really love, but I know so well how to play the part  that I have been fooling  myself and other people for years.

Florence tells me I am a good person......I am not so sure about that right now.  Could it be that I have simply learned how to fake it superbly and really have a heart  like an iceberg ?  (Does anyone remember that great song. "Hard Hearted Hannah" ..... the vamp of Savannah.....the meanest gal in town.... talk about your cold, refrigerating Mammas....whoops, boys, she's a Polar bear's pajamas....)

But to get serious again, my most recent struggle in maintaining my relationships has caused me to ruminate on Love an general and my ability to love in particular.  Perhaps some of you may think it strange for an ancient person such as myself to be thinking and philosophizing about love.  Not at all.  Don't be silly.  Love is the most important thing in our lives.  The ability to love others and to be loved/accept love is what keeps us alive.  And equally as important,I have learned,  is the ability to love ourselves which somehow is creating a conundrum that I am having trouble solving.  I have found that there is a certain point at which one must stop being loving or at least say "No" to another's request because it becomes harmful to one's own well being.

Oh, hell, you must know that I am not talking about the love of  " falling in love" .......that usually bears little relationship to real love... ... though it may, in some cases, develop into the real thing somewhere down the line.  ( The love experienced when you are falling is usually 97% lust egged on by some childish faulty judgment.)

No, I am talking about caring about someone who makes you happy and wanting to make them happy and/or make their lives better. Or something like that.  There are so many kinds and degrees of love.  At the top, I guess, is unconditional love.  The kind that makes people rush into burning buildings to save the ones they love at risk of their own lives.   The kind that, no matter what awful thing you discover about a loved one, no matter how they may disappoint or even betray you in some way or another, you can adjust and still love them in spite of it all.  I realized that I am not very good at that kind of love.  I am too judgmental.   There are some things which can make me stop loving a person altogether.... like shaking something repellent off my fingers.  I don't think that is acceptable in the field of love and I guess Ishould be ashamed, but I don't think I am.

There is also the slippery slope where love turns into need......a totally different thing.   Barbra Streisand  you are wrong.....People who need people are not the luckiest people in the world.  Need can turn what was once love into subliminal anger and possibly an uncontrolled fear and worrying that you might lose the object of your affection.  Love becomes adulterated and burdensome to both lover and lovee..

Then, there is the dangerous path where  caring too much slips,without your realizing it, into martyrdom.  Been there, done that.  Didn't like it and had to give it up.  I think I  am pretty good about caring, but unfortunately I have found myself caring about and for people so much that it almost killed me.  I have had to learn to pull back and save a little bit for myself. And I know I care too much about animals, but I can't help it.  They are so pure , beautiful, honest and unsullied that I must love them and care for them as much as I can.......but even there I draw a line.  I have refused to bankrupt myself to save an animal that I loved and I have, with much agony, had to give up several beloved cats who had such incurable bad habits that they made my life a living hell. and ultimately caused a fire that almost destroyed my house.  I still feel bad about that, but it was a definite case of Me or Them.  I guess I am just too selfish to love unconditionally. 

So, please, those of you whom I love, don't get trapped in a burning building and expect me to rush in and save you unless there is a damned good chance we can both get out alive and unscorched.    Better yet.....just don't get trapped in any burning buildings.

So there we are.....or...where are we?   Where can I rate myself on the scale of being a loving person?  Hell, to me it looks like about a 2.  Sigh.  I will have to keep working at it I guess..

Am I Beelzebub or Mother Theresa? Closer perhaps to St Francis?...........Naaaaah.  Too dramatic.

I guess I am just Lo who can only  love imperfectly.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Some Thoughts from a Member of the Clan of Unhappy Childhoods)

Warning:  Not a single Funny Bit to be found herein......this is serious stuff)

You know I love you all, but the truth is I am beginning to wonder  about some of the younger folks (that means nearly everyone) who seem to truly believe:

*Everyone ELSE had a happy childhood

*That if you chase Happiness long enough you will catch it
*And  that Adulthood sucks.

I feel like the Grinch.   I hate to be a spoilsport, but do any of you still think that you could achieve maturity and some degree of wisdom if you had what people fantasize as a  happy childhood?  Maybe I am totally wrong. I have often been known to be  full of shit.  Actually, there may be a gazillion folks out there who had happy childhoods and who are 100% wise, mature and pretty content with their lives.    Sadly, I am deprived and just don't know any of them.

One of my dearest friends confided in me when she had "graduated" from Psychoanalysis at around age 35 or 40.  I asked her eagerly if she could tell me the most important thing she had learned. She thought a moment and said, " I was liberated when I understood and accepted that I will never have a happy childhood.)

What provoked all of this mumbling and quiet ranting is the fact that I noticed in some of the comments on my last blog many expressions of sympathy, sadness and indignation at some of the miseries I had to suffer as a child at the mercy of a crazy, sadistic father.  Gosh, what if I had really told more and described my 5 years of  problems with the  overly loving grandfather whom we lived with ?  (Yes, I too belong to that abused club.....but happily, it no longer  deforms or embitters me.....I wish I could spell out the discovery process that bought me this might be helpful to someone...It is just so hard to communicate the "how" of it). 

The fact is , I do not regret one bit of my (often but not always) unhappy childhood.  The trials and tribulations of my childhood are what taught me some of the most important lessons of my life.  (......You do not HAVE to think like your parents think or believe what they do not HAVE to act like your parents act, etc........Someday you can make your own  choice about how you deal with  the world)   Without the  pain and lessons of my childhood I suspect I would not have known to develop some bits of compassion, tolerance, empathy and kindness, not to mention the sense of humor that has saved my life repeatedly when nothing makes  any sense at all.

We all use so much  strength and energy trying to avoid pain at all costs and if we somehow succeed, where are we?  Surely no wiser than we were.....just older and tireder and more perplexed and infuriated that we have had to suffer instead of being allowed to be......happy.  I wonder...if you take away the pain and suffering are you automatically happy?  I don't think so.  Pain-free does not necessarily mean could mean just Numb.

It has been my sad experience that we do not learn much from our periods of happiness.....often not even to be grateful for them. The normal reaction is usually just,  "More, please"

 No, no, I am not advocating seeking out pain and suffering so we can need for that......If  you haven't figured it out already, pain and suffering will find you without any help.  But there is always a lesson to be learned in order to avoid future suffering from this particular thing.  And the lesson isn't just how to avoid this particular thing in the future.  In my experience, unless you can figure out why you are feeling the misery, you are doomed to continue to suffer from the same misery time and again.  When my  buttons get pushed causing me to say "Ouch", I have to trace the wiring down to the bottom to see what it is really connected to so I can disconnect it.  When I finally find the source it is always a huge surprise, not at all what I had been thinking all those years, and an even bigger relief.  Sometimes it takes half a lifetime.  Snip.....there is one pain not to be suffered anymore.  Whee.  (Now that is happiness .).

I am sorry I cannot give instructions on how to learn these lessons......I would if I could.......but each must do your own self-surgery,  digging, clawing, bleeding, unearthing what is underneath, finally  facing it and then joyfully kissing it goodbye and leaving it behind by the side of the road.

As I said at the top, the Adulthood or the Answer so many seem to be seeking does not come free......but (sigh) life gives you untold painful chances to earn it.

I hate it when I get what seems to me to be  preachy.   Ugh.    Forgive me if I have come across as  sanctimonious and arrogant.  I hope I am none of those things.  I only utter these words because I have been forced to learn one or two things during my lifetime and I keep wishing I could spare some of you the same pain.   I guess I should know better.  In fact I realize that I knew better even when I was young and on the other end of the equation. Now that I think of it, I remember  my beloved Mamma saying to me in exasperation, "Do you have to make all the same mistakes I did?"........and I wisely snapped back, "Yes!  How else can I learn?"

May you reach your goal and finally be able to be happy. 

I'll see you as we trod along the road.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hey, Everybody.....Edna Is Combing Lois's Hair...Edna Is .........

The marvelous and brilliant Pearl of  "Pearl, Why You Little...."  left me a comment on my last blog which forced me to stop what I was doing (getting ready to clean stinky cat boxes.....this is Sunday and Flo is off) and immediately put on my Blogging Hat (the one with the upswept brim and just a touch of Maribou feather) and muse about the scene her comment brought to mind.

For any of you who missed my last blog or Pearl's comment,  I had mentioned that it wasn't till I broke my hip that I discovered that I was not as fiercely independent as I thought, and that I really adored being waited on hand and foot.   And Pearl said the following:

  " What I'd really like is someone to fix my hair, daily. Do you think that will ever happen? 
    I  can't imagine breaking a hip. I may find out some day. I turned 50 just a month ago and have been       reflecting on the differences in the ages that I've already been. What will come?"

Pearl,dear.... I cannot answer your question, but this one is for you)

I had an instant flashback to a moment in circa 1939......Lois is sitting on a chair in the kitchen of our house in Philly trying desperately to disappear or be somewhere else.  My two best friends, Sylvia and Stella are standing against the wall waiting for me to walk to school with them and wishing they were somewhere else.   My sainted Mamma is stoically combing my unruly locks trying to get the curly stuff to be smooth and flat in a few places and probably wishing she were somewhere  else. (I was an unattractive child, fat and clumsy and totally unable to make my hair look like anything but a tangled mop....hence my Mom tried to make things a little better.....that is how it all began)

And then it happens....what we all have been dreading.  Enter my Father, brows furrowed in rage stomping heavily into the kitchen  screaming, "When are you going to make the Brat comb her own hair.....expletive, expletive."  Whereupon (get help me.....honest truth) he leaps onto a chair under the kitchen window, opens it and leans out  bellowing to all of
West Philadelphia,  "Edna is combing Lois's hair, Edna is combing Lois's hair!" 

I sincerely believe that he believed that this performance would so shame me and my Mother that we would immediately reform.  She would drop the comb, I would pick it up and start managing my coiffure from then on and  we would all burst into song......(I do not know what song would be appropriate)....and perhaps dance.  That did not happen.  We all stared into space and pretended we were somewhere else.  My father, defeated but still fuming, would stomp out and we could breathe again.
(incidentally, I never found out what the neighbors thought of this...but then, they always looked at me a little funny..)

This scene took place most mornings for several years........except for those periods when my father was so permanently enraged at us over something or other that he was not speaking at all that week or month. .  (Well, I confessed up front in my profile that I was from a dysfunctional family).  It might have continued into my teens and twenties had I not desperately figured out a solution.  One day, after gym, I was removing my stinky gym suit and staring in despair at my sweat soaked locks when it occurred to me that, if I were to get my shoulder length hair cut into a short bob, I could probably just tousle it into place with my fingers since it was so obstinately curly that it did whatever it wanted anyway. 

So, I did.

And I wish I could say that we all lived happily ever after, but that would not be quite true.  However,
West Philadelphia would never again have to hear :  "Edna is combing Lois's hair."